Sunday, June 10, 2012

everything changes

Young one. You who know enough to notice things, feel things... but not enough to really know. There is something I must tell you.

There are certain bridges you cross that, after you are on the other side, everything changes. They are bridges of being. Bridges that change who you are. On the other shore, everything you see comes through a different filter. What is important is not the same.

One such bridge is the bridge you cross the day you become a parent. Before you become a parent, you think you know what love is. You think you know loyalty, sacrifice, determination. You don't.

On a typical day, the mom you know may be fun-loving, generally easy-going and reasonable.

But, then tragedy strikes. A loved one dies, a young person suffers a tragic accident. Suddenly, your mother becomes another creature. She becomes hyper-vigilant. Over-dramatic. She hugs you at every chance she gets, tells you "I love you" more often. Lingers, watches. She jumps at every loud noise, institutes new and seemingly outrageous safety measures. Her tone becomes shrill: "Don't cross the street alone!" "Hold onto the rail!" "Are you ok?"

And you roll your eyes. You sigh. Shake your head. What's her problem? Sure, it was bad. But, that doesn't mean she has to get all crazy!

That's because you don't know. You aren't a momma. If you were, you would be experiencing those heart-palpitations right along with her.

You would know that the idea of anything happening to the body that grew within her, the being that she has poured her life into, the frame that represents untold hours of love and tenderness.... makes the blood run cold.

You would know that the weight of our child's life hangs heavy; their breath becomes our own.

You would know that we dream of our child's future, live so that they can live.

So, give us a little grace when our mother bear side comes out of hibernation from time to time. We will go back to our gentle, relaxed selves. Eventually.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

i am a lion tamer... among other things.

I don't know why... but for me--it's all in how I think about it. If I can think of being broke down on the side of the road as an adventure--it's ok! If I can think of being hungry as a way to identify with those who don't have food--I can make it all the way to McDonald's without complaining (haha).

So, for some reason, I find myself re-evaluating what I may be finding mundane. The dailies. Re-looking at what I have understood to be the "right" way to do things. Re-defining.

In this search for getting the right mindset, I have come across 3 thoughts that are transforming the way I look at my calling as of today... in other words: motherhood.

One thought came to me during a talk at a MOPS meeting a few months ago. As the woman talked about the issue of discipline, I sat on the edge of my seat--pen in hand: "Give me the magic potion, woman!" While she did give some helpful, practical tips for disciplining, what most stood at to me was the instruction to beware of thinking of children as "basically good and perfect". She said, instead of treating them like wonderful little adults who could do no wrong--we should see our relationship more like this:

As in, our kiddos come at us as "un-tame" and wild. It is our job to mold them into respectful, productive members of society with a passionate heart for God and His Kingdom. For some reason, that really was a "shift" in my mind. Now, I did not think of my kids as perfect in any way--but the view that I had been told often that my kid's "sin nature" was causing them to misbehave just never sat right with me. I know it's the truth--but (for me) looking at my kiddos that way made me feel more judging and harsh to them as opposed to loving and nurturing.

So, where to find the balance between harsh, judgmental parenting and over-indulgent, "we are buddies" type parenting?

#1: I am a lion tamer.... not an indulgent peer.

For me, it was sooo helpful to think of this "tamer" image as my role. My kids misbehave because they come to me "untamed". If I think of a mistake, a disobedience, a defiance as just evidence of that-- it is easy for me, as the trainer, to step up and implement the training necessary to "tame" them. It took out the emotional side of their bad behavior.

If I don't expect misbehavior and mistakes along the way, it is easy for me to take each and every one of those either as a direct reflection of my failures as a parent or to jump to anger that they would dare to defy me.

It's neither of those things. Testing the boundaries, messing up, accidents--they are all par for the course in the taming of our kids. If I expect these things to happen, and have a system set in place for getting my little wild things back on track, it really makes the momma load so much easier.

If you have time, you should read about how lions and horses (and any other animal) are tamed. It is so interesting to note the themes of earning respect, patience, repetition and constancy in every training method. It truly is piece by piece, one thing building on another. Children whose hearts have truly been trained to listen and obey to God's voice do not happen overnight.

Some definitions that I loved as I thought about this concept:

"Changed by man from a naturally wild state into a tractable, domesticated, or cultivated condition. Brought from wildness into a domesticated or tractable state."

1. To coach in or accustom to a mode of behavior or performance.
2. To make proficient with specialized instruction and practice. Synonym: Teach.
3. To prepare physically, as with a regimen: train athletes for track-and-field competition.
4. To cause (a plant or one's hair) to take a desired course or shape, as by manipulating.
5. To focus on or aim at (a goal, mark, or target); direct.

On to my next new mindset:

Sometimes (ok, try every day) it can be easy for all that I do in a day to go unnoticed. Un-praised. Why people don't follow behind me, applauding when I scrub a toilet or twittering when a word of wisdom falls from my lips is beyond me... :-P That's just it. Being a momma is so every day. It's right there in the middle of that 15th sibling squabble and answering "why?" for the 100th time. "Have some ice cream!" "Whhhhhyyyyyy?"

Do you ever feel the need to glamorize things? Or to dramatize them? Or to exaggerate them? I know it's just me--but, sometimes it happens. Our days can seem so routine and unglamorous that we've gotta do something to spice 'em up

That's why a snippet from this great, wonderful, amazing, can't wait-to-read-it-again devotional caught my eye:

#2 I am a servant not a martyr.

Why is that so profound? Because she talked about the fact that, come on whiners: We CHOSE this vocation! No one tied us down and made us have our babies. No one is commanding us to stay home and raise them. No one is holding a gun to our head as we make the meat loaf.

We are choosing it. Why?? (Ah, I sound like my boy!) Because we at some crazy, delusional time in our life decided it was right.

We chose to be servants. We chose to pour our lives into our family and be a bedrock of wisdom and love for our home. We chose to make our home a nest where loved ones can feel Jesus. So, instead of internally moaning when no one noticed that I scrubbed out the sink or ironed the clothes--I can thank Jesus for the opportunity to serve where He has called me. The opportunity to show His love in tangible ways.

And that is amazing. That is enough reason to get our weary feet out of bed in the morning!

Lastly, #3.

Mommas: Forgive me. I compare myself to other mothers. I compare my kids to other kids. I compare our discipline methods to other people's discipline methods. I may even feel pressured to imitate what seems to be working for another family. I may even try to line up our priorities with theirs.

While I want to have the heart of a student until the day I die, I loved another mental shift I gained from the devotional I mentioned.

My personality needs a goal to work towards. An image. A reason. And, if it's super clear and concise--I am all over it.

#3: I am a disciple-maker... not a creator of perfection.

In the devotional, the author spoke of how our job is not to create these perfect children, set on a pedestal for all to adore. Nope. My job is to cultivate kids who have the heart of Jesus towards this world. "Disciples who understand their mission and who will contend for God's glory."

What does that mean? That means modeling it! Showing love to the least of these. Serving in unexpected ways. Learning to train your eye for hurt and need--and then seeking to be like Jesus in that situation.

I don't know about you--but those thoughts gave me some serious tunnel vision: I could see it! I could see where I wanted my kids to be as adults! I could see concrete ways to instill that from early on. I could see what to make a big deal of in life (i.e: Praising signs of compassion, tenderheartedness, service) and what to just let be (i.e: Handwriting, physical abilities, perfectionism).

I am trying to, even now, engage my kiddos in discussions. As we slurped on juice boxes at the park: "Did you know that every person you meet is so special? Because God made them!"--and thrill at the way their eyes ponder this, or light up at the connection. "What is a way we can show love?" And the 4-year old answer: "By not hitting." Ahh. Our job is so great.

Monday, June 4, 2012

to my noé, on turning 4

Age- 4 years old
Height- 41"
Weight- 39 lbs
Sizes- (Clothing) 5T, (Shoes) 10

My dear boy--
This fourth life with you had been a joy. It seems that we are destined to travel on your birthday... we were traveling from Mexico to Illinois on your 3rd birthday-- and on this 4th birthday, we were traveling home from Missouri.

We started your fourth year with all kinds of changes. You took them in stride like a champ--even though I know new things can be hard on you. You had all kinds of fun getting to hang out with your cousins during the summer and went through all kinds of screenings and tests as we tried to decide what would be the best way of understanding you.

As summer came to a close, momma found herself increasingly terrified at the idea of you going to preschool in the afternoons. She worried that maybe it wasn't the right choice. Maybe you were too young. Maybe it was too much new stuff all at once. After a rough day or two, you began to shine as the star you are. You made friends, learned the rhythm of classroom life and came to love your class.

 You got to know new therapists that came to love you as they saw your sweet spirit and your intelligence.You worked hard and cooperated with new exercises and made incredible growth in just the space of months. You amaze us, buddy.

You are trying to be big every day. "Noé's a big boy," you tell me, almost daily. You struggle to do things on your own, try to imitate older guys. You are daddy's right-hand man. If you hear the words, "Can you help me?"--you are right there on the job.

You still make me shake my head in wonder as I get to see more of how your mind works. Your memory of details is amazing and you are constantly working things out in your head. You often imagine ahead of time how things might be and you love to do imaginary play. You often like to be the teacher, or the daddy. You make connections between seemingly unconnected things--and that is so cool. You don't miss a thing.

You love to make us laugh.

You still have a love for music and dance; I wonder where that will take you?

I love to see you learning tenderness. Today, I saw you holding the door open for little sister, or carefully pushing her higher on the swing. I saw you taking her on a hike and whispering a joke in her ear. That makes me sooo proud.  

You have become re-attached to "Chorro" (short for "cachorro" = Spanish for "puppy"). It is so cute to see you snuggle him, talk to him, make sure not to forget him anywhere. You set him near you as you eat and offer him bites. You give him hugs and kisses. You laugh at his funny face. You put stickers on his chest. You two are true friends.

Noah, my man, momma and daddy love you so much.

Can't wait to spend this 5th year with you...