Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dear Ben, Happy Birthday!

(This is an idea I'm stealing from my best childhood friend... recently become mother of her fifth!  I had this ready to post on Ben's birthday, but we've been having serious internet issues... grace, grace, grace!)

Dear Ben,
You are two years old today!  Happy Birthday to my bouncing ball of joy!   You light up our family, Ben.  After you were born, your first two days of life were so sleepy and peaceful, I thought you were going to be a really mellow kid.  And then you woke up.  And our life brightened up and came alive with all sorts of new adventures!  
You are a little climbing monkey!  Your body has to be constantly in motion when you’re awake.  I’ve found you on top of the kitchen table, on top of the couch, up on a high window sill, on the back of the toilet, and climbing up every fence and pile of wood or dirt or rocks you can find outside.  I think you’ll be a great rock-climber or mountain climber when you’re older.

But you also contain your energy when you’re really interested in mastering a skill.  You can really focus in on something and concentrate for a surprisingly long period of time.  You’re growing up so fast… the only time you look like a baby now is when you’re sucking your thumb, which you only do when you’re holding your blue “bee-deh” (blanket) - which you only get at sleep-time. 

My favorite thing about you right now is your grin - your real one: it’s amazing.  (You have a fake, squinty-eyed one that’s hilarious too.)  It’s like electricity lighting up your body from inside, shooting out your eyes and your smile - you’re just giddy with excitement.  You have this giggle that goes with it: a high-pitched shriek with shoulders hunched, then barely-hold-it-in squeaks of excitement with eyes sparkling - LIFE is just SO EXCITING!!  

You are so people-focused and others-aware, Ben.  Whenever there’s something good to eat being passed around, you don’t just take one for yourself, you always think of your brother right away.  “Ah-gookee?  Ah-gookee?”  And after I give you a cookie, you immediately say, “Ah-Will? Ah-Will?” and hold your other hand out for one to take to Will.  You gravitate to babies and small children and want to hold their hand and take them over to play with whatever you’re doing.  
And you are such a ham!  You love suspense and an interactive audience.  You wait for a---ges, grinning secretly with the blanket over your head, before popping out to say “Peek-a-boo!”  You do totally goofy, zany facial expressions whenever anyone gives you attention.

Best of all, you’re already learning about how much Jesus loves you.  The first song you sang on your own was “DEE ah WAH, DEE ah WAH…”  (“Deep & Wide”) You started singing it in the stroller all by yourself out of the blue this summer, after learning it at a retreat (Thanks, Miss Rachel!).  Now you can sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” too.  Before we eat, you squinch your eyes shut, put down your fork, bow your head and hold out your hands to thank Jesus.  If we forget, you shout, “Say gace!  Say gace!”  I love how you pray for all your friends at night before you go to sleep.  May you always know how wide and deep is Jesus’ love for you, Benjamin, and may you always be this loving towards others.  

I love how cuddly you are; you love to snuggle into my lap to read a book, or crawl under my blanket to snuggle with me when you come in to wake me up after naptime.  I love it when you pull my cheek close and give me a big fat kiss goodnight that I have to wipe off afterwards.  We are thrilled to have you in our family, Benjamin Timothy Broughton.  There is no one else like you on this entire planet, and WE get to watch you grow up and show you how to love Jesus.  I’m so thankful for you, and I’m so glad Jesus picked me to be your Mommy. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

a drop in the bucket

My youngest turns two tomorrow.  In a month, my oldest will be four.  Four years is a long time.  I spent four years in high school, another four years in college.  
And now I’ve been a mother for almost four years.  

In high school and college, with each year that went by you felt like you had it figured out a little better, and by the time you graduated you were top of the heap.  All those little puny freshmen looked so inexperienced and immature - you had it “sussed” (Kiwi English for “figured out”).  You could show them a thing or two.  
As a mother?  
After four years, I feel even smaller, even more like a beginner, even more humbled and overwhelmed than when I started.  Bringing William home from the hospital, I was filled with joy and confidence.  I was made to do this, I thought.  My body was created for this - I’m a natural.  
That lasted for a while… motherhood was golden.  Piece of cake.  I loved it.  
Then William turned two.  The week before his second birthday we had our first screaming knock-down-drag-out fight, and panic filled my heart: Who IS this kid?  This isn’t my son!  What do I do NOW?   
He used to get so angry when I punished him - I mean, absolutely kicking-screaming-furious.  He still sits in stubborn silence, convinced he’s right, refusing to answer the simplest, gentlest question.  His craving for fairness right from the beginning has kept me accountable to never discipline him in anger - he simply will not respond.  Not until I calm down, pray for love myself, speak in love, pray out loud for him to want to ask Jesus for help, and walk him through asking Jesus for help himself, do we finally get somewhere.   It’s extremely humbling, extremely frustrating, and extremely good for me.  I’m so much more aware of my own sin than I was four years ago.  Nothing like being held accountable by your three-year-old!

Now, looking at his fourth birthday next month, instead of feeling like I’ve got it “sussed” after four years, it’s like there’s this  massive chasm yawning before me of everything I don’t know, everything I haven’t experienced yet, all the milestones yet to reach… After four years, even with all my mother’s intuition, I’m just barely beginning to get to know my son.  Just barely scratching the surface of who William is.  There is so much down there - he runs so deep.  I’m driven to prayer, again and again - O Lord, help me understand him.  Help me love him even when I’m angry with him.  Help me delight in him.  Help me shepherd his heart, not just demand different actions that please me.  
And Benjamin?  I blinked, and two years went by.  He’s completely different from Will.  He has completely different needs, loves, hates and frustrations.  He is a ball of energy where Will is sedentary, talkative where Will is contemplative, physically in-your-face where Will demands his space.  Ben wants to be outside, Will likes to stay inside.  Ben starts climbing, Will says, “Get down, you’ll fall!”  Will wants to sit and watch television, Ben gets bored after 10 minutes and looks for something to throw his body on, in or over.  Ben has a hotter, more explosive temper and more of a showman’s streak, but a much quicker turnaround time.  They are totally different.  Hardly anything I’ve learned with Will applies with Ben - I’m starting completely over from scratch.  Yikes.  
So much for four years feeling like a completed length of time.  Four years is just a drop. in. the. bucket.  Really.  

On Sunday, we listened to a great message on parenting.  After sharing some anecdotes, the pastor invited his two grown daughters (ages 20 and 18) to the mic to share their thoughts on godly parenting.  Both girls sounded articulate, genuine, not nerdy at all - their voices were beautiful.  And they talked about Jesus more than anything else.  Everything they said related to loving Jesus.  
They talked about learning the fear of God from their parents - modeling  seeking God as a family on financial issues, relationship issues, decision-making - how Jesus was the first person their parents sought for everything, and so that’s automatically where the girls go now for advice: to Jesus.  
The girls never thought “Family Night” was cool growing up - all their friends teased them about it, and they had to miss out on study dates, etc - but those same friends joked later that they thought of ringing the doorbell to interrupt “Family Night” and join in.  Both girls said, “Parents, it’s ok to make your kids do things they don’t want to do!  I used to gripe about having to ride bikes and play games with my brothers, and now we’re best friends.  Your kids will thank you for the memories and relationships when they’re older.”  
They talked about learning how to spend time with Jesus from an early age, starting with Bible DVDs or tapes, and moving on to reading the Bible for themselves, and how their Dad or Mom would ask them later what they read and what they learned, what Jesus said to them… and so now, they not only understand how to spend time with Jesus, but they love doing it and their day isn’t complete with out it.  (I was definitely in tears by this stage.)   
I looked over at James through my tears, and said in a half-whisper, “Oh that our boys would talk about Jesus like this when they’re 20 and 18!”  

A while ago I started a “Jesus box” for William in the mornings, with Bible story books and paper to color with, but he never did much with it because it wasn’t specific or directed enough.  So after listening to Sunday’s sermon, I put The Jesus Storybook Bible CDs on my iPod, and yesterday when Will woke up, instead of just having him look at regular books until breakfast, I gave him headphones and turned on the Storybook Bible.  Afterwards at breakfast (upon request) he told us the entire story of how Isaac was the son of the promise, and how Abraham almost killed him, but God provided a “wam” stuck in the bushes so Isaac didn’t have to be killed.  (The first time he’s really gotten that story!)  When James asked him who the “ram” was that God sent for us so we didn’t have to die, Will immediately said, “Jesus.”  
Today Will woke up a bit later, so he came straight in to eat breakfast.  But the first thing he said afterwards, still in his PJs, was, “Mommy, can I go listen to Jesus?”  
Music to my ears.  

If I do one thing in my 14 remaining years with Will and 16 years with Ben before they leave for college, I want it to be this: showing my sons how to love Jesus.  How to spend time with Him.  How to listen to Him.  How to hear His voice.  Who cares what homeschool curriculum I use, which continent’s material I focus on, how many languages they learn, how many fieldtrips they take or educational toys they have - if they know who Jesus is, that He loves them, and how to love Him back, I’ll consider it a job well done.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

for when you're feeling a bit blue

I’ve been a little blue the past few days.  My parents were here for a 9-day visit, and now, they’re gone.  Richness, fellowship, encouragement, laughter, presents, presence… all were ours for 9 special days, and now the gaping emptiness leaves me feeling rather forlorn.
And then I hear it, piping happily through the children’s songs I turned on this morning (ostensibly to cheer up my boys, but really because I feel so much like a child myself today):
“Give thanks (clap clap) to the Lord, 
Give thanks (clap clap) to the Lord, 
For He loves you,
He loves me too,
Give thanks to the Lord our God (clap clap)!”
And then I remember: how to get out of the blues, how to float up to normal, how even to find the bubble of joy in my heart:  Give thanks.  
So here’s my list for today:
  • Happy perky children’s songs about loving Jesus
  • Two boys who are happier today than yesterday, playing quietly while I write this (a miracle!)
  • The promise of a house helper coming this morning to help me can spaghetti sauce (after not being able to find a helper for the last month or so)
  • A husband who loves me and makes great coffee
  • Two incredible parents who love me and love Jesus even more
  • Their amazing church who gifted them the tickets to come for a visit 
  • The first chance I’ve had, ever, to host my own parents in my own home
  • My dad’s raving over my fresh breadsticks :)  
  • The sweet savor of their visit, and the sweet aroma left behind by their love
  • The way my house is more beautiful for their presence (stenciled verses in my hall, a new carpet, cherries in my kitchen)
  • The way our tummies were filled and our hearts were too
  • Their attention and entrance into our boys’ two different worlds
  • Their commitment to relationship
  • Their wisdom and understanding, and ability to listen and ask good questions
  • Their example
  • The way they taught me to be self-aware and analyze my actions until I find the roots of my own sin, so I can bring it to Jesus and let Him deal with it
  • How patient they were during all their jetlag and viruses
  • How affirming of all we’re trying to do
  • Their flexibility and open hands around all expectations and desires
  • Their smilies, hugs, interest, zest for life, and sheer delight in us and all that surrounds us
  • The pleasure and privilege of having godly parents
  • The incredible surprising blessing of having them here, in person
William’s list (unedited):
For Gramma and Grampa giving me new presents
For Grampa Tim & Gramma Ros playing with me
That you played with me (you, -point point- at me)
That Ben was playing with me
That I could go in your bedroom and drink hot chocolate yesterday after nap
This yummy apple I’m eating
Ben’s list (also unedited):
New helicop-pa-ter
Um… GrampaTim

Before the “Give Thanks” song on the CD, there was a child’s voice reciting sweetly:
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever, Psalm 139 verse 1.”  
And I think, Yes, You are good, Lord.  And this love of Yours, that endures forever?  One day we will all share it in unbroken fellowship You together, with no separation, forever.  
Balm for my aching heart.