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“Celebrate,” he belted out, swinging his right arm in an arc, palm face forward
in a Wal-Mart aisle, walking beside his dad.

“Rejoice,” left arm, swinging in an arc, palm face forward.

Both arms held in a V – just waiting. . . waiting for the right count . . .
“Exalt the name of the Lord,” and his arms shimmied upward, reaching high, words to the rest of the song following.

Little boy singing uninhibited of His Lord, a song from his church musical – overflowing
in Wal-Mart.

My husband smiled, telling me about it – part proud, part sheepish about this boisterous, out-loud
singing of a little boys heart
celebrating the Father
throughout Wal-Mart
His dad didn’t tell him to stop, though – he let it just flow out –

an odd little smile on his face in the telling – an odd smile that I remember today, making me think it was a moment to be stored for days where faith needed remembering

little boy letting out his song
his faith song
planted something deep
with roots reaching
that wouldn’t be so hard to pull out
when the hard times came
the teen times

““For there is hope for a tree,
When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And its shoots will not fail.
8 “Though its roots grow old in the ground
And its stump dies in the dry soil,
9 At the scent of water it will flourish
And put forth sprigs like a plant.” (Job 14: 7-9)

hydrangeas2c
and something that once bloomed, was cut to the stump, like my hydrangea
when we transplanted last year
and it looked so lost, nothing but dry sticks through April, May, June, July –
“Just wait,” my husband said. “It will grow back.”
and so I waited, making myself hope, making myself believe
that we did it right
then one August evening, we saw a little green, pea-sized
on a dead-looking branch
Hundreds of days later, this Saturday morning, it stood under my kitchen window, stems and leaves growing tall, strong – not blooming yet but emerging with new life
hydrangea
My prayer to Jehovah-Raah – the Lord my Shepherd, is and has been that none will be lost – and he told me in His word, and all around me –
His creation showing me His promise –
whispering it in the stories of their roots, their leaves, their blooms
My transplanted hydrangea, the butterfly bush, the knock-out rose, the yellow flowering shrub without a name – they told me the story to encourage my belief. . . my hope. . .to trust
butterflybush

the story of the root of Jesse that was cut down by the world that sought to destroy it
and yet it survived – it was as though the trees, flowers and bushes were putting on a remembrance play in my yard, daily for hundreds of days.

I think really, it was a play going on long before I heard it, read it, watched it – since before I was born, even before Eve took the bite of the apple – the play, the chorus was in creation.
butterflybush2

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1)

God does not forget the roots planted deep in little boy hearts

His word tells of the salvation story of the root of Jesse who died on a tree so that we may live

that He came to die to save us
to save us from missing it
walking away from it
losing it
getting lost from it
but the root remembers
and wants to be found
by
Jehovah-Raah – the Lord my Shepherd,
who pursues
every
lost lamb
who pursues to bring
every root back into the light
shoot through the darkness
into the light
to leaf
to bloom
to become as He designed

butterflybushc

Looking at those sticks last year – it was a chorus in my yard – a message of hope
to rejoice in the pea-size
to do the dance of joy over that pea-size dot of green
and wait
because growing to bloom takes God time
and today – its leaves are bursting green

If you have a teen/young adult who is struggling with good choices – remember the seeds you’ve planted, the roots that have grown deep – God remembers – remind Him, stand in faith on them – just because you don’t see the evidence of them does not mean they are not there.

Jehovah-Raah – the Lord my Shepherd, though, is already pursuing, searching, working to restore – you might not see it – but He does.

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

Little boy and little girl voices bursting in faith songs in Wal-Mart aisles are not forgotten by Him, the God who is my Shepherd.

Unconditional Love # 19

Unconditional Rule #10

Unconditional Love #26

Top 10 Unconditional Love Rules

The Runaway’s Hope in a God-Made Ladder

Still Counting Gifts with Ann at a Holy Experience:

    1. sharing Sfogliatelle over Friday lunch with my husband
    2. 6 a.m. Tues/Thurs workouts outside at my house with a friend
    3. compliments on the work-ethic of my sons
    4. 2 boys deciding to apply for phlebotomy training and the other radiologic technologist because they do not want to take the traditional route through college
    5. my second son and his girlfriend standing beside me in church
    6. and coming to the house to grill afterwards and sit talking over the table
    7. rain fall, rain drops on an at-home day where I can just be blessed – rain is like God saying to me, “Slow down. Relax. Just let it wash your spirit clean.”
    8. each random smile from each random son – at the top of the stairs, across the dinner table, laying across the porch settee, arms wrapped around the puppy – in the rear view mirror – each makes my heart smile right back!
    9. evidence of Jehovah-Raah pursuing each of my sons – evidence of the holy shepherd leading them home

 

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When “the same things” don’t work, a vigilant parent creates alternative strategies. Yet, what do you do when none of the alternative strategies don’t work.

The professionals might even say words like, “Lazy, Not Paying Attention,” “Stomach pain? It’s in their head.” “Rebellious.”

When lazy doesn’t match up. When the haunted look of pain in their eyes doesn’t match up. When doing the opposite of what you’re asked doesn’t match up? To the child’s heart. . . .

When nothing works. . . nothing . . . when the incentives don’t entice, the discipline – all those squats – don’t move behavior, when in-the-head pain is so bad it limits their abilities – to the point of risking social diminishment . . .

No child wants to be in pain. No child wants to be unsuccessful in school. Every teen wants to drive. To read more, follow me over to The Mom Initiative.

I’m over at The Mom Initiative,  a group of moms and a package of resources to equip, enable and support women as they experience Titus 2 in real life. – won’t you stop by to read further? Not only will you find my post, but you’ll find a group of  women who will encourage and pray for you. Click here or read below:

“You’re not doing the same things,” my husband said when I was working with my second son when he was 2, 3 and 4.

“Yes, I am,” I remember answering, somewhat frustrated. “The same things aren’t working.”

Regardless of the age, sometimes “the same things” don’t work. Developing children requires a diverse strategy arsenal.

For academic development, we used alphabet puzzles, flash cards, animal alphabet cards, Bob Books, Now I’m Reading Books. One learned to spell his name first in sign language. Another chose Garfield over classics – our home library is stuffed with Garfield, Snoopy, the classics, World War II literature, American history books. When two sons had trouble turning in assignments at school, I bought calendars, schedule books – and came up with the Trinity of Success.

For behavioral development, we dug into our arsenal of choices:“No,” corporal punishment, picking up rocks, squats. We even enacted take-aways: social events, media, games, phones, cars and other privileges.

For health and fitness, we’ve provided the right nutrition, the right amount of exercise, followed up with doctor’s visits for complaints that just won’t go away.

When “the same things” don’t work, a vigilant parent creates alternative strategies. Yet, what do you do when none of the alternative strategies don’t work.

The professionals might even say words like, “Lazy, Not Paying Attention,” “Stomach pain? It’s in their head.” “Rebellious.”

When lazy doesn’t match up. When the haunted look of pain in their eyes doesn’t match up. When doing the opposite of what you’re asked doesn’t match up? To the child’s heart. . . .

When nothing works. . . nothing . . . when the incentives don’t entice, the discipline – all those squats – don’t move behavior, when in-the-head pain is so bad it limits their abilities – to the point of risking social diminishment . . .

No child wants to be in pain. No child wants to be unsuccessful in school. Every teen wants to drive.

Behavior must match the child’s heart. The pieces to the puzzle must fit in cause/effect ways.

That’s a sign for out-of-the-box response – a solution revolution.

The solution revolution starts with prayer – hit-the-floor prayer.

Each time, within three days people crossed my path, providing pieces to these puzzles destroying my sons’ lives.

The solution revolution, once prayer is released will take you to the solution – to specialized responses beyond your knowledge and experience.

One son had Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Another son had severe esophagitus. Another son had ADD, not a behavior issue but a focus issue.

CAPD is like dyslexia of the ears. It has the ability to not only affect what you hear (background noise reduced this son’s hearing ability to 24%). He was hearing 2 out of 3 words correctly. It not only affected how he heard but how he learned math and language arts. He had to be taught to recognize the patterns. He also didn’t hear tone.  I don’t like to call it a disorder, though. Different shouldn’t equal disorder.

Another son suffered severe esophagitus from 1st to 6th grade. By 6th grade, he was running like someone’s grandma, unable to focus and concentrate due to the constant pain. The pediatrician said it was in his head. One specialist said it was a fiber issue. The aggressive specialist we eventually found said the pain was not located in an “in-your-head” place and scoped him. We had to totally change his diet. He had to re-develop his foundational muscles, rebuild his 6-pack. It’s hard sitting through a school day with intense stomach pain. He had to re-learn learning.

TrinityWhen turning homework in on time and organizational management – even with sports because long-term challenges. We thought it was rebellion and laziness – so did the teachers. Until an ADD adult described “living and working in a fog,” creating an inability to complete projects – we had no clue. Discipline and incentive couldn’t lead the way out of that fog.

When you’ve tried everything you know. When you’ve tried main-stream solutions.  When you’ve taken everything away or even promised much as incentive. When you’ve implemented punishment – and nothing works.

It’s time to think out of the box. It’s time for a solution revolution.

What has your family experienced that has made you look for a solution revolution?

 

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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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A few Marches ago, we planted Hollies, Crepe Myrtles – and long-awaited Leland Cyprus trees. My teen sons helped us move these huge trees with huge rootballs, bemoaning the whims of moms but kind of proud of their strength.

I’m sure they loved being physically stronger than mom. It made them walk a bit taller.

My husband, well, he didn’t really want the trees, but he helped me plant my dream.

I spent days basking in their beauty, anticipating their towering growth. Kind of like raising sons – you know their potential. It is just a matter of helping them grow there.

[Growing in grace]they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap (of spiritual vitality) and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment] (Psalm 92:14)

It wasn’t 2 weeks later when the edge of spring revealed it’s two-faced nature – and brought a snow storm, filled with some ice – and ravaged the work of my dreams.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7)

We lost one Japanese Maple. The other, I wouldn’t let my husband tear out – we cut it back to the root and hoped.

My Leland Cyprus’s, so new to their new home, roots not quite deep enough or burrowed in enough were bruised with the onslaught. They really weren’t prepared for the unexpected.

As Spring slunk out of town like a seedy criminal, taking advantage of townsfolk shock– Famine and Drought rode into town.

The Japanese Maple with the deep roots and recently cut-back limbs – it flourished in these hard times.

One Leland Cyprus, though, it suffered, while it’s sister Cyprus flourished. Half it’s branches turned brown.

Twice daily, I pulled out my hose and left it to water for 30 minutes, pulling off the dead leaves, whispering encouragement, whispering hope.

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”(James 5:7)

Our Tree this WinterToday that Cyprus, a bit smaller than it’s sibling tree, sways with abandon in the blustery Winds of Spring time, standing confident in the two-faced nature of Spring time. . . because its root system is deep.

It no longer needs me.

“Behold, [I will liken you] to Assyria, a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches and with forestlike shade and of high stature, with its top among the thick boughs (even among the clouds]. The waters nourished it; the deep made it grow tall; its rivers ran round about its planting, sending out its streams to all the trees of the forest [the other nations]” (Ezekiel 31: 3-4)

Last night, my littlest guy, he climbed the larger tree, upward, laid in its boughs and hollered to us, as we planted 15 burning bush and 3 forsythia rootballs.

With laughing eyes, we both looked at our son, finding joy in what we planted, nurtured and sustained in hope and faith. Raising boys and trees – similar journey’s, both facing challenges – both showing the redeeming love of a mighty, compassionate, healing God.

This week needed a moment just like that! Thank you Father!

“For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11)

BTW – if it snows in the next 10 days, can I start predicting snow by my tree planting? I’m thinking so!

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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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Unconditional Love = knowing 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

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

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