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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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parenting

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Today is the last day of our cruise so needless to say, I woke up at 8:45 AM with a vision of how the day was going to go and in my mind, it was going start with coffee and some breakfast.

My kids, not so much. All the lights may have been turned on and all the words may have been said and for a brief moment in time, visions collided and our togetherness became separateness in a very small cabin on the seventh deck. Sadly, division oozed from the four corners of the room of minutes.

Truth was, I was trying to do what I thought was best. I was up at what I thought was a very reasonable hour and to be honest, could no longer lay in bed in a dark cabin and pretend to be asleep for the sake of three other people. And as their Mother (and yes I began playing the Mother card) I didn’t WANT them to be asleep any longer either. I didn’t want them laying in their beds, thumbing through their phones.

As their Mother, I wanted them to squander their day as I had planned…which was having breakfast together and doing nothing but lay by the pool.

As their Mother…I had an expectation. I was the boss. I was steering the ship of the vacation that I had paid for.

As their Mother, I can be an asshole.

Long story short, I left the cabin agitated but told the kids that I wasn’t when I clearly was and marched off to have breakfast on my own. Looking back now, I needed that hour by myself. I needed to sit in silence and think things through and figure why I was getting all bent out of shape over such non-important things.

The answer of course, was easy to spot. My vision was all good and such and was perfectly perfect but it was MY vision for the day and mine alone. My kids on the other day, though birthed from my body, had their own that were separate that I forgot to consult. As their mother, I often get what I think is best entangled with what is right and what was right on this day, in that moment, was to allow them to have their own day just as I wanted to have mine. We are all so very different.

So I came back to the room and told them what I’d like to do today and let it at that. I listened and was open to suggestion but more so, had extended them each an invitation to do somethings together. The last thing I wanted was to be likened to a tyrant whom told them this was this and that was that when deep down, all I was really wanting was quality time with my children. You can’t really have that when you force a HAVE TO on the people you want to spend time with. Sometimes you just need to put it out there and hope their WANT TO (and not yours) brings them back into the center of life’s hub.

I think if you create room for people to step into that space on their own rather than bullying, guilting or coercing them into what you think is best or right, they will meet you in the middle and your relationship can remain intact and strengthened. And if they choose not to take that step, it’s not you. It is them.

Unless of course you’ve made it about you, just like I was trying to do this morning all about me.

When you take people’s freedom to choose away from them, even if you feel like you have earned the right to pull some special card at the table, you better be prepared to have more than just a choice or two taken away from the mix.

It might cost you the very relationship you say is most important to you.

when Easter isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

It’s Easter and it was an off day from the start. The dog ran away (again) and everything on the inside of me was done with his antics and officially didn’t care if he ever returned home. I was not in the mood. We fought briefly over going to Church and when I was there, I had a hard time being as awe-struck as those around me and found myself loathing the hype of the Holiday that exalts Jesus one day and not the next. I forgot to fill and hide the baskets till my youngest asked where they were and sadly no one (myself included) was all that excited about taking a family picture so I took pictures of the puppy instead.

Middle places are hard. Foreign lands are rough. If you haven’t been where you are now at, you can feel like a fish out of water. I secretly wished all day that Jesus would come along my shore in His boat and scoop me up in His net before I exhausted every last breath I had left inside of me because breathing has been laborious.

I went about my day being a lesser version of the self I know I can be. This put together Mom who has all her baskets lined up in a row. This in-step-with-Jesus-praise-be-to-God woman. Today I wasn’t, the reality is I haven’t been and I don’t know how to get back to her. I can’t seem to find her lately and I swear if someone tries to tell me how I might not only cry but scream and pelt eggs filled with candy at them from the egg hunt I just didn’t have the energy for.

But the great and wonderful thing about Easter is this…

Jesus says I don’t have to try to get back to her.

Easter is for people everywhere, yes.

But today Easter was especially for me.

If I have ever experienced first hand the finished work of the cross, it was today. In what feels like BLAH. In what feels like muddling through mire and muck. In what is tasteless and listless…

When I don’t feel like it, He literally expands Himself into my gaps. When I question or just stop questioning all together, He IS regardless and doesn’t just negate where I’m at or tries to drag me out of my slump I’d call an awfully large pit, He sits in it with me.

So when significant Holidays aren’t all that and then some, there’s things called grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Mounds of love.

This is what Easter is all about, right?

When I was Better at Things 

I’ve been cleaning out most of my house for over a month. I’ve meticulously gone through each room and purged, sorted and cleaned but don’t be fooled, there’s more to do, and through it I’ve discovered a thing or two.

Like I used to be a better picture printer and picture framer which simple means, my intense love of capturing life is still active and present however my ability and desire to print and frame said love…

Not so much.

Our oldest can fill a wall filled with her face. Our second oldest, maybe but shy a sliver. Our middle child, not so much. Our fourth…not even. Our last…not.

Are you hearing what I am saying? I have officially sucked at photo documenting my last three children’s lives. The only real way I know they exist is because of the massively large pile of laundry that collects on the floor of their rooms and my grocery bill.

Chatbooks…redeem me.

Thank God for counselors and safe people to talk to.

Additionally for the last two weeks of my life, focus has been on our son who recently became a United States Marine. We were there and then we were here and it still all feels like one ginormous dream. THIS IS WHY I CLEANED. We crammed we were intentional with our time to the fullest during our 10 day visit and I have not one single regret. We dropped him off Monday evening to catch a bus to North Carolina and woke up the next morning to Halloween and doctors appointments and I forgot both.

Mom for the win. My brain. It was done.

And trick-or-treating…my children. What ever will they be?

BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO BE SOMETHING!!

One wore a bed sheet which was brilliant and if I had a spare sheet, I would have been cloaked in one as well. The other wore her brothers costume from two years ago, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton figure whose rib cage and pelvis bone accidentally had been tore from the fabric when the dog played a little too aggressive months back. And the other, well…apparently MY poor planning landed him at Grandma’s house sitting on the couch without a costume while all of his friends gathered at some house for a party I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT. 

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I just can’t keep up. Ever have that feeling?

It’s real.

When I started having kids, I was young and full of enthusiasm and energy, even though I was sleep deprived and house bound. My biggest worries were getting my children on a routine, especially a sleep routine, and instilling in them good manners so they played nice with one another and showed up clean and respectful around my mother-in-law. Little people…little problems.

Now a days, everything obviously wains. Life is bigger than it used to be. My kids are and so is the realities of their life. Elementary, Middle and High School. Fitting in, acceptance, and self-esteem. Bullying. Extra-curricular sports, braces, and after school jobs. College visits, meetings with recruiters, enlisting and choose to serve. Boyfriends and girlfriends and knowing where ones value comes from. Heartache and loss. Anxiety, confusion and depression.

What do I want to be when I grow up? WHO do I want to be?

As their life gets bigger so do my prayers and I have far less time than I used to sit around worrying myself if I am living my best life, a woman whose home displays every photo ever taken of her dearly loved children. I find myself so focused on the big details that I often forget the small ones. AND THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. I don’t really care if I forget the classroom snack anymore, seriously I have bigger fish to fry but don’t get me wrong, I will try to have thirty-three organic juice boxes and peanut-free, individually wrapped confections that I make from scratch so to stay in the good graces of the room Mom but…

I cannot do ALL things.

My kids have outnumbered me 5 to 1 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes I wish I was more with it, in terms of being the mom I used to be, the one who was at one time super organized and turned every paper in on time, but I am not that person any more. I no longer have THAT life. Now instead of one paper, I have 15. However, I am doing the very best I can and I know that my best is enough. It counts where it should, with WHO it should, and that is where my priority lies.

Friends you might not win in all areas of life. There will be times you’ll fall below the line that is invisibly set by you and the standards of others. You may one day even reach an all time low and fall off the spectrum all together. Good. Create your own. This is not a competition, especially against the person you used to be when you were young and full of enthusiasm and energy. Just do the best YOU can. Your best will look differently in each season so give yourself grace to ebb and flow…what was important in one won’t be as important in another and that is ok.

In fact, it is more than.

In Theory

For some strange reason, Saturday was rough for our youngest. She was all out of sorts and the way she was behaving, showed it. I think I could have been a bit more patient with her had Friday night NOT occurred. Yes. The pile of hardships is growing.

Friday night there was spider in her room, and not just any spider but an elusive spider. Heaven forbid we’d go to bed knowing there was a spider, somewhere in the room and so…for the first time in YEARS our youngest slept in the middle of our bed because there were tears and screams and this all led to a NOT good Saturday.

I’ve given up understanding. I don’t want to know. Whatever man. Get into bed.

So Saturday. I won’t even go into it BECAUSE I JUST CAN’T, but I about lost myself altogether and in the midst, all I wanted to do was send this child and her ginormous fit to her room. And I did. “Go to your room and stay there till the end of the day.” 

It was 11:00 AM

I wanted the situation out of my mind so I put my daughter out of my sight.

Because you know what? I had my own stuff and I was tired and frustrated.

Friends, I am done giving the world the right or “good” answer. This is my honest one.

Then I sat downstairs in the office and my entire house was quiet indeed, too quiet, and that silence washed over me something terribly awful. This was not at all what I wanted to do. Sometimes I curse, as in, “Damn it. Jesus, you are SO good to me. Even when I show up all tired and frustrated and clearly, not-so-great…you stay. You don’t leave. You don’t send me to my room. You remain. Damn it.”

Sometimes grace is a bitter pill to swallow and sometimes, unconditional love, love that does not demand that you change…harder yet.

So in theory…what is for Him and I can be for others and me…Right? Isn’t that how this whole three-person relationship “in theory” works?

We’ll see.

So I called her down. I bent my knees and lowered my voice. It wasn’t trying to make quiet, it just was. My settled heart longed for relationship. No matter what.

We went for lunch. She sat quiet, sad and ashamed. By the middle of lunch she had moved closer. By the end, her arms were around my waist and her head tucked up against my chest.

Jesus.

She’s ten and I’m her Mom. That “Let’s see if this works” seemed easy but I have other, much bigger relationships that I’m not quite sure how “in theory” would apply. Bigger relationships? Aren’t they all? Oh to listen to your own self speak…

Honest…I’ve been hurt. I don’t know if I am willing to say, “Here’s my heart. Draw close. Spend time with it so you can hurt it ALL OVER AGAIN.” Yeah. I am not sure I am ready **willing** to do that again.

So I’m talking to Jesus about trust. Why am I not trusting HIM here, in THIS place? If I am out to give you honest and I show up vulnerable and you betray my trust in some way, would I stop fully showing up? Maybe. Probably. Yes. I’d somehow adjust. I’d not want to, but reality is I’d transform somehow if history lends itself to be accurate because if I show up and you don’t, then we get stuck in this vicious cycle of circle around…repeat. What kind of “relationship” is that anyway? **RECIPROCITY** You do for me, I do for you and so forth and so on.

But I know differently…

If the person of Jesus is not just some theology to theorize and He literally shows up in my house, at my door, and sits across from me at my desk while my house sits all quiet and nice and pulls me close and says, “GO GET HER,” and I say “NO. GET OUT OF MY HOUSE. I CANNOT. WILL NOT…”

Even if I said “YES,” becuase my head assocaites the request with ease because she’s young and small and somehow simpler…

Couldn’t my bigger, more difficult relationships kind of go the same? “GO GET THEM.”

“ALRIGHT JESUS.” And off I go…

I am not there. WHY am I not there? I don’t know…

Perhaps I don’t want to.

I can’t be somewhere I’m not. Honest.

 

come close 

Chow to chow. Sunday to Sunday. It’s how my son is being encouraged to count his week, therefore it is how I will count mine. Take it one meal at a time, one week at a time and today marks one week since his journey began to Parris Island for boot camp. Twelve more to go.

I’ve been doing good which translates to…I have kept my crying and reminiscing to a minimum, letting go is hard and this is my first time with THIS kid. On Sunday I walked into church and just happened to glance to my left and saw Verne who’s a Marine…and my “I can do hard things” attitude turned into a big soppy puddle of crocodile tears.

I miss my son.

So I buckled down and just refused to look in his direction. LIKE NOT AT ALL. Looking at him brought up all these feelings and I had told myself I was good and no tears convinced me I was winning when in reality, all I wanted to do was hug the man and his wife (which I later did). At that moment, they were the closest most tangible form of my son I had.

Somewhere I have believed the lie that enough is enough. I’ve cried my tears. Now it’s time to let go and STOP. 

Moral of this sad story? It would be easy to avoid hard things right now which is exactly what I have done with most of my life. Run. Avoided. Deflected. Blamed and Hid. When things got tough, I’d rather do all of the above for a season or three rather than deal which in all reality, MAKES THINGS WORSE because it never goes away…it just gets buried somewhere deep and resurfaces at the most God-awful times on the most unsuspecting people.

My thoughts went to Jesus and I thought of all the times I have probably been THE WORST and in my head, He has had every reason in the book to avoid me at all cost because I think it must be hard to be in my presence when I’m being so difficult. But He stays. FOR THE LOVE. I am not used to that. I am used to being punished by being sent to my room in silence and forgotten about for hours NOT PURSUED. NOT HUGGED. SURELY NOT LOVED. But He draws near and close when the tears flow. When those big crocodile tears catch me being open-hearted and vulnerable, He embraces. He reminds me to keep my eyes on Him. To refocus.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. – James 4:8

So if I have any advice to give today it is this…don’t run when you WANT to stay. When you WANT to talk it out, TALK IT OUT. When you WANT to draw close…DRAW CLOSE. Come near. Abide. Knowing that you want to and then don’t because of fear (anger, hurt, offense) is tortuous. And when you DO NOT WANT to, muster every ounce of intentionality in you and take a step forward. Do not let the sun go down…THIS is the tricky one because most times, my turn-and-run feelings convince me I am justified in my avoidance and departure and a closed heart is stubborn heart…

DO. NOT. LET. YOUR. HEART. CLOSE. 

Stay in the want-to zone, even if you get a little mad.

Because in the very big scheme of this great big life, there is nothing quite worth losing a relationship over. Nothing.

The Fixer

Being a parent is hard, as in challenging, and I feel its weightiness especially when my children make decisions. It seemed simpler when they were young; we taught simpler things like not grabbing for toys or hitting their playmate across the head. We taught them to ask to be excused from the table and to look people in the eyes when addressed. Now we are teaching much bigger things like how to think for and manage themselves well, how to parallel park and do laundry. How to extend an apology, manage their checking account…you know, these types things. And these all piggy back off of the very simple principles we taught them when they were young, we just didn’t know that is what we were doing. Do not grab for toys or hit your playmate translated into teaching them to be kind and honoring of others. You know…simple things like that.

But here’s the thing, it is not always so simple.

I am realizing an area that I have not necessarily excelled in was allowing my kids to reap their own harvest. I am a believer of the spiritual concept of sowing and reaping, however, I have always been a fixer. I have used vitamins and oils to make me well. Running to keep me fit and sane. I’ve read books on how to parent. I have attended conferences to help my marriage. Whatever has seemingly been broken or needing attention…there hasn’t been a fix I have sought. Struggling? I know a counselor for that. Need encouragement? I have a word. Bleeding? I have afantastic collection of band-aids.

But here is one thing I am learning about fixing…

*Somethings don’t need fixed. Sometimes, if you can keep your hands off it and your attention diverted from it, it takes care of itself like a scab on your body that does better when you simply leave it alone. Awareness is good. It encourages attention, as in keeping an eye on, but constant attention is cumbersome. It builds anxiety and expectation, both which are as dangerous to the mind as being forced to watch the paint dry or grass grow.

*When you are quick to fix, it places Y-O-U in the position of being savior, the one that calms the storm and readies the situation with a solution. Want to set yourself up for failure? Jump in quick and attempt to fix. You will find out sooner or later that it doesn’t need fixed and that YOU are not called to be the fixer. You can actually meddle and further fracture a situation that may have needed attention…just not THEN and just not YOU.

*Those who feel the need to fix often are not operating in wisdom. They are operating out of emotion and fear. Let me back up and say this, “When I have felt the need to fix, I was not operating out of wisdom. I was operating out of emotion and fear.” (I feel better now that I clarified that). I would make a terrible EMT or someone whose job required them to be a first responder on the scene. I REACT because my feeling are telling me to DO SOMETHING because I am afraid. I don’t feel in control. I take things personally. I shoulder the weight myself because it may be my fault. These sounds HORRIBLE being spoken out loud, but this is my blog and not yours and besides, this is holy and honest ground. This is the truth and the B-I-B-L-E tells me that the truth will make me free – John 8:32 – And I often forget I am free.

But not today.

One of our kids has been in glasses since before Kindergarten. His prescription is strong and I am confident he cannot see without them, he definitely cannot see well. He is now in middle school and can we all just say a prayer for our middle school youth? It is HARD, not like parenting hard, because middle school makes parenting look EASY. It is grueling. Parents of kids in middle school…I am with you.

Peer pressure, peer acceptance, any word associated with peer is just…

So a year ago we began trying to transition him to contacts. He plays sports, is incredible active and has broken more glasses than I can count. Plus he has gotten bullied. Need I say more? Yes, I’ll say it once more…middle school is HARD. We have an amazing eye doctor who was able to finally transition him into a pair of contacts that work best with his needs and we have been working with him on how to care for them…HOWEVER, our son is now past the mom and dad know everything to mom and dad know N-O-T-H-I-N-G. At this point in the game, we can encourage and remind about the importance of taking his contacts out at night and cleaning them or we can physically pick him up, hold his eyes open and manually remove them. Which do you think is the more viable option?

Yesterday he woke up and realized though he took his contacts OUT, he did not put cleaning solution in his container and because I have relied on the crutch of FIXING for far too long and because I was the first responder on the scene when he realized it, our morning did not go well for a moment or two. I’m taking away the iPod and TV for surely both are distractions that keep him from properly paying attention to the care of his contacts at night. We own a school bus company so can you only imagine if MY kid misses the school bus? He was going to inconvenience me, I was going to have to drive him to school, he was going to be late…

Me and I and blah blah blah…

I sucked as a parent. For a five minutes, I totally did. Like big time sucked.

And then I walked away and remembered WHO I was. It took time and a sink full of dishes to wash but Jesus kept whispering to me my name. He reminded me that I do not have to fix this, that this is actually not my gig. It is HIS.

I walked back into the living room and my son, who HATES missing school, was frantically pacing the carpet trying to put dirty contacts back in his eyes. It wasn’t working. His eyes burned. He’d wait awhile and he’d try again. It didn’t work. I realized that he was reaping his own harvest and that I did not need to be the teacher here, life was. What I needed to do was get out of the way so to not interfere and put my meddling ways behind me.

He refused his glasses and eventually did go to school (though I have a feeling he was almost blind when I dropped him at the door). I didn’t have to say another word. He was reaping what He had sown and it wasn’t for me to judge his harvest, it was for me to be there for him through it.

Allowing someone to face their own reality is a very hard thing to do, it is a bitter pill to swallow, but it must be swallowed. This is a life lesson I wish someone would have told me about sooner, it is one I wish I had already mastered but I don’t. I am not perfect and though there are days I screw it up, my heart always reminds me to apologize for the times I step outside of myself and become all undone. It reminds me to look upon them compassionately…perhaps they too are doing the best they can.

One of the most hardest of titles is that of PARENT and one of the most EMPOWERING gifts I can give my children as their parent is that of facing their own reality so they understand how powerful their choices are.

I am not called to fix them, they are not broken. I am called to love them and remind them of WHO they are.

It is not my job to go around softening life’s lessons.

Try Again

My head was full of soap and I only had one cup of coffee in my system vs. two so I was already contending. I was running through my head the day and it hit me, I forgot her.

Last night I went to tuck our youngest into bed, who is ten years old, and she was busy reading. She does not sleep easy or well so giving her time at night to read in her bed helps. I popped my head in, she begged as usual for one more minute. I told her no problem and that I’d be back. I then closed the door.

And I went to bed.

I did this once before over the summer and my child stayed up till 2:00 am waiting for me to return. She obviously gets her pateince from her father. I can still FEEL her hovering over me as I slept and I can still HEAR her whispering voice as she shook my shoulders, “Mom…you forgot to tuck me in.”

I swore I would not do it again. She is the youngest of five and the last one left who actually LIKES me acknowledging her exit in the evening. The rest just give me a low wave and a nod and slowly meander up the steps hoping I don’t follow. So she, SHE is my prize. She is the one who is gifted all that I never fully gave the others…my intentioanlity.

She is making up for them all.

So bathroom shower. Soapy head. Lack of coffee. Realization that I sometimes SUCK as a mom. I instantly feel that gray and heavy veil come over me. My heart breaks. I wonder how long she waited. There was no standing over me in the middle of the night this time. No. She left awareness and horror be my teacher and reality check.

I get dressed and make my way to the coffee pot. I have some dark rum in my cupboard and it crosses my mind that perhaps this would be the day to mix coffee and cocktails but I know better. Still the thought lightens my mood and I put down my second round. I pop my head once more into her room, this time to say “Good Morning” and I hear her grumble. I cannot get this child to go to bed and I cannot get her to wake up and I already feel that I’m drawing from an empty account. She eventually makes it down the stairs and is CLEARLY upset.

“You forgot me. Again.”

Friends, at this point I know it may just seem like NOT a big deal, “So you forgot to tuck your ten year old kid in a time or two,” but to HER, it is. And if it is to HER, it is to ME.

I tried to hug her and hold her close. She fought me. I knew I had to push through. I knew I had to teach HER how to. I got down on my knees and wrapped my arms around tighter and she began crying real tears, tears that would surely rip any heart out of any chest. I knew in my gut my instinct as a fixer is to explain and then explain some more but I just couldn’t. I know I have to stop reaching for that one. I held her close as she cried and fought my embrace and I said, “Dara, I am so sorry.”

My heart meant ever word. I. Am. So. Sorry.

“Please forgive me.”

Her demeanor changed, her tears dried and she nodded yes.

Was the world perfect again in our home? No. Were we movning in the right direction? I am going to choose to beleive, yes.

I knew that we both had our work cut out for us. She would have to make her own choices and choose her own path and I would have to choose mine. She would be faced with the choice to forgive me in her heart, as best as her ten year old self could allow and I would have to choose to forgive MYSELF and let myself off the hooks that defeat and guilt had hung me on earlier that morning.

“Try again.” Jesus said. He is good. He is faithful and constant.

All morning long I had to choose. There was no once and done, at least not today. It was a continual journey of choices. Of letting feelings come and letting feelings go and allowing truth to lead. I know the more I dwelt on it, the heavier it became so I took Jesus’ advice and I tried once more. I called my mother and asked her to lunch and I started washing a pile of my oldest sons laundry, even though he does his own. Focusing on others cleared my head. Focusing on others opened my heart.

I am not a sucky mom.

To err is human, to forgive divine.

And every path in between holy ground.

 

 

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