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What Do You Need Me To Do?

missedFrom time to time I need to contact our Youth Pastor to ask for details about an upcoming event, to update him on one of our teens, or to alert him to a concern I have. Yesterday was one of those days; I called him to give information and ask for prayer, and I noticed something about his response.

First, he picked up the phone. I try to respect this by not taking too much of his time, but I really appreciate his accessibility.

Second, upon hearing what I had to say, he asked one question, “What do you need me to do?”. I just needed him to be aware and pray this time, but I appreciate his willingness to help without trying to fix it.

The conversation lasted less than five minutes, but it meant a lot to me, mostly because I knew how it would go before I ever called him. Our Youth Pastor is accessible, willing and consistent. Characteristics that I’m striving for, and probably more of us should, too.

Step Up to the Cliff

cliffLast year our oldest daughter was a couple of months from graduating from high school and she was ready to get on with life. Plans were set in motion for college, deposits had been made and we were shopping for dorm supplies when an opportunity arose. A family friend knew of a couple traveling to Africa over the summer, planning to stay for six weeks or so, would our daughter like to join them?

Jessica has been planning a future in Africa for quite some time. Anyone who spends much time with her knows this is her passion; she believes she was created to hold and love vulnerable babies far from home. When we have talked about it, we mostly have said that after college she will pursue her dream/calling, and that perhaps she will take a trip there during her college years.

The offer of going earlier seemed like God’s will. She had been praying about the trip and it presented itself. She had the money saved (since she was 14!) to be able to afford it. They would be in the region she feels called to. We sat down with our tender-hearted daughter and asked a lot of questions. I desperately wanted to tell her she wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready for her to be gone so far away for so long. But I didn’t. Instead we walked with her right up to the edge of that cliff and talked long about what it looked like below.

We knew that telling our brave girl what to do would not help her in the future, so we waited as we prayed for her to make the best decision. Within a couple of days, Jess came to us and said that as much as she wanted to go, she didn’t feel that this was the right time. She was concerned that if she went away before experiencing college, she might never go to school.

I am so proud of our daughter, not because she chose what I wanted for her, but because she chose what was best for her at the time. The fact that she was so mature in her decision making, putting off what she wanted for what she felt was best, assured me that she is indeed ready whenever God tells her it’s time to go.

I think it’s important to be willing to walk with people up to the cliff of their dreams, and talk with them about the decisions they are making, taking them seriously and believing in them the whole way. Then it is our job to hold them tight before sending them off to do the work God has created them to do.

 

Being the Leaver is Easier

roadtripOur two youngest kids are 17 months apart, both in high school, just a grade apart. And they each consider the other their best friend. The oldest is a boy, and has convinced his sister that the ability to play Call of Duty and to really understand football are elements that will make her the perfect woman someday.  I am so proud of them, navigating high school with a sibling can be very difficult, but they have found a way to do it with respect and concern for the other.

Over the summer, our kids spent most of their down time together, along with a group of mutual friends. But our daughter had a couple of opportunities to travel over her break, and left her brother at home twice, two weeks at a time. It was pitiful; Coleman moped around the house, texting his sister, trying to talk her into coming home early! He didn’t play certain video games the entire time she was gone, because it wasn’t fun without her. She, on the other hand, had the time of her life, experiencing new things and meeting new people along the way. Watching our son feel the loss reminded me of something I learned years ago from moving so much: being the leaver is easier, the one left behind has a much harder time because nothing is new, everything is known.

Many of us are in a season of either leaving, or being left behind. We have children going to school, to the military, to college, to work. And we have friends who move away and start new lives in other parts of the country. If you are feeling left behind, try to be happy for the person you love who is experiencing a new adventure, let her know that you love and miss her, but celebrate with her that she is starting a new life. Be open to others who are new to your circle of influence, and invite them in. If you are leaving a strong network of friends or family, leave with the confidence that has been invested into you, honoring those who have supported you but understand that you have the easier role, and try to understand how hard it can be for the others.

No matter what, we need to celebrate the changing seasons in the lives of those we love the most, appreciating whatever time we have together.

 

 

Forgetful

forgetfulFixing breakfast, making sandwiches, writing checks for school while swilling coffee this morning. Like every morning, thinking about when I would accomplish the things that need to be done today. My guy tells me about a dream he had last night, and then about what he was reading this morning and what he was praying for.  We connect for just a second, it’s going to be a very long day for him. As he is leaving the house he says,”Man, I wish I started everyday like this. Why do I forget so easily how good it is to get up early and read and truly pray?”

How about lying there after sex and exclaiming,”We should do this waaayyy more often!” The connection made is so much more than just sexual, it’s a way that you commune with that one most special person in your life….and yet sometimes it’s easier to just watch TV, read a book or fall asleep on the couch.

Have you ever dreaded a workout, put it off as long as possible….choosing to do anything but actually sweat? When you finally put forth the effort you feel strong and invigorated afterwards? All of the time for me.

Why do we forget? It can be so east to allow other things to creep in and steal that time. These are the three areas of life that get pushed back during times of stress or just busyness for me, and I don’t think I’m the only one. The irony is that these are the same areas that scripture makes very clear we are to be intentional about. It’s part of the greatest commandment.

 

Love God.

Love Your Neighbor.

Love Yourself.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no great er commandment than these.

Mark 12:30-31

 

Surprise!

SurpriseWhat motivates us to be who we are? Often it is our parents; we may choose to be very organized and on time when our parents were always running late and out of sorts, or maybe we choose good health as a priority when our parents are not healthy at all. But sometimes instead of being motivated in the opposite direction, we choose a similar path as our parents, but usually in a bigger way.

Our kids have grown up living in several different states, and have visited about 45 of our 50 states so far. We have friends from all over because of our moves, so when we start talking about college and future plans, our kids see the whole country, and the world, as a possibility. I fully expect our nuclear family to live on separate continents someday. We have created this so we shouldn’t be surprised.

My guy and I have been on a journey of eating healthier for a while now, making nutrition an important part of our life. One of our children became a vegetarian last year and another is exploring veganism now, both in pursuit of better health. Although we aren’t going to this extreme, we are supporting it with our kids and trying to help them make good choices. We have created this so we shouldn’t be surprised.

We certainly can’t get upset that our children are exploring some different ways of eating, or resent the fact that they will probably live far from us in the future, because we have taught them to expect many options. In our parenting we shape who they are and how they value most things, we set the precedent so we shouldn’t be surprised when we see it amplified through our children. Conversely, we need to expect that some of the decisions they make will oppose our own course of action, because we have taught them to consider the possibilities and to think for themselves.

As a parent the best that I can do at this point is to get out of the way, encourage them to explore the possibilities and celebrate who they are becoming.

 

Problem

problemYears ago I worked at a Women’s Center writing protection orders for victims of domestic violence. My primary job was to interview women who claimed to have been abused, detailing the violent acts they had witnessed and advocate on their behalf to the judge, asking for a restraining order to be issued against their perpetrators. Some mornings I would have as many as four women waiting for me, because we were the only place for three counties that could do this work for free. It was a dark time for me, constantly hearing stories of torture, rape and manipulation by loved ones, and trying to calm scared, panicked women and offer them resources.

After working in this environment, I can understand why nurses are known for having a wicked sense of humor and police can get very cynical over time when dealing with the public; you can’t help but become calloused to the pain and misery people are in. I can remember leaving my office at lunchtime with two more protection orders to write and saying out loud to a co-worker, “If it wasn’t for all these women I could get my job done!” Ouch. I was overwhelmed and under supported, but those women didn’t deserve to have someone with my attitude advocating for them that day.

How many times do you find yourself in a similar position?

As a stay at home mom a few years later, I sometimes felt this same way:

If it wasn’t for all these kids….

When my marriage doesn’t feel like the fairy tale I had envisioned:

If it wasn’t for this man….

The irony is that those women I was working to protect? They were my main priority at the time. And those sweet treasures I got to hang out with? They defined me for years. And that wonderful man God gave just to me? Way better than anything I could have ever imagined for myself. I have found that often the thing I am most passionate about can also be the thing I am most burdened by. I guess it makes sense on the human level, but I want to someday reach the point of just being grateful.

If it wasn’t for these women, I wouldn’t have a job.

If it wasn’t for these kids, I wouldn’t be a Mom.

If it wasn’t for this man, I wouldn’t be complete.

 

 

 

More, Please

moreI wrote this one year ago, and it seems appropriate this time of year, whether your baby is entering college, the mission field, high school, the military, kindergarten or independence described another way.

Our daughter left for college last week. We drove her to her dorm, unloaded a years’ supply of snacks and dorm supplies and then it was time to actually leave without her. To get into the vehicle and drive home without my little ray of sunshine. She had chatted the whole way there, talking excitedly about everything that entered her mind. The drive home was completely quiet. I’m pretty sure I scared my guy; for the first time in our marriage he tried to get me to talk.

I had no words to express the emptiness I felt. A friend had warned that I would feel like I had lost something for a few days and walk around in a fog. Yes, the fog was there, but it also felt like a gaping wound that everyone should be noticing and trying to cover for me. During that drive home I tried to think of what I could have done differently. Did we teach her everything she needed to know? How in the world is 18 years enough time to cover it all? What could I tell my friends to do to protect themselves from this terrible ache? The only thing I came up with was less:

Less hugging.

Less praying.

Less hurting.

Less talking.

Less singing.

Less worrying.

Less cooking.

Less listening.

Less looking.

Less teaching.

Less dancing.

Less playing.

Less laughing.

Less loving.

If we had cut out all these things over the years, perhaps the hurt wouldn’t have been so great. Maybe it would have even been a relief to see her off, on her own for the first time. With this perspective I was suddenly okay with my open wound and puffy eyes. I’ve earned my right to feel this way because I have loved this girl with everything I’ve got.

I’ve hardly worn make-up all week because it gets washed away with tears too often right now, and that’s okay too. More than okay.

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