Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sons are a heritage from the Lord

Their boutonnieres have been ordered, a new pair of shoes purchased for one of them, two new shirts, and new ties (whether they wear them or not is another story!) It’s the eve of my boys’ annual Mother / Son Dance at their school, and I find myself reflecting on how special the opportunity is to accompany these two on our “date night” tomorrow.
They say there’s no special bond than that between a mother and her son. It seems like just yesterday when I was muddling through the first few months of my oldest’ s life here on earth. Despite all the many years I’d planned for motherhood, that first season wasn’t one of my most stellar. Not even a year prior, my own mother had passed unexpectedly, making post-partum  nothing short of trying. He was a tough audience his first few months out of the womb, yet I can’t help but think that I must have been a pretty challenging host as well! Although those times back in the early days of our relationship were a bit of a struggle as we got to know one another, we bonded in a very special way, and still do to this day. We understand one another in a strange, but amazing way. I can barely believe it’s been eleven years.

Then, about two-and-a-half years after birthing my first, I was rolled out of the OR after the planned cesarean section of my second with him tightly latched onto my breast as if he had been participating in this act for months. It took him no time flat to master the skill. And, then he literally grew up before my very eyes, with skills that continue to amaze me with every passing day. I honestly feel as if I have all but blinked and he’s morphed into this too-cool-for-school second grader that’s challenging me to the core, while also teaching me more lessons than any other human being on the face of this earth has ever taught me. He’s brilliant and amazing and stubborn as a mule. And, I’m so very proud for all that he is.
We'll start getting ready for our "date night" about 3:00 tomorrow. I’m sure my oldest will gripe about his sport jacket not fitting quite right and his new shoes being uncomfortable (they are two sizes two big, but I am confident he will still complain about them being too tight!), and my youngest will be less-than-enthused about being jazzed up in a tie (his preference is a Steph Curry jersey), and I'll probably utter a few curse words under my breathe trying to get the three of us out the door on time. But, any negative energy will quickly fade away once we're on our way. It's a special night that's all ours, and there's no other place I'd rather be tomorrow evening than with my two crazy little boys at their school dancing the night away.

We’ll join some other moms and their sons at a local restaurant for an early dinner, before heading to the dance, where I may or may not get lucky enough to score a short slow song with either of them as the evening progresses. I'll take in every minute, watching these two cut the rug with their buddies – one with absolutely no rhythm whatsoever, and the other with moves that could put MC Hammer to shame back in the 90’s!

It might be the last Mother / Son Dance I’ll attend with my oldest. He’s a fifth grader this year, and is probably going to realize tomorrow evening that the majority of the boys in attendance are younger than he, but he’ll be okay with that for this moment in time, because he likes to be the "big kid" amongst  all the others and their silliness. One of his very best buddies will be there and they will break it down, and chat it up, and fill their plastic solo cups ten times with pop, and love every minute of it! He’s my old soul that’s still wrapped in a blanket of childlike innocence.

If I'm lucky, I'll get a few more years as my second grader’s “date” at this annual event, yet part of me fears he may decide to bail before his time, once his big brother is out. So, I’m going to savor him out there dancing, and laughing, and enjoying time with his little peers tomorrow night. He’s got some moves, and he’s real smooth! And, just maybe, I’ll get to steal him away for one slow dance, hopeful that it won't be the last.
Treasured times like these are numbered with my boys as they grow up before me. Many days spent as their mommy exhaust me beyond belief. And, others frustrate me to the utter core. But, special moments like the ones we will share tomorrow evening are to be cherished – such sweet, innocent, beautiful moments.

I’m their mommy. And, they're all mine – for this one night. And, if I get the chance to dance with them, I’m gonna hold them tight and wonder how I got so lucky.
"Sons are a heritage from the Lord."
Psalm 127:3

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Attention Moms: The Struggle is Real.

For better or for worse, I established a high standard for my future role as a mother at a young age. Although an involved and available stay-at-home mom when I was an adolescent, my mother left us when I was at the impressionable age of 13. As I grew into adulthood I came to better understand the reasons for what became of my family. But, as a teenage girl, I spent several years feeling nothing short of abandon by her. I endured many sleepless nights missing the woman who bore me, and aspiring about the mother I would one day become.

She and I spent most of my twenties attempting to make up for lost time. We bonded together, along with my younger sister, who now had a young child to raise on her own. A once broken family found healing as adults - her and my father even re-gained the peace and respect they had lost so many years prior. It was a season of redemption for this daughter.

And then, just about the time my family became restored, she left me again. Only this time, it was for good. My beautiful mother suffered a brain hemorrhage at 48-years-young. Six weeks later I found out I was pregnant with our first child.

The argument will always be on the table - is it nature or nurture that has the greater influence on us as we grow. I contend, however, that it's the forces of good versus evil constantly at play in the world around us battling for the upper hand in our subconscious at any given time. Our God desires nothing more for us than an utter state of peace, love, joy and contentment, yet there is always the devil lurking around the corner ready to steal the goodness right out of our heart, for he loves nothing more than to rob us of our joy. And, the struggle is real - whether we're eight-years-old or eighty.

That boy of mine is precious to me. His smile has always melted my heart. He's handsome and sweet and genuinely funny. He can truly be quite the charmer. Not to ad, he's a leader in the classroom and on the ball field. He's one of those kiddos his little peers look up to. And, as a parent, I take great pride in that. Through my rose-colored mommy shades, he's perfect...just like I always aspired to be as his mommy.

A stark reality recently brought me down a few notches. Despite the best of my intentions and genuine effort, my children are not immune to falling victim to their own free will. And, when the reality of this stared back at me this week, it was ugly.

The guilt immediately overwhelmed my heart and soul like a heatwave in the dead of summer. I began to put it all together - the little white lies, the subtle changes in behavior, the issues bubbling to the surface over the course of the last few months that we tried to handle appropriately with each given occurrence, but that I also denied were much of anything at all - it was all now undeniable.

I want nothing more than for others to adore my children as much as I do, for they are reflections of my husband and I and the love we share as a family. But, this boy of mine greatly angered me. And, for as much as I can barely stand to admit it, he humiliated me. And, worse yet, he disappointed me. I immediately began beating myself up over how it had escalated to this point.

What happened to my innocent little boy?

Where did I go wrong?

What could I have done to raise him better?

Then, something pretty amazing happened. Somewhere in between the convoluted reality of a mommy's deep -rooted love for her child, and the realization that this child is indeed flawed, God's grace was revealed to me. My child taught me that I'm no better than him at juggling the multi-faceted balls of this life. Without having an inkling of imagination beyond that he had done anything short of greatly disappointing his parents, he taught me that I'm the one that's a far cry from perfect as his mommy. In fact, I finally accepted through the eyes of my child this week that I’m very flawed as well. Just like my sweet little boy, I've given in to this world's temptations on more occasions than I'd like to admit. I've hurt others at the expense of my own pride. And, I've strayed from the path God wants for me on a regular basis.

I may be more than three decades older than he, but I am truly no better at discerning the difference between good and evil than he. I am his mommy, and certainly have periods of adult-like clarity, and, God-willing, a bit more wisdom. But, when it comes down to it, I am a child of God just like he is, and I make just as many mistakes - often times quite grander than his transgressions. So, who am I to be angry at this child for his lack of better judgement? Obviously it is the role of both myself and his daddy to school him in the differences between right and wrong, and to punish appropriately. But, I realized that his transgressions lent themselves to something far greater than that. And, it's only by the grace of God that my eyes and heart were vulnerable to the truth at that very moment.  

This discouraged mommy had the fortunate opportunity to bring myself to his level this week, and it's at this place that the epitome of clarity nearly plowed me over. I stared into he and his sweet little friend's innocent eyes as we sat "crisscross-applesauce" together with her mommy, and just talked - with no condemnation, or judgment, or fear. We were all four as real as real can be in that moment. And, it's at this place that I fully began to comprehend the fact that I am a terrifyingly blemished mommy who is just doing her best to raise this little boy and his big brother, and that I too fail. And, that it's okay to fail. We all make mistakes and we're all flawed, but we all also serve a God that's always willing to forgive, so long as we admit our wrongdoings and ask for that forgiveness.

With tears welled up in his eyes, and red blotches popping up on his cheeks, my child looked into the eyes of his dear friend, whom he had hurt, and said he was sorry. And, my heart grew in that moment as I witnessed innocence finding its way back to a little heart that knew he had failed those around him.  I too found myself on my knees asking for forgiveness (and help) a little more than usual this week - pleading for guidance in this world of sin where failure can capture our heart and soul and drag us into a perpetual pit of darkness.

When we remain rooted in the viscous cycle of our past sin and regret, we become a product of it, and it's hard to escape. So we just fall victim over and over again, because it's easier to just keep doing what we've always done. When we feel unworthy for a period of time, the tendency is to just stay right there within the sin in order to punish ourselves (and sometimes even those around us) without even realizing that we're doing it.

Something special was laid on my heart this week through the innocent filter of my child. I truly grasped the fact that it's often times during our greatest failures in life that we experience our greatest growth. Thanks to a little something amazing called grace, we are able to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and move beyond the sin and shame, and into a place of redemption. I just wish my mom was here this week so I could share with her this grace-filled breakthrough. She would have completely understood, smiled, and hugged us both.

Romans 5:3-5
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.