Wherein Parenting Takes An Unorthodox Turn

It was a Wednesday and I stopped and dropped in the middle of putting clean sheets on my bed because the weight of my mundane world crashed in a heap upon my shoulders and the tonnage of it propelled a forward bend, palms pressed open against the mattress, back arched like a bow and the heaviness of my head hanging careless between my shoulder blades. I told my Father that I was certain that He had made a mistake and that surely having three boys AND homeschooling them . . . plus this, that and the other thing was too much weight for any one person to stand up under and more specifically: TOO much for an introvert who craves solitude and stillness and quiet more then all the known things on God’s green earth.

Then I remembered that God only gives us what we could NEVER handle.

On.

Our.

Own.

With the brackish water breaking from my eyelids and spilling on the bed I’m bent over, I says to my God: “I ain’t got what it takes and my back is broken here. I need wisdom because I have no idea how to be a mom right now”

To be more specific with you, we’ve been aching and desperate to comprehend what to do with our oldest son who is transitioning from boyhood into young-manhood and seems to all of a sudden have pre-adolescent hormones raging through his developing body. Somebody told me one time long, long, ago that this would happen some day—the hormones and whatnot—and I’m going to tell you right now that there are some abstracts I wish would just stay the freakin’ heck away from reality. Because these boy hormones?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOMEBODY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, SAVE ME!!!!!!!!!

I digress.

Our boy, Gabe, has been monumentally struggling with disproportionate anger. And this anger can rise up inside him from just one big snot-sniffle coming from the nostril of a brother sitting next to him on the couch. And no amount of reasoning and deep breathing is enough sometimes to pull him out of his sudden hysteric space. Later, when the cool down finally comes, he makes his way so repentant-like to all the family members he violated and begs for forgiveness, with tears and sorrow and all the rest of it. He prays everyday that God would help him not to react to his sometimes frequently pesky little brothers or to any other thing that might get an immediate rise out of him.

Gabriel and I were having a post-fraternal-war conversation on the couch the other day and with cry-streaks all over his cheeks he says to me: “Mama, I’d rather be able to change then have a million dollars. I don’t understand why God isn’t helping me”. Let me go ahead and confess to you that my heart split to slivers while watching my son hunger for a transformation that felt so far-reaching for him. Especially since he’s been praying for [what feels to him like] a very long time. And mama don’t have the answer to his big-boy question.

That’s the gist of our repetitive struggles. And by “repetitive”, I mean: more then once every day. And I am so tired of hearing myself talk and all the teachable moments that I just CAN’T pass up. He’s tired. I’m tired. We’re all tired. At the same time, you need to know that Gabe has such a gigantic heart of goodness and strength inside his chest and we are constantly affirming who he is and building his character up and reminding him of who he is in Christ Jesus and anyone who isn’t his mama would still marvel at the way this God-son spreads seeds of love all over the land around him.

In the midst of all this, Austin and I have—at times—messed up massively in the ways we responded to Gabe’s challenges, getting angry and shout-like just as the good scriptures tell us not to and we have sorrowfully sought his forgiveness and somehow by a Grace higher then ours that process has knit our hearts even tighter together with our boy Gabe.

So, that day when my mattress became my confessional, I had reached the most stretched-out shred of myself – for things mentioned and unmentioned. But, what I was most despairing for was a way to help my son through his breaking s and transitions.

The next day Gabriel’s anger came back, it couldn’t stay away . . . with wild eyes and clenched fists he tornados around his brother Jude for barely any reason at all. I’m in the kitchen elbow deep in sugar cookie dough when the tyrant-tune reaches my ears and the first thing I do this time is all the deep-breath-taking I can possibly suck in, all the way to my belly and back up again, while whispering my “Oh, God . . . help.” And I call for the angry son to “come here please” and I quietly ask him to “go somewhere alone just until I can wash my hands and come talk to him”. The good Lord knows I didn’t need time to wash my hands. I needed time to wash my heart so I could enter into a space with my son and see far beyond the surface issue being repeatedly expressed.

That’s exactly when I had this helpful idea fall into my thinking space and I rushed to meet Gabe in the guest room where he was being quiet and took his hand in mine and guided his body gently to lay down on the rug, positioned his limbs in the most relaxed pose, placed a palm on his forehead and a palm on his stomach and felt the Spirit literally whoosh in on the wings of my urgent pleas. What follows is the record I wrote in my journal the second I was done ministering to my boy, because I didn’t want to forget even an atom of it.

Me: “Ok, Bub. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths all the way down to your belly. Breathe . . . Relax your face. . . Loosen your limbs . . . Breathe.”

(One minute pause while Gabe stills down.)

Me: “While keeping your eyes closed, I want you to tell me where your anger is located in your body. Is it in your mind? Or your heart? Or your stomach? Is it in your left thigh?” (Seriously. You NEVER know.)

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “The anger is in my stomach.”

At this point I move both my fire-hands to rest softly on his bare belly.

Me: “Ok. The anger is in your stomach, what does it feel like?”

Gabe: “My stomach feels tight and really tense. It hurts all over.”

Me: “Ok. We know the anger is in your stomach and is making your stomach tense and painful. Now, I want you to imagine the anger in your stomach and tell me what it looks like.”

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “It looks like a dark, red cloud.”

Me: “Imagine for me this dark, red cloud sitting in your belly and taking up all this space where it doesn’t belong. (Pause) Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Now imagine the dark, red cloud being sucked out of your belly until it’s all the way gone.”

Almost immediately, Gabriel’s eyes POP open and bug out of his head while he exclaims: “HOW did you do that?!?! I CAN’T believe it!!! My stomach hurt SO bad and now it’s all GONE!!! It’s a MIRACLE!!!”

I’m smiling over his wonder and joy, but tell him: “Hang on a second, we’re not done yet . . . close your eyes and imagine the space in your belly where all that anger was . . . now that it’s gone, you have all this empty space inside you and I want you to envision that empty space. Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Alright, now that you have this empty space, what do you want to fill it back up with?”

Gabe: “God’s love. I want to fill it with God’s love.”

Me: “Good . . .that’s beautiful, Gabe. What does God’s love look like to you?”

Gabe: “God’s love looks like Jesus’ face.”

Me: “Ok. Imagine Jesus’ face coming to you and filling all the empty parts inside your stomach.”

And he did, he took Jesus’ face right inside him and with so much gladness and appreciation coming out his eyes, my boy throws his adolescent arms around my neck and fervently whispers against my neck: “Thank you so much, mama. I feel FREE!” And mama says: “Oh, honey. Jesus set you free, He just used my hands and my heart.”

I learned an invaluable lesson that day: in many situations that seem like a punishment would be in order for negative behavior being chosen and displayed, maybe the offender isn’t always begging for . . .

Time-outs.

Or privileges revoked.

Or firm words.

Or extra chores mandated.

Maybe sometimes he only needs to be touched where he is hurting most. Maybe being a parent means less about correction all the time and more about offering ourselves as a medium of healing for our children. The healing process can take more time then we are willing to sacrifice when life is full and busy, but for the 20 minutes I spent on the floor with Gabe I felt like I was in an alternate universe with my son and I couldn’t even feel the clock ticking.

(Note: I don’t think Gabe received some magic cure-all. BUT. It has been two weeks since this interaction with the Spirit on the extra-bedroom floor and we have not had ONE outrage. NOT. ONE. Sure, he still gets mad here and there – it’s just not even close to the same anymore.)

 

:: Linking with Emily for Imperfect Prose ::

 

I Was Born With Them

We partook of a high and holy ceremony this past weekend, two of our dear friends made their marriage vows under an ancient sprawled-out tree at a Lancaster, Pennsylvania winery and the sun was descending at just the right time for the rays to break through and shine between all the branches. The whole scene was lit-to-bursting with Glory Be. After their pledging sacrament, we celebrated here on earth the way we imagined God and all the angels were partying on the other side of the veil. But—NO doubt—the best part of the entire event was watching our  three boys and their from-birth friends CUT. IT. UP. on the dance floor. I mean, they didn’t quit for two hours and Seth even said after, “Me and Eli kept wanting to take a break, but then another good song would come on and we just couldn’t stop dancing!” GAH! They “couldn’t stop dancing” and my heart couldn’t stop bursting with smiles and joy while watching their totally uninhibited freedom of motion – limbs flying, souls soaring.

When Seth was asked by a friend of mine: “Where did you get all your awesome moves?”, he replied, “I was born with them.” And truer words have never been spoken. Isn’t every one of us born with all the moves we need for the unbridled kind of dancing (and living), before the world with it’s systems and boxes and rules and institutions and lies dry them out and bind them up?

I am just so much HAPPY that their young bodies can still feel all the good moves they were born with and I pray so big to know how to nurture those moves so they don’t get dead and gone.

These videos are dark and blurry and bouncy, but they still might bring your heart some joy. Seth is wearing a green shirt with black vest and his best friend Eli is right there with him in his white shirt and black tie. The other boys are being crazy all around too. Enjoy! :)

 

I Am My Children’s Priest(ess)

It was the first thing I did when we started our at-home learning this year, I grabbed their three fledgling hearts and circled them with me on the living room rug and then my mama-body just had all these exhort-emotions lifting up from the soul and I spoke them strong and softly fierce-like over their growing heads—purposed Spirit-words that I don’t even exactly remember now, but truly carried the essence and flavor of inspiring these God-sons into becoming more of who they are. Next to all that, I felt some big, prophetic prayers pressing against my lips and for some reason it seemed like not even another molecule of a moment should pass by without me releasing my own children into greater understanding of who God is, releasing them into more authority as His sons to minister to the Kingdom while they make their paces on this earth.

Would you follow me today over to Deeper Family for the rest of this story? The ending is so sweet and the questions are good. :)

how to know your heart

("Will you take a picture of me with my arms like this?" Because that's how being in creation makes him feel.)

Let me tell you something about our boy, Gabriel. He harbors so much wilderness in his heart, it pours right over his aorta walls and floods through all his veins. I think he’s part feral beast. Everyday he eats the rustic and all-things-nature like it’s his final feast. This kid could live in the woods with nothing more then a hatchet and a bearskin and his fierce native cry. Dirt is his very favorite thing to wear and he actually swallows worms and grubs in preparation for any situation where he might need to “survive”. I’m not making this up and I try real hard not to twist my face in distaste whenever I’m told of his latest “food” consumption.

Gabe: “MOM! I just roasted three grubs and ate them!”

Mom: “You did what?!?! Oh, that is SO Gross!!! Grody!!! Blech!!! Disgusting!!! I just threw up in my mouth!!!!

Gabe: “Bear Grylls says they’re high in protein.”

Mom: ”Bear Grylls also drinks camel poo juice!!! Does that sound like someone who’s in their right mind? And that you should be taking advice from?!?!

Anyhew.

Gabriel has also been begging us for YEARS to move out to the country so he could have more space to roam and explore and chop deadwood and do other things boys like him do when *wild* hijacks their anatomy. His legs are scraped and bruised and gouged from bow to stern because he approaches the great outdoors at one speed: “CHARGE!!! FULL SPEED AHEAD!!! MAN DOWN!!! MAN DOWN!!! THE REST OF YOU REINFORCE THE BORDERS!!! WE’VE GOT THE ENEMY FLANKING FROM BOTH SIDES!!!”

I swear he acts like he’s always being filmed for some action/adventure movie.

I digress.

Yesterday he happened to be showing me all these wounds running full-length up and down his 10-year-old legs and explaining where each one came from: “I got this bruise when . . . My left knee was gouged on that rock at Mill River Park . . . This scrape on my thigh was from when I tripped over that fallen tree trunk . . .”  Around each limb he went, telling tales of his adventures and mishaps until he arrived to the last damaged spot and looked reflectively at me and said, “Hey Mama, my legs tell my story . . . don’t you think?

And that statement really gave me the mama-pause because I immediately felt like a teachable moment was presenting itself – not just for him, but for me as well and in slow, thought-out response I said this: ”Yes, Gabe, I think your legs do tell some of your story, of places you have already been and where your heart has left deposits on the earth. But more importantly, you can always look to your legs to tell you what your heart is doing right now because that is the direction your legs will take you. Do your legs take you to the wilds of nature? To the face of the poor? To adventures with your friends? Do your legs take you to a quiet corner in prayer? The direction your legs travel will always tell—more largely—the story of what’s happening in your deepest parts.”

So when this born-for-the-rural boy tells his legs to carry his heart to the dinner table and he sits down to address the family with all this purpose-fire floating off his skin, we dropped our forks and conversation for a good, intent listen . . . to hear how his overflowing heart would cause his mouth to speak.

And what came from his lips was a passion-full and firmly spoken expression: “I don’t want to move to the country anymore. We CAN’T move to the country. We have too much to do in this city, too many people to help and I want to be a part of it.”

With tears coming softly for what we were witnessing in real time . . . Austin and I realized then and there, that at some point—and of his very own volition—Gabe’s young-boy-legs had travelled his heart right up to the foot of the Cross where he took the blood-pumping flesh-muscle out of his chest and laid that bare thing down to die before Jesus, along with all his own well-supplied desires. And what he found was his TRUE self, resurrected in Christ.

That night when the kids were all tucked-up in their beds and Austin and I were debriefing on the couch, our parent-emotions were so overcome from what was just declared by our son. We couldn’t believe it and like a pull-string doll I kept saying over and over: “Honey, do you realize what we just witnessed? We saw our 10-year-old son die to himself and be resurrected in Christ. For the first time. My God.”

And I just used a lot of words to tell you about it. But, there really aren’t words.

Love,

Erika

{Linking with EMILY for IMPERFECT PROSE}

A Black Friday Reflection

Their small hearts are so big with compassion and generosity and I pray so good that I can fan to brighter flame the holy emotions that already flicker inside them . . .

Love is cross-stiched straight through little-boy, God-pumping aorta and when they get the World Vision Sustainable Gift Catalog in the mail, my little-flesh-shoots come whooping from the front-porch-postbox with manly excitement and all 3 fast-talkers are shouting over each other. They beg me again, this year, if we can bake cookies to sell so they have money to feed some hungry bellies for Christmas? A mama’s smile can’t get any bigger then mine that day. They have yet to ask me for any presents for themselves and what comes first in their minds? It humbles me right to the floor. —————————–>

The rest of these words can be found over at Deeper Story today . . . Join me?

Love,

Erika