Why the table, the forgiveness, and the younger living

img_4383“I’m just saying, I wouldn’t tell my kids they can’t do something outside my home that they wouldn’t do in front of me. So, if they want to drink, they can drink in front of me first. If they want to try something like drugs, well, I hope they won’t… but if they do, they can try them at home first. That way, they won’t be so tempted to run off and do things away from home just because they can’t do that thing at home. You’ve got to give kids the chance to try stuff, or they’ll just try anyway, but without your knowledge.”

I’m paraphrasing a little. Words spoken aren’t always remembered word for word. But that’s the gist of the conversation.

I looked deep into the brave, young eyes of the speaker, a brand new guest in my home, and someone new and dear to my child. I sat listening as my parenting skills were challenged.

A year later, those words were still rubbing hard against the sore spot left from four years of trial by fire. Four years the beloved child lived addicted to drugs. We had been the parents who just said no. No to drinking. No to smoking. No to drugs. And while we were at it, no to tattoos too. For Heaven’s sake, just no to anything that might steal our beloved children from us.

I’ve lived as the child and the sister of the addicted. I’ve lived the years of secreting away my own addictions. And then, after all those years, I’d stood face to face with my own addiction in order to stand toe to toe with my child’s. I’ve run that race, fought that good fight, and walked out of the darkness of addiction. And I’m stronger for it.

Yet, here in my living room, sat this young soul face to face with me, angry, hurt, and implying accusation. Wanting to convey a message. I should have done things differently.

That evening, a little over a year ago now, I sat quietly, acknowledging the condemnation. The lecturer finished and I smiled, said something unmemorable, and the awkward conversation came to a stumbling end.

For most of the last year, that conversation swirled around me, questioning my parenting skills and numbering my mistakes. The early beginnings of a list of things I’d like to say to my kids began taking shape in my mind. In fact, if you look back from this post, the lists are found here in the pages. And there are more lists to come, but today, the fourth day of a new year, I wanted to say something–to myself. And maybe one day to the young soul.

You didn’t sit at the table.

That table is why I have this blog now, but I didn’t even know that myself until a cold day just this past December when your words came to mind again, loud, accusing, rattling around inside my brain. And that’s when the realization crept in slow, like a low fog rolling in, covering a multitude of hurt and angry regrets… You didn’t sit at the table.table blog pic

See, after those agonizing years of a loved child’s addiction, and while our loved child went through a year long program of addiction recovery, our family gathered around a table alongside others who were hurting just the same. We were those who currently or in the past had personally battled life controlling issues, or we loved someone who did. We shared the ache. We spoke honestly about the fear, the hurt, the anger, and the hate. We were honest about our pasts. We laid bare our souls, took off our masks, and bled out from our fractured hearts of pain and regret. We left everything at the table. Everything.

But you weren’t there. We didn’t know you then.

Even the loved child was in the recovery program miles and miles away and couldn’t join us at the table. So, no one’s told you the stories of the table. No one’s shared with you stories from the weeks of soul baring moms, dads, and almost grown children. So, for your year-old, bravely spoken words of admonition, young soul, I can only extend grace, because you don’t know about the table.

It’s been a month worth of days gathering forgiveness for the young soul. Love came from the ruins of my hurt and anger. Forgiveness is the gardener of blessings.

I’m slowly moving on from those years of reliving and questioning decisions we made in the child rearing years. I’ve quickly moved on from reckoning with a year of pondering my own aging. And now I’m moving on to brighter things. Better choices. Healthier living. Younger living. If you stay with me, you’ll see the difference here on the pages. At least, I hope you do. We’re into Young Living around here nowadays. but truly, we’re just in to living younger.

Thank you for joining me at this table. It’s a place we gather. We’re honest here. We’re bold, we’re tender, but most of all, we give grace here.

God bless- more next time.table

The truth list–for young love.

IMG_5191A weekend spent watching two young loves fight over common ground left me weary and wondering. I know, as younger marrieds, the husband and I battled over every thing big and small. And I thought I wasn’t a fighter. I’d told him so before we were even engaged. But that was then. Now, I’m watching you kids, and I’m questioning the groundwork we laid as parents. I pray you saw the good ground too. There was lots of good ground, yet I know, because these lists have more than covered my own nearsightedness, that sometimes the hard times make up the majority of the memories that stand out. But haven’t we learned about hard times? They make us stronger. Or maybe, you need more time to mature enough to know the truth about hard times. At your age, hard times can make you think you’re weak. That’s a lie.

Don’t let the enemy of your soul rob you of the ground you’ve fought and bled over. Your walk through marriage is one victory after another–daily–down the road to becoming two people who live and breathe as one. That walk down the aisle was only the beginning.

So that’s the first of this list and bears repeating.

  1. Don’t let the enemy of your soul rob you of the ground you’ve fought and bled for.
  2. And the next one as well. Your walk through marriage is one victory after another–daily–down the road to becoming two people who live and breathe as one.
  3. And the most important lesson I learned somewhere around five years into my own vows. Love covers. That verse says exactly that. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love covers.
  4. I wish I could carve this one into the mini-mountain we climbed that holiday weekend so all the young marrieds could read it and remember. Winning an argument with your spouse is not a victory you celebrate.
  5. You don’t want harsh words to be the legacy you leave to your loved ones.
  6. Remember, your spouse is an adult. Treat one another with mutual respect and affection.
  7. Don’t keep a list of wrongs. The verse so important to a solid marriage. Those lists grow like weeds and produce a harvest of hurt and regret.
  8. Silence is not a weapon or a shield. Silence is something you gift to one another when truly listening, really hearing, relaxing, and/or simply appreciating. Silence should be a gift you give.
  9. Give one another second chances. And thirds. And fourths. You’ll see things differently with a little more time.
  10. Being right doesn’t make you superior. Being right makes you a teacher. Be a godly teacher.
  11. Respect one another’s differences. Recognize one another’s feelings. Don’t try to mold your spouse into someone they’re not. Don’t set one another up for failure. Instead pray and pray hard. The love of your life needs your prayers. They need you to intercede for them. They need to know you go to God on their behalf. There’s no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. Now there’s a verse to live your marriage by. Love like that.

This has been the hard-fought for list, the list written through tears, and all because a holiday weekend of watching young couple dynamics left me in a quandary. This list may seem cliche to some, but in truth, these are the hard truths. These are the reckonings of my heart for the hearts of the ones I love. This is the list I prayed over, lost sleep over, and finally received the words for all within a day and a night. Yet still, this is not the last list. More to come.

With all my love for those I love,

Mom

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Lists, regret, and belief

Hello Beautiful – Mercy Me

I hear parents all the time talk about what they’d do differently now. Wisdom and regret mix like oil and water. But pure joy at watching these kids become the adults I envisioned is a balm that soothes this momma’s soul.

So the next list. It’s shorter. The listing doesn’t come all at once anymore. The numbers have begun to require more contemplation. And that’s okay. I don’t want these thoughts to become cliche. They’re not trite. I’m not nearly philosophical enough for all that. Just a mom. Dyed blonde to cover the grey. Soft where there were once defined angles. So, here we go.

  1. Don’t let anger rob you of wisdom.
  2. Think before you speak may be the best advice I can give you.
  3. Be you. You’re not us. At some point, you have to decide not to be a product of your upbringing or that becomes just an excuse.
  4. Hurtful, angry words are hard to forget. Don’t let those define you.
  5. When you’re older, you’ll look back and realize how young you were.
  6. When you have kids, every year you’ll see a little more of what your Momma sees.
  7. Remember the time that coworker of yours called me your Moms? Does Moms have an apostrophe? Anyway, that’s one of my favorite memories.
  8. I usually think of you within five minutes of waking up. Crazy, huh? It’s a mom thing.
  9. Sometimes I still picture you sitting in the car, your little feet hanging over the edge of the seat. You were that small once upon a time.
  10. Did you know meeting you was the scariest and the most thrilling day?
  11. I’m so proud when I watch you overcome an inner battle.
  12. In a very public place, someone shared a life experience with me that has had traumatic repercussions in their life. This person then asked what we’d done to cause the trauma in your life. That question felt like a punch to the gut. Glancing around, noticing the surprised faces on those closest in range of overhearing, I struggled to reply. I fought back tears. I stumbled over words, regrets, and broken memories. Sometimes, people will dare to touch your most tender fear. How you handle those moments will change with maturity. But, what’s more important than your response in the moment, is that you continue to lay down your broken things at the foot of the cross. You can’t undo the done. You can pray for healing. You can pray for compassion. You can pray for forgiveness. Don’t let mistakes or regret shape your responses or your prayers. Let faith. Let hope. Let love. Let trust. Let wisdom.

These twelve. A longish short list. We’re ever learning. I don’t believe our mistakes make us who we are. I don’t believe regret has value. I believe in telling you the truth as much as I can define what truth is in this life I’ve already lived. I love you heart and soul.

Mom

The principles I’m still learning to live by… more listing for my kids

As a kid, I had this notion that for me, parenting would one day be an easy thing. I pictured hot breakfasts every morning, clean laundry, and adoring cherubs who never had to help wash the dishes. Not the world I grew up in with its havoc and mayhem. I didn’t understand my parents struggle to raise four kids. With so many to practice on, why weren’t my parents pros? Then I grew up, married, and had kids of my own.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. With each child, I found the challenge greater, not easier. With time, I did begin to gain some knowledge and wisdom, but I’m still adding to those particular banks. I wish I could have known the things I know now. I wish I’d written lists of lessons learned rather than lists of chores and goals during those learning years. I can’t say the list I’ve added to this post is complete or set in stone or even that it’s always rock solid. It is instead, a list of principles, my determination to raise kids who will hopefully be better than me, do better than me, and one day, raise my grandkids to do the same. So, here we are, the next list, in no particular order, of things I want my kids to know that I said.

  1. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world.
  2. Take off your mask. Don’t be afraid to be real.
  3. Share your life. You have so much to give.
  4. Wake up every day with a renewed determination to do better than the day before.
  5. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but yes, it could hold all the answers. You’ll want to wake up and find out.
  6. Spend plenty of time having fun. Work will always be there.
  7. Do the unexpected thing.
  8. Forgive. Grudges are for the weak.
  9. Say you’re sorry first.
  10. Compliment your spouse everyday. They need your affirmation.
  11. Dreams are worth having. Dream big.
  12. Take a vacation or a day off often. You need restoration.
  13. Love your loved ones with all your heart. Why hold back?
  14. Be faithful. Be trustworthy. Have integrity. Earn respect.
  15. Be honorable.
  16. Don’t manipulate. You’re better than that.
  17. Don’t be afraid of hard things. Good things come from hard things.
  18. Don’t be afraid to look at sufferIng and let yourself feel with raw emotion.
  19. Have deep conversations. Fluff talk dissipates.
  20. Finish strong.

I wish I could say I have this parenting thing all figured out. Perfection. But I don’t. That doesn’t stop me from trying.

There are more lists to come, but they’ll have to wait for now.

Until next time.

Love,

Mom

What I would say to my kids… the beginning of listing

In a Facebook post I read this morning, a mom listed the things she wanted her daughters to know, and this got me thinking. There are things I want my kids to know too. There are things I want them to know that I said, but the thing is, I didn’t say them all. At least not until now. So this is that post. It may be one of many. There are a lot of things I’d like to say even though the sons are all grown, and married, or in one case, practically married. And believe me, it’s not that I haven’t said a lot of stuff, because I have, and I’ve said some things I regret saying. But there are things I want to say for possibly the first time, or a little better, or louder, or more often, like, I love you. I’m proud of you. You stole a piece of my heart the day you were born. You are the best memory I will ever have.

There’s so much more that there’s got to be a list, but first some confessions to my sons. Not that there won’t be more, but here are a few to start this off.

  1. You know that time you spilled your milk across the table and it ran down into the rope weave of the chair seat, down the table legs, and onto the floor, and took so long to clean up, and I got mad at you and yelled? I’m so sorry.
  2. I’m still working on that patience thing.
  3. The way your smile reaches your eyes makes my heart ache.
  4. I still love the way you curl your hair around your finger when you’re tired.
  5. The way you love your wife fills me with incomprehensible joy.
  6. Do you remember all those times I dropped you off at daycare? I hated every single one of those days. I wanted to be one of those moms who’s good at staying home. I wasn’t so much.
  7. I wish we had gone camping instead of making you play baseball.
  8. We should have put you in theater for kids. You are so talented.
  9. You are truly funny, and I wish you smiled more.
  10. I wish I’d said those bedtime prayers with you every single night.
  11. I wish I’d spent more time reading with you and less time watching television.
  12. I wish I’d spent less time worrying about what others thought of my momming skills and spent more time impressing you.
  13. Remember when you wanted to plant your own plants in the garden? I should have let you.
  14. I’m sorry we didn’t keep that dog you loved.
  15. You were a great kid, but you’re an even better man. I’m still so proud to be your mom.
  16. Momming is still hard. I wish there were do-overs.
  17. The way you challenge yourself scares me to death and makes me silly proud of you all at the same time.
  18. Your tenacity, courage, and strength are character traits I love most about you.
  19. The way you look at me with grown man wisdom takes my breath away.
  20. I love that you love God more than I taught you to. That’s huge to me now.

I’m sorry these thoughts aren’t in any kind of order. They’re kind of like the way I raised three grown boys. Seat of my pants, random luck of the draw, taking lots of chances, and praying they’d forgive me for the mess. So, that’s all for now, because this listing business is turning out to be hard stuff.

With every bit of my heart,

Love,

Mom

More listing next time…

The hard honesty and the harder thank you’s

There Is A Cloud – Elevation Worship.  The hard thank you’s rolled through my mind last night displacing complaints. Somewhere I learned to expect more. By fifty-two, isn’t there more? Wisdom. Understanding. Grace, at the least? And all things financial. I’ve worked almost every year since age nineteen. Shouldn’t I be successful by now? Shouldn’t I be living my dream life? Working my dream job?

My surroundings don’t inspire awe, and in fact, often cause me to wonder what I’m even thinking. My thoughts chase me down the rabbit hole, and I get a glimpse of the small girl I left behind–the one whose princess and castle dreams went sideways in one dark moment. Her pain ruled the kingdom of my mind far too long. But there I am again. The blame. The guilt. The fault surely my own. And all this dream I’m not living — the confirmation of condemnation.

Since laying down old hurt and painful sin, the old mindset, I no longer chase after or run from childhood things. The pain has healed. The scars have faded. But sometimes, there’s this feeling like regret that tells me I’ve messed up too much, and as a result, I’ve missed out.

The “if’s” came to visit and all my failures were tallied and calculated. I’ve gone to bed weary in spirit. Maybe I am a failure. Maybe I will never be enough. Shortcomings play reel to reel in my mind worsening with the passage of days until bone-tired and soul-aching, I admit defeat. I’m worn. I confess I’m not enough. The judge and jury are surely right. I’ve failed. Over and over. I haven’t achieved all, accomplished all, conquered all, and I’m aging, so I’m daily running out of time.

Midnight crawls round the face of the clock, and I’m soul searching, but not for more of me. I’m searching for the words that whispered into my spirit earlier in the day, “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I’m struck with the comparison to the taunting voice in my mind.

I close my eyes and give thanks for the roof over my head. For the dry floor and dry walls sheltering me in my flooded state. I give thanks for the job and thanks for the family. Thanks for things great and small. I list the hard thank you’s for the things and times that I struggle to appreciate. Without planning, without contemplation, but with the simple innocence of gratitude, I deny the voice of condemnation and open the door to conviction.

Conviction always displaces condemnation.

We are not the sum of our accomplishments and failures. Success is not our measure. We are not our past. We are not held by our sin or by the sin committed against us. We are the forgiven. We are the loved. We are the saved. In Christ, we are the made new.

Sleep came somewhere in the middle of the thank you’s. Rest for the weary soul. The song above came on an early morning Instagram moment posted by a friend. Balm for the ache. The song below, my warrior cry this new day and in the days to follow.

“I will only sing your praise.”

God bless.

More next time.

Hillsong United – Even When It Hurts

When waters rise, homes flood, and the weary grow stronger

This has been the strangest week, and it’s still just Thursday. In Southeast Texas, we’re in the recovery phase of Hurricane Harvey, or what became subtropical storm Harvey. The rivers, creeks, and bayous broke records as they rose as much as ten feet or more above the last record. More than thirty thousand people in my small corner of Texas are displaced, and that number is kind. The largest city near me, a town of more than one hundred thousand, is limping on a temporary water supply and has been for over a week, and there isn’t a correction date in sight. Every city within a fifty mile radius of my home suffered unprecedented flooding (and that might actually be a one hundred mile radius.) Everyone I know personally within this questionable radius either flooded or personally knows someone who flooded. 

You may think I’m exaggerating. You’re wrong. I know more than twenty-five families who lost almost all of their personal possessions in less than two days. Because you may not comprehend this, I’ll clarify. Staggering totals of six to eight feet or more of water in your personal residence drowns your possessions. 

It’s late now, and I’m weary to the bone. We’ve packed off the personal belongings of two families this past week. Storage facilities in space sizes of ten by fifteen run one hundred and seventeen dollars a month-and that’s before insurance and locks. Oh, and most families need at least two spaces. Pots and pans, blankets, clothing, hobbies, and memorabilia can be packed in a box, labeled, and stored without any idea of when anyone may see them again. 

Room controlled storage–the newest catch phrase: Stuff kept at temperature control. Except when the sliding doors open every few minutes to allow yet another flood victim to unload.
So, after this past week of watching others lose their homes and helping others pack what’s left, I’ve come to some conclusiins.

First, we have too much stuff. Second, we worry a lot about keeping stuff–just in case. Third, we have a lot of stuff that can be left by the road when the stuffs usefulness is gone. Fourth, we can strangely covet other people’s stuff left by the side of the road. Fifth, we are more than our stuff.

I’ve watched good people come together this past week to help one another tear down, pack up, and rebuild. I’ve watched good people butt heads over the coming together, tearing down and rebuilding, and they still come out okay on the other side. I’ve watched the broken healed, and I’ve watched the hardened break down. I’ve watched full pour into empty in ways that have nothing to do with water. 

I’ve also seen the negative this past week, and sometimes I’ve spoken in the negative. But this week, I’ve seen the good outweigh the bad far more often than not. I’ve seen darkness die in the presence of light. I’ve seen fear, and I’ve seen hope reborn.

It’s been a strange week. And it’s only Thursday. There are a multitude of storms headed inland. There are fires spreading. But we can be the difference makers.
I’m asking you to be the good in the rest of this week. Lend a hand. Encourage someone. Pray with someone. Help someone. Step out of your comfortable or uncomfortable home and be the hands and feet of Jesus this week. 
You are stronger, wiser, braver, and far more compassionate than you think you are. Run to the battle.