This Too Shall Pass

boy familyLast week our sweet little baby Henry turned eight! I know 8 should sound like a big boy but in a house full of teenagers, eight sounds very young indeed.

When Henry was born, we were so excited and thrilled to have a new baby after a five-year space. But this also ushered in what would be some of the hardest years of my mothering career (to date). I thought having four little boys was tough, but wrangling a baby while keeping up with four bigger boys was tougher still.

When Henry came along (and then, surprise! Isabel a few years later), life with a baby was certainly very sweet. But it’s okay to admit that for as wonderful and amazing as a new baby is, he is also a lot of work. Lots of sleepless nights and early mornings and needing to be able to just stop dead in your tracks to feed someone (again) and change a diaper (again) and if this isn’t your first baby, then you’re doing all of this while keeping track of your other sweet, precious gifts from above.

Babies are wonderful and precious and not for wimps.

But here is the amazing things about wee, tiny little children: they grow up.

Henry came along (and then Isabel) and we went back to the days of little, high-needs children and it was sweet and challenging. And I learned so much in that season, a time when all the fun and out-of-the-house activities I had started to do as our boys got older, well those went out the window. I was back to needing most of my time and energy for caring for my children, with little left over.

And what I learned was that God loves me for who I am, not for what I do.

My worth does not come from a To Do list that gets done or my ability to volunteer or be in charge. In the days of babies and small children, what you learn is a giant does of humility — and not just because there are plenty of embarrassing moments. You learn humility because you are completely dependent on God and his grace and yes you dig deep to your own strength but the beautiful thing is that you become acutely aware of just how small you are. You get the job done, but you know it’s all grace.

And now, just like that, Henry is 8. Eight years old! Now that I have an 18-year-old I understand that eight is indeed still a little boy. But of course it’s plenty big, and Henry is starting to grow into being a “bigger” boy. He’s still the youngest of our five boys and has plenty of the traits that a younger brother has.

But lately, I’ve noticed that our boy is growing up. He’s learning to listen and calm down and do what he needs to do. He comes when he’s called and tows the line (more or less) and all those strong personality challenges we worked so hard to finesse, well many of them tightening up. We certainly haven’t changed the nature of our son, but with God’s grace he is beginning to operate out of the strengths of his character instead of giving in to them. Henry is a strong-willed child and he’s starting to use this for good.

This too shall pass. I think about this when I’m reflecting on Henry and the gift he is to our family. The hard season of having a baby again after a season without has come and gone. The season of a strong-willed toddler is behind us and now, as we ease into Henry being 8, and the special joy of a boy this age.

Parenting will always have its challenges but now I see that some seasons really are much harder than others. And I see, too, just how much God is with us in each one.

Summer of Psalms

A few weeks ago, sweet Kristin from Vine of Plenty contacted me to ask about my favorite Psalm. (Of course my first reaction was: I know you! And your cute little baby and your cool husband and your amazing mother-in-law!) And then I calmed down and started thinking about her question: my favorite Psalm…what might that be.

There really are so many wonderful Psalms, and what’s beautiful about Kristin’s project, Summer of Psalms, is the chance to read the beloved Psalm of others, women I know of and admire — and how there really is a Psalm for each of us! Beautiful poetry, verses to offer encouragement and wisdom and sing of joy and prayers answered. And for me, with the Psalm I chose, a verse to offer a gentle reminder when I’m tempted (all too often) to choose anxiety and worry over God’s guiding hand:

vine of plenty psalm

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear.” Psalm 27:1

testosterhome psalm

Thank you Kristin, for this beautiful print, and the opportunity to hang prominently in my home the words I go over in my head when the seas feel choppy.

And dear reader, if you’d like a copy of this beautiful print, here you go: TestosterhomePsalm27. xo

**The Summer of Psalms Project is an effort to spread selected Psalms through inspired art. Follow along at Vine of Plenty (www.vineofplenty.com) for more free and encouraging artwork. Frame your favorite Psalm print and share your own pictures using the hashtags #summerofpsalmsproject and #vineofplenty to stay connected.

 

Summertime Sanity Saver

I'll admit, I feel like this every so often

I’ll admit, I feel like this every so often

Ready or not, here comes summer! Hip hip, hooray!

Let’s start our discussion in a positive fashion: isn’t summer grand! We’re excited about a slower pace, we’re excited about a more relaxing schedule. No more early morning alarms or uniforms to wash. No more lunches to make! Check ya later, carpool!

There’s a lot to love about summer, and I for one am always quick to romanticize. Oh the places we’ll go and the books we’ll read and the swimming holes we’ll explore. It’ll be 1956 all over again.

That’s the way I tend to think on this side of things, on the very front end of summer. School is out, here we go.

And then about three days in, I feel like I’m dying. Why does everything feel so hard? What am I doing wrong? Gone are all the dreamy notions of easy summer living, and I’m facing the cold, brazen reality that summertime involves all of my children being under one roof for many many hours in a row.

Summer is wonderful but it’s always a great challenge. A few years ago I discovered that the best way to make this season enjoyable and fun is to admit that it’s not as easy and relaxing as I tend to imagine. Here’s the lesson I learn every year: there is an adjustment period between school getting out and a summertime groove (and I’ve heard this applies across the board, including home-schoolers). One minute you’re in the midst of a beautiful rhythm and schedule and the next, boom. All gone.

I’m hoping that by reminding myself now, on the front end, that there is an adjustment period, well I’ll save myself the heartache of all those tears I shed when I look around and think “crud. What have I gotten myself into?”

So here’s my Survival List for the Summer:

Don’t forget that without a plan, the people perish. You have to have a plan. That’s part of what makes the transition painful. While it’s nice to be out of the school year grind, day after day of open-ended nothing isn’t always the best idea. It can make the days feel very long indeed. Of course, each family must find a plan that works best for them. Some people can’t imagine an hour-by-hour calendar; some can’t live without it. Whatever you do, have an idea of where you’re going.

Make your plan realistic. This has always been my problem. I love having a plan, but it takes a little work to make my lofty goals work for the size and makeup of my family. I have five sons. We are probably not going to hit a lot of crafting hours at the local fabric store. Have good ideas, make them fun for everyone.

Phone a friend. Feeling crazy? Call your momma. Or your sister. Or a friend who won’t be freaked out to answer your call only to hear you sobbing on the other end. In moments like these, you need a lifeline, someone who is smart enough to reserve judgement and tell you how very normal you are. You need to hear the words “you are not crazy. It’s going to be okay.” This is the hardest part of summer: when you think everything in order and a great plan and…it still feels hard. It’s okay. There will be days like that and you need someone to tell you to keep up the great work.

Finally, commit your ways to the Lord. First you pray. The best way to be in the center of God’s will, especially in the summer, is to give each day to Him. “Lord, what is your plan for our family this summer? What do you want us to learn, how do you want us to grow?” I’ve found the best way to be at peace with how things are going is to constantly commit things to God. And then, when I’ve given it all to God, I can recognize that each summertime moment, good or bad, is an opportunity to serve God.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.

Leaving the Nest

first day 14I knew it was ridiculous, the way I was carrying on. But I couldn’t help it. Hormones and life’s circumstances had rendered me a useless lump of emotions. For some reason, on this particular Wednesday morning, my central nervous system decided it was time to focus — really fixate — on my oldest son’s high school graduation, how it was a few weeks away and life as we know it will never be the same.

It all started with a pile of papers. The day before, everyone brought home report cards, the last ones before the end of the year. There were three weeks left of school and we were getting to the finish line.

In these report cards were the registration forms for the following year including one for (hold your hats!) dear, sweet Isabel, who will be starting kindergarten in the fall.

But there was one missing, one less form. And that’s when it hit me, the thing I’ve known forever but didn’t fully embrace until that moment in the kitchen on a Wednesday morning in May — there was no registration form for Ethan. He wouldn’t be at the school next year. This was it.

Of course I already knew that. I’ve known it all year. And a few weeks ago we heard exactly where he would be next year and it’s wonderful. He got into the school of his dreams and it’s exciting and wonderful and we are all thrilled. So that’s where our boy will be in the Fall, up at Georgia Tech getting started on his college career.

How could it be then, in light of all our celebrating Ethan’s plans for the future, that I’d be hit so hard by the reality of him not being here. He’ll be there — you already know that — but it was like the item in Column A (away at college) never got in touch with Column B (not here). And oh how it hit me.

Not here. Not at this school. I already knew he wouldn’t be in our home, at least not for weeks at a time. And I thought I was okay with that. It’s exciting! It’s wonderful! They can’t stay little forever!

But as I filled out those forms for each of my other children, the ones who’ll be at our K-12 school next year, my heart hurt. So very much.

And then, the tears started. They came and stayed and they were very ugly indeed. It was a deep sorrow that I didn’t expect and didn’t see coming. I knew it had to be there somewhere but not like this. The sadness of it all, the reality that life cannot stay the same forever and change hurts and I don’t like it, not one single bit.

Those thoughts were the lowest points, thank the Lord. Admitting that all of this was hard. And then, after a while (a little longer than I’d like but what can you do) I got my wits about me. I sniffled one last time, and took a deep breath and realized this: change is scary. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

It will indeed be strange without Ethan here next year, here in our home, here at our school. It will be different. When everyone loads up in the morning to head out to school next year, it won’t be Ethan driving his four younger brothers in our 12-passenger van. It won’t be Ethan leading music at assembly or sitting in the classrooms or passing his brothers in the halls.

But. BUT! Before I get too carried away, I tell myself this: this is what we’ve been working for. It’s hard, it stinks. It’s wonderful and beautiful. This little boy who you taught to tie his shoes and ride his bike and put away his laundry — all of that was for this, these beautiful scary moments when he will leave the nest and wobble off and yes! come back home too to visit and stay and share with the rest of the family everything he’s learning as his world expands and grows and he becomes more of the man God created him to be.

This time of change is scary because it’s unknown. And I know it’s okay to mourn the loss of one season. But at the same time I always want to remember that our God is a God of peace and joy and I want to look ahead to the new seasons with a feeling of excitement and adventure. What does the future hold for our boy? We cannot wait to find out.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.