Monday, June 28, 2010

My sweet 16 year old

Another year has flown by and today my young man is old enough to drive.  Unfortunately we haven't completed the behind-the-wheel training so he won't be hitting the road on his own but soon enough he will be taking that test and reaching an important milestone in the road to adulthood and independence. 

Do I have mixed feelings about it?  I know I should tell you I do.  I should go on and on about how sad it is that my baby boy is gone and I am loosing Jake to his friends and the many activities of his youthful life.  And, yes, some days I am sad that he is growing up and my little boy is gone forever, but mostly I rejoice in his growing up.

I love having a teenager, and not a freshly minted teenager but a half way through the teen years teenager.  I love watching the independence develop in him.  I love seeing the choices he is making.  Some good choices, some not as good choices.  Some choices that he has no clue about but has seriously dumb luck with.

The first part of the teen years seemed to be all about knowing the right choices to make.  He knew in jr high that he would have to get good grades, he knew he wanted to continue to grow in his faith, he knew he wanted to be an Eagle Scout, he knew he wanted to make sexual pure choices with his girlfriend, etc, etc. 

It is pretty easy to make all the right choices when you live in a fairly controlled environment with few choices and little temptation.  He made the right choices because he had very few other options.  But as the teen years have gone by we seem to be entering the next phase, making those same right choices when faced with conflicts and temptations. 

It is an exciting phase.  I never tire of talking about sex with Jake and now I get to occasionally bring it up with his girlfriend as well.  Fun, fun, fun.  We have been talking about priorities for years but now he is actually faced with making decisions based on priorities.  Much harder in practice than in concept.  The parenting plan remains the same...communication.  Knowing what is going on in his life and talking through the choices, making sure he is thinking clearly and giving him direction when necessary.  Speaking to his heart and helping him to see how choices today affect his whole life.  Leading him to the Truth and sending him to the One who has all the answers when we don't.

In a couple more years he will be on his own, independent.  I hope he always wants to talk through decisions with us but before I will be ready, he will be making his own choices, forging his own path and living his own life.  Good or bad.  Right or wrong. 

I was thinking today about some of the scriptures I have shared with Jake over the years to help him make good choices and grow into the godly man he is becoming.  A couple spring to mind:

Prov 25:28 was important during elementary school--"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."  Learning that when we don't have self-control we make poor choices and are open to attack by the enemy.

Prov 20:11was also a good one. "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."  And followed by verse 12..."Ears that hear and eyes that see--the Lord has made them both."  That second one was important since Jake was sometimes a bit impulsive and needed to be listening and looking around before acting.

I prayed this verse many mornings over Jake before school.  Matthew 22:37-38, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. your neighbor as yourself."  I wanted him to take God with him to school each day and ask himself how his actions reflected that love for God and love for others.

I remember when he was dedicated as a baby we chose the verse Prov 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path."  Over the years I have sometimes thought that verse is too over used and showed a lack of maturity on our parts to make such a common choice but lately I have come to see what a great verse that is.  That is why they are popular, because they communicate so much truth.  And the truth is that as long as Jake continues to put his trust in the Lord rather than his own foolish thoughts and desires God will continue to work in his life and he will continue to make good choices and grow to be the godly man I have been praying for him to become for 16 years and will continue to pray as he moves toward more independence from us and towards more dependence on God.

We had face painting and he wanted flames on his chin like dragon breath
John made a car accident cake.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Contemplating Contentment

This week the topic of contentment has been on my heart.  I don't really know where it is going but I thought I would just ramble out my thoughts and maybe it will turn into something.

On some level I think I have struggled to be content most of my life.  I can barely remember a time during my childhood when I could not wait to be an adult and get out of the house.  While I have many happy memories of childhood in some ways I never let myself truly just enjoy being a kid. 

I have loved being an adult, it is everything I dreamed it would be as a child, but still there is always something more to want.  I was struggling with contentment when Jake was a baby and I was home and broke thinking everyone else was doing better than we were.  That is when I began learning about contentment.  Learning to be satisfied with where God had me at that moment and enjoy the experiences that came from that stage of my life. 

Over the years I have had times of more and less contentment with where God has me at the moment.  I have learned a few things over the years as I have struggled to stay focused on God and content with where he has put me. 

Here is a list of things which I feel have contributed to my contentment over the years:

Thanksgiving:  This topic, which I spoke on at the women's retreat this spring, has really helped me experience deeper contentment.  I particularly focus on being thankful for all the ways God has blessed me every time I start to feel like I don't have enough.

Comparing:  When I was younger all I ever saw in other people was what they had that I didn't have.  She is prettier, her husband has a better job, she has a better job, they live in a better house, they know how to raise children better, they are taking vacations, dress better, decorate better, smarter than me, better Christian, etc, etc, etc.  Over the years one of the most important lessons I have learned is that everyone has problems.  That woman living in a nicer house with more money has plenty of her own problems and might even be looking to me wishing she had something I have.  Nobody's life is perfect.

Accepting:  So not comparing leads me to accepting.  I have learned to accept where God has me at this moment.  There will always be someone or something better.  I need to enjoy where God has put me at this time in my life, listen, learn and grow in this place.

Temporary:  I have learned that every stage of life is temporary.  Especially with kids things are constantly changing because they are constantly growing.  But it seems to be true in all area of my life.  My current area of discontentment is the outside of my house.  I want it painted.  It NEEDS to be painted.  I could get bogged down by our inability to accomplish this goal but I know that eventually it will happen.  It might be frustrating to be unable to accomplish this task in my time but I know in God's time it will happen.  Do I really want to spend my time and energy being discontent about something this little.  It won't get painted any faster if I refused to be satisfied with how it looks right now but I will live a much more miserable existence while I wait.

Identity:  I realize that when I let myself wrap my identity in outward appearance, what I have or do, I will never be content.  When my identity comes from my relationship with Christ and I look to Him to see where I should be at this stage of my life then I experience greater contentment.

Fun:  When I am discontent I miss so many opportunities for fun.  I don't enjoy my life because I am always thinking about what I don't have.  Over the years I have been amazed at how much fun I can have with so little.  Riding bikes, building a snowman, watching tv, reading a book.  Yes it call all be done better. Yes when we took our family bike ride to the lake over memorial day it would have been great if we had the money to stop for an ice cream cone after our picnic lunch.  However, we didn't have the money and we didn't even miss it.  The day wasn't about ice cream it was about doing an activity together and we had lots of fun.  It is all in the attitude.  We choose to have fun and enjoy the life God has blessed us with.

Laugh at yourself:  Sometimes I screw up.  I remember last year I hadn't been to a neighborhood playgroup in several months because I was working.  My schedule finally got changed and I was all excited to get to playgroup.  I was rushing to get through the morning so we could make it to playgroup.  I hop in the car with Isabelle to drive the 1-1/2 blocks in the cold weather to my friends home and she answers the door with a towel around her head.  I am an hour early!  At times in my life I would have been so horrified I might not have returned to her home but over the years I have learned to accept the fact that I do stupid things like that and can laugh at myself.  I am so much more content when I don't take myself so seriously.

Taking Risks:  Sometimes a little dis-contentment can be OK.  It is God's way of getting you to move.  If I rest in the Lord and trust Him no matter the circumstances of my life then I am not afraid to step up and take a chance even if it seems a little scary because I know that as long as God is with me I will be content.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:12-13

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where do they come up with these things?

Last night at dinner Isabelle announced to Jake, "Mom's pregnant body broke after you were born."

She then told us that Sarah, her cousin, had told her she was adopted.  As if this was new information to her.
You just never know what is going through their minds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Holding on to God

Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."  (Gen 22:2)

We have lived in this house for almost 8 years.  When we bought it we were just going to flip it.  The house was in bad shape and we thought it was a great opportunity.  As we worked on the house and came to finishing it we felt strongly that God was calling us to sell our house and move into this house we were planning to flip.  We loved our little starter house and never had planned to move but the timing and opportunity couldn't have been more clear and we moved in.  This house has been a wonderful blessing in our life but also more costly than our first house and when we have struggled I have always thought back and wondered if we should really still be in that little house.

Recently as I have been wondering that God finally said to me, "Melanie, get over it!"  He showed me all the ways he has blessed us in this house, the ministry we have had in this house and the opportunities we have had to bless others because of this house.  He showed me how he has provided for us month after month in this house.  He is not failing us here, he is using us here.  I am a little slow.  Sometimes God has to hit me over the head like that.

But as quickly as this peace came to me I began to grip it.  OK God will always provide.  I can let my guard down.  No matter what it will work out and I can sit back and relax.  God brought to my mind the story of Abraham and Isaac. 

God promised Abraham he would build a great nation through him, through his son Isaac.  Yet one day God asks Abraham to sacrifice him.  His only son.  The one God promised to use to build a great nation.  Clearly he heard God wrong.  Yet Abraham trusted God and went to the place he told him about and was prepared to sacrifice his son.  At the last minute God stopped Abraham because, "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son." (Gen 22:12)

I realized that although God has promised me that we are in the right house that doesn't mean he might not ask us to sacrifice it. 

As I was meditating on this today during my walk I realized that while God gives us promises to encourage and guide us he doesn't want us griping those promises.  He wants us holding tight to Him, the One who gives the promises.  That is what the story is all about.

So while I can have peace that God has put me here and is using me in this place I will hold the house with an open hand prepared to give it back to him if He asks me.  The most important thing is that I continue to rely on him to provide.  That I continue to seek his guidance and trust Him to direct our path.

I don't know what our future holds.  I don't know if we will live in this house to old age or if God will lead us down another path at some point in the near or far future.  What I do know is that I will faithfully follow wherever He leads.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I am a Do-er

I don't know when it happened.  Maybe it was 6 years ago when I started running and then took a month long snowboarding class.  They were definitely life changing experiences from which I will  never be the same again.  I blogged a little about them here and might have to expand further one day.  But maybe it started before then.  Maybe it was the year we pulled Jake mid year out of a school where nobody valued him. Maybe it was when I decided to forge a new path not sending Jake to pre-school and then homeschooling him for 2 years.  Or maybe the real moment happened when I walked down the aisle to my high school sweetheart at 19 years old.

I don't know when I became a do-er and not just a thinker.  Which moment in my life was the turning point where I realized I could do what I put my mind to?  I don't really come from a family of do-ers.  We are more talkers.  We sit mesmerized and slightly confused as we read about or listen to people who share all the things they are do-ing.  We don't really do.  We just talk.

But then one day I did.  I stepped up and announced I was marrying at 19.  I stood firm when everyone tried to talk me out of homeschooling.  I boldly plowed forward when everyone at Jake's school thought I was some crazy mother in denial.  And then one day, I ran out my back door and nothing has been the same since.

2 years ago when we were talking about going to Africa, a year before the actual trip, someone in my family commented that it will be nice if it works out.  IF it works out I thought!?  Was I talking like I was only thinking about it?  We ARE going to Africa.  And we did.

After Africa I told a friend how I really felt like I had become a do-er.  I wasn't just a dreamer, a talker, a thinker.  Since then I have dreamed new dreams that I believe will happen.  I really do believe I will be able to write magazine articles and that God will lead me down an exciting path.  I am not afraid to pursue that dream I am excited to take action as well.

And so this weekend I did another thing that I would have in the past just talked about, been amazed by others who were able to do it, and wished I was a person who did it.  This weekend I became a triathlete.

I signed up in February and proceeded to keep up with my weekly killer spin class, regular runs, weight lifting and in March added twice weekly lap swimming.  If I ever thought about staying home one morning I would be reminded of this impending deadline of June 5th to be ready for the event.  I knew I wasn't a competitive person and my goal was simply to finish the race.

Last Saturday I did it.  I became a triathlete.  Something I always admired in other women is now something I have done.  I rock. 

I think one of the biggest changes in my life as a result of becoming a do-er over the years is in how I view the world and specifically other people.  I don't meet people and think, "I wish I could do that."  "I wish I was like her." "Why can they do that and I can't?"  Now when I meet people doing amazing things I can enjoy who they are and what they are doing without any feeling of inferiority because I know that I am capable of doing whatever I set my mind to.  I am a Do-er.

To read all the details go check out the WEWAWO blog where I write with my sisters about all our athletic endevors and healthy eating ideas. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Folly and Crisis hit the trails

I am constantly wanting to define our family as an active and connected family rather than what we really are, 4 people who live independent lives under the same roof.  With 2 TVs, 3 computers and an x-box we can easily live in our own little worlds.  I have an idealistic vision of how our family should look and when the occasional opportunity arises to create that experience for even a moment I try to capitalize on it.

Enter Memorial Day Weekend with beautiful weather and me in need of a nice long bike ride as part of my training for the upcoming triathlon.  What to do but force the entire family to spend the day together biking one of the many trails in the cities.  I targeted 20 miles as a nice length ride.  John was on board with me and we discussed many potential routes before deciding on one we did a couple years ago from our church into Excelsior and back.  Isabelle is always excited by any activity we do as a family.  She just loves action.  However, the teenager doesn't like to ride bikes.  At least that is what he told us about every 10 minutes while we were getting ready.  He also tried ignoring us in hopes that we would just leave him.  He tried not getting ready in hopes we would leave him.  No such luck.  That boy was coming no matter what.  I told John that by the time we were 2 miles down the trail he would be speaking to us.  It is the exercise.  It clears your brain and relaxes you.  Plus we chose the trail we did because it was very wooded and he loves nature.

So we loaded up the van with 3 bikes, a trail-behind, an enthusiastic 5 year old and a sulking 15 year old and we were off.
Loaded car
Unloading the bikes.
Why are you making me do this???
I told him to look really miserable for me.  Ha ha, I got a smile even before we hit the trail.
Of course I didn't have to tell her to look like she was having fun.

Assembling the bikes.  That is mine.

Then we hit the trails. 

It only looked something like this, not actually like this since I was so busy leading the family on a power ride down the trail that I never thought to stop and take pictures of any of us on the bikes.  But John was pulling Isabelle in this same set up from 2006 when we did the MS150.  Of course Isabelle is about 20+ pounds heavier and I had about 5-10 pounds of food in the back but otherwise it was like that.

About 2 miles down the trail we rode by a woman who was really into her power walk.  Moments after we get by her Jake rides up to us and says, "it's all in the arms."  Ha ha.  And there you have it, he rallied.  A mom knows.  Further conversations about life followed as we enjoyed our idyllic family ride.

When we arrived in Excelsior John's bike computer said it was 9.5 miles.  Perfect for my 20 mile goal.  We sat by the lake and enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch.  Also part of my idyllic family interaction.
Now he is just faking.  Although he is still insisting he doesn't want to be here I know he is enjoying it.
John grabbed the camera from me so I couldn't be out of all the pictures.  I had no idea my legs were so pasty.  Will definitely be working on that this next week in Atlanta.

And John caught Isabelle and I dipping our toes in the water.  It is still quite cold.  However, Isabelle would have gone for a swim if she had been in her suit.  She loved every minute of it.
Official proof that he rallied.  Don't let him fool you into thinking he didn't enjoy this experience.

We got back on our bikes for the ride back.  It was a great ride.  I noted that John, with the "50 pound anchor inside a parachute" behind his bike seemed a little more tired than the rest of us.  I think we will be combing Craig's List the rest of the summer for a good deal on a trail behind bike for Isabelle.  It is time for her to start helping out a little.