Reflections for Mother’s Day

I have heard it said that our children never really belong to us, that God only lends them to us for a little while.

This rings true. I think that a large part of being a mother is about learning how to let go. As soon as they learn to walk, it seems as if our little ones are dead-set on running away from us. A little each day, each month, each year, we see our children move a little further away and in the process, become more themselves. It is difficult for moms to allow children independence and room to grow into the people they are meant to be, because we know from our own experience that this growth often involves pain.

Mothers naturally want to shield little souls from hurt. And when they get hurt, we want to make everything all better. However, there are some boo-boos that even a mother’s kiss cannot heal. Although the temptation is strong to uproot our little sprouts from the garden of life and keep them sheltered in our greenhouse forever, this does not benefit them in the long run. We should instead tend to our little sprouts and cultivate them out in the weather where they grow. This way, little plants can develop a tough cuticle as they extend those branches and unfold their leaves toward the light.

One of my favorite songs is “Let Me Be Your Armor” by Assemblage 23. Go ahead and google the lyrics (or search for it on www.assemblage23.com), and you will see how this song seems to describe parental protection – and how this “protection” can go too far. Now, maybe I am really off base regarding Tom Shear’s intent with this song, but that is how the lyrics resonate with me as a mother.

When all is said and done, all we as parents can do is prepare our children to endure trials bravely in faith, by being present and modeling this behavior ourselves.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

God always has the best advice, doesn’t He? The trick is following His advice, and to do that, one needs to find “the way” in His Word.

The truth is, we cannot always protect our children from harsh reality or prevent them from making mistakes. Sometimes, all we can do is guide them through the consequences of their sins and poor decisions. As painful as it is to watch the pruner’s shears at work, we have to allow our little sprouts some freedom to learn from their mistakes – shed that dead wood – so that they can blossom into their own individual.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I love metaphors involving plants and flowers.

In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is this: don’t be a helicopter parent! Yes, parents should protect their children from harm but there are times when it is not appropriate to hover over them and shield them from the consequences of their actions.

The time comes when mom can no longer make decisions for her kid. She has to let them decide for themselves. This is painful to watch sometimes, but necessary. As they grow, children need to know that they have some freedom to make their own choices. This way, they learn more about being independent day by day.

Even if that means that the shirt they choose to wear happens to clash horribly with the pants!

Maple buds in April. Soon, the leaves will unfold. This is no coddled tree!

Steady, As She Goes

I have a ¾ sleeve T-shirt with “World’s Okay-est Runner” emblazoned across the chest. I’ve had it for almost 2 years now and it remains one of my favorite shirts. Quite frequently, I wear it when I work out at the YMCA, or when I go running on the Glacial Drumlin Trail. More recently, I wore it this morning when I ran a 5k race in Monona, WI. When I saw this shirt on clearance in the sportswear section at Walmart, I laughed, and knew that I had to buy it, because this T-shirt seemed to have been made with me in mind.

My Walmart T-shirt. Seriously, some of my favorite clothes come from Walmart

That’s me. The world’s “okay-est” runner. Would you like to know how okay the “okay-est” runner did in the Monona 5K?

  • The average finish time was 36:59. I finished in 37:59 (sprinting the last 100 yards).
  • My pace was 12:14 per mile (I never said I was fast.)
  • Of the 40-year-old finishers, I placed 6 out of 13 (not bad.)
  • 447 women finished, but the race results did not include my placement within my gender (however, I’m pretty sure that I finished somewhere in the bottom half.)
  • I placed 426 out of 656 total finishers.

As the numbers go, I am below average. In any given racing event such as this, I will probably never place in the top ten, even in my sex and age group. Now, I don’t say this to be self-deprecating, to garner sympathy or beg for validation. I am satisfied with my experience.

First off, it was a splendid, beautiful day to go out and get some exercise (along with a whole bunch of other people.) I kept up a running cadence the entire way despite several hills along the route and people trying to drive their cars along the course.

Additionally, I finished this 5K in better time than I thought I would. I even saved up enough “oomph” to sprint the last 100 yards and across the finish line. Why? Because – even though it made me wonder for a second if I was going to faint – it was pretty awesome to pass a few people who had passed me earlier on the course. And my performance was better than I anticipated going into the chute. All of these things were pretty cool. However, the only goal that I actually set for myself was that I finish that 5K.

Did you notice how many times I used some form of the word “finish” so far? Ten times! All right, that last one didn’t count…it was only nine times. Naturally, repetition of this word is purposeful, because I was trying to make a point. I’m sure you got it right away, mainly because you are smart, but also because as a writer I have all the subtlety of a machine gun in a china shop. Or, maybe that was supposed to be Pee-Wee Herman in a movie theater? Moving on to the point…

Despite my comparative slowness as a runner, despite the hills and despite dodging vehicular traffic – I finished the race.

Running a race is probably one of the most trite and overused metaphors for life in the history of humankind, but I feel that it is legitimately applicable. Paul used running as a metaphor for the Christian life in his epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, and so did the writer to the Hebrews. The prize of finishing this race, of course, is attaining heaven. Sadly, so many people give up part way and drop out of the race of Christian living because the way seems too long, too hilly, or there is too much traffic interfering and frustrating their path. Or folks simply get lost because they wander away from the course God set for them. Even worse, many people choose not to run – or even walk – that course at all.

Fortunately, So long as there’s life, there’s hope. God is patient with us and offers us plenty of opportunities to get into the race or back on the course. He doesn’t care so much about when we start, how fast we run, or how many times we stumble off the route and back on again. What matters most to God is that we finish, in faith, with Him.

On a more humorous note, I feel that running a race can also be used as a metaphor for writing a novel. Some authors are highly prolific, publishing a book – or several – every year like clockwork. These are your 6 minute mile runners. They are fast! Productive! Best-selling authors! And sometimes their books are even pretty good to read.

And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s me. I haven’t finished my race yet, but I’m still plugging away. “Steady, as she goes,” sing the Raconteurs as I type.

Even if it takes me another year to finish and publish – and I WILL finish and publish – my first novel, I can take comfort in the fact that I am the “world’s okay-est runner.” My Walmart discount T-shirt assures me that this is so.

How goes your race, O Reader of my blog?

The Thief of Joy

I confess that I can be described as an “indifferent housekeeper.” Sadly, I am so ashamed of my house as a disgusting disaster area that I am reluctant to invite people over. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, like they need to don a bio-hazard suit in order to enter the door! Whenever folks do visit, I inwardly fret and freak out. I wonder: are they judging me? Do they think that I am a slob? Okay, the truth is that I really am a slob. “The proof is in the pudding,” as they say. More apropos to my situation: the proof is in the slovenly condition of my home.

There is a part of me that constantly nags that I am lazy, that I am an awful wife and mother for not taking better care of the house. I need to develop an organization and cleaning plan and stick to it. I need to get up off of my fat butt and do the chores. Shame on me for being a poor steward of the blessings that God granted to me and my family!

Whence spring these negative self-comments? Perhaps I judge my own housekeeping unfavorably based on my impression of somebody else’s home. I have friends who have beautiful, seemingly well-organized – and, above all – clean homes (Unlike me, they have included hiring a cleaning company in their budget, but I feel that’s just making excuses on my behalf.) The fact of the matter is, I feel that I am not doing my part in maintaining my own home and this stresses me out. In short, I am profoundly unhappy and disappointed in myself.

And don’t get me started on my so-called writing “career.” What career? Ha! I’m not even published yet. As much as I love reading others’ published works, it is not done without a modicum of envy. “Here are folks,” I say to myself, “who have boldly gone out, doggedly pursued their dream to become an author, and succeeded admirably. Meanwhile, what have you accomplished in this vein? Diddly-squat, and you’re not getting any younger.”

As Theodore Roosevelt once so aptly put it: comparison is the thief of joy.

Have you ever had these sort of thoughts about yourself? Not very encouraging or self-affirming, are they? We need to identify this malicious voice – Cathy Fyock calls it “the Bitch” while I call it “the Shrew” – and tell it to shut up and ship out. We don’t have time to dwell in fear of rejection, self-doubt and destructive self-criticism.

As usual, God in His wisdom has some advice for us self-criticizers:

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:4,5 (NIV)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Huh. Good point, there. I should stop worrying about all this stuff other people are doing and just do something, myself. Perhaps it won’t silence that nagging shrew in my head – she’s just too stubborn and persistent – but hopefully it will decrease the volume of her voice long enough for me to accomplish something noteworthy in my life. It will take prayer. It will take hard work. I might need an accountability partner to drag me kicking and screaming out of my recliner but I have confidence that if it is God’s will, I will become a published author.

Who knows? With God giving me strength, I might even improve in my efforts at housekeeping.

So, with that in mind, let’s you and me make a deal. I’ll try to be my best “me.” You try to be your best “you.” And while we acknowledge and celebrate others for their virtues and good works, we won’t punish ourselves for not being blessed with their exact set of capabilities and/or success.

What do you think your best “you” would look like? What methods have you used to successfully manage “the Shrew” in your own head? And no, drowning her with alcohol doesn’t count (LOL.)

I hereby formally invite you to comment.

“Cats, thy name is sloth,” or “Cats, the eaters of ambition.”