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Tindell Baldwin »

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

Fighting.

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.  

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

  • MammaSac - Love this!ReplyCancel

  • 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

When I was fifteen my dad took me to father daughter camp…. in California. 

I was thinking about that today because he’s in California now and sent me pictures of the JH Ranch camp we went to. I had a sudden rush of memories when I saw the horses grazing, mostly of what a horrible human I was the entire week my dad and I were away. 

Let me set the scene for you…

So at 15 I was caught drinking for the first time. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say like most of the things I do I was all in. My parent’s response was slightly unorthodox. They did the typical restrictions on all my freedoms but also my dad informed me he was taking me to California for a week of father daughter camp. I didn’t realize just how counter intuitive this measure was until I became a parent myself.  He thought my sudden lapse in judgement could have to do with my struggle to find my place in our family. Was he right? A little. Was it his problem? No, but because he loved me, he wanted to build up our relationship and not just punish me (to be clear I was also punished). He bought us plane tickets, rented a white mustang convertible, and we drove a few hours down (or up… I’m not sure) the California coast, top down blaring my favorite music (Avril Lavigne and Michelle branch to be exact). Even as I type it I think what a lucky kid I was to have parents who loved me that much. 

As an adult now, I look back and have a forehead slapping moment because my attitude was salty at best. I was so ungrateful, so unaware of the incredible effort and opportunity my parents had afforded me. The real impressive part is that my dad never once lost it on me. Even when I moped around the camp, complained about the games, and acted less than interested in all the Jesus talk. My heart was hard and no amount of trail rides was going to change that. I was an insecure teenager who didn’t want to spend a week in breathtaking California with my dad. I wanted to party with my friends (so original). I was so wrapped up in my own little world I failed to see the opportunity and joy right in front of me. 

I wish I could go back now and shake 15 year old me. I wish I could tell her what an idiot she was being. I wish I could tell her just how valuable her dad’s love would be in her life and how insanely lucky she was. I can’t though. However, I can feel my dad’s pain a little more these days with 4 kids of my own who don’t seem to respond with the same level of gratefulness that I wish they would. 

Mom I wanted to stay home.

JH Ranch California

Mom I wanted to play with friends.

Mom why can’t we eat out? 

Mom why can’t we get a slushee at the trampoline park?

Mom I wanted something different for dinner.

Mom why can’t I stay up later?

Mom she got a bigger cookie than me.

Or my all time favorite this summer, It’s always dad’s birthday it’s never my birthday!

Summer. Wow. So many opinions.

At the end of the day I have felt like quite a failure based on my children’s loud and often negative reviews of my parenting and decision making. I was telling my counselor recently that it’s hard to feel like I’m making it at the end of the day because all my kids are often unhappy about something. She said something so brilliant: “I think you need a different measure of success at the end of your day.” And she’s right. Just like my dad didn’t measure the success of our trip by my attitude, I can’t measure my day by my kids’ response. I’m not accountable to them. I have started waking up and praying, “I am your servant God, your will be done.” It puts my day in perspective when the service to my family feels less than appreciated. My dad took me to that father daughter camp because he loved me and wanted to spend time with me. He would have been so disappointed if he was judging the trip based on my response. I need to base my success on whether I did my part to love my kids not on whether they received it like I expected them to. 

I was texting him tonight that I do remember one thing from that trip that will forever impact me. There was a girl in my cabin, and her father had a brain injury that caused memory loss. I don’t know more details so I won’t try to fill them in, but I remember her spending most of the week reminding him when things were, and what they were doing next. She was so gracious and kind to him. One of the days we were all going on a trail ride, and I remember her nervously looking around. She turned to me and said “I should have reminded him, I forgot to remind him when it was.” She was panicked waiting for her dad. It came time to saddle up, and we had to go on without him. As the horses were trotting off he ran up, but it was too late. They exchanged this painful look that I will never forget. I could see the feeling of failure on his face. I looked at my dad, trotting on the horse behind me and thought just how lucky I really was. I remember that moment vividly because I knew I took for granted something that wasn’t a guarantee. That dad wanted so desperately to show up for his daughter and couldn’t, and here I was taking it for granted just how much my dad always showed up for me. It was because my dad wasn’t putting some huge pressure on me to learn a lesson that I was able to retain that one small one. We have no idea what our kids are taking in. As my wonderful friend Kelly says, “We are blowing a thousand bubbles a day and hoping that they catch one.” We may not know for almost twenty years the moments that impacted them. 

So if your summer has been like mine, and you find your tiny colleagues have more negative than positive to share: take heart. You can be doing a great work and be right where God wants you and feel like you are making no difference at all. Maybe you need to change your measuring stick. Look up instead of looking around. I have a feeling that you’re doing a better job than you think. 

  • Anna Etheriedge - Oh how true this is! I remember Billy Grahams wife saying she prayed her children would only remember the good and helpful things and forget the rest… they did, so i began to pray that too! And with 6 grown kids now 18-30, they have the sweetest and funny memories of growing up 🙂 Believe me there were tears and lots of chaos at times, and yet they remember such love and joy. God is amazing!
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Dear God,

I want to remember how sacred this task is.

How the task of teaching tiny image bearers is not menial but eternal.

God I want to see their little hearts for the blank slate that they are. 

I want to remember the power of my words before they leave my lips 

not when the damage is done. 

God please give me eyes filled with heavenly perspective not daily duties. 

God lift the veil of busyness that clouds the importance of every small moment. 

God strip me of my pride, the pride that tells me I am able to do it all, 

the pride that takes credit for the heart change you unleash. 

Please forgive me for this pride that often whispers “you can do it all”

instead of the truth that I must bow low before you and ask daily for help. 

God I beg you to humble my heart. 

Fix my posture as one where I am no more important than the tiniest of humans in my house.

Humble me when my understanding feels greater and my heart grows hard to holy moments happening right in front of me. 

God please equip me. 

Equip me in endless conversations and late nights. 

Equip me in the middle of sibling rivalry and homework frustrations. 

Equip me in the day to day tasks that hit me like ocean waves… one after the other. 

Equip me when my body Is weak and my heart is hard. 

Pull away all the distractions and turn my head to see the beautiful days you are inviting me into. 

God forgive me. 

I am not too good for this. 

My higher education and deep desires do not make me less of a candidate for serving. 

No, Lord, my call is to lay down this small life I have and to pour out myself. 

In each second I am called to bow low to your holy name. 

My calling Lord, I know, is high, to love others and love you with my whole being. 

You’ve created me to serve my creator first and in that service to love his creation. 

God I see that I am your servant. 

I am unworthy of your grace and mercy. 

I did nothing to earn the forgiveness you poured out through Jesus sacrifice 

I, in turn, can spend all my days in service to your creation as a love offering to you and know a grander story is taking place. 

A story yet to unfold before my eyes but being written by my works nonetheless. 

You are a God like this, one that invites all the servants to enjoy the feast. 

In turn I will be grateful. 

So God multiply my love and affection to the people I serve no matter their reaction to my service. 

Fill me with holy happiness in the most mundane of minutes. 

Breathe fresh life into worn out hands that wash the same dishes and fold the same laundry. 

I know that these days will happen one tiny minute at a time that add up to a lifetime.

A lifetime that will be told by others and remembered with either great fondness or great hurt. 

Lord, with your help it can be with great joy that my

children remember these days.  

And it takes and it takes and it takes

I woke up at 3 am singing that line. Sometimes insomnia takes the form of repeated song lyrics you can’t quite place. Like a ferris wheel it spins around and I keep waiting for the ride to stop.

And it takes, and it takes, and it takes

As the words circle around in my head I watch 2020 like a movie playing out. The countless meals I cooked for hurting friends, the tears of my children when plans were cancelled and they couldn’t see friends, the funeral of a friends mom who was taken too soon and stanoprime the list goes on. Heartbreak after heartbreak. Tear after tear of a year filled with real pain and real loss.

And it takes, and it takes, and it takes

In the movie I watch Claire getting off the bus last March and I’m holding our 4 month old. I knew in my heart I wouldn’t see that bus for a while. I can see months of juggling four kids, their education, their church, their loss, and trying to keep it together. Nursing a baby while facilitating a zoom call for a 7 year old is not something anyone should have to do. There were months of Ben working extra long hours so he could keep his team afloat. I can see the countless nights we argued because we were all stuck in the house and I needed something I couldn’t get… reprieve. The hits felt like they wouldn’t stop. Painful phone call after painful phone call.

And it takes, and it takes, and it takes

Then I sent my kindergartner to school in our basement and watched my 2nd grader fall behind because she couldn’t go to school. I cried most days because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do it all well. At night I would collapse exhausted yet awake, I knew what my kids needed but I couldn’t give it to them. We found the good of course… we went to the beach, went on walks, played games, and watched movies. We learned to turn our house into a school, church, office, and gym. We utilized every room and I kept praying for patience, hope, and change. We watched the country rip itself apart with lines in the sand and no grace or understanding. We read the news and then stopped when it seemed the only thing we could agree on was that no one could agree. We rode waves of fear, uncertainty, fatigue, and questions. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed.

And it takes, and it takes, and it takes

Then school started… in the building. I thought we had survived. At least we could find a way forward. For a few months it looked like the worst may be behind us and that we had pulled off this almost impossible ask. Benji turned one, we celebrated what a joy he is but I quietly mourned that I had lost his whole first year. We mourned so much loss. The loss of normal, the loss stability, the loss of gathering as a church, and I wondered when it would stop taking? The kids asked when they could stop feeling afraid. They prayed every night for God to take the virus away. I told them we weren’t afraid. I told them we would be wise and seek the council of those who knew more but we were not afraid. Their little hearts hardly registered it all. They just knew there was pain and fear all around them and we struggled to bridge the gap at home.

And it takes, and it takes, and it takes

Then a storm blew through and devastation hit all around us. A pine tree fell on our house and missed our sons room by a few feet. Holes in the roof and our back deck caved in felt like an accurate representation of this year. We thought maybe the worst is behind us? We praised God for Benjis safety. Ben and I didn’t even care about the house in the wake of this year what was one more obstacle? Then numbers kept going up and the circle of the sick caved in around us. Then two weeks before Christmas Covid hit my dad. He got very sick and we watched Christmas slip away like all the other dreams we had for this year. 

And it takes.

And it takes.

And it takes.

Right before Christmas I tucked Briggs in one night and he just started to cry. He said “ mom is it true we won’t see birdie and poppy on Christmas? I heard you on the phone” I cried with him and told him yes buddy it was. My heart was breaking.I cried for another blow after a hard year. I cried for my mom who was at home riding the storm as my dad went in and out of fevers. I cried for my dad who loves our family gathering at Christmas. I cried for lost nerf gun fights and cousins cuddling watching Christmas movies. I cried because there had been so much lost. Was any of it huge? No, but small paper cuts add up over time. We were all sore and a little tender. 

Briggs asked if I would sing him the song that helps him sleep.In Christ alone, its the song I’ve been singing to him since he was a baby. In almost a whisper I started to sing

“In Christ alone my hope is found, he is my light my strength my song. This cornerstone this solid ground. Firm through the fiercest drought and storm”

And he gives, and he gives, and he gives

I left his room and  I thought there is someone who still gives in the middle of all the taking. There was hope to be found in the broken mess of a year we have had.

God always gives extravagantly more than we deserve because he gave us a Savior. Every night we would read a verse with the kids building up to Jesus birth and I could see it all. It was a glorious build up to the thing we all needed most… hope. His gift never aims to diminish the taking we will face but instead offers more hope than we could dare to imagine possible. I think that’s what I love about God, how honest the scripture is about our real struggle. Jesus was so upfront with his people about how hard life would be. It wasn’t that he gave them a way out of the pain but he did tell them he would give them more. “In this world you will have struggle but Take heart” he said, “I’ve overcome this world.” He was so honest. He was confident his gift would be enough in the middle of all the taking. 

He gives, and he gives, and he gives

My hope in Jesus won’t take away how hard this year was but this year won’t water down my faith either. I won’t be disappointed that God didn’t show up like I expected because I know he keeps showing up. I know he’s working in the broken mess even when I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s working in the pain and giving me what I didn’t even know I needed. I know that all the good I’ve been able to see is because of him and the hard I’ve been able to endure has been his doing also. This year has taught me that I am fragile, poised at any moment to be taken down but my God is able and worthy of all my trust. I don’t know what 2021 holds, it could be just as bad… in reality it could be worse. I know he will give though. In the middle of all the taking… he will give. 

*The line is from the incredible play Hamilton available on Disney+

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