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.
"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
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.
"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.
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.
Recently I got a massage. - a birthday gift I've been waiting to use for two months. For me, getting a massage is a an indulgence, and one I am not entirely comfortable with. No judgement here; it's just that I am not at all used to pampering myself in this way. As I tried to relax and breathe through the paper-lined donut that cradled my face, my thoughts bounced around like marbles in a pinball machine. It went something like this...
What a wonderful birthday gift. Today is the perfect day for me to enjoy this...it's been such a busy week.
Oh my gosh! I forgot that Bernie is at a class and Claire has to take the car to work which means that I can't pick Brenna up from school for our special date like we planned. (Insert Mom guilt over having to cancel special date here.) I'll need to call the school as soon as I leave here so they can get a message to Brenna to take the bus home.
Relax, Becky. You are supposed to be relaxing. It's all OK. Brenna will understand.
When am I going to go to the grocery store? I am working the next two days.
Wow...this feels so good. When she was working on my back and shoulders a couple of minutes ago I thought that was the best, but who knew that having your arms and hands massaged could feel so good? And she is not in a hurry. She is taking her time.
The deadline to order Claire's senior pictures is in eight days. (I'm a mom. This is how my brain works.)
As she gently worked the tension out of my body, I thought about how, over the last week, my arms had carried bags and boxes, lifted my suitcase in and out of the trunk, pushed a shopping cart, swept my hardwood floors, and wrapped themselves around those I love. I thought about how my hands had mixed and measured ingredients, prepared food for customers and family, shook strangers' hands during introductions, held a microphone, and cleaned up dog puke from our family room floor. I pictured my fingers moving over my keyboard, typing words and clicking my mousepad, holding a pen while writing up invoices and writing down appointments, never-ending to-do lists, and prayers in my journal. I pictured them scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, texting messages to people in my tribe, moving over and under as I braid my daughter's hair.
This woman's job is to pamper and nurture people, to give them a retreat from their work and rest from the busyness of their days. I wonder what she does for a retreat? I wonder who pampers her?
Suddenly a memory comes to mind of being with my mom in the hospital, the day before she died. Or was it the morning of? I had massaged lotion onto her legs and feet and arms and hands. I will never forget how it felt to pour out my grief and love in those moments. I didn't want to let her go. But I knew I had to.
Now I am softly crying. The woman is massaging my legs and feet, and when she touches my right foot I jerk it away. "You're ticklish! So sorry." For some reason I picture my daughter Kate's face, and I cry some more. She is a sophomore in college and I miss her. A lot.
What on earth is wrong with me? Only I would turn a massage into some sort of deep, reflective, emotionally charged activity. This is why I shouldn't do stuff like this...
Slowing down is hard for some of us. Maybe one of the reasons some of us don't slow down is because we are afraid of what I just described. We are afraid of what is there, just beneath the surface, or maybe buried deep below. We don't want to remember the sad. We don't want to feel the hurt. We don't want to feel angry or scared or have to deal with our own sense of failure or rejection. We have questions without answers. So we stay busy. We go fast. We avoid what is uncomfortable.
But hard-wired into our very DNA is a need to slow down: a God-instilled rhythm of work and rest, work and rest. We were created to go and stop, not just go go go. We were designed to remember and reflect, to connect. We were made to laugh and cry and breathe and feel all the feels.
I left my appointment feeling relaxed and calm. And at a deeper level, grateful and comforted and sensitive to all of life around me. Nothing came up during my 50-minute massage that God did not tenderly hold with me. I'm grateful for meaningful work and opportunities to grow. I love my family, my tribe, and even my dog who makes messes for me to clean up. It's been almost six years, and I still miss Mom every day. I miss Kate, away at college, every single day. Claire will be graduating in May and heading to college in the fall. Brenna will be starting high school and honestly, it's all breaking my heart a little bit. I need to slow down enough to feel it. Why? Because whether or not I'm aware of it , I need comfort.
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." We cannot experience comfort without mourning. And we can't mourn what we refuse to feel.
My guess is you've got some stuff that's honestly breaking your heart just a bit, and I'm wondering if maybe you need to slow down enough to feel it, too? It doesn't have to be a massage. Go for a walk. Sit with your coffee in the morning, just you and God. Turn off the radio when you're driving alone in your car. Turn off the TV and Pandora. Tell Alexa to take a nap. Just. slow. down. Let yourself be still. Don't be afraid of what may surface. Whatever it is, you won't face it alone. God will hold it with you.
I am a member of a Chicago-area speaker group - a group of like-minded women who write and speak and are passionate about sharing messages that resonate with and encourage women. At our last meeting, after sharing some discouraging news I received about a writing project, a couple of these friends encouraged me to start blogging more regularly. Like every week.
"Every week?!? I can't do that! I don't have time," I pushed back because what they were suggesting felt overwhelming to me. One of the women graciously shared her observation that if I continued to write blog posts the length of a book chapter that are perfectly edited and polished, then no, I probably couldn't pull off a blog post a week. But if I were to write short snippets, to write about moments as a mom and a writer, as a wife and a friend, and just put them out there, then I probably could write one post a week. They encouraged me to connect authentically and not worry about doing it perfectly.
When it comes to writing, I am a perfectionist. I painstakingly labor over every word, send my "book chapter" off to a few people to proof, sit with it for several days, make edits, and then often mentally debate back and forth over whether it is worthy of posting. I want my writing to be clean. More importantly, I want to say something of value. I don't just want to be another voice in a sea of voices.
My friends convinced me to give it a shot. They know my journey. They believe in the work God is doing in and around me. These women are some of the "Mordecais" in my life. Remember him? In the story of Queen Esther, he is her cousin who was really more of a father figure in her life. When she is taken into the King's harem, Mordecai keeps his eye on Esther. And he keeps his ears open to the sinister plot developing from inside the palace to destroy the Jewish people (which included Esther and Mordecai.)
Esther may be able to do something. But it is risky. She could lose her life in the process of trying to save her people. In some of the most beloved words of the Old Testament we read this charge to Esther:
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
We love these words filled with inspiration and courage. These words have been the theme of women's conferences, have graced the covers of books, have been written into song lyrics and sermons.
Who knows whether everything that has happened to you in your life, the good and the bad, the blessing and the suffering, has led up to this divinely-inspired moment, when God may do something beyond what you could ever imagine?
We so love this verse, but have we considered who said these words? It wasn't Esther; it was Mordecai, her watchful, wise, faith-filled cousin. He challenges Esther to see beyond her life in the palace. He encourages her - which literally means "to fill with courage" - to consider the possibility that God may be up to something. That maybe He has been working His plan in all of the circumstances leading up to this moment, and maybe He wanted to use Esther the queen to save her people.
Now to be clear, few of us will ever impact a nation of people the way Esther did. Mordecai's words held immeasurable influence over Esther's life, and her brave actions changed the course of history for the Jewish people. And, I am certainly not comparing myself, my influence, or my platform to Esther's in any way. But I believe that we can, in big and small ways, be Mordecai to the people God has put in our lives.
Several friends have been Mordecai to me over the years, in various areas of my life. Truth-tellers and encouragers have helped me be brave in parenting and marriage, trust God in the most heart-wrenching situations, and find courage to say yes to things that terrify me.
We can fill others with courage. We can say, "I know your story. I've been with you through the ups and downs. I see how you have struggled and the ways you have doubted God's work in your life. I see the fear and insecurity you have about stepping out and speaking up. It's understandable. But I also see the beautiful ways God has gifted you. I see what you've overcome. I see your faith and your surrendered heart. And I just can't help but wonder if maybe God has been working in your life in ways you haven't been able to see? I can't shake this feeling that maybe He wants to use you and your story for His purposes. Take courage! Be brave! Be bold! Together, let's see what God might do."
Who are the Mordecai's in your life? And for whom can you be a Mordecai? To whom can you speak words of truth and faith? Whose heart can you fill with courage today?
Categories: for such a time as this, encouragement, courage, brave, Esther, Mordecai, God's plan, words of truth, fear, anxiety, discouragement, friendship, writing, speaking, faith, Christian blogs
My daughter, Kate, is in her second year of nursing school, and she decided not to come home from college for spring break. And I am happy. It's not that I wouldn't love to see her -- I miss her and sooo would love to have her home. I would love to have tea together in the morning and catch up on...everything. I'd be thrilled to set an extra place at the dinner table. It would warm my heart to hear the sisters talking and giggling in her room. But she has chosen, for the second year in a row, to go with her cousin, Britta, on a road trip to visit extended family.
First stop: their cousin Rachel's house. They will spend a few days with Rachel, her husband, and their two kids. (Their dog is at the kennel because he is as huge as a horse and my petite daughter is legit scared of him.) Then they will head upstate to visit my sister, Kari, and her husband, their five kids, and their two dogs. (Their dogs are harmless little yippers, so they get to stay.)
Here is why I am happy: Rachel and Kari each texted Kate and Britta to ask them what food they want served during their visits. I know the girls are going to be welcomed and pampered and loved on. They are going to sleep late, hopefully take a break from studying, and get their college-sized buckets filled while spending time with these families. There will be lots of laughter, deep conversations, probably some tears, and a fair amount of inappropriate humor. Rachel, Kari, and their husbands will speak words of life and truth and encouragement. The kids will splash light and love the way kids do, and for all of it, I am so, so grateful.
I am happy that my daughter has good people in her life. I'm glad she invests in life-giving relationships and that she knows where to go to get filled up. She has been watching me do this for years: coffee dates and walks with friends, phone conversations that keep me grounded and authentically connected, trips with sisters and friends, nurturing relationships that fill me up. God has healed me and loved me through the good people in my life. And to see Him doing that in the lives of my daughters and my nieces makes my heart so very happy.
I hope that my three daughters will make time to nurture their relationships in the coming years. I hope that when they are married and have children, when the craziness of family life is in full swing, wherever they may be, that they will take time for themselves. I hope they will invest in their relationships. I hope they will learn what fills them up and then be intentional about scheduling those activities into their calendars. I hope my daughters will plan get-aways together and not invite me. (OK, maybe sometimes they can invite me.)
I think our daughters are on their way, because when my husband and I asked the younger two what they wanted to do for their Spring Break (which is in a couple of weeks), they both said the same thing: "Let's go see Kate at college."
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12
Categories parenting, motherhood, relationships, letting go, self-care, family, spring break, parenting adult children, love
I am a mother of three teen daughters. Make that two teenagers and a 20 year-old: college, high school, and middle school. My daughters have grown up in a Christ-centered home watching their very imperfect parents struggle and grow and hold on to their faith during life's ups and downs, including some really difficult seasons. They memorized Scripture in Awana and went on youth retreats every year with our church's student ministries. They have gone on multiple global service trips. Each of them have a genuine, growing faith -- a faith that began when they were children and they are each now owning as teens and young adults.
This is good news. This is really good news. And yet, I am finding myself in this interim season, especially with the two older girls, where I am trying to figure out how to engage and have conversations about faith and culture when we don't always agree on things. I am quite clumsily navigating discussions that sometimes don't go very well as I seek to listen and understand, be heard and understood, and continue to guide and come alongside my daughters as they develop their world views and faith perspectives.
For moms and dads, these are challenging times. Our culture is profoundly influencing our children, and if I'm honest, it is profoundly influencing me. More than ever I am aware of my need to be rooted and grounded in the truth of God's Word, and to be alert and watchful. I will be the first to admit that I feel like I'm in over my head. Sometimes it seems like our powerful cultural current is sweeping us all off our feet, carrying us along, and we may not even be aware of its pull and the direction in which we are headed. We float along as if in a lazy river, and maybe that is part of the problem. Maybe we've become lazy when it comes to seeking and upholding truth and the process of spiritual transformation. We prefer quick fixes. We want what feels good.
Here is where it gets tricky: there is a brand of modern, progressive Christianity that calls into question the validity, reliability, and relevance of Scripture. Some groups emphasize and elevate certain parts of the Bible over others: some disregard the Old Testament or parts of it, others focus only on the words of Jesus, and some reject various passages because they do not align with twenty-first century thinking. Instead of preaching the gospel of good news that Jesus came to rescue us from sin and transform us by His Spirit so that we can know His will and live lives that please Him, another gospel is being preached. It is a gospel of self-reliance, self-promotion, and the self-seeking pursuit of happiness. Rather than calling us to discipleship, to taking up our crosses daily and following Christ, it is an ever-evolving, ear-tickling message that fits into our culture nicely. Choose your own path. Make your own rules. Interpret the Bible however you think it should be interpreted and essentially, make up your own version of God. Because the God of the Bible confounds us and confuses us at times, and we need to make Him behave. And people are eating it up.
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." Romans 16:17-18
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16, 17
It is good to ask questions. It is healthy to engage our minds and our hearts as we study Scripture. But if in our questioning we are demanding answers that we agree with and approve of, answers that make sense to us and seem right in our own eyes, then we are in serious danger of creating our own version of God - one who acts and speaks and does what we think is right.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. " 2 Timothy 4:2-4
I love what Peter says regarding the reliability of the message he and the early Christian leaders were proclaiming:
"For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21
I am in the thick of this, and I'm learning some things about my kids and about myself. I'm discovering some "what to do and what not to do" behaviors and responses (through trial and error), and I'd like to share a few of them here:
1. Don't freak out. (I have freaked out A LOT.) It can be alarming to hear your child say things or do things that go against what you believe to be true and right. My most common reaction in these situations is to over-react. I get emotional. Sometimes it comes out in frustration and even anger, but I'm aware that under the surface I am scared. I am worried my child may be deceived by false teaching, and on a deeper level, I am scared at the realization that I am not in control. I actually have zero control. My children will make their own choices and forge their own faith journeys. I do, however, have influence. But my influence will be severely hampered if I am reactive and emotional. My kids do not feel safe talking to me about their questions and opinions when I interrupt them and don't listen. Trust me when I say that I have messed up on this point and have botched many conversations because of my emotional responses. But it is not the end of the world, because there is this thing called grace. When I circle back and acknowledge my failure to engage well in a conversation, when, in humility, I admit when I'm wrong, when I am honest about the fact that I don't have the monopoly on absolute truth or know the answers to all or even most of our hardest questions, and when I vulnerably admit to my child my fears that lurk under my frustrations, I've seen something pretty remarkable happen. My child sees my struggle. She sees that I am trying. She sees that I love her. By grace, we get to try again. And again, and again.
2. Don't not freak out. It's true that we should not freak out. (See point #1). But if not freaking out means that I throw my hands up in the air like I just don't care, that I remain silent when I hear things that don't align with our faith and values, that I trust somehow it will all work out in the end, and I give my children all the space in the world to figure things out on their own, then I think we need to freak out a little. False teaching should alarm us. Red flags should go up. Like a warning light on the dashboard of our car, we should pay attention and heed caution. We should pay attention to what our kids are reading and read some of these books ourselves. We should study apologetics and dig into the hard stuff. It is a huge mistake for us as parents to be silent when our kids need us to be involved. To look the other way when they still need our guidance. Even if they don't agree with what we are saying, I truly believe they want connection. There will be times when we need to back off and, for a time, maybe stop discussing certain topics or issues. But we can still engage and be present in our actions and by example. Even as our kids become adults, we can be some of the most influential people in their lives. Hanging in there, being sensitive to timing and non-verbal cues, and showing respect by how I handle myself in the conversation goes a long way in protecting and preserving the relationship. And this is of utmost importance. Because without relationship I have no influence! When I demonstrate that our relationship is more important to me than proving a point or getting my child to see thing's the way I do, her heart towards me softens. She sees that I am not willing to give up or walk away. She sees that because we love each other and are on the same team, we keep jumping in. We keep engaging. And in my human, flawed, imperfect way, I will keep trying to be the best mom-mentor I can be.
3. Do trust God -- deeply, unswervingly, from the bottom of your heart. And pray for your children. Pray for their friends. Pray for your nieces and nephews, It really is true that God loves these children even more than we do. He cares about the state of their hearts and their faith journeys even more than we do. And unlike us, He does have control over a whole myriad of factors and influences we may not think about. He orchestrates people to cross their paths. He brings to mind truths in just the right moment. He uses anything and anyone to do His holy work, and most importantly, by the work of His Spirit, He convicts, reveals, heals, and transforms. And even if it is sometimes hard for us to imagine and believe, He uses us as parents, in all our shortcomings, to illustrate and demonstrate the gospel. He uses us in our weaknesses to showcase His strength and perfection. He uses us in our deficits and in our lack to show our kids that what they need most can only ever be found in Him. By His grace, God redeems, restores, and redirects. He holds us in His hands, and His love never fails.
4. Demonstrate biblical dependency and a commitment to live under the authority of Scripture. This speaks volumes. Living the Christian life is not about following rules and being a good person. It is about following THE person who gave His life in exchange for mine. It is about submitting myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, surrendering my life to His will, and placing all of my trust in Him. It is about holding Scripture higher than my own desires, opinions, and will. None of us does this perfectly.
By His grace, may we be found faithful.
A resource that has been extremely helpful to me: www.alisachilders.com/
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