Through the Looking Glasses…

I started wearing reading glasses when I turned 40. Almost overnight, my eyes changed, and written words looked fuzzy and unclear. I didn’t want to admit that my vision was getting weaker, but life became limited pretty quickly — so the glasses went on. And when I can keep track of where those glasses are, seeing words is no longer a problem.

reading-glasses

Unfortunately, glasses don’t work for everything. I still need clarity in so many areas, and vision is only one of them. Sometimes I don’t want to admit that my perspective is changing, that life seems fuzzy and unclear. Because then I have to admit that maybe, just maybe, I’m not in control anymore…that I’ve even been wrong about some things, that I’ve had blind spots, and that the life I had envisioned as clear and easy, may not be.  And you know what four letter word that brings up?  FEAR. And it can be blinding.

Those parts of life that are familiar – friends, relationships, church, work, committees – are so often life-giving and meaningful, purposeful, safe. They often define us and give us vision, and those are good things.

But those are also the areas in which we often become way too entrenched, and then we are too close to the setting to see a bigger and more complete picture. Focus gets fuzzy and the lights begin to dim a bit. If we don’t know when to step back for a different view, we can almost become crippled. And in the middle of realizing that maybe we need to move, to change perspective, is fear. We don’t want to make changes because we’re afraid of what life will be like if we move, so we stay in the ‘safe’ world of what we know.  And in the midst of all that activity, we begin to project what we perceive as the best or most important, on those we love.

When my children were growing up, we taught them what is Right and True and Good. We got caught up in the 12-step-plan, the do-all-the-right-parental-things-and-your-children-will-turn-out-like-you-want-them-to handbook. We made sure they were doing ‘all the right things’, being part of all the right groups and activities. But somewhere along the way we picked up the wrong glasses, and our perception changed – and so did our expectations; we wanted them to look like us instead of the unique people God made them.

I needed a different set of glasses. Maybe my quest to find fulfillment in the doing and the ‘perfect parenting’ was caught up in striving more than in stillness, and I put my children in the same place. “Be still and know that I AM GOD.” “Trust Me.” I wasn’t being still, and I wasn’t seeing what God wanted me to see. I let fear into my sights. I needed to step back.

And this is when my vision started to fade. I needed to get being still into focus.

If all the activity of life and parenting, which we often think defines and validates us, keeps us from seeing that it’s time to be still and trust, then what we do is as a loud noise — because Love and knowing the God of Love is the most important — above all else. When we can’t slow down enough to put that Love into perspective,  it is easy to lose our vision and we focus on all the wrong things.

But some days I think that maybe it’s coming back, just a little. I think I see a little more light and have a little more clarity. I see that the doing, all the striving, is changing to listening and laughing and enjoying and walking alongside. And being still.

Our service and activity and doing doesn’t validate us. We aren’t defined by our outward work or how we think things should look on the outside. We’re defined by who God is making us, and that looks different for each of us. And if how we look on the outside isn’t kind and caring and loving, then does it matter?

I think I’m beginning to see some things I couldn’t see before. My glasses may not always be where I need them, but I’m sure glad I have them. And I’m thankful to God for His vision ~ because His perspective is what truly counts.

 

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This Mama’s Heart

Letter to my children ~

There is so much I want to say to you, things I’ve probably already said to you face to face – maybe a million times – but lately I’ve been thinking that somehow, all these years, I’ve probably missed some things. So I’ll say them now and hope that somehow you catch some of it and take it with you into adulthood (even though most of you are already there, the truth is, we continue into adulthood for the rest of our lives. Well, at least I think we do. I still have more life ahead, maybe. Every day I realize just how much more I have to learn and put into practice. That’s all part of growing up, isn’t it? No matter how old you are?).

When you were born, your dad and I were in awe — with each of you. And in so many ways, we’ve been in awe ever since. You’re all such amazing kids, and we feel that you’ve become such great people in spite of us. We certainly weren’t and aren’t perfect parents, and we made ‘mistakes’ along the way. I put the m-word in quotes because I believe that our mistakes can lead to our greatest successes sometimes…because everything in our lives has a purpose from which we should learn and grow. I hope and pray we learned when we blew it and fixed it when we had the chance.

But I can tell you this for a fact – we didn’t do it alone. We have a great God who directed us. We read parenting books and discussed and read more books and discussed more…but each of you is so different, and although the books we read might have helped a little, we couldn’t have done it without a lot of prayer and faith that the reason you are even here at all is because God has something in mind for you. So we trudged along as your parents trying to get to know you for who God made you, not for who we wanted you to be.

As I say that, I’m not even sure we knew who we wanted you to be or what our dreams for you were. They didn’t go much beyond hoping and praying that you would follow Jesus and become whomever He wanted you to become. And on the outside, that looks so different with each of you. But on the inside, not so much — more than anything else, our heart for you was that you would be compassionate, honest, teachable, generous, kind, thoughtful, wise, loving people.

When you were little, I wondered when we’d see those character qualities — when would love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control be part of your life? Not that I expected you to be ready to go to work with Mother Teresa right away or anything. And honestly, there were times I wondered if we needed to invite her to our home to counsel all of us! But as you’re entering the world of adulthood, I see those attributes in all of you, and I’m so very thankful. They will take you far in life. Truly, the other things don’t matter so much — what you do with your ‘career’ or how much money you make. What matters is how you’ll handle life; and if you have the heart and character to make a difference in your little corner of the world, that is what truly matters.

I read a quote the other day that I think is one to remember: “You can’t claim that you love people when you don’t respect them, and you can’t call for … unity unless you practice it in your relationships. And that doesn’t happen out of nowhere. That’s something that has got to be put into practice every day.” The missing word there is ‘political’ — but the idea here doesn’t just cover political unity — it goes for unity unity. Period. Unity in families, with friends, co-workers, with those whom you disagree. Unless you practice those beautiful character qualities you’ve been given, you won’t make a difference in the world around you.

As a mom, I tried to make our home and life a place of peace and beauty and grace, as much as I knew how – and now it’s your turn to do the same to those around you, to find it or create it for yourselves and others. We all make choices, good and bad, so I just hope you choose all those fruits of the spirit with which you’ve been so endowed. I’m not perfect, you aren’t perfect — if we were, we wouldn’t need to grow or learn anymore. So please forgive me for the times I failed you. And even though there were those times, I’m confident that your dad and I took our job seriously enough that we gave you each a glimpse of what it means to keep your faith, to cultivate it, to grow it: to walk in those God given qualities and share them with others who need light and love and peace and grace in their lives. But please remember this most important truth ~ unless you have love, all of those beautiful qualities you have in your heart won’t matter. Because the greatest is love. Always.

I love you so much.

Mom

P.S. Someone once asked me how I still have many of the friends I had in college, and a couple from high school – my answer is that I chose to have sharpening relationships – friends who sharpened me, and hopefully I sharpened them. We went deep and beyond us. Eternal relationships. They last. Choose that kind of friend. You may not have thousands of them, but the ones you have will be everlasting and make you a better person.

Lucy, the Wonder Dog

This is our dog Lucy ~

or maybe I should say our Cassie’s dog Lucy. When Cassie was about 5 she asked us and asked us for a puppy, but at the time, we already had 2 dogs and at least one cat and whatever animals people decided to drop off at our driveway. When you live in the country, people assume you want more animals, so they leave them as gifts.

Anyway, one afternoon as we were outside cleaning and mowing and working around the yard, this little dog wandered up to our house. Not a little puppy exactly, but still in the puppy stage. Cassie knew immediately that she had her puppy. The rest of us decided she must have prayed for her, and that because we wouldn’t answer her prayer, God did. He does like to bless us.

So Lucy became part of our family.

And that dog has nine lives — we’re sure of it. As we drove into our driveway one Good Friday, the always exuberant Lucy ran excitedly up to our mini van, and my husband – who has a theory that dogs always get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle – ran right over her leg. Then somehow, thinking she was under the tire, he backed up and ran over it again. So we all jumped out thinking we were going to find a smashed Chihuahua, with a crying 7 year old ready to disown her father — instead we saw a yelping Chihuahua limping away under our trampoline and out of sight.

We didn’t see her again that night. So the next morning, early, Chuck and I went out to try and find her. Somehow, she had crawled into a culvert and made her way under our yard and was waiting at the other end. We were able to get her into the car and to Dr. Wonderful Cannon, and amazingly, her leg was pretty much only dislocated. He wrapped it up, and she hopped around on 3 legs for a few weeks till it was all better.

A couple of years later, the always exuberant Lucy pranced along with Cassie as she went to our neighbor’s house for something – and our neighbor’s dog, ever watchful of menacing intruders – attempted to protect her from the uninvited Chihuahua by grabbing her backside and slinging her around like a rag doll. Somehow, Lucy made it home (very quickly), and after treating her with peroxide and liquid bandaid, she was back to her exuberant self in no time.

She never went to visit our neighbor again, but they’re still friends — sometimes (Lucy is a little schizo about our neighbor for some reason. Must be a Chihuahua thing).

Last summer we moved to Colorado, but we had to leave Lucy behind for a couple of months until we had a house. Somehow, she managed to stay out of trouble while she waited for us. As soon as we were able, we brought her here, and Cassie quickly made her comfortable in her new home.

Whenever Cassie leaves the house, Lucy props up on the back of the couch and looks out the window, waiting for her. And every Wednesday night, when Cassie goes to youth group, Lucy waits by the door to remind us that she’s going with us when it’s time to pick her up. But one day recently, she didn’t want to go.

A few weeks ago, Lucy suddenly stopped being her exuberant self. Cassie knew immediately something wasn’t right, and a few hours later, when she couldn’t pick her back legs up off the floor, it looked as if she was in pretty big trouble. We gave her a baby aspirin and put her in her bed. But the next morning, after not-the-best sleep, I got up to check on her and I thought she was in doggy heaven. So I called Chuck at work and asked him to pleeeeaaaase come home and help me break it to Cassie – I couldn’t tell her by myself.

Then a few minutes later, I went and looked at her again, and she looked back. Didn’t move, but looked. So I called Chuck back and told him, never mind, she’s still with us. He came home anyway, just to check.

So off we went to the vet hospital a few blocks away. Turns out that she had a fever and infected saliva gland, of all things. She took meds for 2 weeks, and suddenly, one morning, she got up, looked at me, and wagged her tail again for the first time in weeks.

Now she’s back to the picking-up-Cassie routine — and going for walks in the park, and riding with us to Taco Bell. Yes, we’ve come up with a few new ways to spoil her.

Now to figure out how to extend the rest of those nine lives…not sure how we’ll do that, but I just hope they last awhile. We love little Lucy, and I hope she’ll be around for many more moons to come.                         

Epiphany

epiphany – a divine manifestation; a moment of sudden understanding or revelation.

I had an epiphany the other day. I’m sure that many, many others have already experienced the revelation I had – but it gave me a perspective that I didn’t even realize I was missing.

In the story of the Prodigal son, the younger son is usually the one who gets all the attention. Whenever someone teaches about it, he’s the one who went astray and then came home. The older brother is known for his crummy attitude, and the father is known for his love. His Love. That is where my epiphany starts.

The father’s love is obvious throughout the story. He gives his son freedom, which helps him learn and grow up – however hard on everyone involved. And when he returns, the father runs to him with open arms, overjoyed that he is alive and back home. Most parents can relate to some of this kind of love – if not the letting go, at least the open arms. But as a parent of a child who has chosen badly and sought her freedom in dangerous places, the love I have for her is, in some ways, harder than the love I have for my children who have walked the straight and narrow.

Harder? What does that mean? Well, for one, it’s harder for me to feel love for her sometimes. I know, love isn’t a feeling. But it’s kind of scary when your feelings sometimes go the other way from where they’re supposed to go. I actually have to choose the loving actions, words, body language. The easy kids are easy to love. And I’m thankful for my “easy” ones; and for all the parents out there who have easy children, you are truly blessed.

But even greater than that committed-no-matter-what kind of love, is the privilege of understanding, even if only a fraction, the kind of Grace-love the Father has for His children. The kind of love that transcends any feeling, positive or negative, I could have at any given moment. The kind of prodigal-son love that, after all the emotions that go along with parenting a child who strays – the anger, sadness, fear, grief – keeps my arms open even after all the hurt and alienation and frustration. If I weren’t the parent of a child who chose her own way, I’d never know the kind of love that truly comes from Grace.

Thank you God, for showing me the kind of love you have for me. And thank you that it has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with a God of Grace, waiting with open arms.

My House

So I’m trying to sell my house. I KNOW this is a bad time to sell anything, much less a house. But my house is special. I’ve raised 5 children here, entertained a zillion friends of all ages, taught and learned and read and played music here. I’ve gardened here and learned all about antique roses. We have a pet cemetery on a hill under a tree with numerous family friends who’ve come and gone. My children hosted neighborhood carnivals here, and the trail they forged from Grandma’s house next door is still there. We’ve played here, cried here, loved here. I home schooled my kids here (and I learned just as much as they did, if not more). My husband built our house from the ground up, along with help from friends, and together we’ve made it home.

Truth be told, I really don’t want to sell my house. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up, and since I was painfully shy, those moves weren’t easy, and I don’t have fond memories of them. Being in this house as long as we have has given me roots and a sense of contentment and stability. I’d just as soon grow old and die here as move anywhere. But I need to be where my husband is…and I believe that God is working to take us out of our comfort zone because He has other plans in another place – and maybe in another house.

When my brain cells are working in a semi normal state, I begin to understand that maybe not everyone wants a house 15 miles from the nearest WalMart; and maybe they don’t want to take care of a yard, and they don’t care about having a cottage garden. Not everyone likes having a country dog or an in-ground trampoline. So it seems, with the way things are right now, that my house won’t sell. But how are things, really? Only God knows that. So my house will sell, at the right time and to just the right person.

Who knows? Maybe it will go to someone with a green thumb who wants to learn about antique roses. I hope so.roses3

A true testimony

I love my teenagers…and their friends. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years, and I hope that maybe I’ve taught them a thing or two. One thing I’ve heard more than once from some of them goes something like this – “I’ve just followed the rules all my life, and if I don’t experience things for myself, I’ll never learn, and I won’t be able to help others.” They equate “experiencing life” with having a dramatic testimony, the I-did-drugs-and-now-I-don’t or I-once-had-an-eating-disorder-and-I’ve-been-healed kind of testimony; and they seem to think they need that kind of testimony in order to be effective. And while it’s true that anything in life we experience can be used by God to help others in similar situations, I feel as if there’s an even more dramatic testimony, one that is harder than any other.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t fall to any of the temptations the enemy tried to hand Him. Nope, not one — He walked away, following the perfect will of the Father. He knew who He was and WHOSE He was, so His ability to walk away showed a depth of relationship and strength of character that anyone would envy. And He had the ammunition He needed for protection…God’s Word. He walked that line unwavering, the line that we as sinful humans just don’t want to follow. We’d rather tell people about how we drifted from it and then recovered our step, thanks to God’s work in our lives.

But how many of us would ooh and aah over someone who actually walked in obedience and didn’t waver? I would, for one. Not that anyone would always stay on track at all times – most of us have chosen badly, paid hard consequences (some harder than others), eventually recovered, and lived to tell about it. And all that is part of life. But the most “dramatic” of all – the one that demonstrates depth and strength and true overcoming – is the one that follows Jesus; the one that stays strong during temptations; the one that walks that straight line; the one who may not have any spectacular worldly events to tell. The one who knows who he is and WHOSE he is, and lives to tell about it…THAT is the true testimony.

Winding down, but close to my heart

It’s hard to believe that I’m down to my last few years of “formally” teaching my children – my youngest will be 11 tomorrow, and as I was working on school organization today, I had a mix of emotions rise up more than once. I know there are still several years left, but it feels weird to actually be winding down. It seems like yesterday when those middle-of-the-night panic attacks hit me, afraid that my children would never learn to read…

But we have had some wonderful years home schooling! I’ve saved so much of their work – papers written and corrected, artwork, poems, favorite books – and everything I look at brings back sweet memories. Most of them are simple, non dramatic, times no one else in the world, including my kids, would think at all significant. Any many of them probably weren’t. But they are in my heart as part of the fabric of my life — Davy sitting at her desk working on her Texas history newspaper; 4 year old Bo excitedly running into the room after he’d seen a blimp fly over the house, and not knowing what it was, drawing a picture for me; Erin drawing her sweet love pictures to me; Alyx memorizing The Swing; Cassie as a baby, sitting right beside us during all the activity.

Oh, it hasn’t always been easy…the piano being played always at the worst time -at least for someone; many tears over math; frustrations over siblings being too noisy; and never having enough time. Did we ever finish anything? Probably not. But we made so many valuable memories.

I’m so very grateful and blessed to have had these years, and I look forward to the few years left. What a privilege. I know I’ll feel a sadness, like I did today, when it actually does come to an end. But I also know that I have a wealth of remembrances to warm my heart, and every one is a treasure.