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The Power of Friendship

I told my daughter today that I needed to write. She said, “You should write about the power of friendship.”

IMG_0632That’s something she thinks about a lot, being just a couple of months shy of 15. This past year has been dominated by a group of friends she and her 18-year-old brother have that call themselves The Marathoners. It started as a small gathering from the youth group at church that got together weekly to watch movies (thus the name “Marathoners,” from movie marathons, not running marathons.)

It’s funny how just watching movies together can bond people so closely.

The group normally met at the home of a young husband and wife who were volunteer leaders with the group. We knew them fairly well, in fact I mentored the wife, getting together with her each week, so we felt comfortable with all the people involved.

Oh my, how this group loves each other. They formed a chat group and message each other numerous times during the day both to solidify plans and to share funny videos, songs, poetry, prayer, or whatever they desire. Many of them even camped together with a couple of the dads for one’s birthday in order to see a meteor shower.

While keeping tabs on the kinds of things they were sharing with each other, I also cautioned my kids to beware of becoming a clique and to be sure they were including FullSizeRender-3others, especially at youth group meetings where there could be those who felt left out. I told them there would be those who were envious of the kids in the “cool group.” They assured me, “Mom, we’re far from the ‘cool kids.'”

Maybe so, but the closeness and love the Marathoners show for each other would be obvious to those observing.

And then something catastrophic happened.

The young wife, whose secrets I had been aware of for quite some time, went public on Facebook that she and her husband were separating and the leadership of the church had told her that she was not allowed to have contact with any of the youth inside or outside of Wednesday night youth group.

FullSizeRenderTwo problems: #1 That statement wasn’t true

and #2 Without any context whatsoever, that announcement sent the Marathoners into a tailspin.

In a rush of texts and tears and frenzied phone calls, we pulled together the Marathoners and the leadership of the youth the very next day, knowing that we needed them to hear the truth of the matter and have a time to process it all together.

I will forever be grateful for the way the leaders handled that meeting, and for the maturity that my kids showed. As we processed together in the following days, my son showed a huge heart for these friends who meant so much to him. And my daughter, who had been very close to the young wife, cried over this situation more than any other in her life, but found solace in the group who leaned in and loved each other even more.

Just a couple of weeks later, both of my kids were asked to speak to upcoming middle school and high school students at a graduation event at church. My daughter, who hates being in front of people, bravely took the stage to address the rising 5th graders and spoke from her heart about how having the right friends and trusting the leaders of TheCity (the name of the youth group) were so very important for their middle school years. If it FullSizeRender 2weren’t for The Marathoners, she didn’t know how she would have survived struggles she had with long-time friends at school. They meant the world to her.

I can’t say that I have a lot of friends still from high school, and certainly not from junior high. Not only do I live on the other side of the country now, but that was almost 40 years ago. But those friendships I have maintained grew and blossomed in the soil of a solid youth group.

This summer, we’re enjoying having the group over to swim. It gets my 2 introvert cave dwellers out a lot more. I love hearing their laughter, watching their friendship and praying for them.

FullSizeRenderThe power of friendship. It can change everything. It’s what Jesus wants for us. Oneness with Him, and oneness with each other.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV).

It Starts With Spilled Milk

After my post the other day regarding lying, I had a conversation with several young moms about how to encourage an atmosphere of grace in their homes when they are more prone to be rule followers.

spilled-milkThat’s a great question. I think it starts with spilled milk.

Surely every parent, sometime in their parent life, has experienced a child spilling milk or some sticky drink either at the dinner table or in the car or on the carpet. Your reaction to these accidents helps set the tone for bigger mistakes in your child’s future.

Mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn.

Here’s what I suggest could be said in different circumstances.

Your child spills his/her drink.

Oops! Well, I’ve spilled my share of drinks, too. Let’s clean it up together and see what we can do to be more careful in the future.

Your child breaks a favorite item of yours on accident.

I’m sad this got broken, but I know you didn’t mean to break it. It’s just a thing. You’re more important to me than that [insert broken item].

You forget to do something you promised your child you’d do. 

I’m sorry I forgot to do [insert whatever it is]. I was wrong to not follow through on what I said. Will you forgive me?

These are all common circumstances that every family can relate to. Building an environment where your child is not afraid to tell you they did something is critical to helping them understand that grace reigns in your household. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for their bad choices, but choosing to do something wrong and having something happen by accident are different.

Open dialog happens from a very early age. Listen to your children with your full attention. Ask them questions. Help them come to their own conclusions about issues. Let them express themselves in an appropriate, respectful manner.

With my kids, I found that there was a little bit of a Catch-22: We had such a close relationship that they didn’t want to disappoint me, even if I had never made performance a priority. The notion that lying to me is more disappointing than the original act doesn’t seem to get through their heads!

The most important thing I think I do is to keep telling them, “I love you.” And it’s never the person I’m disappointed in, it’s the choice. That is emphasized time and again.

 

Amongst many other forgotten things, I’ve had countless items borrowed and lost, and a favorite bowl knocked off the counter and smashed, all accidents. All covered by grace because the lossshattered-trust was unintentional.

But I’ve also had my trust absolutely demolished like that favorite bowl by a child lying right to my face. Things hidden from me because that child knew those actions would grieve me.

But grace wins every time. God will deal with the sin. I’ve given consequences for the actions to my minor kids. But for my adult children, I’ve cried, prayed, told them truth over and over, but ultimately, their decisions are part of the journey God has them on.

And sometimes that journey goes through the stream of spilled milk. Will it be a sour experience or a sweet one, ending in a pool of grace?

Longing For Lake Tahoe

FullSizeRender-1I have been battling with discontentment this summer. Last summer I got to spend several weeks driving to and from Colorado and hanging out in the mountains. This summer, with sweltering temperatures and cloying humidity, I sit at home, not wanting to venture out past 9 in the morning.

Maybe some people like living in Florida in the summer; I would not be one of them.

And yet that’s where I’ve been for the past 24 summers, with small breaks here and there to be elsewhere.

I long for elsewhere. I long for Lake Tahoe.

When I was younger, my family and I spent many a joyous vacation at Lake Tahoe. Whenever I smell pine trees I fly back in time to that log cabin nestled in the woods that we shared for oh-too-brief vacations with my grandparents. Version 4

The beauty of the mountains, the coolness of the water, the serenity of the lake.

It was idyllic. But I was a child and didn’t have the responsibility of cooking or packing or planning. I just got to enjoy the scenery.

Why, Lord? Why Orlando?

I guess it’s not all about me.

But I long for the beauty, the outdoorsyness, the cool nights sitting on the porch. How did I get to be this person who doesn’t even want to venture outside?

Version 3Would it have felt better if I didn’t have Facebook shoving it in my face that so many other friends get to be elsewhere?

Pennsylvania. Paris. Milan. Minnesota. Washington. Wales.

I see the photos. They draw me.

But here I sit watching another afternoon thunderstorm. Remembering that God’s grace reaches Orlando, too. Maybe my city needed me this summer as it bent under a terrorist attack.

Maybe my daughter needed me as she took another step closer to maturity. As she finally got her braces off. As she struggled with the wherewithal to follow through on her desires of the spring.

Maybe my middle child needed me as he toured college campuses and tried to figure out what he wants to do after graduation. Maybe he needed me to listen to his fussing about his online class, his summer reading, his hatred of math.

Maybe my eldest needed me here as he navigated a breakup with his first girlfriend. As he applied for and started another job. As he took his first online summer class for college.

I am here for a reason. I can whine about my circumstances or I can embrace the plan Version 2God has for me. In Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul says, “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.”

The plenty of beautiful surroundings and the days of my youth. Being brought low to where I don’t even want to step foot outdoors through the long days of summer. I know this isn’t exactly what Paul was referring to, but it’s how I feel.

IMG_5602I can do this. I can live in Orlando for another summer. Or 2. Or 30. If this is where the Lord has me, then He will strengthen me to live in it.

And at just the right angle, the retention pond could actually look like a lake.

The Robe

The last time I saw my mom alive,IMG_6503 9 years ago this month, she was wearing her favorite big, fluffy bathrobe. Undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, she sensed her struggle was coming to an end and she didn’t have the wherewithal to get dressed most days. While I was with her, a hospice nurse came in and talked to us about the future. We arranged for Meals on Wheels to bring food several times a week. I talked to the postal deliverer about bringing her mail down to the front door because her mailbox was at the top of a steep driveway.

She was still sleeping in her bedroom which was on the lower floor of the house where I grew up, so she had enough energy and strength to climb the stairs every morning. But she was growing weaker.IMG_6502

I didn’t know that was the last time I would see her.

After she passed away, my sisters and brother and I went through all the things in the house (my dad had passed away 16 months previous) and chose what we wanted to take home with us, what would be donated, and what would be thrown away.

I chose the robe.

That old robe is getting a little ratty, but I can’t see myself ever wanting to let it go. It doesn’t smell like her anymore—she’s been gone too long—but it still looks like her, and that’s enough for me.

Would I rather hear her voice over the telephone line? Of course. Would I prefer to get a letter in the mail with the latest photographs of whatever she wanted me to see? Absolutely. But instead, I have this old robe. And it’s precious to me.

IMG_6501Miss you, Mom. You would be proud of your grandkids. The one who had a baby almost a year ago and would have made you a great grandma. The one who graduated from college this year and already has a job. The ones who got married and are making new lives for their families. The one who opened his own business and has been written up in several publications because of it. The one who started college and wants to be a law enforcement officer. The one you never met, who learned to tie his own shoes and loves Star Wars. The one who loves horses just like I do and takes riding lessons and has been in horse shows. The one who will be a high school senior and is trying to figure out where he wants to go and what he wants to do.

And so I wear the robe. It holds me close when my mom no longer can. No matter how ratty it gets, that robe isn’t going anywhere.

 

 

 

When The Womb Runs Dry

9-25-02.2I remember with vivid clarity the day we learned I had miscarried our first child. We were traveling home from Colorado to Florida when I started spotting. After 4 years of infertility, the thought of losing this long-awaited baby was terrifying. When the loss was confirmed, it seemed my tears would never stop.

That was almost 21 years ago.

I have 3 healthy children, 13, 17 and 19. Although we lost 2 more babies in the midst, our quiver is as full as we want it. Yet when the realization hit that I was on the downside of menopause, I cried.

I loved being pregnant. I didn’t suffer the nausea of so many of my friends. Although worried during my second pregnancy that the same thing would happen as the first, it got increasingly easier to relax. Nausea-free pregnancies, problem-free births (well, there were 2 short stays in the NICU for #1 and #3, but all was fine in the end), pain-free nursing (although I had to supplement #2 and #3 because they weren’t gaining enough weight). After our infertility struggle, I felt very blessed.

I was 4 days away from being 35 when I had my first child, and I was almost 41 when I Xmas 04had my 3rd, so another pregnancy really wasn’t in the cards for us. But still, the idea that it would never happen again stirred up feelings I didn’t even know were there. Somehow we think childbearing defines us as women and when we find ourselves unable to do that, our self-image takes a hit.

Now, after 2 years of no more visits from Aunt Flo, I am mostly at peace with the situation, knowing that an infant in the house would really throw us for a loop, but the baby boom in the young moms around me causes some melancholy. My friends from high school and college are becoming grandparents, having started parenting a lot sooner than I, and my arms long to cuddle newborns again. I plead for time holding the young mom’s infants, but somehow someone consistently beats me to it.

I know that there are many who cannot bear their own babies. Some opt to remain childless, some adopt infants, some adopt older kids. I have friends in all camps. The struggle is real. When I didn’t know whether I’d be able to have children or not, each new birth around me was painful. Now, each new birth is a joy as I know that it’s my time to be a mentor, to let the younger women have their chance. I’m certainly glad to be able to sleep through the night! And it’s probably a good thing that my daughter and I won’t be hormonal at the same time once she gets in on the act.

IMG_4533Bearing babies isn’t what makes me a woman. It isn’t what gives me worth. It isn’t even what defines me. I am a mom and it’s a wonderful thing. But I am first of all a child of God. Nothing will change that. Instead of being defined by the blood I used to shed each month, I am defined by the blood shed for me on the Cross. It will never run dry.

 

Now excuse me while I go find a baby to hold.

 

 

 

While You Were Sleeping

 Sleeping Morgan2I remember my kids’ baby days, when we were sleep deprived and wondering if this marvelous creature would ever sleep through the night. The first time they finally did, I remember waking up in a panic thinking “Are they all right?” I would listen carefully to the baby monitor beside my bed, trying to catch the sound of their breath. If nothing could be detected, I would creep silently to their room, ease open the door, sneak to the end of their crib and look carefully for the small movement of their chest.

Now, I fall asleep sometimes before my eldest gets home from work. Generally a light sleeper, I’m always surprised that I don’t hear him come in the house. When I wake up in the middle of the night and realize that he should have been home hours ago, that moment of panic again sets in. Sometimes, I get up, go to the garage door—which is closer than his bedroom door—just to make sure the car is there. Then I can go back to sleep.

There’s no reason the car should not be there, I tell myself. I just slept through his arrival.

There’s no reason that newborn baby shouldn’t be alive, she’s finally just big enough to not need a meal until full morning.

You know, God never panics. Psalm 121:3,4 says “He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” He is always watchful, He is ever wakeful, He never tires of holding us in the palm of His hand.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe

question-markSome people love to make decisions. It comes easily for them. I have one son who, when he had money in his pocket, wanted to go right away to the toy store so he could spend it on whatever he fancied. I have another who would walk the aisles, mulling, thinking, considering, and then walk out without anything because he couldn’t decide which thing he wanted.

That decision-making process only gets more difficult as time goes on, and the biggest is right around the corner: college.

My mind spins when I think about all the decisions coming up quickly for my eldest. And all the tasks: SAT, ACT, Air Force Academy application, senate nominations, college applications, ROTC scholarships, etc., etc., etc. It’s overwhelming. What if he doesn’t have a high enough GPA? How do I motivate him to study? How many times should he take the SAT? What if we do something wrong in the Academy application? Will that ruin his chances? And how in the world are we going to pay for college if he doesn’t get into the Academy or get a major scholarship?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:25-34).

Ahhhh. Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father to comfort us with the equivalent of “I’ve got this.” The decisions still have to be made, and the tasks still have to be completed, but the weight is not on us. Do your part; trust God with the results. I don’t have to fear that my son won’t get into the Air Force Academy. If that’s the ultimate plan for him, he’ll get there—not by sitting and waiting for God to move, mind you, but by working diligently and trusting God.

It’s such a delicate balance: work and faith. You want to trust God for a job, but you can’t sit in your recliner waiting for bosses to come knocking. You want to know where God wants you to go to college, but an acceptance letter isn’t just going to magically appear in your mailbox.

I think what God wants is for us to walk closely with Him every day, to talk to Him about everything, and trust that He’s got our future under control. Do I know where the finances are going to come from to send my kids to the colleges of their choice? No. Not completely. But we started college funds for them, we encourage them to do their best in school, and we’ll apply for financial aid and every scholarship for which they qualify.

And we’ll leave the results to God.