Gentle

So about a month ago I made a commitment to blogging every week. I really love it and it feels like an outlet to me in this season where I often can’t remember what day of the week it is. But I am tired this week. Really tired. Jack is going through his three month growth spurt and it seems to be taking a lot from me physically. So we are going to keep it short this week…

A couple of days ago, I was consistently coming up short with my kids. I was irritable, impatient, easily frustrated, demanding in my expectations, and really low on grace. If you think I should be describing my four year old, you’d be about right. It was rough and at the end of the day after a battle over eating dinner I said to Jacob, “I need a minute. I am going to take a shower.” And then I locked myself in the bathroom (after one child burst through the door to ask how many bites of dinner he had left) and cried. I cried because I felt so disappointed in myself. Because I so desperately want to be a calm, collected mom. Because I want disciplining my children to be easy. Because I want to help my four year old navigate his overwhelming emotions without getting stuck in them myself. Because I want to be kind and patient with my children. I cried because I am weak. And weakness is something that is REALLY HARD for me.

After the tears had come, I realized that I am weak and imperfect and this could be the greatest gift I could ever give my children. Not that I shouldn’t try to grow and develop deeper wells of capacity and love and patience and kindness, but mommy is human and needs Jesus. Just like her kids. After letting this sink in I opened my door and called them one at a time. I pulled them on my lap and kissed them and snuggled them and said sorry. I asked them to forgive me and to tell me how I made them feel today. That wasn’t so easy to hear but then I said sorry again. I told them mommy is tired and Jack takes a lot of energy right now. I am sorry if it’s hard for them. I told them I need Jesus’ help and asked them to pray for me. I thanked them for doing their best. I told them I loved them no matter what and always will. I told them they make me the happiest I have ever been in my whole life and I am so grateful to have them as my children. And then we hugged and kissed and went to bed…a little bit lighter and hopefully more ready to start again tomorrow.

Oh the seasons of stretching that require us to collapse more deeply into God’s strength, love, acceptance, and kindness. Notice I said collapse, not strive. There is no striving with God…only release and receiving what He already longs to give. Grace and peace to you today, my friends. Be gentle with yourself as He is surely gentle with you.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. - Isaiah 40:11

Jesus Make Me a Gecko

So my son, Caleb, is experiencing faith and Jesus in a personal way. It is so beautiful...and sometimes a little funny. He loves to pray at dinner and will ask for prayer regularly when he needs help. He even lays hands on me, Jacob and Aaron (if he can catch him!) and asks God for encouragement, healing, or whatever else he deems necessary. 

Recently he has been pretending to be a gecko. We have a lot of these in Cambodia. He slithers around and tries to climb up walls--I had to draw the line at licking the floor. But one's imagination can only go so far and one night at the dinner table he declared that he had asked Jesus to make him a gecko. Once and for all, no turning back. 

For almost a week he went to sleep each night convinced Jesus would transform him only to wake up disappointed by his little boy hands and feet. Finally the question came, "WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?!"

How does one answer that? No one had prepared me that one day my four year old's faith would wrestle with gecko transformation. I gave myself a full day to think on it and this is what I said:

"Caleb, I am sorry if this makes you sad, but I don't think Jesus is going to turn you into a gecko. You see, God thought long and hard and planned a long time to make you. You are the only you. No one else will ever be you. You are wonderful. When God made you, He looked at you and said, 'Caleb Goodlin is fearfully and wonderfully made. He is good, very very good.' God created you to love animals, to be creative, to believe in the things that seem impossible to mankind but are possible with Him. I love how He made you."

Too serious? It is just a silly gecko imagination game, right? Not to my son. To him this is as real as it gets. And if it matters to his sensitive heart, it matters to God. 

Besides...this answer was water for my soul too. Because we all know how the enemy of humanity loves to worm his way into our hearts with comparison, envy, pride, and insecurity. You are the only you. I am the only me. God delights in us because we are unique expressions of Him, the Master Creator. That truth is worth a deep breath to let it really sink in...

15

 My mom, my brother and I at the zoo.

My mom, my brother and I at the zoo.

This week marks 15 years since my mom passed away. 15 years! It feels so long ago and, some days, still so painfully fresh. 

The other day I was remembering the last time I felt like I really had a mom. It was about a month before she died. I was home from college on an extended break to help care for her. She was very sick at that point and I think we all could sense this wasn't going to end the way we hoped it would. She was sitting in her rocking chair in our living room, now unable to climb the stairs to her bedroom. The emotions of it all overwhelmed me and I sat down next to her and laid my head on her lap and cried. She cried too...her hand on my head. And I remember the comfort of her. Her scent, her touch, her voice, her knowing of me. For one more time, she was the mommy and I was her little girl.

It's her comfort, her presence that I grieve the most these days. Being a mom is tiring, joyful, stretching, and consuming. I long to call her on the phone and ask a question, voice a frustration or just cry in the presence of the one who did all of these mom things for me decades ago. I want to ask her how I was as a baby and compare notes. I want to see her delight in the grandchildren she longed to meet one day. I wish she could tell me that I'm doing a great job and that she's so proud of me.

In this season of full-time baby and little people, the old waves of grief rise up a bit more often than before. God has so faithfully, so gently, so completely met me on this journey. He has met my needs along the way, sometimes before I even knew I had them. I am thankful for that...deeply grateful. I trust His goodness and know He sees and understands me, especially on the sad days.

And so this week I remember the woman who loved me in ways I now understand and appreciate much more fully as I love and care for my own children. And I look toward the future with a hopeful heart bolstered by the remembrance of all the Lord has done. For surely He has done and will continue to do great and wonderful things.

Brothers

Yesterday Aaron and I stopped at a Japanese secondhand shop on the way home from Saang. Aaron knows how much I love this place for their interesting clothes selection and really sweet Asian dishes. You can also occasionally stumble on some Hello Kitty awesomeness or another other random find. It is not the first time that Aaron has gone treasure hunting here but this time he found a treasure of his own -- a big bucket of golf balls. I let him choose two -- one for him and one for Caleb.

On the drive home, I started second-guessing my decision with visions of golf balls sailing through windows, nailing cars, or pinging off people's heads. So we made a few ground rules: Only outside. Only rolling. Never should the golf ball fly through the air or it would be off-limits. Caleb was beyond thrilled and a host of new outdoor games immediately commenced.

All was progressing well with golf balls tumbling along the courtyard tiles until Caleb's suddenly disappeared down the corner drain. A few concentrated efforts with a long stick yielded nothing...the ball was gone. Tears immediately came and, in the middle of trying to console Caleb, Aaron tugged my arm. "Mom," he whispered in my ear. "I can give Caleb my golf ball because that's what brothers do." And without any hesitation, he handed the ball over to Caleb and went happily off to ride his bike.

It was such a sweet moment for me -- not one I will soon forget. I loved seeing Aaron's heart to help, to comfort, to protect. In his biological family, he is the youngest brother. And in our family, he is the oldest brother. I love seeing him learn how to be a brother in both situations. He really is a great one...

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The Road, Take 2

A couple of months ago, I shared a rather resigned story about the status of our abandoned road. It is with great joy that I write this...

The road saga has come to an end. About two weeks ago, we noticed the rumblings that maybe a road crew was afoot. This was not the first time we had seen something like this to no avail so I didn't even give it a second thought. Then on a Saturday morning we heard the rhythmic swoosh of the cement truck and realized help had finally arrived.

We were thrilled. It came the weekend after we had made the decision to stay put in our house for at least another year. The decision wasn't an easy one -- we went back and forth on what would be easiest and best for everyone. In the end, we just didn't have peace about leaving. And, in my experience, when you don't have peace about moving in a direction it is best to just wait a bit longer. The road seemed like the Lord's confirmation to us that we had heard Him correctly.

Since then, Aaron and Caleb have been out playing every night after school -- riding bikes and trikes, playing ball with the neighborhood kids, throwing rocks, etc. And we have had such a wonderful time with the neighbors. Every night is like a mini-block party, Cambodian style!

 Caleb enjoys the bench just about as much as his mommy.

Caleb enjoys the bench just about as much as his mommy.

To celebrate, we bought the road a bench. I love it. It has been adopted by a few older folks as their morning paper spot. And I use it as a place to sit and unwind with a cup of tea at the end of the day. So today it's cheers to the beauty of cement and all the hopes that lie within. =)