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JTcross15152“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

A college speech instructor asked my son’s class to name three people who have influenced him. He listed Jesus, Peter and David.  I would have listed my grandmother, who taught me to stand up for what I believe, St. Therese of Lisieux, from whom I learned about an alive relationship with God, and Pastor Eddie Turner, who taught about the power of the holy spirit, speaking faith, who I am to God,  Jesus pursuing and saving the broken sinner.

Who would you have listed?

I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas Iscariot. I doubt he would be found on any list. Yet, possibly, from him we can learn the powerful difference of grace over law – of exactly what Jesus’s crucifixion did for you and me and every broken person between and around us.

I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the sacrifice of God-made-man – the son of the king who gave up his power to save me from a graceless life. I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the burden of the sin he carried on the cross – and the willpower to stay on that cross.

Yet, when I study the story of Judas and Peter, I understand more what Jesus saved me from. I need that understanding to better give thanks as I remember what Jesus did for me. The difference between the two is the difference between how we survive our sin, how we are resurrected with Christ and restored to the Father. About 2000 years ago, two men betrayed the Messiah. One ended up crushed, broken and dead. The other preached the gospel the rest of his life, dying a martyr’s death for his faith, never failing his Savior again.

Let’s lay out the facts first:

  • One night, two betrayals.
  • Both betrayals were foretold by the one they betrayed.
  • One man betrayed for greed; the other fear for self-preservation.
  • Both betrayals happened in the shadows – and both saw the face of the one they betrayed afterwards.
  • Each man repented, recognizing his wrong.
  • One repented to church leaders. The other out alone and wept bitterly.

Both had heard the word. Both had walked with the Lord. Both regretted and repented. One died, and one lived.

What really is the difference between Judas and Peter at the point where they recognized their betrayal? Why does history forgive Peter and condemn Judas? Is it really as simple the difference between grace and law? A veil’s separation of two man’s redemption?

The first difference is what each did about their sin – their weakness – whether it was pride, fear or greed.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

One sought absolution from church leaders. The other sought Christ.

Judas represents the hopelessness of the law, while Peter represents the grace of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Judas sought absolution through the church leaders. Judas sought repentance, but he sought a go-between. The veil was still between him and Jesus. Judas sought forgiveness, but from the church leaders. He regretted his actions. I don’t doubt that he wept bitterly. I would think a man about to hurl himself to his death would weep.  Under the law, the weight of his sin was unbearable, irredeemable. The church leaders didn’t grant Judas the forgiveness he desired. When absolution was denied him by church leaders, the unbearable burden of his sin led him to suicide.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

The record of Peter’s story line pauses after his betrayal, weeping and repentance. There is no written record of where he was between the time he wept and resurrection morning. I imagine the grief of his sin equaled Judas’s grief. I imagine he beat himself up for his major fail moment. Haven’t we all had those fail moments? Moments where we betray our hearts, our values, our faith? How can we condemn others when we, too, have failed and sinned?

Peter seemed to not only understand that he was a sinful man, but he understood the need to repent. Peter didn’t seek go-betweens.  The night before the crucifixion, the veil was firmly in place; the law still ruled. No priest interceded for him, and without a priest to intercede for him, there was no absolution.

Peter repented by faith. Just him and Jesus.  By faith, just like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses, Rahab – and the heroes of the bible – by His faith and hope that Christ was the Messiah, before the temple veil was rent from top to bottom when Jesus died and man was no longer separated from God, Peter held on in the darkness of the crucifixion before the resurrection. The burden of his sin must have been overwhelming. After all, the same burden caused Judas to end his life. Yet, the power of faith always proves stronger than the burden of sin.

Have you ever wondered how Peter could have returned to the other ten? How he could take his place – how he could be a rock for Christ’s church? Are you willing to weigh another’s sin? To judge whether one betrayal is worse than another? After all, a betrayer was needed – just as Samson’s sinful behavior was needed to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4).

Yet, we find Peter restored to the ten – not meek, not unworthy, not out-cast for his betrayal.

There’s a story I know, of a man who went into basic training in WWII. His sergeant constantly rebuked him as he was trained for  war-time responsibilities. There wasn’t a day, it seems, he wasn’t called into the sergeant’s office for some infraction. Those rebukes stung, yet they had a lasting impact. He told me, “He grew me up. He taught me to be a man. He was a father to me.”

Peter was that way with Jesus.  Peter pushed away Jesus initially, before he was called to be one of the twelve: “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus rebuked him over and over, “. . . he rebuked Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mark 8:31-33).

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:28-33).

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22: 31-32, The Message).

Peter, so like the World War II soldier, took those rebukes, remembered and learned from them, and held on to them in the darkest of moments.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Both pursued by Christ.

One man looked to his fellow men for redemption and didn’t find it. Who he looked to led him to death.

The other looked to Jesus, the man who had rebuked him, and in the rebuking, taught him. Who he looked to led him to the resurrection and redemption.

How did one survive the burden of sin and another didn’t? Could it be Peter kept his eyes on Christ, kept his focus, his hope in him, though he yet didn’t see, didn’t understand about crucifixion tearing away the veil (the law) separating us from God?

It was a “Faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for;-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen”  (Hebrews 11: 1) moment.

One was overwhelmed by the burden of the law; one was redeemed through faith by grace, the burden lifted and born by Christ.

That we sin doesn’t surprise God. We are fallible, and in our fallibility, we are only complete and whole through God.

To truly understand the power and grace of Christ’s crucifixion, we need to understand man’s hopelessness and separation from God by the law.

It isn’t enough to say that Judas betrayed Christ. To most, he is a man defined only as the betrayer – and whose death was a fitting judgement against him.

Yet, God saved killers. God saved thieves. God redeemed selfish men. The stories say so. If we leave Judas in the potter’s field, dismissing him, we fail to truly see the power and depth of what exactly Jesus did for you and me. It might only be a veil’s difference, but when the veil separates us from God – it’s the difference between life and death.

Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserable is a story of two similar characters – one who represents the law (Judas/Javert) and another who represents Grace (Peter/Jean ValJean). Javert sought salvation through the law. Law breakers were irredeemable, unworthy of God’s grace, of man’s kindness, benevolence and second chances. In the end, Javert realizes he had it all wrong. In a life-changing moment, Javert recognized that God redeems the sinner. The revelation into God’s grace also revealed the wrong he had done to so many people. The realization of the weight of his sin overwhelmed him. He could only feel the soul-killing burden of sin’s weight. Having kept is eyes so long on the law, Javert is unable to set his eyes on his Savior and the forgiveness he so readily offers. Through forgiveness the burden would be released through redemption, all because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Javert didn’t believe it could be for him – and so he threw himself into the river.

Judas repented without salvation hope; the law was his hope and the men who kept the law denied him forgiveness. He is a living example of sinner’s hopelessness under the law. His hopelessness is even foretold:

“For I must die just as was prophesied, but woe to the man by whom I am betrayed. Far better for that one if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas betrayed Jesus, yet Paul killed thousands of Christs (for if Christ is in each believer, then each person is Christ). If God redeemed Paul, would he have not redeemed a repentant Judas? Would he have not lifted the burden of sin off Judas, just like he lifted the burden off Paul? Off Peter?

Under the law, aren’t we all like the Cain crying out:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden” (Genesis 4:13).

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices.

What we do know is that Peter pressed forward towards Christ. Peter held on to this truth:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6)

Despite Peter’s betrayal, he was welcomed back in to the group. We don’t know what he did during those hours after his betrayal and resurrection morning, but whatever he did led him back to Christ, to the embrace and acceptance of the fellow apostles.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection gives us a grace over law culture, a redeeming of the soul out of sin culture, a salvation infused with God’s grace culture.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Two Endings.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed.  Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter” (Mark 14: 6-7).

Peter passed the test. He came through – and Jesus was letting him know that he knew, that he was forgiven, that he was part of this new life under grace. “Including Peter”– including you, including me – including all those broken sinners repenting but not believing they are good enough, worthy enough.

There would have been no crucifixion with betrayal, and, without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, there is no grace.

. . . . and that is what we are doing this Easter season: remembering just exactly what Jesus did for us, remembering exactly what the crucifixion was all about.

A tale of two betrayers – and all the difference a veil makes.

Are you looking to Jesus in your fail moments? Do you you believe God’s grace is for you, too – no matter the weight of your sin?

You have two choices – grace or the law. What do  you choose?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

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http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday
Dance with Jesus

Da

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It’s January in Tennessee – the winds have one moment blown a smackerel of cold and snow and another moment rain and mildness. Mild warmth in January is over-bearing, so the heat is off, the windows cracked open to let in a little coolness. I woke to the Robins and Cardinals chirping backyard chats. These backyard residents always remind me of Jimmy Stewart’s Rear Window living.  This morning, these flighty neighbors called back and forth to each other as if . . . it were Spring.

Spring? In January! Even the Bradford Pear buds are emerging.

They do this every year! Every single year!

Instead of falling in with them (nature duped into thinking Spring is here; me anxious I’ve missed the snow), this morning I said to myself, “Spring weather in a Tennessee January? It’s just a stage.”

I didn’t say it out loud. After all, the birds and buds wouldn’t have listened to me. So I just left them to fall for it all over again..

Year in, Year out – you’d think they’d learn and not be fooled – Two weeks of Spring weather during January in Tennessee is just a stage. Misbehavior? Sass? Mischievousness? Unhealthy boundaries? Rebellion? Lack of Discipline? Weather behavior run amuck?

It’s all happened before. Springtime in a Tennessee January is as predictable a stage, as a 10-year-old with the blues, a 12 year old pushing buttons, a 16-to-19-year-old with no smiles for the camera, and a 21-year-old who figuratively come home.

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done will be done again” (Ecc. 1: 9)

“I’ve never had a truly happy day in my life,” my first-born said when he was 10. I knew better – I had videos and photos testifying to happy days. However, I thought I’d failed, that somewhere I’d totally, irrevocably ruined his life despite trying to hard to be a good mom.

The second son was so dramatic, his blues much deeper and louder, that I didn’t recognize the pattern. However, when my third son, the joy-of-the-Lord son turned blue at 10 – I heaved a huge sigh of relief. “It’s just a stage,” I exhaled.

It’s liberating, to say, “It’s a stage” – for both of us. It means it’s o.k. to be blue. It’s o.k. for seasons to be uncomfortable. I wonder if sometimes our greatest fear is that we’re made all wrong, irrevocably broken, “unfixable.” It’s liberating for him to realize he’s a regular boy just as it’s good for me to realize I’m a regular mom. Each stage is designed with a beginning, a progression, an end and an ever-after.

Twelve is a dicey stage. It’s a button-pushing stage. One day, the 4th son came in, saying about the 5th one, the 12 year old, “I’m going to kill him. Really, Mom. If he doesn’t stop, I’m  going to haul off and hit him.” The button-pushing stage can be wearisome – not due to lack of excitement, but for the repetitious nature of cause-effect in the stage.

Three sons ago, I would have panicked. Don’t kind, loving moms who love, discipline and pray for their children have obedient, happy-go-lucky children who adore being together? All hugs and love! Right? A mischief of boys doesn’t work like that – training to be a knight in shining armor is filled with wrestling, challenges, showmanship – learning how to lead and follow. These stages have been humbling, sending me closer to the Father, looking to find that place of comfort under his wing the bible talks about.

“It’s a stage,” I told this son who was terribly tired of his brother in this stage – but he didn’t know it was a stage. “You did the same thing to your brothers. He’ll grow out of it.”

The pressure seemed to just fall off of him. “Well,” he said, turning away. “Then I deserved everything I got when I was his age.”

Interestingly, once the boys seems to understand the behavior was part of a stage, their vengeance tempered. The cause/effect of this button-pushing staged seemed more survivable.

Maybe by recognizing there are stages, we are better able to understand where we are isn’t permanent, that where this stage leads is to something God-better. Uncomfortable? In a hard challenge? In a hard winter before a reviving spring?

Just like a tide’s ebb and flow

Just like seed-time and harvest

Just like springtime weather in January

It’s not a surprise – to God. Maybe to us, but not to God. It’s not the precursor to a fail, to a world-gone-wrong season. Sometimes a stage is a new season, a new life-appropriate challenge we haven’t yet experienced yet – and, like all new things, live the beginning of it awkwardly, inconfused and frustration.

“There is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything about which is said,
‘Look! This is new!”?
It was already here long ago,
    in the ages long before us” (Ecc. 1:10)

I’m in a new-to-me stage. It’s like the first time I experienced the 10-year-old blues, the 12-year-old button pushing – and all those other stages I experienced as the mom in the relationship. It’s new territory, a new adventure – but now I’m tempted to be excited that God is adding a dimension to my story. Maybe it’s more of a rueful excitement that recognizes the awkwardness, moments of self-doubt, frustration, even the failure – all sorts of growing-pains, the kind that sharpens and softens the soul.

This time, this stage, I know that after every hard challenge, there is a period of refreshing. That because of Christ, after every crucifixion moment comes resurrection.

This Spring weather in Tennessee is just a stage. I’m in good company, with these red birds, cardinals and Bradford Pear buds, learning how to live these stages God designed.

“The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns”
(Ecc. 1: 6)

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Treating Boys as Knights in Training
When the Knight Pledges His Life to His Lord
Raising boys as Knights in Training
Six Mom-Stages of Raising Boys to Men

 

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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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bicyclegreen_edited-1removing training wheels

he types his essay
on heroes and anti-heroes
defining the noble, the ignoble
the brave, questing search
of the soul of a man
wrestling down, pinning
the argument of his
ideas

“read it,” he wants,
only half-way done
but in this letting go
of both our hands
he needs to trust his
argument, his support
the heart of his ideas
for now
until the roughness of it
is sketched in

the review wait
until further progress
frustrates independence growing
unused to hands-off processes that
stretches new-found
self-ownership and the evaluation
of it
by other minds and other hearts
who neither held his hands and nor let go
to walk, fall, and pull himself up
to try again until
he got it
on his own

like bicycle riding
solo
for the first time
with the training wheels of
independence
removed
revealing the sheer terror
of hands-off
for both of us
until his feet pressed into the pedals
his hands wrapped control around
handle bars
his inside boy balanced his outside boy
and he flew down the side walk

heart jumping, I stood
at the letting-go point
hands gripped at my side
words held back so they
wouldn’t get in the way
as he wobbled, teetering
from failure to success
in the newness of confidence
emerging
from owning the journey
two-wheeled independence

today he writes,
and I find busyness
in a letting-go moment
hands gripping the dish clothe,
wiping the counter
words held back so they won’t
get in the way
of his words, his ideas
of heroes and anti-heroes,
examples and arguments
of an essay written
comparing the souls of men

this slow removal
of the training wheels of
Independence
of a mama’s hands
letting go
to allow him to own
his success, his failures
his  picking himself up to try
again
and in that picking up gain
more than success
is
courage-soaked mother
who loves enough
to let go

Won’t you settle in, join me with a cup of spiced ginger plum tea, join me with Karen at Tuesdays at Ten? The writing prompt is . . . Letting go.

 

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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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One of my sons came home from church awhile back talking about the anti-Christ and End-Time Signs.

I just asked, “Well, son, if you believe it, are you going with the first load(believers raptured) or coming along later (unbelievers remaining who suffer but are given the chance to believe)?”

It is not the end-time signs that are really important. Relationship with the Father is what is important.

“Yeah, I believe in God,” my son said.

And I thought, yes, even the devil believes.

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror” (James 2:19)

Does your belief order your actions? The words from your mouth? Are you cognizant of the contract of belief – a contract similar to a knight who has pledged his sword, his life, his loyalty, his riches to his Lord? Is it that kind of belief?

“I promise on my faith that I will in the future be faithful to the lord, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.” (Medieval Life and Times Information)

A verbal oathe, was a contract between a vassal and his liege Lord. A binding contract that outlined specific duties between that vassal and his Lord.

“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman” (2 Chronicles 15: 12-13

This “Liege Fielty” is  “a promise of -absolute- service and obedience to the Crown of his Kingdom, or to an individual person. The Crown, or the individual person, in turn promises to defend that liegeman’s “rights and privleges,” and in general to be an honorable Lord to that vassal. One swears this kind of fealty -once.” (White Bard, The Feudal Contract)

Baptism is  our soul signature to that contract,  more than just confirming we believe. It is the validation of our contract, publicly speaking in a binding way, that we do not just believe that Jesus is the Son of God who rose from the dead on the 3rd day. We are acknowledging we chose to live our lives in service to our Lord.

Yet, to enter into the service of our Lord is to become an intimate part of the family, rich in inheritance. Becoming a vassal, yet a son or daughter of our Lord at the same time. The word marvel comes to mind when I try to grasp the generosity of our Lord.

“If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived” (1 John 2:4-6)

All my sons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. So, too, does the devil. Belief alone does not make you a child of God. It is what you do with that belief. It can get you thrown out of Heaven or embraced in the Father’s arms as part of His family. I believe, the kind that saves,  is a knightly- kind-of-thing, requiring faithfulness, action and relationship. Do you have it?

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My two-year-old granddaughter walked across the yard beside me with a plate of strawberries. Maneuvering over Sadie, our golden retriever’s inconvenient mole-holes and balancing a plate of rolling strawberries, Ava was in danger of either losing her dignity or her strawberries.

“Can I carry them?” I asked, being careful of her heart and her confidence.

Concentrating on her journey, she confidently answered, “No.”

A few more steps later, she let me carry the plate of strawberries. Carefree, unburdened, she made it across the yard without falling into evidence of Sadie’s favorite pass-time – digging a few inches into the ground, stuffing her nose into the dirt, huffing air out of her nose hoping for evidence of a bona-fide mole.

Ava, like me, wants to do it herself.

Words like “Let it go,”
“Get over it,”
“You might as well forget about it”

Those are hard words to wrap my mind around. I’m not talking about forgiveness. I’m talking about giving-up something important, something heart important, something not quite tangible.

How do you let it go, get over it, forget when you live in hope, like the journey of a prayer sent out?

How do you live in the middle of that prayer-journey-in-the-wait – because in the wait – hurt still happens, the challenge still exists.

I’m an obsessive thinker. That doesn’t mean I think well, just obsessively.

Obsessive thinking works well for my writing. It works well for problem-solving, too – for things like math, reading, finding the perfect white cake recipe, how to teach our golden-retriever Sadie to stay, stomach pain for a son that took 5 years to get a correct diagnosis(severe esophagitus), another son who kept getting directions wrong because he heard 2 out of 3 words correctly (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), how to draw Benjamin Bunny on a chalk board.

I am a problem-solver, a solution-seeker, an information gatherer.

Obsessive thinking doesn’t work well for heart-challenges that I don’t have the ability to change. For example, I cannot persuade someone who doesn’t like me, who has their heart set on not liking me – to change their mind.

Sometimes I cannot change a parent, child or friend’s decision, even though I know that decision may hurt them in the long run.

I cannot make someone believe God is real, though I can tell them what He means to me.

“Give it to God,” – I hear it over and over again – in sermons, in posts, in encouragement, in grocery aisles.

Like Ava, God is walking beside me. “Give it to me,” He says, as I maneuver through the figurative mole-holes life brings.

It’s hard for an obsessive thinker to give thoughts over to God. It’s hard for the problem-solver, the solution-seeker in me to “give up.”

God’s been personally training me this Spring – on giving my challenges to Him.

When thoughts start creeping in for heart-hurts I cannot change, I look at the 2 scriptures on my desk:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side.

  1.     I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.
    Don’t panic. I’m with you.
        There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
    I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
        I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you”(Isaiah: 41: 9b-10).
  2. “Be Still and Know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I take a deep breath, trusting the prayer and visualizing the challenge as a boxed gift, wrapped with a beautiful bow. I take a deep breath and picture myself handing that gift-wrapped box to Him.

Through the rest of the day, I repeatedly grab it back, only to return it to Him – and this goes on and on – shoving it in His hands, snatching it back.

Except each day, I let Him keep it longer. It gets easier to let Him keep it. Just last week, I grabbed it back, ruefully smiled at Him – and before it had totally left His hands, took my hands off. He didn’t “tsk tsk” me, didn’t taunt me with “No Takesy Backsie’s” –  My soul felt like He smiled encouragement.

Giving it to Him doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It doesn’t mean hope has died. It just means He’s walking beside me taking care of it better than I can.  Like Ava – it’s much easier to get across the yard with sturdier hands carrying the important stuff.

He doesn’t tell me I need to be stronger, better, smarter, more lovable, find the solution myself. He just asks me to trust Him.

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin” (Psalm 55:22).

I’ve learned in the past 5 years that hope and faith are the wings of prayer – and love is the heart-beat of that prayer. The answer to that prayer might not be what I was expecting – it might not even be answered in my lifetime – but it will be the perfect answer.

I’ve learned that the real living that refines us into who God designed us to be is in the daily living of the wait of a prayer sent out – and the daily living should be in the assurance of a prayer answered – in God’s time.

If I am assured, I need to live joy-catching all the other things going on in the daily that He gives me – like the smile of a 16 year old surprised 3 weeks before his birthday, in the yellow of an evening primrose replanted from my aunt’s garden, in the good-morning phone call to my mother, in the happy snort of Sadie’s nose underground, in a little girl walking beside me with a plate full of strawberries.

God is teaching me this dance, this living carefree before Him – He is most careful with me (1 Peter 5:7b) – in this giving to Him and taking back.

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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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A few years ago, my mother’s heart was stretched, torn and worn in a teen challenge. Teen Challenges are a journey, both to the teen and the parent, a faith journey, an unconditional love journey. I created 27 Unconditional Love Rules during that journey to help keep me loving, believing, speaking faith and hope.  For the last few months, I’ve wanted to whittle those 27 Unconditional Love Rules into a leaner, stronger presentation to encourage other mothers facing Teen Challenges to not give up hope in God’s plan for their teen’s life, to walk and talk faith when there is no evidence to support that faith, and to love unconditionally when no merit for it exists.

Introduction

Unconditional Love, True Love, lives in a real world, with real challenges and other real emotions. It is incredibly beautiful Unconditional Love. But it takes lots of strength, courage and faith. A little humbleness, too. A little taking the back seat sometimes and a lot of never giving up! Unconditional Love is all encompassing. It loves your husband, your children, your friends, God – even strangers. I would not want to live without it.

Even when someone does something expressly against your wishes, like dump the chicken noodle soup down the side of the sink without the garbage disposal, does not wear their seat belt when driving without you, or gets a tattoo, Unconditional Love loves.

Unconditional Love sees your child (whether little, teen or grown), spouse or parent through God’s Eyes.

If you cannot see it now – ask Him!

He will show you through His Eyes!

It is life changing!

Changing how you think, the words you use, the feeling in your heart, the expressions on your face!

Believe me! It is liberating.

Kind of like God handing me His glasses with Hope and Faith Lenses

letting me see

what God sees

and

it

changed

everything

Unconditional Love knows how I love is not determined by success or failure
Recognizing that sometimes failure is the biggest step to success,
resulting in my needing to step back,
take my hands-off
hold the tears inside
staunch the fear that tries to rush out with a mental and emotional tourniquet
choke off words that do not need or are not ready to be said
believing that failure is sometimes the gas to the engine of success

How do you  know when you are loving unconditionally? 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.

PPPPSSSSsssssssttttt. . . . Unconditional Love – the God-kind of Unconditional Love is not reserved just for your very favorite people. It is a type of love that is like a Spring Rain, showering on everyone who comes into contact with you.

Unconditional Love is found in a Mary Poppins-Bag-kind-of-heart that is deep enough to fill with love for as many people, not as it can hold because the Mary Poppins bag is bottomless, but for as many people as you choose to love. It is priceless!

Unconditional Love grows, and groWS, and gROWS and GROWS

over days, with months, years

in sunshine and storms

if we let it

if we don’t hoard it

Then it grows, re-seeds, spreads like buttercups in a field

Unconditional Love is a choice.

Choose Unconditional Love

  1. Unconditional Love Rule #1: The Greatest Sacrifice of All
  2. Unconditional Love Rule #2:  Tear Ducts Required
  3. Unconditional Love Rule #3: Always Finds A Way
  4. Unconditional Love Rule #4: No Condescension Allowed
  5. Unconditional Love Rule #5: Wait with Grace
  6. Unconditional Love Rule #6: Drags Unwilling Feet
  7. Unconditional Love Rule #7: No Complaining Allowed
  8. Unconditional Love Rule #8: Releases
  9. Unconditional Love Rule  #9 Stops Talking
  10. Unconditional Love Rule #10: Meets Others Where They Are

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A year ago when I wrote this post, a son went from cap-and-gown to boots-and-uniforms. the  My prayers went where I could not. They still do. Parenting is a faith journey. Sometimes it is a hard faith journey – but a year later, looking back, a years worth of journey has seen prayers answered and good changes that do a mother’s heart glad. A year later is sometimes an encouraging place to be. Please enjoy with me a post about unconditional love in the journey.

Unconditional Love recognizes that there are roads loved ones must travel alone.

Maybe  over 100 years ago, people understood those kinds of journeys much better, the literal journey helping to better understand the figurative journey. When you stepped out the family door to start a journey, communication and physical contact was like disappearing into thin air. Parents did not consider it lack of love from their off-spring or even rebellion battling for independence. It was just life in a revolutionary country known for pushing the boundaries of existence.

Meriwether Lewis was only 26 years old when he was commissioned for the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was a journey his mother didn’t take with him.  Or Benjamin Bonneville who, according to a list of notable West Point graduates, “explored and mapped the Great Salt Lake and the Green, Snake, Salmon and Yellowstone Rivers.”  Then, there is Davey Crockett who ran away from home at age 13 before returning at age 16. All left home, going into places where communication with parents was minimal or non-existent. Unless communication occurred via letters, contact over long periods of time was practically non-existent.

All these men left home and by leaving home became men strong enough to carry the burdens of great responsibility.

Lewis and Bonneville left home out of logical design. Much smoother. Much friendlier. Probably leaving hearts warmed with pride and eyes threatening tears at a son going out into the world – to continue life’s journey.

Crockett left out of passion. Probably leaving a mother’s heart frantic, filled with despair, and maybe a little broken-ness inside. He returned 3 years later, to fulfill his obligations, making things right – and went on to become a national hero.

Yes, even today sometimes, we have to let loved ones travel alone, without that mama contact, without the safety-net, without help or words of love and encouragement that are bursting from a father or mother’s heart; sometimes without closure. Sometimes those journeys are fraught with mortal and spiritual danger. Sometimes it takes that kind of journey for them to finally recognize and embrace the person they were designed to become. Unconditional Love lets go like that.

We are spoiled today with instant communication. Everything is at our fingertips. However, growing into maturity is not an instant thing. At times like this, when our loved ones are on unreachable journeys, prayer can reach them, touch them, love them for us – when our words and our arms cannot. When we cannot sustain relationship, prayer still loves.

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

Our children, regardless of age, need us to “stand in the gap” before our Father, even when they are adults and in charge of their own spiritual health – we need to encourage them through prayer.

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

 25The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

 26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

 27“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.(Matt 15:21-28)

A  mother interceding for her children through prayer. Touching their lives more effectively through prayer than with a hug or with words. Prayer can go places you cannot. Prayer allows a mother or father to connect when a child’s journey does not allow connection.

Letting go is a growing thing: a faith thing: a prayer thing – sometimes a necessary thing.

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“Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather’d creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe, and makes all swift dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;

Learning how to balance the multi-tasking roles God put inside us challenges me. I learn a lot through my failings, my gracelessness, my inability to do it all. That feather’d creature  Shakespeare talks about could be my dreams, my dinner menu, needing to attend to child one’s needs whether it is class work, heart work, discipline-work while another’s need may need to wait 20 more minutes. Being a mother is often graceless like goose chasing.

Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent;

My littlest guy, he’s hit the blues. He’s accused me of “not prizing”  his discontent, leaving him feeling unloved. Saying no for the right reasons is a tough act to play to a tween to teen audience.There is no more critical reviewer of a mother’s job. I don’t think they’ll  ever realize how I made it my goal from day one to know the condition of their hearts, to provide security, to keep away the night terrors, to listen to every word, to never let them feel unloved or unwanted, to help them believe they can achieve whatever they want, to introduce them to the most important relationship they will ever have, the Father.

So runn’st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;

If something flies from me, doesn’t that mean it isn’t mine? Maybe it is not the right time to be goose chasing. Or maybe, just maybe, it is all part of the balancing act of the responsibilities of our different roles – and this is a lesson of the compassion we need to exhibit when others let us down. I cannot make everybody happy at the same time. During Shakespeare’s time, that goose leading her a frustrating chase could have been a weeks worth of food during the winter season that helped keep her family’s tummies filled. Maybe, just maybe it is crucially important that we exhibit compassion and forgiveness because goose chasing is sometimes as graceless as it is necessary.

But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind;
So will I pray that thou mayst have thy ‘Will,’
If thou turn back and my loud crying still.”
(Sonnet 143, Shakespeare)

Children are a forgiving lot. I remember feeling that way with my dad, who never met my children. I remember despite the hurt, his goose chasing, if he would “just turn back” – the grief of my heart would have evaporated. Sometimes I wonder if my children are less forgiving because they have really never been set down while we chased our geese, are less generous with their cheerleading about our hopes to catch.

My hope? That I always play the mother’s part with affection, kindness, making them feel valued, can always find a way to still their hurts either through action, words or prayer and that when I miss it, when I goose chase gracelessly, that I can make it right and receive forgiveness.

My Aunt's Peach Azaleas

407) Shakespeare’s Sonnet 143, my favorite Shakespeare work that I read many years ago, many children ago.
408) I loved my weekend. My boys helped me sparkle-up my and install the screens in our windows. The cool-front blowing through my windows is sweet respite, at least until the summer heat creeps in.
409) My husband, he built me a raised garden Saturday, too.
410) Sitting with my husband Saturday night before the rains came, listening to him make dove calls – and listening to the answering call.
411) Making scones early Sunday morning for Mother’s Day
412) String, eye-screws and determination to finally complete the installation of the blue toile Roman Shades my Mom made me for Christmas.
413) Finished piecing together my very first quilt. It’s not perfect – a lot like me, but I learned a lot. My next quilt is a twin-size for grandbaby girl – and then regular-sized quilts for my boys. I’m working my way up in size.
414) Coffee at the end of dinner Sunday, as we sat around the table, 4 of 5 sons, my daughter-in-law and grandbaby girl. A cup of coffee is the exclamation point to family dinners.
415) Walking around the yard in the evenings with my husband, checking the progress of our transplanted butterfly bushes, knock out roses, hydrangea. Not sure the butterfly bushes and hydrangea are going to survive the move from one spot to anther. 13 out of 15 burning bush root-bulbs we planted grow, grOW and GROW.
416) Yellow Papaya with Carrot Juice in a homemade smoothie for work.
417) Left-overs
418) My boys cutting up strawberries and adding 1/4 cup of sugar for my Mother’s Day Scones.
419) My sons bravery during allergy testing.
420) God allowing me to feel like evenings are much longer, filled with hours that last longer since I started my job in February. Only God can make time do that.
421) “Greater is He that’s in me than He that is in the World” (1 John 4:4). This scripture got me through quite a bit of out-of-the-box challenges this week.
422) Old friends in grocery store aisles
423) Tiki lights from my boys to keep the bugs away when we sit outside at night.
424) Rain. Lots of rain. Nourishing the outside, cooling the inside – and the beautiful sound of it’s coming.
425) Gapow from the Thai restaurant in a very frustrating week – that God let’s me find goodness in things totally unrelated to the challenges.
426) All the different ways my sons slipped, “Happy Mother’s Day” into my ears. Unasked for on this day I find very awkward.
427) Laughter in the neighborhood.
428) “God is the unmoved Prime Mover of all movements, the First Cause of all Causes, and the Designer of all the design seen in the world” – St. Thomas Aquinas, in 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World.

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Brothers come into the world welcomed, hugged, kissed and cared for greatly by their oldest brothers.  This adoration and nobleness quickly become territorial lessons in healthy boundary development – usually through first enacting unhealthy responses.

Brothers throw much about – angry words, carelessness and punches – as they find how they fit not only in the brotherhood, but in the family and then in the world.

As a mother watching the evolution of these boys to men and how their brotherhood fits into their growing-up world, well, I have put my faith in the goodness of God’s plan for each life, learning to live faith in a “substance of things hoped for, not seen” way.

My most memorable moment of 2011?

Watching my oldest son, a father-to-be any day, pull his soldier brother into a hug, before his soldier brother drove away.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).

Just a hug?

I don’t think so.

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Grow where you are planted. Minister where your roots reach.

Don’t wait to go to China, to Uganda, to some other place than where you are.

Minister now, where you are planted. With a story, your story. Of what He has done for you.

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples”  (Psalm 96:3).

Among the nations is also right where you are.

Some people might have a street corner. Some people might have a campus step. Some people might have a classroom podium or a sandy spot on a beach. My campus step, my street corner, my podium – is my kitchen counter. 5 boys x however many people they bring through my house – that is my mission field.

Trickle-down Faith-a-nomics.

I see my ministry grow where the boys bring people through the house. When you come through my door, you get good food and real conversation – across-the counter-conversation. Maybe my stories of what God has done for me will water a seed planted – and that seed planted will grow roots that will go to the nations – right in my town or across the world.

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

You don’t have to go to far away places. You don’t have to lead a ministry team. It is about living your ministry that God fitted you for, planned you for, placed you – where you are.

Live Ministry – giving service, care, aid, comfort to the those who don’t know they are the long-lost children of God or to God’s children who are hurting or maybe even need to be budged to grow.

Instead of trying to weed myself out of where I am planted, I have come to understand God planted me there for a reason. This understanding drastically changed the expectations I had created of where I thought I ought to be.

Like a shade plant transplanted from the afternoon sun into a cool, shade spot,

or a desert plant removed from the long, drawn-out shadowed  corner of a house nestled next to a butterfly bush and placed in a dry rocky area to thrive,

I have thrived, bloomed riotously (I so love that word).

“Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9: 38).

The harvest is from where you stand to as far as your heart can pray. Yes, pray for laborers but realize that you are a laborer of the harvest  and your field to harvest is where you are right now.

I need to tell those stories of what He has done from where I am, whether it is my kitchen counter or a podium in a church in Africa. It is just as important a work, loving God’s children here, pulling strangers into the family of God here. . . in my kitchen as it is in another country.

My counter, my root spot, my lofty podium is behind my kitchen counter.

Where’s yours?

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I remember a long time ago, the neighborhood boys coming down to our house as the sun came up, carrying baseball bags. I’d have Cool-Aid ready and around lunch, I’d have some hotdogs grilling. One day, a couple of brothers brought their temper with them and started swinging at each other. I just stood there totally out of my element, “What do you do when brothers start fighting and punches start flying?”

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have called their mom – but this was my first foray into Brother fisticuffs. I told their mom, “If they do it again, I’ll turn the water hose on them.” I probably should have done that instead of call. But hindsight is 20/20 and the best responses are often after the fact, especially in areas with little to no experience. I think as punishment for calling that mom, God has made sure all my boys fights have all taken place away from that water hose.

This was my first son’s summer neighborhood group – his brothers were much too young for this yet. I remember thinking, “My boys will never do this.” I thought that a lot in my supercilious superiority. I have since been handily humbled.

Before church one day a few weeks ago, the teen said he wanted to hit his brother – and the minister walked by. The teen asked, “Don’t you think that Jesus fought with his brothers? Afterall, how could you have brothers and not fight?”

I said, “If Jesus was without sin, the perfect sacrifice, he couldn’t have brawled with his brothers.”

And the minister, the father of 3 sons, laughed and declined to answer.

Since only Jesus has been without sin, and, I assume, didn’t haul off and hit his brothers, the rest of the brotherly world and their mothers have to deal with fighting.

After reviewing my experience, I created 3 categories of Brotherly Fighting:

  1. Wrestling: My two littlest ones would wrestle in the Oval Office of the President – they wrestled everywhere – well, until they became tweens, they wrestled everywhere. Harmless, a bit embarrassing in some venues, but it was much like 2 puppies getting some well-needed exercise. I’m sure it was not an excuse to hug, but I’m sure my mom-heart held onto that thread of hope. Sometimes what started out as high-spirited wrestling escalated into something more serious because some boundary was crossed. Boyish exuberance best describes the typical wrestling category.
  2. Punching: This typically occurs between teens who are feeling playful but are wanting to inflict pain in an Alpha-Dog kind of way. It can occur in the car, in the kitchen, as they walk downstairs – and they love to mention punching each other in church probably just to see me blanche and how high my eyebrows can rise. It can either be the result of a silly Slug Bug car game – or betting on outcomes, or just plain, “Let’s punch each other in the arm and see who breaks first.” It is more aggressive than wrestling. Boundaries are more clearly defined but they taunt each other to cross them.
  3. The Big Fights: This usually occurs between the older “young adults” (teens, college age).  Though rare, when it happens it is full out, fists flying, wrestling to the ground, testosterone raging, emotion-filled physical aggression. Boundaries were crossed, and it is settling time. This is where you wish you had that water hose handy. Note: In 25 years of parenting, I have only witnessed 1 Big Fight (Maybe more small Big Fights).

The trigger to a any level of fighting is contingent on the length of each individual brother’s fuse, the level of self-control and the desire to exhibit that self-control.

In our house, it seems like most fighting levels occur when Dad isn’t there, which leaves me, the mom, standing there feeling quite e-mom-sculated – meaning mom’s authority in the passion of the BIG FIGHT can do nothing. It is like trying to stop a Tsunami. I just stand helpless wishing they’d take it outside to where the water hose is – then I could release some growing anxiety.

Mom’s are not designed to referee physical aggression. Mom’s are not designed to watch physical aggression. Our nurturing nature is in direct conflict with the male method of settling grievances. Note that this physical method of settling grievances occurs after words between the two parties have failed to produce the desired results: “Stop wearing my clothes” (yes, boys! Sigh!), to “Stop Making that Noise” to whatever is simmering, ready to boil over at the slightest provocation.

Helplessness makes me feel even worse: helpless, impotent, powerless – like a queen who is just a figurehead, wielding no true authority.

The younger tweens have been feeling bullish lately, a lot of pushing and tugging, fingers itching for a swing to get someone out of their space. They came to me, “He hit me,” one said.

“Well, he deserved it,” the other argued.

And they stood in their stance, waiting for me to be the great lady Justice.

“If you’re going to fight, don’t bring it to me. Don’t do it around me. Don’t let me know about it,” I told them. I can’t quite figure if I am wiser or just worn down.  “Learn how to settle your differences because you cannot rely on a 3rd party to bring you true justice. . . . Now, give me 50 squats a piece.” (Click here for “The Discipline of Squats)

Their jaws dropped at the injustice of the punishment.

“A mom never wants her sons to fight and if they bring that fight to her, it’s not going to end to your satisfaction,” I said.

Yes, I am at that point. Sure – go ahead and fight but don’t do it around me – and don’t bring it to me to settle. You need to settle it among yourselves.

But I can teach them about the time to fight.

Like when someone messes with your brother.

As they’ve grown, I’ve said, “Even if your brother deserves to be beat up, you don’t let anybody touch him. You can come home and beat him up for it, but don’t let anybody else.”

Blue Cotton Dad – he thinks it’s important that they learn how and when to fight. Maybe that is the benefit of a lot of brothers – you do learn how to defend yourself. The protector is an innate part of being a man – knowing how to wield that inborn trait God instilled is the responsiblity of the parent to teach.

Not all traits are wielded with skill in the beginning – training is required in the hows and whens. Brotherly brawling is the training ground for the noble protector – benefits that grow from the ability to protect yourself  and others on the playground, in the classroom, from the bully in the bathroom. The ability to defend yourself often diffuses a bully who wants to assert himself and infringe on the freedoms of those around him.

If guided, nurtured and accompanied by wisdom, these brotherly brawlers grow up to protect the less fortunate and, maybe, protect our Freedom and families.

When brother’s fight, what’s a mom to do? Hope for a handy water hose and continue the effort to instill nobleness of thought and action. Nobody ever said motherhood was an easy gig.

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Unconditional Love cries – because sometimes it just has to. . .

God knew we would need to cry. He created tear ducts, after all. Sometimes great joy and great sorrow so threaten to burst the seams of our mortality that without these tear ducts, we would explode.

He knew there would be times of weeping, even wailing – in darkened closets so our children don’t hear or within the arms of our loved ones. He tells us so (Ecc. 3:4).

He knew there would be days our souls would scratch with the emotional sackcloth of grief, humbleness, and, yes, even repentence. He said so (Psalm 30:11).

I am not talking about crying over the big things like death, just the living and growing things, as simple as word and action challenges with our children.

For you and for me, we cry – sometimes over the same things. Sometimes it is the straw that breaks the camels back that starts a torrent of tears. That straw for me might leave you incredulous, “You’re crying over that?” The straw that breaks you might lead me to look askance, “You’re crying over that?” That realization humbles me – different catalysts might cause that breaking point where our heart angst moves those tears inside out.

But I bet the underlying reason for all those tears – is a mother’s love.

Because mothering is not always easy. Mothering hurts – and unlike childbirth, there are no pain medications offered for day-to-day mothering to help minimize or control the pain.

Except for these tear ducts.

In the last few years, there has been something new mixed in with my tears. Prayer. Scripture. Murmurings of faith. Instead of turning my grief, my hurt, my over-whelmedness inside, I turn it out  – my prayers spoken in tandem with those tears,  “Lord Jesus, Have Mercy on Me. . . .Greater is He that’s in me than He that’s in the World. . . The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer. . . Deliver me. . . Deliver my child. . . Be with me. . . . Be with my child. . . .”

Because if my spirit is so grieved, then how must my child feel? be? need? I cry because there is a need – something that affects not only their now but their tomorrow. And inside me, maybe it’s the helplessness, the over-whelmingness, the solution blindness, the hurt, the frustration, the cross-eyed exasperation – and the straw that broke the camel’s back – it bubbles up like a shaken soda pop – and overflows into the messiness of a wailing soul evidenced by these tears that slip through those ducts that God made just for such an outpouring of need. . . for Him.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8)

Unconditional Love cries to release the pain in our mother hearts. Those tears are not all about us but also for the one we cry for, cry out of love for. When we cry out of love, not selfishness, I think, God honors those tears, that unconditional love that fill us to the brim so that it overflows through out tear ducts.

Sowing love through tears. Sowing prayer through tears. Sowing hope and faith through tears.

Yesterday, I cried over a straw-that-broke-the-camels-back reason. And God collected those tears in His bottle, recorded the story of each tear – and the prayer, the faith, the hope prayed with each tear – those tears will be answered with songs of joy, each wail will have the opportunity to turn into a song to which we dance with joy.

God was prepared for those tears. He was waiting to collect them. He wants our hearts to love like that.

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For those of you not familiar with the term “grasshopper” as a synonym for student, please consult the 70s television show, Kung Fu, for further explanation. 

My little guy is a product of trickle down eco-mom-ics x 4. The first son only had to listen to eco-mom-ics created for him – eco-mom-ics being a branch of knowledge concerned with the eduction, discipline and spiritual development of children.

The second son had to listen to eco-mom-ics lectures on both his and his older brother’s level. The 3rd one, his, and his two older brothers. It’s kind of like being forced to not just sit through your class, but each brother’s class, too.

The little guy has sat through 5 levels of eco-mom-ics.

And yesterday, the little grasshopper tried to leapfrog the Master eco-mom-ic-ist (LOL).

If you’ve hung around the Blue Cotton counter for awhile, maybe since the beginning, you might have read the following about my 3rd son, my joyful son, – about breaking the communication code:

Joyful has grown beyond snugglebuggles and telling me he loves me, but he communicates in code now. Let me give you an example:

“Mama? Can I have a pet anaconda (or warthog, sheep dog, otter, or any animal of the week)?”

That’s code for, “I love you, Mom.” Now that I have broken the code, I just smile, saying, “I love you, too.” Funny, he hasn’t asked for a pet anaconda for awhile.

Then there’s this question. “Mama,” he asks (mama is the word of choice when he wants something. Mom is for the really serious stuff). “Mama, can I have $15?”

After hearing this question for months (of course, I didn’t turn over the money), I broke another code. Money was code for hug. The amount he asked for determined how many hugs he really wanted.

He hasn’t asked for money in quite a few weeks, either.

He no longer brags on my food. Instead, he will say, “Great dinner, Mom. . . . Not.” I’ve learned that’s code for “YUM.” (Click here to read The Freshness After the Storm)

My little one who has endured eco-mom-ics lectures to his brothers from academic lectures and activities, to manners to people skills, to relationship-building with the opposite sex, to baking, grilling, house-keeping to morality and everything including apparently the foreign language of tween to teens.

“Mom, I want 20 hugs. That’s code for $20,” he said as he munched on the chocolate pumpkin bread as he sat at the counter after school.

The Eco-mom-ics Master from the podium that is the counter, cast an assessing gaze on this baby of the family who next week will be a decade and a year. This son who the Freshness after the Storm (also known as Joyful) christened with the Spirit name, “Love” – our Human Resource guy amidst the brotherhood – trying with mental agility to leapfrog the Master.

. . . and almost succeeding.

“20 Hugs is code for 20 kisses,” I countered. “Want them now?”

And for the moment, the eco-mom-ics master retained her place at the podium.

Additional Note: My teen and his sweet, ginger girl friend said this conversation took place between me and the teen. I will concede it might have – but that the little guy took the mantra up about 5 minutes later. To quote Hillary Clinton, “I don’t recall. . . .” My friends say  the slippery memory is not dementia – it’s menopause.

Recounting this conversation in the car, they said that after translating the 20 hugs to 20 kisses we continued wrangling with code translation – and 20 kisses was code for 20 compliments – and, just maybe, if the de-coding had continued, the 20 compliments could become 20 things to do to make home a nice place like cleaning your room, tidying the bathroom, mowing the lawn. . . . .

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A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, my son left for Army Reserves Basic Training. He will be gone 25 weeks, for both basics and additional training.

My aunt said I was going to cry when I dropped him off.

I didn’t.

I felt like I’d been driving with a caged, ornery grizzly bear. When he climbed out of my car, he walked to his sergeant’s car who was driving him a half a state away where he would catch a plane to take him to another state. Another officer called out, “You can still change your mind. If you don’t you’ll end up like me. . . You haven’t taken the last oath yet.”

He was in the officer’s car without a backward glance and gone. I felt empty.

Some ask, “Aren’t you scared?”

My response, “If this is the road my son is supposed to travel, I would be more concerned if he didn’t.”

After all, Jonah tried to run away from God’s plans ending up camping out in the belly of a whale. Running away from where you are called to go just creates discomfort physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Moms of soldiers don’t ask questions. The first thing they say, with conviction, “They are going to break him down. Then they’re going to re-build him up.”

At first, I think of my blue bicycle with its big, white basket that I had when I was a little girl. I rode it everywhere, to my aunt’s house up the street, to the pool – and then when I was older, to all my jobs.

My brother, 2 years older, took it into his head he wanted to be an engineer. To commemorate this recognition, he wanted to take my bicycle a part and put it back together. I was 10 at the time. I had total confidence in him.

My confidence cost me $14 of my own money to have someone else fix my bicycle. $14 in 1972 was big money. My brother grew up to be an engineer. He has more success with X-Ray machines than he does blue bicycles with big white baskets.

I trust that the military is better at this taking apart and putting back together than 12-year-old boys. I am confident they know all about breaking and re-building tanks, buildings . . . and men. Unlike my 12-year-old brother, they are experts at this.

For weeks, I have turned over this idea of my son being broken and rebuilt, studied it from all angles, breaking down and building up of my son, of this soldier-in-training.

“He will come home a different person, a better person,” my friend with a military son said.

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make” (Jeremiah 18:4)

God loves these rebellious sons. He pursues them. Often, he favors them – Like Jacob, Samson, David and Saul.

Like Jacob, my son has been raised to know God, and like Jacob, he has wrestled against the nobleness of God.God found Jacob in the desert. He broke him – and then rebuilt him over the next 20 years. Jacob returned home, repented behaving ignobly to Esau and lived a contented life.

Like Samson, my son has been raised to seek God’s plan, to honor his parents. Though, the word says that God needed Samson to rebel for His plan to work, he turned away from his parents’ wise advice and trusted foolishly. Ultimately, Samson was broken and God rebuilt him into the hero and martyr he created him to be.

And Saul. . .  Saul who persecuted the followers of Christ. Saul who did not want to believe in Jesus Christ. God broke him and rebuilt him into Paul who told the gentiles, “You are God’s children, too.”

Even David was broken through the loss of a child, to be rebuilt, redeemed by God.

“I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice” (Psalm 51: 17) The Message

Nobody ever wants their children broken. Nobody ever wants to be broken. Yet, if in the breaking, wholeness is built – then by all means break and rebuild, break and rebuild me, too.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

Sometimes, we become like the marred clay, marred by choices we made – marred by choices others made. Because of that, we need to be broken down and rebuilt.

As the Army breaks down my son, I pray that God is in the rebuilding.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)

Everyday for almost 3 weeks, I listen for the mail truck – and when I hear it, I walk out to collect the mail. The last time I was so eager for mail was about 29 years ago when I was dating my husband, separated by a summer and different towns.

The mail man would tease me about the letters I received. I miss mail men like that.

Today I pulled 2 letters from the mail box.

I read them, and I cried – all the way through each one. He used words like learning to be a leader, making it through the gas chamber, 2 minute showers, putting fear in the back of your mind, studying to save lives.

He said he loves this path. We’ve both put that fear away.

I have been praying this soldier’s prayer I adapted from Luke 7:1-10. It put into words what my heart couldn’t as I studied this breaking and rebuilding.

Prayer for My Soldier Son

I pray my son will become like the centurion who had such great faith in Jesus that Jesus marveled.

I want him to understand authority like the soldier, whose understanding enabled him to grasp the mighty power and authority of Jesus.

I want him to be humble like the soldier who said that he was not worthy of Jesus coming to his house – though Jesus was coming, thought him worthy of coming – this soldier who probably recognized the sin within him – it didn’t stop him from reaching out to God – I want my son to be like that soldier.

I want him to be a soldier, like this soldier, who loved the Jewish Nation, who helped build churches – because then my son will love both our country and Israel – and he will seek to build good things.

This son who I have called “Faithful” since he was littler than five, I want it said, “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” ~ Adapted from Luke 7: 1-10

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updated 5/6/13 – The Father – He’s put on my heart the need to open our heart homes to those outside our families, to pull them into our family – like He pulled us into His family. This road to the blueberry patch was not meant to be a selective road only for those we love in our immediate family – it was designed to for us to travel with a much larger family.

roadc
3 of 5 boys picked blueberries with me. Under duress, of course. 10 minutes out of town, down a gravel, winding road, beside a big creek bed that fills itself in its own seasons, to a hand-me-down blueberry patch, handed down from father to daughter. My crew was a mixture pickers, both eager and reluctant.

blueberries22c2Blueberries are not high on their value list. Chocolate Popsicles would have been high on their picking list, if Chocolate Popsicles grew on bushes. I valued the fruit, recognizing that in the winter season, it would taste sweet to some of us, comfort and fill us with good things when nothing grew outside but Snow Trees.

14 lbs. we brought home. 14 lbs. to store away for later. The boys, they might not appreciate fruit picking, but it is good to learn how to find the ripe berries, to fill the bucket, to pay the price, whether paying in dollars or sweat, to be shown the road where the good fruit is found.

 “Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, The tried and true road. Then take it.” (Jeremiah 16:6a)

Right and wrong – it exists; its truth impacts; it needs to be taught, to ears willing and unwilling, even during berry picking.

“Discover the right route for your souls” (Jeremiah 16:6a)

countryroad

 The boys, they didn’t want to go, they balked, they tried to dig in.

“But they said, ‘Nothing doing. We aren’t going that way.'”(Jeremiah 16:6b)

They tried to talk me out of berry picking. My experience allowed me to not back down.

For now, it is my job to show them the old roads, the tried and true road that leads to where the good fruit can be found, where things of God can be found, so that when they are in charge of the direction of their souls, when they wander away, they know the way back, that at the end of the windy, dirt road that seems out-of-the-way – is where the fruit that sustains is found.

barnstop7

It is a road they will come back to, when they’ve wandered away. They come back because they know it’s there – because someone cared enough to show them, despite the grousing, the bug bites, the sweat on a hot afternoon or the sand in the eyes in the early morning. Don’t just take your children or teens, though – take their friends, your friends, the lady sitting by herself a few pews ahead of you, the mom who seems alone – show others that road like the Blueberry Patch Road – that leads to Him.

berrypkng3c

Joining Nacole at Six in the Sticks where today “We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words:” Roads – join us over there – bring a cup of coffee, sit with us – share:)

berry10cc

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Unconditional Love is a forgetful love, allowing the new man(woman) to emerge from the fire of redemption. Left in an ash heap are brutal, biting words, hands that broke, not built, time wasted, demeaning actions to others and self,  the taker. . . .

“as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins”(Psalm 103:12)

Welcome, embrace, encourage the new man, learning to speak a new language, extending hands that help, spending time building others, including self – and becoming a giver.

Are you seeing the New Man? Or is your view distorted by memories of the old man?

 

Faith is the Substance of things Hoped for; the evidence of things not seen”     (Hebrews 11:1)

 

Unconditional Love SEES the New Man, realizes the New Man has to grow, struggle, be imperfect just like all God’s children in the journey to God’s arms.

 

“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)

 

Thank you, Father,
My heart rejoices for the seed planters, the laborers who watered your love in another’s life, for the time for a lost child to turn around and begin the walk to you. Thank you for being a God of faith, who encourages His children to see the Fatherless, Fatherless because of a lack of relationship, and believe that You know how to bring them home. I pray Father, that you break patterns of response that do not see the New Man/Woman growing. I pray Father that you stay faithless words, faithless fears. I pray that your Unconditional Love give God words, God actions, God giving, God time, God hugs to build and encourage on this road he/she travels.

 

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Ha Ha Wall

Shell at Things I Can’t Say said the sweetest thing on JDaniel4sMom’s blog, “I wish I could hear her calm words in those moments when my boys are driving me totally bonkers” (Shell, JDaniel4sMom Comments).

Even The Empress said, “From my first visit to her blog, I loved her tranquility” (Empress, JDaniel4sMom Comments).  Other bloggers have made similar comments – and, well, I feel like such a hypocrite!  Ladies, – it is all a sham.

The oldest 3 boys would laugh hysterically if they heard someone say, “Your mom is so calm.”

There is nothing more annoying than having one of your children tell you, “Calm down, Mom” – especially when I do not feel calmed up.

I just could not let you go on thinking that I live in the Beulah Land of Calm.

If you are like me – you can handle the first stressor great – it is the consecutive ones piling up behind the first one that light the match launching internal chaos that starts seeping outward, threatening a gusher (Yes – there are mixed metaphors there – but chaos even mixes up metaphors).

Going into someone else’s chaos is always more calming than hanging out in your own. Take my laundry room, for example. It stresses me out. Like God’s grace, it is never-ending – (but God’s grace does not stink). If I came over to your house, well, your laundry room would not stress me out at all.

I am going to go out on a limb here – and I am going to assume. Yes, I realize that is a dangerous thing, but I am going to assume that all of us have things that wig (I just love that word) us out. I would also bet that incidents that threw you with your first born hardly phase you by your 3rd born because you now have more appropriate expectations – not because you have given up – but because you are wiser now.

This 2 year journey I have just returned from – well, there were harrowing challenges, hurts, emotional up-heaval, soul-shaking moments. One son does not want to go by the rules, another does not want to do school work, one no longer thinks we have it together. Some days it is like living in a battle-zone, and I am the target.

Out-building at Locust Grove

I have discovered the ability to roar like a lion, growl dangerously like a grizzly bear whose cubs are being threatened, and hiss like an irate cat – thankfully, no flecks of white foam at the corners of my mouth yet. Women who can handle some of these challenges with calm grace – you are my heroes. 

My husband is always reminding me, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Being reminded in the midst of chaos to take the good road, in the midst of chaos, when you are hanging on by the tips of your soul, well, for me, sometimes that just creates more chaos – because people on the outside do not see how hard you are trying on the inside.

I try to wrap myself with the shield of faith  – and through the prism of  that faith – I remind myself of how God sees my sons, how God sees me – I hold on tight that I really do have angels protecting me – that God knows my heart –

“faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

What I see in a moment of teen rejection, rebellion or disrespect – is not the story. It is just a moment in the journey. The story does not end there.

And, when I succumb to the chaos, and my temper flies? It is an opportunity to show my sons how to repent and to understand that God knows we will miss it – He created us human, fallible.

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17) 

My sons need to know that at the time when their eyes are opened to their sin – and they see it for what it is – they need to know that God is a loving God who forgives.

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16)

If I were perfect, could I teach them about repentence? No – this is not an excuse for sin. It is coming face-to-face with who we are – a fallen people made perfect through Christ Jesus, a stumbling people given grace.

We teach our children to read, to write, to pray, to dance, to give, to love. Maybe in addition to showing our children a great love of a Mighty Father – we need to show them how to repent also.

When you come by – and you feel calmness, a little peace – do not be deceived. Maybe it is the sweet aroma of faith rising from the pile of chaos – because chaos is plentiful.  Maybe it is because someone else’s dirty laundry is less stressful than your own.

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The other night, the little guys, the artist and the writer, were dog-piled in bed with me – I love it when these two talk about big and little things, little and big. The conversation went like this:

“Wasn’t the oldest man about 900 years old?” the writer asked.

They both look at me, expecting me to know everything and love discovering that I do not.

“Methuselah,” I answered.

“No, he wasn’t’ the oldest man,” the littlest one, the artist said. “God is.”

“God isn’t a man. God made man,” said the writer.

They both look at me, in a chorus, asking, “Who made God?. . . How old is God?”

“We all have to wait for heaven to find out those answers,” I answered. Score one for mom not knowing everything.

“God is like an illustrator,” answered the artist.

“A creator,” chimed in the writer.

“My Father,” I thought to myself.

They don’t really understand God the Father yet. We talk about it, teach about it and call Him Father. Right now they recognize Him as the Creator, so Big He can palm the universe, the illustrator who gave the world scope.

When my boys hurt, right now they press into me, for comfort, for me to make everything o.k., for my tangible ears to hear their story.
Right now, when a finger is cut, or a splinter wedges into tender footpads, or a collar bone fractures – they reach for my hands, to lay my hands on their brokenness, while I approach the Father for their healing, their wholeness, their wellness. They know God heals, but sometimes they are not ready to go there alone – so I take them there.

When my son battled night-fears, I introduced him to Joshua and Caleb, to David as the little brother in the field and in the valley where he met Goliath, to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – all boys to men who battled fear but chose to find their courage in God.

My writer when he was little pointed out his brother had boo-boos that needed prayer. “Lay hands on them and pray for them,” I encouraged, waiting for him to speak, to pray. We were driving somewhere, just the 3 of us. I saw he had reached his hands over, but no words came out. “Well, when are you going to pray,” he asked. Interceding for others can be overwhelming, going into God’s presence and asking. . . the Creator, the Illustrator.

Children are used to barging into rooms in their own home – but not others, not even God’s. They need for someone to show them that God’s door is always ready to be opened. That He cannot wait for His children to enter. That He meets you at the door. They just need to feel comfortable enough to turn the knob, to feel like God’s home is their home.

The artist came home from school a few years ago, hurting for a friend who was constantly being bullied. His friend had been crying. “I prayed for him in the bathroom today,” he said. He could go to the Illustrator, the Creator for a friend. It was a beginning of his personal relationship with the Father. He walked to that door, turned that knob and entered the Father’s presence for a friend.

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5).

Love does not happen without relationship. Relationship does not happen without visiting. Visiting does not happen without an introduction.

Hand in Hand, I walk my sons to His home until one day they walk there themselves. Until one day, when they are too big to press into me for comfort, when they no longer look to my hands to minister God’s healing, – then, on that day, they seek relationship one on one, Father to son – no intermediary, man to God – and they press into Him for comfort, for healing, for help. The Illustrator is the Creator is Dragon Slayer is the Healer is finally The Father.

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Mothers, like diamonds, are created at high-pressure high-temperature conditions, resulting in something of great beauty, strength and value – worth so much more than where they started from – Blue Cotton Memory

When my first son was born, I felt motherhood was like going to a college class and taking the final exam on the first day- then spending the rest of the semester learning everything that was on the exam!

Everything was so new. I lacked confidence, and, because I lacked confidence, I felt unworthy. Everything within me was challenged, both physically, mentally and spiritually. Everything within could either expand to grow – or suffer collapse. Well, collapsing was just not an option I wanted to consider – even though there still are days when my heart just wants to. . . collapse into a heap. There are days when childbirth without pain medication seem less painful than motherhood. I have learned I am stronger than I imagined, but, too, there are moments when pain experienced is deeper than I ever foresaw.

My capacity for love expanded alongside my capacity for frustration. Sometimes I felt like one more experience would turn me into an overfilled balloon threatening to burst.

Motherhood is a crash course in judgmentalism, forgiveness and compassion. I think you learn that when you suddenly become the one missing it – or your children miss it. When my boys are being challenged beyond themselves, they get irritable, too – just like me. The initial stage to a challenge is frustration, anger, the intense desire to retreat. Then comes reassessment, strategy development and attitude adjustment. When you are the one missing it, forgiveness seems easier to give.

There are days when I miss being 19 – when I was at the peak of my world I had just outgrown – but did not realize that I had outgrown it. I was at the top of my game – but I playing in the Little League. To all those wonderful high school seniors, just graduating, not just the ones I love with all my heart – this is probably one of the most perfect times in your life – you are being celebrated, you have achieved a lifetime goal of graduating from highschool – you have reached the end of a journey, and, for some reason, all those peers you tussled with over the last 12 years, well, they are suddenly hugging you. The world and its dreams are yours for the taking – or so it seems.

And then you begin another journey – a more challenging journey that will eventually lead to the Motherhood Journey. The Academic Journey, the Job and Responsiblity Journey, the Romance and Marriage Journey – well, they all shaped me and taught me, but it is the Motherhood Journey that forged me into more than I was before I had children. Becoming more than I was – experiencing intense love, pain, exhaustion, problem-solving , a never-give-up-ness, well, that literally never gives up, courage to fight instead of flight, rejection, heart-break, joy, laughter, wisdom, and humility – much humility, but much faith, much hope.

“An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels (Proverbs 31:10)

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:72)

“Not only so, but we[a] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom 5:3-5)

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The scent of honeysuckle on the vine in late Spring time tempts, but without the sweet memories of warm evenings, cool grass and little girl eagerness, would I even reach for that vine today – without the sweetness of that memory?

My grandmother’s spider’s knots that grew against the stone wall by the front porch? Would they even be planted in every yard I’ve ever had – without the memory of my grandmother’s admiration of them?

Each of my boys has a treasure box filled with rocks, coins, crosses, Dart Vader Pez dispensers and boy-heart things – Would they have a treasure box if I had not my own, given to me by my grandfather, long ago?

We store up sweet memories, like we store up fruits and vegetables from the summer for the winter. Amazingly, like gifts to put in my treasure box, new memories are put up in my heart and pulled out, to nurture, strengthen, or just enjoy, like homemade blackberry jam on hot biscuits in the middle of a snow storm.

And, we pass those sweet memories down to our children in tangible and intangible ways, the same way my mom would serve chocolate sodas on a summer evening. A wonderful experience is not fully manifested until shared by another – who shares that same wonderfulness with another.

Those  road-sign moments of faith with my sons, I hope, will be like those honeysuckle moments that live deep within as a sweet thing handed down, like my grandmother’s spider knots that are transplanted in every home, or like mom’s chocolate sodas left me always wanting more – oh, I so hope those moments leave them always wanting more of God, are kept treasured within their hearts and handed down to their children, like blackberry preserves from Summer Time.

The following poem was printed in 2009 seemed like such a good fit, I thought I would pull it off the shelf. Sorry, I have no biscuits to serve with it.

Blackberry Hand-me Downs

By Maryleigh at Blue Cotton Memory

SF14-5496“Hand me down some summertime, Darlin’,”

asks breakfast table relations,

“Some of that blackberry summer time.”

“Blackberry jams all gone,” comes the answer

“All Gone till summer time.

When berry time comes, I’ll preserve

you

some summer time.”

drops of lemon and sugar pounds,

bitter-sweetened blackberries

picked in the chilled sweat

of morning’s summer sun

oozes juice

dripping

staining

a cotton apron.

sweetly to syrup it cooks

bubbling

to the rumbling Galaxy fan

blowing hotness

against salty sweat that balls

like candy

sliding

down flushed cheeks.

stirring carefully,

sometimes carelessly

damp hands swat flies

and the noon siren hollers from town

as shoes stick to the jelled linoleum.

dip

pour

tighten

hot clean Mason jars and

settle in a water bath.

tidy up

cool down

fish out

jars glisten on cheesecloth rows

lined like plowed fields

in pink watermelon prints

and in the falling of the day

when shades are pulled

dry coolness draws heat

from sweaty skin twitching

to a tin beat

pop!

pop!

pop!

sealed and saved

until little and b ig

voices around the breakfast table say,

“Hand me down some of that Summer Time.”

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Unconditional Love  = Standing nose-to-nose with these boys-to-men and not letting them see you sweat. No matter how much taller, littler, stinkier, or cuddlier. No matter how hard it is to toe the hard-line. No matter how much you want to cave. Unconditional Love is willing to feel wrath from your child buffetting your heart like an 80 MPH windstorm, blowing sand in your eyes (or were those tears), spitting icy pellets at your heart (harsh words that cause your heart to gasp), and knocking you off-balance (teens do not play by the same rules of engagement that we do).

Yes – sometimes nose-to-nose with someone of equal or greater body mass can be uncomfortably daunting. Of course, when you do that, you seriously hope they’ve brushed their teeth!

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I imagine the turtle that my son picked up was scared, frustrated and feeling helpless. Journey interrupted – private space invaded. If he could talk maybe he would have said, “Mom, he’s touching my shell.” If he could think, was he tallying just how far out of his planned journey this exhibition would place him? Half way across the street – halfway there – and now this.

I don’t think he trusted us. I rather imagine he had no faith in our intentions, as he was held there mid-air, legs dangling out of his shell. He had no concept of believing impossible things. Just instinctive fear.

I am so glad that unlike the turtle God filled us with the ability to believe – to believe in impossible things.

By John Tenniel

“There’s no use trying,” she said: “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

– Lewis Carroll, Through a Looking Glass

 What are 6 things you need to believe?

Impossible Things

Can you believe it for 30 minutes today?

Thank God for doing the impossible?

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me”
(Philippians 4:13)

Do you need to practice?

I do!

Today, before breakfast

I am going to believe

6 impossible things are not impossible

because through Him, all things are possible

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”
(Matt. 19:26)

All things are possible –

  1. I thank God believing that He provides even in a failing economy.
  2. I believe in the dreams He has put on my husband’s heart, I believe in the brick-by-brick building of that dream.
  3. I believe, not in past behavior patterns of a son becoming a man – I believe in God’s faithfulness and love to pursue each person He created, just as the Shepherd pursues each lost lamb.
  4. I believe that the son who does not like to keep calendars of due dates for school projects will become organized and through organization become responsible for his grades.
  5. I believe that I will have abundant energy to respond with grace to each son today.
  6. I believe that my day will be punctuated with joy, laughter and blessing – both given and received.
  7. I believe that one day I will understand how God wants me to fill my days, use my gifts and fulfill His plan for my life – and through that understanding have peace about myself.

 As I walk through each day, I will believe, though I don’t see, walking, holding tightly to a faith that is “the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

And, while I am walking seeing the unseen, I will whisper the words Jesus whispered to Jarius who’s daughter, though dead, through Jesus believed she could yet live again:

 “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36)

 

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“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”
— Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I’ve knitted blankets.

Blue Cotton Blankets

I’ve cooked celebrations, comfort, hugs and just love.

Granola Bars

Scalloped Oysters

Holy Cow Cake

 Then there are the lectures I created to create a visual, to drive a point home, planned to plant a seed without a confrontational feeling. These were my favorites:

But I think the most important thing I have ever done is pray for my sons.  Not just Birthday Prayers or Prayers for my daughter-in-law,

but morning and night prayers,

prayers while I’m driving, doing the dishes, or watching them play a sport,

thank you prayers, help prayers,

prayers when we’ve all reached the end of ourselves,

forgiveness prayers, mercy prayers, protection prayers, hope prayers

desperation prayers, healing prayers, thanksgiving prayers,

humbling prayers, seeking prayers,

prayers that knock down walls

prayers that love

when all else fail

I may not pray well, but that is what is so stunning about the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit takes my inadequate words, looks into my heart,

and translates the power of that love

into something that has the ability to cling to my sons for a lifetime.

That is the Greatest Mother-Gift of All!

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