Tag Archives: life

The Gift of “Me Too!”

The more I learn about people and the more I learn about myself, the more I am convinced that one of our basic needs is to not feel alone. We are not meant to be alone. Not physically. Not emotionally.

In the dailyness, when I’m doggie-paddling and hoping to stay afloat, I long to hear a Me too!, to know I am not the only one. During moments of crisis and despair, I seek out the friend who says, Me too! I’ve been there, and I’m making it through. And her words wrap around me like a life jacket, hugging me tightly and keeping me afloat.

Are you sleep-deprived? Did you stumble out of bed, bleary-eyed, to lift a crying child from a crib or fix breakfast for the preschooler who rises with the dawn? Does your house look like the Fisher-Price factory exploded all over the place? Do you even remember the last time you ate hot food? That was me. For years and years, when I was in the thick of having babies and nursing babies and chasing toddlers. That was me. I’ve been there, and it’s hard and the days seem long, but I made it through. You are not alone, Momma.

Do you feel like the worst potty-trainer in the history of potty-training? Sister, you are not alone. And trust me on this one, if there were some sort of contest for this parenting skill, you would rank higher than I did. At some point in the middle of it all, I realized that one of my life’s purposes was to make every other mother feel better about her potty-training skills. But you know what? It’s all good. All of my children have complete bathroom skills now, and we have no idea which of their school friends and soccer teammates were potty-trained a month or six months or even a year before mine were. Hang in there, Friend, you are not alone. 

Is your house a mess? Does cleaning house feel like trying to bail water with a teaspoon from a sinking ship? I have been there. Children can make messes faster than parents can clean up messes. It’s part of the law of thermodynamics or something. You may see staged Facebook photos of immaculate homes or peruse Pinterest ideas for organizing your clutter and feel as if you are the only person with piles of mail on the counter and crumbs around the table and an entire Little People zoo overtaking your living room. But believe me, you are not alone. 

Do you have a baby who won’t gain weight? A toddler with a developmental delay? A precocious preschooler? A child who can’t read yet? A child whose temper erupts spewing the hot lava of ugly words and broken toys and slammed doors all over your home? Are you struggling to parent a child who might be smarter than you are? Or a child who thinks she’s smarter than you are? Do you spend your late nights researching neurological disorders or medical conditions or curriculum options? Do you love your children more than a hundred-thousand delicious squares of Ghirardelli chocolate but wish they’d leave you alone long enough to enjoy just one square in the dark solitude of your closet? Oh, Friend, we are practically twins! 

If horribleness is raining down on you and your world is falling apart, let me hug you and -if you live close enough- offer you a casserole. I have been there. Me too, Sister! If all your dreams are coming true and life is sweet and the sun is shining, I have been there. Let me celebrate with you. Me too, Me too! If all your dreams are coming true, but it just feels blah and you feel guilty for not feeling more grateful, for not feeling more joy, then hear me say, Me too, Friend.  I have been there as well.

And whatever it is that you are feeling or wrestling with or wallowing in or hiding from or bravely conquering, if I haven’t been there, I’ve probably been close-by. Or I probably know someone who has been there. And you probably do too. You are not alone. Actually, someone you know is probably feeling or wrestling or wallowing or hiding or conquering or frantically doggie-paddling and is longing to hear your voice, your Me too! Me too! like a life jacket, wrapped tightly, hugging her above the waves.

One of the best things – the kindest, the most loving, the true-est things – we can offer each other is a Me too! Because none of us is made for being alone. And we need to know we aren’t.

 

On realizing I have three teenagers . . .

bags

Tomorrow, my three oldest children leave with the church youth group for a big, ten-day trip to Florida. Because my three oldest children are teenagers. Teenagers. Y’all! Seriously! Do you get what this means??!! It means — half my children are teenagers. And the others aren’t far behind. Griffin, the BABY!, for heaven’s sake!, is eight-and-a-half. Y’all! I am on the downward slope of raising children.

Excuse me while I go curl into the fetal position and rock back and forth in the corner.

PAUSE! I want to hit the pause button. Just for a little while. I do try to mentally hit the pause button or at least the pause-and-soak-it-in button. Last night, I forced all six of them to sit and watch a movie together — one of those feel-good, family movies on Netflix. I popped popcorn, and we all snuggled on the brown sectional couch for 99 minutes. Pausing time so I could have all my kiddos gathered close before three of them take off on a summer adventure with 50 friends. Those gathered-in, chicks-all-under-my-wings moments are precious these days.

laurenandgriff

It seems like yesterday I was in the thick of babies and toddlers and preschoolers. I was changing diapers and singing nursery rhymes and teaching ABCs and reminding everyone to say please and thank you and use their words. And now, here we are. Just like that. Jackson recently asked me if I know who Edward Snowden is, and then he clearly articulated his opinion about the entire situation. Last week, Griffin explained how his friends often debated the Bible and God-stuff during lunch. All of my boys have recently started shouting Safety! after they fart before the brothers can yell out Doorknob! and start punching the heck out of their arms. **Ladies, in case you don’t have brothers or sons, this is an actual game teenage boys play. I am so proud of my thirteen-year-old son for introducing his younger brothers to this classy pastime.

photo-66

Lauren is half-way through high school, and Rach is right behind her. We’re talking SATs and ACTs and potential colleges. Sometimes we sit up late and laugh and talk, or we watch chick-flicks together. And sometimes we disagree about appropriate bathing suit styles or shorts lengths or how often a girl really needs Starbucks.

I am learning how to loosen my grasp and relinquish control while still loving fiercely.

This is not an easy thing for a momma to learn. But the next ten days will be more practice for me. Today, it’s been like my emotions are in a blender. All the feelings whirring around and around. So much excitement for all the fun they will have. A little bit of jealousy that they’ll have so much fun without me there to watch all the fun they’ll be having. A touch of worry and anxiety that something bad will happen while they’re out from under my care. (As if I have the power to prevent bad stuff from happening when they’re in the same zip code! Ha! Hello! Silas and his open-fractured arm would have something to say about that!) Oh, and an empty sort of sadness because I will truly miss them. Ok, I won’t miss the eye-rollling or the sighing or the Really, Mom? Really? reactions. But I will miss them. So, so much.

kids

Most days, I feel like I am so not ready for this. For children with feet bigger than mine. For children who drive and drink coffee. For children who have intelligent opinions about Edward Snowden, for goodness’ sake! But it doesn’t matter if I’m ready or not. It’s happening. They’re growing. They’re becoming themselves, people totally separate from me. They’re going on fun vacations without me. At least three of them are. Tomorrow. And I’m thrilled and proud and terrified and happy and sad and worried and excited.

Parenting to the Heart

I wrote this in June of 2008. And I sure need the reminder today. 

Just in case anyone else needs this reminder right now too. . . 

This morning, in his Father’s Day message, our pastor mentioned that our parenting should not be about performance.  We shouldn’t discipline to our children’s performance; we should aim for their hearts.

Now, I know this.  I really do.  But sometimes I forget.  The past couple weeks I have been so tired and so overwhelmed with my to-do list.  I got way behind on laundry and cleaning a few weeks ago and because of travels and more laundry and some sickness I haven’t caught up yet.  The giant mess in my kids’ room and the overflowing laundry hampers stress me out.  Stress and exhaustion and six children in an apartment are not a great combination.  So I desperately needed that reminder this morning.

Even when I know better, it’s easy to fall back into the bad habit of performance-based parenting.  It’s especially easy when I’m stressed and tired.  “I want you to obey because I said so.  And I want you to obey perfectly.  And I want you to obey now.  And I don’t want to have to think about your intentions or your motives or showing you grace or how I’m supposed to be building you up and showing you overwhelming, unconditional love.  I just want you to obey so my life will be easier.”

When I’m tired and stressed, I get angry too easily.  And then I respond from anger and not from love and certainly not from the perspective of forming the character of my children.  I just am irritated that I’m inconvenienced and that I have more work and that I’m dealing with the same exact problem for the sixth time in the past hour.  And I forget that my irritability and horrible example will just result in more work as the same irritability and anger shows up in my children’s attitudes.

Duh!

So I needed the attitude adjustment this morning.  I’ll probably need it again tomorrow morning.  I’m slow that way.  Fortunately, I know from experience that the Holy Spirit will whisper reminders to me in the days to come.

Aim for the heart of my children.  Look for their motives and intentions.  Praise them liberally.  Don’t lump them all together and take out my frustration with one’s behavior on everyone else.  Show forgiveness quickly.  Look them in the eye.  Listen to them when they want to talk.  Have fun with them.  Laugh often.  Hug them.  Remember their ages and set my expectations accordingly.  Respond with love.  Expect mistakes and misjudgments and misbehavior; they are still learning.  Spend time remembering the moment each was born and the overwhelming joy I felt.  Keep in mind the Golden Rule.  Keep in mind 1 Corinthians 13.  Love them.  Love them.  Love them.  

 

The Ripple Effect ~ Jodie’s Story

IMG_2480

I recently told you our house story. And I told you that the huge things God was doing in bringing us to this house don’t end with our family. I love how God ripples out the blessings when we tell other people what He’s up to in our lives! Throughout every step of finding this house, making the offer, and signing the contract, I was calling and texting my friend Jodie. In her own words, here is Jodie’s ripple-story —

This is a BIG day for our family! Husband sold his private eye care practice! It was such a beautiful, “only God could do this” blessing.

We opened this private practice when I was pregnant with B. Husband had been working at a Walmart near there on and off for several years, and had a client base established, so he decided to go for it and get a taste of private practice. It has been a lot of hard work, but has been very successful. We have learned a lot about running a private practice throughout our time there. But it’s been hard — it adds two hours to his day every time he works there, because of the drive.

We began praying about selling it and getting him off the road and home more often. A month or so ago, when the Hatchers were praying about their new home, I saw how God opened the doors so wide and blessed them in abundance in only the way He can.

Exhausted and stressed one morning, I prayed, “God, please do something BIG for our family. I mean like Hatcher Overhill House BIG! Something needs to change for our family.” I giggled as I prayed this as I’m sure it sounded hysterical. Well, Honey Child, the Lord not only heard me, He answered my HOHB (Hatcher Overhill House Big) prayer that very day!

Husband had called a few of the local doctors there about buying his practice. He had lunch with one who is known as a very shrewd business guy. He seemed interested, asked several questions and said he would get back to us. We never heard back. We thought that meant he wasn’t interested. Another doctor called him the morning I prayed and said he wanted to swing by and look at the office. He is a very nice man there who has 6 kids and somehow runs two optometry offices and farms! He walked into the office, asked Husband a few questions and said, “I’ll take it.” Say what?? Just like that. You want it?? Crazy! As those words were literally coming out of his mouth, Husband looked down at his phone and the other doctor was calling. He didn’t take the call then, but finished up with the doctor who was there. That man walked out, and then Husband immediately listened to the voicemail from the other doctor, who said “I talked to my partners and I want to buy your practice.” HELLO! Two offers in that same day. The same day I prayed my HOHB prayer! I felt God whisper to my spirit, “Was that big enough for you?” HA!

We were both thrilled, but panicked, because who the heck should we sell it to? The first doctor he met with expressed interest first, but we never heard back from him. The second doctor came in and said he wanted it on the spot. Husband didn’t want to burn a bridge with either one. They said they wanted it at exactly the same time. I said to Husband, “We just have to pray God will make it clear and give us wisdom. Just be very honest with both of them. People like honest.”

I prayed my heart out as he called both doctors. In our hearts, we wanted the 6 children dude to have it. Husband called 6 Kids Dude and told him the situation. He told Husband he wanted it and would have financing secure that night, if necessary, so he could buy. Whoa! Husband then called Shrewd Business Dude, who is not known for being the nicest guy in the world by any means, and that guy said, “You know, I have so much going on right now. Just let 6 Kids Dude buy it. If for some reason that falls through, call me and I will buy it.” WHAT? SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, PEOPLE! Unreal! Shrewd Business Dude then went on to give Husband a few really good tips about selling a practice. Hello!

The extra cool part is that 6 Kids Dude told Husband, “I just felt in my spirit I needed to come this afternoon.”

Jesus, you are so good to us. You hear us when we pray. I could just weep at God’s goodness and how He chose to show Himself to us in such a BIG way that day and throughout this process. It has been very smooth. They close today at 2:30!!

So, girls, if you have something in your life you are wrestling with. Something you need BIG answers to, just shout up my HOHB prayer and watch Him move!

I LOVE Jodie’s story!

So what BIG thing are you asking God for today? Just shout it up – “God, I need You to do something BIG! Like Hatcher Overhill House BIG!” And then come tell us your ripple-story.

 

Love – with all your broken, tattered heart, LOVE

This-is-my-command-LOVE

Jesus was pretty clear about what he wanted his followers to do — love God and love other people. Over and over and over in the New Testament, we’re reminded to do everything in love, to be rooted in love, to bear with each other in love, to put on love like clothing, to spur each other toward love, and to love in action, not only in words. Paul even says the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. And just in case we may not understand what love looks like, Paul spends a lot of time in his letter to the Corinthians describing what love is and what love isn’t — love is patient and and kind and protective and hopeful, but it is not envious or boastful or self-seeking or easily angered.

I know all this. I know that my main job is to love people. And I do love people. Or at least I try. But I’ll be honest with you – sometimes it’s just too much. I know loving people means my heart is supposed to be tender toward other people, but sometimes I feel like my heart is a big piece of meat that is constantly being beaten on by a heavy metal tenderizer. Because loving people means hurting with their hurts. And there is just so much hurt.

Right now, people in my circle of love are fighting cancer and nursing sick parents and looking for jobs and trying to hold broken marriages together. People in my circle of love are recovering from past hurt and learning to forgive. And some people in my circle of love are not recovering, not learning; they are hurting themselves and flailing and floundering, and I am praying enough life preservers are tossed so they can grab onto one. And loving all these people pounds and pulls at my heart until I feel so raw and ripped up.

So I pray and lay bare my broken, shredded heart before God. And when I am alone with God, I don’t even have intelligent-sounding words to pray. You know, sometimes my prayers are more like suggestions to God of how to fix the problems. But when love has made my heart so tattered, there are no words, no suggestions. There is only Oh, God, please help. I don’t even know. I can’t even imagine. Please, please help. 

In those groaning prayers, I find a little peace, a little comfort that God draws near the brokenhearted. Being near God fortifies me so that I can get back up and love some more.

There is the temptation to toughen up, to harden my heart a little, barricade it, protect it. There’s that self-preservation thing in me that suggests maybe I should keep people a little more at arm’s length, that maybe I could care and help and be kind without loving so daggone much. We’re afraid to love any more because it’s just so exhausting and painful and messy. But you know how things are always so upside-down with God? With him, the more we receive his love and then love others with his love, the less afraid we’ll be. Because perfect love drives out fear. So if I resist the natural urge to protect myself and go against my instinct and keep on loving, the fear will get smaller.

And loving people may keep my heart raw and broken, but if God is near to the brokenhearted, then broken is OK. It’s better than OK.

And so I pray for strength and stick-to-it-tiveness to keep on loving. I ask for help to not grow weary in doing the right thing, in keeping his command to love. And then I love. With all my raw, stretched-out, tenderized heart, I love. Because the only thing that counts is my faith expressing itself in love.

Adjusting Expectations

When my children were younger and I was younger, I felt disappointed often. You see, I had these crazy, ideal expectations. And, of course, they were rarely met. And by rarely I mean never.

4527754411774320377

I would plan a a family day of going to the zoo. Inside my head, I would imagine my six offspring in adorable outfits, looking like Children’s Place child models even though the only Children’s Place clothes we had were hand-me-downs that had been worn already by three children. These children of my imagination would hold hands and smile and stay to the right of the walkways throughout the zoo. They would ooh and aah over the mind-blowing information on those little signs by each animal. When it was time to walk to the next animal, they would all walk together to the next enclosure. In my imagination, no child ever tried to climb onto fences that clearly had large No Climbing signs on them. No child whined, But I don’t wanna waaaalk that waaay. It’s too looonnnnggggg. Birds are stuuuupid anywaaaayyyy. My expectations never included one child calling another monkey poo or one child running half a mile ahead while another lagged half a mile behind. My expectations never included children complaining about the granola bars and water bottles I had packed and throwing themselves on the ground in a sorta-kinda-hunger-strike demand of ice cream from the zoo snack bar. Which is all quite odd since I actually live with my children every day of the year and know how children can be. I guess I just somehow thought that for Family Day, they would all change personalities and develop absolute self-control.

So I would feel grouchy and disappointed. And then I would start acting all grouchy and disappointed and not at all like the idealized version of myself I imagined I would be. Of course, then I would get annoyed with myself because really, what kind of mother whisper-screams through gritted teeth at her kid for acting like a tired and grouchy child when he is actually a tired and grouchy child? 

Every holiday and family day and special anything would result in disappointment and frustration. For me. Later, though, my children would speak of these days and remember only the good parts. Somehow, they’d forget about the brother who sat down and screamed and cried and refused to take another step because there was a pebble in his shoe and the world was sure to end any second. This sort of Children’s Brain Feature is the exact same one that compelled my son to once say, “Momma, I loved the way we used to all have church at home on a Sunday morning. Daddy would play the guitar and we would sing songs and talk about what we were learning about Jesus. I loved that! We used to do that all the time!” And really, we had done that exactly ONE time. ONCE. Ever. This Children’s Brain Feature is surely one of the most beautiful expressions of grace God has given to parents. We get like ten times the credit for doing something once. Grace upon grace.

Anyway, as time has gone by, I have gradually shifted my expectations to be a little more realistic. As I look ahead to special days or family outings, I expect that my children will act exactly like they act every other day of the year. I expect that we will have moments when all eight of us are feeling kind and happy and having fun, but that these moments will happen on a backdrop of the rest of the day, in which one or more of us will be hungry or tired or have a headache or feel irritable. And then I choose to feel incredible gratitude for the sweet moments and file those in my mental scrapbook and try to block out the rest.

This weekend has been an opportunity for me to practice this different-expecatations sort of approach to parenting and life. We don’t want to call it lowered expectations, so we’ll go with different expectations or, perhaps, more realistic expectations.

On Friday, we loaded up the family in the big, red van to drive to Lauren’s away soccer game. From there, we would all go two-and-a-half hours away to North Carolina for Caleb’s first dive meet. We’d check into our budget hotel and get some sleep, then we’d spend the entire day Saturday at the aquatic center for the dive meet. In the past, I would have imagined a fun van ride singing along to songs and reading aloud to the children followed by a cozy night in the hotel and a day of everyone excitedly cheering on Caleb in his first ever diving competition. But I’m older and wiser now. This time, my expectations more closely matched reality.

Caleb woke up Friday morning with strep throat, so he stayed home from school and went to the doctor to get started on an antibiotic. Rachel came home from school with strep symptoms, so I scrounged around in a drawer and found half a bottle of an antibiotic from last fall and started her on that. Yes, I am aware of all that is amazing about my parenting from that last sentence, but I hope you don’t feel too jealous or intimidated. So – for those of you keeping score at home – we started the trip with two sick, feverish children and a boy with a badly-broken arm still in a soft cast, on a Friday evening after a very long week. So it was no surprise that everyone was tired and a little grumpy and eager to plug into headphones and tune out everyone else on the ride down Friday night. It was not a sing-along, read-along, play the license plate game sort of van ride. But there were only a handful of he told me to shut up or she needs to mind her own business or no, I’m not an idiot; you are! kind of moments. So I chose to call the ride down a success, a good memory in my mental scrapbook.

At the hotel, three children slept in the room with Grandpapa and Grandmama and three slept in the room with my husband and me. Shockingly, there was only about one minute of arguing about who would sleep where before we came to a plan everyone could be happy with. Again, we’re going with success and happy memory here.

As we were falling asleep, Silas – the one with the arm in a cast – began this moany cry about how his arm was itching and he couldn’t stand it and it was horrible, just awful, absolutely awful, and really, really itching and he couldn’t scratch it and we didn’t understand how awful it was and aaaaaaaaahhhhhh. And for the first 30 seconds, I felt deep motherly compassion for him. But after my initial, “I know, sweetie. I’m so sorry it’s uncomfortable.” response, he did not stop the moany cry and calm down, like he obviously should have because of my awesomely sweet 30 seconds of mothering. We had already given him Tylenol for pain and melatonin to help him sleep, which was a huge ordeal because, for some inexplicable reason, he didn’t want to swallow those things, so there were kind encouragements, followed by desperate pleas, followed by threats. And so that had already all happened before the moany cry had begun, which meant we could not give him the very last dose of Tylenol with codeine (which we were saving for Saturday anyway). After my 30 seconds of sweet Carol Brady mothering, I quickly transitioned to Rosanne mothering mode. “Yes, we get it. You itch. For the LOVE! Can you please learn to cry in a quiet way? I cry and tears come, but I don’t wail and moan. It’s possible to cry without wailing and moaning. Try it. Stop wailing right now. You are waking your brother, and he needs to sleep because he has to compete tomorrow. Stop it. Moaning and wailing is not making you feel better; it’s just making everyone else feel worse. Stop it. Stopitrightnow.” Finally, I had a blessed epiphany! The bottle of Benadryl was in the suitcase. Benadryl is designed for itching! Also for making children sleep. But, in this case, he was actually itching and so I had a very good, solid reason to give it to him. So we gave him the Benadryl and he slept. And this child-wailing and mother-snapping did not ruin the weekend -or even the night- because I had totally expected something like that to happen. Success!

boysatdivemeet

Though I was tempted to want all the children to be interested in diving and watch expectantly for each of Caleb’s dives and ooh and aah and cheer, I knew that just having them present in the stands was enough. Good enough is good enough – my parenting mantra you may steal as your own.

I expected Silas to tell me he was bored 50 times, but he only told me about 20 times. Success! I expected Jackson and Griffin to crawl under bleachers and run around and bang on the seats and annoy everyone around us. And they only did that a little of the time instead of all the time. Success! The girls read books, and when we said, “Caleb’s up!” they turned their eyes toward the boards, watched him, clapped a couple times, then returned to their reading. Success! Silas napped for a while on the bleachers. While he was napping, he could not tell me he was bored or itching or hurting or anything. Success! When Lauren told me her throat hurt for the fifteenth time and I had already told her to take a drink of something and that I couldn’t do a thing about it, I just smiled and said, “Yes, got it! Your throat hurts. Now you don’t have to tell me any more. Until further notice, I’ll know your throat hurts. So only tell me if it stops hurting. OK? Ok.” And I didn’t feel irritated or annoyed or disappointed.

And since this was Caleb’s first meet, we had no clue what to expect for him. We were just happy to be there and hoping it would be a learning experience. When he came in seventh out of eight divers in one event, there was no disappointment. Only pride that he hadn’t done any belly flops or back flops or total fails. And when he won first place in another event – mostly because he was the only kid in that division, but whatever, First Place, baby! – we clapped and cheered and congratulated him and told him how proud we were. Success!

In the midst of all of this, there were moments of kindness and happiness and fun. I’m filing those in my mental scrapbook. Remember when we used to always go to North Carolina and stay in that cozy hotel and Caleb won first place in diving and we had that fun picnic in the parking lot and we had so much fun? We loved that! 

LandGholdinghands

 

Repurposed Pain ~ My Messy Beautiful

This essay is part of the Messy Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more about this project, click HERE.  To learn more about Glennon Doyle Melton’s bestselling memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click HERE

messy-beautiful-450b
No pain is ever wasted. Years ago, one of my mentors told me the story of losing an infant son. She said one of her friends had told her those words as they wept and grieved together. God never wastes a thing. He won’t waste your pain. And He didn’t. Again and again, throughout the years, this woman comforted and encouraged grieving young mommas with an empathy born only of enduring a similar pain.

I never forgot that story. And in my hardest, most trying days and weeks and months, I have remembered those words. That promise – God won’t waste this. God won’t waste this. God never wastes a thing. – has reverberated through my soul, weaving a web that holds me together even if everything around me seems to be falling apart.

The messes of life, the hard, hard times, the things we would never in a million, jillion years choose to endure – those messes can transform into amazing beauty when, later, we receive an opportunity to help or encourage someone going through a similar mess.

Five years ago, my husband nearly died when his heart decided to go a little berserk. What an emotional earthquake that was! For a couple years, the medical battle was intense. The hospital stays and expensive diagnostic tests, the information overload, the medication and surgeries – all of it was frightening and formidable. But the emotional battle was even worse. My young, strong, seemingly healthy husband suddenly confronted his own mortality. This independent, active man abruptly became dependent and unable to do most of the things he had always done. He was angry and depressed — understandably so, but still anger and depression are not much fun to live with. I shouldered the burden of extra work and extra care-taking and quickly grew exhausted and gradually grew resentful. Resentment isn’t exactly fun to live with either. Or so I’ve heard. His emotions, my emotions, the children’s emotions, the fear and stress and constant presence of the potential for death. It was a mess!

A few weeks ago, a friend’s husband had a stroke. And just like that, the emotional earthquake shook their lives. Rocked their world. Through a quickly-typed Facebook message, I shone my little light into the debris. My friend crawled to that light. And our shared pain yoked us together, my friend and I. Kindred spirits. Warrior wives. God never wastes a thing. My pain, my mess, beautifully recycled into hope. No pain is ever wasted. The other day my sweet friend wrote, “Thank you for going through this before me.” Well, it was not my pleasure. That’s for sure! But knowing that my messy dark days have been repurposed into a beautiful comfort for her – well, that is a pleasure, a strange kind of joy deep in my soul. None of it was wasted.

photo-61

Today, I’m typing this from a hospital room. Yesterday, my Silas, my 11-year-old boy, tried to go sledding down our basement stairs in a giant cardboard box. Because somehow in Boy World, that seems like a good idea. In the doctor’s words, “He broke the heck out of his arm.” What a mess! He snapped both bones in his forearm. One of the bones was an open fracture. Do not Google up pictures of open fractures. Trust me. You can’t un-see those images and you don’t want to hurl all over your laptop.

At midnight last night, some people in green scrubs and cloth shower caps wheeled my little guy into surgery so he could get some titanium rods inserted into his arm. I might have gotten three hours of sleep last night on the green, industrial, plastic couch in his room. My husband stretched out in the vinyl, floral print reclining chair. Relief from the pain medicine has come up just slightly short of the allowable dosing times. When Silas isn’t sleeping or engrossed in a television show, he is ranging from very uncomfortable to near-writhing in pain.

While Silas was getting a dose of morphine today, his friend Sierra was shopping for gifts for him. Two weeks ago, Sierra fell off a horse and broke her arm. In this same hospital, a doctor inserted rods into her arm and Sierra’s parents stretched out on this same vinyl furniture. Within the past 24 hours, Sierra’s mom has prayed for me and texted me, comforting and encouraging me with an empathy born only of enduring a similar pain. In that first text, she shone her light into our debris. And I crawled to the light. God never wastes a thing. No pain is ever wasted. Their mess has been beautifully transformed into a consoling help.

This is one of the cycles of life – we comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received. My mess metamorphoses into beautiful salve for someone else’s mess and pain, then her mess metamorphoses into beautiful salve for someone else’s mess and pain, and on and on and on. Beauty drawn from the midst of mess. A beautiful mess. A messy beautiful. No pain, no mess, is ever wasted. God never wastes a thing. He won’t waste your pain. Let this refrain reverberate through your soul, falling together and weaving a web that holds you together when your messy beautiful life seems to be falling apart.

painneverwasted

We Are Weak Together

You know, I appreciate the idea that in my weakness I most see God’s strength manifested. I do. I appreciate the notion that I am completely dependent on God, totally reliant on Him to accomplish anything worthwhile. Those are good thoughts. They come straight from the Bible. I know those principles are true. Set against a lovely sunset and worded in sing-song verse, they make the perfect To Encourage You greeting cards.

But honestly, the reality of living those thoughts pretty much stinks. It’s not fun to feel weak. I don’t particularly enjoy feeling utterly dependent on God. Do you?

No, I prefer the times God seems to say, Hey, Jenn, I made you naturally talented in this area, so I’m plugging you in here. Now shine! And there are times God works like that. I LOVE it when He works like that! When I’m doing those things I believe I was born to do, I feel confident and grateful and so alive!

Sometimes, though, God intentionally puts us in a place of dependence on Him. He makes it so obvious that I need Him. And, of course, I know I do need Him. I just prefer not to feel so desperately dependent on Him. I prefer that underlying theoretical I need Him because He’s God and I know any strength I have is because He gave it to me, now watch me keep these plates spinning on my own! 

I was talking with some friends about this the other day. We have all been stretched beyond ourselves this year doing a ministry that seems so much bigger and harder than anything we should be leading. So many times we have raised our eyebrows and looked at each other, laughing, like  Can you believe anyone let us be in charge of this?! Shouldn’t they have picked the real grown-ups?! And other times, we have floundered and cried and felt foolish and frustrated because Really, God? Really? Did we misunderstand You? Was this really Your idea? Because we don’t want to insult you, God, but we would have thought You could plan this all out better and find someone capable of actually doing these jobs well! You know, seeing as how You are God and all. 

And I’m not going to tie this all up with a pretty little Christianese ribbon. I just can’t. I’m not in that place. I just want you to know, friends, if you are feeling weak and bucking against that, you are not alone. If you are struggling to lean into God and give in to that feeling of full reliance on Him, I’m right there with you. I’m here, acknowledging that you are doing a hard thing. It’s hard to own your weakness and trust that God is strong. We are doing this hard thing together, friends. We are holding on to Him, hedging all our bets that He is Who He claims to be and that He won’t let us down.

I’m here, holding on with you, weakly grasping onto His hand and your hand. We are weak together. And somehow, it’s going to be OK.

holdingon

 

 

 

 

Putting Children In Boxes

jackinbox Can we all agree that this is the only kind of box we should put our kids in?

Yesterday, I told you Caleb’s story.  Today, let’s talk about putting children in boxes. I’m talking about this tendency some of us have to expect cookie cutter children, as if schools and homes are an assembly line cranking out children who all learn the same and test the same and perform the same, children who are “well-rounded” and look great on traditional college applications.

The problem with that — well, gosh, there are too many problems with that. That entire notion is a problem! The beauty of it all is that we are each so distinctive! I am constantly amazed at the uniqueness of each of my six children. All raised by the same parents with the same guidelines and influences, yet each so individual and different. If you have more than one child, or if you come from a family with more than one child, you’ve seen it too.

We are fortunate. The teachers my children have had in public school have taught to various learning styles and seem to appreciate each child’s distinctiveness. But I know that kids still feel pressure to get the right scores and make the right grades and fit into the mold. And sometimes parents feel the pressure too, so parents try to push the children to make all A’s or fall on the right side of the bell curve. I know better. At my core, I value individuality and recognize different types of intelligences. I appreciate that our world needs all sorts of people with all sorts of skills and passions and personalities. And still, sometimes I get sucked in to the idea that all my children should be making the Honor Roll and scoring well on the state’s standardized test. I have lapses into Freaked-Out-Land in which I become a crazy momma who frantically obsesses about whether my high school children are in enough clubs and making the right grades and building the right resume to get into college.

For the LOVE! Can we just all stop already? Can we agree that not every kid can score in the top tenth percentile because – HELLOOOO! –  then that wouldn’t be the top tenth percentile any more? Can we agree that the kids who are really smart at taking tests and writing papers might not be so smart at fixing a dishwasher or playing guitar or creating delicious cupcakes? And all of those things are important in this life. And the cupcake part might even be the most important. Amen? Can we agree that not everyone’s child will get into an Ivy League school, and that’s OK? And can we agree that the kids who do get into an Ivy League school don’t have any more value than the kids who go to community college?

And, you know what, adults? That means we’re going to have to stop saying in hallowed, hushed, adoring tones, “Johnny got into Harvard.” And it means we’re going to have to stop with all the extra rationalizing and apologizing when a kid goes to community college, “Well, Bobby is going to Neighborhood Community College for a year or two. He’s really smart; he just didn’t apply himself the first two years of high school. I don’t think he realized that all his grades actually counted. But he made the honor roll his last two years, and he’s going to get into a top college after a year of Neighborhood Community College.” No, stop it. Harvard Johnny is no more worthy of a parent’s pride and adoration than Community College Bobby. 

And then, after all of the grown-ups agree on this, can we all tell our children these truths? And can we keep telling them and keep telling them until they believe it? Until they know in the center of their very being that whatever sort of ways they are smart –and they ARE! – those ways are just as important and valuable and beautiful as the ways other people are smart. 

When report cards come home and students are in the middle of standardized tests and the valedictorian is announced, can we promise each other that we’ll pause and take a deep breath  and remember that these things do not define our children? And they certainly don’t define us as parents. Can we promise not to elevate these sorts of things to a higher place than they deserve? Even if our children make straight A’s and ace the tests and have the highest gpa. We can be proud of their hard work and the character that work has formed in them and grateful for the gifts and talents they’ve been given, but let’s not be deceived into thinking that their grades and scores and accolades make them better than in the ways that are truly important in life. And let’s be realistic, those things don’t really even make them smarter than. Because there are so many ways to be smart.

Please know that I am saying this not only as the mom of children whose intelligences are not best measured by big tests and report card grades, but also as the mom of children for whom schools are made. I am not in one camp or the other, friends. I am not trying to devalue anyone’s children and their gifts. I am just asking us all to keep perspective.

If your child fits in the box that is school, that’s OK. Praise their diligence and work and help them be grateful for their gifts. And if your child does not fit into the box that is school, that’s OK too. Help those children find their talents and gifts, help them figure out what types of intelligence they have. Then praise their diligence and work and help them be grateful for their gifts too. And let’s celebrate all the children’s distinctiveness and help them be thankful that we’re not all the same. Because how boring would that be?

Profound Love or Deep Hurt

20120214-122121.jpg

Andy Stanley says there are two categories of people who influence us and form us into the people we become, “those who hurt you deeply and those who loved you profoundly.”

In the past ten years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, speaking and writing about how we can make a positive impact on the world, or at least on our own little corner of the world. I’ve also attempted to use my own strengths for good – to practice what I preach. I’ve thought about our strengths and passions and great delight and the world’s deep needs and how those things intersect. And I wasn’t wrong.

But then I go and hear this thought by Andy Stanley and everything within me says, Of course! Yes! Of course, that’s true! Yes, yes, yes! 

We are influenced and shaped by the people who hurt us to the core and by the people who love us from their core. I have made the most impact on the people I have deeply hurt and the people I have profoundly loved. I’m sure of it.

As I’ve thought about this for the last few days, I’ve lamented, mourned over, the times I have left my mark with deep hurt. I don’t want to influence others by the damage I leave in my wake. I want my legacy to be one of love.

If we want to positively influence this world, if we want to make a real impact, we must do everything with profound love. Radical, unconditional love. Yes, our strengths and passions and deep delights are involved. Yes, we can consider the needs around us and match our giftedness with those needs. But in order to most fully influence, to really leave our mark, love must be the undergirding force.

There are some things in my community I’m trying to change. There are some people I’m hoping to influence. I’m praying love will be my guiding force. If I’m going to shape my world, I aim to shape it with profound love.