Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Best Friends

It's been kind of a long couple of weeks. We've had an extra kiddo, all day every day, and her presence has thrown a monkey wrench into my own kids' routines and expectations. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can cause some problems.

It can especially be a problem for my straightforward son. You know the one I'm talking about. Simon, the introvert and Mr. Literal of our kid patch. He's been a real champ about the whole thing but yesterday he reached the outer limits of his patience.

My three kids plus the extra were playing in the backyard in the afternoon and everyone was alive so I was happy with that. Pretty soon, however, things started going downhill. Every five minutes one or another of the kids would come find me to air a grievance (also known as tattling) or cry about the unfairness of something. They all took several turns doing this.

Finally Simon couldn't take it anymore. It's hard enough for him to be around other people for long, but other people in conflict? Forget about it. His shoulders slumped and his head hung as he approached me.

"Can I take a break from all this whining and sit in the front yard?" he asked.

"Of course," I said.

"Can I watch for the Carson's van to get home from school?"

"Ye-es." I could sense a set-up.

Simon stood up a little straighter. "Can I watch for Packard to get out of the van?"

"Why don't you just come out with it, buddy?" I asked.

"Okay, can I ask Pack to come play with me?"

This is what I had been expecting and I was happy to say yes. I watched through the window as Simon sat in the front yard and waited and waited until the van pulled up next door, then waited and waited as all the kids piled out of it. When he finally saw his good buddy Pack his face lit up and he shouted across the street.

"Ask your mom if you can come play!"

In a few short minutes, Simon and Pack were in the backyard, doing whatever little boys do outside when it's sunny. They played until dinnertime, when I had to send Pack home and call my kiddos in. Simon came running into the kitchen with a smile on his face.

"Are you feeling better now?" I asked.

Simon nodded and told me, with wisdom well beyond his years: "Sometimes a guy just needs his best friend."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dear Future Self

Dear 40-year-old Me:

Ah, yes, I'm starting to see you now. In the fine lines and mom jeans and saggy parts. I see you.

Do you remember what it was like to have little ones in the house? Do you remember the chaos and noise and laundry? I hope you do. Now that you have teenagers, I hope you do appreciate being able to go to the bathroom without interruption and being able to send one of the boys to the store for milk. That's your life now.

I wonder if you think about finally refinishing the hardwood floors. Maybe even (gasp) buying a couch, now that you don't have three little ones who would use it as a kitchen table, artist's canvas, and jungle gym. You might even be thinking about a weekend getaway with your husband. You have so many interesting things to consider now that you' know...middle-aged.

There was a time not long ago when you still bought clothes from the junior section at Kohl's, but I bet you don't do that anymore. Too embarrassing for your daughter. But please, oh please, don't tell me you've foregone hot pink and sequins. I couldn't bear to think you would just give up on life like that. I couldn't bear it.

I suppose you're as busy as ever. That probably hasn't changed. But try to take a minute to look around and see how blessed you are. See how much you've been through and how far you've come! Oh yes, I have no doubt they've been 40 wonderful years. I just hope you're not too distracted or self-centered to see it.

And if you're still eating ice cream by the bowl-full, I feel I should tell you, as a friend, that it's probably time to ease up on that a bit. Not that you have to give up ice cream completely, but limit yourself to a cup or something, okay? I want at least another 40 years out of you.

And one last thing, my dear last very important thing: Don't give up on your dreams, whatever they are. Whatever you've been hoping for and working toward or wishing about between now and when you get this letter, don't give up on it just because you're a responsible, middle-aged adult who wears mom jeans.

Don't give up because you're only just getting started! A whole new life is just beginning and anything is possible. You're still me, and I'm telling you now that I, and therefore you, refuse to settle. Paul David Tripp says: "Don't settle for 'below and less,' when you've been created for 'above and more'." And the indomitable Dr. Seuss says: "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

So go get 'em 40-year-old me! Get out there and be me, only better. I'm counting on you.

Most Sincerely,

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Now and later

It's becoming a trend that whenever my 3-year-old asks for something and I say no, she follows up with this:


The implication is clear: she's hoping my NO wasn't really a no. Maybe it was just a "Not now." If I say no you can't have a cupcake, no you can't go outside, or no I won't let you play my guitar, she takes a little step back, puts on her cutest little smile and asks, "Later?"

Sometimes the answer to her "later" question is yes. Yes, you can have a cupcake LATER, after dinner. Yes, you can go outside LATER, after your nap. (The guitar question is always a no, though.) But the funny thing about this is that she has no concept of how long "later" is. It could be in five minutes or five hours or five days, but she doesn't comprehend that. She just knows it's coming. And she's perfectly content and happy with that.

So that got me thinking. I, supposedly, am a grown-up who does understand the difference between five minutes, five hours, and five days. I even understand that sometimes "later" turns into "never" when circumstances change or unexpected events occur. So is that why "later" is not a satisfactory answer for me, like it is for my daughter? Is that why hearing "later" (or its fraternal twin "wait" or its cousin "maybe") does not result in my contented happiness?

When I hear "later" or "wait," I tend to get worked up. If I didn't want it now, I wouldn't have asked! Later doesn't do me any good! But earlier today when my daughter once again responded to my "no" with "Later?", I had a light-bulb moment. It was like God was smacking me upside the head.

The Bible tells us to have faith like a little child. To come to God like little children. And guess what? Little children are content and happy when they receive "later" as an answer. So if I'm not content when I receive that answer from God, I am not coming to him like a little child. I'm acting too much like a grown up. Too demanding, too impatient, and too self-focused.

When I had this realization, it really made me think about my recent prayers. At some point every child grows out of believing in "later," and I wondered when I "grew out" of that stage with God. When did I start demanding everything in my timing and believing that "later" is just an infuriating way to put off saying "no"?

I don't know when it happened but I think I want to change. I want to believe that when God says "no," he has a reason for that. Just like I have a reason when I tell my daughter, "No, you can't have a cupcake." It doesn't necessarily mean she's never going to get a cupcake. It just means I happen to know better than she does when the best time to have a cupcake is.

So, maybe God knows better, too.

"Lord, won't you fix this problem for me?"