Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Desperation, An Opportunity In Disguise

God, if I could have just one prayer answered concerning my mothering, it would be this:  please, please help me...change me...enable me to see and love my children through your eyes...please!  I'm desperately asking this of you.  I cannot love them on my own.
I uttered this prayer not long ago as I pondered attitudes and behaviors that I have encountered in my children that have perplexed me and left me feeling desperate.  Desperation.  Not the greatest starting point of a prayer of faith.  Or is it?  I can think of several biblical stories wherein the main character saw a prayer answered dramatically and speedily.  More times than not that character had finally come to a point of desperation.  

As I prayed and wept, I had one child in mind specifically.  To say I struggled with this one was putting it mildly.  Do I even like her?  I wonder if I should have ever become a mama?  I wish I had never become a mama.  I am so discouraged.  Why does everything turn into a battle?  I have no clue how to deal with her any longer.  There you have it:  the ugly, and yes...incredibly shameful place I was emotionally.  Those were statements I had thought or had spoken aloud to myself.  I felt unbelievably desperate.  Now, while I understand that a more seasoned mama may be thinking If you think you have it bad now, you haven't even approached the teen years...I am where I am and where I am is where I am.  Maybe mama, you can relate to how I felt, or maybe not.  Nonetheless, I think we all have experienced desperation before.  And I have decided it's a good launching pad for God to take over.

I had no idea that the same day I uttered this simple prayer to God, He would answer it in an unexpected way.  He answered it by giving me an opportunity.  And not even with the same child.

The school bus roared away as my oldest son meandered down the driveway.  After dropping his blue backpack on the bench he slowly unwrapped his granola bar.  I could tell something wasn't right.  He kept turning a paper over in his hands and reluctantly handed it to me, embarrassment shone in his deep brown eyes.  Somehow I got 10 demerits and I didn't even do anything!  I initially thought, What now?  The truth took a little longer to unravel.  He was partially guilty and partially innocent.  Regardless, some serious life lessons were going to result.  The most unfortunate of these was losing the privilege to attend the final fifth grade field I wished I could accompany him on because it sounded profoundly interesting!  I felt disappointed for him.  Honestly, I'm not certain that the punishment fit the crime in this case, but a consequence is a consequence and I am not going to bat for him on every issue.  He would have to suffer the consequence and learn from it.  

We talked, and I knew his dad would talk with him later.  He knew his wrong.  I peered out the kitchen window, watching him bounce the basketball in the driveway, and I hurt for him.  Oh, how I wished I could have been with him to remind him of good choices...and self-control...and consequences.  But he is on his own during the school day, facing tests of character regularly.  I couldn't change that.  Nor could I take away the sting of the consequence he would face.  But I could do something.  I could love him the way God loves me when I mess up royally--which can be a daily an hourly occurrence in my life!  Admittedly, I didn't ponder all of this until after my later interaction with him.

Before dinner, he came into the kitchen to collect the basket for our chickens' eggs, and he quietly whispered I'm sorry mom.  What are you sorry for?, I asked him.  I'm sorry that I got in trouble and for what I did.  That he would apologize to me--not one directly offended or wronged--showed me that he was remorseful and had already learned an incredible lesson.  I wrapped him in a bear hug.  I told him that I loved him no matter what!  He asked me if I would love him still even if he got 100 demerits.  I answered, without any hesitation, Yes.  I would love you even if you got 100 demerits.  I don't want you to.  I want you to make good choices so that your life is happy and fulfilled, because rules are in place for your good in the long run.  But I will always love you no matter what.

As he walked a little lighter to the chicken coop, I realized that God had unexpectedly answered my earlier prayer.  Does God ever move in my life as I expect him to?  He gave me a surprising opportunity to show love and grace to my child, as he continually showers me with love and grace.  I make poor choices.  I use my tongue as a sword.  I lash out when I feel frustrated.  I blame others when I need to admit my wrong.  I disappoint myself and God more times than I care to admit.  And each time I do, He reminds me that I am loved and there is grace.  There is grace to try again.  There is grace to start anew.  There is grace to seek forgiveness.  There is grace to wipe away the stains of my mistakes.  He doesn't lecture or berate me.  He loves me and he embraces me with tender mercy and grace.  I was able to do that for my son, without any hesitation.  I was able to see him and love him through the eyes of God.  

My own mama's eyes are often critical and fault-finding.  God is changing me.  He is transforming the way that I love my children.  I wish it came more naturally to me, to love them as God loves me.  But admittedly, I struggle.  There are circumstances and behaviors that I want to control, and when I can't I experience frustration and disappointment.  I am a perfectly imperfect mama.  Thankfully, God gives his grace to me in this journey too.  That evening, after the interaction with my son, I felt more at peace with the child I had in mind when I prayed my prayer of desperation.  I loved her more patiently.  I answered her more gently.  I squeezed her longer and took more time to tuck her in.  Surely I am learning that a place of desperation is nothing more than an opportunity in disguise.  

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee today

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Endless Love

I drove down the road, sobbing salty tears of frustration and discouragement.  Once again, I felt like such a failure.  Letting out an exhausted sigh as I parked my car at the craft store, I doused my eyes with saline to mask my miserable mama's cry.  I felt lousy and weary, but I was no stranger to those feelings. 

(continue reading my story at The Ruth Experience, where I am honored to guest post today)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fog Days, Nerf Wars, and Messy Beds

I'm not going to deny that I was happy to reset my alarm and roll over for some extra sleep, when my husband informed me at 5:28 this morning that the kids had a fog delay.  Yes, you heard me right:  fog delay. It happens out here.  We live in the country and it's perfectly flat for miles.  When there is fog, it just sits for hours.  Buses can't move along more than 20 mph.  The two-hour delay turned to three and then turned to a "fog day".  This happens!  After my rowdy kids woke up the baby and I realized I really wasn't getting any extra winks, my happiness wore off just a tad.  

You know, I was supposed to have a few quiet moments, in between loads of laundry and during my baby's nap, to read.  And I know I was supposed to write completely mostly uninterrupted...with only one baby to occupy during that time, rather than baby plus four happy-to-be-home kids.  My plans changed!  

One of the first things I encountered when I went to my room after breakfast (well, after my kids ate breakfast), was a messed-up bed.  

I make my bed almost immediately after I roll out of it, so I don't love seeing it a mess an hour later.  But you know what, today I didn't care. In fact, it made me smile!  I snapped the picture to remind myself later--on days when I just might forget.  It made me smile because I heard what went on to cause my rumpled bedspread.

My boys had played a fierce game of Nerf-gun wars just before I came upstairs.  They squealed, laughed, screamed, jumped, ran (apparently onto my bed...or under the covers), and generally had a fantastic time of it!  As I re-made my bed, I considered whether my reaction should have been to teach them to respect other's property and belongings, and make them fix my bed.  But by this time, they were on to the next bout of energetic fun.  And I realized:  sure, I could lecture them or make them fix the mess they made, but I would rather re-make my bed ten times a day if it meant they were having a blast and enjoying each other's company.  Because in many families, that is rare.  And I don't want to squelch it.  Besides, if I shut my bedroom door, their war-zone square footage is greatly decreased.  And well, that's just not as much fun!

What took place next, after I allowed them to play, rather than harping at them for messing up mama's bed?  They went outside together.  They fed worms to our chickens (sorry if that picture isn't appetizing to you!); they played a competitive game of knock-out basketball; then they played catch for a half hour.  And now?  It is clearly time for another Nerf-gun war!  

I love that they are playing together!  Seriously, I think had I fussed about my bed and communicated "appropriate ground rules", they would have felt defeated and frustrated...and given up the idea of playing altogether.  We mamas can unintentionally inhibit our children from great play and enjoyment.  Oh that we would lighten up sometimes!  Yes, I am that crazy, possibly irresponsible mom who has allowed her kids to jump on beds and off of bunks beds.  I let them play outside when it is drizzling and chilly.  And I don't faithfully correct potty-talk.  I think life (the youthful, playful, innocent child's life) is too daggone short!  I want to them be allowed to goof off, be rowdy, and get messy...although admittedly, I don't love it when my 5-year-old runs out to play in a soggy yard wearing her brand new shoes.

Honestly, any time I catch my kids playing together happily, without my direction or coaxing, my mama's heart is so delighted.  I don't know if anything in this world brings me more joy.

Sometimes plans change.  Sometimes my quiet day full of baby snuggles, a couple cups of coffee, laundry, reading, and semi-uninterrupted writing turns into ruckus, messes, and mayhem...and more coffee is required to survive it at all!  But it is a gift.  One day, my bed will remain neatly made all day...but I sure will miss the squeals and the laughter of these fog days.  Today, my greatest delight is that my plans changed.  Outside, it is still completely foggy.  And inside, those boys of mine are once again at war--Nerf war, that is.