Mothering is hard, but not hopeless

One time, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw the sweetest picture of a mother and her high school son all suited up for his big football game. The mother’s caption gushed with goodness because her son was growing oh-so-big, now surpassing his mother in height. As I read her enduring post, the endnote caught me a bit off guard as she declared a word of encouragement to young mothers everywhere by saying, “hang in there, this parenting thing definitely gets easier.”

I wish I could agree that it gets easier. Sure, some things get easier, but in my experience there is an exchange for a different sorta hard. The truth is that mothering is hard, through all the seasons. The journey to young adulthood is complicated. Equally, the path to re-learning how to parent a young adult can be discombobulating. There is no Forever Field Guide to Successful Parenting. What works for you, may not work for me; what works for child A may not work for child B; what is easy for you might be hell for me.

While mothering may be hard, it is not hopeless.

We are all mothers. We are all nurturing, holding, loving, taking care of, or giving birth to something. The reality is that there simply isn’t a one size fits all manual for mothering our hope.

I’m enjoying this sweetly written book by Winn Collier. In one scene the main character stumbles upon a baby bluebird that has tumbled out of the nest too soon. The character goes on to say,

“Eventually, I walked on. I don’t know the fledglings fate, but I do know that mama blue did all she could manage. She couldn’t return her chick to safety. She could only circle near, watch with care, and offer the best she had to give, no matter how meager. So she stayed close and hoped favor would bend their way. I think this is how it is for most of us who love someone or carry concern for this world. We will never be able to right all wrongs or heal every wound. We cannot keep harm from those dearest to us. To love is to do our best and then hope, to have faith. Often, love means simply circling and staying near -trusting that this will somehow prove enough.”

This is the hope I’m talking about. Our mothering can carry us so far, but ultimately there will always be circumstances that fall out of our hands. The dream goes a different direction. The picture takes on a different shape. The life-form we love is still becoming. Our hope? Stay near. Keep circling. Swallow the pill of trust and let it bring life to your bones.

A Lesson in Smallness {Audio Story}

This Story of Hope has been recorded for your listening merriment. Click & Enjoy. Or read the story below.

 

It’s back to school time and you know what that means…those joyous math assignments have returned. And not just for the kids. This past week I had an assignment too; it involved compiling numbers and stats and submitting reports. When I finished I looked down upon my desk at a bunch of skinny numbers; trim and stubborn. The sum total was oh-so-small. Laughable. The crying laughable kind. I felt discouragement prick my arm and a vile of self-worth extracted.

Discouragement and numbers like two clasped swinging hands. Numbers: They become the result, the measure of success, or the value of something. Bigger is better. It’s what culture tells us (Rule: waist and weight reverse the order). And we believe it because numbers don’t lie.

When you’re taller you can ride the ride.

When you’re older you can drink the drink.

When your smarter…prettier… healthier…

There is a basis for all things.

All this measuring and counting and mathematics: I am not a fan. It’s Back to School time and that means I’m relearning a few things too.

So, that day, the number crunching one; I finished my project, sent off the reports, and picked my sunken self up to hurry off to my son’s first football game. As I jumped out of the car I nearly crushed a sprouted mushroom under my foot. It made me stop and smile. Of all things; a small mushroom. I began walking across the open football field and the sunshine warmed my face. Suddenly, I felt this very small voice seem to whisper small is the new big. What a thought, huh?

I made my way and huddled near the team of parents who were cheering their kids on from the sidelines. Midway through the game one of the mothers began lamenting to me about…you guessed it…her son’s size. “He’s so small…” she said. And I could tell, mother-to-mother, there was a little worry in her voice. But do you know what happened next? That small boy got the ball and he ran and he ran and he ran that ball straight into the end zone. Yep, that small boy put some big points on the board.

True story.

May I encourage your thoughts today towards embracing the measure of staying small.

Smallness gives us space. Freedom to think, breathe, learn, and grow. Too big? It gets a little crowded. And quite honestly big is hefty load. That’s my story of hope for today.

Small is the new big.



From Jerry Lewis to My Own Front Yard

As a child, Labor Day weekend marked summer’s end. It was well-defined by sun streaked hair, copper toned skin, a new pair of jeans and an overstocked backpack bursting with the scent of Crayola. But one other pivotal event always marked the season’s end; The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

Year after year, I’d settle in and watch as American’s rallied together to help those inflicted with Muscular Dystrophy. The story-based fundraiser captured real time adversity from the mouth’s of children and families living with MD. One year, while sitting on the living room couch, a story squeezed my heart so tight I remember crying elephant sized tears. I determined right then and there to do something. I was 11 years old. So, I went to my parents and told them my idea. Together, we organized a festival in my own front yard to raise money for the Jerry Lewis telethon and MDA.

Mom drove me to the local Coca-Cola plant, bank President’s and company CEO’s to pitch the idea. Donation after donation rolled in and the following summer we held a festival complete with games like ring toss, mini golf, and a cupcake walk. There were food concessions and face painting and pony rides too.

We raised more than $217!

And I was convinced Jerry Lewis himself might show up to invite us onto the show. Ha! Well, that never happened, but we made headlines in the Hutch Leader and my heart was so very happy.

Fast forward 20 some years and I find myself serving on a team, helping to organize a community festival raising money for livestock animals to be distributed via the humanitarian organization World Vision. I’d long forgotten about my front yard festival at 11 years old, until my mom dug out this newspaper clipping. I marveled at the similarity. I marveled at the thread of compassion stretching through the years, connecting me once again to a good work.

God prepares good works for us in advance. 

Many times we miss seeing the orchestration. Adulting has a certain way of blurring the vision. Work becomes small and mundane and merely meaningless. We stop to catch a breath and whisper curious words about our purpose and who can really know?

But I’m feeling inspired today to encourage you to look no further than your own front yard. The place where you played as a child and frolicked in the grass and kicked the can into the night. All those memories, light years away. Perhaps, the thread of passion in our earliest years holds a secret passage. An awesome revelation to be found. Purpose: can it be found in the 11 year old you? What do you see? Who have you become? And where will it take you?

Though my Livestock Music Festival season has come to a close God is still working this compassionate desire for good. Today I’m advocating for a small village in Sierra Leone, West Africa through the Lulu Tree.

So, thank you Jerry Lewis for inspiring a young girl with a big heart. I promise to take what you’ve given me and pass it on. May we all take heart and do a similar small, good thing.

Unequipped for the Trail Ahead

This is our last week at the ranch. We were fortunate to break away for a day trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Ever been? Ahhhhmazing. I did some research prior to the excursion and found a well traversed, glorious looking hike called Hanging Lake that we could all partake in. It was only 1 mile. Easy enough. Says the girl who once ran a marathon and once climbed Pikes Peak.

So we get the parking lot of the trail head and because I’m so confident in our swift abilities we bring nothing with us. No water. No sunscreen. No hat. Just all of our free loving selves. But no worries I’ve got my Garmin on.

Except…oops, I forgot to charge the battery.

A short jaunt brings us to the trail head. A Boomer looking couple sits slouched over on a large boulder and we ask if this is the right way. They concur. As we proceed towards the immediate incline the gentleman quips about our shoes suggesting the Crocs we’re wearing may cause some problems up ahead.

“Children,” I advised,  “pull the sling around your heel.” One child listened. The other ignored his mother’s sage.

But soon we would all be seeking wisdom. And a lick of water. I’ll let a few pictures speak for themselves.

So we’re nearing the famous lake. It’s been a rough go. Steep elevation. Jagged rocks. Slippery rocks. Fallen timber. Switch back after switch back. One child’s hand slipped into a patch of itch weed so there’s that. And everyone just wants to get there already. Did I mention we didn’t bring water?

Finally. We reach the summit. Isn’t this glorious? The lake which has literally dropped out of the mountain is fed by these streaming water falls. The crystal blue water sparkles under the afternoon sun. For a moment it feels like I’m in the Caribbean. And for a moment we all forget about the cotton in our mouths. Soon enough we make our decent and back to the truck where water awaits to replenish our very lives.

I’m looking at my reflection in truck window and I can’t help but laugh. I’m completely unequipped. The jeans. The Crocs. The fashion sunglasses. The useless Garmin. And again, no water. I’m thinking this will make a great blog post about being equipped for the journey, making sure we use all the resources we’ve been given.

Then I read this morning’s devotional by Oswald Chambers.

“It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience – all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friend. God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty.”

So may this be an encouragement to you, as it was to me. It’s okay to be unequipped. It’s okay to not have the ability. It’s okay to be unsure of what lies ahead. It’s okay to fall. It’s okay to fail. Our thirst produced poverty digs a deeper well. And in my weakness I should boast that my friendship with God prevails in moments just like these.

So keep climbing, friends. It’s okay to be unequipped.

 

One Way to Freedom

You guys, I just need to brag about God for a minute. He is seriously a wonder worker. And I just can’t believe that, when I’ve got my eyes peeled and heart wide, I get to witness the richness of His love. Everyday, if I’m aware.

So, a few days ago I posted a video update from Colorado (our summer home). If you haven’t watched it yet, you should. In the video I share a recent ranch story about a campfire friend, her vulnerable confession, and the Spirit’s prompting (later on) to share a copy of a prayer with her.

Since she left the ranch, she’s been on my heart in a big way. Specifically on the day I shared the video story. Then, just hours after I posted the video, I received an email from her. She wanted to say thanks for the prayer. She’s read it every single day. Note: she told me she’s not really the praying type. Yeah, ok. This is cool.

I emailed her back, thanking her for thanking me…(it’s a Minnesota Nice thing, I suppose) and then told her that I’d love to share my story with her sometime, that it was a long one, but in a nut shell, for years and years I tried to make all the changes in my life (with regards to drinking) on my own power, believing I had enough self control to be who I knew I really was deep inside. I just couldn’t do it on my own, at least for very long. But in perfect timing God delivered me and gave me the freedom I was longing for.

And then she called me. She wants to come back to the ranch, to her happy place, and she wants to talk with me. So, my heart is leaping with joy because I can see (what perhaps she cannot in this moment) that God has her in His sights. I mean, His eyes are always on us. Perhaps, what I mean is that God is now in her sights.

My not-the-praying-type campfire friend said, “I’ve read the prayer everyday…”

That’s the difference, right there.

If we want a transformed life. Fully. Wholly. Completely. It begins by giving our attention, devotion, thoughts to God. Our own power isn’t enough. It cannot sustain. It cannot break strong holds. And it simply cannot control the outcome.

But God can sustain. Jesus breaks the bonds that hold us back. And our greatest liberation with most surely come when allow ourselves to “be” in His presence, turning our head, and bowing our heart.

“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” -2 Chronicles 16:9

A heart shift catches the attention of our God running to and fro over the whole earth. Shift your perspective. Watch and see. Focus on the One Way and blessed, mark my words, Freedom will come.