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Tindell Baldwin »

Do you know what a worldwide pandemic and nationwide lockdown has provided me with lots of?


All day. everyday. Three of my four people telling the me the list of sins the other siblings have committed. It sounds something like this…

“Mom he looked at me with a mean face”

“Mom I can’t hear cause she’s yelling”

“Mom she won’t leave me alone”

“Mom he won’t give me alone time”

“Mom she hit me”

“Mom he closed the door on me”

“Mom, he’s dancing and I want to dance alone” (didn’t make this up)

“Mom, she told me I am not good at basketball”

“Mom he started the show with out me”

And the list just keeps going. Too much togetherness coupled with cancelled activities, time without friends, and just plain old boredom has created a hostile living environment. We have bickering before the waffle has even emerged from the toaster. With a baby on one hip my most muttered Covid phrase has been “figure it out” shortly followed by “not like that.” It’s amazing how when tensions are high the smallest offense can set off the alarm.

What frustrates me the most about all the bickering, besides the constant background noise that sounds like cats in a metal trashcan, is that they are missing out on the joy of the relationship. I came from a big family, three brothers to be exact,  I remember the utter annoyance I felt at brother b when brother c took his side and I remember the rage the boiled when my best attempts to annoy were met by a calm demeanor. I remember it all but I laugh about it retrospect because I love my brothers. My childhood was dreamy and we still jokingly call each other the stupid names we made up just to piss each other off. I want to whisper through clenched teeth at my kids “one day you guys will realize the gift you have in each other.” One day I pray this bickering will be distant memories we laugh about when we weren’t so mature and weren’t able to take a break.

One of the major hot button issues that seems to be a recurring theme in my kids quarreling matches is just how different the other is. Briggs wants Claire to listen more and talk less. Claire wants briggs to dance without abandon. We all want Colbie to pick her self up off the floor and stop crying long enough to understand what she’s saying. Benji wants everyone to go to school. I agree with Benji. 

The point is that the only thing my kids continually agree is they all need mom and she’s standing right there and if she doesn’t answer they should say it again…but louder. Besides that it’s all up for discussion. 

I pray though that one day they all come to appreciate just how different they are. One day Claire will see Briggs need for order and quiet as his gift he brings to our loud table. Briggs will see Claire’s constant imagination as the push we all need to keep dreaming. Colbie will remind us all to laugh hard and often I imagine. I think we will all stare in wonder at Benji every time he smiles (oh to be the baby). The point is one day when we are all a little more mature (myself included) we will be able to see this beautiful quilt God has been knitting in our family. We will appreciate the other colors he added to a square and perhaps the darkness in our own. We will see that our differences don’t divide us they make us more complete. 

I have wondered recently if God is feeling the same way, like he wishes we could all see the gift we have in each other instead of the divisive rage that has been created by our differences. I realize this is a very trivialized version of the current political, racial, and religious polarization thats happening every day but I wondered lately if our very need to rally together is being damaged because we are being caught up in our differences. 

Our current solution for when our kids fight is to have them sit on the bottom step arms around each other and talk through what is hurting them. We have noticed that when they focus on what happened we don’t get anywhere but when we ask them to talk about how they feel we can get to the bottom of it. Ben is credited for this stroke of parenting genius and it’s far more effective than any other method we have tried. Sitting arm in arm and talking about your hurt is hard to ignore. The blame game throws up defenses but vulnerability about our feelings when the other party is listening… well that shows our humanity.

I think we all need a moment on the stairs right now. A moment to look each other in the eyes, arms around one another, and hear the hurt. It seems like we would get farther linking arms than hurling insults and blame.  

My mom is the last person who should believe in medical miracles. 

For as long as I can remember my mom has been sick, spent her life searching for answers only to find smoke and mirrors. In my youth I believed she would be healed, at each turn I would think this doctor might have the right answer. When she went to mayo clinic in my twenties, I assumed they would leave with real concrete ideas of how to help my mom have a normal life. Doctors would always get close, as recently as this year the specialist she was seeing thought he found the hidden tumor that had caused years of pain, headaches, fevers, exhaustion, and the list goes on. Then on the final test before removal they concluded the tumor was inactive and had nothing to do with her illness. 

Each time it was like the white board got filled with ideas so close to solving the mystery but then it would get wiped clean and the journey would start again. I don’t know when I lost hope that my mom would be healed, probably somewhere in the last five years. It didn’t rock my faith or shake me to my core I just simply realized my mom would be sick my whole life. That sounds like a bleak observation but lots of peace came with this. I could just see the good in what I did have with my mom. I have lots of friends with healthy parents and strained relationships but I have a sick mom and a beautiful relationship. I would always choose the latter. She shows up for me in the very best way she can and somewhere along the way I realized that was enough and I was actually really lucky.

So yesterday when we were on the phone and talking about my grandfather’s upcoming surgery, his final surgery, to restore his lost eye sight I (embarrassingly) didn’t have a lot of hope. I of course would pray but before God ever answered I resigned myself to the same “no” that I had received my whole life about my mom. Then my mom said, “Tindell, God still performs miracles, I see it all the time.” This woman, this rock of a woman, had utter faith despite still being sick. Despite years of no in her own prayers of pleas she believed God still listens and answers miracle prayers. I thought about it the rest of the day, as I drove my sick son to the doctor, and answered work emails, and got my babies from school. I thought about it as I made dinner and watched the kids have a tea party. I thought about my mom and what kind of faith she must have to believe in God with such strength and conviction. My faith felt paper thin when I reflected on her. How weak I had been to equate my faith with answers. I woke up this morning and said the only prayer I could muster for my grandfather’s surgery, “I do believe God, help me overcome my unbelief.” I felt like the father begging Jesus to save his son, he knew he could but he didn’t know if he believed he would. (Mark 9:24)

Sometimes that is the only faith we can have, a faith that begs God to fill in the gaps of our unbelief and to perhaps see the good in his answer of “no”. My grandfather might not see until heaven and my mom might never know good health until she leaves this world. That is true but their response in the in-between is the most beautiful, awe inspiring, and faith building thing I experience. I tell my mom all the time, there are far healthier people with a worse outlook on life than you. She has bad days for sure, sad days sometimes come in waves, but no one that knows her wouldn’t call her a bright spot. 

Recently her best friend (and my aunt) went through breast cancer and chemo. My mom prayed the bold, and some would say ridiculous, prayer that my aunt wouldn’t lose her hair. It might sound silly but it was just one thing that could make this horrible thing a little less horrible. My aunt just finished her final round of chemo and still has her hair. The doctor finally admitted that she wasn’t going to lose it, an incredibly rare thing, but my mom wasn’t surprised. She had been praying a bold prayer to a loving God who answered her request, I want faith like that. 

We will all go through things that define our faith or perhaps how we see God. They might tell us one story of who he is or how he loves us but I have learned I have only scratched the surface of who God is. My experiences don’t add up to a full picture because my life is not the whole world. I don’t know why God hasn’t healed my mom but I know I am a better daughter because she is sick, I know I am more compassionate because she is sick, I know that I love better because of how I have experienced her life. That seems like a big price to pay for me to learn but I know countless other people who have been touched by my mom’s life not just because of who she is but because of how she lives despite the hard. I still wish she was healed, don’t get me wrong, but I still think God is good even though she isn’t. 

  • Janice Wood - Thank you for your article. My son has progressive MS. He was diagnosed when he was 30 and he is 46 . . He isn’t able to feed himself or really do anything for himself. We are very sad but God has always been by our side. As you say, I am a better Christian because if his illness. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences. May God bless and strengthen you and
    your mother. Our dear friends were the Hunkapillers when they lived in Beech Creek Ky. Give them the Whitney family’s love.

    Janice Whitney WoodReplyCancel

“I am right in the center of God’s will so I have complete peace” my grandmother told me this morning. Her and my grandfather are moving from the top of tiger mountain to a 55 plus community. It will be the first time they have lived farther than 20 min from the lake. It will be the first time she can see her neighbors in 30 years. It will be the first time they have not had a view of the mountains in probably 60 years. The rest of us mourn, we feel the end of an era coming. We have been privileged enough to visit my grandparents since I was a child. The North Georgia Mountains feel as much a part of my childhood as my own childhood home. I can drive those roads and pull from a catalog of memories and songs. In two weeks though, the door is closing for them and for us. It’s strange how sentimental you can feel about a place, how it can feel woven into your being. It was where I got married, where I learned to enjoy the beauty of nature, it was where I felt the most peace. 

I am in awe of her faith. I want to have the same mindset. My mimi has always been a spiritual giant to me, not because of any accomplishment but because of how she has always lived. She has never done faith for show but modeled it in the most intentional and inspiring way. She has always been behind the scenes making cobbler and making a way for her grandkids to have incredible memories at her lake house. I believe her when she says she prays for me. I trust her when she tells me that she knows God is leading this move. I can picture my grandmother linking arms with Jesus as she walks because that is always how she has lived. 

I thought faith like this would happen over time. I thought you’d just get to a point where you were mature, kind of like reaching your final height. Yet here I am waking up every day and remembering my dads saying that as you get older it becomes harder not to just grow cynical. My faith has not grown instead it has taken a massive hit. I have struggled not only to say “it is well” but to ask anything of God. I have watched the lives of people I love crumble, I have lost hope that anything good can come after two years of a really trying season. How I wish I was like my grandmother, able to look at life with all its messiness and proclaim real honest faith, hope, and love. 

I am in the middle though, the middle of raising babies, the middle of life disappointments, the middle of wondering what is next in my “career”. I am in the middle of aging and worries and wonderings if I am missing the things that really matter. I am in the middle of life. I am learning that my faith is not grown by the passing of time but by continuing to stay in the battle. I am learning that giving up my will for the betterment of others is never something that becomes easy (or at least not for someone like me). I am learning that Jesus was not joking when he said, “in this world you will have troubles but TAKE HEART for I have overcome the world.” I am slowly removing one finger at a time of the tight grasp I have on my life and my dreams. I don’t know if it will get easier or if the trials are just Gods way to accelerate my letting go. I don’t know if I will ever be as inspiring as my grandmother, content to trust not in what’s next but in who she believes is leading her. 

I know I want to be that way though. I want my kids to smile when I call and not role their eyes at the list of complaints they may get from me. I want my home to remain an open door to whatever family, friends, and neighbors may come in. I want my stuff to be secondary to my relationships. I want my faith to be something I live not something I talk about. I want to still be laughing with Ben at 85 with the same love we had at 25. I want to fight for the things that matter and not get swept up in the things that don’t. Thats the real challenge though, the important almost never feels urgent. We make a list of things we won’t be without deciding who we actually will be. We get no guarantees on what lays ahead of us, my grandmothers life has not been all roses and sunshine, but we do get to decide how we will handle the hard things. 

Recently my dad and I spoke to a support group of parents with prodigal children. I asked him how he never parented out of fear when I was in the middle of raising literal hell. He said easy, I just believed God’s plan would work. He learned from the best. 

My mom always told me to be a student of my kids. That sounded so easy. Just watch and learn and take notes of when to lean in and when to stand back. Pray a lot and just go where God leads. I didn’t factor in how much of my own garbage would get in the way. If I had a hundred dollars for every time talking to my kids has prompted me to call a counselor… well I could afford a counselor. I didn’t know I would carry my own hurts into my parenting. I didn’t know i’d watch my kids struggle through heart aches and familiar problems and feel a pang of hurt I once felt as a kid myself. I didn’t know I would need my own mother to talk me off the ledge when it all felt like too much. I didn’t know that being a student meant learning about myself as well.

Yet here I am, watching my kids navigate the everyday hardships off life and cringing as I remember all the things I want to forget about being a 10 year old girl, or about the mean kids in school, or about desperately trying to pay attention but not feeling like it was possible. I think at the end of the day what I really want is to eliminate all of their hurt. I want to create a pain free existence for them so I try to control my way into that happening. If I can just put a few boards over all the major dips that I see happened my own journey they will come out unscathed. It doesn’t work though, because life isn’t a straight line, its a zig zag full of bumps, hills, and a few dark forests. I don’t go to school with them, or ride the bus, or see the 100th fruit snack they sneak when I am not looking. I have come to see that what is more valuable than my desperate attempts to remove hurt is to be able to see into their heart. This is the only way I will ever really be a student of my kids. 

I have come to see that the only realistic outcome is not a life that is void of pain but kids that come to me with their pain. I have yet to meet someone who actually got to avoid hurt all together but I have lots of friends who didn’t have anyone to take the pain of their every day life too. Now I know the Christian answer is that God is always willing to listen, and absolutely I agree but I also believe God desires for us to have deep community, not people we know but people who really know us and vice versa. I had two loving parents who were always ready to listen and point me towards a loving God when I brought them my pain. 

I had this flashback recently of walking with my mom by the river near our house when I was a teenager. Probably once a week we would walk a few miles and just talk, no agenda (well maybe sometimes she had an agenda) but what she really wanted to know was how I was. The power of that question doesn’t diminish in adulthood. It is still incredibly meaningful when someone asks, how are you? Not what have you been up to or what’s new with kids but, how are you? It gets to the heart of life and I am reminded thats what makes us feel seen and known.

I was recently challenged to decide what my north star of parenting is and I kept landing on the fact that I wanted to maintain influence. What my kids and even my husband do with my advice, wisdom (rarely), or nudges is up to them but I want a relationship where I am the phone call they want to make no matter what is going on. I want them to say, “my mom will know what to do.” That doesn’t have much to do with the advice you give but how you handle the hurts that happen in their life. 

This is challenging for me, I am a great drill sergeant but a horrible counselor. If you want orders I am your girl but if you want a soft place to land find Ben. This isn’t true in all my relationships… just my kids. With friends I am so willing to listen and care but God has revealed to me thats because the outcome doesn’t have anything to do with me. My kids though, the outcome feels tied to me. I have had to slowly let go though, knowing my attempts to control my way into an outcome will only compromise my influence with them. 

I can always tell when Briggs has something to tell me because he hangs around me quietly. Just kinda following me room to room, often asking me to throw the football. God will nudge my heart to prepare, if I overreact he will be lost, he will not bring me his news or hurts anymore. This is not natural for me, I am a great overreacter. The other day he was just hanging around, I sat quietly and just waited, hands empty, knowing it was coming. It did and when he shared I mentally counted to three before I responded. I was both sad and considering raging on a 8 year old (not a great look). I was so glad I had my north star in my head and my moms gentle voice in my ear. I acted breezy (while panic texting ben) gave him a huge hug and told him I was so glad he told me. He happily ran off to play (while I mentally fought a kid I didn’t even know and waited for the principal to call and tell me what happened). The school had handled the incident incredibly and Briggs wasn’t worried. He didn’t even have to tell me but I was so honored he wanted to. The best part is I know where he will come next time life hurts. I couldn’t change what happened at school but I could make sure he knew he had someone to talk to. 

Sophomore year of college I had convinced myself that I was going to be the spinster aunt, feeding my nieces and nephews candy until their parents banned my visits. I regularly asked my parents to keep my room available for post college and joked that I would purchase TV tray tables and cats after graduation. Why? Because I was 20 years old and hadn’t met my “soul mate”. This may sound strange but I had already attended Kristians wedding and welcomed my first nephew. At the time I was prepping for Taylors wedding to his high school sweetheart which I would attend solo. I was the only child at 20 years old to not have at least picked out who I would marry. Looking back its ridiculous, I know now how uncommon it is to get married that young and how even less common it is to get married that young and make it work. However, it was my normal and it was so easy to believe that the life I saw in front of me was the only life I would know. I had predefined God’s plan for me and was trying to make peace with my cat filled life. Comical considering I would meet ben the next year (but I was still the oldest to get married at a whopping 22).

I was thinking about this today when my sister in law told me she’s coming up on 16 years of marriage to Taylor and how 16 years ago I thought I knew my future. We don’t know our future though. For better or worse God’s great design was great dependence on him in all the unknowns of tomorrow. I thought I had my life pegged, I was gonna have a great writing career and a wardrobe full of power suits (which no writer wears). I had no idea that it all would morph into something far better.  I still don’t know what tomorrow holds but the invitation remains the same, trust God and his heart for me.

Parenting has me predicting the future a lot. I see Briggs laziness and tell myself he will in fact be living in my basement at 30. I see Colbie struggle in school and tell myself life will be hard for her. I watch Claire try to connect with girls her age and tell myself girls are going to be mean to her. I predict and I doubt God’s very good plan with my own presumptions of my kids future and my own. I have already taken God out of the mix as I work hard to “fix” all the perceived imperfections in my life.

When I get back to the basics though and bring my children lives to the feet of our creator he whispers, let me hold them. Last year, Taylor told me about mediating and how as a control person he practices letting go by putting things on balloons and letting them go one by one in his head. One night I was particularly worried about a lot so I decided to practice his method. I sat in bed and pictured all my fears for my kids, all the daily battles I mentally have on behalf of their future. It was a bunch of balloons and as I mentally tried to let them go I couldn’t. My grip got harder as my mind tried to pry apart my hands. I was sitting in bed eyes closed and tears just started to come down my cheeks. I had not realized how desperately I was holding onto their futures. As I watched this whole scene unfold in my head God put his arm on my shoulder and said, could I hold them for you? It was the most perfect picture of Gods love for me and my kids and I slowly released them all one by one into his caring and perfect hands. I have no less control than I did yesterday. I didn’t let go of their future, I put my hope and dreams into the only capable hands I know, my heavenly father.

Do I still worry? Absolutely. Is it still hard? Daily. But do I believe God is trustworthy, one hundred percent. The quicker we can decide to lean into trusting Gods heart for us the quicker we can feel the peace of letting go. We can’t predict the future friends, I don’t even own a cat. 

To all the other tired mama’s who need to remember today is not forever

I will forget the way illness left me in fear of who was next 

How winter made me crazy about hand washing and prayers that no one vomited

I will forget how tired I was when they fought me about baths, dinner, and bed

How long I spent planning meals just for them to eat 3 bites

I will forget how tiring the nights were when I did bedtime alone

How sacred date nights were and how messy the house always felt 

I will forget how big their little problems felt, or how much I wished I had more to give

How I had to pray before I went into their rooms sometimes

I will forget how potty training made me scream into a pillow 

Or how tv time was my sanity or how the few hours of school felt like vacation 

I will forget how I was always living on the edge of sanity 

How long some days felt and how sweet some little moments were 

I will forget what it felt like when their sleepy head laid on my shoulder 

Or their tears flowed for no reason and I wanted to cry too 

I will forget that sometimes life with littles felt like house arrest 

Wondering when it will get easier and also hoping they stay this sweet forever 

I will forget how much I wanted someone to cook or drive or flush the toilet 

I will forget that I wanted them to grow up

Instead they just will. 

They will need me a fraction less each day,

They will start to insist I give them space 

And shut the door when they cry instead of finding me while I’m in the shower 

They will grow up and I will wipe a hazy glow over these exhausting days 

Days when I felt like a taxi cab driver who also manged dr appointments

And wondering when the last time I went to the dr was 

They will grow up and lord willing we will become friends 

Lord willing they will have children of their own

They will call me when their baby has a fever and their spouse is out of town 

They will call me when they are crying because the toddler pooped on the floor again

They will need me in a new way

I hope then they remember the back scratches when they couldn’t sleep

Or the books we read when they couldn’t stop crying 

I hope they forget how tired I looked or how mediocre dinner was 

I hope they remember the worship music playing at breakfast 

and not my inability to be a morning person

I hope they paint a hazy glow over the long days with wide brushstrokes of grace

I hope they forgive me where I feel short 

And remember my shortcomings when they are parents themselves 

I will forget these survive moment by moment days 

I hope we can do what time seems to do best

Erase the things that don’t matter and leave the really sweet stuff behind. 

  • MammaSac - ReplyCancel

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  • Anna etheriedge - Ahhhh! Yes I’ve prayed this prayer over my 6 so many times… and God has done it! 6 are now 13 and grandbaby 4 was just born. I still remember most things about those days but grace washed over their view 😉 We laugh a lot now… especially over what I didn’t know. Grace was there all along – who knew? Xo AnnaReplyCancel

I have often thought of this season of life like a giant math problem. Which is ironic because I wasn’t very good at math, in fact I was so bad at math I was in 2 math classes because it took me twice as long to learn the subject. However I have thought of life with littles as an A+B=C situation and then have driven myself crazy trying to get to C, whatever that may be.

When the kids were all really little, like 3 of them under 4, the formula was essential to my sanity. It felt something like this: Clean hands + healthy food= healthy kids. Or safe car+ best car seats= safe kids. Or devotionals + church= kids that loved Jesus. In reality it played out like clean hands (ish) + healthy food (sometimes)= stomach bug no matter what. In reality the boundaries just made me feel the illusive sense of control that you never actually have with children. I really believed though if I could just check some boxes life would be neat and clean. It wasn’t that any of it was bad, it was just at some point my kids aged out of the equation. At some point I became so consumed with keeping order that I missed the real beauty in the chaos. The problem with formulas is they have no heart behind them.

I was thinking about this all week as I watched my life from a spectators view. On Monday Colbie busted through the door after finding a lizard, hands caked in mud, telling me the whole story as I cooked dinner. Another day, Claire got off the bus crying when a boy at school looked at her the wrong way (lord help us in puberty). Then there was Briggs telling me he just felt sad sometimes and then 10 minutes later when his heart and head were clear watching him bound out the door laughing as the dog nipped at his heels. Then there was Benji, who was so happy to be the family clown that he jumped on the patio table and did the chicken dance because everyone laughed. All these little moments that add up to family. All these are either small opportunities to love my kids in big ways or are a chance for me to grapple for control as it slips through my hands. 

Life is just a beautiful mess, one moment melting into the next and the only formulas that work are in the form of recipes, and even then I often use a lot of freedom when I measure. The formula feels comforting though, like if I could just tweak enough things I could get the perfect product (not in human form of course just life form). Looking back its easy to see how many little moments I missed in an attempt to “manage” chaos. 

Ben found Claire’s diary this week, and like any good parent,  he took pictures of entries and read them to me. Each page was just filled with moments, things that felt insignificant to me but were her whole world. My responses and lack thereof often changed the whole trajectory of her day. If I was busy then I was short, or worse dismissive, of things that felt sad to her (this resulted in a frowning unicorn because she is still a 9 year old girl) and when I stood in the moment with her and loved her then she was just fine (insert smiling unicorn). 

This is so much scarier than the formula because it is unpredictable. Every time I wait at the bus stop I am unsure of what will step off. When I open their door for bedtime I have no clue what kind of mood is waiting in that bed. I am wading into the ocean of their life and prepared to have waves of their emotions and situations crash into me. A formula would be so much easier. It would keep things neat and clean but matters of the heart are rarely neat or clean and my kids need my heart. They need me to see their needs without fear of being able to “manage” them. They need me to really listen,  not simply try to solve the problem. They need me to acknowledge their real hurt, no matter how small the offense, and they need comfort. They need me to wade into the ocean with a lifeboat, not stand on the shore reminding them to swim. 

I have done a lot of shore standing in the last two years. I hate to throw the covid card out but like my sister in law says, it’s a conversational tax we all pay. The last two years have been so unpredictable that the sight of the frayed edges of my children’s hearts were overwhelming. Any small injury or illness was a reminder that there is no formula for this and the outcome is a question mark. I was still hoping I could formula them into a predictable life. This is all especially ironic considering how often I remind them that the only thing they can control is their own response. Even now though, with covid seemingly in the rearview mirror, I struggle to remind myself that control isn’t the name of the game. 

What if this messy, undone, and unglued heart is the best kind of love I can give my kids? What if Easter rolls around this year and I really believe Jesus came for the unkempt version of myself? What if I just held them close when they were upset, smoothed their hair when they were hurt,  and reminded myself I can only control my response when they tell me I’m the worst? What if I leave the formula behind for something better… trust in my Savior? What if I unclench my hands and whisper “your will” no matter what waits in the unknown? Life will still feel like a cold splash of water some days. It will still surprise me with both its brutality and its beauty. It will still be wildly alive and sometimes dull. It will always be a beast I was never meant to control. 

  • Carrie - Amen!!! Your awesome!!ReplyCancel

  • Sal - Beautiful! Sitting in it with you as my heart nods in agreement! Yes yes yesReplyCancel

The world is on fire and I am standing by with a solo cup of water… 4 kids in tow. How do I make a dent when crisis seem to be going on all around me? How do I wrestle with all the information I get daily about just how bad the world is and still keep moving? I want to stop and read every story. I want to copy our visa on every organizations donate button. I want to participate in the conversation but feel educated enough to do so. However if I do, then I am drowning under the weight of all I know with no real direction of what I can do. 

One of the tricky parts is that everyone has an opinion about why their side is right and the other is wrong. Whether it’s politically, medically, or even spiritually the battle lines have been set. It’s exhausting just to walk through every day life with the pelting of information and hope we don’t accidentally cross a battle line you didn’t existed. The scary part is what are we missing because there is so much noise? What are the stories that must get told? What questions are we not asking because we are constantly drinking from the metaphorical fire hose that is social media. What are we missing in the mass of information?

There is gruesome news coming from all corners of the world from Afghanistan to Ukraine, to a gut wrenching podcast about the realities of North Korea (Joe rogans podcast… proceed with caution). Then there is the fact that our country is changing, it doesn’t feel like the place I grew up in so few years ago. It doesn’t feel like the place I dreamed it would be for our kids and I let out a shudder when I consider the wolves that are waiting on the other side of our safe suburban home. 

Then…. I remember. This was never meant to be the destination, earth is a pit stop on the way. It’s the opening act before the main event. I don’t have all the answers but I do have hope. Even if at this current moment when I feel utterly hopeless, I know that is not true. I know that what I see around me is appalling and painful but I really believe there is God who loved the whole wide world enough to make this world like a rest stop on the way to Disney world. 

Claire and colbie were asking me about heaven in the car on Saturday, very clearly (which is surprising if you know colbie) Colbie asked “mom is heaven where I go if I get covid.” My heart broke that my little five year old must have considered this thing could kill her. Why wouldn’t she enough adults have talked about?? This then leads into a great conversation about heaven and my girls both knowing in full detail why they needed heaven. We talked about if stuffed animals would be in heaven… would dogs be in heaven (geez I hope I got that one right).. and if all the toy stores were free. I told them that all the hard, hurtful, tear filled things they have experienced in their little lives would never happen in heaven. Heaven is where we would be united with God, which is what we are all chasing, whether we know it or not. 

I have been hit with the cold hard truth recently that its hard not to picture earth as paradise until it stops being paradise. As the pandemic comes to a close I am realizing it ripped away my illusions that this world can leave me full. We have all been forcibly removed from the things we put over our hearts desire for God, like bandaids over a bullet wound. I think we realized when the plans stopped, the Netflix specials were over, and togetherness took on new meaning that we really were just us… and we were searching (and no amount of homemade bread attempts would fix this). 

This year plus has been a giant invitation from our Savior to lean his way and find what we have been looking for. He is awaiting the day when our world is no longer broken and the painful truths are met with his glorious grace. 

Over 2021 Ben and I read the Bible in a year and perhaps my greatest realization has been that none of the scary stuff that feels so new to me is new. Corrupt power, war, and mistreatment of people has been around far before Jesus and will continue until he comes back. One of my favorite readings was on Esther and how she took a giant risk to save her people. While she didn’t know if it had what it took her uncle encouraged her and the verse I love reads like this “maybe you were placed in the palace for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

The whole bible is full of “such a time as this” men and women placed in moments of history that feel utterly hopeless to remind people of hope. All of us are facing our “such a time as this” when the world is divided, ripped at the seams, and hurting. What will we, as people who know and love Jesus, do? Will we fall towards cynicism and hope it all goes away? Will we become another angry customer shaking our fists at the world? OR Will we continue to fight in whatever way we can to see justice for the oppressed and the marginalized taken care of? Will we stamp our short life here with the seal of hope that God has given to us? Will we know that we are living for such a time as this and seek after God to determine what we can do in the here and now? 

My real struggle has been in the action piece of all the news we have received, what can I do??? As a stay at home mom of 4 the UN is hardly knocking on my door for an opinion piece (HA!) but as a mom of 4 I can impact the generations starting in my home. I did the math and if I go back to my great grandparents (my namesake) I can think of 27 people who know Jesus because of the life they lived (and thats just family). This isn’t a guarantee but you better believe I’m gonna do my best. We belittle the impact on the people we love most when in reality the latest study showed parents were responsible for over 90% of their Childs influence (all the way until 18) thats staggering! That means if you have kids you have a thumbprint on the next generation. You have influence! Wield it to make a difference. The temptation is to numb out and feel like theres nothing that you can do. We can all do something, figure out what it is for you or your family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues and go do it. For such a time as this friends, we are here in the palace, what will we do?

  • Janice Wood - Thank you for sharing your heart and soul. We are all similar if we just admit it. You are a gifted writer.

    I am a friend of Clara and family from Beech Creek, Ky. Clara and my mom were the best of friends and they went to college together. Such a wonderful family and sweet memories. We also attended the same church.

    Keep up the great writing. God bless you.ReplyCancel

“Self control is not simply saying no, its saying no to say yes to something that is more important”

Danny Silk, Loving our kids on purpose 

I used to live under the illusion that loving my kids would be easy and require little effort. I bonded very quickly to our babies when they were born and thought that the euphoria brought on by immense pain and hormones might carry me through all 18 years. I experienced something I hadn’t experienced any other time in my life, a love that was born without the other person doing anything to bring it out of me. I think a more “natural” reaction to child birth would be cursing and being pissed off that you now had to feed this person who had ripped your body apart. Most of the time though, moms drift through the first few weeks almost blissfully unaware that they are giving their all to a little person who my husband and I lovingly referred to as a pet rock for the first two months. Eventually the haze of hormones wears off and you are just tired and maybe a little bit teary and overwhelmed and wondering if you will ever wear pants with a zipper again. 

That early love is not so much love as it is an intense feeling. The real love we have for our kids comes when they start to really test us, when they push every button on your control panel and you’d be totally justified in ripping their heads off but instead, you smile and offer them dinner. The love we feel in the beginning has to grow and morph into a real lasting love. Just like when you were dating and feeling the love was so easy you had to stay in public places to control it. Then you got married and the love morphed into something that had to be tended to, worked on, and often fought for. The love we have for our kids is not all the different, it requires hard work. 

Briggs is currently in a very challenging phase. He is both parts energetic and moody. He comes home like a ping pong ball that can’t be stopped, bouncing off every surface it hits and leaving in its wake a trail of shoes and school papers. He is also having a hard time with a boy at school which prompts him to come home and take his pent up frustration out on his sisters and me. I have to brace myself for the hours after he is off the bus. Every day I face a constant borage of questions that then changes into disrespect when he doesn’t like my answers. For the first few weeks of school I thought this was a discipline problem, and if I swiftly handled every offense he would correct his behavior and shape up. I soon saw though that this was a heart problem and my attempts to change his behavior wouldn’t change his heart. I felt defeated, realizing that the only thing I could do was put boundaries up for the disrespect and then lean in hard on the love. I saw my son for the broken little heart he had instead of the big problem he was being. 

I decided to change my approach (mostly thanks to a book my friend Kelly sent me.. this is why we have friends!), which quickly showed me that I too had self control problems. All I had to do was shut my mouth. I needed to let him bounce off the walls (maybe encourage him to take it outside), help him see how powerful his words were to his sisters, and then just love him. I wasn’t just saying no, I was choosing him instead. I was focusing on the root of the problem and not simply the behavior… and it is hard. I have literally had to walk into my closet and do breathing exercises so that I don’t let my tongue get the best of me. I have had to close my mouth and pray “Jesus please don’t let an unkind word come out of my mouth.” And to be real, sometimes I loose the battle and say something I have to apologize for.

I believe though that God made me to do hard things and sometimes loving our kids is hard. Sometimes they are in less than desirable seasons and we can’t change it we can only love them. Now I am not saying discipline won’t also be required but I’ve learned anger and discipline are not the same. Briggs doesn’t need my anger, he needs my loving guidance. He needs me to do what God does for me, the incredible and brutal love that Jesus offered when he stood in the gap between my sin and God. When he reached out his hand to me and said “daughter, this isn’t the way you want to go, take my hand I’ll help you find the way.” That kind of love is hard, that kind of love cost Jesus his life. It will cost us much less, it will cost us pride and self control. It will cost us not getting to say the quippy thing that would be like a dart in their little heart. It will require us to lean in when we want to run for the hills. It will require breathing exercises behind closed doors and barely whispered prayers. It will require for us to love them when we don’t feel like it. This love will require self control on our end, the kind of self control that says, I am choosing you instead of choosing myself. That kind of love will change my sons heart, it won’t be immediate, but I believe it will be impactful.

Lets be honest, when we reflect on the people who changed our lives, the people who fought for us, the people who really loved us what were they like? Did they show up with their one liners and offense list ready to tell us how we were wrong? Were they the teacher who lost her cool because we just couldn’t stop talking (I spent 4th grade with my desk in the corner)? Were they the coach who was always disappointed in us? Or… were the people that really changed us, the ones that loved us and believed we could do better? Were they the adults who walked into our mess and knelt down beside us and helped us clean it up? Were they the coaches who pulled you aside after a bad game and told you that you’d do better next time? The really impactful people in my life were the people who loved me in the middle of the hard not when the hard had passed. The adults who spoke to my own broken heart at a young age weren’t the adults who reminded me how broken I was, no, the ones that I remember are the adults who offered their own scars as proof of healing. 

We can do hard things and we can start by loving our kids in the hard places. 

The book that inspired this post was “loving your kids on purpose” by Danny Silk and I highly recommend it

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