My husband and my younger boys are on a little road trip today. I helped them get their stuff together, kissed each one of them ‘goodbye’, and watched them all climb into the minivan and drive away. I returned to the kitchen, ate a bowl of cereal, made a cup of coffee, and headed to my room to retrieve my enormous stack of law books for a full day of reading and working on assignments.
Does it feel bad? Yeah. Did it hurt my heart a little when my youngest son pulled away from me and wiped his tears from his face? Yeah. Did I know I was signing up for this when I decided to go to law school as a mother of four? Yeah. Does that make it any easier? No.
It’s hard. Not being involved in their day-to-day the way I have been for their entire lives up until now …it’s hard. Is it worth it? I sure hope so. But the truth is, if I did not believe it would pay off in the end, I would never have rolled the dice. Some things we do in life are hard. They are risks. They bring sweat, tired eyes, tears, anxiety, exhaustion, and loneliness. And we take those things because, at the end, we believe we will trade them in for accomplishment, purpose, and belonging.
It is so easy to find ways to be discouraged in this journey. I currently leave no later than 7am and return between 7 and 8pm, if not a little later, most nights. I tuck in sleepy children who wait up to spend time with me. I read to them from legal cases to put them to sleep. I let them climb up into my bed with their own books, so that we can all read together, just to be close to them. I miss them.
My husband comes to bed and lightly touches my back. He wants to be close, as well. I scoot closer to him, curl up with my head resting on his arm, and promptly pass out from exhaustion. I miss him.
My daughter in college is in town for the weekend. She wants to bring a friend over for one of our “Family Game Nights”. All I know is that is a night I have dedicated to studying. I really don’t want a loud house that evening; but I absolutely want the interaction with my sweet girl. I miss her.
My oldest son is a Senior in high school. He works …a lot. He plays soccer. He has a girlfriend, which may not last. He wants to talk to me about it. I want to hear him. He approaches my bedroom door just as I have finished my reading and am falling asleep. I do whatever it takes to hold myself together, so I can listen to him. I love that kid. I want to be present for his life and his struggles. I miss him.
And here I am, home alone, working on my assignments, feeling a bit weary, a bit sad, and a whole lotta determined. Because the truth is, if I allow all of this missing out and don’t receive the big payoff in the end, it was pointless. I have to be able to show my family that their sacrifice was not in vain. They did not allow me this sacred space so that I could waste it on Facebook, social time, or sitting around feeling sorry for myself. So, I open my books. I end this writing. And I get to work, reminded that this is a privilege I have long been denied. It is, in fact, a dream come true. The honor of going to law school. The honor of a family that supports me and is proud of me. The honor of a day where my amazing husband is taking my boys to a science museum and lunch and filling in the gaps, while I read about torts, criminals, and civil procedure. These are the days of magic – hard, brutal, rewarding magic.
I recently began attending a new congregation of the church of Christ known as the Home Street congregation. I wanted a fellowship of people who were dedicated to the Word of God and following Biblical teaching only. Imagine my dismay at some of the issues that have arisen. I just don’t know what to do about some of the following, but I am quite certain I will be meeting with the elders soon.
Dress. Many have been showing up for service underdressed. Several have come in yoga pants, shorts, and even pajamas! One member even had a child show up shirtless for worship! He claimed his shoulders were sunburnt and that wearing a shirt would cause him more pain. I say, it must be painful for the Lord to watch his members show up half naked!
Women leading in worship. Out of four males present, I noticed that it was a woman who selected which lesson would be played during worship. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when it came time for the Lord’s Supper, she poured the juice and distributed the communion bread to everyone! She even instructed the young men to pray during certain times. She needs to remain silent, including her hands. Also, I do not think the Lord approves of using shot glasses for the fruit of the vine!
Worship Times. Now, we all know that the Lord’s selected worship time is between 9am and 10:30am. Why on earth some of these members wish to straggle in around 11am is beyond me! We have even had requests to start the service after lunch time! Why, the Lord must be furious! That puts it far too close to small group time and leaves out the opportunity for a fellowship meal in between.
Coffee in the Sanctuary. Several members were observed drinking coffee during worship. We have homes to eat and drink in. How can you focus on the sermon when you are swigging out of your coffee mug? And what happens if you spill coffee on our nice clean rug or seat coverings?? I mean, it’s not like we can just clean it up and move on!
Preacher not in person. We had to watch our lesson on a screen. There was no preacher there to shake my hand or ask me about all my problems as I walked out. I know these youngsters are tech savvy, but I need to have my preacher in person, so I know he hears me. And to give him this list. I know he wants to know about all of these problems. I mean, that’s his job, right? To fix my problems.
Song service. What with all the complaining over certain members having to show up so early at all, there has been no song service. I guess no one wants to sing praises when we have so much other division going on. And the worst thing is that one morning the praise and worship was played on a device known as Alexa; and some of it was instrumental and far too peppy. I like the classic hymns.
Contribution. Well, I don’t want to call anyone out specifically, but I have noticed that not one member is dropping anything in the plate for the collection. I guess they think these light bills pay themselves.
I will be submitting these grievances to the leadership immediately. And one of you other lucky local congregations may be seeing me real soon! Right after this quarantine is over and I can stop meeting in my own living room.
The object of the post was for people to name an opinion they held, which was not popular. Many people listed foods they can not stand or what they love on a pizza. Others named music they hate, or a fad they dislike. Then there was this post from a mother of two: I think kids should have a specific section in restaurants …to not disturb others …It’s my pet peeve and drives me NUTS!
I’m pretty sure that I am the only person who, openly at least, agreed with this mom, adding a heart to her post, and telling her that I feel the same. I pictured all of the rebuttals from other moms, sitting at their computers, feeling like her opinion is rude or that she simply does not understand. I imagine that most of the moms who get defensive are the moms with those children, the tiny little terrorists who make dining out miserable for everyone within pea-shooting range. And I thought that maybe, instead of making those moms feel unwanted, it might be better to help them solve the problem.
So, where do I get off telling other moms how to do this? Are my children perfect? Well, no. But they were and are pretty perfectly behaved when we went out to restaurants. I would love to have asked for references from all of the people who commented on their excellent behavior over the years, but those are unavailable. I will say, it happened a lot – people coming over to our table and praising the way my children behaved during our meal. And that behavior was not their original response to being in a restaurant. We taught them how to act through rules and our own actions. It worked. It worked well. It still works today. So, in contrast to all of the many parenting fails I may have under my belt, this one I dominated.
Here are some principles that I applied to help me handle restaurant dining with children:
- Determine to raise kids you (and others) can stand to be around. This is number one, and I admit, came from my own father. I heard him tell someone this once, when they asked him how he managed to raise such great kids? (We weren’t perfect either, but we knew how to be pleasant and socially appropriate.) He told this person that he raised kids he could stand to be around. He knew that he would be spending a lot of time with us, and wanted to make it the best time it could be, which for him meant molding us into human beings that were well-behaved.The extra advantage to this is that you create individuals that others also enjoy being around. If your child learns they cannot hit you in the face, they also learn they cannot hit me in the face. If your child learns that it is not okay to scream while you are eating, they also learn not to scream while I am eating. It is a lesson that carries forward into every social setting.
- Remove idol threats and remove the child. When my children were still in infant carriers, we sometimes found ourselves in public dining situations. Typically, I tried to get my child to fall asleep right before the meal so they would wake once I was done. This did not always happen. What sometimes did happen is that they would begin to cry. I would take the baby out of the carrier and try holding them. If it worked, great; if not, then I needed an exit. My husband and I would take turns eating, so that one of us could go outside with the baby and walk, rock, sway – whatever needed to be done. We always believed that we were the ones with the new baby, not everyone else in the restaurant. We put our parenting above our dining experience without forcing other patrons to endure the baby meltdown.Once our children were old enough to understand and practice some self-control, we informed them that they were no longer allowed to interrupt our meal with tantrums and outbursts. At this point, we let them know that, should they decide to have a meltdown at the table, we would still leave the table, but this time it would be for discipline. Did they still do it? Sure. Did we follow through? Absolutely!I can remember many times having to leave the table with a wailing child, heading to the restroom or out the front door. We addressed the situation (for us, a spanking; for you, whatever works – “works” being the key word), allowed them to cry it out and calm down, then returned to the table to finish the meal. A friend once questioned how I would walk out with a crying child over my shoulder and return with a calm child holding my hand. I told her that we got out of the crowd, followed through on our word, then gave our child a moment to recollect and try again. Before we returned, we always had a moment where I looked the child in the eye, told them that I loved them, but that could not happen again, and gave them a hug. It didn’t take long for my children to learn that bad behavior in a restaurant had unpleasant consequences, so it was just better to behave.
- Protect how people see your children. This is the hardest part to share. I know that we all love our kids, and want others to love them too. But kids who are obnoxious, whiny, little meal terrorists, are not looked on by others with love, but with contempt.When your kid is sitting behind me in a booth, putting their sticky fingers in my hair, and interrupting my meal, and you just sit there, I want to elbow your child away from me. Usually, I just ask the waitress to move me to another table.When they scream throughout your meal (and mine) and you just sit there, I want to take my food to go, and put it on your tab. I also may secretly want to pour a drink on you; but typically your child has already done that.
In any of these circumstances, your child looks bad. And nobody is sitting nearby thinking, “Oh, poor dear, must be having a bad day.” They are thinking, “Why do parents bring obnoxious children to restaurants?” and “Would you please shut your kid up?” They are labeling your child as a brat; and no one wants their kid labeled like that.
I wanted people to enjoy being near my kids. If you were seated next to us, I hoped you would find that it was still pleasant for you. With four kids, I often got looks when we sat down. You know, those looks that say, “Oh great! All of these kids are gonna be loud and obnoxious.” Those were the same people that, before they left, came over and told us how well-behaved our children were. That is how I want people to see my children. That is why, in the midst of their ugly moments, I removed them from public. I wanted to correct that privately, so that their time around others would cast them in a positive light, not have everyone in the restaurant hoping they would leave.
The takeaway from all of this is that those moments of teaching my children that there were boundaries, especially where other people are concerned, carried over into everything. I still get compliments on my children’s behavior and manners. People still enjoy sitting near us, not just at restaurants, but at sporting events, church services, and other group gatherings. People enjoy having my children in their homes, because my kids understand that everything within grasp is not necessarily up for grasping. I believe it all relates. They are better students, friends, travelers, and diners because of these things. And I really did follow my father’s wisdom, and raised children that I can not only stand to be around, but want to be around. And others do too.
I received her text early in the day; it told me that they were heading into court and had some unexpected concerns arise. She was unsure what would happen, how these changes would affect the hearing, and where things would end up. She wanted to be covered in prayer. I immediately stopped working on my project, everything out of my hands, and prayed over her and all involved in the battle.
Later, when she called to tell me how things went, we talked about the fight. She knows that I fight a similar battle, and I know well the enemy. He is one who comes not directly against us, but like a guided missile toward the children we love. He desires to remove our children from safe, secure homes and create turmoil, while he tears them away from those who seek to love and protect them. It is an emotional and intense fight, as we pray and beg for God’s divine intervention. At times, the only thing that even comes close to comfort is to know that we are not stepping before God alone, petitioning Him with only one voice, but to trust that our beloved friends are bowing before Him as well, and petitioning Him on our behalf.
This is what makes the difference between the people in our lives who are spectators and the people in our lives who are soldiers. You can stand on the sideline all day long and comment and clap and even throw out little Christian catch phrases, like holding up a sign at a football game. And that’s okay, but it’s not the same as walking onto the battle field with me and covering me while I run out against enemy fire. Here’s the thing – I don’t need spectators. They make a lot of noise, and they may cheer a little, but at the end of the day, they don’t really help you win the battle.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
So, for the people I love who aren’t really willing to get dirty in the fight, please understand when I pull away from you. You will still have a place with me for coffee dates, movie nights, and other light-hearted fun. But, while I am in battle, either suit up or step aside. Hit your knees or hit the road. I love you, but there is no place for you here.
…while I am in battle, either suit up or step aside.
To those who walk out beside me onto the battlefield, you have value beyond gold. You remind me to get up, when I think I have nothing left. You speak to God on my behalf, when I feel like my prayers are depleted. You aim words of truth at me when the enemy’s lies have me fooled. You carry me wounded off the field, and take me before the Great Healer. You encourage me to keep fighting, when I think I have already lost. You remind me that victory belongs to the LORD, as do I.
May we all have and be the kind of friend who grabs their armor when the rest of the world grabs their seat.
Change. Change is tough. Change is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortably tough. So, why do we insist on it? Because one thing is more uncomfortable than change – not changing.
Change this week came in the form of my daughter registering for her first college classes. She is only 16, and I still struggle to accept that she can drive away in the car without me beside her. Certainly, she needed my help to sign up for college! Right? Well, no actually, she didn’t. In fact, as my wise and wonderful friend who works at the college insisted, as she directed me away from the registration computer, my daughter needed to do it herself. And so, I moved back as my daughter stepped forward, and with each click of the mouse, learned to register herself for a semester of college. And my discomfort as a parent who was not the one in control became my pride in a young woman who didn’t need my help.
Once that occurred, it became clear to me that this would be the only time that I would stand beside her in that building. This would be the only time she would need me to be there. The introduction had been made; it was time to step aside. To continue to walk beside her would make me the third wheel in her relationship with college.
I made sure to refer her back to my wise and wonderful friend, should she need help. In the bookstore, she met another of my friends who works on campus. That friend too offered to help with anything she might need. Leaving campus, my daughter talked on and on about her plans for the new year – how she would study harder, work extra hours to earn her car, and set new boundaries to keep her focused. None of these goals required my hands on the wheel.
At 21 years old, my father was a newlywed with a promising future in real estate. He was settling into married life, preparing for a future filled with work, family, and good times. While the ink on his marriage license was drying, the Army was preparing another document that would change everything — a draft notice.
My father to was opposed the Vietnam War, and was enlisted as a conscientious objector. As an objector, he was given the options of going into civilian government service or going into service as a medic. He chose to go as a combat medic with the hopes of saving lives instead of taking them.
He had plenty of opportunities to save lives. On medcaps, he would go into villages and treat for illnesses like malaria, which was rampant. Often children in the villages needed care for infections due to improperly treated sores, cuts, and wounds. One boy he treated had been hit by a ricocheted bullet that tore his stomach open; and no one had treated the wound. The villagers were happy to see him come; and he was proud to help them.
My father also treated his fellow soldiers. One young soldier had been shot through the mouth, and was just fortunate enough to have his teeth apart when the bullet went through. My father told the story of stitching up this man’s face and how lucky he was. That man’s son ended up at Auburn, and I met him at a fraternity event. It was somewhat surreal.
Of course, not all injuries could be treated. My father also stood beside his sergeant, a good friend, the day he was killed. When he fell to the ground, it was my father who comforted him, and held him as he took his last breaths. My father later wrote to the man’s family, who had never been told what happened that day, or if their son was alone. He let that man’s family know that their loved one was not alone that day, and that he cared for him until the end. The mother wrote back to my father with such gratitude for the closure that he gave her. I keep a copy of her letter as a reminder of how much my father cared about comforting others.
For his own comfort during Vietnam, my father counted on letters from my mother. They were his link to home. My mother still has those letters. Some of them I have read, some too private to share, but all with a nostalgia of war, and fear, and uncertainty. It was a desperate attempt to stay grounded while surrounded by the darkness of war.
In the darkest times, he would pray and beg God to spare his life, and return him to his wife and family. Many of his prayers began with, “God, if you will just let me get back home …” And God did let him return home, but not as the same man who left.
His time in Vietnam had a profound effect on his faith. Being with men as they died sometimes made him the last person they ever talked to, the last person who touched them, the last person to comfort them. His desire to continue helping people and being there for them in their time of need led him to ministry. Business aspirations were no longer his priority.
When he returned, he ended up in youth ministry, then as an associate minister at a church of Christ in Birmingham, before entering full time ministry here in Opelika. His heart was completely into the same things that had touched it during Vietnam, reaching out to the hurting. He continued to sit beside those who were dying, comforting them in their last moments, and praying with them.
He understood better the idea of the battle for the soul, because he understood the depths of war. He knew what it was like to have an enemy who hated you because of who you were, and wished to destroy you. It made him an amazing preacher. It made him an even better father. Even though I didn’t know my father when he was in Vietnam, I saw the reflection of Vietnam in him all the days I knew him. And I knew that his time there had shaped his purpose on this earth. God refined him for his ministry during those moments in battle.
Agent Orange, a terrible chemical used during the Vietnam War, riddled my father with health problems that eventually took his life, in 2013. Since he has passed, I continue to have people tell me that they were led to Christ by my father. Maybe it was a conversation, a sermon, or simply the investment he made in their lives; but he led them to Christ, the ultimate healer. A medic in Vietnam, and a medic from the pulpit — his purpose was to save people.
40 is clothes I like.
Wearing what makes me feel confident,
Designer labels tossed.
40 is new hairstyles.
Cut it off,
Grow it out,
Die it purple just because you can,
A daring change.
40 is learning more.
About what’s real,
About who cares,
Learning things you wish you knew before,
Only realized now.
40 is looking back.
Feeling totally okay with those
That did not last.
40 is memories
Of loved ones
Passed on now.
Missing their wisdom when you really
Need it the most.
40 is by design.
Tossing the hate,
Keeping the love,
Choosing to devote my time to those
Who mean the most.
40 is true freedom.
Embracing your flaws and finally
Knowing their purpose.
40 is beautiful.
Trying on your own skin and falling
Deeply in love.
40 is windows down,
Musing if I will ever grow up,
Knowing that I have.
I sit before my glowing screen
Connected to the world.
This tiny thing a way in which
Opinions are unfurled.
From Christian friends to Atheists,
Each one wants a say.
It seems there is new argument
To be made every day.
We point out inconsistencies
On every person’s view,
In self-righteous indignation
Though we are imperfect too.
A fight over a candidate
Of course, I must engage.
And so I rant on one I hate
Disagreement shown in rage.
Let me tell you how I feel
About climate change and war
Abortion, sexuality, and
How we treat the poor.
On and on the preaching goes,
Attacks from every side.
Condemning one another
As we feed our growing pride.
Calling names and pointing blame
We take our stand in hate.
Then wonder why nobody will
Award us the debate.
Yet, if we take a moment
To examine our own heart,
We may conclude that anger
Is what tears our cause apart.
We enter into battle
Verbal bullets for assault.
And fire at will at all dissention,
Without restraint or halt.
The battle ends, a bloody mess,
When all is said and done.
Drum roll, and the winner is …
Oh, the winner is No One.
Preacher, I came here this morning
To draw near to God
Cause I heard that He’s a leader
By His staff and rod.
Don’t spit your talk
Just to make my head to nod
We need to feel so close to Jesus
That our hearts applaud.
I appreciate the pep talks
And motivational speaking
But, with lessons from the Word of God,
That’s not what I’m seeking.
See, I need to hear the Words of Life,
Come out like a beacon.
Cause the Word of God is made for our full sight,
Not just peeking.
I don’t really want to hear your etymology, pop psychology,
Just open up the Word and let it
Talk to me.
Let Jesus walk with me.
That’s where I need to be.
Because I live in a world
Where Satan sets his sights
On things that shake my nights
And keep me full of fright.
And I need to be reminded
To search out the light
That things will be alright
My Jesus wins this fight.
Oh, please don’t go into
Another personal story
Unless it’s meant to bring the King of Kings
It’s not really that these stories
Tend to bore me,
But they fail to lay the Word of God
Revealed before me.
So, bring the Word of God
And put it in my reach.
I understand my faith
Ain’t just some walk on the beach.
And Satan sucks the life from me
Just like a leach,
So I’m begging you this morning,
“Come on, Preacher, Preach!”
As I read through posts and comments on social media, it is so obvious that there is a need for dialogue about racism and unity. The evidence of a society divided is heartbreaking and thought-provoking, at the same time. I have friends expressing hurt, rage, offense, denial, and indifference. It truly weighs heavily on me, as I struggle to find an appropriate response.
What I find interesting is that some of my friends are coming from a completely different angle than I am, yet I respect their viewpoint. Some friends are choosing a side other than the one on which I would stand, yet I feel no need to attack them. Some of my friends are in need of cute cat pictures right now, to help deal with the conflict, and I understand that too. And though I struggle to address all of the thoughts and feelings in words, my heart is still so full of love for these people. All of them.
So, why is it that I can love people even when I vehemently disagree with their political rants or they criticize things that I hold dear? It’s because of love. It’s because I know that, like I Corinthians 13 tells us, that no matter how well-spoken I am, how faithful I am, or how generous and self-sacrificing I am, if I don’t have love, it doesn’t matter. I am nothing!
Thinking of this passage has truly caused me to pause when I see “Black Lives Matter” and wish to respond with “All Lives Matter,” because I agree with both. What I am learning, however, is that downplaying the plight of one group who feels persecuted and unheard is not loving. It only shows a lack of compassion and an unwillingness to help. So, while I may not agree with everything they say or every solution they propose, I must have compassion for their hearts, and for their pain.
I once would have told you that I supported the Confederate flag and its presence, because of the South’s history. Today, I would tell you, that though it does not offend me personally, it solicits feelings of racism and pain for many of my black American friends, and I choose not to be a part of bringing that into their lives. I could, instead, go on a rant about it being a historic symbol or “just a flag” and suggest that they simply get over it; but how could I do that in love?
Has your child ever had a broken heart over something that you thought was silly? I have. When I tell them that it doesn’t matter, and give them all of the reasons that it shouldn’t, I only shut down their dialogue with me. They are still just as upset, but now I have become someone who does not understand. On the other hand, when I acknowledge their hurt, and try to help them work through it, that shows them that I care about them enough to care about what hurts them, even if it doesn’t hurt me. It creates trust and unity with my child. It is an issue to me, because someone that I love is upset about it.
On a more personal level, you may be able to recollect a time when you were hurt over something that was downplayed. Perhaps you just wanted to know that someone else cared. You don’t need an eloquent speech, at that moment. You don’t need to be told to “Get over it.” You need to know that even though your friends are not going through the same experience, they care about it, because of their love for you.
If we are truly trying to be like Christ, we must love. We must think before we react, “Is this response going to show my love, or am I just trying to sound smart/right/informed?” If it is simply intended to put people in their place or to inflate my ego, perhaps it is best left unsaid. We have enough of that in the world. But, the Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our Love. We sing it in church, but do we show it in our behavior?
Sometimes, I think we (myself included) should bring back the “WWJD” bracelets, maybe with “WWJP – What Would Jesus Post,” instead. I can allow my emotions to get the best of me. I can feel my anger pipe up, when I read something that offends me, and I wish to answer to it. I need to pause more, and ask myself, “Is this how Christ would have responded?” Even when it is another who is full of venom, we know that Jesus was never the one to reach for the sword and strike them.
What about me? Am I showing love? Because, when all of my words are written, even if my faith is strong enough to make the mountains move, without love, they mean nothing.