Friday, November 1, 2013

Worthless Worth

  Tonight I found an old prayer journal from 2004. I was reading through it and kind of laughing at some immaturity, thanking God for answered prayers, marveling at things I wrote then that still surface in my life now. I am in awe at the things that seemed so hazy then are now clear as day. 

  There was one particular entry that jumped out at me. It's subject is one of those threads that I see has woven itself in my life through every season, every change of location, every storm. And every time I look at it I see something different. I see with more clarity than I did the last time I looked at it. 
The Journal entry starts with the story from Luke 7:36

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet,he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
 my journal entry after wards reads on: 

" The woman in this story, a sinner, went in and began to wash Jesus' feet with her tears and anointed His feet with oil. The Pharisee who had invited Him got upset and said to Jesus " Don't you know who she is?!" Jesus told the pharisee, " This woman has not CEASED to kiss my feet, to worship me". He forgave the told the woman that her sins were forgiven her

  This woman KNEW who she was. She had done things she wasn't proud of. BUT... she knew who HE was. She recognized her Lord, her deliverer, and she begin to worship Him. Whether we are worth or not ( none of us are), HE IS WORTHY!"

  This dilemma of worthiness is one I have come face to face with time and time again. And every time I hear Him say.. " But I AM WORTHY". Regardless of who I am and what I have done...He is worthy. 

  Tonight as I read again, I saw things through the lens of a friend and pastors wife who has seen countless people who are struggling with their worth. I have sat across a table at coffee shops from women who were despairing and depressed, I have hosted families in my living room who are dealing with the aftermath of controlling and spiritually abusive leaders from their past. Teenagers and adults alike who have made mistakes and have been condemned by the authority figures in their lives. All struggling with their worth. 

 And I have ZERO experience with what they are going through. 

  Here's what I say to them, as a christian, as a sister in the Lord and as a pastors wife... Jesus loves you. Jesus knows you and He loves you. 

   Let me just tell you right now... any person I have ever talked to or counseled that was struggling with sin... they knew they were sinning!! No one had to tell them so. Though, people did anyway and instead of driving them into the arms of Christ, I saw many people covering and hiding in shame. 

   I believe STRONGLY in accountability and speaking the truth in love, but that's referring to brothers and sisters who are in Christ. This scripture is referencing "sinners", those who do not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and savior.  

  When we tell people who Jesus is, it doesn't matter who they are. The woman in the story did not worship at Jesus feet because she was clean and pure and Holy. She most certainly did not have her life together. She knew who she was... AND SO DID HE!! She poured herself out to Him because, upon recognizing JESUS, she could not contain herself. She did not do it to attain worth, she did it because she recognized His worth. Right there before all of the snooty, self-righteous religious jerks, she found herself totally abandoned in worship of the One who had the power to cleanse her and forgive her. She worshiped not out of religious ritual or compulsion... she worshiped out of deep gratefulness. God saw her, HE KNEW! Yet He received her worship because "a broken heart and a contrite spirit He cannot deny". Psalm 51:17.

  The greatest day of my life was the day that I finally accepted that Jesus knew me..REALLY knew the ugly, bitter, twisted, depressed, despairing, striving me and He accepted me any way! He could see the darkness in my heart and He STILL received my worship. He said to me " Monica, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Do you know who I am?" 

 There is no need to shame and condemn a sinner. Chances are great that they know they are sinning ( I know I do) and are struggling under the heavy burden of guilt. Rules and harsh restrictions never changed a person. But I tell you from personal experience, the Love of Jesus will reach into the deepest darkest soul and touch them in an eternal way. If we will only present the Jesus of the Bible, push people to a relationship with Him, then there is no need for mans words. They ( we) know who they (we) are, but do they (we) know who HE IS!! When people see Jesus in us, when we live in such a way that our selfish motives don't get in the way, they too will worship in gratitude and abandonment. They will bring their best, they will come as broken and cracked vessels and lay it all at His feet. Oh how beautiful is that picture! 
Just give them Jesus. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Who's In Charge?

 Yesterday after I picked the kiddos up from school and we were driving home, Nathaniel asked if we could go to Sonic and I said no, not today. So, we all continued talking about our day and a few minutes later he asked again, " Mommy can we puhleeeeeeese go to Sonic??". Before I could open my mouth, my oldest says to him, quite authoritatively, " No, Bubby... we cannot go to Sonic". Now let me just tell ya this... to THIS mom... tone is everything. And I wasn't pleased with the tone she used with her brother.  I said " Excuse me, are you the mommy?" I received a big sigh and possibly an eye roll, though its hard to know for sure since I was driving.
 It should probably be said that this is an issue we have been having for quite  awhile now. This is a repeat offense. I finally decided to call her bluff when I said , " You know what, Em.... You're the mom. From now until bedtime you are in charge.. You have to get their snack, help the with homework, make sure all of their chores get done, field all of their questions, comments and concerns, all while still managing to do your homework and chores and cook dinner. ...So what are you cooking?"
 I have to say.... for a while I was beginning to think my little plot had backfired on me. My little booger of a 5 year old who LOVES to pester his sister, thought this was the greatest game ever. On a typical day, the little stinker resist her bossiness at every turn, even when she legitimately is trying to help him. But today... oh today he was the most compliant and pleasant 5 year old you could ever meet. He was helpful and funny and did whatever she asked of him. In return, she was patient and kind and thoughtful to him.... the kind of behavior that is usually reserved for special occasions, like Christmas morning and birthdays...
 Dinner was cooked with some supervision from mom ( tomato soup, chicken nuggets and potato chips..not the healthiest, but at least she's resourceful), homework got done and the bedtime routine went off without a hitch. I was consoling myself with the fact that at least they were getting along and that this showed me it was possible for them to do so when they chose to. So, not a total loss, but I felt like the bigger point I was trying to make was being missed. She requested to continue being "the mom" the next morning, so I thought...  gotcha ," That means you have to get them up in the morning. You have to set your alarm, wake them up, get them dressed".  She says " CHALLENGE ACCEPTED" . I think what she actually said was... "ok". But I caught the gleam in her eyes....
 This morning I am shaken awake by my son who is fully dressed at 6:30 and he says.. " we are making our lunch!" Apparently the wake up routine went down as effortlessly as the bedtime routine. Emma did say however that Jillian was kind of hard to wake up and that she kept whining and messing up Emma's bed that she had made up and that Nathaniel woke up ok but then was just laying there in the bed. So she bribed them both with stickers.... ad she said "and I'm going to give them to them.. I'm not just sayin that". Well ok then.
 At this point I take my concerns to Nate and he agrees that he is seeing a leeeetle bit of arrogance on Emma's part. She's pretty proud of herself and she's done a good job... but it's been pretty easy so far.
 So.. I say to her " hey, you need to be thinking about dinner tonight. we have haircuts from 4-5, voice lessons from 5:30-6 and then church at 7. Somewhere in that time frame we need to eat." She walks over to the menu I keep on the side of the fridge and says " oh... its says "out", so we are eating dinner out!" I reply with, " great! What are you buying us?".  Annnnd game over! " Moooom! I have like $6!! I can't buy food for the whole family!!". " You're the one in charge", I say. "you need to think of something". At this point she is getting flustered and frustrated and panicking. So I take my window of opportunity.
 " Emma, being the parent means that you take the responsibility along with the privilege, the good with the bad. You stick around when it is uncomfortable and you don't leave when it gets hard. You have managed to maintain this responsibility for 4 hours last night and an hour this morning. You have had unusually accommodating kids and a full nights sleep. Within 30 mins time this morning you managed to bribe two kids under your charge to do a menial everyday task...waking up. and yet, you didn't address the deeper issue. Rewards are great, but in order for them to have an impact that lasts they should be reserved for special things. If you reward a child for something as simple as getting up, you rob them of having a sense of self worth and instill in them a sense of entitlement. Waking up is part of life, everyone does it and if they don't, it's because they are dead ... The reward is.. you're alive. You have had one morning of a whiny kid... one morning.You found a way to get her up... but is it sustainable long term? What about when she gets bored of stickers, will you have something else to offer her? What are you doing to foster her sense of contributing to society and personal responsibility?   Do you think that you could deal with that attitude from her every single morning and not blow your top every once in a while? Now multiply that by 3. One morning of the week, one or all of you are crabby and not wanting to wake up. And usually every morning out of the week, I am crabby and not wanting to wake up! It's not a good combination. You've maintained this for a combined total of  5 hours with a full night sleep in between. Now imagine being woken up to clean up puke, or because someone had a bad dream or they wet the bed. Could you keep your cheery disposition with all those circumstances? Not to mention, the second things are no longer in your favor, you're ready and willing to bail and let someone else pick up the tab. "
 I went on to explain that being a parent is 24/7 job. And you are a parent until you die. It does not get easier because it is a job that pulls from you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means having your heart walk around on the outside of your body. Our whole lives are consumed with protecting that heart and nurturing it and fussing over it. We want to see it thrive and grow. As a parent, we face the challenge of having to think towards a place in the future, where your child is an adult contributing to society, while still maintaining realistic expectations here in the present. It's a balancing act that is forever in danger of tipping too far one way. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is risky business that is not meant for cowards. Every thing you do, even with the best of intentions, could be used as ammo at a later date. Yet, we soldier on. Because that's what a parent does. We don't walk away, we don't quit when it hurts, we don't lay down when it gets uncomfortable ... and believe me at some point EVERY PARENT contemplates walking away or at the very least thinks to themselves " WHAT have I done?".
BUT...and I explained this to Emma too.... God gives a special grace and anointing to parents, especially moms, that He doesn't give to everyone. Its not a grace for ALL kids...just for mine. It is because of this grace that I can stay and trudge on after sitting up all night in a hospital chair with dried puke and snot on me as I watch monitors glow on my sleeping infant. After cleaning ALL DAY and within 5 minutes of kids being home my house looks like an episode of "Hoarders". And if you are not the mom to THOSE kids, the grace is not there and you will surely snap. Sometimes, when you are the mom to THOSE kids, you still snap. But then you apologize and you make it right with them...and God's grace is sufficient.  Its grace that sends us back into hostile territory, facing a kid who throws everything we have done back in our faces and rejects our love over and over. It's that love that has us relentlessly pursuing a relationship with our child even after numerous rejections.
 I'm sure some of you are thinking, wow... she really took that seriously...maybe a little too seriously.  And that's ok. If I REALLY was that concerned with what other people thought... I wouldn't be writing a blog. :P But really... As parents, Nate and I were seeing some things we wanted to bring to light in our daughter. As I said, this wasn't our first go around with her. She was able to hear what we said and I believe that it gave her something to think about. I hope so, anyway.
 The REAL lesson though was for me ( big sigh.... isn't it ALWAYS). I am amazed at how God uses my kids to teach me and love on me... and rebuke me. The parallels I see with Emma and myself and God and myself are amazing. Only now, I am the child. In my limited understanding and short field of vision I think I have control, I think I understand how things work and are done. I walk around with an air of pride that can be pretty off-putting but I don't see it. So, God, my Father, allows me to continue on until I hit a wall or squirm uncomfortably and seek a way out of the mess I've made. Or worse, I lash out at the One who loves me most. I reject Him and His efforts to set me on the path He has for me.I am hostile and angry and throw a fit because I can't have what I want. Until I finally break and remember that He loves me.   He gently sits me down and shows me my arrogance and how it's blinded me.  I am so heartbroken and shamed over my own pride and thinking I could handle things. Then I remember, HE is the parent. There are things I can't do and I'm not capable of because I'm not anointed for that. There are things coming my way that I could NEVER forsee happening..but He does, because He is wiser and bigger and stronger. So in His LOVE for me, He allows me to encounter temporary unpleasantness or doesn't give me what I'm asking for because He sees an end result that I can't fathom. And because I understand that He loves me, I trust Him. I trust his heart for me. Sometimes, even if I don't start out trusting Him, I get there eventually. ;) His heart for me is good. His plans for me are good. Jeremiah 29:11 says " I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future".
 So, you see... this desire we have as parents to see our kids prosper, The hope we have for their futures, This didn't originate with us. We think this way because we learned it from our Father.

Psalm 25:4-7
Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just another manic Monday...

You guessed it... It was a stereotypical Monday morning here in the Sweeney house. Shoes were thrown, tears were flung, snot was slung...and all before we woke the kids!! haha..just kidding. Maybe.

 But really.

It all started when my middle child came up not wearing the clothes I had laid out for her. Please understand that she has a strong aversion to anything besides skirts and leggings. She claims to hate jeans. But ya know, sometimes jean are called for. Today was one of those times. After a little fit and some stern words from mom she loudly stomped herself to her room to change.
 Then my oldest daughter came up to get her hair done. And this is where the drama really ensued. Now, shes 10 so I give her just a little more liberty in choosing her outfits. Which sometimes she appreciates and other times its just too overwhelming..but that's another blog. Today, as I give her the once over, I realize that her pants are a little short. And by a little short I mean the girl could wade the Mississippi river and not get her pants wet until she was 3/4 of the way across. Seriously...they are that obviously short. So, I point this out to her and state that perhaps she is wearing her sisters pants? You would have thought that I told her that her (nonexistent ) dog died and not only is he dead, he is NOT going to heaven. The wailing that followed my observation was jaw-dropping. I offered at least 5 other suggestions, but not one was sufficient. She was just mad. And cranky. And everything from that point on was a fight. Nate took the kids to school with Emma kicking and screaming and fighting the whole way. I got a phone call a little later and Nate informed me that Emma had left her binder at home and that she was really upset because now she was going to get a white slip in all 3 classes and she wouldn't be able to participate in "Super Friday" and that the teachers would label her a "bad kid"( should know, she is an amazing student. All of her teachers say so. She is seriously an over-achiever when it comes to school).  Nate was of the mind of she had made her choices that morning and was so busy arguing and being rude that she forgot her things and that she should have to live with the consequences.


Mom has a tendency to be a bit more sympathetic and wants to use these opportunities to teach about grace..and mercy.... In other words, I am a giant pushover. And the thought of my baby being embarrassed at school makes my heart hurt.

However, Nate had told Emma that he was going to suggest that I don't bring it. So now I'm REALLY in a pickle. I don't want to undermine my husbands authority... but It is SO HARD not to swoop in and rescue your child!!

 So, all the while I am praying and asking God for wisdom. And when I say that to Him, about how hard it is to not rescue my child (even though she was acting like a giant turd), He speaks so clearly to my heart and says " Don't you think I know that?".

Oh. ..... OK....?

He then speaks to me and says " My desire is not for your comfort or even for your happiness. My desire is that all are saved and come to me through Jesus.  And that you are then empowered by My Spirit for the express purpose of leading others to my throne of grace. I am OK with you experiencing a little discomfort if that discomfort brings you to a place of humility and brokenness and dependence before me.

Hebrews 12:11

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

There are bigger things at stake than your ego or reputation or your fleeting desires. I don't rescue you from every fire immediately because often times the purpose of the fire is to expose and remove impurities. You cry out to be rescued, but I want you to learn to trust Me in spite of the fire. Trust that I am doing a work in the midst of the fire."

 He went on to show me that in regards to Emma and my desire to rescue her, that there was a bigger lesson to be learned:

 Our actions are far reaching. And they don't affect just right now and whats in front of us. They can affect our future, and they can affect others.

This is something that we have talked with Emma about countless times. But now she had the opportunity to see it in action. We have also been talking to her about doing the right thing because it's the right thing, Not for reward and not for fear of being caught. We have been talking to her about personal responsibility and the affects of her choices. Mom and dad will not always be there to save her. We have told her " You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices". So today...she gets to experience it for herself.

But its still hard for me to watch. :(

So, God says to me, " So you know how you  said " it's so hard not to rescue your child!"?  And I said " yeah..." He said "that brings me to another point. That time that my one and only Son, was hanging on a tree and He cried out to me. I had to turn my face away. Some people might see that as hateful or insensitive, but I couldn't look because my heart was breaking. As much as it broke my heart for my child to be in that condition.. I knew it was the right thing...It was for a purpose. A greater purpose than anyone could ever have dreamed. So you see, sometimes you have to allow your child to experience the unpleasant".
( He said this so I would know that He knows where I'm at. He sympathizes)
  You have to resist the urge to rescue them and allow the process of sowing and reaping to birth something excellent in them."
 The lessons that stick with us the most, the lessons that truly grow us, are the ones we experience one on one with Jesus. Allowing Him to lead us out of the murky, muddy ditch we are in. Sometimes we put ourselves in that ditch and other times God allows it even though we have done everything we are supposed to do. It's never, ever to be cruel. He is kind.
 Just as I am not trying to be cruel in NOT taking my daughter her binder. I care more about her character than her comfort. And I will be there to hold her. Even if she blames me and she is mad at me. I love her too much to not allow her to feel the sting of the consequences of her behavior. I trust that one day she will see that everything I do is motivated by how much I love her. I have taken my knocks. I have dealt with the results of making bad decisions. And Gods grace blew me away. I would be doing my child a great disservice if I didn't allow her to experience God's amazing grace for herself.
  God is not cruel when He allows trials, or allows us to face consequences. He doesn't always rescue us because He sees a greater purpose. He understands the pain and the discomfort, He experiences it with us, because He NEVER leaves our side.
 The lesson for me today, is trusting God and that He is a better Father than I am mother. The lesson for me is that I have to trust God enough to allow the Biblical truths we teach to our kids to have time to process and produce lasting fruit in them. To resist the urge to pluck them up when a little adverse weather hits and instead trust the nature of storms that causes all plant roots to dig down deep and cling tighter to what grounds them.
 The lesson for Emma is accepting personal responsibility for her behavior. We won't always be spared. When we are ruled by our emotions and act out of them, the ground we stand on is shaky and unsteady. We all have to learn to trust God and do the right thing in spite of how we feel. The principles of sowing and reaping apply to everyone at all times. When you sow bad seed, you yield a rotten harvest. When you plant good seed, you get good fruit and more seed.
So, when we don't understand God's plan, we should trust His heart. His heart for us is good. It's always been good.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cookie Dough

Several months back...I'd say before Christmas... I was mixing up a batch of cookie dough and thinking about some things that God had placed on my heart regarding my family. Nate and I had really started to take a new approach to our parenting. You see.. I don't believe that it is our job to make our children conform to a set of rules, but rather to lead them to the One, who can transform them from the inside out. As a parent I am hopelessly flawed and in the hullabaloo of every day life, I find myself losing focus of the goal and resorting to desperate measure for the sake of a peaceful household. :) But our Heavenly Father is full of patience and compassion. He is able to teach and train my kids where I can't. My to get them close to Jesus and allow HIM to pierce their hearts. Then, we will see an outward expression of an inward transformation.
 A part of getting them close to Jesus is teaching them all I know about God and His character and how He desires our family to interact with one another... And thankfully.. He will often drop these little stories into my heart to share with the kids. They are practical stories that apply to my kids at the age they are now. So on this particular day I was mixing up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and this is what God showed me to share with my kids. I give God all the glory for this... because I am not smart enough or creative enough to think of it myself! It may not mean much to you... but it hit the mark with my kids... and that's what matters the most  ;)  :

 A family is like a batch of cookie dough. Each family member  is an ingredient that does its part to make a perfect batch of cookies. In this case, we have flour, oats, sugar, chocolate chips, milk, eggs and butter. Each ingredient is very important to the final product.  When one is missing or not doing it's part, the dough is useless. If you have only eggs, sugar and butter, you get a runny, gritty batter that won't hold it's shape. If you have just flour, oats and milk, the dough is stiff enough so that you can make a cookie... but it won't taste very good! Likewise.. no single  ingredient is meant to stand alone. If you eat a spoonful of flour you are sure to be disappointed by its bland and flavorless texture. One or two spoonfuls of sugar might taste good, but too much of a good thing is a BAD thing, right?! Butter alone is not so appetizing... but it helps hold thin gs together and complements the sweetness of the chocolate morsels oh so nicely! Each ingredient has a job and God made us to WORK TOGETHER and depend on one another. (Ephesians 4:11-12) 
 So after I poured all the ingredients in the bowl I got out the beaters and mixer and began the process of mixing the dough. God then showed me how life is rough. Sometimes a family goes through rough seasons or difficult  circumstances and it feels like they are getting beat up and thrown around. But God uses those circumstances to make us CLING TO ONE ANOTHER!!... just like the ingredients in our bowl! God wants to use ALL things in our life for our good! (Romans 8:28)
 The last thing He showed me to share with my kids was as I was placing the cookies in the preheated oven. He said the oven represents God's Word and His presence. When we spend time in those two things, as individuals and as a family, we RISE to become what God made us to be and to live out the purpose that God has placed in us!!  Without spending time there in the oven the cookies would remain blobs of dough on a cookie sheet. It wasn't until they spent time in the oven that they became what they were supposed to be all along!! God desires an abiding relationship with us. Its in His word and His presence that we discover our purpose. :)  (John 15:1-8)

 So, that is the little story that I was able to share with my kiddos as we nibbled on our cookies. I THANK GOD for these precious times and the opportunity to talk to my kids in a way that they can relate to..cookies of course!!! :D These are the "crumbs" that my blog is named after! And nothing brings me greater joy than to see the lights of understanding come on in their little hearts!! 
 Thanks for reading and I pray that God will speak to you through all the "crumbs" in your life!! 

Now.. I know you have a hankering for some cookies after that... go on and make some..and bring me a few while your at it! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011


An excerpt I read from The Velveteen Rabbit:

Near the beginning of the story the Rabbit asks the Skin Horse, the oldest toy in the nursery, "what is Real?"

"Real isn't how you are made." said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with, but really loves, then you become real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.
"When you are real, you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

" It doesn't happen all at once ," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time."

... I ain't gonna lie. I totally cried when I read this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


~ Motherhood makes me seriously question my sanity.

The question is:

Was I crazy before I became a mom and since having kids my insanity has had more opportunity to... present itself?


Is it motherhood itself that is, in fact, making me loony?

The problem with option one is.... it could only mean I've been this way my whole life but the condition has been lying dormant until approximately 8 years ago.

The (scary) issue with number two is... I'm going to be a mother the rest of my life..... Am I just going to keep getting crazier?!
... that's a problem for me.

That's all folks...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sharks, Snakes and Salmonella

When I was a little girl, growing up in Northeast Louisiana with two big brothers, I was fearless. In the spring time, when the storms would come and the flood waters would fill the deep "Louisiana-style" ditches, well, we had our very own swimmin' hole right there in our front yard. We would run around in the woods behind our house building forts and playing capture the flag. I rode on the handlebars of my brothers bikes and on the back of 3-wheelers as we splashed through mudholes and flooded canals. Never once did I fear a water moccasin or copper head, though I knew that they weren't uncommon. For whatever reason it never occurred to me to be scared. I followed my brothers, without hesitation, wherever they would allow me too or until they grew tired of me tagging along.
The first time I visited the ocean, I was enraptured. Instantly. To this day it is a feeling that returns every time I stand on a shore and look out at the deep blue. At 12 years old I had to get in that water and let it envelope me. I went as far out as I could possibly go, legs furiously kicking beneath the surface. And again.. although I knew of sharks, the possibility that a threat could be close just wasn't in my thinking. I never feared getting caught in a riptide or trapped beneath a wave. ...I was scared of getting stung by a jellyfish, though....
Many times during my fort-building and ocean diving days I kept myself nourished with the classic kid favorite PB&J. I determined early on that two "fold-over" sandwiches are better than one sandwich made the traditional way with two slices of bread stacked on top of each other. Another favorite snack was to take one of the big spoons from the drawer and dip it into the peanut butter jar and come out with a giant blob of the delicious butter. "Peanut butter spoons". The only fear I had was that my mom or brothers would find me double dipping and ban me from the peanut butter forever. Not once did I ever think my favorite snack held deadly bacteria.
Fast forward to age 21. I am pregnant with my first child. Things have changed. My thinking has changed. On the news I have watched several accounts of shark attacks. One guy lost his leg, another girl her arm. Some people lost their lives. What the...? Why are those sharks swimming in that ocean with those people?!
So with the pregnancy of my first child a whole new world of potentially harmful and deadly scenarios has opened up. I, who, as a teenager, once swam across the Ouachita River ( nearly drowning, mind you) am afraid of the kiddie pool in our back yard, if any kid of mine thinks she will be traipsing herself to the ocean she better think again! I'm sorry.. are you actually riding a bike without a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, and any other cushion they market to place between you and certain death?! Says the girl who once strapped herself to a string held on by another piece of string and was pulled several hundred feet into the air and then dropped to swing out over the crowd watching below and the hot, hard pavement... Now... Six Flags is Satan's playground!!
As you can see, just the conception, not even the birth, of my first child brought about a host of new and irrational fears. Just two years ago there was pandemonium in grocery stores and playgroups across the country when thousands of jars of peanut butter were found to be contaminated with salmonella. REALLY?! I can't even feed my child LUNCH anymore?!
Since becoming a mom, the opportunity for fear has presented itself on many fronts. Regardless of the fact that as a child, I frolicked in the woods like Goldilocks, this is simply unacceptable for my kids. I, personally have killed 3 snakes in our yard alone. Who KNOWS what awaits them in the actual woods?!
Yes, motherhood has opened up my eyes to the reality of the dangers in our world. We have experienced some scares and close calls. I have kissed bo-bos and bandaged wounds. There have been ER visits and late night stomach bugs. Since the birth of my kids I have been introduced to even scarier thoughts and words, like SIDS and syndrome. First hand and as friends we have experienced life's worst heartaches.
What frightens me most is all the unseen that I am powerless to protect them from. Heartbreak and loss, betrayal and disappointment. Failure and pride.
When trying to conceive, our focus was timing. In pregnancy it was their physical health. Upon first glance of my daughters face, I immediately understood that life is so much scarier than sharks, snakes and salmonella. While the media brings to light the dangers of standing water and West Nile virus, it does nothing to address the issues of the human heart. Sure, we hear about gang-related crimes and meth labs, but it all seems so removed from us and our kids. We don't hear the back story of those involved in these activities. What was home- life like for these people who eventually turned to gangs in search of family and belonging? What makes a person so desperate that they risk their lives and the lives of their children to get their next fix? What abuses have people suffered via parents and other authority figures? And what kind of warped message have they received about love that would cause them to turn on the innocent? Where is their hope?
I have to be so careful here to not let fear creep in. I know of many, many people, either personally or 2nd hand who have suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to nurture. They been neglected and left alone vulnerable by the ones who were supposed to protect them. As a pastors wife I have seen the best and the worst of people and I have seen the foundation from which they have built their lives. All have hurt in their past. Every last one, from the suicidal to the flourishing. Seeing this, coupled with my own short-comings, it becomes easy for anxiety concerning my own kids to take over.
You see, I want to keep them from all of this. From the snakes and the sharks and that darn peanut butter! Even more, I want to protect them from the heartache and betrayal. Prejudice and being treated unfairly because they are just a little different from everyone else. Those deep, deep boo-boos that are too messy for a mommy's kiss and bleed too much for a Dora band-aid. Being powerless to stop these kinds of pains. Having to watch as they experience break-ups and rejection. Not making the baseball team. The dreaded "chubby" phase...Knowing that I will have to stand-by and watch, powerless to stop it. Because it's all apart of parenting and growing up. As a mother I have to learn to let go, whether its of the back of a bike sans training wheels or a young adult who is making decisions that I think are unwise. And my children must learn to lean on Jesus. The only way for them to experience Him personally is for me to get out of the way and stop catching them. It's scary. Will they fall on the Rock and be broken or will their pride get in the way and they find themselves crushed beneath the Rock? And will they blame me? Did I step-back when I should have stepped in? Was I pushy and controlling? Will I push them away....?
As I contemplate these things, I know that I am seeing a glimpse of the Fathers heart and the way He desires for us to parent our children. Just as with our first parents, Adam and Eve, He created a safe place for them. They were surrounded by beauty and had more than enough. They had a relationship with God and they walked with Him daily. He gave them all that they needed.
And He gave them free will. He let them go. Knowing the choices they would make. Watching, with tearful eyes no doubt, when they surrendered to temptation.
He knew what they would choose. What we would choose. And He lets us go anyway. Making sure that He provided a Way back. And He is confident in that Way. Confident enough to let go.

And that's how I should parent. Not with fear but with confidence in the Truth. Trusting that Jesus is all that we are and all that we are not. He gives us our strength and makes up for that which we lack.
With a tight grasp, I teach and train. Slowly letting go, one finger at a time, until my hands are open. Watching as they wobble and sway in an effort to find their balance. Praying that as they trip and stumble and bang their heads that they will remember what we've taught them. That the light of Truth that was lit in them will light the path back to the Fathers arms and to my front door...