Mamas On the Narrow Road

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“Self-control” seems to be the topic of the day around our house.

I’m constantly telling my kids: control your urge to talk back… control your urge to be selfish…control your urge to focus on what you don’t have, and instead focus on what you do have.

All the same while the words come out of my mouth to my kids, the same words come out of my Father’s mouth to me: Elisha, control your urge to fight back… control your urge to be impatient… control your urge to be fearful, to be offended, to be defeated.

I tell my kids, and my Father tells me: Control… control… control.

Self-control is a very rebellious quality these days, isn’t it? I mean, who needs self-control when our bad choices are labeled as ‘diseases’ or ‘addictions’ – and, if we have a ‘disease’ or an ‘addiction’, we, therefore, have no fault. And, if we really have no fault, our choices don’t really matter. And, if our choices don’t really matter, why should we care about self-control at all?

But I have no desire to raise children who are always looking for the ‘out’, or who don’t understand the power of choice. I want to raise kids the way my Father is raising me: with a spirit of love, and power and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7); to understand that every choice has a consequence; and, that pain comes from bad choices, and goodness comes from good choices.

Because the Truth of life is this: we can travel on the wide road, or the narrow road.

The wide road is easy to find – and it’s where we find lots of people to journey with. Everything is okay on the wide road… and, as one of my favorite songs says, “the crowd is quick to push [us] along”. The problem with the wide road, however, is that it leads to heartache. Why? Because the wide road doesn’t require anything from us! It requires no self-control, no discipline; there is no thoughtfulness, wisdom, or moral compass. We do what we want, how we want, according to our own ideas – and that means there is no ‘right’, there is no ‘wrong’, there is no ‘truth’, there is no ‘lie’.  It’s all about us and no one else on the wide road… and no one really knows where they’re going or the ‘right’ way to go because there is no ‘there’ to get to. (I know because I stumbled down this road for far to many years of my life…)

The narrow road, on the other hand, is hard to get to and even harder to navigate successfully. It requires everything from us. It requires we think before we step; it requires we be fully awake, alert, and prepared. It is vigorous, and it requires total dedication and attention. On the narrow road we must pay attention to the One in front of us calling us to follow, but be especially mindful of those that are behind us because they depend on our example to show them the way.  The narrow road requires we sweat, and work, and have a plan; it requires we endure, and persevere, and have a sober mind. Most importantly, the narrow road requires we have our mind set on our final destination because it is knowing where we’re going (and the joy we anticipate once we arrive) that makes the difficult journey worth the effort.

So, let’s all be rebels today, shall we? Let’s rebel from the wide road and CHOOSE to be mamas on a narrow road… mamas that are loving, and powerful, and who gloriously display our super-power of self-control in the midst of a culture (and our own human tendencies) that tells us to be otherwise. And, most importanly, let’s grasp JOY in our journey, in spite of how tough it can be (and, yes! God knows it can be tough), knowing there are little feet behind us traveling our same path and depending on us to lead them to L I F E.

 

Raise and Release, Part 2

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At the beginning of last school year, my 12 year old baby girl went off to outdoor school… and I thought I was going to break. Why? Because this ‘raise and release‘ thing we  do is emotionally overwhelming.

We raise them – teach them, comfort them, coach them, guide them, nag them, feed them, remind them, stand beside them, stand over them, love them, tuck them in, and wake them up. We pour all that we are into these little ones and then, before we know it, we are standing with them at the tip of a branch surveying the field of life and, even though we want to snuggle them close sheltered from the heartache, and fear, and discomfort, and mistakes that come with walking boldly through life, there is nothing more we can do but stand behind and watch as they fly.

Because that’s life, right? Every season of life brings new ‘work’ – a new flight into new territory… a little longer, a little farther. The work of facing fears – of taking chances, overcoming obstacles, of letting go of mama’s hand and grabbing for His instead. And, without the work, we stay stagnant, wimpy, and unusable for the greatness God calls us to.

So today, in spite of the pit in my stomach and my own deep seated fears of letting go, I did it to my girl again.The branch was a little higher, the view was a little vaster, but the process was the same: I signed her up for an adventure, walked her to the edge, stood behind her with our breaths almost as one, and I said, “Okay, girl, you can do this: fly”.

She was hesitant to jump and test the strength of her wings. We stood for some time in the church parking lot and quietly watched other campers arrive and mull around. I could tell she was nervous; she didn’t know anyone and felt totally out-of-place. The one person she recognized we approached and said hello to, but the girl and her mom quickly turned to other friends and left us to fend for ourselves in the sea of giggling girls and mamas.

(It’s hard not to feel rejected, whether you’re 12 or you’re 40. We all want to be loved. We want to be brought in to the laughs and the conversations. We want to be noticed, acknowledged, desired. We want to feel special – all of us do. And yet, there I was with my girl: face to face with real life. The lot was packed with moms and kids – yet, she and I were an island. No one spoke to us. No one noticed us. Moms and kids grouped up – hugging and chatting and laughing. My girl and I? Totally alone.)

As tears welled up in her eyes over the fear of four days away and not a friend in site, I felt her pain. I remember being 12 – awkward, unsure, out-of-place. (When I signed her up I thought for sure she’d know a girl or two, but with a church our size, I’m guess I’m not surprised she didn’t.) I cut the ice with some mama-talk: “Honey, I know exactly what you’re feeling. Here I am 40 years old and I feel a little anxiety in my stomach over not having a friend in site. But you know what? This is the kind of thing that makes us stronger! This is the type of situation God uses to pull us out of our comfort zone and grow us – and new friends are often part of that journey. I know God has something so great in store for you this weekend – and I know He has a perfect friend for you, too. You’ll see.”

“Mom, stop,” she muttered through clenched teeth as she leaned in closer to my side for protection.

All of a sudden I heard His still, small voice say: This is where the rubber meets the road, Elisha. This is where your girl needs to see how to fly by YOU flying first.

The whisper of encouragement made me stand a little taller and I decided to take command of the situation.

“Okay, let’s look for someone else who is alone and we’ll go make friends with them.”

“Mom, no.”

“Seriously, honey, look around. Who looks like they could use a friend?”

Seconds passed. Minutes passed. Not a word. Finally, I heard a peep:  “Fine, mom – how about her.”

I looked in the direction she was looking and about 10 feet from us I spotted fellow wanderers:  a darling girl and two ladies looking just as lost as we felt.  I put my arm around Selah and whispered under my breath, “Okay – don’t be so obvious, but let’s work our way over there.”

We walked towards the small group and around the backside of one of the ladies and still for about thirty seconds. (It would have embarrassed my girl way too much if I would have just walked to them looking desperate. So, I had to be cool – I had to be smooooooth.)

When I sensed a break in their conversation, I went to work.

I put my palm on the arm of the gal closest to me and she turned around. “Hi – I’m Elisha. Do you all go to church her or are you just here for the camp?” Selah was about 3 feet from me, body language screaming discomfort.

“Oh hi,” the sweet mama said. “Yes, we do attend here.”

We chatted for just a couple of minutes about the services we attend, etc, etc, and then I said, “Yeah, we were nervous when we showed up because we didn’t recognize anyone and everyone seemed paired up.”

“We thought the same thing, too,” the mama said with a lighthearted laugh.

“Well, this is my girl, Selah.”

“And this is my girl, Natalie.”

Selah and Natalie looked at each other, said little girl hellos, and I could feel it: in that instant fear has lost the fight for my baby girl’s wings. (Praise God!)

We continued to talk as the campers were rounded up. It turned out Natalie had forgotten a camp chair just like Selah, so the two girls were summoned to collect one from the church office. Off they went, chatting, smiling. Friends. They were instant friends.

Before we knew it the bus was being loaded and off  the two little birds went. Side by side on the bus, and mine totally embarrassed I was trying to take pictures through the window. But you know what? She was flying! She watched me fly before and then, with confidence, she jumped off, too… and how could I not try to snap a picture of her courage?!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for opportunities like today – opportunities that let my girl test her wings where it is safe, and where You are present. I pray your protection over her and all the campers this week. May Selah and her new friend enjoy each other’s company and may they come back stronger than they left us. Finally Lord, may we mamas never forget that our girls learn more by our example than our words, and may we – Your daughters – be women that exude kindness, gentleness, goodness, and love. Should by chance we ever feel insecure, or overlooked, or rejected, which I know You understand is common for us mamas sometimes, may we be reminded You call us by name – You call us Your Beloved; and, may we stand tall and shine brightly as your Love so the women you’ve entrusted us to raise stand tall and shine brightly as well. Thank you for loving us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

My Out-of-Character Purple Quinoa Soup

We’re officially into summer, but here in Oregon the rain hasn’t stopped. It’s been dreary – just a little chilly. So, last night I decided to make soup for my family to warm us up from the inside out.

I had a beautiful head of red cabbage that I sautéed with some garlic and onions and then simmered in chicken broth. I added cooked quinoa and I seasoned the soup with cinnamon, fennel, and bay leaves. I added a little fresh lemon zest, a dash of sea salt and pepper, and served it with some fresh diced cilantro over the top. It was hearty, chalk full of nutrients, and the flavor was absolutely divine!

The one thing I didn’t bank on, however, was that my beautiful cabbage would go crazy in the pot. As it simmered, my good intentioned meal went from a pot of deliciousness to a big lavender-colored stew. The more lavender it got, the more my stomach sank. Yes, it smelled amazing – and it tasted amazing… but let’s get serious: no matter how spectacular my intentions and the flavors were, it was purple soup.

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Even my man, who loves everything I cook, opened the pot and gave me a look like, “You serious?”

“It tastes amazing,” I said encouragingly. “I know it doesn’t look so great – but wait til you try it.”

I ladled it into bowls for everyone and, as the kids approached the table and saw servings of purple, I got one, then two, then three, “What is this?”

Again, I let out a little laugh (and a prayer they’d eat it since I had no backup plan) as I said, “You’ll love it – I promise!”

Long story short, my prayer was answered and everyone finished their dinner. Surprisingly, there was no complaining, no sounds of disgust – they just ate. Their eyes were half closed with every bite – but they ate nonetheless. (My man even went back for seconds.) Then, as they left the dinner table satisfied, and warm, and full up on nutrients, I even heard, “Gosh, mom, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.”

But, can I tell you something?

I was absolutely shocked they ate that soup. S.H.O.C.K.E.D. It was the ugliest bowl of soup I’ve ever consumed in my 40 years of life – and, hands down, it was the ugliest meal I’ve ever put in front of my family in all the years I’ve cooked for them. Maybe it’s just me – or us… but purple is not meant for soup. Purple is meant for hydrangeas, or skittles, or a snazzy handbag that gives a pop of color to a boring outfit. But soup? No thanks.

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So, what gives then? How is it that my family got past the ugly flag that soup was waving and managed to discover it really was tasty?

I am convinced my family got past the ‘ugly’ because they know my ‘cooking character’. They enjoy my cooking night after night. They see the groceries I bring home; they know the flavors I play with; they’ve grown to trust how I put ingredients together; and, they are confident I cook, not to punish them, but to satisfy and nourish them with all things good. They’ve seen my ‘cooking character’ in the kitchen so regularly that, in spite of this total bomb, they knew they could trust I would never in a million years serve something that tasted disgusting… and that meant they simply ignored the ugly flag and dug right in.

With all that said, I turned off the kitchen lights last night with this quote floating through my mind:

My soup? It spoke really, really bad of me last night. Thankfully, though, I’ve lived out enough love in my kitchen that no one believed it to be true.