Encouragement, faith, Mom of Boys

Don’t eat the yellow snow…

If you’ve ever lived anywhere that has accumulated even the smallest dusting of snow, you’ve had a parent or friend jokingly (or quite seriously) say “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” Having three boys and a dog myself, I know I’ve uttered these words more than my fair share even though we live in the balmy southeastern state of North Carolina.

Take recently, for instance. Not only did we experience snow while visiting our Michigan family for Christmas, but then we returned home to the biggest snow our hometown had experienced in quite some time. The boys were ecstatic, playing in it until they had their fill. And every time I looked out the window, I saw my 9-year-old son scooping up a hand full of snow and feasting on it like it was manna from heaven. In fact, I seem to remember that’s exactly what he called it. “Manna from heaven.” (He has a flair for dramatics.)

And every time, I would pop my head out the door and say, “Make sure you don’t eat the yellow snow!” Because let’s face it…between three boys and a dog, the chances of hitting a yellow patch are high.

It reminded me of a time when I was about his age, growing up on the Ohio/Michigan border where snow did not come in short supply. And much like him, I liked to eat snow. I think most kids do. In fact, I would take snow, put it in ziploc bags, and stick it in the freezer to snack on later. I don’t know where I thought that snow on the ground was going, but I guess I wanted to make sure I had plenty stocked up in case we had a warm spell.

When one day randomly, my dad called me to the freezer and pointed to my stash. Inside a couple of the bags nestled in the back of the freezer, we could clearly see a faint tinge of yellow staining the frozen snow.

“Have you been eating these? he asked, mildly amused.

I stood there in shock, trying to figure out how I could have possibly missed the yellow snow I had scooped into these bags. I thought I had been so careful, but maybe my mind wandered as it was prone to do. Then I began to wonder if I had somehow eaten some of that snow!

Wouldn’t I have tasted the difference?

What if I didn’t?

What if I had been eating yellow snow all along and didn’t realize it?

Whyyyy hadn’t I paid attention better?!?

And on and on it went until finally, I noticed that my dad was more than amused and outright laughing. Come to find out, he had squirted lemon juice in the bags to play a trick on me. And well…obviously, it worked.

But that memory made me think.

There are many things in our everyday life that we love. People, places, activities, things. And like snow and eating snow, they are mostly good. But instead of blindly eating all of the snow, it is important that we pick up the snow, check it over, and then eat carefully making sure it doesn’t look or taste like something we shouldn’t be eating.

I could give many examples of each, but the one that currently stands out in my mind the most, and has given me pause, is people. To be honest, the past year has been extremely disheartening for me. There have been several leaders I have held in high regard, both Christian and political, who have said things and taken stands with which I strongly disagree. Initially, they rocked my world and made me question how I could have missed the “yellow snow” when I began to support their ministry or leadership.

Our knee-jerk reaction is typically to stop. Stop eating the snow. Stop making the snow cream. [Stop listening to what that person has to say.] Just simply stop.

However, just because we run into some yellow snow, does that mean all of the snow up until this point has been yellow? [Has everything that person said been garbage? Has everything I believed in been wrong? Is everything they say going forward heresy?] Human nature makes us think it has and is. Human nature makes us question whether we’ve been eating yellow snow all along but didn’t know it. Human nature makes us want to boycott snow completely!!

But the truth is that no beautiful field of freshly fallen snow will remain spotless, just like no human being will ever be perfect. No matter who we hold in high regard, we must always carefully sift through their words and actions and make sure they line up with the Word of God. Nobody is exempt from this. Nobody is so infallible that we can blindly follow without caution. The only authority in which we can confidently trust is the inerrant Word of God.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs‬ ‭30:5-6‬ ‭

So yes, this past year has been disappointing in many ways. And yes, I’ve questioned my own judgment as a result. But what I’ve come to realize is that maybe I haven’t been eating “yellow snow” all along. And maybe the things I learned from those people weren’t all garbage but actually good and helpful. The fact that I recognized the detour from the truth is important.

It is their responsibility as leaders to speak truth that lines up with God’s Word…and it is my responsibility as a Christian to feast with my eyes wide open so that I don’t swallow something that isn’t truth.

And at the end of the day, God is still on the throne.

Once I made that distinction, I realized I have more control over how these revelations affect me. It is still disappointing when respected people make mistakes. Nobody likes to see a leader stumble. But at least now I can see the “yellow snow” for what it is, toss it to the side, and keep on moving.

Satan’s primary goal is to ruin an effective person’s influence, and we can’t keep them from making mistakes. However, we can somewhat thwart his efforts by protecting ourselves from stumbling with them.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬

So please…guard your heart, proceed with caution…and don’t eat the yellow snow.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭

Contentment, Encouragement

Living An Extra’ordinary’ Life

I would love to say that I’ve been on a writing hiatus because life is so incredibly busy and leave it at that…because it is. So that would be true. But it’s not the complete truth.

The truth is that life is incredibly busy…and Satan is incredibly smart.

It’s been 4 months since my last post. 4 months of busy, 4 months of excuses…and 4 months of self-doubt.  And it all started when I let the little voices inside my head take over. No, I’m not crazy. I’m just human.

The nagging thoughts…“What is the point?” “Why are you wasting your time doing this?” “You have much more important things to do.” “You’re not selling anything but truth…and that’s free. So really…what.is.the.point?”

And so I listened. Believed. Fed the lies with my own insecurity and let them take root in my soul.

But thank God, He never lets it stop there. He doesn’t see our struggle and leave us to fight it alone. No, He meets us in our deepest valley and points us to the path that leads us home.

And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Through a series of devotionals and books He dropped in my lap over the summer, I began to see things from a different perspective. One that was less me and more Him. Less my glory and more His glory. Less what can He do for me and more what can I do for Him?

And before you think it was an instant revelation, let me be clear. It was an uphill battle that took every bit of 4 months to gain even the slightest bit of ground at all, and I’m still not there. But it started the journey…and there is power in the journey. There is strength in even the smallest victory. And it gives us the courage to keep going.

Have you ever felt like you really missed the boat somewhere? Like everyone is doing something really fantastic and important, and you are just sitting there doing your best to make sure your kids, pets, and plants are fed and live to see another day? For the first time in my life, I’ve successfully kept plants alive for an entire summer, and I’m fairly certain that’s award, if not HGTV, worthy.  (I once had a rock garden, so believe me when I say that this is huge.)

Do you have to hide people on social media or quit it all together because you just can’t bear to see another success, award, or fabulous sunset that isn’t your own? ouch

And in the midst of my struggle, God reminded me that success doesn’t always come wrapped in the same sparkly package.

“Everyone should examine his own conduct; then he will be able to take measure of his own worth; no need to compare himself to others.” Galatians 6:4

Some people are destined for flashy and big. Some have the drive and fortitude it requires to be entrepreneurs, CEO’s, fitness guru’s, professional athletes, and best-selling authors. They were born for it. And that’s ok. Quite amazing, actually.

Some will drive fast cars, own big boats, and live in mansions. Some will be happy, fulfilled, and use their success to help others…

And some will not.

Others are destined for a more subtle life, one that most would consider “small”.

But whether big or small, it’s what we do with that life that matters.

My grandfather worked the same factory job all of his adult life (after serving for a time in the military). By the standards of many, he was not what one would call “successful.” He wasn’t flashy or big and lived in a small two-bedroom home with his wife of over 50 years and a yard the size of a postage stamp. No, he may not have had much in the bank, but I believe he was truly successful in ways that far surpass monetary value. He was faithful, honest, kind. He loved Jesus, led a service down at the mission, and cut the church grass every week. He had that old-fashioned work ethic and loyalty that so many of our grandparents possessed, and everybody loved him. In terms of my 9-year-old son, he was the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time), and I have no doubt God met him at the pearly gates and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So why do we feel like we don’t measure up unless we make more than 6 figures and/or the whole world knows our name?

Success doesn’t always come with a paycheck. Sometimes it doesn’t come with any earthly reward at all.

If we use the gifts that God has given to us for His glory, to bless others, and to further His Kingdom….then it doesn’t matter what we do for a living or how much money we do or do not make. No matter where we are in life, our goal each day should be to look around us and find a way to help others.

If only we could change our perspective and how we measure success, our sense of purpose would sky-rocket and there is no limit to what we could accomplish.

Satan would love to challenge us on that. Make us feel inferior to those around us. Stop us from doing all that he knows we can do.

But he’s wrong…

And we don’t have to listen to him.

Here are a few things that help me when Satan has me feeling like crap and hiding from the world:

  • Listen to worship music…lots of it. It feeds my mind, heart, and soul with constant reminders of God’s goodness and grace.
  • Get in the Word. Satan shrinks when we fight him with Scripture. His lies have no power when we use the Word as a sword & shield.
  • Pray. Talk to Jesus. He’s better than a BFF, because He’s always available and ready to listen. He doesn’t have dinner to make or errands to run. He’s just waiting on us.
  • Read good books. There are so many books that have helped me fight insecurity. Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Uninvited by Lisa TerKeurst, Unashamed by Christine Caine, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
  • Surround myself with encouraging people. Those people that speak truth and encouragement into my life, cheer on my victories, and pick me up when I fall.
  • Look for ways to serve. Volunteer at church, lead a small group, feed a family going through a tough time, babysit for a friend who needs a break…nothing is too small.
  • Keep fighting the lies. Always. Don’t give up. He may not ever stop trying, but it will become easier with time and practice…and it will be worth it.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Encouragement, faith

Talk Is Cheap…And Meaningful Conversation Is Priceless.

Recently, I was talking with a group of women when a question was asked that stumped us all…

“How often do you have meaningful conversations?”

Crickets

As I glanced around the room, I could see everyone clicking through the days, the memories, the conversations, until one brave soul spoke up and said, “Not often.” Everyone nodded in agreement, and a few offered further explanation…but all confessed that it was definitely not often enough.

But why is that?

It’s not that we don’t communicate at all, far from it. With an abundance of technology and communication devices at our fingertips, we can “reach out and touch someone” clear across the country any time we want. (Some of you millennials may need to google that phrase, but I promise it will make sense when you do.)

But the problem isn’t quantity, it’s quality.

We live in a fast-paced world that teaches us just the opposite of that. More bang for your buck. The bigger the better. Value this, and super-size that!

But just because we can get an entire meal from McDonald’s for less than five bucks doesn’t mean it’s going to nourish our bodies….and just because we comment on a post or like a picture doesn’t mean we’ve actually built relationship with that person.

As much as I love social media for keeping up with friends and family who live far away, I feel like it has all but taken the place of face-to-face conversations, and in many cases it has. Hiding behind our phones, we pat ourselves on the backs for “reaching out” when really we haven’t accomplished much at all.

God didn’t intend for relationships to be built on 140 characters. In fact, he didn’t intend for wifi or a data plan to be necessary at all.

Do you remember before you had a smartphone? Sure, it was a little harder to keep in touch, but you had to make an effort. You had to write that card and send it in the mail, pick up the phone and hear a voice on the other end, or meet for coffee to catch up on what’s happening in a friend’s life. As a result, conversations happened.

Now, we are so inundated with technology that we mistake casual contact for building relationship, and it has rendered us useless in common situations.

How many times have you walked down a hallway at church or an aisle at the store and suddenly pulled out your phone to avoid eye contact, saying hello, or starting a conversation? If we avoid even the smallest of pleasantries, then how can we expect to ever go deeper and engage in meaningful dialogue?

We can’t.

And if we can’t engage in meaningful dialogue, then how can we expect to have healthy relationships with each other or reach others for Jesus?

We can’t.

But technology is not the only thing that hinders us from nurturing the “ships” in our lives (relationship, friendship, worship). We often hinder ourselves by making excuses. We’re too busy. We don’t have time, money, energy. Someday

I hate to break it to you…but life is not going to slow down. Not.one.bit. And conversation is free.

We can make all the excuses we want, but the fact of the matter is that we make time for what’s important to us. And what’s more important than making time for the people you love. What’s more important than cultivating the relationships with which God has blessed you. What’s more important than spending time with God period.

Nothing.

So let’s put down the phone a little more and be intentional about building quality relationships.

Let’s sit as a family around the dinner table.

Let’s make eye contact and give hugs.

Let’s laugh loudly in rustic coffee shops, and go on double-dates with good friends.

Let’s join small groups and start supper clubs.

Let’s FaceTime loved ones across the miles, or better yet, visit.

Let’s talk to God.

Let’s do less typing and more talking.

Let’s have meaningful conversations.

Let’s make time.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Mom of Boys, Motherhood

What If I Don’t Always Love Being A Mom?

March marks two important anniversaries for me…

The day I became a mom and the day I gave birth for the very last time.

As you may know, we have three children (four, if you count their father…and sometimes I do); and two of the three have birthdays this month, the oldest and the youngest. Like bookends, they mark the beginning and end of a bittersweet season in my life as a mother.

And just as birthdays often do, they’ve made me a sappy mess. Lingering a little longer at bedtime, looking at pictures of days gone by, and crying over silly things that shouldn’t make me cry, I once again reflect on those early years of motherhood when everything was new and exciting, yet terrifying just the same.

I’m not going to pretend I enjoyed pregnancy or giving birth, because I didn’t. And for a long time, I thought that made me inadequate for the job. I didn’t glow and gush like other moms I knew; so obviously, I had taken the initiation test and failed.

But then I realized it wasn’t a prerequisite to motherhood. One didn’t have to love the gestational period to actually love her children or be a good mom (and my husband seemed to love it enough for the both of us). So I embraced “not loving” the process because I knew that I would adore the result.

And I did.

But not every second…or even every other second. In fact, there have been many seconds I haven’t loved. And just as I felt like a failure for not loving the swelling, bloating, peeing, sickness, moodiness, and exhaustion, I once again felt shame and defeat for not loving every dirty diaper, spit-up stain, and sleepless night.

Because what good mother doesn’t savor every precious moment?

I felt like I had to be the only one who struggled with forming sentences after another exhausting night and frantically searched for a shirt that didn’t bear the mark of an upset stomach or snotty nose. And certainly, I was the only one who blindly tossed crackers in the back seat to stop the blood-curdling wail or drove around the block a few more times to prolong a much-needed nap (the kid’s…not mine). I had no doubt I was the only one who struggled with breastfeeding. And for sure, I was the only one who cried…a lot.

So I felt guilty.

I felt guilty for not loving it all in spite of the mess.

I felt guilty because I had experienced the heartbreak of losing a sweet, precious life before meeting him…or her. (So shouldn’t I just be thankful to have a healthy child to wreak havoc on my life and heart?)

I felt guilty because there are other women who cannot have children yet so desperately want them.

I felt guilty because there are moms who have experienced the joy and pain of childbirth only to lose that same child shortly after or far too soon.

I felt guilty.

And that little sentence pretty much sums up motherhood.

We feel guilty…

For all of the seconds we don’t love.

For all of the moments we miss because we have to work.

For all of the lost tempers, forgotten promises, and “not right nows”…

For all of the unhealthy meals served simply out of convenience.

For all of the things we said we’d never do as parents.

For pretty much everything.

And while I wish we had a magic pill that could take away that guilt, we don’t. But there are no perfect parents who love all the moments either. We are not alone; and the more we share our struggles, our frustrations and fears, the more we will realize just how “not alone” we are.

Thank the good Lord, some precious women came into my life that helped me see this. Had it not been for their “realness” and transparency, I don’t know what I would have done during those early years of motherhood. And He continues to send just the right people to encourage me throughout each new and challenging season.

But it starts with having the courage to share what we feel is unsharable. Instead of pretending we have it all together and are loving every second, let’s admit we don’t and ask for help. When we strip away the stigma that struggle means failure, we open up the pathway to healing and strength.

Satan would love nothing more than to convince us that we are a mess. He wants us to quit before we even start. He tells us that what we see on social media is everyone else #winning….except us.

But he’s wrong.

All we see is what everyone else wants us to see. The highlight reel of their lives. The beautiful, “perfect” moments…..that took 537 pictures to get it right. Nobody posts the wet bed, the gum in the dog’s hair, the sassy mouth, or the knock-down-drag-out they had on the way to church. The hundreds of moments we absolutely do not love.

Nobody.

And that’s ok. But we have to remind ourselves that what we are seeing is not the full picture and to stop comparing.

God doesn’t want us to live a life full of shame and self-loathing. He made no mistake when He made us the moms of the children we have. But oh, how precious it is when He blesses us with those little special moments….the ones that remind us why we do it all.

Our job isn’t to be perfect parents and create perfect children. Our job isn’t to make others think we are amazing.

Our job is to lean on Jesus and do our best, plain and simple. And if we can help others along the way by sharing our struggle and unloveable moments? That would be pretty awesome too.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

 

Encouragement, faith, Inspiration, Letters, Life Lessons, Mom of Boys, preteens, realtalk, teens, transparency

An Open Letter To My Teenage Self…

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 becomes 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

What do my reactions say to my children?
boymom, Boys, Encouragement, faith, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Life With Boys, Mom of Boys, realtalk, transparency

What Do My Reactions Say To My Children?

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

 

The Grace Standard: I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection.
Christmas, Encouragement, faith, Grace, Mom of Boys

The Grace Standard

Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Take today, for instance.

I was going about my business, living my life, doing the typical Sunday stuff. You know…the stuff we put off all weekend then frantically try to complete by midnight on Sunday. It’s like we’re going to turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12, so we’ve got to cram it all in after church.

And thank goodness, we made time for church, because someone needed to bless the muttering, complaining, and “less than appropriate words” stomping through our heads all afternoon. Heaven help us, if we didn’t start the day with a good dose of Jesus.

When out of nowhere, my husband snaps out of his football trance and says, “Hey…what time was that party today?”

Party?

Suddenly, everything in the room came to a screeching halt. My heart fell straight to my gut…and one of those “words” may or may not have popped out of my mouth.

The neighborhood “Happy Birthday to Jesus Party.”

Crap.

How did I forget the party? It’s a birthday party for Jesus, for crying out loud. What kind of person forgets that?!?!?

Me: A tired person.

Also Me: I bet nobody else forgot the party!

Me: We just moved to this neighborhood….they are going to think I’m a total flake.

Also Me: As they should!!!

So with 15 minutes left in the party, I sucked it up and texted the host, owning the fact that I totally screwed up. I mean…I was supposed to bring the mini cupcakes. Pretty sure I ruined Jesus’ birthday!!! (And I wonder where my kids get their flair for drama…)

Then I spent the next few hours fretting. Out loud.

I must have said, “I can’t believe I did that” 100 times until finally, my 8-year-old said, “MOM…give yourself a break!!”

I just knew I was going to be labeled the “flaky mom” in the neighborhood. You know, the one you invite but don’t expect to come so you don’t give her anything “important” to bring. Drinks and chips. That was my fate. I would forever be the drinks and chips mom.

Fantastic.

But do you know what her response was?

Grace.

Complete grace. Not the kind that was sent in “good Christian love” but was as fake as the 17-year-old Christmas tree sitting in our living room…no, this was legit.

She even admitted to doing the same thing just a few months ago, and I don’t even care if she was lying through her teeth to make me feel better. BLESS HER.

Why is it that we have a hard time extending this kind of grace to ourselves and to others?

 Life is hard! Whether you have zero children and a thriving career or have 6 and are a stay-at-home mom…we have so many demands on us! Just being a woman and experiencing the emotional ups and downs we ride on a daily basis is hard enough! (Thanks, Eve!)

The sad truth is that I freaked out because I know the thoughts I’ve had about others who have “flaked” on me. Our first inclination is to think the worst. They didn’t want to come. They just don’t like me. They aren’t responsible. They should really manage their time better. (eye roll)

But where’s the grace? Where’s the empathy?

We’ve all been there and know we can’t be on our A-Game 100% of the time. It’s impossible. So why do we hold ourselves and others to an impossible standard?

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2

I’ve come to the realization that it starts with us. I have to hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection, so that I can then extend that same grace to others. How can I show others grace if I can’t even show it to myself?

I can’t. And you can’t either. So instead of freaking out when we fail or casting judgment when others do the same, let’s purpose in our hearts to give ourselves a break this Christmas season and determine that we will show more grace in the year to come.

“I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection.”

Merry Christmas and God Bless!!