Monday, March 2, 2015

Living With Abandon, Whimsy and Love

It was supposed to be kind of an ordinary day. One where the cold has set in thick with dark shadows and temperatures can be counted by toddlers. 1-2-3. The kind where you warm up some hot chocolate and settle in with that book you've been wanting to run away in.

But somehow that all changed and the house was invaded and actually taken over completely and may have even involved pulling a fairly sleepless all-nighter.

Yes, as I tap this out, I am currently experiencing what could be referred to as the lingering effect of a Grandma hangover. Withdrawals which were induced by concentrated time alone with six grandchildren. (And I only wish the 7th one could have been here too.)

I often kind of really joke that my goal is to keep the children alive until their parents return. Their parents should not trust me, honestly.

Because when the kids are here we just live with a certain degree of abandon.

Oh I try to be that grandma who feeds healthy snacks, real food and adheres to a good routine. It may begin all innocent, but as the hours click by, there have been times, like right now, when the rules are forgotten.

So, my natural tendency is to be spontaneous, which gives way to plain old improvising and to some degree ends up too often being pure survival.

I'll even imagine that I'm nearing some level of the most-awesome-Grandma-ever award and then the next moment I hope I don't damage them for life.

It was like that when the baby started crying real tears, with mouth wide open, and the big boys are saying they need some help right now, (which usually means that they really do) and then I hear the swooshing sound of water hitting linoleum. At that moment it’s hard to decide which emergency is the most pressing, but I opted for the water, since there may be a precedent of water damage set by certain grand-girls. 

All-in-all I think it was a good call, since there were sixteen ounce cups and one tug boat full of water being dumped over the edge. –Repeatedly– It was slightly concerning that I found the two year old unharmed, but dangling from the highest ledge in the basement, but he apparently has great upper-body strength. Baby girl would beg to differ on how I set my priorities, since when she is hungry she is really starving.

Perhaps we missed the window of time when children slip into quiet slumber. No kidding, one at a time every child was tucked into their little beds and a good night prayer was prayed. They each then, wanted to be the ones to pray. The one four year old prayed for everything from roads and cars and skies and dolls. Twice.

And then the excuses began. These kids have earned their masters in deferring the inevitable. Forget the standard, "I'm thirsty." The one boy took my hand and asked me to sit with him. When I acted like I may be ready to leave he leaned in and told me how much he loved me and then he said, "Nana, you are beautiful."

Bad or good, that boy had me. 

I think the little redhead may have won the prize for excuses, however. The hands on the clock were getting close to midnight and I was still convincing her that she must stay in bed and close her little blue eyes. She stated most matter-of-factually, "But Grandma, I need to trim my fingernails."

As I crawled into the spare bedroom where the baby was sleeping, she began cooing the most adorable sounds, ever. This continued, off and on until about three in the morning. She ate and had conversation and a complete change of clothes and an hour later finally drifted off to sleep. Three of the kids woke up around four thinking that it was morning and I assured them it wasn't, and then crawled into my own bed where the two year old was. Moments of sleep were punctuated with kicks to the head and I remembered many such nights with his own mother doing the same.  Somehow it was sweet.

Light streamed in as the bedroom door opened and the hall light revealed four little silhouettes who rushed in, all chattering,  "What are you still doing in bed, grandma?"

We all huddled under the canopy of covers and shrieked at cold feet, tickling and some whining may have gone on before we settled into the morning with teddy-bear shaped graham crackers and milk for breakfast. 

This, my friends is what I think it looks like to live in the moment, with abandon and great love.

I'm typing in the aftermath of that mostly sleepless all-night adventure. The dogs are making a nuisance of themselves snagging random snacks left behind. Poor Ken and Barbie are wearing each other's clothes and flashlights still glow dimly with drained batteries, under beds and wedged in couch cushions.

Involuntarily I have to chuckle at their antics and the big words that flow out from their young lips. There is such a happy-messy-whirl in the time these cousins spend together.

Someday when they look back, I pray that they remember how we sang silly songs, made up new rules to classic games, and that we went to bed too late, got up too early and played hide-and-go-seek in every niche in this home.

I hope they recall how we laughed and cried and fussed together. And that we sat around on the floor to listen to the important profound conversations that only young children can have and that we adults need to listen closer to, with our hearts.

I hope they remember kissing babies and that as they grow up they won't stop dreaming and creating and imagining. And most of all, that they will love each other always, with deep abandon.  

So friends, what do you think it looks like to live a life full of abandon, whimsy and love?

Monday, February 23, 2015

When We Miss the Heart Of Our Children

It was that one time I was asked to speak for a group of moms who teach their children at home.

As I remember it, there was no suggested topic or time boundaries really set out for me.

Let just say –that is always, probably never, a great idea.

The times I've been asked to speak, I've written an outline and walked in with a fairly concrete idea of where I was going with my words and the message that I hope to illustrate, but on that day I did not.

Looking into the faces of worn-out mommies who were trying to grasp a bit of encouragement, I could see women in the throes of not only raising active children, but under the added weight of educating them and wanting to do things well and right.

The words that rolled out of my heart surprised even me.

It was all more of a confession really. How when our daughters were being home educated, I did more things wrong than I did right, even though I was trying really, really hard to do everything kind of perfect.

When we made the decision to educate our children at home, few people gave us any hope that it was a good idea. The more educated the person, the more vocal the opinions against our choice. –Not that we asked for any opinions.

People who knew and loved us were hoping we’d come to our senses before we flat out ruined the kids.  And even though I never flinched while they were looking, in my heart I believed the message they were giving away.

The fact that we took this direction, was deeply influenced by our recent change of heart and our coming to faith in Jesus. Trust me. People who knew us before and after, this coming to Jesus, –well there was no denying that things had changed in our hearts and therefore the course of our lives.

Unfortunately, we had only began to understand God's heart.

Looking back, the overachieving craziness that I began to live, was largely due to my own deep insecurities and selfish pride. That, plus my weak hope to prove that being a Jesus follower and a home educator could really work.  Somewhere deep down I had thought I was going to fail God and fail as a parent.

Without meaning to, I began to set out to prove that this could be done and done well, even though I had no idea what that looked like.

I was always searching for the perfect curriculum. The one that fit the child’s learning style –or at least mine. It seemed like music would be one way to be well-rounded. So our older girls each played three instruments.

–But not the same three.–

I would have had at least one of them playing a full sized harp, (think heaven, angels, etc.,) but there was no one within 200 miles to teach that. Trust me I checked. 

We did Bible memory. 

I had them memorize a large section of Psalm 119. You should go look up that beautiful Psalm. Longest chapter in the whole Bible.

And if that we not enough to impress someone, I had them memorize Proverbs 31:10-31. You know the verses? The ones about that woman who rose early. The woman skilled at what she did and diligent in every detail. She worked hard all day and her husband and children stood and applauded her?

So maybe that last part was just my interpretation.

Well, my girls not only memorized those words, they learned sign language and could actually sign and say them.

Yes. Yes they did.

In-between the math melt downs and the spelling tests, the kids also did public speaking, sewed, decorated cakes and traveled to the outer corners of our world to show horses. And I thought we looked good at everything we set our hand to. That’s how I remember it anyway.

But all that going and doing and trying to make these human-beings into something, I almost missed the main point of everything.

I almost missed their hearts. 

I almost missed how God wired them and the plans that HE had for them.

In my zeal to prove that Home Schooling is a great option for education I missed the fact that you can teach subjects all you want, but still not understand the deep meaning of life.

You can memorize scripture, but it doesn't change a soul unless it moves from the head to the heart.

Because the Word wasn't just meant to be read it was intended to be lived. 

Information and education was never intended to be attained, but to be tools to help us live the lives God planned before we were born, –for His glory.

And if you are a person who knows Jesus as your Savior, we are accepted just. as. we. are.

No performance necessary.

Basically, what I told those women that day, was how as a mom, I wanted to do all these right things, but almost missed the main thing.

And the main thing was never supposed to be performance driven, accolade seeking, or controlling a child’s behavior externally by demanding obedience with the old model of, ”Obey me or else…,”  authority.

All so that things looked good. All so I could look good.

The main thing was always the heart of each child.

The very sacred internal part of the children I was entrusted with.

My overreaching vision as a woman of faith was often misdirected and therefore so was our homeschooling. The fact is, raising children grew my own heart up. God was always teaching me more than I was teaching the kids. 

Of course I think my children are amazing, since they carry with them my DNA and blood, sweat and tears. But it is truly God’s deep grace that makes them who they are. 

So to all the overachievers, and all those who long to be a recovering over-achiever like me, can we learn this?

Children, –all children– need God's kind of real love. 

They need authority that is kind and consistent without a personal agenda. They need parents and people who can, by example live lives that keep the Word of God in view, so they, (and us,) can be changed internally and make a real difference in the world we live.

Here are a few questions I wish I had asked myself when I was in the middle of raising children:
  • How important is this activity to the overreaching goal of pointing my children to Jesus?
  • Am I going for an outward appearance and external compliance, or am I doing what will reach down and touch the heart of this child.

Because in the end, all the activities will pass. 

The accolades and the trophies will fade. 

But how we live out our love, will linger in our children’s hearts. That will be a legacy that has nothing to do with activities or appearance and has everything to do with how we impacted our childrens very souls, which is to know Jesus and care about what He cares about.

May we earnestly seek the heart of God and not miss the true heart of our children. 

Linking up in these beautiful places.

© Rhonda Quaney