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Posts Tagged ‘Raising Sons’

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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soccerb12bcc

Knight in Shining Armor kind of brave – it’s a God kind of brave – a willingness to sacrifice all – life, pride, reputation, arms and legs, dreams, financial possibilities, comfort, popularity – in order to save someone else.

A God-kind of brave – that we read about from the book of Martyrs – a record of bravery of men, women and children risking all for the second Baptism – for having a copy of the Gospel of Love.

A God-kind of brave that comes to another country to pursue religious liberty – a Jesus-kind-of religion that doesn’t oppress or limit – but frees from bondage, heals wounds and finds joy.

A young boy following his passion for a sport – who shares the Gospel of Love in black grease paint oncheekbones, who risks popularity, riches, a dream job – in order to share the Gospel of Love, a knight-in-shining armor kind of brave – a Tim Tebow kind of brave.

I want my boys who juggle the soccer ball on toes passionate for a game to be passionate for their Savior, to be passionate for a neighbor they don’t know – willing to risk all – so others can know the bottomless, unquenchable love of a mighty God.

That kind of brave.

“Sometimes you’re too poor to have ethics,” the university commencement speaker said – a person of high-rank in the Tennessee primary and secondary education system.

Yet – isn’t that when it counts – when what’s really inside matters? When life isn’t easy – that’s what you see what a man is made of.

This mother’s heart wants to raise these 5 sons from brave boys into brave men:

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy” (Pinocchio)

A real boy, a real man where things like ethics, morality, bravery and courage, unconditional love are like invisible ink –

Unconditional Love [bravery, morality, ethics) is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love {bravery, morality, ethics}is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally{are ethical, brave, moral}? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love {be brave, ethical, adhere to moral principles} anyway – then you are loving unconditionally {brave, ethical, morally upstanding}. ~ Blue Cotton Memory, Unconditional Love Rule 2

If you’ve been around my blog for a long time, you’ve probably heard me quote St. Augustine from City of God who said that the only difference between a pagan and a Christian – is not the things they face because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Seeing Tim Tebow walk out his faith in the midst of cultural challenges that seek strip him of his dream, his job, his cultural standing, even that faith itself – is a testimony of that faith. His ethics count now more than ever. His faith in the midst of adversity is a testimony to that faith – and it takes a brave man, a courageous man, a Daniel-in-the-Lion’s-Den kind of man.

The soldiers who are being discouraged from mentioning their faith in our military are those kind of men – men who would risk a court martial to pray over a wounded soldier or share the knowledge of a God who loves, who saves, who promises eternal life with that loving  – that is noble bravery at its best.

Our faith is being challenged – and we need brave men and women who will stand in the fiery furnace of cultural condemnation – and be a beacon for our boys and girls, our men and women.

A Tim-Tebow-kind-of Brave

~ Congress Shall Make No Law Concerning Tebowing and Other Religious Behavior

~Words Make a Difference

~A Horrifying, Mortifying Commencement Speech

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desserts2cSometimes I can’t love ’em right
though my heart is full of love
not a taking love
just a giving love

a love bursting
and here I am
wanting to love ’em right
and I can’t
sometimes
no matter how hard I try
no matter the intent

“Love suffers long and is kind” (I Cor 13: 4)

I’ve baked celebration cakes
taken dinners
written poems
asked questions
encouraged
prayed psalms
sometimes even hugs
can’t love ’em right

“love is never envious or arrogant with pride. Nor is she conceited” ( 1 Cor 13:4)

whether it’s with a teen in a stage
a church family member
a kid’s mom my kid wants to play with
a random person
someone who belongs to you
through biology
or belongs to you ’cause
Jesus said so

” [Love]does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5)

sometimes I can’t love ’em right
and all the love languages in the world
can’t break
the language barrier
but God knows
who He gave me to love

“[Love} finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the
truth
” (1 Cor 13:6)

sometimes when I can’t love ’em right
it’s for a reason
He knows
the pain of unrequited love
that God’s true love
isn’t inactive in the waiting
doesn’t stop existing
though it lives unseen
uncovered
over-looked
not sought-out
like a wrapped gift
given and unopened

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through
every circumstance”
(1 Cor 13:7)

He knows
that sometimes it feels like
I can’t love ’em right
but God’s kind of love never fails (1 Cor 13:8)

IMG_7514

Father’s Day weekend was filled with a few moments where I managed to love some of ’em right – not all of them, but some of them. One son wanted muffalettas for his birthday, chocolate celebration cake for another birthday boy, and creme brulee for my husband- and, well, it was just a sweet easy day. No – sometimes, I can’t love ’em right – not the way they want, maybe not even always the way they truly need, or in a way I know how to love.

I am not omniscient – though my boys at times thought I was

I only know what knowledge I have reached for and grasped – or what God has revealed

“but love makes up for all wrongs, trangressions, offenses, sins” (Proverbs 10:12)

The more I learn about God’s kind of love, the less judgemental, the less exclusive I become – the more I realize how imperfect I do love

and because I realize how imperfectly I love –

the greater the determintaion not to give up trying

and forgiving,

not just others but myself

learning

there is not always an immediate return

maybe not ever

on love

The only thing I can do is love my best

hands-on or hands-off

through prayer, creme brulee or muffaletta’s and oreo icing, hugs, talks, time or a filled-up gas tank

or maybe a no to gas-tank fill-ups, groundings and lectures

the only thing I can do is love my best

even if they think I don’t love ’em right.

meringuefruit

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grandmamosesMy fourth son, he turned 15 – so I gave him the card –

The Grandma Moses card – the one with the vintage automobile on the front

there’s one for each of the brothers – each of my boys -and I give it to them when they turn 15.

Grandma Moses tells them,

“Life is what you make it,

always has been,

always will be”

I wrote to my son,

Not everyone starts out their first day held in the hands of a loving God like you did – and in that holding he gave you an extra measure of something wonder – a boldness for things of God.

As you know by now, there are moments of blessing, moments of challenge and those in-between moments where a lot of living happens – sometimes moments you call “boring” – but in all those moments you have a choice

a choice to love

a choice to find goodness

a choice to be kind

a choice to forgive

a choice to walk out your faith and hope in God when you might not see evidence of his favor.

Life is not about the challenge; it is about the choice

and the choices are what defines your life

Grandma Moses gave us some good advice. Live it well,

Happy 15th birthday!

 

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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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robin2ccMy senior’s graduation over, out-of-town family packed up and returned home, photo video for the soccer team done, I was at the end of myself.

Some children you cheer over the finish line, some you drag – both fighting for independence in their own ways. 3 down 2 to go.

I wandered through the house retrieving knitting projects set aside mid-winter, stuffing them in an overnight bag with clothes for the weekend, my pillows, my camera and computer. . . and I left. . .

Needing to empty myself of the stress, to recalibrate, to find within myself the fire and desire to continue this mothering journey with zest, joy, fire, energy and vision.

I drove 4  hours to my aunt’s house where she met me at the gate, and we just wrapped each other in a big hug – we hadn’t seen each other since December.

We sat on her porch

where we drank coffee in the morning

where I walked Zoe, her fluffy bundle 2 miles each morning in the park across the street

where we lunched

and watched robins and listened to cardinal calls in what seemed like a sanctuary in the middle of what was long ago small town America.

where I pulled out one of those knitting projects, ¾ of the way complete, saw a mistake and a way to make it better, because boxy vests don’t wear well on apple-shaped people – and I pulled out the stitches to begin anew

As I pulled out 15 inches of stitches, Aunt Joyce, she rolled the evidence of my mistakes into a colorful yarn ball.

This getaway was like a sieve, allowing the unwanted inside material to fall through slots big enough to let the bad out – small enough to keep the good in, separating the dross from the gold, the wheat from the chaff.

We hunted through nurseries on busy intersections and dirt roads, found yellow and blue baptisia. We dug some holes and planted new, dug up some old, yellow evening primroses – enough to take home for one or two abundant spots.

Bought angel stars from our favorite bakery

smelled perfume in a shop

And we sat

just sat together

graveyardThe morning before I left, we visited the grave yard, where grandmother and grandfather are buried, and her husband – and the ladies who played bridge weekly with my grandmother – and remembered the year it snowed on Memorial Day at Long Run Park where we were picnicing for Grandmother’s birthday – that was about 46 years go, maybe 47 – when my cousin and I had been whisked into the back of somebody’s car, given a plate of fried chicken, green beans and bread and told to hurry and eat – while the aunts, uncles and cousins and siblings had to face the surprising blizzard – my cousin and I sat carefully guarded from the harsh elements.

Another aunt invited us by; she’d been working in her garden, thinning out perennials – and had some for me.

I tried to say thank you, but she just waved me away, “If you say thank you for plants given, they won’t survive.”

Aunt Joyce mused as I pulled out of her drive about how my car looked like a flower shop.

Not rushed, or should I say, not letting the chaos rush me – I took time for hugs. On the way through the county where my grandmother came from, I stopped by to give another sweet aunt a hug.

In the quiet, the spending time, the walking, the coffee, the planting – I looked for at first Shaddai, the Mighty One of Jacob – I needed some quality time with Him.

And He was there, Jehovah Shamma – just as He was there in the low, dark part of the challenges, in the emotional cyclone that can sometimes by part of raising boys to men – Jehovah Shamma – He was there in my drive, in the walking – everywhere I turned, I looked and He was there – there with me – just waiting for me to step out of the cyclone and find Him under the walking trees, in the night breeze coming through the window, as I drank coffee in the morning, in the steps of the robin.

I went to Jehovah-Raah, asking Him to not just be The Lord My Shepherd, but to be the The Lord My Shepherd to my new graduate.

I found Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that Heals physically, emotionally and spiritually – and He breathed His Holy Spirit into this spent soul

Breathing new life

Re-calibrated

For the next part of this journey

lavendarwedding6cJehovah Jireh, He reminded me that He will provide, not just the outside stuff needed for growing a family, but the inside stuff I need – like the manna He provided for the Israelites – that He gave them more than enough everyday – His storehouse is open for me – already equipped for everything I need for the next 6 years of this journey – and the journey after that. I didn’t just ask for me, though, I asked for sweet friends who need His provision, too – because I am not alone with my struggles. By my own hurting, I understand better the hurting of others, the need for others to reach with me in prayer – and I want to reach for them, too – reach for Jehovah Jireh for them, too – no one likes to battle alone, or retreat from battle to regain strength alone, either – that’s why armies are not made of one – we need to battle on together, helping each other with things like lunches, sitting together, praying for each other.

And He reminds me that He is Jehovah-Shalom, He is my peace,  my word this year– to live in it, immerse in it – breathe it in and out – until it is no longer a this-year word but an everyday, every minute word.

I came home with peace – a Shalom-kind of peace – with a Holy Spirit fire kindling my life zest, energy, and joy for this new journey stage.

I came home to these 2 boys still in the nest, a husband I love with all my heart, like a warrior flying the banner of my Lord high, the banner of my Lord Jehovah Nissi – a daughter of the King ready to charge into battle once again.

I am so glad I live under His banner.

(Still Counting His gifts with Ann – in the above are 1019 – 1034)

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Grandmother's House

Grandmother’s House

“I do” whispered between 2
And a home was born
Where one day 3 were gathered
In the great green room and a red balloon
Where cows jumped over the moon
And 3 became 4
And the little cowboy lassoed his imagination
Into a hero in boots
And 4 became 5
And giggles rippled over the story
Of Uncle Remus and the crabs boring a hole
Into the earth’s center creating the great flood
5 became 6
When the Benjamin bunnies ate lettuces leading to
Sophoric sleeps amidst danger stewing and risking flopsy slippers
6 became 7 where we didn’t just love to the moon
But to God’s beard
And back
Night time sings of 10 in the Bed
Each little one said
Roll over
Roll over
Wrapped in blue cotton blankets
And unconditional love
Home read like a story book
Between little bears and their mama and daddy
Tis a gift
To be simple
To be free
Where we ought to be
home

zinniatable2 Home just isn’t just sweet memories, bedtime stories and sings.

I asked my bed-time chronicler and my saucy little one if they wanted me to sing the other night – quirky smiles crossed their faces as each laughed a sighing ‘No.” Home for them is still blue cotton blankets, excitement over favorite muffins and mom reminding them to brush their teeth, say their prayers and share their hearts, finish their homework, math with dad.

Home for my senior is a cage from which to break free. Muffins, blankets, mom saying anything are reduced value, comfortless, spurned. Sometimes home is a battlefield – one battling for independence – the other battling to life save.  Sometimes one has to feel caged by the nest before they can soar.

Another son, he felt the same way, couldn’t wait to break free from this cage. Anything was better than home. Basic training built an appreciation for blue cotton blankets, mom’s sandwiches and hearty soups, a refreshing place, comforting, coffee in the pot, grace to grow, a place to find peace.

He gives his little brothers a hard time. The saucy one gives it back, “What – you’re 20 and living at home.”

The older brother, he smiles sheepishly, but knows he’s working, he’s saving, planning for college – and a career God put on his heart – recognizing that God put it on his heart.

The prodigal returned home, to receive grace and grow in it willingly.

Home is the launch pad for God’s plan.

A home built with love, faith and hope opens it doors in welcome, for growing, for things like forgiveness and refreshing, for launching to soar.

Home is painted, tiled, shuttered and aired with all kinds of sentences – some regretted, some held close, some God-inspired, some evidence of our human fraility, some railing, some beautiful loving, comforting – like a blue cotton blanket. Some best foregotten; some never to be forgotten.

Home leaves the door open for restoration like unconditional love leaves the heart open.

The son, who railed at the cage and returned home to grow in the refreshing of it, he leaves for tank training in a few weeks and deployment in October. The journey of what home has meant to him has been like the journey of a prayer answered.

This scripture has always been close to my heart – I guess God knew why:

“But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:17)

 

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duckspondOn the way to school in the mornings, one son leads us in the 23 Psalm, on the Lords’ Prayer, one chooses a psalm – and then I pray – they that they let others know about the love of Jesus either through their words or prayer, that they have relationship with the Father through the day.

I’ve been challenging them to find 3 people to pray for throughout the day – maybe not in words but in their hearts, not just the bullied but the bullies.

Finding God while sitting in hard chairs, learning dry knowledge in books, eating lunch food that leaves a bad taste in your mouth – teaching my boys to find God in a school that says He is not allowed – that’s a tough gig.

acornaLast year, I started counting 1000 Gifts along with Ann at A Holy Experience. That counting has been life changing, relationship-changing.

The counting released the Father from the box I had place Him in. Quite a few years ago, I took Him out of one box – the Sunday, church day and evening prayer box. By expanding prayer and bible time, I only put Him in another box – a bigger box granted.

Counting 1000 Gifts has taken Him out of any box. I meet Him everywhere. I’ve found love letters He’s written me on nature hikes. He’s sent me gifts, like swirling leaves in the autumn sun, to make me smile. He sends cardinals and squirrels across my path to let me know He is there – in a year, in a 1,000 ways, He sends me messages in these gifts He leaves in my path.

I struggled this week with these gifts – 10 more to go to reach 1000 – and I wanted them to be a culminating, crescendo –

Nothing seemed worthy of a crescendo, the blessings didn’t seem good enough – and, He was there, in the butter and the oysters I made this afternoon – reminding me of what this 1000 gift journaling has been about – to vintage the little blessings that change the everyday.

The simple gifts He gives aren’t about crescendo – it’s about relationship, one-on-one time, seeing Him everywhere, finding His messages to me everywhere, opening and reading them – in a walk where our heads are bent together in conversation, in the tree-top squirrel nests, in the memory of my grandmother’s milk box, in a yellow lemon. . . . .

Intentional looking uncovered gifts He placed in my path daily – everywhere – that is something I want to teach my sons – how to find His gifts while they sit in hard chairs, learning dry knowledge, eating lunches that leave a bad taste in their mouths.

treeseedscc2

1036) purple tulips tucked in my grocery cart Friday after work
1037) fixed shower handles that work (meaning – a house full of boys no longer are using my bathroom)
1038) little hands helping fold laundry with a good attitude
1039) listening to my boys doing math with their dad
1040) a Reuben sandwich with my Valentine at a restaurant where they know your name
1041) an afternoon playing with grandbaby girl
1042) snow flurries
1043) cardinals calling outside my window
1044) oysters, butter, sautéed onion and cream for Sunday stew
1045) white cloud wisps in a robin’s egg blue sky
1046) my bedroom window cracked to let in cold air for a rare afternoon nap, wrapped in my down blanket – not so much sleeping as savoring that snuggled up, refreshing quiet.

Why more than 1,000? Because I make mistakes. How appropriate that there are more blessings than we realize!

  • Love Letters from Shaddai, click here
  • A Crow’s Message, click here
  • Sitting in the Stairwell, Vintaging the Past, click here
  • Arms open and Outstretched, click here
  • The Runaway’s Hope in a God-Made Ladder, click here

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butterflyd10 copy_edited-1On holiday at the beach when the sun and clouds pulled closer to my patch of earth and the tree leaves looked like patchwork quilts of oranges, reds, yellows and fuchsias – my husband and I found ourselves floating quietly by ourselves in a sea of salt.

Our boys had abandoned us for a lazy river and video games. The littlest, he’d constructed a half-hearted sandcastle – only because I said we’d needed one – and he’d not grown up enough to relish not heeding me yet.

I bobbed and my husband floated along the currents, savoring the peacefulness of it all, me not quite trusting the quiet; my husband taking it all in stride when a Monarch butterfly beat its wings up and down from shore toward us, past us – and we watched, our bobbing and floating turning to follow his journey beyond where we could see.  We watched, expectantly – and gossiped about its journey until the current pulled our attention to where we wandered – and we set to working ourselves back to align with our beach side property of chairs, blankets and bags.

In the bobbing and floating, trying to catch a good wave – both our attention was caught by a Monarch butterfly beating its wings up and down, out of the distance, past us without a pause, to the beach, straight to the Beggar’s Ticks beyond the beach walk.

We paused – wondering if this was the one that had just left – or if maybe this was one come from across the gulf.

I kept wondering what message those butterflies carried from God – Nothing ever goes to waste if we just pay close enough attention.

A few weeks ago, the message in those butterflies revealed itself like moon runes (The Hobbit).

A prayer – I don’t’ know if it was one prayer sent 2 years ago or the book of prayers sent out 15 years ago for one son – sent out on a journey like a Monarch butterfly. The Journey takes time – maybe one minute, 2 years or 15 years – but a prayer I sent out came back, like that Monarch returning – it came by answered.

Just like Daniel’s prayer sent out on a journey before it returned answered:

“‘Relax, Daniel,’ he continued, ‘don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I’m here to help you. . . .’?(Daniel 10: 12-14, The Message)

Oh, yes – I long ago decided – I couldn’t raise these boys with just what I had or my husband had. It is humbling to realize sheer determination cannot generate the results I want. I cannot  love my boys good enough. I cannot teach or talk good enough to save them from a fallen world. Humbling myself to the Father – saying to Him “only you can”  – and it liberated me – and it saves them.

When I sent those prayers out, “Save him” – this Father God heard – and He set out to come for me to save each of my sons.  Like in Daniel’s story – it was a journey to answer that prayer. He loves us like that – He loves my sons like that.

He came. He helped – and that prayer answered came one night  up my drive way, beating its wings up and down, up and down – and as it hit my porch steps – and it brushed against a new prayer being sent out – a similar prayer being sent out – for another son, another teen facing challenges, wanting to leave before it was time.

Long ago God told me about this son – that his mouth would be loosened – and it did – the stuttering stopped. That his ears would be opened – and we learned how he heard differently – that his mind would be freed, (I believe children diagnosed late with things like Central Auditory Processing Disorder or Dyslexia often develop patterns of frustration that need overcoming) – and then he would turn to Him and be healed.

That brush with that prayer going out knocked out the scales that blinded his soul eyes –  repentant heart revealed, eyes suddenly selfless seeing and in the seeing grieving. Self-centered emerging selfless”– an answered prayer come home.

The prayer leaving? Another teen, he wanted to check out of high school when he was 18 – and go back to the high school he went to Ky in for 2 years, check in, graduate there and in the process minister to his atheist friends.

A prayer returning brushing up against a prayer leaving.

Just like the sun can shine in a rain downpour, my heart rejoiced and cried at the same time.

Hint: from my blessings list in Butterflies and Beggar’s Ticks:

  • oceanfly

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

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

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

My most memorable moment of 2011?

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

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

Just a hug?

I don’t think so.

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“I’m almost holding my breath in anticipation, reminding myself that a journey is one step at a time”
~Blue Cotton Memory, Journal Notes before son’s military graduation.

As my son prepared for basic training graduation, I prepared my heart for meeting this young man, broken and rebuilt through military training.

How was I to greet this soldier, this young man, this son? How was the mother in me to respond? How did my role need to change? Was I to be released from the hard-core mothering?

As Manager of Small and Large Product Development of Blue Cotton Industries, I have had 5 product development-to-launch responsibilities. One product had already been successfully launched and, as a Blue Cotton insider, took over after-market responsibilities.

This second product had taken considerable team effort. Launch ability test results were about to be discovered – which would determine my future role.

The day-to-day responsibility-for-the-outcome  had included maintenance, operations, and support training, fulfillment of education services, and instructor activities, plus praying, encouraging and loving? Many of these responsibilities would be eliminated or phased out if product launch was successful.

If successful, I would no longer be responsible for collecting and analyzing job performance data against product release requirements. No more comparing individual knowledge and skills with job standards and arranging further training to meet launch requirements.

During this 10 week military training of this Blue Cotton Product, I had received one phone call  and 3 letters; letters with words like “changed man,” “facing my fears,” “going to church” were balm to my worn, cracked heart, worn through prayer, my inner voice murmuring Faith, Hope and Love some days until raw and hoarse. I wonder if my inside prayers ever sound worn and hoarse to God?

“Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on me, you would see the glory of God” (John 11:40)

“Are you here?” he texted from the meeting field from a friend’s phone because he didn’t have one.

“5 more minutes,” I texted back.

I prayed days and weeks before this meeting that God would prepare my heart, inoculate against unrealistic expectations, be the mother I needed to be for this meeting, this unveiling of the new man.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4: 11-13)/

In this reunion, the mother met her son, a man carrying the mantle of his own destiny, fully independent, contentment in his eyes, his soft manner of talking in the stories told of a self-control, a humbleness, a hope for his future. The rebellious boy had been broken down and rebuilt into a responsible man.

In this meeting were welcomed hugs. Photos with something previously rare and almost extinct,  a genuine, freely-given smile – a smile not filtered with ulterior motives. Just the smile of a man who has overcome to become someone he is proud to be.

We went to the PX, a small mall with a food court, where he bought his own work clothes, signed up for his own phone plan, and bought an iphone.

“Are you more confident?” I asked, knowing his achievements – earning a spot on a elite shooting squad, earning a sharpshooter badge, becoming a flag bearer because his Sgt. told his dad, “He’s the most squared soldier in the platoon.”

“Nahhh! Probably less,” he answered, no cocky bravado, no smartest-man-in-the-room attitude. The realization that you do not know it all is the beginning of wisdom.

“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given us us” (Romans 5: 2b-5).

He wasn’t used to crowds. I guess 10 weeks of isolation does that to you, so we took along a fellow private who didn’t have family that day to pick up Subway and took it to a playground on base. The playground was quiet and allowed the younger brothers to work off energy while we talked.

His friend had become a citizen that day. This only child of a one-child-only Chinese policy wished he’d had siblings. I think he even wished it after spending the day with our crew.

“They called our barracks the Taj Mahal,” our son said. Taj Mahal because they were so clean, so opposite of his bathroom at home. Everybody used ours because they didn’t want to put a toe in his, but in his barracks, he mopped voluntarily to work off frustration – and other times he would mop because he was told to – at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. – even if wake-up call was at 3:30 a.m.

During the quiet talking, the stories of challenges faced – the gas chamber, life saving classes that teach you how to save a battle buddy’s life, 3 weeks of casualty-risk activities, I realized that this Blue Cotton Product, this son, had launched himself successfully. He was battle-ready to take on management of one of my 5 most precious products – himself.

In that moment, I released my son. He was ready. He had successfully taken over after-launch responsibilities.

God was right there beside me, in this letting go, knowing I loved my son so much that I wanted to let go just right.

This soldier-son handed his brother, the second youngest, the rule-monger with whom he’d butted heads for working hard, for his self-control – he pulled from his pocket prayer beads from church. “I thought you’d like these,” he said. I think a lot of the past was forgotten in that moment – a reaching out and receiving time.

Was he running home hard to God? The prodigal returning at a run, to fling his arms around the Father?

God whispered to my heart, “He’s coming. He’s turned. Coming to me is a journey – one-step-at-a-time. You wouldn’t expect a 7th grader to do doctoral-level work. There is saving in the journey – at the beginning and the end and in-between.”

I nodded – I’m still in the journey, one step at a time, I’m working my way there, too.

God meets both of us where we are in the journey – the PVT. Christian(figurative) is just as saved as those further in the journey – the  Sergeant, Colonel or General – all  just as important to God, just as loved, just pursued by God – as the newly enlisted, newly [re-]committed Christian.

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49: 15).

With God right beside me, rejoicing right with me, I was able “to find sweet contentment in those one steps at a time, to open-heartedly meet him where he is” (Blue Cotton Journal, before graduation).

Someone might say, “Well, he’s 19 – he was already in charge of his life; it didn’t matter if you released him or not.

I don’t think a mother feels her job is complete until her child grown is able to be self-sufficient, making good soul choices, hands solidly on the steering wheel of his future. The letting go of that developmental responsibility, whether it is a mother’s or not, is really what we mother for. There is peace in a job completed, amazing peace in the release – and rejoicing in their readiness.

The time had come to hand over the reigns of leadership and management of one of Blue Cotton’s God-Designed Products – to someone so ready to take the product to places I never could.

Thank you, Father, for being with both of us. Thank you, Father, that you are faithful to the promises you whispered in my heart, wrote in your Word. Thank you that you love my son more than I do.

Thanks to everyone who sent me scriptures that encouraged, blessed and sustained me in this journey! Scriptures used in this post are ones many of my friends in the blogahood sent to encourage me as I prayed and waited in this phase of the journey. They so blessed my heart . I created a scripture collage with them – and each time I turned on my computer (screen saver), opened my fridge – Scriptures of Hope and Faith helped me pray those promises of God. I also created a Prayer for My Soldier Son that I prayed over him. There are places I can no longer go – but my prayers can go anywhere.

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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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In that blueberry path, on a hot July day, I thought how faith grows when one realizes the possibility that we do not know it all, when we concede there might be more to God than we know – and we are willing to step into those paths that speak of a closer relationship with God – believing what Faith said about God, causing Hope to leap in expectation, focusing on the goodness of God, trusting, having confidence that there is more to God, though we may not know what that more truly is.

“Living in Him” reminds me of when I so loved my husband that we married and we moved in together – and when I don’t see him, eat with him, walk with him, talk with him multiple times daily, I miss him, get a little wigged out because that kind of commitment is the grafting together of two people into one, changing who they were before.

Yet, though my husband completes me, it is not as powerful a grafting, as being grafted into our Lord and living in Him.

According  Leonard Hertz in his article, Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees,  “Fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. They can only be reproduced by grafting.”

There is a difference in the fruit we produce when grafted into a relationship with the Father. We can only bear the true fruit from the Father by being grafted into Him. Being good alone, then, just won’t work. The fruit is not quite the same. Only when we are grafted in to that intimate relationship can we truly bear the fruit of God.

Hertz also said, “Grafting is useful, however, for more than reproduction of an original cultivar. It is also used to repair injured fruit trees or for top-working an established tree to one or more different cultivars.” Through this grafting “in Him” a spirit crippled and abused can be repaired, healed, made whole.

God wants me to have that kind of “Living-in-Him” type of relationship, to be grafted into Him – and that is the only way to produce God’s true cultivar, fruit selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by being grafted into Him:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

What is love without God? What is joy without God? What is peace, forebearance, kindness, without God? Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – without God?

They are different fruit cultivar without God.

Maybe, if I can find that kind of message in a blueberry patch, just maybe, I can introduce that kind of relationship to my sons, and just maybe one day, maybe they will have a blueberry patch moment, other than a whining, complaining, are-we-done-yet moment. Just like the tree-farmer passes to his child the craft of grafting, fruit trees and harvesting, so, too, do I want to pass to my sons the knowledge of being grafted into an awesome God.

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As we drove through town, just the two of us, me and my third son, a junior, we talked – about new friends and old friends. The early morning coolness blew though the windows, my hair tickling my cheeks. Sans little brothers, the quiet was perfect soil to grow meaningful words. Those words grew without coaxing – one of those true moments.

“They called me Jesus,” he said, this son who has a joy-of-the-Lord spirit, talking about his friends from where we lived the last 2 years. “‘Cause I always wore sandals.”

And because he believed when they didn’t.

My older boys love sandals – even in the cold months. Chacos are their favorite, usually hand-me-down Chacos from the oldest son, Old Navy flip-flops will do in a pinch.

“Most of them were atheists. One was a Jew. I still pray for them. I pray they’ll be saved.”

Despite their unbelief – He told them about that belief anyway, in words and actions, in their presence and in prayer.

We talked a little more, our talk winding around. I’m not sure where these next words came out of in that conversation, where I was listening more than talking.

“Yeah. I fell away for a time,” and as that sunk into my heart, he said, “But I came back.”

He saw I wanted to say something, and he interrupted, “I came back, mom. We don’t need to talk about it.”

Both he and his brother fell away for a time, after Papaw died. After our minister stood Hospice Compassion Care room and prayed for a miracle, a miracle for this man who was dying with cancer, who had played tennis just 2 months ago, this man adored by 12 grandsons.

I just wanted to reach over, grab his neck and hug the stuffing out of my son. If I tried, he’d just say, “10 and 2, Mom. 10 and 2,” reminders to keep my hands on the steering wheel. He’s always reminding me ’cause I’m either talking with my hands or trying to tickle a rib in the passenger seat.

That falling away – I remember fearing when I was little falling away. How can you be 8 or 10 or 16 or 25 – and think, “Is there enough good stuff in me to be faithful to God for a life-time?” Remember how forever it took just to get to Christmas each year?

At 19, I battled faithfulness. I had prayed for someone since I was a little girl, that God would lift her out of her struggles. I had a tantrum and ignored God for awhile. But He kept whispering to me, gently calling me – and one day I heard, “I placed the opportunities. It was up to her to use them.” I saw the truth, and turned back, wondering if I could be as faithful to God as He was to me. If I could live a lifetime of faithfulness.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Let me be long-lived, Oh Lord, like the palm tree and the cedar in Lebanon. And like the Cedar, let me grow to my full potential, and like a cedar chest, let me keep away things that would eat at what is within me, keeping me whole and full, full of things of You.

They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
Let my faith roots be deeply buried in your house, Oh Lord. Let me bear hardships in faith, brave challenges without letting go, believe in the evidence of things not seen. Let me not just endure but thrive, grow, riotously blossom, reseed, and grow in your courts.

They still bear fruit in old age
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
Let me show my children how to grow old, loving you Lord. Let my faith stories declare your faithfulness, your enduring love, your mighty strength. Let your Holy Spirit pull up into me, like water pulls up in a tree, replenishing the sap of my faith – and, at the right time, the healthy time, let it spill from inside out, these stories telling of your faithfullness, your love.

he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (Psalm 92:12-15).
You are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. You are not a God who abuses, not a power-hungry God who wants us to dance for your amusement like a marionette on a string, but a noble, worthy God who loves unconditionally, who is better than I can imagine, who wants us to love you because we want to. I might shake. I might fall in a heap at your feet. But you do not. And when all the pieces of me crumble on You my rock, you breathe life back into me like you did to the dry bones in the valley(Ezekial 37) – and I will stand again, strong, tall, enduring, like the Cedars of Lebanon.

If the LORD had not been my help,
   my soul would soon have lived in the land of  silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
   your steadfast love, O LORD,  held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
   your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:17-19)

Thank you, Father. You knew I would struggle. You knew it would take me a long time to understand that your kind of Faith is indeed a lifetime faith, an enduring faith. Thank you for not only catching me when I fall, but thank you for catching my sons when they fall. Thank you for being more enduring, more faithful, more understanding than we are. Thank you for replenishing my spirit, my faith, me with YOU. Thank you for moments in the car with my son when I see an enduring faith growing in him, a heart to call your children who don’t know they can be your children to you, who knew you enough to walk back to you when his heart hurt and he didn’t understand. The more I walk this life with you Father, the more I understand love and the more I love you real, Father. Thank you for giving me time to grow your kind of love inside me!

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Before Christmas, I bought a new quilt for my bed. Depending on my mood, it can be found either folded over the foot of the bed atop a white coverlet like the one in the picture. Right now my white coverlet is folded away in the closet. Regardless of which blanket is the main blanket, my original quilt – one about 11 years old, is not far away – either folded over the foot of my bed or on my settee.

The old quilt has history.  Snugglebuggles when all the boys would end up in our room, the biggest one wrapped in the Blue Cotton Blanket on the floor, and, depending on who wandered in during the night, one or all of the other 4. Climbing under the Green Cotton Blanket was synonymous with comfort, warmth, giggles, good-night books, a safe haven during a blustery thunderstorm, funny sounds in the night, a healing cocoon when sickness struck – and mom.

I guess they spent nine months in me – and the closest they could get to mama after those nine months was being wrapped up in the Green Cotton Blanket.

I’ve knitted blankets they love, bought little boy bedroom blankets, and Nanny quilted blankets for each son.  But none are filled with the Green Cotton Blanket Magic.

The surest sign they are growing up is when they stop wandering in for snuggles under the Green Cotton Blanket.  That is as it should be.  However, they’ve never tried to steal it. . . until a few weeks ago. Why should I be surprised, though?  One son stole the Blue Cotton Blanket; apparently, it is in the genes.

There, so innocently, folded over my bed, just waiting to be used – The Green Cotton Blanket.

The littlest guy, pictured below all snuggled up in blankets in his carrier, was he headed for a life of blanket theft even then?  In the background, you can see the green cotton blanket. Was the pull of the blanket just too much?  And he broke? Temptation is they name. . . Green Cotton Blanket?

Those same words from almost 22 years ago, the same facial expressions, just a different little boy, the littlest boy.  As his fingertips pulled at the blanket, he flashed a guilty smile full of bravado, “I’ll just take this.  You don’t really need it.”

“But what about if I take a nap? I’ll still need it?”

“How ’bout I get it at night, and you can have it in the daytime?” he countered as he darted out of the room, his body shielding me from the Green Cotton Blanket – as though I were the threat.

I stood there amused because the situation was so familiar to my heart.  And so bemused because I was out another blanket – one I really like snuggling with for myself.  We went back and forth for a few days.  He would trot to the bathroom; I would sneak in to steal it back. But I knew it was a lost cause. Because when you get too old to snuggle with mama, well, you really still do want to but you’re just too old, so the next best thing is the snuggle blanket. It is not a total snuggle-free zone yet, but I see the writing on the wall! Or the message in the blanket.

I just somehow feel like I’ve lost more than a Green Cotton Blanket!

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