Be the Dog

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A dog loves their master to the point that if people took the dog’s “word” for it, they would think that the master was wonderful and without fault.   A few nights ago I was sitting next to my husband in our bedroom.  My PJ top was riding up a little and I had not realized it.  As my son walked into the bedroom, my little pooch  threw herself abruptly across my previously exposed abdomen.  Initially, I laughed.  This dog became like a blanket across me.  Soon after, I thought…what the dog did for me is a perfect picture of what we should do on an ongoing basis for our spouse.

When married, we should be our spouse’s safe place, a soft place for them to land, their biggest cheerleader, and protector of their reputation.   It is as if we need to be like my dog who threw herself across my tummy.  We need to jump up and edify our spouse in front of our children and others.  We need to theoretically, throw ourselves across any exposed areas of our spouse so that they don’t have unnecessary embarrassment.  We need to jump in and minimize our spouse’s mistakes instead of making them a big deal.  Afterall, when I flub up (which happens often), I usually know it and I surely don’t need someone else shining a bright light on my mistake.  I like having a reputation protector and safe place to be myself.  It is within that safety that I can grow and become a better version of me.

My goal this week is to be the “dog” for my husband.

 

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Not So Peachy Keen

If you think what you do now won’t matter in the future…think again.  Tonight I tasted my husband’s peach-flavored refresher and thought, “Ick.” He later asked if I wanted a sip to which I said, “No.”  He asked, “What?  You don’t like it?”  Then, with a knowing and loving look, he said, “I know…I remember.”  He was not even part of my life when the aversion began, but after sharing life together for over 25 years, he knows what is important to me.

As a worldly non-Christian college student, I made some decisions that I’m not proud of, nor decisions I would like to see my own children make.  One particular night, my drink of choice was a peach-flavored alcohol.  My decision that night led to an overindulgence that resulted in a very unpleasant night and next morning.  After that night, I vowed to never do that again.  I know that some reading this may feel that this is exactly why drinking is bad.  It may suprise you that “that” is not my point here.  To drink or not to drink is a choice each adult has to make within the framework of whom they are spending time with and their own Biblical conviction.  For instance, while I may enjoy a glass of wine here or there, it is not part of my usual pattern and I won’t do so around someone who struggles with alcohol.

The things we do, and choices we make, have a lasting impact.  Ever since the night in question, I have never enjoyed peach flavor.  I can’t tolerate the smell, taste and hardly even the word.  I don’t typically think about it, athough I am glad I have the memory.  What I did over 25 years ago effects me and my decisions today.  Every choice has consequences – good and bad ones.  This can be a paralyzing thought if you dwell on the fact that we can never undo what we’ve done, nor unhear or unsee what we’ve heard or seen.  But, I think instead it should give us hope.  Hope in knowing that God uses imperfect people to do great things.

My bad choices definitely don’t look like they did when I was in my early 20s,  yet, still today I do fail and make some bad choices – how I start my day, how I spend my time, treat my kids, talk to my husband, etc.  I think what matters is that we don’t waste the lessons from those choices.  I need to be sure to quickly learn from my mistakes.  Then, and only then, can I grow.  Wisdom comes from that growth.  Clearly, I would not advocate making bad choices just to have a lesson; but, don’t lose out on the teachable moment that can come from them.

Over the years, I’ve learned lessons that have molded me into me.  Because I let some important friendships fade away, I’ve learned to be intentional with my close friends by nurturing them to stay strong – even when there is a great distance.  That’s a win for me.  Because I did not always choose to hang around men who treated a woman with love and respect, I appreciate the blessing of my strong, committed and faithful husband.  I am blessed.  Because I have sometimes yelled foolishly at my kids, I have been able to see the blessing of their generous forgiveness and changes to my parenting.  Because I made a dumb choice that night and now have a strong peach flavor aversion – Ick, I know that I don’t ever want to put myself in such a vulnerable, out-of-control position.  I want to be a living testimony.  My past and the lessons I have learned from it, have made me into the woman I am today.  My past may not be all pretty, yet God accepted and accepts me – flaws and all.

 

Note:  Title assistance from my adult daughter who proofs for me.  🙂peach

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What is Mothering Really All About?

I love when I get a glimpse of the tapestry God weaves through different life experiences with different people we encounter.  Once I believed in coincidence, but the longer I live, I can’t deny seeing God links circumstances and people together like a Lego creation (oh wait…auto-correct..My son often reminds me that create is a word reserved for God…only He creates, we make).

Recently I had the opportunity to sing in a praise band setting with my sister who often leads worship with a team at her church.  Three of my daughters and I were blessed to be part of an awesome group during a Praise BBQ she and her husband hosted.  I loved being part of it, and especially singing again with my sister.  We were able to blend our voices as we sang  My adult daughter told me that at times when we were singing together, that me and my sister sounded like the same voice.   What a great compliment that was.  I’ve admired her for years in different areas and it was a treat to be back singing together.

While we practiced wih passion and intentionality, we also were able to joke, laugh and enjoy eachother.  The day of the BBQ was as amazing as I expected it to be.  But there was a suprise for me – a lesson God put together.  He wove together what I learned from a book I recently read, called Kingdom Woman, with the words of a very unassuming beautiful young woman.  As a wife of 22 years and mother for 21 years, my passion is to help strengthen families and see that girls have a good example of a Godly marriage.  That said, I still need lessons and reminders on how to be the best Tracy I can be.  Saturday, my lesson came from the sweet words of a mother of a preschool aged boy.  She came to the BBQ prepared to sing a few worship songs while playing keyboard.  She is blessed wih a pure voice that allowed me to lose myself in worship while listening.  As she introduced one of her songs, she invited her young boy to come up and sing with her.  Though I am paraphrasing, she made comment that she loves that he wants to sing with her and she wanted him involved.  Further, she said, ‘What better way (for her or anyone) to ensure that our kids stay in church as they grow up.”  I was moved by her sweet words, but also hit with conviction.

You see, I had my 6 year old sing with us.  At one practice, we gave her a microphone to sing along, too.  My motive was to appease her so I could focus on my own learning of a song; it was not on allowing her to worship.  I confess that I even told my sister to turn her microphone down.  Why?  Partly so she woud not just talk loud and distract the musicians.  But it was also so she didn’t derail me.  My confidence was shaky and I wanted to do good in the eyes of those at the practice.  My eyes were on me.  Let that sink in.  I lost sight of why we were singing in the first place.  I lost that opportunity to encourage and lead my daughter.  Yet, at the time, I did not even realize anything was lost.

The day of the BBQ, my 6 year old sang “No Longer Slaves,” with us, and I knelt down so she could reach and use my microphone.  I’d told her she  could sing that one with us ahead of time.  Later, after hearing the words of the young mom, our group had a second set.  I fought my fear – ironic since the song is about not being a slave to fear – of what others may think of my singing, or of having a kid run up and sing with us and I put my focus where it needed to be this time – on my family and my God.  During “Break Every Chain” I got to sing with my sister, while standing beween my gifted adult songbird daughter and my pre-teen daughter whose voice is maturing and passionate, while I was bending down to my 6 year old to share a microphone aimed at her voice, not mine.  At that moment the notes sang and the opinions of those watching did not matter nearly as much as the joy I had singing about the power of Jesus’ name alongside my kids.  Afterall, THAT is what motherhood is all about.

My mothering goal is to raise my children to be successful adults who can not only survive but thrive in this world.  Even more, I want them to love God and serve him.  To do that takes intentional effort and my lessons need come not only in words, but mostly in my actions.  Am I seeking man’s approval or God’s approval?  Do I sing to please man or to please the awesome God who gave me a voice?  I’ll leave you with these lyrics from “No Longer Slaves” – “…you rescued me so I could stand and SING, I am a child of God”.

 

 

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God’s Providential Hand

Note:  This is published with permission from my dear Daddy.

It has been one month since I saw my stepmother breathe her last here on Earth.  For the next few days, I was prompted to write.  I was in awe that God changed my plans to fit into His plans.

Often times, I feel that the Lord works in my life, but there are times when I look and wonder if I am missing some of His urgings due to my lack of prayer and focus on Him.  I get so busy and caught up in the life that He allows me to live – but that I sometimes feel I’ve created. This may sound a bit contradictory, but it is my reality and God blesses me through my own versions of “Lord I have faith, please help me in my lack of faith”.

My stepmother went into the hospital with some abdominal pain from a lack of movement in her bowels.  She lived a challenging lifestyle for over 5 years due to health challenges yet this one was not as common for her.  She was admitted and was going to meet with a surgeon in the morning to decide what the best course of action was.  By morning, her responsiveness and coherance had dramatically decreased and it was found that her blood pressue had dropped dangerously low and she was likely septic.  From the point of determining the blood pressure and coherance change until her death was only a matter of maybe 4 hours.  For the privacy of my family, I won’t go into all the details.  The point of writing is to display for all to see – or atleast those that read this – that God DID work in her life and in mine that day, the days prior and days since.

Backing up, the night before her death, I had discussed with my husband that after I got done with everything I needed to do in the morning, including dental appointments for four kids, I’d run up to the hospital to check on my stepmother.  I usually didn’t visit the first 24 hours of her hospital stays, as that was time the hospital would be determining the best course of action.  But the morning of, I awoke early and had this “strange” feeling that I needed to go up to the hospital early.  I checked emails and googled bowel obstruction in elderly, as I wanted some background before walking in the room.  Providentially, I came across a blog written by a medical professional that talked about some of the causes of death in elderly.  In it he wrote about how some families, with all good intentions, will do “everything possible” to maintain life and that many people today struggle with accepting that death is part of life.  The blog detailed some of the many things a hospital will do if you say you want “everything” done, and again, I had this prompting that it was time to go to the hospital.

I know now that the Lord was allowing me to be prepared for the conversation I would have with my dad, stepsister and a Rapid Response nurse just hours later.  The Lord allowed me to be a voice for my stepmother, in a way I never would have chosen or imagine.  I was able to help my dad, in the fog of severe grief for his beloved wife, see that she would not have chosen all of the extreme measures the ICU would have required, all with a very small percentage chance of survivial or recovery.  I was able to be by his side, holding his hand, hugging his aching body and doing my best to explain what the nurse was urgently asking him.

As my children rushed to the hospital that morning, along with other family members, my children cried.  Some cried for the eminant loss of their grandmother and some cried because they didn’t know the condition of her heart towards Christ.  In the midst of the tears and strain, my youngest girl, not quite 5, was quick to tell us, that Grandma wasn’t hurting anymore, and that now she could jump and run.  It was through the lips of her sweet soul that God spoke to us to comfort us.

Again, I looked back at just 24 hours earlier in our lives and remembered a sweet girl at church who spoke during a special Student Sunday. She shared her testimony and in it spoke on how it took her a few years to find peace after her grandmother’s death.  She shared, to my memory, on how it hurt, but that God had a plan and she was finally ok with that.  Little did I know that my children would be experiencing similar grief so soon, and I know that her words impacted their lives.

God, also orchestrated a rare day, where my entire family was not working.  My husband had taken the day off, for other reasons which allowed me to go up to the hospital; my college daughter was home and not working on that one day; my other working daughter was able to ask off.  God knew, before we did, that we needed that day to just be together and be shoulders to cry on for eachother.

In the days that have followed, we have had such sweet conversations about salvation and God’s handiwork.  We’ve shared memories of grandma and we’ve cried.  My youngest daughter has a fascination now with knowing her grandparents, their parents, etc.  Every few days, I’ll hear her say, “I miss Grandma Pat.  I know she’s not hurting anymore though.”  This youngest girl adores her Grandpa and, in my opinion, has been gifted with a sensativity beyond her years, to realize when he needs a hug, kiss, or smile.

Death is hard.  I am so sad that she is not here with us on Earth, smiling into my dad’s eyes, calling her daughter for their daily talk, or cheering my kids on in their activities.  Yet, I know that He orchestrated the day in a way that we could all be together and have the memory of love and support that was ever-so-present in the hospital room that day.

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Memories

riley

 

The table was wiped once again after dinner.  As the crumbs were cleared away we began discussing our dining room table.  “It probably needs refinishing” was mentioned in one breath.  Without skipping a beat, the next comment was, “but I know you don’t want to do that.”

I am so very protective of my table.  It doesn’t have a beautiful glossy polish or a perfectly smooth finish any longer.  What is does have is memories…The very pale mis-shaped circle on one end  is the history of a friendship my oldest once had.  She and her friend spilled nail polish remover.  I have marker stains speckled across the table.  I have etching from some sentences once aggressively written on paper that then transferred to the wood of my table  It is a memory of the various times we required our kids to write ssentences in order to remind them of the principles our family follows.  There are a few crosses or nicks on the table, too.  If you have an occassion to crawl under my table, you may find some signed artwork and some originals with no signature.

This table, represents to me, the many happy memories we have had and continue to have as a family.  Family dinners are a trademark of the Clark Family.  We enjoy being too loud together, praying together, sharing our day’s adventures and inviting friends to join us at that table.  Many studies have been done at that table, as well as crafts, and talks.  God has blessed us with a family to fill and sometimes overflow that table.

Today there is a new addition to my table.  My sweet youngest girl, etched her name into the corner for all to see.  She told me she wanted her “own memory” on that table.  She made a mark in our lives the day she was born and now has made her “mark” on our table of memories.  Though I could have scolded her for her choice…it was time to hug her and tell her I will never forget the “memory” she gave me this morning on my dining room table.

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Owning Faith

When children are young, often the goal is to protect our kids from getting “owies” or to teach them to read, or be respectful.  As the child grows, so do those goals.  The goal may be to survive hormone changes or keep out of trouble.  And, as the children are highschool and beyond, the goals still change.  Clark kids are required to learn household chores.  They each learn to drive, and are required to get a job.  Each of those “requirements” is to intentionally help guide our children into adulthood.

While those goals are valid and good, we can’t lose sight of the eternal, even when we are in the fog of daily parenting challenges.  I offer that it is even more important to keep our focus on the passing on of faith to our kids.  I’ve often thought that we could accomplish that through family faith stories.  We would often tell our kids about God’s faithfulness to our family through sparing my husband’s life in a couple near accidents while working.  We’ve shared of God providing us food or clothing unexpectedly, yet right when we needed it most.  Over and over my kids have heard about how God provided scripture and peace to me while I was pregnant with my now teenage son.  I was so fearful I would lose him while pregnant that I angrily told my husband there was NOTHING in the Bible about faith, and then fell fast asleep.  God woke me early the next morning with Luke 7:9 – a verse I was not familiar with.  That verse was clear evidence that God DID hear my prayer and responded.

While each of those God moments are parts of the Clark faith story, and each can hopefully help lead someone to seek more answers about His Truths, when speaking about my children, those stories will not lock in their faith nearly as much as a faith story of their own answered prayers.

During a Bible study over the last few days on Genesis, our teacher began a discussion on Noah’s sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth.  The discussion led to how the sins of the father are passed down three to four generations.  The class ended with each of us being urged to talk with our kids about the way God answers their own prayers.  That statement rang so true to me.

Take a quick journey back with me of maybe twelve years.  Our young daughter would pray with us at bedtime.  We would also pray during the day when she had struggles or needs.  Sometimes those prayers ended up handwritten on a tiny piece of paper and folded up and secretly tucked in to her bedpost.

Recently we were rearranging a bedroom and removed the bottom bedpost caps, for the 1st time in many years.   What fell to the ground were a dozen little girl’s prayers that we were able to read for the first time ever.  The sweetness of those prayers was made even sweeter by the fact that God has answered each and every one of those prayers.  I remember praying some of those prayers with her.  I remember, too, praising God for answering them.  Now, she has written reminders of God’s answer to prayer.

Some of the same prayers that we found written from years ago, are ones that I am currently praying with one of her younger sisters.  God is moving in this younger sister’s life, too.  It is a joy to be able to share these papers with the younger sister, as evidence of their similar prayers.  And, it is a wonderful reminder of how God hears our prayers and responds.

What is the goal of parenting?  There a many valid answers.  I challenge you, as a I challenge myself, not to miss the goal of passing on faith.  Owning your faith is such a priceless commodity.  Seeing how God moves definitely can lead a person to seek more.  When we see how God has worked in our OWN lives though, that is when we OWN our faith.

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That’s Hypocritical

Out of the mouth of babes.  Two words said to me today by my 10 year old slapped me straight.

Six months ago I said I would ride a local roller coaster with my daughter once she was tall enouch to ride it.  Today she was tall enough and the line was short.  I really thought that I was covered when we arrived at the park becuase I had already told her I awoke with a headache, and her dad had volunteered to take her for her very 1st ride on Batman at Six Flags.  It never crossed my mind to ride any new rides today.  I have developed a fear of rollercoasters over the years as a mom.  I have been known to push my kids to ride a rollercoaster or ride with them to help them overcome a fear.  But this 10 year old loves coasters, so the issue was mute.  My once young brain now has wisdom and logic, my level-headedness sometimes spins with vertigo, and I just let me head get in the way sometimes of the adventure and thrill of something new.

I was first to cheer for her as she came off the ride…then it happened, she bouncily asked me to ride with her so she could go again.  Nope.  I said I didn’t wan’t to and that I was still afraid.  Then my sweet husband urged me with “come on, you had our son overcome his fear of the same ride last year”.  Seriously?!  He pulled that on me.  I had pushed our son…I knew he would want to ride it, and he just needed a gentle and loving shove…or a few shoves.  Now he loves the ride.  But this is me.

I obliged their urge to just ride it.  The kids cheered, I prayed and had a talk to myself along the long walk to the start of the ride.  About half-way there, I began my logical plea of how I really didn’t “want” to ride and was afraid.  I continued, that I was good for encouraging them to overcome fears because I knew it was good for them and would help them succeed in their lives.  Sounds good, right?  And I meant every single word.  Fear is paralyzing.  I never want my kids to miss out of life becuase of it.  Fear steals opportunity and keeps kids and adults from fully experiencing the life they were created to live.

Then came those two words, “That’s hypocritical.”  Ouch!  She was right and those words urged me to make myself to the front of that line.  I stood, still scared, and my son reminded me of a favorite verse from Phillipians 4:13, “Mom, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.”  He was right.  I repeated those words in my head the entire ascent of the ride.  Squinty-eyed, I rode the ride.  60 seconds later I was able to walk off that ride, a bit dizzy, but as an overcomer.  I was not the hypocrite.  And best of all, were the afterthoughts.

My husband and my goal in raising our five children is to raise them to love and serve God and to see them pursue their passions in a way that they lead a successful life.  Through our parenting journey, we have encouraged them to always revert back to the Bible to check facts and see how to live life.  Scripture memorization has been part of our home.  We’ve told them we wanted them to have the Word hidden in their hearts so they can pull from it when needed.  Today my son, helped me by pulling Scripture out.  We have also often told our kids that we don’t ask them to do anything that we’ve not done ourselves. We talk of hypocracy in our family and society quite often.  Today my daughter was able to effectly show me she understood what that means and call me on it.  She wasn’t being disrepectful in telling me I was being hypocritical.  She was spot on and  I deserved it.

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