An Open Letter To My Teenage Self…

“Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Dear Preteen/Teenage Me,

First things first…

I know that this may come as a complete surprise to you, but you do not become rich and famous, marry Bret Michaels, or live in Beverly Hills. You finally meet him one day, but that’s as close as it gets.

It is for the best.

And contrary to what you may think at this moment, 42 is not one foot in the grave. I know it’s hard to believe; but you are actually going to love your late 30’s & early 40’s, and I mean that with all my heart. The confidence you gain through experience and maturity will help you grow more comfortable in your own skin, and it is liberating. There is a freedom with age that cannot be duplicated in youth.

That being said, you are living some of the best days of your life, and you don’t even know it. Hindsight is 20/20, so here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on your teenage years…

1. Enjoy school. While it may seem hard at the time, it’s the easiest thing you will ever endure. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, you have tons of homework. No, you will never need to know the hypotenuse of a triangle to change a diaper or land that dream job, but it’s a rite of passage so suck it up and endure. A roof over your head, good food in your belly, and no bills to pay. Stop wishing those days away. You will have the “opportunity” to work the rest of your life. Good grief, don’t rush it!!

2. Appreciate the skin that you are in. Be thankful your parents won’t let you wear makeup at 12. You don’t need it!! Your skin is glowing and without wrinkle. Why cover it up? There will be plenty of time and money spent on beauty products in the years to come, not to mention, tutorials galore on which makeup is best and how to contour until you are unrecognizable.

Stop trying to look like the girls on TV. Your body is going through numerous changes right now. Give it time. You will grow into those curves you hate so much, and freckles are not a curse. You are beautiful just the way you are.

But please, for the love, use sunscreen!!!

3. Wear what is flattering not just what is fashionable. All fashion trends do not look good on all people, and this is true no matter the decade. If it doesn’t look or feel fantastic, just don’t…or you will look back on pictures one day and wonder why you did.

That.is.all.

4. Quit worrying about boys. There will be plenty of time for boyfriends and relationships someday. Your worth is not measured by what a boy thinks of you. Jesus thinks you are precious and beautiful, and that’s all that matters. Spend these days making memories with family and friends, and stop wasting emotions and tears on boys who are hormonal and lack maturity and common sense.

It’s a proven fact that the brain of preteen/teen (sometimes older) boys goes through an enormous amount of change during these years causing them to say and do stupid things. (I know, I have two of them right now) So bypass this stage and catch them on the upswing! It will save you a lot of heartache.

5. Cherish your friendshipsRecognize good, healthy friendships and hold them close. Nurture those relationships and make the effort to keep in touch even when life takes you separate ways. If not, you will reconnect years from now and mourn the time you’ve lost and the memories you could have made.

And while we are talking about relationships, learn to extend grace to struggling friends but cut ties with toxic people. Neither of those become any easier as you grow older, but both are extremely important. Knowing the difference is key.

Find your tribe and love them hard. 

6. Be kind. Popularity is fleeting and matters very little in the grand scheme of things, so don’t waste your time, money, or energy trying to keep up with that crowd.

Instead of dwelling on your own problems, look for those who are sitting by themselves and join them. Let them know that someone sees them and that you care. You have no idea how far a kind word can go to lift the aching spirit of a lonely soul, so open your eyes to those around you and listen with your heart. It could significantly impact a life. Not only theirs but yours.

7. Listen to your parents. They actually do know what they are talking about and don’t say “no” just to make you miserable. Believe it or not, they love you more than life itself and desperately want to protect you. Let them.

Someday you will thank them. Someday you will want to talk to them every day even though you live 13 hours apart. Someday you will want your mom by your side when you are sick or having your first…second…and third baby. Someday they will be the first people you call when you need a listening ear, a comforting word, sound advice, or prayer. Someday you will realize they were right.

And you know that list in the back of your journal? The list of things you will “never say or do to your own children”?

You say and do them all. 

8. Chase your dreams. Don’t settle for what is practical or makes sense. Most successful people don’t follow the safe route. They find what sets their souls on fire and pursue it with every ounce of their being. So do that. Don’t wait. Start now.

If you are passionate about what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

9. Seek Jesus. Every day. Don’t just go to church and check boxes. It’s not about following a list of rules. Dive into His Word, and seek Him daily. Build a relationship with Him stronger than any other relationship in your life, and you will never regret it.

Will it always be easy? No. Will life be perfect? No, God’s not a genie in a bottle. But no matter what happens, you will always have Jesus and the peace and comfort that only He can give. He will see you through whatever you may face…and that’s a promise.

And lastly, but certainly not least….

10. Be thankful you don’t have social media!!! You have the wonderful opportunity of screwing up without the whole world watching. Don’t take that for granted! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The bottom line is this. Life is hard no matter how old you are. Pros and cons accompany any age, but the key lies in what you do with them. Embrace every stage and live it to the fullest or you will look back and wish you had.

We get one chance at this thing called life, and we need to make it count.

So buckle up, buttercup, and enjoy the ride.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” ~ Emerson

I’d Rather Be A Real Mom Than A Super Mom

What if we as mom’s, parents, guardians, and caregivers gave ourselves a break? What would that look like? How would that feel?

When you figure it out, let me know…

Because I majorly sucked at the mom thing this week. 

That’s what happens when we try to do it all. We hold ourselves to these ridiculous expectations and then feel like a failure when we don’t meet them. 

Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman, it will make me a worn out woman.” – Lisa Terkeurst

Show me a perfect mom, and…well, you can’t. 

It all started with a major work project. 

Suddenly, roles were reversed, and I was leaving the house at the crack of dawn while the hubs was playing Mr. Mom. Sounds like a vacation, right?!

Wrong.

In comes the guilt. 

  • Missing the first Awards Program in forever….
  • Receiving that dreaded “sick call” when I’m an hour away and can do nothing about it…
  • Missing an important birthday party invite until the last minute….

You name it, it happened.

And I stressed. 

But guess what. We made it. We all made it to the end of the week in one piece. Nobody died. Nobody needs therapy. (As far as I know) And nobody hates me.

In fact, we all learned how to pull together and do our part. Because that’s what we do as families. We’re a team. We work together and make it all happen. 

And when one person changes positions, we adjust. We cover for each other. Fill in the gaps.

It doesn’t make us bad parents. It makes us good parents.

We are teaching our children that life doesn’t always go as planned. It’s not the same every day. Just because mom usually does the morning thing, school drop off, and daily emergencies doesn’t mean dad can’t do it too! And apparently he’s not terrible at it, because they made it to school even earlier than usual. I have no idea what they were wearing or if their hair was combed…but who even cares?!

They need to know that they may walk into a college class that will rock their world. They need to know a boss may throw things at them they weren’t expecting and ask them to do the “impossible.” They need to know that they have to stay flexible and go with the flow. Because that.is.life.

The bottom line is this. We have to stop beating ourselves up over this stuff. We are not teaching our children anything by being there at their every beck and call. 

That missed awards program? The boys loved having their dad there for a change. It was special. He was able to meet friends and experience the crazy. And bless him for sending me pictures!

That sick phone call that made me feel like the worst mom ever? Let’s just say “miraculous recovery” when he realized nobody was coming to get him. Lunch sitting next to his sweet teacher certainly helped. Praise

That missed birthday party invite? It was ok! The mom understood. She showed grace! He made it to the party. It was fun! 

So instead of trying to do it all, be the perfect parent, and win at everything…let’s try being “real.” Because “real” is going to teach our kids the most about life. “Real” is going to keep them grounded. “Real” is going to make them awesome. 

And because “real” is really all we can do and survive. 

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

What Do My Reactions Say To My Children?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction…and a parent’s overreaction.

He met me at the door, eyes wide and brow furrowed. I immediately knew something was up, because the only one who meets me at the door these days is our 7 pound, 4-year-old toy poodle. Not our 8-year-old who typically has his eyes glued to a computer screen watching cats jump three feet in the air at the sight of a cucumber, painful football injuries…or people opening Christmas presents. (I didn’t even know that was a thing.)

No, it couldn’t be good.

As I opened the door, he launched into the horrific tale of walking into our master bathroom to use the restroom only to find a wet spot on the wall by the toilet. (gasp)

Right.

His delivery needs work, but it was good for an amateur.

So I began my usual line of questioning. What kind of wet spot? What color is it? Did you smell it? Are you sure it was already there and not just bad aim?!?

He quickly assured me that it was already there and that he had no idea how it happened…but that I should see for myself. So I went to investigate the crime scene with him trailing close behind.

Sure enough, there it was. A wet spot, still dripping, directly next to the toilet. So I did what any seasoned mom would do and bent down on hands and knees to smell it.

Perplexed that my keen supermom-senses did not detect any bodily fluids, I sat back on my heels and began to survey the room around me while Hayes stood there anxiously wringing his hands and repeating, “I have no idea what happened…it’s just weird.”

Right.

That’s when I caught sight of faint specks of red on the floor underneath the wet spot and a wad of wet toilet paper by the sink.

“Did you try to wash something off of the wall?”

You’d have thought I had accused him of grand theft, and he was getting 10-20 in the slammer.

Denial, tears, blame (it had to be the brothers…or the dog…or BOTH) ensued while I tried not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

I wasn’t even mad, at least not about whatever had happened there. I just wanted him to tell me the truth, and I told him so. But the more I prodded him to come clean, the more the frenzy escalated until I finally just sent him to his room before I lost what little patience I had left and said something I would regret. (been there done that…too many times to count)

After a few minutes in the think tank (he does not like to be alone), he came out, sat at the kitchen island, and stared at me.

“Yes?”

Then came the tears, “But I don’t want you to be mad at me.” 

“I’m not.”

“But you are! You have the mad face!”

Sigh….“Ok, a little…but not because of the wet spot or whatever happened with the wet spot. I’m upset about the lying. The wet spot can be fixed easily; the lying is the real problem. That’s harder to fix.”

And that’s when the dam broke…and through the tears and the sniffing (lots of tears and lots of sniffing), I pieced together the sad tale of an 8-year-old who had a bloody nose, ran to the closest bathroom, made a mess on the wall, then tried to clean it up before anyone knew what had happened. How nobody else in the house knew all of this was going on, I will never know.

But in that moment, my heart broke a little.

Don’t get me wrong. He was still in trouble for lying and had to listen to my “Why it’s always better to tell the truth” speech. After 15 years of parenting, it has been fine-tuned and well-rehearsed, so I wasn’t about to waste it.

But what broke my heart was the fact that he was afraid to tell me the truth. Not because it was horrendous. Believe me, all three boys have done worse. Not because of the punishment. He knew he deserved whatever happened. I didn’t even play the “I’m disappointed in you” card, so it couldn’t have been that.

No, he was afraid of my reaction.

How many times have I completely flipped out over a spilled cup, a scratch on the car, a rip in a new pair of pants? How many times have I lost my mind over something little just because I was having a bad day? How many times have I made my children feel like something material, something replaceable, was more important than they are?

Like an arrow to the heart, I realized that I had failed in creating a safe space for them to come and share their mistakes and failures.

Oh sure, they talk to me about all kinds of things. They tell me all about their friends at school, what’s going on in their lives, who is doing what; and I pride myself on being the kind of mom who has an open line of communication with my children.

But when it comes to things like this, things they’ve done wrong and mistakes they’ve made….let’s just say my reaction has been less than inviting.

If they can’t come to me with the little things, how can I expect them to come to me with the big things?! It doesn’t mean there won’t ever be consequences or punishment. Those are part of life, and we have a responsibility as parents to see those through. They know that and expect it, but sometimes they just need a soft place to land when they mess up regardless of the consequences.

I want to be that soft place. I want to be approachable in the little things so they will feel safe enough to come to me with the big things too.

It’s not easy when life is hard, and busy, and stressful. Our nerves are frayed and our tempers are short. The last thing we need is one.more.thing. 

But in the grand scheme of things, what is really more important? Fixing a broken door or fixing a broken spirit?  We all know the answer, but simply asking the question puts it into perspective.

And it doesn’t become easier as they grow older, only harder. So it’s time to create that safe space for my family, that soft place to land. It’s time to show them that their feelings are important, and I love them more than things.

It’s time.

And…

It starts with me. It starts with my reaction. It starts now.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19, 20

 

How Does Birth Order Affect Me As A Parent?

It never ceases to amaze me that we have three children, all the same gender, with vastly different personalities. I mean, completely different. Not even on the same planet different. We wonder if they were switched at birth different.

It’s baffling.

And while I don’t buy into the whole birth order thing 100%, I do think there is some validity to this theory (originally formed by the Austrian psychiatrist, Alfred Adler ). It makes sense….and somewhat explains why our youngest child thinks the world revolves around him. Because in his mind, it does.

But these very differences are what makes them special and unique…what makes life interesting and fun. Each child plays a part in our family and respecting their differences helps them grown into healthy young men.

For instance, take the first born…

  • reliable
  • conscientious
  • organized
  • cautious
  • controlling
  • achieving
  • high self esteem

In other words, our 15-year-old son.

He was practically born into this world a miniature adult, and that was reinforced by the fact that the early years of his life were spent around grownups. (Most of our friends were still single…and hungry. So they came where they knew there would be food.) Because of this, he has never known a stranger and can talk to adults even more comfortably than he can his own age. Firstborns may seem to mature faster because this.

True to his birth order, he’s smart, a natural born leader, hard worker,  an over-achiever…and I totally expect him to make the big bucks and take care of his parents someday. (it’s the least he could do)

Now…sometimes his leadership skills could use some work. Barking orders at his younger brothers and clothes-lining them when they pass will not take him far in life. However, he wants to be an entrepreneur…so maybe it will work for him.

His cautious nature weighs the consequneces of his actions; and if he says he’s going to do something, you can count on the fact that he will. He’s an all around good kid who is going to go far in life.

“Hey! Did you know you can start a snapchat streak with yourself? It’s awesome. I’m smart…I’m funny…I’m super handsome…and I respond pretty fast!” – Xander

And then we have the second born (middle child)….

  • people pleasing
  • somewhat rebellious
  • good friend
  • peacemaker
  • social
  • lower self esteem

This one gets a little tricky. Our 12-year-old son is not necessarily rebellious…or social. However, he is also an introvert, so personality traits definitely play into this theory. But the rest is spot on. I even worried about him being a middle child when he was born, so we gave him my husband’s first name to make him feel special. (My textbook middle child brother-in-law had me paranoid.) 

Because he is also an introvert, he doesn’t have a large number of friends like his brothers, but the ones he has are treasured. Loyal to a fault, he will stand by his buddies even if he doesn’t see them very often

A peacemaker and people pleaser, he hates conflict and will even allow his brothers to have the object of dispute if it means avoiding a fight. (most of the time) And rest assured he will remind us all of such slights and use it to further confirm that we are all against him.

The middle child often gets a bum rap; but, in my opinion, the most wonderful thing about the middle child is the fact that they are, in every way, the middle child. His sweet disposition and quiet charm are the perfect balance to my ambitious firstborn and the last wild one. And let me tell you, we need the break.

Cade: Everyone drinks my drinks. Nothing is sacred.
Hayes: I didn’t see your name on it.
Cade: (writes name on new bottle)
Hayes: I’m still drinking it.
Cade: You suck. I’m sleeping with this tonight.

Finally…last, but certainly not least, we have the third born or baby…

  • fun-loving
  • manipulative
  • outgoing
  • attention seeking
  • self-centered
  • risk taker

This could not more accurately describe our 8-year-old if I had formulated the list myself. He’s the life of the party, the class clown, the star athlete.

With lofty goals of becoming an NFL wide receiver, he hasn’t even considered the fact that it may not happen. He wants to see his name in lights, all eyes on him as he runs his victory lap in this thing called life.

Quick-witted and funny, he often manipulates his way out of trouble, an art his brothers both detest and admire. It’s everything I can do sometimes to suppress a grin…and it completely derails my stern intentions. And.he.knows.it. 

As frustrating as all this may be at times, I love his passion, his fire. He’s a dreamer and puts feet to those dreams. He makes me believe, and I love that.

When the Pastor is telling a story about Abraham and the “good son” (the chosen one with promise), and Hayes gets a big grin on his face…points to himself…and says in a loud whisper, “The other two were mistakes.” 

So what does this all mean to me as a parent?

For a long time, I tried to steer them all in the same direction…treat them all the same. They were all boys, right? That in itself was a mystery to me. Throw in a variety of personalities, temperaments, and interests…and it’s like interpreting hieroglyphics.

But once I started responding to them in a language they understood, motivated them in a way that spoke to their personalities…they started thriving like never before. And, believe me, I’m still learning.

What works for one child (regardless of gender) may not work for another. We know that. But knowing it and applying it are two different things. It takes constant effort, consistency, and prayer.

May I be more mindful as they grow older not only to respond to them in a language they understand but to stay engaged in their lives so that my language shifts with their ever-changing seasons.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Because we are all in this together…

I married a baller.

No, not like “the Rock” kind of Baller (although I’m sure my man wouldn’t hate the comparison), but the kind of baller that at one time or another has played, coached, or binge-watched every sport known to man. (Maybe you married one of those too, and we can hang out every Sunday afternoon from now until we die. Call me.)

So when Shane and I embarked on this little journey called “life” together, I knew at some point we would most likely produce a little baller of our own. It seemed inevitable…and became even more of a probability once we realized we could only produce boys. However, while the first two willingly participated in many sports, there never was that burning fire inside that drove them to diligently practice for hours on end or force themselves to do every day tasks with their non-dominant hands. (apparently, that is a thing)

And surprisingly enough, my baller husband was ok with it. I expected him to be all “Crazy Sports Dad,” but he had seen so many of those throughout his years of playing and coaching that he had determined not to become one himself. I was impressed.

Then came Kid #3.

If you look up baller in the dictionary, I’m sure you will see a picture of Hayes, or at least you should. Straight from the womb, this kid was on fire. So of course, we registered him for every sport possible as soon as he was eligible, because he was chomping at the bit and that’s exactly what he wanted. Happy dad.

It was pretty great until we realized we had more to work on than just form and technique.

For instance, take (age 5) when we told him he needed to stop hogging the ball and let others have an opportunity to score. After clearly struggling with the decision, he reluctantly kicked the soccer ball over to a delighted girl in pigtails who then proceeded to kick it straight into the stands. Face red and arms crossed, Hayes immediately looked over at us from across the field and yelled, “THAT’S THE LAST TIME I EVER DO THAT!!!”

Proud parenting moment right there, let me tell you.

Or how about the times his older brother advanced in either stripes or belts before he did in jiu jitsu, and he cried biguglytears…while complaining loudly about the injustice? Fun times.

I’d love to say that we were able to take these teachable moments and imprint upon his little baller brain that it is important to be a team player, cheer your friends and teammates on to success, and win or lose graciously. However, if it were that easy, there would be no Tom Brady’s, Lebron’s, or Cam Newton’s now would there. (no offense, Cam, we still love you)

No, there have been plenty of highs and lows, bad attitudes and ego trips in his 8 short years; and I am sure there will be many more to come.

So when we started off the football season this year, I was nervous…especially after he made the first touchdown and celebrated like he had just won the Super Bowl. I wondered if he would be able to give up the spotlight and cheer for his teammates, put the team first and fight together for the win; but to my surprise and relief, he did!

Somewhere along the way, he began to see that working together and celebrating each other is important. It’s what makes people love being part of a team. It’s what makes someone a true baller. 

“Someone else’s success does not rob you of anything.” – Christine Caine

So why do we grown ups often forget this important truth ourselves?

When something good happens to a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker, our worth does not become less because of it. Yet so many times, we feel like another’s success somehow magnifies our failures.

“We have an enemy, and it’s not each other.” – Lysa TerKeurst

Satan would love nothing more than to use the good things in a person’s life to alienate and damage relationships. By whispering lies, he manipulates our emotions to keep us from working together toward a common goal and building each other up. Don’t you see? If he can divide us, then he can conquer and render us useless in furthering the Kingdom. It’s been his plan all along!

But God has a better plan,

“Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up the other.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” It happens to be a favorite in our home; because as a family of five, nothing gets done unless we work as a team.

But the truth of the matter is we are all on the same team in this life. We are all working towards a common goal. My weakness may be your strength, and your weakness may be my strength. So why not capitalize instead of compete? Can you imagine what we could accomplish together if we started celebrating each other?

The devil certainly doesn’t want us to find out. He will do everything in his power to keep us divided. But thanks to our gracious Heavenly Father, he isn’t on the throne, and we don’t have to listen to his lies. The battle has already been won, our Almighty God is victorious, and we are His team. Let’s act like it.

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving House

When we look past the ordinary and find the extraordinary…

Recently, our family made a long-anticipated move from a house in the city to what we consider a house in the country. It’s literally 5 minutes down the road, but everything changed from stores frequented and schools attended to farm animals and spiders the size of my fist. Not.a.fan. However, as sad as we were to leave behind the comfort of the familiar, we have quickly grown to love many things about our new home.

Whether it be watching the sun rise over the fields as we drive to school in the morning or admiring the horses, pigs, and old houses as we head into town, we’ve found new sights to see and new things to discuss.

For example, it was not long after our move that I broke from my morning pre-caffeinated trance and noticed a little old house on my way to work. Tucked back between an old billboard and a cluster of trees, the tiny shack could have easily been missed had it not been for the middle-aged woman bustling about outside that caught my eye. At first I didn’t think much of it for there are many different kinds of homes scattered along the way. Some big, some small…some mobile, and some abandoned.

This one had clearly seen better days; but for some reason it stuck with me, and I began to look for it.

Every day as I passed, I saw this same woman, coarse dark hair pulled back in a bright scarf and a dirty apron covering her simple clothing, sweeping the porch or the driveway, watering potted plants hanging from splintered beams, or sitting with a glass of tea in a weathered but colorful chair soaking in the sun or the breeze, depending on which the temperamental NC summer decided to give us.

And every day, I admired her.

I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know her story. I often like to watch people and try to imagine what that might be. However, what I do know is that she doesn’t have much as far as material possessions are concerned, but she clearly takes pride in the little she has….and that struck a chord in my heart.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.”  1 Timothy 6:6-7

Why is it that the people who seem to have so little often appreciate what they have so much more? This sweet woman doesn’t hunch her shoulders and drag her broom muttering under her breath about her misfortune. Even from my passing car, I can see she stands tall and sweeps with fervency and pride, making her little house a home where she and her family can find comfort and rest.

It pricked my conscience and made me think. There have been times in my life that I knew what it was like to have very little. When I spent years as a young child living in a small trailer with my single mother eating rice and bologna every way one can fix rice and bologna, then later in the first years of our marriage when we were in ministry and barely making ends meet…I’ll admit my attitude was not nearly as gracious, nor did I take pride in the little we had.

But now, so many years later, I am beginning to realize the error of my ways and the sobering truth of the matter. It’s not the house that makes a home. It’s not the perfectly manicured lawns or the white picket fence. It’s not the elaborate meals or the expensive toys (for both young and old).

It’s the people. It’s the life we live and the love we share. It’s coming together to help one another in times of need. It’s being thankful for the blessings God has given us.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

So as we approach Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and the Christmas season soon to follow, I want to remember what this woman unknowingly taught me with her diligence and sweet spirit in less than desirable circumstances. It isn’t about what we don’t have or what we think we need. It isn’t about perfection or impressing others.

It is all about Jesus, what we DO have, and how He graciously meets our needs in miraculous ways each and every day. 

And in case you were wondering about our sweet friend who has become so dear (in a non-stalkerish kind of way), the onset of colder days has driven her and her pretty little plants inside, but we won’t soon forget her precious example and the lesson she has taught…and we look forward to seeing her once again in the warmer days of spring.

 

 

 

Am I a Bergen or Troll?

Bergen…or Troll. Doesn’t sound like much of a choice, does it? This weekend I took my two Littles to see the new Troll movie while the Bigs went to an action flick; and to be completely honest, I’ve never in my life owned a Troll doll or even liked Troll anything. In fact, they always looked a little creepy to me. But the boys wanted to see it, they actually looked cute (kind of like rainbow Smurfs)…and Justin Timberlake is in it. Enough said. (Don’t worry, I won’t give too many spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.)

Now, I don’t know how it is with your children when you go to the theater; but once my guys step foot inside the front doors, they act as if they are suddenly dying of hunger and thirst even if they just ate 5 minutes ago. It’s no longer enough that we spend a gas tank’s worth on movie tickets, they now expect to add a grocery bill in snacks to make the movie “extra special.” I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy, and theaters in fact pump mind altering drugs from their vents giving everyone inside the munchies. Mark.my.words.

Being the professional parents that we are not, they usually get away with a drink (to share), maybe some popcorn, and some candy (that may or may not be smuggled in at times…I will never tell). So drink and candy in hand, we find our seats just as the movie starts.

Just to give you a little background information without giving anything away, the Trolls are these adorable little creatures who are always happy, sing and dance about everything, poop cupcakes, and love to hug. (and I totally want one…or ten) On the other hand, the Bergens are large ugly creatures who hate life, need major dental work, and think the only way to find happiness is by eating a Troll. (sounds legit) Every year, the Bergens hold a festival in which they each eat a Troll, that has been captured and held captive, to find their moment of “true happiness;” and this particular year is the first time the Bergen King Gristle Jr. has been allowed to participate.

Now, if you really don’t want a spoiler, you may not want to read any further. However, this part of the story is important for where I am going with this. 

So here we are at the festival, as the young Gristle Jr. is preparing to eat his first Troll so that he can finally experience “true happiness;” and at this exact moment, Hayes hands me his Skittles bag to open whispering, “I can’t open this. Can you? Make sure you don’t drop them.” Famous last words.

I’m not even kidding when I say this….but it was like slow motion.

Gristle Jr. takes a bite of his highly anticipated first Troll only to discover he has been thwarted by the escaped Trolls just as I rip open the bag of Skittles sending every.last.one. of them flying into the air and all over the people around us.

It literally rained Skittles for at least five minutes; and just when we thought it was over, someone moved and sent yet more Skittles pinging across the floor.

The look on Hayes’ face mirrored that of Gristle Jr. Complete and utter horror.

Gristle Jr.: “How am I supposed to be happy NOW?!”

Hayes: “This movie is completely RUINED. I don’t even want to watch it now!”

And I’m sitting there thinking I just stepped into the Twilight Zone and wondering if there is enough room to climb under my seat. But then it hit me.

True happiness is not in people, things, or circumstances. We say we know this, right? But while it is hard for an 8-year-old to understand this truth, it is just as hard for us as adults to accept. We think that the work promotion, new car, bigger house, or designer handbag is going to make us happy. But the truth is, we only turn around and want something else…something bigger, something better. It’s never enough, and we end up forever chasing happiness just like the ugly Bergens…only with better teeth. Bottom line is that true happiness isn’t in something tangible. It is found in Jesus and only in Him can we truly be content. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NIV

So instead of climbing under my seat (I know you wondered what happened with that), I turned to Hayes as he sat pouting and whispered, “Are you a Bergen or a Troll?”

Blank stare (but he was listening)

“Are you a Bergen who thinks the only thing that will make you happy right now is a bag of Skittles? Or are you a Troll who will be disappointed…but will still enjoy the really cute movie we are watching?”

Bingo. Light bulb. And the fact that I even suggested he was remotely close to the ugly Bergens was enough to make him sit a little taller and re-engage with the movie before us.

The fact of the matter is, this little lesson ended up being more for me than it was for him. Yes, it helped him put things into perspective. Yes, I plan to use the Bergen/Troll analogy again for other seemingly catastrophic events (of which he has many). But even more importantly, it made me ask myself the hard questions. What is true happiness to me? and Am I a Bergen or a Troll?

Oh and by the way, for those of you worried about the poor kid’s Skittles…yes, I did suck it up and go buy him a bag of ridiculously over-priced candy from the concession stand…and yes, I did leave a trail of Skittles along the way.