To My Four Sons

I really like how the green turned out. I think the trick is using a less contrasting final highlight than I have been using on my other knights. I think it looks more natural. Also this is the first time I got enough courage to paint all four of...

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=12225330&searchId=1d692e84a65e5fce12ee5106d1a0e3c6&npos=40)

Dear Sons,

Bear with me as I meander down “memory lane”…  I wanted to share a few thoughts for you as I think of the type of men I pray and eagerly await that you will become.  Today, you are boys, but in just a few more “tomorrows,” you will be men.

It seems like just a decade or so ago (more like three), I was the girl with the paper dolls, the piles of books stacked on top of my summer hammock, and the dreams of meeting and marrying her Prince Charming and having lots of his charming mini-mes to raise.

I grew up mostly with sisters and one younger brother.  I knew a lot about the feminine world, but the masculine world enchanted me.

Seeing these magnificent “creatures” of such broad shoulders, strong arms, tall forms, deep voices was captivating.  I was fascinated with the world of men: so much physical strength and leadership.

My dad was such a great example of the willingness to physically labor for his family.  He came from hardy German-stock and knew what it meant to work hard.  Monday through Friday, he worked at his job, and on Saturdays, he worked all day on household projects.

Those same hands though that could wield an ax and split logs, wider than my hips, also knew how to gently cradle my face and tell me that I was special.

It’s a beautiful thing to see that such strength can also yield such gentleness. 

As a girl, my daddy’s hands symbolized his protection and provision but also his benevolence.

Even when I wasn’t aware of it, as a woman, I “looked” for a husband who knew how to lead like a shepherd: with kind leadership that protects and provides.

I remember the first time I noticed your own daddy’s hands.  It was the weekend he came to meet my parents for the first time.  Your daddy and I were sitting at the table talking, and I looked down and noticed those hands of his.  They were lean, long, clean, and strong.  I could tell they were capable of demonstrating both strength and gentleness.  They were hands that were capable of wrestling the rotor-tiller and also of tenderly cradling a newborn babe.

I’ll never forget your daddy’s vows on our wedding day.  In part of his vows, he said, “…A knight must also both lead and follow.  I promise to be head of our marriage relationship as we both follow our Lord’s will…  Unclear leading is fruitless.  I will engage in daily prayer, seeking the Lord’s will for our lives. …My sword will slay many foes out in the world, but I will lay it down on our doorstep, reserving only gentleness and tenderness for you.  A knight fights first for his king.  Likewise, as high as I esteem you, I will place our king and Lord first in my life.  Secondly, but with equal vigor, a knight protects his princess, his wife…”

Your daddy has lived out his vows faithfully to you kids and I.  He hasn’t been perfect, but your daddy has with heart-felt conviction, lived out the sweaty, messy, soul-aching commitment to the promises he made to me those 13 years ago.  He has sought to lead us with humility, gentleness, and conviction.  This weight of responsibility can either drive you to despair or drive you to your knees in prayer.  Your daddy has been resolutely steadfast in looking to his Heavenly Father in prayer for an example on how to lead.

Sons, we live in a world of such conflicting opinions.  On one side, men are exhibited with primal grunts of raw, brute strength.  On the other side, men are portrayed as weak, imbeciles, insensitive, and inferior to women.  Neither is correct.

It is a fact that God has made men to be strong, but what does true strength look like?

Strength is learning how to yield your physical muscles to serve your family and to protect your family against harm.  Sometimes, protection means using physical attributes, but it should always involve spiritual strength and wisdom to guide around or guide through the dangers. 

Strength is also learning how to restrain your “fleshly” reactions and desires.  It means sometimes you do that which is inconvenient and uncomfortable in order to listen and meet the needs of the hearts of your family.

Sons, we live in a big world, full of many pit-falls, but we also have a Big and Good and Loving God who will guide you around those snares, if you yield to Him.

Your daddy got it so right when he said that a “knight must also both lead and follow.”

Sons, perhaps the biggest challenge you have to conquer is not enemies or temptations “out there” but the “enemy” within.  You see, Sons, if you can learn to yield to your Heavenly Father and in Him to conquer your own pride, anger, lust, greed, fears, etc…, you will have fought the greatest battles. 

Learn to conquer your own selfish desires, and you will know how to cherish the princesses God has in store for you.

Learn to control the unbridled “passions of your youth”, as the Bible calls them, and you will know how to treat others and yourself with respect and kindness.

See yourself as God sees you, and you will be able to view others as God sees them.

Replace the lies with truth, and you will be able to stand courageously for that which is good and right.

Sons, be men of honor who do the right thing — rather than the popular thing.

Be leaders who guide, rather than brutes who dominate.

Sons, never objectify women.  See them as beloved and created by God for His unique and special purposes.  Treat them with respect.  They are your complement, and they are to add balance to your life with their own contributions.

Sons, guard your hearts, your eyes, your tongues, your emotions, your bodies.

You are loved by God, created by Him for a uniquely, special purpose.  God has made you in His image.  Don’t let anything or anyone cause you to believe otherwise.

Stand firm in the Lord, in the power of His might.  Fight His battles — not your own.

Sons, know that no matter how many times you fall, and sadly enough, you will fall at times, there is a God who stands waiting and longing to forgive you and to enable you to live the victorious life He created for you!  Don’t ever give up. Get back up.  Stand.

Sons, above all else, know that I love you and even more so, God loves you.  If you don’t feel it or recognize it, cry out to Him.  He loves you with “an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  You are His beloved, forgiven and created to bring glory to His name — the name of the One who died to save you.

Much love,

From the woman who will always be your Mom/Momma

 

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How I Went From Seeing Red To Seeing Blue-Green

 

Colors 2

(FreeImages.com/HavardKristoffersen)

That was my day today!  I “saw” a lot of “red” today. Oh, not the pretty kind, like in flowers, fruit, or something cheerful.  No, it was the kind of day where my blood pressure must have been like lava.

The day started with some disappointment — nothing unusual in the life of a mom.  A good friend had invited us to join her son and her for a birthday celebration.  It would have been fun, but instead I spent my morning cleaning up stomach contents from a sick son.  Not pretty at all.

The Mommy mode went into full gear, and soon the sick one was ensconced in a comfy chair with all possible means of comfort given.  The laundry was churning in the wash machine.  The kitchen was clean again.  Business phone calls were made — everything from prescriptions, to getting a broken window pane fixed (previous one), to VBS invitations, to summer party planning.

The day felt productive and was going fairly smoothly.  Then, chaos erupted…

Seriously, sometimes I wonder what God was thinking (not in a disrespectful sense) when he gave me three very active boys and a fourth one on the way.  I grew up with three sisters and one very mild brother. I was the type of girl who liked reading books, drawing, playing with dolls, and pretty things.  I would play explorer at times, but I was a quiet girl.  I definitely had very little experience with busy, active boys.

Here I am now…  today…

My boys got into an argument.  One boy locked the other brothers outside.  One brother decided to take the handle to a paint roller (long kind for ceilings) from the garage and bang on the glass window of the door.  As glass from the broken window pane splintered on the floor, I saw red.  There was no blood.  I was simply furious! 

How many times have we talked to the boys again and again about consequences, controlling anger, responsibility, respecting property, and had to enact negative consequences for unwise decisions?  When would they get it?!! 

My son quickly sobered when he realized what he had done and how upset mommy was.  The rest of the evening, he was given lots of chores to do and knew not to complain or make a peep.

Too bad, the boys’ bank accounts aren’t big enough to pay for all of the stuff they break.  My husband and I decided that we would come up with an extensive list of jobs that would eventually total the amount he owes us for the glass pane.  Unfortunately, it’s not the same to us, but for him, it just might teach him something positive.

I saw even more red when I discovered that same son had also stolen chocolate candy bars from my room.

Before too many conclusions are drawn, let me assure you that we do try to address all negative behavior and enact consequences.  This kind of negative behavior is not tolerated.  The problem is changing the heart. 

It’s so easy to focus on outward behavior modification rather than the inner person.  It’s the goal of my husband and I to do both, particularly focusing on the latter.

I know we aren’t perfect parents, and there is always something more to learn.  But, I don’t know a single perfect parent and one who doesn’t have something to learn, including psychologists

Our children really aren’t “cookie cutters” who come with a complete list of personal instructions.  Each child is unique.  Each parent is unique. This means, as a parent, I must get to know the heart of my child and learn it so that I can apply the truths and principles that will successfully lead him/her to acknowledge and examine the state of his/her own heart.

So, how did my day go from “seeing red” to seeing “blue-green”? 

Blue and green are the colors of calm, peace, serenity.  They are considered soothing colors.  In fact, they are my favorite colors — perhaps because I need lots of calm in my life.  🙂

One thing I am learning is when I am upset, maybe I should say “really upset,” it’s best to not open my mouth.  So, I ignored a couple of phone calls, resisted getting on Facebook, and kept trying to remember to pray about the whole situation.

Thankfully, God was merciful and helped me to take some deep breaths and to calm down, after awhile.

By the end of the day, I was able to get all four kids ready for bed, dishes cleaned, laundry folded and put away, and then began the process of tucking the kids into their beds.  That’s when the real heart work began to occur and when I really began to see “blue-green.”

I came to the son who was the main character of these events (besides myself), and he said, “Mommy, I just can’t get it right and be good.”  Seeing his pain, I immediately felt the last remnants of my anger melt away and gently said the following,

“It is good to feel sad over sin.  The question is, ‘Now what are you going to do with that sadness and shame?’  Are you going to use that as a motivation to change your behavior and want to do better?  Or, are you going to say, ‘Well, I am bad so I might as well just be bad.’  The first choice will allow you to seek God’s help and have His forgiveness. The second choice would be believing a lie…  Have you talked with God about this, asking Him to forgive you and to help you to do better?”

My son then replied that he hadn’t.  I asked him then if he would like to pray.  He promptly began a simple prayer that went from discouragement to a very heart-felt prayer of repentance and desire for help.  As he finished, I quoted I John 1:9 to him, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

My son went to bed with a feeling of peace and the satisfaction of knowing he had been forgiven. I went to bed very thankful that God is working in my children’s lives, even when I don’t see it at the moment. I also was humbled to see how God is working in my own life. 

I too needed to learn to stay calm, even when circumstances are extremely frustrating.  The experience was a reminder to me again that “heart work” is really “God-work.” I am not in control of it, merely a vessel that God enjoys using for my own benefit.

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Are We Raising A Generation Of Heroes Or A Generation Of Villains?

 

Little Warrior 2

(FreeImages.com/DanColcer)

This morning, I read a recent article about another first-grader being suspended from school.  The 7-year-old boy was suspended because he pretended to launch a grenade while playing during recess.  Within the past two months, I have read about half a dozen reported cases of first-graders being suspended for similar play.

In response to recent tragic circumstances, our society is over-reacting and in the process creating an injustice — especially to young boys.

In the early elementary years, children are developing their ideas of what heroes are and enjoy imitating those concepts of heroes.  Most imaginative play, involving imaginary weapons, is a boy’s way of practicing and imagining what it means to be a hero — to be willing to protect and defend.  They are rehearsing what it means to be courageous and to be willing to fight a good fight.

In our attempts at removing any signs of potential violence, we not only demoralize and humiliate these boys, but we have now called their “hero-play” bad and in the process “villainized” our boys.  Rather than associating them with the “good guys”, we are associating them as the “bad guy.”  That is a social injustice!

These boys are simply being boys. Boys are created with a desire to protect and to defend.  They are more aggressive in nature in order to be courageous enough to face dangers.  

Do we want to raise boys who grow up to fear facing evil?  If so, then we merely need to discourage their efforts to imagine heroes, demoralize their character, and denigrate their name.

Most of what these boys are imitating is similar to what our military does.  Do we accuse our military of being villains instead of heroes when they fight to defend and protect our freedoms?  My young son wants to be a police officer or to be in the military when he is older.  I believe both are worthy callings.  I just hope that some day, if I am called to give the ultimate sacrifice (my son’s life) in order to protect the freedoms of others, that my son is not considered a villain for sacrificing his life so that we can keep ours.

Having “Hero Days” in school is an appropriate proactive approach.  Schools are wise to invite many different types of modern-day heroes to visit their schools.  Today’s heroes are medical personnel, EMT’s, firefighters, police officers, military veterans, volunteers for service organizations, the Coast Guard, service animals, community volunteers who help clean highways, etc…  If we want our boys to identify with heroes, then we must provide them with positive examples of heroes.

There are boys who become violent, but it’s not because they played imaginary heroes. In fact, the boys who become violent are often the boys who were made to feel insignificant, helpless, weak, and “villainized” as the bad guy.

The boys who become violent are often boys who are raised in broken families, a missing positive role model (his father), and/or spend too much time playing the evil guy in video games.  Boys need to be raised to associate with the good guys — not the bad guys.  (A rule in our house is that my boys are never to imitate evil or the bad guy; I want them to associate with good.)

We empower the bad guys by weakening the good guys.  When we tell our boys that imaginary “hero-play” is bad, we are damaging their associations with good heroes and affiliating them with the bad guys.

Boys must be taught that chivalry is not extinct but is honorable.  Chivalry means protecting and honoring those whom we esteem.  It means treating others with esteem.

If we want to raise men who will defend the honor of others, then we must encourage them that protecting and defending is honorable.

So many women feel they have to be tough and be the protectors of their families.  Why is this?  It takes grit and courage to live life well, no matter the gender.  But are some of these women so “tough” because they don’t feel protected and don’t trust the men in their lives to defend their honor?

Boys can be taught discipline and courage through positive activities, such as wrestling and karate, that hone their defensive skills but also teach them how to honor their opponent and how to maintain self-control.

Boys who have the tendency to become the “villain” are often desperate and angry, wanting to be heard and to feel significant.  In seeking to find “significance”, they will take the road of the villain if they feel they can be better heard and recognized that way then by being the hero.

If we want a generation of heroes, then we must encourage our sons to associate with and emulate heroes, to be honorable, to be courageous, and to feel heard.

If we want a generation of men who are spineless, of weak character, and full of anger, then we must squash their heroic ambitions and treat them as imbeciles and crooks.

That’s a sure method to turn our boys from heroes into villains.

A Letter To Oldest Son

 

Family letter in 1920 2

(FreeImages.com/ascom)

 

Dear Eldest Son,

You and Daddy are away this weekend.  I promised you that while you are gone, I would work on a blog just for you.

When I think of writing a blog to you, I wonder how I can summarize all that you mean to me and these past eight years we have shared as mother and son.  I don’t know if I am skilled enough for the challenge, but I know that all you care about is knowing how much you are loved and how special we see you as.  So, here it goes…

Precious Son, you have changed my life unequivocally.  A little over eight years ago, you redefined me by adding a new synonym to my list: that of “Mom,” “Mommy,” or “Mother.”  Before becoming a mom, I could only dream and imagine what it would be like to be a mother.  I always loved babies so I anticipated having one of my own.  I also had always enjoyed and worked well with children so I had dreams of having that same close relationship with my children.

Then, you came.  No dream could compare to the reality of holding my very own child for the first time in my arms.  I imagined crying when I would see you for the first time.  (I cry when I watch other new moms hold their babies for the first time.)  Your Daddy cried when he saw you for the first time.  Me?  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t cry at your Daddy’s and my wedding either — even though our wedding and your birth and the births of your siblings were my most precious earthly moments.  I think my emotions ran too deep to even express themselves in tears.  I think I was simply too overwhelmed and overjoyed.  The tears would come later…

Tears or no tears, I was amazed, overwhelmed, in awe!  There I held within my arms my very own baby, my very own flesh and blood!  You were so perfect, so beautiful!  Your Daddy and I just wanted to hold you and hold you.  We didn’t want you out of our sight for even a few minutes.

Within a few weeks, you were smiling and laughing.  That made it even more special!  You and I developed a very close bond.  I could tell that there was a special connection that you sensed too.  I remember dancing with you in the kitchen while special music was playing (a lullaby with your name in it) and looking into your eyes and seeing this look of recognition, this look of contentment and joy in your eyes.  You knew you were lovedI remember feeling so completely in love with you and thinking that I couldn’t imagine being happier.

The months passed, and you grew.  We played together, read together, cuddled together, and just simply adored being together.  Life as a mother was simply amazing!  I don’t remember you being unpleasant or me feeling remotely annoyed at you.

Life has a way of “shaking things up a bit,” and it did with the birth of your brother.  At first, you didn’t think you liked him much.  You liked him a little, except when Mommy had to feed him and you wanted Mommy’s attention.  Then, there was a lot of frustration and tears on both of our parts.  I didn’t know how to nurse your brother and keep you happy at the same time.  That was a difficult time for both of us.  Thankfully, it passed — especially once your brother started to crawl.  Once he started to crawl, you saw him as a play-mate.  You loved racing him around the dining room table (you would crawl with him).  We fit into a groove then, and I once again felt that life was absolutely wonderful and ideal.  I loved having two sons, and you guys mostly loved each other too.

At a young age, we began to see your personality emerge.  As a newborn, you were demanding.  I remember how you would get so angry when you were hungry that you couldn’t nurse at first.  I would have to calm you down, and then you could nurse.  Your personality seemed to mellow though, and you became a very pleasant and happy baby.

Those who knew you as a toddler would describe you as very personable, lively, and with natural leadership skills.  You were thought of as athletic also.  At two, you could kick the soccer ball quite well.  You were very confident as a little guy.  In the nursery, you could send everyone into fits of laughter by the funny things you would do.  You knew how to entertain.  You were also very conscious of what people thought of you — even as just a 12 1/2-month-old.  I remember how I had you dressed in this adorable outfit for Christmas (bow-tie and golfer hat with dress shirt and pants).  Two teen boys sat behind us and were laughing at you; they thought you were cute and funny.  You thought they were making fun of you so you glared at them and then slid down in the pew so they couldn’t see you.

You talked well but then regressed when your brother came.  Finally at 2 1/2 years of age, your vocabulary really took off.  All of a sudden, you were talking 5 and 6-word sentences.

You were also very tall and still are.  You have been in the 96th percentile in height for several years now.  The doctors predict you’ll be at least 6+ feet tall once you are an adult.

You are now the big brother of two brothers and one sister.  Daddy and Mommy have more demands on our time, but we still try to make time for each of you and to let you know how special you are to us.

You love to draw, write stories, play outside, read books or to be read too.  You love to build with Legos, play make-believe games, play Wii, watch movies, be chased, play sword-fight, build things, and play soccer.  You are an active boy, but you can also be calm when you are doing a quieter activity.  You understand spiritual matters and can converse on deep subjects.  You do your best in school and get good grades.  You try to please your teachers and care about what others think of you.  You can be tough but also sensitive.  You dislike change but like adventures.  You love scary rides but still love to be hugged.

These eight years haven’t been easy for you or us.  It’s hard learning to obey and to do what is right.  It’s hard learning to be selfless and patient.  When you live in a larger family, our true natures come out more.  That can be good as it can cause those rough edges to hopefully be worn off sooner than they would be otherwise.  It does create more challenges within the home environment though.

Your Daddy and I aren’t perfect, and we have let you down at times.  We thank you for your patience in working with us as we learn how to become better parents and as we learn to grow in our obedience to God and in doing what is right.  You see, Will, life is all about learning and growing.  It’s all about learning that the best way is in obeying God.  It’s also seeing that God loves each of us individually.  He loves you personally and intimately.  He desires for you to have only the very best.  He wants you to experience the fullest measure of life, liberty, and love — found only in and through Him.

W1, we are so thankful that you made a profession of faith!  Your Daddy and I continue to pray for you to grow as a Child of God.

W1, if the one thing you learn (now that you are saved) is how much God loves you and you love Him in return, your Daddy and I are completely at peace and content.  We don’t need to worry about anything else.  Those two things will sustain you and preserve you through anything.  So, Will, that is what we pray for you — that you would know God and His love for you and that you would love him intimately in return.

W1, there are so many challenges in this life.  So much suffering!  I wish I could protect you from it all.  From my Mommy stand-point, I would choose a peaceable, pleasant, prosperous life for you.  I also recognize that an easy life can often produce an “easy” faith.  In other words, our faith grows, our character develops when we do have to suffer some difficulties.  Challenges work our “spiritual muscles.”  I know how much you love the story of Eric Liddell.  He was quite an amazing runner, but it was his faith that “ran” even better.

Precious Son of my heart, can I remind you that you win, when you choose to do the right thing and to do it wellYou are in a race — the race of lifeAny race that has a valuable reward at the end requires dedication, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, endurance.  No one wins a race by sitting on the side-lines.  No one wins a race by watching the other runners.  No one wins a race by giving up as soon as they break into a sweat.  No one wins a race by dropping out when their muscles begin to tire.  No one wins a race by living a life of comfort and ease.  No one wins a race by quitting when they lose their first practice.

W1, I have heard of a simple but profound speech by Winston Churchill.  He said, “Never give up.  Never give up.  Never give up!  Never give up!  NEVER GIVE UP!”  Son, life is going to be challenging.  You’ll produce tears and sweat by the buckets in this life.  You will feel your physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental muscles strain and cry out for relief.  You will feel yourself falling, and you won’t want to get back up.  Others will mock or criticize you.  You will be tempted to believe the lies that you are a failure and not special.  The truth is you are — not just because you are my son (and that makes you very special) — because you are God’s child and He has incredibly special plans for your life.

Precious Son, lift that head of yours, throw back those shoulders, open those beautiful eyes of yours and see what God has planned for you.  Breathe the life God has given to you.  Take hold of His plan for your life, and run, Son!  Run well.  When you fall, get up again.  When you fall again, get up again.  Son, don’t give up!  Never give up!  Never give up!  NEVER GIVE UP!  You have a legacy, a heritage that no one can take from you.  So, run your race, Son.  Run it well, and in the end, you will hear, “Well done thou, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of the Lord!”

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My Norman Rockwell Life

Boy holding flower

(FreeImages.com/CynthiaTurek)

I don’t have any Norman Rockwell paintings in my house, but I always liked how he had the ability to capture personalities and real life in a painting.  If someone was painting my life, I think that Norman Rockwell might be the best artist to do it justice.  Maybe.

There was the day a few weeks ago when I returned from dumping a load of yard waste into the burn barrel to find my boys emptying our bag of potting soil on my flowers.  With hearts happy to please Momma, they told me that they were “mulching my gardens.”  We had to re-scoop the potting soil to use for garden “starts.”

Every mom likes to talk about the bouquet of dandelion blooms that her boys hand to her, all wilted.  Little boys with beaming smiles proclaim, “Mommy, I picked you flowers to put in your vase.”

Some days are tough, really tough.  As a mom, you hang your head and feel the “weight of the world,” the lies of Satan telling you that you aren’t good enough as a mom and you should just give up.  Failure.  Depression.  Then, a little boy hands you a note before bed that says, “To: Mommy, I am sorry I was mean to you.  Will you furgive me?  Luv,…”  I take the rolled-up-note and place it next to my Bible and journal of thanks.  It’s a visual reminder, another moment of grace.  Hope seeps in, and new strength to persevere is reborn.

One day, my painting would have been of the crazy neighbor lady (guess who?) chasing a ball down the road while her boys hop around and cheer.  There’s no runner’s form — just a mom running for all she’s worth to grab the ball before a car careens around it or over it.  Littlest boy sees Mommy return with the ball and thinks he’ll throw it again to watch Mommy run again.  Mommy stops that effort immediately.

Another painting might show Mommy picking dirt out of her ears and leaves from her hair, thanks to mischievous boys.  Three little boys had the grand scheme to play a joke on Mommy, thought it would be hilarious to dump a bucket of dirt on her head while she was weeding.  It took three scrubbings to get all the dirt out of her hair.  The next day, she was still cleaning dirt out of her ears.

Then there’s the moment when a boy brings a bucket of daffodils and proudly proclaims, “I brought you flowers, Mommy!”  Mommy asks from where he got the flowers.  He excitedly declares, “I dug them up” and points his little finger at a spot where Mommy had planted daffodils last spring.  Someday, Mommy’s garden won’t be dug up and flowers won’t be picked.  Someday, Mommy will miss little grubby hands holding wilting bouquets of flowers “to fill Mommy’s vase.”

Three little boys are scrubbed for church, wearing ties and dress shirts and boy saddle shoes.  It’s picture-taking time at church for the bulletin.  Mommy tells her boys to head straight to the picture-taking room immediately after the service and before snacks.  Church ends, and Mommy meets her boys immediately after in the picture-taking room.  Littlest boys presents himself all smiling.  There are dirt streaks up and down his nice shirt and dress pants.  He looks like he was eating chocolate in church.  Grammie must have given him a crayon, which he managed to get all over his clothes.  The photographer tells Mommy that we can photo-shop his clothes clean.  Too bad, it’s not that easy to clean little boy clothes normally!

Norman Rockwell might have enjoyed painting the “modern” boy telling his daddy that while bike-riding in the driveway, he only got one scratch on his daddy’s car.  “Just one scratch, Daddy!”  Daddy looks at that one, very long scratch across his door.  A son’s autograph.

Then there’s the perfect bathroom painting: Mommy checks on her boy who has been in the bathroom for a little too long.  She finds the toilet plunger with a toilet paper bow around it.  Littlest boy tells her, “I was decorating the plunger, Mommy!”

A favorite painting might be the one of littlest boy and sister sitting side by side, wearing matching cowboy hats.  Baby sister’s is falling down over her eyes.  Little smile peaks out.  Littlest brother says, “[Sissy] and I match!”

Best painting might be of a boy with pockets full of carrots and shirt off, coming in from the garden.  With hands extended, little boy shows Mommy the carrots he dug up.

One more painting in the collection might be of a little boy at a recent wedding.  The wedding is outside at a beautiful historical site.  We sit outside on chairs, in the shade of a tree.  Middle boy looks at a nearby tree and asks, “Mommy, can I climb it?”  He would get a good view of the wedding that way!  Wedding ends, and middle son finds a tree to start climbing, just as soon as he filled his tummy.

Life is all about perspective.  Life events can be seen as frustrations, irritations, inconveniences, or they can be seen as gifts, treasures, memories, and tokens of grace.  Each day, we paint a picture in the hearts of our children.  We can paint our days with strokes of grace or with slashes of anger.  What paintings do our children have?

 

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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.

Weddings & Boys

Two weeks ago, our family headed to TN for my sister-in-law’s wedding.  We asked some close friends to pray for our trip as we knew we would be on a different schedule, be sleeping in different beds, and taking long trips — all of which can really disrupt little boys.  With bags of snacks, books, coloring books, stickers, and other fun games, we left home with a loaded van.  The first part of our trip was very slow, driving in pouring rain and a bad T-storm.  We then hit rush-hour traffic, road construction, a horrible accident, and finally 4 hours later arrived to pick up my niece who was to accompany us on our trip.  It normally takes two hours to get to her place.  The rest of our trip was less eventful, and we made good timing with very few stops.  (I had packed a car-lunch so that helped.)

We arrived in time for dinner and were able to greet and meet lots of relatives and friends.  The next few days flew by in a flurry of preparations and a bachelorette party and then the wedding.  The boys did really well, and we could truly sense the prayers of our friends back home.  In fact, our boys received lots of compliments from everyone regarding their good behavior.  PTL!

The big day arrived, and I dressed our boys in their black suits or tuxes. — whichever one they had.  I even moussed their hair a bit so it brought out their natural curl.  They wore matching ties and black dress shoes; I couldn’t help but smile as I saw my cute little men.  They did fairly well sitting through the wedding.  Our only slightly interesting moment was when D-1 decided to leave his pew (he was sitting with my niece) to walk to my pew (right behind them).  Thankfully, it was right before the bridal party came down the aisle.  L-1 also tried to stand on my lap to view the choir.  I had to restrain him.  I guess the biggest potential blip was when at least L-1 or D-1 tried to follow me up front when I did my part in the ceremony.  My husband’s uncle managed to rescue the moment by quickly securing them on his lap.

Boys will be boys though so we got a few pictures of them dancing in the foyer while pictures were being taken, dripping mango pop juice down the front of their white shirts, trying to climb the tent poles, and falling into the flower gardens at the front of the church.  Ha! Ha!  I knew those little gentlemen were still little boys who prefer dirt and stickiness over mousse, ties, and suits.

During the reception, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to dance with each of my men: my sweet husband and then each of my cute little men.  I am one spoiled lady!  Another highlight during the reception was watching L-1 walk up to a little girl, adorned in a poofy dress and ribbons, and asking her to dance.  His exact words were, “Will you dance with me?”  She agreed so the cute couple danced away while many cameras snapped pictures.  The dance ended with the little girl pulling both of them to the ground, where their legs flew up in the air.  Little girls will be girls too!

As I watched Hubbie sweetly dance with his mother and sister, I couldn’t help but imagine his mom’s thoughts — how it must feel to behold your son so tall and handsome, so mature, and a father of his own sons.  Such pride and wonder that must be!  It struck me then that in a “blink-of-an-eye” that will be me someday.   I will be the one then looking up into the tall, handsome faces of my sons and thinking back to those days of little boys with mango-stained shirts, climbing tent poles and wonder how the time went so quickly.

I think I will treasure today those muddy little bodies that are so quick to kiss and hug me.  Today they are here, and tomorrow, they will be there.

“What Was He Thinking?”

There have been a few of those moments recently when I have wondered what was going through the minds of my kids when they did certain things.  Take for instance the following:

The kids and I were at my sisters’.  I asked my nephews to keep an eye on D-1 while I took a shower.  I came downstairs and asked them where D-1 was.  They told me he was using the potty.  I peeked in on D-1 and saw that he had taken music sheets, set them on the potty, and then peed on top of the stack.  I was wondering what the purpose of that was.

Another situation was when D-1 appears at the church door on Sunday, carrying a stack of trash cans.  He had collected around 4, stacked them together, and then was going to take them outside for some purpose.

Same culprit but a different situation: I go into the boys’ room twice in  the same day to discover that during nap time and bed time, a certain boy had pooped in his potty and then dumped it all over the floor.  The second time was worse because he had smeared the poop on books, stuffed animals, the carpet, his brother, and bedding.

More Messes…

I entered the boys’ room Sunday morning to prepare them for church and found my son standing on top the wash. machine with a huge mess everywhere.  I had placed our cleaning products on top the wardrobe and on the top shelf of the cupboard (as high as you can get in the laundry room), but he still had managed to reach the products and had poured the bleach, Borax, and Oxyclean all over the floor, washing machine, sink, etc…  What a mess!  I didn’t get it all cleaned until the following day since Sunday was of course a very busy day.

The boys have also figured out how to undue the “hook ‘n eye” locks we have on their doors.  They juggle it long and hard enough until the hooks pop out.  Not cool since that means, I can’t keep them in their room, in the family room, out of the food pantry, out of the bathrooms, etc… if they want.  Boys!!!

Only A Boy Would Think of This… (Or Maybe Not…)

The other day, my husband returned to check on our eldest after getting our second son ready for bed.  (Eldest son was supposed to be going potty.)  I heard a, “Why is there water on the floor?”

“I was splashing my feet in the water.”  (The water was from the toilet.)  Eldest son was sitting on the little potty and kicking his feet in the big potty at the same time.  Water is water, right?!!!  Uhm…