Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The School Decision---Part 2

My husband and I are in a stalemate. 
Talking about school leads both of us to plant our feet firmly on our side of the line.
Maybe I don't have a side of the line yet, but how can he be so stubborn about his decision?
I'd prefer us both to be standing ON THE LINE, so at least we could discuss this rationally.
RATIONALLY.    Why does he chuckle when I say that word?        
My husband is nicer than I am.
I've never fought fair.   I really just want to be right.
It's been a persistent issue in our marriage. 
He makes logical, clear, unemotional explanations to back up his decisions.
Well-expressed talking points rarely exist in my highly charged debates. 
Logic was never my strength.   
In fact, my logic is simple:  All discussions worth having should be EMOTIONAL.
There's nothing unemotional about sending your first-born, homeschooled son to school for the first time. 
HELLO.  How can he talk about it so calmly? 
I've decided it's because I love our children more.

He says, "What's there left to discuss?   I thought the decision was made."
I say, "Not so fast..."
He says, "It hasn't been fast.  This has been evolving for two years.  TWO YEARS."
I say, "But still...aren't we rushing into things."
He says, "When we send Zach to school..."
I say, "If we send Zach to school..."
He says, "When we..."
I say, "If we..."

He's clearly planted on one side of the decision.  
I'm on the line.  
How can he be so sure?   
Yet, he seems immovable.  
And deep down...if I'm really honest...I'm kind of relieved.   
Relieved that he wants to make this call.
Because he usually lets me lead in the child-related decision process.
But this time, I just don't know where God is leading and I'm too tired to really fight for a path... 
There's peace that falls on our family when he leads and when I step back and respect his role.      
Gradually, my toes are beginning to creep over the line.  

Then I watch the teen playing "bad guys" with the toddler at lunch time complete with swords and shields and I pull back ready for battle.  LIFE'S GOING TO CHANGE...NO LUNCH-TIME "BAD GUY" PLAY DATES.   I disengage from calm discussion with my husband and cross over into an emotional dialogue with a man who I'm convinced must want to ruin our children's lives.
Who does he think he is making this decision?      
What does he know about raising kids anyway? 
He doesn't know them as I do.  
He doesn't love them as I do.  
The decision should be made by the all-knowing, all-wise parent.  
And that's me. 
It should be my call.  My decision.   My lead.  
(And the serpent in the garden smirks.)
He.  Doesn't.   Know. 
He's always trusted me to make the homeschooling decisions.  
He knows that I KNOW BEST.   
Why can't he just follow me?
(And the great power struggle that's been in existence since the beginning of creation re-enacts itself in our home...again.)   

But my husband has moments of TOTAL AWESOMENESS and he lovingly steps into my emotional ramble.   
Because he knows me and gets me.   
And he knows this isn't easy. 
And in his grace and kindness to me, he doesn't point out all that I don't know.  
He doesn't call out my arrogance.  
He doesn't attack my thoughts.
He doesn't point out my illogical arguments.   
He just softly explains.    

I don't know the best way to school. 
But here's what I do know:   
I do know how hard it is to become a man.  
I do know that whether he's a natural leader or not, he's going to have to learn how to lead his family.   
I do know that making decisions is a part of life and I'd like him to have lots of chances to do this when he's still under our roof and we can guide him. 
I do know that he has no idea what interests him and I'd like him to have some other opportunities to see what might spark his interest.  
I do know that as an adult he's going to have to get out of bed in the morning--whether he feels like it or not--get dressed and go to work. 
I do know that doing seemingly meaningless work is a part of life.   He needs to do things that don't always seem to have a grand purpose to him...and he needs to be expected to do them well.
I do know temptations will be a part of life.   While he's in our home, we can help him...and discipline him.  
I do know that protecting him from making bad decisions doesn't automatically guarantee that he knows how to make good ones.  
I do know he might stumble.   And I sort of hope he does, so we can pick him up and help him understand more about the great grace of God.  
That's what I know.   

And his gentle answer turns away my wrath.  Because I know he's not telling me he knows the right answer to our schooling dilemma.   But he is telling me that he has a perspective outside of my own.    And maybe I could listen.   There's probably a thousand great ways to do the next four years.   Many Godly ways to raise a man.   God happened to put us in charge of just three.  And our first one is up to bat.  My husband is the only one of the seven of us who has actually made this transition.    Maybe I really should listen.        

Maybe I could trust his lead on this...
All of the sudden, I'm painfully aware of all that I don't know. 
I don't know how to raise a man.  I don't know how to raise a provider.   I don't know how to raise a leader.    And I certainly don't have clarity on how he needs to be schooled. 
My husband wants to make this call based on something he sees in my son.
Something that he wants tested now.   Under our roof.
I think he sees himself. 
Something I can't see because I want so badly to protect him.   For him to make good choices.   For him to be safe.
Or maybe I see my husband in my son, too.    

The realization hits me that this might be a discussion worth losing.  
Because I'm losing to a man who also loves these kids with all of his being. 
I'm losing to a man who has walked a broken road and wants his kids to choose differently. 
He does know some things...maybe I could trust him on this...because I have not the foggiest clue what this looks's a path I've never walked...  

But my son still needs a mama...
So, now, I just have to figure out what that mama looks like in this process of raising a man...
Perhaps that mama needs to finish the school application process...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Alphabet Game

Lately, the burdens of this world have led to many restless nights.  
In stillness and darkness, every fear and insecurity pushed off during the day rises up and launches a full-blown attack on my thoughts.   
My mind is most undisciplined at there any doubt that's when the battles would occur?    
Couple that with sheer exhaustion, and nighttime becomes a struggle for peace.   

Heavy burdens for friends...
I lay there and try to fix and solve and find solutions and I wonder where God is in all of it...
The decisions to be made...
I toss and turn as I weigh out every possible option and sort through the pros and cons of each...
Beloved family members...
I cry out that God might save them...soften them...transform them...and I lay buried under the guilt that maybe I haven't shared enough with them...
The "what-ifs"...
What if this happens...or this happens...or this...could God really strengthen...
And the night stretches on...

Lately, my feeble attempts to throw verses at these fears have been quickly overwhelmed by the next haunting thought waiting in line...
The flaming arrows of the evil one...
Those come my way at night...

I know my mom often wonders if anything she taught my brother and I actually stuck with us or if it's been the Lord alone who has done the teaching.    My mom used to go through the alphabet to calm her mind and ascribe each letter with a description of the Lord or another name He could be called.    She said this removed her thoughts from this earth and placed them solely focused on who God is.   It's amazing how some of her practices are coming back to me the older I get.    The nights have become fertile ground for me to test some of the ways she disciplined her mind.          


It reminds me of the song, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.   And the things on earth will grow strangely dim.  In the light of His glory and grace.     
K...Knitter of all life

The burdens of the day still threaten.  How can I help this friend?      If my husband chooses to apply for this job, what will that mean?    I didn't listen to that child today.  

L...Lover of my soul
N...Nothing is too big
Q...Quick to Save
S...See-er of All

The attacks often turn personal at night.
I'm so unequipped.    So undisciplined.    So weary.  Such a faker. 

X...X-rayer of my heart :)

I'm no longer thinking about myself as the night creeps on.   Now, I'm just trying to come up with a word for God that starts with a "y."    It's like counting sheep, but a much more productive use of mental energy.    Counting the ways of God.    Counting who He is.   Counting why I count on Him. 

Sleep hasn't come, so I start over with new words.   

B...Bountiful blesser
E...Everything I need
G...Giver of life

"I"..."I"...I can't think of another "I" word.  The burdens creep closer so I skip "I" and move on. 

K...Keeper of all
M...Mom energizer

"I AM"...there's my "I" word.

N...Nothing is too hard for Him
P...Precious Corner Stone

I think I fell asleep sometime after Redeemer.
My burdens long buried under the greatness of God.    
Safe in the arms of the Lord who is worthy of trusting.
Such a simple practice, but my mom always found peace by naming the attributes of God.
Because it lifted her eyes above her circumstances and placed them firmly on the One who would be faithful regardless of the circumstances.

I'm looking forward to sleeping tonight.
I've got a new game to practice. 
(But not looking forward to bedtime...I don't know what practice there is that could make that easier.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Midnight Feeding

A dear friend of mine is a season ahead of me in raising children.  
Her babies are the age of my oldest kids.  
There's a reason God surrounds us with people of all ages--so we can learn from those who have already walked our road, and so we can encourage those who are coming along the road we have already traveled.  

This friend burns the candle late into the night, while I'm barely making it through my own children's bedtime without falling asleep myself.  
There's been the occasion when I'll climb into bed and yell to my big boys---"I beat you to bed.  Come tuck me in."  
And they do.   Pathetic, huh?  They don't do as sweet of a tuck-in as I do, but they trudge to our room and I get a quick kiss on the forehead, or maybe just an arm pat if we are going to bed under less than stellar terms.

I've mentioned my complete dread of evenings to this friend (umm...maybe weekly) and through the last couple of years, she's gently shared how God has worked in her family through those nights. 
She's been gradually preparing me.
She's said how she needed to be available late into the evening as the teenage years kicked in because one of her teens would only open up while the middle of the night (maybe not really the middle of the night, but pretty stinkin late). 
And she couldn't just sit down across from him at the table and look him in the eye and force the chat.  She needed to simply be available, but not really look like she was available...maybe doing dishes...or fixing food...or wiping a counter.   
But her availability and his vulnerability collided late in the evening over food.
That was when her heart and his connected.
I've heard her warning. 
Be ready.   Your teens might need you at night.      

Ugh.  Midnight.  Food.   Availability.   
Sounds like the college years, which happen to be days I'd prefer not to do over. 
(Don't read anything into that...I was a good girl...I WAS...)
I just don't really like late nights.   Or fixing food.   Or even being available on someone else's terms. (It's shocking that I'm a mother, right?)

Be ready. 
Be ready.   
My second son follows rules. 
He naturally obeys.   He even seems to love to obey.  
He's got all sorts of other issues, but following rules is not one of them.
His obedience makes him fun to raise.   He's the type of kid that makes a parent believe that they actually are a good parent (which is why God generally only gives each family one of those...lest we somehow think that we are actually better parents than we are.)  
But, sometimes, it's the obedient ones in the family that need pursued.
Because they naturally fall in line, they love to be in the good graces of those around them, they don't require all of the "training."  They don't demand the attention or the listening ear.      
We're grateful for the rule-followers, we praise the one who obeys, we thank God that this one child is not going through a "stage."
And sometimes we can completely miss their hearts.
We can mistake their obedience for righteousness and we can lazily rest in their external actions rather than spending the time searching their hearts. 

Disney World...three weeks ago...midnight.  
We were on vacation with my parents and brother's family in Florida spending a week bouncing between Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom.     
Although I can never stay awake until midnight in my own home, I happened to be bright-eyed late into the night because I have all sorts of energy when I don't have to make my bed or prepare meals or teach math or run our family.  Disney World felt like a break.  All I had to do was enjoy my family.   And that I can do easily...when I don't have to do all the other stuff...   
My second son climbed down the stairs, looked at me in complete frustration,  and sighed,
"I can't sleep."
I looked at the clock. 
Here goes.  
"Want something to eat?  We have granola bars and ummm...microwave popcorn."
He wasn't hungry.  
In fact, he looked irritated that sleep wouldn't come.
He loudly groaned, furrowed his eyebrows, and headed back to his room.
Be ready.  
They might need you at night.  

So, I followed him back to his room and lay on the bottom of his bed as he rearranged sheets and pillows.  
"Are you having fun?"
"What's been your favorite ride so far?"
" Everest."  
One-word answers.  Not quite the connection I was hoping for.  
More silence.    I couldn't tell if he had fallen asleep or not.
I almost fell asleep myself.
But I was available...and he was vulnerable.     
"You know, Mom..."
And he talked and he shared and he opened his heart to me for a brief hour in time.  
And it was midnight and I was tired, but my rule-following son was choosing to talk to me and there was no way I was going to miss this.  He doesn't seem to need me all that often anymore.     
The clock neared 1:00 am, but I didn't care and he didn't seem to care either.    In a large family, I guess you have to take that one-on-one time even if it's into the wee hours of the morning.

His speech began to slow and I could tell that our time was coming to an end.  
I wasn't quite ready to let him go. 
I reached out and squeezed his toe. 
"Hey J, finish what you were telling me." 
And he startled out of his doze and finished his story.  
One more toe pinch from me.
"Thanks for talking to me tonight, J.   I really love hearing your heart."
He whispered as he slowly drifted off to sleep, "Me too, Mom."  

I got in my own bed and cried.  
Cried because a midnight feeding now meant something different to me. 
Not that long ago, I was pinching his toe as a newborn to keep him awake during his late night nursing.
I'd watch him as he nursed.   
He needed me for nourishment and I needed him for joy.   
I thought our midnight feedings were over.   
I'm realizing, a new midnight feeding has just begun.
A new season of connection.      
A knitting of our souls.
And I'm going to be available...even if it's at midnight.    

The next morning my brother and sister-in-law were bleary eyed from being awake with their three little ones in the middle of the night.
My brother tiredly plopped down next to me and asked how we had slept. 
"J and I talked late in the night.   I think I just started a new season of the midnight feeding."
I could tell the thought made my brother tired.   He just wants to believe that there will be a time in parenting when he will actually get to sleep through the night.
I couldn't help but smile and think of my friend's gentle warning to me. 
Be ready, Brother.