Success

I sent a text to my oldest kids tonight, with a quote from one of my favorite authors. The writings of Richard Rohr have profoundly influenced my continued growth as I seek to understand and appreciate the intersection of people and faith. So I sent the kids a Rohr quote, something that popped up on my Twitter feed in a blog post by Ed Cyzewski.

(This is parenting these days; group texts and Twitter quotes….)

From his book Immortal Diamond, Rohr says:  “If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted. Success is hardly ever your True Self, only your early window dressing….”

There’s so much wrapped up in those few sentences that embodies what minuscule wisdom that has arrived on my middle-aged doorstep. Somebody asked me, once, if I felt my life had been successful. I wasn’t really sure how to answer.

I have listened to so many people share stories of defeat and discouragement. They struggle to believe that they have succeeded, finding themselves in difficult places, difficult relational situations, financial messes. We tell folks, “It’s about the journey”, but that’s so often easier heard than applied. When

Trusting In Advance

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not difficult to admit that change is good. We do not become who we need to be without altered circumstances, in spite of the pain in the process. It’s hard to believe until we are well past the gate, but change always has the potential to be good. It gives us the opportunity to be better, to grow, to lean forward and dig deeper. Once we’re there, we can nod our heads at our own history, we can acknowledge the results.

But it’s hard to believe, in the midst of the turmoil. My friend Lisa posted this quote by the Philip Yancey (author of one of the most transformative books I’ve read, The Jesus I Never Knew):

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”


If you live in the paradigm of grace, change triggers growth, resulting in faith.

But it’s hard to see.

There are so many around me who are enduring painful change in this season; difficult medical diagnoses, basic surgical procedures gone wrong, loss of jobs, imploding marriages, changing relationships that change the future. In the chaos of their circumstances, there is pain. It is difficult.

One person I know said, with no small amount of anger, “I don’t want any canned Christian phrases. I can’t even cope…” God bless you. I don’t want any canned Christian phrases either.


I sat down to write this morning about the current season of change in my life; how my three daughters are all living somewhere other than this house this summer, and how my anxiety almost crippled me as I contemplated life without the swirling mass of female energy that has always defined our home life. Like a rushing wind, some weather event of joyful energy, my emotional energy has been fixated on my daughters. There have words – many, many words! – and questions and laughter and tears and let’s not forget the massive amount of clothes everywhere. There’s stuff of the practical, daily living, and matters of the heart, the way that big, broad personalities fill up all the empty space in the house. The way the dynamic of sisterhood brings intense conflict and incredible love. It is big, and it is busy, and loud and emotional. And it’s all I’ve known, for almost two decades.

And now? Change. Quiet. Space. Vision. There’s the general contemplation of what comes next for the girls, as each one prepares for college and work and new relationships and independent living – anxiety on a different level. But also, there are eyes to see (mine) the young men who have lived in the midst of the swirl, space to hear them and settle into silence and uncomplicated maleness. I have a sixteen-year old son. I have a thirteen-year old son. The shade of their sisters gone, they are in my field of vision now, and I am discovering the joy of a more complete and focused love for them, without distraction and unhindered by their role as, simply, The Boys.

I sat down to write about that sort of change this morning, to acknowledge that I have survived, it’s not so bad, and that it has been surprisingly good. I have settled into something that makes sense, and I have discovered that I really, really like being the only female in a house of men; not only the ones who live here, but also the ones that tag along with them, crashing on the floor to eat ramen and drink Gatorade and sleep, arms and legs flailing, on the couch in the midst of it all.

I sat down to write about this good place I am easing into, and of the irony of a 12:17AM phone call last night, from a daughter who had a week’s worth of words that needed room to roam.

Things have changed, and some of what is different still bruised and tender. I miss my girls. I pray for their safety and stave off worry and anxiety over their well-being. My maternal cloak of protection stayed home with me, and I leave them to their good sense and the watch care of God.

Change is painful, regardless of the circumstances and details. I have known the backbreaking pain of the big ticket items; illness and loss and death and divorce and sin and shame. The relatively minor (and somewhat natural) process of releasing my children to independent lives pales in comparison, but change is painful, no matter the details.


Yet the result is always the same, when you look back; the aching may remain, as Andrew Peterson says – but the breaking does not. The cracks are filled in.

Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.


Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: 


The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.


Struggling with current circumstances? I have no pithy phrases to alter your perspective.

But because you cannot see, the paradox of growth is put into motion.

And that’s a good thing.

Mother’s Day 2012

 This was an unusual Mother’s Day; the first time in memory without all five kids.

As my kids grow up and move on, I’m thinking more about how my identity has been forged in my responsibilities to and for them. Being the mother of Sarah-Shannon-Sydni-Daniel-David has been my life for over 20 years. It remains so, but that life expands and broadens with every passing season. Or school semester. Or tuition payment.

Fall 2012 = three girls in college. At the same time. Ow.

I digress: Mother’s Day today, and two of the five – the oldest – are away. One to the south, pursuing the education of her dreams. The other to the north, investing her summer months in a future career.

In years past, they’ve congregated and planned a meal, a housecleaning, gifts and cards and pedicures and all sorts of wonderful blessings. This year, in the midst of a lot of major transitions, we opted to make a new memory.

Today, they gave me beautiful cards with heartfelt sentiments; small, sentimental gifts that meant a lot and were just what I wanted.

And then we went to lunch, me and my youngest three kids. And I thought about the privilege of tackling this second generation of parenting with the two boys (and a few short weeks with the girl) in the time that I have left. I’ve joked with friends who are my age and done, because they had one kid, or maybe two, and the nest is empty and they have time and nobody drinks all the milk and the house stays clean. I look at my youngest and know that I have six more years of active parenting, six years before he’s 18 and able to step out on his own. Sort of.

Some times that seems daunting. But lately, I’ve been seeing it as a privilege. I’ve learned so much in the past 20 years. I’m a different mom now than I was then. I’m praying that I can apply it and invest the time and energy they deserve. I figure God chose me to be their mom. I do well to honor that gift.


So I took THEM to lunch today. And I gave each of them a personal letter, with my sentiments expressed as best I could. I told them why I valued them, what I loved about them and my commitment to them.

It was the best way I could think of to celebrate. I got, and I gave. And I know this: I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without being a mother.

And these kids made me a mother. I’m grateful.

By the way; to the two girls who live north and south, don’t worry….yours is coming. I love you ALL.

Parenting Tips

When it comes to blogging pastors, Mark Beeson is one of the best.

I read him daily. You should, too.

This latest post on parenting really hit a chord with me. Want to have great kids? Want to do the very best you can as a mom or dad? Want to fill in the blank spaces if you’re a single parent?

Read this. Then look around and figure out where “your” people are….

David’s Eleventh Birthday

Guess who had a birthday today?

David turned eleven.

I can hardly believe it.

Seems like just yesterday, I was laying on the couch, eating Cheetos and Oreos, processing the fact that I was going to have another baby. Number five.

The timing didn’t seem right, but boy, was I surprised. David has brought such joy to our family, and a unique tenderness to me.

His talents are ever-increasing and surprising. He is fiercely loyal. He is a quiet kid, with a deep, thoughtful heart.

It is our family tradition to allow the birthday boy or girl to choose their favorite food for dinner. Each kid has some sort of special request; frankly, most of them choose to go to Grandma’s house (because NOBODY cooks like Grandma cooks…) When I asked David what he wanted this year, he replied, “I would like a selection of my favorite meats.  Bacon. Pork chops. And steak. Oh, and some macaroni and cheese.”

The boy knows what he likes.

We settled on ONE meat – steak – and Grandma’s homemade mac and cheese. It was a good time.

 He was excited. Note the props to Maida Vale, a fine rock and roll band….

Tony gave him some sort of funny card. It had the word ‘fart’ in it. David loved it, of course.
Oh, yes. A bunch of plastic dinosaur bracelets.
His one specific request was for the Iron Man 2 PSP game. He got it.
I love my son. I love him for who he is, for the person he is becoming. I am shocked at how quickly manhood looms ahead, and I can’t say that I like it much.
It goes without saying that motherhood changes you. David’s presence in my life has shaped and molded me in powerful ways.
Tonight, we celebrate eleven years of his life and I am grateful.
Happy Birthday, Dave.

What Comes Next

I’m considering furthering my education. Just starting to think about it…

…I think I want a seminary degree. I want to study the Bible, seriously. But I don’t want to go to some rubber stamp let’s-make-a-minister joint. It’s tough to decide which direction to go.

Or maybe I could learn some new technology. Study graphic arts, seriously. I’d love that.

Or dig back into another music degree.

I don’t know.

I just know I’m approaching a season of life when I’ve poured a ton of energy into raising kids. I still have tons of work to do in that direction.

But I’m starting to think about the things I want to do in the time I have left. It’s feeling really precious to me. There’s a lot I don’t know. There’s a lot I’d love to learn.

While I’m thinking through this, I’m going to spend a lot of time hugging my kids. I’m thinking that by the time David’s 18, I’ll have figured out what I want to do next.