Praying My Way to Kindergarten

A few days ago, Raleigh Moms Blog posted an article that I wrote about kindergarten and all of my big feelings about that fact that it’s time. Time for N to start kindergarten. (Read “Kindergarten. It’s Time” here.) I talked from the heart about all of it … about how hard it is to let go and watch them grow, about the little crack in my heart and about giving myself the grace and peace to move forward and embrace this new chapter. But, there is more. There is more to this story. More about moving toward acceptance. More about “all the feels” about kindergarten. More about my big, full, raw, vulnerable heart. More about preparing my heart. There is more.

My boy is so innocent. And, if your baby is headed to kindergarten, I bet you feel the same way. They are innocent. Honestly, if your baby is headed to college you might even feel the same way!! My sweet guy – his heart is so pure and full of all the right things. I love it. I love him. I love his sincerity and faith in goodness. This world can be so scary, yet, right now…he has no idea. He is aware that there is evil out there, but it’s mostly a vague awareness. And, I yearn to keep it that way. We all have an innate, fierce desire to protect our babies, right? There is a “momma bear” in each one of us. The “momma bear” in me is feeling a little threatened lately. Change is coming and I know there is nothing that I can do to stop it. I fear the unknown. I fear the mean spirits … and the mean kids. I fear the things that he will learn about people and about the “ways of the world.” I fear the loss of his innocence. I fear not being able to always protect him. I fear watching him step away from me and out into the world. I fear the change that will happen to our relationship. I fear losing him. I’m having trouble accepting it. I’m having trouble letting go. It’s all out of my control and as a momma, that’s the scariest part. Giving up the control, right?

So…give it to God.

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It’s funny how a little thing like seeing the word “kindergarten” on a postcard could completely derail my thought process. How easily I forgot that I’d already been praying and preparing for this very thing. This. Very. Thing. How easily I forgot to trust. How easily I sank into the fear.

Once I let my emotions settle. Once I was able to spend some quiet time alone with my thoughts. Once I had prayed. It all felt … still. Quiet. Focused. It may not be easy. Watching our babies grow will likely never be easy. But, my husband and I are not the only ones that love our children. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Their great creator, our Father in Heaven, loves them so much more than we can even imagine. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” I cannot forget this. They are His. He loves them. I’m not doing any of this alone. So, I’ll pray. I’ll pray and pray some more. I’ll pray my way to kindergarten. My prayer is that our Lord leads us into the school years with a full armor. My prayer is that He goes before us and paves the way. My prayer is that He’s already in our schools, working on our teacher’s hearts so that they may be exactly what N needs (and what your babies need) them to be. Let the school be full of light and goodness. Keep the evil away. Let that school be so full of love and Jesus that you can’t help but notice!

Friends, I don’t know where your hearts are, but I do know that you aren’t alone. Our fears do not have to weigh us down. Our burdens are not ours to carry. Send them up. Lay them down. We were never meant to go at it alone. We were never meant to fear. You can let it go and walk forward with faith and confidence that, while you are not “in control”, our God is. We can feel all the feelings and still march forward. We can do this scary thing called kindergarten. And, we can do lots of much, much scarier things too. But, we certainly don’t have to do it alone. We can do it together. We can pray our way through it. Imagine what a difference we could make! Praying our way…

 

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Stop Comparing – Focus On YOUR Gifts

I continue to take my eyes off of the prize. I continue to slip. To look around. To watch others. And, you know what … when this happens, I start to feel a shift inside of me. I start comparing. I compare. It’s no good. It’s simply bad for me. But, it’s a truth that I struggle with. It’s not quite as green and ugly as straight up envy or jealously. It’s more subtle, swirling around inside of me and whispering, “You need that. You should have that, too. That is so cute. You deserve that.” Maybe the fact that it’s so subtle is what makes it so evil. I don’t think that I feel envious of others. I don’t feel jealous. So, I don’t even notice that it’s happening. Yet, when I give in – when I start comparing, I stop focusing on what’s truly important and I fall, like Alice, down a materialistic shaped rabbit hole. So, how do I stop, ya know, “coveting thy neighbor’s kitchen“?

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I know y’all love Glennon over at Momastery, right?! If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you need to. I think she’s probably the Queen of the Mommy/Woman Blogging World. That’s what I’ll call her. Queen G. She is always honest and brutiful, and she says, “I think comparison and competition exist partly because we believe that there is a scarcity of good things in the universe. And that belief makes us kind of small and scared and unable to feel true joy for others or peace for ourselves.” Wow, right?! But, there is enough, y’all. And, WE are ENOUGH.

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Why do we think we need MORE all of the time?? It’s something that’s been weighing on my heart and mind a lot lately. Why do you think you need more? Why are we all constantly looking to the next better thing? Ugh. It feels kinda gross, doesn’t it? It feels sinful and ugly for sure. Why do I think I need more? I have everything. I am in love with my husband, and he happens to adore me too. I like our marriage. A lot. We have two healthy, beautiful, contagiously happy children and a fantastically, loyal doggy companion. We have LOVE. We own our own home and have food in the fridge. We have cars to drive. I have supportive and loving parents, that also happen to be supportive and loving grandparents. I get along with my mother-in-law. She’s kinda awesome. What more is there? For real?!

Maybe I need to spend a little less time daydreaming about what color my cabinets are … and more time encouraging the fruits of the spirit within my children.

Maybe I need to spend less time looking at houses online and more time reading The Word, writing from my heart and creating something beautiful.

Maybe I need to spend less time thinking about what I can do better or how I can be better … when the truth is I am already enough. I am enough. We are enough.

The materialistic things that I don’t have, the things that I think that I want or need, won’t make me more. They won’t make me more of anything. That won’t make me happier or more fulfilled. Things don’t make us more or less. They are things. They are JUST things. We are not defined by what we have. We are not defined by THINGS.

Our lives are not meant to be the same as someone else’s. Our things aren’t meant to be the same. And, our GIFTS are not meant to be the same as someone else’s. At times, we might even find greatness in the midst of our own imperfection. We must embrace it. We must share it. We were created unique for a reason. We may to0 often analyze ourselves and focus on where we think we are lacking. We may consider something to be a weakness … when, in fact, that “weakness” may be the very thing that inspires or saves someone else. So, let’s stop. Or, attempt to stop. Or, at the very least, let’s just tone it all down a bit. Let’s stop looking around to see what everyone else is doing and wearing and keep focused. Keep our eyes fixed on The Lord. Feed our hearts and our souls.

“We were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to fly!” (Casting Crowns)

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing they way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as a standard of measurement. How ignorant.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:7)

 

Photo Credit: 1.  Thrive Moms – Empowering Imperfect Moms With His Perfect Grace. 2. Momastery – Truth Tells and Hope Spreaders. Check ’em out!

Learning to Trust – A Testimony

Am I asking all the wrong questions? Lately, I think – yes – I am. I have been. Maybe?

You see, a little while ago, almost a year now,  I (we) … without uttering any actual words because they seemed so cliche somehow and they don’t feel like the right fit … but, I suppose, for lack of a better phrase, we re-dedicated our lives to The Lord. We are trying. One day at a time. To break free. To learn as much as we can and grow as much as we can. To live IN Christ. To walk by faith. To trust. To experience his fullness. To surrender. At this point in my life, I’m ready. It feels different now. I grew up in church. I grew up loving The Lord. Then … I dunno. I drifted. I guess, I drifted slowly, yet steadily, away from God. I took my eyes off of him and looked toward the world. I even wanted to be part of it, to experience it. I was young. I thought it would be living. I spent years and years there, just drifting along. I thought it was okay, and, in a lot of ways, I was okay. I thought it wasn’t a big deal. I thought I was fine. I thought I still had a “relationship” with God. He remained in my heart. I knew he was still there, watching out for me. Yet, somewhere along the way, I got lost. I kept putting Him off … waiting for another day. A better time. When I’m not so busy. When I don’t need to sleep in on Sundays. When R and I are ready. When the baby is a little older. Excuses. Excuses. My whole life was worldly and not of God. I realize it. I always realized it. I just ignored it … to be honest. Which is, exactly what I’m being – honest. Raw. Honest. Vulnerable. Truthful. Me.

You see, I am not a person who generally sees things as black and white. I just don’t. I see gray. I see hundreds of shades of gray. I even tend to live in the gray. I can usually (usually, not always) empathize and sympathize and understand why some people may do the things that they do. It seems to me, that so many Christians that I know and have known in the past are so easily convicted. They seem to see things as “wrong” vs. “right.” I’ve always struggled with this because it’s not always how I’ve been and I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why it seemed so easy for them. I didn’t, and still don’t, always see “wrong” and “right” as defined spaces or things. And, so, for much of my life I held myself separate from other Christians. I was afraid to be part of a church. Afraid of hypocrisy or judgement. I was afraid to feel convicted (I understand that now, but I couldn’t then.) I was afraid of … something. But, I was wrong. I was wrong. I was focused on the wrong thing. I was missing the point entirely. The point was HIM.

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Luckily, His loving grace is so good. He waited for me to let Him back it. Now, I want It in a way I never truly did when I was younger. I realize that my hesitation is unimportant. That the wrong vs. right isn’t really what matters. The “rules” don’t matter. It’s my heart that matters. The Lord will take care of all of the rest. He will show me the way. He will show me my own ‘right’ way. He will convict me, change me, challenge me and inspire me. Now. Now, the desire to truly know my Lord is there. I understand clearly that I’m not in control. That my life is His. Yet, I stumble daily. I struggle with true trust and true surrender.

We’ve been tested lately. I don’t know what else to think … what else to call it, but a test…
October. November. December. Things have happened. Things still happen. Financially, things happen. As homeowners and car owners, things happen. Money is tight. We are unsure. The same questions keep forming. Why? Why can’t it be easier? Why can’t the money come more freely? Why does this keep happening? What are You trying to teach us?
I am trying to throw off my worldly desires … To cry. To yell. To question. To fall apart. To CONTROL it. I don’t get to control any of it. It’s not mine to control. Where is my trust? What questions should I be asking? What lessons should we be learning? Are we not understanding? Are we not getting it?

The truth is, right now I don’t know. I’m not here to tell you that I have the answers. I’m here to tell you that I don’t. I don’t have the answers. Maybe you don’t either. Maybe you are trying too. Let’s keep trying. We don’t need answers all of the time. We need God’s Word. We need trust. Let’s trust. And, until that trust comes more naturally, let’s keep trying to trust. My heart knows that there is a lesson to learn. Probably many, many lessons. Read/Pray/Trust/Obey. Xoxo

Photo Credit: photo from (In)Courage, a lovely online community that’s “Insta-awesome“)

Amazing Grace + “My Two Cents” on Adrian Peterson

“OH, this grace on which I stand, It will hold me to the end, Never failing.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately. It’s been weighing on my mind and my heart and I can feel the Spirit tugging at me. I’m not exactly sure why, but I just can’t stop thinking about God’s lovely grace and how it spills over into our lives as parents.

Then, the whole Adrian Peterson story hit. It affected me. It saddened me. It really, really bothered me. I have a 4-year-old boy as well, so I couldn’t help but picture my N whenever I thought about Adrian Peterson’s son. I can’t imagine ever hurting him in that way. I can’t fathom it. Yet, it certainly isn’t the worst story of abuse that I’ve ever heard. I wish it were. What struck me most, upon reading more about this situation, was that Peterson seemed to truly believe that he was disciplining (rather than abusing) his son … disciplining him in the same way that he had been “disciplined” as a child. And, there you have it – the cycle of abuse continues. Their parents did it to them, and your parents did it to you, and now you’ll do it to your own children. The cycle is apparent. And, in Peterson’s case, it seemed to also be how he justified it. Really? This is how it’s justified? This is what makes it okay? I’m getting way off topic, but this is something that always strikes me as so ridiculous about our society as a whole — people are always saying things like, “Well, my parents did that to me and I turned out fine.” Or, “Our generation did that as kids and we all turned out fine.” Oh, really? Really? Are you fine? Did “we” turn out fine? As a society, as a whole, I think it’s painfully obvious that “we” aren’t fine. We live in a world that is broken and lost. This can’t be the justification to continue to do wrong by our children – to continue such ugly cycles. This doesn’t justify anything. So, to get back on topic, the question that I keep coming back to is – Where’s the line? Where is line between when we, as parents, discipline out of anger and when we discipline out of love and grace. Because isn’t “discipline” supposed to be about teaching and training our children about right vs. wrong? Now, I know our little ones can make us angry. They test us. They push us to our limits. But, it’s our responsibly not to snap, right? We are the adults. We have to stay in control. If we punish out of anger, then what are they learning? What are we teaching? Just imagine … just really stop, and imagine, what could happen if we (as a whole, as a society) discipline our children with love and grace instead. Our children would still learn about right vs. wrong, but they’d also learn about grace, mercy, compassion and love. Just imagine the possibility….

Grace, as a word, has many definitions. It means ‘mercy and pardon’. It means ‘the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God’. God’s grace is astounding and beautiful. I, for one, know that He shows me grace daily, as I make mistakes as a wife and a mother and a person. He shows me grace when I lose my patience, when I snap at my littles, when I say something I shouldn’t, when I am too quick to judge. His grace picks me up when I fall, dusts me off and sends me back out there to try again. God’s grace is an amazing source of strength in my life. I rely on it. I count on it. I want that for my children. I also want to BE that for them. I want them to feel God’s grace AND their mother’s grace AND their father’s grace. When they fall, when they fail, when they lose their patience, when their frustration gets the better of them, when they make a mistake … I want to give them grace. I don’t ever want to beat them down. I don’t want to ever push them away. I don’t want to ever cause them to shove shame down into the depths of their souls to resurface later in life. Instead, I want to cover them in grace. I want to show them mercy. I want to pick them up, help them dust off their spirits and send them back out into the world knowing what grace feels like. I’m not saying I won’t discipline my children. I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t discipline yours. Even the Bible is very specific about the necessity of discipline. It’s actually really important that we discipline our children. The goal being to teach them to do the right thing for the right reason. Right? What if we try to do that with as much grace as we can? What if we aim to show them compassion and mercy?

I want my babies to feel the strength of God in their souls. I want my babies to feel their parents’ strength and grace too. I will always, as long as I’m able, be a place of refuge for them. I know this world is hard. I know we can’t save our babies from ever feeling pain. But, with one tiny act of grace at a time, we can make a huge difference in their lives. We can feed their souls. We can try and try again to raise them with a gentle spirit. It won’t always be easy. Somedays we will yell. Somedays we will say something mean. But, God’s sweet mercy allows us to keep trying. Let’s be determined. Let’s let His grace and our’s shine on … in them and for them. Our little ones will see. They’ll see us trying. And one day, they’ll try too. They’ll try to raise their own children with compassion and grace. It’ll be a brand new beautiful grace-filled cycle!!

“OH, this grace on which I stand, It will hold me to the end, Never failing.”

Fear

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one that lets the fear creep in? It’s not something we talk about, of course. It’s un-discussable. I don’t even discuss it with my very best friends. We don’t talk about it because it would make us sound strange and morbid … and a little crazy . We talk about everything, but not this.  So, maybe that means I am strange and morbid and a little crazy every now and then. Not most days. Not even most-parts-of-some-days. It’s more like moments. A moment when I stop all of the million things that I’m always doing and let the fear creep in. It catches me in a vulnerable point, while I’m watching my babies and reflecting on how happy I am. Then, sometimes, it attacks. It’s like a bad seed planted in my head. It’s there somewhere whether I like it or not and it makes me crazy.

The thing is, I’m a happy person. I choose happiness and I don’t find it to be that hard. I was born cheerful. It’s a good thing. I’ve always felt blessed to have a natural cheerfulness. Right now, at this point, my life is SO FULL. I am just so stinkin happy. I have so much to be happy about. I’ve been blessed with a marriage that I thank God for every single day. I found my other half in this world. Together we are whole. It makes me happy and it TERRIFIES me. I’ve been blessed with not one, but two healthy babies. I carried them full term, having fairly uneventful pregnancies and labor with each. They are beautiful and sweet and everything I always dreamed they’d be. It terrifies me. If I stop and actually think about what that means, I’m left paralyzed. Caught in the realization of just how much I actually have to lose. Am I the only one? I don’t mean to do it. Yet, at times, I catch myself waiting for something bad to happen. Like, okay, I’ve been happy this long now, when is it all going to fall apart? What tragedy is going to find me? It’s gross, right? I’ve never actually said any of this out loud. But, I think about it. About how much I have to lose and what it would feel like. Then I cry. I cry for a loss that hasn’t even happened. Then, I snap out of it, push the fear away again (damn you, just leave me alone), and go back to doing what I do day-in and day-out.

I mentioned some of this to R one day. As casually as possible, I mentioned that I was afraid that maybe I was too happy and that it just couldn’t last, right? Could it? He didn’t say anything for a moment. Who would?! But, then he did. He said, “Baby. God wants you to be happy.” For some reason, I didn’t expect this response. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not something so simple, so sure. I let his words wash over me and seep into me. I let them comfort me and feed my soul. It’s been a few years since he spoke those words to me, but I still cling to them. When the fear tries to creep in, I take out those words, “God wants you to be happy” and I play them over and over in my head. God does want us to be happy. It doesn’t stop tragedy from happening. It doesn’t make all of the ugly go away. It doesn’t give me any more control. But, it makes me feel better. It does keep the fear away a little longer. It does provide comfort. It’s enough for most days. Still, I wonder if I’m the only one. If I’m not, then whoever you are, you should know … you aren’t the only one either.

 

Side Note: This article deserves a shout out to my dear, sweet friend Sara, who once-upon-a-time (when we lived closer to one another) would have listened and discussed such an un-discussable topic with me. She was never afraid to fess up about strange, morbid thoughts that no one else would admit too. She is a brave soul. I miss you, Sara!