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Category Archives: On Parenting

An open letter to a young father

The picture above is me at around 22. My oldest about 3. Tomorrow that little boy will be celebrating the first birthday of his own son, at the tender age of 21.

Tonight as we settle down for Sunday dinner and celebrate this precious life on the eve of that momentous birthday, I want that little boy…now a young man to know these things.

First-I love you. Your momma will always love you. Even when life does not turn out the way I hoped it would for you. I love you.

Second-God loves you.

Let’s focus on that second one, and some of the things I wish people had said to me when I was a 19 year old unwed mother. When life had not turned out the way I planned. When my outward sin was on display for the whole world to see. When everyone had well-meaning advice, but others had a slew of opinions.

God loves you.

You are unique. I didn’t know this as a young mom. My concept of love was caught up in the world’s definition, and it told me people loved you if you did what they expected. Never took a few wrong turns. Did everything the “right” way. So I poured all that into you, desperate to make things right.

And…I messed up many times.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. 1 Timothy 4:12

God loves you. The road has turned a little. He will make it “right.” And along the way, son, you are going to make some mistakes.

Because you don’t have it figured out now. This parenting gig is a ball game like no other.  And it seems all the coaches have a different playbook. Thing is…parenting does not come with a one-size-sits-all instruction manual. No matter what age you may be. I am 40, honey…and I ain’t got it right. I need Him. Everyday. Not the opinions of the world.

Society will ALWAYS have an opinion of the perfect parent. And I am here to tell you, to break it to you-you will NEVER measure up. The perfect parent is not the one who never struggles. The perfect parent is not the one who has never had to decide between diapers and gas at the end of the month. The perfect parent is not the one who never had a child fall out of the bed, get a bruise in the center of their forehead when they were learning to walk, or whose first word was a four-letter word that was NOT “milk.”

The “perfect” parent is you. The parent God picked for your child.

You will doubt your ability to do the right thing. To guide your son. To provide for him. Daily.

You will be judged for your choices as a parent. Daily.

You will make mistakes. Guaranteed.

If you ever doubt this, just call yo momma. I’ll sort it all out for you. Because I’ve done all those things and then some.

Know this: You are his “perfect” parent. Who is loved by God. Always. Loved by your momma. Always.

Love, Your “Imperfect” Momma, but the “Perfect” Momma for You!

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2019 in On Parenting

 

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Passing the “Love” test

No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:3, MSG 

Love.

It’s something we all crave. Deep down in the very core of our beings. Sometimes when we have not received it, it’s also the very thing we reject.

Because we want to be loved we will look for love and acceptance in a variety of places. Things. Stuff. Approval from others. And often this approval from others looks nothing like the love that makes long-lasting relationships in the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. As my daughter gets older. As she has struggled over the years with friendships. As my oldest is now engaged. As I watch a load of preteens “think” they have mastered the art of dating. As I also watch many of these “masters” choose to date because it is “cool.” Pick mates that are mean to them and others. And move from one relationship to the next. Struggle as well with the “mean girl” mentality in their own friendships, and reject adult wisdom.

But is any of the worldly approval really “cool?” Are these ways of seeking approval and acceptance at all loving?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it does not keep a record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT

I know I’ve dissected this before…but it stands to be discussed again. Because I have a daughter who now thankfully says she just has no time for boys, she has too much worries with pre-algebra. She comes home and tells me the things her friends go though with their “bf’s” (because we do this thing called “talk”), and has decided she don’t want no part of that! Her mind will change one day I am sure. And, I don’t want her to choose a mate solely based on the opinions of others. I want her to be treated right. I want to make sure she does so in return.

That she knows the true meaning of “love” not only in its romantic form, but in its purest form when thinking of how we love ALL. That when she comes home all starry-eyed over some crush, this is the conversation we can have:

Oh, mommy. He’s so cute! But, he is kind of mean to my friends. And, sometimes he calls me names, and gets jealous if I spend too much time with them. He also just has a really bad attitude about things. He’s negative all the time. 

Here goes. The moment she has to place his name in that Love Chapter. Let’s say his name is Bob. Sorry to any Bob’s out there. Here, in our house…everyone is Bob (insert eye roll).

Hayley, is Bob patient and kind? Is he NOT jealous, boastful, proud or rude? Bob doesn’t demand his own way, get irritable, and keep a record of your mistakes, right? He doesn’t laugh when others are oppressed or hurt, but stands up for them, right? Does Bob never give up, have faith in God, and remain hopeful?

If she can’t answer these, then he probably isn’t the boyfriend for her now! She can pray he has these qualities in the future. But, for now? I want her to have someone that is kind and patient with her. That doesn’t hold her wrongs against her, but forgives her. And someone who is also kind to others, and stands up for them when they are hurt or in danger.

I would do the same for my sons. I want the same for them. Not someone who mistreats them, or thinks it’s “cool” to mistreat others.

For all of their relationships. Even with their friends. Even with the adults in their lives. Do these people fit? Can they say they are patient and kind? Are they jealous? Or do they create situations that cause us to envy others, create drama, or keep us far from God?

 And if their relationships are lacking, I ask they insert those names and pray those hearts change and the characteristics of love and kindness begin to dwell in them.

Because they don’t dwell in our bank accounts. They don’t dwell in our looks. Or our job  or “cool” status. Those things fade and can be taken away.

They dwell in the heart. A heart that loves, cherishes, and treats others with kindness, goodness, respect, and mercy. That lives on forever.

Love never gives up. Love never dies. 

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2018 in Loving Others, On Parenting

 

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Just a Bad Moment

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In my home we have something I often refer to as the “witching hour.” It is the not so glorious hours between the end of the school day and dinner preparation. It consists of homework battles, grunts of hunger, bad attitudes, and meltdowns.

The battle begins with a weary, emotional mom, and the attitude of her sassy daughter.

The battle continues with the screams, kicks, and punches of a kid who has managed to keep every cord of his brain and senses intact all day, but who has now become unraveled.

The battle ends with a battered and bruised mom who has done the same.

Until the cord breaks. The emotions come boiling over the pan we have managed to stuff them in. We do things we don’t like. We say things we don’t mean. We become someone we don’t know. We forget about the grace we are supposed to bestow on those around us. We yell. Scream. Cry tears of frustration. Anger. Shame. Grief.

We are then the mom we said we would never be. The monster we vowed they would never see again.

We had a bad moment. And let that moment define us as a bad mom.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Calm down, sweet child. It’s OK. Calm down.”

As the emotions begin to fall neatly back in the pot. As you rub the back of a still screaming child. As you wipe the tears from the face of another, and the tears from your own, you become still for just a moment. Hear in those gentle whispers, a Father reminding you to do the same.

Calm down, my child. It’s OK. Calm down.

You are not a bad boy. You just had a bad day.

You are not a bad girl. You just made a bad choice.

You are not a bad mom. You are having a bad moment.

So you rest on these assurances. You find your peace again. Accept His grace. And in those bad moments, you start looking for the good ones.

The girl who the moment before was making silly faces in a new costume.

The boy who a few moments before was snuggling with this same mom on the couch.

The mom who has wiped tears, helped with homework, fed, built up, shared the kitchen, shared her snack. Had some good moments.

We just also had a few bad ones.

Not a bad boy. Not a bad girl. Not a bad mom. Dad. Parent. You just had a bad day. Made a bad choice. Simply had a bad moment.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in On Parenting

 

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What Do They See?

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When my kids look at me, what do they see?

Do they see the things I tend to believe about myself? My self-hatred. My insecurities. The lies I allow myself to believe. Or, do they see a woman who believes she is wanted, cherished, loved, brave, and beautiful? Do they see the woman God sees?

When my kids witness me in action, what do they see?

A woman always questioning if God will show up, or one whose faith is unwavering? Do they witness the prayers of a weary mom, or do they see the control freak who thinks she has it all figured out?

When my kids hear me, what do they hear?

Do they hear words of encouragement for them and others, or do they hear groans of judgment and condemnation? Do they hear words of love for all those I encounter?

When my children watch me, what do they see?

Do they see me doing good things out of pure love, or for the praise of people? Do my choices reflect the ones I also want them to make? Do they learn about love or hate? Do they hear about being like Jesus, and think of me?

They are watching. They are learning from me. From you. From the world around us.

What am I teaching them?

And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Titus 2:7

And, there are so many times I fail to do this. I have at times failed miserably as a parent. I have not always been a shining example.

But, as my children walk through the journey of parenthood. As they start to navigate the world as adults who are also trying to be an example, my hope is that they won’t remember the times I failed. The times I didn’t show love, grace, or Jesus in my home, or outside of it.

I hope they remember my integrity, compassion, and honesty.

That when they think of an example they remember what they watched, witnessed, heard, and saw.

Then, I hope they think of me.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in On Parenting

 

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Sometimes There Is Nothing Left To Do But Laugh

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 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:2

“Whose idea was this?” This is what I ask my husband as our son sits and screams on the bathroom floor.

“Whose idea was what?”

“Parenthood. Which one of us thought that was a great idea?”

We know, we know. We did. God did. God thought we were equipped for this journey, and he blessed us with these headstrong and challenging kids.

But, honestly…we were not standing in line screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” for one of these battles. Truthfully, I always thought God knew I was not strong or patient enough to handle some of these things parenthood brings, let alone what autism brings with it.

And, finally…I’m not always strong or patient. There are times I really don’t know how to handle it at all.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. Proverbs 31:25

I have found the dignity and strength many times to conquer the tantrums, take on the flailing arms, flying Legos, and ear-piercing screams of one little boy, but as he kicked and screamed in the tub. As he slapped me with his rag. Dumped water in my lap, and screamed louder, I lost all dignity. I had no strength left. I had no clue what else to do.

So, I just looked at the little monster in the tub, and laughed. Loud. Uncontrollably. Yes, that’s right. While, I should have had the situation under control, I decided instead to laugh at it.

To laugh at it, because I know there is more of this in my future.

Even in laughter, the heart may ache; and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13

Oh, the grief. The pain. The heartache. Most definitely returns.

See, that question-“Whose idea was this?” Although maybe a bit twisted, a tad inappropriate, the question is actually an important one. What we are really asking is this-Are we in this together? Are you with me on this one? We agree on this, right?

Because, we know all too well that while we play a tug of war with our boy, we also do the same with each other. The doting and cuddling momma, and the disciplinarian dad don’t always agree.

We are also well aware of the grim statistics of those who parent children with special needs. The statistics that say we will not make it. That we will remain broken. At war with each other. In a constant tug between pain and heartache.

So, with God’s help we choose instead to look at each other, joke about what we can’t change, and laugh. Together.

We choose to laugh despite the heartache, struggle, and challenges we know we will face again. Laugh at the future we also know is uncertain.

To laugh at this crazy thing called parenthood, just to keep our strength and dignity. Just to stay sane.

Because, although we didn’t pick this one, and we actually didn’t plan on parenthood a third time so soon, we can rejoice in the fact that we are the parents God intended us to be.

Up for a challenge definitely not chosen. With no fancy parenting formula but simple laughter.

Laughing at the times we have now, and those to come…because, really? Sometimes, there just isn’t much else left to do!

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in On Parenting

 

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The One Thing I Can Guarantee Won’t Scare Her

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Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper! It only leads to harm. Psalm 37:8

Many mornings and many afternoons I spend my time wresting “monsters.” On those mornings when our routine is blown, the “monster” is a frazzled and oversensitive 5 year old boy. But, on most mornings, the “monster” I wrestle is the tangled mess of hair that adorns my 7 year old’s head.

The wrestling begins with a reluctant stroll to the bathroom, endures through many a product to reduce said tangles, emits many a harsh word back and forth, and sometimes ends in tears.

On this particular morning, the tears were different. Hayley, my beautiful daughter, as I picked up the brush with more force than I should have…my daughter flinched.

You know…like the someone is going to hit me type of flinch. Why? Where would this come from?

What had all my screams, my pulls on her tender head done to her? My daughter was afraid. And she was afraid of me!

“Fathers (or mothers), do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

I have become the yelling mother. The stressed, overextended, overly exhausted mom who yells and screams over the slightest nuisances.

I am the mother I was afraid of becoming.

I am the mother my daughter is afraid of.

It is no secret that many mother-daughter relationships are confusing and full of conflict. There have been many a book and article written on the subject. My relationship with my own mother left a lot to be desired until I became a mom myself. Until I actually needed her as a mom. As a friend.

In fact, my relationship with my own daughter didn’t begin on the best terms. See, she was a difficult baby. Due to acid reflux she cried through the day. She cried through the night. She cried in the hours between feedings. She cried in her swing. She cried in my arms. She felt every tense and weary emotion I felt, and she screamed while I lay on the bathroom floor having a few cries of my own. For 6 to 9 months, she completely broke me.

Now at 7, she is stubborn as a mule, as strong-willed as an ox, and as angry at times as a bull. And, sometimes she still has the power to completely break me.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

And, now…in this bathroom, I have completely broken her. Because she is scared, and she is scared of me.

Here I am. A mom who can wrestle this girl’s 5 year old brother. Restrain him in the middle of the bedroom floor. Listen to his ear piercing screams. Try with all my strength to keep him from harming himself. I do this with all the calm I can muster.

But, I can’t wrestle a few tangles without getting angry. Without yelling at the child who inherited my attitude and sass. Without igniting fear in my daughter.

My daughter. Who is scared. Who is scared of me.

And realizing this has completely broken me.

For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right.         1 Peter 3:10-12

I don’t know that there will not come another day when my daughter will not completely break me, but I can guarantee my words will never break her again. I can promise she and God that instead of provoking tears while wrestling my morning “monster,” I will wrestle her tangles gently, use my words to soothe her tender head, and use this with all the calm I know I have mustered before. Through His strength and His guidance.

I can’t guarantee she will never be scared, but I can guarantee she will never again be scared of me.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in On Parenting

 

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He Will Protect When I Can’t

The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go. Psalm 121:7-8

Protect Hunter

“I don’t want to go to school! I.DON’T.WANT.TO.GO.TO.SCHOOL!

Since school began two weeks ago, this has been the wail of our little boy each morning. In the last two weeks we have mulled over and tried to eliminate any possible triggers. No substitute bus driver this morning. No pesky buttons on his pants. He is fed. He has slept pretty good. His class consists of kids and an aide with whom he is familiar. Everything we can control in his environment we have managed to, so what is the deal?

“I.DON’T.WANT.TO.GO.TO.SCHOOL!”

The wails continue as he stands at the bus stop, jaws clenched, arms crossed, grunts and wails on full display for all the other parents to see. To observe as the small child steps on the bus he seems to hate, stomps his feet, and screams at his parents one last time: 

“I.DON’T.WANT.TO.GO.TO.SCHOOL!”

What’s the deal? In our effort to control our environment and routine to keep our little boy happy, what have we missed? How does the little boy who can’t wait to pull out his folder and have me read about his day each afternoon, turn into this each morning?

The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. Psalm 41:1,2

“Mommy, Hunter said Tommy (names have been changed to protect the not so innocent) hits him and laughs at him at recess. And, Susie said she thinks he is annoying because he cries all the time.”

What’s the deal?

Well, it’s the one I feared would surface at some point. The deal that says-your son is different. He has special needs. He doesn’t operate in the same way. He can’t tolerate changes in the same way.

The deal that I hoped I’d never have to cash in. The moment when my little boy would be considered an outcast.

The moment when the differences meant to enhance the school’s push for “inclusion,” in fact exclude him. 

The moment when his needs and quirks would be considered weird and worthy of eye rolls and taunts from his peers.

The moment when a parent wants to raise a fist, shake a few fingers, and fight-anyone who even dares to mess with their children.

The Lord protects those of child-like faith. Psalm 116:6

Which means that I can put down my drawn fists. Put my pointing fingers away, because He has suited up for this fight.

As much as I want to climb on that bus and ride to school with my little boy. As much as I want to stand beside him on the playground to ensure no one gets past this Mama Bear, I know I can’t protect my little boy every moment of every day.

Instead, I have to let God handle that. I have to allow Him to stand in and protect my little boy from harm when Mama Bear cannot. Remain confident in the promise that Hunter is more precious to Him than two sparrows. Trusting that although I can’t be there for him day after day, week after week, and each and every new year, He will be. Standing in the gap for the mom ready to pounce and point a finger at the Tommys and Susies at any given moment.

None of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you; not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:15,18

God has certainly given Hunter exactly what he needs each year to navigate changes, new routines, and yes, even his quirks and differences. Whether it has been the same teacher each year, a bus driver who also happens to be the gym teacher, or the familiarity of a sweet and adoring friend, God ensures that the right people are placed into my son’s life. That they are placed there to protect the very hairs on his curly, brown head. To protect him from the Tommys and Susies. From the eye rolls and taunts.

To stand in the gap of this Mama Bear.

To protect a quirky and different little boy, when she cannot.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Autism and Faith, On Parenting

 

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