When our son was a toddler, we learned a nifty parenting trick. After suffering through meltdown after meltdown whenever it was time to transition from one activity to the next, we discovered that if we gave our son a 5 or 10 minute warning before the transition was about to happen, the meltdowns were a thing of the past. "Tim, it will be time to help clean up toys and say goodbye in ten minutes." "Tim, dinner will be in five minutes, so get ready to stop your video." As long as he knew what was coming and when, he could cope. When he had time to wrap things up or finish on his own terms, he was golden. If the meltdown wasn't completely averted, it was at least lessened in severity.
Don't you wish we had the luxury of those kinds of warnings in life as adults. "Carla, in six months you will not be living here any more and you'll have to start over." "Carla, within the year, that person that you are so attached to will pass away." "Carla, in the next week someone in your family will become ill." Just a little warning, wouldn't that be nice? Just a little heads up so we can wrap our minds around what is coming and finish or adjust on our own terms.
The thing is, these little advance warnings weren't the most valuable things we could offer our son. Yes, they made life a little more bearable in the moment, especially as he was making his way through those toddler years, but it was never meant to be a way of life. After all, we wouldn't always have a warning ourselves. Sometimes we would need to make a transition with little to no warning and we would need him to trust us and spring into action before his emotions could catch up. What we really wanted him to learn were things like - Your Mom and Dad love you and we are in charge. We know what is best and we are working with an agenda that includes more than your immediate happiness, things you just aren't prepared to understand yet. The more you trust us, the more you will see that we have your best interest at heart. We may ask you to do some things that you do not want to do, but it is never out of cruelty. At the end of the day, what we really wanted him to learn to do was to rest in our trustworthiness, and to respond based on our relationship not on an attachment to an established, predictable routine.
The same is true with our walk through life. The routine will inevitably vary, so putting our trust in things always being the way they have been in the past is foolish. Many times God will orchestrate situations in such a way as to soften the blows of painful change. Other times, however, we will be called upon to simply respond in faith-filled obedience, when there is no resemblance of the normal routine anywhere in sight, no promise of how things will be resolved or how long the transition to a new normal will take.
In the end, through the pages of scripture, I have been given three things that are of greater value than a glimpse into the immediate future:
At the end of the day, this is what has been offered to me and it is what I have to offer the world. It isn't a safe, predictable routine, it is a relationship with the One who created all of us and has a vested interest in our future. It isn't an advance warning system of difficult changes that lie ahead and it isn't a promise that life will be easy or pain-free. It is the message of the gospel and it is enough.
He walked in the door on Monday afternoon, fresh from a ride home on the school bus, dropped his things on the floor and started into his rant before he even had his jacket off... "They're on to me, Mom!" Well, that sure got my attention. He proceeded to tell us a story about a missing Agenda (aka: important middle school notebook that is a required tool for keeping track of assignments and info from teachers). The tale was lengthy and harrowing and passionately delivered and at its conclusion Tim stated emphatically that he was 99% certain it was not missing at all, but rather had been STOLEN. He then seemed perplexed that his father and I were not in a total state of outrage over this shocking revelation.
Meanwhile, Jason and I were trying to figure out what in the world he meant by the statement, "They're on to me." Jason was the first to sort through it. "Son, I think what you meant to say is that 'They have it out for you,' or 'They're out to get you.'" "Oh," he said. We went on to talk about how middle school is middle school and no one escapes unscathed, and how it also isn't wise to make accusations or get emotionally caught up in things that you can't control, but the real lesson that came out of that moment was, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY TO MOM AND DAD - THEY WILL USE IT TO MOCK YOU MERCILESSLY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Ever since Monday, "They're on to me," has become Jason and I's mantra. We use it frequently and with great delight on any given occasion, much to Timmy's chagrin. Give it a try sometime, it's fun! :)
On a serious note: The comparison of the two phrases is a great lesson for all of us. Are we tempted to assume the world is out to get us when things go wrong? Are we hiding anything that would cause us to be devastated to find out if someone was, in fact, on to us? Neither of these is any way to live! Honesty, integrity and perspective! May we all have them in abundance and strive to keep them all the days of our lives.
P.S. The agenda was located the next morning. All is well.
Yesterday my son went with his youth group to volunteer with Target:Dayton. They served a meal to the people who came in need of one. Some were homeless, others barely getting by. Timmy was in charge of the coffee.
As we drove home, after the bus dropped him back off at our local church, I asked him about his experience. These are the 3 simple things he shared with me and the profound lessons I learned from him:
1. Tim's quote: "Not everyone there "looked" homeless." Mom's lesson: Not everyone I meet today who could use my help or encouragement will "look" like they need it. That doesn't mean I should withhold it. Target:Dayton provides their services indiscriminately and lets each individual decide whether or not they need them and want to receive them. I should be so generous with my time, resources and attention.
2. Tim's quote: "I didn't know there were so many people in Dayton that were homeless. There were so many of them." Mom's lesson: The need in the world is greater than I realize or have ever actually seen with my own eyes. If I saw it all at once, it would likely overwhelm me and paralyze me. The need is great. I would be wise not to forget that.
3. Tim's quote: "There was a lady who worked there who came up to me and told me I was doing a good job." Mom's lesson: It helps to know when we are on the right track. Serving others isn't easy and when I see someone doing it well, I should tell them so. We all secretly wonder whether what we are doing is making a difference and whether we are "doing it right." Words of encouragement are precious gifts that keep the givers giving.
One bonus lesson I learned: The first time our children (or any one else for that matter) experience something, we need to pay attention to their reactions and descriptions. When we have "been there and done that," we forget the power of a first experience and the unique perspective that comes with it.
"Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?'"
This statement is part of a conversation I almost didn't have with my 11 year old son, Timothy, yesterday in the car on the way home from Wal-Mart. Once I had time to process that entire conversation and the events of that day, I knew that I would need to share it here. Some things are just too important NOT to share.
Earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy brought rain, snow, flooding, power outages, and havoc all throughout the northeastern United States. My husband, who has been gifted with a heart that longs to serve others in tangible ways, immediately sensed that he was meant to help those who were affected in some way by the flooding and devastation that the storm caused. He knew he had to go. We have been out on a limb (where God has called us to be) in so many ways, over so many years, that I didn't even bat an eye at this. Could we afford for him to go? No. Did we know how it would happen or where he would stay? No. Did that matter? No.
Jason pulled $500 out of our emergency fund, packed his duffel bag, pillow and sleeping bag, borrowed a church van (loaded with bottled water donated by church members), and I prayed over him and kissed him goodbye at 8:30am on Wednesday morning. Sometime before lunchtime that very same day, I got a phone call from someone we dearly love. He had been planning to make a donation to a disaster relief organization to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and heard that Jason was going. He asked how we were paying for the trip and I told him that God would provide. He said he was standing at his bank counter and wanted to wire money into our account to help out, and could I please give him our routing number and account number! Guess how much he gave, without me ever telling him what we needed. $500 exactly. That money, combined with the $120 that various people from Grace Baptist of Cedarville had pushed into our hands/pockets as they dropped off bottled water, will no doubt meet whatever needs come up in the days ahead as Jason offers a cup of cold water, a hot meal, the gospel of Christ, and his physical labor to those who need it most.
Wednesday afternoon, as Timothy and I were driving back from Wal-Mart, I hesitated to tell him that story. I didn't know if he was old enough to really understand the process of trusting God in that way. I didn't want to give him a false impression that you could just run out and do whatever you wanted for God and that he would throw money at you to cover the cost. Still, something in my spirit told me it was worth the risk that he might learn the "wrong lesson" in order to share what God had done and give Him glory. When I relayed the story, Timmy had the biggest smile. He said, "Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?' Then I hear stories like that and I KNOW. I KNOW HE IS REAL and I think how stupid it is to think He isn't."
I am so glad I shared that story with my son. Just in case someone who is reading this is wondering, "Is God really real?" I thought I should share it with you as well. Two questions for you today:
1. What spiritual conversation have you not had with a young person in your life because you aren't sure he/she is ready for it? May I venture to suggest you give it a try? Children and young adults are far more spiritually attuned than we give them credit for!
2. What has God done in your life lately that you need to share with someone else? I know how much that story encouraged my son, and I am hoping it encourages you as well. What stories of His goodness have you not shared with others? We need to hear them!
Hebrews 10:25 NLT "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."
A few days ago, my son and I went on an early morning walk to the local coffee shop. Well, I walked anyway. Timmy rode his scooter. To his credit he stayed with me most of the way, and when we reached a long stretch of smooth sidewalk, I gave him clearance to leave me behind and enjoy the ride. As I walked along by myself, I noticed that I kept passing these tiny little black insects on the sidewalk. They looked like miniature caterpillars. Every few steps I would pass one, slowly making its way across the path. I had to be careful not to step on them. In the half mile I walked, I probably passed 50 of them!
Eventually I caught up to Tim who was waiting for me at the street the coffee shop was on. We went inside and enjoyed some time together, sipping our drinks and chatting about the day ahead, and then we started the trek back home, hoping to make it back before it started to rain on us. As I walked and Tim rode his scooter, I asked him how many of those black caterpillar-y bugs he thought he had passed on the ride to the coffee shop. He had no idea what I was talking about. One by one, as we walked, I started pointing them out to him as we passed by them. "Look! There's one. And another! And Another!" He was shocked that he could have missed them. I explained to him that he was going so fast, that their movement was undetectable to him, so he probably just saw them as tiny black lines on the sidewalk, if he saw them at all. I was going slow enough that I could take notice of them, perceive their comings and goings and realize what they truly were.
Before I knew it, Timmy was off again scootering toward home. I was left thinking about how much of life I race by every single day, and what I am missing in the process.
Today I took Timmy and three of his buddies (ages 9-11) to an amusement park and water park for the day to celebrate Timmy's 11th birthday. We met up with another family (including 2 more of Tim's friends) when we arrived.
Someone at some point commented that I am brave. Someone may have been right, however, I am also BLESSED. I laughed so hard today... I had to have burned some serious calories, right? Preteen boys are nothing if not funny. I got a kick out of listening to all of their silly conversations and joining in, when it was cool to do so, and I vowed to remember as many funny moments as I could and write them down when I got home... here's what I can recall:
- Cameron (after going on a ride called the Crazy Mouse): "Miss Carla, My stomach feels turned over." I hear ya buddy!
- When it was time to sing Happy Birthday to Tim at lunch, somehow, they broke out into the hallelujah chorus instead. We put two candles in a watermelon and he blew them out. Nontraditional is kind of our thing. (pictures below)
At one point the boys were pretending to predict what each others' futures would be like. Here are some of their predictions:
1. Timmy will marry a very short woman and move to Europe where he will tend to Alpacas for a living. He will have seven children and all will be well until one of the Alpacas decides he doesn't care for him and he will kick him so hard he'll be sent into orbit. (What a way to become an astronaut!)
2. Daniel will join the circus and be a clown. He will not make people happy. He will make them anxious and sad. (I can't remember the rest of this one, but for whatever reason it made us laugh like the dickens, even Daniel.)
3. Cameron will be a lion tamer with a whip until the lion one day gets hungry and eats him. (So sad...Imagine the funeral! I think his little brother came up with this one.)
4. Morgan requested that his future include some sort of athletic prowess, so the boys decided that Morgan would be playing professional football one day and that during a game he will go up to catch a pass and somehow instead of catching the ball he would catch his sister and spike her in the endzone for a touchdown. He would do a jig to celebrate.
OVERHEARD ON THE WAY HOME:
Tim: "Can Morgan sleep over tonight?"
Me: "Nope. We already have company. Aaron Batdorf is staying over, remember?"
Morgan: "Aaron Bad Elf???"
Tim: "No! Aaron Bad-Orf. He's not an elf, he's like really really tall."
Morgan: "Maybe he is an elf, he just has a height impairment."
Cameron: "Let's sing a song! You guys start with 'Wimoweh, wimoweh' and I'll come in."
All the Guys: "Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh"
Cameron: "In the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight, In the jungle the quiet jungle the lion sleeps tonight."
Me (really loudly, out of no where, and high pitched): "Ahh Weeeeeeeee Weee Oh Mamba Weh"
Morgan: "What was THAT?!?!" (laughter all around)
Daniel: "Wait, let's do it again and I'll sing and then we can all come in on that part."
All the guys: "Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh"
Daniel: "In the bathroom, the quiet bathroom, the lion goes tonight. In the bathroom, the quiet bathroom, the lion goes tonight."
All the boys (through giggles): "Ahh Weeeeeeeee Weee Oh Mamba Weh"
If you are ever in need of a good laugh and enough activity to make you sleep through the night - I highly recommend you round up a bunch of 9, 10 and 11 year old boys and take them out for a day of fun. These days are flying by. I am glad today was one for the memory books!
I love my son. I would love him even if I wasn't his mother. I just think he is a fun kid... and a funny kid. He regularly makes me laugh and he surprises me more than anyone else on the planet... just when I think I have him figured out, he shows me he is still growing and changing and learning new things. Do you think that God gives us the delights of 10 and 11 year old boys so that when they are 12-17 year old boys we don't completely lose our minds when their rooms stink to high heaven, and they take uncalculated risks, and they make questionable friendships, and they want to get tattoos of weird things, and they learn how to drive and joke with their mothers about how fast they got the car up to the night before, and they fall in love with a girl and start acting funny, and they choose to play violent sports like football and hockey and lacrosse instead of tennis and golf? I do.
Here are some of the things my Timmy has said and done lately...
1. His screen saver on his school laptop is currently a painting of a primitive house with a sod roof. (Normally it is a Pokemon character or a picture of a dog or cat doing something cute/funny.) If you ask him about his unique photo choice, he will tell you that he is learning about homesteaders in school and how they used what they could find on the land to build shelters and that "that's cool."
2. "Mom, what do you and Dad DO after I go to sleep anyway?!?" (said upon his realization that we don't go to sleep for sometimes hours after he has gone to bed each night).
3. He waved to a stranger (to me anyway) as we walked down the street yesterday. Apparently, the guy is a regular at the local coffee shop where Timmy bartered with the manager for free milkshakes and cookies in exchange for his lego collection (which he felt he had outgrown, sigh).
4. When we left a recent school field trip to the bowling alley, he held my hand and said, "That girl was really nice, Mom." He was referring to a sweet young lady with mental retardation who came right up and introduced herself to him when he arrived and even though she ended up with the lowest score of the day and never seemed to really grasp the rules of the game, seemed to have a great time just being with people. "Yes, she was nice." I'm glad he noticed. I am glad THAT was what he noticed.
5. "Do you think I'm old enough to go on a mission trip, Mom?" Heaven help me! I don't know if I am more excited that he is thinking about such a thing or that he still wants to hear what I think!?!?
6. "Mom, for finals week, I think I want to make a batch of homemade ice cream and just give it away to the college students instead of making them pay for it."
7. He walks the dogs almost everyday for fun and fancies himself quite the dog whisperer.
8. Each morning we ask him how he slept the night before and he'll say things like, "Pretty good, I only got 9 hours of sleep though." or "I was up until like 9:50!" *yawn*
9. We went through the Dairy Queen drive through the other day for a quick surprise treat BEFORE lunch and he asked for a small blizzard. I ordered him a MINI blizzard instead and he said, "Mom, I wanted a small!" "Well," I said, "I guess we could just cancel our order and go straight home for lunch..." Timmy immediately changed his tune: "What was I thinking?! A mini will be just right. Who would want a small before lunch anyway!? Sheesh that would just be silly."
10. He regularly begs me to stand back-to-back with him or put my hands or feet up to his so we can determine if he has grown or if he has gotten any bigger than me in some way. (His feet are bigger than mine and he's got about four inches to go before he looks me square in the eye.)
I don't want to forget these days of innocence and growth spurts and easy laughter and quick forgiveness and tween boy fun. I want his smile and giggle and funny sayings to be burned into my memory. This season will be gone before I know it and we'll be on to new and different things. Each stage with Tim is an adventure, but I think that I'm going to look back at this particular part of the adventure as one of my favorites. :)
Matthew 18:1-3 (ESV) - "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
I am so blessed to watch my son grow in faith. Today I asked him what he learned during his quiet time (time spent reading the Bible and praying) and his answer was an encouragement to me and a good reminder. He had read the account in Matthew 9 about Jesus healing the paralyzed man and forgiving his sins, then being aware that the religious leaders who witnessed it were thinking critically about his actions. Jesus asked them, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?" Timothy said that it was a good reminder for him that when he has a difficult conversation later today or this week with someone, that he needs to make sure that his words match his heart, and to make sure that he doesn't let evil get into his heart. I am taking that one with me today. Thanks, Timothy! Your mama loves you great big bunches!!
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!