Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Write or Not To Write...This is a Really Good Question

Letters from the early 1900's written by Bess
I LOVE WORDS!  I'm not talking about the game everyone plays now a days. I mean words written in a letter, thoughts printed in a book, poetry and hymns, stories and conversations. Recently I was reading some old letters from Daryl's great-great-grandmother Bess' courting days in the early 1900's. Though I never met this woman, I felt as each page turned that I was getting to know bits of  her, almost as if she was personally sitting in the room, sharing her inner most thoughts. Carefully, I've placed these treasured letters into chronological order. Pieces of a love story emerged with each postmark.

Bess can't wait to get married and have a life all her own for she's grown weary of watching her brother's child. She longs to be with her "Fritz" out on the prairies of Montana, riding horses at his side. At one point she boldly asks him to shave his mustache off before their wedding because she's just not sure she'll like it. A couple years into their long distance courtship, she asks him to share his feelings and affections more openly with her, promising to keep the letters well hidden for she is sure no one will ever read them! (I laughed out loud as I read that last part. If she only knew that we'd be reading them 100 years later!)

I had an epiphany that day.I'd seen pictures of Grandma Bess before but that was where it'd ended...until the letters. Written words preserve the thoughts, the heart, the struggles and inner longings of an individual. A picture shows us what a person looked like, but only on the outside. More importantly though, a diary or stack of letters, like Bess', show us who they were in the inside.  This must be part of why God chose to put his story, his heart, in the written word, the Bible. To have it written perpetuates his message and keeps it from fading away, forgotten.

Anything worth learning is worth writing about.  I keep a journal...actually I keep a library of journals now.  I started my first one in junior high using a left-over spiral notebook from school. Actually, it was more of a crazy diary about boys that I had crushes on. As the years went by though, my journals turned into written out prayers that reflected the desires of a young woman who wanted to know what it looked like to love Jesus wholeheartedly. After kids, my journals recorded a wild ride of ups and downs, questions and joys, prayers for babies in womb and toddlers underfoot.  Some days, I'd draw little pictures to go with my thoughts. Other days, I'd end up tearing out and burning what I'd written! Yes, true,  there were some very dark journal entries when my heart despaired and grew hopeless about my so-called life. But the most beautiful thing now is looking back and seeing God's faithfulness through it all! When I look at my journals, it's like looking at a pile of rocks like the Israelites used to stack up to cause them to remember what God had done.

Some of the journals from these past years.  Not my "junior high journal" since I told my kids...not 'til I'm dead and gone!
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pull these "rocks" out and share with my youngest son some of the prayers I had written out about him over the years. We both enjoyed reading and laughing over them. From pregnancy to junior high we could see how God had answered my prayers for him. It was this day that I realized that there are parts of me I haven't revealed to my children... out loud. It was only when we looked at what I'd written that I even remembered certain things. This day at the counter, rereading through old entries reminded me of the importance of continually telling my children of God's faithfulness through life. Who knows, though I may not ever meet my great-great-grandchildren, someday they, too, may read through my journals. I guess I hope they might possibly get to know a very ordinary woman who left an account of a very extraordinary God!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rip Snortin' Mad Mama - What do you do with anger?

I wish I could say kids have brought out the best in me. Actually, they've brought out the worst.  Before I had children, I was a patient, soft spoken person.  But then came the toddler years, and siblings and fighting, nit-picking and whining.  Somewhere deep inside, the sweet mama morphed into a wild eyed crazy woman, who (*sigh* I confess) YELLED. Not all the time.  I had mastered the art of Jekyll and Hyde mothering. Maybe you're familiar with it.  I could be hollering through clenched teeth, "How many times do I have to come down here and tell you to finish picking up your toys!!!" when the phone would ring and I'd answer in my sweetest Donna Reed voice, "Hello."  All the while I would be giving my kids THE LOOK while silently shaking the finger that was suppose to let them know they better listen or else!  These episodes were often followed by waves of guilt because I felt like such a hypocrite.  I didn't know what to do or how to act when angry.

Anger.  I knew that bible verse that said, "In your anger, do not sin."  It doesn't say, "Don't be angry."  Just do not sin.  How in the world was that accomplished?  For years, I struggled with thinking that anger was sinning.

One day, while reading the story of Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert, I realized God really hated whining.  There were consequences to their unbelief and complaining. Numbers 11 starts out saying, "And now the people complained about their hardships, and when he heard them his anger was aroused."  This was my favorite part...God tells Moses to answer for him like this:

"The Lord heard you when you wailed, 'If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!' Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’

That sounded like something a frustrated mother might say!  "If you don't quit yer bellyaching and eat those peas, I'm gonna feed 'em to ya until ya love 'em and your eyes turn green!"  I'm quite certain it wasn't said with the tone of Donna Reed either.  So, how does one go about being angry and not sinning because it is possible.  God was pretty snortin' mad and we know he didn't sin.  

I think I found the answer the other day.  It's in the story of Jesus driving out those who were selling sacrificial animals inside the temple courts.  The verse says, "So, he made a whip out of chords and drove them from the temple courts..."  

It didn't say "he was so filled with anger that he grabbed the nearest whip he could find from that guy walking his donkey down the street near him".  Nor did it say, "he started punching the salesmen until they got them message."  I think this is the key...
           HE MADE A WHIP.  
That takes time.  It means his anger wasn't a fly-off-the-handle kind of anger.  He had time to think about what he would say.  How he would go about it.  He knew that what he was upset about was legit.  

I'm not suggesting you go whittle at stick off the apple tree to make a switch to discipline each time your kids get you riled up.  But I think time is what keeps us from overreacting and saying and doing things we'd regret later.  

So, when your kids have whined you into a tizzy, it's alright if you're sick of it.  Hey! If God got fed up with constant  complaining and whining, I can too.  And boy, can kids whine!  But then go that next step, take time to ponder how you can teach them.  You're not a bad mama if you get angry.  You're normal.  Just learn to deal with it without over reacting.  And from what we've seen in scripture, being angry and telling them "You're gonna eat that til it come out your nose!"  is still on the table :)  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Guilt-Free Mothering

The middle age mom.  That's me.  There've been no newborn cries from the crib for many years.  No toddlers screaming through the halls for a decade.  Not even any talk of recess for the last few years. Now that I'm firmly settled into this new chapter, I find young moms looking to me, the "old" mom, for advice. I certainly don't have all the answers but I can offer one thing with certainty...


After a couple of conversations this past week with young moms who are trying to navigate early motherhood, I decided I was going to write a few things that I find myself repeating often since the challenges of motherhood seem to change little from generation to generation.  Some of these are things I learned by trial and error as a mom myself.  Others are words of wisdom passed on to me by "older" moms during the years when I was the inquisitive one.

1.    You will get  to sleep through the night again. Promise. Yet, sleep deprivation will make you feel like you're going crazy some days.  You're not.  But lack of sleep is so powerful that Prisoners Of War were often subjected to it in order to wear them down and get info during times of war.  So, if you have those moments where you break down and cry from sheer tiredness... it's ok!  Remember that even the strongest of soldiers couldn't stand it some days.  Rest is important.  So never feel guilty taking that nap with your little one in the middle of the day.

2.   There is not a book out there with a formula to raise perfect kids. You may have joked with fellow mamas that you wished this kid of yours had come with an instruction manual.  There isn't a fool-proof method for raising kids.  I'll take this one step wary of anyone who tells you that "if you just read this book and practice it" your kids will eat, sleep, talk, think and behave properly.  Many great ideas can come from reading parenting books, but if you find yourself questioning whether something is wrong with your baby because she want to nurse more often that every three hours, throw that book in the trash!  Help books are suppose to equip you to walk forward in confidence, not question everything you've been doing, making you wallow in fear and indecision.  One of the most dangerous places to allow legalism to creep in is parenting.  Allow grace to lead you.  God gives you the grace to choose what's best for your little one...that's why He entrusted them to you.  Use God's Word and the rest is all grace

Notice that even "Christian" books have human authors, so there are no divine guarantees that everything written in it is God's will for you and your child.  That's where the Holy Spirit comes in.  I've gotten to know the Spirit more through my mothering than anything else because I'm often praying (sometimes pleading) to know his direction in parenting.  He is faithful!  He will lead you. 

3.   Some things seem like HUGE decisions now, but they really won't matter in the long run.  (This is part of that grace stuff in the everyday.)  Maybe you've been caught up in one of these dilemmas before, feeling paralyzed you'd make the "wrong" choice.
          Nursing vs. Formula
          Cloth diapers vs. Disposable
          Sleeping schedule vs. Naptimes when needed
          Potty trained by 2 vs. "It'll happen when they're ready"
          Organic homemade food vs.Quick and convenient meals
          T.V. and movies vs. No electronics for entertainment
          Pacifier vs. Thumb sucking vs. Nothing

When you look at the adults around you, can you tell as children, whether or not they were nursed or bottle fed?  Potty trained early or wet the bed through elementary school?  Whether they ate organic fruit or fruity pebbles for breakfast?  Yeah, I can't either.  None of these things will matter at 20!  Live and be free! And let the majors be major and the minors stay minor. 

4.   When you look back at these early years it will seem as though they flew by... even though, this moment, you think you may not make it 15 more minutes.  "Old" mothers, like myself, will look at you with a bit of longing in our eyes because it is easy to remember only the sweet things from those years.  They were thee toughest years, too!  It's just that every mama whose children are grown wish they would have cuddled their kids more, kissed more boo boos, read more bedtime stories, savored more moments and hurried less.  When another mother says this to you, don't feel guilty that earlier you were longing for a break and hid in the bathroom for a moments peace!  Today, you're in the middle of the toughest job ever, but someday, you'll romantically recall only the blessings, too.

5.   Finally, you are still in there.  What I mean by that is your identity may feel a bit skewed during these child rearing years.  You are a mother, but you are still a woman, a friend, a lover.  You're still funny, beautiful, inspiring.  You may have cheerios stuck to your kitchen floor, spit up on your shirt, and very hairy unshaved legs, but you are still in there... and you're wonderful! 

I asked my husband one day if he would do me a favor.  I said, "Would you sometimes just say my name?"  Confused, he waited for the explanation.  I told him I heard my name as "Mom, Honey, Gorgeous, Mrs. H," but rarely did I just simply hear my name... "Candi".  I love being a mom.  I love being a wife.  But sometimes, during those early years,  I needed to know I was still just me

You are valuable.  You are loved!  God still sees you as the beautiful girl he made you to be.  Don't feel bad if some days you just miss the old you.  She'll come back.  Actually, thanks to what you learn as a mom, she'll return new and improved!  Stronger and wiser than ever!