Monday, April 30, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

I Learned Something This Week

Wednesday night I went to the movies.
(That's part of the reason I didn't post anything yesterday. Instead of being home crafting a post, I was at the movie theater having my nerves tested. *ahem*)
That is to say, my guys wanted to see "A Quiet Place" (Er, two of the three wanted to see it. Three went along for company. Like I did.) so even though I didn't know what it was about - and not expecting to learn anything about family dynamics - I went to the show.

And, not being one who likes to spoil surprises, I am not going to tell you about the movie. But I will tell you the amazing lesson I learned about families and conflict and self-control:
If you have ever described yourself as an irritable mother, if you find yourself prone to yelling at your offspring when they misbehave or make messes or - say - start a fire in the house because of carelessness, if not seeing eye-to-eye with a family member tends to lead to you raising your voices with one another, if disobedience and defiance from the children in your family result in angry outbursts from the parents in your family, if you've ever wondered how to keep your kids quiet for more than 30 seconds, or if stepping on a two-inch nail with bare feet (while you're in labor, walking down stairs, scared for your life, and no one is around to help you) makes you feel like releasing an out-right blood-curdling scream, if any of that ever happens?
Just imagine there are weird aliens invading the land who will eat you if you make a single peep, and I'm telling you - an unbelievable* capacity to keep quiet will take over.

So there you have it, a life lesson for every family.
Have a great weekend. And let me know if you see any good movies!

*Yes, I chose this word very intentionally. LOL!


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Parenting Young Adults

So, Brian and I sat alone at the dinner table last night - a scene which is occurring more frequently these days - contemplating our role as parents of young adults.
Do you remember when your children were little and you felt completely responsible for their lives?
How about the days when they came to you with important questions, and you wondered if you were giving the correct answers? (You know, like, "Why is the sky blue?")
When it broke your heart to see them fall, because you didn't want them to be hurt?
When their tears brought on your own?
Maybe you're in the midst of those days right now.
Let me tell you, as a mother of 22, 20, and (almost)18 - not a lot changes!

Brian and I sat at the table discussing how our parents interacted with us when we were that age, and questioned - should we follow their example? Or take a different route? We deliberated life decisions each child, er, young adult is making and wondered how much input we should give. There were practical behaviors to be debated and common actions to consider. We weighed the pros and cons of offering advice, or letting them figure things out on their own.
And we frequently came back to the same conclusion:
I don't know.
See? The thing is, just like when they were little we feel responsible for their lives. Sometimes they still ask important questions (Albeit, more significant than why the sky is blue.) and we aren't sure of the correct answer. We still don't want to see them fall, because they're our kids! And we don't want them to be hurt. And the tears? Yeah. Same effect these days as then!
Still, we know from personal experience that we can't give them life experience by telling or showing or relating or cajoling or, or, any other way. Some things they've got to do on their own. And they might fall. And there might be tears. And we might want to step in and kiss the boo-boo and make it all better. But they aren't little children anymore, and we've got to learn how to parent adults.
Thankfully, we aren't in this alone.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:5
I remember hearing a quote when I was in the midst of late-night feedings, dirty diapers, temper tantrums and all the throes of having young children.
It went something like this: Parenting isn't for sissies.
Yeah. Like I said above. Not a lot changes!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When Hard Things are Good Things

I don't really like saying hard things.
Do you?

I really don't like hearing hard things.
And I'm guessing you're in agreement with me on that point as well.

But sometimes those actions are necessary.
Because, let's face it: we can be blind to our own failings and offenses.
We can be going through life intending to do the best we can, believing we're doing alright, completely unaware that we're crossing a line.
And if we're completely unaware of our transgression, what are we to do?
How can we make a change?
How can we know a change needs to be made?
Unless someone who sees what we're doing, someone who cares about us and wants what is best for us and those around us, someone who is willing to do the hard thing - to risk a moment of pain in exchange for a lifetime of peace, someone who is a true friend - tells us.

I was on the "hearing" side of some hard things recently, and it was, well, hard!
The words were delivered after the speakers had been in much prayer, and they were spoken with thoughtfulness and love. But it was hard. And I cried. And the ones who were delivering the message were concerned about me, sorry for the woundedness I was experiencing.
Even so, they shared their hearts with me. I knew they spoke truth, and I knew they spoke in love, so I listened. But it was still hard. Yet, just like the other hard times I have faced in my life, I know God has a good plan for this one as well.
Oh, I know it wasn't easy for them, but I am glad these friends of mine listened to and obeyed God's Spirit as He prompted them to speak truth to me.
I am so thankful for friends like that in my life.

Do you have a friend like this in your life? Are you willing to be one?


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Are We Done Yet?

So yesterday I was downstairs sorting laundry and, as I turned the corner to take the first load into the laundry room that contains the washer and dryer, I nearly stepped into a puddle Mindy left behind.
(Not sure if she's getting more stealthy or just broadeneing her range. Usually when she pees on the carpet she does it in plain sight and I notice it as soon as I enter the basement. This one came as a surprise.
*And when I say surprise, I don't mean a happy surprise. Grr.*)
I groaned and went to get my cleaning supplies - to take care of her mess before I continued with my original chore.
And, yes, I glared at the dog each time I passed her. I mentioned how annoyed I get with her messes. And I might have even engaged in a bit of a stare-down with her at one point, hoping to drive home the message that I really wish she would stop peeing in the basement.
I admit. I may be giving her too much credit, acting as if she understands English and can interpret non-verbal communication.
Annnnd, in a short while everything was done and I thought that was the end of it.

Silly me.

I should have remembered God never wastes an opportunity to speak to my heart.
Because as I sat at the breakfast table - with Mindy in view - I was sort of still grumbling to myself when I had the sense that I just felt God nudge me.
So, you get tired of taking care of Mindy's accidents, do you? You think she ought to know better by now, do you? You're ready to be done with forgiving her, are you?
Suddenly I knew where He was going with the line of questioning. I realized God is sooooooo much more patient with me than I need to be with Mindy. I became aware once again of His grace which covers me even though I know better. And I could not deny the fact that He forgives me more times that I can count. So I smiled at His methods of teaching me, and I bowed my head and humbly thanked my Father for His grace and mercy toward me.

Then I had a thought. OK, God. Have I learned my lesson? Have I done a good job? Huh? Have I? Because if I've learned what You wanted me to learn, maybe You could get Mindy to stop peeing on the carpet???
I'm not sure, but as soon as I finished that thought, I might have noticed a slight rumble in the heavens as God shook His head and sighed, Oh, Karen. You're missing the point.

I'm thankful He's so patient with me.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Touched by an Angel

Awwww, she's gone and done it again.

My sweet Angel has absolutley blessed my heart!

That is, yesterday I attended her Home-going celebration and I learned so much more about this precious woman of God than I could possibly have known from our Tuesday afternoons together.
I heard about a lifetime of faithfulness which started when she accepted Jesus as a young girl, and continued as she followed Him all the days of her life.
I heard about Angel calling out "Preach it!" during sermons, getting so excited about the reading of the Word of God that her whole body shook, and dancing in and out of her seat at church.
Her grandchildren told stories of driving hours and hours to visit her, the unconditional love she poured out on them - and the prayers she prayed over them before they left. (Including, Lord, don't let this boy drive too fast while he's going home.)
There was a man who looked to be in his 70s who told about Angel taking in his family and caring for them when he was making bad life decisions. He told how God used her and - loved through her - to change their lives.
There was the woman who told about never being able to leave Angel's house with a negative attitude. Because no matter what this woman was feeling, no matter what she said - Angel was always able to find the positive side of the situation and inspired her to grab onto it.
But I think my favorite testimony of all came from a young boy about the age of 10. One of Angel's great-grandsons. He wept as he told of the days when he would visit his grandma after school, when he would come there sad - but she would cheer him up. Sometimes, he said, when he was 5, or 6, or 7 - his grandpa would tell him not to go into Angel's bedroom and disturb her. But when Grandpa turned his back, Great-grandson would sneak into Angel's room, and she would talk to him. She would love him. And she always sais it was OK for him to "disturb" her. I sat in the church listening to this boy - on the verge of tears, myself - saying, "Oh, baby. Sweet baby," wanting to wrap him in my own arms and love him some more for Angel.
But more than any other feelings, I sat in that church full of thanksgiving to God for the work He has done - and the legacy which continues - through Angel.
And I decided, when I grow up? I want to be just like her!!!


Monday, April 16, 2018

Friday, April 13, 2018

HIS Ways, Not Mine

Many are the plans in a (wo)man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21
Ahhh, sometimes I have to laugh at myself and the plans I make.
And sometimes I just laugh at myself - regardless of my plans. *wink*

See, Tuesday I spoke for a group of moms, and as I was wrapping up I invited them to visit my blog - as a way of keeping in touch and keeping encouraged. I *might* have said something like, "I try to post something every day Monday through Friday, to encourage and lift up."
And that really is my goal.
But obviously, it doesn't always happen.
Like this week, when Tuesday's and Wednesday's activities didn't allow me time to write. And I sit here laughing at the irony of telling a group of women, "I usually post daily on my blog" - the day before I'm going to be unable to post for two days in a row.
Yes. I do believe God enjoys a sense of humor.
(His own, that is. I am not sure He's so impressed with mine. Haha.)

So, there's that.
I make plans sometimes, and God has a different idea - and we go with His. Because I am not about to argue with Him. And His plans are always better, anyway.

Yeah. There's that. And there's also this.
The other side of the HIS ways, not mine equation.
A long time ago God called me to a speaking ministry, and I love it. Love, LOVE it!
In fact, there is nothing I love more than talking about Jesus. (I mean, I love God more than talking about Him, and I love worshipping Him more than talking about Him. But, you get my point, right? My spirit soars when I get to talk to women about my Jesus!)
OK. But there is one part of this speaking thing about which I don't get particularly excited. That is, the "marketing". The need to find women's ministries and introduce myself to them and let them know about what I do, blah, blah, blah. But it's necessary. I get that. And so I do it.
A few times a year I spend days searching for churches, reading their websites to learn about their women's ministry, placing calls or sending emails to make contact with them, and praying, "OK, Lord. It's up to You. I've done what I can. Now I'm waiting on You. If You want me to minister to the women at this church somehow, I trust You to make the next move."
And, honestly?
It gets discouraging sometimes when months go by and not a single word comes from anyone.
But then moments like this week happen, when I get an email from someone at a church with whom I have not been in contact for nearly a year. In the email she says one of the women's ministry leaders asked her to contact me and the next thing I know I am scheduled to speak for their Christmas Tea in December. And I could swear I hear God speaking to my heart something like, Dear one, remember? We're going with MY ways, not yours. You said you would wait for Me. You said you would trust Me to move. (Yes, I know you didn't want to wait so long. But, remember, My timing is perfect.) I'm moving now. And I will continue to move. All you need to do, dear one, is be faithful and wait patiently.
Just be faithful and wait patiently, He says.
That's all.
OK, Lord, but I'm gonna need Your help!

Are you waiting for God to show you His ways? How's that going???


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sometimes, You Just Get Silent

I've said it before, and I still believe it's true.

I think the hardest phase of parenting is...
...the one you're in right now.
Because you've made it through the phases you've been through. And they didn't kill you.
You're pretty sure it's going to get better. Somehow. So you have hope for the future.
But the phase you're in right now? It's so hard!!!
Because it's the present.
And you're living it.

And, wow. Some of these present days are really tough.

Last week Brian and I had a good, albeit difficult, conversation with our 20-year-old son. (Actually, I didn't do much of the conversing. I was mostly biting my tongue and praying.) And I guess the "success" of that discourse threw me off, because I thought it meant we had reached a point of being able to talk things out rationally.
I figured we could now get past emotion and rely on reason to guide our interactions.
Apparently, I was mistaken.
Because yesterday that same son was really upset about something. He'd gone fishing all day Sunday and was uploading footage onto my computer yesterday to edit into an awesome video for his Youtube channel. In the process, he discovered that none of the video included audio. Something happened - and he didn't know what - which resulted in "my whole day being wasted!" So, Josh said. He was mad.
And pretty sad, too. I heard it in the tears that almost dripped from his voice.
So I went into problem-solving-mother-mode and I tried to suggest things which might make his outlook a little brighter. Cuz it really stunk seeing and hearing my boy so disappointed. I made my best effort at being both sensitive to his pain and realistically optomistic. The ideas I offered were - I thought - good ones. It's stuff I would have tried if I were in the same position. And it all seemed reasonable to me. If Josh could get past his emotion, I thought he would benefit from my opinions.
But, no.
My son was able to come up with a rejection for each proposal I made. Even when I tried to explain myself more clearly. He wasn't having any of it. And it seemed like we were about to start raising our voices with each other. Over a situation in which I was just trying to help!
So I got silent.
Because I didn't want to get into a shouting match while trying to help my son.
And as I sat in the silence I prayed for him, asking God to lift his heart. I thought of 101 encouraging words I'd like to say, scriptures I'd like to share, and pieces of advice I'd like to give. But I stayed silent. Because God wasn't nudging me to speak.
Only to pray.

For an instant, I longed for the days when I could simply pick Josh up and give him a kiss - and see all his troubles fade away. Because I wanted so much to ease his burden. But then I remembered those were also the days of car seats, and poopy diapers, and temper tantrums, and a bunch of other things I don't miss - and I decided to be thankful for today.
Yeah. Even though I've been doing this mom-thing for nearly 22 years (Tomorrow. Elizabeth turns 22 tomorrow!) it's still hard. Every day is a new situation and I'm learning as I go.
How thankful I am that when I don't know what to do I can just get silent - and pray!


Monday, April 09, 2018