Approved

I came across something curious recently in Bible study. It’s this verse:

Luke 3:21-22

After all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized. As he was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”

It’s the account of Jesus being baptized. The story is that John the Baptist was out baptizing people and telling people he was not the Messiah they were waiting for but that He was coming soon. Jesus gets at the back of the line to be baptized. After it’s over the Holy Spirit literally comes down and lands on him in the form of a dove and God speaks audibly and says: “you’re my kid and I love you and I’m proud of you”. It’s the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. So far his life was not very interesting. He was a carpenter from a small town, and not a very notable small town either. He had done nothing worthy of praise in the eyes of men. In fact, he was a child of scandalous origins since Mary claimed to be a virgin and got pregnant before getting married. Everyone saw him as a fatherless child or a child of questionable heritage who Joseph, Mary’s husband and the man who was acting as Jesus’ father, had agreed to raise and not ask questions. The whole thing was very questionable. Jesus was probably somewhat an outcast in his social circles. So, he goes to get baptized and people are probably thinking “well good because he could certainly use some sanctification from those origins”.

Then a crazy thing happens. A dove comes down and lands on his shoulder. Interestingly the dove is a symbol of peace and purification in the bible. People used doves as a sacrifice to purify themselves of sin. A dove was used to find land and salvation for Noah. The Holy Spirit took a form of a dove perhaps saying that Jesus was pure and was to be our sacrifice as a type and shadow.

Then God says to Jesus “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life”.

That whole phrase is very interesting. First because after that the Bible goes on to give Jesus’s lineage and show how he is God’s son. God is telling everyone that Jesus is His son. There is no scandal about him. God claims him. Then God goes on to say how proud He is of Jesus and that he loves him. This is interesting because to this point Jesus hasn’t begun his ministry. He has done nothing really. No miracles, no disciples, but God is proud. God is proud of WHO he is not what he DOES.

Why would God choose to tell Jesus this? Does Jesus need to hear it? God knows Jesus is just beginning his ministry and will be tested. He knows he will be dealing with haters and people saying all kinds of things about him and Jesus needs to hear He is proud. Maybe. I think it’s there for us. I think God wants us to know He is proud of us because we are His children. It’s not about what we DO but WHO we are. He is pleased with us. We are his sons and daughters and nothing we do or don’t do can change that fact. We don’t have to do anything to convince God to love us or gain HIs approval. He loves to no matter what.

Secular or ministry?

Modern Christianity has this idea that there is a hierarchy of vocations in the world. There are missionaries, ministers and the rest of us. It’s a shame because you don’t see that in the bible. God calls all sorts of people to do all sorts of things and doesn’t say one is more valuable than the other. I think it leads to guilt in people who aren’t missionaries or ministers that maybe we are second rate Christians or not doing enough for God or maybe we are ignoring God’s calling on our lives. It’s so untrue. God places each one of us in certain situations and places in life for His purpose and we cannot know what that is most of the time. I think it also leads to everyone who is not called to be a missionary or minister to feel as though they are off the hook for ministering to God’s people which is also not true. God has something for each of us to do. It might be something we humans see as “big” like starting a worldwide ministry or “small” like cleaning toilets but God doesn’t see things in these categories, that’s a made up human thing. We are all needed in the body of Christ whether you have a very public “seen” job or a “unseen” job. None could function without the others. We gotta stop categorizing jobs and callings in Christianity. Let me tell you about my own life as an example.

Growing up I always felt like I would be a counselor. I went to school and got a degree in psychology and met my husband who was getting a degree in Spanish. His direction in life, he felt at the time, was to be a missionary in Mexico so studying Spanish seemed logical. When we met I knew we were called to be together and he was my person but the calling of missionary wasn’t something I had ever considered. I prayed and God assured me He had a plan and just to trust. We both graduated and continued working at our families florist. We knew he needed to make more money to support us as we pursued missionary training and he needed summers off so we decided he would go get his teaching certificate to teach Spanish. Before I made my application to graduate school to pursue counseling we found out we were expecting our first baby. Shortly before I had Sam we met with the elders and ministers at our church to discuss our desire to go on the mission field that summer. It was then we got an answer we didn’t expect. No. They felt like it wasn’t the right time for us. We were shocked by that but we spent a long time in prayer and discovered it was what God was saying. They asked Glenn if he could do anything else what would it be and he said to get his masters degree and teach Spanish in college. So, he applied to grad school while we tried to figure out what God was up to.

Having to tell people around us that we decided not to pursue being missionaries was very difficult. It wasn’t well received. We felt shame and guilt over what people thought because we believed and had been taught that not being a missionary was somehow less valuable to God. Maybe He didn’t think we were ready or able to do it so maybe He had demoted us. Now I was “just” a stay at home mom and Glenn was “just” a Spanish teacher who was pursuing a secular masters degree (horrors). We felt judged and it wasn’t comfortable. We judged ourselves as well. Were we taking the easy way out? We felt certain we were doing what God was leading us to but how could He lead you away from being a missionary? Wasn’t that the calling for all good Christians?

Years went by and now we find ourselves looking back on things. Since that time we can see where God was leading us each step to where we are. There have certainly been hard times and God has led us through and continues to, but I can see that our life here, doing what we are doing is what we are called to and what God has for us in this moment. We have had seven beautiful boys and I have had the privilege to be at home with. Glenn has gone from being a teacher to an administrator to now, as of a few months ago, being an executive director at his school. That’s not a place we would have ever expected. We have done various ministries at our church from youth pastors, to prayer team to nursery. We have adopted two special needs kids. What I know now is that every single thing we have done has been what God has called us to. All of it. And all of it is important and none greater than the rest. Glenn has such a mission to those families and teachers he serves at his school. I can’t imagine a larger platform for people to see God through someone than his job. I joke and say he’s a secular pastor because it’s his responsibility to care for those people at his school every day and their families and he takes that calling very seriously.

I have no idea what the future holds. We are praying about many things and what God would have us to do next but whatever it is, it is important whether big or small. Please, please hear that whatever you are doing and wherever you are, if you are listening and obeying God, you are on a mission. You are where God wants you to be, doing something really important for him. There are no top tier jobs in God’s kingdom. If God calls you to something unexpected that isn’t what others deem valuable, ignore them. They aren’t God. Only He can say what is your calling. Be brave and step out into whatever He is calling you to.

“In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.”

Romans 12:4-8

I love this passage in Romans about us all being part of one body. Don’t try to be something you aren’t.

Rejoice

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15

This is one of my favorite verses, which I think I’ve mentioned before. It’s a hard one to actually do and it challenges me. I honestly don’t know which is harder the weeping with others or the rejoicing. You would think it would be the weeping but I’m not sure. The weeping is hard because no one wants to be sad and our culture is very uncomfortable with “negative” emotions: saddness, anger, etc. But the rejoicing is also hard. People like to be happy and you would probably say it’s easy to be happy for people but only in certain circumstances.

Everyone can be happy for someone whose cancer is in remission because we all agree that no one should have cancer. It’s easy to be happy for someone when they avoid pain like that, but what about when they get something you wanted? What about when they get something you don’t think they deserved? ouch

Your friend gets a new house and you have been saving and praying for a new house but it’s just not possible financially.

Your coworker gets the promotion you thought you should get.

Someone has an unplanned pregnancy and you are going through fertility treatments.

Someone does the hard work to get themselves to a better place physically and you wish you could do that but you don’t have time or whatever.

Someone gets married and you are still looking for that perfect person.

So many times we face situations where we hope and pray for something for so long but someone else gets it. It’s hard! Those are the times it’s so hard to be happy for someone.

What about when someone has been unkind or just plain annoying and gets something you wanted. That’s hard!

In the bible there is the story of Joseph. Not Jesus’s earthly dad Joseph, but the one with all the brothers and the coat. Joseph had a bunch of brothers and he was the youngest. His father loved him more than the others and they knew it and Joseph made bad reports to his father about his brothers. He also told them all he had dreams that they would all bow down to him. Sounds like an obnoxious younger brother tattle tale to me. They were so jealous of him and annoyed by him that they plotted to kill him but instead sold him to their enemies as a slave. Yikes! That’s some serious sibling rivalry. In the end he was appointed overseer over Egypt and saved his whole country from famine but they, of course, couldn’t see that at the time.

It would be hard to like someone like that. Of course God had plans that they couldn’t understand. He was working to benefit them all but all they saw was jealousy and his bad attitude.

Most of the time when I find it hard to be happy for someone else and rejoice with them, it’s because of jealousy or pride. I think either I deserved what they have or maybe they didn’t deserve it. It’s a dangerous idea to think you deserve something because in reality we are sinful people and we don’t want what we really deserve. But sometimes in my pride I think I have been pretty good lately and deserve something. It’s how the world works but not how God works. God hates pride and jealousy. Sometimes I think God gives others blessings around us for their benefit but also to see how we will react and point out our pride to us.

I want to be the kind of person who is genuinely happy for those around me who get blessings that I may have wanted ,in the same way I wanted to be the kind of person who is willing to step into grief with someone who is grieving and be uncomfortable.

It’s okay to cry

In a recent counseling session my counselor was asking me why I hold back emotion. Glenn and I both do, he noticed. I thought about why I do this. I have never liked for people to see me cry. I don’t think I grew up having it modeled for me. People in my parents generation tended to keep emotions under wraps I think. I started thinking about what it must have been like for my mom growing up in the 40s and 50s and being a single woman who was getting a college education, the first in her family, and then went on to get a Masters degree. It wasn’t the norm for woman in that time period. She was going against the norm of getting married and having a family. It was a man’s world in the workplace and academia, so she had to act like a man to survive. In that time period that meant not showing emotions. That was “being strong” and “taking it on the chin”. I do remember showing some emotion with her in private though. One particular time stands out in my mind. My dad and mom got divorced in 1986, when I was 6 years old. It was a particularly nasty divorce with so much pain and heartache for us both. She wisely got herself and I both into counseling, something that changed my life because it taught me to seek help for my mental health at a young age. I don’t remember talking about the divorce much but I have a memory of she and I hugging and just crying one day. We didn’t need to say anything, tears are all that was needed.

The challenge for me now as a woman is the question of how to be “strong” and yet show emotion. We are finding that our kids are struggling because they have emotions about all the trauma we have been through as a family for really the past 8 years or so but they think they cannot show that emotion because we don’t. Glenn and I were talking about it and I think we have for all those years tried really hard to keep things emotionally stable and in doing so that meant not showing any emotions. Our daughter came to us with deep hurts and trauma and she also had limited ability to understand the world or express herself with words. So, being developmentally about a year old, she threw tantrums. Not little ones either, big ones from a large person. If you’ve never lived through this you cannot imagine. It’s traumatizing to live with on a daily basis. You never know if you would get happy emotions or sad or angry ones. We learned that it was a bit like a rollercoaster and the higher the highs, the lower the lows. We found the more excited she was then the larger tantrum she would have later, so we learned to keep her stable. Nothing too exciting, so that we wouldn’t get too much anger later. We still have to maintain some of that with our son Josh. That leads to a rather flat emotional existence for a parent. You are afraid to get too excited or happy so as to avoid the negative emotions. You learn to put a governor on yourself, but you become emotionless.

We are practicing emotions for ourselves now. Allowing ourselves to cry or get angry so that we can also experience joy and excitement. I think Christianity also sometimes says you should not acknowledge your “negative” emotions. It’s not spiritual to get angry, the Bible says you shouldn’t, right? (it actually doesn’t, it says get angry and don’t sin, not that we shouldn’t feel anger at times) People are uncomfortable with negative emotions. Just go through a loss in your life and you will run up against people who say all kinds of dismissive stuff and encourage you to “get over it”, if you grieve too much for too long. One of my absolute favorite verses in the bible is “weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice”. The bible is saying we need to feel both emotions, not dismiss either one. And we need to sit with other people in their grief and just cry with them and when they are joyful we need to be joyful too. Frankly I’m not sure which is easier. For myself and my family, we are working on showing emotions more, both happy and sad, angry and joyful, but hopefully less indifferent, which is the real opposite of anger. I don’t want to be someone who feels nothing anymore, it’s not helping myself or anyone else.

It’s been a while…

So much has happened since I wrote consistently on this blog. The whole world shut down with Covid and in our personal life we experienced the tragic death of our daughter April 24, 2020. I feel like the fog is slowly lifting on both Covid and our grief. Grief is not something you ever fully “get over”, you just learn to carry it with you and over time it becomes lighter. One year later, we find ourselves coming out of the initial shock and pain and now find ourselves asking the question, “where do we go from here?” I find that between these two life altering events I’m not really sure who I am anymore. I think this pandemic has changed us all in various ways. Stuff I found normal a year ago no longer is. Riding in an elevator with strangers, eating at a buffet and even just going to the doctor’s office are all anxiety producing events now and they didn’t used to be. Added to that losing our only daughter in such a shocking and tragic way, I can’t go back to how it was before. There is life before 2020 and now there is life after.

Grief is one of those things that you think you have a handle on and then something sneaks up on you. Recently it was going to Carowinds (our local amusement park). Two summers ago we went to Carowinds frequently with our kids. On each visit, we would go to the water park and our daughter would want to swim which required me changing her in the bathroom nearby. She wasn’t potty trained and she was 17, so you can imagine what it all entailed to prepare for swimming. The other day we went back to Carowinds and I casually went into that same bathroom not even thinking about it until it hit me. I walked in and looked around and I was instantly hit with memories. I don’t think I will ever get to the place where those moments don’t happen, but now I’ve learned to pause and let the emotion wash over me and move forward.

I have found this past month to be harder than I would have expected. The final court date for the criminal trial involving our daughter’s death and also mothers day and my birthday all happened within a month. Added to that was my mom’s anniversary of her passing. It’s been emotionally trying. I was so ready for the court case to be over but at the same time now that it’s over, it feels like we are moving forward and that is hard. You feel guilty, when you have lost someone, to move forward with your life. I know it doesn’t help us to stay stagnant, it doesn’t honor Kaki’s memory and it’s not what the boys need, but it feels bad to move on. You look around and try to start making meaning of what has happened. What can we learn from this? Honestly, I still don’t see any meaning in any of it. Maybe in time. I know God can bring good from tragedy, but I can’t see it yet. I spent the Saturday before Mother’s Day visiting gravesides; my mom, my daughter, my uncle and my “other” mom. They are all together in one cemetery. It’s not supposed to be like that. I don’t like that I now have to “make rounds” at the cemetery because so many loved ones are there. I can’t wait to get to heaven and see all those people again. The more people we lose, the sweeter heaven gets.

I find that I don’t really know who I am anymore. I started counseling again because I need to work through this. When the dust settles on loss, it’s disorienting. My boys have struggled in different ways with the loss of their sister and it’s hard to watch. I wonder why God is allowing it. I know we will all grow and change for the better, but growing hurts. I look back and some of my Facebook posts last year and I realize how angry I was. The whole world was going crazy so there was lots to be frustrated about but this was deeper. Anger is always apart of grief and it has been a big part of mine. I feel like I’ve worked through most of that now. Anger isolates you. It seeks to push others away so you can avoid being hurt. I tend towards running away and isolation when I’m hurting and during a pandemic that is certainly easy to do. Now I have to fight anxiety to get back into the real world. Going back out in public was very challenging for me. I know it’s what I need to do but I rather like my little bubble. Having anxiety before the pandemic makes it all the worse now, I think. So many people are dealing with anxiety and depression now from being isolated and seeing all the news articles about the world coming to an end. And so many people lost loves ones due to this virus, it’s no wonder we are all anxious and depressed. But we don’t have to stay here. We can move forward. We can seek help and get back to life. It’s never going to be the world it was before 2020 but it can be a new and better life. I am doing the hard work of counseling and forcing myself to step outside of what is comfortable, challenging my old thought processes and boldly envisioning what the future could be.

They’re growing up

The past two weeks with our daughter having moved out and our oldest son, Sam, in Brazil for a month has made me realize something, they’re growing up. We are quickly entering another phase of life when our children leave the house. Not that Sam will be moving out soon, but when he comes home he will be different. He will have grown up some on this trip and will soon after be getting is license and started classes at CPCC in the fall. He’s not going to be the same kid we have had for the last 16 years. And college and moving out are not far away. And his younger brothers are right behind.

It all hit me the other day when I was changing the sheets on his bed and missing him like crazy. It’s all changing very quickly and I’m just not ready for it. When you have babies and toddlers still in the house you think your kids will live with you forever, but it’s just not the case. It all happens so quickly, one day they are in diapers and you think it will never end and then the next they are leaving for a foreign country for a month and registering to take the ACT.

As I inch closer to 40 this year I realize how quickly time goes and it really makes me contemplate how I spend my time. I’ve been thinking about how to slow down more and spend time on the stuff that really matters. These 18 or so years I have with each kid, did I do what I set out to do with them? Did I make lifelong memories that were good and did I teach them everything I wanted to for them to be successful adults? I’m learning that looks different for each child but it all takes time. Time is the only thing I cannot add to or take away. We all have 24 hours each day. How do we spend that time? If we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else and vice versa. When you are bogged down in raising kids it’s hard to see that. Everyday feels the same and like it will never end sometimes. Endless laundry and diapers and soccer practices. But within a blink it’s all over and your kid is headed out the door to adulthood. This really started to hit me when Sam hit high school but now that he is halfway through it is even more real. We went to Disney this summer and to Miami. It was the best trip we have ever had. We all really enjoyed it but we almost didn’t go. Our daughter was just starting to really struggle right before we left and we had an 8 month old. It seemed like a bad time, but we pushed through and I’m so glad we did. It’s not just about going on big trips and things, but also the day to day. Having a family with lots of needs makes me want to just stay in the house all the time, it’s just easier. But if we want to make memories with our older kids we can’t do that, we just have to push through.

I want to make each minute count, but that means making margin in my life for those special moments. I can’t be running around crazy all the time and expect to have time to stop and just take a special moment with my kids. I have to allow down time for unexpected moments. I don’t want to fill up every minute even if it’s with “good” things. There are many good things, but I have to pick and choose. Sometimes I have to say no to a good thing in favor of a movie night at home with the kids. Or a walk around the block or a meaningful talk. Those are the best things!

Happy Birthday Mom

Four years ago we celebrated my mom’s 80th birthday. These are just some pictures from that day. It was such a great day. She loved every minute of it and especially everyone who came to celebrate with her. I can’t believe she’s now spent two birthdays in heaven. This year has been easier than last year was, but I still miss her like crazy. It’s the little things I miss. I miss most of all talking to her. This year has been a hard one for me. So many big things have happened and I really wanted to talk to her so many times this year. She was always so good at listening and giving good advice. I tried to think what she would have told me if she was here. I know she would be telling me that we have made the right decisions and that things will work out and God has a plan, but I just wish I could have heard her say the words.

Mom, today on your birthday I wish I could tell you I love you and give you a hug. Someday I will again and I look forward to that. It’s that hope that gets me through the days I miss you. Today we will celebrate your life. We will have your favorite meal and a dessert you would have loved and talk about how much we love you and miss you. I know there will always be an empty spot for you in my life, but it’s not as hard this year and I’m thankful for that. I didn’t believe it would get easier with time but it’s true. I love you so much! Happy Birthday!

Happy 13th Jordan!

Dear Jordan,

Today you turn 13! I can’t believe how fast it has gone. Just yesterday you were showing me your pet caterpillar “Callie” and learning to ride your tricycle. And now you are almost 6 feet tall and in middle school. I want to tell you today how proud I am of you and how much we love you!

You have always been my laughter. You were making us laugh the minute you were born, peeing into a box of sterile gloves immediately after birth, and haven’t stopped making us laugh since. You make friends easily and are liked by so many people. God has given you so many talents but making people feel loved and special is one of those. You have a heart for other people and a gift for really seeing people and knowing how they are feeling. I love the way you care for those around you, especially Mimi Duncan. I’m so glad you have gotten to care for her and know her. I can see caring for others in your future.

Having the ability to see how others are truly feeling is a gift, but it also comes at a cost of having anxiety. Don’t let that get in the way of your dreams. I know you feel unsure and don’t know what career path you want to take yet, and that’s okay, you are still young. God has it all planned out, just trust and take one step at a time as He opens the doors. Anxiety can be debilitating and stop you from doing those things in life you really want to do. Keep God in the forefront of your mind and stay in prayer to try to keep anxiety in check. And if need be, always seek help as you grow older. Anxiety is the cost if being very sensitive to other people, which is a gift so many people in this day and age don’t have. You are not a failure if you need to be on medication or seek counseling for your anxiety when you get older. So many people, myself included struggle with anxiety, you are not alone.

You are braver than you realize. Remember that in life. Don’t be afraid to keep your adventurous spirit and try new things. I love how you are willing to step outside your comfort zone, keep doing that.

I know being the younger brother is hard sometimes. Sam is an overachiever and hard to live up to. Don’t ever feel less than him. He is Sam and you are Jordan. You are different and that’s okay. God has a very different path for you then the one he has for Sam. You don’t have to hold yourself up to Sam and compare. You both have so many strengths and abilities that God has given you and are unique and we love you for you. Don’t feel pressure to be like him. You make your own path in life.

Don’t be afraid to make your own decisions. I know you lean on Sam a lot for guidance, but I want you so feel like you can disagree with him and step out on your own out from under his shadow. I’m glad you value his opinion and he is a great role model, I’m thankful for that, but you are your own person and you will see the world differently than he does. “You do you” as Sam says. You are a smart, talented, witty, fun guy and you be you.

As you enter the teenage years I know you are a little apprehensive of the changes that come during those years. It’s going to be fine, don’t let it overwhelm you. We are here cheering you on in your successes and failures, because there will be both and that’s okay. We love you more than you could ever realize and we are proud of who you are now and are excited to see who you will become in the future. Happy Birthday Buddy!

One year ago….

I was sitting at my mother’s bedside. She had been admitted to Hospice two days before and they said it wouldn’t be long. It was Monday morning and I sat there watching HGTV because what exactly are you supposed to do at a bedside of someone who is lingering between heaven and earth? I felt like I should pray or something but after hours and hours of praying and talking to her, I just needed to take a mental break. I was sitting there alone at about 9am and wondering where everyone was. I wondered where my friends and family were and I wondered how long it would be before mom passed over. There is nothing quite like sitting at a deathbed. There are no rules and time seems to drag on forever and the world outside keeps going while your world has stopped. Around 10 my pastor came in. He talked with me and prayed with me and for mom. He said he felt like it wouldn’t be long, and I figured he knew more about these things than me having been at many deathbeds before. The nurse came in to give her a bath and then the doctor came. They kept asking me if there was anything else she would have wanted because no one could figure out why she was lingering. I turned off the HGTV and turned on Classical music, she loved music. She was in the choir at church and loved classical church music. She made it widely known her feelings of disdain for the new, loud, church songs of the last 20 years or so. Give her Handles Messiah or hymns and she was happy. She seem to settle some after I turned on the music. It amazes me what music can do, even for those you think might not hear it. It’s truly one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Around 11 my cousin came in and my friend Kim. We sat around and talked and ate some lunch and shortly after that Mom’s breathing changed and we knew it was close to the end. We gathered at her bedside. We prayed and read scripture and she passed into glory. It was an experience I will never forget. It was both beautiful and traumatic. I cried and also felt relief that it was over. I hadn’t really expected to be there when she passed, to be honest. I figured she would pass during the night when I was gone. I didn’t have any idea what it would be like to watch her pass. It was hard. There was something in me that just knew it was not how it was meant to be. We are supposed to live forever, we were never supposed to die and our souls know. I thought if I was there I would probably be alone. That morning I felt sorry for myself because I was alone and wondered where everyone was. Little did I know God had the perfect time. He sent the perfect people I would need to be with me as she passed. They loved and consoled and helped me through it. They were people my mom loved dearly and we were all three like her children. They were there with me at most of the happiest and saddest times of my life and how fitting they would be there for this as well. I cannot say thank you enough to them for being there.

There is so much about that day I wanted to remember and so much I’d rather forget. I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that she is gone. I think I will see her or she will call. But she won’t. I didn’t realize how much not having parents on this earth would effect me. It’s a really odd feeling. It feels like you have lost your past. Shortly after she passed I found a photo of myself and my parents on vacation and I wondered where we were. I realized that I have no one to ask anymore. It’s unsettling, but at the same time I am so thankful for the memories of her. That I had a wonderful mother and because of that I have a huge hole in my life that she left there. I have read that you don’t even fully process that a loss has occurred until a year later, and I think that’s true. I’m just now coming to terms with it I think. I used to dream of her. In every dream I had she would be there, but she’s not anymore.

It’s an odd club to be in, the no parents club. Most people in this club are much older than me. I feel cheated in some ways, having to deal with this so young, but in others I think it’s a gift. I’m still raising my kids and I think losing a parent when you are still raising young kids makes you a better parent. You see the long game and don’t get so wrapped up in the little messes. This year has been challenging on the parenting front. My special kids have been in crisis and my infant had a traumatic delivery and then now is dealing with food allergies. While all this is difficult, I know that in the end it means nothing. All these challenges will pass and my kids will grow up and leave the house, at least I hope so lol. They will become adults and I hope they will remember we loved them and always tried our best to give them what they needed. I hope they know we are proud of them no matter what, no matter their ability or not. I hope they will remember they had a grandmother who loved them and instilled in them a love for God and a love for hard work and determination. She has left a legacy of faith and love.

We’ve made it a year without her. I wasn’t sure I would. There were some dark days, but we kept moving forward, as time does. Today, mom, we remember. We will eat pizza and pecan pie in your honor and remember how much we loved you and how much you loved us.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Recently my oldest son turned 15. We started talking to him seriously about his goals in life and what he wants to be when he grows up. We have talked about this before, but now we are taking steps toward his goals and that is a sobering thought to me. It’s not the 8 year old saying he wants to be a astronaut and you say ‘Nice honey’ and move on. These goals are forming the trajectory of his life. I have been doing a lot of praying about how to help him with this. I very intimidated about helping someone plan what they will do in their life. It’s a big deal! As I was praying this vision came to me.

Psalm 127:4 “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.”

Our children are our arrows and we have the job of launching them in the right direction. There are stages to that process: ready, aim, fire!

Ready:

Most of your child’s life is spent in the “ready” phase. This is from birth till about high school. It’s when you are training them and molding them into the person they will be. This is when you are teaching them to tie their shoes and how to be a good friend. You teach them values and morals. This is like crafting the perfect arrow. If one little thing is off in an arrow it will not fly and hit it’s target. Now before you freak out, it’s not all about you! As a young parent you think that the success and failures of your children fall solely at your feet. If your baby doesn’t sit up on time or eat his vegetables, it’s all your fault. If your child doesn’t make good grades or isn’t popular in school, it’s your fault. As you grow as a parent you realize it’s not solely up to you. You are a good part of who they turn out to be but it’s also a matter of God given traits and their own choices that decide who they are. You are not responsible for those things. That should take some pressure off. Each child is his own person and make his own choices.

Aim:

This stage starts at around high school. The hard work of parenting is over, (Hahaha) Everyone in this stage will attest that the hard work has just begun. Granted you aren’t changing diapers and doing midnight feedings anymore, but the worry and stress of the teenage years is real. You can’t really understand it till you have one. This is when you are aiming your child in the direction that is right for them.

Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

If you read this flat you would think that it’s saying that if you are a good parent and do it all perfectly that your child will turn out good and if you mess it up, well then it’s all your fault if your child is a disaster. That’s not it. If you look at the original words on this verse you will see that it’s an individual thing. It’s saying you have to find the right path for each child and that looks different for each child. You have to help them find their path, not your path, or the path you think they need, but their path. This is where I find myself with my 15 year old. Helping him discover what his path is is an awesome responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I am trying to be so careful not to project my ideas of who I think  he is onto him. All parents have dreams for their child but this is where they get in the way. If your dream for your child is to be a doctor but that child wants to be a mechanic someone is going to be disappointed and frustrated. I want Sam to find what he wants in life no matter what that is. I am trying to listen to his interests and help him explore those without judgement or influence. I’m trying to give good advice without influencing his direction, but also not pointing him into some unrealistic. The options are limitless and helping him choose his path is a huge responsibility.

Fire!:

This is where we will be soon enough when our arrow leaves our hands and is heading toward his goal. I used to think this was one moment in time, but I don’t think it is now. I used to think it happened the moment he moved out from under our roof but I think it’s a gradual letting go. Last week we went to the DMV for him to get his learner’s permit. He was about to do the eye exam and the lady told him to get a alcohol swab and clean the machine before he used it. He had a hard time opening it and it took all my will power not to help. I realized that he was at the DMV to take a test to become a driver. The DMV was going to let him drive because they felt he was ready and he didn’t need his mommy to help him open the alcohol swab. He needed to do that himself. It’s a tiny example but it’s a bigger thing. Trying to not step in and allow your child to make their own decisions and stretch their wings is important. You don’t want them to get out on their own and fail because you have done it all for them and they can’t take care of things for themselves. Baby chickens will die after they hatch if you help them get out of the egg shell because they need to struggle and do that for themselves to develop the strength for the next part of life…living outside the shell. Our kids are the same.

Parenting is such an awesome task. God has given us these precious souls to guide into the path He has for them. I pray we are all up to the task and with God’s help we will be successful.