Beautiful Monsters

Beautiful Monsters
Beautiful Monsters

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Season of Sorrow and Loss

Ecclesiastes 3: 1There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

It has been a while.  I went back to school. It has been crazy busy.  Sometimes, life makes you slow down, and have Thoughts again.  

My community, my church family, and my family have been going through a season of loss.  I hadn't strung it all together until I was taking my good friend to the airport 4 hours away to fly out to be with her brother who lost his oldest daughter in a car crash this weekend.  On the same day as the car crash, my cousin, who recently married another very dear friend of  mine, died suddenly, without warning.   As we drove to the airport, and my friend and I were talking, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  

It is a Season of Sorrow and Loss

It started out trivially enough, in the grand scheme of things.  In the last few months, there has been an almost complete teacher turnover at the school we moved states for so that my kids could attend there.  We could have stayed in Wyoming, and done the sports school, or the tech school, or the big school, or or or, but this school had a couple of stellar teachers that I have been really excited to have the kids learn from.   One teacher, in particular, and the school's overall "feel" and philosophy drew us, and there were two other absolute gems hidden there.  I work in the school system, and have been in and around education my whole life, and these were (still are, in their new schools), amazing teachers.  The philosophy and atmosphere at the school is completely turned over with new admin, and the teachers all left.  It is a time of HUGE uncertainty in my home, since last April/Mayish.  I know I am going to let the oldest graduate here, but then what?  Do we move home?  Is this God's opportunity for that?  

At that same time, the snowball started.  

Broken faith with someone I would have called a good friend, someone I went out on a limb to take a risk with and trusted. 

I took a huge financial hit that left us reeling. 

Altered relationships between my kids and their dad, and his ongoing shenanigans intensified.  

A couple of suicides rocked our community.  

A kid I care about got into what could have been serious trouble.  

There have been several young kids in serious accidents or hurt.  

An old friend who is refusing to answer calls, messages or texts, and I have no idea why.

A flood tore through our town, the businesses, and homes.  In my family, three aunts lost everything.  I really mean everything.  One aunt and uncle were very close to succumbing to hypothermia when they were finally rescued off of their bathroom counter. Our church building was destroyed.  The way our town sits, no one was able to get flood insurance, so for almost everyone, the loss was a total loss that cannot be recouped by insurance.  The community rallied initially, but there are huge rifts developing over different aspects of the recovery efforts. 

On top of all that, my dog got into trouble, and where I live it is an actual misdemeanor.  I am shaking with worry every day while I wait to go to court. I am the original goody two shoes, and have not had any kind of brush with "the law" in my life. Added to that all, I live next door to the owners of the other dog.  The old fear of an angry man rears its irrational head and paralyzes me, and I am reduced to stuttering and quaking inside and the drive to get out of the way and be invisible and it is all I can do to pretend that everything is normal.  I feel like an utter idiot, but for the life of me, my heart still races and my throat closes up.  I am waiting for that to stop. I have no idea what the fine will be, or where I will come up with another "detour" in my budget to cover it.

 I am struggling with the War for Independence that is going on with three growing teenage boys.  

I am looking at a third job to make ends meet since no enforcement agency has been able to find the ex and make him pay child support, and after two years, I can't keep it together anymore.

There are more in the list of losses, but I will stop there...

And then, this weekend, still shaken from hearing about my dear friend's niece's death, and torn with hurting for her overwhelming pain, we get the call that my cousin died.  He is my cousin, but I knew him only as an adult, and only in the last several years, so he was more like a friend.  He ended up dating a very close friend of mine, and they got married.  They only had a couple of years together.  So this tears in several ways.  I am broken for my family, who lost their son/nephew/grandson/cousin.  I am heartstruck for my friend who lost her husband. I am grieving with my church, who lost not only a fellow worshipper, but a really, really good man. And I can't make it better for anyone.

There is a season of loss, here.  I know they come, and I don't mean to whine, but to chronicle.   I can't seem to find energy for anything.  I just want to read, or sew, or sleep. I can't focus, can't make a decision, and I have to force myself to leave the house.  I cringe every time the phone makes a sound.  As we started to talk through what the struggles of the last several months have been, it all made sense.  Of course I feel that way.  There has been so much pain, heartache and stress.  And as we are told to, we mourn with those who mourn.  There has been a whole lot of mourning going on. 

Job says "though He slay me, I will trust in Him".   I keep repeating to myself, when I don't understand His hand, I can trust His heart.    There is good news here.  It is a season.  It doesn't last forever.  It has a beginning and an end, and the time for laughing, for rejoicing, for joy will come.  So we are fixing our eyes on praising God through all things, that sacrifice of praise we used to sing about at church a thousand years ago when I was young.  We will look for Him, for how He will "work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose".   I don't know most days what MY plan is, let alone what God's plan is, and other than that we live in a sin-corrupted world waiting to be redeemed and reborn, why these things happen.  I just know that if for no other reason than He is God, and therefore worthy - regardless of what is happening in my tiny little part of the world- I will praise Him, and look to how He will use what has happened  for good.  

Right now, it is hot, hot, hot.   Energy sapping, will-to-live draining hot. Of course, we don't have AC (or, apparently, insulation), and can't afford the little mobile units.  There are times when I really think I can't get any more uncomfortable, or bear it one more minute.   But every so often, a wind will blow, and it becomes bearable again.  The nights cool off, and we can rest and gather ourselves for tomorrow.  And I KNOW that fall is coming, and the season will change.  Life feels like that, right now.  It is uncomfortable, and unavoidable, and the loss and hurt and confusion just kind of clings like a tshirt full of back-sweat.  But this season will end, and God will start a new thing.  

Thank God for the refining, and for the end to this season of Sorrow and Loss that is coming.  

Psalm 30:5 ... weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.    Let the morning come quickly.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Don't Chase the Chickens

When we moved to the new town, we found out that we could have chickens at our house…so of course, we split out a little group of 8 hens and a roo,  put roosts in a shed that serves admirably as coop, and installed a chicken wire pen.  All was well for a few weeks, until my girl who is neither stupid nor, well, chicken kept breaking out and exploring the Great Beyond – the yard.  This began the week of Chicken Discontent, where one girl, who we have dubbed “The Brain” (What are we gonna do tomorrow night, Brain?  Same thing we do every night Pinky – try to take over the world!)  roamed the yard with impunity, while the others stood at the fence and yelled at her in jealous frustration.  

So, we let them out into the yard.  They l.o.v.e.d. it, but the real winners were my dogs.  Oh man.  They just run from window to window to window, tracking the poultry-in-motion.  I don’t have to look to know where the girls are in the yard, I can see by which window the dogs are staring out.  Being the what-would-happen-next kind of person I am, I wanted to see how the dogs would do with the chickens out.  

The first time out, I thought it was going very well.  My dogs are really good at “with me” where they walk very near where I am.  And they did stay “with me”, until one of the chooks tried to flap up to the top of the feeder.  It was on.  My littlest dog took off, and of course the two medium dogs weren’t about to let little Barkley have all the fun.  Two girls cornered and upset, and a third missing a snout-full of tail feathers later, I had learned my lessons.  We went inside, and I started to do my research. 

I can’t ever let the dogs out alone with the chickens.  Never.  No matter how good I think they are doing.  Their base nature is to chase and catch, and the chickens’ base nature is to run and then be caught.  

I can’t let them fixate on the chickens.  I have to watch for the staring, dead still behavior that says, I am thinking about how much fun it is going to be to chase and playing the chase and capture over and over and over and over in my head.   OOOOOOOOOOOO…. 

If they start to show any sneaky, looking-to-see-if-I-am-looking actions, they have to come right to me, and stay there.  

If they start to head towards the chickens, even in their general direction, it is time to do something else.  Throw the stick, tug, anything.  Maybe even go inside for a break. 

What is the point?  


I have been wrestling again with the wanting-things-I-don’t-have issues.  Specifically, lately, marriage.  I am a single mom, and usually, life is good.  I enjoy my boys and this time of our lives.  I am fairly comfortable with life, and if I need help, I have a phone book to call a plumber or light-fixture fixer, or whatever.  

But every so often, discontent creeps in.  I want a partner, a companion, a love.  I want someone to talk about the day with or watch the game with or figure out the bills or to be in charge of checking the oil.  And you know, other stuff too.  But mostly, I want that closeness, that knowing that in all the world, this person is your partner, they are special and they love you.  I want someone who will pray for me.  

And yet, life goes on.  Usually.  This week, a whole wide variety of things have come up, and the issues are brought to the forefront again and again.  And I am jealous, and discontent and wanting something I don’t have.  So what do I do? 

Funny, there isn’t much difference between me and my dogs in this.  I fixate.  I imagine-loop how awesome it would be.  I start thinking about chasing.  (How many freaking commercials do we NEED for online dating? REALLY?)   I read stupid romance novels (That just make me feel worse.  I HATE window shopping), which brings around the does-anyone-see-me-reading-this-trash behaviors.  

The warning signs are all there.  I am living in my head, and my Master wants me to make a wiser choice.  (I am not saying that pursuing a marriage relationship is wrong, at all.  Just that God and I have had this talk, and IF it comes around for me, it can’t be because I chased after it or forced my will for a relationship into reality.  I will play the hand He gave me, until He gives me another one.  I tend to be pushy, so I get to be submit that natural make-it-happen-ness in this area also. I can’t pursue the earthly relationships as a priority over my heavenly one. )  And this applies, I believe to all of us, in all of those things that we want to do, but shouldn’t.  James 4:17 says “For him who knows what is good, and does not do it, that to him is sin.”  We all go through these stages, in one form or another, for the sins we are thinking about committing.  

We fixate our eyes on the thing that we want.   God wants us to fix our eyes on Him.  Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our mind on the things above, not the earthly things. 

I let my brain auto-loop how great I imagine it will be, I will feel, it will look, the praises (of me) will flow .. whatever it is.  God tells us, when He is talking about living in the flesh and being at war in the spirit, to cast down our “vain imaginings” and anything that would be in conflict with Christ, and to take all of our thoughts captive in 2 Corinthians 10:5. 

If I start feeling like I wouldn’t want to tell EVERYONE what I am doing, where my thoughts are, that I am being a jealous little snit in my heart by thinking (fill in the blank!), that is a HUGE warning sign that I am in the wrong place in my heart, my head and my soul.   Do I want this on a billboard in Times Square?  Then I probably need some prayer time and to check myself.  Ecclesiastes 12:14 needs to be my go to verse here.  Nothing I do, even the things in the secret of my home, or the secret of my heart, is secret from God.   It is all subject to His judgment.  The good news there is even the secret victories, the choices I make to be content, to submit my will to God’s, to pray for someone I don’t like, to tithe without complaining, things I might never tell another soul about … those are things done in secret, too, and God knows those things also.  That is pretty cool.  

When I start to feeling the nibblings of dissatisfaction with the many and amazing gifts I have rear up, I need to get back to my Master’s side and do something else.  Something interactive, something that puts my eyes back on Him.  I need to sing worship, or read my Bible.  I need to phone a friend!  Or take a walk and remind myself to see the beauty in the world He created.  I need to spend time with someone He has put on my heart, or even do a chore that I know I have been putting off but needs done (everything you do with your hands be done to the glory of God).   I am back to Phillipians 4:8 … taking the thoughts and things that do not honor God, and replacing them with the things that are pure,right, noble, praiseworthy, etc.  I have to turn my mind in the right direction, by giving it the right directions!

And I need to know my limits, my boundaries, those things that are just not safe for me.  If I struggle with gossip, I need to not put myself in a position to start “sharing news”.   If I struggle with murder, sharp objects and people I am angry with shouldn’t be in the same room.  (Joking, but you know?)  I can’t ever be left alone with my strongest temptations.  I need a friend willing to take a call, someone to be accountable to, and to be smart enough to not put myself in  a situation where I might be my own worst enemy. 

It is funny how God uses the daily things, the life things, to really reinforce the things He is teaching us.  I think sometimes I see things clearer when I am able to see it play out in front of me, and I am so thankful that He does that for me so often. I am very much a relate it to something I know or give me a word picture kind of learner.   His ways are timeless, and He will teach us if we are open to listening to what He is saying, and how He is saying it. Three brainless dogs, and some really smart chickens, and application for me, right in the middle of it. 

God is good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I can't please everyone all the time..

But I CAN upset most of the people some of the time!

This is funny.  I see it with the kids... I can make one or two of them happy,but never all three at the same time.   Whether it is picking a reading book, or a day in town, or arbitrating a disagreement... someone doesn't get what they want.  It is there with my schedule. I can work, I can volunteer at the church, or get my schoolwork done, or be team mom, or keep my house clean, or walk my dogs... but never all at the same time.  And very rarely on the same day.  I can read, or try to write, or quilt ... and if I just had 12 hours a day to myself, I could keep me happy and do all three!

I have this running list in my head of all of the things I should do to keep people happy, to keep me happy, to be the perfectly wonderful person I want to be.  Sometimes, I even keep a list of things that the boys should do.  Because they need to be perfect too.

I am sooo glad that God isn't waiting around for me to be perfect.

Romans 5: 1-
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This one is so hard, because I struggle with feeling worthy.   I feel every shortcoming like it is the end of the world.  I expect me to be perfect, so why wouldn't a Holy God?   But on the other hand, I get it, because no matter what my kids do, I love them fiercely.  Really, when they are struggling, I kind of love them harder, not more, but closer to my surface, more fiercely on my mind.  

We are justified through faith!  We aren't justified by our own righteousness, or our perfection, or by what a great grip we have on the whole "Christianese" thing... we are justified by faith.  Faith is my all access pass to grace ... and grace lets me grow and fall and get back up and not walk around in fear of being zapped by holy fire while I am still working out my walk.  Grace lets me live my beliefs and not have to hide away, afraid of making a mistake. Grace lets me walk into a group of believers and say "I am thinking this, and wrestling with interpretation of that" and let myself be corrected where I am wrong.  

Grace is also what ensures that I am in for the hard work, and not just resting on my (very few and verrrrry smalllllll) laurels.  Grace is the ladder that beckons me on from where I am suffering (the things that are uncomfortable or where I am incomplete in my walk) into perseverance.   And grace makes sure that I am not just basking in the martyrdom glory of perseverance.  Grace keeps me walking from martyrdom to character. And lest I get too comfortable in the praise of my character, it moves me right on up into Hope. 

The world we live in celebrates suffering, perseverance and character ... and not because of the journey to godliness.   You KNOW we do this. We tsk and care and pick up a cause and love to commiserate on how HARD things are for folks, how MUCH they go through, we can't imagine ... We love a good suffering.  

But that is *nothing* compared to how much we love a perseverer ..  Oh ... life is hard ... but I do what I can ... one step at a time ...just gotta keep going ... **sigh**.  We coo and oooh and ahhh and sympathize and glorify martyrdom ...  and when it is our turn, we eat it up.  With whipped cream and sprinkles.

And character?  Who hasn't heard how MUCH someone has been through, and how (fill in the blank) they are now?   How strong, or kind, or cheerful or whatever they are, despite what they went through (did you hear?  can I tell you? can you believe?) ... 

The problem with this is that it is all glorifying the person, not the God taking them through that.  But Hope?  Hope is scoffed, scorned and mocked.  People who have hope, who are counting on hope, who are desperate in their hope are obviously delusional. They need a reality check!  Put on your big girl pants and make something happen, right?  God, in His goodness, takes me past the pitfalls where I might be taking the glory, and gives me something more.  Hope.  

And, although the world doesn't understand, can't understand WON'T understand, I won't be disappointed by hope.  Because God's love is poured, lavishly, into my heart by the Holy Spirit.  Because no matter what else I might face, whatever the suffering I was experiencing, regardless... when I was weakest, when I had the least to offer, while I was actively flaunting His law, breaking His heart and rebelling in sin - He died for me.  He gave His very life, His all, for me.  He gave up His life to save mine.  

So I can move up the grace ladder, out of my suffering, through my endurance, building my character and soaking in hope, because when I deserved it least, He gave me most.  

 I don't have to walk in the knowledge of all of the ways I fall short.  I have been given forgiveness of my sin and eternal life while I didn't even know I needed it.  So I can give myself a little leeway and allow myself to learn as I go.

I can't please everyone all the time.  I am human and I fail.  But even so, God loves me all the time, every time, for all time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Just on time

I was sitting on the bleachers, surrounded by people I have met, but don't know, you know?  We have moved this year, and getting to know other parents isn't as easy as it was when the kids were little.  The new town is a small community, even smaller than where we were before, and these folks have not only grown their kids up together, they grew up together themselves.  Tough crowd to break into and belong to.  So I go sit near the other parents, and hope someone talks to me.  This was one of those days where no one did.

I pulled out my book (that I always bring, in case no one talks to me), and at that minute where I am about to decide no one loves me my phone vibrates.   And my dear friend, at 10:39 in the morning, had a prompting to send a two sentence note of encouragement, that I was loved and thought of.  It turned the day around. 

She was right on time.  She didn't worry about seeming silly or "bothering me" - my usual two excuses for not acting spontaneously. With 30 seconds of effort, she quite literally saved my day.

More, God was right on time.  He reaches out with the hands of His people to cheer up His children who need it.  He didn't even call me out for the pity-party ... that came later!  I am grateful for the way that God ministers to me and the various ways He does.  I am encouraged to be more alert going forward to those small niggles of inspiration.  Go say hello to this person, send that one a card.  My prayer is that by doing so, I can be right on time for someone else to, and show them the love God pours out on us both. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mom Rant - Man Candy Monday

So there is a thing going on with the kids on Facebook (shocker, I know).  Each day has a "theme" and the kids post pictures of people for that day.  I think "Throwback Thursday" started it all, and people would post really old pictures of themselves.  Enter WomanCrush Wednesday, Selfie Sunday, Flashback Friday, and on and on.

I own a few teenage boys, and had seen their pictures come up a few times on "Man Crush Monday".  I was okay with it all, it seemed harmless enough.

Until four letters changed EVERYTHING.

Man Crush Monday morphed into Man Candy Monday.  And still, there are pictures of my son.  I figured it was one girl, and it would go away.  Until it wasn't, and it didn't.  The last straw is seeing some Girl I had never met or heard of before, posting pictures of my son for Man Candy Monday.  I don't know why.  It is the wrong day, the wrong time, the wrong nerve.

If I had daughters, I would object vociferously to "Sex Object Saturday". As the parents of boys, I HATE "Man Candy Monday". 

I am CONSTANTLY telling my boys that women are not to be referred to as "sexy" because that reduces them to little more than brainless toys useful for one purpose only. When you call someone "candy", the implication is the same. 

You discard their intelligence, their personality, their faith, their soul, if they are polite, or a good friend or kind to animals or helpful to their gramma. You reduce them to a two-dimensional object, regardless of whether they are tenacious, or soft-hearted, or shy or crazy good at music or sports or chess, whether they read Asimov or the Bible or Rowling or nothing at all. My boys are many, many things. 

They may be crazy smart, or an amazing friend, or have a quirky and dark sense of humor, or love their dog more than just about anything. 

They might cry over kids who are homeless and starving in India or go out of their way to make sure that everyone at the gathering has a good time, or spend time thinking deeply over politics and faith. 

They might keep their rooms like a disaster zone or fanatically neat, they may have one pair of jeans they love all the time or more clothes than will fit in their closet. 

They might be insecure one day and everyone's best friend the next, they might be too shy to show their true personality or be perfectly content to just be quiet, or play music, or take a run, or be the life of the party, or all of these things in one afternoon. 

 They might be handsome (and make no mistake, I am constantly amazed at how good looking my children are. Heaven knows that didn't come from their dad or I), but that only scratches the barest surface of who they are. To reduce them to "man candy" kills me. 

 They have been raised to be men of faith, of conscience, of thought, of compassion, of community. If heard them referring to one of these girls in such a denigrating way, I would not allow it. Amazing man Monday, Marvelous Man Monday, Good Man Monday, even Man Crush Monday - go right ahead. Man Candy Monday - no. As a mom, as their mom, it sits on every wrong nerve I have.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mitigating High Risk Behavior in Teens - A Parent's Perspective

My son was  given a writing project for health class about high risk behavior in teens.   One of the prompts was to discuss what parents can do to prevent high risk behavior in teens. Upon reviewing my student’s method of mitigating high risk behavior, I am reminded of a method for discipline we used to use in youth recreation, where we let the children choose their own consequences for breaking rules.  It was always much harsher than the ones we would have given, allowing us to dial back their self-imposed penance.  We disciplined the child and still managed to look like the good guy.  

His response was to isolate the teen from peer contact.  This put me back in summer camp with those over the top consequences kids would choose.   I thought it might be interesting to address this from a parent’s perspective. 

My first defense in keeping my children from making dangerous choices is to try to ensure that they know they are loved – wildly, deeply, uncontrollably and irrevocably loved.  By me, and by their heavenly Father.  Love is the foundation that any and all other actions must be built on.   I try to tell them every day, every chance I get, that I love them.   I try to NOT tell them like I say “turn off the lights”, but to smile it from my heart at them.  I tell them when I am deliriously happy, and when I am abjectly sad, and when I am completely furious, and sometimes out of the blue when we are just doing nothing. I hug them and kiss their cheeks and touch their shoulders in church and sing at them and post embarrassing stuff on facebook and watch movies I have no interest in seeing just to hang out with them and a thousand other small things.  In all times, in all emotions, in every way, they are loved.  

The second layer of this protection is to make sure that my children clearly know what is expected of them.  I expect them to represent themselves in a manner that will honor themselves, our family and our God.  There is no “boys will be boys”, because these are young men.  I talk honestly and openly about the different choices they can make and the consequences that will happen.  If you speed, we can’t afford car insurance, and you don’t get to drive until you are 18 and have your own policy.  If you don’t take care of your grades, you will be ineligible for these colleges and these scholarships.  If you engage in premarital sex, you have violated covenant with God and already with the wife you haven’t even met yet.  If you drink, you could end up doing something stupid, and going to prison for the rest of your life, and be ineligible for the military, these colleges, these programs, etc.  Plus you lose my trust.  If you drive carelessly, and die, you will destroy a part of your mother’s soul.  If you take care of your grades, all of these choices are available to you after high school.  If you treat women respectfully, they will adore you in return.  If you stand for what you believe, you will be respected for it in the long run.   And so on.  Not in lecture form (usually) but in the course of life.  Decisions they make as teens affect the rest of their lives in big ways, and I want them to be so very aware of that. You only live once, as it is popular to say.  Why waste that life on stupid choices now for the rest of that one very precious life?  Because they are aware of actions resulting in consequences, their actions are treated as purposeful choices.    Young men stand accountable for their actions. 

The third tier is to cover all of that with a thick coating of grace.   They are teenagers.  Their minds aren’t fully formed.  They are discovering and developing who and what they are going to be as adults.  When they were little, I was the sheepdog of my flock, herding them this way and that, making darn sure they stayed safe.  Now that they are in this transforming stage of life, my job is to stand guard on the hill, where I can see big threats coming and react accordingly, but giving them room to get bumped and banged up a little.  Grace helps me to know that this isn’t personal.  I can’t become a man for them, so they have to pull away more and more from me as they work out their own becoming.  My job isn’t to hold their hand as they walk the balance beam of childhood, it is to be the safety net under this tightrope walk in-between stage.  Grace allows me to accept the mistakes they make, the times they fall, the hurtful, hormone fueled words that come out of their mouths when we are all talking, but no one feels heard.  Grace gives me room to make mistakes, too, and admit those and ask forgiveness and move forward again.  This is something I am still working on.  It is to let them be THEM, and not who I see them being.  None of my kids sees themselves in the career I think would be perfect for them.  None of them is drawn to girls that I think would be perfect.  They don’t like the same genres of books, and we have different ideas of fun.  They have their own take on school, and homework and grades and what learning looks like.  And that is good.  I am learning to let go of my vision of who I thought they would grow up to be when they were still littles, and to enjoy being a part of who they are actually going to grow up to be.   

My fourth layer is to be involved.  To let them have their space, but to know who they are with, and to get to know who they are with.  To let them tell me what they did, and how and where and why.  To trust them when they tell me where they will be.  To go to games and talk to teachers and friend’s parents and their co-workers.  Not to be nosy, but to stay in touch with their lives. To let them out of my world, and show them the respect of being interested in theirs.   To check out what they are reading, and look at the pictures they take – a little insight into what interests my kids, and what caught their eye enough to want to remember it on film.   To hear their dreams and hopes without discouraging them from that – life will do that on it’s own.  Right now, it is a whole big world. 

The last line of defense is my authority as the parent.  When all else fails, I am still the mom, and I hold veto power.  Over the years we have built up respect and trust and communication, and in this last year, I have had to make some hard decisions about things they were doing or wanted to do that the kids didn’t like.  But I explained why, and we talked, and in the end, they didn’t like it, but they honored them. They need someone who is able to make the hard decisions so they don’t have to.  No, you can’t go to the sale barn on a Saturday night where there will be pot and beer.  I trust you not to use it, but you don’t need to be in that environment.  No, you can’t go with that friend who just got his license on a three hour road trip.  No, that isn’t appropriate viewing material.  My job is still, when it is extreme, to make the hard decisions, the bad ones, the ones that they shouldn’t have to shoulder just yet.  However even though I don’t turn them loose to chaos and anarchy because they are now in high school, it is my job to release a little more of that authority every year, so that they can see where they are gaining autonomy as they grow in responsibility and are able, as adults to shoulder the complete load on their own.

I figure it like this.  I give them the foundation of love, of family, of home.  I want my kids to know completely that they are a part of a family, they are loved as they are, that they belong somewhere.   Family cannot and should not replace friends and interaction with the outside world, but I want them to have a place they can come home to and heal and rest and regenerate before they go back out into the world.  They are given the vehicle of choices paired with responsibility for the outcome of those choices.  They don’t have to sneak or take stupid risks to prove that they are capable of making choices.   They are able to act independently, and responsibly.  They are given the freedom to explore and succeed or fail.  They can try on new experiences, and I will be there if they fall.   They are given the ability to lead lives of their own, and I am interested in those, instead of keeping them in my world.  I will branch out and be supportive and interested in the people they are.  And I will take the brunt of the hard parts, because I am MOM, and that's just what we do. 

I was glad my son was assigned this topic to write on.  It made me think a bit, and be more concrete about the plan to get these boys raised.   I hope someday we can look back at these teenage years, and think we did a pretty good job of raising and training up each other!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chicken Thankful

I never thought that chickens could teach me a whole lot.  But I suppose if God can use Balaam's donkey, He can use these silly chickens.

I took some oldish vegetables, and dinner scraps, and fruit and a few other things that got frozen in the back of my fridge so it was all mushy and my kids wouldn't eat it, and tossed it out the chickens.  Those funny birds acted like Jesus had come back on Christmas morning with pink unicorns and Klondike bars.   It was the BEST DAY EVER.  They ran around, they clucked and flapped their wings.  I kid you not, some of them danced.  They were so impressed with my TRASH .... it was the most amazing gift, they loved them so much, life really couldn't get better for them at that exact moment.  

Life can be hard.  I almost added, "especially as a single mom" but that isn't fair.  Other people struggle in many, many ways, and to imagine that my struggle is any more than someone else's when I am SO BLESSED is pride and vanity, really.  But my struggles are mine, and therefore provide my frame of reference for "life being hard".

I can catch myself giving thankful lip-service.  My head knows I am blessed beyond most of the world's most far-flung expectations.  So I say I am grateful, and really wish for MORE.  Children who aren't just wonderful and amazing, but who really enjoy cleaning their rooms and hate sleeping in.  A car big enough to carry the kids and their friends, but also gets 38 miles a gallon and doesn't raise my insurance rates.  A house that is not only huge and roomy, but designer-worthy and with a self-mowing lawn.  Not just friends and family who love me and a general contentedness with my life, but a perfectly conjured husband also.  And on, and on.

But really!  How extravagant to have chickens!  How lavish to have scraps to give to them!  We don't just have enough, we have SCRAPS!  How wonderful my life, my boys, my job, my friends, my church, my family are!  And here I am, grudgingly grateful.

I need to be more like the chickens.  This next breath is the BEST BREATH EVER!  And this day is PERFECT!   I want to be so thankful for each moment, I want to run (okay, well maybe walk faster), and flap my wings and not be able to control my cackling praise and dance!  It doesn't matter if the things I am blessed with are ordinary, every day things, they are mine, given to me by my Father, who gives me Good Gifts.

I even want to get excited about the trash.  One of the best discussions I have ever had with one of my kids came after an argument, when we were both so broken from the conflict that we were able to sit down and just be real.  A teenage boy, sharing his heart, with me - his totes uncool mom!  (Is that still a thing? Did I spell it right?)  A day spent one on one with my youngest after their dad took over my plans to go a tournament with the olders.  Financial trouble teaching my kids about the real value of money, and what in life is really valuable.  Hand me down pajamas that work just fine.  Even the things that I wouldn't choose, the trash, as it were, are gifts.  I just have to unwrap them and find out how.

So I think I will make it a habit to take something up to the chickens, when I have time to sit and watch them love it.  I want to celebrate the little moments, the ordinary things, the exciting things, and the trash with joy and glee and true thankfulness.  I want to be unashamed about who sees me running about and thanking my Provider.

 Humph. About to graduate from college (16 years late) and being taught the big lessons by some not-so-silly-after-all chickens.

Matthew 7:11  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

James 1:17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.