A Cut Above

I have always been a goal setter.  It motivates me to work harder and press in when things are not going just the way I planned.  Combining that with my faith in the will of God is the only thing that helps me to stay functional and sane.  As an adult, I  have life experience to depend on during those times when my goal is just out of reach and that aids me in re-evaluating and setting revised goals.  But as a parent, teaching children the value and benefit of goal setting, I was faced with a tremendous challenge this past weekend.

As I mentioned in my prior post, my three older children are competitive swimmers.  This past weekend, my daughter Montana and my oldest son Wyatt, participated in their end of the season finals.  Swimmers compete in finals with the ultimate goal of reaching their best time for the season.  In addition, swimmers have the opportunity to qualify for the state meet.  State qualifying times are challenging and require committment.  My son Wyatt, set goals to establish himself well in his new age group(11-12) so as to position himself to potentially qualify for the summer state meet.  He accomplished his goal.  My daughter Montana, has been competing all season with the goal of qualifying as an individual in one event for the state meet.  Going into the meet on Saturday, Montana was .78 hundredths of a second from a qualifying time in her 100 backstroke. 

On Saturday afternoon, on a very quiet drive home, after two attempts, the result was 0-2.  Montana was devastated and so was I.  Now please understand, I was not disappointed in her, but for her.  I knew how much this goal ment to her, and there was nothing I could do.  She was inconsolable and no level of encouragement was affective.  We were so proud of her for her committment and effort and we had the benefit of life experience that tells us…..next time, it’s not the end of the world, and so on. 

My daughter swam her first highschool season this year with great success and her club season up to this point was considered to be as accomplished.   She had met all of her intermediate goals throughout the entire season, and in most cases had exceeded her goal.  But for Montana, at this moment in time, none of that mattered.  And in all my training and life experience, I was at a complete loss.  Worse yet, we still had an entire day of swimming to get through on Sunday.

With a deeply troubled spirit, I lay my head down on Saturday night and prayed earnestly for my daughter. God, give me wisdom in this situation to be what she needs when she needs it.  And when I fall short, may you hold her in your holy hand and let her know that your love is all she needs.

Another early morning ensued on Sunday, and due to scheduling issues just Montana, Wyatt and I went to the meet on that morning.  My “Man Of The North” and my other two boys stayed home to honor another committment.  On our way to the pool that morning, we began an impromptu conversation about the gifts we receive from God both physical and spiritual and how they drive the heart of who we are.  Walking in boldness and strength while working in our gifts is what allows us to present our very best in life.  When we have a relationship with Christ, we operate in His power and grace not our own.  All of the sudden, the three of us had an aha moment. And I watched the light go on in Montana.  We arrived at the swim meet refreshed and ready to leave Saturday behind and give our very best to the day ahead.

Wyatt continued to cut time in every race and he positioned himself for future success.  And Montana……Well, now for the rest of the story.  Scheduled to swim four races Sunday, she swam best times all morning including an unbelievable cut time in her 100 freestyle that witnessed to me that she was fully operational in her gift.  Just after that race she came to me in the stands, looked across the bleacher seat and said, “Mamma, I need to talk to you right now.”  She proceeded to explain that her coach, upon witnessing her last race, would like to scratch her final scheduled race and time trial her in the 100 backstroke one more time, if I approve. 

The moment of truth.  What do I say.  I don’t want her to be sad one more minute and this definitely has the potential to end in sadness.  And then I knew.  It wasn’t my decision.  “What do you want to do?” I said.  “I want to do it,” she said.  “Are you sure?”  I said.  “Yes, I want to do it.”  “Okay,” I said, “Then I think you should.”  Between that conversation and the time of the race (about 2 1/2 hours) I did not speak to Montana again.

She jumped in the water for the start and as she took her mark, I asked the Lord that no matter what the clock said at the conclusion, Montana would know that she had given her very best.  As I have reflected upon this race the last couple of days, I have come to appreciate the opportunity God gifted me with that day to witness my child accomplishing her goal.  With strength, boldness and grace Montana was a cut above.

My Montana

Building Bricks Of Strong Character

My Wade Swimming The Breaststroke

I know that I spend a lot of time on this blog discussing my family.  I love my family as a unit and as individuals.  Each one of my children is a unique creation that I find challenging and fascinating to relate to on an everyday basis.  I have always been dumbfounded by the fact that even with four children from the same mother and father they are all so very different in their personalities and their way of handling life’s situations.

My son Wade, third in the birth order gave me a glimpse into his true character this past weekend that I felt was worth sharing.  I preface this story by letting you know a few key things about Wade and his general mode of operation.  He has an extensive imagination that constantly amazes me.  He can build anything out of nothing just by visualizing it in his head.  His faith in God is pure and childlike and he believes that God is ever-present and at the ready whenever he goes to him in prayer.  He is bold, forthright and genuine.  Sometimes, despite all of his wonderful qualities, he can lack self motivation.  He tends to be more incentive driven.  Yet this weekend, he changed my mind a bit.

I believe with all of my heart that developing strong character in our children is primary and relates directly with the consistency of their faith.  Of all the things we as parents struggle to impart to our children, faith and character will keep them alive in the dog eat dog world of today.  Wade crossed a milestone this weekend that made me delighted to be his mom.

My three older children are competitive swimmers.  I spend a large part of everyday of my life as a mother driving to and from the swimming pool.  My Wade has been swimming for two long years an average of 7500 yards per week and for the first time, qualified for finals.  My  man of the north and I made sure to make him aware of how proud we were for his effort and accomplishment.  My other two children have seen more success sooner and Wade has gone to practice day in and day out with very little reward.  “THIS WAS HIS WEEKEND.”  Then….. the unthinkable happened.  The night before his meet he got terribly sick with a flu-like cold.

Devastated for him, I made it clear to him that if he was unable to compete we as his parents were in full support.  His only statement to me, through the mucous ridden, droopy eyed, feverish condition was, “I’m goin’ mom.”  I anticipated his condition to be worse by morning but, nonetheless, sent him to bed and prayed for a miracle. Morning came with no relief in the cold and no less determination from Wade to participate in his meet.  I remember asking again and again, “Are you sure,” doing my best to give him permission to bow out.  No Deal.

I decided then, to go on the offense and do my best to relieve all the symptoms I could for him.  Then, I packed the car, the lunch, the other kids and the husband and off we went.  In an effort to wrap this story up, I will just tell you that Wade swam every race he was entered in.  He finished them all, with no significant improvement in his times, but he finished.  Exhausted, disappointed and sick, he wrapped up his day and we headed home.

But this is the thing.  Wade decided not to quit.  He knew going in that his performance would probably be sub par due to his sickness.  He swam anyway!  This is more than any mom could hope for. I got the chance to see right into the essence of his character and I was uplifted by what was there.  It was in that moment that I made sure to encourage him for his fortitude and committment and I reminded him that for those who don’t quit, that stick to it no matter what,  there is great reward.

The Sandwich Hug

It is funny how traditions in a family start.  But more importantly, I am surprised at the types of things that can become institutions of security for our children.  When our three older children were very small, my husband used to line them up, stand in front of them and then squish them together like meat on a sandwich and pick them up to hug them.  Soon the process became more creative, and I became the other side of the sandwich.  The kids started to pick out their part of the sandwich,  “I’m the salami, I’m the lettuce,” and so on. Of course Bryan and I have always been the bread that holds the sandwich together. 

 Tonight, after a very challenging day, my husband approached me in the kitchen for a brief moment of affection while the diningroom buzzed with lively dinner conversation.  All of the sudden, from the white noise of the diningroom, I hear my youngest, Wynn, “Hey guys! (speaking to his siblings) stop, stop, its time for a sandwich, its time for a sandwich.”  Suddenly, in one thundering herd I hear, I’m the pickle, I’m the jelly, and so on.  And with that all four children, 12, 11, 10 and 3 jumped into our brief embrace  for a “Sandwich Hug”  Obviously they have grown to the point that we no longer lift them all off  the ground but, we wrap them up tight just the same, and for that brief moment, all is right with the world. 

In that moment, it dawned on me that this is a lot more to my kids than just a hug.  And we truly are (Bryan and myself) the bread on either side of this dynamic creation of divine love that holds it all together.  I have always enjoyed our “Sandwich Hugs”.  They make me smile, from the inside.  But today, I find myself  thanking  God for using the little things of life that we sometimes find insignificant to cement the love and unity of our family .  What is it for your family??  Whatever it is, hold on to it, it is making a difference.

Small Packages

In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I have a bit of a gap in my child rearing years.  We decided to start our family and 30 months later we had three children.  Then, we hit a dry spell.  Well honestly, we thought we were finished.  God had blessed us so richly with three beautiful, healthy children and things were good. 

Seven years later I got the shock of my life.  There are times in our life when we are brutally reminded about who is really in control.  I had many plans for my future when I discovered that I was pregnant for the fourth time.  And it took awhile to get my head around the idea.  I am ashamed to admit that I even went through a stage when I was angry with God for allowing this to happen. I spent a lot of time in prayer during those first couple of morning sick months begging for just a hint of understanding.  It was in those quiet moments on my knees that the Lord gently whispered in my ear that “He doesn’t give children to just anyone.” I decided then that despite my struggles with my predicament,  I would trust Him for strength and the time to accept what He had for me in this child. 

It would take multiple blog entries to truly express all that I have gained from the birth of this child.  But the other morning I was so grateful for small unexpected packages.

1400 Miles Of Obedience

Ever thought about what is at the root of your faith?   I have always tried to actively live my faith daily,  but this past week I crossed over into a place where my definitions for all things pertaining to my belief changed.  I was challenged by God to step out and be blindly obedient

Since moving to Minnesota in 1995, I have learned to cope with the distance I have from my immediate family who all have remain in California.  While visiting with my mother on the phone the other night, she shared with me that she had just received a phone call from Missouri.  Her younger sister, my aunt (who also lives in Missouri) had quite suddenly been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I have not seen my aunt in 15 years and instantly all kinds of thoughts went through my head.  Where had the time gone, how long does she have, is it cancer, what happens next, and then the epiphany.  My aunt doesn’t know Christ.

In all the years I have had a relationship with Christ, I have been convicted of many things, but for the first time I was faced with contemplating the eternity of a family member. So much goes through your head when you are trying to justify your position to yourself.  All the reasons why it was not my problem, not to mention the typical everyday legitimate excuses, for why traveling to Missouri to see someone I had not been in contact with for 15 years was ridiculous.  And the worst one of all…..What if she doesn’t want to see me? 

But the thing is, when God asks you to do something He doesn’t really have to give you a reason.  I believe He always has one, but that doesn’t mean you get to know what it is. That is faith.  Faith, you see, is paved with steps of obedience.   And if we choose obedience we have an opportunity not only to exercise our faith, but to strengthen it as well.

As more and more information came in about my aunts condition it became brutally apparent to me that I was not getting out of this trip.  My husband was ever supportive in all the ways needed.  He changed the oil in the suburban, check all the fluids and offered  to hold down the fort while I was away.  I left for New Haven, Missouri on Friday, February 11 at 4pm.  My oldest son graciously offered to chaperone and I am so thankful for his obedience and committment to his mother.  We arrived in New Haven on Saturday, February 12 at 12:30pm. 

Due to unforseen circumstances the time I spent with my aunt was one hour.  I had the opportunity to sit by her bedside, reminisce about time gone by and show her all that has been happening in my life for the last 15 years.  As I reached out to say good-bye I took that opportunity to pray for her and make sure she knew that it would continue.  No grand miracle occurred in those few moments of time but, as I prepared to leave she reached out, took my hand and expressed sincere gratitude for my willingness to come and see her.  In that moment I knew that I had done the right thing.

My son and I left as quickly as we came and by Sunday, February 13, 2pm we pulled into our home in Minnesota.  As I have had time to reflect on this trip many things have been laid upon my heart.  It is said that as Christians we all have different roles to play and some are there for planting while others are there for the harvest.  I know I planted seeds that day.  I also know that God will send someone to tend them.  Additionally, I realized that not only did my faith grow and increase through my obedience but so did that of my children as they witnessed their mother’s journey.

My son an I traveled 1400 miles in less that 48 hours.  And we did it for a one hour opportunity.  And I am here to say, it was worth every second.

God Bless

Cord Wood

My children have always been emotionally tight due to the sheer closeness of their ages. Montana is 12, Wyatt 11, and Wade 10.  In fact when Wade was born, Montana was two and a half and Wyatt was 360 days old.  It was crazy, to say the least.  So, when I discovered that I was in for a divine appointment with another child at the ripe age of 38, shock and dismay are just a couple of the many emotions I experienced in those early days of pregnancy.

I mourned the idea of the family I had and the family that would never be again, when this little bundle of divinity decided to boldly introduce himself.  More than anything, I along with my husband were concerned about the impact it would have on the other three. They made up such a nice neat package.  Many a day did I sit and pine after what seemed to be a situation completely out of my control, and wonder if it would be too much for all of us to handle.

It is three years later now and all of us are so undeniably taken with the little man we call Wynn. Never have I been so thankful to be proven wrong about the effects of circumstances.  I was graciously reminded again, two evenings ago, of God’s omniscience in all things.  As my Man Of The North and I headed up the stairs for the evening, my husband made his regular check of the children before falling into bed.  Tenderly, he came to me and said,”You need to go look at the kids.”  In blind obedience to his late night request I strolled down the hall, and into the darkness of the boy’s room.

There, lined up like cord wood in one twin bed lay my 12-year-old girl, 10-year-old boy, and way back in the corner, that beautiful bundle of joy, 3-year-old Wynn.  My Wyatt, 11, sound asleep in his bed right next store.  Some time between bedtime and midnight, Wynn had found his way into the mix.  My Montana sleeps with her brothers every weekend, by choice.

There is nothing more full of joy and peace for me as a mother than to witness the love my children share between each other.  It is a gift from heaven.  And that evening I took an extra moment to thank my Lord for His gift of children.