Tag Archive | children

Family Treasures

This post is a part of my 10-Minutes Tuesday collection, written today on the prompt “family.”

85670316F034We found out I was pregnant after 4 years of infertility treatment right around if not on Father’s Day itself. How ironic and sweet is that?

15 weeks later, after we thought we were safe and had told our friends, we discovered that our baby had not made it past about 6 weeks. I didn’t have any sign of miscarriage until that day.

Not knowing whether we would ever be able to grow our biological family was crushing to us. But now, as I sit here and write this, I gaze upon the pictures and portraits of our 3 kids that grace the walls, shelves and pretty much every horizontal surface of our home.

Now almost 22, 19 and 16, my kids are my treasure. The thought of them ever moving far away from me where I won’t see them frequently squeezes my heart, and even more so now that I also have a grandson that I care for 5 days a week. But I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

DSC00247_2I myself moved across the country from my own family of origin. My parents have passed away and my sisters live in Colorado and Washington State, and my brother is still in California where we grew up. I don’t see them nearly often enough.

Family is a complicated, hard, beautiful thing. We can either thrive or flounder in our relationships with those we should hold most dear. Just a few years ago, my husband’s sister and her family moved from Texas to Florida, to a house right across the street from us. Just this week, that sister and her husband signed divorce papers after more than 30 years of marriage.

She doesn’t live across the street from us anymore, but her husband, 15-year-old son, and 27-year-old son who is about to get married, do. We value these last 3 years with them so close by. It means the world to me to be able to see them and know them and be there for them, especially during this hard time. My father-in-law is far away. But my mother-in-law lives with us. See what I mean? Complicated.

fullsizeoutput_1e0Many people complain about Facebook, but I’m thankful for it because of the connection it has given me to my faraway family. I can see pictures of my great nephew and great niece that I’ve never met, and know that my oldest sister is loving being Mimi to her new granddaughter. I long for my grandson and her granddaughter to meet. They would be super good friends. They are 2 months apart.

But for now, we treasure our family both far and near. Keep up as well as possible, and build an extended frie-maly here. You know, friends who are like family. They mean the world to us too!

With the holidays right around the corner, I know many people will be facing family situations that will be uncomfortable, hard, ugly even. I pray that you can find peace and maybe even that some relationships can be repaired.

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The Pursuit of a Heart

Neuroscientist Curt Thompson has said that each one of us comes into this world looking for someone looking for us.

IMG_9760We long to be known. To be loved. To be pursued.

Thompson goes on to say, “We can grow up in homes in which the food finds the table, the money finds the college funds and the family even finds the church each Sunday, but somehow our hearts remain undiscovered by the 2 people we most need to know us: Our parents.” (Quoted by Adam Young LCSW in a podcast titled “Why your family of origin impacts your life more than anything else” April 16, 2018.)

I was the 3rd child in just over 3 years for my parents. That’s rough on anyone. I don’t have specific memories of my very young years, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that my parents were thrilled to welcome another baby into a home already hopping with a 3 year old and a 19-month old.

I never felt unloved, but I did feel undiscovered.

12 years ago I was with my mom the week after my dad died. Returning from dinner atIMG_9761 my brother’s house I said to her, “We’ve never been very good at heart-to-heart talks.”

She said, “No, we haven’t.”

And that was the end of the conversation. 16 months later she passed away from pancreatic cancer.

I determined when I became a mom that I would have open and honest conversations with my children. I would answer their questions no matter how embarrassing they might be. I would pursue their hearts. I would get in their business.

IMG_9762When I started being interested in a guy (who has been my husband now for 27 years plus), my mom never asked me about him. When I asked her why that was, she said she didn’t want to pry. Umm, you’re a mom. That’s your job. It doesn’t make you a busybody; it shows me that you care to know.

My mom loved me. I know that. But she didn’t pursue my heart. I don’t think she really knew how.

I don’t hold it against her, I’d just like to do better with my kids. Their hearts are worth knowing as deeply as they’ll let me know them.

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This post is a part of the Five-Minute Friday link up. Join the fun!

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Restore the Fathers

Jesus with childrenFather’s Day is just around the corner. How very appropriate and heartbreaking that the immigrant crisis—children being torn from the very breasts of their mothers—now center stage in our country should be garnering so much notice at this time.

My grandfather was an immigrant. Granted, his parents went through the arduous process of coming legally, but had they not been able to do that, if they had been fleeing a dangerous situation and needed refuge, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my grandfather been taken away from them.

We lost our younger son at Sea World one time. It was only for a few minutes, but the terror that was in my heart during those few minutes has never been forgotten. Had anything happened to him, I would have been devastated. So to know that hundreds, no, thousands of parents are experiencing their children being taken away from them by authorities in a country they thought would be their refuge is completely unimaginable.

The law of the land, they say. It’s biblical to obey the governing authorities, they say.

How they can look themselves in the mirror or even sleep at night is beyond me.

Families belong together. There is no excuse. Maybe the parents have broken the law, but IMG_0654there are better ways to handle the situation. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration, but I am a fan of people. You can’t treat them like animals. They are not cattle or sheep to be separated for slaughter.

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. While you’re celebrating your own father, or being a father, or fathers that you know, take time to pray for those fathers who have had their children forcibly removed from their care by the governing authority, that they would be restored to their children.

And weep for them, as I’m sure Jesus is doing even now.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 19:14)

This post is a part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link up. Come join in the fun!

 

image from vvsventujuparapija.lt

Sweet Surprise

secret_surprise_2For my 30th birthday, my husband threw me a surprise party. We went out to dinner and were just planning on going home and hanging out. This was before we had kids, just 9 months after we had gotten married and 4 months after we had moved to Florida from my home state of California. Needless to say, my stress level was very high, even though some of those events were good ones. Like the getting married part.

When we got to our apartment, I was met with a sweet group of friends all gathered to celebrate my day. It was truly a surprise, which is often hard to pull off, and a lovely reminder of how much I am loved.

Those kinds of surprises are great. Others, not so much. Like when your favored team loses to a major underdog in the surprise performance of the century (looking at you Virginia). I don’t like those kinds of surprises.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book back in 1955 titled Surprised by Joy, which tells the story of his conversion to Christianity. Although he says it’s much less a chronology of events than it is a look at his life as only C.S. Lewis can tell it.

Surprise. Something unexpected.

I remember when my kids were little and I wanted them to keep a secret about secretsomething, like a gift for someone, I would tell them it was going to be a surprise rather than a secret, because I wanted to ensure that they didn’t keep secrets. I knew the stories of abuse that have happened with a relative who would tell a vulnerable child that this behavior would be their secret. They weren’t ever to keep secrets from us.

But surprises are meant to be fun. I like to think of them as good. I think that’s what Lewis found as he came up with the name for his book. He was an atheist. He didn’t know what he would find when he turned back to God. Joy was unexpected.

In some cases, we may wonder why we are surprised at the things God does. We ask Him joyto provide, and He does it. Sometimes it’s not in the way we expect, so we can call that a surprise, but not the fact that He does it.

It’s not the same as being startled.

It’s different than being shocked.

Some people don’t like surprises, and if I had to guess, I would say that it’s because it takes a modicum of control away from them. Just tell me what’s going to happen already. I want to know what to expect.

But that’s where trust comes in.

I’m not in charge, and if I allow myself to be surprised, I might just be blessed by a God who wants to give me all good things.

Like C.S. Lewis and joy.

 

images from tonnerdoll.com; nameberry.com; crosswalk.com

Hold Onto Hope

IMG_2048Awhile back, I wrote a post about my avocado tree. (See The Beetle Within Us) I was sad to have to report that, after just a year of bearing fruit, the tree had to be taken out because it was diseased by the ambrosia beetle. Well, we had a storm more than a year ago that knocked down part of our back fence near where the tree used to grow. In removing the old fence, my husband came across this 18-inch-high seedling that had been growing from a pit discarded by the squirrels in the corner of the yard.

Imagine our surprise and our pleasure at finding this small glimmer of hope that we could still have a healthy avocado tree in the future.

This seemed to me a perfect analogy for the life of a prodigal: There is always hope that there is life left in those who wander from God.

When the new fence panels went in, the seedling was transplanted to our front yard. It was so small back then, and it was hot out, so daily, even twice-daily, watering was vital for its survival. It’s now more than 10 feet tall. It is surrounded by other plantsIMG_5551, yet given its own space. When it was still very small, we could watch it, we could nurture it, we could pray that it would grow big and strong and eventually produce fruit. All we could do was give it the best environment that we knew how to give; the rest was, and still is, up to its Creator. It hasn’t borne fruit yet, but we hope it’s well on its way.

I recently read a phenomenal article by Abraham Piper, the son of pastor and author John Piper, whom I greatly admire. Abraham was a prodigal for many years, and his insight into how to love prodigals back to Jesus is something I think everyone struggling with this should read. The article is quite long, so you can read the entire text here (Let Them Come Home). The following points are his, with my condensed interpretation.

1. Point them to Christ.Piper contends that the real problem with your prodigal is not their behavior, it’s that they don’t see Jesus clearly. Therefore, the best thing you can do is show them Christ. Their only hope is to clearly see Jesus and His love for them.

2. Pray.
“Only God can save your children, so keep on asking Him to display Himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping Him for.”

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.
Don’t pretend that everything is fine. Don’t ignore their unbelief. Reach out and keep reaching out.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christlike.
“No matter how your child’s behavior proves his unbelief, always be sure to focus more on his heart’s sickness than its symptoms.” If they’re not believers, they’re not going to act like believers. Hearts need to change first.

5. Welcome them home.
No matter what they’ve done, if they want to come home, let them. If they have any desire whatsoever to be with you, let them come. You are going to be the best influence in their life. Make sure you aren’t pushing them away.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.
Piper says, “Be gentle in your disappointment. . . Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Your role is to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that you want your child to return to.”

7. Connect them to other believers.
If you know another believer you think might reach them better than you can, by all means, get them together.

8. Respect their friends.
Be hospitable. Her friends are someone else’s wayward children, and they need Jesus, too.

9. E-mail them.
“When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple of lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation—better than any correction—is for them to see Christ’s joy in your life. Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s Word is never useless.”

10. Take them to lunch.
Have actual facetime. Even if it may hurt to hear what they’re up to, do it anyway. Your interest in them as a person will speak volumes to them. Make the time to get together.

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.
Find value in what they like. Ask questions. Hear their heart.

12. Point them to Christ.
“This can’t be stressed enough. It’s the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.”

Be faithful and don’t give up.

 

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.

 

 

 

No Perfect Parenting, part 2

Last week I mentioned a couple of articles on parenting that I had recently read. (See that post here). The author of the article on spoiling kids and I have agreed that everyone is entitled to their own decisions on how they parent. We also agreed that we can’t know everything about someone’s parenting style without knowing them personally and in depth so, with that in mind and with respect, here are some responses I have to some of the other things in her post:

I don’t think my kids learn to be generous because I give them things they haven’t earned, but because they see me giving to others who are in need. We support full-time missionaries as a family. We support friends who go on short-term mission trips. They’ve learned to set apart 10 percent of their allowance or work earnings every month and then choose a ministry they want to support with it. This summer, my boys are helping send a couple and a graduating high school senior from our church to Italy on a missions trip. They see me put dollars in the baseball helmet of the high-school team trying to raise money to purchase lights for their field. They see their father take a homeless man into a restaurant to buy him a meal. They see me buy gas for a woman who says her debit card was stolen and she needs to get to work.

Do I lavish affection on my kids? That was a lot easier to do when they were little. My teenage boys don’t really go for that so much anymore. But I hug them and tell them I love them often. Do I do things for them that they could do for themselves? Yes, on occasion. But I tell you what, my 11-year-old knows how to make her own bed, and her own meals, and do her own laundry.  If she needs clean clothes, she knows how to do it. But if I’m doing a load that needs more to be full, I’ll do hers with mine. And I help her fold stuff and put it away sometimes. None of my kids are going to leave my house without knowing how to keep something clean and keep themselves fed in a healthy manner (now, whether they pig out on Pop-Tarts once they’re on their own is a question for another day).

Do I make them the center of my universe? Absolutely not. They are an important, sweet, vital part of that universe. But Jesus is the center. And David comes next, no matter what. When they leave the nest, he’ll be the one staying here. And they know that. They complain every once in awhile that we always take each other’s side. Yep. Pretty much. But what they don’t know is that behind closed doors, we talk things out and occasionally win the other to another way of thinking. In our house, it’s usually about changing Dad’s mind about pets.

My kids are not allowed to speak unkindly to each other, they aren’t allowed to laugh if one of the others gets hurt. If they want something, they work for it. But that’s about stuff, that’s not about love. We don’t ever tell them they’re not good enough to get something. Yes, the harsh reality will come at them soon enough, but I’m certainly going to do my best to get them ready to face it while they’re still in the safety of my home. You break something that belongs to someone else? I still love you, but you’re paying to replace it. Or you receive grace from the owner, which I’ve seen happen more often than not. Not gonna happen in a store. You break it, you buy it. You didn’t win a game? You don’t get a trophy. I’ll tell you I love you and that I’m proud of your effort. But the winner gets the prize.

You want that new iPod? Better start looking for extra jobs to earn it. I’ll teach you how to do that, but I’m not doing it for you. The essentials I gladly provide as God gives us provision, but the extras are on you. God loves to lavish good things on His children, so ask Him to provide that which is the desire of your heart. Oftentimes, we find that our desires change as we seek to align them to God’s desires for us.

IMG_1112 - Version 2My bottom line is this: our children are very, very important. They are vulnerable, empty pots that will get filled with whatever comes along to fill them. Will it be Jesus or will it be the world? If I keep them filled up with the love and heart of Jesus, there won’t be room for anything else. I want to raise independent adults who know how to do things for themselves, and who rely on Jesus for every step they take.

How about you? In what ways do you help your kids be independent yet reliant on Jesus?