Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

March Madness and Music Therapy

MarchMadness

March Madness is alive and well at our house. You could take this in a number of ways. For us right now, it’s all about basketball. Woody loves the suspense and drama of the NCAA tournament with all its twists and turns. And often, I do, too.

But there are many kinds of madness. And I suspect that one or two of you reading this may be experiencing a different kind of March madness. Maybe crazy schedules. You find yourselves caught between winter and spring sports, and the carpool schedule has become a tangled, impossible mess. Or never-ending winter. Will this cold and snow never go away? (If you live in Massachusetts, who knows?) Snow days, sick kids, and being housebound are making you crazy—a different kind of madness. Or the biggie: sleep deprivation. Someone is always up during the night. If you’re lucky enough to get the baby sleeping through the night, your 5-year-old is having bad dreams, your 7-year-old is throwing up, or your 3-year-old has a monster under her bed. Maybe all three . . . in the same night. It’s enough to make you crazy. Really truly crazy. The real March madness.

In the middle of all this, I have one small suggestion. Music therapy. I remember times in my mom-life when 15 rare and precious minutes of Mozart (Yes, I’m one of those crazy people who likes almost all kinds of music—even classical—sometimes especially classical) through my headphones got me through those “piranha hours.” (Remember what Max Lucado called those times when “everyone wants a piece of Mom”?) I also remember marching up and down our upstairs hallway singing “The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases . . .” at the top of my lungs. Until I believed it. Some days it was a lot of singing.

I know many of you already live on your music—at least, whenever you can get it. Even though you can access your favorites in many ways these days, sleeping babies, nap times, and kid music choices for carpools do take their toll, no matter how good your headphones are. But still, you know what a mood-changer music can be.

Yes, you already know that music is life-giving. But I want to remind you of two gifts of music that you may not always remember.

First, God uses music to remind us of deep truths about Him that are easy to forget in the midst of March madness. Any kind of madness. In every season of life. In recent months I have been waking up with the words of old hymns floating through my mind. I also have found myself adding music to my quiet times with God. Whether it is old favorites on the piano or Fernando Ortega filling the living room or prayer time with Sandra McCracken’s Psalms. As I pray for the many I know with “troubled bones” (Psalm 6:2-4) or hurting hearts, I begin my prayers with Sandra McCracken’s “Dear Refuge for My Weary Soul” or MercyMe’s “Even If.” Or Shane and Shane’s “Though He Slay Me.” Or “Eye of the Storm”(Ryan Stevenson). Balm for the soul. Not only for others for whom I pray. For me. For you.

Music also is a powerful voice in your children’s ears. Some children receive and remember truths about God far better through music than in any other way. But I believe all children benefit from music. I remember great kid conversations about the fruit of the Spirit because of an album we frequently played called The Music Machine. And I’m sure nearly every one of you can add lots of current examples.

Singing!

But here’s the other thing: The songs you sing to and with your children will remain with them the rest of their lives. And yours. I know this because I hear our children singing to their children some of the very songs I sung with them. Our grandkids ask for those songs when we put them to bed. Even, in one case, in Swedish! And guess what? Some of these same songs now sing in my heart when I most need to hear them: all the verses of the old Swedish hymn “Children of the Heavenly Father” have new meaning for me in this chapter of life. And words to a song called “Peace” (also from The Music Machine): “Knowing that my Daddy’s home [my caps], God gives me peace.” And “Peace, Peace I think I understand. Peace, Peace is holding Jesus’s hand.” Yes. For me. For my children. For my grandchildren.

So keep singing your way through March—and beyond. A letter one of our kids wrote to me recently included an old Victorian quote that says it best: “. . . the songs sung over the cradle hide themselves away in the nooks and crannies of the tender life, to sing themselves out again in the long years to come.” (J.R Miller, 1880)

Keep singing! 

Disheveled December?

Sad looking Christmas tree

“Well, I’m looking at our Christmas tree, which already looks disheveled, and I’m thinking that’s how I feel.”  This text came to me last week from an overworked, overwhelmed mother of 4 young kids whose 15-month-old had HFMD (hand, foot, and mouth disease—ugh!) and whose pastor-husband is extra-busy all month and who has absolutely no family or support system living nearby. It happened to be from my daughter Erika. But, with a few slight changes in detail, I’m thinking it could have come from many of you.

Feeling disheveled? Done in by December? Ricocheting between the joys of the season and a dull aching exhaustion that doesn’t want to admit this but wishes it were already over? You are not alone. I am sure of that. I have heard it from many moms (and dads!). And I see it on weary faces everywhere I go. December is a killer.

And I think it is all the harder for those of us who really love Christmas. I know, because I am one of these. Every year I looked forward with delight to December. The fun. The parties. Choosing just the right gift for each precious one I love. Celebrating Advent. Getting (and sending? Well. Maybe.) cards from long-lost friends. The music. Oh, how I love the music! I even love the baking. Let me correct that: I loved the thought of baking. Until I actually did it. You know, the never-ending cut out Christmas cookies you do with your kids? The kind that spread frosting all over your family and dust the entire kitchen with a fine layer of flour and colored sugar? We did it every year. Some mamas never learn . . .

It all felt great in anticipation. And then I turned the calendar. Yikes! It was already full before I started adding Christmas. That’s when it hit me. There really ought to be a moratorium during December on normal things—you know, everyday life for moms. No annual physicals or dental check-ups or school conferences or PTA meetings or… Come to think of it, why do we have to keep doing laundry and dishes and meals during December? But there is no moratorium. Even though my kids occasionally ate Christmas cookies for dinner, basically normal life just kept on. Even though I wanted to do all those other fun things.

December. Truly my favorite time of the year. And also the most exhausting. And maybe the most dangerous. Dangerous because we can so easily miss the moments in front of us because we are drowning in to-do lists and distracted by disillusionment. We had pictured it so differently. The tree was so magical just a few days—or weeks—ago. And the planning so careful. We wanted to not miss Christmas this year. But sick kids and broken appliances and extra work schedules and complicated family. Those weren’t in our pictures.

And so it is that once again, an Ann Voskamp quote comes to mind:

“In the thin air of Advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it would be easier.’ And your God comes near: ‘I will provide the way.’ You may not even know who to tell: ‘I thought it would be different.’ And your God draws close: ‘I will provide grace for the gaps.’ You may not even know how to find words for it: ‘I thought I would be . . . more.’ And your God reaches out: ‘I will provide Me.’ (The Greatest Gift, p. 60)

There it is. The Gift. The Grace. GOD. What we truly celebrate in December. He came. He comes. He provided—and provides—grace for the gaps. We know that in our heads. But here is my December prayer for every one of you: May you know this in your hearts. No matter how disheveled you feel. No matter how disappointed you are. No matter what you didn’t get done on your endless lists.  Nothing keeps Him from coming. It’s just that He came so quietly that not many noticed. Except what Brennan Manning has called the “shipwrecked at the stable.” I want to be one of those. You too?

The Party’s Over . . .

The house is quiet now. Way too quiet. And way too orderly. Only the ticking away of my Mom’s grandfather clock, reminding me that time moves on. 

For 38 glorious days, our home has been filled with the voices of children. My ten favorite children, to be precise. Shouts and giggles and fun and laughter and crying and bickering and “time outs” and whispered conversations between cousins coming from the “craft closet” (our master bedroom closet, repurposed) and loud games interspersed with “No, it’s my turn!” . . . You get the picture. 38 days of glorious chaos.

And now they’ve all gone home. As I write this, I shiver with remembrance of that unforgettable sentence about Hannah after her annual visits to the temple to see the son she had dedicated to God: “Then they would go home.” (1 Samuel 2:20b) Not quite the same, for sure. But still, the going home.

Our recycling and trash tell the story. Well, part of it anyway. Yes, the party’s over and they’ve all gone home. But I am left with so much more than the after-the-party remnants. I am a different person. More exhausted, to be sure. But so much more. I am a grateful Nana filled with new memories made over the past 5 weeks.

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Games of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and Sorry and Animal Bingo. Stories read, some by me and some by the children, who range in age from 10 years to ten months. Pirate stories told by “Farfar” (their name for Woody—“father’s father” in Swedish). Trips to splash parks and playgrounds and petting farms and the gorgeous York Beach in Maine—and the Lego Store and Build-a-Bear and the much-loved Superstore of Used Books. Diapers (“nappies” to my Irish crew) changed and tears wiped and grievous wounds cured(!) by Dory or Star Wars bandaids and nights of protest (“But it’s not bedtime yet!”) and disputes of nearly international scope about who got the most wiffle-ball pitches from Farfar. What seems like hundreds of hot dogs and PB&J sandwiches and pizzas and birthday cakes and ginormous ice cream cones consumed. 

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Ah, summer with grandchildren. I really didn’t want it to end.

Yet as I write this, I am reminded of summers long ago when I felt a bit more ambivalent about summer’s end.  The start of school looked pretty good then!   So as I ponder (the end of the annual summer visit) and miss (all of them!) and cherish (such precious memories), I also think of all of you moms out there. Some of you also missing grandkids who’ve gone home. Some counting the days ’til school begins (please Lord, soon!)—or wishing your kids were old enough for school! Others celebrating because school has already begun in your world. And then those moms who’ve made that first long journey (long whether an hour away—or thousands of miles) to college. For all of us, those mixed emotions that come with being a mom/grandmom.

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May we always be grateful. May we always savor the memories. And may we always have the necessary strength that comes only from the Father of us all (and the joy as well). Summer, we salute you . . . it’s been oh, so lovely.      

  

Whatever he’s doing . . . Happy Father’s Day!

A little boy is on the phone in a long-ago kitchen with his best friend, Adam. It’s Saturday morning, and Adam is trying to persuade Bjorn to come over and play. “Not today, Adam,” Bjorn says. “My dad’s off this weekend and that means we get to spend the morning with him.” Adam is insistent: “O come on, Bjorn. What are you going to do this morning anyway?” Bjorn: “I don’t know, Adam. But whatever my dad is doing, I’m doing.”

Woody and his two young sons

“Whatever my dad is doing, I’m doing.” The words have echoed in my heart through the years. So many memories of Woody’s Saturday morning adventures with the kids. Sometimes they’d drive up to the rocky coast north of Boston and climb the rocks and collect sea glass and make up imaginary stories of sea kingdoms and castles and fairies and monsters. Or go to the historic Concord bridge and climb around the banks of the river throwing sticks in the water and just “mucking around.” Or, in the winter, sled down the fearsome hill at Tower Park. Or just hang out in the basement with Dad while he cleaned up down there—probably making a game of it somehow. Or at least drinking root beer in the basement and having (OK, I said it) burping contests!

Three Anderson children at the beach

Later, being with his children meant Woody needed to go where they were—to soccer games near and far; to a college apartment 10 hours away to arrive early on a 21st birthday to take a very surprised daughter to breakfast before turning around and driving back in order to teach Sunday School the next day; to many a college mailbox and computer inbox with hilarious cards and encouraging—or entertaining—emails. 

Always, the theme verse in Woody’s head was Deuteronomy 33:12: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” When the kids were little, he loved carrying them everywhere in a backpack. Of course they quickly outgrew the backpack. But he continued to pursue creative ways to let them know they were beloved and secure. It was meant to be a picture of their Heavenly Father and how HE carries them from here to eternity “between his shoulders.”

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“Whatever he’s doing . . .” Being present with our kids, and being a model of a Godly man (not perfect, you understand—but God-directed) with Godly values, and loving God in ways they watched—all the greatest gifts Woody could give our kids.  All the more important in these parenting days. A much-needed contrast to the “20 minutes of action” philosophy!

And now the next generation is passing it on, living out Deuteronomy 6, each in their own way with their own kids. My greatest joy in this world is watching this happen. So, as Father’s Day approaches, I want to give a shout-out to the dads in my family—Woody, Bjorn, Lars, and Richie. They all do it in such different ways, but each of these dads is living life with his kids in such a way that my grandchildren are getting to know their Father’s love through the love of a human father.

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Another very important shout-out: I feel huge gratitude when I see Christian dads reaching out to those around them who don’t have a “present dad” in their lives.  For a host of different reasons (so many of them heart-wrenching), many kids in our world do not have a dad who is able to be with them and model their Heavenly Father’s love. I also want to give a shout-out to moms who are marvelous conduits of God’s love to their children; many single moms I know are Jesus-in-the-flesh to their children with a grace and power that astounds me. But it is a gift to us all when Christian dads come alongside these kids to do fun “guy things” and model the love of our Father in masculine ways. We need reminders of the stunning love of the Father we all have through Jesus. No matter what. The real reason I can wish every one of you a Happy Father’s Day!

One little bonus: As I was writing this, our son Lars posted this on Instagram: 

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 A great idea for celebrating with the dads in your lives!     

  

Heart Talk on Hurting Hearts

Photo by Flickr user bored-now

Photo by Flickr user bored-now

It’s February. So I guess it’s no surprise that I’m thinking about hearts. But my thoughts at the moment are not the stuff of Hallmark cards or romantic gifts or candlelight dinners—though I actually do love all those things.

This year my thoughts are overtaken by other kinds of hearts. Broken hearts. Anxious hearts. Losing heart. Or more accurately, not losing heart.

It seems a lot of precious people I know are grieving. Deeply grieving. Daughters for their mothers. Parents for their sons. A brave, beautiful, Godly young mother of four for her beloved husband, gone from them all in an instant. Too many broken hearts in my world. And, I would bet, in yours, too.

And so many anxious hearts. Some await the results of the next biopsy. Or they wonder what the next doctor’s appointment will bring. Hope for their husband? Help for their son? Better treatment options for the disease or depression?  Many hearts I know cry out “How long O Lord, how long?” Will this last IVF finally work? Will the adoption ever be finalized? Still others worry about finances and employment (or unemployment) issues. Is there really a job out there to support their family? Or their marriages, breaking apart at the seams though no one else knows. Can this broken place be mended, this marriage restored and made new?

I hope you are still reading after this gloomy start. Because God has been reminding me that hearts are His business. In His Word, He talks about the heart all the time. Over 1000 times, actually, throughout the Old and New Testaments.

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted,” we read in Psalm 34:18, “and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He “heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) The Prophet Isaiah, in a passage Jesus later applied to Himself, proclaimed that “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…” (Isaiah 61:1)

This same God of the brokenhearted knows about anxious hearts as well. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and have sorrow in my heart everyday?” the Psalmist cried out in his angst. (Psalm 13:2) One of my favorite passages is Psalm 94:18-19: “When I said ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

Wait a minute! Joy? Joy? Are you kidding? In the midst of grief and pain and anxiety . . . joy? Not happiness, you understand. Joy. Author Walter Wangerin says it best:

“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope—and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must, for those who depend on it) disappoint us.” (Reliving the Passion, p. 31)

Maybe, just maybe, this is the key to not losing heart, which is the third thing I’ve been thinking about. How do we help one another not lose heart? It’s certainly at the heart of the mission of Mom to Mom: encouraging moms—all moms (whether with rejoicing hearts, broken hearts, anxious hearts, exhausted hearts—all kinds of hearts) to “not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3)  We’re called to “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong; do not fear; your God will come….” (Isaiah 35:3-4) We’re called to walk alongside, listen more than talk, love and pray and cook and care for kids and . . . so that we point them to the only One Who can give real joy.

All so that one day, one day, for all hearts who trust in Him, “Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10)

In the meantime, keep looking to Him “so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3) OK, moms, I know you are weary. Of course you are. It comes with the job.  But you know what I mean by not losing heart…

Got Mushrooms?

mushrooms

I’ve got a lot of mushrooms lately. I’d like to say it’s all Sarah Young’s fault. But since her beloved devotional Jesus Calling is written so thoroughly from Scripture, I need to rethink that. She always seems to have been hiding behind my couch (or more accurately, in the recesses of my foggy brain), knowing exactly what I’m thinking about and what I need to hear from God.

I know I quoted from Jesus Calling in my last entry, but October 17 was another direct hit:

“Anxiety is the result of envisioning the future without Me. . . . Do not linger in the future, because anxieties spring up like mushrooms when you wander there.”

Anxieties springing up like mushrooms . . . Hmmm.  I really should find a good recipe for cream of mushroom soup!

Do any of you find yourselves wandering along the same path? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “mom mushrooms.” You know, the kinds of anxieties all moms have about their kids. How they eat, how they sleep, how they relate to other kids, how they do in school, how athletic (or not) or artistic (or not) or musical (or not) they are . . .

How quickly these thoughts run to the future. What college will they go to?  Who will they marry?  What career will they have?  Where will they live (please, not too far away)?  Will they spend most of their adult life in therapy working through issues with their moms?! 

You all know the drill.  All the normal hopes and dreams and prayers for our children, which all-too-quickly lead us off the path into the mushrooms.  And, of course, when one of our kids has special needs or is going through a particularly difficult time, it’s all the more challenging not to just sit down and fill our buckets with anxiety mushrooms. 

Normal mom-thinking?  Yes. But also dangerous.  Dangerous for many reasons, but here’s one for starters:  We may miss the moments right in front of us because we’re catastrophizing our way into the future. 

In preparation for writing a new Mom to Mom talk, I’ve been asking a number of moms what their biggest struggles are.  A frequent answer: ” Being present with my kids in the moment.  Not being so distracted by to-do lists or technology or thinking ahead that I miss the moment in front of me.”  This topic is far bigger than one little blog post.  But certainly anxieties have something to do with it.

In the end, it all comes down to the first sentence in the earlier quote:  “Anxiety is the result of envisioning the future without Me.”  There’s a reason why Scripture reminds us again and again  (no, I don’t have a verse count) that God is always with us, and that He will never ever leave us (or our kids) alone.  Never. Ever.

I have a sign on my mantle that reads: ”Fear not the future. God is already there.” Some of my kids gave it to me for my study (that tells you something—yes?), but I figured I really need it front and center in my living space.  I highly recommend it to you. Just in case you’ve got mushrooms, too.

That Time of Year

It’s that time of year again. Malls are full of back-to-school shoppers. TV ads blare back-to-school sales. (I’m reminded of my favorite ad from years gone by: a woman waltzing through a store gathering school supplies for her kids and belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” ) A daughter-in-law prepares, with a full heart, to send both her kids off to school for the first time.  And mom Facebook friends have been posting since early August: “It should be time for them to go back to school by now, right?  Right?”

Then there are the conversations. “We just took our first child off to college . . .”  “I’m so proud of her . . . but how do you do this?”  It’s not the going: The excitement and trepidation and drama of getting ready. Lists checked off. Bedding and supplies gathered.  Goodbyes to friends. The iconic packing of the car. The trip down there, with lots of silence in the backseat. The butterflies in the stomach (all stomachs in the car, that is).  The trepidations about The Roommate. And then the excitement: New places. New friends. New vistas. Courageous smiles. No, it’s not the going.

It’s the coming home. Without them. Just you and him (if you are fortunate enough to have him). When we took our first son to college, I had just—ironically—finished the lesson on Hannah for our Mom to Mom curriculum.  Hannah’s words had been our verse when we dedicated this boy so many years ago: “For this child I prayed . . .”  (Read, if you have the courage, the rest in 1 Samuel 1:27-28.) Through the driving rainstorm between here and Williamsburg, Virginia, God gently reminded me: “Did you mean it, Linda?  You know, the part about “as long as he lives, he will be lent to the Lord”? Do you think you can trust me with him across state lines?”

Little did I know that was just the beginning.  There were two more taking-kids-to-college trips.  Then three long (and joyful) aisles to walk down.  Deployments and ministry careers and a mission trip that became a life across an ocean.  Countless exciting trips to and many long flights from.  And there’s Hannah again:  Each year she made a special little robe and went to visit her beloved Samuel at the temple where she had committed him to God’s service.  “Then they would go home.”  (1 Samuel 2:20b)  It still gives me chills every time I read it.

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I’ve just done it again. Except in reverse. All our kids were here this summer for varying and overlapping visits. Sheer joy. Nana Heaven. Ecstasy, really. We read books together (Nana’s fav) and played games and went to the beach and the pool and ate lots of pizza and ice cream and had cousin sleepovers and celebrated a BIG birthday for the much-beloved Farfar (the grandkids’ name for Woody—it means father’s father in Swedish).  

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Then they went home.  Home to New Hampshire and Virginia—and Ireland.  All of them.  Home to busy, God-directed (thank you every single minute, Jesus), meaningful lives which give us joy. Great joy. But still, they went home.

So you can imagine how these words hit me from the August 23 reading in Jesus Calling:

“Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.  If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one—as well as yourself . . .When you release your loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. . . . My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.” 

Oh yes, and there’s more:

“This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in ME.  Watch to see what I will do.”

I’m watching.        

Happy Mother’s Day — No Matter What!

Mother and Child

Mother’s Day always launches me on a roller coaster of emotions.  Memories sweep over me like wind in my face—and there’s lots of speed and power in that little roller coaster car.

There were the many painful Mother’s Days of infertility. Then—eventually—the ecstatic joy of celebrating Mother’s Day holding a new (or relatively new) baby in my arms. The babies grew up and “helped” Woody serve me breakfast in bed.  A great diet plan, as they were mostly interested in eating whatever was on my tray. The helpful eaters grew into teens, and then, just when they were becoming truly wonderful, went off to college and beyond that into their own lives. Poignant years of missing having them at home became celebrations of joy for the Godly mothers my daughter and daughter-in-laws were becoming.  Mother’s Day = A day of joy and gratitude.

Another burst of wind in my face: memories of my mother.  She was, next to my husband, my best friend. When she died  7 ½ years ago, she left a huge hole in my heart that no one else can fill.  I had the great blessing of having her for far more years than many of my friends have had their mothers.  And I had the privilege of having her—one very special, Godly, praying mother—as my mother.  I am grateful.  But I still wish I could send her a note.  Or better yet, give her a call.  Or, best of all, a quick visit.

But this Mother’s Day I’m feeling extra emotions on behalf of many mothers I know.  Mothers who have recently buried children.  Is there anything more heart-wrenching?  Mothers with new babies or “too many toddlers—or teens!” or life circumstances that leave them so depleted they barely know it’s Mother’s Day.  Isn’t every day Mother’s Day?  That is, “Mothers on Duty 24/7” Day?  Women who long to be mothers, for whom Mother’s Day can be excruciating.  Women who mourn the loss of their mothers—or even of the mother they never had but always wished for.

The roller coaster.  The swirling wind in my face.  That’s why I’m so glad we have assurance from God that we can celebrate mothers no matter what.  No matter what mother you had—or didn’t.  No matter what mother you are—or aren’t.  God promises to be like a Mother to us. We’re all familiar with the many wonderful references to God loving us with a perfect Fatherly love.  But in a few cases He also compares His love to that of mothers.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  (Isaiah 49:15)

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you . . . (Isaiah 66:13)

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:2)

 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings . . .”   (Jesus weeping over His people and longing to gather them with maternal love and protection—Matthew 23:37)

God assures us that, whatever else we may not have, we have HIM.  Because of this powerful, sustaining love of our God, I feel confident in wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day—no matter what!

Such a Good Mother

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I saw her in the food court at the mall the other night.  Actually, I saw her little girl first.  Precious snow-white tights with buttons and bows, squiggling across the floor near the table.  So typical, I smiled.  How many times did I get my little girl all dressed up to go out—and before I knew it, whatever was pristine and adorable was wriggling across or into something that might turn it black and torn?  But, oh, such fun in the process.  Isn’t that part of what being a child is all about?

Then I saw her mother.  It turns out we knew each other, from a local Mom to Mom.  I walked over to their table to chat a moment. “How old are you?”  I asked the cute little girl.  “She’s two,” a voice said.  Lucky girl has a cute—and helpful—older brother.  Lucky mom has two adorable little kids.

But I know more about this mom.  We’ve talked before.  We have a lot in common.  Her very gifted husband is an oncologist, like mine.  And this very gifted husband works all the time, it seems—as did mine.  This mom is alone a lot with the kids, as I was.

We talk some more.  She tells me of another mom she’s getting to know whose husband is also an oncologist.  The two of them have lots and lots in common.  “You really need to know about this program I go to,” this young mom has told her friend.  The woman who wrote the material is married to an oncologist, too.”  The new friend laughs back:  “Oh, Mom to Mom is my lifeline. I go to it at another church.” 

Back to the food court.  Woody and I sit at a nearby table, and I watch as this patient mom talks and laughs with her children, and buys them an ice cream to share.  Then she packs them both up again, along with the diaper bag and assorted other mom baggage, and pushes the stroller wearily (she’s a beautiful young woman who looks great, but I recognize mom-fatigue) toward the door out of the mall. Miles to go before bedtime.

One mom. Two kids. Not much conversation with anyone over the age of four.  I am taken back to that same food court many years ago.  It looked very different then (as did I!), and I was plus one child.  But the feelings flood back. 

I wonder if she knows what a good mother she is.  Just a night eating fast food at the food court.  Just a chance to get out of the house.  Just one night not to cook.  A sanity saver, perhaps.  I know the feeling.  But still, conversations are being had, questions are being answered, everyday memories are being made.  This is a good mother.

I wonder if she knows it.  Just before she leaves, I stop back by her table.  “You are such a good mother,” I tell her.  I hope she believes me.  I hope my own daughter and daughters-in-law believe me when I tell them that, too.  It’s true.  It’s just so hard to see, sometimes, in the ordinary, everyday, tough-stuff mom moments.

I hope you have someone to tell you.  And a lifeline—like Mom to Mom.  Just in case, let me say it, and ask God to give you grace to believe it, even in the mall food courts of your life:

You’re such a good mother.

Sticky Faith?

I saw the sadness in their eyes.

I was speaking at a church last Sunday on the subject of “Passing on the Faith.”  Since they had spent four Sundays on “Family Matters” based in Deuteronomy 6—the pivotal passage on parenting in the Bible—I chose as our follow-up text a few verses from Psalm 78:3-7:

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Then they would put their trust in God.”

I love the multi-generational hope extended here. I love the pattern for passing it on.

But still, I saw the sadness in some eyes out in that congregation.  Many pairs of eyes, actually.  And I know where it came from.  It came from struggling hearts, grieving hearts.  Hearts of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and pastors and friends.  Hearts that had held out great hope for the children in their lives.  Hearts that had wanted very badly to “pass it on.”  But they were watching kids—teens and young adults and even not-so-young adults—make some very disappointing choices, not showing much external evidence, if any, of a life of faith.  

Recently  I’ve been reading Sticky Faith, an excellent book by Kara Powell and Chap Clark on how we can build a lasting faith in our kids.  It’s a great book, based on extensive research as to what makes faith “stick.”  It’s also full of  helpful suggestions and powerful strategies for parents, churches, and anyone working with kids today.  I highly recommend it.

But still, the question lingers, and I see those sad eyes.  Why, Oh God, do I know so many parents who have truly poured themselves out to passing on the faith—and still their kids are wandering?  Or running?  Yes, praise God, I also know many kids who grew up in “sticky faith” homes and churches who are shining examples of faith passed on.  It’s just those others that I can’t get off my mind—and never from my prayers.

It’s that dangerous gift of free will that God gave us, isn’t it?   Our kids grow up to make their own decisions.  And they have to find, eventually, their own faith, and establish their own walk with Jesus. 

Does this mean that there’s no point in giving our all to raising “sticky faith” kids who we pray will love Jesus above all else?  Of course not.  It’s our calling as parents.  It simply means we never forget our highest parental call: to pray for our kids—first, last, and always.

It also means we never forget Who ultimately sticks with our kids, pursuing them, pursuing them, pursuing them always with His infinite love and powerful grace.  

It’s why I looked out over that congregation on Sunday and reminded them of what they already know: God is not finished yet—with them or with us.  And what did Paul say in Philippians 1:6?  We can be confident that God finishes what He starts.  

So we get out our knee pads and stick with our prayers for our kids, knowing Who ultimately sticks with us.   

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