Five Gems of Truth for Mothers

Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.

~Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

 

For years, 34 to be exact, I have believed that the hospital I birthed my first son in, did me a great disservice by letting me walk out the double doors of their institution after my son was a mere one day old. Oh, they took care of me alright. They gave me ice chips during the birthing process. They had all the equipment needed, in working order, to deliver a healthy baby. The pitocin was running properly through the tube and into my system. It was a hard birth but it was a healthy birth.

I slept as well as I could after my baby was born and then the next morning it was time to go home. Everything seemed normal, but little did I know, little did I realize, little did anyone tell me that my whole life had changed the day before and I didn’t even know it.

I had a baby.

Not just any baby. But a real, living, breathing baby that got hungry and pooped and cried did all those things that real babies do. Not like the babies you get for Christmas when you’re a four year old little girl. Babies that don’t make noise and don’t poop and never get hungry. If they do, you just pretend to feed them. You pretend to soothe them. You pretend to change their diaper. And all the pretending works. But not with real babies. You can’t pretend with real babies. Real babies let you know if you mess up. Real babies let you know that their diapers are messy and haven’t been changed. Real babies will want some more to eat so they can fill up that diaper again and again.

As a new parent, you kind of expect all that to happen. That is the reason for baby showers. To prepare the unprepared. To prepare the ones who did and who didn’t plan for baby. Materially, anyhow. For the truth is – you can never fully prepare for being a mom. Or dad.

You can buy every little thing they advertise for the new little munchkins. From pacifiers, to cloth diapers to disposables, to itsy-bitsy onesies, to super soft blankies, to stuffed bears, to baby lotion… you get the picture. You can buy it all, or at least what you think you’ll actually need, and it still won’t prepare you for what is coming. You can read every book on pregnancy and every book on raising children and you will still be unprepared to some degree. But there is one simple fact on your side: you have never been a parent before.

This one simple fact may seem discouraging when it comes down to it. Except, again, for one simple fact: your child has never been a baby before. Nor anything that comes after. Be it a toddler, a preschooler, a kindergartner, a youth, a teenager, or………….

They will have multitudes of ‘firsts’ that will cause you to squeal with delight. Firsts that you have taken for granted and now see again, through their eyes, in awe. Firsts that you will have forgotten what it felt like to experience. Firsts that will leave you dumbfounded, amazed, frustrated, frightened, embarrassed, uptight, proud, and every gamut of emotion in between and beyond.

However, there are a few gems of truth in this life they call parenthood, or mothering, or fathering. Gems no new parent should ever be let out of the delivery section of the hospital (or the office for signing adoption papers) without hearing. Gems that need to be heard by new moms and new dads everywhere, in hopes of saving them moments, that can seem like hours, and hours that can seem like days, and days that can seem like months of discouragement, depression, hopelessness, frustration, anger, despair, and more.

Numero Uno… Remember, remember, remember – you have never done this before. You won’t have all the answers, so go easy on yourself. You get better at changing diapers the more you change them, just as you get better at setting boundaries the more you do it, just as you get better at extending grace the more you extend it – to yourself and to others. Practice, practice, practice. Extend, extend, extend.

Butt paste is hard to put on the first time. You’re afraid you will break baby’s butt by pushing so hard to get it to spread. Once you realize after applying it a few times that baby doesn’t even bruise from said application, it’s easier to do. You’ve practiced, practiced, practiced. You are an expert with butt paste. Just like you will become an expert in other things you once never experienced (in the land of parenthood).

Numero Dos… Your baby doesn’t know you are new at this. So you put the diaper on backwards. And who cares if you gave up on cloth and switched to disposable diapers? If your baby is well fed, is changed at regular intervals and when poopy, and is sheltered, your baby is being loved. And isn’t that the greatest thing, after all? Not what brand of shorts they are sporting, whether their polo shirt has a horse on the chest, if their shoes match their outfit. None of that matters and your baby won’t care.

Numero Tres… Lighten up. Let go of expectations you have put on yourself and (perhaps not realizing) your child(ren).

We spend billions of dolllars trying to make our children into little conformities of our own desires. We try to keep up with the Jones’s and in doing so our children miss out on the one thing they are supposed to be experiencing: Childhood. We are afraid of them getting their name brand clothes dirty in the sandbox. We fret over style when we should be teaching values. Let them be children. Let them get dirty.

Numero Tres... Mama said there’d be days like this. A popular song verbiage that has tremendous value and truth. You may not have heard those words come from mama’s lips, but every parent needs to know, “There WILL BE days like ‘this’. There will be days of frustration, days of feeling inadequate, guilty and ashamed. Days filled with weariness, wishing you could throw in the towel and drive back to that birthing center and ask for a full refund.

But wait.

It could always be worse. It really could. Really. That is not just a cliche.

Close your eyes and count to ten. Slowly. Your kids didn’t set out to make you tired and miserable. They are children. More than likely they are doing what they are supposed to do. Being children. However, they may be in need of some timely guidance. So give it to them, in love.

Without uncontrolled anger.
Without instilling shame.
With discipline that fits the misconduct and is age-appropriate.
With forgiveness.
And in love.

Always in love.

Numero Quattro… Things are not always what they seem, but if they are, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

Some times, on those harder days, if you wait long enough before reacting, you’ll see the situation for what it really is – funny. When you finally get past the embarrassment of the repairman coming into your living room to your boys’ ingenious raceway made of connected Kotex pads (true story – not mine, however) and step back and look at how creative your boys are – eventually you will laugh. I promise. But, if for some reason you can’t just then and things only continue to pile higher and deeper and you’re not sure you can do another day, you need to ask for help. At the point of a sigh replacing your joy, you need a break.

Asking for help is not admitting you’re a bad parent. It is admitting you are human and you are being honest with yourself. The person too proud to ask for help will only make it harder for her/himself and their family. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Ask for help. Offer help, if you’re stocked up emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Numero Cinco… One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received was from my first son’s pediatrician. This is what he said…

Dance with your children.”

A month ago I spent a week with my daughter. During the course of that week she gave me a precious gift. A sign that read: “This kitchen is for dancing.”

And that’s what kitchens are for. Dancing with those you love and cherish. With those you have forgiven and those who have forgiven you. With those you have experienced life with. They are for making memories. They are for dancing…

with your children.

That’s What Jesus Would Want

  I could hear the familiar sound of the stroller that carried my neighbor’s granddaughter.  The plastic wheels turning round and round over the pavement, crunching rocks underneath.  I heard the familiar sound of the metal gate open and close.  My mind drifted back to my work until I heard it again.  Strange. They are right out front and no one is talking. Very unusual. 
 

I continued my work and heard the stroller begin rolling again, away from the house, the opposite direction they usually walk. 

 

Everything’s weird today, I thought to myself and kept working.

 

After a few minutes, I heard the stroller returning. Crazy.

 

It stopped out front again. No voices. No Bella saying ‘Hi Grandma’. Strange. Then I heard a loud ker-plunk and got up from my desk and went outside.

 

There in my yard, was my neighbor’s autistic son, making a rock border around my flowers with river rocks he had been carting back and forth in his small, plastic garden cart. I hadn’t been hearing the familiar stroller going back and forth, it wwas a plastic garden cart. I stood there at the top of the steps and wanted to cry.

 

I had recently read a book about fundamentalists in a certain religious sect and it really bothered me to think how cruel and messed up we can get, all in the name of who we believe our god to be. How hurtful and mean, deceived and destructive we can become and we deceive ourselves and call it love or enlightenment. How sad. Only despair seems as if it could live in a lie of that magnitude and despair is exactly what I read about on those pages of that book.

 

I admit that it was a ‘downer’. While it moved me to be thankful for a God who doesn’t condemn or deceive, I have to confess that I began to question whether I believed what I believed merely because someone told me it was the ‘right’ thing to do and if that’s how I grew up.  But—that’s not how I grew up. Yes, I was taught right from wrong, to be and do good and what that looked like. Howeverr,  I didn’t meet Jesus until I was twelve when an older friend told me about Him. I fell in love with this man who miraculously came to earth to set me free for eternity.  No one forced me. No one told me it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I knew it in my heart.

 

However, after reading that book I mentioned above, I questioned whether I had gotten caught up with a fundamentalist belief in a god that was nothing more than other gods created by man. I despaired. I felt lost and then I realized what was going on. 
The enemy is sly.  

 

In the midst of my despair, however, I asked God to show me that there are decent people in this world that know He’s real. That know He is there for them and won’t lead them astray.  

 

My neighbor told me a story the other night about her son and The Case of the $25 Swindled Dollars.  Seems her son did some volunteer work for a neighbor who is somewhat senile.  He claimed that the boy swindled him out of “$25 outrageous dollars” to move some boxes and cart some stuff around his house and do some other stuff of which I cannot recollect. That’s not important. What matters is that this man went to another man two streets over and voiced his disapproval, not realizing that man #2 and his wife were friends with this boy in question and his family.  The wife of man #2 relayed the conversation between man #1 and man #2 to my neighbor, the boy’s mother, who then asked her son about the accusation.  

 

Now, I don’t know everything there is to know about my neighbor’s son, but I have watched him. I have listened to him. He would never do that and told his mom so, even though she knew the answer already to the accusation. Regardless, he took $25 of his earned money mowing lawns and asked his mom to go with him next door to the swindler accuser.  When he answered the door, this is what was said…

 

“Mr. Jones (name changed to protect the guilty), I want to apologize for making you feel that I unfairly took $25 from you and want to give you the money that you’re missing.”

 

Imagine a stunned face.

 

The conversation continued. “Well son, I don’t know any adult that would say I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

 

The boy responds… “You don’t need to say anything. I just don’t want there to be anything between us, Mr. Neighbor, because that’s what Jesus would want.”

 

I should have told you to get some Kleenex before you started reading this. I apologize.  

 

So, as I stood there at the top of the steps, I remembered that story.  As I watched my answered prayer being played out before my eyes, I watched my neighbor’s son doing what I can imagine Jesus doing, by building a border with rocks for my flowers, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to a God that doesn’t leave us in despair but who rescues us from the pits we find ourselves in and uses the least likely means… a young man with a plastic garden cart who just wants to love like Jesus.
Oh, and did I mention that the man who accused my neighbor’s son had paid him $25 for helping him? That was before he noticed $25 was ‘missing’. I think it’s become The Case of the $25 Senility Test.

Who am I, really ?

  I don’t understand how You can love me.

But I know You do.

It’s just so very hard for me to

        understand,

        to accept.

After all, 

You know me.

You know what I am.

What I’ve done.

What I’m capable of.

But in Your eyes,

that’s not me

        what I’ve done,

        what I might do. 

So, who am I, really?

         I’m Yours.

Standing at the gate.

Clothed in white.

Watching the children play.

Listening to the children,

all the children,

laughing.

Knowing they are wanted.

Knowing they are loved.

        Who am I?

I’m one of them.

I’m Yours.

        I’m not what I’ve done

        I’m not what I am capable of

but Yours.

Wholly,

completely,

only

        Yours.

Forever your child.

Forever a daughter of the Almighty King.

Abba Father.

Daddy’s beloved.

Forever Yours.

Home address:

        the Kingdom of God.

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution(s)?

One word.

That’s the popular New Year’s resolution technique for the past few years. Pick a word that describes for you what one thing you want to consistently for the new year. So, I thought about it for quite a while over the past few weeks. And then I went to church with my son’s family the Sunday before New Year’s day. And the pastor spoke on resolutions and suggested one word.

      

With.

To not be behind.

To not be in front of.

But,

to be with God.

And I liked that.

But, I had a word. And I was passionate about my word. But I became passionate about this new word. So, I decided to marry them to each other and this is what I ended up with for my New Year’s resolution and it’s basically my mission statement, so to speak, for 2015:

To be intentional about being with God. 

Being intentional in my conversations with Him. Being intentional about time spent with Him – quietly in thought, study, prayer. Intentional about sharing Him. Making Him known however He leads. 

Being with Him may mean going where I went not normally go, being vulnerable, trusting beyond past experience, or saying yes when I may have said the opposite. 

God goes to the broken-hearted. He forgives the sinners. He holds the orphans and feeds the poor. He is angered by the wickedness and has mercy and compassion for those who have been crushed in their spirit. He has unconditional love for His children and gives grace to those who don’t deserve it.

I have not deserved such grace, nor compassion, or relentless love that offers relentless forgiveness. So this year, I am excited to have started the journey hand in hand with my heavenly Father. I am excited and feel as a small child going on an adventure with her loving daddy, hand in hand. Excited for the possibilities, the things waiting to be learned, the wonder of it all. With eyes wide open to the new experiences and the realities of all that can come, I will trust Him to hold on to my hand as He safely leads me where we go, knowing it is all for my good.

How I love my God and oh, how He loves me. Just as I am. Why would I choose to be anywhere else than to intentionally be with Him?

 

 

 

The Table Is Set

This is an excerpt from a series I am working on about Psalm 23. I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

Psalm 23, Part 10 – The Table Is Set

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he lead me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me,
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare me a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.

 

We have just walked through the valley. A long, hard, sometimes dark walk. However, we never walked alone. Always there was He, with His rod and staff that brought us safety and bought us redemption from the evil one. There in the valley we learned we need not fear the enemy. His rod, His staff – they were the cross. With the cross, the enemy was defeated and I was protected from death and set free.

But… 

 

 

He doesn’t stop there. There in the valley.

In the presence of my enemies, He prepares a table before me. Much more than a mere napkin and a paper plate. Much more than plastic knives and forks. He has prepared a feast. The finest china has been brought from the cupboard and the linen has been pressed. Real silver has been set and crystal stemware placed beside each plate.

I am ushered into the banquet hall where all His other children have gone before me and been seated. The seats are covered in a deep, soft purple velvet.  In the color of royalty. 

I don’t deserve this – to be here.

I just came out of the valley and I didn’t wander very well. I complained a lot. I caved once or twice at the enemies mocking. Okay, maybe even three, possibly four times. At the edge of the hall that same enemy squats and winces at me, mouthing their wicked lies, inviting me to their dinner of deception.

In spite of my inadequacies, my imperfections, my failures, I remain seated. I don’t understand why. I am unworthy to be here. He knows everything about me, where I’ve been, all that I’ve done and my slate -it isn’t clean. Yet, still I remain for as He showed me to my seat He whispered I belong here.

He loves me.

I feel it. But most importantly, I know it.

There are familiar faces. Faces that make me smile. I am so glad to see them here. I search for others. I will have to search more. Some I expected – wanted to see – are missing.

The food is brought out, such as I have never seen before. The enemy drools and begs and his pleas – ignored. He stammers for attention and receives none.

And as I am sitting there, it is then I realize…

He prepares a table before me…”

HE set this up…

He put on the finest tablecloth and set the china and the crystal and the silver in its place. He cooked the meal and baked the bread. He stirred the batter for the dessert and tore up the lettuce for the salad. He poured the water.

He serves me.

Oh soul, did you catch that?

He serves me.

Jesus. The One who has done more than anyone ever could, ever has, will ever do for me –

He serves ME.

I am overwhelmed. I am humbled. I am so undeserving. Me – the one who constantly needs a cleansing of the heart – over and over again. Set free because the One who already did what needed to be done still serves.

I don’t deserve this and He knows that better than anyone. In no way do I deserve what I have and will receive and I will never get what I certainly deserve. The hands that were pierced for my sins on the cross, are the same hands that personally prepare for me a feast of love to welcome me home.

And at that feast, He will show the enemy in plain view that I am His and He is mine. All will see that although the enemy may thwart our plans, riddle this path of life we walk with unimaginable sorrow and grief, heartache and pain, death and sickness,

it is He who has conquered it all.

It will be a cause for celebration. Not because we are well provided for and taken care of and our every need is met, but because the battle’s over. The fight has been fought and the enemy has been sent away. He and his cohorts will have no place there at the King’s table.

 

 

As Jesus takes His rightful place, seated there at the right hand of God, I look at Him. I should be serving Him.

He looks my way and as tears begin to well up, He catches my eye and winks at me.

Oh how I am loved! I sit amongst my brothers and sisters who share this moment with me. The family is finally all together and the fellowship is so sweet.

It is a place of joy, a place of peace. Here, at the table He has prepared for all His children in the presence of our enemies – the enemy of death and destruction, sickness and sorrow, persecution and pain, heartache and grief – we can rest assured they will never hurt us again.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.

The Lamb That Passed Over

lamb.JPGFor centuries, God’s chosen people have celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first day being commonly known ‘Passover’, also known as The Last Supper.

At the first Passover (which took place in the Old Testament), the children of Israel were commanded by God to kill an unblemished lamb and take the blood from that lamb and put it on the doorposts of their home. The blood was to be a sign for God’s spirit to ‘pass over’ the homes with blood-stained doorposts and the first born males in that house would be spared from death. (To read the story surrounding this event, read the book of Exodus, specifically chapter 12.)

The exile and freedom from the Israelites out of Egypt is celebrated during this week of Passover, but what significance does all of this have for us today?

It is no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on Passover – the very same day they were sacrificing unblemished lambs at the temple in celebration and remembrance of that first Passover during Moses’ time. When Jesus becomes the ultimate lamb – the ultimate sacrifice – God was saying to the world, “It’s done. It is finished. This is the Lamb of God, my son with whom I am well pleased and no more sacrifices are needed forevermore. The blood of my Son has become that which will cover the sins of the people from this day forward.”

Jesus Christ became the final sacrifice for our sins. All we are required to do is to simply believe. To believe who He said He was and repent from our sins.

Can salvation really be that easy? Does Christ’s death really mean that the doorposts of our life are covered with His blood so that we are now free from spiritual death?

It wasn’t so easy for Christ to provide such a gift. Undoubtedly writhing in pain as he hung there on that cross, He took on the sins of the world as His father turned His face away. Imagine the isolation, the loneliness and darkness that pierced his soul as God, in His holiness, could not look upon the sins His beloved son now bore for the world. He could have saved himself, but He didn’t. Instead, He saved a sinful world.

Jesus, by offering up himself as that unblemished, pure, sinless lamb, created a New Testament type of Passover. If we believe He is the Son of God and died for our sins, that belief then becomes the blood spread on the doorposts of our life and death no longer has a hold on us. When God looks at us on Judgment Day, it won’t be me He sees, but the blood of His son, which covers me. No gimmicks, no bucket full of works to save me – just grace found at the foot of the cross.

I don’t know about you, but that fills me with a hope and an excitement of things to come. So, this week, remember the perfect Lamb. The Lamb of God, his son Jesus Christ, who by allowing himself to become your sacrifice, set you eternally free from death – if you only believe.

A Prisoner Set Free

wpid-Photo-20140321170931.jpgTwo crosses stood touching the afternoon sky, each holding a thief. Both robbers hung with arms outstretched and watched as the spikes were nailed into the hands and feet of the One to be hung on the third cross. Both relived their own excruciating pain with each strike of the mallet.

The crowd stood watching, staring, wondering if they were about to witness a miracle. After all, the man in the middle – the one they called Jesus – wasn’t this the man who just days before was being followed by hordes of people wherever he went?

The last strike was hurled as the spike was set in place. With rugged strength and without thought to the pain caused by any slight movement, the soldiers hoisted the cross into its hole with a thud, caring nothing about his comfort. The jolt caused searing pain to pierce through his body. The body of Christ.

The soldiers picked up Jesus’ clothes lying at the base of the splintered wooden cross and began laughing amongst themselves as they cast lots for the garments, which were bloodied and stained. The crowds mocked him saying, “He saved other people – let him save himself!” People watched as the soldiers, after finishing their game, responded to Jesus’ plea for a drink by giving him vinegar – the completion of prophecies recorded long ago.

The two thieves, one hanging on each side, watched as the circus of death continued.

With a rough voice, the thief on his right yelled to Jesus (paraphrased), “Aren’t you the guy who claimed to be the hot shot Messiah? Yeah, well then save yourself! Better yet – save us!”

The other thief interjected (again, paraphrased). “Don’t you even fear God’s wrath man, since you yourself are under the same sentence? We deserve to die for what we’ve done, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong!”

How did he know?

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

It had only been a week ago that he had been caught stealing his neighbor’s lamb in preparation for the Passover. Living in poverty, he had no lamb or goat to use, yet alone one without blemish, spots or anything else, as the law commanded. He wanted his family to celebrate the Passover the same as all the other townspeople were – preparing their homes for the annual feast. What was so wrong with that? He’d repay the person he was stealing it from. Of course, he still needed to repay all the other things he had stolen or his wife was never going to speak to him again.

His family was perpetually poor and he did all he could to keep them fed and clothed but the size of their arms and legs was the very evidence of their poverty. At the dark of night, he would and scrounge the neighboring pigpens, where even the pigs ate better than he on scraps thrown outside the temple gates – scraps from the chief priest’s dinners.

He promised his wife that this year’s Passover would be different, but the past weeks and even years’ thievery made him a prisoner out of this year’s promise and ultimately he found himself sentenced to a cross.

If he had it to do over again, he still would have tried to find a lamb somewhere for his family. It was that important to him. He wanted his children to know what God had done for his people. How he had saved them from death so many years ago by passing over their home if an unblemished lamb’s blood had been applied to the doorposts. He wanted them to always remember and never forget. After today, however, there would be no do-overs and he wouldn’t have to steal to provide. He would no longer have to. It was his day of sentencing – his day of death.

There would be no miracles here today. Or so it seemed.

The thief that had mocked Jesus now hung silently next to the One who, whether he wanted to or not, he would one day bow down to. He was finding it harder to stay alive with each breath he took. The other thief used his final breaths to make a desperate plea to Jesus.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

His eyes were sincere. His plea even more. His faith was off the charts. In the final moments of his life, Christ sets him free. Jesus sees his faith, he hears his plea and he answers with grace.

“I tell you the truth – today you will be with me in paradise.”

The thief had been granted freedom, took his last breath, and passed from this life to the next.

Can you imagine such joy? Yes, there had been a miracle that day. Everyone else was busy playing games and missed it.