The Party’s Over . . .

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.

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

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.”

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Heart Talk on Hurting Hearts

Heart Talk on Hurting Hearts

 

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.

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Got Mushrooms?

Got 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.

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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.   

No Greater Joy

Bennett-Schultz I went to the funeral of a great man this past Saturday.  George F. Bennett lived a long life, dying at the age of 102.   He was a financial genius, known in his time as one of the most successful figures in Boston money management. He was a deeply devoted Christian. He (along with a small group) founded a church and was very committed to Christian education and camping. He served as Treasurer for both Harvard University and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and was asked by two different administrations to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (though he declined both invitations). He was a director of numerous diverse boards, from Ford Motor Company to Gordon-Conwell Seminary, to name two.  He left a gigantic footprint on the world of finance, higher education, Christian camping, missions… and the list goes on.  He was, in some ways, larger than life. He and his wife, Helen, were my parents’ best friends.  I first met them when I was in fifth grade, and I’ve loved them ever since.

But why am I writing about George Bennett here?  Because of what I both saw and heard about what mattered most to this giant of a man during his long life.

What I saw: The front rows of the packed church filled with his family—sons and their wives, grandchildren and their spouses, and many great-grandchildren.  Most all of them (perhaps all—only God truly knows these things) are following Jesus, living out the faith George Bennett so longed to nurture.  His legacy lives on.

What I heard: The verse the pastor honed in on was III John 4: “I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth.”   It was the one thing his pastor ever heard him boast of—that his children and their children were walking with the Lord.  It was what mattered most to him in all the world—not only for his own family, but for those who attended the church he founded, the Christian schools and camps he supported, and anyone else he had the privilege of influencing

Children walking in the truth.  It made me think of Mom to Mom.  Of all of you—young moms to Titus 2 Leaders—who yearn, along with me, for this to be our legacy.  We may not run investment companies or direct large corporations or be asked to serve in the U.S Cabinet.  But we share this man’s goal: that our children may walk in God’s truth.

How does this goal get accomplished?  Only by the grace of God.  And hours—and years—on our knees.  We mothers definitely wear out our knee-pads!

But along the way, I hope we can all share the one trait of Mr. Bennett that most endeared him to our family: his playfulness and sense of humor.  He was just plain fun to be with, always ready with a funny story or a tale of a long-ago practical joke.  Our kids remember him as the generous sharer of “Mr. Bennett’s beach” (when we vacationed on neighboring Cape Cod property) as well as “the man who loved cheeseballs.”  When we ate our picnic lunch at his beach, he knew we often had junk food, and he would often just “happen by” to see if we had his favorite, cheeseballs (remember those gooey bright orange delicacies full of saturated fats?).   “Now you don’t need to tell Mrs. Bennett about this,” he would say with a twinkle in his eye as he polished off his last treat.

Our son Lars said it best: “There was always a childlikeness about him.”  Maybe because he didn’t take himself too seriously.  Maybe because he knew Who was really in charge, no matter how powerful some humans might appear.  Maybe he just knew how to live out Dorothy Sayers’ observation that Christians can laugh better, because they know the end of the story and don’t have to be so worried about how it will all turn out.

Maybe it was all a part of his passing on the legacy of walking in truth.  For those of us still working toward our legacy, I bet he’d agree:  You gotta keep laughing—and you gotta keep praying.  The rest?  Leave it in God’s good hands.  He’s on it.

 

 

Desperate

Desperate

The word "desperate" comes to mind often these days. There are a number of reasons.

This winter’s weather, for many of you. It seems there’s a new storm on the way every few days. Every plan made feels subject to cancellation, and I see a lot of moms in supermarkets with that desperate look in their eyes.

Then there are the conversations with my daughter, whose two-year-old is being very two. And it’s wearing his mother down. Yep. Desperate. That would describe many a day with that charming little whirlwind of a boy. And his two sisters.

In the midst of this long winter for weary moms, I’m preparing to speak at a local Mom to Mom. They haven’t met for a month now. Three “snow days” bled into school vacation week, and I suspect there are more than a few moms feeling desperate.

All of this—and much more—is why I’m so glad Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae Hoover wrote Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe.

Sarah Mae is a young mom with three small children and Sally is an older (or should I say more experienced?) mom with four grown children. Each chapter begins with an exchange of notes in which Sarah is looking for help on a particular issue or with a particular stage of her parenting. Sally is able to provide hope from “on up the road apiece.” I like the dual perspective.

If you are a young mom—or an older mom—or if you know a young mom or an older mom, you really should get this book. Here’s why:

  • It’s real. Sarah’s descriptions of mom-feelings, beginning with the introductory “I can’t be a mother today, Lord. I’m just too tired,” are honest, authentic, and written from the heat of the battle. They help moms sigh with relief: “Phew! I’m not the only mom who feels this way.”
  • It recognizes the depths to which being a mom can sometimes send us. Sarah has struggled with depression, and she writes about it with raw authenticity. And Sally responds with heartfelt encouragement both practical and Scriptural.
  • It reminds us how much we moms need each other. We were not meant to do this mom-job alone. God knew what He was doing when He provided the Titus 2:3-5 model of older women teaching and encouraging the young women. It is the heart of our small groups at Mom to Mom, and I love the one-on-one example of this which Sally and Sarah provide.
  • It points us Godward. Rather than providing parenting formulas or models of mothering perfection, Sally gently and wisely steers Sarah away from perfectionistic mom-models back to our Perfect and All-Powerful God. She encourages Sarah to trust her own God-given instincts about herself and her family, relying on His Word and His power and help and strength rather than searching for the perfect parenting formula.

One caveat: I am so grateful for the transparency with which the very real problem of depression is addressed. And Sally’s responses to Sarah are full of empathy as well as practical and Scriptural encouragement. But I wish they had been clearer about the need for professional help in some cases. Moms need to draw on a wide range of resources for this very prevalent problem, and I wouldn’t want moms who need this kind of help to miss it.

Bottom line: This book lives up to its subtitle: “Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe.” Read it. And breathe.