Parenting Pep-Talk

The sting of the slam signaled my words cut deep.  I had again said the wrong thing to my 21year old daughter, Jessica, and she was upset. What was meant as a helpful correction came across as a nit-picky insult.

(photo credit: Margo Design Studios)

I have to say… I was not prepared for the incredible pain of releasing Jess to grow up.  The last two decades have been an all-consuming focus on preparing her, praying for her, and protecting her and NOW… I have to find the ability to truly let go of her

No words.

(Well.  I actually DO have words because what’s a blog without words?!)

I quickly knelt down and asked God for help, praying Psalm 139:23-24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I don’t want you to think I’m this super-spiritual-always-praying- or-always-in-church person, BUT… I really do understand my need for Jesus. Many times, for me, life boils down to this statement:

Life is hard AND God is incredible. He’s my hope, my strength, my comfort.

In the quiet of the moment, God nailed me. I was so quick to bring up her words, tone of voice and attitudes but was not dealing with those same issues in my life.

It was a classic case of Matthew 7:3-4 (NLT)

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s (daughter’s) eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend (daughter!), ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ …when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”

It was a humbling realization.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this topic of parenting adult children, and I keep coming back to analyzing Ephesians 6:3

“… do not exasperate your children (provoke them to anger); instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The word “instead” packs a punch.

Instead of controlling my kids, I can be an example to them… a mentor.

Instead of demanding— provide clear boundaries.

Instead of “guilting” them into doing something—ask questions and guide them.

Jessica often says I remind her of Phoebe on the show Friends. I thought this was a compliment until I watched a few episodes and it became clear Phoebe strategically uses guilt-inflicting comments to let her friends know they’ve disappointed her.

Message received loud and clear.

In those moments as I prayed for Jess, I knew I needed to respond— to find a positive way to reach out to her and build our relationship. I decided to write a letter, a one-sided conversation where I could tell her how much I love her and how proud I am of her— where I could write my apology and express what God is doing in my own life.

If you’ve followed my blog at all this past year, it should not surprise you when I say… as I was halfway through writing the letter, my song came on … No Longer a Slave to Fear. It’s God’s love song to me, and he keeps using it almost weekly, to encourage me. I definitely felt the warmth of his approval.

I left the letter on the kitchen counter as Eddie and I prepared to leave. We were heading to dinner to celebrate his birthday. On a whim, we decided to run away from home and stay the night in Monterey. Sometimes the parents of adult children need time and space, making sure their relationship is strong. After all, it won’t be too many years before it’s back to the original two—Ed and I.

Are you currently parenting an adult child? Do you have older children living in your home? Any tips, thoughts, strategies or book recommendations you could share?

As for me, my focus is to work on being a better wife and mom, and my ultimate goal…

to be a better friend than Phoebe ever was in ten seasons!  Hah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Keys to a Happy Family…Literally

I could not silence the incessant beeping coming from my minivan.  One of the electric doors would not slide into place and the noise was escalating the whole drama of me, already running a few minutes late.

It was EARLY Sunday morning and I was scheduled to play keys on the worship team at church.  (That’s cool band talk for keyboard.)  I had no choice but to wake up Eddie.  Graciously (and groggily I might add) he came out to the garage and body-slammed the van door until the beeping stopped.

I have to pause here and say:  Eddie is ALWAYS willing to help no matter how inconvenient it is for him.  Me— not so much.  I roll my eyes, sigh and even stomp toward whoever needs me.

Super dramatic!

Ed comes to the rescue the minute he is needed and never complains.  I mean, here he was, standing in the cold garage on this rainy morning in his boxers and a t-shirt, no contacts…beating on my car.

I took off down our steep driveway and as I rounded the first curve a loud beeping announced that the door was sliding OPEN! I zipped back up the hill and Eddie again beat on the door until it fully closed.  This time I locked it and Ed felt confident I would make it to church without it sliding open.

Same corner.  Same result.

I quickly made the decision to commandeer Jessica’s car.  This was a bold move on my part because she really needed her car to get to work in a couple hours.  I drove away leaving Eddie to figure out how to get Jessica to work and the rest of the family to church.

Band practice and the first church service went really well.  As I got set-up at the keyboard for the second service, I made eye contact with Cory and was happy to see he was sitting where it would be easy for me to join him.  I knew Ed was taking Olivia to her class and would appear soon.  Jess had driven Cory’s truck to work AFTER Ed made an early morning trip to the gas station.  (Cory always runs on fumes!)

The music was beautiful that morning.  I kept trying to glance at Cory and Eddie without being too obvious, but, for some reason, was unable to spot them in the crowd.  I waited until there was a break in the action (a.k.a. “greeting time”) and scanned the room, but they were nowhere to be found.

Hmmm.  Very strange.

We finished the last song of the worship set, and quietly headed for the door at the back of the stage.  Imagine my surprise as Cory was the first person I saw.

“What are you doing back here?” I asked.

“Mom!  Where are Jessica’s keys?  We’ve been looking everywhere for them in the music room.”

He went on to explain how Jessica arrived at work and was unable to unlock the door because… I not only had her car keys, I also had her work keys! She was standing in the rain with customers, waiting for Cory to bring them to her.

Oops!

Cory and Eddie had been searching every nook and cranny trying to find where I stashed my purse during church.  Little did they know— I hide my purse on stage because of people like them: YOU NEVER KNOW WHO MIGHT BE RUMMAGING THROUGH STUFF BACK THERE! Hah!

I’d like to say this is an out of the ordinary day in our lives, but… no can do.

Life is crazy, hectic, busy, full and packed with every emotion you can possibly think of.  We have hard days as a family, filled with big struggles and on-edge emotions that takes everything in us to get through.  But that’s just it:  Jesus is in us and He’s the reason we can love one another and make it through challenging times.

(And silly, inconvenient times like car doors sliding open while driving and needed keys hidden on a church stage).

This verse is the key to getting along with others and, for me, it starts with my family; they are the ones seeing the real me.

Ephesians 4:2-3  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I am not humble (eye rolls, sighs, stomps) yet alone, COMPLETELY humble.  What does that even mean??  And my words have a natural “snap” to them rather than a gentle caress.  Let’s don’t even venture in to the next phrase of being patient!

Luckily, Jesus is so patient and COMPLETELY gentle with me (and I know exactly what that means).

More than anything, I want each member of my family to be growing in their faith and know how much they are loved by Jesus.  THAT is literally the key to a happy family.

And… it wouldn’t hurt to COMPLETELY upgrade the old minivan!

Just sayin’!

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat After Me

I have to interrupt the unfolding of my details to talk about today. I have several doctor appointments and tests from the last three weeks I want to mention, but…

TODAY!!

Sometimes God just presses the pause button on life to make sure WE know HE is with us.

My family and I went to church this morning. I’d like to tell you we walked in beaming with the love of God and each other, but that doesn’t accurately describe the Sunday morning get-out-the-door ritual. I mean, we absolutely love God and each other, but the trek from the car to the building is where we regain our composure and put on our happy, church-going-family face. Let’s just say the home departure included excessive honking, snappy comments and a touch of over-acceleration. But we made it and sat in what is becoming our usual spot.

It was a great service.  At the very end, the worship team came back to lead in a closing song. I didn’t recognize the song from the opening chords, but when they started singing the words:

You unravel me

With a melody

You surround me with a song

Of deliverance

From my enemies

Til all my fears are gone

I’M NO LONGER A SLAVE TO FEAR

I am a child of God

They were singing my song!!

The song I linked to on my last post.

I jabbed Eddie in the leg. I had played the song for him the night before and narrated how I felt about each part of it. The moment felt like it was God’s personal message to ME.  As if a spotlight was shining down and He had asked these hundreds of people to sing MY proclamation back to ME.

I HAD to stand and just soak it all in.  Others were feeling the same way and pockets of people were beginning to respond all over the room.

I love the declarations at the end of the song when the singer almost screams,

“I AM a child of God.”

And my very favorite line is when she sings-screams…

“FULL OF FAITH.”

So….

Repeat after me:

God is always good.

And I am always loved.

I AM a child of God.

FULL OF FAITH.

No longer a slave to fear.

And in case you missed it, here’s God’s personal message to you:

Step into the spotlight and let Him love you.

 

 

 

 

My Disneyland Trip (Part 2)

Cradling my injured arm, we slowly made our way through the castle into Fantasyland.  Eddie gingerly led me to a brick wall where I could sit and evaluate the damage.  Meanwhile, he placed the three kids in line for Peter Pan, leaving Jess in charge.

I could not stop crying from the pain and the realization that I had potentially ruined our vacation.  “Who falls at Disneyland?  What is wrong with me?” I wailed at Eddie.  My arm was almost entirely immobile.  We weighed our options.  I could have it checked at the Disney first aid office, where I was sure they would send me to the hospital.  Or… I could go directly to the hospital where it would take hours, and our day would be shot.  OR… I could just tough it out, staying at Disneyland as planned.

I insisted on the latter.  I positioned my arm as if it was in an imaginary sling.  Our pace slowed WAY down.  We STROLLED through the park, appreciating each sure step, often yielding to others.  If Olivia wanted a picture with a character, we stopped.  If Jessica and Cory indicated interest in a ride or attraction, we did it.  Throughout the day I downed a lot of Advil, spending much time patiently waiting for the others.  My aggression had been completely subdued.

Upon returning to the hotel, I decided to call my friend who is somewhat connected to the medical field.  Well, okay… her mom, sister and brother are all nurses, AND her closest friend is a science teacher!  What more could you want?  As we talked, we determined that I had not broken anything.  It had to be a soft tissue injury.  That was reassuring to me.  I felt I could finish out our trip, relying on Advil and ice to get me through.

To add insult to injury, it was my right arm and shoulder that took the brunt of my fall.  Being right-handed, this left me quite handicapped to perform even the most mundane, simplest tasks.  Changing my clothes proved to be the most difficult challenge.  Painful!  Brushing my teeth, blow-drying my hair, eating – anything that involved raising my right arm the tiniest fraction of an inch, brought unbearable pain.

Back from vacation, I daily analyzed if I should call the doctor.  Many people told me that I could possibly improve with time, however, after three weeks of NO improvement, I FINALLY made the appointment.  My rotator cuff was damaged.  I was to start physical therapy, with surgery as a back-up plan if I did not respond to treatment.  The good news was I already knew an excellent PT who had recently seen Ed, Jessica and Cory (THAT story is for another blog).

As I arrived for the first appointment, the teasing was in full swing in regards to yet another Margo coming through the door.  I humbly shared the story of my “accident”, giving everyone permission to tease me about it.  THEN, it became really comical when I had to explain my previous “injury” to the same arm due to ABS… that is… Angry Birds Syndrome (refer to my blog post, “Birds”).  I must admit, it would be nice to have more honorable injuries!

Slowly my arm has responded to therapy, with surgery no longer part of the discussion.  It has been over 3 months since the infamous castle belly flop, and I am still not a hundred percent recovered.  Recently, I read a quote by Beth Moore which said, “Better to be broken than to snap.”  God seems to be taking me on little practice runs of brokenness.  He is teaching me to yield to Him in every area of life.  I must be a reluctant learner because the “opportunities” just keep coming.

There are three short verse in I Thessalonians 5 in which God gives three keys to successfully living through or with brokenness:

Verse 16   “Be joyful always.”  (that’s the WHOLE verse)

Verse 17   “Pray continually.”  (Whole verse, again)

Verse 18   “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I have to simultaneously do all three because I cannot have joy unless I pray, which leads to giving thanks which is ultimately an expression of my faith.  I trust God with everything – especially my broken parts… whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, had a great quote in his book “Finding Home.”  He stated, “The purpose of pain is often to develop our character, yet we run from it because… pain is the gift that nobody wants.  I love that!

“Lord, please break me before I snap.  Use the gift of pain to grow deep spiritual roots in my life.  I will be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.  Oh… and one more thing… while I know that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, maybe we can do these life lessons in joy somewhere else… Just a thought…!!!   I love you Lord!!

My Disneyland Trip (Part One)

The lines were incredibly long to enter the park.  It was our second day at Disneyland, and the crowd had doubled in size.  Why was everyone here on a Monday?!  I began weaving my family in and out of position to have the best advantage.  Strollers were everywhere, along with all kinds of motorized contraptions for those needing mobility assistance.

I had a plan:  once through the gates, make a bee-line for Fantasyland, specifically, the Peter Pan ride.  Beat the crowds and check it off the list!  I relayed the strategy to my troops.  We were on a mission, and they had their marching orders.

We were in.  Scanning the mob, I gave the command, “Go to the right and stay focused!  Walk fast!”  Goofy was signing autographs off to the side of the Main Street loop, catching 5-year-old Olivia’s attention.  “Not now.  We can look for him later.  Keep moving!”  Main Street was shoulder-to-shoulder people with the horse-drawn cable-like-cars honking their way through the masses.

The tension in me was mounting.  The happiest place on earth was quickly becoming the most stressful place on earth.  I was painstakingly keeping step with my 15-year-old daughter, Jessica… zig-zagging our way through the multitude.  My aggression was now leading to some mouthy comments, as I began to mock the funny, buggy characteristics of those we were zooming past.

As Main Street widened to the circular plaza, the crowd thinned out.  My intensity, however, continued to escalate, realizing we were in the lead of this imaginary race to Peter Pan.  Approaching the castle, my stride was almost to a jog.  As Ed wheeled Olivia over to the castle walkway flattened out for strollers… Jess, Cory and I took the more direct route.  A simple curb stood between me and the home-stretch.

In my haste, the toe of my bright pink Columbia shoe caught the top of the curb.  Not to be overly dramatic, but time stood still as my mind contemplated the inevitable.  I was going down.

Falling as an adult has to be one of the most embarrassing events that can happen.  Suspended in mid-air, I was actually thinking about this.  Who would notice?  How quickly could I get up?  Would a crowd surround me?  Laughter?  Pain?  “Stop daydreaming and save yourself,” was the next thought screaming through my brain.  No such luck.

Hard doesn’t even begin to describe my fall.  I hit the pavement and LITERALLY bounced three times.  It was an ugly series of belly flops in front of this most beautiful castle.  Wow.  Really?? … I REALLY just did that?? … Yep!!

My family gawked at me.  Stunned.  Mom fell.

Eddie quickly raced over to help.  The way I landed, he expected my face to be covered in blood.

Caring more about my dignity than the excruciating pain, I hopped to my feet.  Looking into Eddie’s eyes I lamented, “My shoulder is busted.  I know I’m going to need surgery involving pins and screws.  I can’t move it.”

Mission aborted.

I Thessalonians 5:16  “Be joyful always.”

(to be continued…)

Neno (Part 2)

Today is the one-month anniversary of my father-in-law joining Jesus in heaven.  The whole family has spent time reflecting on his life, what he meant to each one.  His memorial service was a beautiful tribute, with many sharing their favorite memories.  I did not speak that day, so I now want to take my turn to tell you what I will miss, what I loved, and what he meant to me.  Psalm 10:7  “We all have happy memories of good men gone to their reward.”

My earliest memory goes way back to when I was in grade school.  Bonnie, my mother-in-law, was my fifth grade Sunday school teacher.  She had several of us over for lunch after church.  At one point during the meal, “Mr. Margo” was teasing us, and pulled out a $100 bill from his wallet (for the life of me- I can’t remember why).  I had never seen one before, so I was completely impressed.  That makes my first memory of him one where I thought he was kind, funny and … rich!  Hah!

When I married Ed, he and his dad built house together.  His dad taught him how to always work hard.  In fact, I have never seen two people work as intensely or as fast.  For twenty years they labored together, with Eddie considering his dad his best friend.

My favorite part of their working relationship was the “family-insider-information” we were privy to.  Neno would often share with Ed all the latest happenings with the other seven brothers and sisters.  These updates would be followed by, “Don’t tell your mom I told you.”  Each night (and I literally mean “each”) as Eddie came through the door I would ask, “What did your dad say today?”  We had quite an effective information network established.

Neno called me “Margo.”  I loved that.  He always greeted me with a shy, sweet smile- offering to make me some coffee.  I felt like I was his favorite and that he loved my kids the best.  What a surprise to find out at his funeral that everyone in the family felt the same way.  Goes to show you how remarkable he was!

Eddie and I had the privilege of being in Hawaii with his mom and dad about a decade ago.  Ed’s mom really loved the snorkeling- spending hours in the ocean going out quite a distance.  Well… we were in a souvenir shop when we saw on a coffee mug that Bonnie’s name in Hawaiian was “Poni.”  Neno nicknamed her “Snorki-Poni” … which brought a contagious giggle to all of us over the next few years.

Eddie viewed his dad as the most discerning person he knew.  Pretty much every major decision we faced (okay… the minor ones too) Ed would discuss with his dad.  We admired his wisdom, relying on his counsel.  Recently, we have had some upsetting road issues on our property to deal with.  Both of us have missed having our favorite advisor around to offer encouragement.

Life does march on, but our hearts tend to want to stand still… remembering those who have left us.  I am very much comforted with the thought that Neno has found my mom in heaven- putting that incredible information network back in motion.  I smile, picturing him updating her with stories about my children she never got to meet.  Stories of Jessica’s strong convictions, Cory’s laid back personality and Olivia’s affectionate ways.  Perhaps he will tell her of my similar struggle with cancer, but how God chose to bring me victoriously through it.  I find myself being envious of the “no-more-sorrow, walking with Jesus” type of eternal life they are both enjoying.

As the old hymn enthusiastically declares:

“When we all get to heaven,

What a day of rejoicing that will be.

When we all see Jesus… (and Neno, and my mom, Devona, and… ______)

We’ll sing and shout the victory!!!

Dog House

“Mom, your hair is the most unusual color.  I really can’t describe it.  Almost like the color of a chocolate lab,” pronounced Jessica.

“More like an Irish setter,” mumbled Ed while taking a bite of his dinner, not even looking up.  The kids burst into laughter as I sat staring at my usually agreeable husband, wondering why I kept getting such sarcastic comments from him about my hair.

I was on to the next experimental hair color.  It was now a dark red – well, I guess you might say, an “Irish setter, chocolate lab” kind of red – according to my family.  The platinum blonde lasted a little over two months, and now I was ready for a change.

I was embracing the return of my missed follicles… enjoying the chance to try any and every thing I wanted.  Now was my opportunity to put myself out there, play around with color and style.  Mind you, there still was very little hair to amuse myself with, but I was making the most of it.  Eddie, however, seemed to be growing in his frustration with my hair antics.  He was not entertained to say the least.

As we finished dinner, I knew a conversation would have to take place that evening.  Baffled does not even begin to describe my feelings.  Eddie had been the model of support during all my surgeries and treatments.  Almost daily he would tell me how beautiful I was during my months of baldness.  He had now taken on an attitude of silence with a few choice comments thrown in.

Talking with Ed later that night was an eye-opener for both of us.  We each had some “stuff” that needed to be expressed.  After all we had been through, it was hard to find our new normal.  Cancer had been a huge interruption in our lives.  Ed was ready to pick up where we had left off, which included growing my hair back long, blonde.  I wanted to make sure I did not just return to the old me on the outside or the inside.

Philippians 1:6 affirms… “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I asked Ed to be patient with me as I found my way.  Pushing the envelope with my physical appearance seemed to keep me sharp, aware that a change had taken place spiritually too.  For me, there was no rush to get things as they were before cancer.  The intimacy in which Christ had ministered to me during my illness was priceless, and I wanted to nurture it, keep the spiritual momentum going.

Assuring Ed that my wackiness would eventually land, he gave me his blessing to do what I needed to do.  Christ really had begun a good, new work in me which I desperately did not want to cut short (no pun intended…).

God is amazing.  His love for us, for me, is remarkable.  He has a way of using adverse circumstances to forever change us.  Philippians 1:18-19b says this:  “…because of this I rejoice.  Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”

Chemo Card

My emotions were brimming over as we walked through the entrance to the happiest place on earth.  I was on the brink of one of those hysterical, out of control cries of rejoicing.  We were here.  We had set our sights on the magic kingdom as a point of celebration.  Disneyland with my family was where I wanted to go when chemotherapy was all over.

It had been a difficult summer and fall.  Eddie and I had tried to find many ways to laugh and just lighten the load.  He had accused me many times of “playing the chemo card,” to get my way.  It seemed to be working for me!  Part of my “playing the chemo card” was in getting what I call “chemo prizes.”  These were several significant gifts from Ed, beginning with an iphone at the start of my treatment.  In fact a friend of mine very wisely stated that I should receive six chemo prizes since I had to have six chemo treatments.

Disneyland was my fourth chemo prize.  I wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time, and have a memorable family vacation.  We all needed something to look forward to in order to make the ending of a very long season.  Life is hard and when there is reason to celebrate we should seize those moments.

Esther 8:16 says, “…it was a time of happiness, joy, gladness and honor.” Our trip was all that and more.  We had a great time together.  Everyone enjoyed the rides, shows, parade, fireworks and especially the snow.  It was life-giving to getaway, realizing all we had made it through.  God had been with each one of us in a very real and special way.

Psalm 40:1-3  “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

As I walked around the amusement park all week wearing my “I’m celebrating” button, it truly was a happy occasion.  Lots of laughter accompanied us.  This was a wonderful chemo prize!  And… if I play my (chemo) cards just right, I still have two more prizes to go.  Watch out, Eddie!

(This event took place Dec. 2009)