How to be an Obnoxious Parent

I wrote this post five years ago and it feels like it needs to be updated.  Because maybe you don’t know how awesome my kids are now in 2015?

Random person-“Wow, your baby is really smart (pretty, adorable…amazing)!”

Me-“I know, right?”

Am I really that obnoxious parent who unashamedly brags on her kids?

Yep. I am. I can’t stop myself. I hear the words slipping out and I want to grab them back, whip out my lasso and coral them in, but it’s too late. Once again, I have over-shared regarding my kid’s total awesomeness.

(2010) Have I told you about Kyle?  We call him six-pack in training, our movie-star handsome, 4.0 GPA, nationally ranked football player, stud pitcher, kindergarten volunteering, gentle, loving, Godly, ridiculously humorous almost thirteen year old son?

lu7a0170Five years later…

(2015) Kyle is a 17 yr old senior in high school at J Serra.  He still loves football–although he is now a linebacker, fullback and tight end, instead of a center. He is in the process of getting recruited for college ball–more on that to come soon. He is a captain of his football team, still movie-star handsome, a good student, not playing baseball now and thinking of playing a little lacrosse in the spring?  He has no girlfriend (heck yeah!), is still soooo funny, even-tempered, hard-working, and is a county music, Jesus loving boy.  He’s building houses in Peru next spring, driving our old gas guzzling Ford truck around, and enjoying every minute of his friends and youth. Strangely enough, he is now violently allergic to his favorite food–sushi?  Suckaroo!  Kyle loves the beach, working out and snowboarding. If he’s not at football practice he is usually hanging out somewhere with Brad and Kelly.

(2010) What about my little beauty Faith? Let me tell you about my sweetheart girl who dances like a fairy, cheers like a maniac, is smart, fun-loving, a talented actress(recently starred in Peter Pan as the Indian Grizzly Bear), is a great big-sis, and leads worship with gusto? Did I mention she is shooting a spec commercial for the Vizio tablet this weekend?

(2015)  Faith is a freshman at J Serra and joins the Lions with her brother.  She is a JV cheerleader and is on the yearbook staff.  She is artistic, fashion-minded and dedicated.  She works hard in the classroom and wants to pursue photography as a career. Faith loves Campus Ministry–mainly because the worship director is “so beautiful mom,” which I totally get, because I think pastor’s are hot too!  Faith’s personality is mostly sunshine with a few storm clouds thrown in for good measure.  She is extroverted to the extreme and so beautiful, inside and out.

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(2010) How about the Kolbster?  Baby Kolby is so freaking cute! She is months beyond her year, crazy clever, reads letters, knows every animal sound (including “hop” for bunny because I don’t know what the heck the bunny says), has killer hair, and talks incessantly about her big brother.

I just love Duck Chili mommy!

(2015)  Yep, Kolby still has killer hair.  I think we are all a little jealous.  Kolby is in kindergarten now–a real big girl–and the joy of our lives. She is clever and silly and smart as a whip.  Kolby plays soccer, does ballet and cheerleading, and is a part of a Daisy Troop.  She still loves her bro Kyle but talks about other boys now too (gasp!) On any given afternoon she rolls with the Claymont Street girls gang of blond beauties. She loves to color, play with Shopkins, read books with mama and play Barbies.  Kisses from Kolby are magical and her snuggles have true healing power.
KolbyK_selects_017I know. I know. Someone stop me from bragging. I have diarrhea of the pompous mouth when it comes to my munchkins. But, I’m guessing most parents feel thisway. They love their kids so, so, so much, they simply can’t help themselves.

But in my defense, even God brags on his boy a bit. “Have you seen my son Job?” he tells Lucifer. “He’s a total stud, blameless, upright and courageous.” (Slightly modified by Sam from Job 1:8)

Sounds like some swagger wagon to me…

So maybe my crazy love for my kids is annoying, boastful, and even bombastic.

But maybe it’s also… sort of a God thing.

Martha’s House, Mary’s Village

 

My dear friend Bruce sent me this story in response to my post Helga the Cleaning Nazi.  It was a great reminder to keep the main thing the main thing-namely the love of Christ working through me- and to let go of the little crap that get me all riled up and cranky.

Bruce Carl Aronson is a true spiritual guide to many at Mariners Mission Viejo Church and his wisdom and heart are off the charts!  I am honored to share his story on a woman who I resemble all too often  I really want to be like Mary, but my inner Martha keeps nipping at my heels.

I hope you enjoy this as much as  did…

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Martha’s House, Mary’s Village by Bruce Carl Aronson

 

Martha was pissed.

She had to watch over her two hair-brained siblings ever since her mom, Enchania, and her dad, Syro, died.  That blighted tower that fell down in the earthquake, crushing both of the parents, and sixteen others, was the beginning of Martha’s great aloneness.  Her exacting soul found great comfort in clinging to the idea that the disaster was not the punishment of God.  Martha’s father had expected much of his first-born daughter.  At least, if I had been born a son, she thought to herself, I could enjoy that, but now it’s just a talent (for Martha a talent was not a skill or ability but a load weighing 94 pounds, in her day)Martha saw her brother and sister as hopelessly scattered, and surely without Martha they would be both homeless and starve.

She worked hard to keep a proper Jewish Home: ordered, clean, and run with a kind of autocratic authority that her sister and brother found withering. 

Now it was even worse, the Rabbi had showed up and nothing was ready.  It was okay for the men to sit around and gab, but a worthy woman washed the feet of each guest, made sure there was plenty of food and drink, and that her guests lacked for nothing.  So that is what Martha did.  It was getting hot outside as the sun was now directly overhead.  Even the cool, dark of her home was permitting some of that heat to enter.  She needed to prepare the biggest meal of the day, after which, everyone but her would take a nap.  She glanced around her home: it did please her enormously!  The family business had prospered, blessed be, permitting them, not the tiny little four room affair that most families squeezed into, but a lavish two-story (with an open third story) wrapped around a small courtyard.  Martha was in the kitchen, which opened on to the first floor looking out on the courtyard, but she could hear the laughing going on upstairs, in the dining room. 

Her hands worked steadily as she plied the pita dough squeezing it, balling it up, and smashing each ball onto the heated brazier above her kitchen fire.  She was squeezing the dough as if to strangle it and when she balled it, she smashed it on the hot metal she was using with rather more effort than the dough needed.  She had just come down from dropping off the last pita’s, butter, and wine.  The previous upstairs deliveries included olives, dates, and apples.  She was tired from carrying all that food up and down the narrow stairs that led to her dining room above.  There the Master was upstairs, on the floor in the center of the woven matt, with everyone hanging on his every word.  He was saying something profound, he always was, but the person who sat directly in front of him now really annoyed Martha.

Mary was not at all disciplined.  Martha wondered, Who would want to marry a girl who did not know her place?  Martha certainly knew her place, but it had done no good: she was now the village spinster at 18.  She had sent Mary up there to fill the water vat, knowing full well it would be a while before she ever came back.  Well, it had been more than a while.  Martha did appreciate Mary’s thirst for learning.  Like Martha, she knew how to stand behind a curtained door or half way up the stairway so as not to interfere with the men’s learning and still partake of it.  Much of Martha’s education had come from deliberately overhearing her father teach.  Now the Master was upstairs with his emissaries, and a few others.  Who was in the middle of all the men?  Mary, of course!

The fourteen year old sibling just did not get that she was not a man and should never sit with them while instruction was going on.  It wasn’t decent.  It wasn’t seemly.  And, no one was asking for her hand, in marriage either.  It was getting late for Mary too.  But, Mary was the pretty one.  Men liked her.  She got a lot of slack because she was gregarious, charming, and had a figure that could not be obscured by the robes she wore.

A cry of anguish slipped from Martha’s lips.  She had not kept her mind on her work and the side of her hand had brushed the hot metal.  She hoped that they had not heard that cry up above!  What would you say about a homemaker who did not even know how to keep herself from being burned as she cooked?  The skin was red all along the fleshy part of her hand.  This was going to hurt.  She was about to plunge her hand in the basin of water that was kept at the ready for such emergencies, when her nose reminded her that something was burning.  It was the pita on the brazier!  While she had been staring at her hand, the pita had blackened.  Now, they were smoking.  Could they smell that upstairs?  She could already hear the gossip at dawn, the next day, at the village well.  “Pitas get away from you, dearie?”  “So much food you can burn it up?  Warming the house with dough these days?”  How they loved to laugh at her!  (Of course, they were all jealous.  That’s all.)

Tears leaked down her cheeks.  Sure her hand hurt, but the shame of everyone thinking you are very competent and then you go and pull a small-minded stunt like this?  Pull it together, girl!  She swept the burned pita down off the brazier and into the fire below hoping that no one was the wiser.  Then, she looked at her hand again.  She thought, what to do?

Catching her completely by surprise, there was the Master scooping up her small hand in his great big ones! 

“Martha,” his majestic, deep voice intoned, “you are working too hard.  Come upstairs and sit with us.”

“Rabbi,” she stared up through her tears, “there is so much to do!”  She knew it was unworthy to complain, but it slipped out, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work myself?  Tell her to get back down here and help me out!”

He reached to her other hand and pulled her up to him, but merely said, “Martha,” as he held both hands.  Somehow his hand was cooling against her burned hand.  The pain seemed to be ebbing away…slowly. 

Martha looked down.  He did have beautiful, massive, well muscled hands.  He lightly turned her hand side up and poured a little olive oil on the burned part.  He worked it in tenderly with a gentle massaging motion.  She still fretted in her heart that he would find her unworthy and stop staying at their home when he passed through Bethany or Jerusalem.

“Martha,” he said again, with such tenderness it made her heart ache with joy.  He fixed his eyes to look squarely into hers.  “You are worried and upset about many things.”

Martha nodded, of course that was true.  She nodded fitfully that she understood.

He continued, “…but, few things are needed…”

She nodded again, transported by his gaze.  Generally, she could not say that he was a handsome man.  Yet, holding her wounded hand like this, he just seemed so beautiful.  Would a man like him ever consider…?

He smiled as if he knew her thoughts, “or indeed, only…one…”

All the cares she carried seemed to leave like smoke in a wind.  He was such a beautiful man!

He smiled again.  “Mary has chosen what is better.”

Mary, she thought, why is it always ‘Mary this’ and ‘Mary that?’  Then, Martha’s mind became clear. Mary was so deliberate about knowing the Rabbi well.  Carefully, she gleaned all that he shared.  She went out of her way to really understand everything he mentioned –even the obscure stuff.  Martha suddenly saw with clarity that it was not that Mary was younger or prettier (or luckier), it was just that she cared about relationships.  Mary was all about relationships.  Martha, realized (and it stung her) that she all about responsibilities.  Mary and Martha.  Relationships and responsibilities.

Martha lowered her head against the Rabbi’s broad chest.  He whispered in her ear, “It will not be taken away from her.”  But, she knew what it meant.  You do everything so carefully, thoroughly, and well, Martha.  Now, try Mary’s approach.  She nodded to him as if he could hear her thoughts. 

She looked down at her own hand.  The redness was gone.  The pain was gone.  And he was sliding his arm around her back and gently leading her to the narrow stairs.  Up they went.  When they reached the dining room all the men were silent and noticing how the Rabbi was walking with her as if she were an adored daughter.  People moved to get out of their way.  Mary stood and vacated her place on the mat.  Jesus pointed to that open place and indicated it was now Martha’s place.  She realized that while Mary had taken this place, the Rabbi was giving it to her.

And Mary took a tray of empty dishes downstairs.

“First Baby” and other labels

My First Baby is officially, as of May 23rd, a double-digit midget (translation-Faith turned ten-years old). Now that might be confusing to some because it makes absolutely no sense if you know the birth order of my kids. 

Faith Whitney is my second child (out of three) and now carries the middle child banner after almost a decade of being the baby.  After that long, you would think the middle child traits would be nominally apparent, but jealousy is such a strong emotion and even the most secure kid gets rattled when their role is replaced.  

I’ve noticed Faith fights to claim her place, postures for attention and vacillates between big girl and lisping baby talk–all symptoms of a classic middle child.  It’s tough being the sandwich kid in between the studly athletic older brother and a ridiculously cute toddling baby sister.  I think of Jan Brady and her silly wigs, just trying to fit in and find her place.

So, as chief mother and encourager of my little tribe, I have decided to break with tradition and give her a new nick-name, First Baby.  For many years Faith was indeed my baby, and instead of taking on the bitter and sassy middle child identity, I have decided to give her a new title, allowing her the distinction of feeling treasured instead of lost among the birth order.

Now, while this might sound coddling to some, I do confess a certain degree of parental guilt when it comes to juggling three kids.  My position recognizes the recurring nagging feeling of mommy guilt because I haven’t been able to give my middle child the attention she craves now that there are three.  The truth is I am outnumbered and Faith has genuinely lost some time and attention from the mommy bucket. 

But, even though my hands are full, as all moms know, my heart has an endless amount of love for my little girl.  So one of the things I decided I could do was to give her a special name.  And when I hold her in bed at night as we cuddle and say prayers, I sense my effort is appreciated.

Clearly she is still the middle sister.  Faith’s role has not changed, but her title has been tweaked a bit to boost her security as my beloved child.  It’s a beautiful picture of what God does with us.  The world calls us certain labels and He in turn tells us we are chosen, redeemed, and cherished.  The circumstances in our lives don’t change, but the image imprinted on our heart, (if we choose to believe what God says is true about us) begins to define us more than the other titles. We operate differently because we are secure.

A recent story in the news caught my eye about a family who has refused to announce the sex of their child.  The baby named Storm will be allowed to pick its own gender.  On a million levels this disturbs me but mostly because we are created in the image of God, male and female he created them. 

Little Storm will grow up without labels, without a gender even.  His family, in an extreme effort to avoid the world’s identification and labels, has created even more insecurity for the child.  In my opinion, this seems like another misguided attempt to play God and redefine the created order into some PC perversion of an alternative reality. 

I understand the desire though.  It’s the same reason I go out of my way to make up silly nick-names because I love my kids.  It’s the yearning to experience the paradise we were created for. Something deep within our spirits strives to recreate that which was lost. Of course not being God, we distort in our effort to recreate beauty or in this case a world without labels.

Strangely enough, I imagine in about a year or two, the last thing Faith will want me to call her is a baby.  And Storm in a few years will probably figure out his or her sex, despite his parent’s shroud of secrecy.  Hopefully, both will find their true identity in Christ alone and ultimately that will be enough.

Beth Moore and the Bumbling Backup Leader

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Yesterday morning the ministry bat phone went off (ok, maybe it was my husband’s I Phone, but you get the point).  A red alert was issued for the women’s bible study that very night.  The leader was down, hospitalized with a vicious migraine, and backups were being called.

Back-ups, oh right…I guess that means me. Sometimes I forget that leading the Women’s Ministry also means being the understudy.

It was the very first night of the new ministry season, kicking off the working women’s study, and canceling the event didn’t seem to be much of an option.  So, I took off to work in a panic and picked up the leader guide at lunch, skimmed over it during the day, grabbed the workbooks, and then rushed home from work to throw my kids in the car and head over to the church for set-up.  Whew!

 I expected the study to be small, just a few women gathered to dive into the word, but as our church has grown, so have the studies.  Women quickly filled up the room.  Women who were all staring at me for guidance. I felt the weight of their expectations drain the lightness from my heart.

The air was thick with awkward giggles and pauses.  The very same women, who would eventually spill their tender and fragile hearts, now eyed each other with cool appraisal.  They were anticipating a spiritual giant and here stood a bumbling and unprepared third string quarter-back.

I tried to break the ice by playing a silly name game, which generally has a high success rate at connecting groups, but they were a wily bunch, and weren’t buying my juvenile ploys to get them to relax.  So, I rambled  a bit more, tried to sound like I wasn’t winging it, did some introductions, and then finally, gratefully, turned on the video DVD by Beth Moore

The women seemed to enjoy the video, but I was acutely aware that a certain element was missing.  The group hadn’t bonded and I had only fifteen minutes left.  A spirit of suspicion seemed to permeate the room.

“Oh, Lord, what do I do?” I prayed.

I sensed that prayer was the right direction, but the group was so big, if we all shared it could take hours.  So, I went out on a spiritual limb, asked the women to split in pairs and pray with each other.  I knew I was taking a risk in a group this big, not really knowing if some of the women had ever even prayed out loud. Mutiny was looming in the back of my brain.

And all of a sudden, as if a bomb went off, the room exploded in voices.  They were happy voices that rang out and reverberated off the ceiling.

I sat and watched dumbfounded, realizing a profound truth.  Even though women say that Biblical learning and instruction are a priority, from their reaction it seemed like what they really wanted was connection. And it was desperate greedy need.  

More and more often, I am confronted with the idea that our community of believers is literally starving for human interaction.  People are becoming tremendously isolated, despite the advances in technology (or maybe because of them) and working women, maybe even more so, because they miss out on the community of mothers and play dates, classroom parties and volunteering. Sitting in a cubicle all day staring at a computer does little to strengthen the bonds of communal living.  And it is eating away at our very souls.

We weren’t designed for this.  God created us to be in relationships within in a community of believers and to live in fellowship.  Our relational connection was never intended to be fulfilled with an I Phone, Face Book, and Tweets. 

And so, women come to Bible Study for far more than the Scriptures. They come to find friendship, solidarity, and support in a world that is destroying the very nature of our relational design.

Lesson learned for this Bible teacher.  Next session we do group time first, and then study time!

Intentional, interactive, chatty time that is cathartic for the soul; for a generation of women that are subconsciously mourning the loss of a shared lifestyle and needing nothing more than a smile, a hug and a little empathy from some Godly gals.

Oh, and maybe a little chocolate too.

Shock and Awe

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I am a big scaredy cat. I get squirrelly in dark parking lots, check my back seat for Ted Bundy, and keep every door and window locked despite the sweltering heat of summer.   The Night Stalker killings and rampage of the 1980’s terrorized my childhood dreams and sleep for years, even after he was incarcerated and even when my fear was more detrimental than reality.  Admittedly, if ADT offered a personalized alarm system, one that monitored my body’s perimeter for criminals, sex offenders and violent youth, I would be the first to sign up.

I know I am not alone in this irrational attachment to fear.  Women, in general, seem far more prone to insecurity than men when it comes to feeling safe and the media only plays into our anxiety.  Watching the eleven-o-clock news requires a black belt in karate or at minimum, a proficient knowledge in the use of handguns and weaponry. At least the Today show filters down the evil antics of the night before to a few newsworthy stories. The media’s fascination with shock value has given the general public an overload of information, much of it detrimental to our sense of well-being.

 In an effort to “enlighten us,” it has not come without a great cost.  We have sacrificed of our sense of peace and perceived security on the altar of “shock and awe news.” Jack Nicholson said it best, “You can’t handle the truth.” I both agree and simultaneously disagree with him. I would argue that a little truth goes a long way, and in some cases, I would actually prefer to be sheltered from every single murder and drive-by incident. On the flip side, deep down my spirit pushes me to cry out for the oppressed in direct opposition to my inner wuss who wants to live in denial.

That’s not to say violence hasn’t touched my own life. I don’t live in a bubble.  As a small child, an intruder broke into our home and assaulted my own mother at knife-point.   I’ve had my share of attempted break-ins, altercations, and even a bounty-hunter who terrorized my family one night due to a mistaken identity.  And maybe that’s the reason why my heart breaks every time I see another story of devastation and abuse.  Isn’t life hard enough without a play by-play rerun of its atrocities? 

As a story–teller, I too am at a conundrum. I aim to evoke emotion from my writing.  I want to expose the injustice in the world and bring it to light.  Conversely, as a woman and a mother, my deepest desire is for security and a sense of well-being. It is a duality that confronts all of us.  This is where faith in God and our deepest trust issues collide.  The Scriptures say to “fear not” while my flesh trembles and panics.  Maybe that’s why, “Don’t be afraid,” is repeated more often than any verse in the Bible.  God knew the torment we would encounter and suggests only He, can provide us with the peace and security we long for.

So until the day I will meet Jesus face to face, I will continue to lock my doors, skip the late news and press into the truth, even when I would rather shut my eyes and even when the façade of safety seems more appealing than the violence of reality.

 

Resurrection

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I passed on to you what was most important…Christ died for our sins, just as the scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures said. 1 Cor 15:3-5

And on the third day…

the illusion shattered.
torment, horror, defeat;
a man crucified.

I stagger under the weight of your sacrifice, my sin for your blood.

Red drops of shame pour out of my eyes.

I hear a whisper,
sshh…
it is finished.

O death, where is your sting?

Can you hear the dawn weeping in joy?
The light is dancing
creation speaks…

He is risen…

Resurrection

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