Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Teenagers, Vulnerabilities, and the List You’ve Always Wanted {but didn’t know it}

Only my computer trash knows how many times I have photographed THIS expression.
{Shameless Easter Selfie}
Heads on our pillows the other night, before Jeff slipped into blissful dreamland, he stated, “You haven’t been writing.”  I wanted to say, “And???”  But I knew by the slurred tone in which he’d made the statement, I wouldn’t get an answer before he fell asleep.  So here I sit trying to think of something other than my teenage girl and my 6-months-away-from-teenage boy.  I cannot do it.  It’s consuming, these kids and their methods and their rooms and their hormones and their  clothes and their aromas {maybe one in particular} and their complete vulnerability as they are trying to figure out this growing up thing.  This is what headlines my thoughts.

If you need a refresher on the definition of the word “vulnerability” it is:  capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.  That’s true of all of us but especially true of our teenage kids.  I need to remember this every single day.  I am not excusing them from very foolish decisions, mouths that utter snarky words at the most unfortunate times,  less than ideal work ethics, the inability to remember much of anything ….. but to realize what all is going on within them can help me to take the chaos in a little more stride.

What I see and discover makes me a little concerned for their brains.  I know things happen to our brains all of our lives but this………I think this is unprecedented.  It has to be.  I think you can only live through this once.  The best picture I have for what I think their brains look like at this stage would be B’s back pack.  Or a majority of 12 year old boys’ backpacks.  I refuse to think that B’s is the only one.  Papers………. LOOSE papers………. everywhere.  Paper Palooza!  Paper Party!  Paper Powerhouse!  Wrinkled gobs of papers sprouting from the zipper!  Yours for the taking!  No matter if they are homework due yesterday or four yesterdays ago!  The only plus is that on a hot day, you can reach {with much caution} to the very bottom of the pack and pull out a naturally occurring paper fan and create a small breeze for yourself.  And maybe review your Pre-Algebra simultaneously.  Back to the brain analogy— it’s a mess.  Nothing seems to be where it’s supposed to be or used to be or has completely disappeared altogether.  The only things they seem to remember is if it’s their day to sit in the front seat or it’s NOT their morning to cook breakfast.  New things have appeared but haven’t been put in their place yet where it can actually be helpful when you need it— like a fierce desire for independence.  This seems to backfire on them the most often.  Independence is good when it comes to school or chores, not so good when it comes to abiding by house rules or looking to serve family members.  Add in their insecurities— their questions about who they are, what do they want to become, who is their friend, where is the deodorant and what to wear tomorrow— these kids are vulnerable.  Susceptible to being hurt.  And that causes my compassion to surface.  {And my mother bear instinct which has caused me to offer up many prayers of repentance as I’ve responded to my kids being wounded by kids who are in the same boat—— no, kayak in the rapids.}

So, what can we do about this— all of this maddening misplaced independence, the chunks of information that has seemingly selectively fallen out of their memory, their failure to respond to training and discipline—  and still stay compassionate, patient and loving?!?!  And sane.  Beg Jesus to come back?!?!  NOW!!!!  I’ve said more times than I can count over the last few months, “I thought I knew something about parenting, but I know nothing.”  I know that’s not completely true but it’s completely HOW I FEEL much of the time.  I stand and stare at the kids looking back at me— and I stare because I have no idea what to say.  I am puzzled and I am ignorant.  And for the record, I need to stare more often— stare with eyes open and mouth shut, because when I open my mouth I say things that are followed up with phones calls from the kids to Jeff and I am referred to as “your wife”,  Nice.  {Only one of my children does this…..One out of two ain’t bad.}

I was talking to a friend this morning and the idea came to me how helpful it would be to ME to list out the things I could not control.  This list is obvious but when wired like I am, this is helpful for me to see in black and white.

Scripture—- that’s what I’ve got.  Scripture—- that’s what I know.

The List You’ve Always Wanted {but didn’t know it}

I cannot control their tongues.  By HIs grace, I can control my own.  
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  {No staring mentioned here.}

I cannot carry out their responsibilities.  By His grace, I can carry out mine.  
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I cannot make them serve. By His grace, I can serve.
Ephesians 6:7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people. 

I cannot control their work ethic.  By His grace, I can control mine.  
Colossains 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I cannot control their level of contentment. By His grace, I can control my own.
Philippians 4:11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 

I cannot control their responses.  By His grace, I can control mine.
Ephesians 4:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

I cannot control their attitude.  By His grace, I can control my own.
Philippians 2:3-4  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

I cannot control thought patterns that seem to rule them.  By His grace, I can control my own.
Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
2 Corinthians 10:5  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I cannot, at all times, protect them, their vulnerabilities, but I know who can.  
Psalm 71:3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 
Psalm 61:3  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
Psalm 31:19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.
Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Psalm 71:1 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.

So more and more, God is showing me this parenting thing is really more about Him and me than it is about the kids and me.  Yes, we need to speak into the lives of our children.  We are their primary “disciplers” {not sure that is a word}—the one discipling them in the ways of Christ.  Yes, we need to spend gobs of time with them, engage their hearts and at this age, giving them more and more freedom as they prove they are ready.  But more importantly, we need to model in front of them the ways of Christ- selflessness, graceful words, hard-working, gentleness, humility, patience, peacemaking, contentedness, purity of mind and heart, intentionality— and all the other ways modeled to us by Him.  They need to see us submitting to the Word, giving Christ our wholehearted devotion.  They need this SO MUCH MORE than all my words.  The security my kids could gain from my commitment to His ways could root them deep, protecting some of their vulnerable spots and propel them forward in strength and confidence in the Lord.

Yes, that’s what I’m after.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.  Isaiah 61:3

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Break: Eastern Style

After two Spring Breaks in sleepy {read that “AMAZINGLY DIVINE” in my vocabulary} Rockport, Texas, we decided to do something different this go ‘round.  We headed to Atlanta to spend back to back weekends with Jeff’s parents and stuff the week between with a little touring.

After celebrating Michael’s birthday and getting some cousin, in-law, sibling time in, we headed to Helen, a little German influenced town in north Georgia.

Jeff’s mom’s name is Betty. ; )
We talked his parents and sister’s family into going with us-- and I’m so glad they did.  Everything is more fun with some more Sanders-- and Moyes!

Boiled peanuts-- 2 votes, yes.  1 vote, no.

It was a gorgeous day to see north Georgia.  I forget we have some mountains-- thanks to the Appalachains.

Trying out some authentic German food with their cousins

This girl loves a little thrift shop. A German one is even better.

Taken for the sole benefit of her cousin, Hunter.

This store was a favorite for all of us.

Only Jeff and I cared for this one. ; )

And, oh yes, we made it to another national park and it was a beauty.  The trees hadn’t yet greened out but they were trying.   It was our first park with all the rivers and small falls.  The fog was enchanting.

Cades Cove was dreamy in the early morning hours. So glad we got our lazy selves out of bed to do it! 

Laurel Falls - we loved all the water in the Smokies. 

This girl comes alive in these parks- just like she used to when I'd push her around in a stroller.

I loved the history still standing in this park- churches and homesteads and clubs. We especially liked the churches.

Here is Julia's reaction to the early morning history lesson....and here is B's....

Boots?  Why boots, you say?  Well, it’s the only pair he packed--the ones he had on his feet. 

Part of the old Appalachain Club-- interesting history if you like that sort of thing...

And then on to white water rafting-- The Pigeon River!

Excuse the quality here- I already had my phone in its high tech super duper water proof case! I have to admit -- I kind of enjoyed seeing my 12 and 14 year old a little scared.  
(Cocky teenagers get on my nerves) 

The kids did great.  They really didn't have a choice because our AMAZING GUIDE kept them busy the entire time! They obeyed his every command ---- and I told him he should lead parenting conferences. 

A good friend reminded me it was National Pi Day so that seemed the perfect excuse to find a good place for pie. 

And B gave us a 12 year old boy pose.

When you make reservations online and trust the pictures on the sites, it can be a little scary.  Jeff usually does this for us so all of the pressure is on him.  Our drive to this place, I can imagine he felt like a hot tea kettle about to screech. We all got a bit worried as we drove the rain guttered, pot holed roads up, up, up and up. I have no words to describe the, ummm, colorful, eclectic homes we rock and rolled beside on our trek up the mountain.  When greeted by dogs, goats, chickens and an albino turkey, Jeff never even stopped when the sign clearly read "STOP HERE. Check in HERE. Go no further." He bowled right on through and up the mountain to check out the cabin he'd rented online- and thankfully, the cabin checked out fine.  So then he obeyed and we drove-carefully-back down the mountain to be greeted by Miss Mary and her menagerie of animals- owner of Randall Glen Farms. Once we figured it all out, it was a magical place. It is a working ranch of sorts -- I'll let her describe it:

You can see the cabins above.  It was a wonderful place.
"Randall Glen is located just outside Asheville in the historic farming community of Big Sandy Mush. Completely isolated by mountains, this picture postcard valley is still farmed by original settler families and has no commercial development at all. We’re on Newfound Mountain at the very end of the valley, and have over a hundred acres of mountainside and rolling pasture filled with wildflowers, creeks, and forest. We’re surrounded by thousands of acres of conservancy land, and wildlife flourishes here. Our home farm, Randall Cove Farm, is at an elevation of 3100 feet and our Randall Glen mountaintop is at 3600 feet, giving us wonderfully cool summer air and great snow in the winter. We’re so high, in fact, that sometimes we’re actually surrounded by clouds.”


When I was there I kept thinking I would have loved to have stayed there when the kids were little.
She invites the kids to come down early and help the ranch hands feed the animals.  Julia accepted the invitation- actually, we all did.

When I went on a walk by myself, I got to watch a baby goat being born and watch the mother get it to its feet so she could birth her second one. Of course, I didn't take my camera on the walk.

We highly recommend this place but book early. Miss Mary is busy. 

We left the farm to get some good grub AND to see the Biltmore House.  Both the Biltmore and the Tupelo Honey Cafe were super-- if I had to RE-visit one, it’d be the Tupelo Honey Cafe. ; )

Our next stop was Congaree National Park!!! Aren't you pumped about that for us ?!? Yes, Congaree. I know you've never heard of it. Neither had I!

Here's the deal-- or here is why it's a big deal:

"Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.  Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees."
Those are smart conservationist people words and but it was really beautiful. It was a bright blue sunny day- a beautiful walk through this unusual forest. Brighton still talks about how much he loved it. 

The greens were budding out at all heights. And I love greens -- especially on a back drop of blue. I'm so glad we had this day in the Congaree.

Sweet moment-- rare and treasured......


We spent the end of trip back in Atlanta and took Jeff’s parents out on the town.  We hit The Pig and Pearl and met some sweet friends from home who were in the area too.  I’ll never forget Meema ordering sweet potatoes and creme brulee as her meal!

We then saw the city by Ferris Wheel.  Atlanta is a beautiful town.

It’d been a long time since I’d been to The Varsity so it was a stop we had to make.

I’m so grateful for these years to make memories with our kids.  My parents did a great job of planning things for us to-- vacations and such.  Those are the times we seem to remember the most-- not the day to day.  Jeff started counting the summers a couple of years ago and realized we didn’t have many left.  So this has become priority. And we are having a ball!