Unexpectedly, Tenderly, Love Goes Crash

With permission from my close friend, I am going to share a VERY special story with you.  

A story that hinges on a single photograph.

A story that even the best writer would struggle to convey it's incredible emotion without this visual aid. Yet with it, both the written and the unwritten word is immediately expressed in ways that seem to speak to the depths of the human heart with ease. 

This is the story of every striving mother. This the story of every yearning child.

This is your story and this is mine.

The life of a parent is incredibly taxing at times.  We don't want to talk about that part much, yet every parent knows this statement's worth and value.  Now, to say this in no way downgrades the matchless joys of raising a child!  Just as speaking of the benefits of parenting does not somehow imply that the trying times don't exist.  For those that take on the adventure of child rearing, these two are partners on the same team and regardless of how much we wish it were different...they are indeed inseparable.  

On any given day, when the countless things you do to just maintain routine life is buried underneath a handful of unexpected challenges, you already know this is going to require all your strength to get through it.  But add one more trial to the heap that is also gut wrenchingly hard, and you now have a pile up that is determined to suffocate any parent.  

I know this kind of day.  I've lived it many times.  On some accounts I have regrets on how I handled them, and on others I was thankful to have found an uncharacteristically powerful strength that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I'm sure you know these days too.  Perhaps when they arise you find yourself getting anxious and shutting down, trying to distance yourself from what is happening.  Or if you are more like me, you might find yourself overwhelmed and in haste snapping at those you love.  However it may look for you, we all know that this equation is something that not even the highest ranking businessmen would willingly sign up for.  It is stress added to stress that taps on all your internal resources like nothing else I've experienced to date.  These are the days that I pray for in advance, knowing those stored up prayers will be waiting for me in my most desperate moments.  

Enter my friend.  Courageous, smart, creative, devoted and adoring mother of one gifted 8 year old daughter and one delightful 4 year old son.  Put together your typical day of events, up early, dress everyone, prep lunches, eat breakfast, two school drop offs, laundry, housework, business phone calls, meetings, traffic, etc... Then add an expensive ticket for an "improperly worn seat belt" and oh yeah, a phone call from her son's school.  He has pushed another child.  

Crash, goes the day.

A well loved and a well taught child will usually grieve deeply when they have done something wrong.  But I think they will grieve even more at the disappointment they have caused their mom and dad.  To be brave and discipline a child is one of the hardest parts of parenting.  It wasn't until I had children of my own that I understood that age old saying of "This is going to hurt me more than this going to hurt you".   To stop a child in their tracks of misdeeds and deliver punishments of scolding behavior, time outs and loss of privilege is one thing, sticking with it is another.  When those tears start falling down either cheek and you can feel the true remorse of their heart, it is even harder.  Just as your days goes crash. So does theirs.  

Maybe our kids are thinking to themselves, "I wish I would not have done that" just like we do sometimes.  Maybe they are experiencing how scary it feels to lose control and do wrong.  Maybe they are upset because they don't like the punishment they've received.  Or maybe the tears come because they are tempted to believe that momma doesn't love them anymore.  If any of these were true in her son's case, it would not be strange.  It has been true for us too.  Because we've been there and lived it, there is a part of every child in us still.  It is in moments like these when see children, we instantly know them, and therefore we weep too.  

After the tears were cried by all, and the discipline had been said and given, my friend stepped away to start dinner.  When the day falls apart all over you and you have nothing left to give, the last thing on your mind is a blessing.  Well just like the unexpected crash of life's trials, the beauty of parenting also comes without any warning.  In no uncertain terms know this, what you model before your children and what you pour into your them will always shine through.  It is the harvest of a seed sown and it will find its way to the surface.

All at once my friend looks over to her children from the kitchen to find them in the most compelling embrace that mere words can not describe.  it is meant to be witnessed.  I could try to outline with words the tears that left her son's face streaked with moisture.   I could try to convey the unmistakable pain of regret in his eyes.  I could do my best to depict the extraordinary maturity with which his sister held him in her arms.  And then verbally trace how she closed her eyes and kissed his forehead with all the love that filled her heart for him.  I could even anticipate a dialog between the two of them that might have included phrases like...

"I know."  "It's okay now."  "I love you."

But I don't think I need to.  It will speak for itself.  And the longer you look at this photograph the more you will hear it speak to your heart.  For in us is still every child yearning to grow and become, yet stumbling to figure it all out.  And for every parent striving to love, guide and make a difference in the little lives we've been entrusted, it is moments like these that arrest us, melt us, comfort us and encourage us to know that even with all of the challenges and shortcomings, we are doing something right.  

Unexpectedly, tenderly, love goes crash.

Love one another.  

Always.

 

What do YOU want for Mother's Day?

In a discussion about that I wanted for Mother's Day recently, I realized that my life has dramatically changed.  If you were to ask me this same question in December of 2014 I would have told you "To sleep for 3 days STRAIGHT, UNINTERRUPTED!!"  

But that was then.  

Today my life is so incredibly different.  So very much more like the life that I had been deeply longing for and desperately praying for.  Today my husband works from home and no longer has an hour commute one way to a stressful job where he is over-worked and under-appreciated.  Today my husband home schools the children two days a week so that I can write and blog.  Today we have more time together as a family than we've had in our almost 11 years of marriage.  

Today I am rested.
Today I am feeling a lot less stressed about everyday life.
Today I am using my gifts and talents to build a future for our family.
Today I feel more alive than I have a in a long, LONG time.

So...

When I was asked what I want for Mother's Day, I really had to think about it.  And after I did, this is what I came up with.  For just one day I wanted to enjoy each of my children separately without any of the chores that also come along with parenting.  I wanted to spend some very special time focusing only on our time together, and not all the things I must maintain WHILE doing that, or all that I have to do AFTER doing that.  The very thought of it was a luxury.  My husband, eager to give me my hearts desire, jumped at the chance to see it through.  He took on the meals and the clean up, the diapers and the napping so that I could call each child into our room and snuggle up on top of pillows and blankets with books, legos, or anything else their hearts desired to do with Mommy.  Or in the case of our teenage boys, there were long phone calls and keepsake text messages that were enough to melt my heart completely through.  I made time to enjoy each of them separately, where they were at in a way that worked for us all.

It was nothing short of a great joy!

We had more time to talk and laugh that was totally stress free.  And in those moments I found myself really seeing them for who they are right here and right now.  It flooded my heart with such gratitude for them and the chance to be in their lives!!  I am a woman most fortunate and blessed among them.  

Here are some of the sweet memories in pictures...

Arielle chose some of her favorite books to read together while under the covers.

Arielle chose some of her favorite books to read together while under the covers.

Aaron chose legos.  He loves it when we build things together!

Aaron chose legos.  He loves it when we build things together!

Avery also chose legos.  But he wanted to use his own legos not his brothers.  :)

Avery also chose legos.  But he wanted to use his own legos not his brothers.  :)

August chose a flip the flap book...

August chose a flip the flap book...

and legos.  :)

and legos.  :)

Our college student, in the middle of finals, took an hour to talk and share his day with me.  :)

Our college student, in the middle of finals, took an hour to talk and share his day with me.  :)

We got to visit Micah while he was at work.  He had a box of chocolates for me and a card.   When I read the card I melted inside.  It was so incredibly beautiful.  The tears were streaming down my cheeks when I sent him this text.  To  that he said the above..  Then, more tears.  :)

We got to visit Micah while he was at work.  He had a box of chocolates for me and a card.   When I read the card I melted inside.  It was so incredibly beautiful.  The tears were streaming down my cheeks when I sent him this text.  To  that he said the above..  Then, more tears.  :)

 

For this I thank the amazing man I married, and his desire to champion the day!   And to my children, all six, I must say to you as well, it is my honor to be entrusted with your lives by God's design, so that I might help to shape and guide you in his love and truth.  But it is also my delight to get to know you and enjoy who you are becoming!!   Each person an extraordinary person coming into the fullness of who they are.   To behold it all as it unfolds in front of me, truly I am in awe.  

Let's celebrate Life!
Happy Mother's Day!

Someone To Watch Over Me

Do you believe in Angels?  

Not the chubby winged cartoon characters that are totally impotent in stature.  

No, I'm speaking of the powerful celestial beings that are keenly interwoven throughout our daily lives, working for our good while we are unaware!  Beings that carry out the orders of an Almighty God and execute His will to guide and protect His people.  

I do.  

As a matter of fact, I always have.  

Did you also know that some angels are not celestial beings at all?  Yep.  The definition of an angel is a ministering spirit or messenger of God.  Therefore a human can also be an angel as he or she is guided by God for the good and protection of His people.

Today I saw both at work in saving the life of my two year old son.   Instead of morning his tragic loss, I witnessed the most incredible act of divine intervention as well as the perfectly timed selflessness of a good samaritan.  And as a result, I will forever see the supernatural realm with greater acuity, humility and a heart flooded with bursting gratitude.  

I was, and I am still, a believer.

Today was the day we set aside to celebrate our 4 year old son's birthday.  It was a blistery day, a bit overcast and cool.  We, being some of the few to brave the outdoors, found ourselves with the pick of the park.  We unloaded the kids and set out with cooler, blankets, games and covered canopy in tow.  My plan was to help my husband with the task of setting up the canopy, then heading to the store for the balloons, more snacks and drinks.  But this was a new canopy and proved to be a real bugger to get up.  What should have been a pull, flip and click sequence, was instead a tug, yank, and wait sequence.  We were stuck at the halfway mark.  The current holding spot was just below eye level, so I could not see anything behind my husband and he could not see anything behind me.  While going back and forth between tugging and rereading instructions, we kept looking over at the playground right next to us and counting kids,

one... two... three... four.

Feeling overwhelmed, I realized that the canopy was stronger then I was, so I stepped back to let my husband pull and try to set my side in place.  At that point I scouted again at the adjacent play structor for my kids,

one... two... three...

Looking around and under the structure I asked, "Aaron, where's the baby?"  

"I don't know.  He was right here!"

Instantly the chorus began,  "August!"... "August!"....  "August...  August!!"  All five of us were walking in different directions looking anywhere we thought he might go to play.

There was no answer. 

My heart started to pound within me and my walking turned to running!  Since we were on the southwest side of the playground, we searched our immediate area first, thinking, "He's only two, he could not get that far."  A nearby residential street butted the back end of the park, and we were  concerned he might be heading in that direction.  My husband darted for the street to make sure.  

Little did we know we were about to come face to face with our greatest fear.

"August!!!"  my voice cracked, the tears welled up in my eyes.  No sign of him anywhere!!!  "Aaaaaugust!!"  He still was not answering our calls!!  "Why isn't he responding??"  I started to panic now thinking that someone had grabbed him and taken him from me.  Why else would he not hear our cries for him??!!  Where could he be??!!  I wanted to stay calm, especially in front of my other children, but I started to unravel fast.   With each passing second, I feared he was further and further out of my reach.  I instantly knew we were in a race against time.  

We started running out further, to the other side of the park.  So much further then we thought his little legs could have traveled in such a short amount of time.  But there was no where else left to look!  Spreading out away from the playground in the northeast direction, we were moving closer and closer to a very busy 6 lane highway that bordered the park.  No gate!!  No fence!!  

Oh God, no!!  Please God, noooooooo!!!

I ran faster now, up the hillside, hearing the cars racing by in the nearing distance.  I looked everywhere I could for him.  And as I got closer, I saw a woman, standing on the edge of the curb, quiet, holding a blond haired boy.  I ran faster.  Passing two women who scolded me as I went,

"Is that your son??" 

"How could you let him go to the street??!!"  

"What kind of mother are you??!"  

Like a plunged finger in an open wound, the pain of those words erupted a bleeding in me that they could not have imagined.  I yelled without any restraint...

"I was looking for him in the opposite direction!!!"

Not stopping, I kept my eye on the woman holding the boy.  It had to be August but I couldn't see him yet.   I ran closer.  His face now taking shape.  I slowed my gate.  Sure enough it was him.  With my hand over my mouth I began to weep and walk slowly toward them.  They were both standing still, without a sound, on the edge of the grass by the street's curb looking my way.    

From playground to curb.

It would have been sufficient to know that a woman from the park cared enough to intercept a running two year old that was heading for the busy street.  But this is not what happened.  After hearing her story, I could stood in awe, shaking and thanking God for those he has placed to watch over my son, both seen and unseen. 

The good samaritan was Kim.  A true Angel by definition.  And what is amazing is that she was not at the park at all.  As a matter of fact she was one of the cars driving by on that same busy 6 lane road that bordered that park.  While driving she was arrested at the most peculiar and haunting sight.  There on the edge of the curb of this busy highway, with cars racing by inches from his feet, was a baby boy, sitting very still, waiting, alone.  She pulled her car over.  She ran out of her car, approached the boy carefully and reached for him.  He let her pick him up as if he was almost waiting for her to come.

There was something at work here that was divinely orchestrated without a doubt.  No one could shake that.  What would have caused a newly-turned two-year-old boy, who had already ventured across an entire park alone, to stop and sit, inches away from fatal danger?  Nothing short of the hand of God, directed through a celestial being.  

I pictured an Angel, like those described in the bible that are 9 feet tall with wings that expand almost to his very height.  I envisioned him close behind my baby boy, across the hilly grass with his wings around him like an orb carefully guiding his way.  And as he got to the highway, he gently whispered to August, telling him to sit down and to wait for the messenger he would send.  August, with a child like faith heard and listened.

Some will reason this away as anything else, but for the years that I've been a mother there is too much evidence to know that things could have EASILY ended differently.  Kim mentioned that August was pointing at something clear on the other side of that 6 lane highway that was of great interest to him.   So why did he stop? 

I am a believer.

I can't count how many times I thanked and hugged Kim.  I even wept on her shoulder for a moment or two.  She was an empathetic mother with two sons of her own.  She knew what I was feeling.  She was calm and poised.  She held no judgement.  Shaking like a leaf, I took August into my arms and held him as if for the first time.  So very grateful.

Tonight when I put him to sleep, he had an awareness within him that was almost astonishing.  "I love you Dad. I love you Mom.  Nite, nite. "  Reaching for us, blowing kisses, his face so focused, his eyes so bright. I was at a loss for words.  You could see the meaning in his eyes like something inside of him had been awakened.  It was almost to suggest that he too knew, he was part of something today that was much bigger than any of us could have imagined.   

And now my bedtime prayer takes on new meaning like never before...

"Dear Lord, please place a hedge of protection around my son from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.  Direct his way and keep him from danger.  Let him not suffer at the hand of another or be used in like a pawn to hurt any of his loved ones.  But instead let him be set apart for your glory to shine brightly the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ."  

I believe.  

 

Selfies with August later that night.   

Just Five

So the other day I was thinking to myself that getting my kids to clean up their room as GOT be easier then what I’ve been doing!!  For us it turns into a 3-hour project that basically ruins our homeschooling day.  Ugh!

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The Criminal Activities of Mother Goose

When our now nearly 4-year-old daughter Arielle was a toddler, my wife and I were given a cute book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes for her. I thought it was great because I remembered so many of the short verses from my own youth. But as I started to read them, I laughed at how some of these could run afoul of the law if held to modern standards. Meh. It’s just a fictional story, right? These things never REALLY happened, did they? o_O

Nursery Rhyme: There Was An Old Woman

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread.
She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

 

Major Offense(s):  Failure to provide adequate food and shelter, Child Abuse
Agency Jurisdiction: Dept. of Child Support Services, Child Protective Services, District Attorney
Questions we never asked: Don’t any of these children have fathers?? What man would allow his children to live in a shoe? Did she give birth to these children, or is she just a foster parent? I mean, she’s too old to have children that young, right?

 

Nursery Rhyme: Jack Be Nimble


Jack be nimble.
Jack be quick.
Jack jump over
the candle stick.

Major Offense(s): Child Endangerment
Agency Jurisdiction: Child Protective Services, Local Police Department
Questions we never asked: Why is Jack jumping over an open flame? Where are his parents? Are they on drugs? How many times did Jack, or other abused children, burn their butts?

 

Nursery Rhyme: Rock-A-Bye Baby


Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Major Offense(s): Child Neglect & Endangerment
Agency Jurisdiction: Child Protective Services
Questions we never asked:  How did the baby get in the tree in the first place? Why doesn’t somebody get the baby down BEFORE the bough breaks? Why would you introduce this horrible situation into the mind of a child trying to go to sleep?

 

And that’s only 3. Don’t even get me started on Jack & Jill!