Five Minute Friday: Learn

“School is a cuss word”, my feisty 7 year old declares as we approach her registration line. “Ugh. I just don’t wanna go.”

Embarrassed, I lean down to correct her.  This behavior is not acceptable, nor is it in line with her past opinion of academic education. She loves school.  She loves learning new ideas.  Exploring new books and meeting new friends.  She excels.

I think of another mom our mission team met in Mexico last summer.  As I fretted about being gone during school registration, leaving the task to my hubby, this mom had yet to successfully register her son in their local school system. He should have been in third grade.  But because she could not produce the appropriate paperwork, or pay a lawyer $5000 to advocate, her son had yet to complete kindergarten.

“School is a blessing”, I say to my daughter.  “You are so lucky to be in a country that allows free education.  Allows you to dream.  To learn. To be whatever you want to be. Be thankful for school. Be thankful for the chance to learn and to grow. Be thankful that someday, you can be whoever you want to be.  Be thankful for the blessed gift of learning.”

And to all who educate, Thank You for investing into the lives of our children. May their potential be limitless.

http://katemotaung.com
 

This post is linked up with Kate Motaung’s five minute friday free write. You can find more like this at Kate Moutaung‘s , or you can take a stab at it yourself. See you there.

 

 

 

I am not a stick in the mud!

I’m picking up speed, courtesy of the decision to lay flat on my back. I’m approaching the bottom at a supersonic speed.  Just enough time to clasp my nose and take a breath.

Splash!

I completely submerge as I feel my bottom bounce off bottom. I break through the surface to see my husband doubled over in laughter.

What the heck? 

“Mom, was it fun? Did you have fun? Are you going again?”, Madi rants as she climbs out of the pool and proceeds back toward the water slide of doom.

“Why are you laughing at me?”, I inquire as I follow her to certain death.

Crickets.

Okay.

We go again.  Faster.  More fun.  More exhilarating than the first time.

 And they’re still laughing at me as I surface!

At this point, I’m insulted.  It’s like they’ve never seen me have fun before.

“You know”, I say with my best pouty voice, “I’m not a stick in the mud.  I do know how to have fun.”

The trouble is, they don’t see me do it very often.

Why is that?

Lets review.

This is the first summer that I can remember in 15 years in which I have not had a child under the sacred height of 36 inches.  To date, I have been confined to the kiddy area only.

At the pool.  Water parks. Amusement parks. The park.  McDonald’s Playland.

Saying things like:

“Don’t splash.”

“Go down the slide, not up it.”

“Brown Alert! Gross.”

“Don’t lick that.”

Herding short people has been my business.  But now my people aren’t so short anymore. And, they’re adrenaline junkies like their dad.

Bigger + Bolder+ Faster = Better

I mean, sometimes, I just want to sit down and read. Take a nap. Make up on some of the sleep I lost when they were babies.  Yet sitting on the sidelines to watch my growing kids have fun is just, well, boring.  Because I want to be a part of it, too!

I’m noting the innate need for parents to be deemed “cool” in the eyes of their kids in this generation.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I have no desire to dress like my kids, talk like my kids or even be accepted by their friends as part of the “in” crowd.

I am the mom therefore I must be uncool sometimes.  The mom card demands it.

However, I can play with my kids and enjoy the activities they enjoy doing.  Just because I’m used to sitting on the sidelines doesn’t mean I am sentenced there for life.  Even when it does mean I’m going to look a bit silly sometimes.

It means climbing to the top of a ten story slide and bearing the bruises on my knees for the week to follow.

Sometimes, it means tossing a football or a baseball in the front yard.

Standing on the edge of a cliff when I want to retreat to the safety of the trail.

A pick up foot race on the way to the car.

Careening down a water slide while the rest of the party pooping moms are laying in their chairs catching some rays.

Yes, I called you a party pooper. (I still love you & I’m secretly jealous).

Sledding.  In the snow. Down a hill. Voluntarily. (insert smile here)

Playing with my family gives me the chance to show them a well rounded wife and mom.  It requires me to put down the camera and challenge myself physically.  To break out of my comfort zone on the sideline and step into the game, even when it’s terrifying for all who witness the spectacle.

It gives us all something to laugh about at the end of the day.

“Did you see mom when she…” 

I’m rediscovering how to play with my family.

How, today, can you engage yours?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m expecting God’s best.

“Are you okay mom?”

I smile and give a thumbs up as a tear slips from underneath my sunglasses. My little camper settles into the van ready for a week of fun, adventure and no parents!  I, on the other hand, am an anxious mess.  I have a queasy pit in my stomach.

It’s never easy to say goodbye.

I get into my car and head to work, thankful for the busy Monday ahead.  On my way, I pray for travel mercy.  I pray for peace for the little campers who will be away from home for the week.  I pray for the counselors who will be investing into the lives of these little ones.

We have done all we can to prepare her for a week without us.    I wrote the camp notes.  She has her ice cream cash. My husband packed her bags in day specific rolls.1607111_834186176657715_4690657683349455716_n

We even picked up a cocoa on the way to church.

But now it’s time to hand over the reigns.

I’m not so good at handing over the reigns.

“God, I need your peace in this moment of uncertainty.  I need the strength to trust you.  I feel so out of control.  I know in my head she is going to have a great time. I know in my head you are going to move in her heart this week. Lord, let this truth resonate in my heart.”

Immediately, this thought occurs to me. “You jump on this emotional roller coaster every time I ask you to step out of your comfort zone.” In writing.  In running. In allowing my kids out of my sight for a week to go to church camp, of all places. The emotions are messy yet I’m expecting God to show up in amazing ways.  The words come out choppy and rough but a life is touched.  The race is hard to run but there is the blessing of accomplishment and perseverance waiting at the finish line.

It’s hard to say goodbye but in a few short days she will be returning with a bag full of dirty laundry, new girlfriends and memories that will last a lifetime.11227954_10153492797423060_8715412038757468137_n

In the quiet of this week, I’m embracing the shift of dynamics in our home. It’s been a full 24 hours since I last called the dog Madi.

Progress, right?

I’m dumping the guilt of feeling like I, myself, am on a bit of a vacation.  She is our demanding one.  The girl who demands action and drama at every turn.  I’m enjoying the quiet laid back peace of my evenings knowing she is in the capable hands of her counselor and under the watchful eye of her heavenly father.

Besides, she has already assured me she will only miss her daddy and Zoe the diva wonder dog.

Little monkey.

I’m counting the days until she is home again and our world returns to normal.

I’m expecting God’s best.  Not only in her week, but in mine as well.

 

Misplaced Monday: It all started with the hat

It all started with the hat.

My spunky 7- year- old Madi modeled her t-ball hat with pride.  Just two days until team pictures.

The last ones.

The last season for her.  The last child in t-ball for me.

I should have known it would be a disaster. Pictures were scheduled for a Monday.  Nothing good happens on Monday.  Dieting and workout programs have proven that for decades.

In the meantime, she wore her hat everywhere.

Walmart.  Church.  Playing with her friends. I knew it was a bad idea.

In a flash, the hat was gone. We asked her to pull her uniform together the evening before pictures.  She couldn’t find her hat anywhere.  We backtracked in our minds and came up blank.

An hour before picture time, my hunting hubby discovered the hat in the play kitchen I had asked her to clean the day before.  Picture saved.  Uniform complete.

I get home in time to change and instead find her covered in dirt.  Her legs.  Her shirt.  Her hat.  I cat bathe her quickly and we head to the field, arriving on time.

Woot, Woot!

I precariously balance the picture form as I fill it out with my funky blue pen. Like my driver license, I lie about her weight and glimpse at the number on her shirt.  Write the check.  Seal the envelope. My daughter follows her team in line toward the kiosk.

Mission accomplished.

I see coach dabbing Madi’s leg with the order blank I just filled out!

She’s picked a scab on her leg and has blood everywhere.  Sigh.

The coach looks at me with a mix expectancy and judgement. I am, after all, letting down woman kind.  Was I supposed to have a first aid kit tucked in my spanx?

A new momma with diaper wipes comes to my rescue.  I apply pressure to the bleeding with one hand while cat bathing my kid with the other. Again.  All was well in control until the coach handed me a new order blank with 20 seconds to picture time.

I guess the photo people weren’t excited about having my kid’s D.N.A on their form. Disappointment abounds.

What did I say her weight was? Why don’t I know this?

It’s in the tension of these moments when being mom proves toughest.  The moment of unpreparedness. The stage in life when I am supposed to have it all together, but don’t.  Not even close. Will I ever get it right?

She’s my youngest.  I don’t have too many chances left.

This point in time seems so big in comparison to every other decision I have made correctly.  It highlights every mistake I make and every way I fall short.  I just want to go home and hide.

And speaking of hiding, does photo shop hide dirt and blood?

I need to remember to ask when I turn the form.

As she approaches the camera, I have to remind myself that mothering happens in moments. Embrace the moment- good or bad.  It’s the little kisses.  Inside jokes.  Fishing trips. First time events. Missing hats.  Bloody t-ball pics.

Every. little. thing.

Ironically, the most vivid memories avail when I feel like the biggest mom loser on the planet.  The nuggets of time when I feel alone and judged for my inadequacy.  The very memories I get to share and laugh about with other moms who have stories of their own.

Good or bad, I’m embracing the moments.

And, I’m inventing first aid kits to hide in spanx.

For better or worse. No but’s about it.

“If mommy’s & daddy’s decide to split up, where do the kids live?”

I look up from my book to find my 7- year- old Madi waiting for my response to a heart breaking question.

“Well, part of the time they live with their mommy and part of their time with their daddy.  But you don’t have to worry about that.  Daddy and I will never divorce.  We will always work things out.”

It satisfied her for the moment, but I’m ashamed to say I had a nagging hint of doubt in my gut as she walked away.  What if I just told my child a lie?

This world is a scary place.  The last thing I want my kids to worry about is whether or not my husband and I are in it for the long haul.  When I said my vows, I meant them.  So did he.  Not just for now.  We meant forever.

But :

Sometimes, we go in our own direction and misplace our priorities.

Sometimes, I just get mad and there is no room for forgiveness. Only justice.

Sometimes, I don’t like my husband very much.

Sometimes, my husband doesn’t like me very much.

Sometimes, I forget that marriage isn’t all about me.  It’s about us.

The biggest injustice we serve to our kids is the idea that love and marriage is easy.  The belief that if you’re in love, everything will fall into place. If it doesn’t come easy, it just isn’t meant to be.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We allude ourselves to believe otherwise.

The reality is this.  Sometimes marriages don’t make it.  Even those marriages that are cleaved to God.  Kids find their time and loyalty being split between their mom and dad.  And kids in traditional homes?  They have doubts.  This is a scary thing.

But I’m not going to allow  reality to determine my end result.

Marriage is under attack.  As mom & dad, it is our job to affirm each other and our kids.  It is our job to let them know that we are not going to give up.  That we are going to weather the crazy that life sends our way. It means that sometimes, things are really, really good and sometimes, we are holding on to God with the very tips of our fingernails.  That’s what families do.  That’s what healthy marriages do. Our kids need to see us weather the storms.

My but’s cannot get in the way of confidently choosing the vow I made to my husband.  Those but’s create cracks of doubt in our family foundation.  Little stress fractures that threaten overall infrastructure. My but’s create insecurity and doubt.

The thing about a confident choice is that it determines the course of our life direction.  If I am not confident in my choice, I can be swayed.  But, when I know the direction I am going, it will take a lot to keep me from reaching my desired destination. My confident choice will determine how I spend my time.  My confident choice will determine the value I place on the people in my life. My confident choice will keep me from wasting time on people & things that don’t matter.

My spouse and my kids need my confident choice about marriage. My husband is my partner for life.  No but’s about it.

 

 

 

Helicopter Momma, it really is out of our control!

I’m freaking out.

Not had too much coffee before breakfast, freaking out.  More like box of Miss Clairol in one hand with a handy dandy brown paper baggie in the other.

I’m sending my 15 year old to Mexico on a mission trip.  With responsible, god loving adults who are not me.

I’m sending my 7 year old to church camp.  For a week.  With responsible, god loving adults who are not me.

I’ve always allowed myself to believe that I am a laid back momma.  My goal has always been to raise my kids well balanced in the tension of this world.  I work hard to make my home a safe place for them to land.  A place for them to take comfort.  A place of unconditional love and acceptance.

My kids know Jesus. They have had first hand experience of his peace and presence in their lives.  They know how to serve others in their community and they enjoy doing so.  They are learning how to construct healthy boundaries.

But one day, they will leave.

It might be to go down the street to play with a friend, or an overnight trip to grandma’s. It might be to summer camp or a mission trip.  It might be in a car with a driver license that just came hot off the press or off to college to pursue the hopes and dreams of their heart.  It might be to serve our country in the military.

But one day, they will leave.

It’s irrational, but I often times trust my kids more than I trust other people.  I just don’t ever want them to stray too far away.  I mean, what if they come across negative influences.  What if they are exposed to drugs, alcohol or pornography?

What if they find themselves in a position needing my protection and I am not there?

What if they think little Annie’s mom is more fun than me? It might be true, but I don’t want my kids to know that!

What if my teenager makes a choice that goes against what we have taught her in faith?

One day, my kids will leave my cocoon of protection.  Whatever is a mom to do?

Helicopter momma, here’s the thing.  My kids are only mine for a little while.  But, they belong to God forever.  At some point, I have to let them leave my influence so they can grow to fulfill the purpose that God handcrafted them for.

In the meantime:

I can build them up in his word.

I can teach them how to live their faith in a broken world with broken people.

I can help them build a community of like minded people that they can fall back on.

I can allow them the possibility of exposure- in small doses.

I can let God work in their lives without getting in the way.

I can pray, everyday, for my kids to know a personal relationship with their savior.  No matter what.

I can’t raise my kids in a “what if” mentality.

I know they will make bad choices.  I know that they will crash and burn.  I know that God, and I, will love them unconditionally.   I know that I will always be their safe place to land.  Their safe place to receive coaching, instruction, and preparation to get back into the game of life.

But I also know that they will make good, God honoring choices.  They will experience success.  And then?  I will be their place to celebrate and praise God for the amazing work he is doing in their lives.

For now, I will catch and release.  I will make the commitment to let go in small doses.  Allow them to make choices, good & bad.  Draw them back in. Coach them.  Teach them.  Love them.  Point them to God and release once more.

Helicopter momma,  I don’t believe raising kids is the hardest part of being a parent.  I truly believe it is the fine art of letting go and knowing that God is in control.

I’m praying for you.  Pray for me, will you?

 

www.compeltraining.com

#Compeltip:  I have been working to tighten my writing as well as reduce redundancy. Behind the scenes, I have been applying the 5-f’s from tired, typical writing. For more tips like these, visit www.compeltraining.com!

 

Sometimes, cheaters win

#Deflategate

The national icon of Superbowl 49 starring a quarterback who is said to be the best the NFL has ever seen.  A quarterback who is now accused of cheating for gain.

A dilemma to moms everywhere.

As  a mom, I constantly reinforce, “Do the right thing and you will get the right result”, to my kids.  I tell them to persevere. Even when failure seems to be lurking at every corner, a breakthrough will happen.  But, you have to work to make it happen.  Just don’t quit.  Don’t even dream of taking the easy way out.

I know I’m not alone here. We all want our kids to succeed, but we want them to do so with character.  Which means no easy road exists.  Hard work and perseverance always pay off.

So when Tom Brady was allowed to win his 6th Superbowl ring in the midst of and undecided scandal, I wont lie when I say I was deeply disappointed.

He didn’t once deny that he had given the directive to have the ball deflated.  He presented himself, polished as a politician, and gave vague answers as he sat in the hot seat of national media.  Moments of awkward silence as he likely thought of his coached answers.  The whole interview was uncomfortable to watch. The most uncomfortable part?  Trying to reconcile how to explain that sometimes cheaters win to my kids whom I am working to raise with integrity.

The thing about cheating is that it can be done easily.  Some times without recognition of the people who live and work the closest around you.  A well placed secret between you and God that allows you to advance and appear to be someone you are not.  Sometimes people catch on.  Sometimes they don’t.  But at the core of cheating is the heart of a liar.  One who covers weakness to make others believe in a façade.

And as a mom, I do not want to participate in, nor imply that this behavior is ever okay to the little eyes that may be watching.

We live in a world that is fallen. It’s ruled by a prince who came to steal, kill and destroy.  We are witness to this evidence of destruction everyday.  The good news I that we await a king who will return to bring life and life in abundance.  Peace in the midst of conflict.  Hope in situations that seem hopeless.

Tom Brady may have his fancy new ring and a little slap on the hand for a bad decision.  My beloved Michigan Wolverines may be able to brag about producing champion quality quarterbacks. But the truth will always be revealed.

Cheaters may sometimes win but the victory will be hollow and temporary.  One day, we will have to give an account for our actions.

When we make the choice to live with integrity, even when no one is looking, then we can then walk with confidence.  Never worried about something that can slip us up.

We can speak with boldness when we aren’t worried about covering our tracks or keeping our story straight.

Never give up.  Do what is right.  Confidently expect that right will win in the end.  This is the message I will continue to reinforce to my kids, even when cheaters win.

 

 

 

 

The bravest hearts come in small packages

We pull in to the K-Mart parking lot in Freeport, just outside of Applebee’s.  I can feel the tears burning my eyes. I’m trying to be strong but failing miserably.  I take off my seatbelt as I glance in the rearview mirror.  My Chloe, then third grader, was folded over crying silently.  I look over at my husband as he gets out of our magic van.  He pops open the side door as I walk around to take the driver seat.

This is where we say goodbye. I wish I had a fast forward button I could push.  I’m really not ready for this.

“Dad”, our 5 year old Lucas says, “Chloe is just afraid that this is the last time she is going to see you before you die.  But I know that Jesus is going with you and he is going to kick the bad guys butts.”

I will live and die to claim that these are and will be the hardest words I will ever heard one my kids say.  The hardest moment I have ever had to move through. We were prepared physically. In the last few weeks, we had attended every family meeting the national guard had offered.  We got our financial affairs in order.  Arranged for activities to keep the kids busy.  My work schedule altered to accommodate my new single mom status.

We planned for the worst while expecting the best.  But no one told me how to walk away. To leave my man behind to go and fight a war while I proceeded forward with my regularly scheduled life.

Yet, in that moment of brokenness, sheer wisdom came from the mouth of our kindergartener.

You’re not going alone. 

Jesus is with you.  

Jesus has your back.

When our greatest fears threaten to paralyze us, we have to stand on the fact that the power of God will fuel us with exactly the thing we need to move us toward his purpose, even when all evidence says we can’t.

He gave a stuttering murderer the power to part the red sea with his staff.

He projected a rock from the sling of a small boy to the exact coordinates needed to slay a giant.

He arranged a marriage for a pregnant, unwed teen mom that her reputation & future would be restored so she could fulfill her “yes” to him.

He granted his son the power to defeat a sinners death on the cross that all who believed could live in relationship with him.

He granted peace of mind to a 5 year old boy and his family that was separating for deployment.

What is paralyzing you today?

What is that thing you are facing that leaves your palms sweating?

What is the thing that leaves your stomach in knots of anxiety?

God is there.  He has gone before you.  He is with you now.

He has already kicked bad guy butt.

Allow his mighty power to move on your behalf today.

Just when I think…..

“So we just started Despicable Me and the pyramid just deflated and I automatically saw the old lady in the front.  ARGGGHH!”

This incoming text causes me to smile as I think of the scene my daughter is referencing in this movie.  It brings a little piece of backwards joy to my heart when I envision her laughing at the inside joke we share.  No details needed.  Just a fond memory shared between us.  In this season, it seems like these moments are getting fewer and farther between.

We are in the frustrating season of the teenage years.  Most days, I am stuck dead center between being the proudest mom in the world and wondering why on earth there are teenagers.  Sometimes within moments of each other.  The emotional level is constantly shifting while I witness my child grasping for every ounce of independence she can get her hands on.  We are in crunch time.  At this point, I am her coach.  I have given her basic character building blocks and now I am standing on the sideline position, doing my best to guide her along her final steps to truly being an adult. To tell you the truth, I truly feel like I am failing her.  Even on my best days.

Just when I think I have lost the ability to communicate, she breaks through the alien barriers of the teenage years and my little girl emerges once more.  She says things like, ” I started a new bible reading plan.  I am going to read the bible in a year.  Can I show you how the passages break down?”  She shows me a purity ring she wants that outwardly represents an internal choice she made when entering her freshman year of high school.  Or, she sends me a text reminding me that I pointed out a braless old woman standing in front of a deflating pyramid in a kids movie.

Just when I think I’m getting it all wrong, I realize that I must have done a few things right.  Just when I think she has tuned me out, I realize that she has heard me and I still have positive influence.  Just when I think this season will produce nothing but hopelessness & frustration, a young lady with an authentically beautiful character breaks through the drama and clutter to reveal who she is becoming in these transitional years.  Just when I think I am ready to give up, I realize that I wouldn’t trade being her mom for anything in the world.

A note to my teenage daughter.

High school is a frustrating season to walk through as a child.  I don’t think it even compares to how hard it is to travel through as a parent.  From the first day of school, I have watched my oldest child grasp her independence and hold on to it for all it’s worth. Daily, her father declares that he is gaining more and more gray hair.  There is much we want to tell her.  Much we want her to know and understand.  More we want to control.  And the harder we push, the higher she constructs her walls.  So, I did what every courageous mom does. I drug out our mother daughter notebook from mother daughter camp several years ago and wrote her a letter that I have prayed will reach her, even through the wall constructed of teenage drama and hairspray.  Lots and lots of hairspray.

My motive is not to preach.  I simply want to say the words that she needs to hear as she starts to move through the complicated world of real choices and real consequences.  And did I mention the boy?  Oh my stars.  It starts all too soon.

I want my daughter to experience her teenage years selfishly.  Yes, you heard that right.  I want her to independently discover her hopes and dreams and pursue them with everything she has. I want her to learn how to love herself before she has to figure out how to love another.  I want her to experience life with her friends, try new things and construct her plans for the future.

I want her to understand that abstinence from sex is about more than a religious decision to stay pure. It is about the ability to try a relationship without huge emotional entanglements.  It is an intentional decision she has to make now.  I want her to understand that when she commits to a solid decision, she will be less likely to allow her emotions to change her mind when the opportunity arises.  And it will.

I want her to understand that her friends have an influence over her life, just as her behavior & choices influence over their lives.  I make jokes about the boy, but the truth is that he is someone else’s beloved son.  He has parents that love him as much as I love her.  I don’t take that lightly.  And when her friends come over, you can bet I am in their business, too.  I want our home to be a safe place for my kids and their friends.  A place where they can come for fun, and guidance, if needed.

I want her to understand that she will make mistakes and when she does, her dad & I will be here to help her sort them out. We are a phone call away, no matter what. I want her to understand that nothing she can do will change our love for her.

I want her to understand that when we act like circus freak parents, our actions are stemming from fear.  Fear is rooted in a very deep love.  A very deep longing that wants only the best for her.

Maybe a letter was the easy way out.  But soon,  after she read it, I felt the walls come down a bit.  My daughter emerged from the fog of body spray and once more started to share.    I don’t pretend to have a handle on the teen years.  They are awkward and scary.  My goal for now is to control my inner circus freak response and create a safe zone.  One that fosters conversation in the mundane that will hopefully bridge the gap for the big deal issues that are sure to come.

I am raising my mini me, after all.