If only for a Moment

I say it often to moms in every stage of life. “Enjoy the moments.”

I can remember a time in my life when I wondered if “these” moments would ever end. If you’re a parent, you know the moments I’m talking about; the ones when it is hard to keep the kitchen floor clean, when your bed gets extra crowded at night because little people have wandered in, when the arguing and mess making seem to not have an end…In this season of life, it seemed that there were unending moments, hard moments…exhausting moments.

Have you ever thought, “If I could just go back in time, just for a day? If they could just be little again, so I could enjoy the moments instead of wishing them away?”

The moments pass so quickly. I’m thinking back to how exciting it was to find out that after three little boys being born in less than 4 years, we were going to have a little girl! That was a moment to remember!

But here we are, 18 years later, preparing to take her to college at the end of the week. In the past few months, I’ve read a zillion articles about taking your child to college, created Pinterest boards, and exchanged money with Amazon and Target more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve avoided the thoughts, I’ve cried the tears, I’ve denied that it’s happening and now the inevitable is unavoidable, so here’s what I’m doing…

I’m enjoying the moments.

Spending the day with her at the Words Conference for writers on Saturday and having sushi for lunch, sitting with her on Sunday at church, spur of the moment run to TJ Maxx, Ross, and Walmart today, treasuring the text she sent me a few days ago.

These are the moments I’m holding on to!

You’d think with her being the fourth child, we’d have experienced this already, that it would be easy to let go by now but her brothers didn’t walk down this “go away to college road” so we’ve never moved someone into a dorm before and SHE IS A GIRL, she’s my girl and my friend, so everything is different!

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I’ll admit, I lost it in the car the other day listening to a country song. I’m guessing it won’t be the last time. I’ve loved being their mom. I’ve loved the changes that God has done in my heart as a result of the years we’ve spent parenting. I’ve loved the grace he’s grown in me because they have questioned my motives or conditions on certain topics- well, maybe not in the moment, but later! I’ve loved the late nights piled in our bed with a few teenagers and young adults, laughing or crying together. I’ve loved watching them learn to love each other as friends and not just siblings.

This week, I’m practicing Philippians 4:8. I love it from the Passion Translation: So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.

  • i’ve had almost 18 years of sleeps and wake ups with her in our home
  • she’s helped me grow as a mom, a woman, and a Christian possibly more than any other person in my life
  • she effortlessly makes me laugh, and that’s one of my favorite things about her
  • she’s tenacious and determined and isn’t afraid of a challenge
  • i got to watch her twirl and dance and do ballet until she decided it just wasn’t her thing
  • she will continue to shift into one of my closest friends over the next few years
  • she’s brought unimaginable joy to my heart
  • she has such an exciting and bright future and I don’t want the fact that I’m going to miss her to interfere with all of the excitement that she’s feeling this week
  • she’s only going a few hours away. If I wake up one morning and want to go see her, I can
  • she is excited about college, and I will be too
  • her class schedule will allow her to have lots of long weekends at home
  • she’s smart, independent, and very capable
  • she loves Jesus and her daddy
  • Josh is here, so I know she’ll be coming home–thanks, bud!
  • she is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

“Enjoy the moments” still means the right now! I’m talking to me!

I don’t want to dwell on how great things were, how great they will be, but how great they are right now! Even if they are hard, they can be good!

….Am I going to cry? I am positive that I will…I started weeks ago! Will it be hard? Absolutely, for us and for her! Will it make us stronger? Yep, and that’s what we live for…His strength in our weakness.

Hold them tightly while you can, if only for a moment!

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These are the Days

I remember when our kids were little and we’d go through hard situations with them or they: just wouldn’t listen, kept getting out of bed, fought with their siblings, didn’t read at the same age that other kids did, wouldn’t look people in the eye when they were spoken to, or hide behind me when people tried to talk to them, forgot to do their chores…every single day.  I’d talk to friends who were a few years ahead of me on this mom journey or friends who were right in the thick of it with me.  We would encourage each other, offer each other advice, let each other know that we weren’t the only ones.  We were NOT ALONE and it seemed that we really had each others backs.

I have a group of friends that I get together with once a month and between the 6 of us we have 22 kids between the ages 12-24. Sometimes when we are together we laugh until we cry. Other times, we just cry and ask the Lord to help us through whatever hard situation we may be facing, and other times we just talk about make up and hair.  We are all pretty intentional about sharing out hearts with each other, but, I’ve noticed as a general MOM RULE,  we aren’t as quick to share the struggles we have as moms as when they were toddlers or preteens.  We are much more hesitant, protective of our kids now than we were when they were little.  We often don’t divulge the struggles as openly as we once would have.  Why?

  1. We are afraid that our parenting and our faith will be questioned or judged.
  2. We are embarrassed or ashamed.
  3. We are afraid of our kids being judged, embarrassed, or rejected.
  4. We believe that no one else could possibly be going through anything as awful in their family.

My friends and I have had to push through those feelings on many occasions because we know that we are in a safe place.  A place where we can trust one another!  Ok, community isn’t really what this blog is all about, I digress….

Being parents of teenagers has been one of the most enjoyable seasons of our lives and I’m starting to realize that James 1:2-4 is why.  It says,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)

Although, I think the Message Bible makes this verse a little easier to understand and grasp….sometimes when the word “perfect” is thrown around, we all feel disqualified, but in these verses, perfect translates more as mature or not deficient.  Here it is from the Message:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way. 

I feel like these verses describe our parenting of teens years very well. ( Tests and challenges will come at you), and God must’ve known we’d need a while to mature and become well developed because he’s allowing us 16 years of having teenagers in our home.(Rick learns alot faster than I do, so I appreciate his willingness to stick with me while the Lord keeps working on me.)

It’s not because parenting these great kiddos has been the least bit easy, but because we and our kids have grown, changed, matured, and learned to depend on the Lord even more.  We’ve been through HARD things, just like your family.

I know that sometimes it seems like other families couldn’t possibly walk through the same trials as yours or they wouldn’t be happy or post happy family pics on FB and Instagram but we have to remind ourselves that just isn’t the case. A photograph is just a moment in time and rarely shows context very well.  My favorite picture from our family vacation this year wasn’t one of the posed ones where our clothes were carefully coordinated and the lighting was just right, but instead all 8 of us were hanging on to boogie boards together in the beautiful clear Gulf waters totally enjoying a moment.  I never wanted to forget it.  The fact that one son had just returned from 10 weeks at a camp in Oklahoma, one was leaving soon for the Middle East, and that there was a good chance this would be the last vacation that would be just the Lapinsky8.  It was a moment I’ll always cherish and pictures like this help remind me to Count it all Joy, but it was a vacation that had lots of challenges.26735870_2000470149968953_1349049317_o

For instance, one son missing part of the week and riding a Greyhound 19 hours to spend two days on vacation with us.  The picture also doesn’t allude to the night before when we’d gone to a nice restaurant for dinner and a couple of kids started picking at one another.  Things got a little out of hand during the 30 minute wait for our table and once we were seated Rick started to sort out the conflict.  He decided he wasn’t spending a small fortune on a dinner with kids who were treating each other like enemies, so we got up and left the restaurant, with 6 kids ages 12-21.  That made for a LONG, quiet ride back to the condo; no one said a word and we were HUNGRY!

A phrase we say often in our home is “We can do hard things,”  a quote I read several years ago by Glennon Doyle. Sometimes, I think the more I say it, the more opportunities we have to live it out, but that’s ok.  Another one that has stuck in my heart and head is by Ann Voskamp-“Do not pray for the hard things to go away, but for a bravery bigger than the hard thing.”  These moments of parenthood through the teen/early adult years give us lots of opportunities to become more brave; to be made stronger through our weaknesses.

In our family, we’ve had our struggles with rage and hate, sneaking out and underage drinking and smoking, pornography and dishonesty, been bullied and unfortunately, we’ve been bullies.  We’ve had heartbreaks and been heartbreakers.  We’ve walked through depression and despair and wondered if there was a way out.  We’ve failed, been turned down for jobs, been rejected.  We’ve lost loves and had dreams shattered. Our character hasn’t always been what we would like for it to be because we are still growing, still learning, and our story isn’t finished yet.  We really take to heart Philippians 1:6- And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

Parents of teenagers and young adults, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  The struggles in your home might be different, but the solutions are the same and here are a few tips that are helping us navigate these waters:

1.)  Know that you are not the only family dealing with hard things.  When we begin believing that we are the only ones going through hard things, we become alienated and feel defeated. Find face to face community! We need people who can hold us up when times are hard!

2.) Dig deep to the heart of the matter…These things listed above are symptoms of heart issues that need to be uncovered.  Sometimes this means conversations that go on for hours and hearing things that are difficult to hear, but digging and bringing things to the surface will bring freedom and healing in relationships and personally.  Remind your kids that they are loved and that poor choices can only define them for as long as they choose to make them.  We can change the direction our story is going at any given point.

3.) Be quick to forgive and extend grace. Don’t be shocked that they have struggled or done things that you never imagined they would do.  This is a hard world they are growing up in, BUT don’t make excuses for them either.  Part of the struggle and ultimately growth is taking responsibility for our actions and recognizing we are the only one’s responsible for what we do…Oh, how many times do I remember saying to a little one who wanted to blame a sibling, “just because your brother did the wrong thing doesn’t mean that you can do the wrong thing back to them.” Same principle applies during the teenage years, but additionally in regards to a teacher, employee, coworker.

4.) Don’t compare your family or your children to anyone else’s. This isn’t the time to compare.  Actually, there never is a good time for that.  Never doubt that you are the right parents for the job.  I remember when some of ours were little and they may have said, “I wish so and so was my mom.”  I always assured them(after I tucked my feelings away) that God hadn’t made any mistakes about the family He placed them in; That He looked all over the world for just the right parents for them and He chose us.  The same goes for us as parents.  The children that God gave us were intentional.  They are some of the gifts He uses to shape and develop us, if we will let Him.

5.) Continue modeling value and respect in the ways you respond to their short comings or sin.  That’s how they will learn to value and respect others who may sin differently than them.  Let value of others be top priority.  Expect respect from them.  Toward their teachers, their peers, their family and don’t let them blame others for their poor choices.

So when I say, “These are the days,” it isn’t because things have been easy. It’s only because I’ve felt His Presence and power, and compassion, comfort, and grace as we’ve walked through the good ones, the hard ones, and the ones I’d never want to relive and fully believe if we focus on His faithfulness and goodness, we can trust Romans 8:28- And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

LOUD

 

When he was little we called him Levi the Loud. He talked, laughed, played, ate, and cried so LOUDLY! As the third little boy to join our family in 2 1/2 years, he was the busiest, most active, in to everything little guy we’d had. He stretched us!


Being only 14 months apart, he and Elijah competed at almost everything for years, having some deep need to prove who was the biggest, fastest, smartest, most fearless….it was exhausting….and loud.

As he grew in to a teenager, sporting the Bieber hairstyle, working tirelessly to make those curly locks straight, wearing skinny jeans and just the right tennis shoes.  Times got HARD! Often, he wouldn’t listen to reason or wisdom, wouldn’t do his homework, wouldn’t tell the truth, sometimes chose to just “follow his heart” or “live in the moment” instead of doing what he knew was right.

These were the years we started using the phrase, “You can either let wisdom be your teacher or consequence.” You will learn from both but one teaches so much more gently. 

These were the years we learned to not be shocked at what our kids may tell us they thought or did, but to listen when they came to us and love them anyway, not condone, but LOVE.   (When you have four teenagers at one time, you learn so much that you THOUGHT you already knew.) We made soooo many mistakes!  

Another valuable lesson learned during those years was that other people’s kids were a work in progress too and that if we didn’t extend grace, we shouldn’t expect grace for ourselves or my kids, and we sure did need it!!!


No matter how many times we disciplined, how many privileges we took away, Levi was struggling and determined to go his own way. He chose consequence over wisdom and it was HARD and EXHAUSTING! These were challenging times and we were desperate! I can remember so many times asking the Lord to just capture His heart.
Let me add that at this point, I often blamed myself for every failure, every shortcoming, every missed assignment, every character flaw,  not just for this child but X6! I was sure that if only I’d have (insert any number of things)…
Things would’ve turned out differently, and surely they’d have been better.


When the teachers and admistrators called us to the meeting and said, “Levi is  such a great kid. He’s a joy to have in class, he’s so encouraging to other students. He is such a leader, but he’s on the borderline academically and ultimately the decision is yours as to whether or not he passes to the ninth grade.”  We were given the option of  letting him slide in to high school.  We had seen this coming for months though. We, and his teachers had warned, and directed, and redirected.  We told him for several months that he still  had time to turn this ship around, but that he was the only one who could do it and we couldn’t and wouldn’t fix it for him.

That day, we made one of the hardest parenting decisions we’d been faced with. We wouldn’t rescue, we wouldn’t intervene, we would ALL  deal with the consequences, and he wouldn’t move on to high school.

What would he have learned if we’d have let him slide? He’d have learned that there aren’t real consequences for our actions. He’d have learned that it’s ok for parents to bail kids out when they’ve done the wrong thing. He’d have learned that image is more important than integrity, just to name a few. These weren’t lessons we wanted to teach him or our other kids….(He has gone on to have successful High School years with no further academic issues.)

I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened over the next few months. He had a few pivotal experiences and the only thing I can contribute it to is that God was gracious and He answered our prayers.  It’s as if Levi’s eyes were opened to who he really was, and he began to understand some of his purpose.  He stopped pretending, stopped looking to peers to define him.  It was if he had people at every turn speaking destiny and future in to his heart and thankfully, he began to believe it deeply. 

He began living LOUD(ly) in a very different way.  His love for drums and desire to play them made it naturally loud, but deep within, he changed so intensely.  He has such a desire to impact the lives of others so that they run toward His Savior and he gets to spend the next 10 weeks at a summer camp doing that.  We’ve watched him work hard and then sacrifice every dime in his savings to go on missions trips the past two summers, give up spring break to minister to the people in the Philippines where he was able to share many parts of his testimony that had great impact on hundreds of young people.  Heard stories of him rescuing and standing up for classmates when others were making fun and hurting another kid.

He gives extravagantly, and loves intensely.  He lives LOUD!

Edited to add:  I wrote this post almost three weeks ago and just couldn’t publish it.  It just seemed unfinished and it’s still pretty rough but this is a story that hasn’t ended.

When I asked Levi before he left what he thought would be the hardest thing about being gone for so long.  “Besides missing Grace,” he said, “not getting to play drums.”

If you’ve ever seen him play, that statement makes perfect sense to you.

When he got hurt and had to get stitches in his knee a week ago, only a week after getting to the camp he’s at in Oklahoma, he was initially told he’d have to sit out of all sports and water activities for two weeks. For a guy like Levi, not being active almost all the time is difficult….so as I was praying for him, I remember saying something along the lines of, “Lord, if he could just get his hands on a drum, just a box drum or a djembe, that would really be great.” 

He called me today for the first time since he left two weeks ago.  I had run in to the Teeter to pick up a few things and was so excited to see his name pop up on my phone. He said he didn’t have long but he just wanted to tell me about this cool thing that happened. And this is the story….

    As he was getting to know some of the other counselors (guys around his age) two of them asked him when he felt closest to God, and he told them when he was playing drums. A few days later they took him in their room and made him close his eyes and when he opened them….there was a cajon( box drum) that they had ordered and had sent there for him…..He said he was shocked and undone and it was just the coolest thing, that two people who barely knew him would do something that meant so much to him.

So here is me, on the other end of the phone, having another moment in the Teeter as I realized how faithful God is.  What a sweet, precious way for the Lord to speak to me, ” I see him, I love him, he is living loud for Me and I’m continuing to capture his heart just like you’ve prayed for all these years!

Keep LIVING LOUD(LY), LEVI!  It is what you were created for!!

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A Fuller Life

Not long after we had Elijah, we started attending Joy Church and there were very few families with little ones. The church itself was pretty young but over the next few months lots of young families started attending. I’ll never forget the first day I met Kosara Fuller. She had three children around the same ages as Landon and Elijah. I’m not sure I’d ever met someone so full of JOY. It absolutely oozed out of her that day and every day there after.

 I remember her telling me that people called her Kosa, which I mistakenly wrote as Casa for who knows how long.  It seemed fitting though, because Casa means home and anyone who ever knew Kosa felt instantly at home, like they had found a safe place. Speaking of home, hers was the coziest, most inviting. In the spring and summer there were always fresh cut flowers from their yard and if she was coming to visit you, she’d bring some with her in a repurposed salsa jar with a little ribbon around  it.  She was  just cool like that! She had such a gift of hospitality! Her home wasn’t showy but her touches everywhere made it exquisite and each detail had purpose and memories attached.  In the winter it was always warmed with the greatest roaring fires, with cups of hot tea served from mugs that told stories.  Shelves and shelves of books that they read as a family regularly, taking adventures to far away lands. 

One cool thing about the Fullers was the actual adventures they prioritized taking as a family, often inviting others to tag along. We had the privelege on several occasions to camp, ride the Virginia Creeper Trail, build sandcastles and snowmen together. 

Our older four children have very few memories from their younger years that don’t include at least one Fuller, they were our kids first friends. I will forever be grateful for the investment Randy and Kosa made in to our family and our marriage.

We homeschooled our children and went on field trips and did co ops. We celebrated so many birthdays together. Our husbands were ordained as ministers at the same time. We served and learned and prayed side by side for years and it was an honor.

She and a group of more experienced moms invited me to attend a small group with them…Oh, those ladies were so rich in wisdom, and grace, and gentleness….I wanted to soak them up like a sponge every time we were together.

Kosa poured herself out to everyone she met. She valued others so highly.  She cared for others so deeply.  She represented Jesus and loved Him so well! 

To know Kosa was to know Love. She will be so missed by so many, her absence will be excruciating, but because we’ve known Kosa our lives will be FULLER and I’m so grateful that because of Jesus, we will spend eternity together!


 

 


Rhythms in the Monotony

Four words that I can’t seem to get out of my mind right now.

I mean for months,  I’ve been trying to get my thoughts around these words and make sense of them.  I thought they were independent but the more I tried to separate them the more they merged together.

Becoming.

Rhythms.

Monotony.

Decades.

Almost 20 years in to this parenting gig, I recognize that because no two days are exactly alike it is better for me to focus more on the rhythm we are inSometimes we call them seasons, phases, stages, chapters and oftentimes we wish them away and other times, we don’t want them to ever end.

You can’t account for the syncopations that occur in the midst of the rhythm but they happen all to often:

The fall off a bicycle.

The gash in one son’s head because another son threw a brick at him, and the cleaning of the blood, and the wiping of tears, and the discipline that must follow.

The nursing and cuddles of a sick baby.

The project that hasn’t been started and is due TOMORROW!

The reading lesson that takes an hour or more instead of the 20 minutes that the book promised!

The days sometimes seemed so long, but the season was OH. SO. SHORT!

There are rhythms in the monotony.

We start our third decade of parenting this week and I’m a little confused as to how that can be possible.  As I reflect, this is what I remember..

Much of the first decade the rhythm was changing diapers, nursing babies, praying for ouchies, correcting behaviors, bedtime stories and prayers, preparing food, feeding children, cleaning up the kitchen ALL. DAY. LONG.  As that decade came to a close and the next one began I spent hours preparing lesson plans, homeschooling our big kids,  working part time jobs sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, all the while still feeding them, trying to get them to be nice to each other, preparing meal plans, lesson plans, and dreaming of dinner and a movie  or secret, adventurous getaway with my honey plans!

About half way through that decade we stopped homeschooling, so our rhythm shifted.  Earlier mornings out the door. Trusting the Lord on new levels because the children weren’t with me all day each day.  New opportunities for ministering to women. Aging parents began living with us. Late night talks with teenagers…Girlfriends, heartbreaks, kids made poor choices and great choices.  Thought provoking conversations with people I birthed causing me to truly seek the Lord; His heart, His wisdom, His grace like never before.

The rhythm was different but things were happening in the monotony.

Not monotony as in a dull, boring way but in a “same” kind of way.

(Just for fun- get this song in your head. https://youtu.be/ODjCufSt6_I)

Getting up day after day, doing the same things over and over, with the occasional syncopation throwing our rhythm completely off.  Often, we long for adventure, excitement, and thrill but our changing, our becoming, happens mostly in the monotony.  The repetitive motions, the act of serving our family, the cry to the Lord that we may do it in a way that honors Him.  The recognition that our lives will only be as fulfilling as we learn to see the grace in all.  That we learn to love what must be done, whether that is in our job, as a wife, as a mother…the rhythms in the monotony cause us to become over time, often over decades.
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Rick and Landon, each start new decades this year.  Rick turned 40 and Landon turns 20 this week.  For anyone struggling in math, this means Landon is the age Rick was when we shifted from a family of 2 to 3.  That’s caused me to reflect on the man Rick was and the man he has become.  Oh, when he was 20, he was everything I could’ve ever wanted, but at 40 he is so much more than I could’ve asked, thought or imagined.  20 years ago, all I wanted was to be a wife and mother, and I’ve been so blessed to get to live my dream. As I’ve watched that blond haired, blue eyed little boy grow in to an adult, and his siblings following him at gutwrenching speeds, it has been the hardest, scariest, most fulfilling, most painful, satisfying, frustrating thing I’ve ever done. 
The decades fly by, sweet mommas, don’t wish them away.  Don’t doubt that each day is important even if it seems monotonous. 
The Lord is building things in you and in them that are good, and necessary, and beneficial.

Sometimes we only think about decades after they have happened but as Rick and I sit on the edge of the next decade of life which will likely include an empty nest, launching children in to adulthood, weddings, and grandbabies, and possibly the loss of parents,  truthfully, there are some scary things to come, but I must trust that the underlying rhythms, the ones that anchor us, that sustained us through the first decades of seeking Him, trusting Him, and allowing Him to work in our hearts, even in the midst of the monotony will continue to carry us, that come what may we will give all that we are as we are becoming all we’ve been created to be.

 

The Turn Around-What the enemy means for our harm, God will turn around for our good.

Today, as I reflect on the 12th birthday of Aidan Titus, our youngest son, who just happened to come in to the world minutes after I turned 31, I think of the man that he is becoming.

When we started this journey with him, I was in one of the most fragile years of my life.  The year I turned 30, I was consumed with fear on so many levels.  Rick went on a two week trip to the Philippines for the second time and for several  weeks before the trip until the moment I picked him up from the airport I was convinced he would never come home…leaving me with four children under the age of 5.  Soon after he got home, I was sick, constantly.  I drove myself to the ER in the middle of the night one night.  Now, consumed with fear that I might be the one leaving him with four small children. Within a few days, I had my gall bladder removed and then developed an infection in my pancreas, which lead to several major organs not functioning, a week in intensive care and four more in the hospital. As drugged up and out of it as I was, I believe the Lord allowed me to hear a conversation between one of my doctors and Rick in which he told Rick they had done all they could do.  Within moments of hearing that, I also was reminded of a story from Genesis 50 and words from Joseph,

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. 

I felt like the Lord himself was speaking these same words to me and that I could trust Him to bring me through and that I would live!!

Fast forward three months and I was taking A LOT of medications every day, some that doctors said I would need to take for the rest of my life and a narcotic that was helping me “deal” with continual pain and everything going on.  Through an interesting turn of events, I realized I was pregnant and the fear all came back.

Afraid, that my body was too sick and frail and damaged to sustain its on life much less sustain, nourish, and grow a baby.  Afraid, that this little person growing inside of me would be permanently affected because of the drugs I had been taking for the first several weeks of his growth.  Fear, fear, every thought was wrapped in fear.

The Lord brought me comfort during the months of that pregnancy and regardless of the outcome of this child’s health, we would love him and be thankful for him, no matter what.  This child that we hadn’t planned, that had so many things working against him, who disturbed MY plan of being finished having babies by age 30 arrived just a few minutes after I turned 31 and with him came a constant reminder to our family that God is faithful.  He was healthy, he was whole, and he was exactly what and who our family needed.  Even if the circumstances would have been different and Aidan would have not been well, he would have still been exactly who he was created to be and the right fit for our family!

Being the youngest of four boys, he gets picked on, teased, and made fun of. (I’d love to say that doesn’t happen in our house, but I’d be lying.) But he is strong, steadfast, and full of faith. He is committed and loves to help others and stands up for those who get made fun of.  He is an acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch kind of guy, who knows just how and when to irritate his brothers and sisters.  He is soft and gentle and loving and my constant reminder of God’s faithfulness. I am so grateful to get to share our birthday with this young man who woke up this morning as tall as me. wpid-20150326_063049.jpgExcuse the wrinkles and no make up, I was busy making triple chocolate waffles for him before school.

These are the verses I read this morning and I couldn’t not include them in this post.  They summarize the gift that Aidan is to us and I never want to forget.

Lamentations 3:19-24

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

God will carry us through those hard seasons, those sicknesses, those fears and pains, and failures.  He is the God who turns around what the enemy means for our harm

…Aidan Titus means, “giant fire.”  The night I drove my self to the hospital in agonizing pain, there was a giant fire growing inside of me, intended for my harm, but the God of all creation replaced it with another giant fire.  One who shines brightly, one who loves deeply, and one who is becoming a man of greatness.

BE THE MOM!

I am the mom who didn’t rock babies to sleep but let them fall asleep in their own beds. I am the mom who chose to have her boys circumcised, that had epidurals several  hours in to labor, that chose to immunize my 6 healthy children even after I read the information.  I am the mom who homeschooled for 10 years and then one by one, or two by two sent my children to public school or charter school and keeps the door open so that if ever I feel like someone should come back home, they can.
I am the mom who let her kids listen to some “secular” music and play some video games even though I don’t like them at all.  I am also the mom that checks her kids texts, twitter, instagram, facebook regularly and randomly.  I am the mom who doesn’t care for sleepovers.  I am the mom who says if you haven’t already made a plan to do something after church on Sunday, don’t ask me once we get there.  Plan ahead!!  I am the mom who didn’t make my kids clean their plate and eat all their veggies first at dinners away from home, I figured if I was feeding them a pretty balanced diet the rest of the week, who really cares what they eat on special occasions.  I am the mom who just wouldn’t allow certain words to be used but have realized that I just have to loosen up sometimes.  I am the mom that never told my kids there was a Santa Claus or a tooth fairy but always reminded them that it wasn’t their place to tell their friends that information.  I am the mom who really doesn’t try to make things look fair to my kids. I am the mom who didn’t give treat bags to other kids at my kids birthday parties.  I am the mom that parented my last children differently than my first ones.

I am the mom who might raise my voice every once in a while, but not nearly as often as I used to.

I am the mom who wonders if I’ve done enough, loved my kids well enough, prayed enough.

I am the mom who will make room for a sick or sad child on my side of the bed, even if my youngest is 9.  I am the mom who loves to be in the kitchen with my kids.  I am the mom who freaks out a little bit when my kitchen is left a mess.  I am the mom that has at some point(ok, several points) locked herself in the bathroom so that I didn’t hurt someone.

. I am the mom who knows I need to laugh more and be a little more spontaneous.  I am the mom who doesn’t wash my kids laundry, make their beds, or fix their lunches before school.  I am the mom who won’t buy alarm clocks because I still love to wake them up every morning.

I am the mom who wants my kids to learn from my mistakes but knows that sometimes consequence teaches a lesson better than wisdom. I am the mom who holds  and cries with broken hearted teenagers.

I am the mom who is still trying to figure out this parenting thing after almost 20 years, messing up and asking forgiveness, praying that they will forgive and forget the things I shouldn’t have said and hope they live by and cling to the things I did that pointed them to their Savior.

I am the mom who is trusting the Lord to cover my mistakes, to do the work in my children’s hearts that I can never accomplish. I am the mom that prays that He will captivate them and assure them that they are forever loved.

I am the mom I am. You are the mom you are and even if we differ in every decision we make, THAT IS OK.  We can still be making right decisions for our families.  Don’t try to be the mom that someone else was created to be.

Let’s BE the moms that OUR kids need.  Not the neighbors kids, not your sisters kids, not your pastors kids.  The only way we know how to be that mom is to seek the Lord, trust Him and surrender our ways to His.  Help us Jesus, Be the MOM!

How She Lived

II’s on all of our minds right now, everyone who blogs has written about it in the past few days….It has taken those close to us;  the quiet, the confused, the hysterical, the sad.

Who do we know that carries sadness and hopelessness with them?  We don’t have to look far, but these things are for sure…It doesn’t look the same in everyone and it will always leave your loved ones crushed.

Just this week one of my children was the confidant of a classmate that was considering suicide.  Hours before we read the news of Robin Williams death, that child came to me asking if we should call 911. ” What can we do?  How do we help him? What if he does it and we could have helped?”  She had spent quite a while texting him things like, “You are important.  You were created for a purpose.  You are not a failure.   People do care about you.  This is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  He stopped responding to texts, he wasn’t picking up the phone.  We went to the internet to figure out where the child lived.  We had to do something…anything!  When she texted that we were going to call the police, he did respond and she let him know that if he didn’t go to his parents that night, then she would go to the resource officer at school the following day because he needed help beyond what she could offer.  Thankfully he did go to his parents that night and they are going to help him and find a professional that can help him also but unfortunately it doesn’t always end that way. 

Sometimes, the hopelessness doesn’t cry out.  It doesn’t send a text, it doesn’t pick up a phone, and it doesn’t confide in anyone. It leaves us all feeling helpless, confused, and ripped apart on the inside, often wondering how we could have been so oblivious.

Even after 27 years of living and grieving and wondering, my mom’s death by suicide still hurts.  It will never make sense.   I don’t know what goes on in other people’s heads, I’ve never felt pain or despair so deeply that I didn’t want to live but obviously many people do and we can’t deny their pain.

The hardest struggle I’ve had in my adult life with dealing with my momma’s death has been when and how to explain it to my children but I started laying a foundation early.  Long before they asked the question, “How did she die,” I had been filling their hearts with how she lived.  For some reason eight or nine seemed to be the time they were really ready for a complete answer to the question so I would explain through tears and hurt that to my knowledge the way she died was the only selfish choice I’d ever known her to make but that didn’t come until after I reminded them how she lived…

How she taught me to cook and make sweet tea, and I loved being in the kitchen with her…

How she would always drop things in the kitchen and that’s probably why I’m so clumsy.

How she would sing to me as I laid my head on her lap when I was  little and we were driving home from Charlotte to Mineral Springs late at night.

The way she loved for me to brush her hair and play with it on Thursday nights because she went to the beauty shop every Friday morning.

How we didn’t have that typical teenage girl/mom relationship.  We really did get along pretty well!

How she was so supportive, and even one time in middle school when I was too sick to cheer at a game, she went to the game to support our team!

 How she and I went to church together every Sunday and often picked up my grandmother on the way.

The way she would hum old hymns and songs throughout the day and live in a way that made me want to know Jesus.

The way she loved my daddy.

The ways that she was selfless and would help others.  She was gentle and thoughtful and eventhough she was very quiet, she always had kind words for people….

These are the important things.  This is how I would answer them when they asked how she died, I would always tell them how she lived.

Suicide is never the best option, it isn’t ever a good option.  Seek help if you are sad and depressed.  Don’t be embarrassed.  You were created for a purpose.  You are important.  People do care about you.  You are not a failure.  Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Change in Job Description

You’ve probably seen the video on fb in which the guy is doing interviews for “The World’s Toughest Job.”   The applicant must be willing to stand up most of the day, work endless hours, overtime on holidays with a cheerful disposition for absolutely no pay at all…They all later find out his purpose is to get the interviewee’s to realize the job being interviewed for is that of a mom….

Yep, this job is hard and it is ever changing!  Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on how my job description has changed.  Having 6 children in less than 10 years meant that we had an extended time of reading Goodnight Moon, playing Candy Land and Uno, reading about Noah and rainbows, and Jonah and the big fish, reminding them to say yes ma’am and no sir.   But the period we are in now involves polishing Student Council speeches, stressing to them the boundaries our family has for social media, brushing up on my private investigator skills, advising them to do their homework, and that without completing their work or Senior Project, they very possibly won’t move on the next grade or college:)

MY, oh MY, how things have changed:

the condition of their diaper to the condition of their heart

buckling children in carseats to praying that they all remembered to wear their seatbelt as they drive themselves to school each morning.

playing with race cars to shaving with razor blades.

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building lego creations to building me a new kitchen table

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spending countless hours with each of them as my little kitchen helper one day each week to them preparing a meal for our family

teaching them to read and do math to teaching them to fill out job and college applications and praying that they will represent themselves, their families, and their Lord well in any job or college they may attend

homeschooling and being with them 24/7 to them being in school and me looking for a job

reminding them to share their toys to sharing their gifts, talents, abilities, and time

trying to get them to smile for pictures to teaching me how to screenshot their instagram pictures

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comforting them over a broken toy to comforting their broken, shattered hearts.

handmade cards to buying me gifts with money they worked hard for and BOTH  impact me in ways they can’t imagine.

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He had no idea  when he gave me this picture for Mother’s day how I was  grieving the loss of my own momma still after 27 years.

That a smile was the last thing that I could work up.

That I’d had an argument with his daddy.

That I was  grieving over the passing of the  the joys of their childhoods.

That these words would speak LOUDLY to me through three different people in less than 24 hours…”THE BEST IS YET TO COME.”

So today, the day after a HARD day, I move forward , knowing that it will be hard again.  I will miss my babies being babies. I will wish that my momma could see them graduate, and get married, just like I wished she would have seen them be born.  Hear them call her Nana, and beg to stay at her house instead of coming home because she let them get away with things that I never would have.

Whether Mother’s Day is full of joy for you or a day you desperately want to just stay in bed and pull the covers over your head(like I felt yesterday)  Remember this “I will hold you close [Ps.27:10NLT] Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, *I’d never forget you—never.* Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” [Isaiah 49:15MSG] (borrowed from Ann Voskamp) You are not forgotten, but amazingly LOVED!

The best is yet to come, meaning it has not happened, it keeps getting better,  I have not missed it and neither have you.  It is not over!!!!  Today may be the day that God helps you see that it is all part of His plan, that all things work together for His good, that His grace covers our imperfections and shortcomings… it is here right now…when that curly haired little boy that always wanted his back scratched to comfort him, hugs me and rests HIS chin on MY head and says he loves me to bring me comfort.  When the son who is frugal with his words picks me up and hugs me and tells me he loves me without me saying it first, possibly for the first time since before he could read.  When she takes a picture of dandelions and sends it to me because she knows how  significant those weeds are to me…

…the list goes on and on.  They will still need to  be encouraged, believed in, told to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on.  They will always need my heart to hear their heart.  They may need to always be reminded to lift the seat on the toilet and clean their room and brush their teeth because even though the job description has changed, some things never do… and the fact that I am their momma never will.