Saturday, May 16, 2015

And To Think I Was Worried

A few years ago on a Wednesday night I was sitting in a women's Bible study. When the leader asked for prayer requests, I mentioned my oldest son. He was nineteen and at that very moment on an airplane over the ocean in the dark heading to a foreign country for a mission trip. It was a little unnerving for me that he was doing this without either parent.

A young mom of much younger children than mine piped up. "I just have to say, I don't think I'll ever be able to let one of my kids go on a trip like that without me. I don't know how you are doing it." I smiled at her sweet sentiment, completely understanding it.

After we prayed together, completed our study, and left the room I found that young mom. "To be honest" I said, "it's easier to send a child on a mission trip to another country than it is to release him into the dating world knowing he could give his heart to someone else."

I think I might have scared her. It's true though, at least from my perspective and experience.

When our kids approached the teenager years Scott and I voiced some very strong intentions for them regarding dating. A few examples:
  • We must all (Mom, Dad, child in question and siblings) be ready for dating. (Lots of factors included here.)
  • Both parties must be a committed, maturing follower of Jesus Christ (to keep it simple - godly, funny, cute - in that order.)
  • As the relationship progresses and future commitment is being discussed, the girlfriend or boyfriend must love Scott and me so that our child will never have to choose between spouse and parents.
With my (unhealthy) dating experiences as a reference point, I admit I was fearful and wondered when I would feel ready and would they choose well. I determined to trust God that when the time was right and this person entered the picture, we would all "know".

It wouldn't be too much longer when I would find out. Drew called from college and asked us to pray because he found someone who captured his attention. A few weeks later, he brought Brittany home to meet us. I know now that she was nervous, but I think I may have been even more.

Am I losing my son? Where do I fit in this scenario? What if she doesn't like us?

It was a good weekend and we all liked Brittany. I hoped they would take their time getting to know each other, resisting the urge to get too serious too soon. Thankfully they did and eased us all in gently.

Still, as time went on, I was often preoccupied with thoughts about the two of them, our family and future scenarios.

I remember one day in particular I was alone at Panera, sitting outside with coffee, my Bible, and my then favorite book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I also had a journal filled with numbered lines in which I was keeping an ongoing list of people, places, things and experiences for which I was thankful. A list of ways God shows His love for me.

My mind was drifting through many thoughts and prayers, not the least of which was Drew and Brittany's growing relationship. I sensed the following conversation:

Me: "God, how do I let Drew go if this gets serious? What if she's not the right one? What about me? How do I get out of the way (especially if I don't want to)?"
God: "Does Brittany fit your requirements?"
Me: "Yes."
God: "Do you have any reservations?"
Me: (thinking) "No, none. She is wonderful and seems to have what we are all looking for."
God: (probing further) "Why isn't her name on that list you have there?"
Me: (sheepishly and kind of surprised) "She isn't? I'm sure I've got her in there."
God: "No, she isn't."

I flipped back through the pages. Why wasn't her name in my book? I was a little embarassed.

It continued.

God: "You have spent years raising Drew and praying for a young woman to love all the things about him that you love."
Me: "I know."
God: "What if she is my gift to you too?"
Me: "Oh. I didn't think of that." A gift for me? What could that look like?

Then the ugly cry. It was a "go away from me, I am a sinful woman*" moment..

I picked up my pen and started writing.
Everything changed from that moment on.

Please don't miss the order of those two sentences up there. After I gave thanks, everything changed. Blessing follows obedience. Not vice versa.

It never dawned on me that I would benefit with a special relationship with Brittany of my own.

Fast forward four years. Drew and Brittany are getting ready to celebrate their first wedding anniversary next month.

Tomorrow is Brittany's birthday and as a gift and tribute to her, I made a new list!

Things I Love About My Daughter-in-law:
  • She loves Jesus more than anyone and wants to serve Him with her whole being.
  • She loves her Bible and reads it daily.
  • She loves, is respectful to and grateful for her parents and is very close to her siblings.
  • She loves my son. Really loves and understands him. 
  • She laughs at most everything Drew says and does. She's funny and picks on him just like we all do too!
  • She comforts and takes care of him.
  • She is wise and is an equal partner in their marriage.
  • She accepts and loves Scott, me, Ben and Ally.
  • She digs coffee and chocolate.
  • She is a reader!! She loves books. When you ask her what she wants for her birthday or Christmas - she says books! Her book wish list has almost all the same titles on it that mine has (bonus!).
  • She graduated from college with a degree in women's ministry. (my dream!)
  • She is a role model for Ben and Ally as they consider future relationships.
  • She gets on board and enthusiastic about some of my crazy ideas for family activities (and "out there" rules).
  • She is affectionate. Because most of their dating was long distance, her visits involved overnight stays at our house. At bedime, when I started the ritual of kissing my kids goodnight, she would pop right up and eagerly get in line for me to kiss her too.
  • She dresses modestly always (which matters a lot to mothers of sons), respecting both herself and others.
  • She includes me in their lives and tells me stuff.
  • She asks me for advice and to pray for her. 
  • She is concerned for and prays for me.
  • She helps me understand teenage girls. (read as much into that as you like)
  • When we are skyping as a family, she sometimes texts me so we have our own private conversation going at the same time. (I totally love this because the men have no idea.) I didn't say we are sneaky or devious.
And one of my most favorite things....
  • Whenever Drew does or says something she thinks I would like to know or will make me laugh, she texts me, often with a picture, always referring to him as "our boy".
For example:
"Here's our boy reading a book. A real book!"

I mean, for real. (Sinful woman moment.) I'll be right back I have to go get a tissue (again).

Tomorrow is Brittany's birthday. There is no gift I could give her that would express how much she means to me. She is a perfect fit not just for Drew, but for our whole family.  For me.
We thank God daily for bringing this exceptional young woman to us, when we were all ready and in spite of the hyper-overprotective-mommy hesitation I may or may not have felt at first.

Moral of the story: God knows us so much better than we know ourselves and is worthy to be trusted with everything that concerns us.

And parents should feel free to be very involved in their kids' relationships. Just sayin'.

Happy Birthday Brittany. It's your birthday, but clearly we got the gift. We love you.

*Luke 5:8

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day Isn't Just For Moms

Sunday is Mother's Day. What does that statement evoke in your emotions?

Is it just another Hallmark holiday or does it mean something more?

I suspect most of us have at least a mild response. I was with a friend today who said she's "over it." It brings up bad memories of childhood Mother's Days. She struggles with honoring her Mother in relation to the memories she'd like to forget. Mother's Day is painful for her.

For many years I have been in church on Mother's Day. Each time all the Moms get recognized, sometimes with gifts. It's a sweet gesture really but perhaps insensitive to others in the room.
  • The older women who have never been married or bore children of their own.
  • Young women who are desperate to find the right man and start a family.
  • Married women who can't seem to conceive despite their strong desire and effort.
  • Men and women whose mothers have already breathed their last breath on Earth.
  • Anyone who has been let down or wounded by their Mother, unrealistic expectations or not.
  • Children who miss their Mom because she has abandoned them, passed away or must share her children half the time.
If you find yourself up there, I'm thinking about you today. And I want to say I'm so sorry for your pain and longing. I wish it could be a carefree, happy day of celebrating for you. Maybe one day it will be. But even if it isn't, can I share something precious with you?

God has a maternal side. Did you know that? He gets you.

Here's how I know:

- God speaking, "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you." Isa. 66:13

- God is like a mother eagle hovering over her young. Deuteronomy 32:11

- God experiences the fury of a mother bear robbed of her cubs. Hosea 13:8

- God speaking, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isa. 49:15

- Jesus speaking, "How often have I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings." Matt. 23:37

Isn't that beautiful? Have you ever considered that He is able to mother you? He is not a woman or a female, but both men and women are created in God's image. Naturally then we can assume that He is able to relate to us both as Father and Mother. Consider how Pastor Eric D. Naus describes this:

 "...when we think of God’s love for those who are reconciled to him in Jesus, we not only think of a strong, protective and wise father, but we can also bask in his tender, nurturing, comforting care seen most beautifully in a mother’s love for her child.  What a dynamic God we worship!"*

Sometimes when I'm especially hurting, empty, weak, I imagine myself crawling up in His lap like I'm sure I used to do with my mom and definitely experienced with each of my kids. I allow Him to love, comfort, forgive, defend and reassure me, just like I have joyfully done for my own children so many times. Because facts are facts, this is the relationship He wants with us. He is the best parent ever. My mild attempts at mothering pale in comparison to what He longs to demonstrate to us.

If you're in pain or longing this weekend and dreading Mother's Day, if you're a mom or if you are not, I invite you to meditate on the truths from Scripture above and rest in them. Print them out and crawl in His lap. He's got time for you. All the time you need.

God can meet all your emotional needs (both adult and child-like) and heal your broken heart by filling it with His strong, soothing, comforting, all-consuming love if you let Him. I hope you do.

Knowing this, I wonder if Mother's Day will take on a new depth for you and for me.

*from Crossroads Blog.  You can read the whole article here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

High School Musical

Disclaimer right off the bat - this will be a shameless post full of pictures that made me a proud mama this weekend.

Let me start with a question: Have you heard of drama queens?

If you're new here, my husband and I have two sons (the oldest is a college grad who got married and moved far, far away last summer. Our second son is far away finishing his second year of college. Waaaaaaa! Oh sorry, I'm ok.) We also have a daughter. The third and final child. The one and only girl.

When that girl, our only daughter, our baby, the one who is planning to graduate from high school in about 59 days (not that anyone here is counting) and leave our nest for summer camp the next day (how dare she?) is given the role of the Queen in Cinderella The Musical during her senior year of high school - well, let me tell you, you have the highest definition of Drama Queen right in your own home. (You also just read the longest runon sentence in history of writing.) How glorious! Oh please, read on.

We had the best few days. Friends came down from out of town early before the show. It was so wonderful to prepare dinner (like real food) and set the table two nights in a row. Family came. Local friends also showed up to watch our girl.

Is there anything more wonderful than friends who champion your kids? It's right up there in my book and Scott and I are so grateful to feel that love. It's noticed and it matters.

I knew Ally had a big role, one of the four leads, but somewhere along the way I must have minimized it in my mind. She says it's because I don't listen, but I reject that. I couldn't have been more suprised at how often she was on the stage, how many lines she memorized and the number of songs she sang - mostly in duet form. I had that silly, wide grin on my face during the whole show - all three nights - just like I used to when I watched my boys play basketball. She nailed it!

Makes all those hard parenting days pay off when you can see your kids excel at something they didn't necessarily have the confidence to back up when the opportunity presented itself.

What I love about this part of Ally's story is that when she auditioned, she told the directors she didn't want a speaking part. Wouldn't mind a solo, but no lines! Their response, "We want you to be the Queen." She said, "But I don't act," and they said, "We know you can do this and we will teach you."

It's one thing when your parents tell you they believe in you, but when teachers pick you out of a crowd and say, "We believe you are perfect for this part," something good happens. I love teachers like that, who see potential and draw it out even when the student is reluctant and insecure. What a gift!

Also, I have to mention how the directors made this musical special and personal for all the little girls in the "kingdom". All were invited to come dressed in their best Cinderella gowns and have pictures taken with the cast and in the carriage. It was the sweetest thing to watch these little girls stare at the big girls and approach them with awe. It was like Disneyworld at Maine Endwell High School. A real community affair. 

Here are some of our favorite moments from the weekend. It would be incomplete without backstage selfies. You'll forgive me, right? Oh and hopefully you'll spot Cinderella who was fabulous (oops?).

If the weekend wasn't wonderful enough, we were able to end it with a family skype date with our far away kids. Ben made it safely back to the US after a week-long mission trip in Poland and we wanted to hear all about it.

Picture this scene....Scott, Ally and I are cuddled on the couch hosting the chat. My mom is on the other couch, quiet as a church mouse (unseen to the boys and Brittany) but listening to everything. Eventually she yelled something and Drew exclaims, "ROSEM! I didn't know you were there! " We all died laughing. (Some of you will find that funnier than the rest of you who are thinking, "Yeah....and?")  Trust me, it was funny.

Lastly, we exchanged prayer requests for the coming week and blew kisses goodbye.  Well, the boys don't usually do that, but Brittany does.

I used to be resistant to technology, but this kind of stuff is a dream-come-true for parents. Magical in a way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Two Of My Favorite Things

If you've been reading this blog, a.k.a. my heart, for very long you know I have lots of favorite things. We all do I imagine.

I clocked another birthday of a non-remarkable, albeit still shocking, number this past Sunday. On Friday a dear, sweet, thoughtful, funny friend showed up at my door with her husband, a cake (my favorite kind), a pastry to be saved for my actual birthday morning, a sentimental card with some spending money and a gift of two brand new books. She announced, "We are only staying as long as it takes to order pizza for dinner and eat it with you."

You can imagine my delight. What love! My favorite part? Well, I savored every detail, but of course - the books! This woman has bought me books before and always hits a homerun. She introduced me to Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts a few years ago and it changed my life. Which basically means for any future selections, I pay attention.

Favorite #1 - when someone who knows me presents me with a book specially chosen for me because it reminds her of me. (I totally despise that sentence because it says 'me' four times. Please forgive me. Ugh, there I go again.)

Favorite #2 - when I pick up a new book, begin reading and immediately identify with the author and the content. Like put the book down and have an ugly cry kind of identifying. In other words, I feel like it was written solely for me (narcissist much?) or it's so similar to my current situation that I could have written it myself.

I love when either of those things happen. Both of these favorites collided this weekend and it is glorious. I know God was behind it.
I just have to share a few morsels with you. Get it? Morsels? Bittersweet? Chocolate? Haha - sometimes I crack myself up.

Yeah, I know, don't quit your day job.

First of all, were you able to make out the subtitle? "Thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way." That's more bitter than sweet. After reading the title, I lifted my eyes to meet my friend's which were still on me and she said, "I got myself a copy also because I think I need it too." Oh man, I love her. Took the sting right out. This is grace.

Just the prologue alone was so rich I had to read it twice. I wonder if it will resonate with you.

"Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the callouses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy."

Rotten teeth. Check. (Hereditary from my Dad and possibly a lifetime of chocolate sweetness.) Lines on face. Check. (I don't want to talk about it.) Callouses on hands. (Well, do warts count? I have two.) So, check.

Still, the description smells like purpose to me. And I love purpose.

"This is what I've come to believe about change: it's good, in a way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good and failure is good. By that I mean that it's incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you into the palm of God's hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be."

Please tell me that last sentence made you shiver too. If not, go back and read it again. I'll wait for you. Talk about a bittersweet sentence. Be sure and note the beauty in it. Friend, sometimes the truth hurts, but we need to hear it.

With Easter just a stone's throw behind us, resurrection and new life have very much been on my mind lately. Specifically the end of Winter and the newness of Spring. It feels like Scott and I have been in winter figuratively for almost three years now. We ache for new life, new beginnings, new growth.
I often refer to a favorite Bible passage that has been real and relevant to so many areas and seasons of my life. God speaking:

Remember not the former things, 
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Isa. 43:18-19

Wilderness? Desert? New thing. Springs forth. Keep talking, Lord.

Then this:

"I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything's easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom."

Are you still with me? How do you feel about change? Are you fighting a change you didn't want in the first place or waiting for a long awaited change? Me too.

"...change is one of God's greatest gifts and one of His most useful tools.  ...change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we've become, in the worst of ways, and also in the best of ways. ...change is not a function of life's cruelty but instead a function of God's graciousness.

If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. They'll hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you. But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment to trust in the goodness of God, who makes it all and holds it all together, you'll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there's truly nothing sweeter. Unclench your fists, unlock your knees and also the door to your heart, take a deep breath, and begin to swim. Begin to let the waves do their work in you."

And that's just the first chapter.

I so get how real the feelings of fear and confusion can be. You probably do too. Why not let's together take this author's advice and trust in the goodness of God, who makes it all and holds it all together, including our lives and hearts? Don't you want to let the waves do their work in you? Remake you? Bring out something new? Oh I do. I do. Pick me!!

I truly believe with all my heart God will eventually reveal that He was up to something good the whole time. Believe that with me.

Keep your eyes open all around you for new growth. After all, the long winter is over - it's Spring - the season for new life. Again the verse above... "Remember not the former things or consider the things of old." New life is in front of us. Hope is in front of us. Keep moving forward. No more looking for it back there behind us. It's not there any more than Jesus is still in the tomb.

Do you not perceive it?

All bold quotes from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
italics mine

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Best News For Every Woman

I've mentioned a few times here that I love reading the Gospels in readiness for Easter. I never, ever get tired of how Jesus treated and spoke to women. I know there are some out there who resist church because somewhere along the way they believed the lie that God is harsh, impossible to please and elevates males over females. Perhaps because they've been treated by men as less than.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, back in Bible times, many men believed that too and disrespected women as such. But then. Jesus.

I picked up a new book a few weeks ago because, well, look at that cover. 
I finished it yesterday. The last chapter blew me away. I can't possibly keep it to myself and it's why I write today. Here is some of it:

"In an ancient world, where many disregarded the testimony of women, Jesus' high regard for them bordered on scandalous. (Oh, don't you love that word?!) Remember, God saw fit that the first eyes to behold the risen Jesus were those of a woman - all during an era where a woman's testimony had no credibility in a court of law.

Women, therefore, were the first evangelists.

The only way a man can discover how to treat a woman is by looking at how Jesus interacted with them. Your Lord was the defender of women.

He stepped in to save a broken, scandalized woman from the murderous plot of a group of self-righteous men. He lifted the weight of her shame, writing a new destiny for her in the dirt.

He saw value in an "unclean" Samaritan woman who was disregarded, despised, and viewed as damaged goods.

He honored a prostitute in the house of a Pharisee.

He healed a pariah woman whose flow of blood excommunicated her.

He exalted a woman who anointed Him for burial by commissioning her story to be rehearsed wherever the gospel message was heard.

He never talked down to a woman, but made them heroes in His parables.

And that for which Jesus came to die was a woman...His woman, the very bride of Christ.

Put simply, your Lord is in the business of loving, honoring and defending women. And God chose the womb of a woman to enter this world.

Whether you are a woman or a man, Jesus Christ is the greatest lover in the universe. And He wishes to love, defend, honor, and cherish you."
I mean, wow.  Obviously I recommend this book. I recommend Jesus.

Please allow me to take a minute and address the few brave men who read this blog (including my sons). I hope you follow Jesus' example in how you treat all the women in your life. All of them. No matter what.

As for all you girlfriends, if you haven't yet, I hope you will accept the above quote as complete truth - and receive it like it is for you. Read the Bible and see for yourself. It's all in there. You will find no greater love on Earth than what God the Father and Jesus His Son feel for you. So much that Jesus came, suffered, died and rose again so that you can know it.

Makes Easter take on a deeper significance, doesn't it? He loves you so, so much. Don't minimize or forget it.

Quotes from The Day I Met Jesus by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth pgs.183-185
(bold and parenthesis mine)