Archive for the ‘Raising Children’ Category

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


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Unconditional Love drags unwilling feet to all sorts of places that build up the mind, body and soul. Unconditional Love sometimes has to put up with some whine, deal with a bit of balking, kind of like making a child eat their peas or green beens. They might pull a 5 sensory boycott:  Don’t like the taste, Don’t see the need, Don’t feel the positive effects, Don’t hear the message, Can smell a learning moment a mile away.  But it is good for them, regardless. It stretches them beyond what they are.

While visiting The Great Smokey Mountains, we toured Cades Cove – the day after a torrential storm. My joyful son commented, “Sure it was fun. . . for the first 30 minutes.”  Yes, they moaned every time we stopped to learn a little history, discover a little beauty. Yes, they cheered when the camera batteries died.  At the very end, though (about 4 hours later), you should have seen them all trying to make that camera work – but to no avail. We have no proof we saw 2 brown bears!

It is the kind of day they will talk about how “Mom” forced them to be dragged through a great wilderness, stopped too often to capture something beautiful. They will sigh, roll their eyes and make the funny jokes boys make. Probably until one day when they start bragging about it to their kids. 

Unconditional Love is willing to get uncomfortable because we know things they don’t know, like the importance of stopping to take a moment to enjoy a beautiful sight, despite peer pressure to not. Or that by stopping to look at a grave site, you learn why those immunizations you have to take are pretty important. Or seeing with your own eyes that a family of 8 lived in 2 rooms without a bathroom, and maybe realizing how blessed they really are. Or seeing streams of water all frothy and rushing as a result of the previous days storm. That in order to make a moment outstanding, you have to seize that moment instead of letting it pass by outside your window.

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Once upon a time, my boys were little enough to fit beneath the microscope of my attention. I could identify the entry point of every new word in their increasing vocabulary. I knew every friend, every friend’s mom and the nature of those friendships.  I could match every sock, find every shirt and dress them neatly for church without much of a howl.

Beneath the microscope, they learned the following kinds of things:

How to Pray
Handle nightmares
Discern Friendship
How to Read
How to Swim
Handle Frustration
See Animals in the Clouds
Appropriate ways to Say No
Not to Talk to Strangers
How to Really Blow your Nose
How to properly shove off with your upper arm in soccer so you don’t foul with your elbow
How to make boxed brownies in the 3rd grade and homemade cakes in the 5th grade
How to make your needs known if you are a need stuffer
Unconditional Love

Beneath the microscope, how they ate, what they ate and when they ate – well, I pretty much knew where it came from – and, yes, where it went – and, hhhhmmm, probably even what it looked like for a long time at its exit.  I still miss orange noses from sweet potatoes and carrot baby foods. All beneath the microscope.              

All children should have parents who place them beneath the microscope – because this studying of their hearts, learning of their dreams, recognition of their gifts – better enables nuturing what God placed within them, better enables healthy healing of their hurts in addition to teaching them to heal their hurts, and train each how to handle their individual challenges. 

Pre-12 is just the training ground to prepare for ages 12 to 20. From 12 to 20, my behavior,  my message is meticulously examined by my boys.

Around age 12 – suddenly, everything starts changing, from knowing what goes on inside the classroom, to the nature of their friendships, to some things they know and when they knew it? “Where did that word come from?” leaves me guessing. Well, their desire for independence, even 12-year-old independence, has burgeoned so they literally pop themselves from beneath the microscope.

In their quest for independence, they have turned the tables, placing me beneath the microscope.  They have so diminished me in their hearts and minds that I fit there, at least in their estimation. I am not saying this is a bad thing. Maybe our children as they grow need to think of us as little before they realize really how wonderfully big we are inside.

It is not comfortable beneath the microscope. They record findings with which I disagree. Beneath the microscope, the parent is not nurtured.  It is a cold, critical place. They re-evaluate the slide notes I recorded of what I placed inside them (you know, all those messages, those values, insights, every good  intention instilled) and compare with their fresh notes of how they see my behavior beneath the microscope. Frustratingly, 12-to-20-year-old microscopic analytical skills are short-sighted. 

When the parent is placed beneath the microscope, it is not a nurturing act. It is a tearing apart and putting back together. They are studying themselves and studying us, seeing if everything we hold them accountable for is within us, too.

Nuance discernment is non-existent. Sharp focus comparing and contrasting message and action rules. Recognition of discrepancies in behavior and action is followed by a stiff call to verbal accountability – and they remember! I am judged by what I have instilled within them. Brutally so! The do not let me forget when I fail.

It can be a scorching place, beneath the microscope of my children.  Being the parent of a 12-to-20-year-old is vastly different from being a parent to a pre-12-year-old. It is an important time, an important training, this testing of that which we placed within them.

No more pre-nap failings, missing it, only to put them down for a nap and the moment is forgotten. No! When the saying “the memory of an elephant” came into the language, they must have been talking about this particular age group.

Starting at age 12, out from under the microscope, they make decisions (12-year-old decisions) on friendship, vocabulary choices, how to communicate with the parents, struggling for more independence – readying for the great pull-away at 14/15.  Out from under the microscope, they test those ideals, those values, throw some away, hold some close, and retrieve some they thought useless. It is a tough time for them, just as it is a tough time being a mom.

It is a time I risk being mis-labeled, suffering a level of censoring, my failings enlarged beneath this microscope. I desperately hold on to the promises of my Father, my faith that they will return, re-analyze with fresh eyes and fresh wisdom, and recognize the valuable specimen they had all along.

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I believe everything is possible through Christ Jesus. My vision of what can be is limited by my knowledge of possibilities. However, God has an unlimited supply of possiblities that I cannot even visualize or imagine!

If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believeth” (Mark 9:23)

Nobody ever said believing was easy, that trusting was easy – but the more I have believed in what I have not yet seen and still trusted my Father – the more truth I have discovered in what His word says.

“For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and doesn’t doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says” (Mark 11:23)

Raising children dares me quite consistently to believe that God has possibilities to challenges I cannot logically discover, imagine or fathom; fix, organize, or buy; out-love, out-debate or just out-last through sheer determination.

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13)

To Dare is to “to challenge or provoke (a person) into a demonstration of courage” – to Dare is not saying to God, “I dare you to prove yourself.” No, that is not what I am talking about. It is to prove ourselves, our faith. To Dare is to be courageous in our Faith against the enemy who would see us fail, to see our faith fail, to see our belief fail,  – and our relationship with God fail.  Sometimes, this enemy would use the challenges of our children to entice us to fail.

To Dare is to test ourselves. “To dare or venture to meet or expose oneself to, to run the risk of meeting; to meet defiantly, defy (a thing)” (OED, definition of dare) – When we dare to believe, we put our faith on the line. We do not dare God – we dare ourselves – to put our faith into action, kind of like turning the key in the the car’s ignition. We trust the key will make the car turn on. When we stand on our faith and believe, we defy an unbelieving world. We run the risk of discovering God is not true. We expose ourselves to a world ready to ridicule our belief.

Yet, the most beautiful part of Daring to believe that God stands by His promises, His Fatherhood, is that each time we Dare to Believe, Faith and Hope are never let down; God is real and true.

Sometimes I forget to let God be fully God. Sometimes, it is difficult to let God into all areas of my life. It is like letting my son push the grocery cart. It is hard to let go and let someone else have control. But God is not just someone else. He is God – a God of endless Possibilities!

Dare to Trust. Dare to Hope. Dare to Believe. Double-Dog Dare to let God be God in your life!


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