I'm beginning to realize why my older friends didn't talk much about raising teenagers. {And you may remember when I said the same thing about middle schoolers….} There are times when I've been like, "Why didn't so and so TELL ME?" "Why didn't they ...

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"Not by Might" - 5 new articles

  1. Not My Job, But Yours Be Done
  2. And the Story Goes On.... {Adoption. No Fear.}
  3. Middle School: Girls, Glenn Miller, Socks and Idiots {or just one Idiot}
  4. Christmas Letter 2016
  5. A Reminder from Julia to Me to You
  6. More Recent Articles

Not My Job, But Yours Be Done


I'm beginning to realize why my older friends didn't talk much about raising teenagers. {And you may remember when I said the same thing about middle schoolers….} There are times when I've been like, "Why didn't so and so TELL ME?"  "Why didn't they sit me down and fill me in on the best ways to handle these little budding adults that have shown up on the second floor of my home?" "Why didn't they tell me that I would feel so ill-equipped and confused much of the time?"  Here's the reason they didn't tell me— because they knew I really wouldn't be able to understand it until I got there.  Here.  Wherever. They knew they could tell me, warn me, encourage me in some specific areas but that I really wouldn't— couldn't— take it to heart because I had no way of knowing what raising teenagers would be like.

Until I was actually doing it.

Life with teenagers can be great.  On good days, we can teeter on the "friendship" side of parenting— seeing glimpses of what our adult relationship might look like, we can actually agree on a life issue, we can have some meaningful interactions on close to the heart subjects, and we can think, "Hey— I really like you."  And SOMETIMES life with teenagers can feel like a bubble blown from dollar store mix— it’s fragile and one more breath in the plastic wand and it bursts.  A good ol' "bust" just may be the better term.  And these "busts" leave you wondering if things will ever be light and normal again……if hormones will ever run on cruise control again…if anyone will ever smile in our house again…if coat hangers will ever be used for hanging clothes again.  You know- dire issues like that.  Anyone with teenagers knows what I am talking about— with the bubble— you ask a simple question, like, "Have much homework?" and there are tears followed by questions of why you don't love them anymore and life is NOT normal.  Or light.  *

And you are dumbfounded.  Homework vs. their place in your heart.  The game has changed.  The stakes are higher.  Fo sho.

Look at all of them!  If not a teenager already, look how many just a few friends have to raise!!  Love. These. Kids.
Having a few more years behind us, we think we know what's best for them—and most of the time we do, but they simply can't see it.  OR they see it fine, but wouldn't even pretend they did.  A few things fall into that category these days— things I'd love to see them doing but they just haven't owned yet.  I DO know these particular things ARE best for them so I pray.  And pray some more— praying that God will do the things that only He can do.  Remember Blackaby's Experiencing God in the 90's?  I picked it back up again after 20 years and guess what?  It's STILL amazing.  And I loved being reminded of these things— the things ONLY HE can do.  {See?  If only HE can do them, then it's struck OFF my list. I don't know about you, but I am all up for that.}

1.  Draws people to Himself
2.  Causes people to seek Him
3.  Reveals spiritual Truth
4.  Convicts the world {us, our children and everyone we know!} of guilt about sin, righteousness and judgment

How freeing is that?  Those are His jobs, not mine.  I take huge comfort in that and the really incredible thing is that He is faithful and I am counting on Him to do His part. And you can bet I will remind Him of it— respectfully.  Of course.   When will I respectfully remind Him?  Every time I try to think of a creative way to get them to read Scripture on their own.  Every time I want pure repentance— like some sackcloth and ashes action.  GRIEF over their sin.  Every time I see them struggling with a spiritual Truth after I've laid it out as clearly as I know how.  That's when I have to remind Him that drawing, revealing and convicting is HIS job.  Not mine.  I am not in control.  I have none.



Are you detecting the focus here?  Are you sensing who this parenting thing is really about?    So a few months after I began reading Experiencing God again— enter Paul David Tripp's book Parenting.  It IS about parenting but as I read it, it is so much more about the work needed in my own heart.  Just like marriage, parenting is just another degree of our sanctification, another prying off of our fingers from our own desires and agendas, another microscope on the sin that is still active in my own life.  So don't read it if you don't want to be thoroughly challenged— BUT, know this, it's not a burdensome book.  AT ALL.  It frees you— just as Henry Blackaby's principles from Scripture do.  There are just certain things we were never meant to do.  We can encourage it. We can teach it.  We can model it.  But we cannot make them choose it for themselves.  It's only by God's grace that I chose Him all those years ago.
 

So, these days, I am more convinced than ever that parenting is really about the work He wants to accomplish in me— letting go of my desire for control, comfort, "rightness", and even peace.  He wants me completely aware of what’s ruling my own heart, my absolute dependency on Him, my perpetual need for Him— and how that kind of dependence looks moment to moment.

And yes, I am still figuring that out.  Parenting moments are hardly EVER planned.  Friends, we've got to be at the ready.  I think His Word has a few things to say about that.  So maybe we can talk about that another time?  Until we can do that here’s some favorite verses.



2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wow.  So be it.

{Here's the link to what my friend wrote several months ago now regarding Tripp's book— and a bit of her parenting experience.  Don't we all learn so much from each other?  Grateful for community within the Body of Christ.}

{* Instead of “Have much homework?”--- “What did you do last night?” or “How was the party?” or “Why did you miss curfew?” or “What is this text all about?”  In these years there could be things that happen that tear holes in our hearts-- this is a burst bubble of a different caliber-- so just know those things are tumbling around in my mind as I write this.}

    

And the Story Goes On.... {Adoption. No Fear.}

Gosh.  I feel like I need to say SOMETHING before I just up and post on this neglected blog.  I went to save something I wanted to write about and noticed I didn't even have a "2017" folder!!  I miss writing.  I feel I miss out on the savoring of good things, hard things— finding the significance in them when I don't write.  For me, sometimes, that means living on a different level— one that's more shallow, not as rich.  Writing makes me stop — and think through things.  God has been faithful to push me out in the deep end to discover some treasure, but I know I've missed some things.  I so enjoyed teaching at church a few times out of Acts which prepared me for what's going on now— Revive TX, which hopefully I can write about later.  Any writing time was spent studying.  However, this morning, the house is quiet.  I am actually a little shaky because Jeff is usually the one who presses the coffee and he's out of town…..  so I must have been off on the proportions— and there is SO MUCH left over!  And I feel obligated not to waste it.  So between my jittery self and this texting stream among a few friends who got a SPRAY TAN last night, I may not be able to put two sensible thoughts together!!  {Spray tan— yes— a girl came to my friend's house and sprayed us all down with a caffeine and stain laden concoction and the comparative notes— and pictures— this morning are hilarious.  Oh the joys of being a girl and having GIRLFRIENDS!} Well, there's my little "hi!" Here is what I wanted to tell you…..


When we chose to pursue adoption, we were just so excited about starting a family.  Sure, we thought through a few things — mainly A BABY— but really, who thinks past the first few months even when having a baby?!  There are a few special select of you who have wedding budgets already in place after the positive pregnancy test but you are just……well, …special.  Most of us focus on all the NEWNESS and keeping baby alive and getting a little sleep.  Your brain catches up later, right?   So, of course, we have two sweet, God-filled adoption stories that have been chronicled in detail on this aging blog. {Just click on “adopting” in the side margin if you need more detail.}  Those stories are no different in that they aren't over after the first few months. Chapters are always being written.  Then, I had NO IDEA how God would continue His story year after year building on the things He had shown us, dazzled us and blessed us with during those processes.  Julia's fifteenth birthday was no exception.  {I did not write an official 15th birthday letter to post here this year.  They seem so personal now that she's older.  Maybe I can post them later one day?  But this will represent that this year because I feel the Lord has something for Julia in this story.}



Random picture but NOT a random friend.  These long time friends at their first Quinceanera.
So 15, right?



And a mom is allowed a favorite picture. {A month before she turned 15}

So her birthday.  On the way to school- the quick less than 10 minute trip-  we typically read a devotional I have in the car or our church's The Journey on one of our phones.  Two days after her birthday, January 26th, I was telling her that this day was almost as special to me as her actual birthday because this was the day we took her home. {Well, to the La Quinta in Bossier City, Louisiana until all paperwork was complete.}  God was faithful to encourage me through His Word throughout the whole process— He chose to use Streams in the Desert and the Scriptures chosen for those days. I was blown away often and the 26th of 2002 was no exception.  So this January, I briefly mentioned it on the way to school that morning.  Well, after she read the entry in Jesus Calling, she looked up the verses on the phone and read them aloud.  And she read this verse, "He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7  Unfortunately, I had gotten distracted and was halfway listening but it was enough.  I was like, "Wait!  Read that again!"  She did and I was— blown away, again, by the kindness of the Lord.  I had to remind her that it was the same Scripture that God had given me the day BEFORE we got the call from her birthmother that she was going into labor when I was about to go CRAZY because we hadn't heard from her in weeks.  And the SAME Scripture He so graciously gave me AGAIN 2 days later on the longest day of my life, waiting to take Julia home with us- the day things could have dashed all our hopes and dreams.  He gave it to me in His Word that first day- 1/22- and then it was a featured verse in Streams in the Desert -1/25— reminding me that I didn't need to worry about "bad news"— a changed mind.  Adoption thwarted. Back to square one. It gave me confidence to BE Julia's momma from the second I met her- minutes after she was born.  To give her my WHOLE heart and not be worried that that was too risky until I knew for sure her birthmother would sign the papers.  {And sweet birthmom, S, I know you visit here around Mother's Day each year— Hi, by the way and I love you. Bless you, sweet one. I hope you find this so incredibly encouraging to your heart.  Let Him bolster your heart and faith with stories like this.  God wants YOU to know that YOU did His will.  YOU did the brave thing and sacrificed part of yourself for our daughter's greater good.  You set that story, her story- that goodness- in motion for Julia and all of us will forever be grateful and always remember you for that.  You are loved here in our home and never forgotten.  God is faithful to us both, yes?  May He continue to bless you and your family, S.}


And so He kept using His Word and just then on her 15th birthday, He decided we both needed a reminder of His Sovereign hand in the story.  It is only by His grace that she's ours.  I had no control, but I decided to trust Him like never before and He drew me along every LONG and HOPEFUL day with His Word.  Fine, if one wants to say it's a coincidence or that I am reading too much into it.  I believe He is in charge of coincidences and, on good days, my thought patterns.  So there, you skeptics. ; )

So I told Julia, like it or not, that verse was hers now.  It's just come up too many times around her story for her to ignore.  It's mine too, but at 15, I believe He wanted her to have it as well.

"[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7



Sweet Julia, I have a feeling you will receive bad news in your life— we all do.  It's inevitable in our sinful world where we, sinful people, make choices every moment.  Bad news is a part of our fallen world, but you don't have to LIVE in fear of it.  You can trust that even in hard news, He is trustworthy and WITH Him, you need not fear.  His faithfulness is an anchor— something that reaches to the depths of who we are and tethers our soul deep in His care.  I pray you, Julia, can bask and delight in that comfort and security.
I'm counting on that for me and I am counting on that for you.

May our hearts be steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  So be it.

I love you.  With my whole heart.



    

Middle School: Girls, Glenn Miller, Socks and Idiots {or just one Idiot}

I am determined to write a few words this morning.  I lose my practical head when I get to teach at Bible Study so I got to do that Wednesday morning and last night and presently, the laundry machine is spinning, the dishwasher is humming and I've got TWO pots simmering on the burner.  AND for a few more hours, I have NOWHERE to go.  A home day.  I love it.

Watermark Middle School Small Group-- and their leaders.  Grateful for each one.
Jeff and I are chaperoning the last middle school dance tonight.  I've been wanting to serve in some way at the other two—just to get a pulse on what these things are like— but we've been out of town or something.  So tonight, Jeff is a "Special OPS Dad" in the hall and I am checking tickets at the door.  Last night Brighton came in our bathroom— and uncharacteristically for him— he beat around the bush trying to ask this question.  "Are you going to embarrass me?"  Oh, I had fun with that one.  But seriously, does he really want me to act like I don't know him?!  I told him he might regret that if I wind up being the coolest mom there handing out Altoids to all the kids who forgot to brush their teeth after their quick dinner before the dance!  I also wanted to ask him, "Are YOU going to embarrass ME?"  Fair, right?  But somehow that question sounds so much worse turned around on him.  If I am parenting him the way God leads me to, his choices have nothing to do with me and therefore, his actions should NOT embarrass me.  Oh the thought struggles of parenting.  It's a fight to keep those TRUTH thoughts front and center moment to moment.

His binder..... oh. my. word.
Oh, B and how I love him.  Jeff was out of town a couple of weeks ago and so I was doing the afternoon/evening Ubering solo— and y'all, side note, it's a THING.  I am not sure how parents make this happen day to day all over the world and we aren't all in a car pile up somewhere.  My kids have one yearly activity {ballet for J and the sport in season for B} and one 30 minute piano class. When we were homeschooling it was easy to consider that just another one of their classes.  Being in school 5 days a week has made all of the running around a little trickier but we are still at it.  One of the positives of this that I am savoring right now is CAR TIME.  It's when most of our talking happens and lots comes out driving around- sometimes I think more than when I try to plan it over a favorite snack or meal.  When Julia begins driving herself to and from school and ballet, I think I will truly begin to miss her.  So I am not complaining about car time—it's GOLDEN—  I am just shocked by the extent of it!  Coming back from the side note— it was just Brighton and me in the car and he said, "Hey Mom, when we get home, can we just sit in the den for a while and talk?"  Umm, yes.  I LOVE easy questions-especially the ones I can say yes to!  He asked me if I wanted a fire and if I wanted to go ahead and fix my coffee. Then he asked Alexa, "Alexa, play 1950's Jazz Music."  And we sat down by the fire and talked to the sounds of Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller.  I let him go with it wherever he wanted- took my hands off the wheel.  Much of it was funny but some of it was very serious— and some so heavy I was wishing Jeff were there to spread out the load.  Most of the heaviness comes from his story— and when I say "heavy" — it's all good but it's heavy to him and therefore, me because he's still making peace and sense out of all of it.  I am so proud of him for communicating with me his heart and pushing through to the hard questions and even trying to be sensitive to me in the process.  I love my 13 year old boy who hasn't stopped talking since he was 2.  I pray this never stops.  Breaks are nice, but you know what I mean.
I feel for the young man on the right....  Middle School is hard.
So the funny thing I wanted to tell you is that he said he was learning some things about girls— and you never know where this is going but this was light, thank goodness.  I needed some light.  He said some guys told him that with girls, you need to LISTEN to them.  Novel, yes?  And which "guys"?  And why did they latch on to this?  "REALLY listen", he said.  He said there were two problems with this.  I couldn't imagine.  First, he said, "Mom", he held his hands out like he was reading a paper, "it's like they are reading a 20 page essay.  They go on and on and on."

2nd problem? And this will prove to be his biggest.  I'm his Mom.  I know.

 "I like to talk, too."

Brighton has his own essay going on.  So yes, this will be interesting to watch as he moves through these years.

I’m chalking this little trend up to the strangeness of Middle School.  Please.  PLEASE.  
I didn't plan on this being all about B but last thing, for now… last year in 6th grade, he did a report in his Science class on fungus and he chose — with my subtle directing fueled by hygienic motivation— athlete's foot.  I think the boy had nightmares from the pictures.  Thursday morning, second day of track he doesn't get up— after being awakened by us 45 minutes before at his request —because he has managed to break two alarm clocks in a one year period.  So basically he rolls out of bed and into the car.  To add to my regrets of motherhood, nothing was sweet or life-giving about yesterday morning.  I was just stupid with my words.  ANYWAY.  Half way there, he realized he didn't have his socks.  If you have a kid in a school with a uniform, you know that socks are really a big deal— socks AND their shoes.  "PLEASE bring me socks, Mom!!  PLEASE!! I CAN'T GO WITHOUT SOCKS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY!!!"  This kills me.  I hate when they ask me to do something and I have to stand my ground and say no.  {He should have gotten out of the bed when I told him to.  Right?  45 minutes would have been PLENTY of time to think of socks.}  True to character, he made one last ditch effort as I drove away— completely ignoring my apology for the idiot I had been in the 5 minutes I saw him before we picked up the neighbor.  Of course, I struggled all day NOT taking his socks— completely wasted energy on my part.  However, it may have been worth it to hear him obsess over how badly he needed to get to "that foot spray" Jeff had gotten for him.  He could hardly think of anything else.  He had borrowed socks from the "snooze you lose" bucket in the locker room…..oh my word.  Can we just NOT think about that for a minute?  He DID say he turned them inside out before he put them on but he couldn't get to "that foot spray" fast enough when we got home. This morning, he left with socks.

He’s certainly my favorite 13 year old boy and I marvel at his changing self.  
I know Middle School is tough.  For 7th grade, the “Eyebrow Incident" will forever be seared in his memory but I also know that it's prime time in our kids' lives.  Big things are happening within themselves and it makes my brain hurt worse than a carpool schedule thinking about it.  When that happens, may it drive me to PRAY— to pray for what's going on in their hearts and minds and to ask consistently for Jesus to mold and shape them--AND ME.  I can't speak any better regarding these prayers than my friend TJ did in her post this week.  This mindset and these prayers are critical if we want to make it through these parenting years— without the idiot label AND with a great relationship with our kids— who are growing up faster than we could have ever imagined.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving them even more than we do.

    

Christmas Letter 2016




I keep telling myself that one of these Christmases I am going to use the "outtakes" of the Christmas pictures for the card.  All of our yuletide greetings would be a lot more entertaining. I have pictures of us at the beach where in one take we are all serious with the discipline face, complete with finger cocked in scolding position and in the next frame, all smiles and joy-ever- after-Hallmark happy.  This year as I was setting up the tripod I broke one of the legs off and it became a very short tripod so this year we are all sitting DOWN— and because now our kids are older, they sit still just fine- no vice grip on the toddler arm-  and we are finished in like 15 minutes. {Hang in there, young mommas.  Your 15 minute session is on the horizon.  Quicker than you can imagine.}  Still, one year I am going to send you a really funny card.

We officially have two teenagers in the house this Christmas.  So far, so good and so very different than even just one year ago.  Inches have been gained, tweener pounds have disappeared, toys have all but disappeared, bathroom drawers have lots of new things filling them, conversations have changed, and sleep has become a hot commodity for them both- and if they sleep late enough, you're down to 2 meals— brunch and dinner!  It's astounding the rate at which all of this happens— and NO ONE prepares you!  It's all very normal - heels, razors, make up, zit cream, phones, cologne, homecoming…. but it hits you before you, as a mom, are ready for it.  {These are the things people don't tell you—- and it makes me wonder, what else are THEY not telling us?!}

Julia and Brighton made the switch to our public school district this year which was definitely bittersweet.  Bitter— losing the time we've had at home together for the last 9 years, the flexibility of our schedule and leaving a university model school full of incredible families, friends and staff.  The sweet part— MY KIDS ARE IN SCHOOL FIVE DAYS A WEEK!!!!!!!  EVERY morning they go.  The consistency astonishes me.   Seriously though, it has been an easy transition as the Lord provided them with friends WAY before we made the switch.  Both are in classes with people they have known since they were toddlers and have made brand spanking new friends who I've never met and maybe won't ever— which is strange for moms like me coming from a homeschool/small school history.  But as I said, so far, so good. The decision has felt right since the summer and we have had a great and interesting time learning the ways of public school.  Dinner conversations are quite fascinating some nights.  I am impressed by the availability of the kids' teachers and their willingness to help.  God has His people everywhere-strategically— and I pray we are fulfilling our role.

Julia continues with ballet spending about six or seven hours at the studio per week.  Her movements are lovely and graceful and I really love to watch her dance. Brighton plays the sport in season.  His football practice started at 6:45 am every school morning so that was new to him but he stuck it out and we saw him improve and contribute the second half of the season.  And I've always said- and it's a favorite thing to me about him—  he's worth his weight in gold on the sidelines.  They are still taking piano…..  and I know there will be a year I won't be able to type that but so far, we are hanging on. : )

Jeff and I are doing great.  I married a good one, for sure.  All of my overreactions in parenting are tempered by his steady voice telling me everything is going to be okay.  We find ourselves scratching our heads in confusion at times but then we find ourselves praying to the One who knows and loves our kids better than we do.  Only God can shape their hearts and grow their desire to love and serve Him.
"The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."
Jesus brings hope- the THRILL of hope— to our weary selves.  Bask in the glorious celebration and morning of Christmas.  He makes all things NEW.  We love you.

    

A Reminder from Julia to Me to You



The Spirit of Christmas
  by Julia, age 10

I love Christmastime with its festive lights and colors. It comes only once a year with trees and Santa Claus and reindeer and wishes of good cheer. 

People fill the stores— traffic jams and long, long lines are the stressful part of Christmas this year, but on Christmas Eve the presents come unwrapped and joy fills the air.

And you hear the story of the years gone by when the story of the Savior fills the ears and we remember the real and the true meaning of Christmas. 

Not the lights or the tree not even the presents but how Jesus came to save the world and love us all the years. So please, remember the beautiful story of that Midnight Clear.


She wrote that on Christmas day 2012— had to have been while in Soperton and I wonder now what all was going on when she penned it.  Was she still anticipating our big Christmas at Nana and Papa's or was it over and she was reflecting?  I don't know— a mere four years later— but I love it.  I know it's not terribly original.  It follows the same pattern of other poems and songs- even movies and conversations we've had as a family, but at 10 years old, it was original to her.  Those thoughts were stored within her somewhere and they came out like that.  She was beginning to get it.

And I'm still "getting it".  Just last week, I had to pull myself away from all of the Christmas boxes littering the house to check my heart regarding my own mental to do list that no one else could see but me.  I had to let go of any expectations I had of anyone but myself and decide to enjoy preparing the house for Christmas………….until the outside garland lights wouldn't come on.… and then Saturday when the tree lights wouldn't come on. Y'all — I think if we looked close enough-somewhere on that little white tag of clear lights on a green electrical cord, it would say, "Made in H-E double hockey sticks".  Seriously.  They are so beautiful and cheery but maybe after 5 years, they turn diabolical or something.  They stole SO MUCH time from us last weekend. I may not know traffic jams, really or even terribly long lines, but I know the distractions of Christmas.  I don't even have to leave my house.

And that's why I zero in on my two favorite phrases in her little poem—  "the story of the years gone by"  and "[Jesus came to] love us all the years" .  That's what I want to be distracted by….  THAT story and THAT love.  Wouldn't it be so wonderful to get so caught up in the story of Christmas that we just plain forgot to buy the presents?  Or make the candy?  Or send out the cards?  Just take a minute to turn the world around — we live so upside down, don't we?  Imagine if we had to really work at remembering to buy and wrap presents instead of why we are celebrating, why God sent Jesus to us — in the flesh— the fullness of time {Galatians 4:4} bursting forth this part of the plan when time could hold it no longer.  "The time came for the baby to be born." {Luke 2:6}  Emmanuel.  God, here, with us. He has come as closely as He possibly can.

It is THE story of the years to remind us year after year that He came to save us and love us all the years.

I don't want to miss any of it.  I don’t want to miss any of Him.  I’m so grateful for all the years.

Let's let that be a little distraction for us.


    

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