Tag: parenting (page 1 of 2)

In the Bunker with Jesus

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about parenting and our view of God. Later I was at a park with my friend, Emily Conrad, and her children. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside Emily through some really dark times.

She is a woman of tremendous faith and authenticity who is “working out her salvation”, looking for the real Jesus. When I asked her to share where she had seen Jesus recently, she told this story which I asked her to write down for you. It is a joy to welcome Emily to the blog today!

In my basement, there is a storage closet that we have lovingly started calling The Bunker.

It houses my camping gear & tent, Christmas wrapping paper, numerous garage sale items and far too many books from grad school.

About a month ago, my husband and I decided that our children (or maybe ourselves) needed a safe place to get out all of our angst, our anger, our emotions that have a tendency to scare the other members of the family in the midst of daily life with five people.

We made up a rule that the Bunker was the place to go when you feel out of control, and that Mom or Dad would stay in the Bunker with you while you yelled or screamed or cried at the top of your lungs. However, we might use our earplugs so that our eardrums didn’t shatter.  The important thing, though, was that we would stay together in the messiness. Specifically, we thought our middle daughter might benefit from a safe place to “just get it all out”- and side note, our therapist gave us the green light for this idea. ☺

Our middle daughter is a rock star 6 yr old, a little lady who has faced more uphill battles in the first few years of her life than most people face in their entire lifetime- abandonment, attachment issues, relocation, being the lone black kiddo in a white family, change of name-all before she was 2 years old. And with all of that comes a lot of heartache and emotions that she can’t process in her body so it often comes out in brutal, ugly screaming- like a torrent of anger and loss and pain. I want to say that I am able to handle her strong emotions like a champ. I’ve been her Mom for four years already – I should be a pro. However, that’s not quite true. Her outbursts make me want to run away most days, if I’m really honest.

So recently we had a moment, my daughter and I, when I was getting heated up at just the same rate that she was getting heated up. Things were not going to end well. An issue that started out small and was rapidly blowing up.

Time to head to the Bunker. This was not super well-received, but we headed to the Bunker anyway.

At first there was a total refusal to work through things: “I’m not mad and I’m not going to do this”, which quickly turned into an epic scream fest, (by her-not me). Think banshee decibel. I calmly popped in my earplugs as she was screaming and I thought to myself, “Go ahead, girlfriend, get it all out. I am in total control here. Do what you’ve gotta do. I am calm.” Not very empathic, obviously.

As she stood there screaming, beads of sweat on her forehead, I noticed something in my spirit that went like this: “I wish I wasn’t stuck in here. This feels so messy and chaotic. Ugh. Anyone else want to trade places with me?! I don’t do mess.”

And as I stood with my daughter in the Bunker, but not truly with her, I realized that I don’t like bunker situations.  In fact, I usually run from them.

But I know that the past several years of my life have been just that- Bunker-y. Messy, chaotic, yuck…both internally and externally as we have navigated life with our daughter. It has been lonely and exhausting and has felt like the pit of despair- just like it felt in the Bunker that day.

After several minutes, there was a flicker of hope that went off in my heart as I started crying, rather sobbing, over my life and my mistakes and my own heartache and my own need to feel heard and loved in the midst of messiness and brokenness – how I have needed someone to be with me in the thick of it. In the Bunker, I felt Jesus say, “I am with you in all of your Bunker, in your anger, in your despair, and it’s not too much for Me. I can take this on for you.”

I turned to my daughter and with what can only be called the mercy and compassion of Jesus, I saw her tears and fear and pain and I thought, “I can take this on for you- I can stay with you in the Bunker whatever that entails. I can take on your messiness and chaos because that’s what love does.” As I knelt down to my daughter and hugged her and cried with her, there was such a profound sense of connection and empathy and I-am-with-you-in-this, all of this.

I’m not sure if you have a place or a sacred moment or even someone who sits in the Bunker with you, but I hope these things for you.

Looking for Dad

Friday I’m sitting in the back of Starbucks with my Bible and study books laid out before me when a dad in a dark business suit walks in with his teenage son before work and school.

Dad just has coffee.

Son sits down with most everything edible on the menu – the meal of a growing guy who’s already taller than his father. Instead of coffee, he sips from a juice box – the one hint that there is still a little boy hiding inside this gangly boy/man.

Father and son are awkwardly silent. Eyes glance anywhere but at each other. It’s painful to watch.  I can almost hear their minds spinning, searching for common ground…anything to talk about in this season when a head of red hair seems to be the only thing they share.

What if I say something stupid?

What if he sees my weakness?

After a few seconds Dad gets up with his coffee and walks out into the hall, leaving son behind without saying anything. Is he looking for a bathroom? Making a call? Can he just not stand the deafening silence?

Teenage Opie sits alone, eating his breakfast. Curiously, I notice that he doesn’t pull out a smartphone to distract or entertain himself. He just eats, looking lonely. And I wonder what’s going through his mind. What is he thinking about his dad?

Does he know God? What might this relationship be teaching him about his heavenly Father?

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God…”

“Come to me…”

The dad never comes back, and when finished eating, the son wanders into the hall looking for him.

What if Dad had said, “This is a hard season for both of us. I want to be a good dad, but I’m unsure of myself. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, but I care. I want to listen to what’s important to you. I’m for you. Nothing can make me love you less than I do right now.”

Saturday I was at the same table when a young mom comes in with her 4-year-old daughter, large cheery pink bow in her hair and a smile to match.

Although in an easier season, like Dad and son, this mom and daughter have a chasm of years and experience between them.

But Mom never once pulls out a cell phone. She looks her daughter in the eye and  asks questions and chats about everything important to a toddler.

What is that little girl learning about her heavenly Parent?

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

 

When we are present, when we lean in, when create safe places, we reflect the image of our Heavenly Father.

Worst. Parents. Ever.

Do you ever feel this way? Like you must be the worst parents ever?

Do you feel like you’re perpetually living a Plan B Christmas? Like NOTHING is going right?

Amazon was out of the Syma S107 Remote Control Helicopter so your child will probably have to be in therapy because they will be warped – devastated by disappointment, and labeled with a huge L.

You ran out of time, so instead of homemade cookies for the Christmas pageant reception you ran through Target to scoop up some store-bought ones, which actually took you an hour and 17 minutes (almost as long as it would have taken you to bake them).

Decorating the Christmas tree was supposed to be a fun family activity, but your 4-year-old swooped around the tree in his superman costume and knocked off two of the heirloom ornaments from your mother, breaking them into tiny pieces which the dog immediately ate. You’re still cleaning up glittery dog vomit.

You’re not alone.

Have you ever thought that maybe Mary and Joseph felt like the worst parents ever?

Trying to adapt to a Plan B life, they’ve absorbed the loss of a traditional wedding and “It’s a Wonderful Life” family.

Now they’ve had 9 months to adjust to the news that Mary is growing, you know… GOD in her womb, and like any expectant parents they’re probably nervous but preparing to do their best.

Maybe Joseph has made a cradle. Maybe Mary’s mom is ready to come and help out when the baby arrives. They probably have a PLAN for Pete’s sake!

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I’m guessing that walking 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for the census was not part of their plan.

What do you think they felt as they traveled? Did their fear of the unknown come out sideways in anger or impatience with each other? Did their out-of-controlness in the big things cause them to be controlling with each other in the little things?

Maybe Mary figured that since she was carrying royalty, God would alert others in Bethlehem and someone would put her up in a beautiful home. Nope. Didn’t happen.

Did they hope that at least Plan B would include a modest room and a little privacy?  No luck there either.

In the stable – stinky, dirty, crowded, what were they thinking? Were they feeling like the worst parents ever?

We can’t know the anguished labor pains that may have come from Mary, or the desperate pleas that Joseph may have given for help because they aren’t recorded.

Did they felt confidently carried in the will of God, or did they felt panicky, like when company shows up early and you’re not ready?

What we do know is this. They did what they could. They accepted the unexpected with commitment and creativity. And that’s all we can do as parents.

“Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray–with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, “Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.” – Anne Lamott

God is with you. In the dirty stable, or the bathroom or when you think you’re going to lose it with your mother-in-law.

You aren’t the worst parent ever. But you’re not the best parent ever either, because He is.

 

What Do We Say to our Daughters and Sons?

Back in the 90’s we grappled with how to talk to our kids about Bill Clinton’s immorality.

Yesterday a dad with two daughters asked me and a couple other moms with grown kids how he ought to talk to his 11-year-old about what she is hearing about the Trump tape.

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He started a conversation, driving her home one day recently and she said “Oh I know all about that! I hear about it at school”.

Here’s the thing. Our kids may have INFORMATION.

Our daughters and sons may know that WHAT they are hearing is wrong, but they need to know WHY it is inappropriate and HOW to be strong and brave in potential situations they may find themselves in.

If there is one regret I have as a mom it’s that I didn’t coach my kids for awkward situations more.

The good news is that this terrible tape and election in the gutter gives us a chance to reiterate with our daughters (and sons) that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has created them inside and out as amazing bundles of uniqueness to be cherished – treated with respect, and honor.

Over and over again as they go out the door we need to remind them that they are precious masterpieces of infinite worth.

And then we need to say…

If someone uses lewd, crude language that offends you…

If someone talks about another person in a way that is degrading…

If someone asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable…

If someone touches you in a way that is unwanted…

You are the boss of you.

You are the boss of your eyes and ears, your mind and body.

You ALWAYS have a choice. God has made you of infinite worth and so you look up, not down.

You may be scared, but you whisper the prayer that never fails: “Help.” Then you stand tall and use your voice. You say, “STOP! THIS IS NOT OK!”

  • But what about the value of tolerance?

This kind of behavior is evil and evil is never to be tolerated.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [or women] to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

  • But what if they laugh at me?

You pity them. You look them straight in the eye and say, “Your laughter does not make me less than.” I am trying to respect you and I expect you to show me respect too.

 “Strong men — men who are truly role models — don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.” Michelle Obama

  • But what if they call me a prude?

Words matter. They can hurt . But when that happens you wrap yourself in this word: “BELOVED”. And you remember:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  Luke 6:45

May God work even this together for good in our homes. May we raise brave, kind, strong sons and daughters who respect themselves and others.

“When they go low, we go…”

8 Valuable Choices I Learned From Mentor Moms

When my kids were tinies I realized quickly that I needed all the help I could get. I was hungry for ANY lifeline when I was drowning in a sea of uncertainty about ALL OF THE PARENTING THINGS. Fortunately I had some wise, godly moms who were a season, or two or three ahead of me and shared some valuable lessons. IMG_0175 Coke Evans, a mentor in the 80’s 🙂

Here are 8 choices they taught me to make: Continue reading

3 Suggestions to Maintain Sanity in the Summertime

Dear Mamas,

I know you. I’ve been you. It’s May and you are so over school.

You are over science projects that involve late-night trips to Target, and one million school permission slips, and person of the week posters, and lost binders, and room-mother cupcakes to bake, and being the Enforcer of All things Homework.

You’re ready for Summertime when the livin’ is easy. You have dreams of vacation and weekend lemonade stands, popsicles, and your kids happily making forts in the back yard or having a marathon game of Monopoly on a stormy day. There will be barbecues and lake time, sparklers,  hopscotch and baseball games that will just magically happen like at Disney World where no one ever loses a flip flop or  their temper.FullSizeRender-14

Can I offer a few suggestions before Summer is upon us and your dreams come crashing down like the Excalliber Roller Coaster at Valley Fair? Continue reading

Re-Writing “Mother’s Day”

Mother’s Day is tricky. Can I get an “amen”?!

We all have a mother somewhere, but not every mom is accessible. Not everyone has a relationship with their mom that they feel like celebrating. Not every child is living the life you hoped for them. And not everyone who would like to be a mom IS a mom right now. Someone reading this has lost a child. Another has been adopted.

Mother’s Day is full of land mines, often triggered by the most tentative steps. Sometimes a day meant to be about love is one of longing or loss…of pain, tears, and unmet expectations. I’ve cheered you right up, eh? Continue reading

The Prayer I Resist Praying

I was g-chatting with daughter Katy yesterday morning.  This is how it went…

Katy: Thanks for sending your Zambia itinerary! Turns out I may be traveling at the same time for work.

Me: Oh! Fun!  Where?

Katy: Kabul.

Me: WHATTTT????!!!  As in Kabul Afghanistan?

Katy: And this is why I told you over g-chat…to preserve my ear-drums.

We’ve made a boat-load of mistakes as parents.  Big ones, little ones, and ones we laugh at in retrospect, like the time John accidentally gave Maggie Ipecac instead of cough medicine in the middle of the night and wondered why she kept throwing up.

But one that looms large in my mind was when we let our then eighteen year old daughter, Maggie, graduate early from high school and go to live with a mission organization in Kibera – a terrible slum in Nairobi.

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We went to visit her in the rainy season of mud which just added to the despair.

There was someone stoned outside where she was living.

She told us of coming upon a toddler sitting alone in the dirt, chewing on a used condom.

What kind of terrible parent lets their child go live in such a place???

Well, apparently this one.

It’s a parenting choice that I’ve been tempted to regret, but one that God has used.

Today I was reading Acts 4:23-31.  Peter and John have just been released from the religious officials who were totally ticked off because they had healed a lame beggar and preached some crazy stuff about the power of Jesus and Him being the only way.  They come back to their friends and tell them everything that has happened.

And then they pray for a hedge of protection.

NOT.

They thank God and pray for BOLDNESS!  Not the go-plan I naturally gravitate towards for our family!

Note to self:  This does not say they prayed to have an EQ lobotomy or to be offensive for Jesus, but Peter and John have me thinking…

Does the kingdom advance without boldness?  Without taking the love of Jesus into dark places, trusting that He will be our light and our shield?

Holy buckets!  What does this mean for me, for you?  Boldness may not mean taking the light of Jesus half-way around the world, but just across town or into relationships that require supernatural love, or perseverance, or hard truth.

It has me praying with open hands, saying,

“We are yours.  Help us to be bold and brave and humble in carrying the light of your love into dark places.  Do what only You can do in us and through us.”

Is it hard for you, like Peter and John, to pray for boldness for yourself or your children?  How might God ask you to take His light into a dark place today?

 

5 Questions About…Parenting Teens

Ok, so I know many of you don’t have teens, but you interact with teens, or you’ll raise teens someday or you’ve already raised teens and can add to this post in the comments section!  I’m super excited for you to hear from my wise, authentic, fun, friend, Molly Dykstra sharing on our “5 Questions About…” series.  You might recognize her from Wednesday’s post too :).

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1.  You are a parent I admire so much!  Can you tell us a little about your kids and their personalities?

Admire?!! I have three “kids” although they are really all young adults now (need to keep reminding myself of that.)

Mackenzie is 18, just graduated from High school.  She is articulate, insightful, outgoing, an organizer and initiator, can be impatient, has learned to love time on her own to recharge her batteries, loves photography and creating beautiful spaces.  

Clara is 16, going in to her junior year of HS.  She is open, adventuresome, empathetic (intensely), laser focused about things she is excited about, passionate, daring, can be indecisive, loves being at the cabin, and caring for kids on the margins.

Bennett is 12, heading into 7th grade.  He is charming, witty (funny!), thoughtful, talkative, prone to forget to pick up after himself, caring, gregarious, smart, loves lacrosse, skiing, and drumming up fun with his friends.  

2.  People look at your family and see an ideal, but I know parenting hasn’t been without its challenges (just like for anyone).  What have been the dynamics that have been most challenging to you as a mom?

Not so sure about people seeing an ideal in our family, maybe a collection of craziness!! Oh the challenging dynamics…. Lots and lots of personality/opinion/need to voice that opinion–not a quiet one among us which makes for many heated dinner table ‘conversations’ (when we are able to corral the troops), slammed doors, raised (?!!) voices clamoring to be heard; having two girls close in age–tons of comparison/feeling they ‘fall short’ vs. the other who ‘has it all’; having a home with tight quarters that can feed the intensity.

3.  What are the resources that have been most helpful?

Partnership. Being married to someone (Jeff :)) who ‘gets it’ (the emotional dynamics) and is willing and wants to talk things through, be intentional, roll up his sleeves and do it together.  

Friends. Spending time with/sharing in a vulnerable, authentic way with friends who are in the same life stage–getting past our well kept homes and conversation about our jobs and kids’ schedules and into the nitty gritty…gives us the sense (Truth) that we are not alone. 

Spiritual Disciplines. Being willing to do the hard work of taking care of myself (therapy, forced rest, time alone, capturing early morning as my Sacred time.)

Most “parenting” books have been the WORST thing for me (Ahhcckk!  We aren’t doing allowance/chore chart/family devotions/serving together/fill-in-the-blank well/consistently/at all!!)

Like Dew Your Youth: Growing up with Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson is the only book resource specifically about parenting that I would stand firmly behind.  I picked this book up off a shelf at a house where we were staying a few years ago because I didn’t get the title (it’s a reference to a psalm-something about how dew is fleeting, so is adolescence, etc.) and have read it over and over.  The premise is that going through the stage of having adolescents is about something WE, as parents, need in order to refine us and humble us and bring us back to a place of dependence on God.  Seriously.

4.  What have you learned about yourself and God in the process of walking alongside your kids through hard circumstances?

About myself: I am vulnerable to self-condemnation; I am prone to panic and try to do rather then pause and pray for strength and wisdom; I need my support crew–they don’t just need me; I am good at listening to my kids; I do not have answers/solutions/programs that work or stick or last, so it’s best to not put too much stock in those.

About God: He is near-even in the middle of the night when the overwhelm can be most intense-especially in His Words in the Psalms; He is shaping all 5 of us all the time–we are all in process; light does come again after dark, spring after winter– He carries us THROUGH things.

5.  What advice would you give parents of teens?

Trust that God is at work and will finish what He has started.  And know that, at the end of the day, you are loved and that doing the best you can (which is often not that great) is enough–He fills in the gaps.

Brave Knights, and a Trustworthy King (for young parents)

Not infrequently, husband John and I will be part of conversations with our daughters like the following one.  It’s about Maggie’s summer internship in Northern Uganda where the Lord’s Resistance Army has forced children to be soldiers.  She’ll be working with those who have been brutalized but have escaped…
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The other day after he read this husband John asked me (rhetorically), “How does this keep HAPPENING??!”

Others also ask us this too (although it sounds more like: “How did you raise your daughters?”)  The primary answer is: “With a LOT of mistakes and loads of God’s GRACE.”

Both our daughters, and we, will continue to mess up as we try to follow Jesus, but we also trust that God will pick us up when we stumble,  Here’s what we tried to teach them as they were growing up… Continue reading

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