I Can’t Write Their Story

 

Once upon a time 

I reached for the steaming hot ducky felt rice bag for the umpteenth time.  “Thank you, son” I weakly whimper to my fourteen year old.

Lying helpless in bed is not the Mom-image I dream of being for my boys. In spite of the storybook family image I try to write for them over the years, I finally resolve, “I can’t write their story.”

While my youngest boy perfected the ability to stitch straight seams in his 8th grade class, I am certain he never imagined his Mom would be getting so much use from the ducky bag he made.

Up and down the stairs he runs as he takes care of me, commenting how the bag stinks now. Zapped so many times,the rice burns beneath the soft flannel duckies. I place the bag on my gut where bright red burns have created a design the doctor thinks may never go away.

It’s the middle of summer and I have spent weeks in painful misery and long hours in the E.R. I’ve experienced too many blood tests, cat scans and increased doses of ox-codeine than I care to count.

This is not the plan I envisioned for myself or family this summer. The boys and I were going to cook from Alton Brown’s cookbook together. I hoped they would teach me how to lift weights in the garage. I took for granted sitting in my lawn chair cheering on the soccer team, taking videos of their swim meets and watching them improve their stroke.

Instead, I am an absent mom and my husband has taken on the role of Mr. Mom in their summer frolics.

I certainly never planned to listen to the family laughing and splashing in the backyard or conversing around the kitchen table from the misery of my darkened bedroom. I roll over saddened, maybe even ashamed, as I watch my boys walk quietly past my door.

“Please take him out of the room” I whisper to my husband as he shuffles our boy with special needs away from his mom. I can’t bear the thought of him being confused or anxious as I groan and weep in pain.

“Feel… better…. Mommy” he carefully tells me.

This is not the perfect family story I wrote for my children. I don’t want them to have a helpless mom. They shouldn’t have to take care of me at their age. They shouldn’t have to completely care for themselves throughout the day.

I should be vibrant, energetic, interacting with them. I should.

I should be cooking for them and driving them for milkshakes.

I should.

I should.

Wrestling with pain…Wrestling with “should’s”… Wrestling with God…

He stills my heart.

He reminds me this is what I prayed for over the years. I ask the Lord to grow character in my boys, to make of them godly men. I ask Him to orchestrate opportunities for them to rely on Him in a deep and personal way.

This is their opportunity to experience disappointment, even fear and worry — then learn to lean on and listen to their Heavenly Father.  They need to witness the hand of God, to experience their own answers to prayer.

It’s what makes faith real.

On my sick-bed I relinquish to God my rights as Mom. I confess my delusions to control the fine details of my children’s lives. 

Jesus, You be their Master Teacher.

Step into my children’s lives when I cannot and should not.

A sickly Momma is not the image I create in their story. But, God is working with them to create His own story in their lives.

He weaves their joys, disappointments and life experiences for His own good pleasure.

I don’t want to get in Your way, so Lord I am letting go–again–today.

“Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him and expect help from Him,  He will never fail you”-George Mueller

Friends, it is almost a year since my surgery and diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. I have taken time to get my life back in order and enjoy a pain-free summer with the family. Now it’s time to share with you what God keeps trying to teach me at my bedside.

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Parenting: Does love have conditions?

 

Is she naughty or nice?

Every Friday for the last 10 years, my children count on “Mommy Can-do Day”.  They receive a special drink of their choice, simply to celebrate who they are.  This is one consistent and tangible “stamp” the boys receive to mark the fact that Mom loves and celebrates them-no matter what.

When my children attended a private school in their elementary years, each classroom held a “Dr. Can-do” jar.  Whenever a student behaved with great character, a great choice, or hard work, they received the positive reinforcement of getting a Dr. Can-do treat.  While I support positive reinforcements in child-rearing, I want my children to know beyond any doubt, that Dad and Mom love them no matter what they do. Whether they tantrum all week as young ones, carry on with a stubborn attitude in their tweens, or don’t finish their chores this week; they are still the recipients of our unconditional love.  So, Mommy Can-do Day was born.

Unconditional love is a tough concept to receive at any age.  Does love have conditions? There is something innately within us that feels like we need to earn someone’s love and approval.  Many of us ultimately connect this belief to God; thinking when we do good things and act a certain religious way, we will gain the approval and favor of God.  After all, if my parents don’t accept me and I disappoint my teachers, then certainly God is pretty disgusted with me.

This train of thought opposes the truth of the Scriptures, which state God loves us simply because He IS love.  Our acts of righteousness or works do not earn us passage into eternal life with Him.  It is by His own character of loving kindness, grace and mercy toward us that we are loved.  We are simply to receive Him by faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:4-7).

Jesus is my example of this kind of love.  As a parent, I have the power to influence the foundation which my children are able to receive it.  Unconditional love is the foundation which a child is able to accept him or herself in all of their uniqueness. When a child is loved unconditionally, we promote an environment of forgiveness and grace.  A parents unconditional love provides a safe place for a child of any age to relax, unload, take healthy risks and discover new aspects of life.

Recently, I handed the chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top to my junior high son sitting in the back seat of the van. I asked him, “Do you know why you are still getting this Mommy Can-do?”

He answered, “Because I have been working hard all week”.

No matter how many years he has received a Mommy Can-Do each and every Friday; his first response was to resort to “earning” the milkshake. I responded, “Son, this is to remind you that it doesn’t matter whether you worked hard this week or not.  I love you.  I love who you are.  Nothing you do or don’t do will ever change that.”

His response was a good reminder to me.  No matter how intentional I am in my parenting; my children have different personalities, different love-languages, and different ways of interpreting my actions. I can’t assume what I am doing or saying is received in the manner intended. I need to evaluate if my actions and responses to them throughout the week are covered in love and grace.

Perhaps the Friday treats have become more of a reminder to me of my unconditional love.  I must verbally repeat throughout the week, in the manner which each child can hear; that Mom and Dad love and celebrate them for who they are–plain and simple.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton

How do you express unconditional love to your children?  How will you know if they are receiving it? 

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I’m loosening up!

I admit I can be pretty intense.  I have a bent toward taking life rather seriously, and a husband and a son who can match me in this tendency.  But then came along the youngest in our family.  He is twelve and still milking that baby thing.

We have been trying to nudge him along in his character maturation, and we have had some roadblocks.  Every Sunday morning, he rests on my shoulder or tugs at my arm throughout the worship service.  It has been a difficult task for him to sit quietly for the one and a half hours without being redirected.

This week he managed to score a bagel and cream cheese before walking in to the service.  He was so happy with his bagel that he couldn’t keep from swinging it around and talking to it in between bites.

The problem was we were in the middle of worship, singing and focused on God.  When I told my youngest boy this is the time we give attention to Jesus, he replied in the most sincere and lighthearted way, “I am.  I’m letting Him know I am so thankful for this bagel”.

Had it been any other kid, I may have thought he was being a smart alec, but not this kid.  While hiding my giggles, I took in a deep breath.  His childlike joy really is a part of worship, and I can learn from him.

This happy-go-lucky, singing, dancing, sweet spirit is loosening me up.  His name means, “trickling stream”, and that morning my heart was refreshed by my little man.

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