Thursday, February 19, 2015

What’s Your New Name? {Discipleship, Part 1}

I’m stuck this morning in my thoughts between my response to the beginning of Lent, all the awkward conversations going on in my house these days and how badly my floor needs sweeping right now.  Here I sit, needing to warm my coffee again, thinking I can’t go into the blushing dialogues bouncing off my walls and cleaning floors is beyond boring.  And, really, who wants to read about Lent?  I mean, I am one of the strange ones—and I’ll most likely have some things to say as I go through the season, but it’s day one {day two now that I am just posting} and all I’ll do is encourage you to ask Him if He’s calling you to participate.  Just a quiet invitation.

Traditionally, Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him.  {I think this is from Noel Piper.}

So there you go.  Consider yourself invited.

My kids love pictures.  They remember things— or think they remember things— because they’ve seen the pictures so many times.  Times with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends, recitals, vacations, “firsts”, camps, holidays and silliness around the house.  I know some of these snapshots will define their childhood one day- that only a few of these screens and screens of photos will stick with them and this is how they will remember growing up. Just certain snapshots.  It might be a good picture and it might not.

This is the “straighten up or I’ll point my finger at you again” finger.  Works every time. {I got that tactic from Sarah.}
Of course, we want any snapshot someone sees of our life to be a “good one”, yes?  And I think about raising my kids, watching them make choices, knowing that some snapshots are going to be…….less than I have prayed for.  I have a few of those from my own adolescent years.  Times I wish could be erased from friend’s memories or parent’s memories.  For my own kids’ sakes, I have to remember, I was “on my way” to becoming an adult.  I was “on my way” to learning to make good choices.  I was “on my way” to figuring out what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.  In SO many ways, I still am.  However, my kids are just beginning and I continue to pray for others to come along side me and disciple them in ways that will change the course of their lives.  Discipleship can make such a difference.  Allowing yourself to be challenged in and held accountable to the teachings of Jesus is life altering.

So thankful for Alyssa, Emily and Remey {below} who regularly invest love, time and sweet words into BOTH of our kids.

“Miss” Barbara from the Montessori preschool my kids attended-- an amazing lady who taught my kids volumes
I’ve always enjoyed reading about the disciple, Peter.  He was a man’s man, not afraid to speak his mind, fiercely defensive and as impulsive as they come.  The beautiful thing is that we get snapshots from Scripture of Peter “on the way” to becoming a devoted disciple of Christ. And from a few snapshots from the gospel of Mark, I see three main areas that are paramount in the discipling process— for anyone-especially me, but for now, my kids.  I’ll share just one this time.

Being discipled in the ways of Jesus can define define our kids’ purpose.

The first snapshot of Peter we see in Mark 8 is when we hear his confession of who he believes Jesus to be.  Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter simply states, “You are the Christ,” and in Matthew 16 he adds, “Son of the Living God”.  This is a big deal and a great moment for Peter.  You could say these words became a turning point in the history of salvation because Peter has declared that Jesus was NOT a forerunner of something else— but THE FULFILLMENT of all of God’s promises given throughout Israel’s roller coaster history.  He wasn’t a prophet— HE WAS THE PROPHESIED ONE.  Christ, Messiah.  He was finally here!

I think it’s worth getting a little more information here—and we get a little more detail from Matthew’s account and how Jesus affirms His unpredictable disciple, so right after his confession, Jesus says,“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

First thing I love here is that He acknowledges who Peter USED to be— BEFORE he became a disciple of Christ.  Don’t miss that Jesus called him to be one of His own before Peter was even “on the way”.  And then in verse 18, - second thing I love- Jesus confirms who He sees Peter becoming— a rock {petros}— and, at this point, Peter was anything but a rock.  Peter was impulsive and unstable.  Simon, son of Jonah to Peter- a rock.  Jesus had a purpose for calling Peter to be one of the 12 and He uses this opportunity to remind him.  He saw Peter becoming a strong, persevering leader.  Just by calling Peter by his new name, reminding him in this moment, He is defining Peter’s purpose of playing a significant role in the founding of the early church— the vehicle through which the gospel was spread all over the world.

I think, as parents, we can all see the value of kids knowing their purpose— even if it’s just for temporal tasks.  They are more focused.  They show more devotion to the task.  They are more satisfied when it’s completed.  As discipling parents, we get to be catalysts in helping them discover the eternal purposes God has for them- in every season, preparing them for their eventual life calling.  Following Jesus defines our purpose.  He defines our kids’ purpose.  We don’t.  He chooses what new name to call them.  We don’t.

This woman, Christy, who prays regularly for my two.
This one- Denise-- discipled and is still discipling me and now loves my daughter in eternal ways.

How did following Jesus change Peter?  How did Jesus define Peter’s purpose?  In Acts 2, after Jesus ascends to heaven, Peter is the first one recorded to speak to the followers of Christ who were all gathered together. Then in Acts 10, he proclaims the gospel of Jesus so clearly and so passionately, it makes you want to jump up and down because HE GOT IT!!  For us to read in the gospels where he was and then read how Jesus changed him, we get to see Peter leading the early church,  fulfilling his purpose — as defined by Jesus.

From Simon, son of Jonah to Peter— a rock.  The confession on which Christ would build his church.

Many of you know, for several years, my name was Barren and now it’s Momma.  One of his purposes for me was to raise two kids from two other girls’ wombs.  But we had to choose His way and not ours.  He defined my purpose.  Not me.

I also have an old name of Rule Keeper that I have to keep erasing off the top of my paper.  My new name is Grace Receiver.  Early on in marriage, He defined my purpose to live out grace giving and receiving in the context of family relationships and community.

So what about you? Or your kids? What did He used to call you and what do you hear Him calling you now?  Your kids?  Has he revealed that to you?  If you are a disciple of Christ, what new name is God calling you that helps define your purpose?  What does He call you now that He sees you becoming?  Do you sense what new name He may be speaking over your kids?

As we understand MORE of who Christ is, the MORE we understand what He requires of us.  As we follow Him, He defines our purpose.  Whether He gives us big picture or just marching orders for the day, He defines our purpose for living.

Let Him define your purpose-- and your kids’ purpose.  Listen for your new name.  And theirs.

And grandparents can never know the security that comes to children through being loved no matter what.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Middle School: Coaching and Bananas

Maybe I’ve said this before— as your kids get older, it’s harder to write about parenting.  Not because there is nothing to say, but because, now, a larger filter is in place being that the kids are older.  Parenting is SO much of what fills my time, mind and heart, but there are stories that just can’t be told. Conversations that can’t be shared.  Enlightening moments for a momma that won’t be divulged….. for years maybe.  Not here anyway.  And this is why my writing has slowed.  The words I would have normally written a few years ago are the words spoken to Jeff in the quiet house once the kids are tucked away in their rooms.  In the den over coffee.  Between our pillows as we fall asleep.  On the phone when I get a moment in the car by myself.  As a parent, you know, there is much to discuss.  And much to be bewildered by.

And with an 11 and 13 year old, our roles have been shifting for the last two to three years.  Less control, more freedom, more choices, more scratching our heads wondering, “why that choice exactly?” or “what were you thinking?” or “do they think we aren’t on to that??”  I still have much of the same role I’ve had for years but spending more time “coaching” seems to be where I find myself.  I cannot anticipate every little scenario they will experience or think through all the things they will need to know regarding— well, fill in the blank!  Texting curfews, participating in “selfie competitions”, clearly defining “short”, hacking texted conversations on the shared family phone, wearing t-shirts longer than shorts, watching a YouTube video at a friend’s house ABOUT a game they aren’t supposed to play on the X-Box etc.  I told someone the other day, you can hold back only so much for only so long but at some point, it feels like a tidal wave and you’ve got no choice but to face it and swim.  Whatever it is you’ve been holding back, it’s coming and you’ve really got to prepare yourself.  I’ve written much on this— even not too long ago— so let me get back to this new role thing.  Coaching.

That first day of school when she wanted her hair straightened, when he desperately needed a hair cut and his shorts needed ironing....  I got the hair straightened.  

When they don’t run the plays like I have called them over the years, I want to revert back to control- due to fear, wondering if they will ever “get it”.  What will this same mistake look like in five years?  I think, all the time, “Haven’t we had extensive conversations regarding this very thing?  Didn’t we just talk about this yesterday— or this morning?”  As frustrating as that IS, I want them to have many chances to run those same plays while under our roof.  And I want to see them get it right.  Not for me, but for themselves.  For them to see the difference in a poor choice and a wise one.  For them to experience what it feels like each time they get it wrong or get it right.  For themselves.  So they will know it personally— what bears good fruit and what is just rotten.

It’s funny— we have been studying King Solomon for a few weeks during breakfast.  We know there are some really great things about him and how later in his life, he kind of lost his head.  That’s putting it mildly.  We are just at the good part now but Scripture just nails you —-nails your kids.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable I was the other morning, reading through the material and asking the questions minutes after a confrontation regarding one of my kid’s integrity.  I almost felt sorry for this child because the questions were so pointed.  “What is King Solomon’s advice on being kind and truthful? What is King Solomon’s wisdom about accepting discipline when you need it?  What is King Solomon’s wisdom about listening to parents?”  Ouch and ouch.  Each question asked after the applicable Scripture was read.  I couldn’t have tailored made it any more fitting for the crime at hand that morning.  I was sure to turn the book so the kids could see I wasn't making it up.  But even in their squirming, they talked.  For this I am grateful.

Can I tell you how much I love these NAKED faces from two years ago?!?

That time you took a really cute picture with your best friend and had your eyes closed-- 

Even though all the words and all the reminders can wear me out, I really just want to keep the conversations going.  Because of that, I feel a big part of my job is not to shut them down.  Therefore, I must choose my words carefully as things spill out of their growing-ever-more-clever mouths.  Do you know how fast I am capable of flipping their switch to OFF?  When I see the look of irritation or disrespect on their face before “Umm, Mom” is uttered— and my coolness is emitted.  Or at the latest, in mid-sentence.  Because I head in to correct the first wrong thinking I hear.  Talk about needing a muzzle.  I have a friend whose kids are long gone from the home now but she told me about all the bananas she’d eat while in the kitchen listening to her teenage girls go on about their days.  She’d stick a banana in her mouth {quickest thing to grab} to keep her mouth shut and just listen to them.  She’d go about her business, thinking through all she’d heard and when the time was right, she’d bring up the things that concerned her.  Giving them the safe place to talk—openly, freely— and keeping her words at bay until a better moment— was the wise thing to do.

That time you painted your face for the homecoming game and maybe didn’t even watch the game.....
Middle school is prime-time parenting.  There is no coasting here.  Deciding on the deal breakers ahead of time is critical and that’s not as easy as you’d think.  Of course, things laid out in Scripture are non-negotiables but the things that aren’t specifically mentioned in Scripture that might LEAD to something questionable, something contrary to what the Bible teaches-- bam-- you’ve got me.  I’m all a muddle and I need wisdom from the Lord.  Unshackle the legalistic tendencies and pray for His clear direction.

These kids are STUCK in the middle of “young” and “grown up” and it’s not fun.  None of us thought it was fun.  And yes, so much of the foundation has been laid by now but now we get to watch them build on it—- with solid, tried and true material or with who knows what?  It might be a joy or it could be very painful or heart breaking.  In those observations, I am trying to figure out this coaching role— not stepping in where it’s not a deal breaker or when I feel there is a valuable lesson to be learned and finding those moments when hearts are soft and open for a little advice.  Even though I am not a huge banana fan, I can learn to love them if it means my kids having a safe place to express their thoughts and try out some ideas.

So if you ever wonder why I haven’t posted in a while, picture me standing in my kitchen listening to at least one middle schooler who is perched on my kitchen counter— with a banana in my mouth.  ; )

{Please feel free to share any insights into this transitional role for parents-- especially those of you who have already made the leap to teenagers.  We are listening!!}

{Also, here are more succinct and eloquent thoughts from Sandra Stanley-- Andy’s wife from Northpoint Church.  My friend, TJ, sent this to me as an encouragement as she knew I had been processing some of this.  Her blog is GREAT- easy, quick reads packed with practical wisdom.  One more resource on this subject-- Focus on the Family just aired these 2 broadcasts-- check them out.}

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Letter to a Thirteen Year Old Girl: Julia’s Birthday Letter 2015

Dearest Julia,   Happy 13th Birthday! We’ve celebrated for a solid week and now I can sit down and write you a letter.  {Mark this down— your letter will NEVER be ready BEFORE your birthday.}  You said it best yourself, “I don’t FEEL thirteen.”  I don’t FEEL like I now have a teenager in the house.  Yes, you are growing up, but I hate to tell you, I will always picture you with brunette curls framing that perfect heart- shaped face and warm brown eyes peering at EVERYTHING going on around you trying to figure it all out.  We hit the ground running with you because you were WIDE awake when you got here, girl, and that hasn’t changed.  You don’t miss much and because of that, I can’t either.

This was the year you received sweet, life-giving words from some of our favorite moms.  {Not all, but some.}  You had a lot to take in that Tuesday morning but you did it with such quietness and grace.  I didn’t get everything right that morning, but you did.  {I was the blundering Martha and you were the calm Mary.}  You listened.  You smiled and made eye contact.  And you said, “Thank you”.  And one thing I love about you— I walked in on you in your room reading the letters a day or two later.  You are like me in that way.  You like words— no, you LOVE words.  Those letters will be a treasure to you, won’t they?  You will wind up knowing some of them by heart.

So, it’s my turn and I will try to keep it short this year since you’ve been given such gifts of wisdom from our friends.  Two words, sweet girl of mine.  Just two.  Kindness and Truth.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.  Proverbs 3:3

Kindness.  We’ve not had near enough of that in our family.  I don’t know how it happens but mornings turn into a bundle of rush, the days into an announcement of tasks— and then you have a week, a month and then, a year.  Were we kind to one another?  How many snapshots of kindness do any of us remember?  I don’t want us to have difficulty remembering these moments in our family.  I want kindness to be THE character of our interactions.  I’ve told you many times, if you can be kind here at home, to those you are with the most, to those who have a tighter hold of your heart strings, to those who know your buttons better than anyone, you can be kind anywhere.  I see you learning that— and sometimes it’s painful.  My prayer is that the relationships in our home are characterized by kindness.

One more thing, Julia. Treat those you love and also, those you don’t with kindness.  It’s the most beautiful you can be— to be kind.  You know what this looks like and you know how attractive it is.  I pray you will be reminded to sparkle and shine with the light of kindness in all your circles, especially with your girlfriends, especially at this age.  All of you are looking for words of affirmation, words of kindness, mostly regarding your appearance.  I challenge you to give those words freely but think of their hearts.  Figure out how to genuinely lavish them with words of kindness that will enrich their hearts.  Their outfit or hairstyle will be different tomorrow but the longings of their hearts will be the same.  Serve them up some kindness.

And then- second word- live your life founded on, rooted in, anchored on, clinging to, walking in — the Truth that never changes when everything around you might.  What the culture says changes with Facebook likes.  You will find inconsistencies coming from people you respect and admire {Be careful where you allow your esteem to land!}.  Your friends’ opinions will change overnight.  You may, at times, think your Dad and I have changed our minds, when, in fact, we really have!  But please TAKE GREAT COMFORT that His Word, His Truth never changes.  When you need the feeling of solid ground under your feet, let Scripture be home base.  It’s unchangeable.

May His Spirit remind you that you have Truth as a Guide for your life and you never have to wonder if it’s the best for you.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Hunger for more of it.  Love it.  The Truth can be such a comfort in this unpredictable life.  I cannot shout this loud enough from a mountain high enough or even repeat it too many times.  Catch the bug for His Word and you are going to be just fine.

On a more trendy note— Instagram.  Yes, you got an account.  After many conversations and many months of waiting, we did it.  Enjoy it.  Like your friends’ pictures, take pictures, celebrate fun moments, brag on your friends but don’t take it too seriously.   When you find yourself dwelling on the numbers, it’s time to sign off for a while.  When you find relationships are getting tattered or even unraveling, it’s time to put it down.  When you find it taking cheap shots at your insecurities or blurring the identity Christ has covered you with, it’s time to put it down.  When you find yourself wanting to promote yourself, we need to talk.  That’s a tricky line— one I have most likely crossed at times.  You want to share something but your motive is fuzzy.  Just don’t.  Let’s just talk through it and decide together.

I am so very proud of you.  I am honored to be your mother.

I love you more than I could ever express.

P.S.  I didn’t keep it short.  I can never keep it short.

Goodbye, Twelve.  Hello, Thirteen!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Friend’s Letter to Julia, 2008

It’s birthday week around here.  My firstborn is turning 13!!!  Yikes-a-bikes!  Seriously.  Nothing prepares you for this passage of time.  However, aside from the time warp I feel like we are in,  I’ve got NO complaints.  I have a birthday letter to write but before that, I want to share this with you.  My friend, TJ, writes over here at Lift My Noise and she gave me this letter in 2008 to tuck away until I wanted to share it with Julia.  So now is the time and I thought you might enjoy it too.  TJ’s awfully gracious with her words but I’ve snowed her pretty good over the years.  She takes all my stuff with a grain of salt, knowing my dependency on Christ is my survival.  All these years.  Grab a tissue.  It’s one of those.

 Precious Julia,
At the time of this writing, you are a little over six years old with the maturity of a much older child. I have had the privilege of observing you through the eyes of an invested friend since your birth. It was a JOY for Corbin and me to travel to Shreveport in January 2002 for your birth, to hear “every detail” of your birth and adoption in that little motel room straight from the lips of your excited momma and daddy in the presence of your smiling and graceful great-grandmother, Julia.

We were all new to this parenthood thing - all testing out brand new wings that had yet to fly very far, and we did so with nervous trepidation that accompanies taking on such a deep, eternal role as motherhood and fatherhood, but also with an exhilarating glee and excitement knowing that all was right with the world now that we held these babies in our arms.

I tease your mom and dad - mostly your dad - about their first attempts at buckling you into your infant carrier. Still in Shreveport, we were preparing to leave for dinner one evening at a local casino - an appropriate first meal out for the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher. We heard a shuffling commotion from the corner, and your mama and daddy were both bent over your tiny body in the infant carrier, struggling to get you placed securely with the straps just right. Now let me tell you, infant carriers can be confusing. But not that confusing. I instinctively walked over to examine their progress - I think your daddy had broken out in a sweat - and almost fell over laughing. Your dad, in a moment of technical deprivation, had somehow wedged you into your snug car seat without ever unbuckling any buckles or straps. And this wasn’t the first time you’d been wrangled into the thing!
I had known your mom for nearly a year before you were born. She was elegant and calm and glamorous and carried herself as stately as Audrey Hepburn. But in the days right after your birth (and a few times since) I have seen her frazzled and dizzy with the learning curves motherhood throws. She’s still mostly elegant and calm and glamorous, but I believe there’s a little more vulnerability to her stately demeanor that the Lord has crafted in her through you and Brighton. I’ve seen her proud as a peacock bursting with news of you reading your first word. She was amused you wanted to learn cursive so quickly and bypass manuscript altogether. And she’s been astounded with the depth and longevity of your memory.

Adoption Day-- 6 months later, it was official on paper
There are two reasons I’m writing you this letter, Julia. One, is to communicate as best as I can the depth of love your mom holds for you. She was an amazing lady before you came to be her daughter (I’m seeing that even more as I get to know your grandmother and Uncle Blake and hearing stories from your mom’s childhood - she’s always been a bright star), but she came alive after your birth. You were truly a dream come true. An undeserving gift from the Lord. She prayed for and longed for you years before you were even conceived. I’ll never forget holding little Hudson at your mom’s desk before your birth, and the hutch was completely adorned with note cards in your mom’s handwriting claiming God’s promises and faithfulness. This was right about the time they learned you would soon come dancing and giggling into their home. But these Scripture-filled notecards were written weeks and months and years before that, a visual comfort from the Lord to your momma that He sees and is faithful and trustworthy.  You were at the heart of those Scriptures, Julia.

As you mature, I can see you are the exact, perfect, God-created daughter for your momma. You are so similar to her - your love for order, your admiration of pretty things, your outgoing personality combined with a need for time alone, your acute awareness of your surroundings, your attention to detail, your tenacity, your competitive spirit, and your steel trap of a mind that locks in everything ... pretty soon we’ll need an “” website. You are also like your mom in your contemplative spirit. If something bothers you, really bothers you, instead of spewing out questions, you’ll likely bury your head and think on it - maybe for days - before bringing it up again. Eventually that will be a significant strength - harnessing self control to think on difficult issues before broadcasting them to everyone around you.

As you grow, I pray your contemplating becomes a form of prayer - that you make a habit of instinctively taking everything to God for direction and clarity. To see through His lenses. I can assure you that both your mom and your dad are in this habit. And most of the time your mom can maintain self control. And in addition to prayers, I pray that you know you can talk with your mom about anything. She is a good listener and wants to know the depths of your heart. But remember also that if she responds too quickly and harshly, give her another chance. I promise you, Julia, your mom wants nothing more than for you to come to her with anything and to be able to talk openly. She knows you are not just like her, and doesn’t expect you to be. And she’s teachable. She will learn great things about love and friendship and God from you. She already has.

The second reason I’m writing you today is to encourage you to embrace your story. Embrace this dynamic, blossoming narrative of who God has made you and give yourself freedom to bloom brilliantly. Look at all God has given you: big brown eyes, a sharp intellect, a smiling and earnest little brother who adores you, weekends at the lake on your daddy’s boat, summer vacations at the beach, beautiful hands with long slender fingers, a mom who (for now, anyway) chooses to give you the  privilege of learning at home and from her teaching, amazing grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and a great, contagious laugh. God did not create you to look just like your friends, Atlee and Isabella and Annalisa and Basden. He made your appearance unique and lovely and special. He also didn’t create you to have the same birth story as these friends. He gave you a unique platform through adoption to bless other people and point them to the goodness of God.

I am so grateful for your story of adoption, because it shows God’s creativity and faithfulness and overflowing abundance. He allowed your birth mother, Sarah, to give up something so dear that she’ll never go a day without considering that beautiful, very difficult choice. It blessed your momma in ways that we’ll never understand, we won’t see the ripples of blessing really until Heaven. And your story blesses me and my family in the process. What in the world would we do without Julia in our lives?!

As you know, your mom is an amazing woman AND an amazing mommy. She dreamed of you for years as the Lord gave her a unique opportunity to trust Him for His best - that  He created her to be the perfect mommy to Julia and Brighton. You are beautiful, Julia, and your story is beautiful. It’s no surprise that the Lord drew your heart to Him at such a young age. He is beautiful in you. I love you!

TJ, pouring more kind words into Julia’s heart and mind- affirming her story.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Brighton and the Worldwide Web

No surprise here but it has always amazed me how easily words have flown from Brighton’s mouth.  They may be words I will cherish all my days or words that have earned unpleasant consequences.  He is never short on verbiage and never short of the courage to speak them— for good or for bad or for the sheer joy of having a voice in his small world.  Add these free flowing words to his sense of justice for all and it can get interesting.  A few years back I remember telling you of his seriousness of calling “Mr. Saxon” to prove to him the math key was “incorrect”.  “Mrs. Shurley” was threatened as well because the grammar key was “faulty”.  I feigned phone calls as he looked on with sheer terror— to call his bluff.  So as all of our kids grow up, we wonder, “What’s that going to look like when he’s older?”  “How do we help coach that now so it’s a strength for him and not an annoying weakness?”  While I am certainly looking for ways to navigate his many words on the healthiest trajectory, I can still chuckle when I see this come out in him in ways I hadn’t thought of yet.

He got a Kindle for Christmas.  The verdict is still out on that— whether it was a good idea or not.  {Isn’t it tradition that parents do ridiculous things in the name of Christmas?!} It has all sorts of restrictions, places for parental passwords and all that jazz— and while I think I am pretty tech savvy {I keep telling myself that.}, I cannot figure out how to separate MY stuff from HIS stuff.  However, being connected definitely has its advantages because EVERYTHING he does or downloads comes straight to my email.

This came up a couple of days ago…


Short and simple and poorly punctuated— and his being the one who wanted to argue with Mrs. Shurley. Really?  His irritation could not be held back. His voice had to be heard.  Justice for all.  So he typed that pitiful review—- under MY account.   My favorite part is “We and millions of shoppers on Amazon appreciate the time you took to write about….” lalalalalala… {italics mine}. All of his 3 seconds in lower-case negativity.

So this is B.  Enlightening “millions” on bad deals.  Games that don’t do anything.  Something that really matters to an 11 year old boy.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Filling in the Blanks, or Not

As I clean up and clean out this week, I keep looking at this blank chalkboard on my mantle.  Christmas verse now erased away,  I am thinking of this new year stretched out in squares—- 30 or so at a time, 12 pages.  I’m not ready to put anything on my chalkboard, nor do I wish to fill in any blank spaces, nor am I ready to crack open those pages to see what they already hold.  I kind of know, but I am not ready to get really familiar with it yet.  This first week of 2015, I am enjoying the “blank”, as contrived as it may be.

You can’t read a book or see a movie like Unbroken without talking about it.  My mom demonstrated that a few years ago when she finished the book— telling me all about it to the point I felt like it would silly for me to read it. Then, Jeff’s brother read it and he recounted it all in more detail as we sat on the beach with him one summer.  I felt VERY familiar with Louie Zamperini’s story.  I was a fool.  Once the movie was announced, I felt I needed to read the book.  After the first few pages, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long.  And then I understood why people have to talk about it.  Jeff heard all about it.  I read him page after page after page of things so unreal, I could not keep it to myself.  I could not.   You must read it.  You must see it.  The book fills in all the holes of which the movie is full, but the film is excellent -it’s just not the complete story.   Anyway, one of the hundreds of things I found intriguing about the men afloat the rafts is how the time and silence affected their brains and memories.

Laura Hillenbrand writes— so wonderfully, I might add, “Given how badly the men’s bodies were faring, it would seem likely that their mind, too, would begin to fail.  But more than five weeks into their ordeal, both Louie and Phil were enjoying remarkable precision of mind, and were convinced that they were growing sharper every day.”

“Louie found that the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge.  He had never recognized how noisy the civilized world was.  Here, drifting in almost total silence, with no scents other than the singed odor of the raft, no flavors on his tongue, nothing moving but the slow procession of the shark fins, every vista empty save water and sky, his timed unvaried and unbroken, his mind was freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed on it.  In his head, he could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple.  He could stay with a thought for hours, turning it about.”

Does anyone else find that fascinating?  He and his pilot, Phil, would quiz each other, telling stories to the most minute detail, describing recipes and entire meals being prepared and teaching songs to one another.  Their memory “became infinitely more nimble, reaching back further, offering detail that had once escaped him.”

There are moments in the book that are hard to explain if you don’t use God to explain them.  His protection, His mercy, His holding out hope to Louie, His Presence— and this clarity of mind, this deep focus, I believe, all of these were a gift to him.

I am seriously NOT interested in being on a raft for 47 days and traveling 2000 seemingly aimless miles, but what Louie experienced in his thoughts reminded me of the mystery- and power- of being quiet, pulling away from all the distractions for a period of time.  For anyone.  Just a few hours even.  Definitely, a discipline.  For our minds to be “freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed upon it” might seem impossible for anyone living today in “normal” circumstances.  We cannot escape it.  Civilization is good.  Men have died for it.  We have responsibilities and commitments— God-given— good, life giving things.  But we can learn quietness, trust and rest.

Burden and constraint come with civilization, but God also tells us to  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 Also, the prophet Isaiah spoke these words, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

Will I have some of it?  Will you?  There is something strong and good and right about being quiet.  About resting.  We speak much of repentance but do we speak as much of rest?  Rest for our souls?  Unusual, powerful things — things to which we aren’t accustomed— happen when we pull away for periods of time to find quiet.  To turn a thought about.  To ponder.  To hear from our Heavenly Father.  To get our marching orders for the day, the year.  To remember details of things we have been taught in the past.   To see new insights into a favorite Scripture.

My chalkboard is blank.  My calendar, like yours, is not.  However, in those pages of 2015, I am committed to finding rest for my soul, to feel the strength that comes from trusting in Him, to experience quietness in my spirit with Him.  I want some of it.  Do you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Parenting: My Apples, His Basket

Happy Almost Christmas Break!  Counting down the days over here.  I started this post LAST week and well, you know, it’s December.  I put it aside to feed my family or something important like that, I am sure.  I am SO enjoying getting all the cards in the mail, seeing everyone’s photos, how the children have grown and the creative ways we are wished a Merry Christmas!  The mailbox is NEVER as much fun as it is during the month of December.  I got mine out over the weekend— a homemade job with a tripod and a remote control.  I really TRIED to have a bonafide photographer to “make” our picture {that was for you, House Full of Boys}, but I really just waited too late.  I debated on the letter but that argument in my head will probably happen every year just like it has happened every year before this one.  As the kids get older, the harder the letter is to write.  There is a fine line between “Read how incredibly awesome my kids are” and “Read this completely boring update on my family”.  Maybe the line is not so fine— but it’s hard to fall somewhere between “sleep aid” and “informative, not braggy and worth the read”.  Anyway, it’s out there and of course, after I’ve sent out “x” number, I begin to second guess even the smallest lines in the letter.

I’ve had this conversation with a handful of friends over the last few months and I was thinking of those when I put in my letter that as Julia reaches being a teenager, we are blazing new trails in parenting.  Not that parents have never raised teenagers before- duh— but that as parents in 2014, the smart phone era, high heels in the children’s department {thongs (!!!!!!!??!!} among other things}, the ever-expanding social media creature, Wifi access everywhere we turn and on and on and on— I FEEL like we ARE blazing trails never trod before— and NEXT year will look different from THIS year.  I’ve spoken with parents not much farther along than we are who really can’t speak to the decisions we have to make regarding JUST social media.  Even Instagram isn’t what it was just a year ago.  Obviously, different parents will make different choices for their kids — that will always be— but I can’t even seem to find a small consistency among my favorite parents, like a pattern or a trusty formula.  {Formulas are so comforting but SO NOT good in parenting.}  So this post is not about “8 things to consider before giving your kids a smart phone or high heels, or wear makeup or play popular video games, or have an Instagram account, or have Wifi in their rooms or watch a certain show or read a certain book series— and a gajillion other things ” because, you know what?  That wears me out and my energy needs to be spent elsewhere.

Their hearts.  That’s where.  That wellspring of life King Solomon talks about.  {“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4:23}  What springs up from that well today and 5, 10, 30 years from now is a REALLY big deal.  I don’t know about you but it’s so much easier to just tell them to stop— because it’s annoying- or just say “No” to whatever it is they want— because it’s, well, annoying  —rather than engaging their hearts to find out what is really going on and from where the desire is coming or from what does the disobedience stem?  Who has time for that during the school morning rush, or between afternoon activities— or who has the energy for that after dinner is cooked and the kitchen is clean or after the game or practice or at bedtime?  But that’s the work of parenting, yes?  It’s those moments- when I know it’s a heart issue- that I have to “self preach” and remind myself that I signed up for this and investing the time in conversations that make a bee line for the heart COULD be a game changer.  Every time I stop and do MORE THAN just put an end to a behavior, more than just dole out a consequence for disobedience or more than attempt to suppress an unhealthy desire will NOT make difference, but some stops will.  The ones that touch the heart will.  {Just a little pressure to always be on our A-game, right?}  How about, instead, a little encouragement for dependency on Christ 24/7?  And that’s where I am today— trusting in my Savior to do His work.  I can’t make them see how the gospel intersects their lives EVERYDAY.  I can’t change the heart.  I can’t form repentance.  Oh, but He can and I am counting on Him.  All my apples are going into His basket.  {I am self preaching, here, in case you were wondering.}

I remember moving out of the rental house on Clover and being MOR.TI.FIED at the amount of stuff under Julia’s trundle bed.  Oh, yes, there were onlookers.  Mounds, I tell you.  I am not sure how it all was under there but in the midst of the plunder/trash, I saw my handwriting— lots of it on a couple of sheets of paper.  It was a letter I had written to her in response to something hard she had shared with me.  Friends— this letter was a spectacular parenting moment— I mean, right up there with the likes of James Dobson or Vicki Courtney.  I nailed it. Thought so anyway.  And that day, it was trash under the bed, most likely, never to be read, or thought of, again.

It reminds me of HOW dependent I am on the Holy Spirit’s work in my kids’ lives.  I blur the lines so often— trying to BE the Spirit for them, attempting to change outward behavior, pushing them towards the Word—not that we can’t, as parents, encourage our kids to read God’s Word, but one day, I trust I will see them HUNGER and THIRST for His Word from their own soul.  Not mine. All on their own.  His Word can do the work we, their parents, cannot even fathom.  Greater.  Higher.  More profound.  Gentler.  Kinder.  Stronger.  More beautiful.  Bolder.  More fruit than we could ever ask for or imagine.  To HIM be the glory and honor.  He is good.

My apples.  His basket.  Absolutely.