Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It Doesn't Last Forever

This could apply to so many things with regard to children, but what I'm thinking of right now is the short period of time that an infant fits sleeping curled up between your belly button and the top of your chest. Never has that been more real to me than last year . . . the year my oldest baby grew up and not only moved away but moved away and overseas! And though I held him a lot, I would go back and do it more if I could. 

For nine months a baby is curled up in a crazy ball inside his mother's womb (well I guess part of the time he's small enough that he does not have to be curled up, but you get what I mean). When he enters this world he still needs to be close to his mother's (or father's) heartbeat. Can you imagine the comfort that is taken away when those sounds and feelings are just suddenly gone? I know that an infant is too young and the brain is not developed enough to identify the loss of what had been normal, but the brain is developed enough for him to sense comfort and security when he hears and feels what was normal.  But it's also a great thing for the parent in terms of bonding with the baby.  You CANNOT overbond!

I had two babies who struggled with sleep (James and David) and two who did not (Jason and Sarah). It was nice to be able to put Jason and Sarah down for bed and know they were going to fall asleep and that they were not going to be as demanding as the others. But nice and convenient is not what parenting is about. God NEVER promised that. He said there would be pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16), and certainly as moms we all know the truth in that, but I don't think the pain and discomfort ends there. In fact that might be some of the easiest pain many parents feel. Yes, it hurts but the hurt generally ends and the body heals, but the emotional pain we feel throughout our children's lives is often not as short-lived. Your children will be hurt by others which will cause you pain. They will say things to hurt you. You will be saddened at times by their actions. The pain in childbirth is only the beginning.  No one is guaranteed an easy life, but I can tell you, if that's what you're seeking, DON'T have children.

But in the trials (and in the everyday life), there is great joy, as the Bible says in James 1. Don't miss those moments . . . the moments filled with joy . . . the moments you can cherish forever . . . the moments that create or enhance the relationship you have with your children. Hold your baby on your chest. Let him fall asleep there and stay asleep there (if you want). Don't feel an ounce of guilt rocking him to sleep or when he's older laying beside him in bed until he falls asleep . . . or letting him stay up past bedtime for that talk that might not happen any other time. These moments will be gone in the blink of an eye. By eight or nine months they don't fit in that space on your chest and/or they are too wiggly and it's not comfortable. By the 2nd or 3rd grade, if you have not seized those moments, your child is probably going to prefer to stay up with their friends than with you.  For people with young babies who are sleep deprived, I know it seems like you will never sleep again, but rest assured you will, and you will even miss the days when your children wanted to climb in bed with you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Parenting

I was at dinner with a sweet friend a couple weeks ago.  She does not have any children yet, and she was talking about her friends who do and the struggle that exists between them.  It took me back to the days when James was a baby and the things I learned about people and parenting, and it made me sad.  It is amazing what causes division among Believers, and parenting is one of them.  And I find it so interesting that it causes the most division among parents of young children who do not even know if their techniques are going to work or not.

When I was a new mom, there was a popular parenting program in churches.  Many of you who might be reading this will know what I'm referring to, and in all honesty, I don't have any problem mentioning it, but for the time being I think I will refrain because I don't want start with a fight.  But I will say that I did not follow it, and I have no regrets.  I was a young mom . . . not a teen, but young and I was finishing college.  I had a baby with a cleft lip who was going to require surgery, and basically I was not a crowd follower, and though I was sometimes sad that I did not fit in with almost all the other moms my age, I did not care enough to try to follow the crowd and use the popular parenting technique.  I didn't have time to read "the books" when James was a baby.  I was reading school books and studying for tests and spending the rest of my time in doctor's offices.  James struggled with feeding because of his cleft, so doctor's orders were to feed him when he was hungry, and I followed those orders.  There was no going on a tight feeding schedule for him until he was about 5 months, and at that point, it was too late.  I suppose people did not look down on me like they may have others . . . or maybe it was just that I did not care, but I remember a situation that made me realize how incredibly ridiculous this issue of parenting was among my peers.

There was another mom who had a baby sometime near the time that James was born.  She was trying to follow this tight feeding schedule, but I guess it just wasn't working.  One day I was at a function, and her baby was crying.  She disappeared and later I found her in another room.  She appeared to be anxious.  I remember walking into the room and realizing she had been secretly nursing her baby.  She admitted to me that she was not following the routine, but she did not want to have to get into it with the other ladies, so she was pretending that she was.  It broke my heart.  I remember thinking, "Why is this stupid schedule so important?"  I remember people saying things like, "This is the godly way to raise your children."  "If you follow these instructions, your children will not have behavioral problems."  And other nonsensical things.  I remember Brent and I discussing this "godly" way of raising children and trying to make some sense out of it.  I could not recall anywhere in the Bible that it gave specific instructions on day to day parenting with regard to feeding schedules and discipline techniques (other than the argument that God is a God of order, which I do believe, but I don't necessarily think that translates into feeding schedules.  If it does, I don't think it should change when we get older, so I think everyone who makes their babies be on a rigid schedule should be on one themselves).  I didn't remember anywhere in the Bible that it said children should sleep through the night by the time they were a certain age, or that they should not be allowed to fall asleep after eating but should have tummy time instead.  All I could see of this parenting practice was division, sneakiness, people feeling unable to be authentic and to talk through their struggles.  I also thought it was quite naive that people thought these parenting practices were going to create children without behavior problems.  Last I checked we all have sin nature, not to mention maturity issues.  A child would not be a child if there were not behavior problems.

The theme I kept hearing was how this parenting practice was going to make parenting easier for the parents.  No one actually used those words, but the supposed outcomes of using this type of parenting was definitely about making things easy for parents.  I want to note that later (when Jason was born and life was less stressful), I read a couple of the books (infants and toddlers I believe) and to me this was the message of the books.  There are some good ideas in the books, but as with everything else, there are things to take hold of and run with, and there are things to throw out and run away from.  The book was written by a human being . . . an imperfect human being.  What I saw was that people were taking this book and following it like it was the Bible . . . but I'm not sure they were actually looking at the book in relation to Scripture.

I am sad to hear that almost 20 years later this parenting practice is still causing division, hurting friendships, making people feel like they need to be something different than what they really are in terms of their parenting.  As I talked to my friend, who as I mentioned does not have children yet, I was broken-hearted to hear her already wondering how this was going to impact her when she does have children and how it is impacting a friend of hers who is not following this practice.  I don't know if any of you will read this blog, but I plan to write some of the things I'm so glad I did with my children . . . and some of the things I wish I did differently.  I've also been looking at Scripture in terms of parenting.  I think this will be an interesting study and opportunity for me to put some of my thoughts in writing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Struggling with Balance

It's so hard sometimes to balance all my roles, and today I am really struggling . . . follower of Jesus, wife, mom, social worker, student, pastor's wife, friend, daughter . . . the list of roles I can think of right now.  A couple of weeks ago, a coworker asked me what my top five priorities were and asked me to list them in order.  I listed the top five things I shared just now.  But as I walked away, I had to turn around and say . . . "That's what I want them to be . . . that's what I know they should be . . . but that's not what my time says."  And she said probably in a little nicer of a way, "Then those are not your priorities."  I felt the dagger and I wanted to argue (I think I even did a little) but deep inside I knew she was right.  It's such a struggle, and yesterday and today I have spent far too much time in pain over the situation.  The truth is that my time says social worker then student and after that I'm not even really sure.  It's all just lumped together according to urgency, which often means follower of Jesus, wife, and mom get the leftovers.  Daughters is definitely dead last even after other things that should be less important.  So I'm a mess.  I know I need to make changes, but I don't know what those changes are or how to do it.

Some of the roles I do as part of being a good wife and mom.  Some of them, while I do them, I am definitely doing them as a representative of Jesus, so it's not as linear as some want to make it, but it is still a problem when I consistently miss my own children because I am taking care of other people's children, even if it is during work hours.  I never really thought I would work full time for most of my children's lives.  I did have the blessing of being able to contract for so many years for the State of Oklahoma, and I thank God for that all the time, but the past few years have been tough as I have been back in an office full time.  In some ways it was easier because work and home were separate.  Before they were not, and in ministry they definitely are not, so there was something healthy about it.  But in most ways it has been more difficult.  I miss so much . . . not just don't get to be there, but actually have a terrible ache in my heart for a couple days because I am not there.  Sometimes it is something significant, such as missing David's long jump yesterday; sometimes it is just a routine thing like being in their classrooms and knowing their teachers.

So I'm partly blogging this because I need to get it out, and I'm partly blogging it to ask for prayer as I try to figure out how to best handle the whole situation . . . is it just an internal thing, and I need to make some adjustments attitudinally, or are there things I need to do with regard to my schedule, and how?  Pray that God will make that clear and that He will open doors if a change is needed.  And also, either way, I feel like I need to have a conversation with the director of the agency where I work, but for some reason, I am really struggling with doing that.  I normally don't feel too intimidated, but I do right now.

The book of James, especially James 1 is going through my head.  Trials are good . . . just figuring out what God wants from it is not easy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

To Honor . . .

Today is the anniversary of Brent's mother's (Vanita's) homecoming . . . to Heaven that is . . . 40 years ago.  I am afraid that I often don't remember the day like I should . . . and I really want to do better.  If it weren't for her and Brent's father's sacrificial love and their obedience to God, and if it weren't for the love and nurture of his mom, Joyce, I would not have the husband that I have today.  All three of them sacrificed and obeyed and gave their lives in ways most people wouldn't.  It is amazing the different views that Brent and I have about "other" mothers (Brent does NOT like the word "stepmother") based on the way non-biological moms (and dad's in my case) treated us.  I was going to write more about it for those of you who do not know the story, but then I remembered a post on Brent's blog a few Mother's Days ago, and just thought I would share the link.  Brent expresses everything so much better than I do.  So, take some time and check out this post he wrote about his moms and his dad.  They are all incredible!!!

http://reallybigfingerprints.blogspot.com/2011/05/in-honor-of-my-many-moms.html

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy Birthday to David!!!!

Today David is eleven . . . eleven!!!  So hard for his mom to believe.  He announced to us a few weeks ago that we needed to celebrate big because he was becoming a pre-teen.  I thought about explaining that he has been a pre-teen all his life based on the true meaning of the word, but I did not want to burst his bubble.  He was so excited!!!  David being anywhere near a teen is harder to imagine than when his older brothers turned the same age or even older.  Maybe it's his personality, maybe it's because he is my baby boy, but he does not seem like he is old enough to be approaching the teen years.

I had a friend post a picture on Facebook several weeks ago, and this is what she said, "David did such a wonderful job today!  He is always so full of life and enthusiastic about EVERYTHING!!!  Also, he spent so much time engaging with Olivia - getting down on her level to communicate with her, high five her, hug her . . . it was quite impressive and really warmed my heart!  He even asked if he could take Olivia's lunch plate and throw it away for her . . . WOW!  He is a very special young man."  This a classmate's mother, and her daughter who she mentions is about 4, I think.  But when I got this, two things struck me . . . One, she called him a young man (not really what I think of when I look at my baby boy), and two, she described him very well.  He is enthusiastic about everything . . . even things that are not the easiest for him.

As I thought about this description of him, pictures of his life flashed through my mind.  He was such a busy toddler.  He wore me out, and I often wondered what he would be like when he grew up.  Would Brent and I be able to lead and guide him the way we did the other two boys without completely crushing him because he got into so much more trouble than them?  Would I ever sleep through the night?  Would I have to be at school all the time because he was completely frustrating his teachers?  Would he be kind and loving to his sister or other children?  The questions go on and on.  To be honest, I was often scared.  I loved him with all my heart, but oh could he frustrate me.

As I look back on just this year alone, I thank God for the work he has done in David and for the fact that Brent and I have been able to parent him and help raise a child who loves God and loves others.  He does it with all the energy and enthusiasm that God gave him.  Sometimes we have to remind him not to be overbearing, but he listens and tries.  Here are some key moments from the past year.  In July, David was baptized.  There is a video on FB of him speaking about the reason he wanted to be baptized.  It is a little difficult to hear, but it is there.

When he returned to school in the fall, we got a note home from the teacher that he was branded with character for putting others before himself.  His teacher said, "David thinks of others before himself.  He is an inspiration."  At his parent/teacher conference after the first quarter, his teacher, with tears in her eyes, thanked us for giving her the opportunity to teach David.  Wow!  That fear about his teachers being frustrated . . . not a problem.

He is the oldest child in our children's ministry at church, and he is a great helper.  We still set up and tear down every Sunday, and he is able to set up the children's ministry area independently, including tables, chairs, banners, snacks, and toys.  Then he helps the teacher with the younger children (more out of his desire than hers probably).  From the moment Sarah was born, we realized that he was going to be better around babies and younger children than we feared, and that continues today.  As my friend mentioned in her post, he gets down on their level and he engages them.  Usually they really love him.  Last week he led Sarah in devotions . . . absolutely precious.

He talks openly about God at school.  We had one teacher tell us she was not sure he was allowed to talk about Jesus as much as he was (we quickly explained to her that she was wrong), and another teacher told us that she loved how he shared about God among his peers.  She said, it's not just talk.  It's a life for him.  This is what every parent who loves Jesus wants to hear.

He is a great friend, and though I do think he might be overbearing at times, he listens to us when we redirect, and he maintains friendships, which was another thing I worried about when he was little.

He is such a blessing . . . keeping us on our toes, reminding us at times that we have to stay on our knees for all of our children, not because of major problems but just because we want to "bring him up in the way he should go" and that has proven to look different for him than for his brothers.  One of our big questions that we always ask is, How to we encourage him yet keep him humble?  it can be a struggle.  He is a child of many talents, and he likes to be involved in everything, and often he is pretty good at what he tries. It's a blessing and a curse.  We were at a wedding early in February (one month ago today actually), and he was dancing.  The boy has moves . . . and though we all struggle with the fact that he draws so much attention, he is proud and people seem to think he's good.  Anyway, he actually asked someone to video tape him.  I wished I had a turtle shell I could crawl into at that moment.  It's a struggle.  In my mind, he crossed a line.  We spend a lot of time reminding him that God gives him talents and can take them away.  He was not selected to be on the basketball team this year, which surprised all of us, but it was a great opportunity to remind him that God has a bigger plan and to talk to him about good sportsmanship and humility.  When it happened, he was disappointed, yet one of his good friends made the team, and he was so encouraging and supportive of this friend.  Last week he said to me out of the blue, "Mom, I think I know why I didn't make the basketball team.  God knew I needed to focus on my school work."  Awesome!!!!

Here are some pictures that depict David through the years.
This was eleven years ago, while we were still at the hospital.  Precious!
 He was probably two in this picture.  He already loved sports.  He was using a tee, but he could already throw a ball up in the air and hit it with the bat.  We had no idea where he got these abilities.  Brent and I were not athletes.
 This was when he was almost four.  He got this costume of Bibleman (hehe) from Grandma and Poppy.  He would not take it off.  He is watching television in this picture.
 Here is an example of why I was so exasperated some of the time.  This was one of many cheerio incidents.  This particular one happened to be a complete accident.  He was very self-sufficient and was trying to get his own cereal, just didn't know how fast they were going to come out.  However, he was the child who would empty a cabinet just to see everything on the floor.  A couple years after this when he was four, he spilled a box of cheerios, and I told him to clean it up.  We were moving into our house here in Bakersfield, so we were busy unpacking and he kept quitting (typical for that age), and I was not being consistent.  When the day came to an end, I didn't realize it, but he still hadn't finished.  The next morning I got up and just decided to clean it up myself.  David walked into the room and said, "I knew you would clean it up for me."  Oh, I was so mad.  I dumped the dustpan I had full of cheerios and made him clean it up.  That was the beginning of my realization that he knew a lot more than we gave him credit for.  He was smart . . . up to the point of making the statement that admitted his wrongdoing.
 Here's an early picture of him dancing . . . it was super cute!
David with Sarah.  As I mentioned before, we were so nervous about how he was going to treat his sister.  He was so full of energy.  His speech and language was not great, so we didn't know what he really comprehended.  We were so afraid he was going to be rough and aggressive with her, but from the moment he walked into the hospital room to meet her, he was as gentle as can be.  He absolutely adored her.
 This is just one of my favorite pictures of him.  He was three.  I love his smile and his chubby cheeks.
 This is a recent picture from the winter band concert.  He did a fabulous job on the cymbal.
 This is at the fourth grade Walk Through California event at school.  He dressed as a monk.  I didn't get to go see his performance, but Brent said he did a great job, and I did get to see video.
 Here he is on a boat at age two loving the wind in his face.
 This was when he was probably 8, learning to paddle board out at Riverwalk Park.
 This picture makes me smile.  He was less than two, and we were at Brent's grandmother's home.  This was the little container she had with toys in it.  He dumped the toys and played with the container.  I don't think I had ever heard Grandma Dorothy laugh like she did when David did this.  He was dancing around and giggling, having so much fun entertaining her.
 Such a smiley baby.  This was his first Easter.  He was about a month old.
And finally a picture of all three boys.  Clearly David was not too happy.  He had been pretty difficult this particular morning and had been in trouble.  His sad faces were so very sad.

What a great privilege it is to be able to be his mom!!!  David, I love you so very much!!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Missing James Desperately

19 years ago (an hour ago to be exact only based on Oklahoma time), James was born.  Tonight he sleeps soundly in Haiti, and I am teary-eyed here in California!  What a privilege it is to be his mother and to watch God work in his life.  I knew it would be a new adventure to be a parent to an adult.  It's incredibly amazing and incredibly difficult.  I'm so thankful he is following Jesus with all of his heart, mind, and soul.

Some of my favorite memories of James:

1.  The super cute little things he would say when he was little.  He always had something comical coming out of his mouth.

2.  His raspy voice.  He sounded like he was a chronic smoker.

3.  The fact that he would stump me with questions from scripture.  By the time he was in first or second grade, I was frequently having to ask Brent to help answer things James was asking about because I had no idea how to answer him.

4.  The way he related to adults.  We used to have to remind him that he was a kid.  I remember one time a family friend of Brent's family who also attended our church and is 20+ years older than Brent and I and who Brent called "Drill Sergeant" because he scared everyone and seemed like he was a drill sergeant, sat down beside us at dinner and teasingly said to James, "You want a piece of me?"  James looked right back at him and said, "No, but do you want a piece of me?" and held up his fist.  I was mortified at that moment, but it was pretty funny once it was over.  James treated this man, who lots of adults feared, like he was just one of his buddies from school.  We often had to remind James of what it looked like to respect adults.  He wasn't trying to be disrespectful.  He just didn't see adults differently than himself, at least when he was little.

5.  His black and white, right and wrong, sense of things, which with maturity, has changed.  He was often embarrassing us and needing correction for this, but it was still pretty incredible.  I remember pulling up to a stop sign one time, and there were some people smoking by the corner, he was about 5 or 6 and yelled out the window that they were going to die of lung cancer.  The car couldn't move fast enough, but as soon as we were out of sight, Brent pulled the car over and had a good talk with him again about what respect looked like.

6.  His ability to initiate conversations with anyone.  One time we were serving at a homeless park here.  Brent was asked to preach at a different church that Gone for Good morning, so the boys and I met other church people at the park to serve lunch.  When we go to the park, we take tables and chairs and sit down and eat with these friends, but this was probably only the third time we did it, so we didn't know them like we do now, and there are always people there who were not there before.  I was not sure how the boys were going to do.  As soon as we arrived, I watched as James and Jason walked right over to the people who were under the tree, reached out their hands, shook hands with them, then sat down and started talking.  I think James was in 9th grade, and Jason was in 6th.  I could not have done that, and I am (and was) an adult.

7.  The way he welcomes others.  He has Brent's gift of hospitality . . . so does Jason.  They are just quick to greet and welcome people, to our home, at church, at the park, wherever.  We have had people tell us that they were the first people they ever met when visiting our church and that they are a huge part of the reason that they returned.

8.  James has a strong work ethic.  Brent took him to Mexico when he was in 7th or 8th grade to help build houses, and Brent could not believe how hard he worked.  When he began working at Hoggz, they called him the Robot because he just came in a did whatever he was told, working the whole time he was there, rarely taking a break.

9.  His love for his great grandparents.  James had this incredible opportunity that most children don't have.  When he was born, all of his great grandparents were still living, and I have pictures of him with all of them.  He had a very special relationship with both of Brent's grandpas.  We could go see Granddad Bob and know that James would brighten his day.  Granddad died when James was just shy of two, and when he was in the nursing home, we would take James to see him and James would sit on his bed with his book and "read" it to Granddad.  Granddad would hold him and smile.  He also had a deep love for Grandpa Colaw.  It was so hard for him when Grandpa died.  When he was in elementary school, he wrote a paper on Grandpa's life and had a great amount of respect for the legacy Grandpa left and for the sacrifices he made for his family.

10.  Most importantly, his desire to love and serve God and others.  This has been evident in his life for so long.  When we first discussed him taking a gap year, he expressed a desire to go to Costa Rica.  We looked into that but it became clear to us that he really just wanted to go have fun for a year in Costa Rica.  He's a normal teenager, and I get it, but he was going to raise money to serve others, so he needed to be really serving.  We had this conversation with him.  A couple weeks later our friend Bill spoke at church about Haiti.  It was about this time last year, as a matter of fact.  James immediately decided Haiti was where he wanted to go.  It has been a great experience for him.  It has been hard, but he has done it with an incredible attitude, and he really loves it there, and he loves what God is doing in his life.

There is so much more I could say about James, so many more memories/character qualities, but these are some of my favorite.

I miss him, and I hope he has an incredible day with blessings beyond what he can imagine.  I will be thinking of him and thanking God for the privilege I have had to raise him.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

If You Say Go . . .


If You say "go" we will go
If You say "wait" we will wait
If You say "step out on the water"
And they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come

Your ways are higher than our ways
And the plans that You have laid
Are good and true
If You call us to the fire
You will not withdraw Your hand
We'll gaze into the flames and look for You

We sing this song during worship, and I absolutely LOVE it!  Sometimes God asks us to do hard things . . . but He never asks us to do them alone.  He is there for us; we need to focus on Him.