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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)

winteroak2

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

http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
#TeaAndWord#TestimonyTuesday#TellHisStory, #Glimpses,#LMMLinkup

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bluecottonchristmasccjThe best gifts this year came in conversations, questions, and answers, laughter, smiles, family and home. The simple stuff, in a prayer’s answer revealing the journey of the answer one word, one step at a time.

Seemingly mundane, wasteful conversation, like riddles, questions and answers sometimes reveal something beautiful, something valuable, telling through playful words and kitchen conversations.

Christmas time is full of questions – “What do you want for Christmas?”- and turning that answer into something needful and fulfilling

santaSaucy 12 year-olds, wiggling eyebrows, sporting a face-splitting grin asking, “Is Santa really real, Mom?”

All the brothers watching, knowing the answer to that riddle – waiting to hear if some things change.

Some answers don’t change.

The Hobbit has spurred the little buys into riddle competitions – more savy Q&A sessions – pulling me into jousting riddle matches – luckily the loser isn’t eaten.

“What comes into town on Friday, stays 2 days and leaves on Saturday?” (1)one boy asked on a mom-son outing.

“What rides into battle wearing a fur coat and sits down to the victory dinner with a bowl full of oats?”(2) I asked when it was my turn.

“What crawls on the ground and hates salt?” (3)he asked.

“What’s thin skin has a green parlor, then blushes red while it goes out on a limb for people who care enough to reach out to it?”(4) I lob back.

“What turns left when it goes out of a cave?”(5) he countered.

“What goes fully dressed in the heat of the summer, is naked in the winter – and hosts friends whether dressed or not?” (6)I returned.

“What occurs once in a millenium, twice in a moment and never in a thousand years?”(7) he said, smirking in confidence.

“What is utterly necessary, has two separate tasks, one which covers dinner and the other which builds strength?” (8)I volleyed.

The back and forth continued: “What has 2 legs, struts with confidence and runs at the first sight of danger?”(9)

“What sleeps in the hay, hangs on a tree, walks out of a cave and rides on a cloud?” (10)

“What’s in my pocket? (11)” he said, raising his eye-brow, thinking he’d put this match away..

“A riddle should have clues and two lines. I never thought Bilbo’s question was a true riddle,” I countered  – and a discussion ensued on what qualifies as a riddle.

christmastree8cParenting is filled with Q&A sessions – where the riddle sometimes is not in the question but in the answer.

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” I ask, throwing that line out like a fishing pole baited to catch something unawares. The older boys now see it as the fishing expedition it is. The younger ones still get a deer-in-the-head-light look that says, “How does she know?”

The other day, one son sat at the counter, telling me about a girl he had asked out.

“What am I going to ask,” I said, as I cleaned up after dinner.

His brother walked behind me, not a part of the Q&A, not part of the questioning riddles and answers, he walked behind me with an arm full of laundry, and gave his brother the answer, “Does she love, Jesus?”

Instead of eye-rolling, “mom” exclamations sighed out, irritation about being reminded of their faith in an area where maybe they don’t want that faith-accountability – they both took in stride, as if the moment would have missed the question, as if they expected the question and wanted it to be there.

Ironically, the question I was going to ask was whether he had finally asked about her college major. I didn’t correct them. I liked their answer to the riddle better!

They gave me a gift in their answer, something this mother heart holds close.

Riddles and their answers require knowledge of subject matter and thought processes common to both individuals. Whether my boys agree with the information that has been planted in them, whether they yet fully embrace the magnitude of rama(alive in their lives) knowledge of trust and faith in the Father, sometimes those faith, belief and value things show themselves – like in Riddle, Question and Answer sessions.

Answers
1) A Horse named Saturday
2) A horse
3) Slug
4) apple
5) bat
6) trees
7) the letter M
8) milk
9) a chicken
10) Jesus
11) Answer totally at the mercy of the pocket, clues not forthcoming.

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A Seed Emerging Fragile (Click here)

I confess – I enjoy a front row seat to how these boys communicate to each other in this house of mine. Their tag-team humor, their eye-popping honesty to each other – sometimes it un-nerves me. Other times it humors me beyond measure. At times, I just want to pack up my chair and exit. Every now and then, it just wows me.

My soldier-son, he went to visit my people in Louisville. He admired the girls there. Thought he might find himself a Louisville girl.

“That’s what your dad did,” I quipped. He decided maybe he really shouldn’t find himself a Louisville girl. Those are the one-on-one, light-hearted conversations.

Then there’s the two on one talking. A brother talking about the challenges of working at a camp, a worker spitting on the floor he’s mopping, wondering if leadership realizes all the trees he’s cut down, the grounds he’s mowed and how this son is frustrated with hypocrisy but wanting to live faith.

Moments like those are sometimes the “wind-whipping- moments, when either because of our choices or others choices, we are “tromped, hoof pressed, storm weathered pressed leaf pressed, water pressed, gravity pressed,into soil blackness”

“Get used to it,” said the soldier son. “That’s life.” He paused and a few seconds later added, “Pray about it.”

We looked at him, not sure how serious he was taking this conversation. This son who rolled his eyes every time I said, “Pray about it.” This son who wasn’t sure how to handle the Prayer for a Solder son I sent him last September.

The conversation continued. In the midst of life’s challenges, living faith came in the form of a crying camper whose walking stick was broken by a bullying camper and how this joyful son struggling with challenges that threatened to distract him from what he considered his real mission – showing God’s love to these campers – searched for another stick from the stick pile, crafted it into something awesome and gifted it to the camper or how he carried a camper with a twisted ankle to the nurse and then carried him back to the cabin.

“They say they want to be like me,” he said about these campers.

That is where “the core of itself remembers light and flimsy roots push upward emerging fragile. . . reaching ever light upward.”

That’s life, I thought, the good fruit of life, that is. Where walking faith rises above the challenges like cranberries in the water in the harvest.

Soldier Son says from the kitchen, “Pray about it.”

And we both look at him, “Are you mocking us?”

And he repeats, “Pray about it. I’m serious.”

And I am just overwhelmed at both of them, these seeds emerging fragile, growing faith, using that faith, no matter how imperfectly, despite real or imagined challenges, to live hope in an imperfect world.

They both seemed so fragile to me this weekend, these young men 6 ft 3 and 6 ft 5. God was reminding me that no matter how fragile they seem in the challenges they face. No matter how they are just young men, seedlings and saplings on so many levels, God’s word, that faith seed within them, is more mighty, more strong, more than enough to grow them out of these fragile times until they are to the world what an oak tree is to an acorn –

because God is just that big, that powerful, that faithful to us.

 

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The blessing of hands, holding brooms, hoes, planting, emptying bags of dirt, tying knots for a hammock under a tree, slicing lemons, brushing damp hair on a tired head.

“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (Ecc. 11:6)

“I want to choose,” my littlest said. “I should be able to choose if I want to work.” He said this after being given the chore of washing his dad’s car. One brother was given the chore of cleaning the garage. A third helped with completing the raised garden – that one require much muscle.

The littlest guy, he was voluntarily helping me make desserts and lemonade, having finished washing the car. As he stood at the counter, his still-little-boy hands slicing lemons and oranges we talked of big and little things.

“It’s our job to teach you how to work. Right now you don’t always have choices because we have to prepare you to be fit for usefulness in your future job,” I explained, pulling from Webster’s 1828 definition of Education (1828 Noah Webster Dictionary)

“I think I should have a choice,” he said, pushed the topic cheekily. I sighed. This desire for independence bursts out early in these boys, this desire to be in charge of their destiny.

I mentioned Jonah – and what happened to him when he tried to avoid a job he didn’t like. Jonah didn’t want that job, but God wanted Jonah to do that job.

Somehow, my little lemon slicer grabbed the story line and took off. When I tried to join in, he said, “This is my story, mom.”

We worked together, while he told me about Jonah trying to sneak away from what God wanted him to do, getting thrown into the sea by his sea-faring peers, being swallowed and eventually, when he agreed to do the job God wanted him to do, being thrown up.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10) kept whispering its way through my mind – but how do you persuade a little boy that if he does his chores really well, he will be given bigger chores? When bigger and better do really equate in terms of job size? At least in an 11 year old’s world.

My hands stirring Swiss Chard, Feta Cheese, onions and garlic. My husband’s hands cutting out heart-shaped beignets(French donuts) to deep fry for family brunch.

My hands stirring blackberry sauce, shaping scones. His hands wiping up the kitchen with me – as we prepare for family gathering.

Our hands working together, praying together in the twilight where we stood under the Oak, hands held, praying for doors to open, for revelation, for guidance – we stood there believing for His plan.

“From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him” (Proverbs 12:14)

Hands playing with sweet grandbaby girl’s feet, – and came the story, with baby feet bicycling and my hands, a grandmother’s hands playing

“Let’s go on a bicycle trip, you and I
A bicycle trip down a country road,
. . . a story was born.
“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16)

The blessing of the hands. Simple, everyday living, turning my hands to the work, to the living God has given me. Some days, my hands bless. Some days they fall short.

My hands, though, they don’t reach their potential.

Jesus laid hands on the leper
And he was cleansed (Matt 8:2-4)

Jesus laid hands on an infirm, bowed-over woman
And she was made straight (Luke 13:13)

Jesus laid hands on the blind man,
And the blind man saw (Mark 8:23)

“When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40)
Oh, yes, the work of my hands fall short of what God enabled them to do. They can only do jobs the size of my faith. I pray that my faith grow, that God-in-Me work its way out through my hands to touch lives in the way God made me to touch lives. If he has called the heart of these hands to heal, to cleanse, to make straight, to open eyes for truth – all physically and spiritually, I pray that whatever binds them from being what He empowered them to do is loosened.

For now, the blessing of my hands comes from the cutting of the chard, the playing with baby feet, the tending of my garden, and the laying on of hands in a call to prayer.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” (Ecc. 9:10)

455-465 blessings listed above
466) a 7 a.m. Saturday morning date to watch squirrels
467) orange carrots, fresh chard, tomatoes and delicious-smelling onions at the Farmer’s Market
468) in my hammock, looking up through the trees, looking at all the “Y”s – thanks to Jennifer at Getting Down with Jesus, I saw Yahweh everywhere! It makes sense that the trees praise Yahweh when every branch is laden with reminders of Yahweh!
469) spotting my teen in the hammock on a Holiday afternoon
470) The teen, swinging in the hammock now a senior
471) a pontoon ride, on a lake, reminding me, all that water, of the Holy Spirit
472) For sweet friends, breaking bread over lunch.
473) my oldest son, at the family gathering, loving my Swiss Chard dish
474) Empty plates once filled with scones, beignets, chard, asperagus with Hollandaise sauce
475) My raised garden bed, built by my husband filled with plants, seeds, hope and faith
476) babygirl falling asleep in the shawl I knit, that matched her outfit
477) this job that I go to from 8 to 4:30, some days from 6 or 7 a.m. to 4:30 to catch up, that has helped me use my time more richly
478) Hope in the sun creeping through my window sill every morning!
479) Green buddings on our transplanted hydrangea!

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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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“I’m gonna punch you,” the teen tells his younger brothers – whether it is their silly songs, their loud talking, or actions designed to provoke. I’m not really worried about the “I’m-gonna-punch-you” threat.

That’s brothers building boundaries, uncomfortably building boundaries (for post on Types of Brotherly Physical Contact, click here) – and, often, code for “I need quiet time”  – brothers communicate holisticly with an arsenal of choices: humor, story telling, warnings, helping, encouraging, praying, directions, messages, and back-off words.

In school, though – in school it’s different.

“I was thisclose to punching someone today,” I’ve heard all of my boys say. The provacation is usually someone disrupting class, someone bullying another classmate, possibly bullying them. The girl in me, that God put there to nurture, to comfort, to hug – it rebels against those words, those actions.

Don’t get me wrong – if someone ever punch my son, I’d want them to defend themselves. Sometimes I think that if the good-guys could defend, there’d be fewer discipline problems in school – but, the good-guys get suspended for defending themselves these days.

When my sons say, “I was thisclose to punching someone,” I realize they have reached the end of their rope, their buttons are being pushed, their boundaries overrun – or, maybe, someone sitting behind them tapped a pencil to a staccato beat during an entire class.

Frustration, though, is really no reason for punching.

We drove, this teen and I, to pick up his brothers. “I was thisclose to punching someone” – and I remembered a youth who wanted to hurt another son ( click here to read: Unoffical Day of Prayer to Stop School Violence), threatened to stab him in the back and kill him. At first, I wanted law-and-order justice – until God whispered what he really needed: someone praying for him.

Looking at the road in front of us, I told this son what I thought was really going on:

“The urge to punch someone is really a call from God to pray the person you want to punch – except that call has been hijacked by the devil.”

He wasn’t buying it . . . but I was.

But if I say it over and over again, he might one day live it and believe it.

56) pinking rotary cutters

57) a mother-in-law who has open-heartedly and with grace helped me cut out the pieces for my very first quilt – helped and taught, handling with dexterity and acceptance the way I learn new things.
58) blue polka dots on white cotton material
59) material with a vintage feel, prints mixing yellow, pinks, and blues
60) courage that pushed me from the safety of ignorance into the midst of a color challenge to finally make my blue cotton quilt

61) I’ve read all the Jane Austen Books, the Bronte sisters books, seen all the I Love Lucy’s – but the realization I haven’t read, seen or done all – starting my quilt showed me that – and seeing the movie the movie “Love Letters” with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton, and holding grandbaby girl.
62) Walking up 3 concrete steps, walking toward restoration, choosing to leave behind a broken moment, refusing to let that brokenness break anything more than a moment.
63) the dinner blessing that included, “and bless the hands that prepared our dinner.”
64) My oldest son giving father words to his new daughter, kissing her before handing her over to his wife.
65) A little crease in baby girl’s cheek, between her nose and mouth
66) My husband, holding baby girl for the first time,
67) telling his son a story filled with laughter – baby girl furrowing her brow at the new sound before falling asleep in this new Papaw’s arms, her Papaw.

68) a grocery store green pepper and summertime canned tomatoes in soup.
69) a blue ottoman beside a son’s bed that allows me to lean comfortably and listen during bedtime conversation.
70) “Did you count your freckles today? Did you come home with 10 toes? What’s it like without the bully in the bathroom” –serious and silly questions to fill my question-quota my son demands at bedtime.
71) not having the boys rack up squats on the way to church on Sunday
72) a phone call about a job interview on Friday- Yeah!
73) my soldier son calling me in mistake: “Sorry, mom – I didn’t mean to call” he said. “Never tell your mom you didn’t mean to call – just say, “Love you , Mom,” I laughed. “Love you, mom,” he said.
74) sitting, knitting with a group of women at Sweet Sallie’s Bakery and coffee shop, with a sugar-free caramel macchioato, sharing a morning, knitting words and making friends.
75) going places, like the World Foods shop, ordering 2 Rueben sandwiches and a lb of pancetta, the owner, friends with my DIL’s family, asking about sweet baby girl and  saying nice words about my son who had come in earlier to pick up lunch for he and his sweet wife. Community roots digging deep – relationships grow from knowing, knowing, and knowing, loving like the Father loves.
76) the wind, though it tormented me tonight, wouldn’t let me cook my steaks on the grill, rib-eye steaks that I’d been saving for a celebration moment, when life’s ordinary sweetness was the celebration – and I turned to the wind and said, “God, can you turn it off for 5 minutes. It’s blowing out my grill.” In retrospect,  I sounded like one of my sons tattling on another son. The wind, it kept blowing – and the steaks, they kept not cooking. Stove-top steaks don’t do rib-eye steaks justice – but God has been wanting me to learn to jump tracks lately, to soften for His changes without breaking – and the wind, well, it tossled my hair, blew out the burners like a Crosby and Hope absurd scene, and I chose joy instead of pouting because I did not get my way. Plans blown amuck is how it could have ended. My plans were for blessing – so I focused on blessing instead of grilled steaks.
77) clouds that fall from the sky, cocooning my home – and me. Driving home from school, up the hill into the mists,  like the world is left behind and it is just us, a cottage in the clouds.
78) My little guy helping me carry the tall Kitchen Christmas Tree to the basement where we discovered it fit perfectly between the rafters so we wouldn’t have to hang it horizontally from the ceiling.
79) My little guy coming up behind me, as I’m typing this, sitting on the couch. He wraps his arms around my neck, saying, “Hug” – and I stop and savor!

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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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