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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking with Friends Through Cancer

It’s my friend’s birthday today and I just keep thinking about her and all she did for me 8 years ago as I walked through scary times with a cancer diagnosis. This is one story that made me smile in the middle of facing my biggest fear.

(summer 2009)

My friend had her blinker on, ready to pull in to a prime parking spot when all of a sudden, a man jumped into the space saying, “We’ve been waiting a long time to park here.”

Where did HE come from?

It was all very odd and, frankly…a bit maddening! The beach was humming and parking spots were hard to come by.

My friend rolled down her window and took me by complete surprise as I heard her shout, “Oh FINE. I’ll just keep driving around my friend who has cancer and is going through CHEMOTHERAPY!”

Our new foe quickly answered back, “Well.  MY friend only has ONE leg!”

It was just the comic relief I needed.  I could not stop laughing at the outrageousness of the exchange I was witnessing. Two people determined to look out for their suffering friends.

It was my first week of chemo and my friend was making sure I was being taken care of.  She had gone with me to get my hair cut super short in anticipation of it all falling out in the next couple of weeks. We had gone out for lunch at a local deli and now wanted to walk on the beach.

Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

What a beautiful Biblical promise! As we purposefully pour our lives into others, God fills US up.

Humility is a fascinating concept. On the one hand, you have to humble yourself to accept help from others. It is very hard to admit you need this assistance. One definition says, “Acknowledging that achievement results from the investment of others in my life.”

Likewise…if you are the one helping someone, you are also showing humility in that you’re putting aside your own interests, schedules and plans for the sake of another.

It’s two sides of the same coin that Christ uses to keep us from pride.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

It was a wonderful day with my friend.  After we circled the parking lot a few times, a spot finally opened up for us RIGHT next to the man we had just encountered. We pulled in and humbly unloaded our things. And…

yes… his friend really DID have only one leg!

 

 

 

Mexican Food

My doctor had ordered an ultrasound as the next test following the CT scan, to collect more information. In medical terms, it is a sigmoidoscopy, which is a fancy way of saying rectal ultrasound.

Now you understand why I am choosing to simply say… ultrasound.

This particular test had to be done at Stanford and required a liquid fast the night before (as well as some other unpleasant prep instructions, of which I will spare you the details).

The afternoon before the ultrasound was super busy, and I missed my last opportunity to eat something, which was okay, sad— but okay. That evening I was attending the recital of our good friend Jack Wilkins. I JUST have to mention his name because one day he WILL be famous and remember, you heard about him here first! Hah!

But seriously… he’s an amazing vocalist!

Following his performance, there was a celebration including an all out taco bar. I couldn’t believe it.

I was so hungry.

I missed my last chance to eat.

And… MEXICAN FOOD!

Realizing it would be in my best interest to slip away, I went to find Jessica to let her know I was leaving. Of course, I found her in the food line with two other friends who in unison said, “Why aren’t you eating?” Talk about adding insult to injury! How could they not remember my plight?!

I waited a few seconds for it to click, and simply said (as I tried not to stare at their heaping plates of food), “I could make you feel really bad right now.”

Still nothing.

“Guys. I can’t eat tonight, remember?” They felt sorry for me- which always helps- and I made a quick, silent exit leaving everyone to enjoy their food without me hanging around pouting.

It was a long night of drinking super yucky stuff and no sleep. At one point Eddie took a sip of the yucky stuff and reported, “That’s not so bad.” I wanted to slap him. A sip is one thing, 32 ounces is quite another!

We left for Stanford the next morning, allowing 2 ½ hours to get there and park.  I was hoping the extra time would encourage Ed to drive the infamous highway 17 at a slower pace.

Didn’t happen. We arrived in record time!

Walking toward the hospital we passed a lady who looked familiar. I took a few more steps passed her, and then it hit me. Calling out her name, she stopped and we had a moment to catch up. She was undergoing quite a few tests and the doctors had no explanations to offer. My heart went out to her and I promised to pray.

After checking in, we were in the waiting room when my referring doctor from Santa Cruz came out to say hi. It was great to see him, and he was super reassuring.  This is the same doctor who, 5 years earlier, had broken the hospital rules and wheeled me out of recovery without permission— with a nurse hollering after him, “You can’t do that!” He had even swung by the staff lounge and loaded me up with all kinds of snacks before delivering me—wheelchair, snacks and all—to my get-away car.

The procedure was fairly uneventful and I was ready to go home. Ed, however, was nowhere to be found. The nurse finally reached him after several attempts, and hanging up the phone said to me in an asking-sort-of-way, “He’s visiting someone in the hospital?”

I had no idea who that could possibly be. He had not mentioned anyone.

Finally, he showed up and began telling the story of sitting outside eating a salad when he saw our good friend, Judy, walking by. Pastor Ray, her husband, was a patient and Ed had a chance to see him and hear what was happening in his life.

It would now be a waiting game for me until my doctor could analyze the two tests.

Earlier that morning I had received an email from my good friend, Rhonda, who is someone I totally admire.  She said a lot of amazing things, and ended it with this encouragement:

Jesus says, “I am the restorer of all things you feel like you’ve lost.”

I have faced some big losses in my life (my mom’s early death, infertility, cancer), but through all of them and even BECAUSE of them, God has restored my faith more than anything.

I Peter 1:1 says, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”

THAT is what has been restored to me.  A precious faith.

My emotions still swing all over the place, but bottom line…

I trust Him.

It’s a precious faith I have received.

And, speaking of things being restored…guess where we stopped to eat on our way home from Stanford that day.

Chevy’s.

As in… Fresh Mex.

Mexican Food!!

“The restorer of all things you feel like you’ve lost.” Hah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!

Baby Steps

My mouth was literally gaping open as my friend Rhonda began to share her recent spiritual journey.  “I fasted for 21 days.  Trust me, don’t be impressed,” she humbly exclaimed while encouraging a group of us who absolutely adore her.  I felt like a spiritual loser.

Why have I never pursued the spiritual discipline of fasting?   I’ve heard others speak of it as their “life-line” to spiritual growth.  Can I really not give up food for even a couple of hours to be closer to God?  I have faced insurmountable crises in my life, yet fasting has not been my method of choice in walking through difficult times.   Funny thing is, I actually taught a ladies’ Bible study session on fasting, which demonstrates that I have all the head knowledge, just no practical experience.

Well… completely drenched in conviction after Rhonda shared her fasting story and subsequent victories, I made the decision to start fasting.  This is going to sound pitiful, but my first commitment was to not eat until 10:30…  a.m. that is.  I know, I know… most of you do that without labeling it a fast.  For me, it was that initial step of giving God my attention, choosing Him over my favorite breakfast foods.  The next week, I set 11:00 (still a.m.) as my goal, followed by noon the next week.

God was nudging me along, ministering to me in my baby steps of faith.  My heightened sensitivity of His presence was an amazing thing.  On my fasting days (okay… partial days) I would be very teary-eyed with an awareness of God’s deep love for me.  Singing my prayers to Him, I knew God was near and probably smiling (possibly trying to stifle a laugh) at my new effort to be closer to Him.

James 4:8  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  After several weeks, I began thoroughly anticipating the day I would fast, adding the extra half hour.  My hunger for God was increasing.  I must confess that I am not a “fasting purist” – whatever that means.  Coffee, diet coke, chocolate milk – all are “legal” in my new venture.  When I shared this with a couple of friends, they reprimanded me, temporarily snatching the joy from my victory.  However, one quick call to Rhonda and I was up and running again.  She released me, saying, “Hey, if it can fit through a straw, you’re fine.  It’s between you and God.”

So… currently I am up to 6:00 (p.m. that is)!  My baby steps have been wonderful, hard, awesome, trying… all of it.  BUT, they have slowly and steadily brought me closer to Jesus, which is where I long to be.  In the words of my profound friend, “Don’t be impressed.”  While it’s not 21 days, it’s getting awfully close to 21 hours.   Okay… Be Impressed!!

 

This Little Piggy

Jessica was leaving the livestock scale, walking back toward the pigpens. As she approached, I was trying to decipher the look on her face. Sadly, her eyes met mine as she reported, “270 pounds.” It was officially devastating.

It had been a fun-filled day getting to this point with some of our favorite friends. My children, Jessica and Cory, had raised hogs for 4H. We had laughed our way through the morning – not only packing up ourselves- but driving house to house loading up the eight pigs that would be entered in the fair.

Getting pigs to cooperate in any way, shape or form- let alone walk straight into the back of a trailer- can prove to be very entertaining.  One of our friend’s hogs put on quite a show as it charged back and forth escaping our grasp.  We chuckled while chasing it, redirecting it back to the goal.

The kids had worked hard over the last four months preparing for this day.  Pigs have to weigh between 200-260 pounds to qualify for this fair.  Mind you, they can gain 20 pounds a week and lose 10 pounds a day if under stress.  It is rather a game to get them to the target weight.

Eddie had really researched the best approach to take, talking to many friends and experts in the field.  Jessica’s pig seemed to be right on schedule.  The last month as her pig started to climb rapidly in pounds, she- along with Ed- made the needed adjustments to be sure the animal would not be too big.

We weighed her pig, Kevin, at home before leaving for the fair.  He weighed 270, ten too much.  Eddie tentatively felt it would be okay.  Everyone had assured us that the hogs would drop 10-15 pounds traveling the hour to the event.

Kevin did not drop an ounce.  We were completely baffled, especially after hearing how another pig in our group lost 30 lbs. over the last twenty-four hours.

A few of us gathered around Jess, offering comfort as best we could.  Not only would her hog have to leave the swine barn immediately, she would not be allowed to participate in all the planned activities.  There were to be two days of different showmanship events, concluding with an auction on the third day- which is the most anticipated time of the week.  AND… to top it all off… it was Jessica’s birthday!

As all the ramifications began to hit me, especially the one of not being able to sell the pig- I noticed a friend of Jessica’s making her way over.  Bridgett is a wonderful young lady who has experienced having a pig not make weight.  She approached Jessica and said the most profound words… “Well, Jess, it’s all part of the journey.”

That struck a chord in me as I began to make all kinds of spiritual and practical applications.  We are all on a journey where the only thing we can actually control is our response to it- our attitude and our faith.  Bridgett was encouraging Jess to embrace the adventure, hang on and see what happens.

Jessica had some options with how to respond.  She possibly could blame her dad, questioning his methods or she could choose to trust that Eddie would work this out.  Also, she was now stuck at the fair for the next five days with no pig to show, watching her friends participate in everything she would miss.  Depression or poutiness could easily be a natural response.

Isn’t it the same with us when our journey takes us to an unexpected place?  Questioning God.  Blaming God.  Becoming depressed.  Angry.  With each twist in the road there is opportunity to express faith in our Heavenly Father.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  That is the ultimate verse on faith.  God plans to give us hope and a future.  How much do we trust Him when it appears things are not working out?  Do we believe what the verse says?  God knows the plan.  All we need to know is that He knows.  He knows the plan, the journey.

So… while it is “all part of the journey,” – it is really all about HOW we journey.  HOW are you doing?

And… just to tell you the rest of the story…   Jessica’s attitude was exceptional.  She cheered on her friends, even stating that she was glad it happened to her and not to Cory.  A few times she acknowledged she felt sad, but she knew that her dad would work something out.

Eddie did find a buyer for “Kevin.”  It was somewhat miraculous in that the buyer was willing to pay a good price for the pig, which meant Jess actually made a nice profit.  Makes me think of the “all things work together for good” verse!