Category Archives: Parenting

Is there a reason for everything?

When I was in college at Appalachian State University, I was super involved with the campus Lutheran Student Association (LSA). It was the first group I joined when I got to school and in many ways the friends I met in that group were a life-line during those four years. They were my people and they helped me get closer to Jesus. I loved being a part of the group and the larger church community that supported them.

Each year I became increasingly more involved — serving on leadership, helping to plan and lead events, mentoring other students, etc. By my senior year it came time to hold elections for the group’s leadership and I decided to run for president. There was another girl who was younger, had not been a part of the group for as many years, who also decided to run.

I remember sitting in the fellowship hall of the church after the voting process and hearing the announcement that the other girl had been elected. She had won and my heart sank. I won’t lie, my ego was bruised, but I also felt like the group that had been “my people” had turned away and said, “you’re not the one that we want, we choose someone else.”

I know a leadership position for a campus church group doesn’t sound like a big deal or something to get upset about, but at the time I remember feeling devastated, hurt, even cast-out.

However, I’ll never forget that moments after the results were announced the pastor of the church and leader of our campus group — who had become a great mentor and surrogate father to me during my time at Appalachian — came over and rested his hand on my shoulder, leaned down and whispered in my ear, “I really wanted that for you.” Then he gave my shoulder a squeeze and walked away.

In that moment it was like he said, “I see you. I see what your heart desires, and because I care about you, I want you to have it.”

I’ve thought about that moment a lot over the years and what it meant to know that someone saw me and saw my heart.

A lot changed for me that year. Partly because of the hurt I carried from that event, I pulled away from LSA and church. Some other really hard things had already been happening in my life and it became a bit of a perfect storm. I slipped into a deep, deep depression my senior year. I didn’t go to class, I started getting migraines and had to be taken to the emergency room because of one that was so bad I couldn’t stop vomiting. I even contemplated suicide at one point. As my friends struggled to understand what was going on with me and how to be around this changed person, I withdrew from them. I was angry, I was lonely, and I was scared.

But during this time I stayed in touch with that same Pastor. Even though I wasn’t going to LSA meetings or to church much, I would stop by his office every week and we would talk. He would encourage me and pray for me. In many ways he was the life-line that kept me from completely severing my relationship with God.

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We often say, “everything happens for a reason.” I have said this frequently over the years. But as I get older I’m starting to question if that’s true, or is it just a nice platitude we tell ourselves? Does everything really happen for a reason? Is there a reason a mother has to bury her child? Is there a reason a husband and father would lose his entire family in a car crash? Is there a reason the young, healthy newlywed gets a cancer diagnosis on her 26th birthday?

Do I believe God creates good out of every situation? Absolutely, without a doubt I do. I have seen it time and again where beauty has risen out of the ashes and joy and love have transformed the ugliest, darkest situations and sorrowful times. But that still doesn’t mean those things — those desperate, break-a-person-in-two things — were ordained by God and happened for a reason.

Of course God can make something beautiful out of life’s ugly, and create strength and redemption from weakness and brokenness. In the midst of tragedy He can bring together people who otherwise would not have come into each other’s lives. But I cannot sit here and say God caused a tragic accident so that He could do those things. Or that there is some bigger purpose for a mother and father to bury their child. The reality is that sometimes hard, devastating, crappy stuff happens.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to compare me losing some silly election for a college student group 25 years ago to these other real-life tragedies. But I can look back and tell you that I don’t see any reason why that happened. I don’t see any reason why God would have created that situation, with a darkness already looming in my life. But I often wonder how or if that year would have been different had I not pulled away from my friends and from church. Had I not felt a little bit cast-aside.

And yet, I do see where God made sure there was someone there in the midst of that who said, “I see you.” And that created a life-line for me to get through a really difficult time.

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Recently my daughter had a pretty disappointing thing happen to her. Something she wanted badly and had worked hard for, and due to a simple mistake — a forgotten deadline — she lost the opportunity. When she came home in tears my heart just broke for her.

Being a mom I wanted so badly to look for the reason. I wanted to say to her, “there must be a reason, let’s look for it together. What’s the good that can come out of this, how is God going to use this?” But I couldn’t bring myself to say it because the truth is, I don’t know if there is a reason. Maybe it’s just a really crummy thing that happened.

Will she learn from this experience and never miss a deadline again? Maybe. But I’m not sure that her feeling badly about herself and the sense of failure and disappointment she is carrying were intended for some loftier purpose.

So instead of pulling out the mom advice on what’s the big lesson we can learn here, or what’s God’s reasoning, I was just honest with her and said, “You know what honey? This sucks. I know it hurts and you’re disappointed, and I’m so sorry. I really wanted this for you. Because you wanted this, I wanted it for you.

I see how hard you are working and what you’re working towards. I see you. And I want you to know that.

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There’s probably someone in your life who, right now, just needs to be seen. Maybe it’s one of your kids. Maybe it’s your spouse. Maybe it’s a sibling, a parent, a friend, or a co-worker. Maybe a teacher or a next-door neighbor. But I want you to find that person. Find someone who is going through something really crummy and please don’t give them that sad, old platitude that everything is happening for a reason when they start to pour out their heart to you. Instead, just come alongside them and simply say, “I’m so sorry. This sucks and I wanted better for you, because I care about you. Because I see you. I see your heart and I see that you’re hurting.

Maybe if we spend more time seeing each other and loving each other rather than trying to put quick fixes and patches on everything, then instead of wasting so much energy trying to understand why tragic things happen, we can simply be a beacon of light and love in the darkness.

Matthew 25:35-36

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A Back-to-School Prayer

The first day of school is always a weird jumble of emotions for me. I vacillate between being ecstatic that they have some place to be other than home, happy for a normal routine after a long summer without much structure, and pushing down that giant lump in my throat that forms knowing they are one more day closer to walking out the front door for good.

I think I’m probably not alone in this and most parents have a little bit of worry inside about what lies ahead for their children at the start of a new school year – will they like their teacher? Will their teacher like them? Will they choose kind friends? Will they get picked on because of their lisp/birthmark/crooked teeth/loud laugh/weight? Will they be pressured into doing something they don’t want to do? Will they come home crying because their best friend said they can’t be friends anymore? The list goes on.

At different times throughout the last 13 years of sending my little ones off to school, my heart has been burdened with all of these things. And unfortunately, many of these worries have become a reality at some point. If I’m not careful, I will carry these fears with me as I wave goodbye and send them off for another year, feeling helpless to do anything to protect them once they are out of my site.

But then I remember, there is something I can do: I can pray for them.

Here is a back-to-school prayer I wrote for my children, perhaps you will want to use this to pray over yours:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please protect my child(ren) as they begin a new school year. I know that my daughter is uniquely and wonderfully made in your image, and I pray that she will remember who she is and be unafraid to be her true authentic self. You have blessed her with many special gifts and talents, but perhaps the most important is her ability to love others and be kind. Help her remember this and seek out the unlikely friend, the lonely classmate, the shy teammate.

When he feels scared, hurt, confused, angry, sad, or pressured by the world around him, please help him to remember You are there and so am I. When school is hard and my son feels inferior, unable, or incapable of what is being asked, help calm his mind and lead him to a teacher, aid, coach, or administrator that will show compassion and gently guide him in the right direction. And Lord, let him trust me enough to help, and help me to listen — truly and earnestly listen — to what he is trying to tell me instead of always trying to fix everything. At the end of the day, I pray that his struggles will make him rely on You more, and have more empathy and compassion for others.

Finally, I pray you will guide her friendships. Lead her to others that will love her for who she is, and not care about the clothes she wears, the backpack she carries, or how she fixes his hair. Help him find friends that lift him up instead of making him feel like he is not enough. And when there is conflict or hurt feelings, as there surely will be, help her to be humble enough to apologize first, and gracious enough to forgive without reservation.

May they always keep their eyes fixed ahead on You and your path.

Amen.

 

Originally posted on the Today Parents Parenting Team Community.

 

photo credit: woodleywonderworks first day school bus ritual via photopin (license)

Dear Daughter, Modesty is About Strength, Not Shame

{This is my latest article written for Her View From Home. Click here to see the original article.}

I’m the mom of two girls, one in middle school and one in high school. Sadly, we’ve been having the same discussion about modesty and what clothing is, or is not, appropriate since they were about eight. But I finally realized that we’ve been having the wrong conversation.

There’s been much debate over school dress codes, and how clothes are made differently for boys and girls over the last few years. There’s been outcry over girls feeling body shamed, called out in front of peers for a peeping bra strap or wearing leggings, receiving detention, being sent home, or even suspended. There’ve also been parents rising up to call out the clothing manufacturers for the grown-up silhouettes being produced for young girls, and explain to school administrators how difficult it can be to find shorts and skirts that meet dress code lengths.

I’ll admit I’ve been relieved that my kids attend a conservative Christian school with a very clear-cut dress code, making clothing debates in the morning a bit easier by being able to say “that’s against the school dress code”. Sadly, though, I realized the message my girls have gotten from teachers, peers, and even me about the “why” behind the dress code has been inconsistent, at best. A recent conversation with my teen daughter and a friend brought to light their growing frustration over feeling like the sole purpose of the dress code was to make sure their male peers were not tempted by their bodies.

As a mom, I felt sad and a bit convicted that I had not done a better job of explaining the purpose behind modesty. It’s a topic that is not always easy to explain, but hearing these girls honestly share their understanding (or lack thereof) based on things they had heard or read, I finally understood what had been lacking in my explanations, and what, in general, is lacking from the conversation as a whole.

Click here to read the rest.

 

photo credit: Send me adrift  via photopin (license)

I’m a superhero mom

I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t wear a cape or unitard, have a mask, or knee-high leather boots.
Most days it’s jeans and sweaters, often with holes. It’s yoga pants stretched past their prime, stained t-shirts, and comfy shoes — always comfy shoes. But these clothes allow me to get dressed quickly so I can respond to your needs. They allow me to bend and reach and cradle, and snuggle without worrying about wrinkles. They allow me to climb and chase, to walk grocery aisles and pace hallways.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t own an invisible jet or Bat-mobile, nor can I fly, or leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Instead I drive a van or a station wagon, definitely something with four doors and lots of storage. I transport book bags, diaper bags, sports bags, and grocery bags. I transport you – my most precious cargo. I map out my route each day, plan outings and errands around nap times, school days, and dance classes. I drive countless miles without leaving our home town.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t have super-human strength and my body doesn’t regenerate or instantly heal from cuts and bruises.
But I feel everything you feel. When that boy broke your heart, mine shattered into a million pieces. When you made that basket after sitting on the sidelines all season I felt your joy overflowing out of me and running down my cheeks. When you were scared about the first day of school and worried no one would like you, your fear and uncertainty ran through my veins and tightened my lungs.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I can’t climb walls, spin webs or stay young forever.
Instead I climb mountains and obstacles fighting for you, advocating for you, making sure you get a fair shot, and every chance to be your best self. I spin tales of imaginary adventures and silly, made-up songs to help you sleep, to help you laugh, to help you heal. And while my body ages, my heart grows larger each day.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I can’t travel in time, see the future, or make time stand still.
But I can live in the moment, enjoying each day with you, seeking joy and contentment instead of perfection and affluence. I can see glimpses of the adult you are growing into and I can help prepare you for tomorrow by recognizing your gifts and talents. I can be present, be available, be encouraging and forgiving, and always, always tell you how much you are loved.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t always win the battle, defeat the villain, or claim victory.
Instead I arm myself with the armor of God, battle hate with love, and claim victory in my inheritance as a child of God. Each day I try to show you how to do the same, by speaking truth and love into your life, and leading by example.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I'm a superhero mom

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What makes a good parent?

What makes a great parent? Or even a good one? It’s a question that I have asked myself many times over.

I used to know the answer…before I had kids.

Oh yeah, it was so clear to me back then. Good parents set boundaries, loved fiercely, read nightly, kept to a routine, played lots of classical music, prayed with their kids, helped with homework, disciplined, modeled values, and showed up. And in return they had well-behaved, polite, kind-hearted, honest, hard-working children who loved the Lord.

I’m now in my 15th year of parenting. I have honestly done all of those things on the “good parent” list more than not (well except maybe the classical music part). Sometimes some of my kids exhibit some of those qualities I thought would come in return, but never do all of my kids exhibit all of the qualities at once. And so I have also yelled, cried, pleaded, threatened, hidden in my room, bent the rules, changed the rules, and completely checked-out.

The end of the school year is both a relief and a bit of a regret. Another year down, another year closer to when these chickies leave the nest and there are glaring reminders all over of how imperfect my kids are — the awards ceremonies, the report cards, the standardized tests, the calls home from teachers and administrators, etc. And the thing is, it’s not the fact that my kids are imperfect that bothers me — I expect that and know that — it’s that it all feels like a recrimination of my parenting skills and choices.

Surely the mother who beamed proudly as all of her children received one academic award after another knows something I don’t. Surely the father whose son not only received the Christ-like behavior award, but prompted an impassioned speech from his teacher about this wonderful young man’s character, has done something I haven’t. Surely the friend who gets phone calls from the teacher just to tell her what a joy it is to have her children in his/her class has this parenting thing down to a science.

I tell myself this and I really want to believe it. I need to believe it. Because if it’s true, then it means that I have the ability to raise “good kids” and to be a “good parent”. I just have to figure out the right formula.

Of course the flip side is that it also means that in 15 years of trying I haven’t found it yet and I’m running out of time. My kids are closer to the age of leaving home than not and they are still making really bad choices. Choices that break my heart and scare me. They seem hell-bent on learning lessons the hard way, and not always learning the lesson the first, or second time around. Sometimes I feel like we are living in one bad after-school special after another and walking on the fringes of that one mistake that will change their lives forever.

So here I sit with this question: what makes a good parent? Because I really, really want to be one. More than I’ve wanted to be anything else in my life I want to be a good parent. This is the most important job I have and God has entrusted these three lives to me. There are no do-overs, and I desperately want to get it right.

But you know what I want almost as much? I want a friend to say, “You are not the only one. I know exactly how you feel.” I want a friend who comes alongside and says, “my kids did all of those same things and they made it, they turned out great.” I want a listening ear without judgement, and advice without recrimination. Because the hardest part of being a mom who feels like she isn’t getting it right is having the rest of the world agree with you.

Every well-meaning friend who has offered unsolicited advice or lectured one of my children in front of me, is a confirmation of “you don’t know what you’re doing, so let me take it from here.”

Every teacher or church-leader who has said, “why don’t you have your kid do xyz, it will be a good influence on them,” is recrimination that I haven’t provided enough good influence and my kids really need some more.

Every person who has come up and said, “let me tell you this funny story of this thing your kid did yesterday,” and then proceeded to tell me a highly unhumorous story of what my kid did wrong, is a reminder that I’m raising kids that make poor choices, not in a vacuum or in the privacy of their home, but front and center with the rest of the world watching and judging.

So yeah, I really want to know what it takes to be a good parent — and if you have figured it out, please tell me. But until then, I desperately just want someone to love me and love my kids in all of our imperfection, without judgement.

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