Welcome to Your Thirties: Lessons from the Ashes

The past two weeks have flown by for me. Christmas craziness seems like it was so long ago and yet, not so long ago. (Six weeks, whaaaaaat?) Since then we’ve de-Christmased the house inside and out, we’ve reorganized many things and completed some mega DIY projects around here, we’ve enjoyed our special visit from our best friends in WA and then celebrated our sweet son Chase’s 4th birthday, then came full circle around to real life. In fact, after this weekend, today even, I feel like I can stamp the calendar with a “This Is Your Life” stamp! I think we’ve finally returned to the semblance of normalcy we had pre-holidays.

The past two weeks have added some new realizations for me as we’ve approached that place of normality. Our children have sparked some deep things in my heart. For one, I’m seeing Cooper in a whole new light. He’s growing up fast, so fast it hurts my heart. He will be 8 years old this summer and I’m seeing some serious changes in him. I’m noticing stirrings in his heart, new questions and thoughts he is having about life and relationships and even God. He smells (awful sometimes), he gets a mega attitude and has begun rolling his eyes. By the way, the eye-rolling is still hilarious to me. He doesn’t really know how to do it, but I can tell his friends at school are trying to teach him. He says the funniest big kid statements to us lately too.  I hear a lot of “O’Mom”s these days. All this change in our big guy and the changes in our now 4-year old too, have made me look at myself and my husband in a new light.

You see, for a long time now (um at least 11 years) I’ve felt like a kid. I’ve felt like it’s just me and my sweetheart enjoying our lives and being deeply in love with all that goes on between he and I. I’m living my dream with my ultimate best friend! But all this growing up in my children has taken hold of my heart and made me look at myself in a new way. These are our children and they look to us for wisdom, for guidance and support. We are their parents. I’m not just a girl who has children (which is how I often feel),little people I get to play with all day long; I’m someone’s Momma. Three someones Momma.

I know, I know you are probably thinking “how did you just now come to these conclusions girl?”. I think I knew them in my head the moment each of my little loves were born. But in a new way, the WEIGHT of that responsibility is spreading deep within my heart and birthdays have stirred that up in me.

This weekend our local best friends the Svolopouli-and don’t worry, we have 2 sets of BFF’s just to keep things clear, were over chatting with us about these deep things. We were discussing the screw ups of our own families and what we remember about that, how it affects us today as adults and what it makes us think about ourselves as parents. We all have things we say we want to change about the way we were raised. No parent is ever perfect nor ever could or would or should be.  But Jeremy and our friends and I all agreed that we pray that the mistakes we made (and will make) will fade into the distance of our childrens’ memories and what will remain are the good times.

It’s work, you know?  Having a good relationship with your children doesn’t just magically happen one day when they are adults. It is an investment you make every day of their lives. We are all fools if we think that we can live our lives with these little people who are part of us and not invest ALL THE WHILE in our relationship we’ll have with them in the future. I know that all too well and have seen and live the results of what happens when a parent does not do those things.

The reality is that wrongs done as parents to children are ultimately not easily erased. We all carry them throughout our lives. They matter. They matter very deeply.

I want a relationship with my children when they are adults. I have a clear picture in my head and in my heart of what my desire looks like way up ahead. I know all too well that my desires could be unmet. But it is up to me and my husband to work that soil and invest in those relationships we want one day. (Not to mention the work we must do to ensure that our own relationship remains in tact after the littles are grown!)

My husband’s life story has taught me a lot about parents and the mistakes they make. He has a big family that is full of love. It has more cousins than you can shake a stick at too! By marriage, I’m pretty sure I’m related to half a town in Indiana. But his imperfect family, a family that made mistakes, big mistakes, and even has some dark stories, they still love and laugh and get together. You know why? Because they talk about their crap. They don’t let it loom. They may talk about it through tears with sorrow, but they are willing to face it. It doesn’t seem to hold power over them. This has taught me that all families make mistakes and screw up. We are all fallen people who respond poorly and make decisions that in hindsight were so wrong. But if you deal with those issues head on, if you face them and talk about them and allow openness with them, those mistakes don’t seem so looming or overwhelming. They are just that, mistakes.

As a result of his story and my own, I’m learning to ask forgiveness of my own children for my mistakes. I’m not the end-all-be-all; Jesus is. I don’t have ALL the answers or even ALL the authority in this world. Jesus does. So when I yell at my children for what-have-you, when I respond out of anger or make a selfish decision, I am learning that when it finally occurs to me that what I said or how I said it was not right, I can freely go to them and talk it out. I can ask for their forgiveness and I can say that I was wrong. I can apologize to them without usurping the authority I have as their parent.

I’ve posted before the song “You Make Beautiful Things” by Gungor. I can’t even listen to it as I type this out because it makes me weep! Truly, I believe that God is in all this gunk and mess of family and mistakes. He alone takes ashes and makes something beautiful out of them, and I stand very grateful for that as I think about my children. I am confidant that with God involved in my husband and I’s parental strategies (or the lack thereof), there is grace and love to cover the “multitude of sins” we will knowingly and unknowingly commit now and in the future.

So as I look at how the years have flown with my two boys; freshly four and almost eight, I can rejoice at the special moments we’ve shared together. I can laugh with them and we can retell the stories of the fun and hilarious things we’ve done together. We’ve lived so much life together in such a short time. But at the same time, I should be willing to insert the sad things we have worked and wrestled through as a family. I should be willing to talk about them so that they will not hold power over us. As we lean on each other and God in the midst of the good AND the hurtful things in life, I think we might just figure out a thing or two about what God wants for us and wants to do in us.

They say that wisdom is wasted on the young. I get that…I hate that I have to learn these things later on in life.  I don’t like learning through failure.  But imagine a people without humility who are unwilling to admit their mistakes, unwilling to face their shortfalls and unwilling to ask for help in their weaknesses. What do we want to be said of us by our children? What do we want our own children to model when they become parents?

Birthdays clearly stir up a lot in this Momma’s heart.