I Didn’t Make It to All of His Games

My precious son is getting married. In three months, three days, he will be officially grown and gone. We are beyond happy with his choice of bride and feel that she is one of those blatant answers to my prayers that God would do far more than we could ever hope or dream or imagine. We are blessed, indeed, with the maturity and godliness we see coming from those two. They love Jesus. And I thank my Jesus each day for that abundant answer to my prayers.

But there is one thing that the enemy of my soul keeps bringing up in my mind as I reflect on his growing up years. And though it may sound silly to most reading this post, I believe that some of you will relate.

I didn’t make it to all of his games.

There. I said it. For some reason, that is the source of my Mama Guilt. You see, I always envisioned myself front and center at every event each one of my children would participate in. I thought I would be “that mom”. The one who volunteered to be homeroom mom. (This only happened three times in all my children’s combined school years, which so far has equaled 62 school years, given the whole seven kids and all.)

I thought I would be the one with the healthy snacks, the homemade valentines, the carefully prepared lunches, and of course dinner on the table every. single. night. Instead, I was the one who sent the tacky valentines, most often signed by me because it was quicker. I was the one who used paper plates so I wouldn’t have to wash the dishes. I was the one who made my kids fix their own sack lunches if they didn’t want to eat in the cafeteria, because let’s face it, it is far easier to give them lunch money (or now prepay online!) than it is to go to the grocery for all the special requests they have, prepare the what they actually want to eat for lunch, and do it all before 7:25a.m. Nope. Didn’t happen at my house.

Recently, there was an article circulating around entitled “Why Parents Should Go to All of Their Kids Games”. Each time I saw it being shared I cringed. That Mama Guilt would rear its ugly head and throw fiery darts at my mind. Because guess what? It is too late. I can’t go back and go to every game.

Actually, it wasn’t that I totally agreed with the article. I think supporting our children should be an upmost priority. However, I think the mentality that we should drop everything and focus solely on them has potential to create self-centered adults. It also has the potential to create unrealistic expectations for them when they are parents. But the truth is this: I just couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t have enough stamina. I didn’t have enough emotional or physical energy to do it all. But maybe because I couldn’t do it all, my kids will receive some comfort when they come to the realization that they can’t do it all either.

That is the thing that rubs a raw spot in my mind. I couldn’t do it all. I tried, I really did. But having a lot of kids (or let’s face it, even if you don’t have a lot of kids) is very humbling. I was the late mom. I was the scattered mom. I was the one who missed the best play of the game because I was taking another child to the bathroom. I was the one who actually cheered an entire game for a child that was not my own, thinking he was the whole time. You see, they were built the same. Same weight, same height. And I had somehow forgotten that my son had been given a different number that year. He was supposed to be number 14. He had been number 14 from the time he was in T-Ball. But oh, no. They had to give the number 14 jersey to someone else that year—someone who was the same weight and height as my son. I am sure the other moms were wondering why I jumped up and cheered at every play of number 14 and sat silently eating my chips when my own son was up to bat. Lord, help me! I couldn’t do it all!

But when faced with that reality I hear a deeper truth whispering in my soul. Jesus comes softly, sweetly and calms my Mama Guilt. I hear him actually saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

“But, Lord, I yelled at my kids sometimes.” And I hear whispered, “But you also taught them about Me.”

“But, Lord, my words were sometimes impatient, even angry at times.” And I hear whispered, “But you spoke My words over them every day in prayer.”

“But, Lord, I wasn’t at every game”. And I hear whispered, “But I was. And because you pointed them to Me, they knew they were never forsaken.”

“But, Lord, I wasn’t the perfect parent that I always imagined I would be.” And I hear whispered, “But I am the Perfect Parent. Because you weren’t perfect, they relied more on Me. Because you pointed them to the Perfect Parent, they know Me. In your weakness, I am strong.”

And with those whisperings, my mind and heart settles. Yes, there were things I would have done differently. But I know my children know I love them. They know Jesus in a personal way. They love me and more importantly, they love Jesus. So, I guess in light of that great truth, the other one—the Mama Guilt truth—simply doesn’t seem so important after all.

 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

                                                                                    3 John 4


Thoroughly Equipped: Day In and Day Out

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32, Luke 8:22-39, Psalm 70:1-5, Proverbs 12:4.

In our text today, we come across a beloved passage, which serves as a great guide in parenting.

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.

                                                                        Deuteronomy 11:18-20

We tend to read this in the context of a parenting formula.  But if you read this passage closely, it is a way of life.  We are called to teach our children, but how will they learn?

They will learn by living life with us.

By seeing our relationship with Christ day in and day out.

By hearing our conversations with them and with others as we go about our days.

They learn because they listen.  We don’t think they hear us, but they do.  We don’t think they notice, but they do.  So, the trick to passing down our faith to our children is to make sure we have faith.  If we want our children to follow Christ, we must make sure we are following Christ.  We must talk to them about our faith, our love for Christ, our hope in His promises.

A Sunday-only faith does not give a model which our children can follow.  An everyday faith does.  Our investment in our own faith—through studying His Word, through prayer, through worship—is an investment in the souls of our children.

Lord, make me faithful to You.  Give me time and desire to study your Word.  Give me a heart of praise.  May your praise be on my lips and in my heart.  May Your joy give me strength.  And in all of this, may my children see You in me.  And may they be hungry for more of You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Starts Tomorrow!

Thanks to our good friends at First Presbyterian Church in Corinth, Mississippi, my husband, Mont, and I had the opportunity to teach Sunday school for the month of July.  We loved the fellowship with friends, old and new.  We also loved the fact that it made us study the particular topic we chose to teach.  For the month of September, I will share the content of that study, which we first shared with our Corinthian friends.

Join me tomorrow, September 1, for a month long study entitled, Abundant Life–Gifts of the Good Shepherd.  And please invite your friends!

You can subscribe to my blog by adding your email address on the home page.  Be sure to confirm the subscription when you receive the initial email.

Or you can like my author page, Sara W. Berry, on Facebook.  The posts will be linked there each day.

Thanks, Friends!

Sara


He Sees

For all you mothers out there:

Yesterday, I traveled to Birmingham to be with Katie, my baby girl, on her birthday. Yes, she is still my baby girl, though we celebrated 22 years together. As most girls would, we thought it fitting to treat ourselves to a pedicure in a nice salon.

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While we soaked our feet and turned up the massage chair, I looked around the salon at the various women of all ages. As usual, I began to wonder what their stories were. I am fascinated by people’s stories. Everyone has one. God is the master author of each and every one. Every story has conflicts and drama. Usually, there is some comedy thrown in for good measure. But the Master Author continues to write our stories every day, and if we trust Him, we can be confident that the story will have a stellar ending—much more than we could imagine.

In this vein of thinking, my eye fell upon a young woman with two children who had just entered the salon. The children, both curly head girls, were beautiful. They had big bows placed strategically to the side to keep back the curls. They had precious matching outfits. They both looked to be similar ages, so, I assumed they were either twins or at least born very close together.

While both children were beautiful, what caught my attention was the one in the wheelchair. The one who had her eyes closed, and would sometimes loose control of her head causing her beautiful blond curls to cover her entire face. My heart squeezed at the sight.

And then my attention turned to the mother. She, too, was beautiful. But she looked worn out, haggard, and a bit overwhelmed. She was dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, hair in a ponytail, and no make-up. And did I mention she was beautiful? I thought to myself, “I am so glad she took time out to do something for herself.”

In two seconds, I had walked through the past thirty minutes with her. I could picture the hard work that it took to get there, dressing two little girls, one of whom could not help at all; packing a “diaper” bag, years after a diaper bag should have been unnecessary; loading the girls into car seats; loading the wheelchair. I remembered how exhausting it was to simply get everyone in the car. Only, I struggled with strollers, not wheelchairs.

And since I could imagine what her past minutes had been, I began to imagine what she must be thinking at that moment. Which section has the most room for the wheelchair? I began to look around trying to select a spot for her.   I saw her speak to the receptionist, and then point to the wheelchair. Yes, I thought, they will help her find the right spot so maybe she can relax for just a moment.

My thoughts continued to the next set of issues. How will these little girls keep entertained while their mother gets a manicure? I hoped she had thought through this one. I hoped the bag hanging from the wheelchair was filled with snacks and toys and an Ipad—at least for the girl that could walk. The other precious angel still had not opened her eyes. Her head had fallen two more times, so the mother had titled the wheelchair back to reclining.

I turned away for a moment to answer a question about what color I wanted my toes painted. When I turned back, I saw both mother and healthy daughter sitting side by side in the manicurist chairs. Only the little girl was the only one with soaking fingers. The little girl was the one getting the manicure. And the mother with tired eyes was watching and beaming with delight. It took a moment for me to comprehend the simple sacrifice playing out before me. A wave of emotion swept over me. I wanted to cry and hug that mother and tell her how amazing she is.

I wanted to shout across the room, to this complete stranger whom I suddenly loved,

“I SEE YOU!”

“I SEE YOU!”

“I see the sacrifices you are making every day.

I see how tired you are.

I see how difficult it is.

I see that you are holding on and making the most of heart-wrenching circumstances.

I see your courage and your strength.

I see your joy, which is so obviously displayed as you give your little girl the manicure you deserve.”

Like a slide show of snapshots my mind traveled back 5 years or so and glimpsed her life. I imagined a beautiful young couple walking the aisle in front of family and friends vowing to stick together in sickness and in health. I guessed they never dreamed they would need to stick together in sickness and health of their children.

I imagined the day they knew something was wrong. Was it during pregnancy this syndrome was discovered? Or was it later, after months of wondering why her baby was not developing like her sister? Whenever it was, I can imagine the horror and grief when she realized that this information totally changed the course of her life.

My Katie saw me looking and without words, I could tell her mind was following the storyline, too. We looked at each other, on the 22nd anniversary of her birth, and she said quietly, “That could have been me.” I nodded as I remembered my own story. Long, hard labor, cord wrapped tightly around her tiny neck, the rush of doctors and the flurry of the emergency team.

Then, the silence. Holding her and rocking her and wondering what the effects of oxygen deprivation may be.

Twenty-two years later, I praised God that we were spared the storyline I saw at the manicure station across the room. I knew God had been faithful to protect Katie, who is about to graduate college with a double major.

And yet, the truth is, God is equally faithful to the beautiful woman with a different story. In fact, she must be very beloved of the Lord to be trusted to handle this difficult and beautiful life she is living.

I believe He, too, wants to shout to her, “I SEE YOU!” And this is what He says to her and to each of us: I will be faithful each and every day.

Together, my friends, let us declare the truth found in His Word:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”                                                                                           Lamentations 3:22-24

He Sees photo for blog


Character Lessons in Everyday Living

It is sad to say, but another school year is about to begin.  At our house we are scrambling to finish summer reading, shocked once again that our good intentions of finishing that assignment early did not pan out.

Once I wrap my brain around the fact that my beloved summer is coming to a close, I always get a little bit excited about school starting back.  I like the routine.  It feels like “New Years” much more than January 1.  My teacher genes kick in and I start making mental lists of all the things I want my kids to learn.  Yes, if I am not careful, I can be one of those over-achieving moms who wants to teach her toddlers to recognize famous paintings.  But most of all, I want my kids to have integrity.  I formed a whole company around that desire.  (www.integritytime.com, if your are interested!)  So, character lessons are of upmost importance in my heart.

I remember the day when the high-pitched sound of little girls playing found its way down the stairs and into the living room. Wow! They are having fun! I thought somewhat nervously. A bit later, my almost-four-year-old, Sally, came into the room urgently requesting water. “You have to come now, Mama! We need water.”

A little while later, I walked with my mouth wide open, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Apparently, the girls had found an extra large bottle of baby powder and had turned the upstairs into a “winter wonderland”. Circles of white were found on every surface of the once-brown hardwood floors, evidence of the fun time of “skating” they had just experienced. Anna and Elsa would be proud.  Puddles of milky-white water were also evidence of their attempts to clean up their mess.

The floor was mopped six times, and it still looked like a winter wonderland, although more like the snow dusting typical in North Mississippi. How can three little girls do so much damage in such a short amount of time? Obviously, we had an opportunity to teach some character lessons to our precious princess.

At a very early age, Sally is learning that just because it is fun, does not mean that it is right. She is learning how to ‘fess up to her mistakes, and how to take responsibility for her choices. She is learning how to clean up her messes, and make right what went wrong. Most importantly, she is learning how to say, “I’m sorry”—not just with words, but also with feeling. She is learning to take “I’m sorry” to the final step, by also asking, “Will you forgive me?” And of course, the answer is a responding yes!

Character lessons start at a very young age. As parents, we are daily confronted with teaching moments. If we see these situations as teaching moments which will help mold our children’s character, we will be less likely to react in anger and more likely to make the most of the situation.

As we sat on the couch, discussing the situation with our sweet angel, I had an unexpected feeling considering the moment we were experiencing. I felt extreme pride. She sat with her dark hair streaked with white powder, eyes wide and serious. And the first thing out of her mouth was, “I’m sorry. It was my fault.” Bingo! That is a life-long lesson learned. Well worth the bottle of baby powder it required.

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I have often heard, and I whole-heartedly agree, that character is how you act when no one is watching. But I believe it is more than that. Character is how you react when you know you are wrong. Character is admitting you are wrong and taking full responsibility. Character is saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Character is tested and proved in how you react to wrong choices as much as it is choosing what is right.

I am happy to report that Sally is back on the right road of character, at least until the next “teaching moment”.

How do you teach good character to your children?

PS If you want to check out a biblical approach to teaching integrity to your children or grandchildren, check out my program, Integrity Time Bible Lessons!

Integrity Time Bible Lessons