"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Monday, April 27, 2015

Encourage One Another

I was reminded anew how words of encouragement can change everything bright and early one morning last week.

I had woken up early. Way too early.  I was feeling grumpy and drowsy and incapable.  But I had promised, so I drug my grumpy self upstairs, along with two cups of coffee - one for her and one for me - to attempt the task I was dreading!

That task?

Hair curling!

Yep - for real!  Sierra had begged me to curl her luscious locks and I was dreading it!  I am not good with hair.  She is.  Additionally like almost all 15 year old girls, she needs her hair to look just right.  I was SURE that the morning would end with one or both of us in tears.

She knew I was nervous.  It was pretty obvious from the sighs, along with the asking and re-asking of "are you SUUUURE you want me to try this?"

She smiled at me sweetly and said, "I know you can do it mom!"

I grabbed her brush and followed her instructions.

"First straighten the top third of each strand of hair."

 I knew I could do that.  I am OK with a straightener.

Then the instructions became more challenging.  "Grab the (curling) wand and wrap the hair around it.  Nope, start at the other end.  Yep!  You got it.  Ummm, could you please wrap the hair around it the other direction?  Thanks.  You are the best mom.  See, you got i...."

And then her instructions paused after I dropped her hair and the wand in frustration as the slippery strands refused to do as she instructed.  I sighed deep.  Closed my eyes.  Tried to remain calm, when I wanted to run from the room and never touch another wand as long as I lived.

But. . .  I had promised to give it my best shot. . .

So, we began again.

She instructed, and I did my best.

I can not imagine her helplessness.  She knew I was frustrated.  She would have much rather curled her own hair.  She could have complained and sighed like her mother was.

Instead, she saw each tiny success and used it to spur me on.  To encourage.  To lighten my load.  To give me hope.  To make me feel successful.

"Good job mom."

"Look at how well you are doing!  That curl is perfect!"

"I appreciate you so much mom."

"Wow!  This looks so good."

"You are amazing."

"I love you mom."

"Thank you so much for helping me."

Sierra's constant encouragement melted away my grumpies.  It caused my insecurities to dissipate.  It turned what I had expected to be a train-wreck into a memory I will cherish.

She taught me many things that morning.
1. Be grateful.  -  She could have been angry about her inability to do her own hair.  She chose to be grateful rather than grumpy in any way.
2. Encouragement inspires.  -    It would have only taken one sign of her displeasure and disappointment in my work for me to crumble.  While she did not tell me things looked good that did not, she found the tiny things that went right and encouraged me with each one.  Each time she noticed a success, she helped me to believe more were coming.
3. Do not let the emotions of another dictate your emotions.   -  If she had been sucked under with my bad attitude, all would have been lost.

For the first time since she had surgery, Sierra did her own hair this morning.  I am soooooo happy for both of us!  However, I am also truly grateful for the mornings we spent doing her hair together.  Her kindness, humility, gratitude, and encouragement taught me much.

Thank you Sierra for being a beautiful example of 1 Thessalonians 5:17  "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."

You inspire me.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More Thought on "Successful Parenting"

I stand in a very unique position currently.  I am (most likely) in the exact center of my parenting years.  I have 18 years under my belt, and I have another 18 years in which we will have children living in our home and attending High School. (While I fully realize that I will always be a momma, I am aware that my role changes drastically as my children grow-up.)

I blogged earlier this week about the struggle I am currently having in defining "parenting success."  I fear that post may point unfairly toward our oldest, though it was not intended to be about her - but about me.  It is true that some of my soul searching has to do with the fact that some of the choices she has made this past year are different than I would have chosen for her.  However, even if she had done everything "perfectly" (whatever that even means), THIS is a struggle I would have needed to face.

You see, the goals/standards/ideals I had set to be my marker for "parenting success" were all wrong.  I had chosen to base MY success on ANOTHER'S behavior.  It is funny really - the ironic kind of funny, definitely not laughable!  I have watched my kids through all sorts of stages, I should have collected enough evidence to realize that I can not base my personal success on their or any one else's behavior.  I have survived many uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing moments as a momma.  And I never felt that that moment defined me as a good or bad, successful or unsuccessful mom.

BUT - for some reason, I had decided that once my children were old enough that I was no longer their disciplinarian, THEN their behavior would be a direct representative of my life's work.  Which meant, hypothetically, if they made choices that were radically different than those I had raised them to make, I had failed.

It sounds so silly when I type it out.

Krissy chose to move out in a clean sweep.  Where I had expected years of back and forth between military training and home and then college and home, she moved out less than a month after she graduated; and she may never come back for more than a night or two for the rest of her life.  There was nothing gradual and gentle about it.  The band-aid was ripped, and my heart was not ready.

However, what she did was not wrong.

She is a legal adult.  She has every right to make choices.  She has every right to make mistakes, try things, succeed, fail, try-again, succeed, fail, try-again. . . essentially that is what all adults spending their lives doing.  I am VERY proud of some of her decisions.

To a large degree, the person who has failed during this transition is me.

I have failed to be prepared to let go.  I have failed to set my "bar of success" properly.  I made my daughter's choices all about me, when they were and are  hers and hers alone.

This can not continue.

Changing a lifetime worth of thinking, even though it was subconscious thinking, is challenging to say the least!  However, we will be the parents of adult children for many, many more years than we will parent them in our home.  (God willing!)  And I can not and will not live the rest of my life feeling responsible for each decision our kids make.  It is not fair to me, more importantly, it is not fair to them.

So what is it to be a successful parent?  Where can I set my bar?

As I continue to seek the Lord on this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the bar must rest on my behavior, NOT on the behavior of my children.  This week I felt God challenge me to go back to the promises I made to Him when I had our children baptized.  To what did He ask me to commit?

I looked up the liturgy from the RCA this morning.  These are the promises we made when we had our oldest 5 baptized:

"Do you promise to instruct these children/this child in the truth of God’s Word, in the way of salvation through Jesus Christ; to pray for them, to teach them to pray; and to train them in Christ’s way by your example, through worship, and in the nurture of the church? "

I notice when I re-read this that what I promised to do is - instruct, pray, and train - all things I can do.  What I could do then and what I can do now has not changed.  I can instruct a child of any age.  I can pray for a child of any age.  I can train by example a child of any age.

How that is done changes as kids age.  But it can always be done.

Maybe, just maybe, the core essentials of parenting never really change?  They adapt and grow, but just as the Lord never changes, the very core of parenting remains steady as well?

That bar is one for which I can continue to strive.  That bar gives me hope . . . always.  That bar is all about HIM and not at all about me - which is exactly as we are called to live.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that You are our hope.  Forgive me for the many times that I make life all about me.  Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart to Your truth.  It is all about You, Lord.  Please continue to teach me, mold me, challenge me, and inspire me as a momma.  Thank you for never giving up on me.  Protect my children from my mistakes, Lord.  Guide each of my words and thoughts and deeds that I may live a life that honors You. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Preparing to be His LaLa

In about 8 weeks, my grandson is due to arrive.
(Pregnancy goes a lot faster when you are not the one experiencing it!)

As we wait for him, I have been nesting a bit.

Pictured above is the spot I have been preparing just for him.  When Chad and I (and the kids) were building this house, one of the things that excited me was/is that the bedrooms are large. . .  large enough to add cribs as the kids grow-up and start families of their own.  Even as I painted, I dreamed of the day when my house would be filled to overflowing as our grown kids came home for vacations and holidays.  I loved thinking of preparing special spots for each of the grandchildren to call their own.

So, this is his spot.

For now, it is crib.  Decorated as his LaLa wishes. . . with soft sheets, the most precious of blue blankets, some tiny-one toys.  Eventually, I will find a rocking chair for the corner.  And then shortly after that his space will be transformed as we learn all that he likes.  Will it be construction equipment?  Farm animals?  Race cars?  Camo?  Baseball?

Sunday morning Chad told me, "I am going to be the grandpa that takes him fishing and hunting and digging in the dirt!  What kind of grandma do you want to be?"

In all reality, I have not given grandmothering very much thought.  I am so entrenched in parenting, and I have be struggling with my worth as a parent so much, that the idea that I have a whole new role to figure out is totally overwhelming.  But, it is approaching very rapidly!  And when I choose to stop worrying about all the things I can do nothing about, the idea that I will soon have a grandson is really, truly precious.

After a bit of thought and a few tears, I told my handsome husband that I when I was growing up I "knew" I was my grandma's very favorite grandchild.  I was sure of it, (though I knew she would never have said those words.)  She made me feel like the most important thing in the universe when we were together.  Our time was all about what I loved.  She let me cook!  She let me dust her living room.  She read me books and made me popcorn.  She found creative craft projects for us to do.  She took me camping and hiking and swimming.  She learned to make kneophla soup because she heard me say I liked it.  She did not tolerate bad behavior.  She let me dig though her purse. She prayed with and for me.  She shared her heart with me.

As an adult, I realize that each of her grandchildren "knew" they were her favorite.  She just had that special kind of focused love for each of us.  She was a treasure.

And I hope to grandmother like she did.

I hope that each of my grandchildren "know" they are my very favorite.  That they feel special, and treasured, and loved, and known when they are in my presence.  I pray that LaLa's house is always a wonderful and fun and inviting place to be.

Know, sweet grandson, that your LaLa spends a few moments each day standing over your crib and praying for you.  You are so very loved.  Grandpa and I are looking forward to each moment we are allowed to have with you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Defines Successful Parenting?

Today is a day in which I wish my blog were highly interactive or that my kitchen was full of moms I love and respect.  I long for interaction, challenging ideas, tears, laughter, and understanding.  I long to "get it."  And at the same time, I realize I have a long way to go.  It will be years and years and years before I will "arrive."

I have chosen mothering as my career of choice.  Though I have always had a paying gig, sometimes two, Chad and I have always made my top job that of mom.  That has worked well for us.  I have always been grateful to be released to be momma first and breadwinner second.  Chad has felt well supported in his career as well.  (Most days that is!)

Through the years I (thought I) have been careful to not define my success through the success of my children.  I am available, but I do not hover.  I have rejoiced when my kids get caught.  I have always embraced natural consequences.  I have tried to have a life outside of my children.

My goal has always been to launch adults that have deep character, are responsible, and love the Lord.  I thought those were good goals.  To my young momma heart, when my kids left home, the way that they chose to live would signify my parenting success.


I feel as though I have aged 20 years in the last 18 months.  And yet I do not feel 20 years wiser, just older and less naive.

Sigh again, only longer and deeper.

One of my children has left.  While I had hoped that she had left during a season of searching and rebellion, and that she would one day return, I am beginning to realize that she is probably gone forever.  And nothing about her launching has gone as I had hoped.


I do not say that in anger.

I do not say that to guilt her if she ever reads this.

I say that because I know I am not the only one who has ever felt this.

But no one ever talks about it.

These last 18 months have broken my heart.  Not because my daughter is SO bad - but because my standards and ideals have been blown out of the water.  My core beliefs about mothering have been totally wrecked, and it has been very, very painful.

I am beginning to realize (and maybe I will change my mind about this, too) that all we can do as parents is give our kids over to the Lord.

We can and should do so many other things.  Parenting does matter - but success in parenting can only be measured by how completely we give our kids over to their Father.

My definition of success was all about things I could not control.  I can not control character - that is up to each individual.  I can set examples.  I can teach it.  But, ultimately each of us make our own choices.

The same is true with responsibility.

And as to loving the Lord. . . that is SOOOOO not up to me.

I am wondering if successfully launching our kids is more about letting them go, giving them to the Lord and trusting Him to work in their lives than anything else?

I have learned that if I were God, I would have ended humanity long ago.  He is the perfect parent - but we, His children, are so far from what He longs for us to be.  For a human momma who loves with a tiny human heart, that is hard.  I can not imagine how much that grieves God, our perfect Father, who has the most pure and tender of hearts.  God allows us free will (though sometimes I would rather He did not).  He teaches us through each mistake.  He loves us always.  He is patient and kind and forgiving when we are total brats.  He celebrates the smallest of victories.  He keeps no record of wrong.  His love never gives up.  When His children fail, it is not because He has messed up - but because they (we, me!) are brats.  And yet, His love never ends.  His mercies are new every morning.  He is faithful.

I have learned that I suck.

I hold onto wrongs way too long.  I struggle to forgive.  I want to save my kids and when I have to sit back and watch them struggle it wrecks me.  I take all sorts of things personally, things that are not even about me.  I am impatient.  I worry.  I fail, over and over and over.

Why would I expect my kids to be any different?

In this season of adult-launching, I have grieved more deeply than in any other season of parenting.  I had (and have) dreams for my kids.  Letting go of my dreams and hopes and aspirations and giving them fully over to the Lord has been incredibly painful.  My dreams are good dreams, I argue with Him daily, hourly even.  And He keeps reminding me that His ways are not my ways.  I argue that I sure wish His ways were a bit more like my ways, and He quietly reminds me that the story is not complete.  He knows the ending, and He will walk next to me and hold me together through each and every chapter.  In all honesty, I don't know if the ending will be all that I long for right now - but I know that I can always trust the Author.

Though I can not guarantee that my children will follow the Lord, I can guarantee that I do.  I can do my best to love like He loves.  I can forgive.  I can hope.  I can trust.  I can pray.  I can be patient and kind.  And I can, and will, continue to entrust my precious ones to their Father, knowing that only He can save.

Agree?  Disagree? If you were sitting at my kitchen table, what would you add to this monologue?Experienced adult launchers, I would love to hear your thoughts.  I have 5 more kids to launch, and I surely want to improve my launching skills!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

PROM 2015

Tonight, Jamison escorted his friend, Emily, to their junior Prom.
 Chad bought a new truck this week, and he allowed Jamison to take it to Prom tonight!

He texted me while I was taking the kids' pictures, "Tell Jay that he looks good driving my truck, but not so good that he can keep it."  Ha!
 I adore this tall son of mine.  I am so proud of the man he is becoming.

He and Emily, along with 2 other couples, allowed us to hang with them and take lots of photos this afternoon.  It was so fun!
 Evan, Joey, and Jay - team mates and friends
 Emily looked stunning.

She even sounded beautiful, since her gown flowed and swished perfectly when she walked!

 Sierra adores him.

She posted this photo in Instagram with the caption, "Sometimes heroes wear tuxedos."

She may or may not have cried big crocodile tears on the drive home thinking about next year being his last under our roof.  I am so thankful for the relationship they have.
 Emily, Jamison, Maya, and Evan

These four spend a lot of time hanging out - but rarely at our house.  While Jamison talks about them often, it was fun for me to get to know them a bit!
 I have never, ever been allowed to take so many photos!

The kids were so fun, and patient, and kind!
 These are by FAR my favorites!

Jamison, Joey, and Evan have been fast friends all through High School.  They train together for both Cross Country and Track, daily, all year long.  They are fun, adventurous, and love to laugh.

Above they are discussing just how they want the jump photo sequence to go.  They look serious, but they were hilarious!

 The rest of the girls did not think jumping was a good idea, but Emily was up for the challenge.

(It was at this point in the afternoon that I knew for certain that Jamison chose his date very wisely!  Fun and gorgeous is pretty hard to beat!)

How cute are they?

After pictures they were going to have supper at Maya's home.
Then they were heading to Grand March and the dance.

Sierra and I went to Grand March.  During Grand March the kids are instructed to pause at two different spots so the crowd can see the dressed.  One tradition the kids have created is to strike a pose at those spots.  They think creatively, which makes a long march a bit more entertaining for the audience. At the second spot, Jamison and Emily decided to snap a quick selfie.

After the dance, they headed to the school sponsored After Prom Party.
Then to Emily's house for breakfast.
Jamison arrived at home just before noon.

I am so thankful for a fun afternoon,
Wise, well-behaved kids.
A safe plan for the night.
Parent involvement.
And laughter!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Track is Back!

Today was Jamison's 4th track meet of the season.  He has had 2 indoor meets and 2 outdoor meets. Although his dad and grandpa have been to every meet, I have only been to two.  I LOVE to watch Jamison run. so missing a meet is a major bummer; but I am so thankful his dad vidoes the races I miss!  Today was the first outdoor meet I have been to.  The weather was incredible,  and ALL of his siblings were able to attend the meet - which made the day totally perfect!
Jamison has worked hard in the off season.  He ran at least 5 days a week, and he lifted as much as he ran.  He continues to grow both taller and stronger.  I think he may have his dad beat in height, and I KNOW he has us all beat in speed, strength, and endurance!

In track, Jamison runs the mile, the 2 mile, the 800, and the 4 X 800 relay.  He never runs more than 2 events at a meet die to the length of his races.  Today he ran the mile and the 800.

 He finished the mile in 4 minutes 44 seconds.  That is his best time this season!

His goal is to run a 4:35 by the end of the season, which will qualify him for the state meet.  Every time I think about the fact that he considers a five minute mile SLOW, I go into shock.  Racers run a mile faster than I can even fathom!

Jamison also ran a very pretty 800 today.  He may hate that wording, but I love to watch him run a shorter race once in a while.  I love how his stride changes and his muscles bulge during a long-distance sprint.  He and I both adore long runs - but the 800 is an awesome change of pace.  He runs a mean 800 for a 2 miler!  I am totally curious as to what events he will run in college.  His current team has many 400 and 800 runners, so his focus will continue to be the mile and 2 mile since that is where his team needs points most.  But, his momma thinks his college coach may decide his strong thighs and gluts should be trained for the 8.

Thankfully, his momma is NOT his coach!  And college is still a year away!!! I am NOOOOOOOTTTTTT ready for him to leave quite yet!

Jamison, JD, Jay, or JAM (all of which he is called these days) - I LOVE to watch you run!  I am so excited that track is back!  It is going to be an incredible spring.  I am so very proud of the runner you are.  I am even more proud of the man that you are; kind, thoughtful, funny, hard-working, honest, steady, honorable.  Your ability to run will take you places - but your character will make you a man of true greatness.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Recovering. . .

Because Sierra and I are both blunt, I am just going to say it. . . surgery sucks!

This entire process has been much more difficult than we expected and if we had it to do over again, we would wait until summer!  BUT we do not have it to do over again, so we are pressing ahead.

Med #3 has been very helpful.  Once we figured out the correct doseage, we have a more comfortable daughter who also has a similar personality to the one we brought to the hospital to have her shoulder operated on 2 weeks ago!  Too much of the med makes her loopy.  Too little and she hurts.  We have found the balance, and we are both thankful.

Sierra returned to school as of Tuesday.  School has been a struggle.  Getting bumped in the crowded hallways is simply painful.  Trying to write is both very painful and very frustrating.  (The writing situation is why we say we would not do this until summer if we could push rewind.  We asked about writing, and we were told she would be able to write.  They did not make it sound like it would be too difficult.  Lies, lies lies!!!)  And when you are lacking your dominant arm everything is hard. . . carrying a lunch tray, styling your hair, doing make-up, zipping your jeans.  To use teen slang, the struggle is real!

On the flip side, Sierra is 100 times better this week than she was last week.

We rejoice in that this suffering is temporary.

It has been very humbling to me to think of what life would be like if we had a child with permanent special needs.  How I use my time has totally changed in the last two weeks.  Sierra needs help showering, dressing, drying and styling her hair, driving, doing her homework, cutting her meat, etc...  Sierra is a total trooper!  She does everything she can on her own!  She does more and more for herself every day.  I am not complaining a bit.  I am so thankful that my working from home allows me to easily adapt my schedule.  My point is simply one of gratitude.  Having six children that are impossible independent is a much greater gift than I had realized.  I will never again take that for granted!

 Mataya loves to share snacks with Sierra.  Sierra does not have a huge appetite, and we are always shoving food down her along with the meds.  Mataya has figured out that Sierra gets the good stuff!  Anytime she sees Sierra with a snack, she crawls over and chants "please, please!" until Sierra shares.  Then she gives her sister a huge grin and says "tu tu" (thank you).  It is just precious enough that she is rarely told no!
Sierra will probably hate this picture, but it is a victory shot in my book!

It was taken about 9 days after surgery, and it was the first time she had felt well enough to sit at the counter and eat.  I have never, ever been so happy to see anyone sitting in my kitchen!  

Please continue to pray for our Berra-girl.  This slow, slow recovery is hard.  She feels very discouraged some days.  Hurting drains the fun out of life.  Catching up on homework stinks.  School is overwhelming.  My prayer for her is that she will allow us all to love her well right now.  Sierra thrives as the strong, encouraging helper.  She struggles with needing and thus accepting help.  I am praying that help is offered and she will have the courage and grace to accept it.  I am praying that she will feel loved and cared for emotionally and physically during this time of recovery in very tangible ways.  I am praying that God heals and as He heals that hope and joy reign in her spirit.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Brenna Joy is 12 today!

She had a bit of an unusual birthday.  There was not school, (insert happy dance here!)  But, there was track practice in the evening.  Track practice made a full-fledged family party impossible.  So, we spend the day celebrating separately instead!
 Mataya and I took Brenna shopping and for coffee.

I really enjoyed the time with her.  She was chatty and fun!
After shopping, I dropped her off at her favorite restaurant "Kobe's" for sushi with her dad.

(Dad's always get all the credit! He even made her story on snapchat.  Ha!)

After lunch, Brenna spent some time with Sharlene.

Next we met Aunt Emily, Adrianna, and Alexa for ice cream.

After track practice, Grandma Donna picked her up.  They went out to supper with Grandpa Scott.  Then the girls went shopping.

In between, Brenna received cards and texts from all her other favorites!

Though it was odd to not have a family gathering, I think Brenna had a nice birthday.  And her party will happen!  Friday she has invited a group of friends out to make hotdogs and s'mores, play basketbal, badmitten, and beanbags, and jump on the trampoline.  Pictures of the main event will follow!

Brenna girl,

I plan to thoroughly enjoy this year. Next year you will officially be a teenager!  Yikes!  And although I truly look forward to your teen years, I plan to savor this last year.

In the year to come, I expect you to grow like crazy!  Your sisters and I all had our largest growth spurts between 6th and 7th grade.  It will be exciting to see just how tall you become.  It will also be exciting to see how your interests grow and change.  You are currently checking out many sports, band, and choir.  Mom thinks art classes should join that mix!  You are a multi-talented girl, and I look forward to seeing in which of your talents you invest most.

At 12, you dream of being an architect.
You are an incredible student.
Math may be your best subject.
You are learning to play the flute. . . very well.
You tried volleyball and track this school year.
You have an amazing eye for color and arrangement.
You bake delicious treats.
You decorate cupcakes like a boss.
You have many friends and totally enjoy time with them.
You have a boy you call your boyfriend, whether or not mom likes it!
You are kind and thoughtful.
You like to help in tangible ways like scrubbing floors or unloading the dishwasher.
Your room vacillates between very neat and very messy!
You like time alone in your room, a lot.
You tend to be more private and quiet than some of your siblings.
You like bright colors.
You whistle when you are happy and when you are pensive.
You are very independent.  I never have to check up on your homework, but I do have to check up on dates and times for things I should be at!  Yousometimes forget to relay messages for things like concerts, games, and practices!
You never say an unkind word to another person. Never.

You, Brenna Joy, are perfectly named.  You bring joy and peace to all who surround you.  I am so proud of the young woman you are growing into.  And I am so very, very, very thankful that God chose me to be your mom.

Happy, Happy Birthday,

Love your second favorite parent,