May 11, 2021

Mom and Dad, I Need You To Love Me Through This

Hey, mom and dad.

I’m sorry I yelled this morning. I’m sorry for what I said. I'm sorry for the way I said it.

I know I’ve been a little hard to live with lately. Or maybe a lot hard.

I know I’m moody.

I know my room is a mess.

I know we disagree a lot.

I know you don’t understand some of the things I do.

I know you don’t always like how I dress.

I know I let you down sometimes.

I know I’m expensive.

I know my schedule runs you ragged.

I know my music doesn’t make sense to you.

I know you’re never sure what version of me you’re going to see on any given morning.

I know it feels like I’m pulling away from you.

I know you don’t know what to expect from me next.

I know I can drive you crazy.

I know you miss the days when I was little and fit on your lap.

I know this is hard for you.

But the thing is, it’s hard for me, too.

Do you remember this kind of hard?

Do you remember not knowing what kind of mood you were going to be in from one hour to the next, let alone one day to the next?

Do you remember feeling like you wanted to cry, laugh, scream, run, sleep, talk, and hide, all at the same time?

Do you remember wondering why you acted the way you did sometimes?

Do you remember feeling like your brain and your body were going two completely different speeds?

Do you remember not being sure if the people who were your friends one day would still be your friends the next?

Do you remember having no idea what you were going to do with the rest of your life even though everybody seemed to expect you to have it all figured out?

Do you remember feeling awkward and ugly and unsure of yourself while everyone else your age acted confident and put-together?

Do you remember wanting to fit in and stand out all at the same time?

Do you remember wanting to be noticed but also wanting to be invisible?

I need you to remember all this. Because I need you to love me through this.

I need you to believe in me even when—especially when—I don’t believe in myself.

I need you to guide me, even when act like I resent that guidance.

I need you to cheer for me.

I need you to trust me.

I need you to make me earn that trust.

I need you to have thick skin.

I need you to have a soft heart that can still give out tough love.

I need you to help my not-fully-cooked brain think further down the road than it would on its own.

I need you to set boundaries.

I need you to let me deal with the consequences of my actions.

I need you to help me pick up the pieces of the consequences of my actions.

I need you to be proud of me, even when I’m ashamed of myself.

I need you to love me even if sometimes you don’t like me.

I need you to remember that I care what you think of me more than I care what anyone else thinks of me, even if I tell you at the top of my lungs I don’t care at all.

I need you to remember that you matter to me—maybe more than anyone else in the world—even if I act like I don’t want anything to do with you.

I need you to remember that I need you.

I need you to remember that I love you.

I know this is asking a lot. I know I’m asking you to give more than you’re getting. I know I’m going to frustrate and fail and disappoint you sometimes along the way.

But when we get to the other side, I also think we’ll know and remember this: we got there together.

A version of this post originally appeared on Her View From Home.

April 12, 2021

My Teenager Taught Me New Ways To Love

I don’t love my children the same way.

At least, I don't if “love” is more often an action than it is a feeling. (And I truly believe that's the case.)

I love—the feeling—both my children fiercely and deeply in equal measure, if a mother’s love is something that can actually be measured.

But I do not love—the action—my children in the same way, because love has to look and sound like something to the person being loved, and my two children see and hear love in different ways.

Not long ago, my teenager taught me some new ways to love.

Loving my first baby through the teenage years did not really prepare me for walking through those years with her younger sister. My older daughter is my pleaser, my child who has me listed as “mommy” on her phone and jokes we won’t have to worry about her coming home for Christmas when she’s an adult because she’s never going to have left in the first place.

My second and last baby is my strong-spirited child who often prefers quick side hugs and who’s called me “mom” for a long time. She’s fascinating and intricate and determined and so insightful. 
She’s a complex puzzle worth putting together and a dance worth every tricky step.

But parenting her has been an intense experience. 

With her, I needed to find ways to love a child I wasn't always sure even liked me. I needed to learn how to give out love that was not always obviously given back.

This was love the choice, the decision, the action, and I had to learn how to do it as I went along.

I learned to still say the words “I love you.” I learned to say them even when I didn't feel like saying them. I learned to say them when they were only returned with a mumbled “love you” as my daughter bolted out of the car in the school drop-off line. I learned to say them when they were not returned or acknowledged at all. I learned to still say them, because no matter what, they were (and are) still true.

I learned to speak love in other languages. I learned to speak it in the dialects of small gifts and acts of service. I spoke it by stocking up on the protein bars my high-schooler took for lunch every day and by washing her dance clothes, babying them along on the gentle cycle and pulling them out of the load before it got thrown into the dryer. And sometimes, I spoke love by forcing myself not to say anything at all.

I learned to show love by showing up. My daughter was stoic and stone-faced and made no eye contact when she filed past me sitting in the stands at her marching band competitions. She did not get out of line to come give me a hug or even say hello when I handed out third-quarter snacks to her bandmates after they played their halftime show.

At her awards ceremonies, there was no option of a photo-op with her smiling proudly, standing between her dad and me and displaying the certificate we added to the collection we'd started in kindergarten. But I kept showing up for those things anyway, because love shows up. I kept showing up because whether or not it mattered to her that I was there, it mattered to me that she knew I was there. And I kept showing up because there is power in presence.

I learned to love by taking what I could get with gratitude. One early morning, when my daughter got in the car for the ride to school, she surprised me by enthusiastically asking, “Did you smell the air? Did you smell the Froot Loops?” (We live near Battle Creek, Mich., the Cereal Capital of the World, where the air some mornings does, in fact, smell like Froot Loops.)

Her question caught me off guard that day because morning conversations were usually limited to me asking when she needed to be picked up and her responding with the fewest number of words necessary for communicating information that would keep her life on track. That day, I could have answered her tersely, as she often did when I ask her about something. I could have reigned in my response in anticipation of being rebuffed. But instead, I made myself take the moment for what it was.

By grace, I matched her enthusiasm and told her, “Yes! I did! Isn’t it great that we live in a place where this is what we get to smell in the mornings?” I learned to receive gifts of interaction and connection as they were offered, not because I was groveling but because I was trying to be grateful.

I learned to love by reinforcing the good. At the last home football game of her last marching band season, my drum line girl was in a familiar funk. Also familiar: I had no idea what the problem was. I asked if she was okay even though the answer was obvious, and she muttered something about a cramp and wandered off. We picked her up at the end of the night, and her ear buds immediately went in as usual, but when we got home and were walking into the house, she said, “Oh, Mom, I wanted to let you know that I did have that weird cramp and I thought the rest of the night was going to be miserable, but I ended up laughing with my friends and having a really good time.”

“I’m so glad to know that,” I told her. “Thank you for telling me.” In that particular season, there was much I wanted from my daughter that I didn't get. So when she gave me something I wanted more of, I learned to put an exclamation point on it.

Loving my incredibly wonderful but sometimes prickly teen was tough sledding at times. Even now, I'm still never quite sure how things are going to play out. But here again—as in all of parenting and, well, in all of life—I have to remind myself that my job is not the outcome; my job is the input.

So I'll remember these lessons from the past and carry them into the present and future. I'll keep trying to learn how to love in new ways. I’ll keep inputting love while I hold fiercely to hope that the outcome will be love received and love given back.

A version of this piece first appeared on Grown and Flown

April 10, 2021

Aiming For Zero

The other day, my college early-childhood/early-elementary senior education major had a sub job at a school not far from her campus. She’d already met all of her substitute teaching requirements for her major: she was only doing the job to get her last few required observation hours.

On account of Covid and the fact that observing anything in person had become a hundred times trickier, I’d joked to her that she’d been trying to accumulate those hours since fifth grade.

“Feels like it," she told me.

The morning of her job, when I sent her a text to encourage her for the day, I told her, "You're on your way to zero!"

Normally, in our family, we are big on better than zero: aiming for anything more than a flat-out goose egg. But I told my daughter that, in this case, achieving the day’s goal would be even better than better than zero.

Which got me to thinking that there are some other things in life I'm aiming for zero on.

Zero days when my family goes to bed at night not having felt loved during the day.

Zero words from me that create a wound that never quite heals up.

Zero unforgiveness I think is making someone else sorry for what they did but is, in fact, only making me my own prisoner.

Zero chances to show love that I don’t take.

Zero would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve when I’m going after a good goal whose outcome I cannot control but whose input I can.

Zero settling for lukewarm faith.

Zero assumptions another day on this earth is guaranteed to me.

Zero taking my health for granted.

Zero missed opportunities to encourage someone or make their life a little easier.

Of course, “aiming” is the crux of the matter here. I’m going to miss on these sometimes...more than likely, a LOT of times. I’m going to hit one or 100.

But a wise friend of mine says, “If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it.” I’m not really aiming at nothing here. I’m aiming at something that looks like zero, but would, in fact, be everything.

April 5, 2021

I’ll Keep Doing Things For My Kids They Can Do For Themselves

The other night, my teenager asked me, “I was wondering—and it’s totally fine if you say no—but I was wondering if maybe you could make me those oatmeal pancakes for breakfast tomorrow?”

I could. And I did.

Of course she could have made her own breakfast. She does, in fact, make her own breakfast other mornings when I can’t and don’t.

She didn’t actually need me to make her breakfast that day, but doing it for her smoothed out the edges of a morning that was headed toward rough.

And after I made those pancakes, I also packed her a lunch and threw in a load of her dance laundry.

I did some things for her that she can do for herself.

I made life a little easier for her.

Before anyone reminds me, I know I’m supposed to teach my kids to fend for themselves, to be independent, and, most of all, to not need me (much) anymore. 
According to a lot of articles I see out there in parent media land, I’m not “supposed” to do things for them they can do for themselves.

And I understand. I get it. I even agree, mostly. We have these children to hold them, but we raise them to release them—and we need to equip and prepare them for that releasing.

My teen does fend for herself. She is independent. She rarely needs me anymore. She runs a solid 90% of her own life and does it so well, I joke she should run for president someday. (Hello, First Mother?)

But when she asked if I’d make her those pancakes, I did it, and gladly. And I’ll do it again, as often as possible.

I’ll keep doing things for her she can do for herself. I’ll make her breakfast and pack her lunch and do her laundry. She knows full well how to do these things. She does do these things. But I’ll keep doing them for her a lot of the time while she does so many things I can’t and shouldn’t do for her.

I can’t—and wouldn’t—go to school and navigate the minefield of high school friendships.

I can’t deal with peer pressure and annoying classmates and incomprehensible geometry and public displays of affection and cringe-inducing dress code violations, all before 9 a.m.
I can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up when the push to already have figured that out AND to have job-shadowed in that area AND to have decided where she'll go to grad school so she can be competitive in that field is coming from almost every direction.

I can’t run after her dreams and do what has to be done to make them a reality.

I can’t practice patience and kindness and self-control when teenage stress, exhaustion, and hormones—so many hormones—are bearing down hard.

I can’t balance 14 hours most weekdays of academics and extracurriculars and relationships with friends and family, all of them requiring dedication and determination.

My teenager is the only one who can do these things that matter now and matter for her future.

But I can make pancakes for her. And so, that morning, I did. Not because she wouldn't, but because I was willing. Not because she couldn't, but because I could. Not because making breakfast is some grand, magnanimous gesture, but because this is how we do family. I do things all the time for my husband that he can do for himself, as he does for me. My own parents still do many things for me that I can do for myself. This isn't a scorecard we're keeping here; it's just love. 

Of course, love wants the best for those it holds dear, and so I want my teenager to be able to take care of herself when I'm not around to do it. That's what's best for her. 

But when the time comes, this child who will always be a little bit my baby won’t be any less ready for life without me on a daily basis just because I made her a few breakfasts or washed a few dance leotards for her.

On the other hand, though, maybe I'll be a little readier for life without her at my kitchen table every morning if I do for her what I can do—even if she can do it for herself—while I still have the chance.

A version of this article first appeared on Your Teen For Parents.

March 15, 2021

Looking For My Children . . . And Being Found By Them

One morning several summers ago, my then-college daughter was backing her car out of our driveway just as I was turning in on foot. I’d left the house for my daily walk up and down our country road without seeing her or telling her goodbye before she left for her nannying job, so when I saw her heading to her car from my vantage point a little ways down the street, I circled back to send her off.

As we met at the end of our drive, she put her window down and told me, "I was coming to look for you!"

My daughter didn’t need anything from me. Nothing was wrong. She didn’t have anything she had to tell me. She just wanted to say goodbye, just for the day. So she was coming to look for me.

As parents, we look for our children their whole lives.

We look for those telltale lines on a pregnancy test or for a phone call from the adoption agency. We look for our babies to be born. We look to make sure they’re breathing in their cribs. We look for them when we play peekaboo or hide-and-seek. We look for them “hiding” in plain sight with their hands over their eyes, thinking that because they can’t see us, we can’t see them. They don’t know yet that we always see them, even when it’s just in our mind’s eye.

We look, frantically, for our children when they sometimes wander off at the grocery store or the library or the playground — in that one split second when we aren’t looking.

We look for them when they come out of school or get off the bus, trying to gauge what kind of day they’ve had by what we see on their faces…hoping for some advance notice of whether we’re going to need to commiserate or congratulate.

If they are dancers, we look for them in recitals and try to pick them out of all the other ballerinas wearing the same costume and doing the same moves (parents of little boy dancers may have an easier time of this). If they are athletes, we look for them on playing fields and try to find them among the uniforms that are aptly named because they all blend together. If they are musicians or actors, we look for them to emerge from the wings and take their place on stage.

When our teenagers learn to drive, we look for “I’m here” texts and for headlights turning into the driveway at night, and we breathe a sigh of relief every time.

We look for them, eventually, in a long line of gowned graduates processing into a stadium or gymnasium at a high school commencement.

We look for them when they come home from college or jobs or their own homes. We look for them coming up the sidewalk or through the arrival gate at the airport.

It is a privilege, this looking.

It speaks of relationship and connection and of our place in our children’s lives that no one else occupies. But at some point—usually on some ordinary day when we’re doing ordinary things, like taking a morning walk—our big kids start looking for us, too.

They look for us in the crowd at their ceremonies and celebrations. They look for us when we’re away and they’re the ones at home, waiting for us. They look, sometimes, for our advice. They look for our confirmation that they’ve done the right thing. They look for our reassurance that we still love them even when they’ve done the wrong thing. They look for our comfort and our presence.

And when this happens—when the children we’ve sought their whole lives start seeking us—we know we’ve found something new and wonderful. Something we were looking for, all along.

A version of this post originally appeared on CollegiateParent.

February 20, 2021

7 Good Things To Tell Yourself When You're Having a Bad Day As a Mom

The best gift I’ve ever gotten from my children was a yellow sticky note left for me on my kitchen counter. It read, “We love you.”

I can guess what you might be thinking. “Really? The best gift? Not the Christmas ornament with your firstborn’s handprint preserved in clay? Not the wall hanging with the names of every family member spelled out like a Scrabble game board?”

I did love those gifts, too. But the "we love you" note was the best because my children gave it to me on a day I was so very unlovable as a mother.

I’d had one of my typical mom meltdowns. I’m sure there was yelling and door-slamming involved. And, I’m sure I freaked about something that was, in fact, nothing. Truly, I’m sure my daughters snuck off to their rooms to commiserate about “mom being a mom”…and to write me this note, which they surreptitiously left for me to find.

All of which is just to say that I’ve had more than my share of bad days as a mom. I’ve had to learn how to reset my defaults…to reprogram my thinking. If you’re having a day that’s headed toward bad in a hurry, here are a few things to tell yourself that might bring it around to good.

1. God cares about moms.

I believe God has a special place in His great heart for moms, as evidenced by this lovely passage from Isaiah:

“See, the Sovereign Lord…tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:10a, 11, emphasis added).

2. A bad day does not make you a bad mom.

The pursuit of perfection in motherhood seems like an honorable goal because we know a terrible, wonderful truth: THIS JOB MATTERS. A lot. So when we miss the mark, we’re tempted to overgeneralize and overreact: a bad morning becomes a bad day, and a bad day becomes bad motherhood.

But oh mama, with God, there is grace. Yet if achieving some level of “good” as a mom is a goal we pursue above all else, it is an idol. And Jonah 2:8 is starkly clear that grace and idolatry cannot live together in the same spiritual house: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

I don’t want to give up grace that could be mine. I don’t want you to give up grace that could be yours. And it’s not about giving yourself grace nearly so much as it is about receiving the grace Abba is offering. Take it, and then pour it out onto the people who call you “mom."

3. Now is a good time to pause, praise, and pray.

When I’m staring down a bad day on my motherhood journey, I tend to go into frantic-mom mode: running around, pinging from uncompleted task to uncompleted task, jabbering incoherently to myself. What I need to do instead is hit the pause button.

I need to praise God for who He is and for the blessings He’s given me, including the children and the home that usually “inspire” my busyness. And then I need to pray for strength and patience and perspective and hope. (For starters.)

4. All the little things you do make a difference in the big picture.

On a day that seems ripe for a do-over, it’s tempting to focus on the constant tasks that demand our attention and are never, ever truly “done”: laundry, dinner, driving kids places, baths, bedtimes… But woven into this fabric of daily life are the interactions and loving gestures and words of teaching and encouragement that shape soul the soul.

“Parenthood is a partnership with God. You are not molding iron nor chiseling marble; you are working with the Creator of the universe in shaping human character and determining destiny” (Ruth Vaughn).

That’s some big-picture perspective right there.

5. It’s okay if your day is a “just get through it” day.

A few years ago, when my parents, my siblings and their families, and my little family and I were all on vacation together to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, my sister taught us a new card game. I don’t remember the name of the game or how it worked, but one goal of it was to earn points. On one of her turns, my sister ended up with a low score of just a few points but remarked that it was “better than zero.”

Since then, “better than zero” has become a life litmus test of sorts for us: if something is “better than zero,” that’s often good enough. Of course, I know you’re trying to make the most of your time and opportunities with your precious children.

But some days, anything better than zero is a win in and of itself, and it’s just fine if today is one of those days.

6. You’re not supposed to be able to do this on your own.

There’s a phrase floating around in the mom social-media world these days that says, “You are enough.” It’s meant to encourage us, but it always rings hollow to me. I read it and think, “No, I’m not.” But here’s the thing: I’m not supposed to be.

God did not create us to be “enough” on our own. Indeed, He created us to need Him. And, He puts it this way in His Word:

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

The idea of God’s power being “made perfect” is not an indication it’s lacking anything; rather, “made perfect” carries the idea of completion. It’s as if the best backdrop for God’s power to show itself off is our weakness.

Next time you’re having the kind of day you’d like to trade in for a new model, do a little “boasting”: “Hey, God! Here’s all my weakness! I’m primed for your power!” It’ll be the perfect package.

7. Your kids will remember the love

My teenager started her birthday one year crying in her bedroom. It was, thankfully, not my fault: the weather was decidedly not in favor of the beach plans she’d chosen for her celebration, so a complete revamp was necessary.

We hastily constructed Plan B and set about putting it into action. At the end of what had started out as a very bad day, our birthday girl pulled her big sister and me in for a hug and told us, “I had a wonderful day. I felt so loved.” And I thought, “That’s IT, isn’t it?”

Oh, mama, I’ve been through a lot of days with my kids, and I want you to know this: at the end of the day—good days, bad days, any day, every day—love is what your children will remember most.

I’ve still got that sticky note from my daughters tucked away in a kitchen drawer for safekeeping and future reference. It reminds me of what was true the day they gave it to me and of what, mercifully and beautifully, is true now: love wins the day, on any kind of day.

A version of this post first appeared on Ruthie Gray Dot Mom.

February 17, 2021

16 Verses For When You’re Awake In the Night Worrying About Your Kids

Moms of young children do not so much sleep as they hover in a semi-conscious state, waiting for someone to need something.

Moms of older children, on the other hand, do not so much sleep as they worry in a reclining position, wondering about what their grown kids need that they don’t know about or do know about but can’t do anything about.

Momsomnia is a battle, and like so many battles, we fight it in our minds first. Since “just don’t think about it” works approximately 0.00 percent of the time, we’ve got to have a sharper weapon. 

Enter the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—with which we can offend the enemy and take a stab at those 3 a.m. (or whenever-a.m.) thoughts.

The next time you find yourself worrying in a reclining position, maybe these Scriptures and accompanying breath prayers—meditations based on the Scripture that you can pray in one inhale and exhale—will help transform it into a position of peace.

1. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Your plans are good.

Your plans face forward.

Your plans give hope.

2. “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.” (Psalm 16:7-9 NAS) 

My eyes are on You.

I will not be shaken.

I can rest secure.

3. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)

You go ahead of my children.

You are always with them.

You will never, never, never, never, never* leave them.

(*The original language here has never “nevers.”)

4. “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)

I will see Your goodness again.

I will wait for You.

I will not lose heart.

5. “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.” (Psalm 31:7-8 NIV)

You see what troubles me.

You have not given me to my enemies.

You set me in a wide-open place.

6. "The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." (Psalm 37:23,24 NIV)

You make my kids’ steps firm.

They might stumble, but they won’t fall.

You hold them up.

7. "The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." (Psalm 121:7,8 NIV)


You’re watching over my children's lives.

You will keep harm away from them.

You always see their comings and goings.

8. "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them." (Psalm 145:18,19 NIV)

When I call, You come near.

You fulfill my desires.

You hear my cry, and you save me.

9. "How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:19,21 NIV) 

You are gracious and want to help.

You answer my cries quickly.

You will tell me which way I should go.

10. "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV)

I confidently expect what you will do.

You make my strength new.

You help me keep going strong.

11. "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." (Isaiah 43:2 NLT) 

You are with my children.

Deep waters won’t drown them.

Hot fires won’t destroy them.

12. "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him." (Isaiah 64:4 NIV)

No one compares to you.

You’re working while I’m waiting.

You are acting on my children's behalf.

13. "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:21-23 NIV)

Your compassions never fail.

You mercies are new every day.

Your faithfulness is great.

14. "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)

You are with my children.

You delight in them greatly.

You sing and You save.

15. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

You give me more than I deserve.

Your grace never falls short.

My weakness is the perfect place for your power.

16. "I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

You are the Beginner of good things.

You carry the load.

One day, all You started will be perfectly finished.

January 19, 2021

Laying It Down, In Real Life

“Lay it down.” 

“Let it go.”

“Give it to God.”

What in the world does this look like? 

Because until we stand in the immediate presence of Jesus, we are most definitely in the world, even while we’re not supposed to be of it.

“Lay it down.”

“Let it go.”

“Give it to God.”

We know these are good ideas. We know this is what we should do. We know this is the best way.

But every time I see or hear this advice, I think, “Yes, but HOW??!!”

What does this really mean?

What does it look like in practice?

And also, “just” lay it down? It doesn’t usually feel like “just” to me, because the “it” I’m supposed to be “just” giving to God or laying down or letting go of—my burden or worry or struggle or fear—is almost always connected in some way to some person I love. Someone I very much want to clutch to me.

“Lay it down” is no simple advice to follow because I’m almost never needing to lay down an “it” but a “who.”

The it may be worry or fear or a weight, but my goodness, the who is my child or my husband or my friend or even my own self.

Yet I know it is for the best good of all these “whos” that I do unclench my fists of worry, fear, et al, and lay down, let go, give up to God
Who is infinitely able to bear them for me while He cares about the “whos” behind them. 

But—back to this again—what does this laying, letting, giving look like in real life? Not just as an “amen” to someone’s “let it go” post on social media? Not just as a nod of agreement to a preacher’s “give it to God” in a sermon?

Sometimes, it looks like a symbolic but also literal physical act: in prayer, clenching my fists, holding on...then opening my hands, palms up, and praying, “Here, God. Here it it. Take it.” And turning my open hands over, palms down.

Sometimes, it looks like turning whatever I’m clutching into a sacrificial thank offering. “Sacrificial,” because it will cost me something to give: my comfort, my familiarity with the burden, my feelings. 
“Offering,” because this is what I will present to God. “Thank,” because what I will sacrificially give is my gratitude. I am worried, maybe, about my child. But I am thankful I have her to care about. I am burdened, maybe, by my schedule. But I am thankful I have meaningful work to do. 

Sometimes, it looks like getting control of my thoughts ahead of time. If I’m trying to let go of something, that letting go is going to happen first in my brain. So if (and this is not a very big “if”) I know that something is going to be my first conscious thought in the morning, I can preselect an alternate thought. A thanksgiving, a praise to God, a name of God, a Scripture. I wake up, and the worry or the burden shows up immediately. But I already have its override ready. I plug it in...letting go, laying down, giving up.

Sometimes, it looks like starving the thing. Like not feeding it more time or attention or energy or new information or one more check-in.

Sometimes, it looks like sifting out the lies that are adding the most burdensome weight to whatever I’m carrying and washing them down the drain with the water of truth. What is it about what I’m trying to let go of that, if I’m honest, isn’t true? What’s the counteracting truth? Pour that on. Let the lies go down the drain.

Lay it down.

Let it go.

Give it to God.

These cannot just be nice ideas; they have to be real-life choices. And they will never be one-time acts; they will always be repeat motions. They will be hard. I will have to fight myself.

But I trust, even if only with a mustard-seed’s worth of faith, that if I give up fear, I’ll gain freedom. If I let go of worry, I’ll take hold peace. If I lay down despair, I’ll pick up hope.

It won’t be a “just” job. But the payout might just be nothing less than joy.

January 8, 2021

Parenting Is the Riskiest Thing I’ve Ever Done

I am not a risk-taker.

The worst that can happen—as in, "what’s the worst that...?"—is usually far too "worst" for me.

This is the same reason I can’t sell ANYTHING. My husband, a natural salesman like his father before him, says, "My dad always said, 'The worst someone can say is 'no.''" To which I always reply, "EXACTLY! They might say no! I’d rather just not ask in the first place." I honestly can’t think of a possible "yes" that’s worth the risk of a "no."

Yet here I am, 22 contiguous years into parenting, and it’s easily the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.

Honestly, I think it’s the riskiest thing any parent who’s in it for the long haul and for the highest good of their children ever does.

No one tells you this, of course. Baby shower and new baby cards don’t say, "Congratulations! You have just leapt off the highest cliff of your life!" They say things about new hands to hold and a new heart to love. Both of which, bless the day, are true!

But it’s a chancy truth.

Love is always a risk. We risk our hearts. We risk our comfort. We risk our convenience. But often we make this investment with some reassurance that love will be returned. We get married and enter into a covenant...a promise that goes both ways. Or we love a friend who, at least to begin with, seems to love us back.

But parenting is a chance we take without any prior agreement from one of the major parties involved. Our children can rightly tell us, “I didn’t ask to be born!” (And many children across the ages have availed themselves of this claim.)

Signing on voluntarily to love the children we bring into the world is in a risk class all its own. It reminds me of what Mary Steenburgen’s character tells Steve Martin’s character in the movie Parenthood: "What do you want? Guarantees? These are kids, not appliances."

We risk our children not loving us. We risk them not liking us. We risk them breaking our hearts. We risk them leaving us.

We risk pain where they are concerned that is none of their own doing and also pain that is.

We take this edgy chance partly because we don’t know what we’re getting into (ignorance being if not bliss then at least emboldening).

We also take it because we suspect there are joys to be had in this uncertain game we won’t find by playing it safe.

But mostly we take it because we trust it will be worth it.

Worth it in the most life-changing, life-bettering ways.

Worth it when they learn something new we’ve taught them.

Worth it when they learn something new we didn’t teach them.

Worth it when they teach us something we needed to learn but couldn’t have learned any other way.

Worth it when we fight and win battles together.

Worth it when we get to watch them do something that lights them up.

Worth it when they make the world a better place.

Worth it when they do something only they can do.

Worth it when they’re loved enough to leave us when they can.

Worth it when they love us enough to come back when they can.

Worth it when they fill up a space in our hearts we didn't know was waiting for anything.

I know there are parents who wish with all their broken hearts they hadn’t taken this risk. I can only try to start to imagine all the reasons this might be true. How I hope these parents will be surprised in the near future by joys they can’t begin to imagine in the present.

But for me—and I do not take this one bit for granted—becoming a parent is without question the biggest chance I’ve ever taken that I’d absolutely, without a doubt, take all over again.