22 Things Being A Parent Has Taught Me

This time last year I wrote a post titled “21 Things Being A Parent Has Taught Me.” As the time approached this year, I questioned whether to add anything to it or to let it rest in the archives. After all, I don’t want to be guilty of continuing to update every year: 25 things…35 things…50 things! Well, you get the idea. But this year will mark major milestones in my 22 years of parenting. In the next five weeks, I will be the mother of a college graduate who will then be an RN and a married woman. And I’ll be a mother-in-law! How can so much change in a short 22 years? 😉 I didn’t really change the post much from last year. I just squeezed in an extra number. Feel free to get back with me to share some of the lessons that parenting has taught you.


Today it’s official: I’ve been a parent for 21 22 years! From first steps to first day of school, first car to college, first apartment to soon-to-be-married… I have very few regrets. I haven’t done it all perfectly but here we are: not in jail, still speaking to each other, more good times than bad, and we even like each other. Isn’t that successful parenting? I’m sure the title could read 21,000 things being a parent has taught me but I’ve narrowed it down.

  1. It’s not all about me. Oh, if everyone in the world could recognize that truth at the same moment how different the news headlines img_9638would read! Most women really embrace this truth about the time they feel the first tiny movements inside. How much more apparent it becomes with midnight feedings, a hundred loads of laundry, and a thousand diaper changes. It’s even more evident when big brown eyes look into yours and tiny fingers hold your heart.
  2. It’s not all about my children either. What a harsh realization when you discover that not everyone thinks your child is the center of the universe! This seems particularly apparent in the midst of play-dates and 4 year old soccer games. While you love your children and think they’re the best artists and athletes and scholars, sometimes other parents give their own children those titles as well. Teach them balance, respect, personal responsibility, and healthy pride in accomplishment.
  3. My heart is bigger than I thought. It was bittersweet when I first felt the deep pangs of parental love. Not that love for my own children was painful, but I suddenly became aware of all the people in the world, especially those that had never been loved as I loved my own. I saw people very differently. Either they were loved deeply and deserved my love and respect; or they had been denied that deep, unconditional love and protection and merited my compassion. The depth of that loss changed the way I viewed people in their pain and messiness.
  4. How to be brave. Noises in the night, scary looking insects, bad dreams, bad guys, and bullies can all seem overwhelming. What better way to overcome those fears than to become a fearless champion, knowing little eyes are watching? What about bigger fears? Sickness, stitches, broken bones, and bruised hearts? Parenting is not for the weak or the faint-of-heart.
  5. Spiders won’t kill me. Okay, this one should probably fall under the how to be brave category, but it was such a victory that it deserved its own bullet point. Enough said.
  6. I can’t stop all the pain. From lost stuffed animals, being left out of friendship circles, not making the team, to the death of pets and people, the sting and sadness of rejection and disappointment cannot be avoided. While I can’t stop it, dress it up, or discount it, I’m called and equipped to walk through it, providing support, encouragement, and hope along the way.
  7. The importance of presence. Availability. Attention. Acknowledgement. Who hasn’t noticed the eager eyes of children as they searched for a parent at a ballgame, a performance, or a school program? A field trip, a day of shopping, a quiet lunch for two? A funny movie on the couch?  When you are truly img_9630present, you are better able to really see, hear, learn, and know your children. You’re not only their greatest cheerleader; you also become a shepherd of their heart.
  8. Words are really important. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak life, truth, and encouragement. Tell them you love them, are proud of them, and are always available.
  9. How to say I’m sorry.  I messed up. I was wrong. Please forgive me. A little humility and humanity encourages grace and mercy. It says you can own your shortcomings and it models good communication and responsibility.
  10. Let go of guilt. “I wish I had..I wish I  hadn’t..I should have..I shouldn’t have..if only… Home school, public school, other moms, other kids..What if I make the wrong decisions? What if my kids end up in counseling because of me?” Let it go. Do your best. Pick your battles. Say your prayers. Love your kids. Repeat.
  11. Stop comparison. Younger moms, thinner moms, cooler moms, moms with more money, more time, and more creativity… Who hasn’t felt the drive to compete, compare, or self-degrade? Your children were given to you, not your next door neighbor, the preacher, or the lady down the street. You are good enough, smart enough, brave enough, and just what they need.
  12. Always eat dinner around the table. Mealtime is always good. Why? We love to eat. We love to laugh. There’s something about sitting around in a circle that encourages conversation and accountability. No television, no video games, no phone. It’s a time to recount events of the day, plan future events, and ask lots of questions.
  13. Cereal is okay for supper. It’s fortified with essential vitamins and grains. It’s cheap. It’s easy. Knowing that so many people in the world go to bed hungry, there is no condemnation in Frosted Flakes. Or pop tarts. 🙂
  14. Stepping over piles of clothes counts as exercise. So does walking around aimlessly, running in circles, and going the distance. Patience takes practice so that’s also a sport. Hiding in the bathroom counts as a cool-down routine.  🙂
  15. The car is a great classroom. It’s quiet. It’s confined. img_9636They can’t escape. The greatest lessons don’t happen in the classroom, but in the day to day moments of life when you can teach, share, and create real life and relationship. Believe it or not, they are listening.
  16. Make bedtime the best time. They’re tired. They’re vulnerable. They’ll open their hearts just to stay awake and to spend a few more minutes with you in the quiet darkness. What a sweet time to snuggle, to pray, and to listen to their hearts, dreams, and details of the day. It can be the great eraser of an awful, no good, very bad day.
  17. Take lots of pictures. There was no Facebook or Instagram when my children were little. Milestones and memories were captured in 4×6 glossy images in frames or behind plastic sheets. What seemed like too many at theimg_9635 time have proven to be never enough, but still offer glimpses into life and love and living.
  18. How to appreciate good art. Who needs expensive oils, French impressionists, and murky watercolors when hand-scribbled notes, finger-paints, play-doh shapes, fingerprint faces, and reindeer made of footprints can adorn walls and refrigerators?
  19. Laughing is the best. It reduces tension, stress hormones, and the need to hit something. Create inside jokes so no one else understands and you seem weird to other people.
  20. Remember to invest. Children are a treasure, a blessing from the Lord. Each season is to be savored and captured in word, photo, laughter, and experiencing each moment to the fullest measure. But…part of our investment is in teaching children to grow, stand, walk, move on, and create their own journeys. Then what’s left besides the memories, photographs, and holiday visits? What of the other relationships? The other investments? The spouse, the deep friendships, the knowledge and care of self, the spiritual growth that is left to explore and experience after the children marry, move, or follow their own paths? Cherish, but don’t idolize your children, as you make investments in other lifelong, life-changing relationships.
  21. Be consistent and reliable. (Not perfect) As their parent, coach, cheerleader, and advocate. Then you will have a friend for the rest of your life.
  22. How to let go. It starts the first time you leave them at daycare, with a relative, or a babysitter. It intensifies with the first “no” or “I can do it by myself”.  Then  classroom, camp, a car, college, marriage, moving away. There is beauty in freedom, success in standing alone, amazement as they fly. After all, they were only yours for a little while.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverb 22:6

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Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior  are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them    Ps 127:3-5

Heartstrings

I didn’t realize how much I liked violin music untild9fwnzushr0-adamara earlier this week. Literally…three days ago when the vibrant chords of Hallelujah awoke a quiet, slumbering place in my soul.

Fiddle…that’s what I had always called it; and my limited experience with the funny looking instrument had primarily consisted of the roar and excitement associated with group renditions of Rocky Top and the familiar southern twang of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. But I found the gentle, rhythmic chords stroked with precision by the gifted artist, the violinist, to be both inspirational and soothing.

1 Samuel records the story of how young David skillfully played the stringed instrument and describes the soothing effects the music had on King Saul’s troubled mind. Was it merely the skillful plucking and strumming of the strings or was it a deeper work, resonating from the heart of God to the fingers of David to the heart, soul, and ears of Saul?

And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.   1 Sam 16:23

img_2707Refreshed and well. That’s a good description of how I felt as I found more and more hymns played masterfully by various violinists. My son might even report that I danced around the kitchen. Just a little. The formerly deaf place inside hungered for the audible art that fed the precisely shaped hole that the music seemed to fill so completely. I was amazed at the number of hymns I found that were predominantly accompanied by the violin: Amazing Grace, Come Thou Fount, It Is Well With My Soul, Blessed Assurance… All my favorites! All were beautiful. All were soothing. The more I basked in the stringed harmony, the more I realized that the instrumental versions were like a timely gift of medicine for my soul. The violin played center stage and I simply let my spirit voice the words.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:11

Okay, so hymns aren’t scripture, but as the words of the old hymns flowed so freely from my mind and heart, it reminded me of the importance of knowing: Knowing encouraging, soul-edifying words. Knowing the Word. Knowing the Truth. Knowing ways to nourish and uplift your spirit. Knowing how to soothe a troubled mind or weary heart.

God uses scripture, music, people, nature, circumstances, dreams, visions, and countless other ways to get our attention,to  speak to us, to encourage us, to transform us, to heal us, and to equip us. This week He used a violin.

I probably won’t be attending the symphony any time soon. My kitchen will be my dance floor, my phone speakers my instrument, my heart my voice. But Hallelujah is still playing in the background, I am a captive audience, and I will choose to hear each beautiful strum as preparation for a deeper work in the deepest places. And I will sing.

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He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD Psalm 40:3 NLT


And This is Love…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

Charles M.Schulz

LOVE is such a peculiar word. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my friends. I love my dog. I love coffee and ice cream and sunshine and Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

img_8609It’s Valentine’s Day…one simple twenty four hour period out of an 8760 hour year that has the potential to stir as many emotions as there are hearts to feel them. 24/8760. Simplified: 1/365 of a year that can cause feelings of  elation and assurance that you are completely loved and appreciated. Or not. It can also be a reminder of more dark and cloudy feelings like depression, deprivation, loneliness, or loss. I’ve been all over the Valentine map: dateless and lonely, single but content, secure in a longstanding relationship, settled. There was a time when a dozen roses or box of chocolate sought to define how much I was loved, thought of, and admired.

The world and all forms of social media claim to know love: real love, powerful love. Love that’s “forever and ever, amen.” Love that’s worth singing about, posting about, making movies about, or getting tattooed across your chest. So much hype, noise, attention and technicolor devoted to sparkly, feel-good love. But what is love?

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, img_8600but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.     (1 Cor 13:1-3)

And who am I to judge? How do you define love when you’re 10? The coolest toy or gadget, a new puppy, fitting in?

When you’re 20? A fun circle of friends, a late night party, an attractive date?

30? A good job, a tiny house, the pitter patter of baby feet?

40? A good night’s sleep, healthy kids, a secure relationship, a solid group of friends?

50? A rewarding career, a little time off, deeper friendships, a little money in the bank?

60? Fewer pressing demands, emotional and relational stability, time to travel, a nest-egg tucked away?

LOVE: how does one word effectively describe affection, adoration, or commitment in so many areas? I don’t speak Greek. I don’t write or understand Greek, but the specificity of the language is interesting, appropriate, and inspiring. The Greek language expands the word LOVE into multiple specific, well-targeted words. I will only mention three.

Phileō: brotherly, companionable love:

This love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking…This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.   (Mcleanbible.org)

img_8599I love that! 🙂 “This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.”  So it’s really okay to love my husband, my friends, my kids, and my dog. Their presence, their personalities, and their smiles call out and awaken my heart. ❤

What about Eros love?

This love is erotic love. Eros is a love of passion, an overmastering passion that seizes and absorbs itself into the mind.   (Mcleanbible.org)

The world thinks it knows that one, but too often tarnishes and distorts it. How pure and how blessed when we can state:

When I found the one my heart loves…
I held him and would not let him go.  Song of Solomon 3:4

What about Agapē? There are bible studies, bookstores, small groups, and coffee houses that bear that name. What is it? How is it different from the others?

i. Agapē is called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved. It is a love of esteem, of evaluation. It has the idea of prizing. It is the noblest word for love in the Greek language.

ii. Agapē is not kindled by the merit or worth of it’s object, but it originates in it’s own God-given nature. God is love.

iii. It delights in giving.

iv. This love keeps on loving even when the loved one is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love.

v. Agapē desires only the good of the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others.     (Mcleanbible.org)

  This is how we know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

So much more depth and insight than the simple four letter word LOVE.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, img_8605it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Cor 13:4-7

It’s a high and holy calling, to love…a privilege, a responsibility, a mandate. So love God, love your family, love your friends, love your pets, love yourself, love the least of these. You can even love chocolate.

That’s a whole lot of love. Happy Valentine’s Day!  ❤

“I found the one my heart loves.”    

**heart art credit: Mysti White Art  ( I love her! ❤ )