Saturday, June 11, 2011

6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 6-10)

We have a newborn in the house! Thanks to this little man, I was up at 4:30 am. There have been a few adjustments and many more I'm sure, but overall life has been drama free and we've enjoyed the new dynamics of our family. Jr. Nugget (as my husband affectionately refers to the new one) adores "Jr." (another affectionate name given to our oldest by my husband even though his name does not legally include it). His little eyes follow our oldest around the room with expectations that he'll learn something new (at least that's what it looks like to me). And our oldest has adjusted quite well falling into the older, wiser brother role. I'm so glad we prepared him for the behavior of babies before the wee one was born!

I can't help myself though, if I'm awake in the middle of the night or early morning, my brain will usually kick in to high gear. The house is quiet and I have no other distractions. I started replaying the movie we saw last night through my head, "True Grit". This would be the 2010 version with Jeff Bridges, I've never seen the original with John Wayne which I'm sure my grandfather could have recited by memory. I wasn't really thinking about the movie per say, but the scripture it opened with, The wicked run away when no one is chasing them… Proverbs 28:1. Later, you hear the narrator say, “You pay for everything in this world. There is nothing free, except the grace of God”. So naturally, I think about the term that I've heard all of my life in Church but never really chewed on the meaning, "Your grace is sufficient for me". This led me to the passage that opens this post. I'm on Facebook (probably way too often) and of course we all like to post our every waking thought and and/or how we want others to perceive us. After reading some "status updates" and blogs I wonder if some have mistranslated "living as a Christian example" to mean we want others to be like us because our lives are perfect and non messy. Let me be the first to tell you that my life is far from perfect and I can pretty much be a MESS. But I'm alive, I've been blessed with a family I love and who loves me and most importantly I have a savior who created me to have a relationship with Him and to love Him. There's my example... there's my life's story... there's my passion... His grace IS sufficient for me and I need it each and every day. I'm sure my weaknesses are evident and I pray I'm honest with myself and others about them. Thankfully God can use my weakness for His glory and HIS example, not mine. Lord knows, I'd love to get rid of them if given my own choice!

I have had times in my life when I have questioned my faith and why I believe what I believe about God. I won't go in to detail because in all honesty, that's between myself and God, but I'm not hesitant about sharing that fact. My 8 year old constantly asks me "why" and I never want to disregard his questions, but welcome a discussion with him. Of course sometimes it's about science or history and I'll respond with, "You may want to ask your Dad about that one because I'm not really sure". Sometimes, I even ask him to think about it a while and tell me what he thinks and give me the answer to his "why". Isn't it when we question our faith we are forced to search out the answers and in turn making it personal to us? There may even come a day that our children will do the same about their faith and what they've been taught. All I can do is pray that I'm prepared enough to openly listen. And if asked, give them the answer that best helps them deal with their questions directly so they may identify WITH their faith rather than identify IT as the faith of their parents and just something they're supposed to believe. In turn, they (like Paul) can be sensitive and honest to those around them so they may minister through their hardships and persecutions.

Throughout the movie, you hear various versions of the old hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms". Here's it's simple message:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

2. O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

3. What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tragedy and the Coffee Table

This was something my husband wrote back when our oldest was 4. He's now almost 8, but the reality of his thoughts, emotions and desperation is always the same when it comes to our children. I hope you enjoy!

Today the dreaded, if not half expected, phone call occurred. A text message appeared on my phone while I am going about my day at work, and it read, " CALL ME ASAP-KIM." I took the time out to return her call only to be greeted by a very upset, pensive and tearful mother trying to nervously explain that she has taken our number one son to the emergency room because he has broken his face into four separate pieces.

She continued to explain that as he was playing in the living room this morning, he slipped and banged his face so hard that he may, I say MAY, have broken his nose. After the call, I try to calm myself and stave off the panic inside with my own admonition, "These things happen-I am sure he is fine." With this mantra echoing over and over in my head I bolted out of my office building toward the car with purpose in my step. My demeanor had all the cliche of a 1940's superhero like Superman or Dick Tracy. I was Batman in a tie and Brooks Brother's slacks. As I hit the broad glass doors on ML building 4, it would have been totally appropriate for someone to yell out behind me, " To the daddy-mobile Kaki-Man!"

As I got to the hospital I was greeted by worried grandparents, and a very "fragile" spouse. I was in business mode- gathering facts, bringing calm and structure to the situation, showing love and concern for my little one- allaying his fears. I shifted masterfully between consoling husband, engaged and concerned father, and gentle and loving dad. Please don't misunderstand me, these weren't superficial actions, I knew my role and genuinely wanted to be the answer to each and every need in the building. The nurses were lucky to not receive a caring hug! I was all that I needed to be for everyone involved, which for me is very a-typical thing.

It was a pretty bad cut in my little one's nose. Honestly, when we wiped away the residual bleeding, I thing you might have been able to see things you weren't supposed to see. He was so strong, scared of course, full of bravery that is only exhibited by the truly innocent unable to fully grasp the situation. I mean really, he's four.

After x-rays(not broken), and triage it was time for stitches. The Dr. needed one parent to be in the room in order to calm him through the process. I am FATHER, so of course, I draw the short straw. They strapped him into a contraption that can only be described as a baby straight jacket. This of course completely unhinges my little boy. They shined this painfully bright light upon the wound which just so happens directly in my child's face. Then they laid gauze pads on his eyes to isolate the wound. Then the sewing began.

I have a strong little man for a son. He wriggled and struggled so much that I had to lay over him with full force just to keep him still. During this my baby's cries of, "It hurts Daddy!" and "I can't see you, I want to go home!" cut deeply into my heart. There is no sense of helpless I can think of that could match that moment. In all my strength, and emotional savvy- I could not do one thing to alleviate his fear or pain. He is one of two people I love most in this world, and in that moment I was completely impotent and unable, to make anything better. He depends on me, his screams of "I can't see you, I wanna go home!" rebound off the four empty walls of that room- and I am USELESS.

After the doctor is finished, I tear this monstrosity off him and hold him close, almost as an apology for my lack of strength. He, well he, acts as if nothing ever happened. I could only hope to have the resilience that that little boy showed. In thirty seconds from having his face sewed up, he is playing with a balloon I made for him out of a surgical glove, and wondering where mommy may be.

Here is the crux of what I am trying to say: No matter how talented, smooth, intelligent, determined, strong or cool-headed you may be, you do not have even the smallest control over this world. In my efforts to identify and fill the needs of those I care about, I lack the ability to do ANYTHING that changes anyone's reality. I would rather have took his place and had someones stitch my face with a ten-penny nail, than have that little boy feel the way he did today. I could not remove one ounce of the fear, pain, and isolation my son felt today in that moment. Today, in the grand scheme of things, matters little. He may have a tiny scar that, one day in the future some 16 year-old-girl will look at him and say to herself, "That little scar give his face character and makes him even more adorable."

But today, in a small way, I found out: I'm not Superman.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sometimes, a band aid just isn't enough...

"Too much of our effort is expended finding solutions for symptoms. We are often unwilling, or unable to do the hard work of taking measure of the problem first. Thus our actions are akin to placing band-aids on life threatening wounds." (Dr. Alan Pue, The Barnabas Connection)

The above quote is probably one of my most favorite. To take one step further though; as a parent not only do I pray to recognize that a quick fix will not be a true solution to any difficulties my children may be experiencing but I also pray THEY are taught to recognize situations as adults and learn how to cope with them as well. Blaming our surroundings and circumstances is easy and shying away from responsibility for own decisions and circumstances is definitely not the most favored route, I know.

I grew up in a home where my parents were involved in various aspects of Christian ministry whether it was in the Church or in Christian Education. In the first few years of our Marriage, my husband, Walt served in various fields of Christian/Church ministry as well. There were so many incidents where I would get upset that parents were constantly protecting their children from their poor decisions and making excuses for them. But it wasn't until I was a parent that I realized just how easy it is to want to blame my child's environment to protect his well-being. As harsh as it may seem though, I feel it can be a detrimental teaching to constantly protect them from any consequences (no one said being a parent is easy). If we as a parent are trying to protect their emotional stability so much that they never learn disappointment, failure, heartache (just a few examples); we aren't teaching them in any way how to cope. There is a process to behavioral learning and a lot of it is through experience. My job as their parent, is to be attentive and assist them in learning how to cope through our sometimes messy lives. I don't intend for this to sound like the old fashion way of learning to swim by just throwing them in the pool and say, "Ok, it's time to sink or swim, buddy!". But be there as a guide for them. My Dad has said, "you manage situations, you lead people".

When our oldest was born, the movie "Finding Nemo" had just opened. When he was just a few weeks old, our first date night was to see this huge blockbuster of a movie. The start of the movie focuses on a Father wanting to protect his son so much that he even mentions he was trying to protect him so nothing would happen to him; in response to this statement, Dory (my favorite of the story) replies, "well, how is anything going to happen to him?". I know it's Disney and all, but this movie had a huge impact on us. We can put band aids on situations as the parent to try to protect them, but where will they be as an adult? Have they learned to handle situations of difficulty?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The men they grow up to be.

I've had a sudden interest in all things "Parenting". Not that I'm just now interested IN parenting, especially since I have a 7 year old and another arriving in just a matter of a couple of months! I mean an interest in clearly defining my role in my child's life. We have a 7 year old son and another boy on the way, so to say I'll be surrounded by testosterone is an understatement. I've found myself not just concerned about their childhood but the type of men they will grow up to be. Kid #1 (how we now describe our oldest); is a complete open book and can hold no secrets, has a strong imagination and a flare for the dramatics. We've also noticed that he does not hesitate in serving as the "moral police" to those around him whether he knows them or not. Most recently, we had to talk with him about using the word "fat". He wasn't using it intentionally to be hurtful but he WAS using it to describe people. Of course, I talked with him about how that word can be a hurtful word and advised that he not use it so freely. As any child would, he then blanketed my correction to every usage of the word "fat". While at the zoo, he overheard another kid describe one of the Koi fish in the pond as a "fat fish" and the next thing I know, he looks at the boy in his most sincere, admonishing facial expression and said, "Ok, so that word you used just now, you know that "fat word"... well, that's not a good word to use." To avoid any further awkwardness, we decided our view of the Koi pond was over and it was time to move on. We then had to add an addendum to the previous talk about the word's usage and remind Kid #1 as we often do, that he's not the moral police for all and please worry about HIS actions and words. We also added that fish could not hear the verbal description of themselves and are void of all feelings about their appearance.

For me, this was an example that we are bent (especially as Christians) to teach our children, just right and wrong and some times only stress the importance of the surface level of the spiritual soul. I realize the usage of the word spiritual soul and the above story may not seem to match but allow me to indulge in one other example. We've never watched the show "Toddlers and Tiaras" but if you watch Cable television you can't avoid little blurbs and commercials about it which is ENOUGH for me. After one blurb, I looked at Kid #1 and strongly encouraged him to stay away from little girls who are demanding such as the little girls on TV, hoping that this statement alone would somehow instill a lifelong jewel of wisdom. After a second though, I realized that probably wasn't enough and it would take a few years of guidance in the home as well. I also then thought of how much he thinks of me (I'm still the coolest girl he knows for now) and how much he wants to be like his Dad and immediately followed it up with an example of one of the reasons I think his Dad is so cool. My husband has the ability of seeing the ENTIRE person and I described how he can see someone who is incredibly beautiful in appearance and match it with the person they are. If that person is hurtful, sneaky, demanding or just plain mean then they are automatically ugly to him. I am daily impressed by this attribute because it really is true; he can find the most beautiful of women disgusting. THIS example was what seemed to have the biggest impact.

I find myself not relating too well with some parents because they are so concerned about their child hanging out with the wrong crowd and finding a good Christian influence. Do not misunderstand, I pray my children find an encouraging group of friends, but I'm concerned sometimes we teach our children to make snap decisions based on the basic evils of drinking, cursing, smoking and sexual promiscuousness and not grasping the fact that those behaviors can be an evidence of deeper issues in life that need to be addressed. Let's also teach our children that arrogance, manipulation and thoughtlessness of another's feelings is a lifestyle that can damage that inner spiritual soul. Why not lead by example of high levels of honesty and moral integrity? When this is successfully incorporated into my household, I will feel a bit better about the Men my Sons will grow up to be. I'm sure we have woeful days of teenager-hood to look forward to and I may wonder why my sanity (and theirs) have disappeared, but they've been given to us and are our gift and responsibility. It's a role not for the faint of heart, but it's one that has great rewards.