The Mother Lode

Sunday is all about the mommas.

And that’s a good thing. Because if you’re a mom (young, old, or somewhere in the bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, daunting, desperate middle) pretty much all the other days are about… well… everybody else.

*********************************************************************************** Now I realize that Mother’s Day isn’t happy for everyone. (Because… grief, infertility, abuse, abandonment, addiction, estrangement.) And I don’t want to just blow past all that pain and suffering, because I know some of you can’t either.

I see your bruised and broken hearts. I do. And I pray somehow, some way, sometime very soon God’s grace and peace will find you… and hold you. Close.

*************************************************************************************

Mother’s Day may feel like a hassle, chore, or cheesy Hallmark holiday to you. But if you’ve been gifted with a loving mother, Sunday is cause for celebration.

(Go ahead, make her day.)

In recognition of the most excellent (exhausting/exciting/ excruciating/exhilirating) job on earth, here’s my (loosely adapted and wildly re-imagined) take on the “best mom ever” as described in Proverbs 31:

Do you have any clue how tough it is to find a woman who’ll become an incredible partner and amazing momma? Young bucks, you’re far better off spending your time looking for her IRL, than scrolling/snapping/swiping night and day. Find and invest in a true gem, rather than a gadget, guitar, truck or car. You won’t regret it.

If you make a good match, you’ll have a lifelong lover, trustworthy advisor, fierce warrior and tender comforter by your side. She’ll bring blessing upon blessing. And one day, you’ll realize how rich you truly are. Because your woman will look out for you in ways you can’t imagine. She’ll make your house a home, your home a haven, and your heart happy.

Ever after.

She’ll be a helping hand, hard worker, wise investor, bargain hunter. Maybe a natural athlete or artist, savvy businesswoman, teacher or techie, master gardener or gourmet, gifted fashion designer, fisherwoman or physician, accomplished musician or mechanical engineer, brilliant architect/actuary/ author/astronaut. Or maybe she’ll simply make every day brighter, lighter, more festive and fun… because she’s a breath of fresh JOY. But whatever her talents and training, her teamwork will complement, hone and heighten yours. In short, she’ll make you a better man.

That’s the kind of woman you want by your side… for the adventure of a lifetime.

She’ll be captivating, no doubt. But it won’t be a bunch of razzle dazzle and designer dresses and photo filters and false eyelashes. (Charm is deceptive, aging is inevitable, and soap – and real life – have a way of washing away the razzle. And the dazzle too.) It’ll be true grit and amazing grace and a little bit of divine glory that shine in her… and enchant you.

A true beauty will be luminous and lovely… because her soul is.

She’ll be resourceful, resilient and relentlessly hopeful. Even in the daily grind.

Even in the worst of times.

She may be battle-weary but she’ll soldier on. She may be covered in spit-up and Paw Patrol stickers… but that won’t dim her radiant smile. She may be facing her fourth snow day in a row, but everybody’s supplied with warm flannel and hot chocolate and bedtime prayers.

And when the chips are down and the going gets rough, she’ll be tough, tender, true blue.

She’ll show compassion to friends and strangers alike. She’ll be generous and conscientious and confident and capable. So much so that at some point you might wonder if she really needs you at all. Don’t worry; she will. Because you’ll be the one holding her heart for safekeeping. (Careful there, pal.)

All the guys in the office, on the field, at the course will know and respect you. (And she’ll deserve a fair amount of credit for that.)

She’ll be kind, brave and wonder-full.

She’ll possess a sharp mind, a good sense of humor, and a wealth of sound advice. (If you’re smart, you’ll be humble enough to take it… and appreciate it.)

She’ll be a natural at nurturing and a pro at problem-solving. Again and again, you and your children will benefit from her foresight, fortitude, forgiveness and faith.

And you’ll give her props for all of the above. 

(‘Cause she deserves it.)

Pretty tall order. Truth be told, there isn’t a mother in the history of humankind who’s nailed it. Not even close. (So… moms, toss the inferiority complex. It’s not your color.)

But if your mom even vaguely resembles this maternal force of nature, you have every reason to be grateful. On Sunday and every other day of the year, too.

If you got a gem (by birth, adoption or divine intervention), you hit the mother lode.

And if you’ve yet to find that elusive, exquisite – and affordable – Mother’s Day gift, I’m here for you. Here’s what Mom really wants.

You’re welcome.

(And blessed.)

Wendy

 

Postscript to Z, M, J and T: It’s true what they say. A good woman is hard to find.

Look for her. Pray for her. Wait for her.

And in the meantime, get busy making yourself worthy of her.

(I trust you will.)

xoxo

 

 

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Especially Needed

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This one is for every momma and daddy chosen by God for special assignment.

The parents of the kids who live/learn/look different than most. (You know, the ones the playground bullies call misfits or freaks… or worse.)

The parents of students too often perceived as slow or stupid, deemed “unable” or “disabled” and marginalized in many of the fine arts, athletic and extracurricular opportunities afforded most kids. (Which makes them feel – nearly every day – less than.)

The parents of the ones targeted by verbal abusers, who hear the “R” word on the regular, who grow accustomed to sitting alone, staying quiet, staring at their shoes. The kids trying to survive school (days… years), sometimes without a single true friend.

This is for every mom who’s had to leave a public place mid-errand because her daughter – diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – had a full-scale meltdown due to impulse control problems, sensory overload or debilitating anxiety.

Every dad who spends hours shooting hoops with his son – diagnosed with an emotional and behavioral disorder – because none of the neighbor kids invite him to play. Ever.

Every mom who makes three different meals for her kids because they have different diagnoses – oral-motor difficulties and sensory processing disorder – and their tastes, texture responses and chew/swallow capabilities vary widely.

Every dad who spends hours each week helping his adult son – diagnosed with dyspraxia – shave his face because fine motor problems make that task nearly impossible. (Or a bloody mess.)

Every set of parents who has spent countless hours caring/comforting/correcting/ protecting/advocating/intervening/teaching/researching/scheduling and meeting with doctors, therapists, psychologists, special educators, social workers and tutors so their child can know his worth, find his way and reach his potential… or “just keep swimming” upstream in the mainstream.

This one’s for you, weary momma. (You too, sleep-deprived daddy.)

I see you. I get it. I’ve been there. Right where you’re standing. Or kneeling.

(Or curling up in a fetal position.)

On hard, holy ground.

And here’s what I want you to know, love.

You’re not alone.

And neither is your kid.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up… Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Thank God. Help is (on) the Way.

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. And here’s what all of us parents of autistic and developmentally-disabled kids wish everyone else knew:

Every kid has special needs. Our kids’ needs aren’t more or worse. They’re just different.

Our kiddos get hurt when your kiddos whisper, point, stare and/or steer clear of them. Encourage your kids to get to know ours. (Start here: Smile. Say hi. Sit nearby.)

Just because our kiddos struggle with social cues doesn’t mean they don’t want friends.  And it also doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to teasing, taunting and other mistreatment. No one should ever be called a “retard” or a “reject.”

Ever.

Our kids may not be able to do what your kids can do. But they are extraordinary too… and able. Able to connect. And care. Able to feel. And fill a place in this great big world that no one else ever could. Able to learn and laugh and love (BIG). Able to find joy in the simplest things. Able to reflect beauty and bravery with stunning clarity.

The bottom line is this:

A diagnosis or disability shouldn’t define a person.

Labels are for clothes, containers and canning jars… not people.

People are God’s masterpieces, that’s why.

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. ~ Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

Exquisitely created by God. Made for good works… and meant for the good life.

All of us.

Not just those who sit still or speak clearly or happen to perform well on standardized tests.

Every body.

Our incredibly special kiddos want to be seen, not stared at. Heard, not hushed. Treasured, not tolerated.

If we want to be more like Jesus, we need to celebrate every kind of diversity. Developmental, intellectual, chromosomal, and cognitive too.

Because wonder comes in all kinds of packages.

(And God doesn’t make mistakes.)

“Learning differences” doesn’t simply mean hidden strengths or undervalued abilities. It means unique perspectives, priorities, vision, and passion.

A fresh outlook. Invaluable insight. Infinite worth.

Because God said so.

And just like He does, we ought to cherish our children. Celebrate the best in them (and bear the worst). Embrace the possibilities. Affirm all the divinely-appointed potential.

Let’s keep encouraging, uplifting, applauding.

Let’s give blessings and big hugs and high fives.

Let’s savor every step and stride. (Each one is a tiny-but-mighty miracle.)

Let’s treasure every triumph… and honor every tear. Like our Father does.

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8 (TLB)

Our God sees, knows, cares… comforts.

My son has a laundry list of diagnoses, but none of them mean anything to him. Or us. Zack is funny and fiercely loyal. Passionate and particular. Humble and kind.

Zack is adamant about fairness… but he’s also the first to forgive when he gets shafted or shorted. Zack is strong and healthy… but he cares deeply about the weak, the sick, the suffering. Zack knows the power of words. He feels (deeply) every blessing. And curse.

He’s a big fan of college sports, country music, cheeseburgers and naps. And he’s good at putting things together.

When he was little, it was 100-piece Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles. And now it’s electrical and industrial pre-fab assemblies. He’s good at this stuff. Really good. Come to think of it, he’s a lot like the LORD that way. Taking things in pieces… or falling apart… and putting them back together. (Like Father, like son.)

But you know what Zack really wants?

He wants his life to count. Wants to contribute and connect. With God and other people.

Despite his learning disabilities, Zack is a gifted teacher. He taught me how to be a mom. He guided me away from controlling tendencies and conditional love and toward faith and compassion. He tutored me in persistence and patience. (And yes, he tested it too.) Honestly… Zack has taught me more about mercy and goodness and good humor than any professor, pastor, teacher or counselor I’ve ever had.

To me, Zack isn’t “special needs.”

He’s especially needed.

In our family.

And in the world.

Z ~ I love you all the way up to heaven and back a million zillion times.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Momma

P.S. If you or someone you love is a young adult who lives with the label “autistic” or “developmentally disabled” and wants to lose the label – and find an awesome community of friends and mentors, let me know. To learn more about our nonprofit, Seeds of Hope (which provides mentoring, vocational training and jobs for young adults like Zack), please visit our website.

Confessions of an Impatient, Imperfect, Nit-Picking Parent

(This one’s for all the mommas who reached the end of their patience before the end of the summer.)

Anyone who’s been a parent for more than 72 hours knows this…

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

You’ve got to be tough and tender, flexible and firm, instantly responsive and exceedingly patient. And that’s just for starters.

Last week was one of the worst in my parenting career. And I’ve had some doozies, believe me. After 28 and a half years on the job, I still haven’t mastered it. Not even close. (To be fair, though, the job description has changed… weekly.)

Recently – regrettably – I stooped to a new low. I did the underhanded interrogator/ overbearing drill sergeant/uppity church lady routine. And my 20-something was having none of it. So I let it go.

(In my dreams.)

No, the truth is… I didn’t let it go. I dug in deeper. I scoffed, scowled, and scolded. Meddled, muddled, manipulated, and just generally made a mess of things. Thankfully, my kid is the forgiving type. (If he were a grudge-holder, I’d be toast.)

The devil didn’t make me do it. It was all me.

Yeah, sometimes you just fall flat on your face… and suck mud.

I sucked.

I’ve always wanted to be the mom who’s willing to play the game, read the story, stack the blocks again (for the eleventh time in a row). The one who starts the ticklefest, the water war, the pillow fight. The one who throws impromptu cupcake/fingerpaint/Play-Doh parties for the littles and French press/film fest/Fortnite parties for the bigs. The mom who’s attentive and affectionate, wise and witty, playful and prayerful, faithful and FUN. I want to be the welcoming committee, sounding board, prayer team, and biggest fan.

And on my best days, I am.

But…

I can be lazy, short-sighted, selfish, impatient, presumptuous and downright b!#<%y too. (If not for coffee and Jesus, there’d be no survivors.)

When I feel stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, I get irritable, inflexible, unreasonable. And the more I say, the more I sin.

I overstate, exaggerate, manipulate. I assume, accuse, cajole and – (wince) – judge.

Thank God for this:

Love covers a multitude of sins.

(Can I get a “Hallelujah” from all the other humans with offspring?)

A mom friend once said to me: Little kids, little problems. Big kids, bigger problems. At the time, I remember thinking, Have you ever tried to extract a Polly Pocket playset piece from the itsy bitsy teeny tiny nasal cavity of a writhing, hysterical toddler? That’s a very small, VERY BIG problem.

But now I get it.

Instead of spilled milk, mysterious rashes and choking hazards… it’s speeding tickets, sexting and cyber bullies.

(It’s excruciating… waiting for the whole “cause and effect” concept to take hold.)

Lord, have mercy.

I do think it’s pretty great that God chose to make newborns stationary. You plop them down someplace and – miraculously – they stay right where you left them. I believe He did this to give new parents a chance to acclimate to having a very small, very needy human being in close proximity, one who’s incessantly hungry/thirsty/sleepy/poopy. At least they stay put. But not for long. Soon, they get rolling… and “sit, stay” rarely happens again. Their inclination is to scooch, crawl, walk, or ride their bikes as far from us as possible. Next thing you know, they’re 16, 17, 18, 19… and they’re asking for the keys so they can drive away. Far, far away. Into the big city. Or the mountains. (In Colorado.)

From the time they take their first steps, we encourage our kids to seek and savor independence. But what we don’t realize is that the more independent they become, the less control we have. And the more terrifying it is. And, well…

Desperate mommas do desperate things.

When it comes right down to it, most of my parenting failures are a direct result of my own anxiety and insecurities. Though it pains me to admit it, I often parent from a place of fear, pride, or a pretty anemic notion of love.

Let’s face it: parental fears are persistent… and plentiful. Injury, illness, insect bites and infestations. (If you’ve never had to wield a fine-toothed nit comb and lice-killing cream rinse, you should drop to your knees right now and give thanks with a grateful heart.)

The world is a perilous place to grow up. Not only do we have to worry about mean girls, bad boys, bullies and predators; we now need to issue urgent warnings about opiods, active shooters and texting/driving fatalities.

Worse yet, even when my kids manage to steer clear of the danger zone, I turn and fall headlong into another “parent trap.”

Pride.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made is parenting by popular opinion. (It’s a minefield, littered with high horses, haughtiness, blame and shame. Don’t go there.)

Another biggie was openly (and smugly) stating all the things I’d never do if my son _______________ or when my daughter ________________.

Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.

Yep.

Invariably, that very thing you swore you’d never do… you’ll do it. And discover you’ve tumbled headfirst into the pit of despair (with all the other demoralized, defeated, derelict parents). You’re facedown, eating crow. And there’s only one thing to do.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(He’s got strong arms.)

But the thing I most regret in all my years of parenting is this:

Conditional love.

I love you if you…

I love you when you…

I love you… but…

Not only am I guilty. I’m a repeat offender.

I dole out love in meager doses… or with a laundry list of prerequisites.

Why can’t I just love him freely and fully just the way he is? Why don’t I love her lavishly even when/if/though… Why can’t I just pour out love like there’s unlimited free refills? Splash it all around? Drench my kids in kindness and mercy and grace?

Maybe because I haven’t steeped long enough in Love and Living Water myself. Maybe because I don’t often enough go to my Father for advice. Maybe because I’m inclined to keep wandering far, far away. Which is pretty foolish… because I’m lost without Him.

The only perfect parent is the One enthroned above. His love never fails.

He’s a good, good Father.

And His mercies are new every morning… Before the alarm goes off and the lunches are made and the backpacks are loaded. (Even before the coffee is done brewing.)

What a relief!

Wendy

P.S. One last confession: I was not (and never have been) the momma who shed a few tears on the first day of school. I was the one doing the happy dance all the way home from the bus stop.

What Mom Really Wants

My dear reader,

This is a public service announcement to everyone who has a mom on the planet. Or a step-, foster- or fairy godmother. Or a female guardian/grandma/den mother/team mom/mother-from-another-brother… or momager. (Kylie and Kendall, I’m talking to you.)

Mother’s Day will be upon us in less than 48 hours. Stay woke.

I realize some of you may secretly rankle at the thought of paying homage to your mom, year after year after year. Maybe you think Mother’s Day is overhyped… or undeserved.

Think again, dear heart. (<Withholding judgment, making no mention of cluelessness, self-absorption or ingratitude on the part of those who don’t observe this holiday.)

Mothering is the toughest and most tricky/trying/tiring (and occasionally terrifying) job around. It’s also the most tender/terrific/transcendent (and occasionally triumphant) job around. Which is why Homo sapiens aren’t extinct.

Do you have any idea how much strength, skill, faith and fortitude it takes to suction nasal passages, administer oral medication, and remove a wad of earwax from a writhing, hysterical toddler? And then immediately thereafter wash and sort 37 pairs of socks (in sizes/colors/brands/designs ranging from 2T to C3PO, team colors to white-turned-dull-grey, Adidas to assorted dinosaurs), change 3 diapers, read 6 board books (or read the same board book 6 times), provide engineering consultation for a Lego fortress, apply teething gel, load a crockpot, extract a splinter, teach a math lesson using blueberries, tie a bib/shoe/superhero cape, craft a carefully-worded email to an overzealous T-ball coach, bathe a dog and a handful of grimy action figures, kiss/clean/bandage 2 boo boos, make organic applesauce (after chaperoning the preschool orchard field trip yesterday), unclog a toilet, research skin rashes and night terrors, play Mario Kart/Candyland/Connect 4, find a pacifier, a pair of glasses, the remote control, a sippy cup, a stuffed elephant and 3 overdue library books, fix a broken zipper, create a template for a princess crown from a paper plate, schedule a dentist appointment, battle grass and ketchup stains, arrange a playdate, dispense nutritional/behavioral/hygiene advice and unload the dishwasher all before 8:30 am? (But for Christ and coffee, none could prevail.)

And this is just the apprenticeship program, folks. Eventually these moms of preschoolers will be required to brave the wild frontier of kindergarten, run the gauntlet of the primary grades which includes the raging inferno of 3rd grade homework-hell as well as the dreaded 5th grade science fair project, only to then suffer the crucible of adolescence. Godspeed to all the moms with kids in junior high. (I mean that.)

The reward for mothers who survive to this point?

High school. Which is not nearly as perfectly pitched and well-choreographed as the Disney musical.

Yep, we get to revisit those four years of angst and acne and awkward once again. And watch our kids do all the stupid things we did. And cringe/pace/pray as they pull out of the driveway for the first time… and try to find their way in this crazy world.

We mother them, try not to smother them, and then send them off to a place filled with other inexperienced, immature, impulsive teenagers, knowing full well the potential for heartache and havoc wreaked by bad boys, mean girls, fakers, takers, drama queens, bullies, posers, pushers… and…

Snapchat.

(Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.)

I’ve been a mom since 1990. Which means I’ve been “celebrated” on 28 Mother’s Days. And I’ve decided it’s high time I let you in on a little secret.

Here’s what moms really want:

A little gratitude.

Even after kindergarten, “thanks” is still a magic word. Especially when it is accompanied by real-life, heartfelt specifics. As in, thank you for feeding me every dang day for 18+ years. That’s 6570 dinners and 2405 sack lunches, give or take. (Breakfast is self-serve around here. Cheerios, anyone?)

I know, I know. Your mom’s not perfect. You’ve got a gripe or two. Or maybe you have hundreds. And they’re all legit. If so, I’m sorry. I truly am. And I pray you find peace. In a perfect world, everyone should get an incredible momma. But isn’t there something – anything – you can thank yours for? How about your life? She did give you free room and board for about nine months before you were born. (And she could have legally put an end to you earlier, if she chose. So there’s that.) If you can muster up a little mercy for your less-than-perfect mom…

Give thanks. And do so sweetly, sincerely, specifically. (Preferably in person.)

A text – even a lengthy one with blowing kisses and a colorful string of heart emojis – doesn’t really cut it. (Fear not, far-flung millenials, there’s always FaceTime.) Even if you’ve been a stinkbomb lately, your mom wants to hear your voice. And your apology, if it’s ready… and doesn’t contain the word “but.” Any and all words of genuine gratitude, affection, affirmation, and love are always welcome.

Always.

You know what else Mom wants?

A helping hand. (Do dishes. Fold laundry. Wash windows. Sweep the garage. Vacuum her car. STRAIGHTEN YOUR ROOM!) Can’t afford a Mother’s Day gift? Clean the bathrooms. (That includes tubs and toilets, rookie.) You will be her Mother’s Day hero(ine). A pristine bathroom is right up there with pearls… and Hamilton tickets.

A token of affection. Preferably a lasting one. Put a little thought – and heart – into it. That means just. say. no. to the paltry bouquet near the checkout at Kroger. And the big box of assorted chocolates strategically located there too. (Especially if she’s trying to eat Paleo. Pay attention, people.) Don’t get me wrong, chocolate is essential in the trenches of motherhood, both for consolation and celebration. But a pre-wrapped package of Fannie May Meltaways requires no effort or creativity whatsoever. Think outside the box. What are her favorite places and pasttimes? What does she like to wear/read/eat/enjoy? Choose something meaningful and wrap it with heartstrings. (Framed photos, original artwork, homemade treats, and tickets/reservations/itineraries for a special outing/adventure together earn bonus points.)

And then there’s the always-coveted and rarely-bestowed holy grail of Mother’s Day bounty for all the weary mommas who are on duty 24/7/365:

A day off.

A blessed, blissful… break. A “Get Out of Cooking/Cleaning/Caregiving Free” card. An afternoon all to herself. Time to read/rest/relax. Or run/spin/kickbox, if that’s her thing. A few hours to wander a park, meander a mall, hike a trail, or simply stroll… without the stroller. After the shock wears off (and before the offer is rescinded), most moms will be racing for the door, feeling positively giddy. Or putting on PJs and climbing back into bed. (Every mom on the planet knows that sleep deprivation turns ugly… quick. We fight back with everything in our arsenal: catnaps, chamomile tea, lavender oil, and liquid therapy. Meaning whatever’s on sale at Total Wine.)

But what about the moms whose babies have already – and all too soon – grown and flown? The ones who sigh wistfully when they see mommas with littles in the grocery store, pushing piled-high carts and sorting coupons and corralling offspring. They (we) remember the kiddie chaos, the sheer exhaustion, the desperate prayers. And we reflect on the hard, humbling, holy work that is mothering.

All we want this Mother’s Day is…

You.

The gift of your presence. The welcome sight of your smiling face. The warmth of that big bear hug. The wonder in those twinkling eyes. That unmistakable laugh. The inside jokes.

The precious gift of togetherness.

(Those of us who have buried our mommas, we know now… how precious it really is.)

So, go on now.

Honor/hug/humor/help your mother this weekend. Say “thank you” for something specific. Bless her… and give her a break. (Or a nap.)

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Looking for the good life?

Bless your momma.

Wendy

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day – and CONGRATULATIONS – to the winner of my little Spring Fling Reader Contest, Charlene M of Illinois! Your DIY garden gift package is on its way!