Thursday, July 9, 2015

Parenting Is Hard. Anyone?

We're dreaming crazy big around here. Perhaps that's what led me to my bed at 6:45 last night, overcome by mental and physical fatigue... why I barely remember my head touching the pillow. Ten and a half hours later, I awoke with my heart racing and my mind spinning. Oh God, I'm scared was my first thought as I lay there willing myself out from between the sheets this morning. 

Perhaps I could blame it on these four young adults being raised in our home. They're on fire. They're fearless. Innovative, creative, passionate... I'm trying desperately to keep up with them.

And regarding these four people, I have YOU to thank. I remember the day they sent us home from the hospital, our firstborn wrapped up and secured in his car seat. I recall the way the hospital personnel were sticklers about making sure we had a car seat that met regulations. That's it? I was horrified. Didn't they want to see what qualified me to train up a whole human being? Granted, would they have allowed me to leave the hospital with him if they knew how woefully unqualified I was?

Two of the most powerful words in the Bible: But God

He makes a way.  

I remember my mother-in-love telling me that parenting is one of those deeply personal subjects that most people aren't willing to let others speak into. Yet, I don't know where we'd be right now if an entire village had not come alongside us, educating my husband and I with grace and Truth and unconditional love, speaking knowledge and wisdom over our family.

I prayed for a tribe to help me raise our children. I knew the ancient African Proverb, It takes a village to raise a child. I believed it. Even Mary and Joseph had a community helping them raise the God-child. So connected and intimate were they with their community that on the return trip from Jerusalem they didn't realize Jesus was missing...

Thinking he was in their company [this is where I insert at least a thousand possible names in our community over the last 20 years], they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. ~ Luke 2:44

Here, let me give you an example of a compliment I received recently that I'd like to forward to you

"You know, my husband and I didn't want kids until we met your family. Now we want kids, but we want them to be like yours." 

Thank you... let me assure you that compliment goes to an incredibly large community. My friend continued, you'll have to let us know what you did to get the kind of kids you have. 

That's easy. I'll just introduce her to the tribe that has parented our children alongside us. To say that you've been our lifeline is a huge understatement. I'll tell her that it's critical that her and her husband allow people into their circle. No, that they invite people into their circle. And sometimes, (especially this), when she sees someone a stage or two ahead of them who has healthy, whole relationships with their children and others around them, that they passionately pursue a relationship with them. 

Take them to coffee. Invite them to dinner. Ask them questions. Listen to their counsel

And then take it a step further. Train your children to invite them over, ask questions, and listen to their counsel

On Tuesday, at Israel's [Mastermind] Book Study Group, we were on holy ground. These gals, ages 12 to 18 are a group of world changers. Israel started this group a month ago out of her passion to see her peers live with a sense of purpose and destiny. To grow in their leadership and influence. To make Jesus famous through their love to others. 

Together, they are spurring one another on in love and good works. I wish you could be a fly on the wall during their conversation. To witness their giggles of relief when they realize they all have insecurities... and then to hear them share vulnerable, their hearts laid open. To listen to their lists of what's not okay in the world and their passion to bring healing to the broken. It's a profound privilege to be able to soak in their inspiration.

And the parents of these gals... I haven't met most of them yet, but when I do... yeah, I'm inviting them over for dinner. I need to connect with other parents of world changers. With other families who are dreaming crazy big. I need to ask questions. I need to listen to their counsel. 

You know, we've been in the launch stage for the last couple of years with a 20-year old and an 18-year old (who moved back to the States three months before his 18th birthday). We're not very elegant in this season. Did I say very? I'm trying to make myself feel better by understating the mess. 

However, we're seeing massive vision and opportunity in this mess. Which is why we're excited. And scared. And we're beyond grateful for you. Thank you for dreaming with us. For speaking love and grace and Truth over us. For being our lifeline. For parenting alongside us.

Parents, and any children still living at home, we need to link arms. Let's go make Jesus famous together.

*Please hear my heart if you're a parent going through a messy season with your young adult (or young child)... it sucks. We've had some soul-crushing moments and heart-wrenching days. Weeks. Probably months, too, but I blocked them out because of the trauma. 

I'll say what you've most likely said to me at some point: Hang in there. This too shall pass. 

These relationships are worth it. And these servant-leaders growing up in our homes? They're counting on us to believe in them. To call out the greatness in them. And when we get stuck, when we can't "see the forest for the trees," let your community pour love and grace -- and vision -- into the moments.

God makes a way. You've got this, Mama. You have this, Dad.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Why I Read Weird Books to Improve My Parenting Skills

It wasn't long before I realized that reading parenting books only put limits on gaining invaluable parenting skills.

Today Israel and I were talking about all the books I read. (Again. Yes, this is an ongoing subject in our house. Though, slowly, I'm converting these five people in my world into readers. And I press on toward the high calling...) Somehow we got on the topic of what genre fills most of our shelves.

Interesting, while parenting books fill twice the number of shelves in our home, I've read mostly other genres over the past 20 years. Business and leadership. Self-help. Ministry. Military strategy. Books written by surgeons and doctors regarding the health industry. Philosophy. Autobiographies and biographies.

Of course, there's a plethora of fiction (delicious brain candy) sprinkled throughout -- though I have a long-standing policy that the fiction I read has to either 1) be on the reading list of the Book Club I'm in or 2) be recommended by a trusted source. smile.

Here's the thing, I've obsessed -- yes, I'm intentionally using that word -- over my mission of motherhood. This platform of parenthood in which I take the whole business of training and shaping the character of another human being -- yeah, it's not for the faint-hearted.

So, one of my dreams is to take the books I've read over the last 20 years and put them in condensed form.

It doesn't matter whether you're an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a receptionist, a real estate mogul, a pastor, the basic principles of leadership, performance, and success apply across the board.

Lest I leave you with the notion that we've figured this parenting thing out, let me assure you that we're very much in the trenches... we're simply inviting you to join us? As of this afternoon, we are working through several issues... yeah, I promise you, it's messy over here. But I have this burning passion for whole relationships, authentic connections, soul-deep intimacy. In marriages. In families. In friendships. In corporate settings.

In order to make this project as relevant and helpful as possible, I need your help.

  • What specific areas of (your job) parenting are your greatest challenges right now, (i.e. communication, culture, boundaries, honor, trust, etc)? 
  • If we could spend the afternoon together, what would you want to talk about? (I ask that one a lot, don't I? humble smile. I really, really want to spend the afternoon with you!) 
  • What are the most critical initiatives for your family over the next six months? 
  • When your children complain, what do they say? 
  • What do you expect of yourself this year? 
  • What does your family expect of you this year?  
Oh! To spend the afternoon with you! (The thought of it lights me up!) To discuss and brainstorm ideas, draw blueprints for implementation... 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Stop Pouting. Start Preaching.

You know those days when you wake up wired? When you're brimming over with excitement and anticipation? When everything just seems to line up and your world cooperates with you? 

And you know those other moments... the deep, dark valleys in which you find yourself barely able to put one foot in front of the other? The seasons in which hope is elusive and you'd rather just pull the covers up over your head until it all passes over?

Been there. In both seasons. And I'll share with you something I've learned over the years. I've learned to preach. To my soul. Not the consoling, gentle, patient kind of preaching, but the why are you so downcast, O my soul?! Put your hope in God! kind of preaching. 

You know what kind of preaching your soul needs. Regardless of the style... Preach! And don't let up until your soul emerges from the valley. 

Sometimes, life sucks. Sometimes, it all just really disappoints. But don't get stuck there. And, whatever you do, don't let bitterness get a foothold! Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, "If you're walking through hell, keep walking." (I'd add exclamation points to the end of that. But then, I get pretty passionate.) 

Not too long ago, I preached long across the pages of my journal. Feeling stuck in a few areas of my life, I pleaded for God to come rescue me from a pit. Psalm 18:1-18 is scrawled in desperate strokes.

Redemption and rescue are some of His specialties. In fact, He's relentless in His pursuit. He'll move mountains to come get you. I know from experience. (Really, I'm telling you, Psalm 18:1-18... preach that to your soul.)

Where are you right now? Are you wired? Excited? Or do you need to preach a soul-stirring sermon to yourself? To put a last shred of hope in the One who will move mountains to come rescue you?

"But you will not need to fight! Take your places; stand quietly and see the incredible rescue operation God will perform for you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem! Don't be afraid or discouraged! Go out there tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!"   
~ 2 Chronicles 20:17 (TLB)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

About Crack Brownies...

...You mind if I ramble for a moment?

I'm in a summer book club. They're calling it a "Book Study," because it's taking place during the regular time when Women's Bible Study happens at church and I think they'd feel guilty if they called it a club instead of a study. Either way, I have to say that I'm loving the conversations each week. The lively input.

We're reading the book Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I borrowed the teen version from some friends a couple of years ago -- great read. I enjoy listening to these women's thoughts regarding the difference between being a fan and being a follower of Jesus.

One gal, she leans forward when she speaks but doesn't scoot to the edge of her seat. Her tone is raw, like she's showing us emotions that were dragged through the gravel in the last week. She shares openly, breaks open her doubts and desires right there for all of us. Reveals the messiness and lets it linger.

Last week, my friend Michelle, sent home what she's aptly dubbed "Crack Brownies." There were eight in the bag. Two each for LeRoy, Eli, Zeke, and Israel. Brownies filled with all sorts of love: peanut butter, caramel, chocolate on several levels. And in an effort to love me well, she didn't send any for me because she knows I'm in the throes of working toward better health and fitness. Do you see where this is going?

Suffice it to say that one little tiny bite at a time... because my line of reasoning is that I can satiate my craving with one tiny bite. Imagine my dismay when a couple of days later there were only two brownies left.

Here's the worst part... I didn't even realize I had eaten all those brownies until my friend asked me if my family had enjoyed their brownies. I knew the brownies were disappearing, so I enthusiastically told her that, yes, they had gotten them. Confused, she asked me why one of them had reported that they didn't know what she was talking about when she inquired the day before. Huh? Yeah, I suddenly found myself replaying in my mind all the moments in the last few days that I broke off "just a little corner." I guess if you break off "a little" of enough corners...

When I wrote my friend to repent and ask for forgiveness for eating the brownies she sent home to my family -- to tell her that I wanted to make it right, just give me the recipe and I'd make the brownies for them -- she wisely wrote back, "Oh yeah! Give the crack addict the recipe to make more crack. I don't think so." Then she told me that the next time she makes them, she'll send the number for her Helpline, too.

I adore her. She comes over once a week to connect, to share ideas and pray. Because she sometimes brings her brownies, we refer to our times together as Jesus and Brownies. I think it's what grace tastes like.

And since you're so graciously allowing me to ramble...

...someone said to me this past week when I was talking about writing a book and starting a business, "It's not about the money." And, you know, not so long ago I would have agreed with that. No,no, it's not about the money, I would have solemnly shook my head in agreement. But now. Now I'm rethinking my beliefs about money.

Would you plan a road trip, fill your gas tank a quarter of the way full, not sure of the distance to the next filling station, and shrug, well, it's not about how much gas is in the tank? We've taken a few road trips, (yeah, I'm understating that), and when we see the gas gauge reading low, we always ask ourselves how much further until the next gas station. We're headed to a destination and we need so much fuel to get there. It's simply a means of measurement of where we're at and how much we need to reach our goal.

Speaking of goals...

Do you know why I'm ecstatic -- yes, ecstatic -- about today? It's July 1st! Halfway through the year. We have an opportunity to totally rock the second half of 2015!! Two more quarters, Friends! What do you want to achieve in this quarter? What do you want to see happen in the next 100 days?

I spent the better part of Monday working on our BHAG's (Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Thank you for that, Jim Collins.) And I'll be honest, most mornings my eyes pop open at two or three in the morning. I'm scattered and groggy, but alive... to the point that my heart is racing because there is so much to accomplish and time is fleeting and... this passion...

Mercysakes! Do you have a sense of purpose and destiny? If your sense of purpose and destiny is waning, call me at any time of day. Seriously. Life is too short and amazing and, oh! the romance of it all! 509-241-0464. (If I'm not available right away, leave a message and I'll call you back.)

Fan? Follower? To count the cost. ...heh, to count the cost... perhaps we ought to talk people out of coming up at altar calls? That following Jesus is the greatest adventure but that His grace is audacious and reckless? That it offends our senses to accept something so amazing that's so undeserved? Undeserved. And yet. And that beautiful moment when we are transparent in the mess. Yeah, to step into a lifetime of following, pressing into, Grace.

And if I intentionally broke off the tiniest of corners on enough HEALTHY habits that took me closer to achieving those crazy-big goals...  Whooweee! What would that look like?!

And money. It's just another term of measurement. To gauge where we're at in the journey and how much we'll need to get to where we're going. Maybe we only need a half of a dollar. Or maybe hundreds of millions. Where is the destination?

You know me, I'll ask this until my dying day: What keeps you awake at night? What gets you up in the morning? What makes your heart race? Purpose. Destiny. You are created to be a blessing.

How can I best serve you? What do you most need to achieve your goals in the next 100 days?