Letting them spread their wings and fly

letting them spreadI just returned from putting the middle one on an airplane. She is traveling alone for THE VERY FIRST TIME! which strikes a chord in my bosom consisting of maternal pride, vague sorrow, and sheer terror.  She is completely ready for this, but I’m not sure I am! How did we get to the point where I could put my child on a plane and have complete confidence in her ability to navigate an unknown airport in another state on the other end?  Wasn’t it just yesterday I was wrestling her into her car seat, striving to fasten the straps while she arched her back?  Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and return your trays to their upright position…

I am so excited for her to take this trip.  I couldn’t wait for her to experience the rush of the airport, rife with possibilities.  I love traveling and I love the airport.  I pine for the days before terrorists ruined everything; the days when you could walk practically onto the plane (okay, the gate) with your people and watch it take off.  I loved that you could meet dear ones as they stepped off the plane, wearing crazy hats and playing kazoos.  The fact that they would walk right by as if they had never seen you before was immaterial.

Here is an awesome secret! (Most of you probably already knew this, but it was news to me!) If you have an unaccompanied minor traveling THEY LET YOU STILL DO IT!  All I had to do was ask for a gate pass, and with no argument whatsoever I was in.  It was just like the good old days.  Except I had to take off my shoes, and stand in a cone of silence while it scanned me for unwanted objects. And then show the TSA agent my ankle??!!!  Did it look somehow suspicious? If they are looking for unwanted objects they could have the jiggle in my thighs.  I certainly don’t want that, but I guess it isn’t really a foreign object.

The people watching. The moving sidewalks.  The information boards clicking off arrivals and departures.  I felt like a junkie that had fallen off the wagon.

Clearly, we do not travel by plane very often.  My dad did, and I know he grew to despise it.  But when it is a rare treat, it is a thrill to be there with all those anonymous people going to mysterious places.  Or Omaha.  It truly doesn’t matter, it’s the act of GOING that is magical.

However.  When you are taking a tall beautiful girl, and letting her go, ALL ALONE, it is a slightly different tale.  Okay, she is only going for a week, she is meeting good friends on the other end and spending a blissful week at the beach and Disney.  It’s not like I’m shipping her off to China for two years to perform hard labor. It just feels like it.  And I challenge any mother out there to look me deep in the eyes and say they would feel differently.  Deep in their souls.

But it is time.  She needs to take this next step on that road to independence.  I need her to take it.  It is part of my job to suck it up and let her go.  I did stand at the gate until the plane pulled away.  I could just see the pilots through the windows, and I Spock-like tried to brain-meld them to BE CAREFUL.  PAY ATTENTION.  GET THAT BIRD UP AND DOWN SAFELY.  Like that’s not their job.  Like there weren’t a bunch of other people important to someone on that plane.  But MY important person is! As I used to say to my sister-in-law when she would travel long distances with my nieces and nephew Drive carefully.  Precious cargo aboard!

I’m not one of those clingy moms who can’t let their kids go.  Really I’m not.  My dirty little secret is that sometimes I LIKE to see them go. But I still feel oddly bereft.  She will now have stories to tell us that we are not a part of. Stories that will be uniquely hers to tell. She is going to gain a self-confidence she never could at home.  An opportunity to prove to herself what she is capable of. Remember the first time I flew alone?

I said to Sam last night, I don’t want to go with her (well, maybe a little – not so much about her as my own wanderlust), but I wish I could creep on her just a little bit.  Peek around corners and watch as she sees new things, tastes new foods, explores new vistas. Thank heaven above for social media that will allow me to do just that, even if she has carefully curated what I see.

This is just the beginning of the end.  It’s not really even that – I’m being a wee bit melodramatic. We send one off to college next year, which I am already pre-grieving.  What a good use of my time that is! But this is what we had children for in the first place.  To grow up, and fly the nest, and be productive adults that please God.  That, and to take care of us in our old age. They are going to love that! Oh, and give us grand-babies.  No pressure.  Truly.

So my beautiful girl, fly!  Enjoy the journey.  We will be here in the nest when you come back, ready to listen to all your stories.  And just so you know, I stood looking out the window at your plane until you were in the air.



Sanctification: The Ultimate Renovation

SanctificationSanctification.  The process of being made holy. God is holy, and he wants us to be holy.  The process starts when Jesus buys us back, but then we spend a lifetime having the rough edges sanded off and primed and sealed.

We are doing construction at our house, adding a complete second story, and so these kinds of metaphors are quite at the forefront of my mind.  We’ve reached the stage in this seemingly endless project where the contractor has completed what he so picturesquely termed “the vanilla shell” and left the rest of the job in our hands.  It is now up to us, literally, to do the finish work.  This, my friends, is called sweat equity.  Which is also the only way we could afford to do what we wanted to do, but that is another story.  (Have I mentioned yet that I don’t like to sweat?)

Our contractor, who conveniently happens to be my brother, is not abandoning us altogether, but is now in a strictly advisory role. In this metaphor, the creator has built the house, and we are making it complete.  The house is livable.  We abide in it but are constantly working on it to make it finished.

Get it?  Get the connection?  I want you to know, reader friend, that I have never thought about sanctification being like home building.  Ever.  (Of course, I’ve never built a home before, but whatever.) I had totally intended to go another direction with this post, but God brought this analogy to me right now while I was writing and THAT IS SO COOL!

Please note, I am not saying any of us are God in this scenario.  I am saying that we are LIKE God, to a certain extent, in this story.  And sort of like two of the three persons of the Trinity.  I can’t quite stretch the analogy to include the third in the case of our house.  I’m not quite sure how the Redeemer fits into the word picture.

Anyway. Sanctification. The process of being made holy.

The Bible says that when we are saved, the Holy Spirit starts getting our house in order.  In God’s eyes, ALL of our houses are Fixer Uppers.  Like Chip and Joanna Gaines (for those of you unfortunates who have no access/desire/interest in HGTV, this couple are the stars of a show called Fixer Upper.  They can really do no wrong in the house business, in my fangirl opinion.  Anyway… [Like Chip and Joanna Gaines]) who buy the worst house in a good neighborhood and make it the most beautiful home on the block, Jesus buys back the rundown neglected messy dirty house, that the Creator built, from the tenant that let it fall apart.  The Holy Spirit moves into the house and begins fixing it up. (I guess God let me find a way to fit the third person of the Trinity into the picture.  Or the second.  I’m not sure how or if they are numbered.  God’s ideas are SO COOL!  I effuse.)

It is a broad process at the beginning.  A LOT of demolition happens before reconstruction can begin.  Dumpsters get filled.  Face masks are worn. Sometimes some dangerous stuff needs to be dealt with.  Eventually the debris is cleared, the dust settles, and then the building begins.

IMG_7501I know whereof I speak.  Have I mentioned we have lived in this house during the complete process?  We have lived here through the demo phase and it is messy.  So it is when God clears out the unnecessary detritus of our lived-in lives.  It is not always fun, but sometimes it is.  There is something satisfying about pitching out the things that weigh us down, the needless muck that must go before anything new can be constructed.  As new Christians, we tend to be on a kind of high as our lives change dramatically.  Getting rid of the old is exhilarating.

But that wears off.  As time passes, and the construction process sloooooooowly continues, it is easy to get impatient, and irritable, and bored.  We live in disruption. Things move at a snail-like pace. It seems that nothing is being accomplished.  The Holy Spirit moves in and makes what feels like a mess.  The Spirit moves stuff around and rearrIMG_0823anges priorities and tosses out things we believed to be treasures.  Walls are moved.  Things don’t look the same. This part of the sanctification process is the least comfortable.  This is the time that God gently pries our fingers off trash we hold dear, and politely informs us that we really can’t afford marmoleum and we’d better pick out tile.  That the wall we wanted taken out must stay or the roof will cave in.

Reconstruction is both tedious and exciting.  New framework goes up.  The structure becomes defined and see-able.  Drywall is hung to create new spaces. The once-theoretical plan becomes evident and real. Sometimes it is a little like watching a child grow. You really can’t see any change but suddenly they are taller than you.IMG_1157

Some people live in this phase for a very long time.  Longer than is probably truly necessary.  I may or may not be one of those people.

Eventually, however, the finish work can begin.  Our house becomes far more usable.  There is sanding and painting and laying of tile and installation of sinks. Flooring is laid and doors are hung.  Spoiler alert – the house will never be completely finished as long as we live in it.  But it becomes useful.  God invites people in for intimate dinners and rollicking parties.  He makes it a comfortable and safe place to be. He uses the house to make others welcome and to do his work.  He reveals to the world his “Fixer-Upper.”

So to summarize, as I see this analogy.

God builds a house

That’s you and me. Pretty self-explanatory. We are born.  We live life.

We let it go to pieces by allowing in an unsuitable tenant

That’s sin.  Also pretty self-explanatory but just in case, let’s define sin as anything that separates us from God. This is a list that is too extensive to deal with in a blog post, but basically is anything we have ever done wrong ever no matter how big or small we may think it is.  This makes God crazy sad. We are trashing his house!

Jesus buys back the house

That’s salvation. Big concept.  Basically we have sold our houses to sin.  The wages of sin is death.  Jesus, who carries no debt, agrees to pay off the mortgage. He pays the price to redeem us back at the cost of his own life. He now owns us free and clear.

The Holy Spirit begins reconstruction

That’s sanctification.

First comes demo. The Spirit works at getting rid of the bad gunk in our lives, whatever that may be and it is different for each of us. It could be a nasty habit, an addiction, a toxic relationship, or simple negativity. This is transforming work.  We are pared back to the framework of our house.  Garbage left by the previous tenant (sin) hits the dumpster. A few walls get knocked down which creates the desirable “open floor plan.” The house is given a good cleaning and left fresh and sparkling for the rebuild. Those things that grieve God’s heart get addressed.

Reconstruction. Here the Spirit begins rebuilding our lives by spiritual disciplines.  We dig into God’s word.  We attend church and Bible Studies.  New walls are framed in – new habits and desires. We grow and get to know the new landlord better and better until he becomes a friend as well as the owner of the house. If you want to get really technical, he puts the Holy Spirit in residence as the general contractor to do the work.  We get to stay in the house while it happens.  The general contractor never moves out, because there is always work to be done. (Okay, this stretches the analogy a bit.  If my general contractor, who again, is my brother, were to move in permanently it would probably not be such a great thing.  But the Holy Spirit is different.  My brother, like me, is a sinful human being and that can only lead to dissension.  The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is GOD.  Therefore perfect. Unlike me. No dissension.)

Finish work. Refining us so that we can serve God and others – for me this is constant – finding areas in my life that need to be sanded away so that no one gets slivers. In other words, removing from me those character traits that stand in the way of loving on others as Jesus loves them – traits like impatience, thoughtlessness, etc.  This will go on until heaven.

Once Jesus buys the house, it is his.  If we are wise, we let his tenant, the Holy Spirit, do the renovations necessary to make us the beautiful home on the block.  Then maybe, the neighbors will want to let our contractor reconstruct their dwelling.











As part of my daily discipline, I have been reading through the Bible in a year. Currently, I am well into Ecclesiastes, and have just begun 1 Chronicles. The program I am following has me reading a wisdom/poetry book, and either an Old or New Testament book.


Two very separate thoughts collided today. Ecclesiastes keeps reiterating that all is meaningless, good and evil, wisdom and folly. That within the confines of mortal life, every creature on earth suffers the same end, and the work they have done is forgotten.

1 Chronicles begins with a long list of names, a genealogy from Adam until the writer’s time. Chapter 4 contains the “Prayer of Jabez”, a cry to God for an increase in territory, God’s hand to be on Jabez, and to be kept safe from all pain and harm. This prayer has received a fair amount of press in Christian circles thanks to a book by Bruce Wilkinson.

The juxtaposition of these two readings intrigues me. Both seem very focused on the four-score-and-ten existence that we are given on this earth, without drawing any real conclusion for the reason behind it all.

The long list of names found in 1 Chronicles is one of those passages in the Bible that I find myself skimming over quickly. Many of the names mean nothing to me. I have no information of what they did beyond being a stepping-stone to an important character in God’s narrative. And yet they were each real people, with real lives, and real struggles and triumphs. Just like me. (Only I think many of them lived in a tent. I am very grateful to not live in a tent.)

In their time here on earth, all that we know of many of them is the name(s) of their children. We are told nothing about their individual gifts, careers, passions, hobbies, favorite foods, quirky habits – all those things on which we focus our relationships. Yet they are named in God’s word, and therefore must have lived lives of some kind of import.

Our culture is consumed with fame. While I believe there has always been some of this – we do have histories and legacies left by significant people, mostly preserved in written word – there seems an unholy desire in our time to be known. People bare their very souls on television, to millions of enthralled viewers on a regular basis. We don’t see just the good whitewashed exteriors, but revel in the dirty awful corners of people’s lives. Misery loves company. And frequently gives us a sense of superiority.

I think humans have always wanted to be known. I think we are wired to be known. And like all good things of God, man has perverted that desire. What I believe we are wired for is to be known by God. We desire relationship, and intimacy, and purpose. We just misplace where we seek these things and grasp at them anyway we can.

But nothing is new under the sun, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells me. So neither is this search for meaning. There is an incompleteness in us that longs for, passionately, purpose.

I recognize it in myself. I vacillate between knowing that what I do matters, and feeling like none of it does. Like I am walking in the will of God, and that it is never enough. That I am in relationship with God and others, and that I am totally alone. That I want my life to have lasting purpose and meaning, and feeling like I live in vain. The sheer insecurity of my existence brings me dis-ease and confusion. Some days I live in the confidence and security of knowing I have a Creator that has a purpose for my life, and other days cry out like the Ecclesiastical writer that all is “meaningless.”

So what do I do with all that? How do I live my life with that constant tension between “it’s all good” and “what’s the point?”

I don’t know.

I have theories.

I could condense it all into a pat little answer that all I need is Jesus. Which is true. All I really need is Jesus. As the old spiritual says, “You can have all the rest, give me Jesus.” I know this is true. I cling to this with all my might. This is what I seek after.

But really, sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I let go of that life-ring and forget. It’s a good thing Jesus doesn’t forget and holds on when I don’t and start floundering. For those times when I’m not walking on water, but sinking fast.

What is particularly odd to me is that in the difficult times it is easy for me to cling to the life-ring. Why is so hard in the everyday living in the land of milk and honey?

Which brings me to Jabez. Jabez prays for three things: to have an increase in territory, to have God’s hand of protection, and to be safe from pain and harm. This prayer comes in the midst of the long list of genealogy, and we know nothing about Jabez except that he was more honorable than his brothers, his mother bore him in pain, and that God granted his request. I couldn’t even figure out precisely where he fit in the genealogy, but I am also not a biblical scholar. This passage appears as a complete non sequitur.

Why is it there? There has been a movement to grabbing hold of this prayer and making it our own, which has received both good and bad press. That is not my focus – if you google it you will find plenty of arguments for both sides of the equation.

What strikes me about Jabez is that he has the audacity, the courage, to ask for exactly what he wants. It is simple, and it is direct, and it is with purpose. If we read between the lines, (and even within them) Jabez was a man who walked with God. Who was in relationship somehow with God. He states his desire openly to God, and in the answer receives not only what he asked for but also a meaning or purpose for his life. Nowhere in the text does it say that if we pray this prayer, it will give meaning or purpose to our lives. This one is for Jabez.

I would love to know what Jabez did when his prayer was answered.  What was his response in the land of milk and honey.  Did he find meaning and purpose in the answer, in how his life played out post-prayer?

We don’t know.  The Bible is curiously silent on that topic.

I think we can infer from this prayer that if we ask for meaning and purpose from God, it will be granted, because by our sheer existence we serve a purpose in God’s great plan. Because of our redemption through Jesus (give me Jesus), the purpose is being served. The purpose may not be fame or notoriety. We may be one of those quiet in-between names that are skimmed over in history. Probably we are. But that doesn’t make us any less important in the great narrative. Our name is there for a reason, EVEN IF WE DON’T SEE IT.

Maybe that is our problem. For the first time in history, we have the time to spend navel-gazing. We have the time to be all-consumed with our own purpose and our own importance and so we actually miss what that is. The Teacher of Ecclesiastes comes to this conclusion: Remember your Creator. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. This is our purpose. What or how we do this is less important. Our purpose is to, however we do it, to follow after God.


Respecting our teens

Respecting our teensI just read a great blog on inCourage entitled Respecting our Children by Sarah Mae.  Here is the link if you are interested: http://www.incourage.me/2016/07/respecting-our-children.html.  If you are not familiar with inCourage, I highly recommend you take a look.  The whole purpose is to encourage women to be “in Courage.”  This particular post highlighted how to respect our children in various ways, and it got me thinking.  Sarah Mae’s essay was directed more at families with smaller kids, and since mine are older, the focus is different.

I have teenagers – 13, 15, and 17.  We are staring down the barrel of young adulthood.  We have one more year with our oldest under our roof, and my tendency is to try and hammer home every lesson I feel he needs to learn before adulthood.

NOT A GOOD PLAN!  Because here is the deal.  Nobody likes to be hammered upon.  And, if I have been doing my job (which I sometimes question, but that is another blog), I should be able to start letting go and trusting my children.

I have great kids.  They are responsible, trustworthy, kind, funny, and bright.  But they are kids, which means that sometimes they do things that leave me wondering about their future survival.

And yet, in one short year, the oldest will more or less be responsible for himself.  I won’t be there to do his laundry (he knows how), or make sure he has done homework (I stopped checking years ago.)  Or even that he gets himself up and to class.  That will be his bailiwick.

He is our practice child.  You know what I mean.  He is the kid on whom we have tried all our cockamamie parenting ideas.  His sisters benefit from the fact that we don’t continue the ones that don’t work.

I know, I know.  Each child is different.  Boy howdy, are they different.  And so no one parenting practice will work.

Except this one.


Respect each child.  Respect the gifts that God has given them, and help them to develop into what God has created them for.

The oldest child, the practice one, begged to be allowed to play football.  I, in my wisdom, said “Uh, NO!”  I like his brain.  I like it un-concussed and intact.  Besides, I find football incomprehensible and mind-numbingly boring. So I suggested cross-country as a viable alternative.  Except my child is not built for speed.  He is built for strength.

Here is how all that played out:

First day of cross country.

Me:  How was it?

Boychild: I hate running.

Second day of cross country.

Me: Did you make any nice friends?

Boychild: It’s hard to talk to people when you are dead last and they are miles ahead of you.

Third day of cross country.

Me: So how did it go?

Boychild (forlornly): I wish you would let me play football.

Hmmm.  He tried something based on my desires.  He really didn’t like it.  So I took a long walk and had a talk with God.  What God said back to me, over and over like a broken record in my head was, “Train up a child in the way HE should go…” (Proverbs 22:6, emphasis mine).

Ouch.  Not the way I want him to go.

God gave my kid specific gifts.  They aren’t the same gifts that I got, or Sam got, or the girls got.  He is unique and different, and God wants to use him in a unique and different way, and I need to RESPECT that.

I need to respect that my son is strong, not fast.  That he is a big picture guy, and hates the details.  That he is social and relational, and needs very little time alone.

And I need to get out of the way.  My job is to guide and to coach, not to boss (oooooh, is that one hard.) I am to set reasonable boundaries, and then let my kid make his choices within those parameters.  And the older they get, the bigger the boundaries need to be.  So that when my arbitrary boundaries are removed, my kids know how to set their own.

So I said to my boychild: Fine. Call the school.  I think it is probably too late to join (they had already been practicing for two weeks), but if they let you in, and it’s REALLY what you want to do, you can do it. Wasn’t I oh-so-gracious about it?

They let him in.  As a matter of fact, the school called ME to tell me how mature my kid was in handling the whole matter.  Respect.


Football is one of the best things that could have happened to my kid in his high school career.  Instead of the locker room mentality that I feared, he found some fantastic friends, Christian and otherwise.  He has learned how to stand up for his faith.  The coaching staff focus not on winning, although they like to win, but on creating men of character.  (And what mom doesn’t want THAT for her kid.  And to let someone else teach it?  BONUS!!!) He has learned that it doesn’t matter if he starts and is the big hero of the game (he doesn’t and isn’t), perseverance and hard work are worth it.  Football is helping make a man out of my first-born, using different tools than what we have at home.  It has created some great dinner conversations about choices, and ethics, and how to treat other people who aren’t always nice to you.

In her blog about respecting our children, Sarah Mae uses the text “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31) as the thesis for her essay.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Do I do that with my teenagers?  Isn’t that the basis for respectful parenting?  My kids just want the freedom to explore their gifts.  And so do I.  Should I not afford them the same respect that I ask of them?

Sometimes I think we forget that our children are the “others” that Jesus talked about.  It’s a good reminder that loving our neighbor might just mean the teenager in the next room.  As my kids grow into young adults, it’s important for me to remember that they need to be afforded respect, listened to instead of talked at, and allowed to make their own decisions.