My Public Confession and Declaration (about parenting)

I’m sitting here feeling (a little) sorry for myself. At least I’m woman enough to admit it. For that past seventeen years my life has been bereft of my mother and my dad, who tried beautifully to fill both shoes left me almost 5 months ago. So, yeah.

Then there’s the fact that motherhood represents the great cataclysmic change in my life that has brought out my absolute worst and but sometimes best sides. So, I decided I’d turn flip the script a bit. Instead of my kids giving me some schmaltzy accolades (which they did ‘cause they’re awesome), I’d write a public declarations and confessions post.

First, the confessions:

#1 I didn’t love being a mother at first. In fact, I think it took me a number of months to even like it. Thanks to post-partum depression that assailed me like a ton of bricks after each birth, I was in the doldrums while everyone told me I should be flying over the moon.

#2 I yelled too much. I dug in mentally, said I was going to win every argument and shouted to prove it. Ugly, harsh words that if I had the breaths of a lifetime, could not suck it all back in. Also, I still lost a lot of arguments.

#3 We actually thought spanking was the best way to discipline. How absurd! I am indelibly sorry for spanking you- ever. If we still had it, I would personally build the bon fire in which to burn that stupid “whacker” we used to administer corporal punishment.

#4 I diluted your juice waaayyy beyond when I should have  and I made you go to bed too early for too long (which I said was because of science proving kids need good sleep, but was really because I was just “done” by 8 pm).

#5 I was a mediocre teacher who fumbled around trying to pretend I knew what I was doing, too hard-nosed and demanding. But kudos to me, you can all read, write and think relatively well.

#6 I listened to other people’s opinions too much and played the great “how-do-my-kids-stack-up-against-yours-academically-physically-spiritually” game, instead of looking at each of you as unique individuals, gifts perfectly designed to be raised by me (and your dad). (By the way, we came in at 44,786th place. Not bad.)

And lastly, #7 For too long I was afraid, very afraid that I would mess up and you’d turn out horrible, so I tried to create a bubble world I thought would protect you. Then the bubble burst and guess what? It’s okay because I am outside the bubble with you and more than that, so is God.

There’s that. Now on to part two: the declarations.

#1 I love you- NO MATTER WHAT! My mama heart is yours through the tears and rages of young adulthood, through the bad and good decisions you make, through the experimentation years and ignoring me years and the years of trying to figure out just who the heck you are.

#2 I admire you in innumerable ways and I need to get better at reminding you of that everyday: your courage, your intelligence, your creativity, your strength, your determination, your tenacity, your sensitivity, your humor, your beauty, to name a few.

#3 I will give you a good verbal whoop up every now and then because if mom can’t get in your face time to time, you need to toughen up.

#4 I will continue to annoy you, no I will in fact seek to annoy you at times, just to make sure you know who is boss and not take life too seriously.

#5 I will keep telling you to swim against the tide, to be yourself, to go after something if you want it, to not follow the crowd in doing wrong, to get a grip, to do unto others as you’d want done to you, to go to college, to look for beauty everyday and you’ll find it, to remember that God is writing your story, etc.

#6 I will keep listening- always- about your hurts and hopes, about your crazy and brilliant ideas, about your loves and lost loves, about your fears and struggles (Even if it’s the middle of the night.)

#7 I will always make the best chocolate chip cookies. You can count on that.

#8 I will always pray for you.

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Undaunted

 

IMG_9589

I was dizzy. Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the edge.

“Becky,” they called, “You cannot jump. Who knows what dangers are down there at the bottom? It isn’t safe.”

So I heeded their voices. I strove to fit inside their tidy boundaries for me. Don’t do this. Do this. And for the love of all that is sane and reasonable, do not take risks. People pleasing had always been an art of mine and so I crafted a careful life, safe from all the unknowns. I was afraid of heights anyways.

Somewhere in my late twenties, married, with 2 kids (and one on the way), I began to seek a precipice. For all the years of obedience had left me wondering: “Could there be more than this flat land existence? Is there a place where I can be me, not always bowing to the confines of someone else?” I longed for it, for freedom from the suffocating rules pressing against me. There had to be a way that I could step off of the ledge and not die.

The longing grew stronger, yet inside me there were always voices, warning me, cajoling me not to want it. In the next decade, I started to see the beauty of grace, the treasure of the cross, my salvation full and free, without regard to any rule following on my part. Those things chaffed against the neat list of expectations I had made for myself: the submissive wife, the godly mother, the dutiful daughter. Conversely, I knew the façade of safety was just that. All the flat land existence was eating me up inside. Gloomy clouds of depression suffocated me.

For the first time ever, I slowly taught myself to stop heeding the voices telling me to not seek the cliff. I began shedding those like layers of skin, each one more painful than before. The better I understood the simple message of the gospel, to believe and be free, to live for Jesus because He died for me, to embrace HIS expectations for my life knowing they come without strings attached, the closer I inched to the edge.

When the clouds of gloom were lifted, I saw that my feet were closer than ever to the rim of the canyon and I looked down into the vastness, its beauty captivating. I stopped reading the “how to” books. I stopped making my husband my god, instead putting purposeful and deliberate distance so that I could be me and he could be himself, all the while loving him deeper than ever.

There was one final rock I was about to stumble on; a rock of momentous proportions on which I would not just stumble, but fall entirely: parenting an adult child who chose a path of life I never could have imagined. Only then did I realize that the very thing I hated, all the man made parameters that had constantly kept ME away from the edge, I had built those very things around my kids to a lesser degree. Deconstructing them took time but as I did, the view became clearer and the canyon beckoned me to come.

Unshackled, I ambled to the edge. There was no fear. I was finally ready, confident,  my arms outstretched and breath bated out of sheer thrill of what was to come. I felt dizzy, light, unencumbered and yet, I felt wrapped in a security I could never contrive myself. This was the arms of my Savior that held me, close to His heart, warmly, gently, and safely. I was enveloped in His love and this assured me of a landing without harm.

I could feel the breeze blowing up from below and I began to totter. Before I could acquiesce to any shred of doubt, my feet left the edge. Air that I had never breathed before filled my lungs and I was in a freefall, sure this was not the last time I would fly.

Shattered Illusion

This is not your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but hang with me.

 The illusion of control…

It’s a concept I have been battling with for several years now. Sometimes the illusion has been broken and I accept it. Most other times though, I’ve fought it with both fists drawn. This invisible force seemed to be working against me at every turn- cruel fate was dealing me a crappy hand and I was not having it.

Recently, I watched a video that compared the safety of driving an automobile to riding in an airplane. By a long shot, riding in the airplane is much safer than driving your car anywhere, BUT why do we feel safer driving and more apprehensive flying? The illusion of control. Behind the wheel, we control our every move. When we fly, we are continuously at the mercy and trust of the pilot. We do not like this, not one little bit.

You see, we fancy ourselves masters of our universe, holding our puppet strings. If we are mothers, we think we are holding our children’s destiny in our very capable mother hands. In marriage, we balk against feeling like our partner controls us (thus why many marriages where men are controlling or women are strong willed, fail.) It chaffs against our very nature. And so, we accept the illusion that we surround ourselves with, convince ourselves with really- that we control us and if we are mothers, we are pretty darn comfortable controlling our kids too.

As of late, I am more and more comfortable outside the illusion. I’ve tried being the one who spins all the plates without dropping them. I’ve tried being the strong, hard ass type who doesn’t let my guard down or ever be vulnerable. I’ve tried controlling my kids’ every move in hopes of churning out successful, motivated, educated, people (who happen to think just like me). Guess what? I failed at everything. And maybe that was the intention; the magician revealed the trickery and spoiled the show. I was undeceived at my ability to be god of my destiny and though at first it unsettled me, slowly, I began to accept it.

This left a void and then I was forced to acquiesce to what I knew deep down all along: faith was the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Try as I might, I let me down. My illusion to control myself, those I loved, and my circumstances broke indefinitely.

Only one thing was left- faith in One greater, wiser, better, more loving, more kind, more fulfilling. God knows the secrets I could never begin to understand. He knows me before and behind. He loves me totally and more importantly, He loves those I love even more than I could ever love them.

The shattered illusion has left me happier and more at peace than I could have ever imagined because what was never intended to be mine in the first place was “put back” into the hands of the God more capable than I ever could be anyways.

throw down the trophy

3445f_Starlet_TrophyThe faux golden bauble stood admiringly on the shelf. The pride swelled in my heart and I gave myself a little proverbial pat on the shoulder. I had worked so hard for that thing! In fact it had been pretty much a relentless 24/7 job earning it. Thankless, tiring and consuming as it seemed, I now had this symbol displayed for all to see. And why not? It represented the blood, sweat and tears, my personal achievement monument…

I picked it up, took one last prideful gaze and threw it on the concrete with every ounce of force I could muster. It shattered and splintered into bits, unrecognizable as anything it was before.

Man, that felt good! A wave of awareness washed over me- it felt strangely like relief; like the sigh that comes at the end of a hard work out session. My striving was over, the expectation to live up to what that trophy represented was gone now. I was liberated from the pressure of my prize and pride!

   ~~~~~~~~~

Our children can become our trophies: set up as an enduring symbol of our hard work, our push for achievements, our endless hours of driving all over for classes or lessons, our relentless and tireless pursuit of the right education, our sacrifice for the “right stuff”, etc.

We want them to shine like stars (and of course they do in our universe), but that isn’t quite good enough. We gotta have some recognition, some “Ooo’s and Ahh’s” from people, especially other parents.

Here’s the lie : IT IS NOT EVEN ABOUT THEM IN THE END, IT’S ABOUT US. It is a self-seeking venture to garner attention for our own achievement. I mean, everyone knows that a kid like THAT HAD to come from great parents!

And here’s the antithesis of that lie: another lie, that if they don’t turn out as a crowning achievement, amazing student, upstanding citizen, destined for fame or fortune, WE ARE THE FAILURES. We are at fault. We did something terribly wrong. Our trophy never arrived.

This is the most damaging, beguiling lie of all.

So, dear reader, maybe you have that bauble already set on a shelf (because, dang, your kids turned out alright) or perhaps you are already eyeing the wall for a display case you know you’ll need soon. Conversely, you may have anger, resentment, profound disappointment or dashed hopes because well, frankly, your prize is tarnished, damaged, misshapen. You have nothing to show for all your labors.

Throw down the mentality that your kids are yours to behold. Give them wholeheartedly to One who created them. Yes, work with all your might to teach them right from wrong, shape their thinking. And love them no matter what. Then remember that God is molding them and they may look very different from what you’d imagined.

Proverbs Poetry

 

Here is a piece I wrote after reading Proverbs 7, which cautions a young man about the temptations of the seductress. Drugs, alcohol and sex lure and tantalize. The young are being more and more barraged with promises that these vices bring pleasure, fulfillment and escape from life’s problems or insecurities. God and His wisdom are being touted as boring, restrictive, narrow-minded. May we pray harder than ever for the next generation. Love them intensely and teach them truth.

 

I looked through the window of my house, just between the shades.

Evening was coming on, the dusky darkness becoming heavier with each moment.

I saw an idle throng of people, loitering about.

Among them was a senseless young man- inexperienced and shortsighted.

He was ambling down the shady street, the street of hallucinations.

Around one corner came a dazed looking man.

He had been waiting for the youth, undetectable in the inky shadows.

First came the laugh then the hushed tones, “Come in here and see my stash.”

Brazenly and without waiting for an answer, he grabbed the young man’s arm.

 

In, he pulled him.

The stench of smoke filled the air.

So thick, it was hard to see and made his stomach recoil.

He coughed. His lungs weren’t used to this.

Although, he’d never been there, the kids were from his high school.

He said hello to an acquaintance and got a nod in return.

The room was disheveled and fetid, so starkly in contrast to his home.

Yet, the mellow vibe appealed to him.

“Try some of this.” A tall thin guy handed him a pipe.

This was uncharted territory for the youth.

Gazing up, he remembered the statistics of drug addiction from class.

But the ambiguous smile and his reassuring words, assuaged any fear.

All around were glazed over looks, bleary eyes and relaxed bodies.

 

Soon, the youth was slumped over in a chair.

His body felt numb, but his mind was racing.

The things his mind conceived were incomprehensible.

It seemed like he was catapulting through a kaleidoscope.

Before he knew it, he craved more.

Day after day, he longed for that escape.

Little did he know, this house was on the street called Destruction.

At the end stood a precipice with vacuous blackness below.

Like a net hidden for the prey, was this habit-

A snare meant to entrap.

Like a calf being led toward slaughter,

The rope now around his neck doubled as a noose.

He was bewitched.

 

So, son, listen to me, take these words of mine most seriously.

Don’t fool around with friends like that;

Don’t even stroll through that neighborhood.

Never go into the house.

Countless victims have come under the spell.

Many have fallen prey to its clutches; their minds forever changed.

That path that appeared pleasing will lead you straight over the precipice and into hell.

Proverbs 7:1-4

“My son, obey my words.
    Store up my commands inside you.

 Obey my commands and you will live.
    Guard my teachings as you would your own eyes.

 Tie them on your fingers.
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.

 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister.”
    Call understanding a member of your family.”

 

A Letter to the Shunners

Dear Shunners,

I write out of love. I write because I must. I write because I am tired of it.

Yes, I have three children and yes, they are all unique and varied individuals. Right now, only one of them is an adult and free to make choices that are many times in direct opposition to what we believe, as his parents.

If you know him and see how he has changed this last year, it may sadden or shock you. But what you can never know are the conversations we have behind closed doors; when no one else gets that intimate glimpse into his heart or sees the confusion and insecurity in his eyes. Nor can you hear him wrestle with the magnitude of what it means to grow up, the fear of having to take responsibility and become financially independent.

To those that don’t know him and have either listened to juicy morsels of gossip or taken advantage of moments when in a quest for transparency or vulnerability, I’ve shared too much, shame on you. You are culpable for making a judgement call based on a snippet of information. Your limited knowledge has gone to your head and given you license to shun- him, our other children and maybe even us. Just so you understand what I mean, here’s what shun means: avoid, evade, eschew, steer clear of, shy away from, keep one’s distance from.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to do these things. Maybe you shun because you are afraid of a rebellious child and the implications of it on your own child/family. I understand the fear. I used to feel that way before providence would have it that we would need to love our own prodigal of sorts. Or perhaps you have forgotten the priority of Jesus’s message was to seek and save the lost- not shun and avoid the lost. This is the message we carry to the world.

So, I lovingly plead with those who cannot empathize with us or him during this season, to stop. Stop shunning. Stop standing in your high and lofty place as judge of our family, our parenting methods, or especially our son. And please stop assigning guilt to our other children based on the struggles of one.

Most of all, be mindful of self-righteousness, a lack of grace and the tendency to eschew someone whom you perceive as a rebel. Recognize that no matter what decisions our children make- good or bad- our love for them remains zealous and unchanged. Our fierce sense of protection still wants to “assault” those with intent to hurt them.

We don’t make excuses for wrongdoing. We accept culpability for mistakes we have made in parenting. Conversely, we embrace in gospel love those who think differently than us, look differently than us, live differently than us- especially when they happen to be our own flesh and blood.

Grace will reach farther and soften a heart more than shunning ever could. Grace will lead the rebel home.

With tenacious boldness,

Jane

Drowning Parents

They just keep coming like relentless waves crashing against the rocky shore. At first, I was shocked. Now when I hear something new, my stomach turns sour and my eyes well up with tears. “Not another one”, I hear myself scream.

I am searching for some common thread and find none.

They found a condom in her purse. He smoked something that made him vomit. She is pregnant. He is verbally abusing his girlfriend. They were up all night at the hospital because she had alcohol poisoning. Gay porn was discovered on his laptop. She ran away from home. He is getting high every chance he gets. They found a pregnancy test in her drawer. She denies the faith. He questions if there even is a God.

These are all real scenarios, from real kids that I know. Kids from the church. Kids that were home schooled or public schooled. Kids that were in AWANA all their lives. Kids whose parents are godly, gospel loving parents. Kids who served in the nursery. Kids who went to youth group every week.

I grieve. I wrestle with it. I ask God why. I shake my head. Something went wrong. Or did it?

There are the “other” parents that I now observe from a distance because some of them have put me there; ostracized because they “have heard” what my son has done. They are afraid that their children will be tainted by him, so they avoid me and do not let their younger kids play with mine.

The rest of us, whose kids are the main characters in the scenarios above, are left…. heart broken, baffled, wrung out, embarrassed.

We raised them to be different. Maybe that’s just it. All the work we did and we thought we would have our “prize” at the end: a successful child, a godly child, a child that others look at and admire as an example. Then naturally, they would look at us and think, “They did parenting right. Accolades are due them.”

I can’t shake the guilt or disappointment- no matter how I try. It keeps coming back, hauntingly. I know it doesn’t do me any good, (in fact it only harms and points an accusing finger). It comes through the stares of the parents whose kids are on the right path, keeping their noses clean and heading towards a bright successful future. They don’t mean to (probably), but they have this oh so smug aura about them. And every time, it twists my own knife further.

Meanwhile, we are crushed, sitting on the sidelines trying to love our children unconditionally, trying with every ounce of our being to exemplify patience with their foolish choices. Our hearts broken. Our minds perplexed.

All I can do is cry out through the tears as another wave, another heart-wrenching story comes at me. I beg God to save them all, to let them see the dawning of another day, to save them from an early death and eternal separation from Himself.

Did I do everything right? No. Neither did the other parents. Are there lessons to be learned? Yes, by us all. Will God have to save all in His time? Yes. He makes things beautiful in HIS time.

I am left to weep and try to make sense of it all. The waves wash over me and they linger through the salty residue left behind. At moments, I think I might drown. Then I remember the life preserver at my waist. I can’t see it. I just know it’s there and that alone assuages my fear and guilt for another moment.

Wanna Be Soccer Mom

I am no soccer mom but I got schooled this season, fo’ sho’. I need to come to early morning games armed: Venti Starbucks in one hand, Eddie Bauer camp chair in the other. Umbrella, optional, although protecting my milky white skin may be a good idea.

Some of these moms take elementary soccer games waaaaayyyy too seriously. There are the loud ones, the ones who talk to the ref, talk to the players, talk to the coach and any other parents who will listen (actually I think they would still speak even if NO ONE was listening).

Do they not understand that all the parents are spectating the same game? Maybe it is too early for them to remember that the other player’s parents are sitting right next to them and can hear their scathing remarks.

They have one word mantras like: “Pressure!” “Heat!” “Positions!”. They are not afraid to openly berate their child for all to hear either, but it can’t be bad parenting if the child can’t hear, right?!

Then there are the dads. These are the guys who probably eat and breathe sports. They have to really restrain themselves and frankly, they do better than the moms most of the time. They shout out the more technical things like position names and  foul plays. They encourage their own kid and everyone else’s too.

Here is what surprised me: I am more soccer mom than I thought possible.  There were a number of times I jumped up from my chair, waved my arms like crazed fan, yelled out encouraging words or a nice lil’ reminder for my sleepy-headed son to “WAKE UP”, cheered on every kid whose name I finally learned toward the end of the season.

I couldn’t believe how tense things got at times when they only needed one more goal to win it.  I wanted so much to channel my inner Jedi mind trick to push the ball up just a few inches further into the goal net. I felt a wee bit peeved at a couple refs who were clearly under-caffeinated as they missed obvious fouls like elbows to the ribs, a foot to the leg trip maneuver, or PUSHING! The hair on my arms might have bristled just a touch when the coach called my son out for day dreaming on the field (again).

Yep, I think I am getting the hang of this sports stuff. Maybe next year I will have a deluxe chair and actually leave for games in enough time to stop by Starbucks once in a while.

This I know for sure: I will keep my words positive and encouraging. I will not berate coaches or refs because I remember that these are people volunteering their time and effort for a thankless job. I will not criticize players because I remember that they are kids like my son and words mean something to their hearts far beyond a soccer field. I will never paint my face yellow and black to represent Hornets nor buy a themed umbrella. Nope. Not THAT much soccer mom.

white flag

I threw in my little “corner of a napkin on a toothpick” white flag, yet deep down I knew it wasn’t enough. That was a paltry excuse for surrender but it was all I could muster.

I had to be broken and emptied of all my own efforts before I would give in. Or was it give up? Yes, that was the word I was frightened of; the word that would convey that I had somehow lost my control or even {gulp} been overcome. In my mind the words surrender and defeat seemed synonymous. And I don’t go down easily- never without a fight.

Try as I might, I was unable to manipulate circumstances to my liking. I came at it from the guilt angle. I came at it from the fear angle. I came at it from the “learn form me and my mistakes” angle. Nothing worked.  The longer the battle drug on, I found the one thing that made me feel better- anger. I would shun him. I would stand in my corner with my guns drawn- my words were weapons and I used them unrelentingly. If I could injure enough, would he come back- hurt, defeated, humiliated? Would I conquer and overcome?

No. Just the opposite. Right before my very eyes there was withdrawal and disengagement- but not the kind you want. He was sauntering away from the battle lines with a self- satisfied kind of grin on his face. He was through with my antics and was about to walk away victorious- the one that was happier, more satisfied with life and in cool headed control. (Or so it would seem.)

That is when I did it. I picked up the white surrender flag and waved it furiously and unabashedly. My agenda was smashed. My will was turned. My battle plan- to control the situation, to have things turn out MY way, to put up my dukes and fight like I meant it- failed. He didn’t win though. God won. God had his way with my heart- finally.

Maybe this is your response in a trial or life situation. You are, like I did for so long, flicking in the itty-bitty white flag, thinking that’ll suffice; that all God needs is that little corner of your heart and will, not the WHOLE thing. To wholly surrender would be to lose: to lose your identity, your own dignity or self-satisfying sense of accomplishment. It would change everything and leave you feeling uncomfortably vulnerable, open to something that is scary and unknown.

Yes, that was me. That has been me so many times in life and for certain, I will be there again; grasping for control, asserting myself over something, someone or a situation. I will have to surrender to a holy plan, one that may not suit me or seem to make sense. But I know deep down that only wholly surrender will be the place of true solace, the place where the battle is not mine, but God’s, the place where giving in does not mean defeat, but true soul quenching rest.White Flag

man, oh man!

Staring.  I can’t help myself. The words sound like the “wah, wah, wah, wah” of the teacher on Peanuts cartoons. Everything feels a bit surreal and fuzzy.

Sitting across the table is a man. His eyes are still the vibrant blue of the sky on a sunny day. The pile of curly out of control hair on his head is representative of the phase he is in right now. Still an adolescent, but an adult in a few short days: my boy and yet a man.

I have to keep my mushy-gushy mommy emotions to myself. I’m no crier, but I do feel a haze of sadness creep over me. (It is more wrought by some disappointments at the moment and not by sentimentalities.)

His dad and I are at a special lunch having “the talk”- no, not that talk. That one happened years ago. This is harder but in a less awkward way. Our topic is a heart strings tugging one about what happens when he is an adult: how and what will change, how he lives within our home as a man and yet still our child. It is sticky business.

I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like this Sam I am. I do not like it one little bit. It makes me sad and want to throw a fit.  I will miss his antics here and there. I will miss the adventure that took us anywhere. I miss those carefree boyhood days. Not a fan of (some of) your manhood ways.

How did I get here, to this place? A flood of memories rushes in like the time lapse  films I’ve seen- overwhelming and beautiful all at once. Sensory overload. I am reminded of all the mistakes I’ve made- and it pains me to my very core. Then comes the sweet picture of the sleepy toddler cuddled against my chest. I can almost feel his baby soft skin as he contentedly sucks his thumb.

I am the mother of a man, but he wasn’t always one. Things will change from this day forward. Some changes I will welcome; others I will not. But one constant will remain: my deep abiding love for my firstborn son.