No, You Won’t Enjoy Every Parenting Moment. And That’s Ok.

Some time back, I found myself at Target. Alone! Although I wanted to run through the aisles yelling, “FREEDOM” William Wallace style, I managed to get control of myself. Instead, I found myself slowly meandering through the store, inhaling the smells of popcorn and Starbucks, and reveling in the ability to silently walk whatever aisles I wanted. Just me and my own little thoughts, without a constant, machine gun barrage out of my mouth of, “come here right now, stop touching that, no you can’t have that, stop running/hiding/jumping/breathing….”you get the picture. It was great. I didn’t have to worry about either avoiding the toy aisle, or a lawsuit from someone tripping over one of the Coconuts that I was dragging through the store.

When parents are out numbered.

As all good things must come to an end, and I value my relationship with hubby who was home with all four, I soon found myself in line to check out. At the register was a young mom, baby-wearing a tiny, screaming infant. Her 3 or 4 year old daughter was entertaining herself by alternately licking the gum display and scooting around the floor on her bottom. Meanwhile a 5 or 6 year old little boy was throwing a fit in the basket over The Toy He Did Not Get. Oh, momma, could I relate. I tried to meet her eyes to smile and encourage her. To tell her, “I understand. You ran over the invisible time clock of cooperation that small children have and now they have turned on you.” Unfortunately, there was an older, grandmotherly type woman between us who stood looking at her with a sweet smile on her face and then she uttered the words I know that mother did not want to hear.

“Enjoy every minute because it goes by so fast. You will miss this someday.”

Inwardly I cringed and watched the moms expression as she tightened her lips, took her receipt, and managed a terse, “thank you”, before pushing off with cranky children in tow.

See, it’s not that Grandma Lady was wrong or insensitive. I totally get her meaning. I can’t tell you how many times and how many people have said the same things to me. Early on I used to feel guilty because I would think, “there is no way I will miss this. This moment is the last moment I want to have seared into my memory,” I would think to myself as I drug cranky, screaming children out of stores, forced naps, cleaned up puke and poo, held small bodies down for shots or to have foreign objects pulled out of ears, or fought the urge to mop the floor with their hiney after dealing with outright rebellion from someone not even 4 feet tall.

Nope. There are some moments that I will not miss and some things that I can’t un-see as a parent. Just think toilet training and let your imagination run wild, but I won’t feel guilty when well meaning Grandma Ladies tell me I will. Because, see, they’ve got Granny Blinders on and all they see is a cute kid. I’ve got to go home with my tyrant….I mean, offspring.

Then one night as I was snuggling down into my bed, I remember sleepily thinking how relieved I was that we were somewhat past the frighting season of When Kids Won’t Sleep. It was kind of nice not to have a random kid (or two) in the middle of our bed. Suddenly though, out of the blue, I had this momentary, weird, freak out moment: “When was last time I nursed Coconut #1?” Suddenly I was wide awake and straining to remember the last time I nursed my 13 year old. Bizarre, I know but that’s how my brain works and for whatever reason, I needed to remember RIGHT THEN. Was it a night time feeding? Was it after she had hurt herself? Or when she was just over tired? What would I have done had I known it was going to be the last time? Wouldn’t I have lingered just a little longer in my chair? What about the last time I washed my sons hair? Or I helped Coconut number 3 get dressed on a regular basis? Did Coconut #4 really just shower by herself for the first time last night?

I started to panic a little because I realized there were so many lasts that I hadn’t even realized were happening.

Then I understood. I understood that although I would not miss the screaming temper tantrums and over tired toddlers, I would miss the precious, repentant moments that followed when sweet little bodies would crawl into my lap for a cuddle, “nummies”, or just to pray with me. I could happily forget cleaning up bodily fluids of every kind, but I will forever hold on to memories of time spent on the couch reading or movie watching the afternoon away with a kiddo who was under the weather and just needed some snuggle time with mom. I could happily file away the trip to the ER for foreign object removal but listening to the 4 year old describe her ordeal with her siblings and anybody else that would stand still and listen was priceless.

What being done looks like.

I have learned much over the past 13 years. I’ve learned there’s lots of ugliness in parenting.

Ugliness in myself.

How many times through a sleep deprivation fog have I grudgingly held a screaming baby, yelled at my over-tired toddler, or tuned out a needy child because I had been touched one too many times in a day? Because everything in me just wanted to run into my room and be alone for once? Because I just wanted to do what I wanted to do? But it’s here, in the fox holes of the parenting war when the battle is raging that one learns the most about themselves.

It’s here that I learned how truly selfish I can be but also just how selfLESS I could be.

Parenting has hammered some things out of me, stretched me, and made me see just how much I need Jesus.

So here’s my unsolicited advice to new parents. Don’t feel guilty about wanting to forget certain parenting moments. Just know that the process of growing applies not only to children but to us as parents. So let the trials change you and bring you closer to Jesus. Parenting is messy because life is messy, but in those moments we would rather forget, when we’re cleaning up another potty accident, refereeing yet another argument. when we are consumed by loneliness from not seeing another adult for hours on end and laboring under the heavy weight of guilt because we’re sure we’re not doing it right, just take a step back. Because a moment later, you will find yourself melting when a tiny head lays on your shoulder and sweet sleepy breath touches your cheek.When a little voice says “I wuv ou, Momma”, you will forget the battles and remember only that although the minutes sometimes feel like hours and the hours feel like days, in reality the years go by like seconds.

The boy is forever out numbered.

Raising Slow Cooker Kids In a Microwave Generation

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“Hey, so how do you handle chores with your kids? How much do you pay them and what do you have them do? She casually asked. We had met in the cleaning aisle of Wal-Mart and began chatting when I philosophically asked if Mr. Clean’s pants were white because he was always cleaning or was he always cleaning because his pants were white. “Well, we’re a big family over here, so everyone just works. The kids clean the kitchen, their rooms, and alternate cleaning the bathroom. The two big ones occasionally do their own laundry when time permits.” I replied. “Mr. Clean looks like he has never set foot in a kitchen yet manages to sell millions in cleaning supplies. It’s got to be because he’s bald, buff, and has an earring. What do you think?” I asked my new friend. Ignoring my Mr. Clean obsession, she persisted with the kid chore questions, “What about lists? Do you rotate so it’s fair?” “I have one list on the wall that says what all needs to be done in the house every week. When the kids act like they don’t know what to do, I tell them to go pick something from that list and when they try to bring up fairness, I tell them welcome to life and remind them that no one owes them anything,” I responded, still caught up in my Mr. Clean reverie.  My inquisitive friend was now squinting at me, somewhat perplexed. “But how do they know what to do? And how much do you pay them?” “If they can figure out smartphones and the Xbox, they can figure out what needs to be done from a list. And I pay them by allowing them to live here. Besides, keeping up with all that would just wear me out,” Says I. At this point the young mom I was talking to excused herself, I’m pretty sure to call CPS, leaving me to my thoughts of Mr. Clean and re-thinking my social graces. Anyway, I guess my lack of Pinterest ideas put my new friend off but it got me thinking. About my slow cooker at home. I know, I may have ADHD, but let me explain.

Our kids are growing up in a society of instant gratification and the belief that life should be fair and everyone owes them something.  Fast food, Amazon, and smartphones has turned this generation into a bunch of impatient, slothful, self-observed individuals, drowning in information but lacking any knowledge. Technology has become the new babysitter with phones and tablets pushed into tiny hands and tiny brains absorbing the things of the world without the maturity and understanding to process it all. Meaningful communication has been reduced to text messaging and emoticons. We are raising modern day cave dwellers who peck out cliff drawings instead of talking to someone face to face. I shudder at the thought of what is happening to an entire generation of people who have been raised on a steady died of instant gratification and emotion-based decision making. And you can trace it all back to the 70’s when microwave ovens began growing in popularity and reducing in price. It transformed meal times. Not necessarily for the better. From then on, everything is about faster, better, more, convenient, and all about me.

But not my kids. I am raising slow cooker kids in this microwave generation. Everyone knows that slow cooked foods just taste better. They’re healthier, tastier, and worth the wait. We are not perfect parents and we certainly haven’t done everything right but some things we have. We have one shot with these souls we’ve been entrusted with that will someday be making decisions for many. In a world full of distractions, now is not time for distracted parenting. There is a dark undercurrent that is always pulling on our kids and it’s usually easier to go with the flow. But not now. There is a word that is prevalent in current, certain political circles these days that some may not agree with but that accurately describes our parenting style. RESIST.

We choose to RESIST the urge to hand them technology, whether it be a phone, a tablet, or an Xbox every time they use the dreaded “B” word. “I’m bored”.  First of all, there has been multiple studies done on the impact of technology and social media on our kids. Secondly, it’s really not going to kill them to be bored, no matter what your hormonal, emo kid tries to tell you. As a matter of fact, it’s good for them. It will make them slow down, stimulate their imagination and teach them that as they grow up, life as a parent, as an adult, is not about bouncing from one fun thing to another. Unless you consider paying bills and wiping hineys and noses, “fun”.  Let’s be honest. Handing over electronics really just makes our lives easier but parenting is not about what’s easier. So, we put limits on all things electronic and instead put books in their hands, give them dirt to dig in, work to do, and real-life people to connect with.

We RESIST the lie from society that says our teens need to be independent and able to do their own thing. Our teen needs us now more than ever. However instead of helping her get dressed, she’s relying on me to help her navigate a world that screams deceitfully at her what it looks like to be beautiful, cool, and loved. My son is looking to his father to see what it looks like to be a father, to be brave, and yes, to be a man.  Parenting adolescents is less about the physical tasks of doing and more about the emotional tasks of connecting and engaging. It’s less about making decisions for them and more about helping them carefully and prayerfully think through their own decisions. It’s less about talking AT them about their life, their friends, their future, and more about talking TO them and to God about those things.

We RESIST the urge to buy them every new thing that comes out, the urge to shield them from hard work, and fight their battles for them. Instead we are teaching them the value of wait. To be still. The treasure of hard work and sacrifice. We resist the urge to check out and just pop that dinner in the microwave. We fight it all the time. Our kids are old enough now to be self- sufficient in many ways. Most of them can get dressed, eat, and (sort of) shower by themselves. A couple of them can cook, although you may not want to actually eat it. So, it’s easy to think that they don’t need me as much as they used to. It’s easy just to check out a little. But I can’t. There are too many important lessons left to teach them. It’s up to me, to us as parents to show them the value of marinating as opposed to microwaving.

So, although I still haven’t figured out the secret to Mr. Cleans success, you can count on me to have some great slow cooker recipes to share.

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Tips to Road Trip with Kids – For Real People

Thinking about taking a road trip across country with the kids and looking for some tips? Are you hoping to connect and bond with those adorable offspring as well as cross some items off of your bucket list? Well, you have come to the right place! I’m pretty much an expert in this field (self-described) as we’ve just come back from our 6th annual Family Road Trip Extravaganza. I thought I would jot down some helpful tips while still fresh in my memory for anyone in need.

Headed out
Headed out on the open road with fresh-faced excitement!

 

  1. Two months before the trip: Sit down with your significant other with Google maps and decide where you are going. Talk about all the historical sites you are going to see, the “off the beaten paths” you are going to take, and long winding roads leading to the gorgeous scenery you will explore as a family. Then scrap that fantasy and re-map a plan that includes all highway driving to get you as quickly as possible from one hotel to another. One with a pool and a separate bedroom door that you can lock.
  2. One month before the trip: Scour Pinterest for “Best Road Trip Activities for Kids,”  and purpose in your naive little brain to do every one of them. Next, blow your entire trip budget on Amazon purchasing books, car games, crayons, coloring books, markers, binders, headphones, legos, Mad Libs, and literally any other random “car activity” thing they offer. It doesn’t really matter because about an hour into the trip the crayons will be broken and strewn around your car, your kids will be fighting over car scavenger hunt and you’ll probably have Lego’s permanently embedded into your vehicle. On second thought, save some money and just buy yourself some earplugs.
  3. One week before the trip: Pack busy bags with above trip paraphernalia while lecturing your kids about not rotting their brains by limited screen time on this trip. Point out to them the incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a family. Put together state fact sheets, math facts, and any other historical information sheets for the kids to color and fill out. Include a journal so they can keep track of all of their adventures. When you get to your first destination throw everything together in a pile outside of the car, douse with gas, and set on fire.
  4. Two days before the trip: Pull out a duffle bag or suitcase for each family member. Meticulously gather clothing for however many days you will be between a laundromat. Thoughtfully put outfits together for each child to wear that will correspond to each days destination. Then wad everything up and throw in whichever bag. Trust me. By day 5 you will notice your kids probably haven’t changed their clothes since you left-ketchup stains and all, your car will smell like feet, and no one has actually bathed since leaving. Unless you count hotel pools as a bath. Which I do.
  5. Trip kickoff day! Parent must-haves: Gum, coffee, a good GPS system, music or podcasts chosen, coffee, earplugs, a sense of humor, coffee, and an electric cattle prod that reaches all the way to the back seat. Don’t judge. You were looking for tips, remember?
  6. On the road – What to expect: Day 1 – The first 10 minutes. Silence. Awesome. Whatever you do, do not start congratulating yourself here. They are just ripping through those busy bags that you put together. State and math facts? They’re going on the floor to be crushed underfoot along with the crayons at every potty stop. Everything else is just being manhandled by little hands. Once they realize that their choices are reading and license plate bingo, you will be assailed with the questions. “Are we almost there yet?” “How many more hours.” “I have to go potty.” Do not, I repeat, Do NOT, under any circumstances, answer any question. You will set a precedence. Just threaten to stay at a hotel with no pool.
  7. Rot your bains
    Rotting our brains.

    On the road – More what to expect: Somewhere around day 7-10. You will lose your mind. Then, you will throw every piece of electronics in the car, from tablets to DVD remote, at them and command them, in Batman’s voice, to “Go ahead and ROT YOUR BRAIN!”

  8. If you’ve made it this far, you might be having a change of heart. Please don’t. Car road trips with your kids are truly amazing. Yes, they are exhausting and can be frustrating and even frightening. Just try taking your 3-year-old who wants to touch everything into potty at pretty much any gas station. You will have nightmares for a week.

Seriously, it is all worth it. To see their eyes light up at first sight of the ocean. To watch them marvel at amazement at God’s handiwork in the mountains. To hear them chatter with each other and listen to their little stories. Yes, some things get old like trying to explain how far 250 miles is to a 7-year-old or how long 2 hours is to a 3-year-old. And yes, my car still smells like a strange mixture of feet and burgers but I would do it all over again. I look forward to these trips every year. It’s a time for my husband and me to connect with the kids and each other and to drink way too much coffee. A time to enjoy each other and just be.

If the opportunity presents itself to road trip with your kids, do it! Don’t be overwhelmed. Remember, we’re parents. We can do anything. At least in our kids’ eyes and with plenty of Jesus and coffee.

we're done
We were so done!

 

A Letter to My Birthday Girl

My Darling Girl,

Thirteen years ago, when you were placed on my chest, warm, wet, and full of life I did not see this moment. I only saw my first born baby girl with perfect bow-shaped lips and tiny fingers and toes. I felt the intense rush of motherly love burn fierce and hot in my chest to the point that for just a moment, I could not breathe. I held you tightly and inhaled baby smells and at that moment, we became a family. But I did not see how quickly the years would rush by me. One on top of another, faster and faster. Birthdays and bounce houses, hair bows and Converse, first crushes, contacts, braces, hormones. An avalanche of life lived between sleepless nights, made possible only by Jesus and copious amounts of coffee. I did not see the moment where I am now, watching you balance on this thresh hold before us. Between womanhood and childhood, you stand. Oh, linger just a little longer, sweet girl and let me share a little of my heart for you, with you.

In a few short years you will more than likely be ready to tumble out of our little tree and into the world. We’re doing our best to prepare your heart and spirit for the journey ahead. We try to live out our faith by example, to pour truth into your spirit to be used as a roadmap and the Word into your heart to light your way when the path is dark and hard to see. I pray that no matter where that path leads you that Jesus remains the captain of your soul and the very anchor to which you cling.

My hope is that you also would remember that your dress size, your bank account, and your address are all just numbers that change and fluctuate with the seasons of your life but who you are in Christ is as certain as the rising of the sun. The fact that you were made exquisitely in the image of Him who created all, will never change. Your worth is summed up not in monetary treasure, physical ability, or beauty but in the simple fact that you are of great worth to Him. Pay no heed to the voices of this world, that pull and scream and try to tell you what beauty and success look like. Strive instead to abide by the identity that you have in Jesus which comes with a great peace that no one or nothing can diminish.

fayes

I pray that you will be challenged, provoked, and stirred throughout your life. That complacency would never be your friend and that you will remember that life owes you nothing. Precious things, things of substance and great value must be sought after, worked for, and dug out. I pray that God will surround you with Godly friends and those that will also sharpen and provoke your faith, strengthen your walk and remind you that our ultimate goal in this life is to become like Christ.

Which leads me to this final thought on your birthday – When we become like Christ we love like Him. Compassion and dignity should be second nature to us. Remember the advice given in James, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Be even quicker to forgive. Prefer your brothers and sisters. Bear the burdens of those around you. Respect boundaries and set your own. Always say what you mean and mean what you say. Live out the Word of God and above all, stand for truth, even if it appears you stand alone. Because you are never alone. When you stand for truth, all of heavens army backs you. And ultimately, truly loving others like Christ means speaking the truth with all grace and kindness. You won’t always be liked or popular but neither was Jesus. You’re in good company. fayepaselfie

As I watch you now, feeling your way through adolescence, I stand in amazement at the young woman you have become. What a gift you are! Your beautiful tender heart, your inquisitive mind, your tenacious spirit. My girl, so full of passion and determination, I am proud to be your mother. Never forget how much you are loved. You may tumble out of the nest but always remember that wherever Daddy and I are there is a safe place to land. Happy birthday to my teenager.

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When Heaven Remains Silent

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I’ve been trying to avoid social media and the news for months now but it’s like a train wreck that you can’t seem to avert your eyes from.  I find myself opening up Facebook and news sites with feelings of dread and trepidation. Even reading blog posts is hazardous to one’s emotional state these days. If the negativity of the person writing them doesn’t get you, don’t worry, the comments below the posts will. So I’ve found myself reflecting on other things. More important things. The holidays were a whirlwind last year and although every year seems crazy, this one was especially manic. We moved a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and life just seemed to keep barreling forward like a steamroller out of control. The change of the seasons brought with it other changes. Changes that were painful and hard to understand.    FB_IMG_1512843905680

While December brought cheer to many, it also brought great sorrow to others. We lost a dear friend two weeks before Christmas. My friend Mary was a woman of God who loved and cherished her family. While the rest of the world was spending their days throwing hate and stereotypes at each other, I watched a family grieve the loss of a daughter. While people were rioting in the name of peace, five children began the arduous task of building a new life without their mother. And while still others waged war against whatever they deemed to be tyranny (whether on the right or left) a church family busied themselves bearing one another’s burden of grief.

Mary battled cancer for 3 years. She fought bravely until the end. I had so many thoughts running through my head and heart but the one that kept returning was, this is what courage looks like. Three and a half years ago, when Mary was diagnosed, a woman named Brittany Maynard decided to end her life rather than fight the cancer she was diagnosed with. She was hailed a hero. I couldn’t get on social media without seeing someone praising her “courageous decision”. My Mary had just been diagnosed. It was heart-wrenching. But I was blessed because I got to experience what real courage looks like in the face and determination of my friend. For three years she endured chemo, radiation, and sickness. She never lost faith or hope. Most importantly I watched her be perfected in love and in suffering. And it wasn’t easy to witness.  It wasn’t something out of a Hollywood movie. It was raw and visceral. It was real. Her beautiful hair fell out and she became a walking skeleton. She threw up everything she ate and needed help going to the bathroom. Her Mother and sisters and closest friends had to bathe her. But I will never forget the last time she spoke to me. Her face was gaunt and drawn. She struggled just to sit up in bed and her breathing was labored. But she told me that she loved me and that she wasn’t afraid. And in her face, I saw Jesus. Through the suffering and the pain, I saw the face of our Savior. And she ordered me that day, “Stop your crying. I’m going home.”

We had prayed fervently for her. As a family, we’d asked God to heal her. The Coconuts struggled with understanding and would often ask me, “Why, momma? Why won’t God heal her?” I admit I feinted a little during that time. Sometimes I didn’t know what to say because frankly, I felt the same way. Why Lord?? Our church has fasted and prayed. We’d believed. She’d believed. Why?? I felt as though the heavens were brass and there was no answer. Only silence.  I comforted my children with the knowledge that our beautiful friend and sister in Christ was in heaven, walking on streets of gold. I told them that the Lord is sovereign (and He is) that His ways are higher than ours (and they are) and that He loved Mary more than we did (and He does). It appeased them but I felt hollow.

One day I was praying again for understanding. I needed closure. I needed comfort. The Lord took me to the scripture in Mark 1: 35-38

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.  And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him.  When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also because for this purpose I have come forth.”

“That I may preach there also because for THIS purpose I have come forth. “ Not for my purpose. Not to be a genie in the lamp. But that His gospel would be preached. It is the gospel that saves. It is the gospel that mends our brokenness so that we can make heaven our home. It is the gospel that changes people and HEALS their sin nature. Because, really, in the end, that is all that matters.FB_IMG_1512843837786

As the seasons are changing once again, and I find myself looking at the holidays again, I am reminded that our God never changes. He’s still reaching for our hearts and offering us restoration and healing for our brokenness through His cross.  I watched my beautiful, brave friend live out the gospel to the very end. Not even death could break the bond of love and faith she held with her Savior. She was made whole. She was healed. Just not on this side of heaven. But the seeds that she planted through the gospel in both her life and death have taken root and will produce fruit in the years to come. I saw her faith and love touch those around her that she loved the most. I see that same faith and love for God growing in her daughter today.

The Lord is our healer. But His most important healing takes place in our souls and then through us to minister to others.

It’s been a year since she left us. I miss her tremendously and can still hear her laughter and her voice chiding me for my crazy driving. I miss hearing her stories and seeing her love for kids as she faithfully ministered to them during Sunday school. I miss her friendship. I am better for knowing her and I am honored to have called her friend.

This picture is my favorite. It sums up who she was. Superhero of faith. Champion of love. Friend to all.

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Lessons Learned by a Black Thumbed Gardener

I love plants and gardening and dirt. I love the feel and smell of damp roots and mulch. Really I do. In my imagination I see myself growing delicious and healthy food to feed my family. Sweet patches of strawberries just waiting to be harvested and canned to make homemade jam for my friends. Grapevines full of large, juicy grapes begging my children to pluck from for a quick snack. I see a yard full of beautiful roses and flowers of all kinds where I flit through, like a graceful butterfly, picking flowers for a friend or my dining room table.

 

House plant

In reality, I am a serial plant killer. You name the kind, and I will kill it. It’s by sheer luck the plants that do happen to live on my property have survived. They live in a perpetual state of terror that I am either not going to water them or drown them once I actually remember to water them.

When we moved into the home we live in now on our little acre, I immediately began to think of myself as a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just needed a bonnet. This past spring I allowed my farming fantasy to take over and instead of waiting until I at least had a greenhouse, (or just some basic plant knowledge) I ran out and bought a few victims…er, I mean plants. Just some simple plants, a lemon tree, some strawberries, a patio tomato plant, some herbs.  I also bought into the whole, “grow food from kitchen scraps” Facebook post from some maniac whose mission in life is to try to make people like me feel like an idiot. Mission accomplished. I selected a pathetic looking onion that was left in my fridge from around Thanksgiving (hey, it was already sprouting!) cut the bottom off of it, and unceremoniously buried it in some dirt. The tomato plant almost immediately was stricken with blight, the deer in the neighborhood abruptly mowed down my strawberry patches, and the onion now looks as though it narrowly escaped a nuclear disaster with the mutations to prove it. The only thing it appears I can grow with any success is Texas burrs and poison ivy.

It certainly seems ironic. My husband and I both are insanely allergic to poison ivy and we have enough of it growing on our property to keep a witch with a cauldron busy for years. Until recently I had no idea what to do to get rid of it other than taking a blowtorch to the nasty stuff. As I am unwilling to run the risk of torching my house, I usually try to just keep my distance. But the other morning I was suddenly inspired to try and do something about it. I got on the internet to do some surfing, er, I mean research and found out that burning it is not wise because just the smoke can make one sick. So scratch the blow torch idea. I discovered that pulling it up is the only sure way to get rid of it. Reading the article was making me reflect on this sudden and insane urge I had to mess with the stuff. However, not one to be easily deterred, I went into my closet and put on every item of clothing I could find, donned some rubber gloves, and headed outside for this mad task I was apparently going to undertake.  I looked for a gas mask or hazmat suit in the garage but was out of luck. Summoning up what little courage I had, I set the Coconuts on the front porch to watch for entertainment instructional purposes (with directions to dial 911 if I should start to appear to be turning into a balloon) and began the task of pulling up these nasty little plants.

After getting over my initial terror, I started to really pay attention to these pesky creepers and their root systems. First of all poison ivy is a vine. It can grow along the ground, a building, up a tree, up a fence, someone’s leg. It can also grow up in clumps to resemble a huge bush, tree, or Bigfoot. It can eventually take over an entire area, choking out anything good. But the stuff you see above the ground is just the tip of the iceberg. Poison ivy has a deep root system. As I began to dig down, I found some of the roots running several feet long beneath the surface of the dirt. Unlike a common dandelion weed that just comes right up, root ball and all, the poison ivy root system has to be dug up. Every part of the plant is poisonous. From the leaves, stems, to the roots, you don’t want to touch any part of those suckers.

And as I started to sweat, the Lord reached through my panic and started to teach me.

Hebrews 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

Roots.  Some produce good fruit and beautiful flowers; others produce thorny thistles and poison ivy. Just like the earth, we too have roots. What is ours producing? Unresolved offenses, unforgiveness, sin, wounds and hurts left unhealed all lodge themselves deep in our heart and take root. From that root grows bitterness and bitterness will bring forth resentment.  The bible defines bitterness as gall, poison, extreme wickedness. Faith, love, and peace are slowly choked out, replaced with anger, malice, and even hatred. We become barren in our relationships, barren in our prayer life, barren in ministry.

Bitterness will keep us out of the presence of God here and in eternity.

Michal, King David’s wife, learned all about barrenness by the years spent cultivating her bitterness. After being left by her husband, David, then given away (again) by her father, and finally, torn away from what appears to be a happy life by King David, resentment brought forth the fruit of resentment.

2 Sam 6:20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

The Bible says that she was barren until her death. Bitterness brought forth fruitlessness.

Simon the Sorcerer had to learn the hard way about bitterness. He was in the midst of one of the greatest revivals of all time yet the roots he had spent years sowing, perhaps with sin and resentment, kept him from truly experiencing the miraculous.

Acts 8:20-23 says “But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

I looked over at the Coconuts watching me eagerly from the porch in the hopes that I was going to begin to balloon up like the Stay Puff Marshmallow man. I was struck with the thought of how much bitterness affects our loved ones. I started to talk to them about forgiveness and how important it was to release our hurts and sorrows to the only one who can heal. I held up portions of the roots that I had pulled out of the earth and told them that they had to pull up any roots in their hearts that anger had sown.

By this point, my fear of having an allergy attack was gone, but it was replaced by a sobering understanding of the responsibility I had to my children. Maybe I won’t do a great job of teaching them how to properly fold a fitted sheet, or how to bake bread, but I had better teach them this lesson.  Repentance. It’s the only thing that will pull up bitterness by the roots. Sadly, there will be plenty of opportunities in this sin hardened world we live in for me to revisit this lesson with them.

I  went into the house to carefully change my clothes. I debated burning them but instead opted to throw them in the wash with hot water and lye soap. And that’s the thing. Bitterness contaminates everything we touch. It oozes out of every decision, every relationship, and every conversation.  Digging up the roots in our lives is paramount. Even if it means risking an allergy attack. There’s always Benadryl for that.

Family

 

The Coconut Chronicles and MORE Lessons from Kids Camp

The bags have been unpacked, the stinky laundry has been washed (who knew my kids could smell like a football locker room and dead fish?) and the sleeping bags have been put away. Kids Camp 2017 is over, living on now only in a few blackmail pictures posted on social media, crazy stories (my son has been bragging about not having had a shower that week) and in our memories. In a mere 3 weeks, summer will be over. Not the heat of course, as we live in central Texas and will continue to be blasted from the furnace of Hades until at least the end of September, but school will begin and a somewhat normal routine will commence for the Coconuts. However, it’s hard to imagine slipping back into the normalcy we call everyday life after experiencing what we did in the 5 days spent at camp.

 

As we have in the past four years, our family spent the week with about 400 other kids, countless volunteers, and a dedicated children’s ministry team at a summer camp that our organization puts together for kids to come, have fun and have an encounter with Jesus. This year I worked as a zookeeper chaperone in a dorm where I was assigned a group of lovely, albeit wacky girls to keep track of. It’s a good thing that the camp directors didn’t know that at home I regularly hide in my pantry and eat chocolate when I’m supposed to be keeping track of my own kids but I digress.  From sun up to sun down we ran with the masses. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Dear Lord, I don’t want to eat one more thing on a stick), morning rally, power filled church services, and lake and waterslide adventures awaited us. Every. Single. Day. The camp itself is set in the beautiful hill country, and my 44-year-old body felt every one of those hills by the end of the night. Bedtime was another adventure of its own. Attempting to get 6 giggling girls to sleep when they are were amped up on sugar and the gleeful possibility of pranking their matron, namely me, was a futile task.  Running on four hours of sleep a night was only made possible by Folgers and Jesus.

 

I’m still not quite sure what The Hubby’s position was there but it had something to do with playing basketball at all hours of the night with a bunch of other old dudes who had forgotten how old they were and coming to my dorm at 7 am to drink my coffee. Regardless of the craziness of it all, this particular week of the year is one we look forward to. We love absolutely every part of it. And this year was no exception.

However, it wasn’t the manic schedule that was so life changing, although the lice check at registration may change your decision to ever let your child use another kid’s hairbrush, pillow, or bed sheet. The real revelation came with noise. Kid’s camp is filled with craziness and noise. The cafeteria, the sanctuary, the dorms, it’s all loud. But somewhere in the midst of all that noise, when the services begin and worship is offered up, the sacred takes place. The presence of God permeates the atmosphere and touches hearts.

The kids who come to camp are from all different back grounds. Many are church kids from great families. Others are not so lucky. The situations and backgrounds these kids have to deal with are so tumultuous, so heartbreaking; you just want to weep with them. There are children there who have lost a parent (or both parents), those who deal with abuse or rejection daily, those who are bullied, neglected, and unwanted. As a matron (or a dean) in the dorms, you spend every moment with the kids you are responsible for. If done right, you form connections and bonds. In the safety of those connections and in the presence of the Lord these children will begin to open up to you.

In hushed voices, stories are offered up of living environments that no child should experience but for 5 days these kids are able to come out from under that pressure and experience the love of a good Father. This camp is their opportunity to feel Jesus, some for the first time. Never to be the same again, these kids may go home to terrible situations but this time with the Prince of Peace lodged in their hearts. I am thankful to the South Texas District Children’s committee and their dedication to these children. Most of all I am thankful for this experience for a certain little boy with deepening freckles and a certain girl poised on the brink of becoming a woman. My two oldest Coconuts do not know what it’s like to live in a constant state of fear or abuse. They’ve only ever known safety and comfort. This camp has been an education for them. And for me. Watching my girl hug her dorm mate and weep with her over a childhood ending too soon, watching them pray at the altar for others, convicted me with their compassion and unabashed love.

 

In a world full of selfies and selfishness, it’s easy to become distracted and apathetic. Serving others is the way to shake off that apathy and remind us that we are the only Jesus that this world is going to see. So find opportunities to serve. We are called to be His hands and feet. Never are we more like the Master than when we are serving these little ones. Listening, loving, and leading them to Him. Love those that God has put before you, whether they are big or little people. Give of your time and resources.  It will change someone’s life as well as your own.

I thought of Josiah, the boy king of Israel who, after becoming king at only 8 years old, brought back righteousness and true worship to the land during his reign. His father and grandfather were wicked but he earned his place in history as a king who did right in the sight of the Lord. Somewhere, someone poured into him. Perhaps it was his mother or the prophet during that time that taught him about the Lord. Regardless, someone took the time to show him the goodness of God. Isn’t that our calling now?  To give of what God has given us? Maybe it will be the next Josiah that we pour into, or it may simply be someone that goes on to love and serve God as a godly father or wife. It matters not. What will matter is that we gave of ourselves.

 

Although it took me several days to fully recover from the insanity of kids’ camp and I may still be suffering from Lice Paranoia, I can’t wait to go back next year and see what other lessons await us.