How I Made My Little Boy Cry and How I’m Mending His Heart

How I Made My Little Boy Cry and How I’m Mending His Heart

I made my little boy cry last night, and I am not proud of it.

It was a typical Thursday. We live in Annapolis and my daughter had Irish dance class in Columbia, which is about 40 minutes away. (Yes, for this particular style of dance, her experience level, and the coaching, the drive is worth it.) So – I was bringing her and another dancer home, when she announced that she was hungry. Understandable at 6 pm after an intense workout. I put my plans for reheating the leftover Mexican casserole on the back burner, so to speak.

We stopped at Chick Fil A. There was another passenger in the car: my 8-year old son. He’d been with us for the entire trip up to dance and back (as he often is) and I was fairly sure he was hungry too. So I fed everyone.

The other dancer’s mother picked her up and we headed home, but not before making yet one more stop to drop off some paperwork for my oldest child’s Boy Scout troop that was due before the coming weekend.

We got home at 7:45. I told my little guy that his dad would be late, and to get a shower. He obeyed me. Then I sat down with my oldest son (age 15, who himself had just arrived home from school and crew practice) to discuss his day while we ate the aforementioned casserole.

At 8:15 my youngest walked into the kitchen and propped his skinny arms up on the far side of the island. I turned around from the sink, hung up the towel, and faced him.

“Ok. So you’ve got 15 minutes before bed. Want to go read a bit before lights out?”

Surprise, bewilderment, and sadness crossed his face all at once.

“Aren’t we going to have dinner?”

I was taken aback.

“You ate at Chick Fil A. Are you still hungry?”

His eyes began to flood. He nodded slightly.

I handed him a banana from the fruit bowl on the counter between us.

“Oh, bud. Come sit down.”

We walked over to the table, and as he slid into a chair and opened his banana, his welling eyes spilled over and he began a full-on cry.

“What’s wrong?” I stammered. But even as I said it, I knew.

“Is it about having dinner? Or just being together…at dinner?”

“Being together,” he managed to say.

I was convicted in where I’d wronged him, and also deeply thankful that all the sacrifices my husband and I make to force as many family dinners a week as we can are paying off. Dinner is often late and preceded by many “appetizers” – plates of cheese and crackers or apples meant to “hold you over” until everyone is home and able to sit down. But our kids love to be together. We are bonding a family, and this little boy’s crying heart was proof.

I coaxed him into my lap, grateful that he’s still small enough to kind-of, almost, fit there, and snuggled with him.

We talked it through. I apologized for all the running around, for failing to explain the day’s turn of events better to him as they were happening, and for not paying closer attention to how he was feeling along the way. And I told him that being together was important to ALL of us.

As a down payment on my renewed promise to reconnect with him, I let him stay up an extra 15 minutes, and we read together. Actually, he read to me, which is what he wanted, and I tell you, after all that driving, it was sort of nice to lie on his carpet and hear a story about a brave mouse going on an adventure.

I’m reading a great book right now called Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. Marx is a journalist who spends a year with football coach Joe Ehrmann, a former Baltimore Colt, and his team at Gilman High School. The book was published back in 2004, but the lessons for raising kids – especially boys – are timeless and perhaps more important today than ever. Ehrmann argues that our lives are to be other-centered rather than self-centered, and that we find purpose when we choose this path.

When we focus on building and sustaining meaningful relationships over success by any other measure, our lives are more fulfilling and we find the satisfaction that we crave. Empathy is the key. We must develop empathy for one another – the ability to be touched by the pain and plight of others.

I looked at my son and wanted him to know that he was understood. Known. Heard. And cared for.

All it took was a couple moments and a renewed commitment to pay attention to the things that he values. Time with his family. Hugs and laughter at dinner every night.

I could do that. Just BE with him.

And you can do it too.

There is someone you know who has a silent crying heart right now. And your empathy is the key to changing things just a tiny bit for him or her.

Will you stop your endless driving, and sit and listen today?

What Do You KNOW is Right?

What Do You KNOW is Right?
Photo by Warren Wong, Burlington Heights, Hamilton, Canada. unsplash.com

I was prepared to make my case to him, but he surprised me completely when he said,

“It goes against everything I know is right.”

Even if I could, I would never go back to his tender age – fourteen – to face the challenges of adolescence once more.

He’d been issued an invitation to see a movie with friends, and before I talked to him about it I’d watched the trailer online. The premise alone suggested the film would have few redeeming qualities: colleagues trapped in a skyscraper are challenged to a game of kill or be killed by an unknown voice blasted over the company’s intercom system. Call me ‘chicken,’ but the plot, music, and outtakes told me all I needed to know: there’s no way I’d want to watch this movie, and knowing my son, it wasn’t going to be good for him either.

If you’re a parent you know this hard truth: We cannot perpetually shield our children from a world bent on destroying their innocence and the values with which they were raised. But we try.

Lately, my relationship with my son has consisted of more challenging moments than warm fuzzy ones. We irritate one another. I remind him to do tasks I feel are essential (study for that test, be clear in your plans with friends, limit your XBox time, etc.), while he pushes back (I’m ready for the test, my friends know what’s up, and your limits are unreasonable.) It’s standard teenage fare. But I don’t like feeling like a mini dictator, and he chafes under restrictions which simultaneously curb his freedom and protect him.

Day after day, we do the dance, and I must say, he is a responsible, well-mannered, and thoughtful kid -most of the time. But then I wonder – when faced with a tough decision, what will he do?

The movie was a simple case – I wasn’t going to allow him to see it and I figured there would be alternative plans made in the event he couldn’t go. But before I let him know that, I wanted to hear his thoughts. Opportunities like this one are rarer than I’d wish.

I approached him as he played a video game and told him to pause it – that we needed to talk. Then I told him the facts without offering an opinion: the invitation was to see “The Belko Experiment.” Did he know this movie?

He let out a big sigh and gave me that shocking answer.

“It goes against everything I know is right.”

The coldblooded murder and gore for gore’s sake, the deceit, the lack of heroism (as far as we understood) – it was all troubling. We talked about this and I understood what he was seeing. There seemed to be no fight between good and evil – and not one where you know in advance that good will triumph. We stand firm in the knowledge of the Promise: that the war between good and evil has already been fought, and good has won – for all eternity. It’s imperative to remind ourselves and others of this when the world’s real-life events already cause enough doubt, dismay, and despair.

Where did this child of mine come from?

I wish there were some way to ensure that he would never go astray, that he’d always reach such lofty reasoned conclusions, borne of efforts (both his and mine) to adhere to a higher moral code. But there are no guarantees.

The only thing I can say is this: I have prayed for this child, and I will keep on praying for him, and no power on earth can touch the One to whom I entrust my son entirely. I am confident that my appeals are heard, and that the Lord who has gifted my son with life and begun a good work in his soul, will carry it on to completion in life eternal with Himself.

 

Will the Real Captain America Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Captain America Please Stand Up?

img_9661The man in the suit wagged his finger between my white teenage son and the 30-something black man standing next to him in line at Jerry’s Subs.

“Hey!” he yelled, making us all jump, “Which one of you is the real Captain America?”

The two guys looked down at the stars on the t-shirts they were wearing with surprise, and at exactly the same time, they looked up and pointed at one another.

Everyone within a 10-foot radius got a good laugh out of that one.

And I got a glimpse of hope for this – Day One of my Month of Good News 2016.

Let’s back up for just a second and talk about who Captain America is. He’s a patriotic Marvel Comics superhero who first appeared in 1941 and often fought the Axis powers in World War II. As Wikipedia explains:

Captain America wears a costume that bears an American flag motif, and is armed with a nearly indestructible shield that he throws at foes. The character is usually depicted as the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum to aid the United States government’s efforts in World War II. Near the end of the war, he was trapped in ice and survived in suspended animation until he was revived in the present day. Although Captain America often struggles to maintain his ideals as a man out of his time with its modern realities, he remains a highly respected figure in his community….

I’d like to think that so many of us are ‘men and women out of our time’ living for ideals such as respect, dignity, equality, and freedom for people of all races, religions, genders, income, etc. Basically, Captain America could be any one of us, because we are all ‘Steve Rogers.’

And we have ample opportunities to be “Steve Rogers” (minus the experimental serum, thank goodness). Who hasn’t been in school, sat on a sports bench (or on a bleacher watching their kids), in a workplace, or in a community group within someone “different” from us by any one of the previously mentioned definitions?

I bet you can think of 5 people right now.

Now here’s the harder question – What did WE do to get to know them?

Are we all working for a nation that embraces our differences and cherishes what we have in common (which, I would submit, is so much more)?

Ask yourself – For every one of the people you just thought of – that you have in the past or do currently associate with – do you know…
Where they live?
Who they live with? (And some personal things about their family members? Those people’s names?)
Anything about their personal lives?

Let’s go further. Have you…
Invited them to your home in the last 6 months?
In the last month, eaten lunch or had coffee with them for a non-business reason?
Shared with them something personal about yourself? Allowed them to see you vulnerable?

These are tough questions. And they’re even tougher to act on if you’ve never stepped out of your comfort zone before.

But it takes intimacy to build trust – the kind of trust that tears down walls and replaces them with indestructible shields of love – tender hearts that are ready to help a neighbor in need at a moment’s notice.

The good news about two guys wearing Captain America t-shirts is that at our core we all believe in the values of American community because the human heart seeks Love and connection with others. Some of us are misled, and think we can forge our paths all alone, foregoing the brilliance and input of one another, but we know that’s wrong. The Truth of our inter-connectedness is always there, buried in the mess somewhere.

Let’s cling to that Truth. Let’s become Captain America. Each one of us. And cling to the Hope our forefathers had of a great nation. In God We Trust.

Scene from a Ballpark

Scene from a Ballpark
Orioles' Adam Jones - 2nd Image by Keith Allison - Creative Commons
Orioles’ Adam Jones – 2nd Image by Keith Allison – Creative Commons

The father and son walked a bit ahead of me as we exited Camden Yards on the second night in August. At first I didn’t realize they were together, because the father was white and the son was black. But then I saw their hands.

They were holding hands. To stay together in the crowd.

This wouldn’t have been notable, except that the son was about 13. I know because I have a son that age who is also nearly as tall as me.

As I got closer, I expected to hear a conversation I’d hear in my own house, but it wasn’t like that at all.

This boy was slurring his speech, and when he turned his head, I could see that it took effort for him to form words. But he was joyful in his attempts. And he was saying hello to every person who passed him.

A few returned his greeting.

Most glanced in his direction and then moved away.

Then one man struck up a brief conversation with him, asking him if he’d enjoyed the game.

My heart gave thanks for this generous soul, because the moment he engaged the boy, both he and his father turned toward the man and gave huge welcoming smiles.

The boy named a couple things he’d liked – the four home runs, cotton candy – and then something he didn’t. And the banter that ensued was typical Northeast stuff – a repartee of “no-way-c’mon-yeah right-don’t gimme that.” And for a bright moment, the boy was not “special needs.” He was just a kid at the ballpark with his dad.

Valuing a person means recognizing the sacred within – the holy that comes from beyond the boundaries of time, space, body, gender, race, or ability. Thank God for those who know true beauty when they see it.

No More Summer Scrooge

No More Summer Scrooge

 

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I used to hate summer. I was a Summer Scrooge.

I only lightly concealed my loathing of the heat and humidity. I never wanted to be outside. I harbored resentments – for my fair skin that burns like bacon, blue eyes not meant for bright sunlight, and tender feet that just won’t tolerate hot cement, sand, or even flip-flops. Strange, you think? It’s true. The thought of something stuck between my toes all day long makes me cringe.

But my feelings were a prison of my own making.

It’s amazing how years can go by before you realize that you’re missing out on whole seasons of your life because of the way you look at them. 

I’ve learned – the words that ring in my head and my heart frame my perspective.

So, 7 years ago, I decided to make summer different. It happened like this….

I had a friend who seemed to treat every day like an adventure, even if she never left her home. One weekday afternoon, I was sitting in her bright yellow kitchen while she cooked, eating olives from a ornate blue and white bowl that was part of a set.

“I love these bowls,” I told her, which matched a platter covered in cheese, crackers, and cured Italian meats.

“Thanks! They’re from Portugal. We got them when Tim* was stationed in Rome.”

Five of the six kids we had between us were yelling and charging happily all over her house, occasionally running through to snatch a slice of provolone or salami.

“And you’re using them today?”

“Why not?” she laughed. “What good are they doing in the cupboard? I use them all the time!”

“What if they get broken?”

“Well, then they do,” and she tossed her long hair as if to say, ‘But we really used them, didn’t we?’

That small exchange made an impression on me. Yes, other people had told me, “Use the good china,” but until that moment – I guess I hadn’t heard the message: Live today.

Even as a stay-at-home mom doing the usual thing on a random Tuesday – Live today.

And I decided to make a summer plan.

In the beginning, my summer plan entailed my own physical happiness. I found a non-sticky sunscreen and decided I was worth the expense, shunned capris and shorts and settled on the fact that skirts were more comfortable for me in the heat, and discovered that playing in the pool with my kids actually is more fun than sitting on the side watching them.

But by leaping those physical hurdles, I also found strength to focus on my deeper, emotional hurdles. Like how to use the summer months to draw closer to my children emotionally, when holding them at arms’ length would be easier for me. I’m an introvert with currently very extroverted children, and all this ‘togetherness’ can be challenging.

But the summer is time we will never get back. So I’ve learned to pray and ask for discernment from God about how to spend these days well.

I don’t always get the answers I want. As one would expect, there is less time for me and my pursuits, and in the short-term that can be frustrating. (i.e. I’ll be blessed if I can write one blog piece a week from now thru August!)

But because of my willingness to bend to Him, He is helping me to make the very most of now, learn from the past, and have fewer regrets later. It’s a hard thing to admit that I’m a better mom to my third six-year old than I was to my first child when he was six, but good parenting is about continuing to grow, and I so desperately want to be good – for them. I am being formed into the woman I was intended to be and the Creator is creating the best summers of my life.

This coming week, we’ll be on vacation, and I intend to spend equal time on the beach reading and building sandcastles. But I leave you with some recent words from my youngest son.

He and I were driving to the gym in silence when he blurted this out. I scrambled to get it down as soon as I could. I was in awe of what I’d heard, knowing I had to preserve it forever. He said,

“Every day is special. 

Because God is always with us.

And every day is a birthday.

And a new baby is born.

And a new house is built.

And a car is fixed.

And flowers are planted.

And gardens grow.”

 Amen.

Every day is special.

 

 

*Not his real name.

Geometry Lesson

imageOh my gosh it was hard.

It was all I could do to stay calm.

Truly – I thought I might rip my hair out.

Or break my own fingers in frustration.

The situation? Helping my oldest son study for a geometry test.

It wasn’t the material that was difficult. It was my boy.

He was angry about having to study. Seeing nothing but red because he didn’t like the questions. Literally throwing his hands up in the air and raising his voice in contempt – at the book – and me.

The triangles on the page were congruent, but he and I were emphatically not.

His temper when he’s threatened surges – just like mine.

But there was hope and I so desperately wanted him to see it.

“What you already know – in part – can help you move forward.”

I whispered words over him.

“Take the information you are given and work it step-by-step to arrive at the answer.”

“Breathe. Believe you can follow the path to the end – and you will.”

“The given clues and the ones you uncover are guides, pointing you toward where you need to go.”

I wanted him to see that I could meet him in all the angles he was trying.

Because I’ve been there. Walked this same path. And he is like me.

I GET him and I GET the struggle.

And as I sit here today and pray for patience and for my son to do his best, it occurs to me that there is a corollary. Another similarity.

The Lord looks down on me and says, “Why do you think I came?”

 

The Bucket

“I have an invisible bucket.”

This got my attention. And what he’d said was so much more interesting than The Washington Post article I was reading about the latest hate-filled thing Donald Trump had said.

I looked up from the paper, over the lunch dishes, and across the table at my 5-year old son.

“You do?”

“Yes,” he continued, “with me all the time.”

“Oh! That’s right,” I replied in a sing-song mommy voice, now remembering the special book he’d been taught at the beginning of the school year.

Fill a Bucket by Carol McCloud explains that we all carry a bucket with us each day. It can be filled with good things or bad things, and its contents are mostly determined by us. Yet we can help others fill their buckets by speaking to them kindly and showing love through our actions. Others can do the same for us. Negative words and the like have the opposite effect – they empty peoples’ buckets. But the secret jewel in living life knowing about these invisible buckets, is that you can enrich your own – that is, you can fill your own bucket – by filling others’ with love.

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For whatever reason, I wasn’t feeling especially loving that day, and the article I was reading was probably draining my bucket a bit. But the good news is that the work we do as parents day in and out can pay off when we least expect it.

“So,” I said, “What’s in your bucket today?”

He climbed down from his chair, took a couple steps over and put his face very close to mine.

“So much goodness.”

I wrapped my arms around him, buried my face in his neck, and kissed his little ears and cheeks until he wriggled free, giggling, “Mommy, Stop! Stop! Stop!”

My bucket was filled for days.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

– Psalm 19:15

Holy Moments – Day 28 – P.J.’s Bell

“Do you want a hat?”

His little face lit up with excitement and I thought he knew what I meant.

“A Santa hat?” he asked.

Nope. His idea was even more delightful. Better than me giving him one of the paper Krispy Kreme hats that surrounded us on this, his very first visit to the place. I laughed and looked at my watch. We had one hour until we picked his sister up from dance. Thus began our giggle-filled hunt for a Santa hat. But the festive day actually began 10 hours earlier….

Matthews Santa Hat

It was impossible not to notice them. A row of fist-sized brass sleigh bells, each one sitting atop a ziploc bag full of Christmas cookies. I saw them lining the windowsill of a classroom as I rushed into my childrens’ school, five minutes late to my kindergartener’s Gingerbread Party.

“Every time you hear a bell an Angel gets his wings.”

The words rang in my head again.

I think of them as just a sweet phrase, but Sunday night I had been reminded that no – they actually comprise a line from It’s a Wonderful Life, a classic I stumbled upon while flipping channels. It wasn’t technically ‘new’ to me, as I’d seen it before. But not in at least 12 years. Certainly not since our family lost P.J.

P.J.  – my husband’s cousin. Just a month after his 22nd birthday, in February 2003, he was diagnosed with leukemia. By the end of April, he had entered heaven’s gates.

It was one of those WHY? situations. A fit young man. You’d have thought his whole life was ahead of him. The severity and brevity of his illness was staggering. Simply put, the loss of him has touched us all, and for me, it has been in a surprising way.

Two nights before the family gathered in Philadelphia to say goodbye, I was home alone with a job to do. In between the time we’d received the phone call informing us of P.J.’s passing and the day of the funeral, my husband had had to travel to Oregon for business. So I found myself sitting up late at the kitchen table, trying to stay awake with a cup of tea so that I’d be alert to feed our 4-month old son when he woke for his midnight feeding.

Sitting there, in the quiet darkness, I pictured P.J.’s winsome smile. I thought of his parents. And before I knew it, I was hunched over the table, my head in my hands, sobbing. Sobbing.

I was a first-time mother and finally grasping it – what it means to truly love a child. And I felt my heart just couldn’t bear both the pain and the blessing.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotional about answering a child’s cry as I was that night.

For the first Christmas after P.J.’s passing, his parents – gracious and generous people – gave everyone in the family a bell as part of a gift they made in his memory. The words, “Every time you hear a bell…” were written on the attached card. The bell we received always hangs on the front of our tree, toward the top. And the feeling I have when I look at it has subtly shifted over the years.Pj Bell

Initially, the bell was a symbol of tremendous loss. Loss too deep for words. But yesterday, when I saw those bells in the window at school, and was on my way to help my third child make candy cane ornaments, food for Santa’s reindeer, and gingerbread men, I realized that for me, P.J.’s bell had a new significance. What once symbolized sadness, has increasingly, slowly, become a sign of pending joy. It has challenged me to look at each day with fresh eyes and ask, “Am I holding tightly to the things of eternal value, while letting go of what’s not?”

Seldom do I have epiphanies. Or rather, God doesn’t reveal things to me in ‘lightning bolt’ ways. And so this new understanding about the bell came to me as the day unfolded, as I walked through it with my youngest son. But also as I pondered the big message of It’s a Wonderful Life, asking myself, “What difference does one life really make?”

The answer is clear – Our lives are not our own. We are connected to one another. We are all one flesh. We share sorrow and happiness. We were not created, nor are we meant, to live alone.

And so, the burdens we bear and the joys we celebrate are always the ties that bind us. They draw us close to one another and into that which is sacred and holy – the space set apart from words and time – God Himself. To show us His heart, He came down in the form of a baby, the Son, to grow and live fully with us, connected to us, experiencing the fullness of life just as we do, fully for us, for better and for worse, within a family, in a community who for a time grieved the loss of Him but later saw that His life was about showing the path to everlasting, eternal joy.

And shouldn’t that be the point of ours as well? To seek everlasting joy? Even as we carry our sorrows?

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And the miracle of this Son Jesus was, and is, that He is with us still. He is closer than breath. We need only acknowledge Him and ask Him to show us the way Home. Praise be to God from Whom all blessings flow.

And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. 

-Matthew 28:20 

Transition

Two weeks ago, I was shopping in Whole Foods when I saw my friend. She was standing by the olive bar with a downcast face, spooning a mixture of fruits into one of the plastic cups provided for purchases. We’ve known one another for more than a decade and met through a playgroup when our oldest kids were babies. She’s always smiling – one those people whose eyes twinkle joyfully most of the time. But her sadness hung on her like a heavy robe. And I understood. Completely.

Our “babies” – two vivacious boys – had started Kindergarten that day, and though we knew the boys were fine and wholly ready for this stage of their young lives, the transition was going to be hard – for us. We’d both been ‘at home’ with at least one child every day for the last 12 years. And while the separation from them would be brief (7 hours can go very quickly), the days suddenly seemed quiet. Too quiet.

I told her, “I lost it while driving yesterday. Started crying. Not good! And he didn’t know what to do. Poor guy. I told him through tearful smiles, ‘I’m so excited for you! But I’m going to miss you!'”

Apparently, my friend had had exactly the same experience. While driving. And then there we were, hugging in the produce section of Whole Foods.

What is it about following routines that can trigger the deepest of emotions? When something in our lives changes, routines suddenly seem anything but routine. They become more focused, more deliberate, somehow. We start to think more about where we’re going, what we’re doing, and why.

So how have I spent my last two weeks? Doing some of the same stuff I always have, but I’ve also gone full bore into a long list of projects that I’ve been waiting to tackle…

Sewing.  FullSizeRender copy 2

Shopping for artwork for the barren walls of my office.  IMG_2441

RedoingIMG_2452 our daughter’s room…I cleared the knick-knacks out of the way, and my husband painted the color our daughter chose. (Can I just say what an awesome dad he is?)

 

FullSizeRender copy 5Thinking about taming our overgrown  yard. (Whoever sits on our porch is risking their life.)

 

 

Tackling years’ worth of albums and scrapbooks that haven’t been updated (or in some cases, even started!).

FullSizeRender copy 4

FullSizeRender copy 3And, deciding it was time to relinquish a few safeguards that are only required when parenting the very young.

 

 

So, I have my work cut out for me.  Rather, I’ve put some work on myself.

See, it’s easy for me to throw myself into these tasks, thinking that by going through the motions of improving the external, I can become ‘settled’ on the inside.

And over the last two weeks, I have certainly focused on the “shoulds” that have been pestering me for a long time.

I should beautify this house. I should get rid of the clutter. I should follow-through on projects I never finished. I should…I should

What an awful word. Should. It always makes me feel like I’ve fallen short. Of my capabilities. Of my responsibilities. Of my dreams. Of my expectations, however unrealistic, which are so often not exactly mine, but what I presume others’ expectations to be – of me. At the core, should makes me believe I’ve missed the mark – of ‘goodness.’

Separating what’s truly important from the ego in me that wants to just “get it all under control” takes effort, discernment, and quiet. The kind of quiet I can fill up with projects that aren’t intrinsically bad, but that might not align with what I know to be my calling in this life – to love and serve others according to God’s plans, not mine.

In my recent study of Galatians, I came across this verse:

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise. But just as then the child of the flesh persecuted the child of the spirit, it is the same now.  (Galatians 4: 28-29)

Every day, I have a choice. I can be an Isaac, and live fully freed by the grace of God through the covenant he established with me when I recognized that Jesus Christ  came to set me free from the traps of my own making that separate me from God. Or, I can be Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother, who was pushed into the wilderness, cut off from any of his father’s inheritance. Worse yet, I can live in a transitional spot, teetering between knowing and embracing the gifts of a Spirit-led life, while also entertaining the shoulds of my flesh, which followed outright will drive me to ruin and despair. Basically, my flesh can persecute my spirit. Where will I lean in this transition?

As a child of the Promise, I’ve experienced the priceless fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). But to enjoy them in this earthly life, I need to stay close to Him.

My oldest son was poking fun at me the other day, prodding me about those albums.

“Mom, are you gonna cry over the photos of us?  Boohoo! My babies! Boohoo!”

As he curled his fingers into loose fists and rubbed his jolly eyes like an infant would, I returned his smile, but with a smug, knowing grin. It’ll be decades before he understands how much I love him and his brother and sister, that I would cut out my heart to save each of theirs. And then I think…

Yes exactly. You’d die for this child of yours. But the Way of eternal love is felt most acutely by fully embracing the present as the gift that it is. So don’t cry over the past. This is the start of a different era. Embrace your new freedom. Live within peace and gentleness. Focus on what has eternal value. Look ahead. Joyfully. 

There is an appointed time for everything.

And there is a time for every event under heaven—

Ecclesiates 3:1

Knowing Hope

I was flabbergasted by the conversation and didn’t want to forget a word. So I grabbed the closest piece of paper, my gym’s class schedule, and intermittently scribbled down what he’d said as we stopped at red lights, making our way to vacation Bible camp.

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We’d been talking about how we’d be giving some money to a family with a sick child. To help them afford medical care. If a large sum was raised by tomorrow, the child’s father would shave his head at the closing ceremony.

Even though my son is only five, he understands illness. I just didn’t know what else he knew.

As we’re driving along at 9 a.m., suddenly he says:

“The medicine is not what works. God is actually the one.”

My heart starts pounding.

“Why is that?” I manage to ask.

“Because God heals.”

“How do you know that? Did you learn it somewhere? Or do you just know it?”

In a small but confident and reverent voice that takes my breath away, he says,

“I just know it.”

And there is nothing more to say.

Because Amen. It is certain.