Monday, July 27, 2009

Rain


I heard the voice of Folly whisper in my daughter’s ear the other day…..literally. When I said “no” to an inconvenient play date, I heard her friend, who at 7 has yet to acquire a skill for discreetness, suggest that Julia could sneak out of the house to play any way. Hmmmmm……. She’s seven so I didn’t freak out, but later, when we were alone, Julia wanted to know how that would work……… “sneaking out”. Thankfully, my explanation reeked of foolishness to her because she knew I would miss her eventually. Absolutely, I would.
That particular afternoon I had the unusual privilege of hearing the voice with my own two ears, barely two feet away. So how many times does she hear it in my absence and decide to keep it to herself- hiding the key to the ongoing diary in her developing mind? Of course, I have no way of knowing how much foolishness there is floating around in her little head—some carefully concocted on her own, some just out of nowhere. I am helpless- and feeling every bit of it- to pull it out myself, dissect it and give her a three point talk on WHY it is foolish.

I was with a friend over the weekend who brought to my attention how affected I am by a story. I finish a book and I can’t leave it alone. I rehash it, reread it and retell it to whoever will listen. There has been a book on my night stand for almost a year waiting to become my “beach read” for the summer. I knew it would be good, but before I could finish the prologue, it had lodged itself comfortably in my most sentimental places. Wrapped in Rain is the story and now I want to be a little God -fearing woman who two little boys, and later two grown men, refer to as “Momma Ella”. She was not their “Momma” in the regular sense of the word, but she filled the shoes and burst the seams. I set out to read something entertaining and engaging –check, check—but sitting there reading to the tune of rolling waves, I was forced to look at my parenting style and my expectations of my children from every vantage point. It may be the best “parenting book” I have ever read surprising me with its guise of paperback fiction.
This gigantic character of “Momma Ella” gave me plenty on which to ponder- her faith, her prayerfulness, her devotion, her creativity, her consistency, her wisdom, and her patience which seemed to have no end. I found comfort in the fact that she was just a person created on paper because otherwise, I might be guilty of stalking or worse, idol worship. With obstacles none of us even dream of (and if we did, it would only come in the form of a nightmare), Miss Ella Rain figured out how to secretly dish out Biblical instruction that was palatable and age appropriate for the boys she was raising. She loved them fiercely even though she was merely employed by the family. She vowed to protect them no matter what and more than once, actually found out what “no matter what” looked and felt like. And last, and most certainly not the least, she made sure she threw the baseball with them any time they asked. What captivated me most though, was Momma Ella’s tongue. Oh my. Apples of gold in settings of silver. The words that rolled off her tongue were always “aptly spoken”—from times the boys blatantly disobeyed her clear instructions to times they would crawl through her window during the blackness of night because they were scared. She was constantly praying for them, battling for them, filling their minds with Truths from God’s Word- principles to guide them, light to show them the way. Even when they knew they were in trouble—big trouble—they would run to Miss Ella because they knew hers was the voice they needed to hear…... wanted to hear. Her words would steer them straight and make all things right in their horrific world. In Miss Ella’s arms, those two boys found grace.
Challenged with every page, I kept telling myself she was just a character in a book- a make believe person that “worked” for the author’s plot until I read that the inspiration for Miss Ella Rain was the author’s own mother. Drats. A woman like that really existed somewhere out there and that reality served me a mixture of conviction and accountability. Then I had some real thinking to do and so it began there on the beach with my toes squished in the sand and has gone on since I read to the end of page 368.
I was impressed that my job is most certainly to pour in the Truth giving Julia and Brighton the plumb line to hold up against the folly of this world as it wafts it way into their ears from the four corners of their ever expanding world. Obviously, the first thing is I must have something in my pitcher to pour. The hours I spend alone with God are invaluable and indispensable for me and the parenting of my children. Spending time in His Presence and in His Word guarantees me something to offer them. I have no excuse for slacking on their spiritual instruction. It is a non-negotiable.
I also realized that no matter how much Biblical instruction I give them, I won’t ever be able to control what choices they make. The best thing I can do is to pray for them and, in love, saturate their minds with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy so that when folly comes strolling along, they are struck by the STARK contrast and sense the Spirit’s still voice.
Julia did tell me of another time when someone spoke absolute foolishness to her. Upon finding out that Julia was adopted into our family, the little girl made up this far-fetched and tragic story about my Julia’s first days out of the womb. What shocked me even more was that I didn’t hear about it until 24 hours later. Interestingly enough, I found that she was quite unaffected by it because she knew the truth of her beginnings because she’s heard it every year on her birthday from her Daddy plus many times in between. She trusts what we have told her to be true, so the tale the little girl told was nothing but that, a tale. I can pray for the same discernment between wisdom and folly- that Christ’s voice through me will help establish that in Julia and Brighton.
I was also reminded that I want to be the voice that Julia and Brighton long to hear- even when they have chosen “folly”. My mouth has to be offering something refreshing and life giving -- not confining, shaming words for the sake of control or appearance. They need words to live by, not words from which to hide. They need words that point them to the Truth, not words that make it hard to believe the Truth. I need to give them a reason to seek me out when things haven’t turned out just so. They need to know grace will be found at home- sensible consequences, yes, but also overdoses of grace.
Folly’s voice is loud right now—deafening, at times and always competing for listening ears. What is mine like? I know what I want it to be--calm, consistent wisdom which whets their appetites causing them to long for more. I also know this type of voice only comes by regularly experiencing sweet fellowship with Christ. I think the greatest discipline of parents is abiding. Nothing about me is calm and consistent, much less wise, apart from Him. In my flesh, my best voice to Julia and Brighton is nice, but while abiding in His Spirit, my voice is everything they need and want. Refreshing and life giving. A little bit like Rain. Folly can’t compete with that.

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it." Isaiah 45:8

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St. George Island, 2009

We celebrated the summer's half way mark on my family's annual beach trip. There is always plenty of foolishness, card playing and the finest of food but a few things that made this year a little unique are the bacon bomb (a.k.a. Go Ahead and Make an Appointment for an Angioplasty), a lost tooth, homemade tortilla chips, RAIN, beach crafts, the magic money cup, Mom on the beach, amazing card comebacks, sore losers (all male under the age of ..........what are you Blake, 41?), "Is there an app for that?" and stolen, excuse me, borrowed jet ski trailers.

Here are some of our favorite pictures!


The best we look all week!


Where it all happens........


Interested onlookers as Brayden lost his first tooth!





Christmas present's first flight





My two favorite head shots of the kids








Brighton trying his hand at Bill's stunt kite


The only place I will pay full price for a book-- this year, Secret Garden and Little Oink


The entrance of this year's "fort"

Oops!












Testosterone break-- 1st picture- guy would throw frisbee from beach and jet ski guys would try to catch it. 2nd picture- 2 guys having a BALL


B had WAY too much having his picture taken this year!




The darling face those hands above belong to




???? You tell me.....










Monday, July 6, 2009

Welcome to the Passenger Side

Since 1993, our second Christmas together and our first one in Texas, Jeff and I have been taking road trips yearly. From newlyweds with no kids to married 17 years with a 5 and a 7 year old--- nothing even faintly reminds me of our trips from the decade of the 90’s be- bopping down the road listening to Steven Curtis Chapman’s CD Signs of Life, sleeping whenever we wanted and having not a clue how badly we needed a Starbucks.

We make this 12-15 hour trip (depending on our southeastern destination) twice, sometimes three times a year, so, with kids, we have driven it about twenty times. We’ve driven all night, we’ve driven all day, and on a few occasions we’ve taken two days to do it. Ideas have shifted from not having to come up with any ideas, to calculating how many diapers, changes of clothes, toys, formula and bottles we’d need on the road and presently, to deciding if I have enough tiny, gender/age appropriate, car friendly activities stuffed into their Steralite road trip totes.

Of the thousands of miles spent rolling down I-20, there are a few trips that stand out in particular—the summer I was armed with antibacterial wipes in my back pocket when Julia was newly potty trained, the one when we lost a Croc at the Chevron, the humbling trip I arrived at the beach barely able to sit because I had contorted my back in ways never meant for a human being, the pre-kids ride involving a box cutter and lots of blood, the time we sneaked out of the beach house at 3 a.m. and headed home because Jeff had a bad case of insomnia, the trip to Soperton for Christmas when Brighton wasn’t even 2 months old and my Mom and my Grandmother, Julia, welcoming him into my childhood home, the glorious year we saw the familiar round green and black sign for the first time off I-20, the Christmas we figured out the big Steralite totes were the best thing ever for packing, the year we strapped an Atlanta garage sale treadmill to the top of our car, the time we had a Blizzard before 10 am, the beach trip we had a blow out on the I-10 bridge, the trek to the family reunion when I learned that diapers don’t soak up infinite amounts of you know what, and the most useful fact finding trip was the summer I found out what a handy little thing a Coke bottle is for little boys.


There are many pieces to making a successful road trip with kids and I am still learning them. However, I have found one critical piece that you may as well not get in the car without and that would be the person who rides in the passenger seat. This position next to the driver takes quite a remarkable person, just short of genius actually, gifted in a myriad of awe inspiring ways. First of all, the front seat passenger needs to be ambidextrous, double jointed and able to stretch like Elastigirl. This person must also be a tenacious trash gatherer, a creative nutritionist (when it comes to “exit food” as Brighton call it), an activities coordinator and a great listener since the driver seems to be so focused on the road he doesn’t hear anything else that is going on. And if that is not enough, this individual must have the ability to judge how badly someone “has to go”, not be prone to car sickness, know how to position pillows just so under sleepy heads in hopes of preventing their heads from snapping off, or worse, waking up, be alert at all times making sure the driver does not get sleepy or distracted, understand how to tame the digital deluge in order to keep the backseat passenger’s brains from becoming mash potatoes, and possess the amazing skill of traveling with absolutely no foot room whatsoever. Even under these strenuous demands and circumstances, there ARE the blissful moments of a road trip when you have the “brain blender” going for the back seat dwellers, an extra hot latte in the cup holder (with whip) and a Southern Living in your lap. It is then and only then, you feel that maybe mashed potato brains aren’t so tragic after all.

We just finished the first half of Road Trip #2 for the summer of 2009 and I spent most of it in the formidable passenger seat. (Pat my back.) On our way, there were two brief spells that Jeff took the spot with high hopes of a little snoozer. After playing waiter out of a Quiznos bag and then retrieving leftovers, he was trying to put in a DVD only to find Brighton’s screen not responding. Driving peacefully down the road, I watched, out of the corner of my eye, of course, my ex-defensive tackle husband turn into a contortionist attempting to make the blue screen come to life with “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”. When his electronic skills failed him, which they RARELY do, he had to rearrange the back seat in order to make room for Brighton in the middle. No easy task, I assure you! Boosters, pillows, Quizno drinks, American Girl Samantha (our 3rd passenger who has her own suitcase), a box of books, one bag that at one time was under my feet, pretzels that ended up dumped out in the front seat where Jeff’s bottom was SUPPOSED to be! After he had B's headphones synced with Julia’s screen, he unfolded himself, sat down with a crunch and looked at me. I smiled and said, “Welcome to the passenger seat.”






(And before you begin picturing me hanging out the window taking pictures of road signs, there is a woman who takes a picture of EVERY road sign she passes. teresco.org)