This is my Benjamin. He is so different from my other crazies. He is busy and yet highly focused on what he is doing. He is challenging and very loving and sweet. He doesn’t follow instructions well but is very sensitive to correction. He is cuddly and yet has a hard time receiving too many snuggles because he has so much to do. He is hard to teach and coach but extremely curious about how things work and often takes things apart and puts them back together. He even answers questions in unusual ways.
Benjamin, what do you want to be when you grow up?
A dump truck.
Do you mean a dump truck driver?
No, I mean a dump truck.
While coloring recently, I got on his case about how he holds his crayon and was encouraging him to try to color inside the lines. He looked up at me with these big brown eyes and said, “Mama, those lines aren’t for me.” He’s right. They aren’t for him. He just sees things differently. He challenges me to try to see things from a new perspective. I want so badly to understand him but he is so beautifully complicated.
He views the world in a very different way than anyone I have ever met. In 1st Peter 4:10-11 it says, God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. My sweet Benjamin is a gift to me. He challenges the way I see things. He encourages me to seek understanding over judgement. He draws me in because I want to know him more. He’s right. The lines aren’t for him. He marches to the beat of his own drummer because my drummer is either too fast or too slow. His differences from me are so beautiful and mysterious. What a blessing he is, not just as my son, but as a constant reminder of how our uniqueness is not a mistake but a plan for us to better serve others and serve God. He will grow up to challenge the way we think about the world and for that I am grateful. Color outside those lines little man. Love you.
1. Stop fighting over imaginary toys!
2. Don’t stand there and dance, just go to the bathroom.
3. I don’t have any napkins, just lick your fingers.
4. That was not a snuggle, you just wiped your face off on my shirt!
5. That’s nice but you aren’t at grandma’s house right now so NO!
6. Go back in there, wipe your bottom and wash your hands…..and turn off the light!
7. What do you have in your mouth?
8. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
9. You better eat all your pizza (or insert any other unhealthy kid food here) or you don’t get any ice cream.
10. Did you need that drink 10 minutes ago when I was in the kitchen, or do you just need it now that I’m trying to use the bathroom by myself?
The struggle is real. What crazy things do you say?
A few months ago I took a very scientific approach to finding out what parents were hoping to instill in their children….you know….I asked on Facebook. I got a variety of answers. Some were hoping for their child to have a love of learning, to be successful, to work hard. I spent a lot of time thinking about what my hopes are for my kids and I found myself floating between things that the world says are great and things that are Spirit-filled. I hope for my children to be financially stable, for them to fall in love and stay in love. I hope for them to find something that they love to do as a career. I hope they will take care of me in my old age (wink). I hope they are successful. We spend a lot of time instilling these concepts in our kids. We work on our letter and numbers. They have chores they need to complete. We try different sports and activities to see what they will be good at, but when I really slow down and think about the things that will make me the most proud of them, it isn’t their success at a sport or in a career. It isn’t their ability to find and hold down a steady job. It isn’t even that they will be “happy.” It’s more important than the stuff that comes from a “good life.”
I really want them to be good people. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruits of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Ever since I memorized these as a child, I have always thought of the fruits of the spirit as what should come out of you if you are full of Jesus. Some of these I feel like we work on with our kids on the regular. Concepts like patience are constantly coming up in our home. “Be patient with her, she’s grumpy in the morning.” We love well and we laugh hard. We even talk about kindness and what it means to be kind with our words and actions. I think that some of the more counter-cultural concepts are faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Our culture doesn’t love these concepts. We constantly hear about marriages breaking up due to unfaithfulness. We praise aggressiveness in sports and winning at all cost in business. We are bombarded by marketing that encourages us to buy now, eat now, drink now. I think its hard to raise gentle kids who don’t get walked all over. I think it’s hard to raise kids with self control and patience when so much around them is about instant gratification.
Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t try. Perhaps we could raise a kinder and gentler generation. My hope for them is that they love others the way Jesus did, holding nothing back. My prayer for them is that they put others before themselves and take care of others recklessly. I’m going to look for these fruits in my kids this week and put just as much energy into encouraging and pointing out their success in these areas as I do when they write their names with no backward letters.
Recently while driving through a Starbuck drive thru I struck up a conversation with the employee working the window. She started to hand me my coffee before I paid, apologized and said she was having a rough day. She talked a little about it then took my money, handed me my coffee and I rolled up my window and pulled away. My 5 year old asks, “What did she say Mama?” I told her that she was just having a rough day. Without skipping a beat Abigail said, “Wow, she must have even more kids than we do!”
I almost sprayed my coffee all over my window. I guess she’s noticed that I’ve been a little stressed. Between the running around from activity to activity, my hubby traveling for work and working myself I’m just about maxed out. For every crazy moment when I feel like I might freak out, there are moments like this one or their snuggles and unsolicited I love yous that bring joy, unspeakable joy to me.
Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t laugh, experience complete joy or have moment of gratitude for the little glimpses of awesome that happen each day. I can tell you in detail the last three fights I broke up between my crazies today but I can also tell you that they arranged themselves like they were getting their picture taken and said, “See Mommy, we look like a sweet family.” After one of their fights, one apologized to the other and got a hug and an, “I forgive you.” After I dropped dry spaghetti all over the floor, my son called me a silly goose and helped me pick it back up.
So much joy can be missed if we rush. I’m going to make an effort this week to see the times when God shows up around me and in the hearts of my children and I’m going to enjoy them completely.
This week I cut my daughters hair, stitched up a hole in her special blankie she has loved well since she was a baby and prepared clothes for a consignment sale. In short, there has been a lot of cry this week. It is so true that the days are long but the years are short. As I think about our oldest heading off to Kindergarten I’m filled with anxiety. Is she prepared academically? Have we done what we need to do to prepare her? I’m also filled with sadness over how fast these baby/preschool years have gone. As I’m filled with anxiety and sadness she is overwhelmed with excitement. She is curious about what school will be like. She can’t wait to ride a school bus. She is anticipating all the new friends she will make and all the cool things she will learn.
Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
The older I get the harder it is to embrace this idea. Change is frightening but knowing that we don’t have to go it alone is comforting. So as I cry over her curls, patch her blankies and stare at clothes that can’t possibly be too small for my baby girl, she is ready to attack these new experiences. God, please give me half her courage to not only weather changes in my future but to embrace them.
I find myself all the time saying, “When we get there?” or “When this happens?” When the boys are potty trained life will be so much easier. When the kids are in school, things will settle down (don’t worry, all my mom friends with older kids have set me straight on that lie I have been telling myself). When we move or when we have the money…
Recently, a guest preacher spoke about Exodus and Moses’ journey through the desert. He spoke about how we all have a desert of sorts to cross. This could be a lay off at work, a delay in our plans to grow our family or a death in our close personal circle. He spoke eloquently about his own personal deserts. He even used visual aids. Each week he had a jumbo pad of paper and a black marker and he would make a diagram of the journey that Moses was on and how it was not dissimilar to the one we are on too.
I’m pretty sure he wanted us to leave encouraged. If Moses, who killed a guy, can be used by God then so can you. Journey on to your Promise Land. Trust God. March forward good and faithful servant. And don’t get me wrong, I got all those things but the thing I noticed the most about his talk were his visual aids. Every single diagram he drew was a circle. First this happens then this happens then you come back to here.
Hold up preacher man! You’re telling me my life is not a straight line or even a curvy line headed in a distinct direction but a circle. I’m out. Next. Bring in the next guy. Kidding. Kind of.
So often I find myself focusing so fully on the destination. When we get completely out of debt we will be superheroes! When the kids get bigger we will be able to take amazing vacations! When I lose weight I’ll be happier! When my house is clean my friends will think I have it all together!
What if life is not a straight line headed to a destination? What if it’s a cycle of closeness to God, hardship and renewal? What if it’s caring deeply for someone, being hurt, crying and then caring deeply for someone again? What if its teaching our kids by example, failing, talking through the failure and then teaching our kids by example again? In lieu of viewing this as a hamster wheel, how freeing is it that all we have to do is our best in this moment? Tomorrow we may fail but today all we have to do is try. Regardless of the desert we are crossing there will be a promise land coming up next that will renew us before we hit our next desert. The things that are most important to me are things that never come to an end until I come to an end: loving others deeply, parenting my kids, serving others in a way that Jesus would have enjoyed.
No destination to race toward. No deadline to hit. Just beautiful circles.
It was one of those days. I work partime in the Nursery at a daycare center. One of the sweet babies threw up so hardcore on me that there was no saving my pants or shirt. I was graciously allowed to leave early and I walked out to a nearly flat tire. Off to Pep Boys we go…all of us…me and my three crazies. In true car repair fashion they bring our car in almost immediately, up it goes and there it stays for over an hour and a half. Stop for a moment and envision me, puke covered with three busy preschoolers trapped in a Pep Boys. Good. Now stop laughing. This could have been disastrous right? It could have but it wasn’t.
Shortly after we arrived in comes this well put together woman. Her name was Mindy. She was probably in her 40’s, she was pretty and had a quick smile. She needed a new battery for her car. She sat right down with me and my crazies and introduced herself, asked them their names, ages and cartoon favorites. She helped me pick them up so they could look through the window at our floating car. We talked about what we did for a living, our recent home selling and buying experiences, our families. She was so warm and easy to know. She didn’t have any kids herself but she embraced my children like they were her own. By the time her car was done, my kids were strategically stealing each others seats to sit by her. My son climbed up into her lap to watch Curious George….my busy son…. who never sits still. Instead of having a terrible, stressful, long 90 minute wait for our car we became friends with Mindy. She showered us with her kindness for 90 minutes. When she left she shook each of my children’s hands and told them to be good and listen to their mommy then she turned to me, wrapped me in a big hug and said goodbye. All I could get out was a quick thank you for her friendship.
We live in this strange world where we are always connected through our technology but so disconnected in so many other important ways. Not only was Mindy present in the moment but she was kind and generous with her time and sweet to my children. She wasn’t annoyed with my crew but rather amused and engaged. I will think about her for the rest of my life.
And people say angels don’t exist. Find an opportunity to be a Mindy this week.