another letter...

to a friend that i wrote today...

i know i gave you a trite and off the cuff answer when you seriously asked if there would be any "bad girls" in the chorus class at leon. (my answer was "the class will be full of sinners. some saved by grace already. some not yet. your child will fit right in.") a better answer to the question is this…

yes.

which is the good news. because there will be LOTS of opportunities for your daughter to live out the ultimate GOOD NEWS, the gospel message. to love the unlovable. to forgive those who trespass against her. to pray for those who persecute her. to say “forgive them. they don’t know what they are doing” when they hurt her. it will give her the chance to lay down her life for someone else. 

i don’t think i really understood what the gospel message was, what grace was until millie rejected me. until she wanted nothing to do with me, my words, my love, my thoughts. until she mocked me to her friends. rolled her eyes at me. told me she didn’t care about my feelings. only then when i had to choose to love someone, forgive someone, serve someone who wanted NOTHING to do with me, when i had to lay aside my anger, my hurt, my pride, my right to be righteous did i understand what Jesus did, and continues to do for me.

it is in loving her at the moments when she LEAST deserved my love that i really had to cling to God. and let Him supply my need for love, for acceptance, for approval. and i don’t get it right every time. or most times. but it is in the laying aside of my right to retaliate, my right to be bitter, and angry that i have found Christ every time.

sometimes we don’t understand grace until we are asked (by God) to extend it. and maybe He asks me to extend it (and keep extending it) because it is the very thing that has driven me into His arms. and to a deeper understanding of how much He has forgiven me and lavishly loved me with an everlasting love. 

i love this verse about the woman who was washing His feet… when the pharisees were whispering about her many sins... 

luke 7:47 
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

until i was forced to LOVE BIG and UNCONDITIONALLY (no matter whether millie loved me back or whether her friends loved me back) did i understand how much God loved me and how forgiveness really worked. 

i have prayed over millie’s friendship with some of her friends at belmont and they are not the friends i would have chosen for her (because you KNOW THAT I ALWAYS KNOW BEST)… they are not of good repute. it seems they dabble in dark things. in things that would grieve God’s heart. and mine. but God has not removed them from her life (which i don’t know why because shouldn’t He do what makes me happy?!?!??!) but as i hear about millie sleeping on the floor next to marlee and how she is serving and loving marlee in this MS diagnosis, perhaps i see a bit clearer what He may be doing (though His thoughts are way above mine and His ways are not my own.) my prayer is that as millie serves, as millie ACTS like Jesus (even though she claims that He doesn’t exist) that she will begin to manifest Him and feel His Spirit in her. perhaps this is how God will reveal Himself to her… through her being a servant. sometimes when God requires us to do something beyond ourselves we have to face our weakness, and only then we see Him as our strength and our song.

and i am convinced that He wants me to love these friends of millie's. in all their witchiness and love of dark things. not to turn them away. not to tell them how wrong they are but to show them a more excellent way. in however He allows me to do that. i heard in a song recently that “the dark is just a canvas for His grace and mercy.” i am about to throw all kinds of love and grace up on that dark canvas… and pray that God what He does best. LIGHT IT UP…

john 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

i think about how i wanted to hate a certain friend of millie's when millie was in high school. and how i started praying for her instead (totally not in my own power but because of something i read in a book about praying for your prodigal and praying for their friends who hate you.) and now that girl and i go to lunch once a month. and she sees me as a mentor and friend. all because God had me lay down what i wanted in the moment and do it HIS way…  loving and forgiving and praying for my enemies and those who persecute me. if God can do that with one of millie’s friends, then who knows what He has planned for these other girls… they may become the beth moore’s of the future!!!!! and He has given me a ringside seat to watch Him do what He does best… reveal. redeem. renew. reach for those who were not reaching for Him.

and who know how God will reveal Himself to each of us… except that He puts us in uncomfortable places where He is our only refuge. He is our only hope. 

so that is a better answer to the question. there will be bad mean horrible people wherever our children (and we) go… but there is One who has OVERCOME all of that. and He did it by laying down His life. maybe our children won’t learn what that cost Him until they have to lay aside their lives as well... and maybe we won't either...

well done...

which is not how i like my steak. but it is what i hope to hear one day...

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (matthew 25:23)

in my case i think i may hear the Lord say something more like

"WHADDUP GIRL! WELCOME TO THE PARTY!!! THANK ME FOR GETTING YOU HERE!!!"

but either way, i will take it. from His Holy Face...

though sometimes along the road before the finish line you get to hear His voice singing over you... you get to catch a glimpse of the beauty that is yet to be revealed. you get to see through a glass a tad bit less darkly... 

and today was one of those times. 

i listened to this lesson on the life of david. my college roommate teaches every other week in her "women in the word" Bible study at all saints church (WHAT IS SHE DOING THERE IF THEY ARE ALL SAINTS?!?!??!) in pawleys island, south carolina. and i try to listen to most of the weeks that she teaches. because i love her. and BECAUSE SHE IS A REALLY GREAT BIBLE TEACHER. and i don't want her to tell stories about me without me knowing. 

but i knew about this story. because she is a nicer, kinder, gentler soul than i am and she always asks if she can use my life as an object lesson. and i always say "yes" because my history is just HISstory. and His stories are always good. and i love a good story. 

(i on the other hand use a myriad of stories about her without ever asking permission. and you know that i don't tell a dull story... so some of them may be embellished a bit. a lot. ish.)

anyway if you don't want to listen to the entire lesson AND YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE LESSON IF YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOOD FOR YOU... you can just scroll on to the last five minutes (click right by where the "T" is in "Track #1" and drag along and a little gray stripe will come down the middle and you can drag until there are only 7 minutes left.) the friend in the beginning of the talk isn't my story but it is a hilarious story (she opens with it.) i am the friend at the end of the story. which i love being the friend at the end of the story...

and i am not worthy. of the beautiful way she tells this story. but He is. because He makes all the ugly stories beautiful...

ecclesiastes 3:11 
He has made everything beautiful in its time...

so today i caught a glimpse of that  beauty (not the fullness of it yet, but sometimes a vision is all you need to keep going) when i listened to dina tell my story from what she saw. i saw the beauty when i heard her voice catch. because a friend mourns when you mourn. sorrow is a part of the song. "by God, that is the gospel." and i pray every day that the joyful homecoming celebration will also be a verse in the song. "she will realize that she has had the gospel preached to her day after day..."

and in preaching the gospel in this way to my daughter i have preached it to myself. daily. and in ways i would have not chosen... and for this i am grateful. 

and for the way that dina tells His story as He is telling it through someone so unworthy... i am also grateful.

the reassurance of His promises...

well, at LONG last, the story of leaving my first born at college.... 

sometimes i just have to stop and consider the work of the Lord in millie choosing a Christian college. PONDER THAT FOR A MOMENT IN YOUR HEART PEOPLE!!! i have no doubts that God is God over every inch of creation and that He can reach anyone ANYwhere (even at university of florida, but some would say differently. ha.) but how kind of Him to move upon millie's heart (as well as ours) that her first choice in colleges was also adam and my first choice. she earned a nice scholarship, so while it was a REACH ( i ask for prayers over my job search or checks in the mail so i don't have to search too hard)  it was not out of reach. all praise is due Him for those miracles in and of themselves! but then He had more in store for us...

i have been SO impressed with how the school uses every opportunity to infuse its message with God's message... for example, in its outreach to the students the welcome week theme was romans 12 (on each welcome week tshirt worn by the upperclassmen helping the freshmen move in and transition.) but at the same time how its Christian message is so filled with grace and acceptance for ALL kids at ALL places of their faith (or non-faith walk) that it was attractive to millie. not condemning. or overwhelming. or legalistic. and to me it was comforting to know that she would be in a place where professors (and even the dean and board of directors) would be praying for her. concerned with her journey of faith as much as they were about her grades. a place where drugs and alcohol use is not tolerated... not because it is legalistic but because the school is concerned with the WELL BEING and SUCCESS of the students and there is supporting research to show that students who use drugs and alcohol DO NOT do as well in school. and do not have the successful outcomes that they, their parents, and the school would desire for them.

their constant message has been we want THE BEST for you. we want you to succeed. to believe that you were created for a purpose and we will help you find that purpose and be the person you were created to be. maximize your talents and desires and dreams (which God has given you) is their constant message. we will love you and nurture and challenge you because we (the school) sees you as a unique and worthy individual created by a God who has a plan and purpose for this world. 

so as we took her up i was mostly EXCITED for this next step of her life to begin. we had met her roommate this summer. and she had met some other freshman on facebook and when we met them in person they were all so nice. and i loved their parents! over and over i was so reassured that God had planned this from the beginning of time and that He loved her even more than i did. He designed the PERFECT college for her. and it was one that i have not even considered or thought about a year ago. 

and here we were on our way up to take her there! 

of course first we had to get there... 

which wasn't easy. we left on thursday. our move in time was friday at 4:00 pm. we were seconds behind two different car wrecks on the way up. both times we stopped for almost an hour to wait for ambulances and service vehicles to clean up  the road. and our car was acting strangely. adam stopped a couple of times to add oil. check water levels, do boy stuff to the engine. 

i jokingly texted my friends that satan didn't want us to get to belmont. SO WE WERE GOING TO GET THERE COME HELL OR HIGH WATER. note to self: stop mocking satan. because right at we pulled off the interstate in franklin (where our friends live and let us stay in their guest house) our car straight up STOPPED MOVING. it wouldn't go anywhere.  

adam was able to crank it again and coax it a few more yards into a shell station. we called our friends. the dad headed over in their suburban to pick us up. once he saw where we were he laughed. and pointed over some trees right next to us and told us there was a chevy dealership 100 yards away. after rehooking the uhaul to his car (and PRAISE GOD we had packed everything into a uhaul and only had a couple of things in the back of our car) we went to their house to eat dinner.

after dinner he and adam came back to our car were able to coax our car to move just a little bit more to roll downhill into the chevy dealership and leave keys and a note.

meanwhile back at our friends' house, we packed their daughters college items in their suburban. attached our uhaul to their younger daughter's truck and we were ready to go the next day.  

and another miracle... only 4 people could fit into that truck. and we only had 4 people. rosalea had come down with some stomach flu the day before and we had left her in town with my dad for the weekend. how much more could God use ALL things for our good that to use a stomach flu to make it clear that He knew all about our trip to nashville?  

i just kept thinking about all the things that had happened...

  • the stomach flu looked bad BUT it was for our ease in being able to transport everyone at once.
  • the car trouble looked bad BUT it kept us moving a bit slower and we missed being in two accidents by minutes.
  • the car breaking down looked bad BUT we were in nashville already and so close to a dealership that we could coast into it.
  • we hadn't loved our 4 pm moving time (the last scheduled time of the day) BUT it turned out good since adam had time in the morning to talk to the car dealership service guys AND we had lunch with 3 other belmont families.

move in went smoothly. the welcome week upperclassmen move EVERYTHING into your room for you! we had a couple of days to be in and out and get anything else she needed. she had a couple of nights to figure out what she needed. there was a family BBQ. informational meetings, etc... and then on sunday there was a matriculation ceremony.

matriculation (as i learned) actually means "to be added to a group, usually used for entering a college or university." so they have a little ceremony for this. the new freshman class all sits together. the parents in another area. almost a parallel to graduation. 

it was a beautiful ceremony. full of welcome and cheer. prayers for the students. prayers for their parents. the president of the university telling them that they were there because God had purposed them to be there. that they had each been prayed over from the beginning of the application process and not one of them was there by mistake. and the best part was the selection they chose to read over the students from the new testament... 

from ephesians 3

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

it was a prayer that i have prayed over millie dozens, maybe even hundreds, of times. i could almost say it from memory along with the speaker.  

but more than a prayer this time, it was an answer to my prayers. it was a clear reassurance from God that i had rooted and established her in love... and that it was His power that would do the rest. He had already done immeasurably more than i ever asked or imagined in attracting her to this university. and His work was not done...

any tears that i shed at that ceremony were not tears of sadness for a season ending in my life... there were tears of gratitude to the Great Gardener who was beginning a new season in her life. and telling me that He would water the ground with all the tears that i had shed over the past few years and that she who sewed in tears with reap harvests of joy. every tear was a thank you to our Great God.  

whenever i think about how good He was to me that weekend i cannot decide whether i am the village idiot with such small faith that He has to keep reassuring me OVER and OVER and OVER that He is loving. that He is in this for my good. for her good. OR if i am His favorite so He just keeps lavishing His love on me. either way, i will take it.  

but just in case you thought it was all TOO good to be true... after the matriculation ceremony we went to lunch. millie and i were alone at the table at panara while adam and maxx waited on our food. i asked her was there anything that had surprised her about her first couple of days on campus. "it's a lot more Christian than i thought it was going to be. but i can deal." 

Psalm 119:124 Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees.
Hebrews 5:2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. (referring to an earthly high priest. how much GREATER is our heavenly High Priest able to deal gently with us!)
2 Corinthians 13:3 He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.

oh yes, my dearest child. there will be a dealing to be had. but i think the One who holds all the cards (not to mention ALL heaven and earth and every molecule contained in every place, person, and thing) will be the one who is doing the dealing... 

someone sent me this prayer on the day we dropped her off... 

a sending prayer for college freshmen...

i especially loved the last two lines...

Replace her fear with a love that moves within her beyond her ability to understand.
May Your grace surprise them kindly.

may Your dealing with her surprise her kindly... 

thank you for all being prayer warriors with me in this. i have NO doubts that it is the prayers of so many that has opened up my eyes to all of these miracles that surrounded this entire process, the peaceful summer, and easy transition. may her eyes be opened as well to His grace, His beauty, and His love... 

 

cleaning and feeding...

millie is on her way home from bonoroo. don't know what that is? then i envy you.  

it is a 4 day woodstock-like concert event in the middle of tennessee. concerts all day. and all night. camping out. no showers. plenty of wacky people. paul mccartney played there this year. along with 100 other bands with strange names that you never heard of. unless you are my daughter. and the 80,000 other people that went there.

i will say that the names of the areas are pretty clever... centeroo, which stage, what stage, this tent, that tent, and that other tent. those are the names of the places where artists performed. and there was poetry in every port-a-potty. i do admire that dedication to elimination education.

 

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it just wasn't an activity that i thought a good parent should let her child go to... but she is 19 and she paid for it with her own money. she went. not with our blessing. but with our prayers. and as much safety advice as we could cram down her and her 6 friends' throats. and with lots of water to stave of dehydration and a pepper spray key chain. those were our contributions.

i was at least hoping it would rain the whole time or be miserably hot. i might have even prayed for those things.  and for the whole event to be cancelled or go bankrupt or be attacked by locusts. i figure God loves a good locust attack...

but the weather was great. nary a locust in sight. and she had a wonderful time and loved it... sigh. and most likely has a bonoroo tattoo that i hopefully won't ever have to see.

where was God with a locust attack when i needed one... 

on a side note there also is a touring music show called the "don't pray for us tour". i prayed for them. i am such a rebel. i prayed for every band playing that tour and for everyone participating. i hope they all felt the spirit of the Lord.  

anyway... bonoroo happened and millie is on her way home.  

it was also ironic that as she was at bonoroo i was reading all about ann voskamp and her teenage daughter meeting their compassion child in africa on a trip this week. and another friend's teenage daughter was on a daddy daughter adventure trip to see shows and disneyland this week. sigh. those are things i would have preferred my teenage daughter to be doing this week. but then i am no ann voskamp. and my husband doesn't have the kind of job where he can just up and go on week long excursions with one of our children. but dang... those alternatives seem so much easier than my constantly praying for angels, big huge scary looking angels, to surround my daughter everywhere she goes at bonoroo.

so today i found myself home (for the first time in a long time) and CLEANING. like serious cleaning. not that this house didn't need it. you remember how may was trying to kill me? and then choir tour? and then i was all recovering with my friend at the beach for a week? well, this place was a little worse for no mom being home and lots of wear. but i really wanted everything to be CLEAN for millie. even though she hasn't showered and has been living outdoors for 5 days, i wanted her linens super clean. her towel fresh. the shower scrubbed. the floor vacuumed. 

it was a bit obsessive. and then i got a text from adam that he had sent to millie asking what time they would be home and what she wanted us to have for her to eat. well, i already had dinner planned and told him what i was making. and he said if she wanted something else he would pick it up for her. and that seemed obsessive to me...

but i thought about it as i scrubbed the bathroom floor... and it didn't feel so strange to me our parental desires...

i wanted to clean for her. he wanted to feed her. 

we are only trying to be word pictures of Christ to her. i want her to feel the freshness of clean things. how lovely it is to be clean and new. and to be home.

adam wants to feed her. to fill her up with good things. to have her know that she is home and all is well and we love her.

we can't be Christ to her. He alone offers a cleaning that never sullies. He alone offers the bread that satisfies. but He also allows us to feel the same desire on a human level as parents that He feels on a spiritual level.  

she doesn't want us to preach the gospel to her in words. so we preach it in clean sheets. a scrubbed shower. a warm meal. open arms when she returns home. 

and we pray... 

and we trust.

i was talking to someone about millie being at bonoroo and they said they could NEVER trust God like i do and let their child go to bonoroo. i said that sometimes He doesn't give you the choice. He just requires that i trust. and that i find that He gives me just enough faith to do those things that a year ago i couldn't imagine trusting Him enough to let her do.

and it may be a huge leap to say that i think Jesus would have liked bonoroo. well, some parts of it. He was always in places that we didn't expect Him to be. like on a cross. the most cursed way to die that there was...  

and He enjoyed those party people. the least religious people were the ones He liked to eat with. and maybe attend a concert or two... 

and He might even be a big fan of potty poetry. He does like the psalms...

i guess we will know One Day. when we get to heaven. if there is an area called "what gold street", "which gold street", and "that other gold street"... 

 

THE FORCE was with us all...

first you have to read the story about millie's corsage on the REAL blog (not that this is a FAKE blog.)

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let me just sum up the days leading up to the prom as ROUGH. and then up the word to REALLY REALLY REALLY ROUGH. we weren't agreeing on anything about the prom. nothing was satisfying her teenage angst for freedom and doing it HER way.

lots of disagreements. very little joy. actually by friday night NO JOY.

i was hiding out in my car, crying and praying (those two things go together a lot these days) and this verse popped into my mind...

 "The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you..." (it is zepheniah 3:18 though i could not have told you that without google.)

i was telling God that i guessed this wasn't an appointed feast that was covered by this verse. that there was just nothing that could redeem this event for us and that it was ok. we would get through the day. but could He do something about other appointed feasts coming up. like graduation.

basically i was giving God an out. in case nothing joyful could come from this.

like the prom is a harder event to bring redemption from than let's see...

A CROSS.

yeah, i don't think through things sometimes.

because He totally brought overwhelming JOY to the day with a darth vadar cosage. laughter. a moment of shared hilarity. with our whole family. 

with two darth vadars that look like they are kissing. 

God was up there saying "BOOYA." to my denial that any joy could come to this appointed feasts. BOOYA with darth vardar. my soul was blown wide open with the wonder and unexpectedness of it.

He is so funny. and so good to me...

ok so you get some photos with this story...

maxx was asked to the prom by a girl from church. a senior. she used to be millie's best friend. until millie stopped going to church. well, stopped going to youth events. and at church she sits sullenly by us. not with the youth. sigh.

anyway, there is one week a year where maxx and abby are the same age. they both love music. and have fun together. so she asked him to prom. last year she asked another boy from church to prom. so she has never been asked to prom.

maxx wanted to do something special for her to make her feel special. like those girls who have boys who do cool things to ask them to prom. so he showed up at the retirement home where she volunteers to surprise her with a song and some flowers...

here are some photos...

there is a video of his singing. and her joining in (it was a song they had sung together at dessert theater last year) and all the older folks knew the song and joined in. my friend dina said it was like a real live musical moment! you know i love a musical moment.

it was a great afternoon. except there is always a bit of sadness mingling with the joy. i guess that is how it is this side of heaven. there is always this thought, "this is how it is supposed to be with millie." or "this is what i wanted for millie." or the worst thought of all, "why isn't it like this with millie?"

and then i put these photos and the story and the video on facebook and i received all these sweet responses. a lot about how good i was as a parent. and i wanted to correct all those well meaning people (some who know that not all my children have achieved this level of sweetness... yet.) i wanted to tell them that i can't take credit for maxx. because in some way that would mean that i take on the blame and guilt when my children choose something different. and i can't handle that burden. i can't walk under it. breathe under it. keep smiling under that weight of my own parenting having to set a high enough standard. 

the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. blessed be the name of the Lord. (job 1:21)

He giveth us children who are obedient, caring, kind, and joyful. and sometimes for our good and for His glory He takes those qualities away. i pray only for a season. those qualities come only from Him. we try as parents to set an example (reflecting darkly in a cloudy mirror). but we cannot ensure that our children will follow our example... and we hope and pray that they don't follow some of our examples. i haven't always shown the most patience. or love. or self control. 

i wish i could take credit for maxx's selflessness and caring. or that singing voice. but i can't. i know it comes from Some One else.

philippians 2 (the message)

Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

i am teaching the youth sunday nights through the book of philippians. it is an incredibly humbling book. and one that leads me to rejoice in my sufferings a teensy tiny bit more. like just a little bitty bit more... my praises usually run this gamut... "ok maybe i will praise you for a daughter who isn't quite what i bargained for. who doesn't love me like i want to be loved. who doesn't even like me most days. who doesn't make me look like a good mother. but whatever Your will is in this... i know it is for my good and Your Glory. and i will try to be a tiny bit more joyful about that. for five minutes. then i might complain again. so forgive me five minutes from now when i see some teenage girl on facebook posing in a photo with her mom and tagging her as 'the bestest mom ever'. because that will make me cry."

sanctification is hard. and long. and so slow that it is barely recognizable. at least that is what it looks like in me. it is an uphill battle and sometimes i sit and rest and sometimes i go back downhill because it is easier...

walking in obedience when you want to give up and stay in bed and pull the covers over your head and not be a mommy today is hard. and long. and takes a strength that doesn't come from me. "counting it all joy" is beyond my strength. but He give strength to the weary. He is strong where i am weak. and the alternative to obedience feels so much easier for about 10 minutes. and then i realize it brings a boatload of regret...

not screaming at your daughter that she is ruining your life and sometimes your marriage. not to mention she is making you look bad at church and stealing your joy... takes a lot of self control. and anger management. and wisdom to know that those things are not really true. they are lies that satan is whispering in my ears. because it is MY reaction that is stealing my joy. MY selfishness that is ruining my marriage. and MY pride that is hurt when she isn't with us at church.

not de-friending or avoiding friends just because they have sweet and wonderful teenage daughters. fighting with everything in you not to become bitter and jaded. and wishing that their daughters would stop taking cute selfies of them and their sweet mommas. all those things won't help me feel any better about myself. the thief comes to STEAL my joy and my friends, KILL my relationships, and DESTROY my friendships. Jesus helps me to rejoice with those who rejoice in their teenagers. and He has given me many friends who mourn when i mourn. and who pray daily for millie. and for me. and for our family. He is good. He is loving. and all of this is from His good and loving hand. 

but then there are days (few and far between) when i taste the fruit of step by step obedience and millimeter by millimeter sanctification... and it is sweet. and filling. and it is enough. He is enough. whether your children are (seemingly perfect for now) maxxes or (trying my last nerve) millies, they will never be enough to satisfy your heart. only He will do that. whether you are the perfect parent or one that is barely breathing under the burden... you won't be enough. only He will be. 

if you are wise...

If you are wise - are you listening, my brother? - instead of torturing yourself over what you could not help and did not foresee, you will allow the grief in you to be a simple open wound that Christ may touch and, in good time, heal.  This thing happened.  It has broken you to pieces.  If you can find the humility to allow it, grace will also heal you: you will be stronger in the end for this, one day.  This grieving is the filth and mess that turns out to be the bed of sticky clay that, if we plunge our hands into it and bring them out full, we can craft into a grail of hope.  It is so.  I promise you. 

 the hour before dawn ... penelope wilcock

i read this quote on another website, study in brown. another mother of a prodigal.

those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joys. psalm 126:5

one day she and i will sing together. the song of the redeemer. the song of the God who rescues and runs after prodigals.

i love the message version of that verse..

psalm 126:4-6 (the message)

 And now, God, do it again—

    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives

So those who planted their crops in despair

    will shout hurrahs at the harvest,

So those who went off with heavy hearts

    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

i will continue to plant my crops even while in despair...

knowing that i will one day shout HURRAH at the harvest...

college update...

i think that you being my VERY special readers you deserve to know a few things before the rest of the world learns about them...

membership having its privileges and all that...

we do think that we have settled the college decision for next year. millie's first choice was belmont university in nashville.

it is quite remarkable that she was drawn to a small Christian college. and they offered her a nice scholarship. not a large one. we would have preferred a large scholarship.

there are so many ways that we see God in this decision...

- adam, millie, and i all had belmont as our first choice. being of one mind on this was HUGE.

- i have very dear friends that live in nashville. friends i trust with all my heart to be amazing mentors to millie.

- my brother and sister in law live one hour away. with my adorable nieces.

- millie will be surrounded by creative students and should find many friends.

- she can major in music business and the classes look so exciting! our friend, tony hale, put her in touch with a friend of his in LA that is involved in a career that is exactly what millie would like to do. and he suggested belmont.

- it is a school maxx is interested in. and Lord willing... it would be wonderful for the two of them to be together in college.

millie isn't publicizing the news yet. so neither are we. she is still telling her friends slowly. she is one of the only ones leaving florida. so that is difficult for her. 

again, we covet your prayers over this. especially in the area of finances. we are going way beyond our comfort zone on this. adam is so financially wise and he has done an amazing job providing for our family. i truly know that God has made his heart want belmont for millie because he is always so prudent. i am sure God has many lessons to teach us about trust. and financial management.

and this also means that i will need to go to work next year. not sure what that is going to look like. but i know that God will provide. and that He will make me ready, willing, and able to carry out all that He has for me to do.

i am so excited about belmont and all that God has in store for millie. and for us...

He is good. He is faithful. His plans are far beyond what we could ask or imagine. and His plans will endure...

i always think...

that i am the GOOD parent. when comparing adam and myself...

ha.

and then adam does these quiet little things. that i don't find out about until later. and i am totally blown away by how he totally gets millie. and totally gets parenting. and how he doesn't even read any parenting books and yet could write one all by himself.

so for millie's birthday weekend she wanted to spend friday night with a group of friends. i was in jacksonville at a track meet with maxx.

adam saw her before she left for the birthday party her friends were throwing her and she was lamenting that SHE had to go and get the pizza for her party. they had asked what else she liked and she said "boiled peanuts" but that no one wanted to bring those to the party. so she was going to go and pick up an order just for herself at red elephant.

she had some kind of coupon code for a free pizza that someone had given her and she couldn't make it work. so adam said he would try it. it didn't work and he ended up (once she had left to go and get the pizza) calling the pizza place and just ordering a couple of pizzas (a few more than she was going to get and had the $ to pay for) and putting them on his credit card. 

then he called red elephant and ordered a couple of boxes of boiled peanuts and paid for those. and texted her to go and pick them up.

he was telling me about this last night. a week after it happened. he said he just wanted her to head off that night to be with her friends knowing that her dad loved her. 

there are moments when i don't worry about her at all. there is no way one can have a Heavenly Father like the one we have and an earthly father like the one she has and not come to some kind of place of peaceful surrender to the grace and love that has been poured out constantly...

happy 19th birthday millie...

i wrote this letter to millie on her 19th birthday. i have written her a letter on each birthday since she was born. i keep them in a scrapbook that she will receive when she graduates from college. except for her 17th and 18th birthdays. i couldn't write those letters. i tried starting them but never finished them. never found a rhythm for what i needed to say. which as you know is strange for me to have nothing to say.

see all my letters from age 0-16 have been about the work of God in her life. about how much i love teaching her about Him. about how much i love that she loves Him. about the kindness and mercy and love that He has for her. about the woman i see Him crafting her to be... and i still believed those things were true on her 17th and 18th birthdays.

but she doesn't believe they are true.

right about the time of her 17th birthday she told me that she didn't want to be a Christian. that she was tired of me pushing my religion on her. she didn't know what she was or what she believed but it wasn't Christianity.

that hasn't changed. it has been a long two years. she doesn't like going to church with us. doesn't want me to talk about God in front of her in any way shape or form. i fail at that all the time. it is hard for me not to mention Him. His name is on every breath i take.

it hurts her when i talk about Him. and it hurts me that she won't talk about Him. we just keep hurting each other. over and over and over.

and so the letters are more difficult to write. i just put it off and put it off. until she was 19. i kept hoping i could write a letter that said that this journey was over. that He had opened her eyes. her ears. her heart... to Him. but that hasn't happened.

so on her birthday sunday morning i wrote this letter...

HAPPY 19th birthday

we start this 19th year of your birth at a strange place. we haven't seen each other for over 48 hours. and i suspect that is a choice on both of our parts. right now it hurts each of us to be too near to the other one. which i guess is pretty fitting on this 19th anniversary of your birth. 

there was another day 19 years ago when it was painful for us to be in the same room (well, you were in the WOMB. ha.) giving birth hurts. i'll spare you the details... i am sure it hurt you as much as it hurt me. you did cry. so did i.

so much and yet so little has changed in 19 years.

but i will tell you that the pain of that day was easier than the pain of last few years. because that day i knew exactly what to do. my body told me. it was pretty obvious that you needed out and even though it hurt to get you out where you needed to be there wasn't really another choice to be made. and by getting you OUT it really meant getting you INTO my arms. being able to hold you and to see your face. and to find out who you were. to be able to look into your HUGE eyes and to tell you over and over again how much i already loved you. and how i couldn't wait to love you for the rest of your life. and tell you how i was going to be a PERFECT parent. 

so the last few years have hurt worse because not only are you GETTING OUT you are leaving my arms. you have already left them. 

the last few years of finding out who you are meant finding out all the ways you weren't like me. and all the ways you didn't like who i am.

in the last few years i have fully realized the IMPERFECTNESS of my parenting.

but mostly because over the last two years there have been a lot of choices to make. and my body has betrayed me by wanting to keep you NEAR and to smother you with my love and care. and some days i feel like i have made EVERY one of the choices about mothering you wrong...

  • i have said "NO" when i wasn't trusting enough to say YES.
  • i have said "YES" when i wasn't strong enough to say NO.
  • i have failed to see the WONDERFUL things you are because you weren't the things i WANTED you to be.
  • i have TALKED when i should have LISTENED. i have tried to TEACH when i should have LEARNED from you.
  • i have tried to BUY your love when i felt like i couldn't EARN it. or didn't deserve it.
  • i have used words that TORE YOU DOWN instead of BUILDING UP. words that HURT you instead of HELPED you.
  • i have COMPARED and CONTRASTED you in my mind and in words. compared you to people that you are not. and failed to see the BEAUTY that was standing right in front of me. the CREATIVE GIFTED girl that was CREATED and GIFTED perfectly to be my daughter. 

i wish i could count the nights (and in some ways i am glad i can't) that i stood under the hot blast of the shower water and just said over and over through tears "i am sorry. i am sorry.i am sorry." to no one in particular. but somehow to you. 

i am sorry for not seeing you clearly because i wanted some fictional version of you. because i thought that would be easier. 

because that has made it harder for you to be born into this world. to become who you need to be.

i know that our relationship isn't in a good place. i am sorry for the messes that i have made. and the times i have placed burdens on you that were too much for you to bear. the ways i have made it hard for you to talk to me. the ways i haven't accepted you fully and gratefully...

"This is the work that every person born of a woman, fathered of a man, must do to become an adult: embrace the reality of the first person who held us. Isn’t this always a child’s hardest and continual work?
This parenting gig’s an experiment in radical grace and the work of every parent is to fully give to the child.
And it’s the work of every child to fully forgive the parents. This is how it turns, the torch passing from one to the next.
Remember that we made meals and beds and mistakes and memories – look hard for the good ones.  {ann voskamp}

a mother's job is FULLY GIVING... and GIVING... and GIVING. i am sorry for the times i have not FULLY given you what you needed. because i was too selfish. too self centered. too self conscious. 

please try to remember the good meals, memories. and the good mistakes. and to forgive all the bad ones. 

I will never stop loving and letting you go. A mother and child live the first great love story and there is no love story without loss, and this is always gain. {ann voskamp}

i will never stop loving you. and i will never stop letting you go... please forgive me when i do both things so imperfectly...