Category Archives: Parenting

The slow letting go…

Today it happens. That first child I carried, the child I’ve practiced my parenting skills on the longest, is moving away. Not permanently. “Just” for 8 weeks, to live with her aunt and uncle and fulfill her dream of acting in a community theater company. It’s the first semester of her gap year–this first half is about working to save money for her second semester trip to Ukraine with YWAM to work with orphans and other outreaches for five months. So this is the short goodbye so her mama can practice.

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On the trail 14 years ago…

This letting go has been in stages. You relinquish the hold first when they are born-other people can now hold them. Then as more independence comes, there is more relinquishing: letting go of her fingers when she started lurching around the room walking; letting go of the handlebars when she learned to ride her bike; watching her drive away in the van by herself the first time. Going on an international mission trip without us. Waving as she boarded a train to visit a friend last year. Graduation from high school in our backyard.

Last night, I was running over the list of things-we-should-teach-before-you-move-out. Don’t leave your drink unattended at a party or your luggage unattended at the airport: check.  How to potty in the woods: check. How to balance a checkbook: check. Remember who you are, sweet daughter of the King: check. Parallel parking: ummm…missed that one. My friend reminded me a couple of weeks ago that we’ve equipped her to learn what we’ve missed or fell through the cracks or we just didn’t think of. And I reminded myself of the words I spoke to Emily at her graduation–true words that I needed to hear as much as she did:

“Your father and I have not been able to give you what we wanted you to have, but God has given you the life you need to prepare you for the future. You are a treasured daughter of the king: brave and caring and persistent…

Character grows stronger in the face of challenge and you’ve seen more than your fair share of challenges in our family. As you have grown up in our home, you’ve watched job loss, job gain, parent going back to school, more job loss, depression, and starting up a small business. You’ve learned that life doesn’t always look like you think or hope it will. I hope you’ve learned that what looks like failure in the eyes of the world—losing a job, financial difficulties when starting out new businesses, and financial sacrifices aren’t failure, they’re part of life, and they are an opportunity to stretch your faith and reliance of Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. While we have not relied perfectly on Him, and I will admit, there has been more of the grumbling Israelite in the wilderness in me than I wish to say, I hope you have learned that though life can be hard, God is good. All the time. And while He won’t always give you what you want, somehow, you will have what you need.

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Rounding the bend in the trail this July…

So here she goes…all packed and so excited with the same spirit of fun and adventure she’s always had…ready to try new things and meet new people…and while I will miss her with every breath, I am content to continue to let her go, the way she should go.

 

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No Longer an Orphan–Remember Who You Are

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” (John 1:12)

All through the Bible you read it: “Remember.” “Remember.” “Remember.” One hundred sixty-eight times in the New American Standard Version, the word “remember” appears. It is of some comfort to me to realize the God knew humanity needed reminding of things He’d done and was doing and will do. He knew his human creations had a short memory. And I’ll admit, at times, it’s easy to forget who I am in the Kingdom–that I’m anyone in the Kingdom. For you too, some days?  As believers, we are adopted into the family of the King. We are no longer orphans! I was honored to watch this play out in “real time” this summer as I accompanied my sister to Ethiopia to bring her newly adopted son home to his new, forever family. I was going as sherpa, doula, doting auntie, and official photographer. I thought I was going to help and be a help–to bless, but I was blessed far more than I ever thought possible. The natural echoed the supernatural with astonishing, humbling clarity.

We are chosen.

Biblestudytools.com states : “The Greek word for adoption (huiothesia) means to “place as a son” and is used only by Paul in the New Testament.” We were not sons when we belonged to this world. We were slaves–to the world, its’ system, the Law. But then something happened: “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

We were slaves, redeemed by Jesus as sons of the King.

“In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:3-7

As one of the speakers at an adoption conference said, “In order for redemption to take place, weakness and brokenness have to exist.” But you don’t redeem garbage. You don’t redeem something that is worthless. God created us. After He created the whole world, he thought it was good. But when he created Adam and Eve, He thought they were VERY good. We are His creation, and while we might be broken, before we come to faith, we are not worthless. We weren’t junk. God didn’t sacrifice his Son for trash. God thought we were worth redeeming!

We were bought with a price.

No adoption is free. There is a cost required to the parents. On earth, it’s time and money. Lots of money. Whether international or domestic adoption, there is a cost. Parents have fund-raisers, bake sales, get grants or donations (I know a couple who flipped houses to save money for their adoption!)– all to bring a child into their family. Paul reminds us “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.” And what a price Jesus paid for us! He gave it all!

We cannot make ourselves “good enough” to meet God

When adoptive parents come to the transition home to meet their children for the first time, these sweet children are cleaned up and put into some “nice clothes” by the sweet ladies who work at the orphanage.  As one of the antsy parents was waiting for this transformation to take place so they could meet their child, I heard them say, “Don’t they know we don’t care how clean they are or what they’re wearing? We just WANT them.  NOW.” We spend so much time trying to make ourselves presentable before we go to God. Try to get it together. Clean ourselves up before we go in to meet the Father. Do we REALLY think we can do anything to make us presentable to Him? He doesn’t need us to get presentable before we come to Him. We can’t anyway. He just wants US! NOW!IMG_0283

We don’t keep our old name

Pictures from that incredible day show little Miller wearing an outfit that says “Austin.” It’s cute and clean, but not his. At the time, Miller’s Ethiopian name was Feseha, his new name was Miller, but it was never Austin. Do we not often “wear” the name someone in the world gives us, even if it’s not who we really are? If it’s not true? What name are you wearing on your T-shirt or in your mind and heart–what are you still wearing that just isn’t true? “Worthless?” “Throw Away?” “Unloveable?” What have you tried to slip back into, not because it’s you, but because you know it? It’s familiar? You’ve managed to make the shirt with the lie “cute”? It’s not who you are! You’ve been given a new name, the name of son or daughter!

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“To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna,

and I will give him a white stone, and a new name

written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17)

One father I met came stay in Ethiopia with his new son until the paperwork was processed. He had 8 weeks leave from work, leaving his wife at home to care for their other two children. He planned on staying until he could take his son home. “People asked me why on earth I’d come stay here for 8 weeks . This son needs me as badly as my children at home. I just figured I should come be with him.” While the governments were still working out all the little details of citizenship and visas, this baby was already this man’s son. In his heart, this child was his. In God’s heart, we are HIS! He wants to be with us. He’s given us His name!

We receive all the rights and privileges of son-ship!

One of the sad things I learned is that in Ethiopia, there is not, as our guide said, the same spirit of adoption as there is here in America. In Ethiopia, if you are adopted by a family, you are given a place to live, meals, and education. But there are things you don’t receive. You don’t take on the name of your new family and you have no part in the inheritance from the father. When he told us that, there was a shocked silence in the room. Thanks be to God that their version of adoption isn’t God’s version or intent: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15 ). We get to call Him Abba! This isn’t a far away, distant relationship. This is a child calling on Daddy. In this case Daddy also happens to be the God of heaven and earth, who moved heaven and earth to bring us into His family. Without doing a thing, Little Miller has everything his brothers have–a mommy, a daddy, brothers (lots of brothers!), a home, a bed, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, a church family, an inheritance–and he is every bit a Brady.

We are never alone.

Before we went back to the guest house, the nannies indicated it was time for Miller’s nap. I asked Amy if she wanted to put him back down in his crib in the room with the other babies to sleep. A crib is not a good description of the raised wooden box with dividers between each baby. They lay there and wake and sleep on their own schedule it seems. Their bottles are propped in the beds, so they even eat there. Not the best situation, but it was familiar. I thought he’d take a nap then we’d be on our way. Not so. Fiercely from my sister-turned-Mama-Bear: “He is NEVER going to fall asleep there alone again.” Instead,  he fell asleep cuddled in his mother’s arms.IMG_0295

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He cares for our needs

After we said goodbye to the nannies, we took Miller back to the guest house. Despite the cleaning and his “new” orphan clothes, she bathed him. IMG_0314

She rubbed him with lotion and diaper rash ointment to heal his skin. IMG_0385

And dressed him in the clothes she brought. He was no longer an orphan in cast-off clothes. He was a son in clothes from the father.IMG_0320

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Sometimes the trip home is harder than you think…

And then there’s going home. Being left at the airport without transportation to get something to eat. Two women with a baby, four suitcases, two carry-ons and a diaper bag, not to mention Bob (an adoptive dad with his sweet baby girl on his way home to wife and son after 9 weeks in Ethiopia), his baby Emmabette, and all their stuff. Sitting on the runway for hours, while small children around us screamed and even an adult threw up. Three flights plus a refueling in Rome, hours of sort-of sleeping, helping Bob with his baby.  Vans, trams, and trains, loading and unloading. There were 8 hours of lay overs in DC and North Carolina, a plane whose air conditioning wasn’t working, hugely long customs lines and lost luggage. A baby who tended to throw up if not held just right and whose entire schedule was in limbo and no gluten-free meals for me.  It was long and hot and hard. Kind of like life, right? ‘Nuff said.IMG_0406

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You get a new family…

We walked off the plane  and down the corridor, and there they were: people holding signs, flashing cameras; jumping up and down excited to see this new baby. He was already loved because of who he now was. Not what he did–he’d done nothing so far but have diaper rash and throw up all over the place. Nope. Not because of him, though he is adorable and happy and sweet. It was who he now was. And whose he was. Who his Father had made him. This miracle transformation from orphan to son.  i-mWD6FXV

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When you become a son, you get alot of brothers...ALOT of brothers:)

When you become a son, you get alot of brothers…ALOT of brothers:)

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When you get home, the Father is waiting…

One day, we’ll be done with life on this earth and we will “get home.”And when we do, we will clearly see the Father, face to face, not as we do now, but in full.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.

We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2)

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For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

i-7BwSbFCSome days it’s hard to remember. It’s easy to fall back into thinking we’re orphans. Acting like an orphan. Putting on that old shirt of this world that proclaims the lie: “not worth it” or “still an orphan.” But we’re not. I’m the daughter of the King. I am His and He is mine. And if you believe Him, you’re not either. We will NEVER be orphans again.

 

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

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For my Blue Eyes, on her birthday

To my sweet baby girl, my Blue Eyes, the child I mourned in my heart as dead before you were even born. The child I rejoiced over as a miracle. Like the father of the prodigal, I cried, “She was lost, but now she’s found!–before she even made her entrance into this world. But despite what I’d been told, enter the world she did…

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To my lovely little one who caused our parenting plan to go from one-on-one to a zone defense:)

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with one look at her face, you can tell where she gets her nick name…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

to my little one whose face to the world is often shy and reserved…

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but will burst into spontaneous laughter, dances, silliness and song with those she knows best5197a

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmy girly girl, who loves curls and bows and dresses

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who loves her family

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What a journey it has been, this far! Happy 9th birthday, Blue Eyes!DSC_1627a

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Up a tree with Zaccheus

One night this week, my husband let our youngest pick a song for our short worship time before bed. My kids LOVE it when Daddy lets them pick. Out came the googly-eyed kids’ hymnal and we found ourselves singing about wee little Zaccheus. I found myself thinking about the song and the story and how it seemed an odd pick to me for worship time. Riding in the car, yes, praising the Lord, well…

It’s unfortunate we’ve relegated Zaccheus to just for kids section of the Bible. I started thinking of wee little Zach up there in the tree. Wanting to see Jesus from a distance, maybe on his own terms, maybe because he didn’t feel worthy or was afraid about how he’d be received? But I can just see Jesus and the disciples, walking through the crowd, the ones who adored Him, the ones who were suspicious and trying to trap Him, the curious, the gawkers, and those like Zaccheus.

I can see Him, stopping under the tree and looking up, and all the people looking up too–looking at the one who cheated them out of money and worked for the Romans–what could be worse? Were they hoping Jesus would yell at Zaccheus? Call him out on what he’d done? Give him what was coming to him?

I’m sure they were surprised, when after Jesus told Zaccheus to come down, that He invited himself (and I’m sure all his disciples!) to dinner at the tax collector’s house. He’s not content to have an acquaintanceship with us. He wants to dine with us, commune with us. Be with us. Hang out on the porch and talk. He didn’t ask Zaccheus to fix up his life to make it worthy of dining with the king of the universe. Jesus just said “Get down from that tree and let’s go eat!” I love it.

I’m so often like that with Jesus. I want to hang back and watch what He’s doing, wondering if it’s for me as well–but keeping my distance. But I love that He’s not content with that. He doesn’t just want to be distant acquaintances. So from wondering why on earth we were singing about Zaccheus to feeling so humbled that the same God who said “Let there be light,” who parted the Red Sea, who walked in the furnace with the boys in Babylon, who raised Lazarus from the dead and is sitting at the right hand of the Father wants to be with me, on purpose. He want me to know Him as much as He knows me. Wow.

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Snack ideas

So my kids love snacks. I’m sure yours do too. If they had their way, lots of time, they’d not make the best choices, so I try to have more healthy options around. Here are my ideas for snacks: apples plain or sliced with peanut butter; string cheese; humus and crackers; nuts; air popped popcorn with various toppings; any baked good left over from breakfast (see breakfast ideas post); granola bars. You get the idea. Here are a couple of recipes my sister gave me that her friend gave her. They aren’t peanut butter free, but could be gluten-free if you used gluten-free oats. I’ve made the granola bars and they are wonderful. I haven’t tried the energy bites, but her kids can be kind of picky, so if they like them, I’m sure they have a pretty universal appeal. Link to your own favorite recipes if you have any!

GRANOLA BARS:
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil

2 cups oats
1/2 cup each of following: chopped pecans, chopped dates, chocolate chips, coconut, sesame seeds

Melt oil, pb, honey. Stir into the rest of the ingredients. Mix and press into a wax paper lined 9 by 13 pan. Freeze. Cut into bars and then store bars in freezer.

ENERGY BITES:
1 cup oats
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup ground flax-seed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
Mix and roll into balls. We never have any left to store, but probably store in fridge 🙂

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What we’ve been up to this week…

Well, it’s been a week of odd weather this week, here in Nashville. Sunday started with rain, had snow in the middle, then a lovely sunset in the evening. It was in the 70’s yesterday and we’ve had quite a bit of wind as well. Lent started, and we’ve talked about that a good bit at our house. I do not require any of my children to participate in giving up stuff for Lent. I don’t think it’s a biblical requirement to participate in Lent–it’s a man-made event–and I don’t want my kids to feel like God’s going to love them more or less based on what they do or don’t do during Lent.  We talked about how sometimes laying something we like to do aside for a season gives us more time to concentrate on other things. The children decided on their own to forego movie night for the next six weeks. Instead, we would play games or do something else as a family. Given that I’d just told them the day before that we weren’t going to be watching any videos for awhile, except for school and movie night, I was surprised, but we’ll see how it goes. We also talked about other things we could do to show love for each other, not only in our family, but outside it. They are busy thinking of things they could do, emptying out shelves in the pantry to donate to our church’s food pantry, planning sandwiches for the homeless that are near our church, and other ideas.

So there were no movies/Netflix at our house this week. This was a joint decision, and the first day was hard. I have a rather precocious 5-old, who taught himself to read right before he turned four. Most days he zips through his seat work for kindergarten in 30 minutes and will usually play pretty happily, but there have been times–OK daily for a while, when a video was very helpful to me. I’m in the middle of consignment season, trying to figure out how to plan high school, researching a new gluten-free diet I need to implement, and everything else I’m doing. But the videos stopped. Sigh. What was I thinking? While they were the ones that stopped watching videos, I was the one having the hardest time.

The house is a total disaster, even for me. No question about it. This week there was a trip to Costco, so I have pyramids of TP, paper towels and napkins ready to go to the attic. As soon as I can get the consignment stuff out of the front of the attic. But that’s just the stuff that hasn’t taken over the living room. Preschool supplies, Thomas the train, books are all waiting to be labeled and priced. Then my bulk grains came in–50 lb bag of groats, bags of wheat berries and popcorn. It looked like the Olsen’s general store, except no candy and no one with lovely curled ringlets. The school desk was hidden under easels and tubes of paint–both mine and the kids. They love to paint, and when they weren’t outside playing in the yard or building with Legos (another mess) or making a fort, they were painting. Then I painted too, just to ease my stress. It helped with the stress, not so much the mess. On top of that, my oldest has been sick all week, and she is my right hand. While everyone helps out, her help is, well, more helpful than others if you know what I mean. A trip to the doctor yesterday was necessary and I’m glad we went, but that was another three hours I didn’t get to put stuff away.

We did get out to Radnor Lake one day this week. We found 10 turtles sunning themselves on the shore of one of the ponds, and the kids had a great time sketching a group of 6 turtles. That was probably my favorite part of the week. No clean up!

My little cuties sketching the turtles

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On distractions, parenting, and navigating the waters

She was four, that day we almost lost her. It was a holiday weekend, spent in and around the pool and picnic table with my husband’s siblings, parents, nieces and nephew. The day winding down, husband was packing the car for the trip home. I was changing a diaper or nursing the baby or doing a final walk through for forgotten baby toys or socks. I didn’t even know she wasn’t there.

I still remember the haze and confusion that came next. My sister-in-law walking in with my dripping child. For some unknown reason, Misty walked out to the pool before leaving. Happy Girl  was underwater. No floundering. No cry for help. She had slipped or fallen in, no one there to see. Misty reached in and plucked her out of the water.

My heart still freezes when I think of that day. We mumbled thanks and said goodbye, too stunned and shocked at what might have been to hardly speak adequate words of gratitude to Misty and the Lord for saving our precious daughter. How could we have missed her? How were we so busy that we didn’t see what was happening? After the entire weekend of vigilance, thirty seconds of distraction nearly changed our lives forever.

Fast forward almost 10 years. She’s not 4 anymore. She’s thirteen. There are two more children in our family now, besides the two we had at the time. Even though we try to live intentionally, it seems to be racing along at breakneck speed some days. Teaching how to tie shoes, make beds, be kind to siblings, algebra, grammar, history, books of the Bible, how to play the ukulele, or piano or ballet, scouts, church, friends, and still having time to exercise, read the Bible, plan a garden, learn to paint or cook gluten-free takes up my days. In all the busyness of life, of teaching/feeding/caring for them, have I become distracted from them?

Parenting is hard. The constant balance between protecting them from the culture of the world– that like the cool, inviting water that day–would suck them in and drown them without a second thought and helping them learn how to live in the world but not of it, is grueling. How do you simultaneously teach them how to flee from the temptations of evil in this world and to have compassion on those caught in it? How do we learn to not be deceived by the spirit of the age, yet reach those who are?

I hope you’re not waiting for the answer here, because you’ll probably be dissatisfied. I don’t know the answers. You can’t parent out of fear. You can, but I don’t think the results are satisfactory. But according to research, 75-90 % of teens in the church leave the church by the end of their first year of college, and most don’t come back. What do we do with that? Keep trying the same old thing that seemed to not work on the previous generation, but hope it works better on our kids? I have no idea.

I do know it means our children–our teens–need our attention. Lots of it. I’ve heard people compare teenagers in general to toddlers. A repeat of that self-absorption, that trying so hard to be independent and yet putting themselves in situations they can’t quite manage. I know my toddlers kept me hopping. If it was quiet–too quiet–I knew something was up. It seems to be the same. As long as there is communication right now, things seem to be going well, even if there’s a disagreement, the lines of communication are still open so we can work through whatever is going on. It’s when the chatter ceases I start to wonder what’s going on, deep down in those young souls.

Childhood and the teen years are not the time to be distracted by your own life and stuff, which is hard, because most of the time when children are young, there are career issues or grad school, or new jobs or promotions or all kinds of stuff. None of which are bad, but it is so easy to get distracted by those things and miss your child wandering off to look into the pool of the big wide world, unaccompanied by you.

Of course the best strategy would be to teach them to swim in and through this world culture, with you there in the water with them, holding on to them, then with floaties a little on their own, then practicing until they are proficient swimmers. Even then, it’s always best to swim with a buddy. Even excellent swimmers can drown, given the right (or wrong) circumstances. This process of teaching our children to swim through life is not easy. Sometimes I’d rather be under an umbrella reading a book:). But I can’t.

I have to be in the water with them, showing them the strokes, how to tread water when they get too weary, how to come to the side and get out, how to call for help, and how to allow themselves to be rescued if they get in trouble. Sometimes my timing is off: I catch them too soon, when they appear to be floundering but are only trying to get the rhythm of their stroke. Sometimes I think they’re just splashing in the water having fun, not realizing they are in over their head and almost miss the need to scoop them out of the water.

There is no perfect one size fits all parenting plan that will meet the needs of all my children, and I doubt there’s one for yours either. While the goals are the same, sometimes the techniques are different, which involves constant observation and a reworking of the plan based on the child, the situation, and what I’m hearing from the Spirit.

And we don’t have to teach them all alone. There are grandparents, teachers at church, parents of friends to help along the way, but ultimately God entrusts our children (His children) to us. We have to lean not on our own understanding, but trust the Lord to help us do what’s best for those He loves even more than we do.

Take courage moms and dads! You’re not in this alone. Ask the Holy Spirit, who longs to help you (it’s His job after all!) and walk with you, for His guidance. With fear and trembling, but with confidence and trust in the Lord and His will, we can do this.

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