This week we talk about VBS, summertime, new carpet, potty humor, and more.
I want to do big things! And I want to do them now! Adelade gave a passionate speech in the car on the drive home from dance class. At twelve years old, she feels like her life is being wasted on the utterly ridiculous pursuit of running around a track in P.E. She truly can’t believe that she is squandering her life in math class when she should be tackling all of the big dreams that she has laid out for herself. I laughed at her flushed cheeks and her animated plea for room to do something huge.
She thinks big, and I have no doubt one day she’ll do big things, but first she needs time to grow. She needs time to build character (in P.E. class, maybe), to gain wisdom, to learn from others. She wants to skip over all of the hardest parts of becoming a useful member of society because she just can’t wait to make her mark.
I understand how she feels. I often try to run ahead of where God has me. I think I should be more, do more, make more impact, and I want to pass over all of the hard work of growing in my knowledge and understanding of Christ. I want to speed right by all of the life experiences that teach patience, wisdom, kindness, joy, gentleness. The truth is, the day-to-day job of sanctification can be painful. But, it’s essential to my formation as one who can be of use to the Kingdom of God. I want to do big things. Badly.
But, maybe for now I just need to keep plugging away at the little things God has entrusted me with. This is where I learn to be more like Him. This is where He shows me how real love operates. This is where He demonstrates that His glory is all that matters. And, who knows? Maybe one day He will do something big through me.
Or maybe He already is, I thought, as I watched my firstborn’s eyes dance at the idea of changing the world.
I never really expected to be married to a pastor. When Chad and I married, he was a hopeful musician, convinced that he would make it big. Through a series of twists and turns and surprising bends in the road, here we are, three and a half years into his first pastorate.
It’s a wonderful and fun challenge, this ministry life. But, from the very beginning I wondered what it would mean for our kids. I wondered how damaging it would be for them to see us in the forefront, ministering and declaring the truth of God’s word to people, when they would inevitably see us fail at living out those truths at times when we were behind closed doors. I remembered every horror story I had ever heard about pastors’ kids, and I wondered how we were going manage to show them that our faith and devotion is real, even when we fall into sin.
But, this isn’t just an issue for Christian parents who work in ministry positions. All of us should be intentional about the way we live the Christian life in front of our kids. Billy Graham said the hardest place to be a Christian is at home, and I believe he’s right. It’s so easy for us to let our guard down, to let sin and discontent and grumbling and stress get the better of us, even when we really do know that God is in control, that He gives us victory over sin and worry. We’re most likely to rage at home. To be unreasonable. To be ridiculous. To be downright un-Christian.
So, how do we live in a way that strengthens our kids’ faith instead of weakens it?
We can look at our circumstances with spiritual eyes. I remember when I was a teenager I went to the fair with a friend. I had been to this particular fair every year of my life, but I had never experienced it this way. When I looked around, I saw rides, food, people having fun, people spending money. The basics. But, as my friend looked around, he saw spiritual brokenness. He saw all kinds of circumstances that make life hard for people. He saw so many things that I had just never stopped to recognize. I realized that night that there are two kinds of seeing: there is your basic ground-level acknowledgement of what’s going on around you. Then there’s a higher plane, almost like putting on glasses that suddenly reveal the spiritual elements of the circumstances that surround you.
Imagine how our interactions at home would change if we asked God to help us see our various situations with spiritual eyes. Imagine how much more reasonably we would interact with our kids and our spouse, if only we stopped looking at the basics of their circumstances and shifted to trying to see things on a spiritual plane. Maybe we would be more understanding. Maybe we would offer more grace and mercy.
Think of how much less stress we would carry around. How much more joy we would find. Think of how much more often we would stop to praise God. To recognize what He is doing and how He is moving. Our kids wouldn’t see us panicking or worrying ourselves sick. They would see us keeping in the habit of remembering that God is good, He is in control, and He is working.
Think of how much less we would say unkind things about others. How much more we would encourage and think positively. Think of how our actions would be colored by our spiritual sight instead of by our ground-level interpretation of things. Think of how many times we would turn away from sin because our spiritual eyes can see how damaging and hurtful it will be.
It seems to me that if our kids watch us live according to the things that are eternal, the things that really matter, then they will be much more likely to want to have a part in this kingdom-minded, spiritually-sighted faith.
So, how do we get this spiritual vision?
Three things will help us: Bible study, prayer, and church life. How can we know God’s vision unless we read His words? How can we understand what belongs on the spiritual plane? We must get to know God and His word before we will be able to see things with spiritual eyes.
If we want to see things differently, we have to ask Him to give us vision. We should pray and ask Him to help us see beyond the basics, to understand the underlying spiritual implications of our circumstances and the circumstances of those around us. We should ask Him to help make our home one that is ruled by the spiritual gifts and not by emotions or attitudes.
And, we need a church family so that we can serve together, love together, and support each other. My family isn’t the only example my kids need. They need to know other Christian families and watch them interact so that they will better understand all of the ways to faithfully live out the Christian life. Not every family will do so in the way that ours does. And, it’s good for them to see that there are lots of different ways to use gifts, to glorify Him in our families and among our community.
There is no question that as Christians we are going to mess up. Becoming parents or a ministry family doesn’t suddenly make us perfect. I don’t think our kids expect us to be perfect, but they should and probably do expect us to see things from a spiritual perspective. It’s my prayer that as each day passes we are gaining clearer spiritual eyesight, and as we do, hopefully our kids will follow along after us like I did at the fair all those years ago, amazed that God is showing them a whole world of truth that they had never even noticed before.
Today I took Adelade to her dance class, which is in a small neighboring town. Sawyer and Emerald and I went to the store to grab some groceries while we waited.
We run into friends and acquaintances of all kinds when we go there. I’m always on the lookout for people I know and people I should know but can’t quite place. We’ve lived in this area for two and a half years, and I still see people all the time who look familiar that I’m not entirely sure that I’ve met.
That’s why when the white haired woman came toward me, I figured that she must know me. She walked purposefully up to my cart and placed both hands on it. I smiled, waiting for her to speak. She leaned toward me, not returning my friendly grin. She looked me directly in the eyes and said, I don’t like you.
My heart dropped. I immediately felt shaky inside, wondering what I had done to offend this woman. As a pastor’s wife in a small town, I often worry that I have unintentionally upset someone, and I felt sure that somehow this woman had gotten a horrible impression of me and was taking this opportunity, right here in the middle of WalMart, to tell me about it.
I laughed nervously. You don’t like me? I squeaked.
No, she said. You’re so young and skinny and you have these beautiful children following you around. She grinned. Then she asked my kids to give her a hug. She hugged them both and chatted with them about spring break and the five dollar neon pink flip flops that Emerald had just picked out. She told me about her children. About how her grandchildren used to come to her house and put on her square dancing skirts and twirl around before they collapsed in a giggling heap in the middle of her floor. About how they got too old for that and how much she misses having little children around. She told me if she were 40 years younger she would adopt every child she sees. She waved goodbye to my kids and wandered off in the direction of the sporting goods section to collect her husband, whom she jokingly referred to as “the old grouch.”
I absent-mindedly walked on and found myself in the baby section. I ran my fingers over soft little sleepers that my kids have long outgrown. And, I continued to shake inside, finding it hard to recover from the terrifying moment when a stranger walked up and pronounced that she doesn’t like me. I looked down at Emerald and Sawyer, both fairly bouncing through rows of tiny clothes, carseats, diapers, and baby rattles. These things don’t suit our life anymore. We’ve moved on to bicycles and name brand shoes and Barbie dolls. Soon we’ll shift to braces and school dance dresses and driving lessons.
But, not yet.
Someday I may be the white haired woman strolling through WalMart, longing for these very days that I’m living right now. The days of always, always crushed Goldfish in the minivan. Days of loud kid chatter and endless questions and the never-ending baths and brushed teeth cycle. Days of Hold me, Mama. Days of bad knock-knock jokes made up on the spot and long you-really-had-to-be-there stories.
My kids’ babyhood will never be back again. And these days, these crazy, funny, warm, exasperating, loud, precious days, will someday be gone, and they won’t ever be recaptured, no matter how hard I try. All of life is made up of phases. And this one right here, the one that has me nodding off while I try to write these words to you? This one is a phase that I don’t want to take for granted. Not one, single second of it.
Someday I will be the white haired woman. I hope that when I see a young mother herding her kids through WalMart, through the longing I will be able to say, That phase is gone. But, I sure did soak up every minute of it while it was mine.
I thank that little white haired woman, who scared me to death in the middle of WalMart, for helping me remember that this time with my kids is amazing.
And, also for calling me skinny.
I have a pretty piece of furniture in my living room. I remember when Chad and I bought it. We had been married for a year, and our wedding china was still in boxes. We were completely broke, but I decided I wanted a china cabinet to show off all of my beautiful dishes. Chad determined that he would find one for $50. I laughed in his face.
But, later that afternoon, we ran across one at a garage sale. It was marked $75, but as soon as they saw us looking at it, the owners ran over and asked if we would take it for $50. Sold.
We brought it home, and for fourteen years now it has housed all kind of pretty finds, family crystal, and some of my favorite little things to look at.
Recently, I painted it green, and I love it even more. In a home with three kids, this piece of furniture with all its breakable goodies is one thing in this place that is all me, all things kids can’t touch, all prettiness and girliness and greatness.
The other day I was walking past it when I noticed something was a little out of place. I saw colors that weren’t right. I saw sharp plastic edges in the middle of a world of delicate glass and lace. I looked a little closer.
One of my sweet little candy dishes had somehow become a storage space for Legos. I laughed to see them in there, grey and red man-world toys tucked carefully inside a crystal bowl. I laughed and I thought about how I was going to have to dig those little pieces out of there, since they just don’t belong in this beautiful space that I had created.
And every day since, I have walked past those Legos, and every day I leave them there.
I remember what life was like back then, back when Chad and I were searching for our $50 china cabinet. We were happy. Our world was clean and neat. We went where we wanted. We stayed out late. We spent our money on movies and dinners and clothes and fun. Our house was company ready. Our hair was good. We made plans, and the plans came to fruition. We were care-free back in those days.
Our life was pretty, kind like a little green china cabinet. It was filled with neat things that we enjoyed. It was orderly and attractive and probably fairly enviable.
Then one day, we found out that we were going to have a baby.
She burst into our world like a tiny tidal wave. Everything that filled our lives before was rearranged and pushed around by the tide of parenthood.
Twice more the waves came over us. Two more babies. Sometimes we paddled enough to keep our heads above water. Other times we were tossed around like seaweed in the surf.
But, as each wave hit, we could see more clearly that what we thought was perfect before was actually missing a little more chaos, a little more laughter, a little more dependence on God. With each child born, we got a little more of all of it.
Our pretty and ordered life stopped looking perfect. And, it was more beautiful than ever.
Maybe that’s why I can’t bring myself to dump the ugly little Legos out of my pretty dish. Because despite the fact that they are grey and boyish and sharp and out of place, they remind me what a privilege, what a grace and a mercy that it is that I am a mama. That I have a messy house and a pile of laundry that would shock you and a million reasons to smile every single day. They remind me that perfection isn’t equal to beauty. But, maybe a handful of Legos in a fancy dish is.
Tomorrow I’ll send my first two babies back to school. The goodbye is always a heartache. They will bounce out of here with excited grins and new backpacks, and they’ll come home bubbling with stories of an amazing day. I will establish a new routine. I will be just fine.
Life with kids is filled with hellos and goodbyes. It is imperfect. It is beautiful. And, it goes on.
Sometimes too slowly. Sometimes, like tonight, way too fast.
And, when I send them out the door tomorrow, maybe I will walk over to my china cabinet and lift the delicate little lid on that certain crystal bowl. And then, through the tears, I will smile. Because somehow those ugly little Legos are a beautiful reminder of just how amazing this life is.
These three little children’s lives are washing right over us. And, we will swim. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
And, someday, when I’m eighty and my feet are firmly planted on dry ground once again, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be surprised to see an old green china cabinet in a corner someplace, still holding the little crystal dish filled with Legos. And, even then, I’ll bet it will make me smile.
Dear Mama at the Mall,
I saw you today, struggling with your stubborn little pigtailed two year old. I watched as you patiently waited for her to pretend to ride all of the little cars that want to swallow your quarters. You checked your watch a few times–you were probably already late. But, you smiled and you laughed along with her while she excitedly ran from car to car, watching you all the time to make sure you were sharing in the awesome experience.
I was standing nearby when she had finally jumped into each car twice, and you insisted that it was time to leave. She didn’t give in easily. In fact, she continued to move from car to car, and she was fast. You went after her, smiling at me in an apologetic way as you grabbed her between cars.
She had real tears.
Everyone looked your way as she continued to thrash around in your arms. I’m sure you felt the disapproving stares as the mall watched your two year old be two years old.
Yet, you never raised your voice. You never told her to shut up. You never mentioned that she was embarrassing you (and your red face told me she was). You were gentle, even as you physically carried her away. And, the further you got from the cars, the quieter she got, the less stiff. And a few steps later, she was hugging you in a familiar way, getting the comfort she needed from the very one who had taken away the thing that she wanted.
I watched the two of you disappear down the mall while two young women sitting on a bench nearby made comments about how they planned to raise their kids. They traded philosophies about better ways to do what you had just done, all in terms of “Someday, when I have kids…”
I smiled, imagining how quickly their self-assured theories would dissipate on the day they experience their first hair-raising tantrum from an ordinarily adorable toddler. And, I wondered how they could have watched you, sweet mama, and imagine that anything could be better than that gentle determination that said so clearly I love you and I expect you to obey.
Unfortunately, inexperienced gawkers are generally the most critical. But, one day, one day in the not so distant future, maybe they will remember this moment, and one mama lovingly struggling with a determined child, and maybe they will handle things as well as you did.
I want you to know that I saw it. And, I applaud you. You are doing a great job.
A Slightly More Experienced Mama Who Still Needs Lots of Reassurance on Some Days
One of the most controversial subjects that is likely to come up in Sunday school (right behind “Are margaritas sinful?” and “Is it ok to have a big screen TV when there are impoverished children in India?”) is the role of men and women in the church and, more specifically, in the family. This battle of the sexes has been raging for quite some time, and you can just give a cursory glance around the internet and find hundreds of blogs dedicated to the subject. My generation has been rightly taught from birth that women can do anything men can do. And, when that fact runs head on into the truths in Scripture where God names men the head of the families, it can really cause a lot of confusion and struggle in the female heart.
But, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a real resurgence, so to speak, of women my age who are not only accepting that their men are the spiritual leaders in their families, but they are embracing their own role as second-in-command. They are working mothers and stay-at-home moms and they are taking a step back and giving their husbands room to be in charge of the spiritual growth and training of the family. Competent and intelligent women everywhere are choosing this path. To do so doesn’t make them gullible or ignorant or weak. But, I always wonder if we are subconsciously taking on a complex that says, “God doesn’t think you’re fit for being a leader.” Or, at the very least, “The church doesn’t think you’re capable.”
But, my fellow mothers, don’t let all of this submission talk convince you that women aren’t spiritual leaders. I can’t think of any sphere within the human experience where a person has more influence than a mother has with her children. To take that enormous amount of influence and exclude spiritual matters from our everyday teaching of our kids would be an extreme waste of our abilities. We are spiritual leaders of the most crucial kind, as we are the primary care-givers, lesson-teachers, and story-tellers. We can’t just place the responsibility for spiritual training on our husband’s shoulders and breathe a sigh of relief that at least that’s one job we don’t have to do. No, I’m afraid a huge part of that burden lies squarely on us.
And, we can take joy in knowing that while God does give our husbands great responsibility to spiritually direct the family, He has also placed us in the unique position of having a huge role in that spiritual direction.
So, let’s stop wallowing in our inferiority complexes and realize that God has given us a powerful position in the family, one that supports our husband and forever shapes the attitudes and thinking of our children. We can stop wondering if we’re called to lead in our families and move on to the real issues, like how that big screen is affecting the third world countries.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I am writing to let you know that as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that I missed out on a lot of things in life because of your archaic parenting philosophies. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you deprived me of lots of things.
First of all, you didn’t buy me a new car when I turned 16. In fact, you didn’t buy me a car at all! You made me drive that disgusting work truck that Dad bought VERY used in the 80s. I started driving in 1993! Because you did that, I now drive a used car that has peeling paint on the hood. Are you aware that the driver’s side window doesn’t even roll down? And, I am actually PROUD of this car? I love it and feel spoiled because it has a sunroof? You made me that way!
Another thing. You made me come home before midnight. Do you realize how much fun I missed out on just because you couldn’t sleep when I wasn’t home? Do you know how many opportunities to get in trouble passed me by while I was sleeping in my bed late at night? And now, here I am, a grown woman, with no exciting jail story to tell. Your fault!
You know what else? You took me to church all the time. I mean, all the time. I never got to sleep in on Sundays, you sent me to all these Christian camps and enrolled me in Vacation Bible School and took me to Christian concerts. Do you realize how little chance you gave me to get diverse religious teachings? You didn’t expose me to all the world philosophies and let me choose my own path! You passed your faith right down to me! And, now I’m married to a pastor and our kids love church. You are very much responsible for this turn of events.
Are you catching my drift yet? On top of all this, you spent loads of time with me and took me camping and carted me around on vacations and fed and clothed me. You played board games and taught me to sing and made me love music and bought those piano lessons AND those art lessons and let me try out for cheerleader (even though you knew I didn’t have a chance) and let me be dramatic and listened when I talked too much and only got slightly annoyed when I stood between you and whatever you were trying to look at in the grocery store. You laughed a lot and made me feel important. And because of all these things I grew up happy. Do you hear that? I had very little teen angst to work through! You robbed me of my chance to be miserable!
And, the real kicker is that because of your crazy, passe child-rearing ideas, I am now trying to be the same type of parent to my own kids! So, the vicious cycle is perpetuated!
I hope you’re happy with yourselves. Maybe someday you will realize what an impact all of this deprivation has had on my life.