Life with Kids: Lessons from the Open Road

Open Road text

This summer we put the miles on Homer. Homer is, of course, the only thing a Lit Major can think to name the Honda Odyssey. (Coincidentally, the more contemporary associations with the name, “Homer” also work well, of course, when there are break-downs: “Doh! I think we just got a flat.” Or “Doh! Not another dent in a parking lot! ) And so with more than a month on the road, Homer the Honda earned his “epic” road trip merit badge this summer and so did we. Perhaps it takes a special kind of brain derangement to willfully spend that kind of time stuffed into a car traveling with a 4 year-old, a 2 year-old and an infant. Or perhaps, it is the mere act of having that many children who have not yet entered formal school that causes someone to lose that kind of brain cells.

Either way you learn a lot about yourself when strapped into tiny spaces with your family. You learn that your arms can stretch way further than you thought humanly possible to fetch a dropped French fry, crayon, juice box, matchbox car or stuffed animal. You learn your own personal threshold for the timeless question, “Are we there yet?” And you learn that you’d do just about anything to avoid stopping the car if any child has happened to fall asleep for some small stretch of miles.

But this summer, we also learned a more tender lesson, kindly taught to us by our 2 year old. To know our sweet Isaiah is to love him. When he smiles, there’s an explosion of dimples and a flash of mischief in his eyes that puts a deep-down grin in your heart. His hugs (or are they love tackles?) have literally knocked me over. He’s a rough-and-tumble boy who will pummel you with love and pin you with kisses. And there’s no doubt in my mind that God built this boy with a deep-down need for all things physical: from running and jumping to wrestling to hugs and holds and kisses. So when you take a boy like that and buckle him in a car-seat for an eight hour trip, what happens? Well, something that melted my heart every time.

Though our car was well-stocked with games, and crayons, DVD’s and snacks, each time we took to the road for more than about 30 minutes, Isaiah would call from the back, “Mommy?”

“Yes, Isaiah?”

“Mommy, I miss you.” The word, “miss” held for emphasis while the bottom lip rolled down and pouty eyes let you know this was a serious request.

“I miss you too, baby, but I’m right here. I haven’t gone anywhere.”

“Mommy, I miss you,” he would reiterate holding the words “miss” and “you” out for a few seconds longer than the first time and the pouty lip almost quivering now.

What I came to learn about that oft-repeated phrase during our summer of travel was that even a two-year old knows that nearness is not the same as closeness. Being near mama is not the same as being held by mama. Seat belts don’t exactly lend themselves to hug-tackles and games on the floor, for holding a child in your lap while reading a story, or walking hand in hand.

As Isaiah’s words have hung in my head and heart, I’ve thought about other relationships in our lives where nearness does not equal closeness. You know what I mean: the shared couch and television does not equal closeness with your spouse. The shared shuttles back-and-forth to practice and school do not necessarily equal closeness with your kids. The shared shopping excursions or tailgate parties don’t necessarily equal closeness with your friends or neighbors. And just because you make attending church or going to a bible study a priority, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are close to God.

Someone misses you. Material possessions can’t substitute for you. Entertainment may distract, but it’s no substitute for what you have to offer. Someone wants you: your heart, your embrace, your attention and interaction. Someone wants to be in real relationship with the unique soul that is you.

Can you hear it? That plaintive voice saying, “I miss you.” Where in your relationships is it time to put the brakes on, pull the car over, and get out?

Can you remember a time when closeness was more than nearness? When closeness was a depth of relationship that is not there now? Or maybe your closeness has always been a counterfeit. What can you do now to change it? Will you make the first move? It’s not too late to pull over. Someone needs you. The road can wait.

 

Have you missed me? Sorry for the little blog hiatus. Travel and life with littles got the best of me this summer, but hope you enjoyed this post. If you like what you’re reading and don’t already have me coming to your inbox, why not subscribe? And if you want to read more, check out some previous posts here or mosey on over to Amazon and check out my books. And yes, I do think moseying to Amazon is a legitimate way of surfing the wide wide world of web.

A Valentine’s Gift for Him: 14 Ways to Pray for Your Husband this Valentine’s Day

What to get him this Valentine’s Day? Give him the gift he needs most: be an intimate ally.

My Valentine
When I first said, “I love you,” I had no idea that those would be fighting words. But they are. When I said, “I love you,” I took a soldier’s oath to fight for him, to fight alongside him, to be his most intimate ally. When I said, “I do,” I was saying I will volley the doors of heaven for you with my prayers; I will use my every ounce of creativity and reason to strengthen and persuade you to see the light when the valley is thickest with darkness; I will always have your back; I will never go AWOL on you when life looks bleakest; your battles will be my battles, and together our victories will be sweeter.

If love is an action word for you too, would you give your husband what he needs most this Valentine’s Day. Would you be his intimate ally by praying these 14 things for him in the year ahead?

To my Valentine:
1. Mind- Where you believes lies about yourself, I pray that those would be uprooted. Where your thoughts are plagued with worry, I pray peace. Where you are filled with self-doubt, I pray confidence in Christ.
2. Soul-Where you feel dry, I pray for refreshment. Where you feel lost, I pray you would be found. Where you sense longing, I pray you would find wholeness.
3. Body-Where you hurt, I pray you would find healing. Where you hunger, I pray you would find satisfaction. Where you feel weak, I pray you would know strength.
4. Gifts-Where you are gifted, I pray you would find work for your hands to do. Where you find joy, I pray you might find purpose. Where you have been given much, I pray you would be found faithful.
5. Favor-Where you need doors to open, I pray you would see them swing. Where you need the support of others, I pray you would receive bolstering. Where you put your energy to the things that please God, I pray your work prospers.
6. Family-Where others look to you for guidance, I pray you would be a good role model. Where there is discord, I pray you may be a conduit of peace. Where you are called to lead, I pray you exalt Christ.
7. Marriage-Where there is love, I pray you fan the flame. Where there is wrong, I pray you would be quick to forgive and ask forgiveness. Where there is misunderstanding, I pray there may be communication, grace and revival.
8. Work-Where there is drudgery, I pray you work as unto the Lord. Where there is frustration, I pray you find God’s strength and peace. Where you lack wisdom, I pray you seek Him and find it.
9. Community-Where you encounter the hurting, I pray you respond with compassion. Where you gather for worship, I pray you also find a meaningful place of service. Where you dwell, I pray you enrich the lives of those who live near you.
10. Finances-Where you invest wisely, I pray you see a bountiful return. Where God directs you, I pray you would be unafraid to exercise generosity. Where you need guidance, I pray God would grant you wisdom.
11. Friendship- Where you need brotherhood, I pray you would be unafraid to seek it. Where you find spiritual kinship, I pray those bonds would strengthen your soul. Where good friendships languish, I pray you renew them.
12. Joy- Where there are days of hardship, I pray you find joy even in the midst of them. Where you feel heavy-hearted, I pray laughter spur you out of sadness. Where days sweetly satisfy, I pray your joy leads you to thanksgiving.
13. Dreams- Where your heart still hungers, I pray God may guide you. Where your dreams are not in line with God’s plans, I pray you relinquish them. Where you need courage to take godly risks, I pray you would be brave.
14. Rest- Where work inches its way too far, I pray you place boundaries. Where your mind feels preoccupied, I pray God supersedes and give you peace. Where the days seem too short, I pray you trust in boundaries God has given you and rest.

Will you join me in giving our husbands this gift this Valentine’s Day? Perhaps there is no better way to love him than to earnestly seek his good through prayer. Print two copies of this. Tuck one in a card for him and a second in a place where you’ll be sure to see it and pray for him daily.
Let him know he does not walk alone. Let him know you always have his back.

14 ways, side 1

14 ways, side 2

 

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When All I Have to Give Seems So Small, Part I

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Early motherhood is an especially intense season of life. Often professional degrees seem to sit idle as we wipe bottoms and noses, count piggy toes, and muddle through sleep-deprived nights on caffeine and a prayer. And yet there’s so often both internal and external pressure that we should do more, give more, and be more.

But deep down, we know there’s not any more of us to give. We know that this is a season of life where our worlds seem shrunken in, and supporting those in our immediate care is not only our high and holy calling, but often all we can do.

As I was meditating on this, God brought to mind several historic examples of people who gave what little they had and how God multiplied it. These examples remind me how Jesus takes the two fish and the five loaves and feeds the multitudes, and how he will take my “all I have to give” and bless it.

When all I have to give is love for the man God gave me:
Katharina Von Bora was the infamous nun who ran away (or rolled away rather in a barrel of herring) and ended up marrying reformer Martin Luther. The former celibate priest wrote, “There is no bond on earth so sweet, nor any separation so bitter, as that which occurs in a good marriage.” Katie desired to free Luther up so that he could serve as God had called him. So in addition to caring for their 6 children and the 4 orphans who came under their roof, she did all she could to manage the affairs of the house. Luther called her “the morning star of Wittenberg” since she rose before dawn to care for the livestock, garden, and children.

But while running the affairs of the house was certainly a heavy load, Katie also stood by her man in another important way, as a strong spiritual ally. When Luther was facing a particularly deep period of depression, she greeted him at the door one evening wearing the traditional all-black of mourning attire. Confused, Luther asked her, “Who is dead?” She responded, “Don’t you know, God is dead?” Like the prophets of old, Katie paraded a visual message before her husband and showed him the practical atheism at the root of his current despair. Luther got the message loud and clear and saw the ludicrousness of his own attitude. Katie had been a good theologian to the theologian.

God took Katie’s desire to serve her husband and home—the “all she had to give”—and multiplied many times over. Only in eternity will we know the true weight of her impact on Luther and the generations which followed.

When all I have to give is love for the children under my care:
While Charles and John Wesley are in the Who’s Who of modern Christianity, many of us have never even heard of Susanna Wesley, their mother. And yet, it was this woman who had such a profound influence shaping the great revivalist preachers and fathers of modern Methodism.

Home-life wasn’t easy for Susanna. After a minor dispute, her husband disappeared for over a year. And his poor management of the family’s finances also landed him in jail twice. During one of these separations, Susanna wrote to her husband about how God had led her to spend individual time loving their children well. She writes:

“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, and yet as a mother … I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.”

It was during these special one-on-one times where Susanna instilled the spiritual habit of self-examination, by asking thoughtful questions regarding the state of each child’s soul, and his or her goals and progress toward them. Susanna went to great lengths to shepherd the hearts of the children God had given her and the repercussions of her priorities are still felt today.

When all I have to give are my prayers:
Before St. Augustine ever wrote The Confessions or City of God, his loving mother, Monica, prayed, fasted and wept bitterly over the waywardness of her son. In a well-known episode, a priest reportedly comforted the distraught mother with the words, “the child of such tears shall never perish.” After nearly two decades of her faithfulness, St. Augustine turned to God.

 

Encouraged by this post? Read: When All I Have to Give Seems So Small, Part II. In it, we look at how God used friendship and a mom’s need to put bread on the table to change the world. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to get these posts to your inbox, you can right here

Waiting in Wonder Book Launch Excerpt #5 and a $300 Bedandbreakfast.com Giveaway

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One of the themes I tried to hit frequently in Waiting in Wonder is strengthening one’s marriage.  While I realize that not everyone who reads the book will be married, I do believe that a healthy God-centered marriage is the best place for a little one to thrive. Yet, in the midst of buying baby gear, baby-proofing the home, painting the nursery, picking out the perfect name, attending birth classes, and figuring out how to correctly install a car-seat, I wonder how many couples truly take time to strengthen their marriages as they await the arrival of their little one. After all, while baby likely won’t remember the color of his or her nursery or whether the stroller collapsed with a quick push of a button, that child will remember the health of his or her parents’ marriage for life. It will impact not only how that child sees God, but also that child’s view of how a man and woman should relate.

This entry from the second trimester is but one of many entries in the book that focuses on marriage. Take a look:

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And tying right into today’s entry is your chance to win a $300 bedandbreakfast.com gift card to make that getaway a little easier to make happen. So show your spouse your love and enter today’s giveaway. (And if you’re single, think about entering to win the giveaway and use this gift certificate as a way of taking a personal spiritual retreat.)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finally, we’re getting close to the end of these giveaways. Haven’t they been amazing? Time runs out at midnight on April 25th. If you haven’t yet entered to win the iPad mini, the $200 Spafinder gift card, the Nikon Coolpix L810 camera, or the iRobot 560 Roomba vacuum, enter today and please help me spread the word about Waiting in Wonder. (Winners will be announced on this blog on Monday, April 29th.)

And if you still haven’t ordered a copy of Waiting in Wonder for yourself or as a gift, get a few copies today.

 

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