Mike and Billie Jo

There’s something super vulnerable about looking back on my childhood. There’s so much I didn’t see then…but there’s also so much I can’t see/remember now. It’s probably best that way.

One of the things that shaped my childhood is The Woodshed. If you were raised in a home where your parents were in charge of running a business, you know it’s a different sort of life. You really have to see it day in and day out to really appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice it takes. Sure, it’s providing for your family, but it’s also providing for the families of all who work there. That’s a lot to carry, and I got to witness my parents carry a lot of people over the decades.

I hate even using the phrase employees and customers. “Employees” don’t typically serve as pallbearers in your grandparent’s funerals. The Woodshed was different. Customers weren’t “always right.” Customers at the Woodshed were most certainly wrong if there was a Mathis sitting at the table. 🙂 We have funny stories of all the people who Mike offended, but to most of the people, any new nickname that you were assigned was an invitation to the family. And Mom genuinely loved the customers, so that made up for the moments when Mike was off-putting. 🙂

Either way, you don’t have to spend too much time with Mike Mathis before you know what kind of personality he has. The only thing that has kept him safe this long is his quick wit. He can piss you off and have you laughing till you cry without blinking an eye. I am tempted to talk too much about this- there are so many stories, and some of them hilarious. It’s like the most entertaining “pain in the ass butt” you can imagine. Ask Mom…she knows better than all of us. 🙂

So, I grew up being entertained by that Mike Mathis, but if you stick with him after all the people leave the room, you’ll see a different side. I’m so glad there’s more than one side to people.

He’s an encourager. He gives sound advice. He’s like his momma- he knows hospitality. He loves the Lord. He shares his faith- often. Him and Mom are gonna cry at every black and white Christmas movie they watch.  He’s had best friends who have more money than he ever even cared to have and friends who need to barrow 10 bucks. Together, he and Mom have pushed through some devastating losses- best friends and hard economies. When other people would have shut down, they took a minute and moved forward- physically and emotionally- relying on God to pull them through. They loved a “good Friday night” at The Shed- and Mom loved working her butt off anywhere it was needed. They took pride in their work and their work ethic.

Their roles in running The Woodshed day in and out truly gave them the perfect opportunity to do what they do best.

I remember Mike giving his testimony at our church. Buddy Crabtree was the pastor. We were all shocked. Mike was a nervous wreck. I can still see him standing up there with his huge mustache. I just wanted him to sit back down. I was not used to seeing him vulnerable. But, the story of God reaching down and showing Mike Mathis grace and forgiveness is not one that I will ever forget. He needed a lot of grace. He still does. 🙂 Mike never got behind a pulpit again, thank goodness. Lol. We needed him behind the register keeping work fun or in his recliner yelling at us to turn the lights off or maybe on the golf course doing whatever it is that he does there six days a week. (If your golf buddies have to call Mom to fact check your claims, I trust that it’s entertaining.) I’m getting off track. The point is that Mike knows what it’s like to be picked up at rock bottom because that is where he met God. When you’re not afraid of rock bottom, people pick up on that. Mike let people keep their dignity- even when they were at their worst.

I studied Human Development in college. At one of the end stages of life, humans are typically working through the question: “Is it okay to have been me?” Now, before he starts making fun of me for trying to kill them off, let me say that this next phase of life is already looking pretty good- if you’re into sunshine and golf. Lol. But, as you step out of The Woodshed into retirement, I know that I speak for a LOT of people when I say that it was more than “okay” to have been “Mike and Billie Jo” at the Woodshed. You both-along with Phil-poured your life into it as a legacy to Pops and Granny, and, now, as an opportunity for Jarred, Shannon, Jeremy, and Julia. Their challenges and solutions will be different, but I trust that God will be the same- faithful and better than we deserve.

Happy Retirement. I love you both very much.

Advent: Day 18

This one got me. Full disclosure: I haven’t opened my Bible or cute advent books in like 6 days. But it’s okay- I hid the elf, so I’m not totally failing.

At 1:30pm today, I decided I had three options:

  1. Cancel my plans for the night bc I’m overwhelmed and waaaay behind.
  2. Close my door- sit in the floor- cry.
  3. Be miserable till Micah gets home from work and tells me that everything is fine…again.

I don’t want to cancel my plans. I can’t cry. I have a zoom meeting at 4. I don’t want them to think I’m an emo mess with obviously puffy eyes. And…I am tired of asking Micah to remind me that “everything’s fine.” I’m a grown up. Ugh.

I decided to ignore all of those options and just push through my list of things to do. (A bit of will worship should do the trick.) That didn’t work. A couple of interruptions later, my mind filled up with a million thoughts pointing to “Amber, get your crap together.” Totally overwhelmed.

I thought about calling my mom- but she would just preach at me. I get really defensive when I’m overwhelmed. Vulnerability is uncomfortable to me. I like my crap to be together, and when it’s not- I can usually find an inappropriate place to channel all of that energy. My poor mother.

Omg. On one hand, I’m holding back tears and on the other hand, I’m ready to judge someone else. At almost 38 years old, I can finally see this. I’m still powerless to it…but at least I can see it? Idk if that counts as progress…but, whatever…

I pick up one of the three advent books I purchased at Thanksgiving. The first one was super dumb- but it did have scripture. The second one was right on time. It’s crazy how that happens so often. I know God’s Word is alive/powerful/active, but I’ll never stop being impressed when it is. Also, it’s amazing how a little more crap in my day opened me up to being willing to be preached at. Instead of Mom, it was John Piper. Sorry, Mom.

“…and this is what God does again and again. He may be doing it for you in this Advent season- graciously and tenderly frustrating you with life that is not centered on Christ and filling you with longings and desires that can’t find their satisfaction in what this world offers, but only in the God-man. What a Christmas gift that might be! Let all your frustrations with this world throw you onto the Word of God. It will become sweet- like walking into paradise.”

People (mostly myself) and pandemics have impacted my day(s) in the most overwhelming of ways. All the things I “want” are good- school in-person, kids who show gratitude, family that is easy, a house that cleans itself, grandparents who have clear minds and live forever. He created some really wonderful things and asked us to not hold too tightly to them. Knowing this, I still hold too tight and freak out on days like today-and years like 2020- and decades like 40.

God- Thank you for being tender and gracious. You know how fragile I am. Help me to hold lightly to the blessings in my life- knowing that it is you that is the true Prize- not the wonderful things you have given me.

The 10th Day

Some days have been kinda boring. Some days I enjoy scripture. Some days I just read to get it done.

Today was a “check the box” kind of start. The verses that I read were all about preparing for Christmas-getting ready for day 25. I’ve got some sick friends and family right now that aren’t worried about day 25. They are trying to make it through Day 9. I felt like this whole thing was missing something.

Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I struggle with cultural things mixing in with the Great Commission. I love a good “Hanging of the Greens” event, but getting it tied up with following Jesus can distract from the urgent mission of the Gospel. There’s nothing to balance here. One outweighs the other by a longshot. We are not getting ready for Jesus to come as a baby in a manger. He already came, and when he came, he did something epic that really matters.

So, as an act of rebellion to these pretty devotional books I bought, I wrote Psalm 118:24 on the Day 10 notes for my girls:

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I wrote it…then I felt lazy bc I didn’t really want to go double check the context of the scripture. Like when people use Jeremiah 29:11 as a blanket promise to any person in any situation. Sure, God has plans for prosperity and hope, but in Jeremiah 11:SEVENTEEN, he’s got plans for “sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence,” and making them “like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten.” Awkward. (Ignore my rebellious attitude about traditions and misused scripture- or don’t. 😉 I really do love all things Christmas- I promise.)

So, here’s the context:

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

What a beautiful picture of the Gospel to share with my kids and to focus my attention. I, like the psalmist, have found stability and support in the very thing that I rejected. He saved me in spite of me.

God, thank you for the work you do on earth and in Heaven. I don’t deserve it. Your work in my heart has made me ready for TODAY. Ready for Covid. Ready for recovery. Ready to pray. Ready for cancelled celebrations. Ready for isolation. Ready for peace. Ready for freedom from fear. It’s hard to comprehend, but thank you.

#JITRFTS

I was teaching Sunday School to a group of a dozen high school girls in the middle of the summer. I don’t remember how the conversation got started, but it ended with me changing my “religious views” Facebook profile to JITRFTS. (Jesus is the Reason for the Season) If it would have been 2020, we would have made a ironic gif with a Caucasian Jesus fighting the Easter Bunny. Instead we used it as an accusation in face to face conversations. Vintage.

Side note- or maybe the main point-idk. Why are we so intimidated by Santa Clause? I mean…honestly, even if he is real?? Y’all need to be worried about Mother’s Day…or 4th of July- that’s when the legit competition comes in.

Today, in trying to turn my attention to the advent season, I read John 5:44:

“How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

I have like ten lists right now. They answer the questions: Who am I going to buy for? What am I going to buy? How much do I need to spend? How much do I need to save so that I can spend? What can I put on my list? What do my kids want on their lists? What do I need to buy/when?

Today, in light of the devo/scriptures I read, I decided to make a list of things I want for myself and my family- things that can only come from God. No kidding- they are literally in the kitchen screaming at each other right now. It’s been an “everybody lose your crap” kinda day.

Nonetheless…

For Micah- I want God to capture your attention with his solutions. You have a complex mind, and you are most fulfilled when it is preoccupied with his Word.

For Madelyn- I want God to open your eyes to see that he created you strategically. Your vibrant energy is balanced when you train your mind to his Word instead of the competition. There is so much competition, sweet girl.

For Allison- I want God to show you that he’s freaking BIG, and he’s got you. His Word has every answer, and you can do what it says…even if you can’t wrap your brilliant mind around it.

For me- I’m gonna let Micah write this one…bc I tried like three times and got nowhere…and I have a fight to break up.

For Amber- I want God to bring you two more puppies and a new car. Jk…it’s still me. Here’s what Micah said:

I want God to show you your value; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God, We are disenchanted with the people and the stuff. At the end of the day, we still don’t have enough. We are fortunate that our needs lead us to you. Fill our empty cups.



Where are you freaking Christmas!?

I listened to a song the other day- “Where are you Christmas?” -from one of my favorite Christmas movies. This particular version was a mom/daughter duet. It kinda got me…bc it was precious…and bc pandemic Christmas kinda sucks.

This year marks year five not working for a church- I think.

It’s hard.

When you spend 40 50 hours a week in the church building-having the church meetings-planning the church things- you think a ton about church, God, advent, etc. I can’t tell you how many advent guides I’ve written or copy/pasted for families over the years. Why am I crying over a dang Dr. Seuss song?

It’s because it’s December 2nd, and my 13 year old has dropped like 10 hints about how she can’t wait to get her advent calendar. She’s terrified that I have forgotten. I haven’t forgotten…it’s just that she’s been a grumpy jerk face to all of us this week, and I don’t WANT to do the work behind an advent calendar for HER- a Lego a day doesn’t quite cut it anymore. I have great ideas…and undeserving children.

But, for real- where are you freaking Christmas??

So, I got on Amazon. I’m gonna be honest, it’s where I stay these days- looking for presents for all the people to give my kids. I can’t even bring myself to start on my own Christmas. I’m tired already. Poor me- I’m overwhelmed by all of the requests from people who love us- that want to buy my children gifts that they will love. Bah humbug/get over yourself, Amber.

But this was not for a gift. I was looking for a cheesy advent guide. I just wanted scripture. Honestly, I grabbed the first one that 1) wasn’t ugly and 2) had daily scripture. Don’t forget…I’m tired already.

I read day one: “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
John 1:14–16

It was about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. The Word is full of grace and truth. When it “became flesh” #JITRFTS, it was still full of grace and truth. When it set us apart, it shared that grace and truth with us. Heaps of it- mounds on mounds- filling up and running over.

It’s amazing how God’s Word claims to be transformative and then…is transformative.

He has given His undeserving children the greatest of gifts. This advent season, I’ll share this gift with my undeserving children in whatever ways I can- not to make pandemic Christmas fun, but because we need more than our typical Lego Christmas countdown. It’s just not cutting it this year.

God, Thank you for the gift of grace and truth that overflows and transforms in the toughest of seasons. You are our only hope, and also, the only hope we need.






Sobriety: a happy ending

She comes across the funniest, most appropriate (or not so appropriate) memes I’ve ever seen…which makes her more fun to text with than talk to. She has great taste in Netflix. She hates coffee. I almost got kicked out of Cracker Barrel because of her. She’s quiet…so she sees more. She appreciates sentiment and has a great sense of humor. However, sarcasm is where she shines. Oh…and she is a horrible drunk. I told her this years ago. It went something like this:

“Some people can drink, and they’re like ‘Wow, this is fun.’ Some people can drink and they’re like ‘Wow, I just did a lot of really stupid stuff.’ You just can’t drink. Scratch it off your list.”

She didn’t. Fast forward through a seemingly successful high school and college career.  She got her first “real job” and the cutest dog ever. Things seemed to be going okay. They were not. Horrible things had been happening, and she didn’t stand up for herself because she believed so many lies. No one stood up for her because she hid the truth. We (the ones that loved her) didn’t realize that she was drinking so much. They (the ones who fed her alcohol problem) make me so dang mad…but they only saw the great sense of humor/sarcasm blend.

Her counselor called me one afternoon. She needed to release her into the care of a responsible adult. In minutes, I was there. I walked passed her car, and…diet coke bottles. I was so mad. Diet coke meant she was drinking. Regular coke meant she was not. I was SO mad. She hadn’t lied. She never lied to me. She had been hiding.

Hiding is so much more dangerous than lying.

I made her call her momma on the hour and a half drive to a facility that was supposed to “help” her. I felt bad…like, as a mother, I should have just taken her home…and let her mom deal with this. I felt like I was intruding. Her mom loved her. Her mom was involved- as involved as she would allow.

We were in the waiting room when a young family walked in with their little boy. He was probably 8 years old. As his parents started to leave, he realized he was going to have to stay. His words ripped my heart out. He begged his momma not to leave him. “I’ll be good, Momma. I promise I’ll be good. I’m sorry, Momma. I’m sorry, Momma.”  After they took the little boy back, we didn’t speak. We just sat. They admitted her, and I went to my car and threw restraint out the window. I cried. I beat my hands against my steering wheel. I demanded answers from God. I cried some more. My heart was broken for her. I’m so thankful her momma didn’t have to leave her there.

The road from there to here was not good. Some turns helped. Some turns hurt. But, long after most of us had given up on her coming back to a normal life, she text me. She had seen a sunset…and it made her smile. She smiled. No jokes. No sarcasm. She saw something and acknowledged it was beautiful with a simple smile. That was a huge deal. Alcohol abuse and hiding had made her numb to the normal things we feel. At that point, she had spent years manufacturing smiles.

1. Eat this food.

2. Do this yoga sequence.

3. Take this pill,

4. and this one,

5. and that one.

6. Make some art.

7. Raise the corners of your mouth.

8. Check the box: you smiled today.

So, a smile…that just happened…was worth celebrating. Years of hard work. To be honest, I’m shocked that she’s still alive. I had come to terms several times with the possibility that she may take her own life…as if “coming to terms with it” would lessen the blow of the news. The depression was so isolating. I couldn’t convince her to stay.  I had decided that I would see the real her again one day…”in a better place.”

But, this month, she has been sober for two years. She’s got a job. It’s not the one she went to college to get…but she works hard. She’s enrolled in college to find a career that fits her needs and interests. She went to Disney and reinvented the smile manufacturing thing:

  1. Go to Disney.
  2. Smile.
  3. Go to Harry Potter world.
  4. Smile and cry at the same time.

I’m so glad she exists. I’m so glad she kept sitting quietly with no hope on the hard days. She could have easily taken too many pills or drank so much that she ended her misery…but that didn’t work out for her. God intervened against her will. Now, getting to watch her do life…and cheer her on in the good things…and question her in the unhealthy things is a privilege that I never take for granted. I’m so glad she’s alive.

I’m not positive that she has wrapped her mind around the work God has done to keep her here on this earth. I’m not worried about it.  He’s not finished. There are some very specific things left to take place in her healing. She knows them. She doesn’t share them often…but she doesn’t hide them.

Life Span: End of Life

It’s interesting to me to study the “journey” from conception to eternity. What happens to your body, mind, and spirit is slightly predictable and wildly unique. I think that’s pretty cool. Walking through some of those phases has been a lot different than studying it. The hard parts hurt more than you can expect. Sometimes you can’t wrap your mind around it. There’s no use studying it…it will drive you crazy. The great parts are cherished more than you could ever imagine. Ugh. To have five minutes of my girls when they were 2 and 4…I’d do anything.  ❤️ Every phase has good and bad. Lately, I’ve been talking with family and friends quite a bit about the phase that comes at the end of our earthly life: death.

Christians will often quote a scripture from 1 Corinthians when a loved one dies: “Oh, death, where is your sting?” They quote it to say that death is not the end. For Christians, this is comforting, but let’s be honest. It’s still hard. Everything about death is hard…and it hurts. Deep.

The truth is that death has a tendency to “sting” long before it comes.

I’m talking about the end of life phase where either (or both) mentally or physically changes are taking place faster we can wrap our minds around.

My grandfather had a stroke.  He’s mentally sharp, and still has his sense of humor. 🙂 It just comes out differently. He has trouble with speech. My mom is a daddy’s girl…to a fault. 😉 She couldn’t care less if he can speak clearly or not, but she knows he cares…and that breaks her heart.

How do you do it? When do you take away their car? When do you tell them that the ONLY safe place they know- “home,” is no longer safe? How do you pack up a lifetime’s collection of evidence that they lived, adventured, and weathered many storms- and leave out only enough to fill up the tiny nursing home room? As if a box of nic-nac’s will ease the sting of leaving “home.”

It’s frustrating. My parents love their parents. They don’t want them to be frustrated. They want to be reasonable with them. That’s respect. And, especially to them, respect is gold. When they have lost their abilities to reason, respect can seem to be lost.

Well meaning friends might tell you that it’s “better.” It may not be better in assisted living. It may be even harder. You don’t do it to make things better.  You do it to make things humane. It’s appropriate care. It’s dignity. It’s a big lump in your throat…and if you can swallow it, you will see that it is one of the few types of respect left to give.

So, death, we know you’re coming. You’re uncomfortable. You don’t feel like home. You have left us with the least amount of control we have ever felt. We are not ourselves. We can’t see. We can’t hear. Isolation stings.

But, for those who are in Christ, things are different. Your mom may be a hot mess today. You won’t leave her that way. Don’t grow weary. She will remember again. That look that your dad has on his face- like he’s lost? It’s a temporary glare. The sting that catches you off guard because you are parenting your parent is only temporary. While that doesn’t make it any easier, I hope it brings some perspective. Perspective that takes the sting out.

 

 

Paragraphs for my BFF

April 5th, 2010 journal entry:

“God, give me wisdom and discernment. I want to change things up at work, but not if it’s not going to be YOU[r will]. Jenni Johnson.”

A few weeks before that, I had asked a stay at home mom to do the unthinkable: apply for a job. I knew she was going to laugh at me. She was a #boymom of three. She was a #coacheswife. It was #baseballseason. I knew it was crazy. At that time in my life, I always sought out the things that seemed impossible…too good to be true. I was all about dreaming BIG.

She did exactly what I knew she was gonna do. She laughed out loud. I think I asked her five times before she finally mentioned it to her husband. Then, in true Jenni fashion, she prayed about it for.ever. When she told me that she was going to apply, I stopped breathing for a minute.

God is [obnoxiously] faithful.

From there, I only did two things: I asked her a question in the interview and I helped with decorations once a year…for graduation programs. Why? Because she was an amazing director. She didn’t need any help from me. This week, she is wrapping up her last week as Director of MDO. I have caught myself tearing up a dozen times reflecting on those years.

The question I asked her in her interview was how she would interact with kids/parents/staff. I don’t remember how she answered, but looking back over the last seven years, this is how she did it:

Kids. Kids are easy. If you love them, they will love you back. However, when you are “Mrs. Jenni”…that lives in “Mrs. Jenni’s office”…things are different. You only need to go to Mrs. Jenni’s office when you 1) have bitten someone 2) are being a total punk, or 3) are conspiring with your twin on how to take over Mrs. Evelyn’s class. However, the kids still love her. She has an on point way of correcting undesired behavior by building up instead of putting down. I’m pretty sure that one kid was a hot mess just so she could go she “her” Mrs. Jenni. 🙂

Teachers. Employees are great…but not easy. They take work. They take support. They take planning. Conflict happens. Hurt happens. But, if the teachers are like the ones at MDO, they are worth it. I know that they deeply enriched Jenni’s life. I tried to lead them in a devotional time once. It was horrible. The truth was that they needed to lead ME in a devotional. Jenni was their voice. She was always ready to defend them. She was always working to make their lives easier. She worked hard on their behalf. She made the tough decisions. She had the tough conversations. I promise you…there is no one in their lives that have covered those ladies with more prayer than Jenni has covered them in. She loves them. She breathes grace over their mistakes and asks for grace from them to cover hers.

Moms. The mommas. I was a rock star kid. I loved middle school…and adored high school. College was perfect. The newlywed season…sooo good. Being a mom to two little girls…two years apart…punched me right in the face. I walked into MDO late most mornings. My kids did not match. Their hair was not cute. Life was not what it looked like on Facebook. But, moms will get real when it comes to their kids. MDO was all about the kids….to the moms and the teachers. But to Jenni, MDO was all about the mommas. She paid attention. She prayed. She listened. She texted. She helped with the practical advice you needed…but were too tired to think of. I don’t know most of the moms she rescued…but just look through her fb page over the last seven years. They tag her in their pictures. Their kids love her.  I wish I could have kept count of how many moms walked out of her office with red eyes and a runny nose from breaking down crying. I wish I could tell you how much she helped me through those days. She has shown me so much grace. She has cheered me on through the same problem a hundred times. She knows my rock bottom moments because she was there texting me…or marching up to my office to tell me to chill.

Jenni Johnson, when God called me to FBC, I had no idea why. Now, I have a million memories of wonderful things He did, but your friendship has been above and beyond the best thing that came from my years there.  As far as I am concerned, Jack was right. 🙂

Madelyn Grace,

November 5th is a special day in our family. It’s the date that Madelyn (our oldest) professed her faith in God for the first time. Since she was so young, it has been important to us to have conversations with her as she develops emotionally/mentally. We want her to think about her past, present, and future in a way that prepares her for the moments when she will question her faith. The first couple of years we celebrated with necklaces/flowers. Now that she can read well enough to process/comprehend with ease, I decided to write her a letter. Turns out that this letter was exactly what I needed to force me to “process” where I am in my own faith walk. Today, I’m thankful for this little girl and the very big God that makes the hardest of days productive towards His good plans.

Madelyn Grace,

I had been in the kindergarten pick up line for 15 minutes…waiting for you…listening to your little sister talk (you know how she was/is). You got in the car, and the first thing out of your mouth was that you wanted to be a Christian. Who knows what happened the hours before, but you were adamant. I asked you a few questions. I told you we would wait till Daddy got home. You waited anxiously on the steps of our front porch, never taking your eyes off the driveway.

When he got home, you ran up to him…wrapped your arms around him…”Daddy, Mommy said I could be a Christian today.”  Lol. You had a way of twisting my words around in your head…for your benefit. 🙂 He looked at me with uncertainty in his eyes. I made the face I make when you have twisted my words around…and nodded “yes.” He smiled. We sat down in the grass under the same oak trees that had been shading that lawn for 100 years. Your dad instructed you to tell God what was on your mind. It was not even close to the ABC’s (admit, believe, confess). It was something sweet that started with “God, I hope you’re having a good day…” and ended with “…God, hold me forever.”

Did that  collection of words make you a Christian? No. God put a desire in your heart for Him. You were too little to understand it. See, at six years old, your brain was doing some pretty cool things. You were looking for your place. Where do I fit? Where is it safe? Can I play here? What are we doing today? I loved those questions. God also gave you a family that desires Him. It was only a matter of time before you noticed that He was a safe place to play, to cry, to talk, to stay. I was not surprised that you were only six. You had life figured out before we left the maternity ward. 🙂 Your request for Him to hold you forever made perfect sense to me. I knew you. I had been watching you learn. I had been answering the countless questions you had about Him. Your dad and I had had several conversations about it. I had eloquently explained the Gospel to you many times…using appropriate words for your developmental phase. See, there’s nothing I felt more prepared for than telling you about God and His plan. Still, you were too little to understand. Why?

Because at 33, I’m still too little to understand. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways. I get little pieces of Him. Sometimes it’s when I’m reading His Word. Do you know that it’s alive? It deserves the same attention and respect as He does. Sometimes it’s when I’m sitting by the lake…looking at a sunset that I’m sure could swallow all of everything at any given second. Still, there are times when I “get” something about Him that goes much deeper than a fleeting thought or sunset. It changes me. In a moment, it wrecks something old. It births something new. I have a list in my mind of these moments, but before those, came my faith…as a kid…just like you.

As a child, I wanted Him. Who wouldn’t want Him? The Story of God’s love is an attractive one that answers the questions children need to have answered. I was loved. I was safe. It was okay to be me. I prayed a prayer of repentance and request because I had a tiny chunk of faith pushing me to tell my small, country church that I loved Jesus.

As a teenager, I was devoted to His Word. I didn’t quite “get Him,” but I gave His Word my best effort. Side note: my best effort turned out to be a total joke. I survived the “WWJD” bracelet craze. Yes, I had all the colors…and coordinated them with my outfits.

As a young adult in college, I had my first “wrecking ball” moment. For the first time, my developing mind could wrap around how He felt about me. He loved me back. This was the most emotional experience I had had in my faith so far. Something new happened.

Little did I know that this would be the first of many wrecking balls. From there, I can think of three more specific moments where God has torn away something old to reveal a new twist or turn to the story of “God as He relates to Amber.” Each time it knocked me to my knees…except this last one.  As far as I can tell, I sought this one out. It didn’t take my breath away. It came slowly and felt like rest. What does that mean? Who knows? He’s a beautiful mystery…with higher ways than the ones He created for us. He chose you…before you were born. At six years old, He filled you with confidence. At nine, you are starting to explore His Word for yourself. You have a lifetime of “God as He relates to Madelyn.” You will give it your best effort. There will be wrecking balls. There will be rest.

When you were a mere six years old you professed your tiny desire for a big God in front of our little family under 100 year old oak trees. Never forget where it started…cause it’s what being a Christian looks like.  Too little to understand…doing crazy stuff with tiny chunks of faith.

Love,

Mom

Back to school…

“God, please keep my babies safe.” I’ve whispered that prayer several hundred times. It just kinda comes out when I’m dropping my girls (7 and 9) off at school. It’s not planned…it’s probably not even exactly what I want, but it’s what I ask. (that’s a whole different story) I went all summer without even mentioning it, but here it is, first day of drop off, and I’m on my knees begging God to take care of my “babies.”

I’m assuming that there are other moms that feel this way. If not, don’t tell me. I’m not ready to deal with my kids being away from me…much less dealing with the fact that it may be some sort of emotional disorder. 🙂

Bear with me while I process some of my feelings this morning. #dontjudge

My girls have to have some ownership in the things that happen in their days. Good things will happen. Bad things will happen. Example, this year my seven year old (Allison) is in class with her favorite person in the universe. I didn’t ask the principal for it. I didn’t wish for it. I stayed neutral…trusting that life would be just fine either way. She was over the top excited when she found out. It’s the perfect example of a “good thing.” Allison will enjoy her year more because of it. On the other side of that, there are the bad things- when kids are mean to your kids. When adults treat your kids like they are “just kids” instead of humans. When they are embarrassed. When they are not prepared. When you know there’s something wrong, but neither they nor you can put your finger on what the problem is.

My dad told me this when I was young: “I will let people push you around, but the minute someone pushes you into a corner, I’ll kill them…with a smile on my face.” Now, my dad said that to get my (teenage) attention. #hyperbole #dontfreakout He was making a point. I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. There are moments when I call the teacher. There are moments when I stand in the doorway and watch. There are moments when I walk away and beg God to take care of my babies.

For every moment that I get it right, I get ten moments wrong. I’m okay with getting things wrong…but I still have to deal with the consequences. For me, it’s probably the hardest part of parenting-knowing when to watch and pray…versus stepping in for the kill. #again #hyperbole

Parents…especially those with kiddos that are older…what advice would you give about getting directly involved or stepping back…or something in the middle?