One Year Ago...

One Year Ago...

May 14th marked one year that our family has had an address here in Suburbia, USA. I say it that way because after the big truck unloaded our furniture, the kids and I turned right around and went back to Small Town, USA to finish the school year. We lived in hotels and with friends and survived bronchitis and band concerts and living out of suitcases.

I think back to what the last year has brought and done for my family, and where our feet are pointed now.

There have been struggles and difficulties, as there always are in a relocation, particularly for teenagers. There have been victories and successes, as there always are when God is in it.

I still feel, to some degree, in that No Man's Land of between-ness.

There have been hard things that have pulled us back, physically, to Small Town to help grieve.

There have been hard things that have pulled us back, emotionally, to Small Town to wish we were there to help grieve and offer hugs.

There have been happy things that have pulled us back, physically, to Small Town to celebrate.

There have been happy things that have pulled us back, emotionally, to Small Town that we celebrate from afar, offering congratulations and enjoying photos.

Here, we are still tip-toeing toward acceptance and belonging. People are so very kind and gracious, but the reality is that true and real relationships take forging.

When my dear and wonderful Mark 2 friend leaned across a grimy table in the Taco Bueno in Small Town almost 10 years ago now, our children leap-frogging tables behind us, tears glistened in her eyes. "I am COMMITTED to your marriage making it!" she exclaimed. She had steel resolve where I did not as my marriage was barely able to be resuscitated.

"We'll get through this," said this woman I barely knew. "This is how friendships are made...."

She repeated the same thing less than a year later.

Another Mark 2 friend had found hard, hard news -- her son, her 6 year old with the bluest eyes any of us had ever seen, had a brain tumor. Get to BigCityHospital. Now.

We met at the airport to pray and see them off. Watching them walk out to the plane, Taco Bueno friend said it again:

"We're going to have to be there for her. But we will. This is how friendships are made..."

You know what I was thinking? "Can't we just meet together and play Monopoly? Have a Diet Coke?"

But the reality is no. She's right. Friendships are forged on the anvil of tears and tragedy, prayers and pain. Which is why she is still a dear friend today.

Here I have met and come to know people that I  know will be forever friends. I know that there are forever friends yet to meet.

But as hard things have unfolded around us -- and they have -- I have not been witness to the history, the back story, or the forging. My heart is sad for the hurt surrounding the hard thing, but I am on the periphery.

And as celebrations have occurred I have enjoyed watching people rejoice together and celebrate, but I am unaware of the struggle that took place to get the butterfly in flight. I am still a little bit on the outside.

God is, of course, at work in our time here. Every day that we are here we begin to be a little more clear about why we were called here -- why God needed this to be our mission field. I know that God did not bring us here to work alone, either.

He continues to reveal to us people who will journey beside us, champion our children, and do mission work with us. I know that there are still things to learn about our purpose, call, and mission.

And I know that there are friendships to be forged.

And through it all, He will be there, for He is faithful.

"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures." Psalm 16:11


For Mother's Day

originally published in Abilene Families
(originally written May, 2006)

As a mother, you would think that I would be all about Mother’s Day – a day just for ME, a day to get, get, get, and a day when praise is lavished on all mothers. Who could ask for anything more? Truthfully, mother’s day – especially the Hallmark version of it – makes me very uncomfortable. You know which kind of image I’m talking about – a young mother, clad in a pristine white gown in an immaculate, beautifully decorated home, holding a perfectly chubby, cooing baby as they gaze into each other’s eyes.

The poetry accompanying the image details the sacrifices the loving mother makes and how wonderful she is and on and on and on. I simply can’t relate: My home has never been immaculate OR decorated, I learned a long time ago not to wear white while holding a child of any age, and I regret how much time I didn’t spend gazing at my babies before they transformed into galloping toddlers, now pre-teens.

The words are what make me squirm the most. Mothers are not defined by the Hallmark moments, but by the horrible moments. Anybody loves to play with a giggling baby or rambunctious toddler, but it’s mom who cleans up when potty-training is not quite successful. It’s mom wiping heads and doing laundry and providing a clean basin when the stomach virus tears through the house at 3 a.m.

It’s mom holding constant vigil at a hospital bedside or waiting room. It’s mom lifting, feeding, bathing, and caring for a handicapped child day in and day out. It’s mom wearing a trough in the carpet next to her bed as she kneels for a child who has lost their way or is fighting in harm’s way or whose heart is broken beyond repair. I don’t know of any woman who would ask to be put in any of those situations, but those are the moments that define motherhood. We don’t want praise or pretty words about things we do that we would rather not do. It’s just what we do. It’s being a mom.

While these flowery thoughts and sentiments make me somewhat uncomfortable, they can be downright painful for many people. Mothers who must wait until they get to heaven to hug their child again, mothers who selflessly blessed an adoptive family with their own baby, mothers whose only children are really nieces, nephews, and friends since life has not brought her children of her own and countless other situations can bring pain and disappointment to this day of celebration.

As you think of the women you know that you would consider “extraordinary mothers”, they are probably women making it just one day at a time in extraordinary situations. You probably don’t call to mind a mom of two healthy children with a healthy spouse still living in the home. You probably don’t think of someone like, well, me. The extraordinary mothers we know may have many children raising them all to be successful individuals, may have handicapped or chronically ill children, may have lost a child, or may go to great lengths for her children to have normalcy in the midst of difficult life circumstances. Few of these women would want the accolades or flowery words of a Hallmark commercial. They are simply putting one foot in front of the other because another being in this life depends on it. It’s just what we do. It’s being a mom.

I can’t speak for all moms, but as much as I love words, I don’t want to hear many about what kind of mom I am on Mother’s Day. For me, it simply reminds me of all the places I fall short or what a bad attitude I occasionally have while doing what I do – being a mom. Oh, sure, I won’t turn down any gifts – diamonds are my favorite, sapphire is my birthstone, and if you’re buying a ring remember that my fingers are crazy skinny – but if you need to use any words, a simple, “Thanks for what you do” will suffice, and I wouldn’t mind hearing that once a week. Not saying, “But I don’t want to” when asked to do your job would be nice, because I rarely want to cook your dinner or fold your clothes, but it’s what I do. It’s being a mom. And, most of all, just grow up to make your momma proud.

Unfortunately, in the past year, my children have been acquainted with several children who have lost a parent to death. Knowing that anything can happen, I have been reminded at those times to let my children know what I want most for them out of life. At one point we were driving and discussing a child who had lost a parent and how hard that would be. I said, “If anything ever happens to me, first I want you to know how much I love you. And all I want for you in life is to love the Lord and to marry someone who loves the Lord.”

This brought a know-it-all nod from one child who said in a satisfied tone, “I knew you were going to say that.”

Very well, then. Carry on. That’s all I need to know for a happy Mother’s Day!


Teacher Appreciation

(This was written years ago as the only way I knew to thank my children's teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week. It is still as true today as it was then, though our move has kept me from knowing my children's teachers as well as I have in the past. They still mold, shape, and encourage, and I am still forever grateful for all that they do.)

This month includes teacher appreciation week. Every year I promise myself that starting in April I will get all of my ducks in a row and do something excessively wonderful for all of my children's teachers. And every April looks just like the last where I finish out the month with disheveled hair and wild eyes screaming, "What was THAT??"

I rarely do anything excessively wonderful for my children's teachers but I do appreciate them.

I always tell people that my philosophy on choosing how to educate your children (public, private, or home) is to do it prayerfully and carefully, and be willing to admit at any moment that it is no longer working for your family and change gears.

Thus far, we have been in public schools. Thus far, I still cannot believe how blessed my children have been with teachers and administrators. I do not request or choose teachers for my children, I pray and let the One who knit them and knew them before I did choose my children's teachers for them. He has never failed.

Yes, my children are my responsibility. Beyond my responsibility, they are little pieces of my heart out walking around on this planet. But research tells us that the more adults my children have that take an interest in their lives and have a relationship with my children, the more successful they will be in all areas of life. My children's teachers have not disappointed.

To you, precious people, words are not enough. How do you say 'thank you for being a brush stroke and background lighting for this masterpiece of a human'? How can I tell each of you that your delight in my child's successes fanned into flame a passion that will carry them into adulthood? You have pointed out strengths and pushed them along and kept them from doing 'just enough'.

None of you have let my children blend into the background. You have encouraged and cheered, praised and prodded, expected the best and never accepted the worst.

I have done your job. That is why I am now not doing your job. It is NOT for the faint of heart (or weary of foot). It is for people with tender hearts, thick skin, and a million hugging arms. It is for people with cast iron stomachs, bladders of elastic, and Solomon's wisdom.

I know that by this time of year you don't want to be appreciated by any way other than a day away from these people and you wonder if you would actually come back. But for some crazy reason, back you come. Sometimes you wonder if it's just your car coming out of habit.

Even at middle school level, you wouldn't believe how much I hear about you and how you touch my child's life and shape their values by what you find funny, the way you treat other students, and even the music played in your class; how your sad days will make my tender-hearted child's heart ache until you are smiling again.

You live in my neighborhood, worship at our church, exercise at my gym, shop at my grocery store. We see you and feel like a part of your life. You are a beloved part of my family, but not the crazy faction that we try to abstain from visiting. And I am part of yours -- if for no other reason than the fact that you have given your all to my children and there is little of you left by the end of the day. Thank you, and thank your family for us, too.

I can't say thank you enough or adequately. But I do thank you, and pray frequently for you. This time of year, my prayer is "strength for the journey". May you truly have strength for your journey, and countless blessings in your life for the blessing you are in mine.

I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3
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