Tuesday, May 20, 2014

They’re Not Little Anymore

These kids are growing up.  I remember the last time I wrote about a day like Saturday-- we went from a T-ball game to a ballet recital.  Boy stuff to girl stuff.  B still had long blonde hair escaping his ball cap, could barely keep his baseball pants on his hips and Julia still had lots of curls, generous cheeks {either end} and she was in the class that people still loved to see in a dance recital.

They were little.

And you know, when they were little, their lives were much easier to write about.  They said funny things.  Their issues were easy.  Their questions were innocent.  The changes in their lives were “sweet”.  Parenting wasn’t quite as personal.  And the biggest reason it was so easy to write about their lives is that they couldn’t read-- or find my blog.

At this stage of the game, I am censored.  And it’s not only here.  Jeff and I have to retreat to the bedroom behind closed door to discuss parenting issues-- and check intermittently that no one is hovering outside the door-- or go on a walk-- or on a date and who wants to talk about hard stuff on a date?  Then there’s that Julia seems to prefer my friends over hers-- hanging on our every word at the ballpark or wherever we may be.  Code language is SO over-- has been for years.  And when we speak vaguely of situations, we are baited for more information until it turns into an argument.  Even once they are “in bed”, their ears are still working, of course, and lingering down the staircase, it seems.

They’re not little anymore.

Their questions are hard.  The changes are personal and complicated.  They are figuring out their stories-- what to take with them and what to leave behind.  And though I cannot share the conversations that fill our home these days, I can say, by the grace of God, they talk to us.  Just Sunday night, Brighton came down and sat on the hearth in front of us and said, “I need to talk to you about my life.”  So......we sat there and listened to our ten year old, expound on his life.  And it was real.  And he went to bed feeling better- affirmed and validated, we hope.  No surprises but he does that quite often-- reports to us-- Jeff couldn’t sleep the other night and headed upstairs to find a couch.  He checked in on B- who was WIDE awake “just thinking” so the two of them sorted some things out after midnight.  I cannot express my gratitude for this-- for his talking and for Jeff’s capacity to take it all in and help his son interpret, decode and embrace these things.

Who IS this large child? NO problem holding up his pants.  

He  TOTALLY poses when he sees my camera.  
Julia doesn’t “report” to us as often as B but when she does, it’s significant.  She’s not clammed up yet but I’ve told her my pursuit will be relentless if she ever does.  I know “space”-- what it means to crave it and take it, but I also know what it’s like to wonder if anybody sees you-- really sees you.  I’ll have to keep my finger on the balance with that.  She’s 12.  Lots brewing there.  I’ve just got to keep it coming out.  And to be sure that when it does, I am creating the right responses and atmosphere to make sure it comes out again.  And again.

If anyone would like to teach me how to take these pictures in motion and in stage lighting, feel free.  Though blurry, I still like this one.

I kept cutting her toe out-- not expecting her limbs to stretch outside of my scope.  

That clock is ticking and the slow motion potion isn’t working.  Neither the brick on their heads, as Jeff likes to say.  It makes me want to tuck in at home and just sit and watch them grow.  So I don’t miss anything.  So I don’t blow off a conversation that I don’t realize is headed somewhere big.  So I don’t miss that pre-teen face morphing into the face that I will look at for the rest of my days.  So I don’t miss the meal they decide they like adult food.  So I don’t turn around and say, “When did you start drinking coffee?!?”

Parenting is no joke.  It changes moment to moment.  You’ve got to be ready, willing AT ALL TIMES to give it your best shot- not the “What’s for dinner?” questions but the ones that make you think, “Are you sure I am the right person to be asking that?!?!” {Yes, I am.}  The opportunities are flying by every day.  Grateful for the Spirit of Christ who lives inside of me-- even more grateful for the times I listen to Him.  I can’t imagine parenting without Him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

On My Mind {What Will Summer Look Like?}

Just a little longer, folks.  Even though our Fort Worth temps are playing jokes on us today, summer really is coming.

My friend, Tori, who is a young mom and helped her sweet grandmother teach sewing while Julia took, put this on Facebook yesterday:

Ok, mommy friends. Now, it's "the day after Mother's Day". May we find just as much joy, honor, and God-given purpose in our work as moms today as we did yesterday!

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NLT)

I so appreciated reading this and her heart and mind that thought this way.  It’s daily.  Like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday--- Every. Day.  And I love how she kindly makes it our responsibility -- to find the joy, honor and God-given purpose in what we do.  Being a momma is an opportunity for great purpose.  It’s our choice whether or not to embrace it-- so thanks, Tori, for the way you worded that and reminded all of us.  And so my thoughts go to here....my purpose for the summer...

Summer is knocking on the back screen door.  With lemonade and sunscreen in its other hand.  At times, the weeks ahead of me can seem like a good natured wrestling match gone bad in the back yard.  I am so excited about the freedom from school assignments, the extras after school, bedtimes for a “good night’s sleep”-- whatever it is for you.  And then there’s the “How do I use our time best this summer?”  And into that question all this comes swinging:

What conversations do I need to have with each child?
What activities do I want to make a priority?
What Scriptures will we emphasize and memorize?
What boundaries will I have for screen time?
How will I motivate ONE of my children to read and how will I make sure the other one lives in reality apart from a book this summer?
And what books will those be?
Is there enough down time? {like, enough time for them to get bored therefore, creative}
Will I --- and if I do--- how will I keep them fresh academically? {mainly thinking of math}  And will I reward in some way for this?
And in the spirit of the book “Cleaning House” {Ridding Home of Youth Entitlement}, I’d like to teach one or two new responsibilities over June and July-- whether it’s laundry or meal planning.

That’s the list that pins me down and makes the backyard match a little less fun.  I get bogged down thinking of what my kids’ reactions will be or what if I fail miserably at the plans I lay out.  But I can get passed that because I know it’s important-- to take advantage of this freedom from “have-tos”.  I am anticipating more “good natured” then “gone bad”.

I was hoping to get to it today but one thing I have found effective with my two kids are questionnaires.  I ask them for their input SEPARATELY.  I tried the discussion together over cookies and milk before but when one said black, the other said-- yep.  White.  {It’s that residual “old” we’ve still got lurking around.}  I’ve found that they have GREAT input on goals, rewards, desires etc.  Sometimes their goals are HIGHER than what I would have expected and the rewards are LESS than what I would have guessed-- oh and boundaries are pulled in closer sometimes than I would have pulled.  And as you know, when they come up with it, they are so much more likely to be okay with it.  Even excited-- because they had some input and they made some decisions.

I’d love to hear your summer plans, ideas you have for your crew, books on your middle schooler’s list, dates with your child, screen time gimmicks-- anything you’d like to share.  We learn so much from each other.  Like I’ve said before, I’ve had about 2 good ideas in my life.  The rest I’ve copied.

Oh and I forgot one biggie on my list up there-- How many times per week will we stop at Sonic?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Old and New

This end of school gets me every time-- encouraging the kids to stay motivated, staying motivated myself, calendaring all the things that happen in the month of May, attending many of those things, being VERY thankful the June page looks different from the May page, wanting to finish strong but secretly wondering what their final grades would be if we threw in the towel now..... we’d NEVER do that, but it’s fun to dream, right?  And really, we can do this.

But today, I wondered if we could.  Not a stellar day here.  And EVERY time I have a day like today, I think about the full out WAR that is going on between my flesh and the Spirit--- constantly.  It was just highlighted today.  Last week, this devotional I wrote was shared on our church’s devotional page.  {I was one of 365 writers.}  I’d love to share it with you today in hopes that it will encourage you to press on in releasing your will and agenda to Him, responding to Him in obedience and when you fail, to restore fellowship quickly and fully, knowing that what He did on the cross was ENOUGH.  

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  Galatians 5:16-17

Some of our family's best conversations have been initiated from the backseat. A few years ago, Julia filled the car with these words, "Momma, I've still got some old in my heart." In less than 10 words, she had expressed the primary struggle of my 20 some odd years of walking with Christ. The word "old" to me is a four-letter word with only three letters.

This infamous battle between the old and the new, the flesh and the Spirit, can seem mystical, but there is nothing more REAL. My sins are as consistent as the tide, and "fruit" {Galatians 5:22-23} is hit or miss with me. If I have the Holy Spirit within me, why in the world do I snap at my kids so often? Respond disrespectfully to Jeff? Fight to get my own way? The answer is here: "For [the flesh and the Spirit] are in opposition to one another" (verse 17b). The fight between the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace is expected. But I want to win way more often.  I want to respond to arguing with patience. I want to respond to the demand on my time with joy. I want to respond to hurt with kindness. I want to respond to harshness with gentleness. I want to say to my children, "You may watch Momma today and see an example of what it means to 'walk in the Spirit.' Do as I do. Respond how I respond." Sometimes they can see that, and sometimes they are watching the poster parent for confession and repentance. And, actually, that's not a bad place to start.

These opposing forces are here to stay, but Christ gives us the strategy for winning.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." {Galatians 5:16}

Walking by the Spirit is just the opposite of feeding the flesh. Study His Word, meditate on it, talk with Him, worship Him, and, in love, serve those around you. Christ IS the strategy for winning. Depend on Him.

I ask myself these questions often.
What ways am I feeding the Spirit on a daily basis?  Or what ways am I feeding my flesh on a daily basis?  I think through things like, what my mind is dwelling on, what I am listening to, reading or watching, where my time is being spent, how and with whom.
And good friends- and my community group- know my struggles and I am able to trust them to check in with me regarding those things they know I am fighting.

Think on this thought from Andrew Murray: "Do you believe that when He takes charge of you in Christ, it is possible for God to make you a man of absolute surrender? And God is able to maintain that. He is able to let you rise from bed every morning of the week with that blessed thought, directly or indirectly: 'I am in God's charge. My God is working out my life for me.'"

So my question from that-- TODAY, am I on the journey of allowing God to make me a man/woman of absolute surrender?  Will I depend on Him to empower me when my flesh stands at attention?  Will I intentionally put my thoughts in another place?  Will I walk away if that is what it takes?  Will I trust Him in the battle?

God desires for us to live out and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit in our lives as we experience victory over the desires of our flesh.  He is able to maintain our walking in the Spirit as we depend on Him to do so.  He is the strategy.