Friday, September 2, 2016

S.O.S.

At this point, you've heard me share this too many times to count. It's laughable. Embarrassing, really. I'm truly hoping I'm not the only one but so often I find myself on this deserted island sending out a desperate S.O.S. and wondering how on earth I would be rescued. I imagine the God of Wonders looking down at my smoke signal as He hangs His Holy head and looks on in dismay.

"Child, oh sweet hard-headed child. When will you learn?"

"Lord, a little help down here!" Does He hear? Can He see? Will He come to my rescue? He's never left me alone before but maybe this time... Maybe this was the last straw.

"My daughter, you're mine. You're precious to me. I know your thoughts before you utter a word. I planned all of your days before one of them came to be. Why would you think I would leave you alone?" (Psalm 139:16-17)

I'm so ashamed. I want to remember this moment. Mark it down. Etch it in my mind so I won't end up back here. This wasn't my first trip, and somehow I feel certain it won't be my last. Why oh why do I do the things I don't want to do but somehow miss the mark on the things I know I should be doing?!

I pictured this going so differently. Set my boat to sail and forge ahead to do His will. I would weather the storms no matter what came my way. I was on His mission, after all. The crashing waves wouldn't be enough to sink my determination knowing I was doing His will. I had His instructions and the course was mapped out. I was the Captain of my own ship. He put me in charge. What trust He must have in me! I had great plans to flex my faith. Certainly I was grounded enough to walk on water, right?! So I thought...

I sank. Flailing. Arms flapping. Choking on water. Gagging on my own gull and ego. How did this happen...again??? I'll tell you. I'll explain exactly how.

I took my eyes off Him. I lost sight of His plan and started charting my own course. I may have gotten so distracted I didn't even remember the mission - what was it He wanted me to do again? There I was. Washed up yet again. I'm surprised He didn't send Jonah's fish to swallow me up. I certainly deserved it.

"I'm sorry, Lord. I thought I had it this time. I wanted to do Your will and I got distracted by myself...again."

I knew He already knew but I tend to fill the silence with words and I couldn't stand not offering a further explanation of my failure.

"I want to please You. It's my desire... But I am my own worst enemy when I try so hard and insert my own ways into Your plan. I get so off course."

His Word is a constant soother of my soul-wounds.

"If you settle on the far side of the sea, even there My hand will guide you. My hand will hold you fast. There is nowhere you can go away from My Presence." (Psalm 139:7-12)

Even there, even on the far side of the sea, washed up and beaten down, He finds me and calls me back. He saves me from the crashing waves and the clouding of my own judgment. He rescues me from my fears and failures. He guides me in the ways of His righteousness even when my own filthy rags have caused me to stumble yet again.

I'm sending out a signal, Lord, a prayer for strength and wisdom to follow you even to the ends of the earth. To the far side of the sea, to the highest reach of the heavens and the lowest of depths. Let me not be the charter of my own course but rather following only after You. Help me, Lord, when I fall, when I veer off course. Guide me back. Forgive my wandering mind and wayward soul. Give me grace to forgive myself and fully trust in You. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The First Day of School

How did this happen?? Just a few short weeks ago (right?!) we were kicking off mom's summer camp of fun and learning. There were grandiose plans, tons of organization and lots of effort put into our summer of fun together. We all know what happens to good intentions when life just happens. We did not do learning activities every day. His summer journal only has a few pages of writing in it. The summer goal of attempting to learn to tie his shoes was in fact attempted but not with successful completion. 

Nevertheless, time has gotten away from us and the long days of summer have somehow quickly come to a close with the start of third grade today. There's an expected level of excitement and anxiety that comes with the start of something new. This year comes with lots of changes and newness, along with lots of opportunity. Even so, the first day of school means the end of summer and I am in complete denial. 

Don't get me wrong. The summer did not come without its challenges. Many of them, actually. But something happened this summer that gave me such insight into this amazing boy that God gave me. I became the pupil instead of the teacher during mom's summer camp of fun and learning, and learn did I ever! 

We did not do learning activities every day, but I learned more about my boy this summer than in almost 8 years combined. His summer journal only has a few pages of writing in it, but the notes I took while studying and learning who he is and what makes him operate could fill a book. No, he didn't perfect the art of tying his shoes but there's a beautiful bow tied around the mother-son bond we got to share this summer. 

School has begun and while the love of organization and schedules has me motivated, I begrudgingly start this year missing my boy home with us each day. Baxter has been sad all day. Violet even talked to his picture on the fridge calling for "buh buh." 

Summer, you did not disappoint. As a necessary part of life, we must say goodbye for now and embrace change. Thank you for the time together, the memories made and the ways we were blessed. Here's to a new school year and my boy! He said it was great day and he did "all the normal things you do at school." He's a boy. I'm not going to get much more detail than that. For now we are bidding the first day of school goodnight. 


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Unanswered Prayers

He answered my prayer. It was so specific, almost insignificant to anyone besides me, but it was not something I overlooked. I saw and felt His Presence when I got the answer. I knew He had done what I asked, not for any other reason than to bless me because I had asked of Him. I couldn't help but give Him praise. He bent His Holy ear toward me and said yes. He blessed. He answered. I rejoiced!

It's a blessing to be able to give Him such praise. Yet I have to admit it came in the midst of a time of testing when I knew He was asking me if my faith would waiver. Just a few days ago His answer was no. It was something entirely different and much more significant to me and yet He didn't oblige. I can honestly tell you that it was something I have prayed long and hard over, pouring out my heart and shedding tears over this request more times than I can even count. The fact that He once again had to tell me no, keep waiting, doesn't mean that He's any less faithful but it definitely put me in a place where my faith was tested. My simple human mind has tried to grapple with understanding why and when He chooses to say yes or no to my prayers. Many times I have had to be reminded that His timing is not my own. Even more often I have had to remember that I only see what is before me. He not only sees the entire landscape but He has created it and fashioned it by His own hands. Who am I to question?! Oh, but I do. 

So what happens when God does not answer your prayer? 

"You pray fervently then wait hopefully for the changes you desire. When I don't answer your prayers according to your will, you sometimes get discouraged."

Sometimes?! Discouraged?! Let me be real, folks, I have had a full blown pity party. No one was invited, of course, because it was all about me and sulking alone in my misery seemed even more like a sacrificial act of martyrdom. Despite my own self, He offers this reminder: 

"It's easy for you to think you're doing something wrong-as if you're missing out on what I have for you. When you think that way, you are forgetting a most important truth: that I am Sovereign. I am in control and I am taking care of you."

Yes, but Lord...You didn't answer me! You didn't give me what I asked and doesn't Your Word say ask and I will receive?!

Somehow I hear myself and cringe at the selfishness that I scold against in my own child. I'm waiting for it. Just waiting for the lecture I more than deserve. 

"I want you to accept your dependent way of living as a gift from Me.... Actually, nothing will lift you out of the doldrums faster than praising and thanking me."

A glad and thankful heart. Receive His gift of dependence with joy. Praise Him even though He didn't give me what I want. Praise Him because He is God, He is good. He is Sovereign and my limited sight cannot see how He's choosing to bless me despite my loathsome behavior, regardless of my complaining. He doesn't have to give me any answers to my prayers, yet He chooses to because of Who He is. And then He chooses not to because of what He knows and His Sovereignty at work in my life in ways I cannot see. It's well beyond my limited way of thinking. So I have to trust. I have to praise. I have to wait. I continue to pray, not to keep asking for what I want but to continue to draw closer to Him. To thank Him for Who He is. Not what He gives me. But what He chooses not to give me. Even when it doesn't make sense to me. Even when it seems like I somehow know what's best. I praise Him because I don't. Because I am dependent on Him. And that's the only answer I really need to know. 

(Excerpt quotes from Jesus Today)
 


Saturday, July 23, 2016

They Are His

I remember that hike. My memories app tells me it was three years ago, 2013. A hot and hazy July day in Virginia. We had made our way to the top and taken in the view of our town. The sun was now setting and we were headed back down the mountain when a certain energetic little boy took off running. We couldn't keep up with him since we had taken turns carrying him most of the way up. Now it was his turn to wear himself out. As I turned the corner, this was the exact site I saw. My boy, standing at the foot of a man-made cross, looking up in what appeared to be an act of worship. I could barely contain myself but somehow managed to capture this moment that would forever be etched in my memory.

The symbolism is not lost on me. The meaning resonates within my very being as a mother. It is my greatest calling. To point them to Jesus. When I begged and pleaded and prayed for God to make me a mom, I knew what I was asking for. I knew what this meant and what I would become. Oh yes, on any given day I change diapers, nurse, prepare meals, care for wounds, mend broken hearts, give kisses, grant wishes, create, catch bugs, enter imaginary worlds, read books ten times over, sing songs even more...I teach, guide, love, serve, give and give some more. But these are just the daily tasks. The daily insurmountable list doesn't come close to touching the impact we as parents are making for eternity. It is not a job, it is the highest of callings. It brings along with it the accepted challenge of bending tender little hearts toward the One who created them.

I have to remind myself these little people may have my nose or take on my own tendencies, but it is in God's image they were created, not mine. They are His children, only mine to borrow. If they resemble anything of me, I pray it will be the reflection of Christ in my life. It is my constant reminder that I cannot point them to a place I am not looking myself. This isn't about sharing whatever is on my plate or giving of my time. This is about committing to worn out knees on their behalf. Begging and pleading and praying didn't end at the moment God answered my request to become a mother. That is only where it began. This is a relentless battle for their minds to understand Him and His Word while their souls accept and receive His gift of eternal life.

When I am tired, emotionally empty, physically exhausted and simply spent, I must remember this image, this memory, this pursuit. When I am called on for one more bedtime kiss, one more middle of the night wake up call, one more time..., let me be reminded of the calling I've been given to point them to the One. The One who made them. The One who gave them life. The One who died for them. The One who offers them eternal life. The One who loves them more than I ever could. The One who planned each and every one of their days before I ever even met them. The One who entrusted me to be part of that plan for their lives.

Already this week I was reminded that I can't. I'm not. I am their mother in title. They are my life's work but they are His eternal purpose.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Can't

Today I just couldn't. I couldn't be sweet. I couldn't find it in me to be calm. I didn't have the self discipline to keep it together. Patience wasn't just missing from my vocabulary, it was altogether absent from my being. I couldn't find the strength or energy to feel like myself let alone be what others needed me to be. Incapable to say the least. Like literally just couldn't. 

It wasn't even a bad day. There wasn't anything detrimental or catastrophic that was going on. It was simply, purely and only ME. I was the problem. 

Emotionally I was spent. Physically I was drained. For no clear or apparent reason but for a million things that seemed to somehow be weighing on me. I could feel the physical oppression of anxiety taking over as if it was sucking the very breath from my lungs. It was consuming me. Taking over. I felt like a complete mess and wanted to crumble into a ball. But I had one child crying needing comfort and another begging for food all while the phone rang and my attention was being even more divided. I just couldn't seem to manage it. 

So I did. I crumbled into that ball and closed my eyes as if I could somehow make the world around me disappear. It wasn't going anywhere but I knew I had to get ahold of myself. 

"Lord, I can't." 

It was as if I heard His voice out loud. 

"You're right. You can't."

My eyes flew open. That was it. That was the exact problem AND my answer. I couldn't. Not in my own strength. My own strength. Why oh WHY do I have to repeat this lesson?! I was trying to do it. I was the problem. I was also the solution. I needed to get out of the way already. Stop trying in my own strength. Because clearly that wasn't going well. It had to be Him. 

"Lord, I know Your strength is perfected in my weakness and that's all I've got right now."

He already knew. Thank goodness. He knew exactly what was wrong with me and why I was a mess. And thank God He knew exactly what I needed and how to help me. I just had to get out of the way and let Him be God. Because I can't. I'm not. 

I can't tell you everything immediately got better but I can absolutely assure you that my entire attitude changed. The surmounting pressure slowly began to shift as I started to release my own inabilities and surrender my strength and will. I was offering up my weaknesses and letting Him be what I needed. I couldn't be an attentive mom. I couldn't be a diligent employee. I couldn't be focused, loving, or patient or kind. I could only admit my weaknesses and let Him be God. 

Today I had to admit that I just couldn't and that's exactly where He met me reminding me He can. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Most Magical Place on Earth

There we were. Poised for the show. We had an amazing view thanks to daddy and Papa saving us a spot. Illuminations of familiar classics cast across the castle. The fireworks were starting. I'm not sure what happened. I know I had a smile on my face from ear to ear but then I realized a certain someone in our party was rather fidgety. Actually more like jumping up and down, jumping off the stroller and throwing himself on the ground. I tried to get him to sit. He'd nearly knocked several people over on the last catapult. I was easily distracted by the boom and display just overhead. Try as I could, he wasn't sitting and now the fight had ensued. It was a battle of wills and a crowd of chaos but we were both determined to get what we wanted. I just wanted him to sit down and not be a distraction. Really I just wanted to watch the fireworks. 

Somehow the jumping and thrashing turned into a full blown tantrum. Tears. Screams. How could this be in the middle of Disney World? The Magic Kingdom. The fireworks display we had waited for ALL week. And let's be honest, I cared more about it than he did. I may or may not have thrown my own little fit. 

Disney. The most magical place on earth. I was supposed to be having a magical day. But now I found myself dragging an exhausted over-stimulated screaming child who resembled something of a 2 year old throwing a tantrum. It helped to remember I wasn't the only one. 

I found solace in the parents like me. Earlier that day I shared a thoughtful nod to the mom whose 4 year old was throwing a fit because of her apparent starvation. The banana was all the poor mother had to offer. The banana was NOT what the child wanted. Gummies. That's what she wanted. The whole park knew it for her screams. I wanted to give the mom a hug but I kept walking. 

I laughed at the parents who grabbed their son's magic wand and announced "Everyone look at this boy! He refuses to eat then claims he's hungry." I knew the dilemma. There they stood in the middle of Main Street waiting for the parade with a child who was claiming he would pass out from hunger. 

I couldn't help but notice, how could she be missed, the little one donning her bibbity boppity Princess get up. She was throwing a bit of a royal fit. No doubt her parental subjects had angered her given they WOULD NOT BUY THE TOY she was demanding. How could they be so cruel? Oh the shame. 

Then of course there were the over-tired completely-run-ragged non-nappers who were as plentiful as Mouse ears across the park. Some were in full blown tears. Some were in puddles on the ground. Others kicked and screamed from the confinement of their little people moving strollers. I salute you, parents. I salute you. 

I joined the ranks of parents whose children could not bear the thought of standing and waiting in yet another line. Standing still and waiting in line must have been created by the devil himself to torment these poor children. It was hot. Soooo hot. How could anyone bear the thought of carrying a 50 lb child whose legs simply wouldn't carry them any further when sweat was already dripping from every pore on our poor bodies? It was a real problem and it was happening like an epidemic all across the park.

Disney World. The most magical place on earth. The most expensive people watching you could ever enjoy to be certain you're not alone, or at least not the only one. The most frustrating and nerve wracking place for parents to ever thrust family memory-making plans upon little people who just don't understand the magic they're supposed to be enduring...uh...enjoying. 

But it's Disney World. So at the end of the day, there will always be fireworks. Sometimes of the tantrum kind. There will always be magic. Sometimes it resembles a magic eraser to scrub away the torment faced throughout the long, trying day. There will always be memories. Sometimes the kind you want to forget. Sometimes the ones you smile and laugh about for years to come. We came. We saw. We laughed. We cried. We made memories. And we survived the most magical place on earth.



 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Days Gone By

It had been a long day of travel in a packed car. We were all tired and weary and ready to pile into the hotel and fall into bed. I had enjoyed the ride beside my boy, watching his mind at work as he busily created. He spent a solid six hours playing, taping and putting together multiple creations made from a clear plastic box, styrofoam cup, a roll of tape and a few small trinket-like toys. After a full day of this, I could barely climb out from the back row since the stuff had seemingly multiplied in the car. 

"E, your stuff has taken over the backseat. I've got to clean up all this trash." 

Without missing a beat, his tone changed to a scold as he corrected me. "Mom, this might be trash to you but it will always be inventions to me."
I couldn't argue. In fact, I had to apologize because I knew to him this wasn't trash at all. How many times have I been reminded of this lesson from him? He continues to amaze me with his creativity and I witnessed him at work with a front row - or rather back row - seat into his world of ingenuity. 

We finally made it into the hotel with more than enough stuff for one night at our halfway point but a very mobile baby wasn't about to be confined to a pack and play just yet. After all, she'd spent the better part of the day "trapped" in her car seat and now seemed like a great time to explore her new surroundings. She was tired, so tired, but it would take rocking her to sleep to calm her down. 

Just getting to the point of leaving on vacation with four adults, one child and one infant is enough to send someone over the edge. Planning lazy days by the pool is nothing more than a daydream when one water-loving child will certainly be begging me to play and one fearlessly mobile baby will not understand the dangers of her surroundings. But I'm learning to soak up the moments that will all too quickly pass and be nothing more than a distant memory. 

I had no idea what I was asking for when I prayed to become a mother. I wanted a child but never understood the depth of what I was being entrusted with. I could never have known it would have meant getting to the end of myself then becoming a provider, defender, mediator, comforter, advocate, intercesser just to name a few. I had no idea how much I would learn about God in this role. I recognize His nature when I see the creativity and imagination coming from my son's ingenuity. I identify with His heart when I rock my baby to sleep. The joys of watching my son create or my daughter discover something new. The heartache of hurting when they hurt. The grief of enduring the battle of wills. Being given the opportunity to teach, invest in and love these little people who God created in His image and called me to mother is my purpose in life. 

Today I'm learning to enjoy the ride and give thanks for the present state of chaos and craziness that comes with the blessing of raising little ones. I'm basking in the joy of knowing my personal time is not my own. There are no vacations from motherhood in this phase of life, at least not until they're grown and gone and then I will simply wish for these days to return.