Grace and Parenting

Today was an ordinary day. I made Tony breakfast and once he headed off to work I went to my balcony. On my balcony I watch the activity of my little block. I love watching the different flowers bloom across the street, the neighbors walking with their toddler, the mourning dove moving from tree to tree. I also love writing in my prayer journal, reading my Bible and praying over my island, I love Galveston. And I love this morning routine that grounds me and sets my intentions for the day. Yoga is a new addition and the benefits have been so great that it is a permanent addition.

On days with a relaxed agenda, I get to read on my balcony.

Reading on the balcony, Galveston Texas, Pretty legs and flowers on Galveston Island

I, then, sit down to my desk. What comes next is anybody’s guest. Sometimes I get straight to work answering emails and sending docs wherever they need to go. Other days, I create social media content or write. Some days a very vibrant three year-old greets me and climbs up into my lap. This morning she didn’t. She fell back asleep in her bed after being up since 5:30 am.

As I watch Cheyenne and Savannah in this season of motherhood, that season where you don’t really ever feel rested and you answer the same question 452 times, I am amazed. I am amazed at the patience and grace they operate with and extend to their children. They are far more relaxed than I was with them. I was convinced that if I didn’t jump on every little hint of rebellion or misbehavior, they would grow into lewd women who dealt drugs and ran around with strange men- or something of the like. It seems so ridiculous now, but when you are raised with religion as your master and grace is unheard of, these are the things you think. Now, I know that there is no need to fear.

I did learn to relax as the years went by and I spoke of it often. I am so utterly grateful that they listened and God’s grace was and/is abundant. I have watched my girls mother with excellence, not perfection but who even wants perfection? They find joy in their children. I am so stinking proud of them I can’t hardly stand it.

Because of the job they are doing, I can simply enjoy my grandchildren. Tony and I can pick them up and take them anywhere. They are funny and happy and spunky. We laugh at their antics even if it wears us out. I mean, I had forgotten just how much energy it takes to raise children! I can rest knowing that we did a good job and now my children are doing a good job.

God’s grace covers the weak spots and He promised me He would show me his salvation. He also promised me that my children would be taught by the Lord and great would be their peace. I have walked through enough to know that He is faithful, if he made me a promise, He will keep it. I can laugh at the days to come because my God is with me and them.

And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

Isaiah 54:13

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

Psalm 91: 15-16

I love my ordinary days. They are filled with life- which could be boring or monotonous but I choose to see the beauty and blessing that surrounds me everyday. I pray prayers of gratitude daily, how could I not? I am fully aware of just how blessed I am.

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Kind words are like honey, marriage, romance, love, happily ever after

See You Later- What A Wonderful Thought

This past weekend, we traveled back to Canton, TX and celebrated Jonathan as he embarks on his new life.

He has chosen to serve and departs for boot camp in less than a week. It was time to say, “See You Later.” Watching him interact with his friends and family was such a gift. Knowing that there wouldn’t be another moment like this was sobering. All of his friends will be very different when Jonathan sees them again. As it stands, we won’t see him again before August. One set of newly married friends will have welcomed their first child, his sister will be in law school and who knows what that much time will bring to the rest of their lives.

So, we soaked it all up. Laughter was in abundance as were smiles. He won’t look the same when he gets back. He will not be the same when he gets back. But, that is a thing to be celebrated, not grieved. Nothing stays the same, he is choosing to become more.

See you later, Big Boy! We could not possibly be more proud of you!

My Mile Marker Zero

Many of you may recognize this as Mile Marker Zero in Key West, Florida. Which might make you think that this is a travel blog post and it could be. We traveled there this summer, yes in 2020. It was my son’s senior trip, the handsome fellow you see in this picture. All he wanted was to go somewhere where he could snorkel. The Keys it was. What I did not anticipate was this picture.

God like to surprise us with little things that make our hearts happy. When we planned the trip, I know He was like, “This is gonna be so cool. You are gonna love this picture I have planned.” The reason it is so cool is that Jonathan is my fourth and final kid. I am officially done- he is my mile marker zero. It didn’t even occur to me when I took it. It was just a cool picture on a family vacation. But later, when we got home and I was looking at pictures, it hit me. Wow, what a way to wrap it up.

You would think that hitting such a milestone would feel so great. And it does feel great but at the exact same moment, it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. When the older two left home, I comforted myself with the fact that I had two more kids at home. Then the baby girl left home and that hurt like a mother. But, I still had J. Now, it’s mile marker zero.

So, here I sit. I can’t say I don’t have any regrets. I firmly believe that if you get to the end of your parenting run and don’t have any regrets, you didn’t take the job seriously enough. I may have some regrets, things I would do differently but I have no guilt or remorse. I know that I did the absolute best that I could with the tools that I had. Yes, 48 year-old me could do a few things better than 28 year-old me- I should hope so! But, I gave it my all and I am very proud of the humans I turned lose on the world.

Jonathan has joined the Marines and ships out January 19th. Talk about an abrupt ending. I am going from having full control (that is different from being controlling) to having NO control over anything in his life. I am not going to lie, this is a difficult curve to navigate. I mean, if anyone else talked to him they will talk to him, I would have gone OFF on them. You do NOT mess with my kids.

I realized that I had this narrative in my head that the Core was intentionally going to destroy all that I had built. While talking to my family at Christmas, this came out of my mouth. Thankfully, my dad is a former Marine. He said, “No Honey, its not like that.” On the long drive back to my island, I processed through all of this. I decided to change the narrative. I chose to look at it from a different perspective. I raised a young man who knows his mind, knows himself, above all knows Jesus, and is so strong that no matter was the Marines throw at him, they won’t break him.

It is amazing how a human heart can feel so many big emotions fully at the same time.

I am incredibly PROUD of him.

I am so SAD I won’t get to hear his voice everyday.

I am so HAPPY he is moving into adulthood and following his passion.

I am AFRAID of where that path will take him.

I am so EXCITED to see where that path will take him.

The list goes on. I am so grateful to have been given the gift of raising this boy. So, I will focus on the positive and celebrate my Mile Marker Zero.

How You Can Help Say “NO” to Exploiting Children

If you could do one small thing that would shut a child pornography ring down- would you do it?

I’ve compiled some facts and done a little math for you this week.

There’s two parts to this post:

  • The role of child pornography in the sexual abuse of children.
  • One thing we can do to stop the abuse.

You guessed it, this is a Serious Saturday Post.

There are four preconditions that must be met in order for a predator to act and abuse a child. The first two are internal. A person must overcome the internal inhibitors that would stop him or her from abusing a child sexually. There are two common components in overcoming these internal inhibitors: child pornography and the erotic portrayal of children in the media. (Victimology 5th addition, Harvey Wallace and Cliff Roberson)

Child Pornography and the Erotic Portrayal of Children in the MEDIA- enter Netflix.

Netflix has produced the show “Cuties” which is at best an erotic portrayal of children in the media and at worst child pornography.

Waiting on some government agency to investigate or arrest or pull the show from the air will take too long. We as moral individuals must take a stand.

How can we when we are up against a media giant?

That is where a free market and a capitalist economy come in. In our economic system, the dollars do the voting. If it will sell, it is made. If it won’t sell, it doesn’t get made anymore.

There are 29 million people living in Texas. Lets say that the average monthly charge for Netflix was $10. I know some pay more and some pay less, but let’s just use an easy number as the median price. If 10 million people in Texas (1/3 of the population) cancelled Netflix that would me a loss of 100 million dollars PER MONTH to Netflix- and that is just Texas.

$10.00 X 10,000,000 = 100 million dollars per month

So, let’s take another number. There are 205 million Christians in America. If half of those cancelled Netflix it would mean a $1,025,000.00 loss per month for Netflix- over 1 billion dollars per month!

102,500,000 X $10.00= $1,025,000,000.00/month

Thanks to the way our economy works, we do not have to wait on someone else to take a stand and shut the giant down for exploiting our children and creating a pathway for abusers to overcome their internal inhibitors.

Stopping child abuse and sex trafficking is an overwhelming task, but through one action we can stake a stand that will make a difference and send a message.

Will you take a stand and cancel Netflix?

If you continue to send Netflix your money, you are bankrolling child pornography and paving the way for the sexual abuse of children.

Thanks To My Dad, I Am Not A Racist

With Father’s Day coming up, I thought about a gift of a t-shirt or coffee mug- you know the usual. But then things erupted around us concerning the issue of racism. I decided that the best gift I could give my dad would be my words.

To be honest, my dad was a train wreck in many ways. He would never have one an award based on being a father. These words will not come as a surprise, he knows this. We have talked about it and he has apologized and most importantly, many of those bad behaviors do not occur any longer.

But the thing he got right, like really nailed it- was race and gender. We will save the gender issue for another day but it deserves a mention here. Never in all my days growing up, and I spent a lot of time with him in the shop tearing down engines and helping him rebuild those engines (yes, me a girl knew an engine inside and out by the time I was 12), did I ever hear my dad judge a person based on skin color, ethnicity, or gender.

My mom tells the story of when they were first married she made a racist comment, probably one she heard growing up, and my dad told here never to say that again. He said that wasn’t allowed in our house. And just like that, my mom stopped.

This is why I say that because of him, I am not a racist. If it hadn’t been for him, I would have grown up just like the generations before me. I heard the word “n” word plenty and it always turned my stomach because of the bitterness behind it. But that word was never used in my home. I was never tempted to use it and I knew early on that it was not okay- even if people who I loved said it. That wasn’t allowed in our house.

Perhaps, what is a child hears in the home carries far more weight than what is said in the culture around them.

Or, what a child doesn’t hear. My dad and I never had a discussion about this. I learned from his actions and words- both said and unsaid.

He came from East Texas. He may have carried thoughts and attitudes of racism but he didn’t give them a voice and they died without light and air and recognition. I do not carry that baggage that he never handed me.

As I watch with repulsion the acts of racism, I feel a bit helpless. There are big problems in the world. How can I impact such a huge thing? Me, as one person, can’t actually do a lot on a national or global scale.

BUT, what I can do is decide what is allowed in our house. I raised four humans who do not judge a person based on their color, gender, or ethnicity. They, in turn will raise the next generation that know a human’s worth is not based on skin color or heritage or gender. If we all would focus on our own home, society would be fixed. If we all focused on our own home, the world would get better. Matters of the heart cannot be fixed with legislature. Matters of the heart must be fixed at home with Jesus.

That is another thing we did in our home- faith was central. No where close to perfect, but it gave me the foundation to build my life on the Rock and not the shifting sands of culture or society,

My dad was key in that, as well.

I am living proof that one person can stop racism from infecting the next generation, and the next one, and the next one, and on and on.

Thanks to my dad, I am not a racist.

Thank you Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

Divorce & The Holidays

christmas

As the holidays approach, life can really get complicated.  Add in blended families and divorced parents and it can be a real mine field.

So I am going to offer something that, I hope will make your holiday what you hope for.  Sit quietly and think about what memories you would like to make with your children and what you want them to remember when they are grown and look back on the holidays that they shared with you.  Frankly, this applies to any facet of life- what do you want your kids to remember when they look back and make that happen.

In regards to the holidays, don’t let all the voices pulling at you influence your dreams.  Just take a few minutes to dream about what you would like and what would be best for your children.  Now go do that.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend.  Her children were all little and she was married to her original husband who was the father of all four kids.  The stress she was feeling was that both his and her parents were divorced and remarried- and all wanted them at their respective homes for the holidays.  She was exhausted and didn’t really want to make 5-6 stops in a 48 hour period with four small children in tow.  This was not what she thought was best for her kids or herself.  When asked what I thought I offered this:

“You did not create the problem.  It was not your decision or your husband’s for either of your parent’s to get a divorce.  The adults at the time made that decision.  Now, they have to live with the consequences.  Because they chose divorce, they now have to understand that they will not have all the children and grandchildren at every holiday.  And that is not your fault or your problem to fix.”

Now, will people get mad when you choose to stay home or only visit one or two homes?  Yes.

Will they get their feelings hurt?  Probably.

Will they be harmed? No.

The main thing is that you live and establish YOUR family in the way that is best for you and them.  Your  children are only little once, don’t let it pass by missing out on what you dream of by trying to make everyone else happy.

I hope this helps someone have a less stressful holiday.  The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration- but we have to be purposeful for that to happen.

 

The Best Things In Life Are Free

jonathan picking berries

Oh, summertime.  One of the first signs that summer has arrived, other than every item of clothing on your person being soaked with sweat- and I mean all your clothing- is the arrival of dewberries.  These are a variety of blackberries- not as big and not quite as sweet as the cultivated varieties but they are available for the picking.  Seriously, free and organic fruit- what could be better.

Around the corner from us on an abandoned fence, there is a whole mess of berries.  Lots and Lots.  Jonathan and Sierra and whoever else will walk down the road with them have picked berries everyday for a week now.  The vines are so loaded that I think we will have another week of harvest.  There are so many things to do with berries- cobbler, ice cream, flavored cream for the top of a pound cake, pound cake, crumb cake, and the list goes on.

As Jonathan and I picked berries together in the warm sunshine, he prattled on about the possibility of what we might do with the berries. Once back at the house, of course, the first thing to do is to get a bowl full and sprinkle them with sugar and eat them with your fingers- that way you can lick your fingers clean. But in the meantime, you eat the most plump and ripe berries right on the spot.  No, you don’t need to wash them they are fine.  You might eat a bug, but it won’t kill you.  Eating them off the vine is a big part of the fun.  The best part of the berry pickin’ is the memories you make.  The conversation is seemingly meaningless as we chatter, but in that chatter you build connections with your kids.  These are the tidbits that come together as the whole picture that tells the kids who they are and where they come from.  Not to mention the warmth in your heart you feel when your twelve year old son reaches over and takes your hand as you walk down the road.  I love that kid and I love to pick berries with him.  The best things in life are free.

My favorite use of berries is a cobbler and here is the most simplest of deserts best eaten warm with vanilla ice cream!

 

Dewberry Cobbler (or whatever berry you have on hand)

One recipe of pie crust

2-3 cups of berries

1 cups sugar

Take one half of the pie dough recipe and roll it out.

Put half of the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9X9 pan-  I like cast iron pans.  Place berries in the pan and pour sugar on the berries.  Cover with the other half of the rolled dough.  The dough does not have to cover the berries or the bottom completely.  Place in an oven heated to 350′ oven and bake for 30-45 minutes- just until the dough is brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  Put a generous helping in a bowl and top with ice cream.  Let the good times roll!

For The Love of Bunnies

jonthan and bunny

About a week ago, I rounded the house to find our dog, Duckie, sitting with purpose on the sidewalk giving me a look that said, “You need to deal with this.”  As I walked closer I spotted the littlest brown bit of furry cuteness sitting at her feet.  I picked it up and was surprised to the the baby rabbit was still alive.

Baby rabbits need help to keep warm, so is took this little guy in, wrapped him in a wash cloth and tucked it in bed with Jonathan.  Jonathan fed this baby every hour with kitten formula.  Rabbit milk is extremely hard to replicate and all the information I have found (this is not our first bottle baby rabbit) says to use kitten formula.  The rabbit, named Spock, would lick the formula off of Jonathan’s finger and snuggled up to him during the night. It was just so sweet.

Then the other morning, he woke up to find that the bunny had died.  Yes, he cried.  His heart was broke and I just hate it.  One of the hardest lessons I have to learned as a mother is to let my children grieve loss- whatever that loss may be.   My first urge is to make it better, to get a new pet, or sweep it aside as if it doesn’t matter just so I don’t have to feel heart broke as well but none of that benefits my child in the long run. Like it or not, as long as we are on this side of heaven we will experience loss.  One of the best things I can do for my children is to walk with them through it and show them how to feel real feelings and then deal with them in a healthy way.  It is hard.

I must say that the farm has provided many opportunities to deal with grief and death.  When we began this journey of homesteading, I had no idea how much death would be a part of our lives.  But, never have we experienced the joy of life in the way that we have in our everyday lives on the farm.  If we refuse things like the baby bunny to save ourselves from hurt, we would miss the days of joy and fun that was brought by the bunny.  To love is to risk hurt, but love is worth the risk.

The afternoon the Jonathan’s bunny died our kitten ran up with another baby rabbit.  What did I do?  Handed it to Jonathan.  Some might think I am crazy to provide my son with another opportunity to feel loss and hurt, but I think I provided him with another chance to love.

That rabbit died, too but before Jonathan had gotten attached.  To be honest, we have never bottle-fed a rabbit and had it live.  But hope springs eternal on a farm and we will keep trying should the opportunity present itself.

bunny

“The Talk”

What a cutie, sweet with a will of iron.
What a cutie, sweet with a will of iron.

It seems that it is time for “The Talk” once again at my house.  For many of you, you probably assume that from the title this talk will be about the birds and the bees.  Not so.  When you live on the farm topics like reproduction and various anatomical differences between male and females come up with everyday life.   As a matter of fact, most non-farm orientated folk would be deeply disturbed by what is discussed at the dinner table amongst the farm family. Then the kids just sort of put things together, if you will, and then the topic of human reproduction comes pretty easily and just moves on by.

No, in our house dominated by strong-willed females “The Talk” is a different sort of beast.  Really, it is more of a speech- talking involves conversation and by the time “The Talk” is needed I am not interested in conversing- I am interested in laying the law down.  With each of the girls- all three being ahead of the boy- as age 14 rolls around they have just about decided that I don’t really know what I am doing.  And possibly, they have confused the fact that I treat them with respect and as intelligent individuals instead of just dumb kids  with the presumption that they are equal to me.  Big Mistake.  My authority does not come from the fact that I am more intelligent than my children- the fact is that they are just as if not more intelligent than I am and they arrived in this world that smart.  My authority comes from that fact that God made me their mother and I am in charge until they are adults and out of the house.  Until that day, I am the Alpha Female.

Well, the youngest daughter just turned 14 and just like her sisters before her, she has gotten a little too big for her britches.

 

To her I will say:

“You have four years left here in this house.  These years can be years of peace and fun or they can be 4 years of fighting and unhappiness for you.  It is your choice.  The rules haven’t changed and they will not.  You will treat me with respect, treat your siblings with kindness and respect or we can fight about all these things and you will lose.  I am still the mother and I am not budging.  The boundaries that have been in place since you were born will not change, test them as you may, test them if you must- but they will not change.  If you are looking for a fight, I am game.  However, I hope you choose peace.  What will it be?”

Because I have laid the ground work for 14 years of their lives- I don’t make idle threats, if I tell you I will take away all your books because you keep reading instead of doing what you are supposed to, I will.  They know I mean what I say and they also know from whom they inherited the strong will and have decided it’s best not to tangle with me.  Now when I speak of boundaries, I am speaking of basic tenants of obeying our guidelines and treating one another with love and respect.  I am not a mother who had ideas of what her children should be and then forces them into the box I have created.  My children are free to be and to become what God has intended.  I simply create an environment in our home in which they can hear God.  The Bible is the final word in our home, therefore, if you do not like what it says don’t blame me take it to God.  Until He changes, I am not.

This all sounds pretty harsh, but really it isn’t.   Also, these are strong willed kids- you have to have a will of granite to stand your ground or they will eat you alive. We all need to know where the boundaries are in our lives.  I want my children to learn that inside the boundaries are freedom and peace.  If they learn that in our home boundaries mean good things for them then when they are own their own they will know that living within the boundaries that God sets are for their good and protection.  So far so good, the 19 and 17 year-old have not given us one moment of grief and I can truly say I love having teenagers.

So, here it goes for the third time.  I am not sure there will be a forth- will Jonathan challenge me or his dad when the time comes?  I don’t know- I hope he challenges his dad…  Why should I get to have all the fun!

What have been the most challenging seasons of raising you children?