Training for a race is not much different than walking the road of parenting. To become a runner, to train for a race, requires planning, intentionality, priority setting, discipline, and perseverance. You will shed blood, sweat, and tears. It takes pushing through the cramps, wiping off the dirt, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Even when all you want to do is throw in the towel. Even when you wonder if each step is making a difference at all…….
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*****Updates made to Not so Fine Print Sunday, September 30th*************************
Yesterday was September 27th. All day I had this nagging feeling about the date. Was it someone’s birthday I was forgetting? An anniversary? Why every time I saw the date, did I feel a twinge of something I couldn’t put my finger on? Driving Andrew home from preschool it hit me. His constant chatter brought the recollection to the forefront of my mind. In the midst of his chatter, he said, “I love God. I want to hug him.” That’s when I remembered.
September 27th, 2007 was the day we found out we would likely miscarry one, possibly two babies. I had no real reason to suspect any problems with the pregnancy. Until I had my quiet time with the Lord the morning of the ultrasound. I walked away from my time with God knowing something wasn’t quite right. Deep in my soul, I knew that even when things don’t seem right, God makes all things right.
The morning of September 27th, I read Psalm 27, 57, 87, 117, and 147. Here are a few verses that God used to reveal trouble lay ahead and to encourage me that He would be right there with me.
Psalm 27:5 “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 57:1 “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
I walked into the doctor’s office that day with a different feeling than the prior two times I had been pregnant. I sat on that cold table in complete silence waiting for the ultrasound to begin. The door opened, and I tried to unclench my sweating fists. She was talking excitedly as is expected when you are discussing new life. She didn’t know that just that morning I had begun to believe today would not be an exciting day for me.
She calculated that I would be around 8 weeks so a heartbeat should be detected. I stared at the white ceiling as she patiently tried to locate the heartbeat. I’d glance at her face, but she remained focused. “Sometimes it’s hard to hear this early. We’ll keep trying.” And she did. “I see two of something, but I’m only picking up one heartbeat. And it’s very slow.” She was telling me what I already knew. The Lord showed me kindness that morning in preparing my heart for what I would hear that morning.
She went to get the doctor, who came in after reviewing the ultrasound. Her words were not comforting in the least. She actually said something along these lines, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Honestly, I didn’t hear much of what she tried to explain to me. None of that mattered to me. All that mattered is that I had 1 baby that had a slow heartbeat and possibly another that had already died. The due date they estimated would fall on Mothers Day of 2008.
The rest of that day is a blur. I called Steve pretty hysterical. I called my sister and my mom sobbing. I laid on my couch crying all day. For how many days did I cry? I really don’t know. My emotions were all over the place. Hormones were raging. Desperately, I begged God to save the baby or babies. Let it be a mistake. In the end, I would just rest in Him. It was all I was able to do.
I woke up September 28th and followed the same Bible reading plan I had followed the previous morning. I read Psalm 28, 58, 118, 148.
He washed me in His comfort. Only the way He can. No one else could comfort me. But He could. Because He formed me. He knows me. He loves me enough to sacrifice His own Son to die for me!
Psalm 28:16 “Praise be to the Lord for he has heard my cry for mercy.”
Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped.”
Psalm 118:1 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.”
And then I read this
1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
We waited for 1 week for a 2nd ultrasound. The week was long, which now I’m grateful for. It was a week of pain, yes. But it was a week of seeing God in a way I had never seen Him before. The comfort I experienced from Him that week I can’t put into words.
How do we know the character of God without pain and trial? How do we see his tender mercies if we aren’t in need?
1 week later there were no heartbeats to be heard. We grieved. We were heartbroken. But we had God. And we had His faithfulness.
Our prayers weren’t answered with a yes that day. It was a “not yet”. The following November, on Thanksgiving Day, Andrew was born. How fitting God chose Thanksgiving as Andrew’s birthday. We had much to be thankful for. Thankful for new life. Thankful for salvation. Thankful for His love that endures forever. Thankful for every moment He allows.
God is good. Always. Even when we are feeling intense pain. God is still good. In the pains of this world, He’s all we’ve got that is worthy of clinging to.
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa
Lost in my thoughts, I moved from counter to table and table to counter as I was hurrying to get dinner on the table. I wasn’t mad or happy. I was simply in a state of action. Dinner. I came to a complete halt when I noticed my 3-year-old intensely watching my every move. My fast, hurried, frazzled moves. Moves that sent a message of stress rather than control. Our eyes locked momentarily. I tried to pull away, but I couldn’t. His look was so intense I had to say something. “What is it?”
“Mommy, are you happy or mad?”
“I’m happy. Why?”
“Then why is your face doing this?” He made a most serious facial expression that I must say was one fine mad face.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not mad at all. I was just busy making dinner. I’m very happy.”
His shoulders relaxed, his face broke out into a smile that covered his face, and he hugged me.
He needed to know I was happy. His sense of security seemed to be tied to the state of my emotions.
Later the same night, I was in the same state of preparation for bedtime. Clothes were being gathered for the morning, rooms tidied, children prepped for bed. This time it was my 7-year-old.
“Mom, are you mad about something?”
“No, honey, why would you think I’m mad.”
“Because your face looks mad. I wondered if I had done something to make you mad.”
“Not at all. Sometimes I guess I just am not really thinking of anything and my relaxed facial expression just might not look happy. But I am!”
I reflected on their comments later that evening. I thought about what a smile does to me. When a stranger shoots me a little smile, my spirit is immediately lifted. When my children walk in the door with a smile on their face, my heart is warmed. A smile encourages us. A smile sends a message to our children of love and acceptance. A smile says ‘I am pleased with you’. A smile says ‘You can do this’. A smile says ‘I’m on your side’. A smile carries a thousand messages.
If our little ones could write us a little message, would it go something like this…
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m watching you all the time. Even when you don’t notice. I love to study your facial expressions. What things make you mad and what things make you happy. I love when you are happy. I love to see you smile at me. When you are smiling, I feel safe. I can relax when I see you smile because I know you have it all under control. When you smile I know you are pleased with me.
I can’t control my emotions very well, and I have tantrums that embarrass you. Please forgive me. I’m a child in training. Model to me how to control my emotions. If you yell at me, I might think that is how I am to handle my frustrations with you.
You are the center of my world. My comfort comes from you and I desperately want to make you happy. I will make so many mistakes every single day. Please be patient with me. I really want to do what is right, but I need help in figuring it out. Please speak gently with me. It scares me when you yell.
And please don’t ever give up on me. Even when you think I don’t want you. I will always want you and need you.
When you smile at me and speak with a gentle voice, I feel loved by you. I love you.
Smile even when you don’t feel like it. It will make you feel better. And the little ones watching too.
(My mom making fall arrangements with my oldest son in 2008)
Eager to spread my wings and fly, I graduated my senior year of high school 6 months early in December of 1994. My high school sweetheart, now my husband, graduated the prior June, and I was ready to join him in “the real world”. My original plan was to become a lawyer, so I figured I needed a head start in order to make it through 7 years of school. I had teachers who strongly advised me against this plan. My mom, however, never did. She must have seen the determination in my eyes. She must have known that with my stubbornness and hard head, she would likely not convince me otherwise. After all, I was 17, fully capable of knowing what was best for me. Maybe she decided since it wasn’t a decision that jeopardized my safety or well-being, then our relationship was more important. Maybe she believed it actually was the best thing for me.
I don’t know all that went through her mind the day I shared my idea with her. I do know that I never considered the fact that I deprived her of having me home the last half of what should have been my senior year. She watched me play high school soccer and serve as junior class president, planning the senior class prom. Was she sad that I wouldn’t be home to go to my own senior prom or run for senior class president? Were these things important to her? Or did she see that I was chasing something bigger than prom dresses and soccer victories?
Did I never consider the effects on my mom of me cutting high school short and heading off to college because she never showed me anything but encouragement and support? She didn’t discuss with me her feelings of her first-born leaving home, for which I’m grateful. It would have been a burden I was not ready to carry.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity over a phase of life ending for her, my mom celebrated whole-heartedly with me a new, exciting phase that was on the horizon. We shopped, we decorated, we planned, and we stayed busy.
I think about the day that I will drive my boys to college, Lord willing. I hope to follow my mom’s example when it’s my turn to send my boys off into the world. I will show them my love with joy, enthusiasm, and encouragement. Because I will remember that it is hard for them too.
We spent the fall before I was to leave in January preparing for the move. She made sure to find all the little touches of home I didn’t even know I would need. But she knew. Because moms just know.
Leaving home earlier than most, I believed that I felt homesick more than most. I was horribly, horribly homesick my first semester. I didn’t quit, though I wanted to. The safety, comfort, and familiarity of my parents’ home seemed to beckon me back. How I missed home.
Relief came with summer break. I had a new appreciation for all that my parents had done for me. I quickly discovered that being on my own wasn’t easy. In no time at all, however, it was time to do it all over again. Fall was near.
I’ll never forget the first fall weekend I came back home for a visit. Windows down, I drove as fast as my little RX7 would take me.
The moment I entered the door, the warmth of home enveloped me. It was all so familiar. So comforting. So wrapped in love. The smell of fresh air throughout the house from mom opening up all the windows, filling the rooms with the new coolness. The dimly lit house radiated a warm glow. Scents of pumpkin and cinnamon drifted throughout from candles she had burning in every room. Little candy dishes could be found from room to room inviting you to take just one candy corn or marshmallow pumpkin. The latest fall magazines would be found on bedside tables or living room coffee tables. Pumpkins, gourds, and leaves graced the mantle. Table centerpieces were handcrafted of rust and golden flowers.
Maybe fall holds a special spot in my heart because it was my last season at home before heading to college early. Or maybe it is because that is the season I got married. Or maybe it’s because my first son was born in the fall. And my 2nd son. And my third. For all these reasons, I love the fall, which holds so many special memories.
To this day I am still washed by that same feeling when I smell the scents of fall. The temperature is dropping. Fall is being ushered in. I open my windows and smell that smell. That fresh, crisp, fall smell. I light a candle and fill the house with cinnamon. The boys walk in from school and say, “It smells so good in here.” Inside I’m smiling. One day they will smell these smells and they will think of home. I pray the feelings evoked from these scents of fall are of love, warmth, and acceptance. And I pray they will take the love they’ve received and pour it out on their own families one day.
“Hey, Mom, can we talk?”
“Hey, Mom, I have to talk to you about some stuff.”
“Hey, Mom, wanna chat tonight?”
I hear this daily from one of my children. I have another child who just talks when he needs to talk. But one feels the need to let me know he needs my attention. He invites me in. And I want to be sure to make the experience one in which he feels safe enough to invite me back again.
What I’ve discovered with boys is they don’t like questions. They want to talk when they want to talk. And they don’t want to be interrogated. Nothing stops the conversation faster than when I begin asking questions. The quieter I am, the more they talk. When I am simply there with them, quiet and available, they open up. When I begin interjecting and quizzing, they clam up.
The best way I know how to share my heart back with them is to write. The only way I know to fill their hearts is to pray.
My Sweet Boy,
You are only 8 (soon to be 9), yet your understanding of people and life at times ages you far beyond your young years.
Your life is a collection of seasons. Without the harshness of winter, would you appreciate the spring? Without the heat of summer, would you appreciate the cool of fall?
You will experience seasons of life full of joy and ease. And you will face seasons just the opposite. If all the seasons looked the same, how you would grow into the person God is molding you to be? If all the seasons looked the same, how would you discover new things about God and about yourself?
You are in a season of great change right now. I know you are frustrated right now, and at every turn, you are facing a challenge that seems too tough. But that is what develops great character. The people I most respect are the ones who had to fight through tough circumstances, overcome challenges, and dig deep.
If everything was easy all the time, we might forget our need for God. And He loves us too much to allow that to happen.
Today’s challenge may be math and grammar or making a sporting switch and learning a new game. Tomorrow’s challenge may look completely different. No matter what the challenge is, if it’s important to you, it’s important to me. And it’s ALL important to God.
Your grades don’t make you who you are. Your athletic ability doesn’t make you who you are. It’s your heart that makes you who you are. The depth of your heart where you allow God to do amazing things. That is what makes you who you are. Your acceptance is not based on your performance. Know who you are in Christ.
Enjoy the ride. Don’t fight it. Enjoy learning new skills. Be excited to look back and see how far you’ve come. Look forward to the feeling of satisfaction that comes from hard work and perseverance.
Everything worth having takes time, effort, and patience.
God has a great plan in store for you. Give thanks in all circumstances. Focus on what you are grateful for, not what you are frustrated by.
Work hard, don’t quit, don’t give up. Pray. Ask God for your every need. And give Him all the glory. Remember this life is not all about us. It’s all about Him.
You are loved.