Thursday, March 31, 2011

Safe or Strong?

Spring is here. There are new activities. New adventures. New questions.

“Can we explore the creek?”

“Think I can climb to the top of the tree?”

“Wanna watch me ride my bike without training wheels?”

I’m a cautious Mama. So I spend a lot of time praying. And cringing. And holding my breath while my boys climb too high and ride too fast and stand too close to rushing, swollen waters. It’s my nature to want to reel my guys in, to urge them to act on careful consideration.

But that’s my nature.

Not theirs.

Lonny and I are involved in a Sunday school class. We’re enjoying a study that was written to aid married couples in communication. And each week my heart is challenged. Not so much in the marriage-way, but in the way that I raise my boys.

To me, the study reinforces what I already knew – that God made men and women differently. It’s His plan. We’re made to complement one another, to fit together. Not to blend.

Because we’re not the same. That’s the design.

So a question comes to my mind, too. My guys are adventure seekers. They’re conquerors. They’re competitive. They’re physical, protective, and stand-on-the-edge curious. Not a bit like me. But…do I want my future-men to be safe? Or do I want them to be strong?

I want them to be strong.

Strong enough to do what’s right. Strong enough to defend others. Strong enough to uphold morals and values, to take care of themselves and their families, to love Jesus, to share His gospel, and stand alone if they have to.

So what does that sound like now?

“Sure, let’s explore the creek.”

“Go ahead and climb that tree.”

“I know you can ride that bike without the training wheels.”

Doesn’t sound too much like me. But I want to encourage my boys’ spirits, not my own fears. I don’t want my “cautious” to seep too far into their “conquer”. Someday their adventures will be bigger than trees and bikes. And I want them to be ready.

So for today, I’ll place my little boys in God’s hands.

I’ll trust Him to keep them safe, while I raise them to become strong.

(Photo - Two sons and two friends. Future strong men.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dirty Diaper Call Out

The conversation left me rattled. The lady in the store had been rude. Out-of-line. Then she turned and left. No rebuttal for me. Or killin’ her with kindness. Just me, a cartful of groceries, a few grumbles, and a grudge.

“Mom, you have a face,” Gabe said as we trudged to the car.

“Of course I have a face.”

“No, a scrunched one. A mad one.”

Oh. Probably so. I was mad.

Ten minutes later, I must’ve still had the face, because Gabe called me on it. Again. But this time he spoke of diapers. Dirty ones.

“Mom, do you have diapers? In your backpack?”

After many years, we were a diaper-free family. No diapers. No backpack.


“You know. The man from the story. With the gross, gross diapers .” He giggled.

Then I remembered. Gabe was talking about a devotion we’d read a few days before.

In “Forgiveness and Dirty Diapers” by Bob Schultz, an old man was unwilling to forgive offenses. The hurts were soiled diapers, organized and stored in a smelly warehouse. His favorite offenses were stuffed in his backpack, so he was never far away from sin’s sickening stench. No matter whom he ran into, the man could recall that person’s dirty rag. People started to steer away from the guy. He reeked. But he still held the grime in tight fists.

Pretty gross. Powerful gross. But there’s also a powerful lesson. About forgiveness. And Gabe had called me out.

I was carrying a rude, stinky diaper. If I continued to hold it, I would only be hurt. I’d start to stink. In fact, I already had. Sour face. Smelly thoughts. Soiled attitude.

“Gabe, I remember that story. And you’re right. I’m mad at the lady in the store. Will you pray with me? To ask God to help me forgive her?”

Discovering a dirty diaper isn’t a pleasant thing. And it’s very humbling to be “sniffed out”. But I’m glad that I can call on the Lord’s good grace. Praise God! It’s sufficient.

For me.

And the diapers in my backpack, too.

Some of the best books I’ve read on godly character for boys were written by Bob Schultz. They’re loaded with practical wisdom, Scripture, and engaging stories to encourage boys to become the men God wants them to be. Titles include: Boyhood and Beyond, Created for Work, and Practical Happiness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Writing on the Wall

The first day of spring! Time to tackle the house, one drawer at a time. Zay and I sat on my bedroom floor, legs bent like pretzels, and plunged through pajamas, T-shirts, and mismatched socks.

“What’s this, Mama?” Zay asked. He lifted a small piece of plaster from the bottom of the drawer. It was white, rectangular, rough around the edges, imprinted with a child’s script.

And it immediately took me back to another time. Another place. More-than-a-few years ago…

Lonny and I were moving, and leaving our little cottage-house was tough. It was loaded with happy times, warm memories. We brought two babies home to that place, and then later brought our boys home for school. We grew in life and marriage and parenting and in the Lord. We made sweet friends and shared sweet days. There’d been hard times, too. We'd grieved for my grandmother. Mourned a miscarriage. But all in all, good and bad, we lived in that house. Heart and soul.

That last day was frantic. And I was heartbroken. There were just a few hours before closing, and something important had been left undone. In the stairwell to the basement, there was a memory. Little-guy Logan, years before, had written a message on the drywall. “Logan Loves Mommy. Mommy loves Logan.” Plain and simple. I’d never painted over it. What Mama could? I wanted Lonny to remove that piece of drywall and replace it with a patch. I'd even mentioned it to my dad. But everyone was busy with boxes, and time had gone too fast. The memory had to stay behind.

When we left the house, the boys and I prayed, climbed into the van, and looked straight ahead. I tried not to think about the message on the wall.

A few days later, we were still neck-deep in moving, but this time, on the other end. Lonny hauled boxes to the kitchen, and I loaded the cupboards with familiar plates and bowls. I hardly noticed when my dad walked through the porch door. But he got my attention when he placed something in my hands.

The drywall piece.

Dad had gone in after me, removed the message, and patched the wall.

That simple piece of plaster made my heart swell. That day, years ago. And today, when Zay found it in the drawer. It reminds me of precious times, acts of love, and the gentle, tender hearts of my dear, sweet men. I’ll never forget that writing on the wall.

Because to me, in more than one way, it says “I love you”.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Mud

God is speaking to me, this week, about simple things. Basics. Everyday things that I may overlook, might not see, may even view as a curse and not a blessing.

Like mud.

Tracks and clumps and footprints that wind through the porch, across the kitchen, and off to who-knows-where. Now the boys know that they are to remove their boots at the door. And the footprints are solid, so I can pretty much discern the culprit. But for the past two days, the footprints have been as present as the pattern on the rug. Mighty Mite (my vacuum) has become my best friend. And if the tracks continue, she’ll become the boys’ best friend today, too.

As frustrating as I find March mud to be, I was captivated, yesterday, by the boys at play. It was the season’s first warm day, and the boys were free, at long last. Tearing through the yard. Hanging from the trees. Poking at the ground with sticks. Playing in the mud. Boy stuff. Crazy, dirty, I’m-Wild-And-Free boy play.

And it was precious.

I’m still not good with the tracks through the house. But I was challenged, as I watched my boys play, to see the blessing in the footprints. They tell me that little boys still live here. That the house is rich with life and energy and movement and sound. That there are tender hearts and lively spirits.

Made me grateful. The tracks won’t be here forever. Neither will the boys. Guess there can be blessings in unexpected places.

Even in March mud.

(The pic is from last summer. Too muddy for even the tubby…)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet, Small Blessings

"It’s the everyday miracles that keep my hope alive.

It’s the way You move in little things that helps me survive.

And I know You move in greater ways.

But this is great enough for me.

What you do with my everyday is amazing".
 ~ Sara Groves
"Everyday Miracles” from her Past the Wishing cd
Gabe sat at his school desk, hunkered over a math fact sheet.

“I like the number eight, Mom,” he said, without looking up.

“Why’s that?”

“He stands straight ahead. You can’t write him backwards. He looks to the front.” Gabriel’s little fingers curled around his pencil and his pink tongue hooked the corner of his mouth. “It’s a blessing.” Then he stopped. Looked up. Smiled.

I smiled, too. I liked that he could see a small blessing. Made me want to see small, everyday blessings, too. So the boys and I started a list: SWEET, SMALL BLESSINGS ON MONDAY.

Here’s what we came up with:

mud boots

pirate map under the grandfather clock

Nana’s hugs

Mine-O-Mine (Zay’s blanket)

jelly without seeds

hands that fit together

a wrestle with Daddy

two shoes in the pickle barrel (old crock on the porch)

the number one (he looks forward, too)


best- friend- brothers.

It was a joy to see God in the small stuff. We weren’t reducing the Mighty God – maker of mountains, sculptor of seas, the one who stretched a canvas of stars. It was more like taking moments to recognize the attentiveness of Mighty God – one so personal that He would notice, provide, create, and bless the simple pleasures of our hearts.

Thank you, Lord, for  sweet, small blessings.

Have you seen any small blessings today? Will you share? So we can see them, too?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Frost, Fresh Compassion, and Faith

If there would’ve been a hole big enough, I would’ve jumped in. Big enough for embarrassment. Deep enough for shame. Wide enough for anger. No need to make room for pride. The last slender shred had been crumpled.

We were in the parking lot at church, after a full Saturday of Upwards basketball. One of my little boys had a meltdown. A first-class sizzle. A puddle-stomping, howling, run-through-the parking lot fit.

I bolted after him, dodging cars and trucks, pounding through slushy ponds in my pointy-toed boots. I caught him. But in the process I locked another son in the van, strapped in his seat, with two sets of keys.

I pressed my hands against the cold window and peered into the backseat. “Are you okay? The sheriff is on the way. He’ll be here soon.” The little guy nodded.

My other child, now spent, stood at my side.

It had been a long, long day.

You could’ve heard a pin drop on the drive home from church that afternoon. But inside my head, thoughts ran a mile a minute. I needed some encouragement. An uplift. Something to bring light to the grey scene we’d left in the parking lot. A quote from Robert Frost pushed to the front of my mind. “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” Hmm. Good. I was ready to move on. From that behavior. From that scene. From that day. But I needed something more. Something to soothe the rough edges of my soul.

“Okay, God, please bring me Your word. I need You.”

In His goodness, His words rushed to my heart. Stronger than that wild, unexpected tantrum. Faster than I’d had to run to catch my little boy. Alive and sharper than any two-edged sword.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions will never fail. They are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

His words were salve to my heart.

On days like that, when I don’t understand, when I’m tired, when parenting is puzzling and humbling and a million miles from anything proud, I’ll cling to His great love. When I’m bewildered and bruised, I’ll run for compassion that won’t fail. Compassion that is new every morning. Compassion that is grace-based ,free- flowing, poured out just for me.

Great is His faithfulness!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

She Speaks Scholarship Contest

Hey Dear Friends,

I’m off my beat – posting a day early. Have the boys, in their bottled-up-boyhood (it's March), driven me so far off the edge that I’ve lost all sense of date and time? Nope! It’s a contest, and this post is my entry.

Proverbs 31 Ministries has announced the next annual She Speaks Conference in Concord, North Carolina, July 22-24. The conference offers teaching, training, and tools for women to become better communicators of God’s Word, written or spoken. It’s about encouraging and equipping women to follow God’s lead in ministry. About reaching others for Jesus. About preparing and presenting messages that will minister to hearts and help change lives. She Speaks Conference

Lysa TerKeurst is offering a conference scholarship this week. This post, explaining why I’d like to go, is an opportunity to win that scholarship. She Speaks offers a writing track and a speaking track. It’s my prayer to attend the (gulp) speaking workshops. She-speaks-scholarship-contest-2011

I feel a little vulnerable. Transparent. Exposed. Grace and mercy! First my fear of volleyball. Now this.

Well, here it goes. I covet your prayers. And sweet blessings to you!

(Regular My Five Sons post tomorrow)

With love,



I love to talk about the Lord. His glory. His wonder. The way he looks low and breathes life into my days. Sit at my table? I’ll pour coffee and the words won’t run thin. Allow me to write? I’ll be blessed. Some of my favorite times are at the keyboard, feeling His love, knowing His grace. But ask me to speak? Out loud? In front of people? Even in the gentle safety of other believers? Well, I’ll think twice. I’ll pray. I’ll hear the Lord’s direction. Then I’ll say, “I’ll do it, Lord. But please, please, please send me an Aaron.”

Now, of course I’m not drawing a hard-line parallel in the circumstance. God was sending Moses into Egypt, to face Pharoah about setting His children free. He’s just asked me, on occasion, to share his love with small groups of Christian women. But the response is the same. “Please, Lord. I’m not eloquent. Send someone else. Oh, oh, oh. Not me. Me. Me.”

Yet I have a longing. A hope. A desire to walk in His will. I sense, somewhere in my spirit, that God’s hand is out. Not to push me into a place I don’t want to go, but to offer something. Though I’m not sure what God has in store for me, I am sure that I want to be in the fullness of His grace. If God is calling me to speak, no matter how small a gathering, it’s my desire to be prepared to answer.

I want to learn to speak effectively. I want to learn how to present. I want to learn to deliver a message that will move hearts and touch lives and draw others to the glory of God. I want to follow His direction and stand firm, unbridled by uncertainty. And I want to stand at that conference, on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and face my greatest fear. Handing it to the Lord, moving forward in His strength and grace, learning, stretching, growing, and trusting Him for all it’s worth.

And the next time that phone rings with an opportunity to speak for His glory, I don’t want to look around for someone or something else.

I don’t want to reach for an Aaron.

I want to reach out, with new confidence and new skills, for the Lord.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Out of My League

I want my boys to be bold. Able to try new things. Willing to discover hidden talents. To choose to live without fear of failure.

I also know that they learn best by observation. Their eyes are always open. Watching Lonny. Watching me. So when a dear friend asked us to play on a volleyball team, I thought long and hard.

“You and I were invited to play in the church volleyball league,” I said.

Lonny smiled. “Do you want to?”

“Hmmm. I’d like the fellowship. But volleyball? I’m not sure.”

Lonny nodded. He’s my encourager. He wouldn’t remind me that, despite my six- foot frame, there’s not an athletic bone in my body. There are no slam dunks at the hoops. No volleyball spike action. In fact, most athletic efforts end in a rendezvous with an ice bag. Even when I’m a spectator. Last year, at Little League, I was hit so hard with a run-away baseball that the knot on my arm throbbed for a week. The solid stray hit the Diet Pepsi right out of my hands.

“It’ll be good,” I said. “To meet people at our new church.”

“Sure,” Lonny said. “And it would be fun.”

I figured that a church league was the safest place to “put myself out there”. So we agreed to play. I’m excited to make new friends. And we’ll surely laugh. But there’s still a hidden insecurity. An uncertainty. Our first game is next week.

I’m hoping that the boys will learn all the things I want them to. That it’s okay and healthy and good to step out of our warm, familiar comfort zones. That there’s joy is cutting loose, trying different stuff, having a new adventure.

But I doubt the learning will be limited to our sons. Lonny and I will glean a few things, too. I’ll learn about the game. Lonny will probably learn about first aid.

And we’ll all learn that always, always, the Lord has promised to be with us. In life’s big things, but in the small stuff, too. Like a volleyball adventure. When skills and confidence are low. We’ll practice His presence, because He loves to be there.

Even when, especially when, we’ve taken new steps, trusted Him, and have moved out of our leagues.

Lord, help us to live without fear. To be ready to try new, good things. To be ready to hold new blessings. And ready to know that you’re always there. Amen.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tank Talk (P.S. I Love You)

There had been a great deal of dialogue with Gabe. Through the bathroom door.

“Gabriel, you okay?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Do you need help?”

“No, Mom.”

“Call if you need me.”

Gabe had been in the bathroom. Quite a few times. For extended periods. But he insisted he was fine. Just a little tummy upset. In retrospect, I should’ve opened the door. But I’ve gained some wisdom as the mom of a boy brood. I don’t enter their bathroom unless I’m summoned.

We had company over for dinner, and Gabe’s tummy turbulence got better. In fact, I forgot all about it. Until the next day.

“Mama, can you help me in the bathroom?” Zay called. “I can’t snap my jeans.”

“Sure,” I said. A summons. “I can get that.” I opened the bathroom door and knelt down to help Isaiah. But when I did, I noticed something on the floor. Way back. Behind the tank.

Samuel’s Nintendo DS. And a pair of ear buds.

Then I remembered Gabe’s tummy business.

At first I was angry. Sam’s DS was off-limits. Then I was sad. Gabe had been dishonest. And sneaky. Ear-bud-sneaky. Then came a wave of compassion. All my friends have a DS, Mom. Nonetheless, the Gabester was in trouble.

I retrieved the game from behind the tank and pushed it deep into the closet, behind hand towels and boxes of soap. Then I went to the kitchen for a Post-It and black Sharpie. I wrote a note, to my son, in bold, kindergarten print:

Gabriel, Come see Mom.

I stuck the note behind the tank, where the game stash had been.

There would be a lot more talking with Gabe, and not through the bathroom door. We’d talk about character. About honesty. About a man’s word. About a consequence. But as I thought about all the things I’d talk about with my little son, I wanted to be sure he understood one thing…

So I went back to the kitchen, grabbed the Sharpie, and retrieved the note from behind the tank.

And I wrote, in the same bold print:

P.S. I love you.

This post is for Mary R., who always tells her boys that she loves them. I learn from watching you.