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.

 

 

 

How refreshing!

“Mom!  My kindle free time is frozen and I need you to exit out of it!” Madi exclaimed.  She shoved the device in my hand as I was simultaneously peeling a potato.  I stopped what I was doing and realized that the entire device had frozen.  Madi, in her usual hurry, was ready to get on to her game.  Pronto!  “Madi, your kindle needs shut down.  You have to give it time to think.”  Just like mom, I thought in my head as I went back to finishing preparing our dinner.   How nice would it be to have a button I could push when I needed a break.  A quick little refresh to get me right back on track.

Much like every woman I know, I take on far too much in my day.  It’s like a badge of honor, having all those wonderful balls to juggle in the air.  Perfectly balance and in sync.  Just don’t try to throw anything else in the mix without prior approval or the whole show might come tumbling down!  As much as I hate to admit, my well orchestrated life is often an illusion.  And, like any good magician, only I know all of the tricks to making it appear seamlessly. To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement.

The question I must stop to ask is how.

How do I get myself into this place of overwhelming exhaustion time and time again?

The first thing I have to consider is how much time I have allowed myself to get saturated in the word of God.  Like eating a healthy diet and daily exercise, time in God’s word is a daily essential requirement.  And, often the first thing to go in my routinely busy day.  Daily, I need to be reminded that his grace and mercy are new to me every morning.  Daily, I need to be reminded that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.  Daily, I need to be reminded that I am a loved and cherished child of God.  An heir to his kingdom.  The crown on his head and the royal diadem in his hand.  A symbol of his living power, grace and mercy to a lost world that surrounds me.

Then, I need to trust him with every detail in my life.  Nothing is too minor.  Every worry and concern, every dark & unlovable feeling I am harboring, every circumstance and situation that seems impossible and out of my control need to be laid before the Father’s throne.  And left there! I need to trust that the God of the Universe can handle every detail of my life!

Last, I need to steal time away to sit and listen.  Quiet & uninterrupted.  To do that, I have to intentionally escape the realities of my life.  I personally love lake and pond areas.  However, my back patio will do in a fix.  This is time just to sit and listen for the still, small voice of God.  Time to allow his spirit to resonate my stress and anxiety that he may instead give me a peace that surpasses all understanding.  True refreshment to my parched soul.

I find that it is not the big things that most often overwhelm me.  It is the little day to day stuff.  Limited finances that crash into teens with endless pockets.  Broken car parts. Unmet expectations.  Broken dreams.  The responsibility of saying “yes” to one too many things.  But I have to remember that in these moments of overwhelming exhaustion, I am not alone.  In Psalm 3 it says that God is my glory and my shield.  He lifts my head high.  I picture a loving father, gently placing his hand under the chin of his beloved child.  Lifting gently until their eyes meet and he gently reassures her with the love and compassion in his gaze.   There is no refreshment quite like it.

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.

Lessons from the sidelines…..

“Mom, I didn’t get much playing time today.”  The heartbreaking words that came from my son as we walked off the field from the season opener game from JFL.  Even more heartbreaking, the tears that were welling up in his eyes while he was trying to be strong.  Be still my breaking heart.  This is one of those precious moments of parent hood when I had to encourage and support while watching my son have to stand and persevere in his own time and his own way.  I truly think these moments in time are harder on me than they are on him.  You see, I am not a sideline kind of girl.  And my man, not a sideline kind of guy.  We like to be right in the heart of the action.  So, when we are watching our kids struggle to find their place, we find we have a choice to make.  We can make excuses, or we can create teachable moments.

My Lucas is a super talented kid.  He is quiet and polite.  A bit of a genius in his own right.  He doesn’t have to work for his grades.  He just gets it.  He loves to read, to build and create.  And in the midst of a middle school growth spurt, he is a bit awkward in trying to figure out how to work the extra couple of inches of body he has acquired in the last few months.  So, there is  part of me that is thankful for football.  It is a team sport.  It does not come easy to him.  It is something that he has to work for to get better. When something does not come easy for him, it teaches him character that can only come through struggle and perseverance.  So I thought I would share a few things I learned as a mom on the sidelines.

Hard work always pays off.  This was a lesson we learned several years ago in Tae Kwon Do.  Lucas was up for a red belt promotion, but could not quite get the steps to the form down.  This meant he was skipped on belt promotion.  But, he took that additional time to keep work, keep growing and when the next belt promotion came to pass, he earned the award of most improved student.  A proud mom moment for sure, but a lifelong lesson for a kid building character.

Respect Authority.  Any time my kids are struggling, I encourage them to go the experts.  That may be their coach or their teacher.  We have an honest conversation about expectations and ways we can improve.  We hold our kids accountable to those standards.

Be Ready.  Know your job and be ready to do it at anytime.  I reminded Lucas, week after week, that Aaron Rodgers stood in the shadow of Brett Favre for five years before getting a chance to go in.  And when his chance came, he stole the show.  You never know when your chance will come, but be ready, because those who do the right thing will eventually reap the rewards.

Attitude is everything.  When you make good choices, good outcomes will occur.  You will always reap what you sew.  Getting mad, playing the blame game and giving up are the easy way out.  Honoring your commitment to your team is the strongest statement you can make, even if you are cheering from the sidelines.  Stay positive. Work hard.  Cultivate Growth.

Encourage their strengths.  While we may not have the next rising star of JFL, we do have a pretty bodacious brainiac.  My son has a good attitude, a cool head and a polite demeanor that causes people to take notice.  By the end of the year, he noticed that his coaches were taking more time to invest in his talent and he was seeing more playing time.  We celebrated every play.  I can’t wait to see how his talent develops next year.

Watching our kids struggle is one of the hardest things we have to endure as parents.  Even when it doesn’t seem like they are getting a fair shake, we can’t intercept for them.  Life is hard and sometimes unfair.  Isn’t it better for them to learn that now?  The sooner they figure out how to stand in the struggle, the more they will learn how to stand positioned for success in their life.  They will learn how to keep their attitudes in check.  They will learn to respect and learn from the authority that they have in their day to day lives.  They will learn that true success takes work, determination, perseverance and the choice to do the right thing each and every time.  Our JFL boys were told that they win each game play by play.  Isn’t that the truth?  The same can surely be said about life.  Choice by choice, we position ourselves for our future consequences.

I have been holding on this blog for quite sometime and I have to say I am glad that I waited for the end of the year to publish it. I am so excited that I can tell you how the story ends.   At the annual football banquet, one to two kids from each grade level are awarded a sportsmanship award for their performance within their team. Not athletic talent, but coachability, dependability, leadership and attitude.  Kids who set the bar for attitude on the team.  And my son and another young man were chosen for their age level by their coaches to receive the award.  What an amazing moment!  All of the sudden, the sweat, frustration and tears were worth it.  He held strong and he was rewarded for his efforts.  But even before receiving this coveted award, he had made his choice to play another year for the breakers.  I can’t wait to see how his story continues in the off season!