The Struggle With Struggle

Photo courtesy of Dave Dunford

“I can’t do it.  It’s too hard!”

“Yes you can do it.  You are a big boy.  You can get your pajamas on all by yourself.”

I could hear the cries reverberating down the hallway as my husband worked with our 3-year-old in an effort to help our son gain greater independence.

“I wish he didn’t have to cry.  I wish Daddy would just help him.  He needs him.”

I looked into the eyes of my 6 and 8 year olds as they looked back at me with pleading eyes.  Eyes that begged the question ‘Will you go rescue him’.

Struggles seem to last an eternity.  

The 2 older boys and I waited until we heard silence.  It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.  To us, it felt like an hour.  We wanted to race down the hall, hug that sweet boy, put his clothes on for him and make it all better.  But what would that accomplish in the end?  Physically he could do it, he just needed someone to believe in him enough to demand he do it himself.  The only way for him to learn was to struggle through it himself.

When the crying stopped, he met us in the hallway.  With red eyes and tear-streaked cheeks, one corner of his mouth turned up forming a smile that said,  “I did it all by myself!”  The sparkle shone through those teary blue eyes telling me everything I already knew.

The struggle had a purpose.

As we all rejoiced and celebrated with him, my husband took the other boys aside to explain what had to be done.  “Zachary, I did the same thing when you were his age.  He can do this.  He just needs to know he can do it, and he needs to practice it.  We can’t always do it for him.”

As a mother I naturally wanted to swoop to the rescue.  God gently restrained me as I watched my husband lead our son to victory.  He didn’t abandon him.  He was right by his side the entire time.  Encouraging, cheering, and coaching.

God never abandons us in our struggles.

He is there with us every step of the way.  The road may feel long and lonely at times, but we don’t walk the road alone.

Through His creation, God gives us a vivid picture of just how critical the struggle is.

A young tree newly planted needs the wind to blow to develop strong roots.  The more exposure to winds, the greater the chance for a strong tree.  Trees that are staked and protected from the storms develop weaker root systems and have a shortened life span.

When a caterpillar sheds its final layer and wraps itself in a chrysalis, it waits while it is being formed into a butterfly.  When ready to emerge, it is crucial for the butterfly to struggle its way out of the chrysalis.  Without the struggle, the butterfly’s wings will not gain strength, and it may never be able to fly.

Struggle is hard.  Struggle is painful.  Struggle is lonely.

When we cling to God in our struggles, we are strengthened in the process.

The struggle develops strength.  The struggle develops character.  The struggle develops beauty.  The struggle develops perseverance.

When I was a bystander to my son’s struggle for independence, I struggled with the struggle.  I wanted to rescue him.  I wanted to make everything right in his little world.  Because I love him.  On the other side of that struggle, I watched in the following weeks as he became a different little guy.  For once, he didn’t feel like a baby anymore.  He was capable like his brothers.  He could handle his clothes just fine.  He was confident, and tantrums became a thing of the past.  The struggle provided the path for a breakthrough to occur in his development.  And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

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How to Organize All Your Kids Stuff

The beginning of a new school year allows a little more time for us to get our homes in order. Here is a system we use for organizing some of the kids’ items that works well for us. When we deal with the clutter in our homes, our minds can focus a little bit better. When our minds are more focused, we have more to give to our loved ones.

 

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7 Ways to Celebrate the End of Summer

Summer is coming to a close and a new chapter is waiting to begin.  For some, summer is not over until the calendar says so, which is around September 21st.  For others, the end of summer is made official Labor Day weekend.  And for others the end of summer is when the kids go back to school.  Even if you’ve already moved into a new fall schedule, it’s not too late to celebrate the end of summer with your family.  Here are a few ideas that are simple to put together, yet are very effective in creating lifelong memories and traditions with your loved ones.

  1. Backyard campout–  Camping is a great family activity.  It forces to you unplug, be in nature, and be together.  For kids, camping is all about the tent and the marshmallows.  So why not celebrate the end of summer with a backyard campout.  Pitch a tent in the backyard, or if that isn’t an option, set up an indoor campout!  We’ve even set up a tent on our screened in porch when we didn’t have a backyard.  Sit around the fire sharing favorite memories from the summer, retelling funny stories, and simply enjoying the time together before the hustle of the fall begins.
  2. Bucket List Ceremony–  If your family created a Summer Bucket List, pull it out and spend an evening celebrating and reflecting on the memories created.   Facilitate the conversation by going around the circle giving each person a turn to share their favorite memory from each bucket list item that was checked off.
  3. Ice Cream Party or Treat Buffet–  Summertime equals massive consumption of ice cream.  It’s even acceptable to have popsicles for a morning snack in the summertime.   Have an ice cream party with the family to say good-bye to summer, hello to school year.  If ice cream doesn’t do it for you, set up a “treat buffet”.  My son planned one of these for my husband and some friends of ours last year, and it was a huge hit.  Set up a table full of sugar in different varieties: candy, cookies, and plenty of ice cream topping choices!
  4. Date –  Have a date with each of your children before school starts.  Before my oldest started kindergarten, I took each boy on a 1/2 day date alone as a celebration to a fun summer and a toast to the new adventures ahead.  I had each of them give me a list of what they wanted to do.  We played tennis, went to lunch, and out to ice cream.  Even though we have had many special dates since then, they still talk about that one.  If school has already started, it’s not too late.  Celebrate the end of summer and a great beginning to the new season!
  5. Special night-before-school dinner–  This is a great tradition to start.  Celebrate the night before school starts with a family favorite meal.  For our boys, we did comfort food, which is agreeable to all around our table.  Meatballs, gravy, biscuits, spinach salad, and apple pie.  While we ate dinner, my husband used our bucket list to spark conversation so we all had turns at sharing our favorite moments from the summer. 
  6. Fireworks– Why not close out the season with a bang?  Have any leftover fireworks or sparklers?  If so, use them up for a summer send off explosion.
    7.  Create a summer time capsule.  Fill a bottle with pictures, mementoes, and written experiences from the summer.

What are some ways your family celebrates the end of summer?  We’d love you to share your ideas with us!

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Breathe Deep

As his body squirms down into the soft fold of white sheets, his arm comes up to form a hook that fits perfectly around my neck, pulling me down into his bed next to him.  The way his arm hooks around my neck gently pulls my face directly into the side of his.  I breathe deep of him, while my lips graze his perfectly smooth skin.  I can’t breathe deep enough, so I take repeated breaths, wanting to store it away, bottle it up for the day that smell is no more.  The day he won’t need me to tuck him in.

And then I listen.  To the sounds that will disappear one day.  The crook of his arm still securing our faces together, he uses his other hand to hold onto his Boppy, his beloved security blanket, while he sucks his thumb.  And he breathes deep.  Mimicking my sounds.

It has become a moment we share each and every time I tuck his sweet little boy body into bed.  Some may say I’m spoiling him because he is the baby, our last.  I’m ok with that.  I am in fact spoiling him.  I’m spoiling him with my love.  Cherishing the gift that God has given me.

During these moments, I pray.  Sometimes silently, sometimes so he can hear me.

His reach is for more than my physical touch.  It’s for security, comfort, and love.  He wants to feel me as close to him as he possibly can.  We long for the same thing from our Heavenly Father.  I am eager to provide him exactly what he needs.  Just as our Father is.  I will make him feel safe in his bed.  I will comfort him when he is frightened.  I will shower him with kisses and hugs to show him my love.  Just like our Father will for us.

I can only imagine how our Father desires to lavish His love on us.  How He is breathing deeply of us, desiring that we breathe deeply of Him.  Because when we breathe deeply of Him, we will be filled with more comfort than we’ve ever experienced, more peace than we’ve ever dreamed, more joy than we thought possible, more love than we are capable of showing, and more power than we possess on our own.

Breathe deep of His love.  Let Him fill you with more than you ever dreamed.

 Zephaniah 3:17

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Killer Moments or Moment Killers?

With little warning, it happens in an instant.  Like a hawk who swoops down upon his prey before the prey ever realized he was in danger.  The moment comes, the moment is killed, the moment is gone.  What is left behind when the dust settles?

One child woke for the day happy and ready to start the day.  Another child woke and was determined to make my morning miserable, or at least that was my perspective.  And still another child woke simply grumpy.

Each whine, moan, grumble, and complaint sent my blood pressure rising.  At last, rest/nap time arrived.  I had looked forward to this all day as  I was in desperate need of some quiet.  The day had sapped me of all physical and emotional energy.  I was longing for a block of time of total silence and a 10 minute power nap.  No interruptions.

God interrupts.

Sometimes we don’t see God as the source of the interruption when it comes dressed in the disguise of our children.  I pray God will clear my vision to see my child’s interruption as His interruption.  For a good purpose.

Just as I settled the last child into his room for some quiet, a loud clap of thunder shook the house.  My perfect napping weather.  I needed this nap.  Steve was traveling, I was exhausted.  I would be a better mom given a few minutes of shut-eye.  I. I. I.

I quickly closed the curtains, turned the fan on high, snuggled deep into the covers and had just begun to drift into a sweet, peaceful sleep when I began to dream a soft, “Mom…Mom….Mom…Mom”  It couldn’t be.  Certainly, none of my boys would interrupt the 10 minute nap I had previously warned them I would be taking.  They knew better.  I slowly peeked one eye open and was shocked to see my son staring back at me.

I shot straight up.  Before I had time to think straight, words began spewing from my mouth.  Words that caused an instant change in his expression and sent him sulking up the stairs.

I closed my eyes, but sleep would be impossible.  The Holy Spirit was whispering too loud.  Urging me to make this right.  So I began to plead my case to God.  “I deserve a few minutes to myself.  It’s not fair.  I give all day long, can’t they give me 10 minutes.  Why can’t I get some quiet.  EVER.”  The more I argued, the heavier my heart became.  I lay in my napping spot in complete misery.  I knew there was only one remedy.

I marched upstairs.  But before I could make it right, I just had to state my case. (Pride is heinously ugly)

After stating my case, I felt the tension rush from my body as my shoulders relaxed.  “So why did you wake me up?”

“To tell you that my loose tooth just popped.  I was excited and I wanted you to see it.”

He wanted to share a moment with me.  And I killed it.  Sadness flooded my heart.

Zachary had ruined my nap.  But for a good reason.  To share a moment with me.  I had ruined a moment.  I killed it.

To further state his own case, he ended with, “We just like being with you.  That’s all.”

My head dropped as I took in what he said.  How could he possibly enjoy being with such a selfish person who so quickly lost it when she realized she wasn’t getting her own way?  I met his eyes, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so very, very sorry.  I mess up every single day.  I’m thankful for Christ’s forgiveness.  Will you forgive me?”

“Yes.”  There was no hesitation.

Moments are not just the planned experiences.  The pool days, the ice cream shop trips, the movie days.  The moments in the heat of battle are moments too.  Those moments often are the ones that leave the biggest marks.

I want to create killer moments not moment killers.  I’m grateful God opened my eyes to see the difference.

 

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A Hug From God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The morning routine was in full swing when he made his appearance at the breakfast table later than the rest of us.  I greeted him the way I do every morning.  “Well, good morning, sunshine!”

Moving ever so slowly, his head hung low, his eyes remained focused on the floor.  “Hi.”

The mood around the table instantly changed.  Breakfast was quieter than what is normal for a house of 3 boys.

Breakfast wrapped up, dishes were cleared, and chores were under way.  He continued moving among us, quietly, slowly.  So uncharacteristic for this spunky, lively child.  As I switched over the laundry and wiped the bathroom sink of the evidence of teeth brushing, I hollered to him, “Hey, Zachary, everything ok?”

Without raising his eyes to look at me, he continued walking down the hall, those shoulders lower than I’ve seen in a while.  His voice so low, I had to strain to hear him over the other boys lost in their own worlds of getting dressed and making beds.  “Yes, I’m fine.”

I put down the washcloth, knelt down in front of him, grabbed hold of his shoulders, and raised his chin so my eyes could see his beautiful blues.  “Hey, do you just need a hug?”

“Mmm-hmm”

As I wrapped my arms tightly around his 6-year-old body, I felt his rigid arms soften as he leaned into me allowing me to hug him and fill him with what he needed.  He just needed a hug.  He couldn’t even identify why he felt sad or what was plaguing him.  He just knew he needed to feel loving arms around him.

We need to feel the arms of our Heavenly Father.  God desires to wrap His arms around us.  He is always waiting.  He will never fail us.  He is forever faithful.  His arms give the best hugs because He is the creator of hugging arms.  He is our Comforter.

Receive God’s hug today.  Then give your child, grandchild, or other loved one a hug.  The bigger they are, the more they need a hug.  Share the love of God with them today.

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Baby Biscuits

A lazy Saturday morning.  Nowhere to be, no time we must leave.  Just a lazy Saturday morning.  Sort of like I remember Saturday mornings as a kid.  This particular day was the perfect day for homemade pancakes and bacon.

Steve and Jacob went to Home Depot to gather supplies for a Saturday project.  Zachary and Andrew were slowly moving about the house.  And I was happily mixing batter relishing in the fact that I could move as slowly as I wanted.  Because we had nowhere to be.

The smell of bacon was making its way through the house, the oven fan hummed a consistent tune, and I listened and waited patiently as the cast iron griddle heated to the point of sounding off soft pops of oil.  I filled the measuring cup to pour the perfect sized pancake and quickly moved my hand over the griddle trying my best to keep all the batter on the pan.  Before I had the chance to pour the batter, a small dollop escaped the cup onto the pan.  I had already poured out the remainder of the cup onto the griddle when I realized this small circle of batter on the edge of the pan.

The slow invites the moments in, it welcomes the memories home.  The moments, the memories, they want to be cherished, remembered.  Not rushed past.

A memory was triggered.  The slow allowed me to relish in it. 

I was transported back to when I was a little girl and my mom would bring out a steaming hot batch of homemade biscuits.  My mom, hands down, makes the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted.  She was taught by my great-grandmother and my grandmother.  Sadly, I’ve tried and tried but can’t make biscuits like my mom can.  Maybe that’s the way it should be.  Maybe they should just be “Nanny’s biscuits” to my boys.  Something unique and special to her that they only get from her.  

There I sat, hair pulled in pig tails, with my eyes fixed on the plate being placed in the center of the table.  My eyes were searching for one thing and one thing only.  The baby biscuit.  It was always there.  Waiting for me.  Well, actually there were 2, one for me and one for my sister.  But I was searching for my baby biscuit. 

The baby biscuit was special.  It was tiny, drastically different from every other biscuit on the plate.  Extra thought was given to which biscuit would become my biscuit.  That small act, repeated time after time after time, took no extra effort on the part of my mom.  The message that penetrated to my heart was one of love.  To me, she took the extra step to show me she loved me and cared enough to do a little something special.

The baby biscuits never really ended either.  Weekends home from college, I still was given a baby biscuit.  In my mom’s eyes, I would always be her little girl wanting her mom’s baby biscuit.  It had become a tradition, and traditions are meant to be passed down.  If you visit my mom’s house, she has a picture frame with each of her grandbabies eating their very own baby biscuit.

Jacob and Zachary 2006

While the nostalgia was flooding me, pancakes began stacking high on the plate.  Boys began wandering in questioning how much longer they must be tortured by the smells they couldn’t escape.  Jokingly, I handed Andrew the “mistake” pancake.  The baby pancake.  I expected him to moan and complain that it was too little and he wanted a bigger one.  Instead, his little eyes lit up at his “special” pancake.

It’s true what they say, it really is the little things that count.  The little moments, the little traditions, the little memories, the little biscuits, and the little pancakes.  It’s the little things.  The little things make big impressions.

Traditions don’t have to be monumental events.  Sometimes the most heartwarming of traditions come in the smallest packages.  Like that of a baby biscuit.