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I sat in my vehicle, fatigued and elated, after the graduation ceremony for my son and his peers, and opened the envelope that was addressed … to me.

As I opened the card (to the left) I read the unexpected, encouraging words, from one mom to another. And the floodgates opened.

Although this day had been one of joy, pride and celebration, the week had been one of self doubt, regrets, and feelings of parental failure. And we all have those times, don’t we?

The words in this note card fed my momma heart. They nurtured my soul. They gave me reason to lift my head.

Really what they did was remind me that I am human. Sometimes I blow it, as a parent. Sometimes I get it right. Don’t we all live with this reality?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us,

encourage each other and build each other up,
just as you are already doing.” 

This little card, written by another momma, did that for me. This small token, it’s greatest value is not only in the words, but the fact that she made the effort to encourage.

Not only did it encourage me, but it also reminded me that I need to encourage others. Don’t we all need that?

So, thank-you friend, fellow mom who is travelling this unpredictable, windy road called parenting. You have encouraged me and your kind act fed my momma soul.

 

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I’m home again, and back in my garage, covered in paint, and dust, and sweat.

I am working on a table and chairs that I have been hired to refinish. When completed, my labours will have produced a lovely finished product, that I will have labored on for about fifteen to twenty hours (a rather concervative estimate). It will be complete, I will deliver it, have my pocket padded, and be on my way to begin yet another project.

I am labouring in another way this week …

parenting.

Yesterday, my twenty-something daughter and her friend left for a road trip …

and I had labor pains, as I hugged her good-bye, forced a smile of well wished excitement and fun … and thought of all that could go wrong enroute.

Yesterday, my just-graduated daughter and her boyfriend headed south, across the Canada/US border for the first time (solo), to check out a waterfall, hang out at a park, shop, and have the best pizza this side of Chicago …

and I had labor pains, as I hugged her good-bye, wishing them a great day of fun … and thought of possible dangers of a waterfall, money issues, and car failures.

Today we will pick up our son, after two weeks away at camp, and I already know what he will say when we pick him up,

“I’m only home a week, then I want to go back for the rest of summer”

and I will have labor pains, as he will not be here much this summer … and I’ll miss him.

Never, as an expectant mom, did I imagine that my connection to my children had nothing to do with an umbilical cord. It has nothing to do with anything physical! As can be confirmed by mothers who have adopted or fostered children.

I don’t desire for my kids to live in momma fear. I don’t desire for them to only do that which makes me comfortable. I want them to live their lives within fearless wisdom, pursuing the dreams, desires and responsibilities that God has laid upon their hearts and minds.

A child does not labor for its mother, a mother labours for her child.

Not one book I read, in preparation for birth and delivery, ever informed me that the length of labor for a mom (a parent) never ends.

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Love Hurts

Are you a veteran? One who has gone before? Fought the good fight? Risked life and limb of one, for the greater good of many? Do you bear the scars of conflict? Does it rip sleep from your nights? Steal your attention during the days?

If you answered yes, you know what it is to …

love someone.

When we think of love, what we often think of are the sparkling eyed looks between a couple on their wedding day, or first looks of a mom or dad at their newborn, or those pics of people in our lives that we choose, crop, and edit so carefully before posting onto social media sites.

What we do not think of are those nights when your toddler has vomited all over himself, yourself and the cat. The fights between a couple when insults, disparaging remarks, and wedding rings get hurled between the two. Family reunions where one side of the family are in one room, and the other side is out on the porch.

Love can really stink!

Anyone who has parents, has a child, has a spouse, has a best friend knows what it is to love, and they know the pain that often is laced in the love.

Many years ago, the Everly Brothers, then Nazareth, sang:

“love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars …
love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain …love is like a stove, burns you when it’s hot …
love hurts”

To love is to risk, and that risk can hurt.

Any parent who has been sneered at by a moody teen (or, conversely, any teen who has been sneered at by a moody parent) knows what it is to have your heart ripped out without the touch of a hand.

Any spouse who has been neglected or taken advantage of knows what it is to question the value of marriage and love.

To love is to give and receive that which is intangible, not returnable, yet of more value that gold or diamonds.

Any parent who has had the joy of an embrace, a shared laugh or shared experience with their child, knows what it is to have lived heaven on earth.

Any spouse who has been appreciated, thought of, and cared for knows that love today is worth the hurt of yesterday.

Love is a risk, but it is worth it.

 

 

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One of our kids desires to spend Christmas with extended family … on the opposite coast of the country. Although my momma heart wants all of my kids with me for Christmas, I also desire greatly for our kids to not miss out on opportunities to spend time living their own lives. I felt I had easily made peace with this desire, until the other day …

“I just don’t want to be here at Christmas”

Wanting to be away is one thing, but to not want to be here … ouch!

That very same day, another child returned from a weekend retreat with our church youth group. I was so excited to hear about his time away, until I heard his reply to my question about his time away …

“It was great! I just love being at camp so much better than being here

I felt the knuckle punch, hard, to my abs, my throat.

Ah, but it didn’t end there!

My daughter’s and I had a plan to go to the church that my eldest attends, but then she had to work later than planned. I suggested that, rather than leave her out, we could go to another church together, later in the day. Together was, in my mind, the joy. Well, child number three, when we got back home from church, was out of the vehicle and into her room, with her door shut, faster than I could lower my feet from the vehicle.

Apparently, it was not her church of choice, and not joy-filled.

I went to bed that night feeling rather low, unappreciated, unloved.

It was not that they were desiring bad things, but that they were desiring them … more.

more than me.

As I worked through the scar tissue, I realized what my problem was how I heard their words … I heard them through momma ears, where there are momma-sized regrets.

I heard their words of preference of another place, through my memories of saying no to things that they have wanted me to do with them, over the years. The times they wanted just one more story, the times they wanted to go to the park, or play a board or video game, or make cookies, or have a tea party, or go for coffee.

What I heard was my own condemnation, my own guilt, my own regrets.

Moms, we need to stop living the guilt-laden life. We need to stop looking back, with regret and sadness over our choices, mistakes and weaknesses. We need to live

today.

We need to look forward, not back.

Our children are moving forward, grabbing for life’s new adventures, and we need to cheer them on, and be thankful that they want to share the stories of their life with us.

In the days since my momma version of the horrible, terrible, no good, really bad day, I have been embraced by arms and words of love from my three. With each embrace I was reminded that their desire for other is not their method of punishing me. As a matter of fact, they have far more memories of things we did together than of times I said not today, just wait, or no.

They are not living their increasingly independent-of-me lives, as a punishment for my frailties. As a matter of fact, they are growing increasingly independent because they have had space to grow, to make their own mistakes, to experience their own successes, and then to share their stories with me … even if my ears are not always ready to hear them.

Moms, lets:

look forward

hear words as they are spoken (not as we imagine them)

receive their stories as a loving, healing balm to heal our momma guilt

love them,

imperfectly, but sincerely, love them.

 

 

 

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*Though written three years ago, Momma Guilt continues for this Momma … I bet it does for us all … and continues to the end of our Earthly lives.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was growing up. And this little girl had dreams, aspirations, hopes and goals for her future. She dreamed of one day getting married, having babies, and doing it all just like she has seen on TV.

Unfortunately, she was born in 1969, and the TV moms who she  had modeled for her … were perfect!

There was June Cleaver, who, other than the obscure name her son Beaver had … was perfect.

Then there was Marion Cunnigham, who was ALWAYS making homemade goodies, not only for HER kids, but for all their friends!

Then there was Clair Huxtable, she made the concept of working mom look so easy! And she even had her, always loving, obstetrician hubby, who did most of the cleaning and cooking!

Ah, and then Caroline Ingalls … that woman could fix a fence, mend a sock, and chase Laura all over the prairies, and still get an enormous homemade dinner on the table, with enough to feed the weary traveler!

And, finally, Jane Jetson … even in space-time animation June Cleaver lives … and in size 8 (I have worn size 8, by the way … it just had a ‘1’ in front of the ‘8’).

All of these women had the same things in common …

– they were all slim … I am green with envy

– they were all pretty … so much to aim for

– they all were perfectly accessorized … this is where my love of my (faux) pearls originated

– they always made their hubbys happy … sigh

– their kids always loved and appreciated them … momma guilt!

The other day, I found myself deep in the mires of MOMMA GUILT … ever been there, ladies?

It had been a busy week, with another busy week to come (and so on, and so on, and so on …). So, Saturday was full with a To Do list that had no hope of getting done.

While hubby was finishing up his sermon (because he had spent the week dealing with ‘immediate’ stuff), and hoping to get some yard work done, I was to take our son to a birthday party, and get a few errands completed.

I got very few of those errands done, as I decided to throw in ‘dress shopping’ … grrr! I had hoped that the few ounces I’ve lost would make that a more enjoyable process … NOT! I think what I would need to lose is the whole, freaking, left side of my body! But, I digress!

Then it was time to pick my son up from the party … and I was scrambling … because I was late … again!

When I got there I was pounced upon by son … ‘mom can so-and-so and I get together today?’ Now, I admit, I hate lack of planning, on a good day, but, when my To Do list is long, my brain cells cannot even begin to think about adding more to it! So, I said … ‘NO.’

And this is where momma guilt began … Not really, of course, because that is with me ALL the time! You see, I have this dream in my mind of getting the ‘Mom of the Year’ award … and I have had that annual award … on January 1, until 12:01am, when I blow it. But, I digress … again.

Lets just say the ride home was very quiet … and I felt it! When I did try to converse and soothe, I was met with ‘but Mom …’ And, my momma guilt let me feel the full weight of his sorrow. Not because his present sorrow was so valid, but because my momma guilt is so close to the surface for me when it comes to my son.

– I was home fully with my daughters … I started back to work before my son entered kindergarten.

– I taught my daughters how to cook, to sew, to read … my son, not so much.

– He is eleven, and I still haven’t taught him how to ride a bike 😦

– I have rarely gone on school field trips with him … his sisters … many!

– I rarely play any ball sports with him.

Wow! Can I wallow, or what? Suffice it to say, that on this particular day, EVERY violation, every failure, every fault I have ever made, in the life of my son, I remembered and felt. Also, suffice it to say, I threw my own pity party, lasting most of the entire day! And, my To Do list … not so much got done.

Once I had shed my guilt-ridden tears, went out on my own (that is the key … on my own) to get groceries, had a good dinner (thanks to the grocery store providing fresh bread and roast chicken), talked to my mom on the phone (I don’t need to tell her whats happening … just hearing her voice makes me feel better), and played a very neck-and-neck game of chess with my son … the day was seeming brighter.

It’s amazing how taking the time to see how his video game system works, and playing a game with him seems to help us to reconnect once again.

I know I will never get that elusive ‘Mom of the Year’ award, but the good night hug (that just about asphyxiated me), along with an eye to eye, ‘Mom, I love you so much,’ from my boy made my momma guilt fade …

Take that June Cleaver, Marion Cunningham, Caroline Ingalls, Clair Huxtable and yes, even you Jane Jetson!

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When I was first pregnant, over two decades ago, I read every book I could find on pregnancy and parenting. I was certain that I could read how to do it, and that if I followed whatever these books prescribed, my child bearing and rearing would be perfectly flawless.

Though there are many great books at the local bookstores and online, it didn’t take too long to realize that raising a child is not something that you can learn from a book, nor is there a prescribed parenting style that can properly raise every child, by every parent.

It seems thatcwe simply need to acknowledge that we will do much of our ‘how to parent’ education on our feet.

As I look back over the parenting years, I am also forced to look forward.

In one year, our eldest daughter will complete her undergrad program in university.

In one year, our youngest daughter will complete high school.

In three years, our son and youngest child, will also graduate high school.

The ‘active’ parenting season is coming to a close.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish them babies again as I love the novelties and adventures that the teen and young adult stages of life bring to them, and then to us.

It’s just that …

as I look back three years …

  • our faux son (and his sister) from China, came to live with us as an International Student, and he will graduate, and move on to university in the months to come.
  • I made the change from part time work to full time.
  • my youngest daughter was entering high school.
  • only one child in the house was taller than me, and now I am the shortest.

Three years goes fast!

And the living and life of today, with our kids, will not return again.

And so, as I look back, and look ahead, I am learning a new lesson (one the parenting books failed to mention).

My choices and decisions for the next three years will be considered through a new lens …

one that reminds me of the time I have left with my kids under my roof.

Each question, each opportunity to do something with them (even when I am so very busy with my ‘important’ life), each invitation from them to join them in their desired activities, will be first viewed through the question of :

there are only about ___ days, months, weeks with this child …

will I regret having said “no” when they are gone?

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

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One of our kids was maxed out! You know, more assignments than time, more bills than money, more work than hours to rest. This child was down, discouraged and dreading the next day to come.

I was left feeling powerless. There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. There was nothing I could do to tangibly assist with all that was needing to be done, without acting as a rescuer … and we all know that, that does not help long-term. There was nothing I could remember from all of those parenting books. I was feeling powerless, and yet I felt such a desire to lessen the load for this child.

So I did all that I could do.

I prayed.

I prayed that this child would sense God’s presence.

I prayed that this child would put all trust and faith in Him (because we all tend to grab the steering wheel of life at times).

I prayed that this child would find a way in the busyness of life to take a Sabbath rest (don’t we all need that reminder?).

And I prayed more specific things for this child.

And I prayed every day, multiple times a day. It seemed that the more I prayed, the more this child was in my consciousness to remember to pray.

And just a few days later, this child came home telling me stories … stories of answered prayers.

This child did not know that these stories were ones of answered prayer, until I shared that. But, this child did not know the weight of that reality like I did.

You see, I pray for my kids each and every day. Most days, I admit, I do so out of robotic habit. And most days it seems the answer is

“wait”

But, this time I prayed differently, I prayed out of the desperation of a mother’s heart. There was simply nothing I had any earthly power to do to change the circumstances, and so I bowed to the One who I knew was the ONLY one who loved this child more than I do. I humbled myself, and offered my child up to God, in desperation.

God’s answers do not always come this quickly, or this joyfully, but we do need to remember that, on our knees (physically, or mentally) is the best way to parent.

And the prayer offered in faith
will make the sick person well;
the Lord will raise them up.
If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

James 5:15

 

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Monday night, as the lights dimmed in the gymnasium-turned-theater, I prayed again, for the millionth time,

“please let this be a positive experience for him.”

And I opened my eyes to the spotlight on my son.

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When the night was over …

when we arrived home, all smiling from ear to ear …

when hydration and satiation were achieved …

when he was sleeping in his bed …

I thought of how this,

this stage experience for our son,

was a microcosm for mothering, for parenting.

When our son got a one line part in the play we were delighted for him, and we shared in his excitement.

  • Each and every success our children have we feel in our parental, parallel universe.

His commitment was great! Attending every practice without a reminder from me.

  • When our kids want something, really want it, they will do what needs to be done.

When our son was offered a larger part, we felt the mixed emotions of sharing in his excitement as well as fear for the expectations that would be upon him.

  • From jobs, to college, to travel, to marriage … all great opportunities for our kids, and all come with greater expectations.

When I offered to help with lines, I was told it was not needed, that all was “fine” (the new, nasty four-letter ‘f’ word in our house).

  • Sometimes our kids do not want, do not need our help … even when we ‘need’ to help.

That night, that first presentation night, my heart was pounding, as though I was the one waiting in the wings …

And that is the reality of parenting …

With each act of giving them control of their choices, their actions, their successes and failures …

Our mother-hearts are still tied by an invisible umbilical cord.

And, as they emerge from the wings onto the stage of life, our hearts walk with them …

silently whispering into their hearts

“you can do it”

while lifting them up to God in prayer, that His grace and protection might be on them.

And, like in the play our son was performing, The Outsiders, don’t we all have

Great Expectations that they would simply,

Stay Golden …

 

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It was a recent conversation with my eldest daughter (who happens to be a Psych. Major) that made me ponder the effects of my being a mother has on my being a daughter.

I had a good childhood, surrounded by a cornucopia of immediate and extended family members.

I lived in a place where community meant everyone (but what else could it mean in a village of less than two thousand people?).

I got a good education, by people who cared about their students.

I was exposed to Christianity, even though my parents did not practice that lifestyle.

I was encouraged that I could do whatever I put my mind to.

I was loved … really, really loved.

If I were to attach one word to my childhood it would be … blessed!

Now, get your imaginations out of Cleverville! I said blessed … not perfect! not flawless! not without tears! or hurts! or disappointments! or damage!

There was a time in my early adulthood that I vividly felt the flaws of my upbringing … the hurts from childhood … the damages. I pondered (too long) the disappointments I felt in some of my memories and experiences.

This is all normal, for we need to go through the ice-cold waters in our memories to start to feel the warmth again. We need to feel the frigid to realize that our parents are not perfect … so as to prepare us for the reality that, as parents, we too are not perfect.

As I look back on my own parenting of our three kids, it is when they were very young, that the warmth of forgiveness began to touch my mother-heart.

Anyone with young children will tell you of the ease with which a child will forgive. I remember going to each of our kids on many (many, many, many) occasions to apologize for some hurt, disappointment, damage … tears that I caused them. Each time my kids would immediately, readily, enthusiastically respond, “it’s okay Mommy.” And there and then, my sins forgiven, it was over and forgotten.

As my kids are growing into the young adult years, I am becoming more and more aware that they will soon be sliding into more reflective, more critical years as they look back on their own childhoods … on their own mother. I realize I will need to grow thicker skin, and discerning ears. I realize I will need to put unconditional love into practice.

It is my own kid’s unconditional forgiveness of me, that helped me to forgive, and forget the imperfections of my own parents. It is through my own kids that I was able to look at my parents as having done what they did, with the knowledge and experience available to them when they were in the deep waters of parenting.

With all that said, they did the best they could … and I was blessed.

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My daughter turns twenty-one today …

I have a daughter who turns twenty-one today?????

How could this be?

I am barely forty (with four years experience)!

For me, turning twenty-one means truly being an adult. Although you could legally vote and drink alcohol (hopefully not at the same time) when you turned nineteen, it is twenty-one that is the age that sounds like you are no longer ‘trying out’ adulthood, but you have arrived.

20863_446617465589_882999_nSpeaking of having arrived, what a gift your arrival was to your dad and I, twenty-one years ago. For days and weeks (and yes, even now) I would look at you, staring into the deep blue pools of your eyes, amazed that you came from me, amazed …

Your safe arrival into our arms and lives was a symbol of hope that two years earlier seemed far away …

… symbols of hope have a way of doing that.

Speaking of hope, that is my message to you on this, your twenty first birthday.

14638_234749120589_7649780_nAccording to http://www.freedictionary.com, to hope is “to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.”

I would alter the definition to say :

hope is the expectation of joy, and that expectation brings an unexpected joy even before the hope is fulfilled

And, when the doctor lay your wet, newborn body in my arms, our hopes were fulfilled.

Speaking of fulfilled, that is what I feel in having you as my oldest daughter … fulfilled. I remember well the Thanksgiving in 1995, when I was confronted with the very real reality that there might not be any more Mini Wheats ( 😉 ) in our family. I remember being confronted with the question, “can I be content in being mom to one?” My dear, there was no delay in responding my joyful, “yes.”

yes … I am content18170_297599940589_370778_n
yes … I am fulfilled
yes … I have joy

My thanksgiving for you is endless, never-ending.

And speaking of never-ending, my love for you is never-ending, unconditional, and it goes with you, wherever you may go, and whatever you might do with your life.

You have the joy, of the expectation, that you are stuck with me … whether you like it or not.

I will love you, forever.

But, as you already know, and have had the joy that comes with expectation, with hope …

My love for you, any human’s love for you, will never provide the joy, the hope, that Christ provides. It is in Him that we can have “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

What a great hope we have! Now lets celebrate with joy of what is expected 😉

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“My hope is built on nothingless
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name”

Cornerstone

 


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