Why God gave me these kids

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One of the sweetest pictures in my collection.

One of the sweetest pictures in my collection.

“Oh, God, why did you give me these children???”

I have said these words

More than once

There have been times when I have exclaimed this in a most screaming doleful and lamenting tone.

“OH GOD, WHY did you give me THESE children???

Those moments when mothering is troubling and my spirit is weary. When Nate screamed bloody murder in the bathtub for no reason at all or when Aaron threw handfuls of dirt on the carpet after repeatedly telling him to leave the dirt in the planter. When Ike flew into an angry tirade and it felt like body parts were exploding on the walls. And those are just a few of the stories I could share.

I suppose my OS have their own share of meltdown moments from me as well but we’re not going to talk about that. They can get their own blog and share those stories one day!

But in much larger measure, I have inquired of the Lord,family5

oh God, why did you give ME these children?”

And I can’t say I have totally figured this out but I do see a theme and hear an answer when I enter the holy places of the Lord.

“They brought you closer to Me.” This is the refrain which resonates the most true.

With each successive olive shoot, my need for Jesus became clear. Here’s what I mean.

Nate

Nate

Nate taught me celebration. He was the toe-headed boy who began walking at eight months and wrote the words “hallelujah” in a prayer journal in elementary school. He is my adventurous, always-looking-for-a-challenge child currently plodding away at Ranger School.

Aaron danger boyMy middle Aaron has been used by the Lord to instruct me on the value of submission. As a toddler, it was apparent we were well on our way to raising an absolutely adorable jerk. We had to implement structure and discipline into our home. When he bit into the face of the daycare director’s granddaughter like she was a hamburger at Bull City Burger, we knew something had to give.

wh2202And Ike, oh, my soul, my adorable, orange hair, freckle face OS, he is God’s lesson in absolute dependence on the Lord. The boy who nursed just on one side, pushed his food away as a toddler as if he had been served a bowl of salty mush, Ike has rocked my world in ways I never dreamed. He is ornery and tender-hearted, stubborn as a zit on a middle-age woman and contrite in spirit to the point where it brings me to tears.

Without each of my children, I’m not sure I would know Jesus. Thankfully I’ll never know! God placed each one of my olive shoots in my life to give me life eternally! The Hubs and I couldn’t do this family thing on our own with any measure of success without Him.ikebball2

What about you? Have you ever wondered the same thing about your children? Why did God give you your babies? I’d love to hear!

My son’s first sermon

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"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 3:4

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4

The first time I heard the name Aaron, I turned to my husband at church and said,

“Our next son will be named Aaron.”

I loved the name Aaron for three reasons.

1. It looked cool. Two of the same letters next to each other in a name basically rocks and you know it.

2013-06-16 10.10.242. Spiritual – Though my Christian spiritual journey was evolving, I loved the idea of having kids with biblical names.

3. Professional – I had made a career throughout the country teaching presentation skills and even had my own consulting business working in the corporate world teaching executives about public speaking. The Aaron written of in the Bible was a great orator among other notable qualities.

In other words, I just had to have an Aaron!

So right there in the pew, next to my toddler Nathan and the Hubs, God delivered this name “Aaron” like a song and a promise to my soul.

Two years later, he was born. Nate called him his “miracle.” I had birthed my Aaron.

The name fits him perfectly. Aaron is a rising sophomore at Moody Bible Institute and an enthusiastic speaker, a wonderful olive shoot and a Jesus follower.

But I could never have imagined what would happen this past Father’s Day.

2013-06-16 11.03.48On Father’s Day, Aaron delivered his first sermon.

In front of our extended family, the gluten-free gf and other members of our con- gregation, the Hubs and I sat and listened to our Aaron preach.

Aaron and the gf/gf just before he got up to share the sermon

Aaron and the gf/gf just before he got up to share the sermon

His sermon was about the importance of fatherhood in the Christian home.

The Lord has blessed my ministry-minded middle with an affable personality and a comfort in front of crowds.

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Ike read the Scripture before his big brother gave the sermon. I don’t even think I owned a Bible when I was his age and if I did, I certainly never opened it. Thank you Lord for these glimpses of grace!

Of course, you know I am biased, but I would have listened to Aaron’s words even if he wasn’t my son. He delivered the message with conviction, thoughtfulness and passion.

At one point in the sermon, I turned to the gluten-free gf and felt very convicted about the message. I whispered to her, “I’m glad God didn’t make me a father. I’ll just be the mom, thank you, Lord, very much!” She smiled and agreed!

God gave the Hubs a gift on Father’s Day and He used our Aaron to deliver it. What a sweet blessing to behold and something I, this former angry agnostic, feminist, existentialist woman never would have imagined!2013-06-16 11.01.21

On Sunday morning, we saw the culmination of all the hard work my boy had poured tirelessly into his message. The hours researching, studying Scripture, praying, consulting with our pastor and seeking the Lord’s voice before he used his own were worth it.

The night before, he stayed up late going over his message with the gf/gf. I think she probably had that thing memorized.

What blessed me as a mom and as a church member was the reverence and time he gave to his message. This is not always the standard today.

I felt safe with the way he handled Scripture, Aaron’s words were measured and forceful yet he spoke humbly.  Aaron has been raised by a godly, Christian dad but he also acknowledged that he has no experience being a father.

As I listened to him speak, I recalled that Sunday morning when I first heard about an Aaron.

Now I was hearing from my own.

Wearing a new polo shirt purchased the day before, looking so handsome and adorable, full of the Spirit, oh, how could my heart contain such pride and joy!

Here is an excerpt of his sermon. I look forward to hearing many more. Don’t you just love it when your kids make you proud and do something you never imagined possible?!

Entertaining thoughts about entertaining – getting kids ready for guests

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Lemonhead party!

Lemonhead party!

If we know you are coming over to our house, there are things we do before you arrive. As the mama of three sons, one of whom is currently in Ranger School, I have learned that in military terms, presumably we could call it a “movement.”

We straighten up – usually a vacuum is pushed throughout the area you will visit. There is often dusting beforehand and the bathroom is cleaned. The bathroom deserves its own post though, more on that later.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

They put on a nice shirt– although my boys moaned and groaned about this, we found that the mere act of putting on a collared shirt indicated they were part of the team. In our family we call it W-H style since those are the initials to our last name. Changing out of regular clothes means something special is going to happen. The collared shirt (usually a polo shirt, rarely long-sleeved)  signifies that our family, every single one of us, not just Dad and Mom, is having company. Even if only one person is invited, the level of alert is heightened.

We rehearse – Just as we had practice training sessions about manners, throughout the years, our family still goes over a list of duties before people show up.

“Ike, you’re in charge of water and drinks. Make sure no one’s glass remains empty.”

“Aaron, don’t talk too much, let others also speak and try to sit still.”

“Nate, when we’re done with dinner, gather up the plates.”

All the guys had a purpose.

So maybe you’re wondering –

Did it always work perfectly? Of course not! We never expected things to be flawless but there was a standard.

Always the life of the party, that's my Aaron!

This guy needs more than a collared shirt! My Aaron!

Did your kids feel like robots devoid of any personality? You haven’t been to our house if you’re asking that question! No, they actually had more freedom because of the rules. We made it fun and not overly formal.

Collared shirts every single time? Not every single time but often. Freshly showered, collared young men are so adorable. Sometimes they would dab a bit of cologne on before bounding down the stairs. The hint of manly fragrance on their middle school necks always made my heart grin and grow wistful. I wish those days back again quite honestly. When the doorbell rang, we were ready for our guests’ arrival. We appreciated them coming into our home.

And I must share this.

Our guests appreciate these touches although most might not even realize what happened behind the scenes. They are just blessed and isn’t that the whole point to entertaining, blessing someone? The minimal preparation we employed allows our guests to be at ease. In some way it announces this family is ready and we have things (slightly) under control.

Last summer, my oldest OS rented a house near Fort Benning and he and his buddies hosted a gathering. Nate called me for advice on menu selection and such. He even wanted to make sure he served a salad (this melted my heart). My boy wanted people to feel welcome in his home. I’m sure my Soldier was a gracious host and maybe he even wore a collared shirt!

And we recently had a 51st birthday party for the Hubs. It was a Lemonhead theme because it’s his favorite candy. The orange hair, freckle face OS  was an integral part of the planning and a huge help before, during and after the event.

But true to form before the guests arrived, Ike asked the standard question. “Do I have to wear a collared shirt?” As this picture indicates, Ike got his answer.

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don't you think?

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don’t you think?

Out of all my boys, Ike is very gifted with hos- pitality. His servant’s heart has parlayed into him having a little part-time job at a nearby event venue. He’s the guy walking around with hors d’oeuvres and refilling non-alcoholic drinks. So I guess being a good host, getting kids ready for company has paid off both here and away from home. The more we do it, the better we become as both guests and faithful stewards of our home.

So what are the little things you do before you have dinner guests? Do you even dare try? It is scary! How have you prepared your kids to co-host special times at your house?

Prepare your young ones for dinner guests, it’s worth it!

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This dining room has housed many memories indeed!

This dining room has housed many memories.

When our olive shoots were small, we had little training sessions about manners.

We stressed several important things with our guys to prepare them for “company.” Now that they are 23, 18 and 16 respectively, I see the fruit of our labors. They really know how to be gracious hosts.

Here are the things we worked on:

1. Firm handshakes

2. Eye contact

3. Addressing adults by their last names.

Yes, this kid does have manners...

Yes, this kid does have manners…

To make the teaching time fun, (and I realize that the word “fun” might be a stretch), either one of my olive shoots or I would go into the hall closet. It was filled with coats and whatnot and after a second, I’d knock on the door or pretend to ring the doorbell. When the guys would “answer” the door, I would extend my hand and give them a hearty “Hello!”

From there, we practiced those aforementioned skills – often I’d invent a wildly funny last name with ample alliteration. One of my favorite last names was Mrs. Schpuhboodydootin. Oh the giggles we shared while learning the importance of addressing adults with respect. Occasionally I’d even hyphenate her name to keep things interesting.

This boy needed some teaching but that's ok!

This boy needed some teaching but that’s ok!

Let me tell you something. There isn’t anything cuter than being greeted by a little ginger boy with a strong handshake. Follow that up with a big brother who addresses you with  confidence and a middle guy asking to take your coat and welcome you into the home and shablam, there was a sweet mood in the air before the dinner even got started.

All this cost me was time and these guys were worth the investment.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me how conversational my boys were even during the awkward growing years. Those light-hearted training sessions were useful!

Controversial as it may seem, I do find the whole last-name thing ironic. We applaud our little children as they develop an ample vocabulary but we dumb them down when it comes to using an adult’s last name. People even put their kids in language classes to help them become bi-lingual but wow, ask them to use an adult’s last name and the parents instantly think it’s impossible!

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

Yes there are cultural preferences but people have told me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Northern thing, then others inform me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Southern phenomenon. I really don’t care, the standard in our home was to use an adult’s last name out of respect. We wanted to keep the bar high because it shows the preciousness of others.

As we taught our guys the fine art of cordiality, I always wanted to lift the standard. I can’t tell you how many people would say my last name was too difficult for their kids to pronounce. Really? My boys found a sense of comfort in acknowledging that they were in the midst of their elders.

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

Of course we had no idea one day our oldest OS would be a West Point graduate and an officer in the Army.

I know Nate appreciates the significance of rank and decorum. Maybe he learned some of that in our home training ground. Now it makes me smile when I hear people refer to him with respect and honor. A part of my heart leaps when people salute him, how can that be? He’s just a sugar boy after all.

Sugar boy/Soldier

Sugar boy/Soldier

I’d love to hear what you think about my suggestions. I realize I might have opened up a can of controversy with the whole last name thing but I want to put it out there. What are you doing to train your kids to be ready for guests?

Don’t be a party pooper!

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P1080266“I want to have a surprise 16th birthday party for my son.” This was the beginning of a phone conversation I had with a mom back in the spring of 1996.

Since I’m always up for a celebration and it was a party for one of Nate’s friends, I already liked the idea.

P1110409But then she surprised me.

“And I’d like to have it at your house…”

Say what???

We didn’t know each other that well and I didn’t quite understand.

Had she seen my house?

Did she call the right person?

She insisted she knew exactly whom she was calling and was familiar with my home’s accommodations. My brain ran through the list of other more luxurious houses I would have picked before mine but she was resolute with her request.

A few weeks later, we hosted a surprise Mexican-themed 16th birthday for her son. Mutual friends and their parents attended. The food was great and everybody had a fun time. My friend made the right decision in having the party at my house after all!

Though the party was for someone else, I was also given a gift.

It was the gift of saying yes. I ignored all my home’s imperfections and opened my home up for opportunity and blessings. Strangely enough I didn’t cook a thing and barely lifted a finger for the party. Just saying yes was all that was needed from me.

Not a picture of the party I wrote about but an example of my olive shoots and their buds hanging out. So cute seeing their little faces back in the day!

Not a picture of the party I wrote about but an example of my olive shoots and their buds hanging out. So cute seeing their little faces back in the day!

In the next upcoming posts, I want to write about the importance of cordiality in our menfolk and why hospitality not perfection is necessary in our homes especially if you have children. My boys are wonderful hosts in our home but that wasn’t something that came naturally, we work on it.

I want to offer some easy ideas and examples of things I do to put people at ease in my home, you know, the little touches that seem to bless folks sometimes before they even walk through the door.

I’d love to hear your suggestions, ideas and questions too. Many of you understand the fine art of gathering others together so the proverbial green welcome mat is out just for your comments.

When I opened up my home, the blessings flowed. Entertaining can be stressful but the art of hospitality isn’t something just for moms and females. Guys need to learn it too.

Questions: How easy is it for you to say yes to opening up your home? Do you think you’re good at it? Why? Why not?

Five unusual things that make a mom feel special

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photo

1. They put the seat down – Our home isn’t a gas station or a truck stop, therefore the simple action of placing the toilet seat down after using the bathroom demonstrates love. You might not appreciate this action until you have assumed the seat was down and tragically realized it wasn’t. Splash. Early in their childhood, we made this a family rule. In addition we also flush, and close the door when using the bathroom.

2. They clean the rim – In a moment of frustration, I once wrote a frustrated message on the toilet seat in black Sharpie pen. Nothing else seemed to be working so I expressed my annoyance. This was after repeated requests for the offending party to please be more careful, I had had enough. My OS weren’t children or new to potty training, they possessed enough awareness of their bodily functions to avoid leaving yellow driblets on the seat. They were chagrined and now are usually more mindful. One day their wives can thank me for this.

3. They replace the toilet paper – Another act of consideration occurs when there is a fresh roll of toilet paper on the roll. I remember once using the restroom and discovering there was only  ONE THIN SQUARE of toilet paper still on the roll. When I yelled inquired why the person didn’t bother to replace the roll, I was told there was still enough toilet paper for the next person. It was a teachable moment.

photo copy 24. They surprise me with flowers – I don’t have to be sick or have a birthday for my boys to give me flowers. Several years ago during the summer, Aaron came home from work with a bouquet of flowers for me. He wasn’t in trouble either, it was a just-because moment. Flowers also help offset the occasional forgetful episodes outlined in 1-3.

photo copy 4

Flower inside and outside create a happy mood. Thanks, Hubs!

5. They appreciate. I feel content when my fellas notice the little touches around the house. On Saturday, I cut a few sprigs of mint from our garden and placed them on the dining room table. They liked it. When I write Scripture on the kitchen chalkboard, it catches their attention or when I set the table nicely, it brings harmony. Those homey, domestic efforts aren’t necessarily observed individually but they give a welcome mood which my guys enjoy.

I wonder if men understand how these small efforts at mindfulness really make a difference to a woman.

It might not seem like a big deal to the Hubs or my three olive shoots but these things make me feel blessed. I like being a girl in a house full of guys.

These five actions recognize and elevate my unique status as the only female in my house. Philippians 2:3-4 is played out and make me feel special. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

What do you think about this list?

Five minute Friday – song

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This boy when he sings, makes my heart smile.

This boy when he sings, makes my heart smile.

I know my family has found the sweet spot in the day when my orange-hair, freckle face 16-year-old starts to sing.

You will not hear him on an album. His ministry-minded middle is in the Moody Men’s Choir and he sings with wild abandon. He sings almost too much. I love it, don’t get me wrong but there’s a sharp contract between the two.

Isaac, though, most of his songs are silly and they are less frequent. These songs can be of the suburban white-boy rap quality busting bad rhymes about important things like how much he hates swiss chard

or cleaning the marble kitchen island

You know, deeply emotional things…NOT

Quite a few are about me being his mom.

Oh these make me giggle

But more importantly they tell me something very important.

He feels safe.

When I sing, it means I am allowing you to hear my voice. You have been permitted to hear my non-musical melodies. I have deemed you safe. When I am off-pitch or goof up a word, if you are hearing my song, you have been given a gift not necessarily in the form of sound but in the form of security.

Writing for five minutes is a treasure. Do it! Click here for deets!

Writing for five minutes is a treasure. Do it! Click here for deets!

When people sing in this family, it brings more than music to my ears. It brings healing.

Question: When someone in your family sings, what does that mean to your heart?

7 things an honorable guy wants in a woman – what my sons say

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Two clueless people decide to get married. Engaged in France 1986

Two clueless people decide to get married. Engaged in France 1986

When I was single, I had my own list of husband qualities.

My future husband had to:

Be ambitious

Be a guy with low anger and rage issues

Love God

Own a set of pots and pans

Do his own laundry

Spontaneously give me flowers

I knew the Hubs was “the one” when I noticed he was a hard worker who didn’t fly off the handle when things didn’t go his way. He wanted to go to church with me and used spiritual words I had never understood despite some religious training. He competently washed his clothes and one day while getting me something to drink from the fridge, he handed me a bouquet of miniature roses. Sure, his pots and pans looked more like camping equipment and he gave me roses when I prefer wild flowers but yeah, close enough.

A giant gulp lodged in my throat when he nonchalantly gave me those flowers and a cold beer. About a year later, we were married. Tulips, delphinium and daffodils still arrive at home without reason from this guy. I’m a blessed woman.

Now my boys are entering relationships. We enjoy open conversation with our olive shoots about what makes a young lady worthy of their time and attention. My prayers were answered when I married their dad. Now I pray for them and their future spouses. Here are a few things on their collective lists:

Three great guys who have high standards.

Three great guys who have high standards.

They desire a woman who:

Loves Jesus – my boys have a personal relationship with Christ, this is a non-negotiable that she know the Lord.

Is attractive and in good shape – What guy do you know who doesn’t want his friends to say, “Dude, how did YOU end up with someone this fine???”

Has a sense of humor – Not a comedienne but a witty, clever girl, you know, like their mama and stuff.

Wants a family – These guys want kids, they talk about being dads, it’s an exciting thing to consider fatherhood and they have been given a wonderful role model. If she doesn’t want children, this isn’t going to work.

Desires to take care of a home – My sons pray for wives who have a joy in domesticity and believe in the art of homemaking. It’s a shame that our world trivializes this, they are admirable and natural things.

Is unashamedly intelligent – The ministry minded middle loves to discuss theological concerns, my Soldier is a huge bibliophile. My orange hair, freckle face OS finds it annoying when girls try to act dumb. Being a smart female is very desirable to my olive shoots. I am relieved to hear them say this is important.

Has a good relationship with her family and likes us too – If she can’t get along with her family, how is she going to get along with ours? She will soon discover we are a family with flaws. If we aren’t crazy about her, won’t that just be awkward and discouraging? They are independent young men but they realize you don’t marry just the girl but the whole family.

This is just a partial list and I’m pleased to say I have thus far approved of my sons’ selections of young women to pursue. If I get their permission, perhaps I’ll write more.

Questions: If you are the mother of sons, do you ask your boys what they desire in a wife? What are the qualities they mention? Don’t you wish this was a more common parent/child conversation?

One day, three boys

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Last Saturday, my olive shoots were in three diametrically opposed places geographically, emotionally and spiritually.

  1. My ministry minded middle was flying back to school following a two-week tour of the southwest with Moody Men’s Choir.
  2. Ike, my orange hair, freckle face guy was feeling like a ginger VIP hanging with the Chicago Bulls and his Aunt Lorri in the Windy City. Truly an event worthy of its own blog post.

    That's just Ike and his new best friend, Stacy King, former Chicago Bulls player, nbd.

    That’s just Ike and his new best friend, Stacey King, former Chicago Bulls player, nbd.

  3. And then bringing up the rear, far, far behind, was my Soldier. He called us from Georgia while on his way to Wal-Mart to make a most unusual purchase. Rat poison.

Following a most enlightening conversation with our oldest OS, I proceeded to write him a letter, I mean, what else could I do? I’m sharing the contents of this letter with you should your child ever inform you s/he is on his/her way to buy rat poison. Yes, I do occasionally refer to him as Sugar Boy.

Even if you do not identify with my children’s unique life situations, you will probably understand my mama’s heart. I ask a question at the end of this post and would love to hear from you.

Ok, here’s the letter.

Dear Sugar Boy,

We just got off the phone with you and as I look upon my dirty house filled with a million projects, suddenly the most important thing I can do is write you.

Having you as a son affords me many opportunities to pray. Having you as a son gives me an interesting life. Having you as a son means I laugh more, cry frequently, feel immensely proud while simultaneously feeling remarkably small and humble.

photo copy 8Hearing you angry and discouraged makes me want to rescue you and beat all those jerks up! Have they not encountered a mother’s wrath? SERIOUSLY! Yet this is the life you have chosen. When others went easy, you deliberately picked the gritty and tough. You can do this. One day you will be astonished at what you did and see the manifold ways the LORD gave you the strength to persevere.

Trust me learning your son was cuddled by a rat is quite odd. I incline my ear to the Lord and ask for what purpose is this happening? And then at that moment, I trust.

Allow God to fulfill the work He has set forth in your life. There is no time of day or night when I am not loving you or thinking about you. Hold firm to your faith. Do not allow tormenters or enemies to bring you down. Pay attention to the blessings nearby…that the rat scurried by and did not bite, that you have a sense of humor, that you are able to withstand more than most.

My Soldier

My Soldier

Now I will go straighten up my messy house hoping to keep the rats away as well.

Be strong, my precious Soldier and son. I love you,

mama
Question: What has being a parent to your child afforded you? How has God used your children to mold and shape you as a person?

Five minute Friday – home

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I came home to these people.

I came home to these people.

I became a full-time stay-at-home mom 15 years ago on my husband’s birthday. I wanted to mark that significant day on a day I wouldn’t forget. March 6th is now a day of double celebration for my family.

For so long the ambition of my life was to get respect and recognition.

My observation of full-time motherhood was that it was rife with disrespect and sadness. Obviously I wanted none of that. So I had my own business, attended graduate school, practiced writing M.Ed. at the end of my name.

Individually these things are not wrong. But ultimately they were not what the Lord had for me.

On March 6, 1998, I started working for a new boss. I no longer served myself. A cataclysmic shift occurred in my heart.

God wanted me home.

With only five minutes to write, you'll have to trust me. This is what happened to me when I decided to stay home. Thanks be to God.

With only five minutes to write, you’ll have to trust me. This is what happened to me when I decided to stay home. Thanks be to God.

When I made that decision, priorities changed. My three olive shoots no longer attended day care or after school programs, they returned home to me. The significance sought outside in the world, was comfortably discovered within. Parts of me I had long denied began to blossom.

Within my home

Within my soul

There are times when I don’t always feel appreciated but I felt that way in the business world as well. This is where I belong. Home.

We rock one word for FIVE MINUTES! It's the best! Join the fun!

We rock one word for FIVE MINUTES! It’s the best! Join the fun!

Pleasure and fulfillment rest with my decision, something I will never regret.