Blackberry Winter

It’s the kind of weather that I’m convinced will be the norm in Heaven:  Cool evenings accented by a warm fire and just-warm-enough days that allow us to wear a light jacket when the skies are overcast and shorts when the sun is out.  The pansies still bloom happily, peeking their cheerful heads over the rims of pots and dancing brightly around the hanging basket on the shepherd’s hook.

Though the tomato harvest will likely start later because of these cool temperatures, I can’t complain.  This is my weather.  This cool breeze as I sit alone on the porch swing is what makes me absolutely love life here in Tennessee.

Today I drove out to the farm where my middle daughter has spent the last twelve Wednesdays doing what she loves:  Art, sewing, and playing with the colt and the chickens and the lamb.  The farmer’s big dog appears to be pregnant and lumbers about in the tall grass as the children run wild and play “Tree.”  It was bittersweet for me, as I love the drive out there every week and today is her final day on the farm.  Next year she enters the 6th grade and we have found a wonderful tutorial for her and the younger two.  It is also out in the country.  There are chickens and a garden to dabble in while the children take breaks from learning.  They will love it.  They would start tomorrow, if they could, but it is always hard to say goodbye to something that has been a blessing.

Change.

God is always moving us towards the next thing, isn’t He?  I tell my kids He loves us too much to let us stay put, and I believe it.  Contentment is good, complacency is not. Change keeps us on our toes and reminds us of our dependency on Him if we will allow it.  Change is a good teacher.

Though I am enjoying this Blackberry Winter with all that is in me…this cold snap that I didn’t expect yet am relishing while it lasts…change is inevitable.   I know the heat of summer will come soon and we will all be sweating and jumping in the pool for relief from the sun.  The trees’ bright green will grow tired and the grass will trade it’s delightful lime hue for a deeper shade in order to toughen up and survive the August that is to come. Some change we expect, some is thrown at us.  But, again, if we are teachable we can see the purpose in it.

Am I teachable?  As I prepare for this next season, homeschooling 4 of my 5 children (one in HIGH SCHOOL) and diving into a tutorial with the three younger ones for the first time, what is God going to want me to learn?  As the seasons of life pass by and my teenagers prepare to grow up and drive away, can I appreciate the good and pick it out from amongst the thorns of the hard?

I struggle, sometimes, to enjoy now.  I look back on the years when we were younger and life was simpler and I miss those long, sweet days.  Then I remember Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3:13…to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.  I think I sometimes make an idol out of the past, especially the good parts.  I want that sweet time to last forever, but it didn’t.  It can’t.  Like this Blackberry Winter, it was a beautiful season of respite and joy.  But the season ahead, though heated and full of struggles and growing pains, is beautiful as well.  I have to look up, stop and breathe and take in the sunrises and sunsets of each day and remember that God is on his throne and every part of this season of life is being used to bring about His will, not mine.

Goodness, that is so hard.

So today I did what I have said I would do all throughout this spring but never had.  I stopped and pulled over into the parking lot of a little country church and took a photo of my girl with her handmade quilt with a field of wildflowers behind her.  I breathed in the scent of spring and didn’t hurry to drive home.  Then I planted that white rose by the mailbox and stuck my nose into a magnolia blossom, nearly fainting from the beautiful perfume that filled it.  And then I sat here, on my porch swing, to write because I just haven’t taken the time to do much writing lately and tomorrow is our last day of school for this year.  There are leftovers in the fridge and my son drove his little brother to basketball practice, giving me this time to do what my heart needed.

My boys, alone in a car.  What I wouldn’t give to be privy to their conversations.

Yes, there is sweetness in every season.

 

The Long Haul

Endurance has not always been my strongest virtue.  I have a long history of unfinished projects and half-read books in my wake.

I remember when my oldest child was born.  In the joy and anxiety that surrounded his adoption I had the realization that this was for life.  There was no bowing out and handing off to someone else to finish.  I was going to be a mother and motherhood is forever, for better or worse, through teenage years and beyond.

And here we are.

He just turned 16.  He just got his drivers’ license.  As I was warned would happen by so many well-meaning strangers, time flew.  Now, dinner at home with all seven of us together is a treat because it is no longer the norm.    When he comes home after watching “the game” at the local wings joint with his buddies I am often lying in bed, glasses on, book in hand.  “Give me a kiss,” I smile and inhale his scent as he leans forward.  This boy, this ornery, funny, stubborn, sweet boy is almost a man.  Part of me is so excited for him, part of me grieves the beautiful childhood he had and wishes it could have lasted longer.

We have endured some hard days, he and I.  Hard days are fewer now, but still part of our story because he IS a teenager.  The younger ones coming up behind him are watching closely and there are those days when my endurance fails and I am just so tired.  Just want to check out.  Just want someone else to DEAL with whatever the drama of the day is.  But the drama passes and peace returns and I find myself contemplating this season of parenting.

It is hard.  The hardest season I have ever lived.  Two teenagers live in my house and they stretch me in ways I didn’t know were possible.  I stink at parenting them at least half the time (I was SO great with toddlers, y’all.  SO great.) and yet they forgive and even give me a side hug on occasion.  The age in which we live does not lend itself to raising Christian kids and the battle we fight is an uphill one to say the least.  But fight, we must.  There are so many things I would change if I could (like when social media was introduced into their lives…totally would have put that off for a  few more years) but introduced, it was and it is part of their experience for better or for worse.  My younger ones will suffer (or enjoy, depending on your perspective) the consequences of our first and second-born guinea pigs’ teen years because there are just certain things we will do differently with them.  I guess, in a large family, that is probably not abnormal.

So…endurance.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  So once-upon-a-time I ran a few half-marathons. This turtle learned a lot during those years of training before I hurt my dumb knee.  (But I digress.)

When you are running long distances, you don’t start out at top speed.  If you try that, you will never finish.  No, you start steady.  You pace yourself and reevaluate as you go.  You take in water when needed in order to accomplish the goal of crossing the finish line and getting that shiny medal.  Sometimes, as the race drags on and the miles tick by, you realize something is not working the way it should.  Maybe your shoelaces are too tight or a muscle is trying to cramp.  Maybe the elastic on your shorts is rubbing and chafing or your headphones are irritating your ears.  You may have run this distance in these exact clothes with this exact equipment many times but, today, something is off.  So you make adjustments.  You take out the headphones or retie your shoes or hitch up your shorts a little to relieve that sore spot.  The goal for those of us who are not elite athletes is to cross the finish line and be able to live to tell about it, not kill ourselves in the process.

Such is raising children.  I have five of them.  I went into parenting with all the right books, all the right methods, all the right “influences” in place around my children.  For years things were very smooth, but then we started hitting bumps.  Mama’s shorts were chafing, if you will.  (Ok…I think panties in a wad is more accurate. YOU KNOW where I am coming from, right?)  Burnout is around the corner and peace at home is elusive.  Chaos creeps into the home because something just isn’t working the way it used to. In these seasons we have a choice:  Keep doing what we have always done or make changes.  Plod forward on the bumpy path (because this philosophy of parenting worked for “them” and, therefore, it should work for us, right?) or seek the Lord for MY kids, MY situation, MY race.

Here’s the deal:  When I seek Him, He is so faithful.  He shows me where we need to make changes.  He reveals mistakes and gives grace to cover them.  He reminds me that producing godly kids is NOT MY JOB, but HIS.  I am a tool He may use, but my job is to love them.   That is all.  Everything I do as a mother, when done from the overflow of the love of God in my heart, will produce spiritual fruit that brings glory to him.  (This does not mean my kids will do everything right! Far from it!). He lets me see what bears repeating with my younger ones and what should be done differently with them.  This marathon of parenting is for the long haul and “fair” is not always an option.  Sometimes a kid will get away with something for the sake of peace, sometimes not.  But the final result is all on God if I will just back off and stop fretting and get on my knees and fight.  I must choose to step back and give the Holy spirit full reign of everything I do as a wife and mother.  My decisions may appear crazy or unwise to my peers but only God knows the hearts of my children and only God can give me true wisdom in raising them.

So, I have a question for you.  It is actually for me, but if you are reading this I assume you are in the stuggle, too.

How many hours have you spent reading parenting books, blogs, and articles compared to how many hours you have prayed and fought spiritually for you children?  How often have you compared your kids to the kids at church who seem to never give their mama a moment’s trouble?  Guilty hand raised high over here. But, let me tell you, when I get to the end of myself and go into my closet and lay it all before God, He comes through every single time.  EVERY. TIME.

I kid you not, something breaks in the supernatural as a result and I am always wondering why the heck I didn’t give it to God sooner.  I am so hard-headed.

What is our goal, as mothers?  To be given all the glory for these perfect kids we raised in our own power?  To be able to retire from parenting with a martini in hand and children who come home for Christmas?  Or is our goal one that is so much more difficult…to partner with God in raising up a generation that has endurance.  A generation who has weathered storms and walked through fire and maybe even fallen away in order to find Jesus to be exactly who He promises to be…a savior, father to the fatherless, and strength when we are weak.  Am I willing to admit mistakes and change my methodology in order to better entrust my children to God?  Am I able to go against the grain of society in raising my kids because the ultimate goal is not kids who “fit in” but kids who know that God is faithful and will see them through the darkest days and hottest fires that life has to offer?

Am I willing to stop and let God do what He does best, ensuring that I get absolutely NO credit for the success and/or failures of my children?  If I want to endure to the finish of this parenting season, that is the only way I can guarantee not to burn out.

And it is the only way I can let my babies drive away. Without me.  

“Jesus take the wheel” has never had more meaning.

teen, driver, babies, letting go, drivers license, car, new car, Nissan, Sentra
…and there they go!