Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life's a Breeze...or Is It A Gust of Wind?

My last post was June of last year. Seven months ago. I feel like I've been to the moon and back.

You ever felt like you were caught up in a Kitchen Aid mixer set to medium high? Once turned off, life is a new mix. Am I truly back to blogging? I'm not sure, honestly. Blogging, editing, marketing take up a lot of time and head space that I find that I need to devote to my six children, ages 25, 22, 20, 17, 7 and 5. 

What will 2017 be like for you? I don't think you have any idea.

Thanksgiving 2016

Can you guess how long it took all of us to get outside and how many shots my best friend had to take to get this one? My daughter Maria (fourth from left) announced after an Thanksgiving early dinner that we had a 20 minute window before the sun was in the wrong place. "Be outside in 15 minutes and look nice!" was her commandment. For outdoor photographers, it's all about the lighting, I suppose.  

You see that tall guy on the end? He's our basketball player. Douglas is 6'6". In fact, that's one exciting reason why I haven't blogged in over six months. He has an opportunity to be recruited to play in college. Basketball season is now year round for me and involves a lot of driving. We enrolled him in The Regents School of Charlottesville, where he had played basketball the previous season as a home schooled student. I began driving him down to "The Dell" at the University of Virginia to work out with Coach Geoff Reed, a former private school coach and other potential high school recruits. I packed up the two youngest boys and drove Douglas up to Pennsylvania to attend a HoopGroup Academic Elite Camp. It was an introduction to the new world of elite basketball.

Not only am I a chauffeur, but I'm now a videographer and video editor for basketball games! Check out this highlight film that I made of his December 2016 games. 😊

I never wonder if the time, money and sacrifice is worth helping someone pursue their dreams. As African-American poet Langston Hughes said, dreams are a "blue cloud cloth" that one must keep from the "too rough fingers of the world". Do you have a kid with talent and the drive and desire to develop it? Help them. Do you have your own dreams on the shelf. Take them down. Sure, like me, you may have to put them back on the shelf sometimes, but if you live your life in the wind and trust that God has your best interests in his mind, then He'll blow them off that shelf when it's time.

I still home school my youngest boys and wow, do they have energy! For those of you raising kids under ten. Yeah, I know. It's real. It's realllllly tiring. It's mental. It's emotional. Some nights you sleep well; some you don't. I'm feelin' you.

But I'm not trading my days with those boys for anything else right now. 

By the way, here's a shout out to all of you young people learning about "adulting", which is the choice phrase of my young millennials. I have a draft of a post called "What Is Adulthood?" Maybe I'll get around to editing it, but I will say that watching the adult lives of my oldest three children is an education for me. When am I needed? When am I crowding their space? (#2 and #3 live with us right now) Should I share with them some suggestions without being asked? As a parent, am I still meeting their love language?

I'm grateful that my three oldest are still around so much. My oldest daughter, Christina, lives thirty minutes  away but spends many weekends here at home. God has given me spontaneous conversations with them that have shown me the the treasure-laden depths of their souls and the amazing dreams they dream. What can I do? Be their #1 cheerleader...well my husband and I share the #1 spot, Lol.

One last word before I begin my day as a home educator. Doug and I have been married for twenty-six years. We've had our highs and lows. My advice for all of you who are married and raising kids is: Be transparent. Be emotionally honest about your triumphs and your failures. Extend mercy and grace to your spouse, because one day you may need it yourself. Be an active listener. Take time to hang out and DON'T talk about the kids! Demand nothing and pray about everything. 

Try to hold your future plans or agenda loosely. Life has so many shifts. If you grip too hard, you may fall when they fall through. That's how I live my life these days cause' I really don't know where life's wind is blowing me. It's certainly not a breeze. But it's a blessing.

Matthew 7:24-26  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:

John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Visit our other blog: My Father's Crown
New Post: Value of Believing Pt. 3 by Doug Webb

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Push and The Pull of Raising Kids

One Saturday morning instead of running into your arms, your young daughter runs onto the couch to watch her morning cartoon. You shrug your shoulders and get her breakfast. The next week the same thing happens. You begin to notice a decrease in the amount of times that she crawls onto your lap, or nestles her head in your neck or turns to wave before heading into the school building.

At first you are caught off guard. Then you wonder and slowly begin to mourn the inevitable ending of a stage. Finally you get used to the new norm and hope that the security you instilled in your young daughter through physical affection and verbal affirmation was consistent enough to stay in her memory banks as she journeys on the road into adolescence.

As parents, it’s instinctual to begin to push our young ones away incrementally. At first it may be mom weaning baby from the breast. Next it may teaching kids how to put on their clothes by themselves. For some dads it may be when your kids want to hang out with friends instead of go fishing or watch sports with you. Their total dependence on us must end at some point. At the same time, we don’t want to short circuit their natural need for parental covering. Sense of identity and security begins at home in the formative years. Some people believe that quality time is more sufficient than quantity time for young children. I don’t believe this. I’ve surprisingly found that even my teens actual enjoyed quantity time at least as much as quality time. The push into autonomy must occur at various points based on an individual child’s God-given developmental timetable. The push is necessary.

But then we see them adapting. And we realize that we miss the morning snuggle. Our maternal bosom or our paternal arms looked forward to “the embrace” before heading out the door to work. And we are tempted to pull these precious God-breathed souls back into us…to smell their hair, to be comforted that they are also comforted by our presence. The pull is normal.

Isn’t this similar to our Heavenly Father? He keeps his arms wide open and draws us into his sheltering presence. (Psalm 91) He delights when we come to him. He delights when we want to know more about him. (James 2:23) Relationship is powerfully precious. At the same time, our Heavenly Father tells us to go—go out and represent him in all that we do and say, especially to those people that have not yet recognized His reality. (Mark 16:15) At some point He wants us to let go of the childish stage of our faith journey and step into mature partnership with him. (1 Cor. 13:11)

A godly parent will reflect our Heavenly Father. We’ll push when it’s time for them to grow into another stage, yet desire to constantly remind our children that we adore them, that we will be safe for them, that we will always have open arms for them. The push is not to their detriment. It’s not based on our convenience. The pull should neither serve our own needs nor stifle their individuality. Rather both the push and the pull maintain the security of relationship and the value of growing up. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Kids Need To Grow Up!

I looked at the woman reading peacefully under the tree at the park. Her kids were old enough to play by themselves and by the sound of it, were having a great time. Thoughts of envy blared in my head.

I can’t wait until these two are old enough to play together”, I thought as I helped my toddler navigate the stairs to the platform. Once he was there, I ran around the playset to meet him at the slide where I waited to catch him at the bottom. A few feet away, his slightly older brother “drove” on the playground motorcycle.

A couple of years have passed since this scene at the playground. What I realize now is that the woman that I witnessed was probably having a rare but needed respite from two loud and adventurous boys.  Now, I’m in her shoes.

Every step on this staircase of raising kids has its sighs of relief. “No more middle of the night feedings!” No more diapers!” “No more chauffeuring, they have their license!” But each step also has its challenges. “Lord, help them drive safely.”  “I’m not buying you a phone. You’re too young.”

When my four oldest children were young, there was another playground we would frequent.  On a particular occasion, a mindset changing thought popped in my head. “I’ll never have this moment in time back.” I remember looking around at my kids, each born around 2 ½ years from the previous one and making a commitment to relish each moment and each stage no matter what the challenges.

I decided to write this post not just to encourage moms and dads but to remind myself of this commitment that I made so many years ago. Child #5 is now old enough to care about how I cut his hair and occasionally tells me that he doesn’t like me because he has to do school work. Child #6 has decided to pick on his older brother as much as he can. The yelling and tears are ridiculous. Sigh. Just last week I thought, “Wow, it was so easy when they were younger and didn’t care about which TV show they watched before bedtime.” I stopped and caught myself. I shook my head at the irony.

One day these two will be as old as my first four who are seventeen to twenty-four years of age.   I am familiar with the upcoming road, its challenges and its joys. But in the meantime, right now, I need to make a decision. The same decision that I made over a decade ago: “I’ll never have this moment in time back. I need to relish these moments and understand the Father-heart of God through them as well as help my little boys discover God in them. I need to thank God for the opportunity to have children and steward them.”

So now my heart is tearing up. I do love my children. SO much.  Parenting has taught me more about myself than even marriage, which says a lot! So when the bickering starts, I’ll choose to look up towards heaven and breathe in deeply. When I hear, “I still don’t like you.” I will smile ‘cause I know better. And when they hug me from behind, I’ll pause what I’m doing and receive their clutch.

Cause it only lasts for a moment.

God, help me remember that in every difficult moment, you are my very present help. When I'm tired and frustrated, give me wisdom and peace. I surrender to the way you mold my character. Help me train my kids in the way that they should go. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Mother Worth Mentioning

What her eyes saw – lack and death– suddenly did not matter. Her heart saw the reality of God’s faithful and protective hand in her life.

Mothering becomes more difficult when a husband isn’t in the picture. In the past two weeks, I’ve been struck by the mother in 1 Kings 17. Her courage to believe God's voice changed the outcome of her circumstances.

The widow was getting wood in order to prepare one last meal for herself and her son when Elijah shows up on the scene. Elijah wants some food. She lets him know that she doesn’t have enough food to share with him. In that time, it’s remarkable that she had food at all. Famine was present in the land and she was a widow. We don’t know how long her husband had been dead. The Bible calls her son “a child” later in the passage.  She was probably younger than thirty. Economically, this impoverished single mother had no hope during this drought. Circumstances beyond her control had taken over her life. Then she hears this stranger say to her: “Give me some food first and God will continue to provide for
you until it starts raining again.”

How many of you would listen to some stranger rolling up on your doorstep saying the same thing? Verse nine reveals that Elijah met the widow knowing that God had already commanded her to feed him.  We have no indication from her of this. We merely see her do what Elijah asks. She fed him first.

Her natural eyes saw lack in her home. Surely she and her son heard each other’s hunger pangs. As a mother, she’d probably been making her son’s last meal cakes a tad bit larger than hers even though she knew that death was inevitable for them both. Her visible reality shouted “Death!”  But in another human being’s words, she heard the voice of God. She trusted that God was speaking to her through another human being. Wow! That takes courage and faith.

Faith acknowledges the reality of the unseen.

I wonder if she had heard of Elijah and if so, if she recognized him when he approached her. Even if she had, it still took faith for her to believe in the creative miracle that he said would happen: the meal in the barrel would not run dry.  The oil jar would not dry up. What her eyes saw – lack and death– suddenly did not matter. Her heart saw the reality of God’s faithful and protective hand in her life.

Her supply would not fade.

I was impressed to use this passage as my Mother’s Day post. I believe God wants to calm the fears of mothers whose visible realities shout “Death!” There are mothers who may be facing crushed dreams or failed marriages. Others may be watching their children spin into the downward cycle of addiction or plummet into the merciless clutch of disease.  Many single mothers deal with economic lack. Despite the fact that the drought was to remain for a period of time, God’s intervention for the single mother of 1 Kings declared “Life!” Still, she had to trust God. What if she had turned her back on the prophet of God? What if she had not turned her eyes from her visible reality and looked into the eyes of the servant of God to see the invisible reality of God’s desire for her life? It took faith and courage to use the rest of the meal in and make three cakes instead of two.

I pray this Mother’s Day for mothers everywhere. I pray that despite our visible circumstances, we will believe in the faithful provision of our loving Father. I pray that we would be courageous and trust in God’s Word first even though we live in a culture that renounces biblical authority. Lastly, I pray that when a situation is shouting “Death!” to our faces, that we would look up and see God declaring “Life!”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Editing Life

Multi-tasking isn’t healthy.

Not only have I read that in articles, but I’m living its ill effects. The question is, as a self-employed home educator of six children, ages 4 to 24, what do I do to edit my life?

As I have learned to do as a parent, I open the Bible. I found biblical examples of Jesus editing his life. I figure, if he did; then I must. One phrase pops out from my memory: Jesus went to the mountain.
For me, a mountain can be a place, a time of day, or a healthy outlet. A mountain can be a long awaited date night or a quick nap. The point is to take time for personal replenishment.
If we are to follow Jesus’ example, mountain visits need to happen regularly. Years ago, I learned the phrase “the gift of limits”. The gift of limits involves knowing when to say "no".

I was once a stay at home mom with four children under age seven and guardianship over my niece and nephew who were 2 1/2 and 14 months old. At the time we lived in a 3 bedroom apartment. Taking time for myself never even entered my mind. Seventeen years later, I still struggle to take time for myself without feeling guilty.

I love family time. But as an introvert in a large family, I thrive best when I’ve had my alone time. When Jesus left for the mountain he was momentarily saying no to the crowds, the needs, the pace of his ministry. Saying no during these times was always saying yes to his Father in heaven. 

Jesus’ capacity for earthly ministry as a man required him to be filled to the fullness of God. This could only happen when he went away to the mountain. Similarly, in order to be better parents, better spouses, friends and co-workers, we need to sometimes say no and get away to be filled with God’s fullness. Some of you are workaholics. Say no to your daily goal and spend time with your spouse and kids instead. Others of you are loners in employment or relationship. Say no to your comfort zone and spend time with friends. Moms need spa days or a morning to sleep in. The soul needs nurturing as much as our feet and toes need prepping for summer sandals! I recommend a variety of practical outlets for replenishment but the one we all need, no matter what our role or vocation, is to spend time with God.

Time is sometimes hard to manage.  Maintaining friendships is important, so these days, I try to schedule a coffee date with a friend at least once a month while my youngest boys are at Awana. Playdates can be good, but I wouldn’t consider them mountain times even though women are bonding through conversation. How many moms can have uninterrupted conversation with another mom on a playdate? Dads, many of you work during the week and feel the obligation to designation the entire weekend for your family. I applaud you but I also say that you need friends too. Get tickets to a sporting event or go to the monthly men’s bible study. The souls of men are often overlooked. Mountain times can involve others as long as they don’t pull on you, vie for your attention, are emotionally needy, or exhaust you mentally. That last statement is worth re-reading.

After having each baby, I often didn’t get a mountain time until I was finished nursing. By the time baby #5 was born, I’d learned to plan well months in advance so that I could store milk and teach the baby to take a bottle from someone other than me.

During the years when child rearing was most demanding my mountain times were my prayer times. I taught my 3 and 5 year old how to have quiet times for two hours without interrupting me. The baby slept. And I talked to God. I stared at the ceiling and piles of clothes and just let His presence come over me like a warm blanket. He knew I needed stillness and silence. Sometimes I would fall asleep, lulled into dream zone while my lips murmured prayers that no one else would understand.

Look ahead to the coming weeks. Try to schedule a time to go to the mountain.

“God, you are the ultimate caregiver. You are the most faithful parent of all. Guide us and lead us every day and every month to set aside time away from the busyness of life. Help us value the quiet moments when we tune our ears to your still, small voice. Our lives need balance and you are the one who can show us what that looks like individually. Thank you Lord. We pray this in Jesus’ name.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Shoes I Couldn't Fill

The exhilaration of home educating my kids had dissipated. My husband and I were doing full-time ministry on a part-time schedule. The bottom level of our townhouse was being renovated to add a needed bedroom and the 911 attack was fresh in my mind. My outlook on life was grey.
As far as homeschooling, my kids weren’t the problem and teaching wasn’t the issue. My mentality was my problem. The noose of perfectionism was stealing my vitality.

When had I adopted the picture of the multi-tasking, never sleeping, Betty Crocker housewife? I loved everything that I did. Music, ministry, teaching and even learning how to frame walls tapped into my childhood fantasy of being a carpenter. But doing anything is hard when you are trying to live up to a self-imposed image.
My merciless inner overlord wanted to cry out, “I am woman, hear me roar!” Instead, most days all I could muster was a feeble yelp.
Perfectionism withdrawal took a few years. Self-condemnation had to be rooted out as did pride and concern for the opinions of others. I learned that my school day could be flexible. The kids didn’t have to follow a public school schedule. I could give them a two hour break in the afternoon and finish up in the evening or on a Saturday. As far as always being available to pray with someone in need, I had to learn to say, “I can’t meet you this week” with no guilt.
Having a Mary Kay face each day became a distant memory. Good bye “quick” beauty regimen; eyeliner and mascara could suffice. I still cooked each day, but cooking fed my creative mind. As far as the post-911 soberness in the American air, my future was in God’s hands and no terrorist could steal it.

Our days became more relaxed as I resisted those deceiving perfectionist demons. So what if I sat on the floor playing blocks with my three year old while rehearsing spelling words with my first grader as my elementary school kids read or did math? So what if a cup of milk spilled on the floor in the middle of a history lesson? 

I breathed easier once the noose of perfectionism was gone. 

No matter what type of labor makes up your day, make sure that you are not trying to live up to a standard that makes you driven, harsh, worried, or stressed out. I know that there are professional environments that are "dog-eat-dog", but ask yourself, is the pressure worth your health and joy?

We all need to ask ourselves, "What are we trying to prove and to whom?"  As long as we are doing whatever the Lord had put on our agenda, then we can rest that he will help us and guide us and make up for any way that we fall short.

Lord, help us cast our cares on you. Remind us daily that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. Show us burdens that we've mistakenly picked up. Make us creative and innovative people, that can realize when we need to do something differently so that our wheels won't keep spinning. Help us remember that the only shoes we need to fill are our own. Thank you Lord for your constant care. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

When Mommy Is Sick

Community is imperative. The sista-friends and relatives who are local can rush to fill in the numerous gaps filled by an absent mommy.
My children were five, three and one at the time. The flu struck out of nowhere. Fast. My husband worked 90 hours per week at two jobs and his own carpet cleaning business. I remember lying over my bed, unable to move thinking I can’t even stand up to make dinner. I tried. We all try. I crawled to the kitchen and tried to stand but waves of nausea and an outbreak of chills defeated my inner lioness.

My friend and prayer partner had two children at the time but still, she came over, made dinner and took care of my kids for at least a couple of hours.
This was just the flu. I’ve dealt with bedrest during pregnancies, hernia repairs, and another bout of the flu about ten years later and when my husband couldn’t help, friends stepped in.
I have a friend who died from cancer last August. She was at her sickest in the hospital, but friends stepped in to hold her hand, lotion her feet and pray at bedside to relieve her husband for at least a couple of hours a day.
I have another friend who is frequently making a 3 hour drive to take care of five nieces and nephews whose father, her brother, is hospitalized.
Both the ordinary bout of flu and the extraordinary ordeal of disease reveal the importance of the scripture: Psalm 68:6a God sets the solitary in families. We are never meant to suffer alone. Whether it’s our blood family, church family or family of friendships, we need others to fill in the gaps that we leave when we are knocked off course.
“I need help” can be difficult words for anyone to say.
However, these are beautiful words to the one that hears them. The opportunity to be a gap-filler is an opportunity to show love and compassion without conditions. So fellow mommys, and to the daddys who are reading this, when your strength runs out, contact a friend and say

“I need help.”