A WARRIOR will rise….

When I was younger, my cousins and I all got under-roos for Christmas one year. It was either that or at one of our joint birthday parties. Because when you have 18 cousins, you have one party a year not 18 million. Because really, who has that kind of time or strength for that much piñata hitting?

My mom still has a picture of me with my siblings in the fantastic underwear that somehow transformed us into superheroes. Because nothing quite says “save the day” like red and gold undergarments.

I look at that picture now though and realize that little girl had no idea of how strong she really was.

Last week I had someone ask me when I started to believe that I  really was strong. I wish I could have said about the same time that the infamous under-roos picture was taken. That then, is when I believed that who I was included the word strong. But if I am honest, it wasn’t until my late 30’s. It wasn’t until then, that I started to understand what strong was.

I had returned from my third trip to Africa years ago more broken than I had ever been. My mind had shifted and it was in fight or flight mode. I really did not know how to function. I thought it was the hardest battle I would ever have to face.

I think the first time that I believed I was strong, was actually walking into that emergency room and asking for help. Splayed out with nothing between my dignity and a paper gown I had to start believing then that I was something else. That I was a warrior.

They say that you become who you surround yourself with. So if you want to be a strong person you need to find strong people. If you want to be brave, find the broken.

I found the people that I wanted to be more like and spent time with them. I signed up for a personal trainer and realized that my body was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I also marched my ass back into therapy. Well, one because I couldn’t make sense of what was going on and two because I am a feeler. I feel everything all the time. I am basically a walking kitten, well maybe a tiger. A walking tiger who likes ice cream.

Knowing I was strong did not come overnight. I did not wake up one morning and ka-boom I was a warrior.

I was warrior all along. I just didn’t know I was.

We all are. We are all warriors. We have all  had battles that have left us tasting dirt. And we have had battles that have left scars that tell more stories than we had wanted. We have run through battles unscathed and some have taken parts of us with them. We have fought armies of those in front of us and some of us it is the battles of our past that keep us chained. Some of our battles are on the public front and everyone’s cousin knows our business, while other battles, sometimes the hardest battles, are those we can barely whisper about. Some of us battle alone because we fear that others will view us as weak.

Whatever the battle we face, we become a WARRIOR when we realize we were never meant to go to war alone.

The battles that have left us bloody and raw have only made us stronger because of those around us who carried us to healing.

It is then that we are strong.

 

I realized that I do not want my daughters to know that they are strong, that they are brave, that they are warriors when they are thirty seven.

I need to them to begin to hear it now.

As I hug my middle one before she goes to bed, I have started to whisper into her ear

 You are brave. You are strong. You are a WARRIOR. And I adore you.

It is a small thing.  A simple thing. One thing I know I can do. I can tell her who she forgot she was. Who I never knew I was.

And yet who we were born to be.

I have to hope that they will start to believe it before they are my age.

It is time. It is time to start believing that you are a warrior. And reminding the women around us who they are. Who they were born to be.

A warrior asks for help. She takes her medicine. She takes that class she was afraid of. She forgives. She encourages. She delights in others accomplishments. She makes room at the table. She feeds herself well. She tells the truth. She walks towards healing. She doesn’t create drama. She is a listener. She lifts other up without looking for any credit. She lets others go. She is loyal. She is strong. She takes care of herself. She is a servant. She comes closer to the pain. She speaks life into others. She takes responsibility. She sits with the sorrow. She grieves for as long as it takes. She feels all the feels. She celebrates the movement of her body. She delights in the sunshine on her face. She welcomes the quiet. She waits for God to whisper. She follows what sets her heart on fire. She lets others love her.

And most importantly…..she WILL RISE.

A warrior will rise.

I remember one morning, months after I had been home from Africa. I was doing all of the right things. I was taking my medication. I was going to therapy. I was eating only whole foods. I had given up the nectar of the gods, caffeine and I was exercising my butt off. But I still could barely move from the couch some days. I felt like life was happening around me and I would never participate fully again.

Until I did.

Until I let my body heal. Until I let my mind heal. Until I let those around me carry me out of the battle.

And then I would rise.

So sweet one, today if it feels like the weight of fear has you breathless. If the battle you face is too painful to utter off your lips. If your scars have been reopened for the world to see. Remember this…

You are. You always have been, a warrior.

And a warrior WILL rise.

In honor of Billy Graham- what is your legacy?

Today is Billy Grahams birthday. He is 95. 95 years of life on this earth. 95 years to leave his mark. His legacy. This got me to thinking. What kind of legacy do I want to leave? It also had me thinking that I am so relieved that I did not leave this earth before the age of 25. Lord knows there were many times I should have. Yet only by His grace am I still alive today.

When I was younger I remember my great- grandfathers both held certain men in high esteem. On my sweet Catholic great- grandfathers wall hung a gold plated framed picture of the pope. Next to it was a picture of Jesus. They hung on the right side of his rocker at the same level. I have to imagine that he believed that the pope was Jesus in the flesh and he wanted to always remember him in his prayers. While my Christian Reformed grandfather holds Billy Graham in the same esteem. To this day he will tell me stories of revivals that he has seen or heard and the eternal impact that Billy Graham has had on him and the way he has lived his life.

In 2007 I had an amazing opportunity to serve alongside Samaritans Purse in Liberia. Serving those afflicted with HIV/ AIDS it was my first time falling in love with Africa and realizing the joy we lacked here in the US. Although it is Billy Graham’s son Franklin’s organization I felt like I was getting to experience a part of the Graham legacy that my grandfather had experienced.

So today being the patriarch Billy’s birthday I have to imagine that as he looks over the birthday cake with his family singing him praises that he is filled with gratitude. Knowing that he has left a legacy that has changed the not only their lives but the lives of those all over the world.

So what kind of legacy will you leave?

Will you be more concerned with what grades your child has? With what clubs they are in? How popular they are? Will you look back and say wow I am glad that every weekend was overbooked with activities that I never got to really know my children? Will you look at your bank statement and be pleased that you never gave extravagantly to someone who really needed it? Will you be calm before your maker knowing you believed 10% was not for you? Will you be filled with joy that you spent more hours at the gym than on your knees before the King? Will you be satisfied that you went to brunch with your friends or slept in on Sunday morning instead of worshiping the one who made you? Will you be at peace knowing that you never took the moments to share the love of Jesus with the little ones living under your roof? Will you be rested knowing that you continued to live like you were in a frat house every weekend instead of growing up and being the man of the house? Will you be content knowing that you never knew that your neighbor was in so much pain but your pride to walk across the street kept you inside? Will you be delighted knowing that your kids went to elite colleges but never learned what empathy was?

If I were to have passed before the age of 25 I cannot imagine the legacy I would have left. Be selfish. Drink whenever you want. You don’t have to be married. You can believe whatever you want to believe. You have no one to worry about but yourself. Spend money on things that make you look better than everyone else.

I want to leave a different legacy. I want to do better.

I want my legacy to say mercy. Love big. Love with reckless abandon. Give away. Give away everything. Things mean nothing. Create memories. Slow down. Say no. Serve. All the time serve. Serve someone who can never serve you back. Take pictures. Write stories. Tell your story. You are never too lost. Don’t be afraid. Travel the world. Make sure your feet and heart stay red. Sit at the feet of Jesus and let His love permeate over you. Tell others about redemption. Give grace. Receive grace. Fight for your community. Fight for each other. But don’t fight with each other. Reach out and feel the hand of Jesus. And most of all….know that you matter.

Take a moment and think. What kind of legacy are you leaving?

more elmo less emailing.-things I am learning from just being present.

Last night while riding in the car with my oldest she asked how she could be praying for me. Now before you go all “my kid never asked me that before! I can’t even get a full sentence out of my teenager!” You need to know that the youth pastor just minutes before had given all the kids an assignment that night to ask their parents the same question. And if they were too nervous or weren’t on the same spiritual walk as their parental unit that they could ask God to bless their household.

It wasn’t long after she asked that I knew what had been on my heart for a while now.

“To be present. With you. With all of you.”

I have a close friend who has five little bambinos. She has told me on numerous occasions that she does not volunteer for any projects outside of her home at this time in her life. And without even questioning it I completely agree with her. This sweet one has her hands full and then some. I have never viewed her as selfish or self -centered. She is basically the opposite. She pours her heart and soul into what is before her. That happens to be five precious blessings at her feet. In fact I would never think of asking her to head up a project or expect her to ever be on a team for anything.

A few days ago though the thought came to my head as I was dropping off my fifth child at school for 2.5 hours. I have five kids! No it’s not a surprise to me. I know how many kids I have. And although they are not all little they are still a lot of work. At times I think that having teenagers and toddlers at the same time is the ultimate parental test. Although the needs are different they still need me, the needs just come in hormonal waves. When I had one child I went to play dates, story times, watched Elmo, read book after book after book, and took naps. I did not volunteer to be any more than who I was. Yet now with five I seem to think that I can do all of that and take on any and every project that comes my way. While the projects may be good. I am learning again it is not good for my soul.And its not good for my families soul.

I have come face to face with the reality that I have limitations. I need breathing room. I need quiet time. I need to exercise. I need to lay my face on the floor before my God. I need to talk to my husband. And this is hard to do with the phone ringing, email sending, text answering life I have been trying to keep up with. I do not thrive on this. Others might. I don’t.

I need to do laundry. I need to clean the house. I need to prepare meals. Grocery shop. Make and go to doctor’s appointments. Sporting events. Concerts ( and yes that included the infamous recorder concert, don’t be jealous). Sporting awards. Mowing the lawn. Shoveling the snow. And try to catch the stupid dog that ran away again. Somewhere in there bring all the kids to school and remember to pick them back up again.

I need to be present. I crave it. To be all there. If I am not there and I am everywhere else I start to fall apart. I start to get anxious. I start to catch my breath. I start to get really ugly with myself and with others. I start to lose sleep. I start to forget things. I start to think that these other things are more important that the five little (some not so little) at my feet. So why is it ok for me to give grace to others who have multiple children and forget to look in the mirror and breathe grace in for myself?

It’s not. So I am choosing grace. Just grace.

bikini’s are stupid.

One of my biggest struggles is watching my oldest get older. Of course I struggle with all my kids having more birthdays. But my oldest. She was my beginning. She was the reason I get to be a mom. She was when I discovered how much I could love someone who couldn’t love me back.Why God chose me to carry her, love her, be transformed by her I will never quite grasp. But He has.

When I was a mom to two young toddlers I went to story time, play dates, and the infamous MOPS (mothers of preschoolers). There I learned from other moms.I met some of my dearest friends there. I learned how to sooth a screaming baby. What bottles to buy. What books to read to them that would surely get them into Harvard. (We’ll be lucky the last few kids even go to community college) How to discipline effectively. What crafts and outings to have with my little bundles of joy. But now. Now here I am with a toddler. Two in elementary. One in middle school. And then one in high school. And not just in high school but she looks like she could be in college. Lord have mercy.

And I don’t have a group. There is no MOT (mothers of teenagers) . Apparently after they are toddlers we moms don’t need any more support or help. I have no group of moms to go to once a week to bounce things off of. To gain wisdom from. To know what to react to and what not to. What battle to fight and which ones are only going to cause more rebellion. To talk about wonderful things we so blissfully experience during the years of 12-I don’t know when it ends.

I just realized the other day that I have three years left with the oldest. Three years until she graduates and goes away to school. This scares me if we are being honest. It keeps me up at night. If I am being a good mom. If I have listened enough. If I have fought hard enough for her. If I yelled too much( I have) . If I have been too strict or not strict enough. If she knows how much I want to keep her in a safe little bubble and not let the world hurt her anymore.

I know this is unrealistic. I know.( my therapist likes to tell me it is) But I still feel these things. I still feel alone in this teenager crazy hormone world. I have maybe a couple of mom friends who have teenagers. That’s it. There is not a group to go to and just cry talk every week. I want to bundle her up and send her to Alaska.( Because in Alaska maybe not every other girl wears a bikini) And then she can come home when she has found a nice guy who wants to travel the world or has decided to become a nun. But until then I am on my knees begging God to protect her. To never stop chasing her. To bring her to her own knees .For her to fall in love with her Savior. To want to live a life serving Him. And if this doesn’t happen that I trust that she is God’s. She always has been. She always will be. And her life is part of His story and He gets to write it. I don’t.

washing feet at 15.

When she was five I found chicken eggs in her closet. Not real chicken eggs. Like from the grocery store eggs. Right out of the carton eggs. You would think that I would notice that a dozen were missing. Beneath princess blankets and stuffed animals were straight from the fridge, eggs packed together neatly .And a five year old looking on as I tried to hold in the puke while removing them from her closet. She started crying ,carrying on about how “all her life” she had wanted baby chicks. And this was her only ticket to getting one. She promised that she knew what she was doing because she had watched her kindergarten teacher do it weeks before, so she must be an expert. She had a need to care for something for someone. Even if it did come from the fridge.

By the time she was in late elementary school her course of action changed and she wanted nothing more than to be a veterinarian. She would beg us to look up petfinder.com to find our newest pet. She would dream of living on a ranch where she would feed her own horse and groom it as soon as she returned home from school. Her dreams had clearly exceeded our pocketbooks and the house in the city.

She has always had a gift of loving others. But it wasn’t until this past fall in Uganda that I got to see what God has done in this little girl who wanted to hatch eggs in her closet.
It was a quiet afternoon and things around the guest house were settled down. After putting her brother down for a nap I asked my friend where she was. She pointed to the front porch. I stood in the doorway and watched what I can only describe as humbling. There was my sweet baby girl washing the feet of the women that took care of us. That walk miles to work each day in the red clay. That never utter a complaint. They spend hours scrubbing the floors, making beds, cooking amazing meals with smiles always across their faces. They are there before we even wake in the morning and go home well after dark to then take care of their own families. These women are the epitome of strength and courage to us. But there she was. Kneeling before them washing, talking, laughing, and listening. To their stories. To their lives. To who they were. She in that afternoon became an image of humble. A servant of the King. She was becoming the girl, the young woman, that God has been making her to be. I stood in the doorway with tears running down my face. I have never been more sure that God has unbelievable plans for her life.

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Happy birthday my sweet girl. At 15 you make me more proud to be your mom.

The other women.

 

When my oldest daughter was still in utero. Or really since I peed on that stick. I knew that I could not do this one my own. Part of it was being a very young mom and the other was realizing how fortunate I was growing up. So when my oldest was about nine maybe ten I gave her a list of phone numbers of women in her life that I trusted enough to give her Godly counsel. She carries that list everywhere. There are things that she just doesn’t want to talk to me about, and that’s ok. But I wanted her to have safe place to go to when mom or dad aren’t there or she needs another perspective. I completely support and agree with the line “it takes a village”. And I wanted to make sure that my kids had strong, amazing, confident, Godly women to call on. The list has surely grown over the past couple of years seeing we have been over abundantly blessed by a church we call family. Even so, now two of my daughters carry a list.

I was fortunate enough to be brought up “in a village” environment and was determined that my daughter now my five children would do the same. I am perplexed by those women and mothers that feel like they can and want to do it all on their own. They make no attempt to make friends and reach out to those around them. I just feel like it is so much easier to be a part of a village.

I was raised with aunts and grandmothers who were always intertwined in our lives. They were second mothers to me. Teaching me things that my mom gave full room for me to learn from someone else. She too was busy raising five children. That is where the village of aunts stepped in. My aunts taught me important things like all the words to the Footloose soundtrack and how to play volleyball like the guys on Top Gun. They taught me how to shop for a bargain. They taught me that you could look beautiful and better with secondhand garments. They taught me to appreciate the piano and let the music engulf every part of my being. My aunts brought me to my first concerts. Don’t be jealous of my early exposure to REO Speedwagon and Richard Marx my cool aunts were completely responsible for that. They taught me how to get the best tans with baby oil and peroxide. They let me stay summers with them staying up late into the evening having “girl talk”. My aunts taught me how to be a good mom. How to be a servant of Christ. How to care for the fatherless. How to be respectful and kind. They taught me to seek Christ and hold Him in the highest honor.

And now that I have five little ones. And some are not so little anymore, I need help. And women around me have taught me that we each have something to offer and teach to each other. I cannot teach my children how to sew. That is my mom’s job. I cannot bring them to Taylor Swift concert. That is my sister’s job. I cannot teach them what it is like to work full time and have an amazing career. That is my other sister’s job. I have friends who will teach them better by example how to be patient, generous, amazing educated women. They will be taught what it is like to fight for your spouse and how to date with a Christian perspective. They will know what it is like to be the church and take care of each other. I will not teach them to drive. I could, but I think I will leave that to their dad and uncles. I cannot teach them to make the perfect bread. That is nana’s job. I cannot teach them how to pick out the perfect outfit. That’s my friend’s job. I may not teach them everything they need to know but I do know that I have an amazing group of sisters, friends, aunts, and especially nana’s that will teach them countless things they need to grow to be strong, God passionate people.

Don’t discount those strong women in your life. Whether related or not we all have a responsibility to be the village to the children around us. Let others help you. Invite in the wisdom. Welcome the different perspective. God knows we all need it.

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1John 4:12 NLT