Heat: On Mothering

Heat: On Mothering

Re-posting this piece from the archives, for all the mothers in my life. 
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Time goes slowly in the heat of a fever. The hours limp by in a fog of exhaustion, sticky with sweat and liquid Tylenol.  I count the hours, the long ones that lay stretched out before us on day three of a sick baby.  How to pass the time, when this little one needs only to be held and be held some more?  The fever radiates from his body and in my sleep-thirsty mind I feel I can see the heat around him like a halo, like a mirage.

It has been years since I was here, the rocking and soothing and comforting punctuated by down-time not nearly long enough to knit this raveling care-sweater.  There are days of mothering that seem to do that, to pull the yarn a stitch at a time just faster than you can knit it back.  Nights that pull you, dream-like, cribside for the hundredth time and wondering when, how you will ever catch up.

I have an agenda in my mind, a list of things to do, of things that I feel are my right.  The right to a night of sleep, to a cup of coffee sipped still-hot and uninterrupted, the right to type a small collection of words in one sitting, the right to take a shower before lunch.  I feel these are needs.  I feel I have earned them. I have come to expect them.

Frustration is what happens when my agenda knocks hard against truth.

The truth is, my agenda is not as urgent as I think it is.  The truth is, it will all wait.  The truth is, this is where we are tested;  in the furnace of a fevered infant, the toddler up all night teething, the sobbing child whose crisis happens five minutes before your important meeting. To raise another human being, we pull pieces of ourselves away; we line this nest with feathers plucked from our own breast and it is this softness that lines the souls of our children, forms a barrier between them and the sharp edges of the world.  This is not martyrdom, nor an exceptional act of great mercy.  This is simply a part of the gift (click to Tweet).  There is no embracing the beauty of this without also embracing the pain of it.  It is not the other side of the coin or the price that must be paid for the happy times, it is simply and completely one with love, an integral part of the whole.

And so today I will hold and I will rock.  I will watch the layer of clutter collect on the table and the dishes pile in the sink, I will cancel my plans for this day and surrender to the plans of one mightier than I, one who knows what sacrifice really means, one whose plans are better than my own small agenda.  I will feel the heat of this small body and know that only by submitting to this furnace will I experience the whole refining of something more precious than a few hours of sleep, a clean house, another chapter written or read.  I will remind myself that what I consider urgent will look entirely different in time, because time will pass too quickly through your fingers if you don’t live it…all of it…intentionally and with thanksgiving.

There is value and beauty in this, too:  We sit on the porch  swing, to catch what we can of the summer breeze. I smooth cool water over fevered brow, feel the heat and weight of his small body against my chest.  He sighs shuddery into my shoulder, eyes half closed.  We rock there, embracing the heat of this passing moment.

Dear Almost-Nineteen Year Old: An open letter to young adults and their parents

Dear Almost-Nineteen Year Old: An open letter to young adults and their parents

Dear Almost Nineteen...an open letter to young adults and their parents

An un-named 19 year old lighting his birthday candles with a blow torch

Dear Almost-Nineteen,

Do you have a moment? Just a little time to chat, I won’t keep you long. You’ve got things to do, I know. Set it aside a moment and walk with me.

Listen, I don’t want to preach. I know what it’s like to be young, how everyone seems to have some kind of advice for you and everyone wants to tell you how to live your life. But I’ve got a few things to say, if you’re willing to listen.

Because, Child? Nineteen stinks.

I am not going to lie to you, it’s quite possibly the most dangerous age to be, ever. It’s dangerous waters from 18 to at least 22, but 19 seems to be the age where it all goes wrong. Ask an adult…I’ve polled quite a few. If you’ve made a Big Mistake in your life, it’s likely to have been at age Nineteen or thereabouts. I know this first-hand, I made the biggest mistakes of my life at nineteen (and, frankly, most of the runners-up as well).

Here’s the deal: I know you’ve been an adult for just about a whole year now. And you’ve made it through the year successfully, you’re not dead and you’re not in jail and by now you’re feeling pretty confident in your ability to deal with this whole life thing. You’ve got this adult thing totally under control, and you’re ready to loosen up and relax about it.

Except for one thing: You’re Nineteen.

Here’s the problem with Nineteen, and please don’t take this the wrong way. You are navigating adult-ness right now with a brain that’s only processing as an adult about half the time. This, Child, is not your fault. We humans are wired that way, and in fact none of us will develop a whole-adult brain until somewhere around the age of 25. Until then, we’re yanked back and forth between thoughts and decisions that are sometimes startlingly mature, and at other times shockingly childish. That’s the nature of the beast. And you can’t predict if your adult-brain is going to be in charge at any given time, or if your child-brain is going to be in the driver’s seat.

That’s a precarious place to be.

You are not going to know the difference at the time, either. It’s all going to seem totally rational to you. Add to this the fact that the expectations for you at this age are discouragingly low, you may be spending most of your time away at school with a bunch of people who are in the same precarious age group, and that a good many of your peers are going to be struggling with issues you never saw coming…well, you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster. And you are navigating all this with half-a-brain.

Right around now a lot of you will be going into your Sophomore year in college, and it’s no accident that the word itself is derived from the Greek words for Wise (sophos) and Fool (moros).

Wise-fool, here’s what I want you to know: You can do this thing, you can keep on track but you’re going to need to go into this with caution. Get your people behind you, your support system. Tell them that they have your permission to tactfully tell you that your child-brain is currently at the wheel, when they see reason for concern. And when they do speak up, listen to them. Here’s a secret: It can take courage for a parent to speak wisdom to their child, even when they know it’s truth. It’s not as easy as it looks.

With this in mind, I beg you…Set aside those Big Life Decisions for a year or two, if at all possible. Know that you are right now going to have to exercise some serious adult patience in situations that try the patience of even the most seasoned adults, and you’ll be expected to do this when your brain might, at any given time, flip into child-mode and want to sneak under the Christmas tree and secretly unwrap those tantalizing gifts a week early. It’s not fair, and it’s hard, but at its best it’s kind of like boot-camp that will shape you up and help kick you, well-prepared, into that next phase of life.

Parents…here’s a bit of advice as well. Your job is never going to be done, but for certain right now is not the time to hang up your hat and call it a day. Check in and stay checked in, even though our culture is telling you that teens will be teens and we should expect the worst. It doesn’t have to be that way. Start talking to them about these perilous years early on, and keep talking right on through. Listen to their ideas and enjoy the adult conversations you’ll be having, but don’t do them the disservice of allowing them to get off track because they’re legally adults and should be able to figure it out on their own. Have the courage to speak up and help them remember who they are, and Whose they are.

Parents, let's stop looking at our teens as ticking time-bombs and start partnering with them as young adults. Click To Tweet If we stopped looking at our teenagers as ticking time-bombs and started partnering with them as young adults who are learning to navigate through hard, adult situations, I’m convinced we could save both parties a lot of heartache. Because our culture has such a low opinion of teens, we’ve been ingrained with the tendency to disrespect them and minimize what they’re going through. How can we expect them to respect us, if we can’t set an example by respecting them? Let’s promise to hold our young adults to high standards and keep our discussions rooted in Biblical truth, because this is the time they need it the most.

God has good plans for you, Almost-Nineteen, and the most important thing you can do now is to lean on Him and keep strong in your faith. Sometimes it won’t be easy, and sometimes it will be downright hard. But hard things make us stronger:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~Romans 5:3-4

Let’s make a promise to each other, let’s prove the world’s view of teens and young adults wrong. Click To TweetLet’s make a promise to each other, let’s prove the world’s view of teens and young adults wrong. Let’s work together instead of falling apart, let’s act with respect and love. Let’s not give up on each other.

All my love,

Someone who’s survived Nineteen

 

 

A note: I’m not a perfect parent and I don’t have perfect kids, but we have made a point to discuss this stage of life with our kids from an early age. I promised them that I would remind them about 19 if the need arose and they promised to listen…Eldest is now 20, and we’ve found that commitment to be a huge blessing. It’s never too late, but if you can start these conversations when your kids are early teens or tweens it will make a huge difference when they’re older!

The Perfect Cone

The Perfect Cone

The Perfect Cone

She held the box of ice cream cones in her hands, staring at it. For a child who was about to enjoy a cold scoop of ice cream on a sweet, crispy cone, she sure looked glum.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Youngest sighed, set the box of cones on the counter. “It’s just that the picture of the ice cream cones on this box has the perfect ice cream scoop. And I have been trying and trying every time I get an ice cream cone to make the scoop this perfect, and I never ever ever can make a perfect scoop.”

I set the ice cream down.

“You know,” I said. “The people who made that box for the cones hired a photographer to take that picture. And the photographer hired a whole team to make the food look just right. First of all there is someone who’s whole job it is to make ice cream cone look just exactly perfect. They have tricks like spraying food with a shiny coat of shellac to make it look better and they spend hours arranging the food to be just right. And then, the lighting part of the team comes in. They set up special lights that get really hot, which melts real food. Your daddy worked with a team like that once, and they used fake plastic butter on the potatoes because real butter would have melted.”

Youngest looked thoughtful. “Do you think maybe this isn’t even real ice cream here on the box?”

I looked the photo over for a moment. “Well, it looks real…but you know, ice cream melts even faster than butter!” She mulled that over for a moment, and I picked up the ice cream again…expecting her to be relieved to have this new information. Instead, tears welled up.

“But then, that means I am never going to have the perfect ice cream cone,” she cried. “No matter how hard I try!”

I feel her pain. I have spent my whole life trying hard to achieve the “perfect cone.” I’ve spent so much time beating myself up over the fact that nothing in my life is perfect enough, that my carpet has stains and my house is never clean enough, that we never have enough or give enough or do enough. I have spent way too much time in frustration over the fact that my body is not perfect, I have let a few extra pounds keep me from loving myself. I have cried over the fact that I am sometimes so far from that perfect Proverbs 31 woman that it seems impossible for me to ever really make it. I’ve berated myself over every little fault that leads to lack of perfection.

I’ve let comparison and the pursuit of perfection keep me locked in a constant not-good-enough mindset, so that at times I am overwhelmed and feel unable to do anything at all.

And through it all, I’ve figured that despite all of this I am not a perfectionist. No, not me!

Because if I really were a perfectionist, my house would be much, much cleaner. Seriously.

We are bombarded every day with reasons to feel like we don’t measure up. {Tweet this} Even a box of ice cream cones, for crying out loud, is setting a standard that we can never live up to! And even when we know in our minds that the only perfect scoop of ice cream is the one that’s plastic and inedible, we suffer in our hearts because we’re worried that our’s doesn’t measure up.

That’s not God’s intent. God knows that this is an imperfect world, He knows that we’re missing the mark. But that’s not how He sees those who belong to Him! God sees me as His beloved child, and my frantic efforts to be perfect just make Him shake His head. He really doesn’t notice the fact that my scoop of ice cream is lopsided, dripping off the cone, and slightly freezer-burned. God delights instead in my joy as I eat that cone, as I am grateful in my heart to the God who created me to love sweet treats enjoyed with my family, sitting outside in the golden light of early evening.

You can’t delight in the taste and feel of cold ice cream on your tongue if the ice cream is perfect…and plastic. God sees me as perfectly, fearfully and wonderfully made just the way I am. He doesn’t reject my flawed efforts to please Him any more than I would reject a drawing made by my children because it didn’t look perfect enough. Those wobbly drawings bring me joy! He values my efforts, like I value my kids’ efforts. He maybe even hangs them on His fridge.

I hugged Youngest, wiped away her tears. “You know,” I said. “I think the perfect scoop of ice cream is the one you enjoy down to the last drop. Do you like eating plastic ice cream?” She shook her head, and smiled a little. “Well, neither do I! They can keep their perfect, plastic scoop of ice cream. You can make yours twice as big and a million times more tasty, and it will be better than that plastic scoop on the box!”

She nodded again, and her usual sunny smile broke out in full. “Can I have sprinkles?” She asked. “Sure you can,” I replied. “And let’s eat it outside, in the sun. Because the perfect ice-cream cone is the one that you enjoy to the full, whatever it looks like!”

God, thank you that you see through my imperfections and you love me perfectly. Please help me remember that, and learn to do the same!

{A post from the archives}

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday

How can 17 years have passed so quickly?

When you were born, it seemed so far away…these teenage days, these wrapping-up years where adulthood is right around the corner. Oh, everyone says it as you hold your newborn close, press your cheek to that tiny downy head:

“Enjoy these days now, because before you know it she’ll be grown.”

EveryMother OfaTeen

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayI heard it all the time back then, from mothers of children who seemed impossibly grown at the time. And I tried, I really did. I tried my best to wrap myself around those days and to savor each little moment, every kiss and nursery rhyme and even the seventh reading of Goodnight, Moon. In those days, it seemed impossible that you’d one day be as tall as I. That you would be planning out your life, this whole world open ahead of you, and those days of finger paint and dandelion wishes would be a part of the past.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayAnd the mothers of your friends and I, we sit around the table with our hands cupped around the warmth of a mug of coffee and and we say, “Nobody warned me about how hard it would be to have them grow up.” Because despite all the “Enjoy it nows”  and the way we tried to slow down time we still feel the sting of how quickly it’s gone by, and nobody really came right out and said how truly hard it would be. How you’ve not understood what bittersweet means until you’ve been the mother of young adults.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayOnly now I know there’s no way to really say it, when you’re actually there. Because all the words, they blend into this Big Feeling that washes over you and all the years flow so quickly and suddenly you realize, it’s all so true. Before you know it. And all you can manage to get past the lump in your throat as you hold that new baby and remember when it was you embarking fresh on the journey of motherhood is that silly little cliché, “before you know it.”

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdaySo all you can manage to say is, enjoy this. Enjoy these tiny hands, this silken cheek. Enjoy the toothless grin that breaks out like sunshine each and every time she sees you at the side of the crib. Enjoy the sticky fingers wrapped around yours, the belly laughs, the wisp of hair caught up in a tiny bow. These are blessings, these are pieces of the sacred, fragments of Love gifted to us daily behind the painted doors of an advent calendar, counting down the days.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayEnjoy the nights spent rocking, the fevered blur of days spent with a sick toddler, the tantrum thrown and the vase broken. Enjoy the mess of books and stray socks and building blocks strewn halfway-to-heaven, the artwork in black pen on the kitchen cabinets, the spelling test failed and the birthday party invite that everyone but your child got. These are sacred, too.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthday

These are the places where a mother breaks apart from the tedium and exhaustion and never-endingness of it all. These are the places her own heart breaks when her child’s does, when she dries the last little tear and then closes the door to cry her own. The places that you heal together, they’re the places where you end up the strongest. {Click to Tweet} One day, you will laugh at this. One day you’ll see where God made the both of you better in the hard times, I promise.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayNobody tells you how much joy it is, either. When you say you’ve got three teenagers, people roll their eyes and tell you they’ll say a prayer for you and laugh. “Better you than me,” they say. The stereotype attached to these years runs strong and it’s a shame, it’s a crying shame that the expectations are so low. {Click to Tweet} Because child? I have loved these teen years too. I love the way you make me laugh, the way we laugh so hard at the witty things you say. I love our talks and how you are such good company, and nobody told me how much you’ll learn from your own nearly-grown kids. Yes, there have been hard days. But there always will be, the hard is just a part of love in a broken world. Where we go wrong is in expecting it to be easy.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthday

I love the way your heart for God comes first, they way that you stand strong in the face of what the world throws at you. I love the way that even when your heart breaks, you hold on to the fact that sometimes doing the right thing makes you feel left out and left behind but oh, my girl…how God in Heaven smiles with pride when He sees His daughter’s faith. How He loves the woman you’re becoming.

And oh, how I do too.

All my love,

Mom

 

 

 

He Came to Us Hungry

He Came to Us Hungry

Posting at The Lulu Tree this morning. Join me there?

The rain pattered down against our windows, sliding like tears over the cold glass. It should have been snowing, but that year the rain seemed more fitting. I was sitting alone in the quiet of an evening just before Christmas, cradling in my arms a newborn baby whose father lay dying in a hospital bed across town. We’d opened our home and our hearts to this baby and his brother, whose lives were being tipped upside down by so many, many hard things. I held him close, a tiny wisp of a baby, rocking and watching the rain fall beyond the reflection of Christmas lights in the darkened panes of glass.

I remember vividly the sound of soft music playing on the radio, my three older children laughing with their father in the kitchen as they made peppermint hot chocolate, the soft weight of the baby’s little body as he sighed and shifted in his sleep. My youngest came skipping in and paused a moment to gaze at the sleeping baby. She touched his soft cheek, brushed a small hand over the downy top of the baby’s head and planted a kiss on his forehead. She continued on her way, but stopped at the doorway and turned back.

“Mommy,” she said softly, timidly. “With all the Christmas lights and music and everything, it kind of feels like the baby is Jesus.”

Read the rest of the story over at the Lulu Tree…

 

Preserving the Harvest (plus low sugar jam recipe)

Preserving the Harvest (plus low sugar jam recipe)

This time of year finds me standing in the kitchen, windows open wide against the heat of the stove, the heat of that golden September light. I am standing on the tile floor, standing in the kitchen, my shoes sticking and pulling like they do on the movie theater floor at the end of a Saturday afternoon matinee. There is sticky, always sticky.

I am pushing my hair back the the back of my hand, slicing the tops off pounds and pounds of strawberries…machine-like; open the package, wash the berries, stack the package on top of the just-emptied one, green tops filling empty grocery bag, my favorite paring knife (dull, so the blade won’t cut my thumb) working in a quick V shape. Empty containers stack up on the counter, berries stack up in the colander.

I don’t know why I do this, really. Every year for the last 10 I have spent an unreasonable amount of September canning…preserves, jams, pickles, salsa, pie filling, applesauce. I don’t have time for this. And, when I add it up, it probably isn’t particularly cost effective. When we had the peach trees, it made good sense…hundreds of pounds of fresh organic fruit, picked at its peak, and that’s when I learned to preserve (and persevere). Racing against the falling peaches, come ripe all at once and the wasps droning a half-foot from the ground waiting for fruit to fall…split open, all juice and pulp in the hot sun. I’d put in 10 hour days, the counters overflowing with jars and rings and lids, great bowls of peaches to be slipped into boiling water and then plunged into ice, their skins slipped off like silk petticoats in the most delicate shades of yellow and rose. I’d be tired, so tired and hot and sticky and still the harvest kept coming and oh! There is nothing like the joy of working so hard that you fall into bed, thinking of the miracle that brings such bounty in year after year, from bare branch to ripe fruit.

Preserving the Harvest, and a low-sugar jam recipe

It made sense then, so we pulled down baskets and boxes and tubs of fruit. I bottled peach halves and slices, jams and chutneys and once I’d learned how (we did not die, not even once, from eating those preserved slices of sun…though I cooked the first few batches to mush for fear of botulism) I called my friends and they came too, learned to preserve. I’ve stood in one kitchen or another with many friends over the years, sharing this crazy habit and it always brings us closer…there’s a rhythm you find, one that lends itself well to talking as you work. There’s a camaraderie in it, and there’s the sound of children playing in the yard and through the house and there’s sitting down together while the jam is processing (hot steam condensing on the hood above the stove, then falling like rain) and the guilty pleasure of eating the foam you’ve just skimmed from a batch of fresh raspberry jam. The taste! Bursting, tart-sweet and tantalizing like nothing else I’ve ever eaten.

There are certain things that don’t make a bit of sense, when you add it all up. The trees are gone now, and my garden is dry. So we find other reasons, because September is canning season whether I have a garden or not. I buy flats of berries, boxes of cucumbers, carry home bags of tomatoes from the gardens of friends or from the co-op. And we keep doing it, because it is September. And because there is something so satisfying about feeding my family, from vine to to plate, and knowing where it came from and because I know exactly what goes into each jar (the food, and the love) and because somehow, I feel connected with the women who came before me when I draw those jars out of the boiling water, listen for the “pop” that means it’s properly sealed.

Some things have value that can’t be calculated with pen and paper. Sometimes you do a thing because it’s got to be kept alive, because we all need those little traditions that remind us that we’re still connected…to the soil and to the vine, to the thousand grandmothers before us, to the friend pitting peaches beside us in the sticky heat of this moment.

Low or No Sugar Jam

Serving Size: Makes 5 pints, or 10 half-pints

Low or No Sugar Jam

This is a pretty flexible recipe...you can add things like finely chopped rhubarb, crushed black berries, and cranberries if you'd like. Just make sure that the fruit you're using is acidic.

Ingredients

  • 10 cups fresh berries (strawberries or raspberries are the two I've tried), crushed.
  • 1 1/2 cups fruit juice (I like cran-raspberry juice best)
  • Up to 2 1/2 cups sugar, honey, or sugar substitute (organic works well...honey is delicious)
  • 7 1/2 Tablespoons low or no sugar pectin

Instructions

  1. To crush the berries, I use a food processor (strawberries) or a wire whisk (raspberries). Putting the berries in a zip lock bag and letting kids help by squashing them with their hands is a great way to get them involved!
  2. Wash and sterilize the jars, rings and lids according to the directions they came with.
  3. In a large stock pot, combine all the ingredients. Stir well.
  4. Heat the jam over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When the jam boils, keep stirring for 1 minute. Remove the jam from the heat and skim (and eat!) any foam that forms on top.
  5. Ladle the jam into hot, clean jars.
  6. Wipe the rims of the jars, then place hot lids over the top. Secure with rings (finger-tight).
  7. Process in boiling water, 2 inches higher than the tops of the jars...start with 10 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts, and add on time if you're at a higher altitude.
  8. Carefully remove the jars and let them cool, check the tops to make sure the jars are properly sealed. A sealed jar will not flex when you press on the lid.

Notes

Very slightly adapted from the jam recipe at Ball's website, www.freshpreserving.com/

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Dear Foster Boys

Dear Foster Boys

 

Dear Foster Boys,

It’s hard to believe that you are four and five now, both of you have birthdays coming up and will (even more unbelievably) be five and six in no time at all. Five and six! How can that be? Time moves so fast, boys. So very fast.

This is the year you’re old enough to start kindergarten, Little Buddy. Backpacks and pencils and boxes of sharp crayons; the waxy smell of a Crayola rainbow will always remind me of the month of September. I wish I were there to encourage you, to hold your hand and walk you to your classroom, get to know your teacher. New things are always hard, and you’ve had so many new things in your life. It’s going to take courage to walk into that classroom, maybe more so than for most. I know you’ll be brave, child. You’ve always had to be.

And little Sidekick, you’ll have to watch your brother go off without you. I’m sure you’ll miss him, too. You two have had each other, and very little else where consistency is concerned. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s hard to keep the two of you apart.

It’s painful to imagine where you have been, and what you’ve been through. It’s hard to bear the thought of the losses you’ve suffered in your short lives, and the upheaval, and the fear. It’s hard to make peace with this, with the real suffering of innocent children and the unjust nature of this broken world we’re living in.

I just have this to cling to: Your story isn’t over yet. There’s a good God who knows you, loves you perfectly, and cares deeply for you. He weeps over each scar, each tear you’ve shed. There are people here, on this broken earth, who love you very much as well. Broken people, yes…we all are. But God has a way of working around the broken, and making it beautiful. He has a way of redeeming things, you know.

My prayer for you, sweet boys, is for God’s redemption. For you, for your mother, for all the ones who love you. My prayer for you is safety, security, and lasting peace. For love and grace that won’t give up, give in, or give out. For you to find that in the daily embrace of God the Father, and comfort even in the broken here and now.

So much love,

Me

 

When You Want to  Press Rewind (a post from the archives)

When You Want to Press Rewind (a post from the archives)

A post from the archives, as kids start school this year and I’m reeling a bit at how quickly time passes…
when you want to press rewind...on being a mother and the passing of time
It’s a strange feeling, standing here in this mostly empty house. It has been nearly 3 years, but it still feels like home. It’s hard, renting out the place that once was your home. Hard to let it go and hope that another loves it half as much as you.

What’s harder, though, is the way I feel as I wash these walls that used to hold the little hand prints of my kids when they were still so small. Oh, I miss those days! I am aching with a deep longing to press rewind, go back in time and live those days over again…the simplicity of the then when they were small and when the days that they’d be grown seemed so distant. Eldest, he’s taller than his father now and Middle Child is borrowing clothes from my closet. Youngest had her 11th birthday a few weeks ago; and it’s beautiful how they’re growing up and they are wonderful at this age and still…oh, I just want the time to move slower. Sometimes being a mother feels like one big chain of goodbyes, every proud accomplishment also stitched with the ache of loss. We’ll never pass this way again, and if we do this thing right we’ll work our way right out of the job we love the most.

So I’m scrubbing and crying, and my husband comes alongside and he wants to know why. So I try my best to tell him how these feelings are swarming in my heart, this sense of loss and this grief over how quickly the days are passing, how you can’t hold onto anything more than the memories and how time just won’t stop stealing the days.

He says he understands. And then he says, it’s one thing he’s looking forward to about Heaven: That the loss we feel due to time passing will never be an issue again. And if I could go back, when would it be? A few years ago, when high school and college seemed distant? A decade ago, when all three of them fit on my lap? Back to 20, when our bodies were still perfect and the world was an open book? Or to our own childhoods, when worries were limited to passing Friday’s spelling test?

We didn’t feel the way we do now about those seasons in life then, when we were living them. It’s the now that gives us the perspective to love the “then” so much, the now of knowing that whatever crisis was bothering us at that time passed, whatever worries we had were really not as big as the blessings we had and it all turned out OK, it was all grace. We made it, and it was good. It’s the vantage point of “now” that puts life into perspective, makes the past seem such a warm, safe place to return.

As hard as it might be to believe?  The truth is, today is the yesterday we will long for tomorrow. (Click to Tweet) Time will grant us the perspective to see: Today is beautiful, and grace-filled, and important. We’ll never pass this way again.

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Oh Lord, please grant me the faith to live today as I will see it a year from now, or five or ten! Grant me the faith to really live in the knowledge that it’s all grace, all God-gifted, that the worries we have now are not as big as the blessings, that whatever comes our way we’ll make it and it will all be good. Grant me the grace to live this moment and this day and this season in gratitude and wonder, and see every minute of it as the blessing it is. Take my desire to hit “rewind” and change it into the reminder to hit “pause,” to stop and appreciate the beautiful now and love it for the gift that it is.

From Generation to Generation

From Generation to Generation

It sat on the floor in the basement for years, serving as an end table. A big wood box, an old trunk on which coffee cups gathered and books lay open. It was there as long as I’ve known Hubby and his family, and it was rumored to contain family photos.

From Generation to Generation, this is my prayer...

My husband’s parents are moving, downsizing from the home where they raised four sons. This has been a season of consolidation, in many ways. And when the basement had been emptied of most of its furnishings, when the floors were bare and the walls echoed only memories, we sat down and opened the box of generations. And there, in no particular order, was the history of family…jumbled together; tintypes pressed on metal disks, black and white photos with their curled and scalloped edges, small square Kodachrome snapshots faded burnt-umber (or maybe everything in 1970 was really orange?) and the Costco digital prints. A box of memories.

From Generation to Generation, this is my prayer...

We see it clearly in the two-dimensional faces, family resemblances that go back generation to generation. What passes down through the tangle of double helix, what’s tied up in these family lines? Not just what you see here on the paper, thick and yellowed on the back or new and shiny. There is history here, stories and happenings and triumph and pain, lives lived and many that have passed…stored here only in this wood box of photos and in the tales passed down from one generation to the next. And who can really sum up a life with bits of paper and a few words?

From Generation to Generation, this is my prayer...

I think about how things get passed down, the recipes and the hot tempers, lullabies and holiday traditions, the fables of relatives who came here by boat and others who brushed with fame, tales of fortune and misfortune. How my own children reflect things I see in my parents, in his parents, how we laughed at Eldest’s habit of sticking just a bit of his tongue out when he was concentrating…just like his great-grandfather did. What passes down through the lines, and what fades away?

From Generation to Generation, this is my prayer...

Handfuls of memories, some that I share and others (standing too long still in their stiff collars, their images fading in tattered frames) long relegated to the faded place of myth and story. These photos hold promises of their own, in the familiar toddler-smiles of these newest snapshots. Some day my photo may be lifted from such a pile and labeled with a long-told story…generations from now. One thought grows in my mind and turns to prayer, the kind that brings me to my knees…Lord, whatever else may be passed down the generations to come, let one thing be said of us, one thing be said of our children and theirs and then down along the line.

From Generation to Generation, this is my prayer...

Lord, let the story that is told over and over, when some new generation of hands hold the faded image of us long gone…whatever other fabled tales may be told let it be said of us through the generations to come that we loved the Lord. May it be passed down and down again, may it never skip a generation, may not one be ever lost.

 

The Leadership Influence of Mothers

The Leadership Influence of Mothers

I’m sitting in a quiet corner of the living room with an open book on my lap, not reading. The book is a decoy, the pages are still turned to the place where I haphazardly opened them because what I’m actually doing…what I’m honestly up to…is eavesdropping.

There are a dozen teens out on the back deck, plus a couple of dads. Eldest is leading a Bible study tonight, he’s been working all week reading scripture and commentary and writing thoughts on scads of little post-it notes, sprinkled like confetti throughout the second chapter of the book of John. He’s spent the afternoon in the garage, heedless of the heat and the smell of bike tires, wood shavings and motor oil, practicing what to say.  He has worked hard and I know he’s nervous, wanting to get everything just right. He’s hard on himself, this boy.  A lot of prayer (on both our parts) has gone up on behalf of this study. Does it ever get easier, as a mother, to watch your children step out in faith and take a risk? This mix of love and fear, this letting go…my heart out there in the open on the deck as I sit here inside.

From the time they take their first step, it’s a battle of emotions…cheering them on as they move forward, taking a piece of you farther away with every step. The sleepless nights, the hours of school work at the kitchen table and the fevered afternoons, cool washrag pressed to hot forehead. Who can ever sum up the job description of “Mother?” And all this, when they never really belong to us in the first place. Ultimately, the job of a mother is to make herself obsolete.

Mothering is not something you get recognition for, nobody’s going to give you a raise or a commendation and there is no hazard pay, no overtime, no vacation days. Sometimes I rail against that reality and sometimes, sometimes the Bible seems like a boy’s club and Biblical leadership seems to come with a sign that says “No Girls Allowed.”

And I hear from the deck, in a voice that’s stronger than I remember, Eldest reading John 2:3-5.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Do whatever he tells you, she said. At this, the first miracle of Jesus, his mother put him forward in an act of confidence that showed her faith in who her son was, what he would become. And Jesus, God of the Universe Himself standing there on earth’s thin crust?

“He obeyed his mother,” Eldest points out to the group of teens.

Suddenly I remember a treasure I found in 1 Kings. Encouragement for mothers, hidden there in the list of the names of kings set forever in the Book for all to read. Some of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord and some did good. But if you look it over, the kings whose mothers’ names are mentioned….they all did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, every one of them.

The influence of a mother’s leadership may not earn worldly awards, accolades or prestige. But one thing we can be sure of…it makes a difference, maybe even all the difference. God-made-flesh experienced the love of a mother, He knows its value in an intimate and very real way.

Perhaps that’s why mother’s don’t get paid…our work is priceless.

 

This post was featured at The High Calling in “Leadership Influence: Beyond the Stereotype”