Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Gentle Art of Kamikaze Parenting – Pt. 2

Son #2 - Courtesy The Learning Table
If you came expecting perfection and a well crafted bullet list, you can go back home. I'm not all that, and I don't have my act together. Oh, let me tell you – I could do my research across the wide expanse of the internet and craft a 'how to' bullet list that would make the pride of Oprah, Dr. Phil, proud.

Given the level of desperation parenting I see practiced all around me, that post might go viral. But, I'd be a mask-wearing liar. I swore that off a while ago, remember? So, before you read another word, let me assure you, I am in the trenches with you and not your paragon of expert parenting virtue.

If you didn't come expecting me to be 'all that', you can stay. But, you are probably not going to like what I've got to say. I sure don't. I've been swallowing a bitter pill for most of 10 days now, and it is still lodged in my throat. And my brain and heart.

Son #1 - Happy go Lucky as usual
Before I go on, let me tell you that I proceed here with MUCH caution. Two families that are exceedingly close to me have done EVERYTHING right as parents but now have children who are adrift in this fraidy cat world. So far, neither is in legal trouble. The older one, now in his early 20's, seems to be finding his way out of chaos and getting a handle on things. The younger one, in his mid-teens, has us all scared to death. We pray for that kid 3 times a day sometimes and hold our breath for the next update.

Maybe 1 day I can tell you their stories. For tonight, I will just use them as my disclaimer. In watching them devote themselves to Godly and practical parenting with a perseverance and grit that is indescribable, I have seen that you can do everything right and still have kids who falter. And, I mean...these folks did EVERYTHING right.

So, I have no 'pride of parenting' because I know that kids can falter at any time and place, when you least expect it and think you least deserve it, for no apparent reason that you can uncover. Between walking with these friends and my own sense of parenting in the trenches, I cannot craft a '10 Easy Steps', feel good, 700 word blog post to help you refine your parenting.

Parenting is just plain hard. No, it is relentless in its demands, and the demands do not care how tired you are or how sick you are or how distracted you let yourself become. That's the good news. See...I told you you probably wanted to go somewhere else today!

Sometimes, I tune in to Dr. Phil as an exercise in social anthropology. Lately, I've scanned the parenting related shows and noted a recurring thought that resonated with me. He often tells overwhelmed parents who have caved to their fractious kids something like this:

“You don't put an end to this nonsense because it makes YOU feel good not to. If you don't step up, you avoid the nasty unpleasantness involved in the confrontation you know is coming. It makes YOU feel better to cater to their unreasonable whims. Never mind that you are cheating them. YOU feel better.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative - 2009
Do not despair. The noise you hear is not your computer dying. It is me groaning. He shot me right between the eyes. I am not one to back down easily, but the last decade or so has worn me down, remember? It was getting easier and easier to cave over some issues around here. Easier and easier till it was almost unbearable and had to stop.

I faced an unpleasant, distasteful fact. The buck stops with me. Yea. I know. That is covered in the Parenting 101 handbook they give you with the at home pregnancy test kits. I failed to get the memo, or mine was written in Mandarin which I don't read.

I'd love to tell you I came up with some  high-falutin', new fangled system for bullet proof parenting. It's not shiny or new. It's just old, tired, and true. If things were going to change around here, they had to change with me first. I had to toughen up, decide what I wanted, and then believe I wanted it badly enough that the troops I lead knew I believed it.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Here's the thing about kids: you let 'em smell indecision for a nanosecond, and you are toast. It's like a wolf smelling fear. You may as well offer up your throat and say, “Dinner's served!” So, I had to spend several days praying and thinking and deciding to die to myself and that desire to avoid confrontational parenting. Ok...I did a lot of confronting. It just didn't mean anything. So, I had to really think a lot about how to make my confrontations effective vs just the sound and fury of vain ramblings.

The experiment is well under way now. I am happy to say, life is feeling a little more like we are moving forward vs spinning our wheels and going nowhere fast. Now it is your turn to groan (I hope) as I tell you my time is all up for tonight. Why don't you come back tomorrow, and I'll tell you more about my decision to practice the gentle art of kamikaze parenting! Love you long and strong. See you soon, fraidy cat! 
Courtesy B. Creasy
Deuteronomy 4: 9 (NIV)
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

 Help Me Jesus by Rich Mullins

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Gentle Art of Kamikaze Parenting

Courtesy D. Scott
I don't even know where to start. Last week was a gauntlet with no visible end. I lived thru it. That's about all I can say. One day my Facebook status read: “I think I'll call in you think I'll get away with it?” The next day it read: “Forget a sick day, where do I go to resign?”

We all knew it was a joke. I wasn't going anywhere except the closet of social media. I hate to say it out loud, but sometimes I don't need pharmacological help. Facebook is more numbing than any meds would be! Yea, it's true. I shoot up with Facebook and try to forget my primary job in this season of life: parent and HOMESCHOOLING parent at that. It works for about 10 minutes, but reality always comes back to haunt me.

I know I am not alone in my struggles. A friend and I spent some time together last night. Like me, she is worn and weary because of a multiplicity of stressors: finances, 3 kids with unique health issues, homeschooling grades K5, 2nd, and 7th grades in the same year, caring for aging relatives, and on and on the list went. Dark circles punctuated her eyes indicating how bone-weary she is.

Courtesy B. Creasy
If we'd been out in the country, I might have feared the coyotes were about to lunge since I'm sure our vulnerability would have screamed, “Separate me from the herd! I'm ready to be eaten!” Thankfully, the lights of the city held them at bay, and we were safe to laugh out our mutual fatigue and relentless journey toward better parenthood.

I'm telling you, it is a fraidy cat world. If we don't stick together, the coyotes are waiting at the door. It is not our tough old hide they want. They want our kids! I am thankful for friends that get me thru when I don't want to keep at it anymore.

This past week, I realized that some habits we developed after I broke my leg had to go. I would have broken us of them many months ago, but chaos followed crisis after crisis until it was easier to embrace them and let them flourish unimpeded. And so, they did until I began to prepare Son #2 for the world of work and driving in anticipation of his birthday this summer. When I realized his 9th grade school year was ½ over, my sense of urgency grew more compelling. My time with him is running out.

When I coupled his life stage with my desire to prepare for an empty nest by developing a speaking and writing career, I knew it was time to kiss old habits goodbye. I should have warned you to buy stock in sedatives.....cause between the 2 of us, we were going to need 'a few', I feared!

I took some steps to our new and improved, more orderly life. My husband changed some of our computer settings which limited Son #2's access to the internet to certain hours of the day. As you might imagine, that step was a ROARING success, especially when he found out the limitations included any technological gizmo that afforded him internet access.

I tightened up the reigns on our use of time. Kids with ADD, ADHD, and Aspergers can have real struggles with an elastic sense of time. Given the flexibility of our days as homeschoolers, I have been content to work around that issue and concentrate on other battles – till last week.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
As I explained it to Son #2, he is on the cusp of being able to get a part-time job. Thus, the time has come for him to focus on accomplishing tasks in a timely manner or expect consequences. I gave him 4 days to ease into a new routine. I was about as successful as I would have been had I tried to push a cooked pasta noodle through a keyhole. It was enough to make me crazy. And, he knew what he was doing.

He had me sized up pretty well...thinking if he dilly-dallied long enough, I'd work around him like I always have. I quietly disabused him of that notion when he least expected it on day 5. We have a monthly extra-curricular event that he looks forward to with much excitement. Friday came and with it his expectation that we would set off for the event as usual.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The night before, I explained how our new routine would apply. Friday morning I set it in motion. He did as I expected and meandered thru the morning despite my gentle and ongoing reminders of our new system. Well after our time goal had expired, he came and indicated he was ready to move on to what I had requested.
He realized I was not ready to head out the door and began to panic. I looked up quietly from my work and said, “Oh, we are not going. Unless and until you begin to do what I ask you to do the 1st time I ask, we won't be going anywhere in the near future.”

I then endured about 20 minutes of raw emotion as he mourned his folly and begged for 2nd chances. I told him he'd had 4 days of those. He asked, “Help me! How can I calm myself down and get back to work?”

I replied, “I surely don't know. I hope you figure that one out. Let me know when you do.” To my amazement, the drama stopped almost on a dime, and he settled down to the tasks at hand.

I wondered how this week would go. Would I again have to assert my steadfast conviction that our new schedule is here to stay? I am thrilled to say that, so far, I have not. He asks each night what the schedule for the next day will be. When I set it in motion with the morning light, he is on board without much complaint. We are not running at 100% yet, but we have improved 1,000% over last week.

I have learned a few things about myself this last week. Why don't you come back tomorrow, and I'll tell you some secrets! Maybe I can keep you from making the same mistakes and having to learn the hard way like I have! Love you long and strong. See you soon! 

Galatians 6:  (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Metamorphosis of a Fraidy Cat -- Pt.2

Courtesy H. Nett
If you ever wondered about the power of prayer, most any question you have would surely be answered if you met my friend, Hannah. I am who she used to be even tho' I am older than her mother. How can that be, you ask? Because I am the fraidy cat she was before her metamorphosis. My feet remain solidly tethered to this earth. Her's have been set free to dance...upon the earth. When I asked how she managed to escape the chains that bound her in fear, she paused a moment before definitively answering with one simple word, “Prayer.”

Despite her fear of both the large and small requirements of daily life, she allowed herself to envision a different kind of world than the one she knew growing up. It was a world without fear. Her foundation of faith in a Creator God enabled her to trust him with her fear. She decided to forge ahead despite her fears and asked God to give her a heart to go where no fraidy cat in her right mind would think of going: Hawaii. Ok, we might THINK of going there, but we certainly would not do it ALONE at the tender age of 19!
Courtesy H. Nett

Hannah's God was faithful. He did, in fact, give her a heart to further her study of photography and enabled her to pull together the funding to do so. Her fears dissolved. She set off to embrace a brave, new world in which fear would become a thing of her past.

Our conversation darted here and there at a pace suggestive of the flight of dragonflies and hummingbirds as I tried to get my mind around her journey. The transition to Hawaii went smoothly. Her days were filled with classes and new friends. It was easy enough to network with family and friends back home. The 3 months there allowed her time to adjust to life without the comforts and supports of home before she set off on the bigger journey.

Courtesy H. Nett
As the group prepared to fan out across the globe for an international practicum, she was offered 3 locations from which to choose: China, South Africa, and Cambodia. How does one decide?

My young friend decided to write the names of the 3 countries on 9 slips of paper, so that each country was represented 3 times. She put the slips in a bowl and drew a slip out: China. She decided to return the slip to the bowl and draw from all 9 again. Again, she drew China. She repeated the process 4 more times. Each time, she drew China.

She chuckled at the telling of it all these months after the doing of it. “I decided God was trying to tell me something. I had always wanted to go to Africa, but I signed on for the China trip. It was as if he said, 'Follow me to China, and you will one day go to Africa.' So, I did.”

Courtesy H. Nett
Wonder of wonders, this young lady, who had been so afraid of meeting new people and speaking before groups, found herself doing both while in China. She had the opportunity to interact with young Chinese students working on their English speaking skills. As part of that interaction, she began to teach beginning photography skills to 2 different groups of students. One class met in a local coffee house. The other group met at a local university after a professor heard about her class and invited her to teach at his school.

Her class members ranged in age from 12 to 40 years old. The class included students, professors, young professionals, and even a young medical student. There she was – a fraidy cat in the midst of an amazing metamorphosis. This fraidy cat was becoming a teacher standing in front of a group of 30 strangers, for whom English was a 2nd language, doing what she feared most: public speaking.

Courtesy H. Nett
Eventually, she became aware of a the opportunity to join a tour group to North Korea. She joined folks from Uganda, Canada, Australia and other far flung countries who traveled in North Korea for 9 days. One lasting impression of the experience is the memory of how green and lush her surroundings were as they traveled. She was amazed at a performance given by children at a local orphanage. She sampled fish eyeballs and found that her favorite food is fried squid and stingray.

Her memories came at me in rapid fire bursts. It was obvious that she is still processing all she was able to experience in those few short days. I asked Hannah if she would like to visit China or North Korea again. “In a heartbeat,” she replied, “But next on my agenda is Africa.”

Courtesy H. Nett
Despite difficult days of transition when she first arrived in China, despite missing her bed and her family, despite feeling culturally isolated until she found her rhythm in China, she is ready to go again. Not long after returning home, she discovered that her church was sponsoring a trip to Africa. Remember that South Africa was one of the 2 countries she turned down to go to China? Guess what!

This former fraidy cat now plans to accompany her home church to a small town in South Africa where they will work with orphans affected by the Aids crisis as well as with trouble teens. She hopes to put her photography skills to use helping document the trip. That fraidy cat thing? I believe she has laid that dragon to rest.

Courtesy H. Nett
I asked, “What do you know about yourself that you did not know before you went on this journey?”

She replied, “I am stronger than I ever had any idea that I was. And, I am free. I have realized that no matter where I go, the Lord will be with me and give me a heart to be there. Fear does not control me anymore.”

And I say, “Fly fraidy cat, fly. And, Godspeed on your way.” 
Isaiah 41: 13 (NIV)
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Courtesy H. Nett
NOTE: Hannah hopes to travel to South Africa in early February if she is able to raise the funds to do so. In addition to holding down a job, she is offering portrait packages for local clients in an effort to raise the $2,300.00 needed for the trip. If you are moved by her story and would like to help fund her trip, her church is accepting contributions on her behalf.

To donate funds please click on this link:

So that your donation will be accurately posted, be sure and note:
Hannah Nett – South Africa 

Stay tuned for updates as Hannah continues to blossom in a world free of the old chains of fear!  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Metamorphosis of a Fraidy Cat – Pt. 1

Courtesy H. Nett
When I tell you what she told me, you won't believe it. I thought I had misunderstood so unlikely was the story. “No,” her mom said, “You heard correctly. That is where she's headed.” Even then it was surreal. She returned about the time Son #1 headed off for Australia.

Her mom and I commiserated during our mutual momentous weeks. Watching young ones escape the nest is tough enough when they are headed to the corner market. Watching them travel the world alone is downright paralyzing at times. So, we fretted, prayed, and agonized like moms do.

In time,” I asked, “I want to talk to her about how she came to do what she has done. Let's give her time to debrief and get her head around her travels. Let me know when you think she's ready?”

The time finally seemed right. We planned to meet for just an hour. By the time I asked the pivotal question, the only sign of the 3 hours that had passed was the chilly wind ushered in by the setting sun.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The last time I'd seen her, she was just one of the gang who had come to celebrate Son #1's 18th birthday. I had spoken with her briefly as her mom and I shared a few laughs. She had seemed quieter than her younger sister but not shy. Looking back, maybe I did think for just a second that she stood in the comfort of her mom's shadow. Never in a million years would I have guessed. 

I guess you've never been afraid,” I said as I began to pack up my writer's tools.

Her eyes widened as she settled back in her chair. I took my cue and opened my notebook once again. “Are you kidding?” she asked, “ I was afraid of EVERYTHIHNG. There was NOTHING I wasn't afraid of.”

I shook my head in wonder. “Seriously? You. Afraid? No way. What in the world have you ever been afraid of.”

Courtesy H. Nett
The list began to slide off her tongue in the way of one whose constant companion had always been fear. “Failure, making new friends, simple business transactions at a cash registers, talking to strangers, speaking in front of a group, doing homework independently, driving, going places by myself. I wouldn't even enter a store alone while my mom parked a car until I went on this trip. I was always afraid. Of everything.”

How in the world,” I asked, “did you overcome that level of fear to travel half way around the world and into a country that almost no outsiders go? What made you think this trip was something you might want to undertake? Or COULD undertake?”

Two years of online photography courses led to an opportunity for 6 additional months of training. This time, tho', schooling would not be via the computer in her home. She would have to travel to Hawaii for initial training and then on to China for more photography experiences. She had never been anywhere without a parent. Her longest trip had been within a day's drive.

Courtesy H. Nett
You know,” her eyes began to flash as she leaned forward, “I felt like it might be something God had planned for me. I did a lot of praying. I told him if he would give me the desire to go, I would go. I knew the desire would have to be strong enough to outweigh my fears. So, I prayed, and I waited. Before I knew it, I was not fearful. I was ready to go.”

As you can imagine, the China part of the trip first caught my attention. For all the say about unsocialized homeschoolers, my son and one of his friends have both traveled to China before they were 20 years old. I wonder how long it will take kids like these to unravel that misperception about homeschooled kids? Her trip would have commanded my attention if she had been only to China.

Courtesy H. Nett
As incredible as it seems, the trip to China led, of all places, over the border and into North Korea. Yes. You read that right. NORTH Korea. Until my young friend ventured there with a tour group, via China, I had no idea travel to that country was possible. My son had peered across the border into North Korea. Even that close encounter made this fraidy cat nervous. Before my very eyes sat his classmate who had been there and had the pictures to prove it!

As homeschooling moms, Mary and I had no idea the places our children would travel. We had only hoped we were preparing them to take on challenges and adventures far bigger than any we had embraced. Now, my son has been to China and Australia. Her daughter has been to China and North Korea and hopes to head to Africa in the next few weeks.

Hannah and my firstborn son amaze me. If you think fear of the unknown is a reason to recoil from taking the 1st step toward anything, remember these unsocialized homeschoolers!

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Think about the fears Hannah had to overcome. Do those same fraidy cats rub around your ankles and make themselves at home? Come back tomorrow and find out what happens when a fraidy cat emerges from her cocoon of fear. I know you want to know more about her life altering adventure. I sure did! 

Psalm 56:3 (NAS)
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

Comfortable in Our Own Skin

I close my eyes and wonder what it would be like if we were comfortable in our own skin, my family and I. The pictures of us together are few and far between because the process of standing and smiling and making it look carefree and natural is painful. Save for a few pleasant surprises, the snap of the camera finds us frozen and stiff. Our discomfort is frozen in time for all posterity.

I tell myself that the color coordinated pictures other families pose for with abandon are only artful cover stories. That behind the white shirts and blue jeans and away from the sandy beach where their smiles gleam like polished pearls, they are as itchy in their own skin as are we. I sit in the dark while the tears slip down my cheeks. I wait for God to show up and tell me why. Why can't we be comfortable in our own skin like those picture perfect people?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
If emotional work made itself known in the way of physical labor, I'd have bloody fingers and calloused hands from the arduousness of the effort. I look at my hands and imagine my heart as ragged and bruised as it feels. I put on my mask and smile and pretend we are one of those families on the beach, smiling back at you making you wish you were me. If only you knew the truth I am hiding.

The night is quiet and dark, and morning is on a relentless march towards me. Still I wait. “God. Are you there? Are you here in this lonely brokenness? Will you bring joy in the morning after the tears of this long night? Do you remember my name?”

Where has he been as my heart has broken in prayer? Has he heard my unselfish prayers crying out for the faith to keep believing and to keep reassuring my family even in the darkest of times? I have not asked for wealth or fame. I have asked for faith. I have asked for eyes to see when my heart is too weary to recognize reality. I have asked that my children have faith even stronger than mine. Still, I wait. I do the next thing and wait for God to show up.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
This week. This week has ground along with bone crunching agony. Waves of despair swept one of us away. In the heat of battle, despair over-washed us all. The very reassurance for which I have prayed mocks me. It flees from me as quickly as the dark from the dawn.

I have given chase until I feel as tho' I am chasing a fairy tale Gingerbread Man who will never be caught. All around me are reasons to give up. If I give up, how will we go on? What will become of us? Even tho' I don't want to, I move again. Doing the next thing because it must be done.

I am fighting to overcome 13 years of chaos. Chaos has consumed us for more than half of my children's lives. One grew to adulthood while we waited for normal again. In reality, chaos stalked us even when I did not know it was there. He hid in our lives like a suicide bomber waiting to make chaos even more chaotic at any given moment. How did we survive? How much longer can we survive?

It feels as if we will never escape. It feels too late. It feels as if chaos swallowed us up and spit us out again. The place we landed is so foreign and remote that we will never find our way back to where we should have been. I shake my head and clear the image. We will survive intact. We will find a way to thrive. Even if it kills me. We will.
2006 - A New Beginning

It has been 6 years now since I looked the monster in the eyes. I did not know all I would come to know. I knew enough. I staked my claim. I drew my boundaries. The room grew deathly quiet. The eyes looked back at me, unflinching, as if a 2nd pair of reptilian eyelids precluded the need to blink. The stiller the frame the greater the need for fear. I knew that truth without being told. Still I forged on.

My breath was measured, deliberate. My heart pounded as if at the command of a drum major in a marching band. I straightened my back and locked eyes. “I am not afraid of you. I may be the only person who will look you in the eye and tell you that. I am not. I do not know how we will escape this situation. As God as my witness, we will. We will move past this chaos. We will put our life and our family back together. I don't know how or when. We will. If it is the last thing I do.”

Six years later, life has returned to much of what it was before it disappeared all those years ago. Strangers passing on the street have no clue we are the walking wounded. But, we are different. Wounded. Faltering. Unsure. Uncomfortable in our own skin as individuals and as a family. A shell of what I had hoped we'd be or what we might have been.

I am weary of the war. I want to see my sons laugh with abandon and move thru life with a sense of well-earned ease. I want them to move forward without always checking over a shoulder to see if disaster is again waiting to pounce. I want them to have a sense of roots and community which was torn away from them because chaos was always at the door. I want God to lean close and whisper, “Welcome home. Take a deep breath. It is ok to be comfortable in your own skin.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Hello, fraidy cat. I do not know what your chaos is...only that you do not have to explain it to me. You are both safe and welcome here. One must not be a super hero of the faith to belong. We live in a fraidy cat world where everyone needs a safe place to call home. I hope you will find this a warm and comforting haven as you journey through your days. Come again often and bring a friend. Love you long and strong. See you soon? 

Courtesy B. Creasy
Hebrews 11: 1(ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 
Hebrews 10: 39 (NIV)
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fraidy Cat Fences in a Fraidy Cat World

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I'm in a relationship with life. It's complicated.” The words of her Facebook status jumped up off the screen at me grabbing me by the heart. I winced at her vulnerability. I knew all the successes and failures that led to that post. Her comment resonated with me because I felt her summation perfectly expressed my own sense of life: messy, complicated, and, often times, lonely.

Our paths crossed some years ago. We were both homeschoolers. I'm not sure we ever met face to face beyond more than just in passing. Despite that thin line of connection, technology has allowed us to keep in touch. She'd asked an occasional 'how to' question. I'd send along some info with a quick pep talk and wish her well. And so it went.

One frightful day, I got an urgent note that her family was in some distress. Danger actually. They were in hiding with police protection because of domestic violence. My husband and I went into emergency mode and extended help thru intermediaries. She got in touch when she could while the courts did what was necessary to protect her family. It was scary for all of us. Sadder still given her husband's reputation among their friends and church family. 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
In time, she reported that life was more settled. She and her children were struggling but happy and safe. Time did what it does and meandered along at lightening speed. My preoccupations caused my memory of her to dim without my even realizing it. On a particularly perplexing day when I was feeling as if I was a tired, old rug no one wanted anymore, her name popped up in my inbox.

“You may not remember me, but I wanted to write and thank you.” She reminded me of the chaos she had survived and wanted me to know she was about to complete nursing school. She thanked me for the long forgotten help we had once extended. She spoke of how I had encouraged and inspired her. I cried like a baby. I still do when I think of it. A fraidy cat like me inspired a courageous young woman like her? Kinda takes your breath way, doesn't it.

Courtesy and in Loving Memory of Christina Jones Hooker
Last May when I launched this blog, I was mesmerized by those little pictures as they popped up one by one signifying another person had elected to 'follow' my ramblings via one mode or another. At first, I recognized my loyal friends. Then, the day came when a little mystery face popped up with a code name meant to maintain privacy. It took some sleuthing on my part until I was finally able to email her and ask, “Is that YOU?”

I could almost hear her laughing over the internet. “Yes. You got me.”She admitted she was a fellow fraidy cat. I cried again.

How improbable this complicated thing called life? Our lives mix and mingle, and then life moves us along to different places and times. Yet, the connection remains. She could not have known that, in just the moment I've needed to know I was significant, she would reach from the quiet and darkness of cyberspace to lift me up. In her darkest times, she had come looking for me knowing I was 'safe' to run to. Fraidy cat friends do that when masks are no longer needed.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
More recently, her life has been tough and lonely as the days of a working single parent have taken their toll. My instant message box popped up. “Pray for me,” and her fears, loneliness and fatigue leaked across her screen and into my heart. I told her I was and would. I told her that I expected to hear from her again over the next few days with updates. I kept checking back till it seemed the worst was over.

We have taken turns being each other's band-aid. Because we are in a complicated relationship with life. If you are reading this post, you know that reality as well as do my sweet friend and I. In this fraidy cat world, we are presented with far too many opportunities to separate ourselves from each other. We do it with as much expertise as the craftsmen who erect back yard privacy fences.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Christians raise the expertise to a fine art, I fear. We do it for honorable purposes because God's word says things like, “flee from all kinds of evil.” So, in the interest of raising uncomplicated children who are unsullied by the world, we wall ourselves off from families who make different choices or whose children struggle to find their way.

We justify the ostracism in spiritual terms and tell ourselves how much better off we are. We go another step and proclaim that the object of our ostracism will be better too because of our courage in distancing them. 

We forget, I fear. Jesus mingled with the publicans and sinners alike. He called a tax collector down from a tree and said, “I'm going to your house for lunch.” He said, “Be in the world but not of...” indicating we were to be active in our communities. He expects us to develop relationships with others whose faith-driven choices differ from ours knowing we can only do HIS work if we are out among the 'worldly world' to do the work required.

Yet, our fears drive us to put ourselves into the gear called 'protect' and make sure we keep a safe distance between us and those whose lives indicate a different level of spiritual growth and discernment.

Courtesy B. Creasy

We forget that God's word says, “There is no fear in love because perfect love drives out fear.” Love you long and strong fraidy cat. Consider the walls you have in place. Which ones serve you well? Which ones are there for your comfort but keep you from fulfilling your primary directive in life: love your neighbor as yourself. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Parents Make Mistakes

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I never knew a hiss could be earsplitting till that moment. Till the moment she exploded, I assumed she was listening with only 1 ear. 

I had prattled on while she busied herself with one of her never-ending, must-be-done-right-now chores. 

“What do you MEAN I made MISTAKES? Parents don't MAKE mistakes!” Even now almost 25 years later, I can hear her wrath and feel the heat of her gaze.

If I tell you the truth, it will be embarrassing. The scene exploding around me was born earlier in the day. I was with a group of young wives and a couple of ones that had been married a while. The one doing most of the talking drove me NUTS. As in: I'd rather have listened to chalk squeal the length of a 2-block long chalk board than tolerate her voice for 10 seconds. 

July 2009
They said she was Phi Beta Kappa smart. She seemed as ditzy as I have acted all day long today. When her mouth moved, my secret set of inner eyeballs rolled around in disgust. I know. It wasn't Christian of me at all. I embarrass myself admitting it all these years later.

In the midst of the discussion that day, she said something that jerked me bolt upright on the chair in which I'd been slouching while praying for a nap to deliver me. 

“As a parent, you will make mistakes. Forgive yourself. God is Sovereign. He is Sovereign over everything...even the mistakes you make as a parent. So, season your parenthood with prayer. Ask forgiveness of God and of your children when you blow it. Then, forgive yourself and let God, in his Sovereignty, redeem your mistakes."

I sat there trying not to look slack-jawed in amazement and wondered where she had been hiding all that wisdom. Even today, I shake my head in wonder.

After the get together, I went to visit my mom. In my state of newly-wedded naivete, it never occurred to me that she would take exception to the wisdom I was sharing. I started out telling her how amazed I was that this formerly uninspiring individual got my attention and held it. 

Courtesy B. Creasy
I told Mom what a relief the concept had been to me: “Parents make mistakes. All parents. I am so relieved to think of it from this new perspective.” That's when she blew like a newly dug oil well!

My perfectly mannered Southern Belle of a mamma went all postal on me. I might be slow to learn sometimes, but I caught on real quick-like that day. I called her attention to a speck of dust she missed and narrowly avoided annihilation by getting her to again focus on her 1st love: cleaning. 

That speck of dust probably saved my life so that I could practice failing as a parent. I think she finally forgave me when she met my sons. Actually, they distracted her enough that she didn't mind me so much anymore! Maybe.

With all due respect to my mother and to the Phi Beta Kappa ditz of long ago, that nugget of truth has remained with me all the 22 years of my parenting life. On the days when I have single-handedly broken my own heart with one parenting mistake after another, I have heard those words, “Season your parenting with prayer, forgive yourself, and let God, in his Sovereignty, redeem your mistakes."

Boy, have I needed that gem this week. In fact, I've even day dreamed about apologizing to that Phi Beta Kappa beauty queen. You see, I have failed at parenting every single day this week. No one is bleeding, and we are all still speaking. But, it has not been pretty. At all. 

August 2010
Parenting is hard under the best of circumstances. Parenting a kid on the Asperger's Spectrum is enough to break you about 3 times a day if not 3 times an hour.

Despite our best efforts to communicate, I totally mis-read Son #2 this week. The walls vibrated from the intensity of our loud, hot, angry, desperate voices. By the time understanding dawned, our cheeks were soaked in the tears of failure and mutual disgust. When we were both spent, I was so tired I could barely blink.

We wept. I prayed and asked God to forgive us for our anger and for my failure. I asked him to redeem the mess I'd made of things. I looked in Son #2's eyes and said, “I'm sorry. I understand. I can address the situation that perplexes you.” I did my best to do so.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Later that day, he came to me, bent over almost double, and wrapped his arms around me. How did he get to be so tall? 

“Mom, I'm sorry. I don't know how things got so messed up. What can I do to help make things better?” 

I'd love to tell you that we all lived happily ever after. We haven't. First weeks back into the routine of school after a holiday are enough to break us both. I tremble at the unmitigated mess I can make of things. I take a deep breath, sigh, and summon back the scene from long ago. 

I am slumping ever lower in my chair wishing I could listen to squeaky chalk. My self-absorption arrests when the Phi Betta Kappa speaks: “God is Sovereign over your mistakes.”

Oh, Dear Lord, if ever that is true, let this be the week. Let this be the day. Consecrate my parenting before your eyes. Redeem my failures, and make my sons who you want them to be in spite of me. In spite of me.

Courtesy B. Creasy  -  2010
Love you long and strong, fraidy cat. God is Sovereign. Even over your mistakes. I hope you will carry those words with you as long as I have and that they will encourage you to keep moving forward even when you feel as tho' failure is all you know. See you soon? 

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

Psalm 37:24 (NLT)
Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.