Like Sisters Do

Sisters. I never had one.

When we found out I was pregnant with our second daughter I was overjoyed with the inevitable bond that would form between our girls. They’d have a best friend for life!  Our youngest would look up to our oldest, always asking for advice. Our oldest would relish in mentoring and helping our youngest. I envisioned late night secret swapping, hair and nail parties, closet sharing and lots and lots of giggles. You know, all the stuff sisters do. All the stuff I never had growing up with two brothers.

I love my girls.  They are my world. But they never really did anything I dreamed of sisters doing. At least nothing I ever dreamed of doing with the sister I never had. They are opposites in every way you can imagine and there has not been much secret swapping. They seem to enjoy screaming matches much more. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do each others hair, unless you count the time my oldest gave my youngest a haircut when they were toddlers.

I know they love each other, but I wouldn’t call them friends. They don’t share much of anything.

The other night my husband and I had the rare occasion to have our youngest alone for a little while.  It was right after church services and we were asking her about the topic she had discussed in class.  She was a bit confused because she said that she was supposed to share her testimony, but she didn’t think she had one.  I told her that everyone, even non-Christians, have a testimony. It’s the story of what you did with the news of Christ. Did you accept Him and decide to follow Him? Why or why not? How have you seen His work in your life?

She was still a little baffled and said she didn’t know why or why not to any of that. So I asked her why she had wanted to be baptised when she was younger.

“Because my sister was.”

Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but glad she finally wanted to be like her sister in some way. However, it really concerned me that maybe she never really understood her own salvation or the ways in which God has been working in her little life. But I didn’t question her. I didn’t pry or freak out. After all, salvation is not up to me. It is a very personal relationship one has with Jesus. Who am I to say that her’s isn’t real just because she can’t ‘label’ it.

I began to pray about it and laid those concerns in the lap of my Savior.

“She’s only 11. I know You have great plans for her. Her leadership skills and determination will take that baby girl into your world and do great things for You one day.  But I am having trouble seeing the fruits of her salvation. How can I gently get her to see them herself? Soften her heart to Your will, Lord and help her see Your work in her life.”

I have yet to be disappointed in Jesus.

It has only been a couple of weeks since that conversation in the car and since I started praying specifically for Christ to show me that my child knew He was a part of her every day life. In the last two days she has told me two different stories of how “God was looking out for me.” I won’t share them, because they are her’s to tell. But I will not deny that my prayers have been answered for God to reveal himself in subtle ways in my child’s life.

I am encouraged by his gentle hand and infallible ways.

How has God been working in your life lately?

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This Little Light Of Theirs

Every morning is the same. Get up. Shower. Make the lunches. Search for lost permission forms. Argue over who needs to feed the helpless dog. Referee sister fights. Peck my family on their precious cheeks. Dash out the door and pray we all return home safely to play the same game tomorrow.

Sometimes after I drop my children off at school slivers of worry begin to creep into my thoughts. I worry about the things they will see and hear from their peers. I worry about things they might be asked to do. And sadly, I worry for their safety. It’s such a scary world. I wish I could always be there to guard them from it.

I always tell my kids that good grades are wonderful, and I always expect them to do their best academically. They are both great students. However, the subject I am most concerned about on their report cards is conduct. No one is going to remember a ‘D’ in the 5th grade as much as they will remember how you behaved. They know this. Before my children get out of the car each morning I tell them 3 little words that I hope they listen to more than anything else.

“Be a light!”

My words are generally met with, “Ok.” Sometimes I get an “I’ll try.” But most of the time I wonder if they ever really heard me at all. I get that what I  am asking them to do everyday is probably the hardest thing any mother could ask of her child. Stand up for Jesus! Be a light in this very dark world! Have you watched the news lately? They are fighting a fight I never even had to imagine as a child. It’s hard for me to do it as an adult! Surely my 10-year-old must feel defeated so many times. And I wonder if she even gets it. I wonder if any of what I am trying to teach her and her sister is sinking in at all. I wonder if her little light just gets hidden under that bushel because she’s so young and this world is so incredibly oppressive. And that mother’s worry turns to defeat in my own eyes when I think of all the things my children see and don’t even tell me. It’s enough for me to want to quit motivating them each morning.

But my God is a God of such delightful encouragement. He loves to wink at me and sneak little blessings across the table if only I will glance His way.

The other night I went to tuck Lucy into bed and kiss her goodnight. She was busy rewriting spelling words for her test the next morning, so I didn’t linger. I just kissed her forehead, told her I was proud of her for studying and reminded her not to stay up too late. That’s when I noticed the word she had written in the margin of her practice sheet.Lucy's List

God.

She wrote it twice as if she had been meditating on His precious name and daydreaming of His sweet love. Perhaps she was praying and needed Him for something. Either way, He was on her mind and it was a precious gift to see it happen. I didn’t say a word to her about it and just left her room thankful for the fostering strength that maybe I might be doing something right. Maybe she does get it after all. Maybe she is listening.

Since God never stops working, and He is so gracious, He wasn’t finished reminding me not to give up on trying to instill faith in my children.

As you know from reading my last post, Abby Faith went on a youth trip last week. One of her sweet leaders sent me a picture of her during a worship time. To my knowledge she has never raised her arms in praise like that before and it brought tears to my eyes to see her lost in passion for the Lord. I mentioned it to a friend of mine and said I thought it was so great that she felt she could do that when she thought no one was watching. My friend’s wise response was, “Or that she didn’t care who was!”Abby Worship

Maybe you feel discouraged today. Maybe you haven’t noticed God winking at you in a long time. Maybe it seems like your kids just don’t care about anything you are trying to teach them. I just want to remind you that God never promised that raising your kids would be easy and it’s a life-long project. But he did promise in Proverbs 22:6 that if we are faithful about training up our children, even on the hard days and those days you think it’s not sinking in, when they are grown they will not depart from it.

And maybe one day they might even thank you.

 

I’d love to hear some of your stories about how your children inspire you. Let me know in the comments below.

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Memories Fall Like Tears

 

When I was a little girl I was lucky enough to be able to live at my Grandmother’s house for a year. My parents may have thought it was the most unlucky of days since we were living there because my Dad had been laid off. We were in limbo. But I didn’t care. What kid would? I got to live with my Grandma! And she was the best there was.

I can remember getting off the bus after school just in front of her tiny two bedroom house in Idaho and enjoying something delicious she had made for a snack. Almost always it was something chocolate. She loved chocolate! And I don’t know how she always managed to fit us all in her kitchen for dinner, but I always looked forward to whatever she was cooking. Her house may have been small, but her lot was HUGE. Countless days I’d wander all over that property playing Little House on the Prairie while feeding her chickens, climbing trees, or pulling fresh raspberries straight off the bushes and stuffing them in my mouth. Oh, how my mouth waters just thinking of all the berries I snuck out of her garden!

Summer nights were my favorite. Her little house did not have central air so it was more comfortable to eat dinner outside on the picnic table. Afterward, my brother and I would swing from the willow tree branches or ride our bikes until the sun went down. Exhausted from a long day of play, we didn’t argue about having to climb the stairs into her attic to sleep. We shared the space as a bedroom during that time and I can remember peering out the window pretending to be a princess locked in a castle many nights.

My grandmother was a musician too. Her baby grand piano took over her crowded living room. It was definitely not made for such a little space, but she was definitely made to play. I could listen to her play for hours. And she did. I would sit next to her on the bench while she played and I used to think that all she needed to do was glide her fingers over the keys and they would do as she commanded. She would never allow me to bang on the keys like many children do. I had to be intentional about what I was making up in my head. But she never turned me down if I asked to play it. Many afternoons when I got home from school she would give me a lesson and patiently wait as I tried to learn the notes. She taught me many things, but the appreciation of music is probably what I am most grateful for. To this day, I love a good piano piece and can’t help but think of her when I listen to it.

As with all good things, my time living with her came to an end. My dad got a job that moved us all the way to Alabama. I was only nine at the time. Old enough to protest. Too young for it to matter. My family would go visit most Summers. But it was never like being able to be spoiled rotten every single day. I wish I had held on a little more tightly to that time of my life. I wish I had appreciated my grandma’s cooking, her laugh and the way she loved the simple things.

She died two Summer’s ago while living with my aunt in upstate New York. She was 96 years old. And as was typical of her life there was little fanfare. No funeral. No memorial service. Her body was cremated and sent to be buried in her church cemetery in Idaho. Preceded in death by my grandfather, her home was cleaned out and most of it sold off. Including her piano.

I’m not really one who loves things, but I am pretty sentimental. And like my grandmother taught me, it’s the simple gestures, the thoughtful moments that fill up a life. So the other day when I got a small unexpected package from my aunt it piqued my interest. I hadn’t heard from my aunt in years. Anything could have been inside that envelope.

When I opened it up, I couldn’t believe how fast I could fall in love with something I didn’t even know I wanted. It was my Grandma’s handkerchief from the 1950’s. A friend of her’s had given it to her and even stitched her name in the corner. Helen.

The tears fell freely from my eyes. I blubbered like a baby. It was probably the sweetest gift anyone had ever thought to give me. Suddenly all the awkward piano lessons, raspberry-flavored summers,  and freshly baked cookies were set before me in my lap. I could feel my grandmother’s love wrap around my shoulders and I could smell her Avon perfume. It may have been just a hanky to my aunt who was cleaning out a box in her attic. But what she really gave me was one more moment with my grandma and a tangible way to remember that the smallest things in our lives mean the most.

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To My Child, With Love

Christmas Letter

Dear Child,

I want to apologize to you. You see I am guilty of something I thought I would never do. I am a bit ashamed of what I have become and I hope you can look passed my faults and forgive me. I never meant to do it, and I never meant to hurt you.

I’m sorry I grew up and lost most of my wonder and excitement for the season. I’m sorry I let my lack of time, money and nostalgia allow me to become bitter, hassled and overwhelmed. I’m sorry I started looking at Christmas as a chore instead of what it really is- an entire season to celebrate!

And that is what I see when I look at you! To you it’s not about stressing over the presents, getting frustrated hanging the lights, and trying to find time for all the parties. To you it’s not about the rush and the noise. I can honestly see in you that Christmas is a feeling in your heart. I can read it on your face. I can see it in your smile and the twinkle in your eye. You glow with the love of the Christmas season and it’s because you take such delight in the little things. You remember the real reason we’re celebrating.

Won’t you share some of that with me? Won’t you teach me how to enjoy the season again?

Teach me how you treasure each ornament, even the broken ones. Teach me how you enjoy the lights, even the misplaced ones. Teach me how to dream again, even for the impossible. Won’t you, sweet child of mine?

I want what you have! I want that glow. The fire in your eyes. I want to get excited over Santa and all the traditions that go with him. I want to embrace the cold weather with overflowing cups of hot chocolate. I want to take more time for snuggling on the couch and dreaming with you than I take to shop for things that don’t matter. I want to show the world how much Christmas means to me! I’m tired of just going through the motions. I want to experience the season with the utmost joy and true peace.

Thank you, sweet, beautiful, Lucy for lighting the spark that I hope will fuel the fire for the best Christmas we’ve ever had!

 

 

 

And That Has Made All The Difference

Inside is one of Alabama's best cheeseburgers. In the middle of Nowhere, Alabama.
Inside is one of Alabama’s best cheeseburgers. In the middle of Nowhere, Alabama.

I love my dad. I know that’s a pretty generic statement. Most people love their dad’s. But mine has a really subtle way of continually teaching me, even though I’m not a school girl anymore. He often catches me by surprise with his wisdom and the things he says.

My dad is a self-proclaimed purist. He loves keeping things simple and appreciates even the smallest gestures. Yet, he is brilliant. He is constantly thinking. In fact, that is one of his favorite hobbies. He will spend hours in his study working out a math problem in his head or contemplating theories of physics. I didn’t get that gene but I love being with my dad. We love to make each other laugh and he makes me feel happy to be me.

When he invited me on a little road trip with my mom and my girls today I knew I was in for a treat.

In fact when I climbed into the car he said, “Bem, you’re in for a treat!” He still uses an abbreviated version of my childhood nickname.

“How’s that?” I asked with the least bit of apprehension. I wouldn’t expect anything else from this man.

“You get the scenic route today!”

Of course I got the scenic route. My father loves back roads America. He’s always taking the road less travelled. I have so many fond  memories of gravel road adventures and the places we ended up because we took them. Gorgeous roaring rivers. Breathtaking mountaintop views. Deep secluded valleys.

Today our quest was to find what has been nominated by the Huntsville Times as Alabama’s Best Cheeseburger.  Now, one might not expect to find the state’s best cheeseburger at the end of a windy road, but I was up for the challenge. Besides, it’s more about the journey than the destination.

“We need to get there early to beat the lunch crowd.” Never one to like a busy restaurant, my dad kept contemplating the time and the best strategy to attack this joint. But we were in the middle of nowhere and so I said,

“Um, dad. I have a really hard time believing that because we are having to take this road to get to the place that we should really expect a crowd.”

He actually belly laughed at that statement. So I went back to trusting him.

We rounded the last curve and he exclaimed “Ah! Good! It’s not so crowded today!”

And I seriously asked him where the building was that he was referring. All I could see was a shack on the side of the road.

“Right there! In front of us.”

The building we had travelled nearly 45 minutes for was no bigger than a gas station. In fact it was a gas station!

Alabama’s best cheeseburger? Ok.

The place, though not crowded, had a line of people waiting to place their orders. I love my burgers with everything on them. My dad, the purist, hates onions and pickles and only wants a simple burger. We placed our orders and found a table near the back. When our food arrived the first bite really did explain its prestigious nomination. We were busy with our elbows deep in french fries and licking grease from our fingers when I teased my dad that he needed onions and pickles to make his burger truly the best.

And that’s where my lesson of the day came.

“No thanks! I do not do as the world does.”

No, Daddy. You don’t. And I am so thankful for that.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

 

 

 

 

When A Child Speaks You Should Listen

Abby Faith happily freezing her tail off.
Abby Faith happily freezing her tail off.

Last week I wrote about the 10 reasons why I hate Halloween. Not much has changed. I still hate it. Those issues run deep, y’all. But I wanted to share a little story of the love I found that day. And it came from an unlikely source.

I have two daughters. Both of them are beautiful and both of them are stubborn in their own ways.  Lucy is 9 and loves shoes, clothes, jewelry and can’t wait to be old enough to wear make-up. Her sister, Abby Faith, is 12 and is most comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt and couldn’t care less to even wear lip-gloss. So it surprised me how anxious she was to wear make-up on Halloween. She was actually planning to wear her Greek Goddess costume from last year which was such a relief to this costume-challenged soul. However, it was sleeveless.  And the forecast called for a freeze-warning. I seem to remember this being one of the reasons why I hate Halloween, but I digress.

She started getting her make-up on 4 hours before our church’s Fall Festival. She put the recycled dress on and was getting very excited about the night. Like every good mother I warned her over and over again about the weather. I pleaded with her to find a jacket to wear with it, or find a shirt to wear underneath it. But like every stubborn child, she swore she would be warm enough.

There comes a time when mothering with words doesn’t work any more. You have to just let them learn through consequence. So I let her be. I let her make the choice to go sleeveless in winter weather for the sake of her vanity. But since I am her mom I told her that the coat was optional. Complaining was not. If she complained once she would have to find an empty room and sit there for the rest of the festival.

We arrived and it felt like Elsa had a firm grip on the place. It was freezing! I thought to myself that my child wasn’t going to even make it three minutes without fussing about her circumstances. I was already getting angry with the anticipation of having to punish her. I already hated the holiday why did she have to make it worse? Couldn’t she just do what I asked her to do? Then we could make the best of the situation, just get some candy and go home.

I left her at her trunk-or-treat post outside and went into the building with my youngest and I mumbled to myself the whole way.  We did a few of the indoor activities and then decided to head back out to check on Abby Faith. By that time it had started to rain and the wind was really picking up. I shook my head and rolled my eyes to see my daughter standing out in the cold without any sleeves. My defenses were up as I approached her and asked if she was ok. And that is when she pierced my heart.

“Yeah,” she said with a smile. “I’m not doing this for me.”

I pulled her into my arms and wrapped her up as tight as I could.

Oh, child! How do you do that? How do you teach me so much in one little sentence?

What a humbling experience!  Here I thought I was teaching her that she should listen to me and wear the dad-gum coat. Really, the whole experience was for me. This life is not about me and what makes me comfortable. It’s not about how much I hate to carve pumpkins and shop for over-priced costumes. It’s about loving and doing for others regardless of the circumstances and finding joy within it all.

Should she have listened to me and worn the coat? Sure! But how many times have we all done something against what we really should have done and then grumbled when the outcome wasn’t in our favor? How many times have we allowed our circumstances dictate our joy?

I have done that more times than I am willing to admit.

Thank you, sweet daughter, for being an example of Love to me.

 

 

Can’t all days be like today?

Tate FarmsI don’t usually plan my days. Especially my days off. I like to go with the flow of things, let my heart wander. I guess I’m a bit adventurous that way. Things get frustrating when I plan my days and then something happens it throws me off. Flexibility. It’s a skill.

So today, the last official day of my girl’s Fall Break from school I wanted to do something fun. Just us girls. They had already been camping with their grandparents. They had already been to friend’s houses. It was time for me to just enjoy my girls. But they don’t ever agree on anything so finding just the right outing was going to take a miracle. Good thing I believe in miracles! After a small debate we decided that we would head to a local farm to go pumpkin picking and hay-riding and drink cider and stuff. We’d pay way too much to take silly photos of ourselves to make our friends jealous on Facebook that we got to play in some corn. It was going to be a great day.

So we drove. We turned the music up in the car and we drove. And the whole time I am looking at the darkening sky and praying that the one day we decide to go and breathe some fresh air it doesn’t rain on us. And my girls are in an unusually good mood. It’s a little strange, the whole thing really. Too good to be true. Surely the rain will run us off.

When we arrive I am so excited it’s a little ridiculous. I  mean my children are getting along. The weather is warm. And my hair looks good! I take a moment to snap a picture of my photo reluctant girls at the entrance before we even buy our tickets. This was going to be awesome! Memories in the making!

So, we walk up to the ticket booth so we can pay to pet a goat and a very sweet woman eating from a brown bag of popcorn approaches us and asks if we are with the school group.

“Nope, it’s just us!” Just cool, we’re doing something fun, us!

“Well, we don’t open to the public until later.”

“Uh, what? Really?” But did you see how well my girls are behaving? Have you seen my hair? I can’t waste this!

“Looks like we’re going to be getting some rain anyway. I’m sorry. You can come back later.”

So we turned around and slinked back to the car. Deflated.  We didn’t even get to pick some cotton.

And all the while I am apologizing to my girls. Here is another example of why I don’t plan things, but sometimes I really should.  Had I checked the hours ahead of time we could have avoided this whole scenario. And my girls wouldn’t be disappointed and I could have shared my good hair day with someone who really wanted it!

Plan B. But you know what? I think it’s really good to have a plan B. Or not.

Sometimes, I think we all need a little disappointment in our lives. Sometimes it’s better to learn to be content without the pumpkin you picked fresh from the farm and happy with the one you buy from the corner grocery store.

Life is filled with disappointments. I’m just so glad today all I had to worry about was pumpkins. Tomorrow it might be a person who disappoints my little girl.  One day it might be that she doesn’t get the job she really wanted. If my children learn how life works now, when it’s not so overwhelming and they still have my arms to fall into they will be able to handle the hard knocks more easily when they come. And they will come.

But not today. Today we celebrate our lack of pumpkins over cheeseburgers and laughter. Tomorrow we worry about life.