A Thrilling Post About the Fact that Texas is Currently Hotter Than the Surface of the Sun . . .

Happy Fall y’all!

You hear that?

It’s the sound of everyone in Texas laughing and laughing and laughing . . .

September in Texas is not known for its cool, crisp temperatures. I’m very aware of that. But y’all. It. Is. Sweltering. Like 100 degrees and holding. August did this wonderful/terrible thing where it rained and the temps were cool (relatively speaking), and we all, collectively, thought Fall was coming early. Cruel joke. We should’ve known better.

However, never one to be dissuaded by the crazy Texas weather, I have plowed ahead as if Fall is really here in all its 90-degree glory. I actually put out all of my fall decorations in August because the weatherman said something about the end of meteorological summer, and I was feeling ridiculous hopeful . . . so I decorated for Fall a month ago.

But today . . . today I changed our bedding from our light spring/summer quilt to our heavier fall/winter comforter. Because you know we’ll need that when it gets down to 85 degrees at 9:00 p.m. In all actuality, Patrick will be thrilled because he thinks I try to freeze him to death every night. And I’ll have to lower the AC even more, otherwise I’ll wake up feeling like I’m suffocating and drenched in sweat. Lovely. But I’m telling y’all. Summer is done. Over. Or at least I’m over it.

Today I will . . .

This week has been a doozy.

I totally lost my cool with my oldest the other night. He’s a teenager, and as teenagers go, I got a really good one. But the fact remains, he’s still a teenager, and sometimes, I just wonder where he left his brain. All that to say, I lost my cool . . . and it wasn’t pretty . . . and apologies followed. Sorry your mom acted like a raving lunatic . . . lest anyone think I actually have this parenting thing figured out.

It did not help that my youngest has had a rough week and has really been struggling with regulation and self-control. Four weeks into third grade . . . the shiny newness has worn off . . . third grade is hard y’all. So, while not totally unexpected, the “behaviors”, details intentionally withheld, started on Monday and haven’t totally stopped as of this morning. I mean we’ve had some ebb and flow, but many a prayer has been uttered for peace, patience, wisdom, and strength, many a privilege has been lost, and many a tear has been shed at this point. A lot of what goes on behind the scenes, at school and at home, is rarely seen or understood by casual acquaintances and friends. When people hear me discuss our struggles, which I don’t often do, I’m bombarded with advice on how to discipline. I hear plenty of, “If that was my child . . .”. Full stop. Nope. You would not. Because it wouldn’t work, and you’d quickly realize only exacerbates the issues. Having said all that, when we get on the struggle bus, it can be hard to get off. Next stop please . . . by last night, Wednesday night, I was exhausted and discouraged. And I went to bed feeling like we are constantly taking two steps forward and ten steps backward. I know, when I look back over the course of the years, I see so much growth and improvement, but in the moments when things are just hard, it’s very difficult not to let the fear and discouragement creep in and take over.

Which is where I found myself at around 3:00 a.m. on this Thursday morning. I wasn’t fully awake, but I was praying. And over and over, the words from Hebrews 11:1 kept running through my mind, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The opening words to the Hall of Faith . . . the faith of the men and women, who despite all their imperfections, struggles, and often, vast evidence to the contrary, stood strong on God’s promises. It’s always funny to me, the scriptures that God brings to mind when I’m struggling. He almost always does it when I’m half asleep, and thus actually able to hear Him because my own brain, which is usually running a hundred miles a minute, is relatively quiet. They’re not always the scriptures I would expect. I would’ve wanted something comforting this morning. A direct statement that He was going to fix it . . . today. Instead, He tells me, that I have to keep on keeping on. I have to stand strong in my faith.

Faith – belief, trust, confidence

Substance – assurance, a guaranteeing, a giving substance

Evidence – proof, conviction

Just a few of the words that further describe these words in Strong’s.

You see, seven years ago, we had just returned from our trip to meet Anna. She was so tiny, pale, and malnourished. At almost two and a half years old, she was just learning to walk, and had zero intelligible words. She only occasionally engaged with us, mostly when we finally convinced the orphanage to let us take her outside. Much of her time was spent rocking back and forth and flapping her hands in the air. I didn’t know exactly what we were facing, but I knew we had a steep hill mountain to climb once home. I would find myself fully awake in the dark hours of the early morning, pleading with God to help us love her well. I don’t really remember the details of any of the prayers, but I do remember asking for a scripture for her from Him. I know, to many that sounds hokey. How do you really know it’s from God? Isn’t all scripture from Him? All I can say is I just knew. One early fall morning, not much unlike this morning, I heard the words from Isaiah 54:17 as clearly as if they were spoken aloud, in my mind, “‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper; And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,’ Says the LORD.” I knew those words were for Anna as surely as I knew the sun would rise that morning. Here’s the thing, that is not the scripture I was expecting or would have picked. I was expecting something pretty, flowery, probably from Psalms, but Isaiah, over and over again, has been where God has led me in times of challenge, growth, and even, distress. Almost the entire chapter of Isaiah 54, has become my theme and battle cry for my children, and especially for Anna.

Time and again, over the years, she has condemned the tongues that have risen against her in judgment. The therapist that said she would never talk. The evaluator that said she would likely never read or write or be in a “normal” classroom. Even my own fears and words spoken out of fear she has shown to be wrong. And this morning, God was reminding me where my faith lies. Because we can do all the things. We can seek all the earthly help, the therapies, the medical and emotional interventions . . . all needed and necessary . . . I am a firm believer that God uses those things on this earth to help us . . . but ultimately, none of that will heal our deepest wounds and trauma . . . only God can and will. I also firmly believe He is in the process of doing that. But I believe it is a process, and I believe there is a purpose and a refining, for all of us, in that process.

So, today I will continue to push through the hard and lean into my faith on the good days and the not so good ones. Today I will turn up the praise and drown out the lies of the enemy. I won’t lie and say I feel 100% better. I won’t say that I’m not fighting fear and apprehension about what this day may bring. But today I will not be ruled by my feelings and emotions because I serve a God who is bigger. I serve the Creator who knows all of us, our children, our spouses, ourselves, better than anyone on this earth could ever possibly know us. I serve the Healer of the deepest wounds, the world’s best Counselor, the greatest Physician, and the ultimate Comforter.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14

Twenty-One Years

21 years . . . it’s almost impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that 21 years have passed since that morning that permanently altered the course of, not only, American and world history on a very large scale but also, of our individual lives down to the most minute and mundane details . . . our perceptions and perspectives forever changed . . . so much of our world and so many of our choices forever colored by the events of that horrible day.

Yet, 21 years brings with it a perspective and an appreciation that I didn’t have then. No longer a terrified 20 year old, college student, but now a 41 year old parent, wife, and full-fledged adult. My appreciation for what was sacrificed on that day has only deepened. Appreciation for those who went to work thinking it was “business as usual” only to lose their lives at the hands of absolute evil. Appreciation for our first responders, the bravest of the brave, for men and women who ran, without second thought into what was, without a doubt, the most dangerous and life-threatening situation they would ever face. Appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice given that day by thousands, and for the untouchable and immovable spirit of the American people in the days that followed.

Like so many, I can tell you exactly where I was the moment I heard. I can vividly remember that morning as if it happened only moments ago. I still feel the cool air of that beautiful fall morning . . . the day clear and bright and full of promise of a new season in direct contradiction to what we were watching unfold in front of our eyes . . . those feelings of deep grief, shock, and horror. But also, 21 years later, the intense, and yes, justified anger has mellowed replaced by a longing felt deeply . . . a longing for peace in our world . . . a longing for peace in our hearts, and I know more than ever that we need Jesus . . . in our world . . . in our nation . . . in our lives.

Today, we take the time to remember and honor those lives that were lost on September 11, 2001. May we always remember . . .

The Plank in My Eye

Sometimes, I find myself thinking I’m a “good” Christian. I look at others, I see all the things they get wrong . . . they don’t read or study their bible as much as they should, they’re not praying enough, their family life is a mess, their marriage is on the rocks, they need to watch what they say, think, do, etc. . . . but me? I’m a “good” Christian.

More like a whitewashed tomb (Matthew 23:27). I look great on the outside. But some sins aren’t so obvious and blatant . . . they’re sneaky and covert . . . pride, arrogance . . . they aren’t nearly as easy to see, but just as, if not more, dangerous. Thinking I have the market on faith . . . on a relationship with God and the Holy Spirit and Jesus . . . pride . . . arrogance . . . I am not, nor will I ever be, a “good” follower of Christ in my own right. I am a sinner saved by grace. My own righteous, my own goodness, my own works toward being a “good” Christian, are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). But God . . . but Jesus . . . His blood is what makes me whole and clean and righteous.

Pride is a sneaky thing. Arrogance isn’t always obvious. Especially to ourselves. I wholeheartedly believe that if we are in Christ, we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I also believe that we have to continually go back to Jesus for a heart check . . . for monitoring . . . to be sure that we’re dealing with our own issues . . . that we’re not walking in the flesh but in the Spirit (Galatians 5:17) . . . before pointing out everyone else’s issues. The old saying about how when you’re pointing the finger at someone else you have three more pointing back at yourself comes to mind here.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

Those first seven words are misused and taken out of context so often. There is a time and place to call out sin. Sin is sin . . . wrong is wrong . . . I will readily acknowledge that, and we are called to judge with the bible as our standard not our own thoughts and opinions. It’s the attitude and the intent behind the judgment that is the issue. It’s the pride and the arrogance that so often fuel our judgment that are the problem because make no mistake, if we’re judging from a place of pride and arrogance, we’re not judging with the right heart. We’re so busy pointing out the sins of others while we’re totally blind to our own sins. Too often we’re screaming at the world to fix themselves, which is totally impossible as it is, when we need to be pulling that plank out of our own eye before passing judgment. And when we do judge the purpose is to bring healing and wholeness in helping to remove the speck from the eye of others.

If we look to Paul, he did an amazing job of dealing with and confronting the sins of the early church, while still remaining aware of and humble regarding who he was. Pride wasn’t in Paul’s playbook. He knew where he had come from. He knew Who he belonged to. He knew his right standing with God was only because of Jesus.

And that’s it. I’ve said it before, I’m a work in progress. But God reminded me of that this morning. That sometimes, I need to take a minute and evaluate my own heart . . . y’all there is NOTHING wrong with stepping back and taking an account of where we are in our hearts . . . conviction is not a crime but a gift from God . . . rather than trying to dissect the hearts and attitudes of others maybe look at my own for a minute or two. Because a lot of times, the faults I see in others are the biggest ones in my own life.

Let Them Grow Up . . . Continued

What I’m writing today is piggybacking off the post Let Them Grow Up so if you haven’t read that one, I recommend you read it first.

My oldest is away at a high school retreat at the moment. Yesterday, I had to laugh when one of my friends, whose daughter is the same age as my son and a good friend of his, posted a few pics her daughter had sent her to let her know they had arrived safely. I laughed because, even though he has a fully charged phone and a charger . . . nothing . . . nada . . . crickets. And I have no doubt I won’t hear from him until tomorrow afternoon when I pick him up. Boys y’all. That’s all I have to say.

The thing is, I found myself totally okay, even amused, with this. There was a time when I would’ve been annoyed, possibly hurt, that he didn’t text or touch base, and yes, there will still be times when I go ahead and text him just to make sure he has arrived where he’s supposed to arrive safely. But yesterday was not one of those times. I often hear moms of younger kids say, “I’m not ready for that”, and that’s fine. You’re not supposed to be “ready for that”, if that’s not the season you’re in. It’s a process not a switch you flip. It’s also really quite ingenious how God biologically created our kids so that they start to push for their independence in adolescence, and we start to look forward to handing over the reigns (and the bills) one day. I also have found that as I loosen my grip a little, I enjoy seeing my kid, my man child, grow into his own person with his own opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. I feel like, with all the things we haven’t gotten right, we did set a solid and firm foundation for him, and now it’s time for him to grow into that. To flesh out, for himself, who he is, and who God created him to be. And y’all there is something very cool and satisfying about being able to have a real conversation with your kid . . . about having an engaging, discussion with this person whose diapers you once changed.

None of this line of thinking is original to me. Not even close. I’m a control freak by nature, and as I’ve said more than once, it is hard for me to let things go and keep my mouth shut. Left up to me, I’d probably be dictating and controlling every aspect of my teenager’s life because as much as he is a good kid, and he absolutely is a great kid, he’s not perfect. He can be more than a little haphazard in his approach to life. He often procrastinates, forgets to follow through and finish things, and is tad bit disorganized and messy, and frankly, those are the things that make me, the OCD queen, crazy. He also does not take well to me trying to step in and direct him . . . not at all, and rather than go head-to-head with him, which I’ve done a time or ten, I’m learning, with a whole lot of help from the Holy Spirit, that yes, there are times, when I have to override what he wants and step in and tell him what to do, but more often than not, I need to step back and let him figure things out for himself.

As parents, we don’t always get it right, but when we do get it right, hooray! And when we mess up (which is often), we have to give ourselves grace, but also, we must apologize . . . as hard and as humbling as that is. We’re all works in progress here. On a practical level, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the things that help me with this whole process. Because heaven knows, I didn’t come up with any of this on my own:

The bible and prayer, developing my relationship with God – When I’m not spending time with God, I struggle so much to keep everything else in balance. I also seek the wisdom of others both in what to do but also, in what not to do . . . in learning from the mistakes of those who’ve gone before me. As I’ve mentioned before, Focus on the Family, especially their parenting resources and their Focus on Parenting Podcast, is absolutely invaluable. I’ve also found that Dr. Ken Wilgus has an enormous amount of wisdom on instilling independence in your teenagers, and I have been devouring the Feeding the Mouth that Bites You Podcast. He also authored a book by the same title, and I’m tossing around the idea of doing some kind of book club/group with that book.

Family time and letting some things go – Family time is so important, but if you’re dragging your teenager along, and they hate you for it, you might not be accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Naturally, building in family time and activities, trips, etc., my kids enjoy is really important. Showing interest in the things that interest them, but also, knowing that my teenager may not be there for every single family event is necessary. Case in point, I’ve always been a stickler for family dinners, and I still am to an extent, but I also know that we may not be able to all be here every night for a sit-down dinner. Sometimes, other activities are going to take the place of dinner, and that’s okay too.

Last but far from least, my marriage – Continuing to pour into, to work on, and build my marriage is non-negotiable. This is one thing I will NOT let go. Next to God, my marriage is my top priority, but it’s amazing how very quickly the activities of our children can take over our lives and push our marriages off to the side. I refuse to allow that to happen. No matter what stage we are at in life, our marriage takes precedence over our kids (obviously, there are emergencies at times . . . I’m not referring to those). My kids hear “yes” plenty, and we do more than our fair share of chauffeuring to our son’s social events and activities. But sometimes they also hear “no” because I won’t keep my children happy to the detriment of my marriage, and I think that happens, albeit unintentionally, all too often.

Maybe by the time my kids are 30, and (hopefully) don’t really need to be parented anymore, I’ll have this whole thing figured out. Until then, I’ll keep listening and learning, adjusting and growing, and pushing them to grow into healthy adults the best way I know how.

Job Descriptions . . . Take 2

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

I’ve written about it here, on this site, before. And I have it written off to the side of my running prayer list in my journal. Six simple words. A constant reminder. “You are not the Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes, a lot of times, we need to speak truth. Sometimes that truth may be hard spiritual, moral, and biblical truth on which God is calling us to speak. Sometimes, it’s truth in relationships with our spouses, our families, our friends. Other times it’s the mundane, daily truths that need to be said. There’s a lot of mundane, daily truths in raising teenagers. Can I get an amen? Read through Paul’s epistles. He never minced words when truth was necessary. He knew the value of planting the seed.

And then there’s the watering. A tending and teaching that accompanies those truths. Not harping. Not nagging. But lovingly leading. This is where I often mess up. I can be pretty darn good at speaking that truth. I mean I will blast you with it. But then I’ll keep on blasting you. I’ll keep on pounding it. Because when in the history of the world has preaching and pounding, nagging and lecturing, cajoling and coercing, ever worked? Answer: It hasn’t. And it won’t. So why do I do it? I guess I think that somehow, if I just say it louder, and harsher, and one more time, I’ll get the result I want. I’ll somehow change what’s going on in the other person. It’s why I have those words written in the margin of my journal. They serve as a daily reminder, that I’m not the one who does the changing. I’m not the one who brings growth, increase, and transformation. I am not the Holy Spirit.

Just over two years ago, in a post entitled Job Descriptions, I wrote about this very thing. Clearly, I’m very much a work in progress because this morning, while praying (if you can call it that . . . it was more like whining and throwing a small fit), I told God exactly how I thought He should do His job. And as always that still, small, voice, that I’d sometimes just as soon ignore as obey (just being honest), once again reminded me, I am not the Holy Spirit. I don’t change anyone. When I’m called (and only when I’m called) to speak truth, I speak it from a place of boldness and authority, not because of who I am but only because of who He is. I am nothing . . . as Paul says, “Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters” . . . but I have the authority to speak the truth of God because of the blood of Jesus. When I’m called to teach, I should teach and lead with grace, love, and compassion. But when I’m called to step back and shut up, I should actually step back and shut up and let God do what God does. Starting with changing me . . . because ultimately, that’s where this all begins.

First World Problems … Tales of Sharing a Restroom With a Teenager

In an effort to avoid discussing something that actually matters and carries weight and importance (because I am not capable of having a reasonable conversation regarding how much I’m not okay with the whole student loan forgiveness thing … so I won’t go there now), let’s talk about a completely superficial and shallow annoyance with which I’m currently dealing. It is the absolute definition of first world problem. And if you’re not feeling it or don’t really have a sense of humor, I recommend you just stop reading right now and come back when I’m not on the precipice of completely going off about the actual, important issues facing our country and our world, and thus, able to discuss, like a mature grown up, real things that matter. For the moment, a little levity is needed.

We have 3.5 restrooms . . . bathrooms . . . water closets . . . whatever you want to call them, there’s a lot of them in our house. I love indoor plumbing. I don’t love anything that has anything to do with not having it. See number eight in Courtney’s Confessions Continued . . . The Final Installment . . . For Now . . . where I very kindly explain my abhorrence of camping. No apologies there. Anyhow, I digress. When we built our house, we decided to modify the plans so that every bedroom has its own bathroom, and then we also have a half bath for guests, so they don’t have to use my kids’ bathrooms because kids . . . especially boys . . . are gross.

Having said that, I’m fully aware of how extra it is that my kids do not have to share a bathroom. No need to tell me or write me or set me straight. I’m aware. My children, bless them, however, are not even slightly aware of this. They think they’re entitled to their own bathroom. College is going to be a rude and more than funny awakening for certain teenagers in this house. I told y’all first world problems up in here . . .

Back to the restroom situation. My son has been telling us for a while that his shower leaked when it was on. But only when it was on. And we kind of, sort of, didn’t really believe him. We thought he was just splashing water on the floor and blaming it on some sort of leak. Well, lo and behold, something is leaking when the water is turned on . . . thankfully, only when the water is on, but the kid wasn’t wrong. So we need to get it fixed, and the fix is probably a fairly easy one. However, we need the handyman we use to come help us (by “us” I mean Patrick . . . I don’t fix stuff . . . I’m more likely to be the one breaking stuff) because we (“we” and “us” . . . same thing) are likely going to have to cut into the wall, and “we” need to be sure it’s done right. But . . . there’s a lot of buts here . . . the handyman, jack of all trades, fixer of all things, has been working on a property we recently bought, and that is a more pressing job. Which means, I have been sharing a shower with my 14 year old son for the past three weeks . . . or one hundred years. Same difference.

Y’all, he’s kind of a slob. Am I allowed to say that? I mean he’s smart, cute, funny, a hard worker, disciplined in everything . . . except he doesn’t understand how to pick things up. You would think he would get it, considering his IQ is pretty dang high, but alas, I’d be lying if I told you the kid was a neat freak. Now when it’s contained to his own room and bathroom, as long as it isn’t straight up filthy, I let it go. It’s not the hill on which I plan on dying, but y’all he’s been using my bathroom and shower forever. FOREVER. Remember how Squints said it in The Sandlot? FOR-EV-VER. Same. There has been some improvement over the past few weeks. After I almost brained him (no worries . . . I’ve never actually “brained” one of my children . . . I’m not even sure what that would entail) for using my washcloth, not flushing the toilet, getting body wash everywhere, leaving dirty clothes and towels on the floor . . . he did start to show signs of improvement. But if we don’t get his shower fixed soon, well, I might lose my ever-loving mind. And we wouldn’t want that now would we?

Sometimes we just need to take a minute and breathe and worry about something truly important . . . like why we shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with our children (and I know … some of you do … you have all my empathy … all of it). Can I get an amen?

THE END

The One on Which I Hop Right Up on That Soapbox . . . You’re Welcome . . .

I’ve been on social media a little too much the past couple weeks.

It makes me irritated and anxious and annoyed.

It’s also stupid addictive. Time for some detox.

But here’s the thing I keep seeing that’s really getting to me.

It’s the low-key judgment of moms by other moms regarding the whole back to school thing.

Examples:

“You’re excited your kids are going back to school. What is wrong with you?”

“You homeschool . . . ugh . . . I could never.”

“You send your kids to public school. Go ahead and brainwash them.”

“You send your kids to private school. Must be nice.”

And other things of the same thread attached to obnoxious memes, so the judgment is a little more thinly veiled and low key. It’s still judgment. It’s still saying, “I think I’m better than you”. Bottom line it’s pride.

Can we just stop y’all? Can we stop being judgy and obnoxious and realize that each family has to make the decision about what is right for them and their children? And newsflash, regardless of whether your child goes to public or private school or is homeschooled, you, as parents, are the main ones responsible for instilling personal and spiritual values in your children. So absolutely, if something is being taught that you don’t agree with, speak up! Especially if it’s something that you object to morally. By all means, it’s your child. But also, take responsibility and stop shifting it to others, AND on the flip side, accept that one can be a good parent and send their child to public school (or private school or the moon if need be).

Finally, on a personal note, I have one child in a private, Christian school. It’s where we want him and where he belongs. We love his school because it does reinforce our values. That’s why we chose it. But at the end of the day, we don’t depend on the school to fulfill the role of spiritually guiding and teaching him. It’s a supplement to what we try to walk out and teach in our home each and every day. Not that we’re perfect. The good Lord knows we’re not, but we keep on keepin’ on. We also have a child in public school mostly due to her particular needs, and we love our local elementary school. It’s where God led us to place her. It has been a blessing, and we are so thankful for her teachers, therapists, counselors, etc. No, they don’t offer spiritual guidance (not their job), but they also don’t detract from our beliefs and are very respectful of what we try to instill in our daughter. Ultimately, she’s there until we feel she needs to be somewhere else . . . which at some point, might be homeschooling. Might not. We’re asking God to show us the right path for her. I’m also a big believer in homeschooling when and where it’s appropriate for your family. I have tons of friends that homeschool and love it, and we may join those ranks one day. Regardless, I think it’s great!

But bottom line, because this devolved rapidly from where I started, whatever your day looks like today. . . if you’re swinging from the rafters because “Hallelujah, school started again!” more power to you. If you have tears in your eyes because sending your babes off to kindergarten . . . or senior year . . . or college . . . is rough, lots of hugs and empathy sent your way. If you, like myself, fall somewhere in the middle of “Praise Jesus, it’s quiet! I get to grocery shop in peace!” and “Gosh, I hope she’s okay without me, and did I remember to tell her teacher . . . and what time is it? Is school out yet?” then cool. It’s okay. And if you keep your kids home year-round and are homeschool mom extraordinaire, then way to go! But let’s just stop being overtly and covertly obnoxious toward one another. Instead, let’s be supportive and helpful, and crazy thought, encouraging.

That’s it. I’ll now step down off my soap box.

That’s A Wrap . . . A Little Life Update and Prayers and Scriptures for the New School Year

The insanely busy summer of 2022 has come to an end. When I say it has flown by, that’s not an exaggeration or understatement. Three(ish) months never passed so fast. I have one that goes back to school tomorrow (Wednesday) and one that starts next Monday, and so yesterday, Monday morning, I declared summer officially over. We’re back at it. The regular routine. The early mornings. All the things that come with school being back in session.

This year I have a third grader and a freshman in high school. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how we got here. How have my babies grown up so quickly? And I give myself a moment to pause, to feel the bittersweetness that comes with your kiddos growing up. I look back at those early, first day photos with chubby little cheeks and pudgy little hands . . . it’s sometimes hard to remember those days. They seem so long ago, and like most parents, I feel that pang of “where has the time gone???”.

But then I look at my long legged nine-year-old, and my almost 15-year-old man child, and I like what I see, not just physically, because they keep growing out of their shoes and their clothes, and that’s expensive! But I like the people they are and are becoming. I like being the parent of older kids. Even more than that, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the immense privilege and responsibility of watching them grow into the people God created them to be. It’s not that every day is easy. I mean teenagers y’all . . . and a nine year that struggles emotionally . . . it can make for some hard days, but when I step back and take a thousand-foot view, I see these two, amazing people that God is molding. I, with my far from perfect parenting, with all its mistakes and mess ups, inconsistencies and imperfections, get to be a part of that. And one day, I pray, we get the even more immense privilege of launching our kids out into this world. I’m not sure exactly how an “empty nest” will look for us, but however, it ends up looking, I’m looking forward to it.

My prayer for my kids going into this year is relatively simple. “First and foremost, before anything else, let them have hearts that follow hard after you, Lord. Let them be leaders that show others Your light in a world that is hurting and struggling, Jesus. Let them be kind, hardworking, and honest. Help them to learn and grow and understand what is taught to them. Help them to make wise and mature choices even when it’s hard. Heal their hearts and their hurts no matter how deeply they run. Protect them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. May your “truth” be their “shield and their buckler”. Give your “angels guard over them”. Bring friends adults and teachers into their lives that will draw them closer to you and that are good for them. Give them peace and freedom from fear. Let them know how much they are loved.”

And for good measure, I want to share some of the scriptures I try to pray over my children regularly. Anna is so used to hearing them, that although she sometimes mixes them up, she knows these mostly by heart. That’s nothing special I’ve done. As I’ve already said, I get a lot wrong when it comes to parenting, but if I don’t do anything else, I want to get the word of God in them, and I want them to know, as much as is humanly possible, how much He loves them. I believe in praying scripture. Not as some magical words or incantations but because the word of God is active and living:

  • You have the fruit of the spirit . . . “love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
  • God has not given you a “spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (self control).” 2 Timothy 1:7
  • “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me, Says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17
  • “All your (my) children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your (my) children. In righteousness you (we) shall be established; You (we) shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you (us).” Isaiah 54:13
  • Paraphrased from Daniel 1:4 . . . “My children are a young lady and young gentleman in whom there is no blemish (because of what Christ has done for them), good looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.”
  • All of Psalm 91 . . . “He (we . . . Courtney, Patrick, Andrew, and Anna) who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty . . . His truth shall be your (our) shield and buckler. You (we) shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness . . . No evil shall befall you (us) nor any plague come near your (our) dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge of you (us), to keep you (us) in all your (our) ways . . . with long life I will satisfy Him (He will satisfy us) And show him (us) My (His . . .God’s) salvation.” I just hit on a few verses throughout the chapter, but seriously every word of Psalm 91 matters to me.

Whether your children are just starting their first day of daycare or preschool or getting read to fly the nest, embrace the moment. Be thankful for what lies behind and look forward to what’s ahead. I pray for blessings and protection for you and for them. May this be the best year yet!

Because I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on it, here’s my PSA for today: As always, I’ll take a minute to emphasize this – don’t neglect your marriage while you’re raising your kids. As Jimmy Evans always says, “Your kids are a temporary assignment”. With obvious exceptions for special needs, they aren’t meant to be your everything and forever, and even with kiddos with special needs, maybe even more so, at least in our case, you have to work to make your marriage a priority when you have a child that, by virtue of their needs and through no fault of their own, demands so much attention. The order of things, if you’re married, should always and forever be – 1. God 2. Spouse 3. Kids . . . followed by everything else (church, extended family, friends, work . . .). But too many people sacrifice their marriages on the altar of “raising” their kids, activities, etc. Our children should grow into adults that we no longer need to parent. That leave home and have their own lives. That no longer obey and look to us for constant guidance, provision, and direction (yes, they may seek wisdom and advice from time to time, but that’s their choice not a commandment) but instead walk alongside us as friends and equals. So as challenging as it can be, build your friendship and relationship with your spouse while your kids are home so that one day, when they leave, while there will most likely be some tears and sadness (I mean I get it . . . our kids are loud and fun and exhausting so when they’re not here, it’s quiet and weird), you won’t be at a loss as to how function without them, and you won’t look at your spouse and realize you have no idea who you are married to because you’ve spent the last 18+ years ignoring the most important thing, next to God, in your life. PSA over!

On Gentleness . . .

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I know these verses by heart. They are seared into my memory. I recall them often. But the words preceding?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:4-5

It’s not that I don’t know them, but I don’t necessarily give them the respect and weight I should. Especially, the “let your gentleness be known to all men” part. I’ve always kind of skimmed right past those words.

I am not an inherently gentle person. The NASB translation says “let your gentle spirit, be known to all men”. Gentle in the Greek means, “gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate” . . . I mean y’all, I don’t often find myself falling into any of these categories, but “reasonable” and “moderate” are definitely not my forte. However, as of late, God has been reminding me, that it’s not about my natural disposition . . . it’s not about whether or not I’m an “inherently gentle person” . . . if Jesus is my Savior, then I am called to gentleness, and the Holy Spirit enables me to be gentle. Gentleness is not optional.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:22-25

People often frustrate me . . . how’s that for a segue? I don’t understand why they do the things they do. Why do some relationships have to be so hard? Why is it that boundaries can’t be respected? Why does judgment have to be passed on aspects of other people’s lives that have absolutely no moral or ethical consequences? Why is it that constructive, healthy, criticism can’t be heard? Why is jealousy the top dynamic in some relationships? Yep. People often frustrate me. And I frustrate myself. Because I have found that I kind of, sort of, have an inability to let things go . . . to sometimes leave things unsaid. I have a need for accuracy and honesty in my life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue is that I often fail to couple honesty and truth with gentleness. So rather than gently speaking truth, I blast it like a stick of dynamite and end up imploding what’s there rather than building up and creating something stronger.

I think we confuse gentleness with weakness. We think gentleness equals compromise. We are never told to be weak in God’s word. We are never called to compromise on biblical values and morals. Sin is still sin, and we still have a responsibility to address sin when, if, and how God tells us we should. Some of the gentlest followers of Christ are bold and strong in speaking the truth and living for Him, but they are also ruled by a gentle spirit.

Gentleness . . . it’s the area on which God is currently working in my life, and let me tell y’all, it is quite a lot of work. I want to have a gentle and quiet spirit. I want to boldly speak the truth with gentleness. I want to be gentle as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I don’t want to be abrasive and cynical. I don’t want to use truth to destroy, but instead use it to bring life to others. I’m definitely not there yet. Reality is, I’ve really only begun, and I know there is a lot of work to be done. But here’s the other reality, the one that really matters . . . it’s not my job to make myself gentle. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to instill that gentleness in me. It’s my job to let Him. It’s my job to submit. The more I allow the Holy Spirit to live in me and work through me, the more that gentleness, and all the fruits of the spirit, will flow out of me. It’s not something I have to make happen, but rather it’s something I must allow to happen.