It's never too late to begin the healing process from childhood sexual abuse. It's never too early to fall in love with the person God created you to be. Long ago someone made a choice to take away your innocence, but today that someone can't touch your freedom to heal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Confessions of an Imperfect Mom

“Mom, where are my cleats?”

“Mommy, where’s my back pack? ”

“Mahhhther, I can’t find any socks…”

I have to admit, I don’t always respond well when my kids whine because they can’t find their stuff. I’ve been known to quip back cynically, “I don’t know where your cleats are. I haven’t worn them lately.” Or I do my best martyr impression as I mumble under my breath for all to hear, “Am I the only person in this house that knows where anything is?” I never hear them ask their father these questions.

Oh, the never-ending demands of motherhood. It’s hard being the one my children rely on. Yet, I’ve found when I respond to my kids with frustration and cynicism, they tend to copy my tone and my attitude. And that’s not the kind of home I want. So I take a deep breath and try again...

“Your socks? Sorry… they’re in the pile of dirty laundry, kiddo.”

Well, no mom’s perfect!

A wise woman builds her house; a foolish one tears it down with her own hands (or mouth, in my case). Proverbs 14:1

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What a Girl Wants, What a Boy Needs

He was raised in an orphanage from the age of three, confused and rejected. Lonely. But God placed a few key people in his life who made a difference. Bob was one of them.

The following is an excerpt from the book, Castaway Kid: One Man's Search for Hope and Home, by R.B. Mitchell:

"Bob was a caseworker, substitute houseparent, conservationist, master bowman, and hunter. Sporting buzz-cut hair, he was lean like an army Ranger.

Though I wasn’t one of his counseling clients, he went out of his way for me.
When I was in high school, Bob taught me how to load and aim a rife. He took me hunting for rabbit, squirrel, and deer, then showed me how to skin, clean, and prepare the meat.

He also demonstrated how to tell time and position from the sun, move quietly through the woods, and find my direction without a compass. I learned to spend many peaceful hours in the fields and woods, the quiet and outdoor smells feeding my soul.

The greatest lesson Bob taught me, though, came when he took three of us teenage boys elk hunting near Iron River in northern Michigan.

We’d searched for days without seeing a single elk. Early in the morning on the last day of our trip, we were walking a dirt logging trail through dense forest. Suddenly Bob turned left, raised his bow, and froze.

A huge bull elk with a magnificent set of antlers stood in a clearing. I was so excited I could hardly breathe.

Bulls usually travel alone, but two cows and several calves were with this one. We knew that if he bolted, he might make it into the woods safely, but the cows and calves would be fair game.

The bull stood his ground, slowly raising he elegant head and staring as if to say, “You’ll have to shoot me first and give my cows and calves a chance to get away.”

We boys had our guns aimed at the cows, safeties off. For what seemed like an eternity, we waited for Bob. He’d made it clear that we were to shoot only after he let his first arrow fly.

But nothing happened. What is he waiting for? I thought.

At last he slowly relaxed the bowstring and lowered the bow. Confused, we clicked on our safeties and lowered our rifles. The bull signaled with his tail; the cows and calves bolted into the woods. Finally the majestic animal himself turned and walked away.

Bob never said a word as he walked past us and headed down the long trail to the car. Later, when we stopped for a drink and a snack, he finally gave an explanation.

“Boys, we came to hunt elk,” he said.

We nodded.

“We reached our goal,” he continued. “We found that elk. In fact, we found a trophy buck. Whether or not that buck’s head is hanging on a wall somewhere makes no difference. We will always know if we had fired, we had him dead to rights.”

He paused, then added a phrase I’d heard him say before: “We don’t have to shoot them all.”

After letting us digest that, he added, “That buck’s incredible courage and selfless attitude saved him. He could have bolted and probably saved his own life. Instead he chose to remain as the prime target so the others could survive.”

“Can you believe it?” one of the guys exclaimed. “That was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen.”

“It was an excellent example of the biblical message, ‘No greater love has a man than he lay down his life for a friend,’” Bob concluded. Then he picked up his bow and started down the trail again.

We went home without a trophy, but with the memory that would stick with us forever."

I never met a girl who didn't want her daddy to protect her... just like that bull elk; I've never met a boy who didn't long for a daddy to teach him how to protect... just like God.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Daddy's Empty Chair

It was a Sunday afternoon not unlike most on our dairy farm in south central Pennsylvania. The day was warm and sunny, the grass was green, and the farm was alive with the fellowship of relatives visiting. Conversations about the price of grain, the newest neighbors down the road, and the topic of the morning’s sermon were shared in a relaxed atmosphere by people seated on lawn chairs enjoying bowls of homemade ice cream and glasses of chilled homemade root beer.

I loved days like that. All seemed safe and right in the world, and through a child’s eyes – innocent. Yet a trip to the hayloft with my older sister and a teenage hired field hand would begin to wake me from my naive cocoon.

The barn was a fun place to play, a huge playhouse that with any imagination could become a castle, a classroom or an amusement park. I especially liked the hayloft. There I could jump, fly through the air and somersault without ever receiving a scratch. Oh, the hay could be irritating if it got caught between my clothes and skin, but the time away within my fantasy world was far more worthwhile than the time it took to shake the hay from beneath my clothing.

It was there, while playing with my sister, that the hired hand coaxed, “Come on you two, just pull down your pants and let me put some hay in them.”

I looked at my older sister. She was five years older and blossoming into a beautiful young lady. Tall, thin, and lovely, everything this kid sister wanted to be. Yet in this delicate time in her life when maturity forged ahead with no promise of innocence returning, she froze. Unwarranted shame held her captive.

I looked at the hired hand. My mind screamed, “This isn’t right!” My stomach churned. I wanted to flee.

“No.”, I said to the boy. “No!” I turned to my sister. “I’m going to tell Dad!”

Determined, I raced from the barn toward safety, toward the only protector I had ever known.

There was my dad, seated in the circle of chairs, chatting away as if there was all the time in the world. No need to rush, only listen and respond with an occasional hardy laugh. “Daddy, Daddy, Tom is in the hayloft and he’s trying to put hay in Sally’s and my pants.” My father’s jovial face turned stone cold, and the mood of that lazy Sunday afternoon ended abruptly as my father bolted from his lawn chair, his destination unquestionable, his mission sure.

My safe little world returned within the hour. I never saw that troubled young man again, and I never had to worry that the hayloft wouldn’t once again be whatever my imagination would dream it could be. And it’s all because my dad got out of his chair.

Protecting children from sexual abuse is never a child's job, but an adult responsibility. Speak to the children in your care about how special their bodies are, and that no one has the right to touch them where their swimsuit covers. Let's all get out of our chairs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Giggling in a Powder Wonderland

They had been quiet for way too long. Where are they and what are they up to? I wondered.

I checked the living room…no toddlers. Hmm.

Then I heard their giggles. I ascended the stairs.

What’s this? I followed a dusty white trail. Oh my goodness, it’s everywhere! The familiar fragrance of Johnson’s Baby Powder greeted my nose.

There stood my boys, in our bathroom, frozen in a powder wonderland, wide-eyed, staring at me through powder-covered faces.

I took a deep cleansing breath. To my amazement, I relaxed. Giggles surfaced from within, giving life to my weary soul. The boys hadn’t been defiant—just creative. I ran for the camera.

Sometimes as a busy mom, I get so focused on the tasks at hand. I forget to relax. Have fun. Even God relaxed after six busy days of creating our world and perhaps… He even giggled.

Ask God to help you relax today and even enjoy a giggle or two.

There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1,4

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tree Huggin' Momma

Mom, I’m leaving now.”

My son hesitated at the door, his backpack flung over his shoulder.

Wow, he’s waiting for me. He actually wants a hug.

It had been a wake up call, a two-by-four moment. Bam! I felt the jolt of the invisible board hit me right upside my head. Listening to the radio I heard the voice of wisdom. “Continue to hug your teenagers even if they act like they don’t want to be bothered or could care less.” That caught my attention. I began to ponder.

When did I stop hugging him, Lord? I don’t remember the last time I reached out and touched him?

Physical affection doesn’t come naturally to my mother, to her mother or to me. I come from a long line of stoics. Proud of our abilities to suck up the tears, pick our selves up by our bootstraps, we keep moving on no matter what comes our way.

But I couldn’t ignore the voice of wisdom wafting through the airways loud and clear. “Your teenagers need hugs and physical affection from their parents at this time in their lives--now more than ever.” So where do I begin, Lord? How do I begin? He’ll think I’m nuts if I just start hugging him. And to be honest, I’m frightened he’ll reject me. I had grown weary of his apathetic attitude and struggled constantly not to take his eye-rolling personally. But all of the intellectual reasoning in the world could not take the sting out of his constant displays of rejection. I don’t think I’m up for the task, Lord. Oh, help!

But I made a decision. I took the challenge.

It was just another morning to my son, but to me it was the day I was altering the course of my family’s history.

“Luke, I’d like to hug you each morning before you leave for school. I know that you may not like it, and it may feel awkward, but I really want you to know just how much I love you.”

He looked at me. His eyes circled in their sockets. His shoulders shrugged, and apathy oozed from his pores.

Ugh! This isn’t going to be easy, Lord.

I reached toward him. He stood still. As I embraced him, his body stiffened. My goodness, a tree trunk would feel more inviting. This is going to be harder than I imagined.

Discouraged but determined, I made a commitment to myself to continue the hug “tree-tment” each and every morning.

Day after day began with one goal in mind: hug that teenager before he gets out the door. I had to stop him many times from whizzing right by me, reeling him back so I could establish my tree-hugging routine.

But slowly I began to notice a subtle response. Was that a squeeze back I just detected? Did I really feel a touch?

Then one morning, I was distracted from my goal. While emptying the dishwasher I heard a “ha-hmm.” I looked up. There he stood, in a slump, slouched against the door jam with his backpack hanging off his shoulder.

Does he have a cold? I wondered. But wait. I was wrong. He was waiting for me. He was waiting for a hug! And his momma was willing to oblige.

Oh, I was elated! My diligence had paid off. The voice of wisdom was right. I sauntered around the kitchen counter trying to pace myself, resisting the temptation to tackle him and thus overwhelm him with my boundless joy. I put my arms around him and received one of the most precious hugs of my life.

I stood peering out the window. My eyes followed him as he walked to his car and slid into the driver’s seat. As he drove away, I could not contain my excitement any longer. With the voice of a sports announcer I bellowed as I pulled my fist down through the air, “Yes! She hugs, she scores!"

What a way to start the day. Thank you, Lord.

Months passed. The hugs continued and Christmas brought a new puppy to our family, a bundle of black fur and energy that needed to be taken to the backyard to go potty each morning.

I stood outside one particular morning in January while our puppy busied himself at my feet. I was distracted once again. Suddenly, my son bounded down our deck stairs heading toward his car.

I heard his car door slam and continued on with my mission, when I heard his car door open. Moments later I looked up to see him standing at the entrance to our backyard, a smile on his face. Waiting once again. Waiting for me. I smiled back as I scooped up the little fur ball and headed directly toward my son with a big hug just waiting to be unleashed.

He got out of his car, Lord. He stopped what he was doing--all for a hug. Resolute, I vowed to never again question the value of a hug to my teenage son. The voice of wisdom was right, and I was glad I had listened.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Give Me Your Eyes

It was his second day on the job, and I was one proud Momma. Ben looked so handsome in his uniform. Gone were the saggy jeans and t-shirt replaced by belted pants and a polo. I couldn't have been more pleased. I glided with my handful of items up behind a female customer who had a cart load of groceries in Ben's checkout line, a smile perched on my face.

Then she turned to me after adding a few more cans to the conveyor belt, her lips scrunched toward her nose, eyes bulging, cradling her finger in her hand, "I always break a nail on these shopping carts." Miss Sourpuss hissed.

"Oh, I hate when that happens." I responded with a smile, wondering what it was about the carts in this particular store that caused her to break a nail every week. Poor thing. I thought.

I looked toward Ben who was scanning and rescanning and rescanning a piece of meat. Ugh oh, disaster on register three.

Miss Sourpuss looked at Ben. "I'm sorry, Mam, but this rang up twice, and I can't get the machine to take it off." He said.

Then Miss Sourpuss looked at me, lips scrunched toward her nose, bulging eyes rolling...I couldn't resist. With shoulders back, head held high, and a smile on my face, I giggled, "That's my son...second day on the job. He's still learning."

Immediately Miss Sourpuss' eyes stopped rolling, her lips relaxed and drifted away from her nose then sauntered into a smile. "Oh my, I've been there. " She said. Then she turned toward Ben and nodded, "I've been there."

I was struck by the moment. Until Miss Sourpuss broke her nail and spoke to me, I saw her as just another person in a check-out line, until I told Miss Sourpuss that the "idiot" behind the cash register was my son, she saw him as just another person making her day a little more miserable, and until Ben saw Miss Sourpuss change her attitude, she was just another unhappy customer. And God saw all of us, three human beings, all with their own stories--all precious in His sight.

Lord, give me your eyes.

Check out Brandon Heath's music video "Give Me Your Eyes". Just click on the title.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Bumble Bee and a Mother’s Plea

“Luke, leave that bee alone; it’s going to sting you.” I cautioned.

My three year old continued chasing the bee, swatting at it as it buzzed busily around the flowers in my garden.

“Luke, stop it! The bee will hurt you.”

He ignored my plea once again.

A thought shot through my mind. Fine. If you get hurt, don’t come crying to me.

Then came God’s whisper: “I’m not like that, Carolyn.”

Immediately I understood.

I wonder how many times I disregard God’s loving warnings in my own life and later find myself crying out to Him, “Lord, please help me. This hurts!”

He never retorts, “I told you so. Don’t come whining to me.”

God reminded me of His loving character that day in my garden. And I want to be a mother, who like Jesus, never turns her hurting children away… no matter what.

God’s arms are always open to His children at any time and for any matter what.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane

It was the first time it had ever happened to me. Let's just say I was driving a little too fast.

I always keep two hands on the cart, but yesterday I was in a rush. I had to get groceries, fix dinner, put it in the frig., plan for an 11:30 meeting, and make lunch for me and a friend all before 11:00 AM.

I rounded the corner, one hand on the cart and one hand on my list. Crunch!!! I could feel shocked eyes on me, but I didn't stop to look up or access the damage. I grabbed the cart with both hands and pulled it in reverse. I was in a hurry. I needed to locate a box of Ziti, preferably with the recipe for Baked Ziti listed on the back.

Bingo! I found it. I added a few more boxes to the cart (I couldn't resist, they were on sale...99 cents!), and motored off to the deli.

It wasn't until the wait in the checkout line that I stopped and thought about what had really taken place. I got the giggles. Then I panned the end aisle displays, What did I hit anyway? I knew it wasn't spaghetti sauce jars; that would have been I mess I couldn't have ignored. It wasn't the sports drinks either. I peered up at the aisle listing guides looking for the boxed pasta section. Then I spotted it. A large display of potato chips. There were no chips on the floor, so I decided to keep placing my groceries on the conveyor belt. But I had a new focus. I'm no idiot. I know when I've had a near miss.

The rest of the day I chose to remain in the present and not look ahead to the next thing on my "to do" list. It was difficult. But as I look back on it, it was worth the effort. I had warm sunshine on my face, memorable conversations with friends, and wonderful banter around my dinner table filled with six of my kids and my husband. My list didn't get completed, but I wouldn't have missed the things that weren't written on it for all the ziti in Italy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Convicted of the Mother Crime

Child Z had committed a mother crime. What's a mother crime? Well it's a crime I, Momma Carolyn, trained my child not to do.

I had talked about it. Warned about it. And yes, preached about it. "Don't do that. It will hurt you...and others."

I'm one of those parents. You know, the kind who read the how-to books, attend the parenting seminars, and listen to the radio commentaries. If I were a bird, I'd liken myself to an eagle with two centers of focus, the ability to see forward and side to side at the same time, and spot prey in the murky water from several hundred feet above. Yep, nothing was going to happen on my watch. No way! I had trained myself for the job. And I was going to do it well. (Are you ready to puke yet? :)

So when child Z committed the mother crime, I got mad...really mad. In fact, I stayed angry for days. And questioned, "How could, Z, do that? What was, Z, thinking? This wasn't suppose to happen." And finally, "Where did I go wrong?" Ouch! That thought hurt.

Time has passed since that particular mother crime, and with seven kids, many more mother crimes have been committed and will be. But as I reflect on my parenting today, after twenty-two years of on the job training, I think I've learned something, and I would like to confess my "mother crime".

For far too long I've been focused on teaching my kids how to make good choices and not on how to accept grace and mercy when they make a bad decisions. It's not about any of my children, A-Z, getting it right,... or making me look like mother of the year. It's about teaching them when they get it wrong, which they will,...if they're like their mother, that there is grace and mercy each and every time. I once heard a secular psychiatrist say that if he could convince people that they were forgiven for the things they have done, he would be out of a job. I don't want my children to be imprisoned by the bad choices they've made or will make, but free to embrace mercy and grace. And if I can focus on teaching them that, maybe I can help that psychiatrist move on to another job.

So today I convict myself of a "mother crime", but I will not sentence myself. Because just as God's word is full of guidelines for making good choices, it is also rich in the promise that His mercies are new EVERY morning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just Do It!

"So Mom, how did you do it? How did you keep going?"

"I don't know, Carolyn." She shrugged.

I spent this last weekend with my mom. Saturday she turned 82 years old! A survivor of The Great Depression and World War II, she's always been my hero. My present to her this year, as in the past two years, was time. Time to sit and chat, eat and play, praise and worship, and sit and chat again. Together. No distractions. Priceless.

"Come on, Mom, I want a formula." I pressed. "How did you launch six children into this world and keep your balance? How did you watch them make mistakes, learn about life, the hard way, and still keep going without getting depressed?"

"I never had time for depression. I had to survive from the time I was two. If I started to feel blue, I would just slap myself on the face and say, 'Come on, Doris,' and keep going. I don't know...I just did it."

I smiled.

"And", she added, "I trusted God was working in their lives, and I prayed. And He answered, not always in the way I wanted, and many times far better than I imagined. But He always answered. And...I thought about all the ways the Lord has blessed, how He's blessed me."

And my gift of time to my mother became a timeless gift to me. Thanks, Mom, and Happy Birthday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Once Was Blind...(The Second Step in The Road Toward Redemption Series)

The sound of praise music filling my mini-van didn't calm the argument blaring in my mind, "Someone might see me. I don't want to do this. Prison. I can't believe I'm doing this...I can't believe I'm thinking this way. I shouldn't care if someone sees me walking into a prison." But I did.

I was out of my element; my comfort zone crumbled around me. I had all kinds of preconceived ideas--judgments ruling my thinking. I nearly shook as I handed the officer at the prison gate my ID, and when he asked for my license and quipped, "You'd be surprised how many people are driving around without a license", I was appalled. The country girl who left home years ago for the burbs of the big city was now driving through the gate of the county jail.

"Lord, what am I doing here?" I whispered.

The waiting room was crowded. People of all shapes, sizes and colors stood in line--another check point. A little one clung to her mother' s legs while her baby brother rested in an infant carrier suspended by his mother's arm. I smiled nervously as her big brown eyes peered up at me while I waited to show my ID to the CO (Corrections Officer) standing at the counter behind bullet-proof glass.

"Mam, are you chewing gum?" I nodded. "You need to spit it out," the CO said into the microphone as she passed my ID back through a small opening, our fingers unable to touch. "Take a seat."

I found an open chair and I waited. And I judged. "Who's she here to see? A boy friend no doubt." Her belly was swollen with the promise of new life, yet I couldn't see a ring on her finger. "She's having the babies and raising them while he's serving the time." I rolled my eyes. "Why are some women so stupid." And my trips to the prison continued for weeks along with my judgments until...

Perhaps it was those little eyes that innocently peered up at me each week reminding me of my own children, or the conversations I had with the grandmother who faithfully visited her granddaughter every week reminding me of the love my mother has for her grandchildren, or the blond-haired woman who wanted her son to know she stilled loved matter what...who looked a lot like me ...I don't know, but my heart changed. My judgments turned into observations. Where I was once blind, I now began to see. This country girl was no different than the people she spent her Thursday afternoons with each week at the county prison. And from that moment forward, I didn't care who saw me drive into that prison. I was free.

Our second step in walking beside someone on their road toward redemption requires us to break out of the prison of our preconceived ideas. As we pray for changes in those we long to see change, we must be willing to let God change us. (For first step, see post entitled "Baby Steps", June 24th, 2009)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

She's Gone

I've known her for over twenty years, spent time with her on a regular basis for most of my adult life. Just three years younger than me, we formed an instant bond. A small gal, but she had a great capacity to bring much satisfation to my life. She was a precious gift to me; she met specific needs unlike any other.

We met when my first-born turned one, and she was with me to welcome each of my other three children home from the hospital. Dirty diapers, spit-up, sleepless nights, you name it, she was there through it all. Her gentle humming could sooth each of my babies to sweet sleep. And I loved her for that. We were a team. We were inseprable.

As the children grew and their needs became more complex, more challenging, she rarely complained, but boy, did she listen to my complaints. Those teen years stretched me to my limits, and I needed a listening ear more than ever. I would go on and on about this and that, perhaps filling her up with more than she could bear. I'm sure at times I was a burden to her, but she kept working hard to keep up with the lastest Ruch dirt.

Then came the ultimate test--three more children. She wasn't getting any younger and neither was I. There were days neither one of us thought we had enough patience or strength to keep going. Then one day she cried out. I asked her if I could help her in any way. It was my turn to give back for all she had given to me. I placed a call and sought wise counsel for her and her problems seemed to disappear for a while and our relationship continued on for the better part of a year. Until yesterday...

It was as if May couldn't function any more. She wanted to give up. I begged her to hang in there. "Come on, May, you can do it! I know my burdens have been heavy for you, but surely you can carry just one more load." But it was useless, she had taken her final spin in this crazy world and as much as I tried to help, I couldn't release her from the suds that were causing her to drown. So I shed a little tear, pronounced her dead, and went to tell my husband.

"Honey, I did everything I could, but our precious May Tag is gone. There's no time to grieve because right now I have too many loads."

So tomorrow May takes a trip out to the curb and then on to her final resting place. And I welcome KEN home. He is a large man, with a huge capacity (necessary with 7 kids) and hopefully he will give me many MORE years of satisfaction.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Steps

She needed redemption unlike anyone I'd ever known. We sat a small round table, she on one side, me on the other. I was allowed to hold her hand, but when I moved closer to sooth her tears, the loud speaker jolted me back, "Mam, get back in your seat." I had forgotten the rules. I had forgotten where I was...

Driving to the prison that day my mind swirled. I had many things I wanted to say...none of which were kind. "What were you thinking? You've lost everything! How could you hurt your family like this? were selling drugs... in my neighborhood." And the litany of questions and accusations went on and on. I knew I needed help.

Lord, there are so many things I want to say, but I know my words are not the words she needs to hear. Help me.

And somewhere between my driveway and the razor wire, the waiting room and the metal detector, the tedious walk through tightly monitored steal doors and the little round table at which we sat, the Lord stripped my mind down. All I could do was listen.

And I gained the privilege of walking beside her as she took her first steps toward redemption.

Walking beside someone on their road to redemption is, humanly speaking, a futile task. It takes patience and wisdom beyond our abilities. Honest prayer is the first place to start.
And the impossible becomes miraculous.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Priceless Communication

Angry tears streamed down my face. Angry words reached heaven. Lord, she’s had enough disappointments. Why didn’t she make the team? My twelve year old daughter sat next to me, crying. Born with a severe communication disorder that impacts all areas of her life, nothing had come easily to Anna—nothing . . . but soccer.

Anna had just told me her friend, Stephanie, had received the congratulatory call from the soccer coach. Anna didn’t. I was ticked!

“It okay, Mom. I happy Steph make it. I just sad.”

I felt like a fool. I was focused on my own anger, jealousy, and disappointment. Yet my daughter communicated perfectly to my heart in three imperfect sentences. And I realized some things: Other things come easily to Anna--accepting her losses, loving her friend above herself, and being honest about her emotions. And I had a lot to learn.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Me?

"Mom, I speak to Leah tomorrow."

"About what?" I asked.

"Not having friends. Leah sad. She not have friends. I going to tell her about when I not have friends."

My daughter was born with a severe speech disorder. Making friends, especially with girls, has been a challenge most of her life. Her brothers and their friends never long as Anna could grunt and throw, kick, and catch the ball... well golly, who cares if she can't talk. She could be apart of their team any day. But girls...girls expected more from Anna, and she longed to deliver. Living without close girl friends has been one of Anna's greatest heartaches.

"That's so cool, Anna. I'm so proud of you." I responded.

Why am I so proud? Anna hasn't wasted her pain. She turned her pain into something better. She used it to touch someone's life. To say, "You're not alone. Let me tell you how I'm getting through this situation."

We all have ouchy areas in our lives. And we've all raised our voices toward heaven and yelled, "Why me?" I'm the Queen of WhyMeez. Yet, God has never taken me anywhere that He hasn't turned my pain (either self-inflicked or other-inflicked) into something good, something useful, something meaningful.

My daughter has graduated from the WhyMeez school this year. And I think she made another friend.

The Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. II Corinthians 1:3, 4

Friday, May 29, 2009

When a Few Words Are Enough

Okay, I'll admit it...I'm a Jon and Kate Plus Eight fan. I started watching their show last fall, curious to see what all the fuss was about. One episode and I was hooked.

Was it those eight adorable faces, the fact that I'm a people watcher (most writers are), or the drama between Kate and Jon that found me in front of the tube on Monday nights? I'm not sure. I do suspect that having three more children added to our family in September, bringing our count to Ken and Carolyn plus seven (Doesn't quite have the ring to it, does it?), might have had something to do with it. Mothers of many children form an instant bond; we need all the help we can get. We trade survival strategies, share kid-friendly recipes, compare chore charts, etc... I got to watch Kate balance it all on Monday nights. I was encouraged. But now...I'm sad.

Because my heart has been pierced through the years when I've heard it said "Christians are are the only ones who shoot their wounded", I won't write one word about my thoughts regarding Kate and Jon, their marriage, their parenting, their decisions. And I pray that I won't speak my opinion either (I will need God's strength for this lips move before my brain thinks too many times). After all, that's all it would be--my opinion. Enough said.

So what will this fan be doing on Monday nights when I'm tempted to see what's going on at the Gosselin house, and when I see Kate's and Jon's pictures plastered on yet another magazine? I'll be doing what God has called me to do--praying for my christian sister, her family, and my family... in all humility. Enough said.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wisdom at High Noon

It was a showdown of the parental kind. Our pistols were drawn. Who would be left standing?

He sat across the table from me at the local luncheonette. It was a time for just the two of us, a lunch for my second-born son and me.

He was barely nine months old when he first crossed his arms, stuck out his bottom lip, and drew a defiant line in the dirt. I knew instinctively that teaching him to honor his father and mother would be at the heart of many of our confrontations. Sometimes I wanted to declare, “This house just ain’t big enough for the both of us, Partner.” And there were many times that we engaged in a face-off, each daring the other to make the first move. Yet, even I was startled when my five-year-old son gave voice to match his obstinate body language.

It was high noon. Peering up at me from behind his turkey and cheese sandwich, he made the challenge, “You know, Mom, I know I can do anything I want to do and no one can stop me.” I mentally stepped a few paces back and resisted the urge to fire back with my “Oh no you can’t just do anything you want to” pistol. I was tired of that argument anyhow. It never seemed to work and as I sat pondering my next move, I had a Holy Spirit moment--the kind where words start flowing out of your mouth and you recognize they came from a power much wiser than yourself.

“You know Ben, you’re right,” I hesitantly agreed. “You can do anything you want to do and even I can’t stop you.” But my next words came like bullets in rapid fire, only pausing enough to cock the trigger and take my next shot. “You can steal a piece of candy from the store, but I’ll make you return it. You can say something nasty to your little brother, and I’ll make you sit on time-out until you’re ready to apologize. You can…” The list of bad choices and consequences continued until I nearly ran out of ammunition. I took one final shot. “Ben, you can do all of those things, but there is one thing that you have no control over and that’s my love for you. I lowered my pistol into my holster. My opponent sat speechless. He had met his match.

The showdown ended. Oh there would be many more to come, with a strong-willed child that is one thing that is for certain. But the Holy Spirit would continue to be there to give me the words of wisdom and in the end, my son and I would both be left standing.

Father, you care deeply about each conversation we have with our children. Help us to listen for your wisdom. Amen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now

It's when I see a hug I know we made the right decision.

Bounding down the steps on his way to school, my eighteen year old stopped. Three little faces peered up at him, large backpacks engulfing their little bodies. With one arm he gathered them in and gave a squeeze. Their bronze faces brighten; their easy smiles widened, and in unison they giggled, "Bye, Ben."

Last year they didn't have a big brother. This year they have three. And they love them...refer to them all the time as their big brothers.

You see, it has been almost a year since we said yes to the call to bring these three little girls into our home. The details of their history, their story, will be theirs to tell one day...if they so choose. But for now, I will simply say, their past was troubled and they needed a home.

And today I see clearly what God already knew--our home needed them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Raining...Again, Mama

I've heard it said, "A mother is only as happy as her saddest child." Well, if that's true and I've got seven kids (three of whom are healing from a troubled past, 4 of whom are female with hormones raging, and 3 of whom are dating with all of its ups and downs), where does that leave me?

Now I'm no mathematician, but I suspect the statistics for this mama having a happy day are slim. Very slim.

Today is one of those days. Yeah, those days. Child Z is having relationship issues. (I could cry a river over this one.) Child Q has to stand up against a wrong at school, knees shaking, but doing the right thing. (I'm so proud, but yeah, my knees are shaking too.) And child W, well, she's mad that it's cold and rainy and she can't wear shorts. She left the house with a scowl on her face and her nose in the air. Poor thing. I'm such a mean mama. (But I kid you not, some days, I can even let her scowl get the best of me.)

Truth be told, I hate it when my kids are sad. I like happy kids. Smiling kids. Giggling kids. But today I've got a sad kid, a nervous kid, and a mad kid. I know; I can do that math...three out of seven--not good.

Well, this morning I heard this woman encouraging the sad kid, praying with the nervous kid, and giving the mad kid a little sermon on anger. It went like this...

W, I understand that you're angry. There's nothing wrong with being angry, but it's what you do with your anger that can be wrong. And no, you don't get to speak to kid P disrespectfully because you're angry. And besides, you don't have to act angry's your choice.

Hm, it's her choice. Oh, I hate when that happens...I'm preaching to the choir...ahhhgain.

So where does that leave me? With a choice...

Monday, February 2, 2009

An Uninvited Guest

Ah, when the house finally gets peaceful at 7:32 each morning...

Why precisely 7:32? That's when the last three children leave, and the bus driver, I don't know how she manages it, picks them up at 7:32, on the dot. And I close the door, alone in the house at last.

Some days I skip into the kitchen, make a little something for myself, and rush to the next thing. Other days, like today, I sigh, a big sigh, pause, and wonder, "Why do I feel Mr. Sadness tugging at my heart, nagging me like a child who wants a drink of water, refusing to go away until his need is met?"

It doesn't take long for my heart to answer. It knows precisely why Mr. Sadness has shown up at 7:32--the house is empty. Very empty.

You see, this weekend the house was full. Very full. Bursting at the seams full. And there were moments that I longed for a little piece of the quiet I have today, a moment to take a breath, and think a thought, uninterrupted.

A mother's life it like that. It jumps from daytime to bedtime, from noisy to quiet, and ultimately, from full to empty. I know this; I have seen the school bus drive away and the dawn of the empty nest.

So I'll great Mr. Sadness. Yes, I'll welcome him in. And together we'll sit at the feet of Jesus. I will tell them of all the crazy chaos of the weekend, as I tuck those memories in my heart, one by one. And I will praise God for the each and every moment. And Mr. Sadness will transform into Mr. Joy... at precisely the right time.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Stain Lifter

I had a spiritual two by four hit me up side the head this morning. It hurt.

I subscribe to to enhance my devotions each day. Today's devotional talked about laundry...not a subject that I like to talk about, nonetheless read about. In my opinion, laundry should be a four letter word. But it was a good devotional; one that reminded me that Jesus doesn't mind washing the stains off me each and every day, 24/7. Great. The gospel message. It doesn't get any better than that. Does it? But...

Then came the ouchy part. Somewhere between the words in the devotional, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. "You don't want to be just like the rest of the laundry; you want to be stain-resistant. You don't want to deal with dirty laundry." Now that may sound like a godly desire, and in a sense it is. But, for a recovering perfectionist like's a blueberry stain on a white shirt. And this stain doesn't want to budge.

You see, sometimes it's not enough for me that Jesus died for me and made me stainless in His eyes. I want to be stainless in my eyes, and in the eyes of others. Now this is really painful to admit. Exposing the pride in my life always is. And believe me, I'm feeling a little naked right now. But you know, there is a certain freedom in being naked.

And so today, I choose to be naked. To lay all my laundry out before the Lord, and let Him do only what He can...make me clean. And even lift that blueberry stain.
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