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Archive for the ‘Sons’ Category

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

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

The Mother of the Prodigal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and The Blanket Thief Strikes Again

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2pink55

Wife of my son, daughter of our family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are so glad you’ve come!

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

You gotta be able to call their bluff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a day of celebrating family!

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

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

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

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

My mother said, “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

She respected that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanksgiving – so much more than a turkey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other related posts:

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

Words Make a Difference

The 10 Cannots of Freedom

To Save a City

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

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

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

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

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

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