If I sat down and listed all the things I do wrong, I probably wouldn’t finish until the day I died. I guess I’m a pretty critical, judgmental person. There. I’ve said it. I am; I’m judgmental and overly critical. A lot. The thing […]
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. You’d think that because of all the crazy winter weather we’ve experienced lately, preventing us from getting out of the house, I’d have more time to write. WRONG! Instead, we’ve been dealing with sickness, burst pipes […]
I had a difficult and highly disappointing conversation with one of my sons the other day. After ending the discussion, I was just…. wrecked. I try to remain optimistic most of the time, but some times are just harder than others, aren’t they? I’m only human with limited understanding.
It baffles me how children raised in the same household, with the same values, common experiences, teachings, etc… can have such varying perspectives and beliefs.
And yet they do.
Most people are quite familiar with the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible; it was a story told specifically by Jesus to His followers, because sons and daughters will test us – have tested us – since the beginning. Jesus shared this specific narrative about children going astray because He wanted to comfort His children; He wanted to give them hope.
That’s what He does… give us hope.
Sons and daughters have challenged mankind from inception. One only need look at Adam and Eve; even God was not immune from His first creations rebelling against the order of things. Not only that, but the Bible is literally rife with children turning against, walking away from, or even plotting against their parents. (Not that my son is conspiring to have me killed, but in some ways, his words can have just as lethal an impact on my heart.)
Cain. He killed his brother Abel.
Isaac’s sons… Jacob & Esau… Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright.
Jacob’s sons… At first they wanted to kill their brother Joseph, because he was the favored one. Instead, they sold him into slavery.
David’s son Amnon. He raped his half-sister. David’s son Absalom, looking for revenge against his sister, had Amnon murdered. He then plotted to overthrow his father’s kingdom and was killed because of it. Upon hearing the news, David said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” So great was David’s love for his son, in spite of all Absolam had done against him, he would have died in his stead.
Love. It’s powerful. Unyielding, regardless.
Another of David’s sons, Adonijah, declared himself king before David died, even though it was David’s wish for Solomon to reign after him.
Solomon. His son and successor Rehoboam reigned with such a heavy hand, taxing his subjects mightily, that he split the kingdom built by his father and grandfather in two.
These were the children of God’s most favored and chosen individuals. The ones He built kingdoms upon. The ones whose lineage threaded all the way to Jesus. The ones whose hearts and minds and lives were focused solely and desperately on God.
They loved their children too. Just as much as you love yours. Just as much as I love mine.
Children don’t do what they’re supposed to do. They don’t do what we want them to do. They don’t see things the way we think they should see them. They don’t always believe what we believe.
Sometimes they do. But for the most part, they fight against doing it the way we, as parents, have done it. They struggle against becoming us. They want nothing more than to be themselves. Which, if we really get to the bottom of it, that’s who they should be. It’s who we want them to be. It’s who God intended them to be. They have to figure it out on their own. They have to learn, and fail, and flounder. And it doesn’t always mean that our way is their way.
More importantly, our way is not God’s way. Our time is not God’s time.
To myself, I must consistently repeat this: My way is not God’s way. My way is not God’s way.
My time is not God’s time. My time is not God’s time.
I don’t know how He’s going to work out my son’s story. My other son’s story. My daughter’s. My husband’s. I don’t even know how He’s going to work out mine.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know that – literally – generations upon generations upon generations have dealt with the same fears and doubts and labors and pains that I have.
I do know that anything I want and hope for my children’s lives, God wants those things for them – for me – for you – infinitely more. If I am heartbroken, He is more so.
But most paramount, if I am hopeful, He IS the hope.
When the chips are down, I’m a glass-half-full kind of person. Most of the time, I’m optimistic. Actually, I choose to be optimistic. Most of that is due to the fact that I believe Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God […]
So… my son is gone. Has been gone for a couple weeks now, actually. This was a portion of his growing up and moving out to begin his own life apart from all he has ever known.
And good for him. That’s what we raised him to do: be a responsible, self-sufficient individual.
On the other hand, there are varying levels of sadness (grief?) for me.
First of all, there’s the literal mess left behind. When I had kids I never envisioned that those Lego sets Santa brought Christmas mornings would eventually have to be carefully boxed up by me. I gave away all my Legos when I grew up, so I guess I expected my kids to do the same thing. But… boys and their Legos. Entirely different story. My son tried to go through as many of his things as he could in the two weeks he was here, but at some point, he just started putting Post-It notes on things, with “keep” or “give away” or “do whatever you want with this.”
I really never thought that getting to this stage in life would show up as quickly as it did. I mean, it seems like we spent a lot of time trying to get to a point of financial means to accumulate the stuff we needed to make life run easier. Things like hedge trimmers, and a 100 ft. hose to reach the garden. Shovels and rakes that didn’t bend and break upon the first use. Storage boxes for Legos and Christmas ornaments. Tupperware. A roasting pan for the ham on Easter morning. An extra set or two of sheets in case we had company or someone had the flu bug. Furniture with drawers to store envelopes and tax returns and computer cords. Suitcases instead of gym bags. Wax and Rain-X in the garage to keep the cars clean.
Not necessarily the unnecessary stuff we also acquired over the years like DVD’s or a panini press or an xBox battery charger, but the things that really and truly meant we were able to function without being thrown into a panic that we couldn’t afford it until the next paycheck or then some.
So while we were busy gathering the stuff of life, and our kids were busy growing up, I never gave much thought that one day, I’d be one of those people who always talked about downsizing or giving things away. I especially never imagined I’d be the woman helping in the nursery admonishing the young mothers to enjoy time with their babies while they can, because your children really do grow up in the blink of an eye.
And yet, here I am. I’ve turned into THAT woman. Sigh…
With two gone, the last with one foot out the door and a husband who still travels a great deal for work, I find I have too much house. Too many things. In some ways, too much time. Although in other ways, I don’t have enough time – with everyone gone, much of the maintenance for the house and all the sorting and giving away of stuff is left to just me.
I’m finding that life is a delicate balance between just trying to get through the day while recognizing that the day is pretty much as wonderful as it’s ever going to be. And I don’t mean that in a negative way.
Someone once told me (in a church nursery no less!) that every age was the best age and the worst age. She meant it in terms of a child’s growth. If there’s a 4 month old baby that’s teething, obviously it’s the worst age because that baby is fussy; but it’s also the best time because that baby recognizes you and is soothed by you, and wants to just cuddle on your chest. Likewise, when you have a teenager, it can be the most God awful time as a parent because the teen is asserting his or her independence and wants nothing more than to pick a fight with you about anything and everything. But having a teen can also be an incredibly fun time because you actually get a glimpse into the person they will become. I’ve tried to recognize this throughout most of my kids’ lives, but I haven’t always been able to fully practice it without the busyness of life clouding my perceptions. However, her advice can really be applied to almost everything. Being newly married can be wonderful and awful at the same time. Becoming an empty nester, I’m finding carries with it particular joys alongside a distinct longing for the past.
It’s all good, in a way. I just have to choose to find the good that’s surrounded by the mundane and the trivial and the losses.
So when I say that each day is about as good as it will ever be, I mean that each and every day, when it’s spent with the people you love… well, what can be better than that?
See this picture? And the small blackish-red dot about 1/3 of the way on the right? That’s me. Ziplining about 300′ above the forest floor, and 1900′ from one end of the gorge to the other. It took more than a couple deep breaths, a […]
With age, you start thinking. Becoming more introspective, I suppose. You have a life’s worth of experience and events, good and bad. Much more so than in your teens or twenties, you start looking over the decisions and the choices you’ve made, and wondering what you could or should have done differently.
Or if you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Because, sometimes, you’re exactly where you don’t want to be.
This was all too clear to me yesterday. On what was seemingly a beautiful summer day at the lake, was also somebody’s last day here on this earth. I was there when it happened.
I don’t want to be insensitive to the tragedy that took place yesterday, but something like that impacts you. It makes you double-check your priorities and want to right the wrongs in your life.
A young man went swimming in the lake with his friends, and only 20 feet from shore or so, took his last breath. Almost as quickly as he vanished underwater, more than a dozen people dove into the murky water to find him. In less than a minute he was pulled from the water, and a 45 minute attempt was made to save his life. That he was so young, so healthy, so close to shore, and only underwater such a short short time is incredibly sobering.
When I was 13, my next door neighbor, the 16 year old prom king at my soon-to-be high school, drowned in a boating accident. He too, was on a lake, and vanished along with three of his friends. He was a smart, strong, athletic football, baseball, and basketball player; the whole world lay wide open before him. He was the right kind of brains and brawn that is quintessentially All-American. Yet he just took a breath that wasn’t oxygen and silently disappeared from this world.
For years – and even still on occasion, especially last night – I had visions of taking gulping breaths for air and only feeling a crushing weight of water instead. Sometimes almost palpably. In dreams I saw my neighbor’s face, contorted with terror, trying to stay above the water. Living in Florida when my children were young, I was never really comfortable when they were in the water. Even after they demonstrated they could swim well, lurking in the back of my mind was that even good swimmers sometimes can’t swim at all. I kept seeing my neighbor’s disappearing face in the faces of my children.
So yesterday, when I saw firsthand that drowning isn’t the thrashing about that we’ve all seen in movies, but more of a just… enveloping of the body by a body of water, I was shaken on more than just one level. That yesterday the young man went underwater while he was surrounded by people… I still can’t wrap my head around it. And even more so, that it took seconds to take one last breath… literally, the blink of an eye.
Life is so fragile. As I later told my oldest, my 22 year old son, I’m sure it never entered that 22 year old’s mind when he stepped into the water that he wouldn’t come out of it alive. Not many of us have the foreknowledge that the next moment will be our last.
In what can only be described as a day of clarity that the thread we call life is ever so delicate, I wanted to tell people to recognize that life can turn on a dime. Without going into details on my Facebook page, I implored my friends and family to tell the ones they love that they love them. Right now. And not to wait. Because love is the only thing in this world that matters that you can take with you when you’re gone.
I took my own advice and hugged my husband and daughter and told them I love them. I called my two sons, one a lifeguard (!) at a Boy Scout camp for the summer, and the other living and working in the city where he went to college. I told them I love them, and while I know I haven’t been a perfect parent, and have made more than my share of mistakes, nothing will ever change the fact that they are the only things in this world that are of any consequence to my existence here.
If it hasn’t been apparent to you, I am a Christian. I call Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. And I believe in the very depths of my soul that when I die I will spend an eternity in Heaven. I was raised in a Christian home, but I can’t say that I always lived as a Christian. And right now, my eldest is pretty much following that same path. Maybe even veering onto that path a little faster and farther than I did. So beyond telling this son that I love him, I wanted to have that conversation with my son about his faith or lack thereof.
Having that conversation is something I’ve known I needed to do for a long time. But I don’t like confrontation and discord, and he can be one pretty defiant person at times, so I’ve hedged my way around it for a while. Still… for my own peace of mind, the discussion needed to be had.
He told me what I expected – that he’s not really following the faith that we tried to impart to him – but surprisingly he was open to listening to what I had to say, and didn’t shut down the communication at all. In fact, he told me that he appreciated and respected the fact that I prayed for him and wasn’t willing to give up on him coming back to Christianity.
Of course, being a “Hallmark commercial” crier, I pretty much wept my way through everything said. But he knows this about me, and can comprehend that being a parent means tears come with the territory. In fact, I think – I hope! – that the fact that I was so moved means he truly does understand the repercussions of him being with me in Heaven.
Regardless, I sowed the seed. I gave him something to think about. I told him that I never wanted him to be someplace where he didn’t want to be and not know where to turn. I told him that I’ve seen first hand that life can end, and sometimes you don’t have the wherewithal and strength to cry out to God to save you. I told him I didn’t want him to ever be in that situation. I told him that I will never ever stop praying for him and loving him.
I listened to what he said, so we can continue this conversation. He told me that I shouldn’t stop praying for him, and he thanked me for loving him that much. He told me that he loved me too.
And even though life can cease in the blink of an eye, that was good enough for me right then. Because I love him and despite the discomfort of the conversation he (still) loves me. So there’s still hope. I have faith. And he knows that love matters.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Maybe somewhere deep down he still believes….
*Originally published June 2013 on prayerposemom.com