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I love rain storms. Rain storms are the pause button to my schedule. Maybe it’s baseball or football that keeps you busy – it’s soccer for me. When the rain comes, my schedule comes to a grinding halt.

“I’m bored. What can we do?” the boys always ask.

“Fill the emptiness,” I answer.

“With what?” they persist.

“With big and little thoughts,” I think. “Press in to the quietness. Let its peace be like a soothing balm rubbed into the cracked and worn feet of my soul, soothing my walk, giving me rest.”

“’This is the resting place, let the weary rest’”; and, “’This is the place of repose’”–but they would not listen” (Isaiah 28:12).

“It is important to learn how to handle nothing-ness,” I answer. I go into a great story about back in the day when I was their age, only 3 TV channels existed. On a rainy day we built card houses, watched NASCAR races, played cards or board games. . . read books. On sunny days, porch wall jump-offs, sidewalk roller skating, tree climbing, daisy chain construction, bee catching.

We never uttered the words, “I am bored.” If we gave them a mouth-full of whine, they gave us an afternoon full of chores. We wisely kept our complaints to ourselves.

“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature” (Albert Einstein).

Where do you go when nothing-ness comes? Where is your Pausing Place? Pausing Places – a place to sit and let nothingness wash through, like clear water in a rushing stream – clearing away the debris of my soul, clearing away for freshness and new growth.

My back porch, during a rain storm – that is one of my pausing places. Sometimes it is my kitchen when no one is home – and I can throw myself into the cooking and think about life without interruptions – while making something wonderful for my boys.

“Solitude is such a potential thing. We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no condition”
(Amelia E. Barr).

Other times, it is wrapping myself in a blanket, curling up with a good book and my knitting. I would read a bit, knit a bit. That happened the other day. My son flung himself across the end of my bed – and just looked at me.

“There’s nothing to do,” he said, baleful eyes woefully wooing me to create “something” for him out of nothing.

“I’m having a great time,” I said. “I’m loving this. I’m sorry there is nothing you want to do – but there is plenty you can do. But – I am not going to let your frustration mar my nothing-to-do-time.

He sighed.

“One of the most important things you need to learn is how to find peace and joy in the nothingness of a day,” I gently coaxed.

He wallowed a bit more, making sure I knew he was frustrated. I wouldn’t be baited. I sent him on his way.

Filling each moment with him-centered activities does not prepare him to live a fully enriched life. If they do not learn to embrace the quiet times, in the stopping times later, they might fill those moments with harmful activities – just to fill the nothingness.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

One of the most important skills in life is to learn how to embrace those pauses. My boys, well, they need to learn how to make something out of nothing. Their day is so chocked full of activities they become bewildered when they face, what they think, is the Great Monster Nothingness – which I have discovered to be a great friend.

Learning to turn nothing into blessing – what a great life-skill. Bring on those rainy days!

 

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God loves us in all our messiness – and in the messiness of our children – regardless of size, state of heart and quality of choices. Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means,’I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9: 13). Mothering is sometimes mercy’s school, is it not? Breaking our hearts, lancing out the poison of judgementalism – and refilling it with love, hope and faith for not just the easy to love, but the hard to love, readying our hands to reach out and greet in friendship those we beforehand would have been content to keep on the outside of our faith walk.

In saying all that, I thought that maybe someone needs this story today, just like I needed it in 2009.

The Mother of the Prodigal

Masks are for hiding, deceiving, concealing, and protecting. They hide shame, hurt and wrongs – the wrongs we have done and the wrongs done to us.

We never hear her voice or her story; but if we could, I bet the mother in the story of the prodigal son could tell us a lot about masks – and about throwing them down (Luke 15:11-32).

Married to a man, a Godly man, a respected man, a man who provided abundantly, there was no need for a mask. Imagine the marriage blessings.  A man searching to be close to God found himself a wife desiring to please the Father.  Then God blessed them with their first child – a son.  Such blessing!

The ability to bear sons established her position in the community. She was then blessed with a second son – double the blessing – double the rejoicing.  Her confidence grew. She stood firmly on the promises of God that were sung before her sons were born. Each son was designed for heaven, equipped for the challenges they each would face (Psalm 139:13-16).

I bet she cried when the second son was born – cried tears of joy.  Her first son, always pleasing the father, a parenting-made-easy child, was probably very practical, lacking compassion maybe, but so easy to shepherd into manhood. He probably always won at Alquerque or Chatrang (checkers or chess) because he understood cause and effect.

Within her women’s prayer group, the mother was respected for raising such a noble son.  He probably brought great joy to her heart – and laughter unfettered by frustration. Maybe sometimes she judged other mother’s whose sons were not so obedient, who did not always do their father’s bidding or speak respectfully to their mothers. Maybe they were lax.

Fearless defined the second son. He was poor competition at Alquerque or Chatrang because he was not programmed for cause and effect methodology – he thought in the “Now.”  Passionate about his pursuits and compassionate towards others, he probably shared his allowance with his peers who “needed” or the blind man sitting at the well.  He was filled with talent – a risk-taker.  However, his passion lacked cause and effect self-control. His mother started feeling uncomfortable.

His father encouraged him to save his money, but he just felt criticized, beaten down.  His happy-go-lucky face turned sullen. He sassed his mother. She picked up the mask, uncomfortable with it, but peer fear of judgment was even more uncomfortable.

The first born, working hard to make the right choices, resented his brother’s behavior, and that resentment turned to anger.  The joy within the household that thrived just a few short years earlier evaporated.  Tension hung like high humidity.

Rules were not for this second son, or so he thought. Studying was a waste of time. Seeking God – yeah, sure he believed, but he treated God like he treated his father and mother. The older he got, sullenness grew into contempt – he felt restricted and confined. He was blinded to blessings, to love, to wisdom.

Do not blame his parents, citing carelessness or lack of discipline. His father punished him all sorts of ways to get through to him.  He talked to him gently, calmly, reasoning with him about the choices available to him.  Sometimes it is hard to make the smartest “man” in the room admit someone else knows better.

Long ago, his mother dropped to her knees, praying and seeking God’s guidance and God’s mercy. She longed for laborers to be sent across her son’s path to draw him back – to restore the blessing in her son’s life and in his actions. Sometimes she prayed to God, begging Him to show her how to love her second born. God would warm her heart, restore her strength, and give her hope.

These struggles were kept behind the family doors, until one day it spilled outside those doors – cracking the façade – the mask behind which hope struggled.

The women’s prayer group heard him back-talk his mother one day in that sullen tone.  She pasted a smile on her face, turning back to the group of women. The mask cracked.  How would these women react if they knew her struggles, her perceived failures?  A mother’s motto is always, “I can fix it.” However, she was realizing that she could not fix it – only God could fix it.

It was lonely behind that mask. Self-judgment and fear were her constant companions. She feared that if the mask crumbled even the modicum of community support with the women might fall away too. How she needed the support of women and mothers to lift her up when she fell down. But they did not know she was falling down, that she needed help.  The mask blinds the community and the individual.

Then one day, still a teenager, her son boldly told his father he wanted to leave: “Give me my inheritance.”  He was tired of the rules, tired of the expectations his family put on him, tired of controlling himself. He was a man after all – according to Jewish tradition. He was responsible for his soul; and if he was responsible for his soul, then surely he could be responsible for his inheritance. But he was neglecting his soul.

His father gave it to him, and the world welcomed him. His laughter had once brought such joy and his passion for life had brought such amazement to his family. But later everything turned into concern, and he left.  “I’m never coming back,” he said. “I don’t care what you say.”

Broken-hearted, his parents watched him leave.  The entire town knew about it.  The mask crumbled.

If you were part of this mother’s community, what would you have done?  What did she need? Throughout all the years she struggled, she needed women who would lift her up in prayer. How would you have responded?  Do you wear a mask because you fear judgment from other mothers, other peers, other family members?

Dysfunction is so prevalent within the Bible that you must conclude that God does not expect every family to be without challenges. However, challenges can provoke masks and isolation from true help and true mercy.  You cannot recognize the women God has placed in your path to help you unless you remove the mask.

Removing the mask, surprisingly, makes it easier to love, easier to face the challenges, and easier to rejoice when that prodigal turns his life around. Remove the mask and trust that God will surround you with other women who will speak hope, faith, encouragement not only in you but the in the son gone astray.

No mother wants to hear her son condemned by her peers. She wants to hear him lifted up in the hope of prayer. Are you willing to not only take off the mask, but to lift other struggling mothers up? Encourage mothers whose children might have to learn cause and effect the hard way – pray until her son returns home, willing to be the man God created him to be.

After all, Jesus knew the story of the prodigal son. He knew his struggles, his challenges, his failures – and He knew that the path home was paved with faith.

If you have faith that God will take care of your children, have faith enough to take off the mask. Taking off the mask is a step of faith.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” – (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)

A Mother and her Masks: the Story of the Mother of the Prodigal was first published in 2010 Sanctified Together, a monthly e-magazine for women.

 

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One upon a time, long ago, where blue grass grew in Main Street America, and front porch swings were a safe place to watch life go by, I packed my bags, folded up my new cobalt blue comforter with Dogwood Rose colored flowers to go out in the world and, if not meet my destiny, then hunt it down like a terrior unleashed who finds the world so big that sometimes it is hard to figure which way to go.

My comforter was there through my college career, wrapped around me as I studied, worked on projects, or just needed a comfort moment.  In a college dorm room, bedding is the primary décor statement (wall décor second).  My Cobalt blue comforter with its Dogwood Rose colored flowers symbolized my boldness – no weak, thinned out blue pastel or wall flower pink – no – I was going to shape my future to my dreams – Cobalt blue spoke strength, determination, adventure.

Three years later, I stepped further into my future.  My spirit gentled.  My new comforter was Shabby Chic White with faint slashes of tea green and misty rose.  My fading Cobalt Blue comforter, now Carolina Blue found itself folded over a chair for cuddling on the couch or naps.

Until my son was born. The blue seemed to brighten with a renewed vitality. Thrown on the floor, it provided a soft place to fall. As morning wore on, sleepiness pulling both of us, we’d wrap the blue around and fall into the snuggly Kingdom of Nap.

When he turned 2, I decorated his Big Boy Room.  He picked out a Snoopy Quilt with a blue background for his Big Boy Bed.  During nap time one afternoon, when he was just 3, he dragged his blanket into my room, setting it on my bed.  “I think you should have this blanket, Mom.  It’s so much nicer.  I’ll let you have it,” he said as he slowly inched my fading into stone washed Corn Silk blue blanket over his shoulders and backed out of the room. “I’ll just take this one since you won’t be needing it now that you have my nice Snoopy blanket.”

And there began a back and forth, a sneak and take for a few years until it just stayed in his room, wrapped around him during sleep, snuggly time, movie time, and, yes, even spend the night time.  Time faded the blanket to periwinkle.  Not all the seams were there. That blanket went with him to college, all faded and full of memories. The pink had washed to a leached out white.

One day, he brought The Girl home, the girl who would be his wife.  They set a date.  Then, one Christmas, six months before the wedding, he came home with his blanket and left it behind. The faded blue blanket just lay there. . . . .

 Until one day, my 3rd son picked it up, wrapped it around himself, and wandered off with it to snuggle into sleep, watch a movie, or read, even on overnight sleepovers – terribly faded, terribly worn, terribly loved –

(I had to wrestle it away to take a picture).

More on the journey of the blue cotton blanket: Change Comes Quietly

and The Blanket Thief Strikes Again

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Wife of my son, daughter of our family,

Today you become officially the #1 woman in in my son’s  life.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Just as your father gives you to my son today, so I give my son to you, with a glad heart and much love.

For years, I prayed that God would protect and bless the girls my boys would marry.  I prayed in faith that God would bring daughter-in-laws who had a heart for our family, our strengths and weaknesses included.

When God blesses, He blesses abundantly.  I prayed for children.  He gave me 5 sons.  I prayed for a good husband.  He sent me the best.  I prayed for my sons to be healed at various times.  They are healthy and whole.  God is faithful to His promises. He brought you, the abundant answer to prayer.

Samuel’s father, Elkanah, provides the prototype for what I consider a most wonderful husband!  It is from his relationship with Hannah that I pray my hope and faith for your marriage.

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray that my son will be the Elkanah to your Hannah.

I pray that my son favors you above all others, giving you double portions, seeking out why you cry, why you will not eat, why you are down-hearted—that he sees your genuine heart, kindness, and heart’s desires—through the hills and valleys of your life.

I pray that you value each other as Elkanah valued Hannah.  He wanted to mean more to her than 10 sons.  Sons defined the value of a woman during that time.  If she couldn’t produce sons, she had no value, no esteem in the community.  What the world says is valuable is not what is important.  Elkanah values her heart, her companionship, who she is—not her position in the community, her job, or where she comes from.  He values what’s on the inside.

I pray that each of you pour your soul out to the Lord, praying and sharing God’s word in your life with each other, that your house be full of children who bring you much joy, that your children return there to find comfort, rest and spiritual refreshment.

I pray that you put God above all the desires of your heart because then you will be blessed beyond measure.

We are so glad you’ve come!

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It’s just not Halloween without this post!
oldwomaninshoeI used to think moms with just sons were pretty scary, until I became one of those moms.
When you’re a mom with 5 sons, no matter how big, those boys gotta think you can still take them down-no matter who’s around.

You gotta be able to call their bluff.

One day, one of my sons walked through the kitchen on his way to his room buck naked after showering in my shower.  At the same time, the oldest one strolled into the kitchen in his boxers.  I’d had it. I was tired of all this male non-challent nakedness. There was a girl in the house after-all, even if she was just “Mom.”

I started un-buttoning my pants.  I said, “Well, if you can do it, I can, too.”  They high-tailed it out of the kitchen. I didn’t see a naked butt for about 6 months. I must have been pretty Scary-Mommy! (BTW, I only started unbuttoning my pants.  That’s all it took)

It gets pretty scary in the house when I do my “Mad Mad Madam Mim” immitation from The Sword and The Stone or the Lady in the Portrait from Harry Potter when she can just break a glass “Just with My Voice.” The threat to do those immitations in front of their friends pretty much makes them toe the line.

Then, I get pretty SCARY MOMMY when I create visual lectures on relationships and stuff, like “You’re a Cake” and “Hubba Bubba” and “Are you Man Enough?”  And then I share them over S’Mores and Pizza when they bring  BFFS over or I get a chance to hang around their “girl” friends at soccer games or church. It’s so scary, they almost like it.

witchcatA truly SCARY MOMMY makes sure Santa stuffs stockings for the older sons with things like Payne’s Common Sense, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America or C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. However, for every Scary Mommy high moment, there is an equal Scary Mommy low moment, like when I reviewed every Def Leppard song with my son who disagreed that every Def Leppard song is about sex.  We were trying to eliminate the sin-with-a-good-beat music choices.  All Scary Mommy had to do was raise an eyebrow.  My son conceded victory, but Scary Mommy was rather red-faced. Def Leppart no longer blared at the house.

I am probably SCARY MOMMY when I lose my temper, my keys, and when I drive (not quite all at the same time).

SCARY MOMMY loves enough to risk pride, respect, and affection in order to be the mom my son’s need me to be. SCARY MOMMY can be meaner, but SCARY MOMMY gives Volcano kisses that slobber all over their cheeks, bear hugs that can lift the biggest one of them all off the ground, and say, “I’m sorry. I really missed it” when I handle mommy-ness wrong.

SCARY MOMMY has a pretty scary sense of humor.  When one son, whom we call “Bear” got in the car after soccer practice all cold and shivering, I asked him,” What’s the saddest sight in the whole wide world?”

“I don’t know. Your cooking?” he answered. I almost forgot my joke.

“A hairless bear shivering with cold,” I answered.  Now readers, you need to visualize that before you can truly appreciate the SCARY MOMMY humor.

momboysbarn.jpgThe boys would really think I was SCARY MOMMY if they knew what I was like without God in my life giving me the strength, the courage, the inspiration, the never-give-up-ness to believe in their innate goodness when it’s on sabitacal, to believe they are walking in God’s plan for their lives when it seems like every plan has been thrown away, to believe they have generous hearts when they are tight-fisted with their brothers, and to love passionately and unconditionally even when they don’t want to love me back.  SCARY MOMMY drops to her knees in prayer when life is scarier than she is!

SCARY MOMMY? Bring it on! Sometimes I just plain scare myself!

See also Socialism or Capitalism: Trick or Treat or Halloween is. . .

Wishing you a day of celebrating family!

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03-08-2009 04;28;20PMMy grandmother, Mary Edna, taught me  about strength. One bright sunny morning, she moved from grandmother to something closer and more powerful.

The sun was pouring through the big upstairs windows at her house. Spending the night at grandmother and grandfather’s house, drinking hot chocolate for breakfast-that was the life-except that morning, grandmother accidently put coffee in my milk instead of cocoa.

“Can I live here forever?” I asked. I asked it every time. We were upstairs straightening the beds when the phone rang, you know the 1968 phone ring. Grandmother answered, handing me the phone to talk to my mom.

“Can I live here forever?” I remember asking into the phone.

My mother said, “Yes.”

Wow! Talk about getting what you wish for! It left me speechless. I remember wandering downstairs, onto the front porch, swinging. The milkman came, leaving two bottles of milk in the milk box.

Mom, my brother, and I moved in a few weeks later. Morning hot chocolates stopped. We weren’t just grandchildren anymore. We were something. . . more.

There were times when I wondered how my grandfather could love such a woman. The older I got, the more I understood. You need strength to push through tough times. You need strength to make meager times rich. You need strength to have hope.

She could be sharp, judgmental, and an adherent to Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette. Despite that, she made me feel beautiful on the inside. That’s what mattered most to me—that’s where I wanted to be beautiful.

I learned as I grew into a young woman the need to stand up for what I believed. If I didn’t, she could just roll right over me.

It terrified me to stand up to her. She could wield the look. Most people would just give up if she gave you the look. Deep inside, I knew I couldn’t give up. If I did, I would lose . . . .me. So I would stand up to her. . . and when there was nothing left to do, then I would just stand.

She respected that.

I learned that if I could stand up to her, I could stand up to anybody or for anything. A lot of shoe quaking is involved in the standing up to a seemingly greater than oneself. Sweaty palms, too, often followed sometimes by light-headed-ness, probably due to a lack of oxygen. Sometimes life requires moments like this, the standing-up-for-something-inside-of-ourselves moments. Moments where you can’t afford to stand down.

One day after my first son was born, we gathered in the family room, my grandmother, aunt, mom, and I. Everyone was enjoying the baby. I got up and turned the corner to the kitchen when I hit on a chair my very sensitive part of the shin, that funnybone part that when knocked just the right when in the moment of busyness has nothing funny about it, just exquisite pain.

I cursed. Then I inwardly cursed again when the family room went stone quiet. I never cursed. At least, not until I started driving, and then only when I was driving. Then I got married, and the battle increased. Then I had a baby. However, these women in my family respected how I struggled never to curse.

I had a reputation that with the split-second shin hit was about to be torn to shreds. The silence screamed condemnation. I took a deep breath, and stuck my head around the corner, ready to take the lashing. There are times where it only takes one incident to destroy one’s reputation.

Scan6_2_0039_039Everyone was looking at grandmother, the great matriarch, waiting for the verdict, the censure. My character failure would be recalled again and again. Just like the one time I opened a Christmas present early and rewrapped it. A criminal just can’t keep a secret; they have to brag. Stupid me! You’d think I had done it every Christmas.

My grandmother looked them square in the eye, and said, “My mother always said there was a time and place to curse. I believe you just found it.”

The conversation turned. Not a word was ever said about the incident again. She had secured my dignity.

I miss her every day! I used the strength she instilled in me every day. With a house full of sons to raise, they can’t ever see you sweat! Toppling into a weepy puddle is just not an option—at least not in front of them.

It is hard balancing the two, a stick that won’t be broken and a gentle hand filled with compassion. I fail often; however, I cannot afford to give up. That dog-gone strength I built from standing up to her just won’t let me.

God replaced the loss of a father with a great gift—my grandmother who taught me to be strong.

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Thanksgiving – so much more than a turkey!

There is so much more to Thanksgiving than the turkey, the football – even the family gathered around the table. Thanksgiving is about recognizing the roots from which America grew. Not just the patriotic, freedom-fighting roots – though they are as inherently necessary to recognize. It is the faith seed carried over the ocean in uncomfortable, danger-laden ships, planted in soil with hungry cold hands because of a vision of living God faith uninhibited by political agenda.

“The Lord is the Help of My Life”  – William Bradford

The first Pilgrims came to American so they could worship The God of Abraham, read The Gospel of Love and  experience the second Baptism without being drowned in a wine barrel, be burned alive boarded up in your own home, or have your entrails slowly pulled out of you in the town square as government officials attempted to turn you away from practicing your faith in the way you chose. At that time, the government determined how you practiced your faith – and if you disagreed, well, the government became disagreeable.

They came to America to be able to speak God’s name in the town square in the court house, on the public streets, in the school houses – to live and voice their belief without fear of persecution.

That faith seed would grow roots that would reach into our constitution: Article 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

(As a matter of fact, public schools were created to teach children to read so they could read the bible)

In America, these early Plymouth settlers discovered the rationing of socialism and the plenty of capitalism through the work of their own hands – not their neighbors. They broke the glass ceiling of class restriction – like the cranberries we eat on Thanksgiving that float to the top in the harvest when water rushes through the cranberry fields, so does hard work, effort, talent – all based on individual gumption – not religion, not class, not government.

“He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream”

Today, the Thanksgiving Holiday is full of irony – a House and Senate have left Washington D.C. to celebrate a holiday founded on the success of Capitalism and faith in God, yet daily they work to strip God out of the very places Pilgrims sought to freely worship their God – the city streets, the court houses, the schools – they wanted God in every part of their lives, their community, and their government.

Some leadership have gone so far today as to remove a cross from outside a base chapel in Afghanistan .  This symbol of faith and hope sustains many of our military soldiers protecting not only us but these leaders.

Just like the flag bearers of old gave the hope, the courage to fight on in difficult situations to their the military men it represented, so too does the symbol of our faith. When these flag bearers fell, so too did the fighting soldiers’ morale, hope and survival statistics. These soldiers live in casualty-real situations, putting their life on the life for an America created and built with hands seeking God.

Yet daily, these government officials attempt to strip the foundations of Capitalism and reduce Americans to the once starving, frustrated, dying, struggling Pilgrims who started out in socialism – who died in socialism – hungry and frustrated.  Until the American Spirit at Plymouth through a capitalist contract  replaced the socialist creed to break the bonds of servitude unleashing individual potential resulting in the American Dream.

While Socialism binds the hands of flourishing enterprise, smothers the seeds of creativity from which inventions spring, and suffocates the very breath of freedom, Capitalism frees the hands of enterprise, allows individual creativity the independence to invent, and  gives freedom breath to speak without recourse.

How ironic that today our government officials celebrate an event so diametrically opposed to their actions. How ironic is it that protestors are calling for a return to the socialism that brought Plymouth settler’s to their knees.

How sad that they celebrate Thanksgiving while chopping at the root of its very creation.

These people calling themselves the 99% are missing a very important factor. A missionary man preached at our church a few weeks ago. He asked, “Do you have an in-door toilet? Do you have running water? Do you have electricity?. . . .If you do, you are in the top 10% of the world.”

Yes, the 99% are in the top 10% of the world.

The top 10% because of faith in God and capitalism.

William Bradford’s biography is sitting on my desk right now.  My sons know the history of our country, but not through classroom textbooks because the full, real history of the birth of our country not taught. Because God is not allowed in the story telling in today’s public school classroom.

Today as you thank God for His blessings, as you pull your family close, spend additional time discussing the start of our country, how we became that top 10%, what enabled us to achieve clean water, medicines that heal and prevent, homes with so much comfort, electricity and internet, a washer and dryer, an abundance of food to keep and share.

And pray for those soldiers whose crosses are being pulled down, who are fighting to keep America safe, to keep America free, to keep God in America.

Graft you, your family to the deep root of faith from which America grew.

~ Written, Thanksgiving 2010
~Revised, Thanksgiving 2011
~Revised again, Thanksgiving 2012

Other related posts:

Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting Tebowing and other such Religious Behavior

Words Make a Difference

The 10 Cannots of Freedom

To Save a City

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Halloween is digging down into the costume chest and pulling out something to dress up your imagination. It is a breast plate, shield and cape, with a worn grey sword that wilts more than jabs.  It is a cowboy vest, sherriff’s badge, and a frayed cowboy hat that has seen more than its fair share of fights.  It is a bumble bee, leopard or Peter Pan.  It is a dressed up witches hat or black cat ears, black smudged nose, and painted whiskers.

It is hot chili on a frosty night, sprinkled cheese, and grilled dogs.  Worms in the pumkin patch cupcakes sloshed down with hot apple cider or hot chocolate. It is fun games that make laughter, goose bumps, and adventure.

pumpkintableIt is knocking on neighbor’s doors who brought your mama “Welcome to the neighborhod” cookies or the little red-headed girls house who has a crush on your brother.  It’s a door opening and friends spilling out of the dark dank, dreay night into the golden warmth of the Pumpkin House(which is what I called our old house because it was orange brick with black shutters). It is filling jack-o-lantern buckets with candy for your neighbor’s children who share school rooms, teachers with your children, who stop by for hot chocolate on fall afternoons.

It is laughing, teasing, savoring childhood – no presents, no pressure, no soporific lethargy. It is  fellowship, loving thy neighbor and generosity to strangers. Big and little pumpkins, Little and big. Halloween is a holiday from a too busy schedule, a moment to live joyously.

Then, after the pumpkin lights are blown out, the costumes tucked away, the candy stored out of reach, then it is time to thank God for the blessings of children, family, and fellowship, the joy of giving, laughter, and imagination, for a moment where the daily struggles dissipate in the steam of good food, respite from the world that figuratively buffetts each day.  Thank you for a moment to enjoy, refreshing myself in the gifts you have given me and the gifts given out.

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Rule #2: Unconditional Love is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love anyway – then you are loving unconditionally.

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A friend

crafted my son

these cool

faux paper fingers

(5th grade cool)

But cool faux fingers

cannot


win

a

thumb war

 

What Cool  things are distracting you

from achieving

God’s call

on your life

Because everybody has a call

something wonderful

God planned

for your life

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9)

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the heart is mine” (Exodus 19:5)

“For you are an holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a peculiar people to himself, above all the nations that are on the earth.” (Deut. 14:2)

If cool is not getting you anywhere, try peculiar!

 

 

 

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Before Christmas, I bought a new quilt for my bed. Depending on my mood, it can be found either folded over the foot of the bed atop a white coverlet like the one in the picture. Right now my white coverlet is folded away in the closet. Regardless of which blanket is the main blanket, my original quilt – one about 11 years old, is not far away – either folded over the foot of my bed or on my settee.

The old quilt has history.  Snugglebuggles when all the boys would end up in our room, the biggest one wrapped in the Blue Cotton Blanket on the floor, and, depending on who wandered in during the night, one or all of the other 4. Climbing under the Green Cotton Blanket was synonymous with comfort, warmth, giggles, good-night books, a safe haven during a blustery thunderstorm, funny sounds in the night, a healing cocoon when sickness struck – and mom.

I guess they spent nine months in me – and the closest they could get to mama after those nine months was being wrapped up in the Green Cotton Blanket.

I’ve knitted blankets they love, bought little boy bedroom blankets, and Nanny quilted blankets for each son.  But none are filled with the Green Cotton Blanket Magic.

The surest sign they are growing up is when they stop wandering in for snuggles under the Green Cotton Blanket.  That is as it should be.  However, they’ve never tried to steal it. . . until a few weeks ago. Why should I be surprised, though?  One son stole the Blue Cotton Blanket; apparently, it is in the genes.

There, so innocently, folded over my bed, just waiting to be used – The Green Cotton Blanket.

The littlest guy, pictured below all snuggled up in blankets in his carrier, was he headed for a life of blanket theft even then?  In the background, you can see the green cotton blanket. Was the pull of the blanket just too much?  And he broke? Temptation is they name. . . Green Cotton Blanket?

Those same words from almost 22 years ago, the same facial expressions, just a different little boy, the littlest boy.  As his fingertips pulled at the blanket, he flashed a guilty smile full of bravado, “I’ll just take this.  You don’t really need it.”

“But what about if I take a nap? I’ll still need it?”

“How ’bout I get it at night, and you can have it in the daytime?” he countered as he darted out of the room, his body shielding me from the Green Cotton Blanket – as though I were the threat.

I stood there amused because the situation was so familiar to my heart.  And so bemused because I was out another blanket – one I really like snuggling with for myself.  We went back and forth for a few days.  He would trot to the bathroom; I would sneak in to steal it back. But I knew it was a lost cause. Because when you get too old to snuggle with mama, well, you really still do want to but you’re just too old, so the next best thing is the snuggle blanket. It is not a total snuggle-free zone yet, but I see the writing on the wall! Or the message in the blanket.

I just somehow feel like I’ve lost more than a Green Cotton Blanket!

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Unconditional Love ≠ Door Mat

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The “Blue Cotton Blanket” has been traveling lately. You can find it over at Sanctified Together’s April edition of “Life is a Vapor” (click here to visit).  Since I wrote about the blue cotton blanket, I have been trying to find the one picture of it from when it went to college with me. My sweet mom dug into the picture box and pulled it out for me to share with you. You can now see how truly loved is the blue cotton blanket. It traveled with me to a soccer tournament this weekend. It kept the chill from the rain under an umbrella, it covered my son while he slept,  and, on the long ride home, he used it as a pillow against the window. It is on his bed again.

The Blue Cotton Blanket

One upon a time, long ago, where blue grass grew in Main Street America, and front porch swings were a safe place to watch life go by, I packed my bags, folded up my new cobalt blue comforter with Dogwood Rose colored flowers to go out in the world and, if not meet my destiny, then hunt it down like a terrior unleashed who finds the world so big that sometimes it is hard to figure which way to go.

My comforter was there through my college career, wrapped around me as I studied, worked on projects, or just needed a comfort moment. In a college dorm room, bedding is the primary décor statement (wall décor second). My Cobalt blue comforter with its Dogwood Rose colored flowers symbolized my boldness – no weak, thinned out blue pastel or wall flower pink – no – I was going to shape my future to my dreams – Cobalt blue spoke strength, determination, adventure.

Three years later, I stepped further into my future. My spirit gentled. My new comforter was Shabby Chic White with faint slashes of tea green and misty rose. My fading Cobalt Blue comforter, now Carolina Blue found itself folded over a chair for cuddling on the couch or naps.

Until my son was born. The blue seemed to brighten with a renewed vitality. Thrown on the floor, it provided a soft place to fall. As morning wore on, sleepiness pulling both of us, we’d wrap the blue around and fall into the snuggly Kingdom of Nap.

When he turned 2, I decorated his Big Boy Room. He picked out a Snoopy Quilt with a blue background for his Big Boy Bed. During nap time one afternoon, when he was just 3, he dragged his blanket into my room, setting it on my bed. “I think you should have this blanket, Mom. It’s so much nicer. I’ll let you have it,” he said as he slowly inched my fading into stone washed Corn Silk blue blanket over his shoulders and backed out of the room. “I’ll just take this one since you won’t be needing it now that you have my nice Snoopy blanket.”

And there began a back and forth, a sneak and take for a few years until it just stayed in his room, wrapped around him during sleep, snuggly time, movie time, and, yes, even spend the night time. Time faded the blanket to periwinkle. Not all the seams were there. That blanket went with him to college, all faded and full of memories. The pink had washed to a leached out white.

One day, he brought The Girl home, the girl who would be his wife. They set a date. Then, one Christmas, six months before the wedding, he came home with his blanket and left it behind. The faded blue blanket just lay there. . . . .

Until one day, my 3rd son picked it up, wrapped it around himself, and wandered off with it to snuggle into sleep, watch a movie, or read, even on overnight sleepovers – terribly faded, terribly worn, terribly loved –

(I had to wrestle it away to take a picture).

 

It never stays folded or alone long.

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Bore is a 4 letter word at our house.  It started out years ago, in graduate school, when I was a Teaching Assistant who taught composition classes. All TAs took a how-to-teach-composition class.  My students were already pummeling me with this quality-work killing frame of mind, “This topic is boring.”

I asked our mentor, “What do you say when they complain the topic is boring?”

He said something lofty like, “Boredom is a state of mind.”

Through the years I have blue-cottton-ified that definition: “To say I am bored is to say I am too dumb to make it interesting.”

My cheeky freshman has been saying for year, “Mama, I’m bored.  I’m just too dumb to make it interesting.”

At least my definition made it through 2 sons before it became satirized. None of my college students dared that; however, I was not their mama.

When my boys let the word “bore” slip out, sigh, we have a discussion. Really, they are saying they have nothing interesting to do. That is when they have 3 choices:

  • Sit and stew in their nothing-interesting-to-do-ness, but do it where their suffering affects only them.
  • Reach down inside and pull out their God-given creativity and ingenuity to create an interesting (albeit law-abiding) moment.  This is a problem-solving skill that needs to be developed – the ability to look from without to within and create action.
  • Grab a book and set off on an adventure.

Even my cheeky boy ultimately wonders off to create an interesting moment.  After all, it is his life.  He needs to learn to create an interesting life. His mama cannot do it forever!

If Tolkien had not climbed out of boredom into thoughtful creativity, we would have had no Lord of the Rings. If C.S. Lewis had not chosen active creativity over boredom, we would be without The Chronicles of Narnia.  Without Christopher Columbus, how long before the world would be considered round? Or our Founding Fathers, without imagination, could they have thought a free nation into existence?

Without imagination, could we have a cure for Polio or be able to fight infections with antibiotics?

If the world were bored, would we have lights to turn on, the All American Burger, the Ford Mustang, Starbucks, refrigerators, chipolte sauce, heart and lung replacements?

Boredom is the weed that chokes out flowering imagination!

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Big talks and little talks, little talks and Big talks going on this weekend! And we talked about asking!  As I posted earlier, I want my sons confident to ask me anything and, more importantly, to ask God. There are two types of asking.  The thought-out-heart’s-desire, please-will-you kind of asking was what “A time to Ask, over, ovER, and OVER” was about (click here to read). This second one is an information-gathering asking. Some children never ask – and have to be encouraged to develop that skill.  Some, however, are exasperatingly inquisitive, repetitive and engaged at all moments.

One son is tired of me asking, “Did you ask God about her?  Did you pray about it?” Or, “When you drove today, did you wear your seatbelt?”

My littles guy used to ask questions to just let us know he was still there.  His next-up brother was the talker and the little guy was content to just sit back and let him talk. Then we realized he couldn’t hear anthing out of his right ear (his brother sat on his right – so he never heard him).  Once we got that cleared up, we noticed every so often he would just punch his brother in the van – his way of saying, “You talk too much.”

The youngest, at about 2, would just sit there, and then suddenly, he would say, “Why did God make cars?”

And I’d answer , “Man makes the cars, but God gave man the idea.” We did this over trains, planes, knives, paper bags – about 2 years of “Why did God make . . . .” The questions stopped as he experience more things to talk about. And, eventually, he stopped whacking his brother.

His brother’s mind runs 100 miles an hour. I told him he needed his own personal tutor to answer all his questions. And I want him to always feel free to ask – but today we set a limit.

Yes, a limit.

He was old enough, wise enough to weed out questions to which he already knew the answer.

I suggested that he treat sentences like they were worth $1 and questions like they were worth $100.

“I can’t afford that,” he said.

“O.K. How about $10 per question,” I countered.

“I don’t have $10,” he rebutted (he stuffs all his money in the bank).

“O.K. Then, let’s pretend that each question you ask will cost you $1.  Is it worth it to you?  Is the question important enough for you to pay $1 for the answer?”

Because sometimes questioners get lazy, do not engage their wondrous brains to recall the answer given not 5 minutes before.  It is an exercise in self-discipline.  If you have to pay for it, are you willing to ask it, take the risk and utilize not so much my time but my energy. Before I was put on a low dosage of blood pressure medicine, I could literally feel my blood pressure increasing when I talked (for more on the effects of talking on blood pressure, click here). My BP is great now, but If my blood pressure was up, talking literally drained me – and, frustratingly, my patience.

And, I have discovered that I had inappropriate expectations on question asking.  Good moms welcome every single question, a ga-zillion-times-asked-question.  Well, when they’re little, yes. Yes, God wants us to ask.  I want my children to ask.  But there comes a time when boys to men or girls to women need to develop discernment in their questioning – to treat those questions like they are $1, $10, or even $100 bills.

“A wise man measures his words,” I said, as we ate dinner.  We talked some more, and I added, “A wise man thinks about what he knows before he speaks.”

“Are you just making these up?” he asked. “A wise man this and a wise man that.”

“Yeah, the littlest one asked, “Are you just making these up?”

They were wary, a little impressed and sniffing around the conversation like raccoons looking for a trap.

Then the littlest one asked, “Are you, like, Yoda?”

I did not go into the following with them then.  I was too busy doing my Yoda imitation.  However, I have you might like to add it to your arsenal!

“Don’t be in a hurry to talk. Don’t be eager to speak in the presence of God. Since God is in heaven and you are on earth, limit the number of your words” (Ecc. 5:2)

A time to teach our children to think before they speak
questions

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

Slothful does not just apply to activity, it applies to thoughts and speech, too

 “The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness” (Proverbs 15:14).

Best flour Sifter I ever Owned from Williams&Sonoma

Encourage growing children to sift through their ideas, refine them, before they add them to the mix. That way, they understand they have a better catalog of the knowledge within to better equip them when they seek outside themselves (kind of like evaluating what’s in the pantry before you go to the store)

 

“The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.” (Proverbs 16:23)

Ooohhh, we need to teach the student-teacher (our boys-to-men or girls-to-women) to teach themselves.
A wholesome tongue [is] a tree of life:(Proverbs 15:4)
 
A healthy heart, a healthy mind, and a healthy soul
$1 per Question?  What’s it worth to ya!

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“Mama, I need new soccer shoes,” my son asked.

“Mama, I need new soccer shoes,” he asked again.

“Mama, I need new soccer shoes,” he persisted.

Mama, I need new soccer shoes,” he hounded.

And, guess what? He eventually got new soccer shoes.

I am sure there were reasons he had to ask over and over gain.  Juggling 4 boys at home while my husband has been out of the country has been challenging – so time is an issue.  At times, I was frustrated at myself because I just was not on top of things. Or it could have been a budget issue.  Or it could have been a right-time right-place memory issue.  When one son turned 12, I told him it was the year he learned to make his needs known and not just stuff it to make it easier on me. He might need to remind me, but he learned to keep coming and reminding – because, after all, if he has needs to be filled or if I made a promise, I needed to follow-up on that promise.  Of course, we discussed good ways to follow-up verses improper ways to follow-up.

Asking may not seem spiritual – and sometimes with our children, it may seem like a trait that does not need to be developed.  But it does.  It is a skill set themed in Bible stories over and over again. Interestingly, the skill of asking goes hand-in-hand with the skill of waiting. Even more intriguing is that there is rarely a “ask once” story – it is more likely an ask-wait-ask-again skill set plot developed.

Hannah, Elizabeth and Sarah asked – passionately. It seems each time they asked, their pleas grew more passionate until they were crying out.  Hannah cried out so emotionally that she alarmed the high priest. Does that remind you of how your children ask – for a drink, the Star Wars action figures . . . a pair of soccer shoes?

However, the older we get, the more serious our petitions, the more they affect the root of who we are or who we want to be – think of Naomi or Esther, Leah or the Widowed mother whose son had died. Our petitions do not just affect our basic needs, but our heart needs.

The Word shows us that our petitions are heard, but sometimes we must show the Lord it is an endurable thing we ask.  Though God knows the desires of our heart, we need, sometimes, to search the trueness of that desire.  That not only God knows, but we know that we have the courage, strength, and the ability to finish a task, to run the race to the end, so to speak.  Is it a test?  I do not believe so.  Rather, I believe the Lord sometimes needs his children to learn to endure, to develop the stamina, to develop the heart to finish the race – maybe preparing us for the responsibilities of those answered prayers.

So ASK

“Yet because this widow keeps bothering me,
I will see that she gets justice,
so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming”
(Luke 18:5)

Expect to Wait
But Ask Again

“Suppose one of you has a friend,
and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me.  The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed.  I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father n heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
(Luke 11:5-13).

Wait
Then
Ask Again
Moses pleaded with the Lord  (Exodus 32:11-13).  The Lord wanted to destroy the Israelites and make Moses into a great nation.  Yet, Moses reminded the Lord of his promises and “the Lord relented”(Exodus 32:11-14).

Though sometimes my boys’ asking frazzles me, possibly short-circuiting an already over-loaded system, asking shows a confidence in their relationship as my son. They know the promises I have for them, the love I have for them, that I will supply their needs.  And, it is my job to teach them to wait, when they have to wait – sometimes for reasons beyond their understanding. And encourage the re-asking!

There is nothing that touches me more than a child who knows his/her value to their father or mother. A few years ago, a little girl in the neighborhood was shoved by another child.  She knew her value to her father.  I can see her today running up the steps to her house shouting, “Daddy. . . .” at the top of her lungs – because she knew he would take care of things, he would answer her petition.

Developing the ask-wait-ask-again shows an inner confidence of their self-worth, not only within their family, but they take it to the classroom and eventually to the work force and, ultimately, to God. He multi-tasks better than me.  He does not forget.  I bet He does not ever get frustrated with the asking. I bet He even knows the sizes needed for those soccer cleats.

Over and over again, God’s Word provides examples ask-wait-ask-again. It seems like a pretty clear invitation to stop by, share our needs and sit a spell with Him, getting to know Him better.  The confidnce to ask shows something amazing growing inside – a God thing –  A time to ask and a time to wait

ASK

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I advised my 4th son to sit down. He chose the kitchen stool.  We needed to have the talk.  He is 11 going on 12- old enough for the truth.  Some people might say 11 is too young to handle the information.  However, he has always had an ability to understand things beyond his years .  I was worried someone else would tell him or he might guess.  It’s better to have truth than mis-information- so we had the talk.

“It’s about time I told you. . . my real job,” I said, as I stood among storage boxes, packing.  I pulled a snowman off the SnowTree, wrapped it in bubble wrap and tucked it into the box. “I’m the SnowMom.”

He just stared at me. . . blankly. 

“I’m in charge of. . . snow.  It starts when I put up the Christmas Tree, which is really The Great SnowTree in disguise. When I take it down, the snow goes away. Since I’m packing up the SnowTree, there won’t be anymore snow . . . until I put it up again.”

He tried arguing a little with me with things like, “Well, why did it snow in Tennessee when you had us flush ice cubes here?”

I imagine it is difficult to understand why tens of feet of snow do not fall every day when I could just do it with a flick of the SnowTree switch. However, that would not be fair to people in other cities and towns, so SnowDays are shared.

Since Washington really annoyed me this year, they discovered that behavior without moderation is. . . uncomfortable.  Too much snow, like too much spending, leaves a mess and paralyzes communities. Do you think they got the message?

After Christmas, when the Christmas Ornaments come off, the Snow Ornaments take the spotlight. I guess he never noticed how every time I clicked the lights on, it snowed.

Sadly, the truth really was just too much for him.  He finally slid off the stool and left the room. I guess it is hard to believe that your mom is the real SnowMom in charge of all those snowflakes.

I know you are dying to ask, so I will just go ahead and tell you. . .yep, no more snow.  The SnowTree is officially packed up.  Springtime’s a’coming! However, I can pull that ol’ SnowTree out if Washington needs another message!

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We were driving in the car, my joyful-spirited son who was not so joyful.  Change can be hard.  Being a teenager can be hard.  Having younger brothers can be hard.  Being a younger brother, too!

“Have you taken it to God?” I asked, about a struggle he was having, particularly with our move.

“Why?  God knows how I feel,” he answered simply and simply frustrated that his mother was talking to him.

  • The Answer I gave:”Because God does not just shove His way in to your life.  He waits until you ask him.”
  • The Better Answer: “Because God is not like your mother who just barges in and tries to help.  God waits for permission.  Then Helps. Perfectly.  God is not like your mama.”

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

 “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness[e] he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13).

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by blue cotton memory

Once upon a time, I had a day to myself.  It was a lovely day.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue. My thoughts ran freely through my brain – and, oh, what wonderful thoughts they were.  Then my heart swelled with love.  Thoughts of one brother biting the other faded into the background and all I saw was goodness.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Happiness. Like blue skies on a sunny day.

I stepped into a Fresh Market.  I love strolling through the Fresh Market with its baskets, flowers, cheeses, ready-made delightful dishes and assortment of candy.  They always have vintage holiday candy: Easter, Christmas, Valentines.  They had adorable dark chocolate, white chocolate and pink chocolate flower lollipops.  Flowers for my boys?  Not a chance.  Then I saw the JellyBelly Jelly Beans. What a wonderful Friday after-school snack that says, “I love you.  I was thinking of you today!”  So I bought 4 packages. 

There is something wonderful about owning your own little bag and not having to share with your brothers. I bought 3 packages of Sour Jelly Belly Jelly Beans and one Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix.  One of them turned up their nose at the Sours last time, so I sought to head off conflict.

Have you ever done that?  Sought to eliminanate potential conflict – kind of like taking allergy meds so you don’t get a sinus infection and feel miserable?

The first son in the car was given a choice: Sour or Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix.  He chose the latter.  Excitement oozed out his fingertips as he tore into the bag, snagged one and popped it in his mouth. The smile!  The sparkle!

So short-lived.

The Flavors of Choice

“EEEoooowwww.  I don’t like these.  Can I change?”

I only had 4 bags.  I had 4 sons (the 5th got married, graduated from college and got a job – he wasn’t in the school pick up rotation).

“You made a choice.  You have to live with it.”

“But I don’t like it.”

“Well, I’m sorry you don’t like it, but you are stuck with it.  That’s the way it is with choices. Once you commit yourself, there’s no turning back.”

“What about the other bags?”

“They belong to your brothers.  You had first choice.”

And so he sulked, just like Lola in Carl Norac’s book “I love You So Much.”  The illustrations of Lola sulking are so adorable that you just want to hug her furry little cheeks! My little guy sulked, but he just didn’t seem as cuddly and huggable as Nola.  However, his eyes – well, let’s just say that Claude Dubois must have been watching my son when he drew Nola in her sulks. 

Heading off conflict is not always successful. Sometimes I think it only creates greater frustration – after all the effort I put into conflict prevention, all I did was experience time waste and failure.

Dinner never appeals to all 5 boys. All 5 boys never want to go to the same restaurant.  All 5 boys’ joyous moments never coincide.

However, the life lesson coincided – a choice was made: a purchase choice by me(should have bought all Sours) and and a selection choice by my son.  The choices disappointed both of us.  You cannot take it back if you have already worn it, eaten it or read it. Next time, more care will be taken with these Jelly Belly Choices of life.

Who’d a thought a Jelly Belly had more substance than a carb? Or could create such chaos!

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“There is a time to be born”(Ecc. 3:2)

“These kids are confronted with everything today.  Not like when we were their age”  – I hear that all the time. Maybe it is true, but think about the terror during the French Revolution, the burning of Rome, being  Jewish during Jesus’ time, or being Jewish during World War II, or having Attila the Hun attack your village.

“There is a time to be born”

If Psalm 139 is true and God put everything in us, ordered our days and knows each of our thoughts, don’t you think He knows the temptations our children would face?  The challenges they would have to over come or allow God to carry them over?

“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. . .  16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(2 Tim 3:11-17)

Do not doubt for a moment that God equipped each one of our sons and daughters for this time in which they were born.  Do not doubt for a moment that you were equipped to shepherd your sons and daughters through this time.  God equipped us for this time before we were even born.

 Hannah, along with her New Testament counterpart, Elizabeth, lived in a time when a woman’s value and even her righteousness could be judged by her childbearing ability.  Imagine how people talked, probably even openly that Hannah and Elizabeth must be hiding some sin.  What were they doing? What great sin?

These two women must have felt at a loss at times, wondering what they had done to so offended the Lord.  Yet, they did not offend the Lord.  As we know, Elizabeth’s infertility was part of God’s plan, and His plan was John the Baptist.  John could not be born when Elizabeth first had a desire for a child or he would have been too early for God’s plan.  So, too, was Hannah’s infertility a part of God’s plan.  Samuel also needed to be born for a specific time and season (Ecc. 3:2).

I have often thought how blessed my children are to be born in the United States. To have full tummies, warm houses, running water free from disease, physicians to heal us, educational opportunities, freedom of religion.  Then I think of those children that are not so fortunate, like the children in earthquake-devastated Haiti or war-torn Uganda.

Our children, teenagers (who are truly young men and women) are confronted with ungodliness inside and outside the schools via doctrine running against our beliefs, language choices, drugs, alcohol, irresponsibility. Biblically, though, when you really look at the stories, the heroes and heroines of the Bible confronted temptation and often failed.  But our God is a God of second chances.  And our God equipped them for those challenges and temptations before they were born.

Thank You God

for equipping me

for the time in which I was born

Thank you for equipping my children during this time

 for the calling in their lives that was there

before their toes first wiggled

This specific ministry

whether it be as a nurse in the hospital,

a teacher in the classroom

 a police officer keeping the peace,

a soldier bringing freedom so democracy can exist and the Word of God can be planted

or to be a mom

You planted it within them like a seed in the Autumn

You knew the temptations, the snares to trip them, the challenges

You equipped each child, each mom, each dad, each teen

 for good works

 These times were not unexpected to you

And so you planned

for everything

Including Second Chances

Thank you God

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This is my Valentine’s Post after the fact – because, well, love is all year long – and that is when it means the most. So, what kind of man do you love?  What kind of man did you decide to spend the rest of your life with, 365 days of the year 24/7 for 75+ years? Is your man a gift from God or did you set out on a quest from Barbie Doll days to find the biggest, ummmm,  dumb a** in the world?

As a mother of 5 sons, I try daily to raise Godly men who will be an Elkannah-type husband to a Hannah-type wife. It is tough when society, egged on by a media separated from the cultural roots, provides layers and layers of video and audio that redefine the character of men and even women. Society has created a culture buffett of husband molds for boys and men that create inappropriate expectations like the hero-role  or, sadly, the blockhead roll .

Of course, we do not see much of the Hero Role lately.  However, the hero-role says the husband will fix everything from your history of dysfunction to the harvest of bad choices to even saving you from yourself.  Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. No man could ever fulfill the hero-roll.  Only God can do that.

The second role gained momentum in Everybody Loves Raymond to radio DJ girl-guy pairings.  I stopped listening to a Christian radio channel every morning on the way to school because I grew tired and frustrated hearing demeaning comments about men and their abilities and thinkology to the male DJ.  We recently moved and the music channel we listened to had the same type of pairing with the same disparaging comments about men.  Just last week, they changed to a two-male DJ format – and I love it – no more man-bashing and treating the man as if he would a Neanderthal. Why would I want my boys to listen to that?

What woman wakes up every morning saying, “I am so excited.  I am marrying the dumbest guy on the face of the earth.  I cannot wait to spend my life with an idiot.” Did you every say, “I’m in love.  He’s such a nitwit!  You are going to love him, too.”

This attitude has permeated our culture so insidiously that even a  comment made by Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was debated during her nominee hearings: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Men are so pathetic that they have no richness of life? No qualifying experiences to denote wisdom? Intelligence?

Would moms of daughters like it if moms of sons raised them to not only view women as subservient, intellectually inferior and Pavlovian in nature – just pat them on the head like a favorite dog and they’ll come to heel nicely? I think not.

People always live up to standards and expectations set in a classroom, in a youth room, in the family room. Expectations need to be set high for these boys to men, not set to the lowest common denominator equivalent to a trained chimpanzee.

Valentines Day, a day where the love between a man and a woman is celebrated!  How beautiful, sigh. . .

What kind of man do you want for your daughter? What kind of husband do you pray for your daughter to marry? What kind of boy does she want to “go” together with in the 5th grade when she is not supposed to be going with anybody?  What kind of young man in high school do you want her to date?  What kind of man do you want her to walk down the aisle with? What kind of man do you want to raise your grandchildren?

Discard the media-driven faux-culturally created man.  Talk respect.  Talk nobleness. Talk about the amazing qualities of men. Yes, women have these same qualities, too, but girls lives these traits differently. I love being married to a man with the manly qualities of these traits. 

Strength: Face it ladies, men are stronger than women.  Wait until your 13 year old can lift the edge of a couch easiser than you can.  Men can slam the ball harder in a tennis game. Yes, they can even win every arm wrestling match. And then, there’s that inner strength, too.

Courage: Who gets up to check on the scary sounds in the middle of the night?  Who do you call when there is a snake or mouse in the house? Who would stand in front of you to protect you from danger? 

Nobleness: I think this must be one of the most romantic words in the language. Nobleness is knightly. Nobleness opens doors when your hands are full or not. Nobleness self-sacrifices.  Nobleness meets your family and loves you and them anyway.  Nobleness sees the best in people. Nobleness wraps its arms around you when you’ve behaved badly and helps you forgive yourself without making you feel like a stink bug.

Confidence:  A confident man does not say, “I think I love you. . . I think we can make it. . . Sure, I guess I want to spend eternity with you.” A confident man says, “I know I love you. I know we can make it. Enternity would be empty without you.” A confident man may not know all the answers, but walks in faith.

Leadership: Leadership takes responsiblity for the vision and success or failure of that vision. True leadership allows the support team to soar as high as it possibly can.

Protector: A true protector allows you to fight your battles, but when you are unable to fight or the fight has gone out stands guard, providing the opportunity for emotional, spiritual and physical recovery. Of course, they do it much differently than women but that makes it so much more wonderful.

Steadfast: Always Faithful! Never gives up or lets me give up. Steadfast is never a duty. Steadfast is driven by conviction and belief to the core of the heart.

What are the favorite qualities of your husbands?  What are must-have qualities you want from your daughter’s future husbaands? You can find out about mine in the following: Prayer for My Sons Wife  and Mr Right.

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I wish I could take credit for these Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights. I discovered them at my 3rd grader’s Christmas Party.  This must-have recipe was pulled out of thin air the night before by a very creative mom.  I encouraged her to submit it to a contest. She demurred, but shared the information – a magical recipe that has all my sons happy to visit me in the kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights are so easy you could almost feel guilty. That guilt evaporates when you see the older ones stealing a few when your back is turned and the younger ones begging for more – the guilt is replaced by a happy heart – the kind of happiness moms find in a variety of ways – a hug from a son,  “I-love-mom” written in the snow – or devouring the cooking and asking for more’!

Recipe: One large Nestles Toll House Refrigerated Cookie Dough.  Slice cookies between 1/4 to 1/2 inch and then cut into 1/3s.  Roll into balls and place in non-stick mini-muffin tins.  Cook according to directions.  (If you want a homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, check out Type A Mommy’s recipe – She claims it’s the BEST  Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe ever.

You can either make homemade brownies or buy them pre-made.  I prefer Kroger Bakery Brownies because they are so moist.  Keep in mind that I am focusing on an easy after-school surprise – a no-frazzle approach on those days when I just want to be a happy mom making life a little sweeter for my boys.

I slice the brownies into 1/3s and place on top of the piping hot Chocolate Chip Cups the muffin tin creates through baking.  The heat melts the brownies a bit in a carmelizing kind of way.

Let cool before removing from the tins.  If you remove too soon, they will lose shape and fall apart.

There are many different ways into the hearts of our children.  Some are direct – “I love you.” Or with words of praise about their nobleness, their talents, their hard work, their uniqueness.  Sometimes we love our children invisibly but powerfully – through prayer.  Sometimes, it is indirect – like Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights.

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My Christmas Tree morphed into a Snow Tree (Only snow ornaments and sparkly lights).  My SnowMan Wreath Twinkles on SnowDays. I LOVE SNOW!

My nose twitches to smell that metallic winter smell that precedes snowfall.  The boys’ eyes brighten with anticipation:  Holiday – No School.  Winter Snow Holidays evoke totally different feelings, behavior and hunger than the Summer Sun Holidays.

Back in Paradise where we lived last winter, the boys would come home from school with the principal’s assignment on their minds: Flushing ice cubes down the toilet so it would snow, cancelling school.

A few weeks ago, the boys were eager for a BIG SNOW, so they gathered some ice cubes:

 

And flushed them down the toilet

They set off to bed, excitedly waiting for the BIG SNOW!

And the BIG SNOW showed up

in Paradise

leaving two very disgruntled boys

Snowless in Kentucky

Moral to the Story:  If you want it to snow in Paradise, flush ice cubes.  Ice Cube Flushing does not work in Kentucky.

The Snow Came

Eventually

And they frolicked – like only little guys can do

They started out traditional 

Totally Traditional

Traditional slid to Daring, on the Edge

And little boy hearts swelled with the SnowMent

 One SnowBoy made a SnowPrise for me!

I love my SnowBoys

And my heart warmed so much snowmelt almost occurred!

Can you hear me singing,” Let it Snow. Let it Snow.  Let it Snow.”

 

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The media snarkiness irritates me, especially when it is condescending snarkiness is about something I just might do.  Like actually believe the Bible to be true, pray for answers, or. . . write notes on the palm of my hand.

When Sarah Palin wrote her talking points on her palm, and the media snarked her, well, they snarked me, too.

My talking points for a college class ended up on my palm one time.  I had forgotten my notes.  No paper left me with one choice – my palm – the solution to my dilemma.

Who would you rather have leading the country? A quick-thinking, can-do person who has the confidence to go out in front of a group of people and talk with knowledge and passion with a few organizational prompts on their palm or someone who reads what they  have to say from a teleprompter?

I spent years teaching college composition with an oral presentation requirement. Reading a speech earned a significantly lower grade. We talked about poor speech habits, like “Uuuuhhhh” – and discussed the need to eliminate them, though it did not lower the grade.  It was a freshman class after all.

However, on the national stage, we have a president who reads a speech written by other people from a teleprompter and former governor who motivates groups across America utilizing only 4 to 5 organizational keywords on her palm. And the media disses the governor?

The 21st century media is no Thomas Payne.  The President is no George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. And I am intrigued that a woman is the only one man enough to go out and speak to the American people without a computer telling her what to say.

This political season has provided wonderful opportunities for teaching my sons about the United States government- capitalism versus socialism, the pitfalls of compromise, the 3 branches of government, the constitutionally defined role of the president, the importance of reading contracts that bear financial responsibility, small government versus big government, the rules apply to us so pay your taxes, and no not all government officials have affairs.

Yet, recently, we’ve been left to explain why a president needs a teleprompter to talk to people in an elementary school, why it is not o.k. to say, “uuhhhh” repetitively when you’re talking to people (because your oral presentation teacher will dock your grade), and the importance of being respected in your career field of choice through expertise, dexterity, knowledge of that field’s subject matter.

Sadly, the president is not helping. “Gee, mom, I don’t have to do that stuff. I’ll just be president,” is something I live in fear of hearing on a daily basis.

However, I love it that there is someone out there who is faithful to their husband, chooses life, has common sense answers (at least common sense in my little ol’ corner of the world), and only needs keywords to talk for a long period of time over what she believes in. It sounds like she can talk the talk because she is walking it, too.

My boys?  They better grow up able to talk the walk.  Talking the teleprompter won’t get them anywhere down here in real America.

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I taught college composition for quite a few years.  Content develop is the key to success. When developing an argument, I would tell students, “You need three reasons for why you believe anything.  One does not show a pattern. Neither does two.  However, three shows you’ve given the matter sincere consideration.”

A few weeks later, a non-traditional student came in boasting, “I used your “3-reasons” for belief argument and stopped some of my friends from going to church.”

What have I unleashed, I asked myself.  Then I thought, “Oh! No!  What if he asks me?”

So I started to think of three reasons.  I fell into a trap on my first go-round, trying to be theological.  persuading someone to believe through Scripture alone does not work – especially with people who do not know God – and when I say know I mean someone who reads His words and seeks Him out in a “As-the-deer-panteth-for-water-so-my-heart-panteth-for You” kind of seek. 

It took me a week.  After all, I was a college instructor – I needed to sound wise. Then the truth just smacked me in the face. It was so simple.  The Three Reasons I believe? He held my son in the palm of His hand on the day he was born, protecting him for 16 minutes until he was born healthy and whole.  Another son couldn’t hear in one ear and He opened his ears.  Another son had stomach pain for 6 years.  Specialists and doctors kept blowing us off.  One day, I hit the floor and cried out to God.  Two days later, another mom gave me the name of a doctor who decided to scope him, found the problem, and prescribed the solution. Big miracles and little miracles – that’s why I believe. Everytime I’ve cried out, God has answered.  Maybe not in the way I thought, but He answered.

Before Christmas, we all started praying for a miracle – “an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers; such an effect or event manifesting or considered a work of God.”

You can imagine the struggle in our household now.  The little guys – they believe in miracles, but somehow because a miracle didn’t happen last week did not shake their belief.  They are comforted that their Papaw is in heaven.

My great-niece said it all at the visitation, “Mama – you said Papaw’s in heaven.  He can’t be in heaven.  He’s right there.”

However, there’s struggling going on – probably not just with my older guys – but there’s struggling going on. 

One of my sons said today, “The minister stood there and said, ‘A miracle’s going to happen.’ Well, it didn’t. Papaw died.  I don’t know if I believe in miracles.  I prayed, but nothing happened.” His heart is broken and his faith is shaken.

Do you ever have thoughts that swirl around your mind? They swirl but do not really have a place to settle?  And you wonder if those thoughts should ever see the light of day?

And a moment comes where that thought that had been swirling, formed clearly and landed in your heart instead of your mouth?

That’s what happened when my son finished talking and said he was going to take a long bath.

I grabbed one of my thank you cards, wrote the following note, and slid it under the bathroom door. And I believe it with all my heart:

“Did you ever think that the true miracle is the lives changed through Papaw’s death.

Nobody wanted Jesus to die, but how His death changed lives!

If we consider what Papaw was to this family, I can only think that people are looking at themselves and asking, ‘Am I living how Papaw wanted.’

Why now?  Not in 10 years?  Maybe because someone needed that change now – and Papaw is the kind of man who would do that for those he loves.”

Maybe God whispered that to Papaw! I believe when the minister prayed for a miracle, God heard him.  It just wasn’t the miracle we were looking for. However, I believe it was the miracle Papaw would have wanted – after all, he was always a man who did for others first.

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About 11 years ago, my son, the Fire and the Power of the Holy Spirit, survived a cord-prolapse, crash c-section.  The last thing I heard before they knocked me out was, “I don’t have a heart beat.” Coming to, I was terrified – would my son be dead or alive.  Laying on my side in intense pain, with my eyes closed, I heard my father in law talking to someone, teasing about my snoring.  Then I heard those precious sounds only a newborn makes.  I knew everything was o.k.

Today, my father in law is in a hospice facility.  He’s snoring a lot. I wish I could say something to make everything o.k. However, that’s his gift, not mine.

My sons are part of an amazing group of young men: 12 grandsons who adore their papaw. Coming up behind them is a group of great-grandchildren who are in the Candy-and-Coke Store Fan Club group.  It’s a pretty special, select group. The benefits?  Unconditional love, hugs, trips to the Candy and Coke Store, front-row fans at any activity, a front door always open, a sit-down-let’s talk about life attitude, and tremendous generosity of spirit – like a vacation a few years ago when my husband and I -very out of shape tried to play tennis with him.  Three days of grueling play left us hobbling.  We were so grateful when he cried off due to a sore muscle, but I bet he just knew we couldn’t take it any more.

The birth of my second son found papaw hand-cuffed to anything, oh, about the level of couch legs, bench legs, table legs.  After about 48 hours, he probably wished he’d never bought those hand-cuffs for the new big brother.  However, he just loved making those boys smile.

I remember one of my nephews crying when he was about 4 years old.  He’d spent the weekend at Nanny and Papaws.  He hugged so tight to Papaw when  it was time to leave, sobbing into his shoulder. He’s feeling the same way today, and he’s all grown up.

We’ve prayed for healing. Daily. My boys have seen each other healed through prayer, so they faithfully joined in. 

The other day, the littlest one asked what was wrong with Papaw.  I guess he realized this wasn’t your typical, run-of-the-mill cold or flu.  I explained cancer: “You know when you watch Star Wars and the bad guys send drones into the land they want to take over?  Well, the bad guy is cancer, and they go into parts of the body, kind of like a planet in the universe.  When they take that over, they go to other parts of the body – like other planets.”

Being the Star Wars fan, he understood.

Last week, though, I had to move into phase two.  Phase 1 – you pray for healing.  Phase 2 – when you realize God has other plans – going-home plans. Then, it’s time to help that person go to the other side – cross over into heaven.

Peter Marshall, the famous United States chaplain, made even more famous in the movie, “A Man Named Peter,” describes dying the following way: “It’s like going to sleep in your mother’s bed and waking up the next morning only to find yourself in your own bed.”

Every person who lives for Jesus spends their entire life traveling to the gates of heaven.  Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton explain it perfectly, “When I get where I’m going, there’ll be only happy tears.”

Of course, the getting there can be kind of tough. . . on everybody.  We all want one more hug, one more joke, one more political debate, one more chance to say how much he meant to us.  But then, he always knew we loved him.  Telling him would just embarrass him.  He always said, “Words mean NOTHIN’.  Your actions are shouting so loud I can’t hear your words.” I guess he and Obama could have had a debate on “Words… just Words.”

The little guys and I were talking about what Papaw’d do in heaven.  Yep, play tennis. Yep, hug those babies he didn’t get to hug down here. He’ll walk with that Papaw-spring in his step. He won’t debate politics, though. We decided that there wouldn’t be political debate in heaven. But I can see him grabbing an orange or an apple and peeling, just like I’ve seen him do a thousand times.

I remember my oldest son’s middle school basketball coach was arrested for smoking marijuana on some backwoods backroad.  He really like this coach and tried to give him an ethics break, “His mom died.  He was just coping with his grief.”

I just looked him straight in the eye and said, “I hope that when it’s my time to go to heaven, that you will celebrate my life instead of going to some backwoods backroad and drowning your sorrows in drugs.”

Crossing over is an odd time – it’s kind of like blue cheese and honey. The sweet and the pungent – but when mixed together, it’s just right.  Now is the time of great loss, but also the celebration of a life well lived and well-loved. The sweet and the pungent!

Some dear friends from when we lived here before bought the Candy and Coke Store a few years back.  They called Nanny the other day and told her, “If Papaw can’t come to the Candy and Coke Store, the Candy and Coke store will come to him.”

I bet Heaven feels like Papaw taking you to the Candy and Coke Store.

Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton did an excellent job singing about what it’s like when we get where we’re going.  It’s great to sing about our own little selves going. It’s just tough when the life of the party, the heart of the family, the world’s greatest father in law, dad, husband and Papaw head there before we get to.

I wish he wasn’t leaving the party so early!

When I Get Where I’m Going

by Melvern Rutherford Ii, George G. Iii Teren

 

When I get where I’m going
on the far side of the sky.
The first thing that I’m gonna do
Is spread my wings and fly.

I’m gonna land beside a lion,
and run my fingers through his mane.
Or I might find out what it’s like
To ride a drop of rain

(Chorus:)
Yeah when I get where I’m going,
there’ll be only happy tears.
I will shed the sins and struggles,
I have carried all these years.
And I’ll leave my heart wide open,
I will love and have no fear.
Yeah when I get where I’m going,
Don’t cry for me down here.

I’m gonna walk with my grandaddy,
and he’ll match me step for step,
and I’ll tell him how I missed him,
every minute since he left.
Then I’ll hug his neck.

(Chorus)

So much pain and so much darkness,
in this world we stumble through.
All these questions, I can’t answer,
so much work to do.

But when I get where I’m going,
and I see my Maker’s face.
I’ll stand forever in the light,
of His amazing grace.
Yeah when I get where I’m going,
Yeah when I get where I’m going,
there’ll be only happy tears.
Hallelujah!
I will love and have no fear.
When I get where I’m going.
Yeah when I get where I’m going.

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momboysbarnRaising Boys to Men has moments of glory and moments of unabashed obscurity.

For some reason, God put the mama (and Dad) in charge of filling these boys with humbleness, loyalty, honesty, courage, a hard-work ethic,  resourcefulness and caring-ness – and independence without sassing, breaking the rules, or not telling us where they are going. Like any big job, there are stages – and as a mom, each of these stages has particular job requirements, benefits, and challenges.

The newest stages to each of us individually usually require an adjustment period.  It has been the same with the last stage with my oldest son who recently married. However, an insightful post from the blogahood has helped me with that adjustment. Let me start from the beginning, so you can get a feel for the last great challenge in the relationships with our sons. As Mamas of these boys to men, our relationships go through various stages, but one things stays the same – prayer.

Survival Mom – Face it, for the first 3.5 years of their life, our sons cannot survive without us.  We feed them, change them, potty train, teach them how to walk, to talk – all the basic fundamentals.  Our reward?  Great big slurpy kisses, hugs, and unconditional adoration.  Survival mommy rules the world and prays that God show her how to rule his little world.  Prayers for healing, strength, insight, patience, solutions, and, oh, that God places a hedge of protection around his future and that this future wife have a heart for us – all while our future DILs are still in diapers!

Rock Star Mom – ages 3.5 to 7 – They love us, adore us, and want to marry us. Life without mom? Unimaginable. We create art projects, find books to inspire, set play dates to develop friendships, and teach them to swim, swing a bat, throw a football, play an instrument, sing songs, and to love Jesus. Full-time,  instructor-mommies training our little guys for the next step of independence though they so desperately do not want to leave us. Separated from mom? Appalling!  Huge Tears! Wailing! They want their mama! And their mama prays for guidance, for their life, for their struggles, for healing, for solutions, that they succeed in school, make good friends, embrace honesty,  for good character (in each of us), and, yep, for their future wife.

Fading Star Mom – 7 to 12 – That mom-son love is still there, but it comes and goes, like watching a star on cloudy night.  The pull to independence starts, realization that mom is not perfect – and maybe a little uncool – leads to testing, questioning, and developing their own tastes, likes, and dislikes.  They go into school without looking back, or trying not to look back.  However, they still love mom-son time.  They love it when you make hot chocolate on a snowy sledding day!  They’ll still snuggle, cuddle up while you read a roaring good book, and tell you absolutely everything that happened at school.  However, they really love hanging out with Dad now. It’s an equal-love world developing in the house. They want to pick their own books to read, which movies to see, and don’t wake you up in the middle of the night to climb in bed with you. And we pray – for Godly friends who help lift them up when they fall down, for wisedom, discernment in how to handle the bully in the bathroom, honest, self-discipline for spelling words,  insight, favor with God, solutions for challenges, and, yes, for their wife.

Underground Foundation  Mom – 13 to 19 – Stealth support – that is how I define it. The quest for independence steps up, but tricycle-style independence becomes the mainstay. We finance it, we attend it, we transport it, support it – Sports, music, extra-curricular activities – here they come. My husband and I have sold pork butts, stood with athletic teams outside Wal-Mart to raise money for the entire team, pancake breakfasts, sat through music practices, lessons, and recitals.  We let them drive our cars (I need therapy after this), learn how to cook, choose friends, develop a social calendar, when and how to say, “NO,” all the while reminding them to find God throughout the day.

We drove them home from soccer games where they seethed anger at their performance (whether they won or lost). We helped them pick their tux out for prom. We helped cook beautiful dinners for two proms where we along with other parents served  the attendees and then sat down to eat after they left. I stayed up all night on Project Graduation working so my son had a great night, a safe night. We reigned in poor choices, encouraged good choices – and prayed – for safety, wisdom, laborers to come across their paths to bring them closer to God, insight into God’s calling on their lives – and for their future wives.

Occasional Mom – 19 to 22 –  At least, that is how it seems on the outside with the  Independence-with-Training wheels stage.  Off to college, off to find their future and take it. Success or failure, it is all up to them, but at least they have a soft place to fall – home – and a mom and dad who are there to lift up, encourage, and pray – for good choices, insight into their future, a good work ethic, Godly friends who help lift them up when they fall – and, yes, their future wives.

Confused Mom – Post-College – All independent, out in the world (but hopefully not of the world), seeking and finding their wife, building a life of their own, as it should be.  The book, I’ll love you forever, “I’ll love you for always, as long as I’m living, you’re mommy I’ll be” – is so true – however, I do not think my daughter-in-law would appreciate me climbing in through her window every night, rocking my son,and singing that line to him.  I think it would freak her out.  It is a book that has so much potential, but really misses it there in an “Everybody-Loves-Raymond-kind-of-way.” There’s more to this mothering-job than climbing in his window at night when your son is all grown up.

There are times I felt like Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings when she says, “I have passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”

So what was my Role? What was my mommy-job in this phase?  Mommy-ness doesn’t just stop because  they get married.

Then, last week, I read Lidj’s post “Alabaster Jar,”  from Crown of Glory where she wrote:

  “As a mother, I am called to be the “family remembrancer,”

the one who remembers,

the one who points out the signposts.

I am also the gatekeeper,

 the watchman who stands guard,

 the priest who intercedes,

and who holds the cup of God’s healing oil.

May I be found faithful”(Crown of Beauty, 35-37))

I am no longer Confused Mom. My role is two-fold.  Foremost, it is about prayer.  It was all along – Intercessory prayer, vigilant prayer, healing prayer. Secondly, my role is to witness – to remember, to tell the stories of how God moved in our family, protected us, healed us, gave us life, sustenance,  of God’s faithfulness to His promises – and still does! As Lidj prayed, “May I be found faithful.” My role for the son who has grown up and moved out?  Prayer Mom who tells stories – I can do that! I will so have this stage down by the time by youngest one gets married!  Thanks Lidj!

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How Good is Santa? Well, let’s just say that the Christmas season has magical moments – moments you will hold tight to your heart when you’re 97 years old.

Sometimes Santa knows things the boys do not know – like a Brad Paisley concert coming to town.  What do you get boys when toy trucks are passe?  Brad Paisley tickets!

Santa also knew we wouldn’t let him buy any of those expensive Stetson hats, but he found two look-alikes 25% off $29.00 with a feather.  No, he didn’t bring one for the biggest one of the all, but he brought them for the two littlest ones.

Santa might, however, sneak back to get one for the big guy!  Maybe a Christmas in June birthday present?

They wear their hats everywhere – except in the bathtub!

A Christmas letter to Santa has traditionally been written by our oldest for, oh, probably about 10 years.  Last year he passed that tradition on to the second oldest.  Imagine the Whos going to Scrooge to tell them what they wanted for Christmas!  I stepped in this year.  We thanked Santa for last year’s gifts – yearly we do this.  Then each boy talks about what they want.

The 4th one said, “If you ask for just 2 things, you’ll get what you ask for and won’t be disappointed.  If you ask for more, you won’t get what you want the most and then you’ll be disappointed.”  All the boys followed his example.

We had a great time.  I printed the letter off a few days later when my husband and I left to, ahheemmm, go have a consultation with Santa.  My husband was reading the letter and gave me a funny look, “Did you write this?”

 “Yeah, I helped the boys write it.”

“Did you write this?”

I took the letter and read a paragraph that had been added, “Santa could you please bring my hardworking, magnificent mom a ring with her birth stone on it or a diamond ring. I know it would make her really happy” followed by our 4th son’s name.

I was amazed – not just at the ring request, but at the kind, sweet words. All I can say is moments like that are the best! 

Santa found one for 25% off $25 at Macy’s – it looked like this ring: 

Santa put it in my stocking.

I think the addendum to the family Christmas letter was the best Christmas gift in the whole wide world!

Another gift, somewhat quirky was a moment listening to my freshman talk to his younger brothers about the North and South Pole.  “Santa lives at the North Pole,” he explained.  “The elves are born at the South Pole.  You see, you plant an elf head first in the ground(when they die) and four new ones pop out.  It’s Ecology.”

A little sweetness, a little humor, and pink polka dot gollashes – what more could a mom ask for!

Santa is pretty darn good! And, Christmas still has magical moments!

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We’re still waiting here for my first granddaughter to arrive. She’s fashionably late – and being late made me think, which made me nostalgic. My boys don’t ask me to sing to them anymore – but they still want me to come into their rooms at bedtime, ask questions about their day and listen – an evolution of The Magical Sleepytime Hour – where I learn about lunch, each teacher, the bully in the bathroom or the trading of a Powerade for a rib sandwich, Big and little things, Little and big.

“I can’t go to sleep,” said the littlest of them all. 

“Try counting sheep,” I suggested.  He and his brother giggled all over their beds while counting sheep, eyes wide open. “With your eyes closed.” Mass giggles again. I turned off the light.

“I can’t go to sleep,” the littlest one said again, his voice carrying down the hallway.

“Close your eyes.  Sleep will come,” I answered.

“Not working,” he peeped up about 2 seconds later.

“You have to keep your eyes closed for about 20 minutes,” I countered, sighing, amused – knowing that when the littlest one out grew sleepytime antics there was not going to be anyone following up from behind to take his place.

“My eyes are burning,” he whined, flinging himself all over the bed.  “I can’t close my eyes.  It makes my eyes burn.”

Have you ever tried to reason with a little guy?  Any aged little guy?  You cannot persuade them to admit their eyes are not burning.  “Not possible,” is how my little guy would explain it.

I walked down the hallway into their room. “Do you need me to snuggle with you?”

“Me, too, mom,” the older one eagerly invited. 

I gave the older one, after a big hug, the following instructions, “Close your eyes.  Imagine all the different ways you can score a soccer ball.” He settled in.

I climbed into bed with the littlest one of them all. “Do you need me to snuggle with you?” I asked, expecting a sassy negative.

“Yes,” he said, immediately making room, snuggling up against.  It kind of reminded me of Theodore in The Chipmunks.  It also reminded me of how wonderful it is to be simply needed.

I started singing. We had not had bedtime snuggly sings in a long time.  Singing to a “Demand Performance Crowd” is the only way to do it!  They think my voice is wonderful – or most likely, they like my songs the best. There are a lot of Blue Cotton Originals – but they don’t induce sleep.  They needed to go to sleep.  It was a school night.

We Started out with Veggie Tales: “Know that where ever you are, it is never too far.  Just think of me and I’ll be with you.”

I then moved to “This old man” with more a jazzy melody than what I grew up with.  It turned into a duet.

I then launched into “Ten in The Bed.” It is one my father-in-law used to sing to my oldest son.  We found the book, which has such great pictures that we launched freed us to use our own names.  All the brothers fell out of bed last night, all their best friends fell out while getting a lesson in the various ways falling out sounds, “Dink, Splash, Crash, Skuttlebump, Kerthump” with great sound effects, too.

The boys were back to laughing uproariously.

I started singing “Holy and Anointed One” by John Barnett

“Jesus, Jesus,
Risen and exalted One,
Jesus
Your name is like
honey on my lips,
Your Spirit like
water to my soul,
Your word is a lamp
unto my feet,
Jesus I love
You, I love you”

The little guy snuggled, my arm under his head.  His eyes closed.  No burning.  No sleeplessness.  He just needed his mama to help him wind down and let the day go.

A Demand Performance – you bet! I’ll be there every time!

Sadly, sleepytime ears are more discerning than wake up ears. The next morning, before 7 a.m., all the boys were bundled in the car.  Snow was falling.  The sun was not awake yet.  We were going to feed Papaw’s cows.  While my older son got out to go feed, I belted away, “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow” to much moaning, complaining, and demands to “Stop! Stop! Stop!”

I didn’t – because I know that deep down inside, they really wanted me to keep on singing!

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Simply Saturday

There is something oddly baffling when the advice you give your children ends up on your situation doorstep.  I found myself, giving myself this bread-and-butter life-philosophy staple this week.  And just like my kids, I did not like being on the receiving end of one of my lectures, even though I needed it:

You might not be the smartest

or have the best skill set

but you never give up

the journey

the quest

the heart’s desire

the dream

because sometimes the smartest or those with the most talent

do not have the gumption,

the determination

the stick-to-it-ive-ness

innate hope

to never give up

to develop those skill sets

to learn the knowledge needed for the dream

and those are the ones,

the ones who never give up

who achieve

their heart’s desires

 

 

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