Not So Empty Nest Days

Cherishing the days past while moving towards the days ahead, BHG

Hard Battles (and Choosing Them)

There is a song that solidifies where I am at this point. Tenth Avenue North is an awesome singing group!! I love how plain and necessary their words are! How they seem to relate to what’s going on with me personally although I know they didn’t write each song about just me. Do you feel that way about a song? I call those battle or storm songs. Even have a place on my dumbPhone for them. Well their song Worn is where I’m at.

I began writing this post in June, at the height of the issues with my son and just could not go any further than the first sentence. A lot has happened since then. I’ve several break downs with GOD about my kids and pleading for Him to “make it or them right.” The most recent battle has been a spiritual one for my kids…. It seems I’m being tag teamed against because one will just get over something or seem to be okay and another one will act a fool… so to speak, of course! There were even a few moments when I wondered why they were given to me or cried about my failures when they were little (wrote a post about that earlier). I am seeing that this road to adulthood is marked and paved with non announced construction, forks in the road, dips, hills, valleys and even some deep potholes. I am sure we have had several “flat tires” during this journey but after tending to it, our Driver seems to keep right on going! There have been pit stops where at least one child has decided they don’t want Him as a Driver anymore and wanted to take on their own course and drive themselves because of a relationship. *Sigh* Or another who can’t seem to develop that rapport with our Driver or anyone that He sends to help or fellowship with us on this “train”. And of course my trio wouldn’t be complete without the child who is stubborn, determined to do it their own way when they are old enough! Goodness!! It seems the ride inside has been as bumpy as the road! Oh the sickness that has been on the train because of all the road issues! Am I the only one that has wanted to scream, “I WANT TO GET OFF NOW” or “NEXT STOP!!!!”

Well, again, I’m writing this as the song Worn runs trough my head. The lyrics that keep replaying are, “I’m tired, I’m worn… My heart is heavy, from the work it takes to keep on breathing.” What a perfect description! But I’m not here to complain or tell you all the stuff going on. Or how my son can’t seem to climb out of this pit or come out of his winepress, or how my daughters don’t know a whole lot about being an adult or wife yet (one is already an adult). No, in the midst of this storm, I am writing to let you know that the “Eye of the storm” is where you want to be! Jesus is that Eye. Psalm 121 assures us of that just as Jesus does in John 14:27.

I am at a place of peace because I have given my kids to Him as well as their burdens I was trying to carry. The latest one? My son’s ex girlfriend being pregnant. That was a hard one to release because I kept sensing that she might be and kept giving warning of please stop or at least be careful to no avail. It’s heart breaking to say the least but I love my son regardless, am learning to love his daughters mom as she so desperately needs that (no matter how hard she fights to “take my place” in his life) and of course his daughter! Meanwhile I am having to teach my oldest things I was unaware I needed to (don’t know how I thought she would learn them) and develop my youngest’s burden bearing heart she has for people that was misdiagnosed by doctor mom as “drama queen”.

Jesus told us that in this world we would have trials but to take heart (be of courage) because He has overcome the world! That means we will too! He also told us to give Him our burdens and take on His easy one. Why can’t we do that? Why is it so hard to put down our burdens that weigh is down for an easy and light one? Because we are used to carrying them and we don’t trust anyone, not even Jesus, with them or because we start to feel “guilty” not carrying our “own load” as the world suggests we do. Well I’m pointing out that Eye in the middle of your storm for you. He is peace when there should be none! He is joy when that car should be emptied. His love is never ending! I never got that before. People would tell me that He loves me when I was struggling but now I know why! It’s because of that Love for me that I can rest in the storms of life. And so can you!

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Pray When Nothing Is Left

pray without ceasing…. 1 Thess 5:17

I am at the point of parenting where I want to give up! I just want to throw in the towel and say forget it, I’m done. I mean my kids are 22, 20 and 16, so it’s not like I would be abandoning infants. *sigh* Now don’t get me wrong. I love my kids to life! I would have a all out drag out street fight for my kids. I would take a bullet for my kids. Yes I would die for them. But I’ve come to a point where I have to decide that I won’t die BECAUSE of them.

Here’s my issue. I have three very different, very intelligent, very creative kids. I have allowed them, for the most part, to express their creativity since they were younger. Probably, no, most definitely when I should have been teaching practical things like manners and loving their neighbor/ siblings, sharing and showing the love of Christ, I was letting them run in the house, yell and play like crazy. It’s my fault, I’m sure of it and now I have to face that portion. I have to look the sweet kids who loved to be outside and laugh at my dry jokes, who I should have taught chores, responsibility and the art of putting self last, in the face and say I failed you as a mom back then. All the homemaking, homeschooling got it all together moms remind me of that all the time.

And then I read a blog or status on Facebook where a mom flipped out on her kids. I hear a mom admit to not caring if they didn’t clean up right now, or I go to a moms house who says sorry for the mess! And I realize that I am no different, I’m not the only screw up that allowed things that should not have been. I have even ditched certain no brainers in discipline because I wasn’t allowed to do it. And then I also remember…. I’m redeemed!

I remember that God pursued me for 39 yrs before I surrendered and even the not had to have been such a battle to me to that calm state you get wild horses to after throwing a rope they weren’t prepared for around them. I complained, I lied still, I even harbored anger towards people and I’m sure I caused a commotion or two. Sheesh! Now that I think about it, He has to be GOD to have not given up on me! Everyone else has before! So how dare I even think about giving up on my kids.

They have been disobedient, reckless with their lives at times, rebellious enough for Billy Idol to yell ENOUGH ALREADY!! But they are my kids. The children GOD lent to me for a short time. It’s not their fault I wasted some of that time but even still, I’m glad GOD used me to pour something’s into them. The verse Matthew 7:11 comes to mind when I say this. In my being evil, I knew certain things to tell them or show them. Thank You for that LORD.

I was at a crossroads for a while now. I didn’t want to “stifle their creativeness”, I also didn’t want spoiled snots for kids. So I spoke with as much love as I could muster up when they irritated me. I tried pouring into them when I was angry to reassure them I loved them. But I never pulled that love of the Father into it. I never said, “Lord, show me these baybay kids from Your eyes.” I didn’t see that His way was more important to instill than to make friends or make sure they weren’t mad at family members. While I could go on with the “shoulda woulda couldas,” I choose to MOVE ON and be the mom I need to be at this stage in life. After all, if GOD had given up on me when I was their ages, I would be a MESS right now clenched onto my one way ticket to hell!! I’m so glad He saved me!! Aren’t you? Make sure your kids will be too….

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The Eyes of a Child pt I- Set Apart By GOD, Not Bullies

I was recently able to do a guest blog for a friend of mine and it gave me the idea of having a guest blogger. After having my kids read mine, the idea came to have them write one. So here is my firstborn, Makaila, telling her story. A hard one even now for me to hear, but for one God gave fight to at a day old, being 2 months premature and off the ventilator the next day… She has come a longer way than Virginia Slims.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; (2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV)

Bullying. A subject that hasn’t gotten that much attention until recently. You got celebrities like Lady Gaga & Taylor Swift writing songs about be bullied or anthem songs, as I like to call them. But does that stop anything? A movie called Bully recently came out which started a nationwide movement. But is it gonna stop bullying altogether?

I’d say it started in 4th grade but it actually started when I was in 6th grade. Up until 4th grade, I was the popular kid. Everyone wanted to play with me. Everyone wanted to hang out with me. I lived close enough to the school to walk home & we always had a huge group, my brother & I. After 4th grade, I switched schools & I was no longer the popular girl. I was the new girl. Which wasn’t so bad. I had friends. 6th grade however, was one of the worst years for me. I had 4 friends in my class. No one liked me. & I couldn’t figure out why. They would pick on me & call me names. One girl even stole things from my locker. I did my best to fit in, & it seem to always backfire on me. I never thought to tell anybody cause I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t see these kids anymore since we were all going to different middle schools. Graduation day was one of the best days of my life.

Middle school was okay. A handful of kids from the elementary school I graduated from, was there so it was nice to know some people. This was when everyone started to form their “cliques”. I didn’t know where I fit in so I just hung out with the “weird” kids. I still talk to a few of them today. This was when I started listening to rock music more. Nobody really made fun of me as much, not that I remember anyway. The one thing I do remember is this girl, who I had never spoken to in my life before, called me ugly everyday, for no apparent reason. I hadn’t spoken two words to her. At first, I would say some smart comment to her, eventually, I didn’t say anything at all. & I started to believe it. My best friend was moving so I had no one when I started high school. & the people I knew from elementary school were all going to separate high schools. High school….how do I describe high school. I hated high school. Freshman year wasn’t that bad. Sophomore year, however was the worst. For whatever reason, that’s the year everyone decided to bully me. I was called names, some girl tried subtly fight me in drama class. Drama class was mainly where everything happened. This group of kids, mainly black kids, would pick on me because what I wearing, my skin, my clothes, my hair, the music I listened to. They would call me ugly, & other horrible names & make up stupid rumors about how me & these other girls were having a lesbian foursome. I dreaded going to that class everyday, but it was one of my favorites. & as much as I dreaded it, I didn’t want to get on my teacher’s bad side cause we got points if we were in the drama club & were in the plays. Around this time, was when I was being bullied at church as well. I also hated going to church. I hated going to church as well. I would stall as much time as possible. I would hide out in the bathroom for as long as possible. When I was sick or we couldn’t go, I was secretly happy. My self esteem was at an all time low. I was depressed. I’m pretty sure that when my anxiety problem/disorder started. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I would cry myself to sleep or stay up late, hoping I would oversleep & miss school. Yeah, I had friends. I still talk to them actually. But I felt so alone. & I started to think, that if I went away, all my problems would go away. I never actually attempted suicide. I did think about it though. Not a lot. Just enough though. So I started listening to a lot more heavy metal [which fueled the fire, because according to high school rules, black people aren’t supposed to listen to that. Especially black girls] I read a lot. I think I read most of the books in the library. I never thought I would make to the end of sophomore year, let alone my 16th birthday. But I turned 16, & 5 months later, sophomore year ended. & I was so thankful. I had thought about asking my mom to let me switch schools. But I stayed. Junior & Senior wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. I still got bullied, or called names, but this time, I just kind of let it roll, thinking to myself that I would never see this people again. I was still kind of depressed. But I threw myself into drama & photography & reading & the handful of friends I had. Graduation day was one of the best days of my life.
Then I went to college. I think that if I had some sort of therapy, my experience would have been different. But instead, I was 18. I was scared, nervous, going to a school I didn’t even want to go to. I had immediately written everyone off, saying it’s gonna be just like high school. My anxiety was always at an all time high. I hated being around the people I didn’t know, & I never ate in the cafeteria. I was too nervous, that everyone was judging me, or staring like I was a freak. I would always eat food my mom had brought to me. I only did a semester, because it was too expensive. [i’m STILL paying for that by the way]. I knew I wasn’t ready. I even told my mom but she thought it would be a good experience. Which it kind of was. I got to live on my own for 6 months, even though my house was a 10 minute drive away. But if I had to do it again, I don’t know if I would. I felt alone there. I did like my roommate though.
Now, I’m 22. My self esteem isn’t where I would like it to be. I still have my anxiety problem, I still get depressed. I don’t know if I’ll ever trust people the same way again. But it did teach me. It taught me that I had to keep fighting. Even if I didn’t feel like it. I’m learning that those people can’t ever bother me again & I have to keep reminding myself, one day at a time. It’s very hard though. I still have my days. But I know that God kept me alive for a reason. What yet, I haven’t figured out. I just know I have a lot of gifts & I want to use them. – Makaila

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Child Academy Part II

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

When I started this two part blog, I quickly got choked by life and the trials of my kids. But now, as I sit in my room with peace and quiet, as two lay asleep an one at work, I can see the lessons I learned since the first part of Child Academy.

I have learned my part as the mother. I have learned that parenting is not merely about popping somebody on the back of the head in church when they act up or sending the “evil eye” look their way to get them to straighten up when you are not close or are in company. It’s not about their faults and how you deal with them. It’s not even 100% about training them, not all of it anyway. Yes, all of that may be included depending on your child’s personality (I have three) but LOVE should be the first part of that equation.

I quickly learned that discipline doesn’t, shouldn’t come from anger. It shouldn’t be the “silent treatment” as we may have been used to. That’s the best time to show love! Merely saying “I do this because I love you” does nothing for the sore butt or bruised ego or angry stares as you “ruin their lives,” yet again by canceling plans. I have personally had a struggle in that balance. Knowing how to be angry and yet show love. And, I might transparently add, I was having a hard time turning to God’s instructions to change it.

This verse, Ephesians 6:4, is one of the ricks God used to smack me gently upside MY head during this struggled season for me and my kids. I almost ignored it because it simply says “fathers,” moms were not included. But as a single mom, I took up both jobs much like a person with a two man job would do when one was missing for that day. Here’s where I go off trail on a mini tangent.

Single moms (and dads), do not waste your time talking about complaining about or trying to fix your “singleness” in parenting. I did that for many years, all three, and it was as said in Ecclesiastes “toil under the sun.” It’s useless, it’s vain (because your focus is on your needs) and it speaks loudly to your kids that they are the cause of your troubles. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, it’s more of a burden in you to have to do two jobs, but if God didn’t know you capable, you would not have gotten this important job as a parent.

Okay, tangent dispersed and back to the subject, bringing your child up in The Lord. Most parents, I would think, know the obvious things not to do to ignite anger in your child when it comes to this verse. But what about the hidden and unspoken things? Just this week, my heart was broken to even think one of my children could hate or be sick of me. That is NOT my intention at all! Now I do inderstand that taking a way a phone, tv and game system, freedom to go with friends or places, can all play apart in angering a child. And for disciplining reasons, I frankly don’t care about that anger. However, my goal is not to “chide” or “provoke” my child to be angry. I don’t walk around yelling or cussing at them or belittling their opinions by laughing at their anger. No! That’s obviously not the way! But what I was shown that I was doing was snide remarks, ignoring them, walking around angry and not speaking in love but dryly, even talking to friends or Facebook about their mishaps. These all qualify as provokers.

This is where that grace I was speaking about in the part I comes in. Grace in the moment is needed 96% of the time in my home and if God wasn’t so giving of His grace, I would almost think I was abusing the privilege. But grace is needed. It’s not to be held in the back pocket until after the verbal lashing or silence forcing your kids to tip toe around the house on egg shells or slamming doors and snapping in anger because they aren’t doing what you want! No! Grace should be your first stop before even dealing with the issue. Much like the sink should be your child’s first stop before going to your fridge or table, much like the first stop should be a bathroom before easing out on a long road trip. I am getting into the habit of praying, not always yet, before addressing any new or reoccurring issues because if I don’t pick up that grace God gives me, then all my kids get…. is me and I am NOTHING without Christ.

Next time you have an issue that makes you boil over with your kids, close your eyes, take a deep breath… and let it out, pray then address it. My kids know when my voice goes quiet, I am over the top. It’s time to give mama some space and when I reenter the scene surrounded by grace and mercy, then we can address it because of my robe of grace.

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When Is It Enough?

Raising kids is a hard, some times draining, sometimes discouraging always rewarding job. My question is when does the parenting stop?

I answer my own question by saying never. Parenting has seasons just like the weather, a job, friendship, and life. From birth until they leave the house, training, love, encouragement and discipline should be the season. Once they leave, the parenting takes on a new form which carries over encouragement, prayer and adds new elements such as gentle guidance. Over the entire 23 years I have been a parent, I noticed small changes in my children’s environment that forced or warranted changes in me. I sometimes ignored these changes that should’ve taken effect in me, and sometimes I went in fully charged, determined to defeat an invisible foe that threatened to pull my children from me, leaving the very ones I aimed and vowed to protect harmed after all.

We have been through depression, bullying, addictions, homelessness, moral failure and even incarceration together. My children have watched me be physically thrown out of our home because of my choices, depressed and abandoned by one I chose to stay with LONG after the rush subsided, and even seen up close and probably too personally the pain of breaking out of a shell built around me in my childhood. They have seen me struggle emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually as I sought one remedy after another to be comfortable in this world.

I have seen them be hurt, be tormented, be made fun of, be torn down, make choices that landed them in both emotion and physical jail and be ignored and cast aside by someone who should have been there to guide them paternally.

Now that we are entering this new realm of adult and independent teen kid phase, I look back sometimes and go over where I messed up, I even entertain the spirit of regret about poison I poured into them, which has stolen a few years by itself. But I have finally gotten to a place where I understand what my role is, what my duties as their mom is, what it really means to RAISE children to be adults. I’m not looking so much on the failures anymore, I can’t do anything about them anyway but mend any hurts, so why waste precious time.

I have decided in these last few, or whatever, years I would spend time with my kids doing things I only wished we could do. Taking trips where we have never gone, seeing places we have never seen and saying things I felt were too awkward to say before. I have decided to love my kids where they are and leave the transformation to their Father, my Father who is the only One who knows their beginnings and their end. I only pray I live to see the fruit of some of our “labor” together and that our bond remains in generations to come.

When do/ did you stop parenting? It’s never too late to pick it back up. Not until the last breath is gone.

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