Running On Empty?

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(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.

D-Son, I Noticed…

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Dear D-Son,

I noticed all the times you sat W-2 brother down beside you and practiced piano while he banged on the keys.

I noticed all the times when you unselfishly played with and entertained your younger siblings.

I noticed all the times you gave your special toys and trinkets away to family and friends.

I noticed all the times you curled up against me at church.

I noticed the time you took my hand to walk with me at the field trip because you were so happy to have me present.

I noticed how eagerly you introduced me to your friends at school.

I noticed how hard you tried to run, throw, and jump at your school’s Field Day.

I noticed how you worked to learn the rest of the 24 memory verses in order to earn a week at boys’ camp and learned them weeks before they were due.

I noticed how you studied in school and got straight A’s all year.

I noticed how you tried so hard to pay attention and to get a good report on your behavior, and I noticed how tears filled your eyes whenever you were reprimanded.

I noticed how hard you worked to make your science poster turn out well and how delighted you were when you got first place.

I noticed how you have such patience and perseverance in making crafts, building stuff, and with everything you do.

I noticed how your eyes twinkle with a love for life.

I noticed how you giggle and how you protest vehemently against being tickled.

I noticed how you journal and love to write thoughtful notes to people.

I noticed how you love to read and are prolific at it.

I noticed how you are so much like your daddy and want to be an engineer just like him some day.  And I can see that happening.

I noticed how you surprised you were when you received the “Christian Character” Award at school this year for your class.

I noticed how you wanted to be baptized this year.

I noticed, Son, your heart for God, and nothing makes me happier!

I love you, Son, no matter where you go and what you do because you will always be my very own precious son!

Saying Goodbye

 

Some of my earliest memories are of playing with my dear cousin.

Only a month separated our birthdays.

Our fathers were born only a year apart, in a family of nine children.  Our fathers were best friends growing up and loved to sail and to camp together.

Our fathers’ love for camping carried over into their years as fathers.  Every Memorial Day weekend and every Labor Day weekend, with few exceptions, our families would load up our station wagons and hook up our pop-up campers and would head to campgrounds.

At the campgrounds, we would roast marshmallows over an open campfire, play fun games, put on skits, learn to play my mom’s Autoharp, go swimming, play Shuffleboard, go miniature-golfing, ride bikes, and play volleyball.

I remember my cousin and I as little girls, with our heads bent over my mom’s Autoharp, learning to strum and play the correct notes.

I remember hours of playing card games inside our campers, while listening to the sounds of rain drumming on canvas.

I remember swinging on hammocks and sitting by campfires while playing the game “Concentration,” surrounded by all of our many aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I remember riding bikes down dirt paths, while sunlight filtered through tree leaves, creating patterns of “lace.”

I remember playing together at family gatherings on those hot, sweltering days of summer.  I remember the storms that would come, forcing us all to pack under the “shelter” of a pavilion, while the area around was drenched in torrential downpours.

I remember Christmas get-togethers, where we would take turns pushing each other and my younger siblings around on the carts made for holding folding chairs.

I remember writing a book together, and I wonder if you still have it.

My memories continue into our growing up years, and our friendship never waned through those years.

We both separately visited foreign countries.  We taught in different states at summer Bible clubs and camps and realized that we both loved teaching.

Then, there was college. College turned into graduation.  Then, you were a beautiful bride, marrying a kind and good man.

A few years later, our mutual love for kids and teaching led us to the same school.

My wedding followed the completion of my second year at that school.  You were one of my bridesmaids and a beautiful one too!

Then our first biggest good bye yet occurred.  You and your dear husband headed off to teach in a mission school in Brazil.

When I saw you again, it was to celebrate the impending delivery of your first child.  What a beautiful pregnant first-time mommy you were!  You returned to Brazil, and I tried to keep in touch through regular reports and pictures of your adorable and growing son.

After completing another year of teaching in Brazil, you and your family returned to the States, where you settled a little over an hour from my home.  We were both expecting our second babies at that time.

Babies followed babies.  And somehow along the way, we both ended up with five children!  Our children became great friends and could easily be mistaken as “first-cousins.”.

We moved closer to your home and were able to see each other on a regular basis, with field trips to historical places, fun-filled days at parks, sitting around the table playing games as families, camping together, and sharing countless laughs together.

Then life abruptly changed.

With tears streaming down both of our faces, you relayed the news of an impending move that would take your family miles, hours, states away.  We’d “been down the road” before of saying good bye for a time.  Yet somehow, this time it seems harder.

Perhaps, because it’s not just us saying good bye this time but now it’s our kids and our husbands.  Perhaps because now we know so much more fully that time in this life is so fleeting, and our kids will soon be off on their own adventures.  We wonder if we will still be able to be as fully engaged in each others’ lives, sharing each others’ kids as if they were our own.

As I acknowledge how painful this upcoming good bye will be, I know that our friendship will still span the miles, hours, and states.  Our prayers and love for each other will embrace the distance to each others’ hearts and families.

I can release you because I know that we both have the same loving God, watching over each other. I can “rest” in the belief that He is a good God and that He has opened this door for you to walk through because He has “plans not to harm you but to give you a hope and a future.”  He is Jehovah M’ Kaddesh, the God who abundantly supplies everything you need: spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, financially!  He will take care of you.

So “good bye” my cousin, my dear friend… for “good bye” is never forever.

The Whole Gamut: The Past Two Months In Review

IMG_0458 (Large) IMG_0477 (Large)(Smiles From Baby and A Date With My Son)

It really has been almost two months since I last blogged.  I admit disappointment in that because I had made it a goal to blog at least once a month.  Considering the fact that I have five kids, ages 9 and under and that the youngest is 2.5 months old, well, I choose to give myself some slack (or is it more aptly stated as accept more grace).

You see my life is far from perfect, my husband is far from perfect, my kids are far from perfect, and yes, I am far from perfect — perhaps farther than a lot of you.  🙂  As much as I want to hurry my growing process along, I recognize that it all takes time.  A wise produce grower knows this.  He also knows when to prune, how to prune, and that pruning takes repetition.  It’s not a once-done deal.  I am like that.  I need repeated “prunings,” and I have a Master Gardener who knows just how to do that the very best way for my own personal growth.

My life is far from perfect, but it is full of grace.  Even when I don’t acknowledge or recognize the grace, it surrounds me every day and in so many ways — from the coos of a baby, to the warmth of my house on a cold January day, to the happiness on my daughter’s face as I make snow-castles with her, to the laughter shared with a son as we make silly faces together in a mirror, to the happiness of playing Checkers with another son…  My day is full of so many demonstrations of grace.  Sometimes, grace is also displayed when life isn’t all smiles, coos, and happiness.  Sometimes, it’s found when my daughter publicly humiliates me or a son tells my husband and I we need to go on a date so we have better attitudes.   (Those things really did happen: the good and the bad.)

So, here’s a look into my imperfect life that is “perfect” for me — being where God wants me to be and surrounded by His perfect love:

December arrived with cold germs spreading throughout our family.  I spent less than 1/2 an hour outside on a wet and snowy Saturday, decorating for Christmas and wound up with a sinus infection and bronchitis.  After battling almost a week’s worth of a fever, asthma, and a nasty cough for weeks afterwards, I finally improved.  (My lungs are still healing from my sickness.)

Stomach bug germs replaced the cold germs right before Christmas.  Being sick a week before Christmas meant my husband and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morn the week of Christmas, wrapping presents.  We made it fun by watching Christmas movies, sipping Sparkling Blueberry juice, and eating chocolate while wrapping presents.

We then spent the next week entertaining and being entertained by company for the holidays.  It was a busy but fun-filled time!

I disliked removing our Christmas decorations but finally admitted it was time when our tree had piles of needles beneath bare branches and was turning brown.  Nostalgia brought tears to my eyes, and I told my husband that I am going to really miss the sight of small coats hanging in our foyer in another decade.  I lovingly gave one more glance to my children’s handmade ornaments before stowing them away in the attic.  (Those ornaments have become some of my most-prized collections!)

January arrived blistery and with more snow days.  I have learned snow days mean extra work for me but many happy moments too.  I love to watch my kids playing in the snow!  I may enjoy staying inside in the warmth these days, but I am willing to stretch myself in order to bring happiness to a child.

This month, I have been enjoying having my turn at taking each of the kids individually on a “date” with Momma.  My kids love the undivided attention, and I love the opportunity to be undistracted and relaxed with my kids!  There are so many demands on a mother’s time and attention that it is challenging to find and make the time to get much one-on-one time with each child.  So far, I have gone on a date with each of my two oldest sons.  We have gone to the restaurant of their choice, bought a small keepsake, talked, laughed, and just enjoyed the fun times together.  During our talks, I was able to ask the boys all kinds of great questions.  It was a neat time to get to know them better and find out their goals, desires, sorrows, fears, frustrations, and joys! 

These have been a busy past two months.  The first month with our newborn I spent more closely at home and put a lot of things on hold.  As January approached, I decided it was time to get caught up on insurance shopping (getting new quotes for auto, home, and life and making the changes).  I was also finally able to get some of our health insurance issues resolved.  My husband also began to work longer hours at the office.  The added stress of caring for five children by myself, ill health, long hours at work for my husband was indeed lending itself to stress that could either make or break our marriage.  As my son noticed, we were starting to give in to wrong  attitudes, and it was time to make necessary changes to halt the negativity.  (I guess our son had noticed our temperaments improve when we are able to get some couple time.)

Last Sunday was also one of those times when grace can become very evident even in the midst of unpleasant circumstances.  I had left our baby and 2.5 year old with my husband while I finally found a minute to attend to personal needs.  🙂  When I returned to reclaim the baby, my husband informed me that I would also need to get our 2.5 year old, who was standing in front of the congregation, pretending to sing.  My husband was occupied at the time since he has responsibilities in the sound room.  To my discomfiture, I had to approach the front of the auditorium and reclaim our daughter.

As I approached her, I realized this was going to be even more embarrassing.  It was obvious this was going to be one of those occasions when our daughter was going to test her limits and the limits of our patience and pride.  As I motioned for her to come to me, she ran the other way.  Her escape route took her straight up the stairs and onto the platform.  I was in a conundrum.  I wasn’t going to chase her across the platform, but neither could I leave her there.  I quietly approached the stairs from the side and motioned to her again to come, displaying my stern “Mommy means business” face.  With a toss of her blond curls, she ran the opposite way, down the stairs on the opposite side of the platform.  What now?  My daughter was not going to obey, and I could not leave her to her own devices.  Somehow, I had to get ahold of her, but do it in such a way as to diminish the distraction for our audience.  It was at this point that my husband saved the day.  Before I could take a second look, he had quickly marched down the middle aisle, swept in and grabbed our daughter up in his arm while holding our baby in the other arm, and just as quickly exited the auditorium with a sobered daughter in tow.  (She was much more serious about obeying after that.)

May I share that watching my husband determinedly take his daughter in order and rescue an otherwise distressing situation was one of the most “romantic” things he could have done.  Romantic?  Yes!  I was so appreciative and admiring of his taking leadership and responsibility in protecting and guiding his family where needed.  My husband is a kind and patient man.  He normally speaks calm words.  When he speaks with firmness, we respect and take notice.

Afterwards, grace was even more evident when a number of people approached us and kindly shared their own stories of how their children had done the same thing or similar.  Their humility and compassion were greatly appreciated.  I had been humbled by it all — parenting has a way of doing that to us on a regular basis — but their graciousness had comforted me.  Oh, and my husband and I have decided we need to play some “obedience” training games with our daughter.

Life goes on…  Lessons are learned, and hopefully new growth is occurring on a regular basis.  In the midst of it all, may I cherish not just those precious times, spent like today (making snow-castles with my daughter), but also those times when I am given the opportunity to humbly extend forgiveness and grace to my children when they exert their own wills and sometimes do the opposite of what we desire for them.  God is so quick to forgive me!  May I be just as quick in forgiving my children who have “wronged” me far less!

A Letter To Parents

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Dear Parents,

I wish I could get this message to all parents.  Unfortunately, the only parents that will probably read this are the ones who probably don’t need to read it.

As parents, it’s so easy to think of the many ways our kids inconvenience us.  Believe me, I have done that.  I have even thought of how much easier life would be without them.  No, I wouldn’t trade my kids in, and I am very thankful for them.  It’s just that some days, you really miss those quieter pre-kid days when you could do things at your own convenience and the only noise you heard was what you made or chose to play on the radio.  Parenting is tough!

Some day — a very soon day — my kids won’t need me so much any more.  Some day, I am going to truly miss the toys scattered across my floor, the piles of laundry on bedroom floors, the stacks of dirty kid dishes, and even those smudgy hand-prints on my windows.  I believe that you will too.  Any parent who is decent will miss these stages that we rush through, “sleep-walk” through, and imagine away because we can’t wait for the next stage that we think will be easier.  The funny thing is we get to the next stage and often find it’s just as challenging but in a different way.  Parenting is work!

Today though I want us to take our eyes off ourselves and to try to see things for just a little bit from the perspectives of our children. 

I want us to also see the joys of parenting.  Parenting is a blessing!

I can’t help but recall the first and only field trip my boys had when they were in preschool.  It was the first and only field trip they would have that year, and it was to a park.  I, of course, went with my two boys, accompanied by their littlest brother.  I loved watching my boys play with their friends.  I wouldn’t have missed that day for anything.  A lot of other parents were there too.  I will never forget though the few little children who sat by themselves on park benches with the most forlorn expressions on their faces.  These were just 3 and 4 year olds.  They wanted their very own Daddy and Mommy to be there, enjoying the day with them.  They wanted their Daddy and Mommy to chase them around the playground, to teach them how to make sandcastles in the sand, to push them high on the swings, to catch them at the end of the sliding board, to laugh and giggle, to cheer them as they played the games for prizes, and to simply smile, letting them know that they are loved.  I remember walking up to this one dejected little boy.  He was sitting by himself on a park bench.  I asked him what was the matter.  His response?  He missed his Daddy and Mommy.  I was so happy I could be there with my kids, but I wished that his parents could see and know that they were missed and wanted.

Sometimes, we wonder why our kids react in anger.  Sometimes, we think they must not want to be with us because they throw a temper tantrum or do the foolish things that children do.  Sometimes, we wonder how much we are appreciated or missed.  When I think about those children, I realize that all kids just want to be loved.  They want the security of having parents who truly care about them and put the kids’ needs before the parents’ own desires.

I remember the one three-year-old little boy whose mother was there at the park for a short time, but then she rushed off so she could return to her T.V. show that she didn’t want to miss.  Her little boy spent the rest of the time, aimlessly wandering around with a dejected look on his face.

Then, there was this year.  It was parent visitation day in the classroom at the kids’ school.  This only happens once a year.  My husband took off work for the morning so he could be there, and I arranged babysitting so I could also go.  The two of us loved sitting with our kids and working on projects with them.  The boys loved having us in the classroom with them and hated to see us go.  My heart went out though to the little boy who stood their all during recess looking down at the parking lot, hoping to see his parents arrive to visit with him.  Parent visitation had ended, and the little boy’s parents never came.  Thinking back to that day makes me cry.  How difficult would it have been for a parent to come and sit with that little boy?  I know that there are some cases when a parent might lose their job if they got off work, but normally there is a way for a parent to get off one morning in a school year to spend time with his or her child.

I also observed how some parents came, which is wonderful, but they seemed so detached, so lacking in emotion and loving expression.  I wonder why the detachment?  Is it because we have absorbed ourselves too much in our own interests, pains, anxieties — rather than in the interests of our kids?  Have we believed the lie that “our children are burdens and keep us from fulfilling our own destinies and futures”?

If I put myself in the place of those kids, I see these little people hurting and longing.  All they want is that loving look, that hug, and those three simple words “I love you” to be spoken to them.

Perhaps, there is a reason for the anger that we hear and the rebellion we see.  Perhaps, it’s not so much because they are rebellious but because their anger is revealing a greater issue — the issue of a hurting heart.  Do we get past the anger to see what is in the hearts of our kids?  Are we willing to invest ourselves in the lives of our kids?

It saddens me when I hear the statistics that one in every three kids is without a dad in the home.  It also grieved me to hear that one of the top 10 things that kids had listed on their Santa list was “Daddy to be home.”

As the recent horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT has reminded us, life is fragile and brief.  We don’t know the hours or days we have left with our kids.  While we still have them to love and hug, let’s make it our goal to do just that.  Let’s make sure that we aren’t the causes of any behavioral issues our kids might have or any insecurities that they are feeling.  Let’s make sure that they and the world know that we love our kids. 

If our kids know that we “have their backs,” it’s likely that they’ll also have ours when it matters.

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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Letter To The Future Bride

(Picture was taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

It is a special privilege to be able to write a letter to you in reference to, Lord-willing, your future role as a wife!

I have enjoyed almost 10 1/2 years of married life presently.  I hope this is just the first of many decades that I have to spend with my husband!

Per your request, I will share some of the lessons I have learned in a decade of married life:

Be ready to forgive 70 X 7 + more.  Don’t keep a record of wrongs.  “Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.”

Always honor your husband before others by how you speak of him, how you speak to him, and when you speak.

Practice the art of listening.

Respond with humor whenever appropriate.

Be willing to say “I am sorry,” without casting blame.

Avoid complaining.  Seek to edify and encourage.

Make your home an environment of rest both in body, mind, and soul.

Make your husband happy to come home.

Honor your husband by how you take care of yourself.  (You represent your husband.)  A wife who neglects herself may speak of disrespect towards her husband or inattention on his part towards herself.

Honor your husband before any children God gives you.  Show a unified front to your children.

Pray for and with your husband on a daily basis.

Frequently write your husband special notes of encouragement, putting them in his lunch or special places in your home.

Meet the physical needs of your husband.  Don’t view them as an obligatory burden but as a way to minister to his needs.

Be grateful and express it.

Have devotions as a couple and eventually as a family.

Discuss Scriptural questions with your husband.

Be loyal to your husband above any other relationship outside of God.

Be willing to seek Godly counsel, if your husband is truly living in a seriously un-Biblical way.

Gain your husband’s consent before making plans that affect him or the function of the family.

Be content.

Don’t be wasteful in your spending.  Stick to agreed upon budgets.

Don’t compare your husband to other men.

Avoid any inappropriate interactions with anyone of the opposite gender.

Be transparent and accountable to your husband with any male friendships/acquaintances that you might have had prior to marriage.  He should have full access to any communication.  Make sure your husband approves of any and all communication.

Avoid any appearance of evil (e.g. flirting with others, lunches with a coworker of the opposite sex.  Group situations are okay).

Dress modestly so you preserve your body as a gift for his eyes alone.

Avoid habits that are irritating to him.

Make dates a priority.

Share a mutual hobby.

Try to make meals that he finds palatable.

Create your own holiday traditions together.

Dress to please him.

Greet him with affection when he comes home from work or when he calls.

Don’t “dump” on him all the negative occurrences from your day.  Wait to share until later in the evening.

Keep his tastes in mind when decorating your home – make it mutually pleasing to both of you.

Take turns picking a movie to watch together.

Play games together, but don’t be a sore loser or an arrogant winner.

Joke with your husband.

Laugh together a lot.

Flirt with your husband – especially within the privacy of your home and room.

Dress sexy when in the privacy of your room.

Don’t be overly conscious of your body when sharing it with him.

View and treat sex with honor and as a gift.

Let him comfort you during child-bearing.  Don’t blame him for your pain.

Don’t use tears as a form of manipulation.

Try to avoid emotional tirades.  A man doesn’t know what to do with those.

If you need your husband to be more sensitive to you, gently tell him what would mean a lot (e.g. “Right now, I just need a hug from you, honey.”)

Take off the “rose-colored glasses” before marriage.  Put them on afterwards.

Only marry a man who will be compatible with these points.

Be flexible.  He might want to do something different than you had planned for the day or evening.

Keep yourself pure prior to marriage.  Present yourself as a gift to him on your wedding night.

Get your parents’ advice on the man you wish to marry.

Seriously consider any warnings your godly friends and family members may give.

Heed any inner cautions you have regarding a potential spouse.  It is better to end a courtship or engagement then a marriage!

Before marrying, pray if this is not just the right one but the right timing.  Some headaches in marriages could have been avoided if more time for maturation had been allowed.

Don’t haste to be wed.  The dating/courtship time is to be savored.

Keep an engagement as short as reasonably possible to avoid undue temptation.

Make sure you have had time to pursue any ministry opportunities God has called you to prior to marriage.  Once you are married, your focus will be on serving your husband rather than others.  (You can serve others together, but the opportunities are different.)

Get as much applicable training as possible before marriage so that you can bring those life skills and lessons into better serving your family.  Time and resources will probably be more limited once you are a new couple starting out.

Be resourceful in meeting your family’s needs.

Don’t be selfish with your time and attention in serving your family.

Serve with a cheerful attitude.

I may think of more, but this is the list I have for now.  This is an impossible list in and of yourself.  You and I both need the Lord’s grace and Spirit to help us actually live this in our daily lives.  We will sin at times and not fulfill these guidelines.  When we do, we need to humbly ask for forgiveness and then start again.

Let me leave you with this quote:

“If the manner of life under grace is superhuman, so, also, the provided enablement is supernatural, and is limitless as the infinite power of God …. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that, since God has proposed the impossible rule of life and provided the sufficient Spirit, the believer’s responsibility is thereby changed from being a struggle of the flesh to being a reliance on the Spirit. Grace thus introduces a new problem for the believer’s life which is wholly foreign to every aspect of the law. It is the problem of the adjustment of the heart to the holy presence of the Spirit, and of maintaining the unbroken attitude of dependence on Him.” ~ Lewis Sperry Chafer

These Happy Golden Days of Summer

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It’s almost August now, which means the month when school starts back up again for my kids.  There’s a lot of sadness in that thought for me because I have so enjoyed these golden days of summer!  I just love having the time to sit around and play games with my kids, and we’ve done lots of that!  It’s exhilarating to join my kids on the swings or slides at parks.

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These happy golden days of summer are something that I want to hang onto a bit longer.  To cherish them.  To run through a few more sprinkles with my kids.  To watch bare feet run across the lawn a few more times.  To sit down with a book and read to my kids.  To play a few more games of Chess with my boys.

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I could do without the fighting and bad attitudes that also come with a family of siblings and sin natures.  Kids come with the whole package though.  In spite of the fact that some days I would appreciate some quiet hours to myself, I wouldn’t trade these days with my kids.

The kids and I have made so many memories this summer, visiting with friends, playing at parks, enjoying swimming lessons, and just hanging out at the house.

It’s been a hot summer, and tempers have been hot at times too.  Yet, being a family means we love each other in spite of our faults.  We remind each other how to behave, and we don’t keep a record of past shortcomings.  Families are where we learn to forgive willingly.  Families are real.  Thankfully, grace is real too!

As the last month of our “free” summer months dawns, I can treasure memories of these happy golden days of summer.

What I Love!

I love babies who wave at bushes weaving in the breeze.

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I love boys who whisper in my ear that I am the best mom ever.

I love boys who make up their own Easter egg hunt, while sharing their own toys, stickers, and money with each other.

I love sisters to laugh with and be silly with.

I love nieces to take shopping and enjoy girlie stuff with.

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I love having a baby to cuddle in the night when she awakes screaming.

I love yellow tulips from my Secret Prayer Sister.

I love chocolate candy from her as well.

I love spring grass, so green!

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I love sunny days and white fluffy clouds.

I love trees and bushes and plants decked in their most fragrant and colorful dresses for spring.

I love brothers who read to each other and wrap their arms around each other.

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I love wet boy smooches.

I love warm, husband hugs.

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I love boys who love to match me and each other in dress.

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I love boys who beg to help me cook.

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I love pudgy hands and thighs on my baby girl.

I love friends who visit and laugh with us over broken vacuum cleaners, clogged drains, and rabid raccoons, because life is too crazy to not laugh.

I love boys who bring me piles of carrots that they dug up from last year’s garden.

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I love making soup from our carrots and very own onions.

I love even boys who yell and argue and kick — not because of bad behavior but because they remind me of God’s great grace to me.

I love dreams that are sad but make me awaken to realize how blessed I am to have a loving husband and four precious children!

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I love that I am loved — loved beyond my wildest imagination from a God powerful and yet tender!

Balancing Community And Family

Life has been extra crazy lately.  My husband is preparing for an important test to get a license.  This requires sacrifice on the part of the entire family.  The man has to study, the mommy has to carry on without the assistance of her husband, the kids miss out on some play times with their daddy.  The days seem longer, along with the “To-Do” lists.  This is also the time when stairs break, dishwashers come unscrewed from their mountings, vacuum cleaners break, taxes need to be filed, grass needs to be mowed, and the list grows.

Allergy season is also in full swing.  Baby is congested again.  My nights are far too short, while my days are much longer.  So the stresses, the frustrations, the inconveniences build.  It’s easy to release some of that tension towards those around me in negative ways — to not be as gracious, meek, patient, or sensitive.

Weeks pass, and I haven’t yet found a quiet hour to sit and blog, to reflect on the good that is occurring.  And it is occurring.  All the time.

Instead, I focus on what is important: living the life I have been given.  Sometimes, it’s too easy to write about the life we want to have, wish we had, but not really live in the moment.  The crux though is am I living my life — living it fully in the present and as God intended?


I don’t want to borrow the blessings/the good from the present in my rush to pursue the future or record the past. 

This blog is taking me days to write — days because I stop to feed my family, clean dishes, sew bunny ears on a child’s stuffed toy.  How rewarding it is to have a child’s “million-dollar” smile when he sees the restored bunny!  There is beauty in the simple things and so much good too!  There is fulfillment in ironing wrinkles out of a dress shirt.  There is contentment in vacuuming behind a dresser.  Joy is all about perspective, priorities.  It’s about commitment and balance.

I love to blog and will still blog as I can.  Why?  Because it gives me a record of lessons God is teaching me.  It helps me to connect to a larger community.  It encourages me to know that I might somehow assist someone else who is on a similar path of life.

Blogging can also be about affirmation — getting the affirmation and encouragement from others so that our mundane becomes more glorious — not because it isn’t or wasn’t — but because we needed another perspective or just a simple dose of encouragement to change our perspectives.  Is that all bad?  No.  It is good to get encouragement.  Community is meant to share and care.  I just need to make sure that the larger community has not replaced my heart connections to my “individual family”.

I also need to determine that I am not reaching out to a broader community for support because I am lacking in closer relationships at home.  If my relationships at home are lacking, it is time to readjust, redefine, reevaluate, and reestablish heart connections.  Community is not meant to replace needs that stem from deficient connections within the nucleus of my own family.

I’ll end this blog for now as I have many other topics running through my mind and stories I would love to share.  For now though, it’s all about connecting with my children’s hearts, stitching patterns of love, patience, selflessness, and joy into our days.