"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hindsight really is 20/20

My babies are growing up so very fast. Right before my eyes.  I say this in disbelief, not sorrow or disappointment.  I love, love, love what I have today—three ‘almost-adults,’ one taller than me, one with larger feet (I didn’t think that was possible), all three with colored hair.  Three people who read the same books and magazines I do, have learned not to be afraid of others’ opinions of them, who sometimes tell off-color jokes that make me laugh until I cry and I finally whisper for them not to ever repeat it, exude noises from parts of their body that I would deem inappropriate, who need hair and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their bedroom doors closed even more than I do, who, miraculously, use the restroom, brush their teeth, wear coats and hats, tie their shoes and eat their food all by themselves.  Who love the Lord, who pray when they feel led, who adore each other, who are awesome friends and siblings.  Three who excel in academics and in personality, who have just the right amount of independence and passion to keep them moving forward.

Most everything I’ve read about raising those precious little rascals is finished for me.  Dr. Dobson, T. Berry Brazelton, Vicki Courtney, Gary Chapman, and Susie Shellenberger are virtually obsolete from my library. Those ones on parenting, sibling rivalry, etiquette, homeschooling, single parenting. Along with the Adventures in Odyssey cassettes, Veggie Tales VHS tapes, Little House and YWAM books, and Little House, American Girls, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys,  Mr. Moon, Barney the Dinosaur, Curious George and Dr. Suess; they are battered and well used. What memories they behold.  The Mothers of Preschoolers playgroup, McDonalds play time, neighborhood walks, playground dates, art museum co-ops—what they taught me was that I really could do all this, but only with prayer and sacrifice.

The bottom line is that parenting is one job that I could never have prepared myself for.  It’s on-the-job training at its finest. Sure, I can listen to and read other’s advice, but nothing can prepare me for those three precious lives that were loaned to me from Above. One sang her own first birthday song while the other didn’t really speak until she was 18 months.  One was potty trained at 2, the other at 3.  One was a quiet, content, a happy-to-be-alive, sort of child, while her sibling came out smoking a cigar and whining. One made me think that parenting was a breeze, and then another came along and totally nixed that theory.  One responded well to positive reinforcement, another to time outs, and the third….well, he just didn’t like any of it.  One would cry when I looked at her sternly, while the other would stomp his foot and hold his ground. One cried non-stop until she was 23 months, while the other two rarely cried.  I’ve also learned that, yes, there is such a thing as three opposites!  I know, I have them.  But they are just opposite enough to be loving, compassionate and three of the best people on the planet.

Last year, my firstborn went to college; this year my second born went to college, and in three years, my lastborn will begin college. They can all walk and talk just fine, too. They can, and, quite often, do, remind me to “make wise choices,” when I go out on a date, say, “leave room for Jesus,” when I am cuddling with my boyfriend, to put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher, to pray before eating, to pursue life and to have fun while doing so.  They have all (and still do) humble me.  Believe me, I have made many mistakes, as my children are quick to point out. (ha ha).  My mistakes are permanently cemented in the  ‘Remember-When-Mom-Did That? Hall of Fame.’ The times the baby fell off the bed or chair, the times they ate something that was too hot, the times when I was too exhausted to homeschool, the time I was searching everywhere for my glasses, and they were perched on my nose. The many times I was searching for my keys just for them to be in the desk where they belong. The time I ran out of gas in the high school parking lot, the many times I didn’t allow them to watch R rated movies when all of their friends were allowed, the many times I required their friends’ parents’ signature before jumping on our trampoline, the times I believed an adult before them.

But, by far, the biggest mistake I made was in not living in the moment nearly enough.  It is crystal clear now that those moments are gone, captured only in videotapes and scrapbooks. There is a picture of the three of them, perched upon the rocks at Maumee Bay, right on Lake Erie, sun in their eyes, smiles on their faces, wind in their hair.  But, I can barely remember that day.  I wish I could remember if we had the dog with us, what each person said, what had brought us there.  I see the picture of my two daughters covered head-to-toe in mud.  I wish I could remember the joy on their faces when I let them play in that mud, when I didn’t scold them or rush them to clean themselves up.  I don’t.  I can only hope and pray they do.  The picture of my son sitting under the kitchen table….ah, the memories. 

I really wish I had not been so rushed to move onto the next thing; school, dinner, bath, book, bedtime routine. I wish I had treasured the ‘doing’ a little more and the ‘getting it done’ a little less.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Life seemed so much simplier then. When they were young and small, we spent our days playing and learning, visiting the zoo and metroparks, homeschooling and chilling by the campfire.  I suppose I thought that someday they would become who they were because something, albeit many things, that I had done.   I figured I had dedicated them the Lord, I loved the Lord, they appeared to love the Lord, and because of this, they would become just as God had intended for them to become.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that’s why they are the remarkable human beings that they are—not really because of anything that I have said or done, but because of everything My Father has done through me.  I used to think they would turn out great because of me, but now I realize that it may be in spite of me.

My children are not old, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, they just aren’t dependent upon me as much. Wow! I never thought I would live to see that day.  Just kidding. As a family, we all have a long way to go….more dating, college graduations, weddings, babies, and the list goes on.  I cannot wait to see what’s in store for my ‘no so’ littles as they continue to live out their destinies in Christ.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Labor of Love

I should have known it’s called labor for a reason. Yes, childbirth.  It begins with ‘labor,’ and has continued  with ‘labor’ for as long as moms and dads have been able to survive.  Did I just say, ‘survive?’  I meant to say ‘exist.’  When people have asked me how long my labors were for each of my children, I would always give them the, ‘I was in labor for 90+ hours with each daughter, and I scheduled a c-section with my son.’ Ha.  At least I had some foresight with my son’s ‘labor.’  But what I should have said was, “My labor has been 20 years and counting.” 

Being a mother is the single most exciting, adventurous, loving, thrilling, consuming, difficult, uplifting, inspiring, challenging, rewarding, captivating, tiring, uplifting, exhausting, difficult and rewarding job in the universe.  Did I mention , ‘challenging?’  I personally think it should be mentioned about 1000+ times, but I guess you get the point. 
Over the years, I have experienced many times where I have just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and announce my motherly defeat. But then a little voice inside me reminded me not to give up; It reminded me that the Lord has never given up on anyone, least of all me and my children.  It still reminds me of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, “ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Wow!  How could I ever even remotely forget that?
I’ve recently read the story (and I googled it again for further information) about the Chinese bamboo plant.  First the seeds are planted, then watered, and then fertilized.  During the first year, nothing visible appears to happen.  No little sprouts; no greenery peeking through the soil. The Chinese then continue to water and fertilize the seeds during the second year.  Still, nothing visible happens.  What?  They continue this process for three and four years, without any visible results.  Hmmm.  I know that I would have given up after the first season of nothingness.  But, nonetheless, the Chinese apparently have much more patience than I do.
Sometime during the fifth year, over a period of approximately six weeks, the Chinese bamboo plant grows 90 feet.  Yikes!  Yes, 90 feet! That’s 9 stories tall.  OK.  So we know that it didn’t really grow that entire 90 feet in six weeks.  It actually grew over the five years.  Although the farmer hadn’t seen any visible results, he continued to water and fertilize the plant—knowing that it would eventually produce major results. That was some patient farmer.  Or….was he just smart?  I think he was both.
Ah….alas it is the same way with raising our children….our family.  ‘We pour into their lives; we plant seeds of character, pull weeds with discipline, water with prayer and fertilize with encouragement.’  Then, one day, with consistency, love, determination and a lot of prayer, we will see and enjoy beautiful results.  We, as parents, are smart enough to know that the Word of God is true, that our diligence will ‘pay off,’ and the ‘fruit of my labor’ will be worthy.
But Lord, it’s difficult to remember that when I am dealing with three hormonal teenagers, three dogs (two puppies), work and home.  But Lord, I’m smart and I’m patient (NOT!), and, and, and, and…..

Then that still small voice inside me says, “Shari, you may be smart, but I am the Creator of intelligence.  You may be patient, but I know the plans I have for you, you don’t.  Remember, I have loaned your children to you, for such a time as this; it is merely up to you to train them in My ways, and leave the rest to Me.  I will cause them to prosper, to have hope and a future.  With patience, remember that!”
Well, what can I say to that?  Geesh!  This doesn’t mean that I may not have any problems with my hormonal teenagers; it merely means that God has it all under control. It doesn’t mean that my puppies (90 pound, Koda, and 10 pound, Rosie) won’t chew my third set of living room furniture; it just means that God is in control.  It doesn’t mean that I may never feel stressed about work and home; it just means that He is in control.  Hmm…..Well, I sense a prevailing theme here.  How about you?
My prayer for everyone today is that we will all always remember that God is always in control.  He always has been and always will be.  We may just need to get out of His way and allow Him to ‘do His thing.’
Dear Lord, sometimes I get really tired and frustrated as a mom.  When I grow discouraged, will You help me to keep the goal before me...to raise women and men who are after God's own heart?  Help me to remember that You, as my heavenly parent, never give up on me.  Even when You don't see the results that You desire, You continue to love, nurture and teach me.  Help me to be more like You and less like me.  Thank You for being my example of persistent and consistent love.
In Jesus' Name,