When The World Is A Scary Place To Raise Kids

He was wearing next to nothing…

…and that’s with a generous measure of optimism.  We were driving home from church, and my 6 year old’s gasp made my gaze whip to the rearview mirror.  She was staring, horrified, at the rider of a motorcycle on our left rear bumper.  The rider was garbed in a head scarf, with no other clothing visible.

“Mama, why would he do that???”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that question, and it won’t be the last.  I’m more than sure of that.  We’ve talked about a broad range of topics, and there’s plenty more to come.  I cringe when I think about this world my kids are entering.  If there were bubble-wrap suits for their souls, you can believe that they would be wearing them!

Sheltering…it’s my go-to response.

Cuddle those love bugs up on my lap and keep them little and blissfully ignorant.  But that’s pure selfishness (not to mention, it won’t work.)  Friends, we can monitor their friendships, curtail their electronics, sanction their reading, and even homeschool these babies of ours, but there is no sheltering them…not when the drive from church involves leering, nearly-naked people.  Not when hot button issues splash across the front pages of checkout aisles and on the airwaves.  Not when the latest fairy tale movie turns into a tug-of-war between opposing factions.  Not when even close relationships disappoint and are pock marked with imperfections.

No, sheltering isn’t practical, nor does it recognize our children as future world-changers.

They are people with a call on their lives, a mission to fulfil, and dreams that will almost certainly scare me witless.  They need to be protected from issues too weighty for their small shoulders, but only for a short season.  Faster than I am ready, we need to talk about gritty things.  They need to know that falling short is the human condition and that grace is the only thing that sluices through any amount of sediment.  They need to know that we all sin and struggle mightily.

They need to know that no heart is immune to foolishness, that no relationship is perfect, that people will disappoint and be cruel, but that Jesus is bedrock solid.

More than being sheltered, they need truth.  It’s what sets people free, and isn’t that, more than all the hovering and fretting, what they need?  If I get to the heart of the matter, I want my precious ones to be free.  I want them to soar, weightless and joyful into a world that is cold and disappointing, and I want the truth to be the wind under their wings.  And as we preach the Gospel to them, we imbed it on our own hearts.  There will be talks about the headlines in the future.  The bombings, the shootings, the stabbings, the ways children are exploited and abused.  We’ll need to talk about the horrors of Hitler and slavery and man’s sickening brutality to man throughout history.

If I send them out, sheltered from all that is negative, they have no immunity.  They need to be prepared for the dazzling and terrible things they will encounter in this world.  They need to know that evil is real, but that they don’t have to be afraid.  John 16 should be every parent’s speed dial when it comes to horrifying headlines and fear of the future.  When all is said and done, Jesus’ words in verse 33 say it best: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV).  When they’re little, we can lay the groundwork for those later talks.  The playground gives myriad examples of people being foolish or hurtful or selfish.  Heck, 5 minutes in our living room is plenty of opportunity to showcase all of those attributes.  Because, honestly?

The enemy isn’t out there, some wild-haired extremist or creepy guy with too many tattoos…the enemy is in your house, seducing you into believing that if you just do it right (whatever it is)…then everything will be peachy keen.

The enemy is in my superiority complex, my self-hatred, my secrets.  The enemy is in anything that tempts us to forget that Jesus is the way, the only way to ever get anything even halfway right.  Sheltering is ineffective, because although there is rampant evil in dark alleys and lurid magazines and locked behind prison walls…evil is as close as the nearest human heart: yours, mine, and even theirs.  Sheltering fails to recognize that we’re all terminal with sin, that Jesus is the only antidote for all of us – for the prim housewife and the tattooed biker, for the Hollywood star and the Hindu priest, for the homeless and the hedonist, the terrorist and the model citizen.

Speaking the truth all through the years about human tendencies, about how much we all need Jesus, about how prone we all are to forgetting all the important things and focusing on all the unimportant things…this can be even better than sheltering.  We can relate the Gospel to skinned knees and snobby kids, and it is equally relevant to nuclear warfare and genocide.  We MUST integrate what we’re seeing, (whether it’s unclothed men on motorcycles or hurtful words or coveting our neighbor’s sandbox toys) to the truth in Scripture that ultimately points back to God.  This is what it means to, “Talk about [God’s law] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 6:7-8 NIV).  This is the dialogue that can continue through the years as they grow and mature – and it needs to. 

Because when the world falls in on them, whether it’s in 6th grade or their 60’s, this is their shovel and their shelter: the sturdy grace of a risen Savior.  You and I won’t always be there, hovering and editing and protecting…but Jesus will never forsake those kids, just as He’ll never forsake us.

He’s all the shelter that they – and we – will ever need.

 

 

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When Mother’s Day Is Thorns And Roses

Everywhere I turn this Mother’s Day, I feel surrounded by the reality that there is so much pain tangled up with all the pretty.

 

So many people grieving the loss of their own mothers, through death or estrangement or the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.

So many people mourning over lost children – whether it be the children they always dreamed of having, or the children they yielded to adoption, or the children that are with Jesus, or the wayward ones who can’t wander a way out of their mother’s heart.

Wounded daughters, broken mothers…grieving women.

What if the sadness of what you’ve lost overshadows the celebration this weekend?

Is it okay to hide a broken heart under a pretty dress, to trace lipstick on a trembling smile, to write the cards when there are no words, and still live authentic?

I hope so. It’s what I’ll be doing this year.

This Mother’s Day is a potpourri of joy and loss for me.  We will be attending a big family dinner after church, and it will be good to spend the time with loved ones.  It’s a massive group of diverse personalities, and we are connected by blood, by marriage, and most of all, by Jesus.

But there are people missing from the table.

People I deeply love, family members who aren’t gathered in this noisy celebration crowd. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the blessings in my life, and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the loss.  It’s a mixed bag, and I find myself nose to nose with the disparate realities this weekend.  If you’re feeling this tension between joy and pain, this tug-of-war in your heart…you are not alone.

Take it to Jesus.  It’s where I’m taking all my stuff, because I am just too tired to put it into words.  I’m sick of feeling it, sick of ignoring it, just plain sick and tired of it. Only He can handle it all – the tears, the laughter, the pain too deep for words, the awe of blessings not deserved, the stark disappointment of withered hope.

We have a refuge, a strong shelter who will hold hope for us when we’ve lost all of ours.  A place to go when the grief washes over, tsunami strong.  Tender words, whispered to your soul, when the silence of broken relationships is deafening. When grief crushes your heart, and you can’t find a way to breathe in the pain, turn to Jesus.  He has been carrying this pain for two thousand yearsYour pain.  Mine.

So when Sunday dawns, wake up with this truth settled deep in your heart: you are known and you are not alone with your grief.  Some day…because of a Sunday morning two millennia past…all our tears will be wiped away.

Life is roses and thorns.  Tears and laughter.  It’s okay to appreciate the beauty and feel the pain.

Grace and peace and roses (with Kleenex),

 

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A Letter To My Non-Mom Friends On Mother’s Day

It’s almost here, this day that carries so much weight.

For all that is celebrated and beautiful about motherhood, today I wish I could spend the day celebrating the beautiful women in my life who are not, technically, mothers, but who would love to be.

For you, precious women without children, but who desire them…lovely, Godly ladies who want to add the title of mom to their many others…my heart breaks a little for you as I think about what you might be facing this day, again.  I don’t know the why in your story.  I only know that the plans of God far outweigh my comprehension and yours, and some glorious day we’ll know it was all and only and always for good and out of love.

I want you to know that your life is filled with purpose, even if your home is not filled with children.  That you are not less His daughter, or less His delight, or less His masterpiece because you don’t have babies.

I really just want you to know…carrying a child in your womb is only one of the ways to cradle life.

I see you pregnant with grace, filled with life and radiant. I see you, pouring yourself out in countless acts of mercy to children you may never see again.  Loving the little ones who look into your eyes and see Jesus.

I see you birthing joy out of suffering. I see your trembling smile as you rejoice over another pregnancy announcement and your heart breaks again for what you don’t have.  I see you brave, and I see you smiling even through the tears, and I see Jesus, again.

I see you open your home to cradle lost souls and rock the hurts of ungrateful people. I see you giving without end from whatever you have, and even, sometimes, what you don’t have.  I see you cheerful through the poverty of disappointment and broken dreams.  I see Jesus in you.

I see you living unselfish, living out the truth, living obedient in the hard, and it shames me.

I’m ashamed of my own complaining, my own whining, my own selfishness, when you would give your right arm for my life.  When you deserve, so much more than I ever could, this life of motherhood.  Who am I?  I can’t go down that road, because there’s no answers.  You’re not unworthy, and I’m not worthy, and we’re just going to have to trust God’s Father-hands that made and love us both. The Father-heart that pens our stories with equal tenderness.

I am humbled by you.  I am awed by you.  By the beauty of grace in you.  By your gentleness.  I am a better woman, a better wife, a better mother, for knowing you.  Oh, I learn so much about mothering from you, so much about loving well.  So much about resilience and joy and patience through suffering.

I want to be like you.  I want to step over the barrier (who put it there anyway?) that separates the married from the unmarried, the mother from the childless, and just be your sister in Christ.  I want my children to look up to you and learn from you, because there are so many things that you can teach them that I cannot.

If you only knew how much I want to learn from you.

A bountiful harvest of grace is what I see in your life.  It comes in so many ways, and slips in, humble and unnoticed.  Yes, this day is about motherhood, but it’s God’s grace…to each of us…that defines a life.

It’s easy sometimes, to make life about the haves and the don’t haves – what you have, or they don’t have, or I have and you don’t – but as believers in Jesus, we are marked by something completely different. His grace. I remind you as I remind myself that we none of us deserve any of it, but He gives anyway. He gives grace to the humble, and it’s gorgeous on you.

I see it all over you, pouring from your heart, the unmerited favor of grace, spilling life all around you.  Nurturing.  Tirelessly, unselfishly, endlessly, quietly, serving.

I see you, and I see Jesus in you, and it’s stunningly, awesomely beautiful.

A mother gives life in the delivery room, but you…you give it over and over and over and over.  Laying down your life for His way.  Laying down your dreams, your plans, your wants, for His best.  None of it is wasted.  John 12:24 reminds us that the death of what’s precious gives life to more than we can imagine, and I hope you know that your impact is not crippled by this “not yet” or “not ever.”

Jesus uses you to give life to others.

You’ve given it to me.  You’ve given it to countless others.  One day in glory, your eyes will fill with tears of joy when you see that Isaiah 54:1-2 was about you, and you’re going to be shocked by the number of people who look at you as a spiritual mother.  Only heaven knows the reach of your impact.

If that’s not the essence of motherhood, I don’t know what is.

Let’s celebrate…together…the life-giving grace of Jesus.

Welcome to the mama club…mama of many.

Grace, peace, and you-are-deeply-appreciated,

 

This post first appeared on iBelieve on May 2, 2016

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Valentine’s Day For Real People

Love is in the air.

From candy hearts to florist shops to umpty jillion aisles at WalMart filled with all things pink and red and sticky and…aren’t you just a little bit over it all?  Do we have to go so over-the-top about it?  It’s just a day, for crying out loud – what about the rest of the year?

It kind of just makes me exhausted.  I mean, really?  I have to theme crafts and school projects and heart shaped, candy-enhanced cookie bars?  (Now, if this is your kind of thing, then by all means DO IT and send some over to my kids, will ya?)  But for those of us who aren’t wired weird, crazy with the amazing Pinterest gene, YOU ARE OFF THE HOOK.  For reals.  No one is going to write on your gravestone: SHE DIDN’T OVERDO VALENTINE’S DAY 2017.  (I’m just saying.)

But I’ll tell you what we could all use for Valentine’s Day.

How about a little more Jesus love pouring into and out of these hearts of ours…Anyone?  No, love isn’t all we need, but it’s a darn good start.  How long has it been since we’ve just stopped and soaked it in how perfectly loved we really are?  God loves you, and what’s more, He really likes you.  When we fill up on His love, it changes something deep inside.

It’s a dangerous grace that saves us, that scoops us up and cares about every crevice of our hearts.  Intimacy like that can make a girl swoon – or maybe it makes you want to run right for the hills.  Being loved like that is raw and vulnerable, and horribly scary to those of us who need it.  What I forget – maybe you do, too? – is that God isn’t scared to love us.

I spent way too long afraid to lean into the love of Jesus.  It seemed too saccharine, too fragile a thing to hold a messy heart like mine.

Why should God bother with loving me when He has good people to love?  But here’s the thing:  He’s not overly fond of “perfectly perfect” people.  He likes the you and the me that’s really you and me – the ones we might be a bit afraid to let out in the daylight.  He knows a thing or two about suffering and rejection, and have you read what He endured to buy you back from deepest darkness?  When doubts come, and they will, rebuff them as the lies that they are.  YOU ARE BELOVED, FOREVER.

God is hardly daunted by your mess and mine.  He was there when the shattering happened, when the wounds that rope ugly and old were young and bloody.  He was there in the darkest moments of your lowest lows and all the haunting moments that plague you.  If all that hasn’t scared Him away (it hasn’t), then nothing will.  You are perfectly loved by God Himself and nothing can ever change that. 

But this love doesn’t stop there.  It invites, challenges, compels us to love in the same way.  To care about the crevices in other’s hearts, to move out of our comfort zones and personal dysfunction.  It demands that we don’t stand idly by while others are suffocating under the weight of condemnation, shame, and sin.  When you realize the ridiculous lengths that Jesus went to so He could save you, it makes you want to be ridiculous in the way you love others.

We were made to be lovers – lovers of God and lovers of others – because we were made in God’s image, and all of Him is love.  Love poured out, dripping over, saturating all it touches.

Oh, that we could do a little saturating in our circles – something extra but beautiful, just because Jesus is beautiful.

Maybe it’s doing unrecognized work with diligence, even when weariness crushes your bones.  (More on that coming up in my soon-to-be-released ebook: Tired.)  Maybe it’s a smile as you bend low to lift another up.  Maybe it’s a cup of coffee with a sweet friend, or maybe it’s combing the never ending tangles out with a gentle hand.  Love can manifest in a million different ways, but this Valentine’s Day – and always – let’s do just one thing well.

Let’s love others.  Let’s be a million little glimpses of Jesus to our family and friends and the grumpy lady at the grocery store and whoever, whenever.

And you don’t even have to go all Pinterest about it (unless you really want to.) 🙂

Grace and peace and maybe just a few Conversation Hearts (the light pink ones),

– Kelly

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I Chose This Busy

How many times have we been in the grocery store or the library, and someone stops us?

It happens all the time…

They look at your sweet little faces, smile at me, and say, “You’re busy.”  They’re right, of course.  Life with little ones is full of marathon days and more than a handful of short nights.  But I want you to know something:

I chose this busy.

I could be busy with anything, but I gladly choose to be busy with you.

I chose to fill my life with diapers and little people, laundry and gummy treats and unknown stuff decaying under the couch.  I chose all that when I chose you, and I’d choose it again in a heartbeat.  Oh, I might fuss a little about the Sharpie on the wall, or the ever-increasing-grey on my head, but I wouldn’t want anything else.

I’ll never get back the missed nights of sleep, the freedom to take a leisurely shower and simply use the bathroom without interruption, or the joy of sleeping in on the weekend.  I don’t want any of that back.  I want you.

I will always choose you.

I chose the heartache of feeling like I’m messing this whole mothering thing up, the tears of frustration and exhaustion, of feeling so deeply inadequate. I chose the demands that come when you add 3 tiny people into the mix, and it’s my joy to care for your needs.  I chose the crazy isolation of being a mother of young children – which basically means that any outing is an adventure of epic proportions.  But oh, my darlings…I want it no other way.

You see the eye roll when it’s the end of the day and you ask for peanut butter toast with sprinkles 26 seconds after the kitchen is cleaned up and I’ve finally flopped on the couch.  You hear my sigh when you kick off your little boots and the mud goes flying over a floor I just managed to drag a broom over.

Please, don’t ever think that’s my heart towards you…it’s just the tired talking.

I chose this life, this joy, when I chose to say yes to love.  I chose to lay my heart wide open, and I expect to get it a little tattered in the process.  I chose to be busy with you, and I never once thought all those years ago that it would be you teaching me.

You extract me daily from my self absorption and rescue me from my innate selfishness.  Your sense of adventure challenges me.  Your creativity inspires me.  Your simple joy in the simple things…it humbles me.

It’s the privilege of a lifetime to be your mama, and I don’t take you for granted.

Who can help but smile when they see you all blinking and sleepy coming down the stairs, dragging your favorite blankie behind you?  I’m the richest woman in the world when you settle in on my lap all snuggly and precious.  And the things that come out of your mouth?  Oh, honey.

The character building accomplished with the wild scattering of pipe cleaners, cotton balls, and glitter should not be underestimated.  You, my sweets, glory in the mess of it all, and I shudder.  You love mud and dinosaurs and ballerinas and monster trucks and Disney princesses.  But I chose crafts and trucks and messes and fairytales when I chose you, because I chose to love all of you – all of who God created you to be – fully.  Oh, I don’t get it anywhere close to perfect, and you know it better than anyone.  But I try, and I’ve found that cotton balls and glitter and toy dinosaurs and trucks everywhere aren’t anywhere close to the worst things in the world.  Missing those moments with you – that would be worse.

The red-faced tantrums, the kicking and biting and screaming, the boundary pushing, name calling, infighting, bickering, and disrespect…it’s brought me to my knees, to the very end of myself, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  It’s brought me to Jesus, and what does a life need more than Jesus?  Nothing, my loves.

I choose to stick with this job instead of running screaming for the hills on those days because God has chosen to stick with both of us, and I hope you get to know Him better, deeper, younger, than I did.  He gets all the things right that I get wrong, and I’m trusting Him to fill in the many gaps in my mothering.  When you want to know what love is…don’t just look to me or to Daddy.  Look to Jesus.

Because as much as I chose this life when I chose you…

…He chose us first, and for always.

 

 

 

 

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