from defiant to determined
Any other parents out there with a strong willed child? Or maybe you've been blessed with more than one? My husband, Bernie, and I thought both of our older girls were strong-willed, at least in their own ways. Our eldest, Kate, was extremely particular about food. She knew what she liked and didn't like, and she wouldn't budge on flavors she was not fond of. Our middle daughter, Claire, was generally more compliant, but still strong-willed. She just chose her battles more carefully. When she really wanted something, she'd dig in her heels and fight. But we didn't know what strong-willed really meant until our third daughter, Brenna, came along.
Her arrival should have been our first clue. The doctor had said that, as with my other two deliveries, things were pretty slow moving. It was about 7:30 pm and the doctor said I still had quite a ways to go - the baby would probably be born around 3 am. So I told Bernie to go get a sandwich from the cafeteria before it closed.
Even with the epidural I'd been given I felt significant movement and called for the nurses to check on the baby. The monitor strapped around my belly was not registering Brenna's heartbeat. The nurse tried, unsuccessfully, for several minutes to find the heartbeat and then called for another nurse. When that nurse couldn't get the heartbeat either, they tried a new monitor in a different location. Finally, the nurse looked up at me with a concerned look on her face and said, "Don't push. Don't push! She's ready to be born -- I need to call the doctor!"
"While you're at it could you page my husband and tell him to forget his sandwich and get back here?" Bernie ran in right before Brenna was born, and we knew the moment she entered this world: our girl was a force to be reckoned with.
Brenna was an intense child with over-the-top emotional reactions. We often couldn't help but laugh out loud at her extreme outbursts, which only upset her further. She was relentless in advocating for herself. She was an extroverted, super-social child who insisted on doing everything "all by herself." When she was in kindergarten, she used to walk around our cul-de-sac and talk to whichever neighbors were out in their front yards. One neighbor loves to tell the story of how Brenna came over one day, sat in her kitchen and had a snack, and spoke for 45 minutes in a British accent, never breaking character. (We like to do this sort of thing in our house.)
Like most kids, Brenna was born without a filter. But she was also born without that measure of timidity most kids have around grown-ups. Which is why she felt the freedom to tell one of our other neighbors, "Oh, you're the people with the ugly couch in the window!" They thought it was hilarious, stopping to tell me the story one day as they were driving past our house. And then they added, "It's so funny how kids repeat things their parents say." Ugh.
I never said our neighbor's couch was ugly. And I grew weary of running into other parents at the grocery store who wanted to tell me about the shocking and hilarious things my daughter had said to them. I couldn't possibly predict or foresee all of the wacky things that would come out of her mouth. As she got older, she argued and pushed and negotiated and I would tell myself, "I just need to be a little bit stronger than she is."
But as she grew I saw her defiance slowly turn into determination. She was motivated. She was proactive. She made lists for herself and wanted to be independent. She wanted to wake herself up with an alarm clock, pack her own lunches, and ride her bike anywhere I'd let her. She'd write me letters - really more like essays - explaining her reasons for wanting something, and often times I'd say yes because she is very persuasive, and well, can I just be honest and say I like her style? I like that she's tenacious and doesn't give up easily. .
So when she recently told us she wanted to be an umpire for girl's softball, I wasn't surprised. She filled out the on-line job application and went to the training. She printed out the rule book and studied as if for a final exam. She made Bernie and I go out to the front yard and pretend to be 2nd grade girls running bases and striking out.
On the morning of her first game she was nervous. I told her it was normal - after all, this was her first real job. But she had studied and prepared, and she was gonna do great. Bernie and I sat in the bleachers along with the parents of the 2nd grade girls, and it seemed like yesterday to me that Brenna was throwing the softball for the first time. I love watching our girl play. But it is entirely different to watch her ump. It's a different kind of pressure. I heard one of the moms say, "Oh - we've got an umpire this year! We're moving up!" Another mom quipped, "Yep...some junior high girl, I think." I watched Brenna strap on her gear and take her place behind the catcher. Then I heard my daughter yell, "Batter up!"
I watched as she called balls and strikes, as she confidently yelled "safe!" and "out!" I thought my heart would burst with pride when she pointed to the runner who ran to second after an overthrow at first and commanded, "Go back to first!" Because in second grade you don't get bases on overthrows. She knows that 'cause she's the Ump. She was authoritative. She stepped into her new role and owned it.
On our way home she admitted she'd made some bad calls.
"Yes, but you made a lot of good ones, too. And you learned a ton - next time you'll do even better."
My strong-willed daughter: strong enough to say yes to something new and kind of scary, strong enough to admit she got some things right and a few things wrong, and strong enough to want to try again, knowing she'll do even better next time.
Oh, and I made sure those parents knew the new umpire was my daughter. That strong-willed characteristic - it's for sure genetic.
Always a Part of Me
"What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
- Helen Keller
I’m walking in circles inside Walgreens. I came in because I wanted to buy a couple of sympathy cards for friends, but now I’m avoiding the card aisles altogether because of the Mother’s Day cards. I’m caught off guard, sobs welling up from my broken heart as I stand in the middle of the shampoo aisle trying to regain my composure.
This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom. People say that when you lose someone you love, the firsts are the hardest—the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first Mother’s Day. Last year at this time I was terrified that my mom would not survive her recently diagnosed cancer, and this year that fear is my reality.
Most people who have lost a loved one have a story about falling apart at the grocery store. The details vary, and the trigger can be any- thing from a bag of potato chips to a beach hat, but the experiences are similar: you stop at the store to pick something up, you see something that reminds you of your loved one, and you are ambushed by feelings of deep grief and loss.
After finding a couple of blank cards near an end cap, I wander over to the Easter candy aisle thinking that some chocolate might make me feel better. That’s when I see the marshmallow peeps. Those were Mom’s favorite, and I always bought them for her at Easter. Now they have hollow milk chocolate eggs with a marshmallow peep inside; she would have loved that.
Before Mom died, she said things like, “I will always be a part of you” and “You’ll always have me in your heart.” As her daughter, I couldn’t imagine then what it would be like to not have her here anymore. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. But I am also a mom, and my relationships with my daughters help me understand what she meant when she said those things.
When our youngest daughter, Brenna, was in kindergarten, she went through a phase where she felt disproportionately guilty after she had done something wrong. Her dad and I were over it, her sisters were over it, but she couldn’t get past her guilt—she couldn’t move on. She would say, “There is just this voice in my head telling me I’m bad, that I never do anything right, that I’m not good.” Finally, I thought to ask her whose voice it was in her head telling her those things. She looked at me like the answer was obvious. “You!” she said. I laughed and cringed at the same time. I had never said those things to her, but she had picked up on my frustrations and disappointments, and that translated into negative self-talk spoken in my voice. It was a good reminder that as a mom, my voice is powerful.
We joke about hearing our mothers’ voices in our heads, and when we are younger that may feel more like a curse than a blessing. But we are lucky if over time that curse turns into a blessing as her voice becomes a part of us.
In pretty much any given moment, if I quiet myself, I can imagine what my mom would say to me. I can still hear her voice and feel her love. Now I know what she was trying to tell me. Her love has become internalized inside my heart, and in a way that means she lives on in my thoughts. It means that she is always with me, in my heart.
Our eldest is now driving, and soon she will be leaving for college. Sometimes I look at her and can’t believe she is already a young woman. In some ways she is like me, and in other ways she is so different—and I know what’s happening. In the day-to-day mothering, I am becoming a part of her and she—well, she has always been a part of me. That is what it means to be a mother.
A few days later, after my emotional trip to the drugstore, I drive back to that same store and walk directly to the Mother’s Day card aisle. It is hard, but today I feel a little bit stronger. I stand silently, reading card after card, patiently searching until I find the one that best articulates what my mom means to me. Then I make my way to the check- out, passing through the candy aisle to pick up a package of peeps, even though I don’t care for them. And in my heart I hear my mom’s laugh.
Reprinted with permission from Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy by Becky Baudouin, Kregel Publications, 2017.
Categories Mothers, Mother's Day, daughters, family, loss, grief, hope, love
When was the last time you asked one of your kids for advice?
I recently asked my 13 year-old daughter for advice regarding a difficult situation I was facing. I honestly shared my feelings, presented my dilemma, and then asked her what she would do if she were in my shoes. I wasn't prepared for how God would speak to me through my teenaged daughter!
She empathized with me and related to my problem by sharing a similar situation she was facing at school. She not only helped me see things from "the other side," but when she shared her faith perspective, she flipped mine upside down.
She reminded me that just because a situation is uncomfortable, painful, or difficult, it doesn't mean God is not in it. It doesn't mean God is not working, leading, and guiding. In fact, the opposite may be true. He may have led me right to this place so that He can heal, change my heart and the hearts of those involved, and transform us to be more like Jesus. In the midst of my discomfort He may be meeting a need or answering a prayer.
This is the false belief I seem to keep coming back to: if I am following God as I should, it will be smooth sailing. Things will work out and be easy. My daughter reminded me this is not always true. Sometimes God prompts us, nudges us, or leads us to some hard places where we have some hard conversations and feel some not-so-pleasant feelings. The mistake is to not look for Him there, to not recognize His hand in the less-than-perfect places.
I encourage you to do it. Ask your child for advice. Ask him to share his perspective with you. Ask her to tell you what she would do if she were in your shoes. Give your kids opportunities to share with you what they are learning about life, faith, friendship, and God. They need to see that we are students as well as teachers, learners instead of "know-it-alls". Like me, you just might be surprised by how God speaks to you through your kids
vulnerable, surrendered prayer
Jesus' struggle in the garden began earlier than that moment when we see him anguishing in Gethsemane. After the crowd welcomes Jesus, blessing him on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, we see him teaching his disciples. He is trying to prepare them for what lies ahead.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
In these moments we see teacher Jesus masterfully describing death and resurrection using the analogy of a seed. But then he moves from instructional to vulnerable. He gives his followers a front row seat to both his humanity and his divinity. He knows why he came. He knows what must happen. Yet his soul is troubled. Even here we see that he is sifting through conflicting thoughts.
Between these moments and the garden we see Jesus teaching, washing his disciples feet, sharing final words as he partakes in the last supper he will share with his followers. He tells them to love as he has loved them. He warns them to not falter in faith. He comforts them. He reminds them that he is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the only way to the Father. He promises the Holy Spirit and admonishes them to remain in his love. He calls them friends. And then he prays. He prays to be glorified. He prays for his disciples and for all believers. Which means he prays for us.
Matthew 26:36-39 records Jesus' prayer in the garden:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
In her book The Prayer Coin, Daring to Pray With Honest Abandon, Elisa Morgan says this about Jesus' two-sided prayer: "Two opposite pleas pierce Jesus' final night on earth before the Father. On the one hand, he leans human. On the other, he surrenders divine. That he does both at once is stunning."
Jesus was honest and vulnerable with his Father. He was honest and vulnerable with his friends, asking them to come along and pray with him. And at the same time, his will was surrendered to his Father's. He was strengthened through vulnerable, surrendered prayer. Moments later, when he is being arrested, Peter strikes the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. Jesus commands Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:10-11)
Jesus lived a life of prayer and he invites us to do the same. He invites us to bring it all--our fears and struggles and sorrows--and pour it all out. He invites us to be as honest as humanly possible with our Father who knows us and loves us. And he calls us to total surrender, not to our will, but to his. Then he strengthens and empowers us to do his will--his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
no regrets...ok, well, maybe just a few
"Do you have any regrets?" It's a question that is often thrown out to celebrities during interviews, and more often than not the response is some version of, "Not really...No. Because everything that has happened to me has made me the person that I am today."
Umm, is it just me or does this drive anyone else crazy? If a regret is defined as something we have done that, given the chance, we would go back in time and undo, or do it differently, then I have a million regrets. A million hurtful words I've spoken in my lifetime that I wish I could un-speak. Countless times I've lost my temper and acted selfishly. Things I've done that I would love the opportunity to undo. Things I should have done but didn't, and would love a do-over. Regrets: how can anyone say they don't have any?
I'll lighten it up a bit since I tend to get deep and serious real fast. I regret that I never ate an avocado until I was in my twenties. In my defense, I don't think they sold avocados in northern Michigan where I grew up. And I didn't immediately love guacamole the first time I tried it. But I loved chips, so I kept dipping them, and before long I was totally, head--over-heels in love with avocados. Like, how could I have lived all of these years without you? I put them on salads and sandwiches and toast. I think one of the best things you can eat is a flame-toasted corn tortilla with avocado and a sprinkle of salt. (I'm hungry now...I'll be right back.)
Also, I regret so much that I waited until I was 47 years old to try dry shampoo. How could I not have known how fantastic this product is? All those years I was living in ignorance with oily hair, not knowing what I was missing. Not knowing how much I needed avocados and dry shampoo in my life. (I wonder if a diet high in avocados tends to make your hair more oily...)
But seriously, the good news about regrets is grace. Grace takes our failures, redeems them, and makes them part of our story. Grace reminds us that we are forgiven. That we are loved apart from our performance or what other people think of us, Maybe this is what people mean when they say they don't have regrets because everything that has happened to them has made them who they are. Or maybe not.
I only know that for me, I am grateful every single day for God's grace that covers my shortcomings, and for opportunities to make things right when I get them wrong. I'm thankful I can live free from the guilt of regrets even while acknowledging their existence. (Did I mention how much I regret that we arrived late for my aunt's wedding years ago? The wedding was in Minnesota and we got lost on the way to the church. Worst. Feeling. Ever. And also, that my wonderful aunt is one of the most gracious women I know, so...grace extended, grace received.)
How perfect that I married a man from Mexico. Avocados are to his family what Ranch dressing is to mine. My daughter made avocado brownies a couple of weeks ago. They were weird, but it shows how very much we love avocados in our house. And with three daughters, it was only a matter of time before dry shampoo found its way into my bathroom.
the story of us
I was pregnant with our middle daughter, Claire, the first time I stepped inside the beautiful Harbor House Inn in Grand Haven, MI. Our extended family was watching the musical fountain show over the water on a beautiful July evening, and I had to go to the bathroom. (I was in my second trimester with my second daughter which meant I had to go to the bathroom every five minutes). As soon as I walked through the front door I was in love. The Victorian Inn was beautiful, charming, and felt more like my Aunt Carol's house than a hotel. And when the Innkeeper graciously agreed to allow me to use the powder room I decided my husband, Bernie, and I needed to return -- as guests.
That fall we did just that. Shortly before Claire was born, we dropped our firstborn, Kate, off at my mom's and celebrated our anniversary at our first (and only) bed and breakfast. And over the last twenty years we have visited this inn more than a dozen times. It has changed ownership and management. It has gone through some significant renovations. But they still provide the same homemade caramels in little longaberger baskets in the rooms and serve the same cinnamon bread for breakfast. They still have a DVD library of classic movies we've never seen and DVD players in every room. They still serve tea and coffee and freshly baked peanut cookies every afternoon, and the view of the bay is breathtaking every time.
Kate now goes to college in West Michigan, about twenty minutes from Harbor House Inn, and Claire has recently finalized her decision to attend the same school in the fall. So as we are navigating the challenges and joys of launching our daughters, we are finding a gift in proximity. Brenna, our youngest, is happy to stay with her sisters on campus which means Bernie and I are enjoying overnights at HHI more and more often.
Our most recent visit during spring break left me overflowing with gratitude. As Bernie and I enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Snug Harbor with a gorgeous view of the bay, as we watched the sunset sky change from gold to orange to pink to purple, I was overwhelmed by God's goodness to us. Having the girls leave home has been hard. As we are launching our kids into the world, time seems to be launching Bernie and I closer and closer to the empty nest season of life. I'm finding a mix of emotions, including sadness, excitement, and anxiety. But mixed in with all those emotions is a deep sense of gratitude that we are moving into this next phase of parenting together.
Harbor House Inn is a romantic place. And Grand Haven, MI is beautiful and picturesque. But the honest truth is that our visits over the years have not always matched the lovely ambiance. We have gone through some extremely painful seasons in our marriage, and I can remember the decor of the room we stayed in one year when our visit was marked by pain and tears. After that visit we considered not coming back. We felt like maybe those hard conversations had tainted a place we had loved so deeply.
But we came back. Because in a life-long marriage that is what you do. You come back to the hard places. You revisit the hard conversations. You pull back the bandage to expose the wounds so there can be healing. And as you grow and mature and heal, you find you are able to extend more grace and see the gifts that have always been there.
Bernie and I are far from perfect. But I am thankful beyond words for our history in this Victorian Inn. I'm thankful for God's work in us and in our marriage. I am thankful for the friends and family who have walked with us through some hard seasons. I'm thankful for our daughters who have given us reasons to persevere through hard times. I want to tell young couples to not give up. I want to tell parents in every season to fight for your marriage. I want to encourage you if you feel hopeless. And for those of you who find yourselves heading into the empty nest season (or another season) without your marriage intact, without your spouse by your side, I want to remind you of God's grace. Even in your most profound disappointments, God is with you. He walks with you. He will never leave you. He splashes His love and faithfulness in vibrant colors across the sky for you and for me.
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