Never Disappointed

“I’m disappointed in you.”

Ever heard that from your parents?  Said it to your kids?  Felt like that’s what God would say to you?

Evidently, there’s a child-rearing Bible study out right now that justifies the use of the above statement with children.  The very idea gives me what my Granny would have called the “heebee jeebees.”  My parents, thanks be to God, never said those words to me.  Somehow I still always knew when I’d made a mistake. I’ve been talking with my 14 year old about this when she recently expressed she thought God was disappointed in her.  My heart broke to find she actually thought that, and yet the more I think it through, the more I wonder how many people use this method, and further, how many think God uses it on His kids?  Think about some things with me:

How effective could the statement, “I’m disappointed in you.” actually BE?  I say, not effective at all.  Unless, of course, you are attempting to accomplish humiliation, irritation, and ill feelings between you and your child.  Perhaps some say this phrase and really mean, “I know you can do better.”  or “I wanted better things for you.” or “I expected you to make a better choice, and I’m surprised you chose this way.”  But when “I’m disappointed in you.” comes out, what it REALLY communicates is:  “If you performed better, I’d be happier with you.”  and “I’m in a certain class, and you, because of your choices, no longer qualify to be in my upper crust group.”  and “I’m embarrassed by you because you aren’t as good as me.”  and “You’re just not as good as I thought you were.”

If I desire to parent my children as God would parent me, then I can’t say “I’m disappointed in you.”  You see, God, no matter how big my mistake has been, hasn’t been disappointed in me.  He hasn’t been disappointed in you.  Disagree?  Then I would ask you, how, if Jesus knew of your every sin when He died on the cross for you, could he possibly be disappointed?  Disappointment, by its essence, includes an element of surprise, an element of expecting one outcome and actually receiving another.  Yet God in His omniscience knew every bad choice you and I would make and still gave His only Son to be sin for us, to bear our punishment.  He knew EXACTLY the outcome.  You and I have never once surprised God, even with the most outrageous of our antics.  And without some element of surprise, you can’t have disappointment.

But I’m not omniscient like God, right?  Right. I still feel upset when my kids make bad decisions. However, unless I think that God has waited until now to create the first three perfect humans since Jesus and given them to me to be my children, then I must expect that these precious ones WILL make mistakes.  I should expect that they’ll have the same drives, same temptations, same flaws that all humans have and will, on occasion, fail to measure up to standard as they fight to handle their frailty.  More than wanting my children to know how upset I am that they messed up, I want them to learn from their mistakes, and I want them to know they don’t have to be perfect to be LOVED.

How very grateful I am that God is teaching this idea to me, His daughter.  His grace wasn’t given to me because I earned it, but because He loves me.  I’m so glad He isn’t waiting until I’m good enough to give me His approval, but gave it to me for free, based on the perfection of Jesus Himself.  I’ve striven many years to be “good enough,” to be as perfect as I could be, and yet I’ve always come up feeling like my best just didn’t make the cut.  What a freedom to be loved by God in spite of my flaws!  With that belief, I’m free to be me, to love God back, and continue getting to know Him through my own good and bad times.  The temptation to just quit, since I’ll never measure up anyway, is gone.  I’ve already “measured up” because of Jesus, so now I can get to know God and myself and explore who He made me to be.

I want that so much for my kids.  I want them to know that kind of love.  I want them to know the One who IS that kind of love.  I want them to climb higher than I ever dreamed they could, because they have the confidence to try, knowing they’ll be loved whether they succeed or fail.  That’s what I have in God, it’s what my parents lived for me, and what I want my own babies to know above all else, even as I try to believe it myself.

 

 

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Blast From The Past!

In honor of my amazing sister and all those times that there’s nothing left to do but throw back your head and laugh… I love you, Angie!!

>Weird (by Becky)
January 2, 2007 in Uncategorized, Where I’ve Been with 4 Comments

>I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice how my life constantly teeters on the edge of the ridiculous. Does that ever happen to you? I try my hardest to be a civilized, respectable, cordial woman; but the absurd is ever-present, always lurking just below the surface, reminding me that high class is just out of my reach. As a young girl, even as a newlywed I had wonderful visions of a clean, civilized life where I would have well behaved children, a well-kept home, a well-maintained figure, and a well-known career. Of course, I would have an attractive husband, I would be well-spoken and well-read. I would engage in intelligent conversation, be witty and charming, and go around doing grown up civilized things like having meetings, going to lunch with friends, shopping, cooking wonderful dinners, and driving a clean smelling car. And you know, that is actually how I picture myself most of the time. I ignore the laundry piles, pizza boxes, crumbs, and elastic waistbands; and picture myself just one step away from achieving my dream. I would be happy in my deluded concept of reality, except the most random things pop up to keep me aware that though I have some aspects of my dream in the bag, other parts of my life would make great displays in Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums.

Case in point: Friday, my sister and I were sitting at a restaurant. We had taken my brother to the airport and were enjoying a nice civilized lunch, savoring time together while I’m in my hometown for a visit. We were looking forward to seeing a movie together later in the evening. We were laughing, joking, and engaging in grown-up conversation. For a few moments, we had it! We WERE the dream. Two intelligent, attractive, classy women lunching together like civilized adults. My sleek, civilized cellular phone rang, and I answered. My husband was on the other end ready to lower the boom of the absurd. “I have some news you need to know,” he said. He proceeded to inform me that my daughter had spent the day before we left town with a friend who now has head lice. Immediately, I shifted from high-class adult to red-neck, white trash queen of the ridiculous, ready to fight off the constant barrage of random craziness my life continues to throw at me. Our intelligent conversation shifted from the politically correct use of the word “thin” referring to Mary in a sermon, (how did he know she was thin anyway?) to how many packs of lice treatment kits we would need to treat all the people at mom and dad’s house. (We figured two packs would do it.) Then we lost all couth as we hooted about how our movie plans were now “Nixed.” (As all the moms out there will know, Nix is a brand of lice treatment shampoo.) We were getting punchy and people were starting to stare. I don’t know, I just somehow never imagine myself at lunch with another intelligent adult, strategizing about the fastest, most preventative way to treat ten people for head lice, then laughing my head off about it. Sure, I might pass up movie plans for a better offer, but certainly, it never occurred to me that I’d sacrifice my movie plans to form a head lice treatment assembly line. Sorry, but head lice eradication was never a part of the dream.

There I was as my dream self, having a perfectly normal lunch, and it quickly descended into the ridiculous. The evening only got more absurd. We drove home, making a pit stop at the drug store for the lice shampoo, and began the treatment. It was starting to seem normal. No one had any sign of the bugs, but we weren’t taking chances. We got into a good groove shampooing one kid while the next kid was rinsing and the next combing out. We were spraying furniture and stripping beds. Again, the phone rings. This time my sister picked it up and got the news that my nephew had gone to the back of our property on his four wheeler and was stuck. We had just discovered him missing when it came his turn for the shampoo. We continued carrying out the lice treatment while now trying to calm our parents down and find a kid who just buried his four wheeler. Somebody showed up to pull out the four wheeler, (around our neighborhood there are plenty of good ole boys with 4×4’s just waiting for a chance like that) we stripped the muddy kid and put him in the shower as last to be treated for lice. By that time, we had lost all vision of the dream. We allowed life to spiral all the way down to utterly absurd. We loaded up everybody and went down to Jerry’s Restaurant (which isn’t actually called Jerry’s, but the guy who owns it is Jerry) for the Friday night fish fry. We took up a whole room in the place and gave at least one waitress a night to remember. We yelled out stuff no one ever plans to say, like “Get your mouth off the back of that chair,” and “Siddown! This room ain’t a race track!”

So much for high class living. Isn’t it funny how we have a concept of the way life should be? Like my life should look like an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, when in reality it’s more like a marathon of Roseanne. For some reason I keep holding to the dream. Maybe it pacifies me to pretend I can have a civilized life. Maybe it just keeps me sane to have a glimpse of high class adulthood once in a while. I don’t know. I considered it tonight in deep thought as I drove home listening to my kids sing their own original composition “Worms are Weird.” Rest assured, kids, it’s not just the worms that are weird!!

Truth is, that though I never dreamed of preventing lice, saving an ATV, and shutting down a local greasy spoon all in one night, the ridiculous things in my life bring the most laughter and fun. If not for the completely random junk like that, I might never throw back my head and laugh embarrassingly loud. I might never come close to wetting my pants or throwing up because I’ve laughed so hard. I might not have memories of some crazy but special times shared with my family and friends. Maybe it’s time to alter my dream. Maybe it’s time to embrace the stupidity of my life and cherish it for the smile-inducing wonder that it is. Or maybe I’m just weird.

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Cut From the Same Cloth

At the end of this month, a memorial ceremony will be held and a new gravestone set at the site of my great, great grandfather’s grave. The little I know about William T. Jeffries includes a family story about his service in the Confederate Army.  He walked to the battlefield, only to lose an arm in the fighting.  He continued to help with horses, perform other duties for some time until his discharge.  I can remember as a little girl staring at a picture of the one-armed man in a dusty looking coat.  My childish mind had little concept of what it must have been like to lose a limb in battle, then go back to serve some more.  I marvel now at the determination and grit, bravery and commitment he had.  It’s not so much the cause for which he fought, but the courage and commitment with which he lived that interests me.

And I’m cut from the same cloth.

 My Grandmother, Lavada Jeffries, was a lady through and through.  She carried herself with the utmost grace and sweetness at all times.  She had a tender way about her, but was fierce in her determination.  She lived far beyond the doctor’s prediction by simply refusing to give up.  Her children can testify she was a force to be reckoned with, and was not to be disobeyed.  As her grandchild, I rarely saw her iron fist but was lavished with plenty of her sweet-smelling hugs, and heard plenty of reassuring words in her soft lilting voice.  I ate my share of her amazing biscuits and loved her vegetable soup.  As I grew older, we read our Bibles together in the morning and shared cheese toast before I left for school.

Years later after she was gone, I was in the depths of despair after my first husband confessed an affair.  I had tried to keep my misery from my dad, not wanting to stress him out since he had his own health problems, plus not sure how a daddy like mine would react to the betrayal of his girl.  Daddy knew, though.  He found a moment alone with me under the carport and I’ll never forget his words.  “I know what’s going on with you, Baby.  Your mama told me; I made her tell me.  I know it’s bad right now.  But don’t you forget whose granddaughter you are. (He nodded toward Granny’s house.)  You’re just like her.  Made from the same strong stuff.  You can do this.”

He was reminding me I’m cut from that same cloth.

My mother has been a minister for as long as I can remember.  Her world is her pulpit, especially the McDonald’s drive thru, the local thrift stores, and the patients for whom she tenderly cares.  Shirley Jeffries was into women’s ministry before women’s ministry even existed.   As a little girl, I learned to braid hair from one of mom’s friends.  We spent quite a bit of time at Donna’s house and now, looking back, I know that my mom was ministering to that lady and her two young boys through a divorce that left them penniless and a disease that left Donna disabled.  I’ve seen my parents stop along the roadside to pick up a stranded single mother.   As a girl, I was no stranger to nursing homes, funeral homes, and hospitals.  Now I know my mom, and dad too, were busy in those places, singing, loving, praying, visiting, helping people along the way.

And I’m cut from the same cloth.

These days I’ve been super concerned about my own children.  I have been lamenting the fact that I’ve failed to give them one childhood home to remember.  I’ve failed to give them so many things I hoped and dreamed they would have.  I’ve had my heart set on building a plan to stay in the same place and finally give them more than two consecutive years in the same school.  I still want that continuity for them, but a friend of mine pointed out something that helped me relax a little, and got me thinking about the kind of stock we come from.

It’s not about the house we have, and it’s not about my ability to protect my kids from the pains of life.  I can’t do that.  But I CAN show them what kind of fabric makes up their genes, what kind of blood runs through their veins.  My job is to concentrate on building that character into my children and it doesn’t take money or a house or lack of troubles to do that.  It’s more important to know the kind of people we ARE not the kind of place we live or kind of things we have.

I want my kids to look back, consider my faith and my courage, my smile and my laughter, my love and my commitment and say:

“I’m cut from the same cloth.”

 

 

 

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Can’t Do That In Heels!

This morning I was all dressed and ready for work.  I had on what I call a “sophisticated businesswoman costume” complete with a cute pair of heels.  I was checking on the dog, helping my oldest with her vocabulary, and packing a lunch when I heard a ringing sound.  I looked up to find that my toddler had my phone in his hand and was making a call.  I took a step toward him so that I could grab the phone and avoid disturbing who knows who from my contact list, but as slippery toddlers tend to do, he ran.

Funny how little legs can move so quickly.  Not so funny how I couldn’t keep up with him. I tapped and clopped after him in my high heels, doing my best not to slip on the tile floor and end up in the emergency room.  Guess what?  High heel shoes aren’t made for chasing speedy little boys with impish grins and ringing cell phones in their hands.

Caleb giggled and I kept tapping and clopping, feeling larger and more clumsy with every step.  Around the dining table we went, through the kitchen and into the next room where big sister was working on vocabulary.  Mackenzie stuck out her hand and helped me catch Caleb and I snatched away the phone.  We discovered then with a sigh of relief that he was calling his big sister.  We disconnected the call and I proceeded to finish the morning craziness, inching ever closer to tears.  With a few minutes left before time to leave and a few things left to accomplish, I kicked off the heels so I could function as mom.  And function I did, as I started the dryer, put on some makeup, fixed breakfast, and then, in my last act of motherly bravado, changed the poopy diaper that appeared at the exact moment I should have been walking out the door.

I stepped back into the heels, grabbed all the necessary stuff, loaded the car and backed down the driveway with a sigh.  My heart is always heavy as I end my mommy time and start my professional businesswoman time.  Did I do what I should?  Was I too crabby?  Will they remember how much I love them?  Did I forget the cookie dough fundraiser?  When will I get around to hemming his pants?  Do I have enough diapers?

Tonight, after everyone was in bed, I realized as I squeezed out the last of my contact solution that I forgot, again, to pick up more today.  I also forgot to get the alka seltzer I like to keep on hand, and the orange soda Mackenzie needs for a science experiment.  There are some documents in my purse that need to be scanned and emailed.  They’ve been there 4 days now.  So I’m letting the tears flow at this point.  Sometimes I have to let the spinning plates drop and just cry over my inability to do it all.  Sometimes I have to nurse the blisters that pop up from trying to chase tiny boys while wearing high heel shoes.

Maybe I’ll invent a pair of perfect shoes.  Ones that look sophisticated and gorgeous, but have traction for running after two-year-olds, with comfort that makes standing in the grocery store line a pleasure, and of course they’ll match every outfit.

But there is no such perfect shoe, just like there’s no such perfect me. It’s impossible.  What I’ll do is keep living my life, keep loving my kids, keep working hard, keep learning and growing and chasing, and make the best of the times when I just plain have on the wrong shoes.

And I’ll keep smiling.  I CAN do that in high heels!

 

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Reason #2

Reason #2 Why I Can’t Say No:  I REALLLLLY want to spoil my kids.

It’s been a long day at work.  Up since 6am, when I hit the ground running, I turn my key in the door and enter the house.  Three of the most beautiful faces in the world come barrelling towards me screaming “MAMA!!”  I get tackled with a three-tiered hug, my thirteen-year-old around my neck, 8-year-old around my middle, and the 1-year old somewhere around my knees.  It’s my favorite moment of the day.  My kids are EXPERTS at the welcome home. 

They must know how absolutely adorable and wonderful they are, because soon after, as I fight the urge to collapse, they begin with the requests.  Can we go to the park?  How about the mall?  Can I get on Facebook?  Can we buy this new toy from the sale paper I got at school?  Can I go to the movies?  Bottle? Juice?  I need new shoes!  Can we ride our bikes?  Can I spend the night with Lauren?  Can we rent a movie?

My weary body and mind are screaming, “NOT TODAY!  NOT NOW!  Could everyone just freeze for a while and not need anything from me?”  But my heart.  My heart says “YES!  YES you adorable little miracles!  You can go to the park and jump up and down and laugh and enjoy every moment to your heart’s content.  You can go have fun with friends, see cool movies, and shop at the mall for all the new stuff.  You can get new shoes AND the toy from the catalog from school.  And yes, I’ll get you a bottle with any kind of juice you please!”

There is a memory seared into my soul of my oldest, Mackenzie, as she spontaneously physically jumped for joy.  The sight literally took my breath away. That look of happiness on my baby’s face is something I will hold dear until I die.  I wish I could see that intensity of joy in all three of them every day.  My big two, especially, have experienced more sadness than I can stand thinking about.  Hurricane Katrina was something I couldn’t help, but the divorce, the moving, the other changes they’ve weathered, I can’t help the deep, awful regret that I caused them that pain.  Not on purpose, of course, and in some ways due to choices I made before they were born, but still if I had done differently, maybe they wouldn’t have hurt so much.  That idea nags me even though I know on my sane days that I did all I could and even when I messed up, my heart always wanted the best for them.  Perhaps I’ll always be making it up to them in some way.  Maybe every divorced or single parent feels this way.  Maybe every parent period who realizes his or her mistakes have hurt the children would be vulnerable to this kind of guilt.

And I know, really I do, that parenting based on guilt is no way to go.  I know that my children need to learn how to cultivate joy in their lives, the kind that doesn’t need to constantly be fed by the newest item or enjoyable activity.  I need to teach them how to be happy, how to choose joy, even when they don’t get what they want.  And I know, looking into the future, that happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults will be a thrill to me as a mom, as much or more than the smiles and giggles produced by giving them whatever little trinket they are begging for at the moment.

I know that they need to learn consideration, that it’s ok for mom to be too tired sometimes, ok to have to wait for things, ok to just hang around the house sometimes.  I know that yeses can be far more damaging than no’s when they produce a spoiled, inconsiderate, selfish, sad individual.

Getting right down to the bottom of things:  It’s so tempting to want to say yes because saying no is the harder work.  Saying no often requires keeping the big picture in mind, digging in for the long haul, enduring frowns that are temporary in the hopes that my children will emerge with adult smiles that don’t easily fade at the slightest difficulty.  I want to say yes because it’s easier, more fun in the moment.  It’s selfishness on my part.  Completely unacceptable as a parenting style. 

And that, my friends, is reason #2 I can’t say no… down for the count.

Moving on….

 

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Sometimes Poopoo Prevails

I’m a mother of three.  A strong woman, in body and mind and will, I can handle a whole lotta stuff.  But there are days… days when it’s clear I must give up and go home for a while.

This past Sunday was one such day.  Three of my good friends and I were at a local restaurant after Sunday services celebrating a birthday.  My little 16 month old, Caleb, was with us.  He kept us all entertained with his cute little smiles and funny attempts at using a spoon.  After a while, he got squirmy in the high chair and I let him get down and toddle around right by my chair.  In a few moments, he positioned himself behind my chair and got very still.  Any mother of a toddler can guess what he was doing.

At first I was simply thankful for a few moments of stillness to converse with my friends without simultaneously wrestling with a small boy.  Then I smelled it.  No time to dawdle on this, being in the middle of a restaurant and all, I snatched him right up, grabbing the diaper bag in one smooth motion and headed off to the restroom.  Upon my arrival in the ladies room, I discovered that Caleb’s poop had run down his leg and into his shoe.  (Yes, since I had picked him up, it was also on my dress.)  Guess how many wipes I had?  A grand total of two! 

Luckily, the baby changing station in this public restroom was located right next to the sink and paper towel dispenser.  So, I just gave Caleb the best kind of public-restroom-sink-bath I could.  I wrapped his clothes and shoes in one of those disposable plastic lined changing station pads that are usually always out of stock.  This restroom was well supplied, thank God.  I dressed him in clean clothes, cleaned my dress as much as a dress can be cleaned by a woman having only two hands and needing to keep a stinky toddler off of a public restroom floor, and returned to the table. 

During my difficult but successful cleaning process, I wondered…  “If the poop is in his shoe…  certainly it’s not on the floor also.  I mean, they’re sandals, but it was all contained in the shoe, right?  I don’t see how one little boy could have possibly made THAT much poop.”  Upon returning to the table, my fears were confirmed.  Just behind my chair there was a nice sized pile of liquid baby poop.  Oddly, it had gone unnoticed by my friends AND by the dad of the family sitting behind us (meaning the poop pile BEHIND my chair was directly BESIDE him.)

Mortified beyond imagination, I alerted restaurant staff of the poop problem.  They “messed” the situation up even more, in my opinion.  Instead of moving the affected parties, they simply brought a pile of napkins to place over the poopoo puddle and expected everyone to keep right on eating.  (Which the family behind us DID, completely and graciously ignoring the issue. That guy musta been REALLY hungry. My friends on the other hand did NOT continue eating due to their uncontrollable GUFFAWING at my little predicament.)

We sat for several more tortured minutes and my husband arrived, expecting to enjoy a drink and a visit with our friends.  By this time, however, Caleb was restless, and I couldn’t let him down since we were literally sitting in a pile of poop.  Misery set in for us all. It was time to give up.  Take my toys and go home.  Admit my defeat and let it go.  So I did.  I paid the bill and left the restaurant, wondering how much to tip a waitress who will undoubtedly be doing a little more work than she bargained for.  I left the poop behind and retreated to the safety of my home, where wipes are in abundance and bathtubs are full-size and readily available. 

Sometimes life has a way of pouring on the poop.  And sometimes I just don’t know when to quit.  I find myself sitting in the situation, completely in misery.  The poop situation with my son was just another day in the life of a mommy, but it reminded me of my own stubborn ways.  I don’t want to admit defeat, even when staying and fighting makes things worse.  One of my mentors gave me advice to live by.  He used to say simply:  “Avoid misery.” 

Sometimes I continue in situations where I clearly don’t belong and am ineffective, yet I don’t want to “lose.”  Sometimes, I require things of myself , unnecessary things, and in that process subject myself and my family to irritability, anxiety, and yes, misery.  I’ve decided not to forget this lesson:  Sometimes poop prevails.  And when the poop prevails, it’s time to go home.  Home to the place where you have what you need.  Clean up, recharge, and go out to fight another day.

Next time you’re in a stinky situation, don’t take it so hard.  There are times to stay and fight, but there are also times to retreat and regroup.  May you and I have the wisdom and insight needed to recognize such times, and may we have the grace to give ourselves permission to lose one battle in order to win an entire war.

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