Dear Son: Even Though You’re Still Here, I Miss You

You turn Sweet Sixteen this week.

In the wee hours of morning, actually, because sixteen years ago, you came into the world when it was still dark.

An early riser you remained, until the teen years crept in unexpectedly and you began to favor middle-of-afternoon to morning.

It was unexpected, you growing up so fast. Seems only yesterday you were a tiny baby in my arms.

Experienced moms tell new moms this very thing:

Enjoy every second because it flies by faster than you think.

The days are long but the years are short.

In the blink of an eye, they’ll be grown and gone.

What they don’t tell us is how it feels to watch you grow apart from us, too.

To know there is limited time left, shortened not only by your need to start college or a career, begin a family if you so choose, build your own life, but also by your need to separate emotionally from your mother so you can eventually do all of the above in the proper way.

While I know in my mind this is right and necessary, sweet son, I have to be honest:

My heart misses you sometimes.

You couldn’t go to sleep unless I rocked you, and your father and I were never good about following the doctor’s orders to place you in your bed and let you cry yourself to sleep.

In my still-childish young twenties, I felt it barbaric. (As a thirty-year-old mother to your youngest sister, not so much.)

Back then? With my first born? Just how could I resist your sweet smell? Your blue eyes staring at me in need?

How could I not scoop your tiny body into my arms and snuggle you to sleep? Soak in every second?

Wasn’t this what they told me to do?

But sister came not two years after you (along with her colic), and your need for more of my attention tested my tired patience.

As you grew, the daily struggle of life crowded out our time together.

Mom-mom, watch this.

Mom-mom, listen to the funny thing Steve said to Blue.

Mom-mom, did you know Snoopy can fly? That crazy puppy…

Hold on, Bubba! I’d often scold. Mama doesn’t have time right now.

Or, Show me real quick; I have ten thousand things to do.

I’m so busy; can you see how busy Mama is?

Oh my precious gift, to go back and reclaim the days I was too busy, too tired or too frustrated or worried to stop and listen to your little heart speak.

I am so very sorry.

There isn’t a but attached to that apology. No excuses.

A mother’s greatest hope is to be the safest place her child can fall.

And many a mother fears the day it will be too late to provide this, too late to heal her child’s scars, especially ones she may have caused:

The day her child pulls out of the driveway and leaves the nest for good.

Three years and hopefully some college. That’s really all your mother has left with you.

The only time left for me to teach you so many truths about being an adult.

How hard it really is.

How you’ll often wonder if you’re doing it right, this adulting thing.

How what you think is supposed to happen, sometimes doesn’t.

The irony about the short time we have together is that every day we grow further apart.

I know less and less of your comings and goings.

You are hanging out with friends at unfamiliar houses and places, doing things I can’t see and often won’t hear about. I can only pray I’ve taught you to make good decisions.

I know even less of your thoughts and feelings. You don’t talk to me as much as you used to. I can only pray you are telling the God who made you all the concerns swimming around your teenage mind.

You will leave me. It’s what you’re supposed to do.

I’ve accepted that. I’ve even started to look forward to it, excited to see the journey that lies ahead for you, confident your shining star will lead you down the right path, and that even if you turn the wrong way, its brightness will guide you back.

One day, you will hopefully cleave to a woman who loves you like I do. And if I’ve raised you right, you will cherish her far more than you cherish anything or anyone else in this world.

As I slowly climb down from the pedestal I’ve stood on all these years, relinquishing the title I’ve held of Number One, allowing other people and things to take up space in your heart, I am clinging to so many memories on my way down.

Can I work the camera too, Mom-mom? 

Mama, I got a role in the high school play!

Look, Mom-mom, I can write my name!

Mama, I FINALLY finished this three-page report.

Mom-mom, will you hold me?

Mama…will you just let me go?

Yes, baby boy, I will let you go. That’s what I was sent here to do. Roots and wings, a mama’s job.

I am so incredibly proud of who you are, and I feel privileged to watch your heart grow and change. To see it fill to the brim with new loves, new dreams, a new life.

You may have come into this world in darkness, but you brought a light that filled this mama’s heart and showed me exactly why I am alive today.

And it may be true that I have only a small time left to teach you all the things you need to know about being an adult.

But I will never run out of time to love you, my precious gift, however imperfect that love may be.

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the joy of my heart

When Sharing Your Story Causes a Reaction in Others

I wear a necklace on occasion that was given to me by my late step-grandmother, a precious woman I affectionately called “Nana.”

The necklace is a simple gold chain with a beautiful stone dangling from the center. Unless I told you the stone wasn’t a diamond, you probably would never guess. It appears almost as real as any diamonds I’ve seen.

I’ve yet to encounter a person uncouth enough to ask if my stone is real, but if they did, I would willingly admit it is not. Not because I think I have to, but because that sort of thing isn’t a big deal to me.

At the same time, I don’t go around screaming that the stone isn’t real.

Because truthfully, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business.

A few people who have read my recent blog posts have offered up sweet comments about my willingness to share my struggles openly.

Most of them know me well enough to know I don’t share every aspect of my childhood, marriage and parenting issues on a public blog. I’m ten kinds of crazy, but not eleven.

I share what I want, how much I want, and in the manner I want.

Why?

Because I don’t owe anyone but Jesus my whole story.

Neither do you.

While I feel privacy is simple enough to understand, I’ve noticed we hold people who publicly share parts of their stories—including and especially Christians—to a higher standard.

But who said talking about Jesus automatically qualified one for Sainthood? Whose fault is it that perfection is expected among those who profess to follow Christ?

Was the goal of Christ dying our perfection? Or did he die to cancel our sin debt, allowing us to rest from the fear and burden of perfection?

I’ll tell you about an incident that happened to me once that permanently changed the way I viewed professing Christianity in public.

I was at an engagement party. I had recently been baptized and immediately found myself in the middle of a spiritual attack.

My escape of choice has always been wine.

I’ve spoken a little about it on my blog, but probably not to the extent that you would know how much of a struggle authenticity in social settings can be for me, and how I’ve used alcohol to cope.

There are two things I’ve learned about myself over the last few years:

  • I’m a reactionary soul—if you do something that bothers me (especially if that you is Clayford), there’s a good chance I’m going to react like a fool; and…
  • If I’m not comfortable around you, I won’t act much better than if you do something that bothers me. (This is me admitting my “stone” isn’t real.)

Anybody else struggle with this?

The engagement party was for a girlfriend of my husband’s. Truth be told, Clayford’s high school friend-group (I lovingly refer to them as the Cougar Cult) is a crew I’ve struggled to be comfortable around from day one.

So naturally I drank more at this party than necessary. And I will never forget standing at the bar and being judged in a harsh way by the husband of one of Clayford’s friends, a young man who was very involved in the church we still attend.

What he said to me hurt me so badly that I have never again judged a Christian in my life.

I kid you not, if I was to hear a follower of Christ left his wife, committed murder, robbed a bank, was found drunk in a ditch—anything—I wouldn’t judge them. I wouldn’t believe they loved what Jesus had done for them any less.

We do that, my Christian friends, and it is completely wrong.

We harshly judge friends and neighbors, pastors, leaders, and Bible study teachers, including a few well-known leaders who have recently announced their divorces via Facebook.

I have no plans to delve into their private lives, judge them, or lament them.

Marriage can be hard, especially in the current climate we are living in, divorce too, and sometimes there are no simple answers to fix the messes we accrue.

I read a great post written by a follower of one of these individuals. The article said we should all understand that no Christian is immune to sin, even to having affairs or indiscretions.

Not only is this true; it’s frightening.

You think you can control your actions, but really, you don’t know what you’d do in any given situation.

And you can’t control what your spouse does at all.

I vulnerably professed to Clayford last night that my greatest fear in marriage has always been that I would sacrifice my twenties, thirties and forties in a somewhat disappointed state of mind (as I’ve written about here), only to be left behind in my fifties for a younger woman, someone who could make him happier or give him more children, which I can’t even do now.

I don’t think it’s an irrational fear. As the longevity of marriages crumble all around us—and many times for good reasons, such as spouses not holding up their ends of the bargain, as I discussed here—we watch this same scenario occur more and more.

(I think I’ll write an entire blog post for all my college-age and twenty-something gals entitled, ‘Find SINGLE Men Your Own Age!’—and young ladies, before you start arguing with me that men your age don’t want to settle down, they don’t want to settle down because they don’t have to. That’s on us, not them. 😉 )

Clayford can swear to me today that he would never leave me high and dry. But 2017 Clayford has no idea where 2028 Clayford will be.

And here’s what I’ve had to accept: If my husband chooses to step outside of our marriage, it won’t be because of me. It won’t be because of any sin I’ve committed or failure we’ve walked through.

It won’t be because I don’t go to the gym every day, make $100,000, or dress like I’m Forever Shopping at Forever-21. (Thanks, Heather, for that awesome post.)

It will be because HE had a character flaw and acted upon it. Simple as that.

The same goes for us when we hold each other to standards not meant to be upheld and judge one another for thorns Christ has yet to remove.

And if you are voraciously hoping to discover another person’s thorns, if you are seeking to hear juicy details of their private lives, ask yourself just why you so desperately want to know.

  • Is it to feel better about your own situation?
  • To be proven right?
  • To make the person look bad?
  • To soothe your own jealousy, hatred or ugly heart?

Seriously, ask God to reveal those answers. You might be surprised at what you find.

I have found that when I want to know more about a person’s life than they’re willing to share, it’s usually to make them look bad so that I feel better. Yuck.

The problem is not that women and men share only parts of their stories.

The problem is not that the couple you know to fight miserably all the time are now posting lovey-dovey pics on social media.

The problem is not that your best friend is carrying a Louis Vuitton while she has a boat-load of debt.

The problem is not that the mom you know down the street is crazy as hell but pretends to be the epitome of perfection.

The problem is not that ALL Christians are walking in broken bodies, making imperfect choices, yet a few of us still boldly talk about Jesus in the midst.

The problem is that we choose to judge one another for journeys we haven’t walked.

The problem is that, in our own flawed thinking, we’ve placed human beings on thrones where only Christ was meant to sit.

And that is one character flaw only you and I can change about ourselves.

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