Understanding The Species

[Since I am sitting on hold with a company, I figured now was a good time to attempt to blog.]

A few observations I have made in regards to boys and men I thought I would share.  This might be helpful to those who are currently mothering boys or for those who have or at some point will be working with boys.  I am not an expert, but as a mother of three sons, I have definitely learned a few things.

I believe that boys are often misunderstood and unappreciated for the very traits that distinguish them from the female gender and are part of their nature.

I have observed that a father can read 1,000 books to his son, but love is communicated and understood in a greater capacity between a father and son when sharing something more physical together.  For example, a simple wrestling or tussle on the floor will speak greater volumes of love to a son.  It can be fishing together, building forts together, or even working together, but sons need that physical interaction with their fathers.

Show me a son/man lacking confidence and leadership, and I will describe to you a home lacking in love and positive interaction.  Love builds confidence and courage.  It takes courage to properly lead.

A mother is needed for her love and praise, but a son ultimately needs the affirmation and investment of a father.  A mother can’t replace that.  It’s not to say that God can’t heal and help where a proper father-figure is lacking.  He certainly can!  Yet, this lack will require God’s healing and help.  Healing speaks of pain, injury, and sorrow.

Mothers sometimes misunderstand a son’s need for exercise and competition as a negative issue.  Our schools often misdiagnose active boys as ADHD and prescribe medication.  Sometimes, this is an accurate diagnosis, but often the problem is not with the boy.  It is with the system.  We tell boys that they need to be like girls in essence: sit still for long periods, be quiet, be compliant and complacent. (Obedience is definitely unarguably important and must be taught to sons as well as daughters.  This is not the issue I am describing.)

Boys do need to curb their actions at times and learn self-control.  Yet, it is necessary for a boy to have the opportunity to run, explore, and practice his leadership skills in play.

Show me a leader and CEO of a company, and I will tell you that he was not a boy who mostly sat in a corner reading books or coloring.  Natural leaders are those who know how to be heard, who know how to conquer, who know how to challenge, who know how to explore.  The best leaders also know how to win and keep the respect of those whom they lead.

In order to have strong men, you need strong boys.  This does  not have to do with meanness.  There is also the error of thinking that masculinity means meanness, or that strength is demonstrated through unkindness.  It’s not “just being boys” in that case; it’s being sinners.

As a mom, I want to differentiate between fallacies of thinking that my boys can be mean and cruel to be men or that my boys are misbehaving when they are making more noise than frail nerves can handle.  I can teach my boys to be thoughtful and to learn self-control, but I need to also give them the freedom to develop into true specimens of masculinity — not my feminine version.

The very qualities that wives often complain that their husbands don’t demonstrate enough are often the very qualities that they discourage in their sons.  I am referring to husbands who don’t take spiritual leadership and who haven’t established a good relationship with their sons.  I am talking about husbands who don’t take responsibility or have a good work ethic.  That’s why we have Hallmark cards that poke fun at the “couch potato” dads and husbands.  Yet, if we raise our sons to be fearful, too dependent upon ourselves to meet their needs or force them to meet deadlines, have we not encouraged these very deficiencies?  If we discourage boys from exploring and exercising their physical muscles through play, are we not encouraging such weaknesses?  If we compliment quiet boys over boys that aren’t afraid to voice their own thoughts and opinions (within reasonable and respectful guidelines) have we not taught our  men that we prefer for them to be quiet and to keep their opinions to themselves?

I say let the boys be boys — not bullies — but boys!  Train them to excel, to serve, to explore, to exercise, to create, to dream, to learn.  I want to raise men — men of character, men of moral fiber, men of strength, men of courage, men of responsibility, men of faith!  Lord, so help me — help me to be the wise mother who leans on You and looks to You to raise true men.

Did You Visit Zacchaeus?

Today the boys and I read about Zacchaeus during our Bible time.  This Bible story made an impression on me.  I couldn’t help but compare the two main characters in this narrative.  Zacchaeus was physically unattractive.  Zacchaeus was socially unappealing.  Zacchaeus morally appalling.  Zacchaeus was everything we don’t want to be — other than rich.  His wealth was gained from cheating people.  The only people he could socialize with were those who hoped to share some of his wealth — that and his money.  The cold gleam of money is a lonely companion, but money was all he could really claim.  Even the wealthy sometimes wish for human companionship, and I wonder if that was one of the reasons why he went to see Jesus.  Perhaps, he hoped to finally gain acceptance from someone famous to insure Zacchaeus’ own popularity or acceptance among the religious elite.

Then, we have Jesus.  We are told that Jesus was not overly attractive.  We are also told he didn’t worry about doing the popular thing.  He did the right thing —  no matter what.  He could care less about wealth.  He only cared about the hearts of people.  He demonstrated that people were his greatest treasure.

Zacchaeus finally had his chance to meet Jesus.  The crowd was too tall and too dense for a very short man.  Zacchaeus knew how to push his way to the top though, and he did just that by climbing the tallest tree in the vicinity.  From that vantage point, he could see the press of the crowd and finally Jesus.

Zacchaeus was another type of person that you and I would have probably rolled our eyes about, made disparaging remarks about, or simply overlooked.  We don’t often like to socialize with those who make us uncomfortable or threaten our popularity due to association.  Sure, we would  have liked sharing his wealth, but that’s about it.  We’ll take your money and fill our church coffers but the rest… too uncomfortable.  Not Jesus!  He didn’t ignore, make snide remarks, offer empty and shallow platitudes.  Jesus saw a man with shallow aspirations, limited love, but with a “mile-high” longing for acceptance… a man who felt disdain all his life but who still hoped and dreamed that someone would accept him and love him  — not for his wealth — just for himself.

Jesus met Zacchaeus that day and commanded him to come down from the tree.  Jesus told Zacchaeus that he would be eating with him that day.  Can you imagine the gasps and whispers at such a statement?!!  “What was Jesus thinking?  Eating with the likes of Zacchaeus?!”

Jesus saw a man who was yearning and ready to be confronted with love.  Zacchaeus changed forever after that visit with Jesus.  He finally meant someone who loved him unconditionally, and who gave him the courage to confront his own sins and fears and the power to change through forgiveness.  Love does that!  It gives confidence — confidence to confront our own weaknesses and courage to reach out and love others.  Zacchaeus just needed to see God’s love in action, and then as a changed man he was able to love others.  No longer would he be a cheater or have only his wealth to call a friend.  From then on, Zacchaeus would have a Savior to call his own and the gift of loving others to replace his former wealth.  The cold gleam of money had been replaced with the warm beam of love!

Do Not Forbid Them!

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that from time-to-time, we all “miss the boat” when it comes to viewing children the way God does.  Do you remember reading how the disciples wondered why Jesus would bother with the children — how they tried to keep these less “worthy” or bothersome individuals from Jesus?  No wonder, right?!  I mean kids are noisy.  They are embarrassing at times.  Kids are inefficient with their time.  They make messes.  They negatively reflect us. I bet there were a number of parents that told their kids to stay in the back of the crowd and to be quiet and to put on their best behavior so Jesus would be impressed (with their parenting skills).  As the hours passed and the children grew restless, tired, and hungry, I bet the adults started to grumble, to whisper, and to make disparaging remarks.  I bet there were comparisons going on — among the parents present.  Parents were probably trying to compare how well their kids did, would have done, or were doing under the same circumstances.  The children continued to do what children do — play noisily, remind their parents that they were hungry, make messes, and fall asleep. Yet, Jesus seemed to be more impressed with the children than with the adults. The irony of it all!  Those who were trying to impress didn’t.  Those who weren’t, did.

What did impress Jesus concerning the children?  He mentions their faith.  Children have the ability to love without hypocrisy.  They trust without doubting.  They are transparent, unreserved, vulnerable.  It is their passions that reveal our own.  It is their transparency that reflects back to us what is in our own hearts: our own sins that we guard so closely.

Children are inconvenient for these reasons.  They create waves in our well-ordered days.  They create messes in our orderliness.  Theycreate chaos in our quiet.  Yet…  Jesus said, “Do not forbid them!”  In fact, He commanded us to become like them…  to be transparent, trusting, vulnerable, and unreserved in our devotion to Him.  Jesus in one simple sentence peels back the protective layers we have built around our hearts to reveal what is in them.

Perhaps, this is why our society perceive children as a burden.  We try to limit them, forestall them.  We feel they are better in small “doses.”  Horrors if we should have more than the quota or closer together than the formulas our professors have calculated is best for spacing!  What a bother if we should be inconvenienced by them!  We want them in our timing, in our spacing, in our numbers!  Yet in a twist of irony, God sometimes intervenes and “messes” things up a bit, letting us know He is in control.  This doesn’t mean we don’t make decisions that we feel God is leading us to make and that are best for His leading for our family.  What it does mean is that our hearts should be treasuring one of the greatest gifts that God has given to us: the gift of life that enters so vulnerably, so beautifully, so innocently, so trusting…

May He find within my own heart, a child-like heart that unreservedly throws myself into His arms, desiring just to feel the pat of His hand on my head that whispers to the deep aching depths of my heart the words of my Heavenly Father say, “I love you completely, perfectly, without any criteria.”  As I raise my head to gaze up into His eyes, the darkness of my own doubts, fears, frustrations, and sorrows melt away in the brilliant, glistening light of His love!

Little Is Big

Last week, I was reading to the boys the Bible story about when Jesus fed the 5,000.  What really impressed me was that God took a little boy and his little lunch and then fed a lot of people with a lot of food.  God took what little that was given to Him and  made something big from it.  As I was reading this, truths from this lesson started to sink in.  As I began to share with the boys my thoughts, I found my eyes filling with tears and my voice choking a bit.  I couldn’t help but think that God takes what little we have to give Him and transforms it into something “big”.

Do you ever feel like you don’t have much to give Him — that you are such an incomplete and imperfect vessel that you don’t have much to offer Him?  That’s how I feel so many times.  I am so aware of my inadequacies and failings as a Mom.  I am so aware of how many times I don’t know how to explain something to the boys in this perfectly-worded way.  I stumble over my words, I am impatient at times — maybe more like many times, I am not always perfectly content or grateful with my beautiful family and home, I don’t always smile or remember to laugh with the boys instead of fuss at them.  Motherhood has served to reveal my many imperfections.  It’s been my hardest job ever — my most humbling job. Before becoming a mother, I could impress almost everyone with having it “all together.”  In spite of its challenges, I am so grateful for the gift of motherhood.  Not just because of my precious children and their ability to forgive me and to be patient with me but because God has used motherhood to bring me to the place where I have been humbled and know more than ever that I need God — that I can’t do this on my own.  As I have said to so many ladies with complete sincerity,  “Any good you see is only — truly only — by God’s grace!”  I am so thankful — so very thankful — that God has taken my attempts to be a good mother and will use those attempts in much bigger ways than I can foresee.  God just asks me to give Him the “little” I have to Him and to trust Him with the outcome.

Here I am, stretching forth my hands timidly to Him, with my small “lunch.”  Jesus looks at me with eyes of clarity and wisdom and love and acceptance and forgiveness.  With His own special and gentle smile, He takes my basket from me.  There is no hesitation on His part, measuring the worthiness of my gift.  There is no look or words of disappointment issuing from His lips.  There is just a smile of complete love and grace and could it be even gratefulness?   Gratefulness that I have trusted Him with what little I have — everything that ultimately first came from Him?

As I explained to my boys, you offer to God your little sweet hands and little words and little hearts, and He will use them for something big!

I also think that His grace is in direct proportion to our view of our own selves.  The more we know we rely on Him and are aware of our great need for Him, the greater is His grace poured out upon us.

Boston or Bust!

A week ago at this time, I was sitting in a lovely candle-lit French bistro in Boston.  Jonathan, Olivia, and I had the place to ourselves for awhile.  The soft flicker of candles, the low hum of the waiters’ voices, and the clink of our silverware created a lovely ambiance to our meal.  Our meal was delicious and a testament to the chef’s skill.  Even better yet, our meal was almost completely free!  It all started a few weeks previously…

Jonathan has a job with a client in Boston.  He had previously taken a trip to Boston but had to return for a second trip to finish work with the job.  When I heard this, I began making inquiries and plans to travel the next time with him.  For a time, it didn’t appear that I would be able to go with him.  I prayed about it and then left it with the Lord.  The Lord gave us a gift by working out the details so that I could go with him.  Once again, Jonathan found a great deal on my plane ticket, and the plans were set in motion.  Babysitting came together for the boys, and I began to make arrangements for our lodging.  Jonathan’s client would cover the costs so we were able to stay at a lovely Bed & Breakfast for three nights!

I found the perfect place — a beautiful room with a kitchenette, living space, and attractive sleeping arrangements.  The Bed & Breakfast was in the heart of Boston, and the place itself was gorgeous.

While Jonathan was working, Olivia and I walked all around the neighborhood and then returned to our lovely “flat” to rest and relax.  I loved not having any pressing responsibilities, other than to care for Olivia, and to just relax and rest!  All four days while we were in Boston, we ate amazing meals — authentic Italian cuisine, French cuisine, and many other tasty treats.  We ate Cannolis from Mike’s Pastry, along with almost everyone else from Boston.  We enjoyed burgers from Uburger.  We savored our dinner and amazing dessert from Max Brenner Chocolate.  We gained a few more pounds at Bertuccis, where I ate a Lobster Ravioli, and Italian dessert tray.

Not only was Boston fabulous for their dining, but the architectural beauty of their buildings was inspiring, along with the fall foliage and beauty of their parks.  Of course, there was also the interesting historical places to visit.  We toured the U.S.S. Constitution, Paul Revere’s house, the Boston Commons, the Boston park, Old North Church, took a trolley tour, took a harbor cruise, and climbed 294 stairs to the top of a monument.

Every day, we also faithfully called the boys to inquire as to how they were doing.  We were relieved to hear that they were also having a blast with the friends and family they visited.  I had written each boy a card for each day while we were gone.  It was fun to hear how they enjoyed the cards!

It was special to also be able to focus just on Olivia.  I got lots of baby hugs and kisses and enjoyed being able to have her nap in my arms.  Olivia charmed everyone wherever we went.  It’s amazing how friendly everyone is when you have such a delightful baby!

Our vacation didn’t last forever so we are now back home, and I am trying to settle back into normal life.  Boy is that challenging!  After having the life of a princess, it’s hard to return to all the demands of the normal routine.

I am back to taking care of six loads of laundry, washing my fridge, emptying trash, homeschooling, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and acting as referee.  This is life, but it also means I get more hugs and kisses!  The work is greater but so are the rewards!