Category Archives: motherhood

On Greater & Lesser Advocates

I am not a lawyer, but I am a mother. Which means that though I am neither demanding in personality nor powerful in presence, I turn into a fierce advocate for my children. Watching the classic courtroom scenes from A Few Good Men and reading To Kill A Mockingbird are about as close as this girl comes to training in argument or advocacy. However, when someone I love is threatened or put into a difficult place, tenacious advocacy erupts from a dormant place deep within me.

I have watched the most shy mothers turn into brave warriors on behalf of their children, advocating for their rights, their treatment, their place at the table. It is a scary and stunning thing to watch someone advocate for another.

At some point in life, we all find ourselves in need of an advocate to greater or lesser degrees.  Whether in an interview, a legal argument, or a garden-variety misunderstanding, certain circumstances will trigger within us a deep desire for someone to advocate on our behalf, someone to take up our cause and go to bat for us.

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Advocacy in the Scriptures
Advocacy seems to be woven into the very character of our God. As such, it should come as no surprise that we find in ourselves a corresponding hunger to both give and receive advocacy.

While the taste of the forbidden fruit was still on Adam and Eve’s tongues, God undertook on their behalf. He, the betrayed party, killed an animal to graciously provide clothes to replace fig leaves for his ashamed creations (Genesis 3:21).

A few years later, the Lord advocated on behalf of the slain Abel (Genesis 4:10).

When Abram threw her under the bus, God Himself advocated for the vulnerable Sarai. Twice. (Genesis 12 &  Genesis 20).

Abraham would later advocate for Lot and the inhabitants of the city of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33), urging God to spare them if there were even ten righteous people in the whole populace.

A hardship-weather yet God-protected Joseph advocated for the very brothers who had begun his long journey of suffering  (Genesis 47).

We  have not even exhausted the examples of advocacy in the book of Genesis, but I think I can stop advocating for advocacy Scripturally.

When God established His people through Moses (yet another advocate) and the laws and precepts given through his mediacy, it should come as no surprise that advocacy found its way into the fabric of God’s people. Priests were established to advocate for the people before God through an elaborate system of sacrifices. God’s people were to advocate for the sojourner and stranger and even the accidental murderer (Deuteronomy 19:4).

The Greater Advocate
All these stepping stones of advocacy, whether human or divine, were meant to point us towards and lead us to the Greater Advocate, our Great High Priest, Jesus.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God (Hebrews  2:14-17).  

That the eternally offended party would come to earth, put on flesh and become the atoning sacrifice for our sins is shocking enough. But Christ not only died to make us right with God, He lives to advocate for us.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25). 

Goaded to the Greater Advocate
Lately, I have found myself looking around for an earthly advocate, someone to plead my cause, to back me, to believe in me to no avail. Yet, as strange as it sounds, I am slowly becoming thankful for the absence of earthly advocates.

The lack of lesser advocates can goad us to the greater one. Rather than allowing us to stop short, the Lord will sometimes lovingly force us to walk, by faith, all the way up to His very footstool. There we will find the Son seated at the right hand of the Father, pleading for us, advocating on our behalf.

 

As It Seemed Best: Encouraging Words for Overwhelmed Parents

As it seemed best.”

These four words have been a continual source of healing and comfort to me in my  earthly parenting; however, I am even more comforted by the fact that they have no place in God’s heavenly parenting of His children.

In his letter of warnings to the Jewish Christians, the author of Hebrews addresses the concept of biblical discipline.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as  it seemed best to  them, but disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For  the moment all discipline seems painful  rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:7-11.

As Seems: Parenting from Our Limited Perspective

Discipline is a loaded and misunderstood word, especially in our culture.  However, the biblical term translated discipline holds a greater range of meaning than mere correction  or punishment. The Greek paideia means instruction that trains someone to reach maturity and full development. While it includes correction, biblical training goes far beyond meting out consequences. It is a multi-faceted process that addresses and presses  the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional lives of our developing children.

As it it were not weighty enough, this biblical definition takes the conversation around the discipline and training of our children to a whole new level. Instead of staying in the common wrestling mats of “What kind of consequences do I give my children?” and “For what actions will they receive consequences?,” it creates many more mats upon which to wrestle.

  • What is our developmental plan for our child’s spiritual well-being?
  • In which school environment will each of our children be most stretched?
  • Will this risk that we are encouraging our child to take (trying out for a sports team, taking a challenging class, going away for a church trip. etc…)  be a healthy stretch or something that snaps his/her spirit?
  • Are we over-correcting our child to the point of constant critique?
  • When do we address the various patterns we see in their lives? Do we pray and let the Lord work in His time? Do we bring them up? If so, when and how? In what order?

Even when we think we have arrived at an answer for this child in this season,  there will be another season for this child (not to mention, other very different children, for many families).  So many potential pieces. How will they ever become a cohesive whole?

These and countless other questions should cause parents to drop to their knees in prayers for discernment and wisdom.

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Parents are called by God to lovingly,  intentionally, prayerful discipline their child(ren). He knows that we are limited in our understanding of our children’s hearts and hard-wiring. He knows that are bound by time, unable to see the future into which we and they are walking. He knows that we have our own pasts, foibles and blindspots that affect our parental vision.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-14.

As Is: Parenting from His Perspective

While we, through prayer and discernment and many teary or heated conversations, parent as seems best,  God works providentially as is best. There is no seeming best to Him.

The One who ordered the stars and hummed hummingbirds into existence has hard-wired each of our children. His Spirit goes where law and even loving parental interrogations cannot (1 Corinthians 2:10).  He stands outside of time and sees the full frame of the future that is coming for each of them (Psalm 139). He will not break a dimly burning wick, and a bruised reed he will not break (Isaiah 42:3). Every incident of their lives He will work with intention to their good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Oh, what a net this reality provides to the weary, wondering parent. Rather than leaving us paralyzed by a sea of choices and potential consequences, these promises free us to move forward in fear of God and trust in Him, rather than our own limited perspective.

 

 

A Species Survival Plan for Childhood

As a proud zoo-loving biology nerd seeking to raise the next generation of such nerds, we talk about SSPs on our frequent visits to zoos. Species survival plans. Every species that is somewhere on the endangered spectrum receives an SSP, an intentional plan created to help bring the species back to thriving.

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Being as I find motherhood my full-time job these days, I try to read as much as I can regarding parenting, children and families. I do this both as a form of self-induced continuing education and also as an attempt to not lose my mind amidst the potty humor and silliness which often seem to engulf me.

Recently, I read Neil Postman’s fascinating book Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future. Postman includes an entire chapter on children, which he opens by writing the following:

“Childhood was invented in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century, it began to assume the form with which we are familiar. In the twentieth century, childhood began to unravel, and by the twenty-first, may be lost altogether – unless there is some serious interest in retaining. This summary of the rise and fall of childhood will strike some readers as startling, especially those who believe that where there are children (that is small, young people), there must be childhood. But this is not so. Childhood is not a biological necessity but a social construction.”

Postman follows by painting in broad strokes the different historical views of children including the Lockean or Protestant view and the Rousseauian view. I know my teacher friends had to learn all about these fellas in their history of education classes; however, most of us mom-folk haven’t learned these things. While I found the history lesson interesting, the point Postman was leading to is alarming.

Today, according to Postman, “Children are neither blank tablets nor budding plants. They are markets; that is to say, consumers whose needs for products are roughly the same as the needs of adults….The point is that childhood, if it can be said to exist at all, is now an economic category. There is very little the culture wants to do for children except to make them into consumers.”

Ouch. That’s a scathing and scary indictment of where our culture is and is heading regarding childhood.

If childhood is truly endangered, which from a sociological standpoint is what Postman suggests, then what are we to do? What is the species survival plan?

Postman concludes the following:
“If parents wish to preserve childhood for their own children, they must conceive of parenting as an act of rebellion against culture…to insist that one’s children learn the discipline of delayed gratification, or modesty in sexuality, or self-restraint in manners, language and style is to place oneself in opposition to almost every social trend.”

I so desperately need to hear reminders that childhood and family are species worth fighting for.  Sometimes these reminders come from Biblical studies and a Christian worldview, but sometimes they come from the corner of common grace through the social sciences or biological research.

Recently, I hit a momma wall. I was worn out from the tedium and the seeming insignificance of playing “Catch the Orange” in the kitchen or spending an hour with my toddler using wipes to clean and re-clean every plastic animal in the house. I wanted out or I wanted easier. In my flesh, I want to have my cake and eat it too. Even though I want balanced, healthy children, on the long and lonely days, I don’t always want to have to give of myself to create an environment and home in which healthy and balanced children grow and thrive.

It is a fight to limit screen time and to load up my kiddos to find some green space where they can roam and be wild. It is hard to keep Christmas gifts and birthday gifts limited and reasonable in our culture. It is excruciating to hold a high standard (with high tolerance for mistakes, as they are only tiny humans) when the bar seems to be set so low. Many days I fail. But I know that this is an endeavor worth fighting for, this species survival plan for childhood and family.

The Lord, through Neil Postman, gave me the encouragement I needed this week.

“Those parents who resist the spirit of the age will contribute to what might be called the Monastery Effect, for they will help keep alive a humane tradition. It is not conceivable that our culture will forget that it has children. But it is halfway toward forgetting that children need childhood. Those who insist on remembering shall perform a noble service for themselves and their children.”

Oh, God, you are the one who created children and families. You alone have the SSP needed to help them thrive. Give us the grace that we need, the supernatural strength to treat our children as you intended and to give ourselves to the survival of childhood, not for their sakes or for our sakes, but for Yours. 

The Case for Clippers

I never thought I would be that lady, but I am. Every month or so, usually when their sideburns eerily resemble chops and the top of their heads could double as mops, I get out the clippers to cut our boys’ hair.

We are really professional around here. Our wobbly kitchen stools become the barber’s chair, our back deck becomes the shop, and I, against all odds, become the barber (ess?).

The boys and I both grumble about this set up, but both parties secretly like the arrangement for different reasons. The boys endure my slow work for the grand finale, the blower. Our efficient yet unconventional way of clearing off hair remnants includes directing the intense air stream of our electric blower at our children at a close range. They love it and don’t realize that they look like little chipmunks in a wind tunnel.

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As much as I complain about the squirming and impossibility of getting around their ears, I secretly look forward to this arrangement. And it is not because of the money we save, though that is a perk.

As my boys get older, cutting their hair provides a continual connection point, a place where I can serve them in a tangible way without being overbearing. When they were little, their actual and felt needs were ubiquitous. I remember longing for the day when they would not be quite so needy. Yet now that I have two boys on the precipice of adolescence, I find myself cherishing any and every opportunity to meet needs and spend precious time with them.

In the midst of helping with homework, folding laundry, stocking the pantry and driving carpools to sports practices, I sometimes lose touch with my boys as humans. They can too quickly become problems to solve or situations to manage rather than people to love.

As I cut their hair, I am reminded of the God who created them uniquely, who counted every unruly hair on their heads. I see their double crown or their thickly textured hair, and am reminded that I have been entrusted with these masterpieces of the Master artist of all Creation. Suddenly, our back deck, littered with tufts of dark, course hair and brown, thin hair, becomes sacred ground.

The nominal tasks entrusted to me, the ones that often make me sigh in exhaustion or roll my eyes in frustration, suddenly seem weighty. I get to know this little boy’s head, to shape this little boy’s mind, to help create habits that will stick to this little human into adulthood.

We are ten and nine years into the mammoth yet momentary task of making little men. That means that, most likely, we have less time with them under our roof left than has already passed.

Roughly 72 more hair cuts per boy remain (assuming we skip a few months or pay money for a professional to correct my novice barbering). It is not a guarantee how many more haircuts my handsome boys will allow me to perform. They may wise up and begin to care more about style. In the meantime, I am fighting to cherish our sessions on the stools, to see the eternal underneath and all around the ordinary that seems to envelope me in motherhood.

But more than anything, cutting my boys hair leaves me in awe of the One who created them, knows them, loves them, weeps over them and prays for them more than my husband and I do (which is hard to imagine when you love them so much that your heart could burst at times with the weight of joy or strain of worry).

The One who numbers the stars and calls them each by name (Isaiah 40:26), has numbered their hairs (Matthew 10:30). He has numbered their days (Psalm 139) and entrusted their fleeting flight to us. Who is adequate for these things?

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3: 4-6. 

 

A Hagar Moment

What do I have in common with Hagar? Not much externally, but I felt like the Lord used her experience in Genesis to patch me up and send me back out into motherhood.

It was bound to happen. Maybe I shouldn’t have devoured John Steinbeck’s heavy novel East of Eden in a week. Maybe I should have gone to bed earlier, but life was bound to catch up with me. Living in limbo for nine plus months as we transition to San Diego, trying as hard as I can to be a sweet and loving and patient momma to two needy little boys, G traveling so much. It all came to a breaking point when the boys wouldn’t take their afternoon naps. Unfortunate, yes. Worth weeping over? No.

The Lord was obviously bringing me to the end of myself yet again. As I was sitting on the couch, crying, and praying, the Lord reminded me of Hagar’s story. Reminded me of how she was tired, she was alone, she was wandering in the wilderness with the demands of caring for her child, even though she was empty, thirsty, and alone. Reminded me of how He gently came to her, told her He saw her, knew her needs, knew the demands on every side, knew her tiredness. Reminded me of how He wouldn’t let her run away from her post, from her circumstances. Reminded me of how He patched her up and sent her back with promises and His presence to sustain her. Reminded me of how He opened up a well unseen to her, supplying her needs and comforting her so she could comfort her son.

It’s not that I look forward to failing and being exhausted as a wife and a momma, but I have a love/ hate relationships with days like yesterday. Hate that it wears me out, hate that is takes days to recover. Love that He meets with me and reminds of HIs sweet and lavished grace. Love how He fills me back up to send me back out into the lot He has so graciously apportioned for me. It’s good to come to the end of myself.

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Hagar and I

Like Hagar in the wilderness
My soul has run aground.
It seems we are weeping here,
With no one else around.

Weeping out of tiredness,
For needs crying to be met.
The demands are more than I have
And much more than I can get.

Here I am, empty and tired, yet
Others still depend on me.
I know not what to do as
Damned-up tears run free.

The needs seem to mount,
Closing in on every side.
I’ve no one else to turn to,
To my God alone I confide.

Surface thoughts give way
To honest, urgent cries.
Hagar and I feel all alone,
But He hears our heavy sighs.

It is tempting to run away
From where my lot lies.
He won’t change His orders,
But He will give new supplies.

I want to avoid my post
Where all I do is fail.
He won’t succumb to me,
I wrestle with no avail.

He sits and cries with me,
As with Hagar He conversed.
And I know He’ll send me back,
But He renews His promises first.

What is the matter, Aimee?
Why do sit in such despair?
You cry as one dying of thirst,
Do you not see the well over there?

This well of water ever flows,
To those who will come nigh.
Not only will they have their fill
But others will share their supply.

Oh, open up the well unseen,
For I am empty, tired, dry.
Oh, God of Hagar’s tears,
Please listen to my cry.

I can’t do this lest you give me
Every single drop I’ll need.
Overflow, this, my vessel,
On your mercy I will plead.

Oh, feed and supply my needs,
Then, Lord, help me to provide
For these ones entrusted to me,
Who are ever walking at my side.

Lengthening the Leash

For the past few hours, I have been running around like a kid who drank an espresso. I bought all the yellow things. I purchased tiny toiletries. I even bought new underwear for my oldest son.

Why the sudden show of my inner crazy?

We are sending our oldest son to camp for a week. A week in the woods without us. I have been playing it cool as a cucumber, but one glance at the packing list made it real today.

I did what I do when I am anxious.  I went into preparation mode. You would think I would have learned by now to let the Lord lasso me and draw my hurried, worried heart unto His loving lap and His listening ear. But no, I did all the things instead.

Like a toddler who just needs to have her little tantrum and get all the unregulated emotion out, the Lord (and also my discerning husband) let me check all the things off my list.

Then, I finally sat down to face what was really going on below the surface. Fear. Anxiety. Unbelief. An overgrown view of self and a marginalized view of the vastness of God.

I did all the small things in my control because I was not ready to remember that the big, most important things are not in my control, not by a long stretch.

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I cannot control my son’s safety while he is at camp. I have to trust the Spirit in him, in his counselors and his friends.

I cannot control my son’s behavior while he is gone. I cannot micromanage his diet, his bedtime, his use of his limited spending money. He may drink all the slurpies and none of the veggies. And if he does, he will learn through natural consequences that are not being meted out by my motherly hand.

But most significantly,  I cannot make my child encounter Christ more deeply.  I can have him memorize Scripture (as he has been this summer), but I cannot make him see Christ as beautiful.

I know that this last, most salient  point is true all of the time, but clearly my heart does not fully believe this to be the case. My proximity to my child masks my powerlessness to initiate or sustain the most significant things that I most yearn and pray for his life. But now, as I am meticulously labeling and packing his duffle back to send him hours away, the truth is clear as day.

He is not mine. He is not ours. He is on loan to us from His Creator. It is His to control and compel our son, not ours. It is His to captivate his twelve-year old soul with the Cross, not ours.

This lengthening of the leash is a simultaneous stretching of my faith.

Do I really believe to be Christ to be his all in all? Unfortunately, I often live like I believe Christ is to fill in the gaps that I leave from time to time. I have inadvertently made my mothering more central than God’s forever fathering.

When the Apostle Paul was writing his last personal letter to his son and protege in the faith,  he penned a verse that haunts me.

I know whom I am believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 2 Timothy 1:12.  

Paul worked like a dog, but he trusted like a loved son. He gave himself to the work God had entrusted to him, but when it was time to pass the baton, he did so with full confidence. He was not reluctant to hand over the church-planting reigns to a timid Timothy. Rather, his constant experiences of the faithfulness of God enabled his entrusting his kingdom call to Timothy.

I can send my son to camp on Sunday because God is faithful and always has been. My experiences of God’s character enable me to learn to entrust more and more of my son’s life to Him.

And this is just training wheels. Soon it will be high school, then driving, then college,  then marriage.

But God is faithful, so I can prayerfully lengthen the leash.

 

New Month, New Mercies

July 1. I came home from a sweet time away  in sweltering rural Illinois to a long list of things that needed to be done: emails to send, books to read, appointments to make, curriculum to write.

Overwhelmed,  I did the one thing that did not need to be done: organize my cleaning supplies, since that was clearly urgent. While I was working, the Lord was working on me. While I was arranging Mrs. Meyers sprays, He was rearranging things in my own heart.

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When I think of the staggering scope of shaping souls, imaging God, speaking His Words, and modeling life-with-Him before my children who see me when I am not behind a podium or on the clock, I stutter and stagger, hiding my face like Moses did in Exodus 3.

Tending his flock, perhaps on an average Tuesday, Moses turned aside in the midst of the terribly ordinary to see something terrifying extraordinary. A burning bush that was not consumed. Perhaps he initially thought he was losing it from the isolation and long hours of shepherding. No, that really was a bush burning yet not.

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed…When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am” (Exodus 3: 2-4). 

God sought him out, got him alone and got his attention. Then, he proceeded to call him by name twice. Naming someone twice is a sign of intimacy and friendship in Jewish literature, thus God transcendent became God intimate.

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet,  for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your Father, the God of  Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:5-6).

The God who longed to reveal Himself, the uncreated Creator who had established a relationship with Moses’ forefathers was not done yet. He was inviting Moses into his story, revealing Himself yet again that He might carry out the plans He had formed long ago.

Talk about staggering scope. God invited Moses, who had not really asked for a burning bush or to witness Someone so holy and other that he had to remove his shoes and hide his face, to an unthinkable task.

To follow through on this call, Moses would have to deal with his own murderous guilt and shame by going back to the land from whence he fled. He would have to confront the strongest, most scary leader in the known world. He would bring out a bustling, breeding people from slavery. Talk about a to-do list.

But all that God was inviting Moses to do was essentially wrapped up in God’s being.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The  God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14).

After a little more cajoling, Moses began to move in faith towards the impossible to-do list set before him because of the God who revealed Himself to him.

While God has not called me or you to set free captives on a massive scale, He does have a call on our lives. He has revealed Himself to us in an event even more jaw-dropping than a burning bush. In the death and resurrection of Christ, we have the clearest picture of God’s character. God transcendent became God imminent in the incarnation. He set us free from captivity to sin and death. He invites us into the extraordinary redemption story right where we are in our ordinary lives.

And still, our doing must flow from His being. Our executing the tasks set before us is deeply rooted in His existence.

Thus, we must begin a new month of tasks and challenges with fresh reminders of His mercies.

 

 

 

An Unexpected Fountain of Refreshment

“Mom, he is stealing my cool sand,” one of my children griped about the other. Even in  my annoyance, I could not help but laugh at the sad statement.  We were sitting on a wide strip of beach that stretched for miles, yet my children were literally arguing about a small patch of shaded sand.

Our Summer has officially begun. While this means a break from lunch-packing and homework-doing, it also means a break from the schedules that provide space and sanity  to our school-year lives. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about lazy mornings, lemonade stands, and lawn games. However, I also know that the Summer has a way of magnifying not only sunshine but also chances to see our sin, individually and as a collective unit.

Summer has a way of melting me, both literally and figuratively. We don’t have AC, so unless I sit myself right next to my best friend, the tower fan, I become a sweaty,  short-tempered, stinky version of myself. This outward reality betrays a scary inner reality during the Summer. The Summer has a way of melting my carefully-built ice sculptures of feigned control, leaving me in puddles of fear and anxiety. Wide open days overwhelm me.

While it is tempting to look for refreshment in vacations or exciting day trips, the Lord has to continually remind me of a very unexpected, always available fountain of refreshment: repentance.

Sure, we will have some fun trips, but my summer rest and refreshment are not dependent upon a float down a lazy river or a night in a hotel. They are found in the midst of or on the other side of repentance.

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In the sermon that the once-hiding, now heralding Peter proclaimed at Pentecost, Peter invited his audience to a paradoxical truth.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..” (Acts 3:19). 

Long before Peter preached that first sermon, God had already been inviting His people, Israel (through the prophet Isaiah) into rest through the similarly strange gate of repentance and returning to Him.

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15.

Repentance needs to be repeated more often that beach towels need to be washed and sand swept in our house over the summer. Just today, which is a mere 1 1/2 days into Summer break for us, I plopped myself down for my Sabbath time in an irritated funk.

Thankfully, before I fumed too long, the Spirit reminded of Peter’s paradoxical invitation. Repent to rest. Repent to be refreshed.

I repent of looking for refreshment in coffee or cold pools.
I repent of jealousy as I see and hear other’s vacation plans.
I repent of trying to put my confidence in plans or control.
I repent of expecting my children to be what I myself cannot me: perfect.
I repent of looking into the coming weeks with fear rather than faith.

I admit my inability to navigate long days on my own. Rather than looking to self for Summer, I look to my un-shockable Savior. And suddenly, I can see Summer for what it is: a chance to see myself, my boys and my Savior.

Sure, Summer may melt my attempts at control. But, there, in a puddle, I learn to be present with them through Him. A puddle of presence that draws on His power. I can manage that.

We have Monopoly to play, mountains to hike, and mornings to stretch out. We have been given all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). When we get turned around and twisted into ourselves, we need only repent and return to a Good Father who provided the path for this refreshing routine.

In light of these realities, let the Summer begin.

Monkey & Monk-y Business

Being a momma of three active boys means my life involves a daily dose of monkey business. Superhero showdowns, wrestling matches on the trampoline (which looks eerily similar to an MMA cage), water balloon fights and America Ninja Warrior training on the bunk beds are the common fare in our family. While I love this crazy life, I also desperately need to fight to find time for my own monk-y business.

“We each have, I believe, a solitary, a monk, within us. This is the part of us that needs rich, creative, and nurturing time alone with ourselves and with God.”

These words written by Peter Scazzzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality deeply resonated with and gave words to my own experience of needing to take care of my inner monk.

The necessary tasks of making meals and money, balancing relationships and checkbooks and keeping home and hearth can often leave us exhausted. When it seems there are more demands than there are days, it is all to easy to ignore or completely deny the monk within each of us; however, when life is full and we feel like pies sliced eight ways to feed twelve people, we would do well to steal away a few moments to nurture our inner monks.

Souls tend to be shy creatures, and they don’t respond well to rigid schedules. They don’t nag nearly as persistently as small children, and they won’t practice the same loud, in-your-face advertising as the prevailing industries. They require some coaxing to show themselves; likewise, their whispers can only be heard when competing noises are turned down significantly.

In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer beautifully captures the strong, yet shy nature of the soul.

“The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. It we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do it go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”

As you know, these ideal conditions don’t simply present themselves; they have to be fought for and arranged with an uncommon intentionality.

Monk-y business requires us to set aside and guard chunks of unhurried time as if our life depended on it, as it truly does. We will have to say no to many things, often good or even great things, in an effort to nurture the greater things. We will need teams of people surrounding us, championing us, often running interference for us, so that our souls have a fighting chance of growing, even thriving in a soul-shrinking society.

My weekly Sabbath time provides an island of monk-y business in the midst of the monkey business. I wish it were a slow, lazy day, but in reality, it looks like two to four hours alone on Sunday afternoons. I have rarely missed one of these divine appointments since my first son was born, and the few times that I have, I have felt the loss immediately. The whole family is on board for this Sabbath time, as they realize that I come back a more doting spouse and a more patient parent. I don’t just look forward to this time, my soul deeply depends upon it.

My inner monk gets to come out of hiding each Sunday to be fed and nurtured, allowed to have time where I demand nothing of it. Some days we just sit for nearly a half hour before I even remember I have a lucid thought, let alone an inner monk. Some days we study Greek words, some days we hike, some days we write. My inner monk loves coffee, so that always plays a prominent part in our time. My inner monk needs to be fed the Word of God daily, but loves to feast these few hours a week.

Contrary to the lies of our flesh and our society, this is not a waste of time, but rather the most important time I spend all week.

When our inner monks are regularly known, seen, heard and addressed by the Living God through the Living Word, we are equipped and even energized to handle the rest of the monkey business that our lives most certainly entail.

 

Two Thirds

Alas, I am not smarter than a fourth grader.  I have been subbing in a fourth grade class of late, and fractions are breaking me into bits. Percent over a hundred equals is over of. I can say the right things, but some of those word problems are doozies. My AP Calculus teacher would be ashamed of me.

Perhaps because of the re-immersion into fourth grade math, I have had fractions on my heart and mind. Actually, one fraction in particular is haunting me.

Two thirds.

You see, my oldest son turns twelve in a few months. And, rusty though I may be, I can still do some simple math. Twelve is two-thirds of the way to sending him off to college,  if the Lord would have it.

Two thirds. More than halfway there. I swear I just taught him to write the numbers two and three by counting candy corn and gummy bears at our kitchen table.

We have approximately six years left before he can legally join the army or vote. Six years of trusting the Lord for deeply significant things in his rapidly running life.

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Six years of begging the Lord for deepening insight into his personality, including his shadow side and glimpses of his glory self. Six more years to carefully and relationally come alongside him to interpret disappointment, risk, failure, victory and defeat. Six more years to climb a bunk bed to lay and pray for and with him, listening for hints at what is going on in his heart and mind.

It does not happen often that I am stopped dead in my tracks at the beauty and weight of this calling of motherhood. I am usually too busy stocking the pantry, schlepping kids to practices, and helping with dioramas to see that I need to take off my shoes… because this motherhood season is holy ground. But this week, I have been struck with wonder and urgency anew.

What a privilege and responsibility to be entrusted with his rapidly growing heart, mind and body.  What a sacred and strange portion God gives parents.  He asks parents to become experts on their children and the best-educated-guessers as to how to shape and guide them to live out what God has laced into them already.

Did we pick the right school? Did we seek to discipline to get to his heart rather than merely trimming his behaviors, as if he were a topiary? Did we speak over him what we saw coming out of him? Did we catch him doing not only broken things, but also beautiful things? Did we give him space enough to fail? 

Without the Spirit’s intercession and a gospel buoyancy, the weight would be crushing. But with the triple-strength help of our Triune God, these questions become goads to press on in prayer, to present and re-present and re-re-present our children before the One who calls them twice His, once by creation and again by salvation.

For the past year, I have been praying that God would cultivate in our older boys passions beyond their own pleasure.  As I’ve been expectantly looking for tiny sprouts of future-trajectories to grow,  I have been so tempted to plant my own dream seeds or the easy-to-come-by stock seeds of the culture in them.  Yet, I want to leave space enough for God to grow what He has perfectly planned for them.

This last third of our in-house parenting seems to be more about responding and praying, watching and waiting, course-correcting and vision-casting than controlling and knowing.

I am so thankful that Jesus has opened up a way of access for me (1 Peter 3:18) to come boldly into His throne room (Hebrews 4:16) and lay down daily the burdens and blessings, the failures and victories, the questions and tensions of motherhood. For I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard all that I entrust to Him until the Day of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:12).

He is the brilliant mathematician, the perfect gardener, the life coach par excellence. He is my hope in parenting not only these next six years, but also for as long as I and they live until the fullness of His presence becomes our true home.