Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Learning Curves

Learned something about serving today.

I was on the phone with my cell phone provider needing a simple question answered. The gentleman helping me hadn't attuned himself to actually listen to my words.

Footnote here. I have a big "disregarded" button that I hate having pushed. I don't like being disregarded, or ignored or disrespected (my poor kids). I want to be heard and validated.

The poor man on the phone didn't really push my button, just leaned up against it a little bit.

So when he asked me if this was the first time I had called the provider about this question, I firmly disavowed him of that notion (politely of course), explaining that I'd already told him I'd been talking to another agent about this issue.

He then very politely asked if I had any more questions and got off the line.

I sat staring at the phone, thinking about how I heard him close down. Second time that's happened when I've spoken with salespeople this week, so I did a little self-examination.

I'm a coder by default. I tend to peek between the lines of what people are saying to ascertain motives and hidden objectives. It happens in a matter of milliseconds and I usually don't notice it.

That is until the Lord gently cleared his throat and pointed to those dad burned assumptions.

He conveyed that I'm on guard against being taken advantage of, or of being rejected by others. The lie is that if I can figure it out then I can protect myself. Yeah, like that works.

It is self-focused rather than others-minded. And he wants me to be about people, because He is about people. About loving them and serving them.

So what if someone has an agenda. That doesn't mean I have to buy in.

The last little thing he said with a wink and a grin was, "Isn't this fun?"

Yeah, actually it is.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Uncharted Depths

I feel God calling me to new playing grounds. To deeper levels of intimacy and connection.

He's asking me to open my heart to Him. To really open my heart. No holding back that guarded five percent that I do with most people. My safety zone that I can hide in when I get fearful or uncertain.

He wants me naked and transparent in all my emotions. Not coming to Him after I've locked anger and resentment, or jealousy and envy back into that closet in my mind. The place I store all those ugly "not Christian enough" emotions.

That smoke and mirrors room that hides behind perfectionism.

He wants me to bring everything to Him. All the dirt and ugliness that I slog through. And I'm finding that incredibly difficult.

And terribly exciting.

There's that curl of anticipation, like when you find out that the boy you've had a crush on just might like you.

It's called HOPE.

Hope that God truly will embrace me when I stand near Him with the fruit of my fleshliness weighing me down.

Hope that the truth that I read in the Word about Him, will make that twelve inch drop from head to heart and flow into every part of my being.

Hope that I will truly begin to grasp the Nature and Goodness of the One who created ME.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Whose Mirror Are You Looking In?

A year ago we acquired a playful, sandstone-colored ball of inquisitiveness, who could have authored the "curiosity killed the cat," saying.

Hudson's an indoor cat, a stance I took after our last indoor / outdoor cat had an unfortunate run-in with a passing car. But Hudson hasn't reconciled himself to this state of affairs. After a few tentative ventures onto the front porch when we took our dog out to potty (and failed to shut the door completely), he's been attempting to sneak outside.

Today his wildest dreams were realized when we left to go school shopping (I finally broke my tradition of racing to do it a few days before school starts) and someone left the front door ajar. My eight-year-old was flying solo, so he did the hunt through the house as we called for Hudson. But no caramel-colored cat came sauntering out.

We prayed and then TDH (tall, dark & handsome) slipped on his sandals and said he'd go looking for him. I was a bit surprised and touched. He and Hudson haven't exactly bonded. Though he didn't make it farther than the side yard where I found him pulling weeds.

I went to pick up our eleven-year-old twins from youth group, biting down several nails as I wondered how I was going to break the news. Especially to my tender-hearted daughter.

Halfway home, I took a deep breath and explained that the front door had been open while we were shopping and Hudson had gone on an adventure. Stricken blue eyes dashed toward mine and I quickly added that Hudson would likely show up in the morning when he was hungry. Not wanting to get hopes too high, I added that he might have packed a big knapsack and wouldn't be back for a couple days.

She calmed some, so I added, "He'll probably come back with a couple tattoos." A slight mile emerged and she said, "Yeah, he'll probably have shaved his whiskers."

I was grateful that they could see it as Hudson's grand adventure and not slide into gut-wrenching panic.

After dinner, TDH redeemed himself from the weed-pulling detour and after praying for Hudson's safe return, glanced out the front door and there he was, hunkered down below the porch, eyes wide and fearful. We gave him space and he launched himself toward the open door, body low to the ground, fast as a missile as if one of us would capture him and toss him back into the darkness.

It brought to mind a conversation I'd had with my daughter earlier in the day. She'd been tormented with guilt and shame by a choice she'd made earlier and had difficulty forgiving herself. Like Hudson, she couldn't see through her own poor choice to the love and forgiveness waiting with arms stretched out.

We talked through salvation and how Jesus on the cross took all sin on himself, receiving God's anger in our place. He lived out our jail sentence.

She pondered that and then with a bit of skepticism asked, "God's not angry with us?" I told her he wasn't. She processed that and then with a bit of wonder she asked, "Not even a little bit?" I told her that he wasn't angry in the least and that because of what Jesus did, we have God's pleasure and delight in us.

God then did one of those cool things He does for us, and in a nanosecond deposited a whole revelation into my mind. I saw a little girl standing in the righteous robes of Christ while the enemy of our souls stood nearby slinging mud onto her—rejection, anger, insecurity, hurt . . . and while none of the mud could stick, he held up a mirror and spoke lies that made her believe she was covered in the filth of hell.

But we don’t have to believe those lies. We can soak in the truth of our forgiveness and redemption—which is defined as our deliverance or rescue.

Jesus is the great Rescuer and God awaits us with arms stretched wide.

(Art by: Brielle Sand)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Temporary Blog Hiatus . . .

Due to a couple of projects I will not be posting for a while. But I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of blogging soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grocery Lists

Thankfulness. . .

The Word says that we enter God's presence with thanksgiving in our hearts. He's been impressing this on my heart over and over lately.

I remember when I used to sit down for my quiet time with the stress and burden of my troubles cloaking me. My mind a fog of frustration or trying to spin out solutions.

I'd have to intentionally clear out a space in my brain and get to my thankfulness. Thanking Him for our house, our car, our health, our kids—okay sometimes they were strictly on the prayer request list . . .

While thanking him for all those things is vital, I'm learning that entering His presence with thanksgiving doesn't necessarily mean pulling out a grocery list of thank you "to do"s while a huge pile of hurt and stress sits on our shoulders.

My time with Him becomes more real and intimate when I can say, "Thank you for being with me in this stress and hurt. Thank you that you have a path already laid out to navigate this situation I'm facing. Thank you that You have everything I need. Thank You that you provide the energy to be what I need to be for my family during this time. Thank You for the answers I know You have for these problems. Thank You that You never leave me alone to handle it by myself."

My thanksgiving can be for who He is to me in my mess.

There is such power and comfort and freedom in speaking truth about who He is and what He wants to do in the midst of my challenges and struggles, that I come away from those times renewed, throwing off the fear and discouragement.

When we give Him our burdens, He gives us joy and hope.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When Life Gets Rough

I first noticed my emotions flat lining in February.

But it wasn't until I got a concerned note from my son's six grade teacher about a nose dive in missing assignments that I figured out what was going on.

We were nearing the six month anniversary of my father-in-law's death. According to grief experts it's a difficult milestone.

My reservoir was swinging toward empty but life's challenges didn't slow down to keep pace. They kept coming at full fury.

I wanted to pull over into an emotional rest stop. When I signed up to me a wife and mom, I forgot to ask about the vacation benefits (found out there's no sick pay either).

While the benefits of being a wife and mom far outweigh the challenges, those low spots can be pretty low and pretty lonely.

Quiet times can feel desolate.

It's easy to get caught up in emotional negativity. If I don't "feel" God near me, I could assume that I hadn't lived up to heavenly standards and he withdrew some of His love for me.

I know, if I hadn't been floundering in pain and defeat I'd have realized that is counter to everything Jesus said about our Father's heart.

But I'm learning a principle that I heard Graham Cooke speak about once: God is always present to our faith and occasionally we feel Him.

I love that. When life gets overwhelming, stand on what you know to be true.

God will never leave us nor forsake us. Amen!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Short Ponderings

The kindness of God leads to repentance.

So when my kids disobey, my kindness toward them leads to their repentance.

Punishment (not talking about discipline), even when deserved and just, does not bring an inward change.

Love covers a multitude of sins and opens the doors to restoration and reconciliation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The NOW Syndrome

My husband is endlessly patient. He's kind of like God that way.

I'm not. Apparently I was taking a bathroom break when that gift was handed out.

So rather than patience, I have a syndrome. The NOW syndrome. I want an answer to my email NOW. I want to know what God is going to do in this situation NOW. I want your room cleaned NOW.

Life does not cater to my syndrome. People have their own lives to function in that, unfortunately, do not revolve around me. God . . . he just laughs at me, TDH is convinced of this. And my children certainly do not fall at my feet begging to know what I need them to accomplish right NOW.

Okay, there is someone slavishly devoted to my happiness, but I don't know if it counts since he is only twelve inches tall and covered in brown and white fur.

I can't stand waiting. And I'm talking about the important stuff—relational conflict, the teenage years, pregnancy . . . these things do not resolve themselves overnight.

I'm surprised I wasn't one of those kids who unwrapped her Christmas packages in the dead of night and then repackaged them and pretended surprise two weeks later. Okay, there was the baton I found one year under my mom's bed and practiced with daily behind locked door until she wrapped it.

What I've learned is that God wants to work things out in us in the waiting. To help us gain a deeper understanding of who Jesus is to us in that situation, so we can become more like Him to others. (I know, I've argued with him about it too, but He's not budging).

So the more we fight a situation or beg and plead to be delivered from it, the more we waste an opportunity to learn.

To learn about ourselves and to learn what God wants to be to us. He always makes provision for us, we just have to discover what it looks like and then hold on tight.

My default mode will probably always be impatience. But I'm learning to take a deep breath and look at things from a new angle, from God's angle.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Living in a Bubble

I think people fear being alone.

Not alone as in the-house-is-blissfully-empty-and-I-can-curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire-with-a-good-book alone.

I'm talking isolation from human connection.

I used to have anxiety attacks as a young child. Looking back I see them as moments of mind jarring terror when I felt disconnected from love, from humanity.

Lost on my own island of isolation it didn't matter that I bumped elbows, shared couch space and co-existed with human beings on a daily basis. I felt a galaxy of unbridgeable, frighteningly empty space separated us.

Space in which my emotions felt too big for me and too heavy to share.

And sadly, I don't think I was alone in feeling this way. I think many people feel disconnected on some level.

I think this is why people create movements of thought (or religions) that are based on the belief that people are a part of the whole (the New Age movement is a big proponent of this). Everything and everybody is interconnected.

When someone feels truly alone, they are at risk for unhealthy relationships. They crave interconnectedness no matter how damaging. Better to be with someone who blame-shifts or abuses than to not belong to anyone.

To be isolated without God is to feel despair and search for connection to something.

And yet sometimes, even with God, we struggle with living in an isolated bubble of knowledge. Knowing God loves us, knowing people love us, knowing we have "value," and yet it might as well be a million miles from us, so unreachable from the glass we look through that it feels untrue.

Believing that no one can penetrate the isolation, the concept of unconditional love is so risky, so unbelievable to actually chance.

Sometimes we have to push beyond what our emotions feel and live instead by what we know is true.

Emotions can be unstable, unreliable measures of truth, leading us to peaks of euphoria and canyons of despair, tethered to nothing but the whims of circumstance.

But if you make the choice to live by what you know to be true (sometimes you have to take that step on blind, teeth-chattering, faith)—God loves you, others love you—your feet will stay grounded in reality.

And we can choose to reach beyond the bubble and learn that we really can live outside the fear that separates us from others.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our Rock

My oldest son's class earned a trip to the mountains for a day of skiing and snowboarding.

As we pulled snow pants and gloves out of the closet, I realized that I'm a rather fearful mom at times (yeah, like I didn't know that already). Worried that someone or something terrible lurks around the corner ready to rip my life to shreds.

I've had to face this in myself now that my kids are at the age where they can start experiencing some breathing room and freedom (without their mother following them with binoculars and a walkie talkie).

The night before the snow outing I lay in bed in near hyper-ventilating panic, my writerly mind racing through every horrible scenario I've ever read about or imagined happening (if you're not a fearful mom, count your blessings).

In that moment, God showed me two ways of living my thought life—in fearful chaos or in trusting peace. The choice was mine.

I could pull and pull on the threads of "what-if" and watch my life unravel through fear-drenched imaginations, or take those thoughts captive and live in truth.

And peace.

Sure, those things could happen. But the odds are against them. And truly, how does worry help us? It doesn't prevent a darn thing and it certainly doesn't soften the blow if it does happen.

Fear warps life and prevents freedom, is what it truly does. Its purpose is to bind us into a way of thinking we were not designed for.

So why live there?

We were designed to trust in our Creator. That doesn't mean that bad things won't happen, but it does mean that He's sifted our lives through His fingers and He'll be our Rock through all situations.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hairy Legs

I've always wanted to be a part of one of those couples who reads quietly in bed.

I even bought the bedside tables (with drawers for our enlightenment material) and cute little lamps.

I envisioned peaceful evenings where one of us would pause, finger marking the spot, and share insightful nuggets that would precipitate growth and emotional intimacy.

Reality is far different.

Exhausted from herding the short people through after school practices, homework, dinner, chores (need a cattle prod to get them through those) and general cleanup, I fall onto the couch next to my bleary-eyed hunk and stare at the scenes flashing across the TV.

We stay up too late because we're too tired to go to bed.

So rather than sharing insightful truths, we are treading sleep-deprived waters, frantically trying to make it to shore before we hit the teenage rapids around the bend.

The only growth I'm getting is the hair on my legs.

What I am learning is to roll with the punches. Life on the edge of insanity is only a season (a very long eighteen year season).

And one day we'll look at each other and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Goal Oriented

I'm an ultra goal-oriented girl with a case of envy.

I envy those relaxed moms who can chuckle at life while playing a leisurely game of Shoots and Ladders with the short people while the bills are crying to be paid, the stuffed laundry hamper is starting to smell, and the ring around the tub is hosting a bacterial hula party.

Uusally by 5:00 pm when life is kicking me in the hind end—dinner has yet to be determined and I have to take one of the children to practice—my youngest son will pick that moment to give me a play-by-play of his hour long basketball scrimmage with his older brother.

I manage sporadic eye contact and impatient, "Mmm hmm, mmhmms," before I finally stop him and say, "Honey, I'm in a hurry, can you tell me in the car?" and then harangue the kids all the way to practice for not being ready when I needed to leave—completely forgetting my son's story.

I can get so focused on the goal (get there on time, clean the house, empty out those drawers, get the pictures in the scrapbook . . . ) that the kids float somewhere along the periphery.

The other day after noticing how harried my life gets and how impatient I can become, I pleaded with the Lord to help me to slow down and really listen to my kids. I want them to know they are the most important beings in my universe and not just a detail I'll get to when everything else is accomplished.

And it hit me. Make them the goal. Why not flip things around and make their well-being the goal of every interaction I have with them? And that goal trumps every other one on my list.

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro once shared this thought in a sermon. "Imagine that children have a sign around their necks that reads, 'Help me feel good about myself today.'"

We have such an impact on how our children view themselves. And I want that view to be a good one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lovely Not Ugly

I've been reading an amazing book, Finding Peace for Your Heart by Stormie O'Martian. Stormie points out how critical it is to our emotional health to confess and repent of sin.

Because I know that when we receive salvation all our sins (past, present and future) have been forgiven, I don't spend a lot of time on the confessing part. I toss up my share of, "Sorry, Lord, there I go agains," but don't really focus on the confessing of it. Sometimes I even skate around my sinfulness because of the shame I feel for my behavior.

Then Stormie shared (and I agree) that though we are forgiven and our citizenship in heaven is certain and secure, unconfessed sin becomes a weight we drag around.

A little further along, she said that when we are victimized by others, our response to it can be sinful and needs to be confessed. I was still nodding until my gaze skidded to a stop on the sin of criticism.

I felt my defensive heels dig in. But Lord, I'm not trying to be critical, it's just when they . . . and I saw myself trying to justify why I had a right to criticize and judge.

Oh, yes, my rights. I wear them like armor. You see, on some level (yeah, that would be the fleshly one) I believe I have a right to be critical if I have been wronged by them (all those thems out there that spoke rudely to me, that cut me off in traffic, even the short ones who talked back to me after I told them to put their breakfast bowls in the dishwasher instead of the sink).

Stormie made it abundantly clear—quoting Bible verses no less—that I have no rights when it comes to this.

So I reluctantly started confessing and repenting. She hammered that one home too. No point in confessing (apologizing) if we have no intention of repenting (turning away from the sin and behavior).

So after pondering all this, I wandered to the kitchen to make myself a cup of late night cocoa (I was craving and it was the only chocolate in the house). I told the Lord that I realize I often avoid him because I don't want him to see the criticalness and judgment I have in me.

He pretty much said that was silly since he already knew it was there. So feeling like a kid digging her toes in the dirt, I asked, "So what do you think of me when I'm like that?"

I truly felt like he said, "I think you're lovely."

I blurted out. "But I'm so ugly in my sin." And I heard. "Don't call ugly what I call lovely."

He reminded me that all my sin has been paid for and his anger satisfied when Jesus took it upon himself, so what is left, is my loveliness.

Isn't that amazing? And it is for each one of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine’s Dessert

I was sitting with TDH watching TV the other night. This is a rare thing. Usually he is watching TV while I have my nose in a book.

Though he's usually just delighted to have me in the same room with him (even when I wear ear plugs—can't stand the noise of the TV while I immerse myself in another world).

An advertisement for Rachel Ray came on. She was describing the delectable and easy dishes you can make and serve up for your honey. I stared at the screen, Rachel in her white apron whipping together yummy entrĂ©es that would take me hours to make—or at least hours to clean up.

With my eyes lusting after some steamy dish she'd made, I wistfully mused, "I wish I had a cook." Then I turned to TDH and said, "I bet you're glad you have one."

A slow smile spread across his face, but he wisely didn't say a word.

So I'm going to take a side turn here and share a recipe I recently acquired (from a Costco newsletter, via a neighbor's Christmas open house where I had to stop myself from hiding this dish in my coat and sneaking it home). It is rich, rich, rich, and oh, so yummy! Happy Valentine's Day!

Brownie Pudding:

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter (plus extra for buttering the dish)
4 extra large eggs (at room temperature)
2 cups sugar
¾ c good cocoa
½ c flour
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (try 1 ½ tsp vanilla instead)
1 TBSP framboise liqueur (I didn't have this—um, what is framboise?)

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping

Preheat oven 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 2 quart oval baking dish.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5-10 minutes, until, very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile sift cocoa powder and flour together.

When egg and sugar mixture is ready, lower the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise (if using), and cocoa mixture. Mix only until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again, just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted2 inches from the side will come out ¾ clean. The center will appear very underbaked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.

Allow to cool and serve with ice cream (or whipped topping).

Serves 6 (or two really greedy people!).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Magical Moments

I'm on a writing deadline and apologize for not blogging last week. Today I'm posting a guest blog I wrote for another blogger.)

Books have always held magic for me. I walk into a bookstore with lust in my heart and money in hand, hurriedly threading my way between patrons, my eyes feasting on the colorful titles that line the shelves, searching for the right story to match whatever mood I happen to be in.

Just the smell of the ink on the new pages sends a thrill coursing through me and engulfs my time and attention for hours as each turned page takes me deeper into adventures previously unknown.

The end of a book is something to be both anticipated and dreaded.

Books are more satisfying than the richest dessert (and that's saying a lot for this chocoholic—though a good book and a slice of chocolate torte have sent me into raptures).

I first discovered the magic of books in the second grade. My tiny elementary school, with its three rooms and forty children encompassing eight grades, stressed the importance of reading. I unexpectedly reached a new juncture when I was forced to check out a book to read on my own.

I don't recall the titles in the series I fell in love with, but they had rich yellow covers that sent a wave of anticipation through me each time I discovered a new yellow spine hiding among the brown and ecru colored books that lined the bookshelves.

I read them all, over and over, these delicious yellow books that regaled the legends of the gods and goddesses of Hawaii. Being a model participant in my Sunday School class, it felt a bit daring to be reading something so pagan.

But these books transported me from the cold, rainy winters of Oregon to lush, balmy rainforests, warm lagoons with cascading waterfalls, and to the volcano where Pele wielded her power.

Those books opened a door that took me from an existence of shyness and isolation into a world where I became strong, confident and capable—the heroine who could solve any problem, who could say "no" with fire in her eyes.

These books started me on a path of learning about lands foreign to my landscape and showed me that books could take me to places beyond myself.

In a sense, books saved me and opened my eyes to what could be.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Destinations

Too often I let my emotions carry me to places I don't especially care to visit, though I seem to have acquired frequent flier miles to a few of those destinations.

One in particular that has an easy chair with my name on its sandy beach is the Island of Self-Pity.

If you try to visit, you'll find that there are many blacked out dates. Yeah, those are all mine. I've reserved them for the evenings when I have to scramble to get dinner together after I've spent the day racing across the city delivering kids to practices and birthday parties. The house looks like a garage sale threw up all over the counters and the kids act as if I have the word "Maid" type-stamped across my forehead.

Funny thing is, I've actually lived there indefinitely at times. Once you arrive and unpack, it can be nearly impossible to dredge up the energy for the arduous journey to the distant land of Serving with a Grateful Heart.

Everyone talks about how wonderful that destination is. I really need to plan that itinerary, but with so many sightseeing opportunities like The Wishing Well of Feeling Sorry for Self, the Cliffs of My Own Tribulation and the Cave of Depression, why would I want to leave?

It's so much easier to let the River of Misery carry me along, than it is to paddle upstream, past all those Boulders of Frustration to the gate that can take me off this island.

Afterall, it's a luxury trip to the Island of Self-Pity. You can get there in a nano-second and at the push of a cell phone button even rouse support for the trip. A lot of moms out there will cheer your journey to Self-Pity. Many of them are already camped there. We all know that Misery loves Company.

There are a few critical travel tips to a successful departure. When you decide to leave, you must not risk a glance around. Race to that quiet place where you can get your Heart Restored. My departure always happens at the Gate of Praise and Worship.

The Gate of Praise and Worship changes the atmosphere of my heart. Though I've heard the Gate of Reading the Word and the Gate of Repentance and Prayer have been just as successful for Others.

Whatever path you choose, make it a joyful journey!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Letting Go of a Dream

I wanted a dad who would be my mentor and my friend. Someone I could lean on and go to for advice. Someone who desired to meet me for lunch and listen to the goings on in my life with a proud smile and adoration in his eye.

I didn't know I wanted this until I reached adulthood. Up to then, I thought my life was normal. Like most people's.

But then I went to college and realized that normal was relative to . . . well, to whomever you were speaking.

Some dads were involved and some weren't. I'd never thought much about the fact that my dad worked long hours and didn't speak more than a few words when he was home. He didn't inquire about our lives or come to our childhood events, unless it was with a bored look and longsuffering sigh.

I knew I was loved. On the surface, anyway. Those three words seem to echo without a place to land when they are spoken without the investment of time or sacrifice.

But it left me with a longing for more. To find somewhere I could get those deep needs for love and connection met. Because of that desire, I went down painful roads and made choices that left scars rippling across my life.

My father made his own choices that broke up our family. It wasn't until much later that I heard a woman speaking and what she said moved into my heart in a way that brought immense revelation.

This woman said, "Parental love is like a hot fudge sundae. Everyone is designed to have it, but not everyone gets it. You'll never be free if you focus on what you should have had. The people who gain freedom are the ones who can accept that even though they're never going to get that sundae, they can have a bowl of ice cream and maybe some nuts on top or whipped cream."

I realized that for years I'd been looking for someone or something to fill that void. The void of my father's lost love. The love I should have had.

When she spoke those words, it felt like a missing puzzle piece settled into place. Freedom came with acceptance. I could let the dream go and begin looking forward to what I did have.

And I have a lot.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Big Fat Lies

Okay confession time. I'm going to go out on a limb here and be completely honest.

I'm an enmeshed parent.

If I ask one of the short people in the family to put something—say, a box of cereal—away, I'll occasionally get the shriveled apple look (you know, the one where they use all thirty-seven muscles of the face to convey complete disbelief that you would ask them to pick up the cereal they didn't leave out).

Then when I calmly explain that I wasn't asking if they'd left it out, I just want them to put it away, they continue arguing and telling me why they shouldn't have to put it away when their sister was the one that got it out.

By this time I wish I'd put the cereal away.

Finally, they put on the martyr persona. The lips press tightly together and the hands come up shoulder high in a stance of surrender to their idiot of a parent, and with exaggerated motions, they put the cereal away.

This is where the enmeshment part comes in. Since they are upset, I'm upset. It's as if the umbilical was never cut.

When I was growing up my dad made us believe that we were responsible for his feelings. Probably because he actually believed we were responsible for his feelings.

So I grew into an adult that felt responsible for everything.

I heard author Kevin Leman give an example about pleasers. He said that if a pleaser plans a family reunion and it rains, they believe it's somehow their fault for picking the wrong day.

I totally get that, as wacky as it sounds.

So I stood in the laundry room, the echo of my son's feet pounding up the stairs, and I wanted to cry. Mostly from the frustration of not being able to do it right, believing that if he was upset, it was somehow my fault.

I felt God haul me upright in His loving way.

The key word was "unhook." Unhook from my son's emotions. Those emotions are his responsibility. I can guide him and love him, but not own—or fix—his feelings for him.

The freer I am from feeling responsible for how my children feel, the freer they will become and the healthier their relationships will be.

Then when my son is grown and complains about how difficult parenting is, I will just nod my head wisely as if parenting him had barely caused a ripple in the serenity that was my life as a young mother.

And then I'll dig out the family videos.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dark Secrets

I think I have too many kids.

Oh, not that I don't love them more than both my arms and legs, or the entire universe for that matter. And it's not that I don't have the ability to meet their basic needs (though that might be debatable—once I arrived at a grocery store to discover that my daughter was wearing only one shoe. You'd think a mother would notice those things.)

I'm talking about more in the sense that a brain can only hold so much information, and once you reach, oh say, two or three kids, a dog, a cat, and a husband there isn't room for much else.

You start incurring errors.

Weeks after I had Kaden, our fourth bundle of heart-expanding joy, I sensed this might be a problem. One evening after I'd been watching TV snuggled up to TDH (tall, dark and handsome) for an hour or so, I shot off the couch.

You know that shock of alarm when you realize you left the oatmeal on high and now the pot is boiling over as you race to flip the burner off? Only I was racing for the driveway where my precious infant was snoozing away in the backseat of the car.

It wasn't the only occurrence.

During soccer season this year, I dropped Kaden off at practice and his ten-year-old brother stayed to help. I jetted directly to a parent meeting for my oldest son's wrestling program. All day I meant to call TDH and ask him to pick our youngest up from soccer . . . but spaced it.

It wasn't until I was driving up our hill twenty minutes after soccer ended that the boiling pot flooded my mind.

My cell was dead, so with no way to call the coach or my hubby, I hyperventilated through all the horrible scenarios that could have happened to my son. Though the rational part of my brain knew the coach would not look at my child and say, "Huh, your mom should have been here by now. Why don't you go wait over by the sidewalk and watch for her," as he hopped in his SUVand drove off.

But what can I say? I'm a writer, I live in the paralyzing world of what if?

I walked into the house, looked at my husband and like an idiot said, "Is Kaden here?" Okay, hindsight and all that. You don't drop an, "I don't know where our seven-year-old is" bomb on your husband without prefacing it with some details.

I briefly tried to explain, but all I saw was the back of TDH's head as he raced out the door, jumped in his pickup and with tires squealing, flew at mock 60 down our hill. I got on the phone but couldn't reach the coach. Finally reached another soccer mom who was still waiting at the field for her other son and hadn't even noticed how late it was or the fact that I wasn't there yet.

I sank onto the couch, relief flooding endorphins through my body and told her how I had started to panic about never seeing Kaden again. She interrupted and said, "And Logan."

I drew a blank. And then said, "Oh, yeah. That son too."

See what I mean?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deadlines . . .

I'm on a deadline and am juggling kids, housework (yeah, that balls has already hit the floor), and writing.

I thought it was Monday all day on Tuesday and it wasn't until I was laying in bed Tuesday night that I figured it out and realized I'd missed my Tuesday blog. Didn't do a whole lot better with today's blog, seeing how Thursday is almost over.

So, I'm headed away for a little writing retreat weekend thanks to my splendid hubby who will be ferrying children to three different ball games (actually coordinating with another parent as two of our children have conflicting game times), one child to a self-defense class and another to a birthday party.

I saw the resigned look in his eye when I laid out the schedule for him. I should probably pick up a bit of lingerie for the trip home. I'm sure that would bring the sparkle right back.

So pray for me if you think of it. It's tough getting back into writing. I dove back in for a bit a month or so ago, but found I still wasn't quite there. Grief is a curious thing, still holding onto parts of us when we think we're ready to get up and go.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

When Your Kids Tell You . . .

. . . that you need to be more firm in your discipline, you know things are way off track.

As my oldest son and I strolled hand-in-hand through the store (yes, my twelve-year-old still likes to hang with his mom), he casually mentioned that I needed to be a stricter disciplinarian.

This isn't the first time he's mentioned this. And he did follow that comment up by saying, "I'm probably going to regret telling you that." And I believe he is in fact regretting it this very moment as he sits in his room grounded, but that's a story for another post.

So I've been pondering his words and have come to a realization.

When the kids were little, I was pretty reactive and easily frustrated (though in my meager defense I had three toddlers running around and a mountain of dirty clothes creeping from the laundry room—when the mountain comes to Mohammed . . .)

So I was exhausted and short tempered and my husband worked six days a week.

And I was a perfectionistic controller. Yeah, you see the volcano brewing, don't you? Exhaustion and the need for control and order are the main ingredients for spontaneous combustion. And I combusted on a frequent basis.

Added to this, I hadn't been raised around small children, so didn't understand how to discipline and had no one to learn from. The net result is that the consequences I implemented were often too strict for the offense. Which is something I truly regret.

Fast forward through years of growing and learning and seeing myself through a more accurate (though grace-filled) lens and I find that I'm now an uncertain mother.

I throw a potential consequence out there, like say, "If you choose not to change your attitude, then you won't be going to the party," and then second guess myself. Is it too strict? Is it fair? And when my child continues on his course of disaster, rather than give the consequence I just keep reminding him of it, hoping desperately that he'll toe the line and get to go to the party.

Or I'll threaten unreasonably steep consequences that I don't really mean, assuming that'll motivate them to get themselves under control. Like that ever works. And then I undermine my own parenting when I back pedal.

So when my son told me that I threaten and threaten and threaten with no follow through, I realized he was absolutely right.

Parenting isn't about doing it perfectly, but it is in great part about being consistent.

So I'm much more thoughtful about what comes out of my mouth. I first think through whether it's a consequence I'm willing to uphold. If I am, then I am fairly certain it's reasonable.

And heaven knows that when it comes to parents and kids, someone has to be reasonable.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem…

I hadn't done my grocery shopping for a while—the holidays, kids home on vacation . . . snow. So I finally dragged myself down to the dreaded store.

It's one of those warehouse type stores where the aisles are long and the prices are cheaper—and you bag your own groceries.

Besides intensely disliking grocery shopping, I hate waiting in the checkout line behind all the carts stacked with a month's worth of food.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find a short line and raced for it, cutting off carts left and right to slide behind the lone cart loading a small amount of packages onto the conveyor belt.

Smugly satisfied at my luck, I realized I'd forgotten an item. Fortunately, I was wearing my running shoes. I dashed an aisle away and searched for what I needed. Got distracted by an assortment of tempting goodies and then dashed back. And skidded to a stop.

My cart had been pushed out of line.

It lay up against the rack holding the batteries and tabloid magazines. I tried not to glare at the woman who had taken my spot and was unloading her engorged cart. I considered saying, "You moved my cart?" in a bit of an outraged tone.

But my better self spoke up and said to myself, "It's a scheme of the enemy. Forgive her and let it go." So I did and I determined to not even grumble about it to my husband when I got home. It felt good to use some self-control and let a bit of Jesus rub off on me.

I even glanced over at the woman in the line next to me and smiled. She pointed to my cart and said in an apologetic voice, "I moved your cart. Another lady said it had been sitting there a long time."

I think I kept my eyebrows from climbing and very kindly gave her a grin and told her it was fine. I even leaned closer and whispered, "I'm glad you told me because I thought it was her," and motioned to the lady ahead of me. Tracking with me, she nodded conspiratorially and said, "The meanie."

She was in a much shorter line (the lady in front of me still hadn't found the bottom of her cart), so I scooted over behind the confessor. She gave a guilty look and said, "I noticed your butter and realize I forgot to get some." I told her to go for it and she took off.

Butter was at the opposite end of the store, so I unloaded her small cart on the belt and started into mine just as she came huffing back to our checker. She gushed her thanks and when she finished paying asked if I needed any help.

My small choice to forgive and not walk in my flesh changed everything about the next ten minutes and made a connection. There's no way she would have confessed if she'd heard me lay into the woman I thought was the culprit. I wouldn't have if the situation were reversed. But then I can be a little cowardly when it comes to possible rejection, even from a stranger.

I'm going to try to keep my ears tuned to that small voice that speaks such wisdom. Who knows what connections might be made tomorrow.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'll be back next Tuesday . . . have a wonderful New Year's Day!