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I am not a father. I do not know what it is like to be a father. That said, I think it must be tough to be a dad.

The biological part is, of course, the easiest.

The role of father has many expectations … spoken and presumed of, wordlessly.

Dads are expected to do everything a mom does, from earning a living, to changing diapers, to snuggles at bedtime, to helping with homework, to fixing the car, the meals and the owies. In all of that (and more), dads and moms are expected to do all that is needed to raise a little human into an independent and contributing member of society. This is good, as it is only right that both parties should invest equal effort to do such an important task as raising a real live human.

But, equality is not often reality. Sure there are some tasks (feeding, helping with homework, bandaging cuts and making a nut-free lactose-free gluten-free sandwich that either parent can manage, but not all parenting tasks are for both parents.

Our kids know that I am most definitely NOT the one to call if they have questions about phone plans, car insurance or their tire pressure. Sure I could Google it, but I just do not know, and do not care to know … because their dad has more interest, more knowledge and more experience in those areas of parenting.

They also know that their dad is the one who is most likely to order pizza, take them for Chinese or buy them a burger.

Both of us can offer a hug or sit and chat for hours, but I am more likely to initiate these … because that is how I am inclined to speak love to our kids. Whereas their dad is more likely to drop whatever he is doing to help them with whatever they request … because that is how he is inclined to speak love.

It is tough for dads, because, often, their love language is often not one of nurture (though it can be for some, as there are always exceptions). We, humanly, see love in a very narrow way … as affection … but love can be expressed in so many other ways, in so many other languages … we just need to tune our ears to the language that is being spoken.

In our world today there is so much negativity spoken about men, about the failures and weaknesses of men. Yet, there are also the good men, who have lived their lives as a service to others, to their kids.

The ones who take the place of one who only contributed biologically.

The ones who toss their kids in the air for the joyful giggles that follow.

The ones who race into the packed auditorium just to catch their child’s school performance.

The ones who tell dad jokes or the when I was a child stories.

The ones who take their kids to swimming, to football, to their friends houses, or pick them up late at night.

The ones who drop whatever they are doing to help their kids figure out their phone plan, their car insurance, to sell their vehicle, to figure out their bank account,

to order pizza …

To all those dads who do so much more for us than we often acknowledge … simply because we see love through a definition that does not include your unique expressions of love and commitment …

Thank-you … don’t give up!

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It is said that if you want to know what you value, look at how you spend your money. I think that is probably a good indicator, but I also think that what (if) we pray indicates what we value.

I was motivated recently to pray about something I had not prayed about before.

Before this motivation, I had thought it was a good idea, but somehow I had never gotten my act together to find a way to remind me, daily, to pray in this direction.

In the image, above, you will see two bowties and a necklace contained in a framed shadowbox. It is and onto a wall inside our bedroom door, as a reminder to pray … for the future spouses, future marriages or future as a single (because marriage isn’t for everyone) for each of our (adult) children.

Marriage, the representation of how God loves his church (his people), is not for the faint of heart. It can make or break a person, it can make us better, or bitter. It is as much about how we respond to what another does to us (good and bad) as what they do. It is an exercise in working to achieve 100:100 (50:50 is only just surviving).

It is the story of God (the bridegroom) loving his own, and of us (the bride) choosing to receive the love and redemption that he offers.

Within the image (above) you will see the words of Ruth (1:16):

where you go,
I will go

Interestingly enough those are not Ruth’s words to a lover, but to the mother of her deceased husband (Naomi). She was vowing that she would entrust her future alongside this mother in law. She chose to stay with this woman, despite how bleak a future it might be for two widows of that time.

The story enfolds that they find a kin, a relative who could be their redeemer, their saviour. He chooses to take Ruth as his wife. Then, as culture would expect, their first born is given to Naomi, to raise as her son, her redeemer.

Those words of Ruth, where you go I will go, were her chosen commitment to be Naomi’s redeemer … at whatever cost to her.

This is marriage, sans rose-colored glasses. We are to love that much, love that selflessly.

That is why choosing who to marry is of such importance. The choosing of who to marry is the threshing floor practise of separating the wheat (the edible, nutrient-rich part) from the chaff (the inedible hulls of the wheat). It is this choosing, left to our adult children, that I now vow to lift up to God, each day.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God. 
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
Ruth 1:16-17

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I read a blog the other day about mothering in the middle, when one feels a bit like a taxi driver, fast food cook supply manager, academic assistant, nutritionist, administrative assistant and cheerleader. I found myself reminiscing through that non-stop stage.

It happened to be on a day I was utterly bored.

You see, I am at the mothering young adults stage, the hands-off mothering stage.

The movement from mom in the middle to mom of young adults is similar to a hairpin turn driving down a steep mountainside … you’re moving at speeds you didn’t know possible, then, all of a sudden, you make a sharp turn facing the opposite direction … and the sun is obscuring your view, making it hard to see where you are going.

Our kids are all finished with high school and in varying levels of study and work. Two of our three are still living at home, one in another community. To be honest, I vacillate between wanting them to all be out and independent and wanting them all under one roof (mine).

This is the stage of hands-off mothering … unless they need me … RIGHT NOW! I am talking drop everything and help them right now.

This is where, I guess, boundaries should be developing … but I so need to be needed, and really, no one needs me as much as I desire to be needed anymore. So, I am struggling to draw those boundaries … wanting to be available if someone might have need of me (the struggle is real).

Then there is the I am gonna sever my tongue, from biting it so frequently part of this hands-off mothering stage. They need to be making their own decisions about their faith, their schooling, their work, their income and relationships … I just SO want to offer my opinions … all of the time.

As I was writing this post, hubby let me know what time one of our kids got in last ‘night’ (aka this morning) … gotta say, I really didn’t want to know … that ostrich with it’s head in the sand? I am getting to know him (or is it her) quite well.

I am learning that they need to make mistakes … their own. Live with their own consequences. It was a freedom I was graciously offered by own parents and I believe that I need to regift this freedom to them.

Then there are the heartbreaks … they are so real, so lasting at this young adult stage (though many can come to them earlier). Their relationship struggles, loneliness, uncertainty in their abilities, in their future, their jobs. Life for a young adult is not what it was thirty years ago, when I was twenty. There is little in society today, for a twenty-something that is typical … other than nightlife. And if they are not heartbroken for what is (or is not) going on in their own lives, they live vicariously through the hurts of their friends.

These heartbreaks ripple into my own heart … stories that include suicide, health struggles, drug addiction, sexual assault, homelessness and single parenting get processed with mom on SOS … and I have no answers when I am invited into these conversations … but I pray … how I pray.

At this stage, their friends are not necessarily ones that I know, have met, have made cookies with and carpooled to various events. Their friends are often faceless names that remind me that their life is their own.

Then there is the attempt to get everyone together for one meal … Oh my lanta! I think world peace might be easier to attain!

But …

They are learning, they are seeking, they are even thriving. They do good work, love deeply, seek justice, care for each other …

and they ask me to pray.

When they or their friend is in a tough place, they still ask me to pray.

And if that is the common thread of their need of me, at this hands-off mothering stage … then I will pray.

There is a video that I would return to (over and over) in those mom in the middle years, called The Invisible Woman (below). I realized, the other day, that it still has something to offer me at this hands-off stage of mothering:

“At times my invisibility has felt like an infliction to me,
but it is not a disease that is erasing my life.
It is the cure for the disease of self-centeredness.
It is the antidote to my own pride.
It’s okay that they don’t see,
we don’t work for them,
we work for Him.
We sacrifice for Him.
They will never see,
not if we do it right,
if we do it well.
Lets pray that our work will stand as a monument to an even greater God.”
Nicole Johnson

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Prince Harry said it best, “how any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension” in his response, after witnessing the birth of his son.

Today, in North America, is Mother’s Day. A day when mothers (biological or adopted) and mother-figures are celebrated for … just being mum (mom, ma, mommy, mother, etc.).

It is a lovely day for so many, who have done so much.

For others it is not so lovely. If that is you, stop reading this and click on my post, written just for you, for I understand When Mums Day Hurts.

What Prince Harry didn’t know, when his wife pushed their son into their shared world, what he will not know for many years to come, is that his wife has just begun the hardest work of motherhood. As the umbilical cord was cut, the real work of motherhood begins … that of letting go.

Motherhood is the most awe-inspiring, heart-swelling, prayer motivating, faith-building, white knuckle determination, rip your heart out and squeeze every last drop of life from you experiences.

It is the indescribable experience of a lifetime, that lasts a lifetime. It is a constant push-pull, constant drawing in and letting go.

The job of a mother is, from the beginning of conception, to grow and build and prepare a child for independence … from herself.

Our intuitive desire to hold tight, over-written by our biological inclination to prepare our children for life apart from us.

As a child of a mother, I am keenly aware that in no way can I ever out-love my mother. Nor can I need her as she does me. And it is her fault (being blamed is also part of motherhood 😉 )! For it was my mother who taught me to grow up, that I can do it myself, that I can do anything.

As my own children have grown into adults, I have grown to understand that my letting go of my children continues as I step back and allow them to be independent of me … my advice, my plans, my choices (so much more easily said than done … do I hear an amen?). It is this independence of body and mind that can bring some of the sweetest reunions, when they bring their life back into closeness with mine, sharing what they have learned with me.

Letting go is hard for us moms. For we love our children so much more deeply than words can express. Yet, letting go is the mantra of mums. It is the daily cutting of the umbilical cord, the daily waving good bye, the daily whisper you can do it. And they move forward from where we are, watching them go.

When my days of life and living are done, when my kids sit around a table looking at photos, laughing at silliness, recounting memories that only they share, I don’t care if they think my giving birth was monumental, that my brownies were the best or that I transported them like a full time taxi driver when they were kids.

I hope they are able to say
I struggled to point them to Christ,
I loved deeply,
hugged tightly
and that I let them go.

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Another year, baby girl. Twenty-two years of life and living to celebrate.

I have been thinking about this birthday for weeks now, somehow it is haunting me as though there is something of greater significance than my eye can see, my mind can imagine.

Years before your birth there was a popular movie, called Dances with Wolves. None of it’s story really matters, just the name and story of one of the main characters, Stands with a Fist.

After another group had killed her family, Stands with a Fist was raised by a Sioux medicine doctor. She suffered the teasing and name calling of others, who only saw their differences. One day, she hit another woman in the face, hard, and she fell to the ground. The teasing ended that day, so began her tribe name of Stands with a Fist.

When Stands with a Fist first appears in the movie she is in deep mourning, for the husband who had died. She is seen injuring, mutilating herself, trying to create visible scars for the agonizingly painful invisible ones she felt, deep within her heart.

So, you might be wondering, what does this movie, this Stands with a Fist chick have to do with your birthday?

Well, you’ve had a season of losing your foundation, your security. You’ve experienced, in a number of situations, the impact of being different (even bullied in direct and indirect ways). You have struggled in your health, relationships, work, education, finances.

But, I saw something change in you … something that was never part of your nature before.

You started to raise your fists.

Not physically, of course, for your nature is non violent, but mentally, emotionally, relationally. You started to stand up for yourself, advocating for yourself, protecting yourself.

There is a strength in you, that I have not seen before, emerging. You are doing the hard things, the awkward things, the self-preservation things, not giving into the bullying of your struggles, but hitting back, refusing to stay in the dust.

Out of discouragements and heartbreaks and struggles and violations of all sorts there is a refusal to wallow and a move towards health … whole and complete health.

I see you rising from the dust of weakness and building a foundation that is partially what you first were given, and part the experience of life.

Know, though, that you do not have to fight these hard things alone …

Happy Birthday baby girl … may this resilience only continue to grow in you.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles,
but not crushed and broken.
We are perplexed
because we don’t know why things happen as they do,
but we don’t give up and quit.
We are hunted down,
but God never abandons us.
We get knocked down,
but we get up again and keep going.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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So you ever want to tell your adult child what to do? what not to do?

Not me (insert sarcasm)! Of course I do! And sometimes I give in to the impulse and speak my wisdom for their not-listening ears to ignore.

The other day I wrote, in Parental Responsibilities, about how our job, as parents, is not to plan the lives of our kids.

Today, I am going to share an example from the Bible of one who did it right. By “did it right” I do not mean that pain and suffering were elevated, perfection was achieved by following a list of if thens or that they all lived happily ever after. So, right now you might be doubting this unnamed example … stick with me.

In Luke 15:12- :

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country … and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

A young man, in his infinite wisdom, decided that he was an autonomous adult, well-aware of the world, confident in his worldly ways, and he wanted to taste freedom.

In his premature eagerness to live independent of dear ‘ol dad, he went to his father and asked for his inheritance.

Lets look at what this father did. His son, who he loves, asks for his money (since it is his inheritance, this young man should not be receiving it from his father until his father has died) … and “he divided his property”. He just gave him the money!

I am a mom. I have wrestled with wanting to help my kids, to give wisdom when they won’t hear it, to encourage them to get out more, to stay in more, to call their mom more. I have wrestled with their not going to a church, and with what church they go to. I have wrestled with who their friends are, and aren’t. I have wrestled with what they are wearing (or what is missing from what they are wearing), what (and who) they are listening to and what they are saying.

And I have lay, motionless in bed, as they head out the door, praying that they will be safe, be with good reliable friends, be wise.

And I wonder (I really do), should I put my foot down and just say NO! No, you cannot go out at this hour! No, you cannot go there! No, you cannot do that!

So I come back to the story of the ‘model’ dad in the Bible … better known as the father of the prodigal son. This father must have known what his young son would do with the money. He must have known the dangers that awaited his naive man-child. Yet, he gave him the money … the money that, he knew, would make his son’s choices less wise and more danger-filled.

Why did he do it? What was he thinking? And why should he and his parenting be a model for us?

After his son had left he must have known what would befall this child of his as he arrived in the ‘big city’ with pockets full of money and brain still devoid of wisdom. This father must have tossed and turned more than slept.

We are told that, once in the new place, his son “squandered his wealth in wild living.” I don’t think that wild living then was any different than now. There were and are drugs, alcohol, crime, violence, gambling, people who would help him spend his money and the availability of the world’s oldest profession (and the sexually transmitted diseases that accompany such practices).

That father had to have known that this is exactly what would have occurred.

Yet, he agreed to give him the money …

model father?

This father, who loved his son(s) knew that his son(s) would only truly understand and love him, in return, if they chose it of their own. He had done the tasks of loving parenthood, of providing everything parental responsibility required, yet, he knew that they would only fully receive his love by choosing it of their own free will. He knew that this son was choosing a dangerous path, but he also knew the seeds that he had planted in him from birth, and had hope that they would haunt him like a hound.

The story goes on:

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

And the hound was closing in.

And the seed, so long in the dry ground, began to germinate.

And the son, not out of love for his father, but out of his own physical need, turned towards home, towards his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

There is much in those words. Parents who love their children not just read but feel what the father here felt. The love, the compassion, the relief … for the running away of the son culminated in the the run of the father, to his son.

For the child cannot outrun the love of the father, the mother.

He ran to his son, not repulsed by the son’s loss of his money, his ‘wild living’, his sins … but eager to receive him home, where the door is always open, where forgiveness always lives, where arms are outstretched … where the parents still run to the prodigal.

As CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “the great thing to remember is that … His (God’s) love for us … is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

One of my favourite poems is The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson. Written over a hundred years ago, it tells of how Thompson viewed running away from God, and how, like a bloodthirsty hound on the moors, God perseveres, chases and pursues us until we surrender to Him.

John Stott, in his book Why I am a Christian,” confesses that he is a Christian not because of the influence of his parents and teachers, nor to his own personal decision, but to being relentlessly pursued by ‘the Hound of Heaven’, that is, Jesus Christ himself.”

So, this model father of the Bible, why is he a model?

Quite simply because this father of the prodigal son is God himself.

He, who said yes, to handing over our inheritance into our immature, naive and arrogant hands.

He, who loves us enough to allow us to choose to receive and accept his love.

He, who desires to redeem our brokenness, our sin, if only we would recognize that the hunger in the pit of our stomach cannot be filled by anything in the world.

He, who is always, always, waiting at the gate, searching the horizon, ready to run … not just after our children, but after us, as well.


“This won’t last, it’s not the end … it’s not the end”

Behold what manner of love
The Father has given unto us,
That we should be called the sons of God

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I want to be a good parent … don’t we all?

We want to be a soft landing, a steady hand, good council, a consistent voice and always pointing in the right direction. We want to be their reliable protector, their sure guide, their fair disciplinarian, their comfort.

In short, what we want is to do the tasks of parenting perfectly, so that they avoid mistakes, hurts and danger.

“Planning out my children’s lives isn’t my job. My best job as a mom is to be obedient to God. God’s job is everything else.”

As I agonized over a struggle in the life of one of our children, one day, I came across the quote (above, by Lisa Terkurst). It was as though God placed it right before my eyes, his finger pointing to it, as if to ensure my attention.

Our three are not children, not school-aged. Though two still live at home, though one is still (for eight more months) a teen, they are all societally, legally and self-actualized adults.

I am no longer responsible, in any way (except by my own choice) for their hygiene, their meals, their education, their housing, their transportation … the list goes on and on.

Never, ever, has it been my responsibility to plan out their lives. Not when they were children, not when they were teens, not now that they are adults. That is their responsibility, their freedom.

The Bible tells us, as parents that we are responsible for:

  • discipline and instruction (Ephesians 6:4)
  • training (Proverbs 22:6)
  • basic necessities for life (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • modelling the honouring of our mother and father (Ephesians 6:2)
  • blessing them (Proverbs 127:5)
  • encouragement (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
  • teaching them to love the Lord God (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
  • saving up for them (Proverbs 19:14)
  • showing compassion on them (Psalm 103:13)
  • teaching them to care for the Earth and living things (Genesis 1:28)
  • teaching restraint (1 Samuel 3:13)
  • teaching them to obey (Ephesians 6:1)

Nowhere does it say to plan their life for them.

So, who in the Bible is a model of good parenting?

More to come on Thursday, with a story about a parent who allowed their children to plan their own lives.

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