The Most Seemingly Perfect Days With the Most Seemingly Imperfect People

No one could be more imperfect than the members of my immediate family.  The people that I live with–that I breathe in and out with right there beside me for all my days–are the ones I know the best. And the more deeply you know a person, the more imperfections you see.

There’s no better example of this phenomenon than on a family vacation. It’s a time of togetherness and closeness that’s much more lengthy than the brief moments squeezed in to everyday life and hustle. With space to breathe and be and rest together comes up-close looks at each other.

I see one child’s insecurities and dramatic flairs on a whole new level. I see one child’s impulsive decisions and annoying habits. I see one child’s OCD tendencies trying to dominate the schedule. We’ve all got our things. Our quirks and our weaknesses that are a big part of us. When you put all that together times five people, it’s called family.

But just as I start to decide our teenager can’t stand being with us based on the vibes I’m getting, she reaches out and holds dad’s hand. And in that moment, everything imperfect fades away.

holdinghandsI am in the most perfect moment with the most imperfect people.

When we’re tired and we’ve disagreed on where, when and what to eat. When the children are drinking out of all the straws and once and you’re just waiting for them to spill. And then a child prays the most appreciative and heart-felt prayer before dinner…

drinksI am in the most perfect moment with the most imperfect people.

When I say “Let’s take a selfie to remember this day!”, and I look back at my phone to find this, I literally fight back tears.

famBecause I am in the most perfect moment with the most imperfect people.

The beautiful thing is that love covers imperfections.  Love wins out over tendencies and quirks. Love will not be overcome by the grouchy, hangry or OCD family members in my midst. Love means that when you are with your people, they are free to be their most imperfect selves. And your days, or at least many of the moments, will feel quite perfect.

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Parenting in Uncharted Waters

sam-drivingThis is one of those weeks where it feels that as parents, we are entering many uncharted waters.

Uncharted waters are different than deep waters. Deep waters are over my head. There are plenty of those times too. But right now we are in a stage of simply new waters.

I cleared my calendar and set aside today to be all about my fifteen-year-old son Sam. He was exempt from his mid-terms and had the day off. I quickly took over his day and filled it. I put an IBC cream soda in the fridge for him. He got them for Christmas, and he still had two left. He saves them for “special occasions”, and I decided that today should be considered one.

We got him up early to take care of his driving test and he passed and got his learner’s permit. Then I carted him off to a dental appointment. We had a special lunch together. I love our dates so much that I had been looking forward to these hours all week. He chose sushi. We talked about what summer programs he wanted to register for in preparation for a meeting this afternoon with his academic adviser. January is the time he schedules his summer program, and it takes all of those months for me to be ready to send him off to other states on airplanes.  See “Letting My Son Go Places Without Me”

I realized this very day when looking on the calendar that exactly 11 years ago, he’d officially decided to become a Christian. All those years ago, I was so honored to be the one that sat on the couch with him too late that evening and answered his profound 4-year-old questions. (Read that story here.) What a special gift that I had set aside today, of all days, to spend with him.

Here he sat eating sushi with me at age 15. He’s almost a foot taller than me with his rough head of curls that popped up out of nowhere a few months ago.  There are a lot of questions he doesn’t bother to ask me anymore. Our minds work so differently. We don’t connect on a lot of things, and he knows too much more than me to converse enjoyably in some areas. But the things we do talk about are rich. He values my opinions and thoughts, and we’re starting to learn what “fields” we can have real discussion in.

This is our oldest kid that has taken us  to most of the uncharted waters of parenting. The first to walk, start school, get a phone, and become a teenager. He’s an easy kid, and he eased us into these waters. Sure, there are days that are disappointing for him and for us. But he’s taken us to all of these new parenting places with such gentleness, and for that I am so very grateful.

So now we are teaching him to drive. We are preparing to send him off to new places. We are starting to talk about college. We are in many uncharted waters with him at the moment. I feel a little anxious, but not scared. My heart hurts in the transitions, but I am not worried about the outcomes.

I feel so much love for this jewel of a boy that made me a mother, and who is truly a joy to parent. im000010

 

Keep Your Eyes On Me

lydsinging

When my daughter Lydia was four years old, she sang a solo in our church for maybe the first time. She basically had no fear. She had the confidence, the love for music and the voice to go with it. I talked to her ahead of time about how she might feel when she was up on stage in front of everyone, and how it would feel a little different to her once everyone was watching. She said, “Mommy, even if I’m scared, I’m still gonna sing.” And she was right.

When Lydia sang, I was watching her and mouthed the words. I thought it would help her and keep her from getting off. I still to this day sometimes mouth the words when I’m watching her sing in public, which is ridiculous. She doesn’t need my help, but it’s instinct. I guess it’s like the thing where your mouth opens and closes when you’re feeding a baby with a spoon. (Y’all know that’s a thing, right? It’s crazy to me our reflexes.)

Anyway, on this particular Sunday of this sweet little solo that was about 12 little measures of music…..her microphone decided to screech. Loudly. So loudly that some people were holding their ears from it, making faces and had audible responses. However, Lydia was unfazed and kept singing right in time, calmly and beautifully. What was her secret?

She kept her eyes on me.

 

See, I didn’t react at all to the microphone incident. No matter how I felt about it on the inside, I did not let that show. I thought only of my treasured little child watching me, following my lead, going with my cues. She kept calm because she had her eyes on me. Peace amidst a chaotic moment. And everyone was amazed.

If she had looked around, she probably would have stopped singing. If she had seen the faces and responses of the people in the crowd, she might have thought that something was wrong or that there was reason to be alarmed. But because I wasn’t alarmed, she was calm.

How many times has my situation seemed impossible, scary or like too much chaos because I’ve had my eyes on someone other than my loving Father? Perspective is so very important. The situation doesn’t change, but the way you feel depends on who you’ve got your eyes on. God will never be in a panic. He will not have an emotional overreaction to a situation. When you keep your eyes on him, you choose the road of peace.

Island Life: My First Criminal Lineup

house

In our early days of marriage and parenting, Nathan and I packed up our two young children and moved to a small island in the West Indies to get Bible stories into a language that had no written verses of scripture. This is a story about that season of my life. You can read more about our island days here.

After a couple of months on the island of St. Vincent, I started noticing that I couldn’t find a few of our clothes. Then one day our clothesline that had been full of laundry was suddenly empty. Someone was stealing things from our yard. They even took a precious little pair of red ladybug rain boots off our front porch.

That was a bad feeling. We started taking our clothes down quickly, and creating a make-shift spot to hang laundry inside the house too. But that was only the beginning.

One day I walked into our kitchen only to find a man in there loading up food items from the cupboard into a sack.  As soon as I entered the room, he quickly left the house out the door from the carport to the kitchen where he had entered to begin with. The door was kept opened, as were all our doors and windows as this was the hottest house I have ever been in. (And I have lived in some hot places.) We had a conversation where he tried to act like he had been in the carport to clean our car, as though I hadn’t seen him in the house. I tried to keep him engaged in conversation and was speaking really super loud, trying hard for Nathan to hear in the other room. It didn’t work, and I’m not sure how that would have helped anyway except to make me feel a little safer.

The guy finally started running off into the woods behind the house and I screamed. Then Nathan came but the guy was gone, and chasing him into the woods unarmed didn’t seem like a good plan. Even if Nathan could catch him, did he want to be known as the missionary guy that came and took down some poor homeless man that was in search of food?

Another day soon after, we found our sliding door just  barely cracked opened to the spot where the stick on the track caught it. There was a giant hand print smear, and this was a door that we didn’t use. So Nathan started sleeping in a bed we moved by that door, and we decided we’d better go to the police.

I had to describe the man. I then later had to go back and look for him in a criminal lineup. I remember how nervous I felt because I wanted to be so very sure that I wasn’t identifying an innocent person.

One thing I don’t remember much is fear for our own safety. As I recall this story and think about the emotions that seem they should go with it, it’s like this didn’t happen to me.  Because how did I not live in fear?  Someone had discovered that we were foreigners with really cool imported items that they wanted, and they were persistent in trying to get them. At night, we had our two sweet children tucked away in beds beside us while someone repeatedly tried to get into our home. We had computers full of hours of work on the project that we would not be able to replace if stolen.  And yet, I don’t remember fear. I remember sleeping well at night, closed up in that room with a very loud air conditioner, not giving much thought at all to who might be trying to enter our home.

I can only give credit to our great God. He is the one who gives peace. He was and is our protector. He kept us from living in fear and brought us through that season.  He brought peace and calm to my heart, despite the circumstances. He will do it for me and for you anytime we will let him.