Category Archives: Family Life

Parent Guilt

I rarely remember my dreams, but the one I have of my son, Jon, is always the same. He is lost.

He might be any age and in different surroundings but he is always lost. And I am always looking for him. And I can never find him. And no one around me cares enough to help me look.

I hate this dream. I hate the panic and the helplessness of it. I hate that after thirty six years I still have it.

I’ve come to believe this dream says a lot more about me than it does my son. Even though I have come to accept and love Jon for who he is, I think there is still a deep inside part of me that struggles with how this turned out. I had expectations. I wanted different. I wanted more.

chaos and peaceI saw the same guilt-panic in my son and daughter-in-law while visiting them recently. Their newborn son cries, a lot. Better described, he screams. He balls up his little fists, kicks his legs, flails his cute little arms, turns deep shades of red and wails himself inconsolable.

And they feel guilty. Why isn’t he happy? What are we doing wrong? This isn’t supposed to be like this.

Parenting is indescribably wonderful and can also be overwhelmingly scary. Kids don’t come with a step one, step two, step three, instruction manual like those for assembling a boxed set piece of furniture. Don’t we wish it was that easy?

Their manual is more like the one I recently received with a new small appliance I purchased, “Caution! Do not….,” a list of warnings; I had to figure out how to actually use the thing on my own. Is it this button or this one? Does it take a battery or not? Hmmm….

All parents deal with some level of guilt. It comes with the job. Most of us don’t know what we’re doing when we start and those who think they do soon find out it’s SO different when the kid is yours. It sounds good in the parenting book we read and the advice of a zillion experts we’ve heard, but now that you’re up to your eyebrows in parenting, it’s not that simple.

All of us feel, at some time in the process, “I don’t know what to do. I could have done more. I could have tried harder. I could have been better at that. I shouldn’t have said that. I should have realized. I am failing/have failed my child.”

Parent guilt can worry about the infant who won’t stop crying, worry about the teen who won’t listen anymore and worry about the adult who is making wrong choices.

Parent guilt can exhaust itself on extra activities, buys kids stuff they don’t need and avoid disciplining a child who is desperate for it.

Parent guilt sees failure rather than success. It sees the problem instead of solutions. It keeps our mind in a state of unrest rather than peace.

I believe parents of children with special needs battle the guilt demon more than most. I hear it in the Facebook posts, read it in their blogs and see it in their eyes. We never feel we do/did enough. Maybe the next treatment, medication, behavior plan, professional or therapy will make a difference. We are a driven, guilt-laden bunch, always looking for another help, another hope, and another solution.

The guilt twinge is real when I read about the person with Down syndrome who is getting married, or the one modeling on New York runways, or the one who owns a restaurant, or how about the guy with autism working for Microsoft? I have to remind myself that these are often the exception not the rule.

On our best day we have no guarantee how our kids will turn out but they basically need what all of us long for: love, acceptance, boundaries, food, shelter and most of all, God. The greatest thing we can ever do for our child is help them understand the God shaped hole inside them, only their Creator’s love can fill.

The other best thing we can do is say I’m sorry when we mess up and forgive ourselves for being less than perfect.

In spite of us, and maybe because of us, our children are quite resilient and they don’t need perfect parents. What they need is forgiving and forgiven parents.

Loose the guilt. It’s a parenting accessory neither we nor our kids need.

Love and forgiveness always win and inevitably chase the guilt demons far away.

 
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear..”

Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free..”

Psalm 127:3 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

The Reward of Staying

I know someone who never stayed – for anything – marriages, children, jobs, family, friends.

Offended? Leave. Conflict? Forget it. Difficulty? Run.

Everytime.

As soon as the next bump in the road arose (small, medium, large, mountains, molehills, anthills) it was time to run again.

And again. And again. Burning every bridge until nothing was left.

Then the Golden Years arrived. A time to reap the benefits of staying: Children. Grandchildren. Retirement. Relationships. Friendships. Money saved. Home owned. Travel. Wisdom. Influence. Respect.

But there was nothing. Absolutely nothing but sad alone-ness, with barely enough to sustain an existence. Life’s garden had become a barren weed patch with no harvest in sight.barren

Though it’s never too late to start over, the rewards of staying aren’t instant. They build slowly and mundanely over time, growing with consistency, routine, responsibility, trust, effort, plodding, endurance, work, sacrifice, discipline, selflessness.

Days turn into seasons. Seasons into years. Years into decades. Decades into a lifetime.

Of course, there are certain circumstances where staying isn’t wise and it’s beneficial to move on, but staying can never be based on feelings. It’s a choice and often an act of love, paying great dividends, offering stability and bringing reward. Eventually.

Jesus, on the night of His arrest, told His friend Peter, “I could call on my Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to help me now. But how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

He stayed all the way to brutal death on a cross, all the way to, “It is finished.”

He chose to endure the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What was that joy? I believe it was restoring relationship with Me and You! He stayed for Us!

In the short term, cut and run may look easier, but as a habit, it perpetuates an accumulation of poor decisions. The decisions of today become tomorrow’s reality.

Before quitting, be honest about the possible long term consequences. Take time to think and pray about the influence of this decision on tomorrow and all the tomorrows after.

Never underestimate the power of staying.

Plod on.

Don’t give in.

Don’t give up.

Stick it out.

Keep the faith.

Stay the course.

Sow the harvest.

Enjoy the journey.

And EVENTUALLY..

..reap the rewards.

 

 

“Success is measured, not by how we start, but by how we finish.” ~ Mike Connis

“Let us not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom.” Luke 9:62

“I press on toward the goal..” Philippians 3:14

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Matthew 7:24-25 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

Grandmother Faith

Asa 2-12-2016 One week ago our grandson, Asa Connis, pushed his way into the world and added a brand new dimension to life. After sixty years, I’ve finally joined the Grandmother Club and I’m still trying to understand the overwhelming love I feel for this tiny guy when I haven’t met him yet.

According to Google maps he is five hundred and seventy two miles away from me, but the evidence of his awaited arrival, streams daily onto my iPhone screen, giving me faith to believe he finally exists and hope for the day I will soon meet him.

I’ve received a sound clip of his first cries and a picture of him in his first hour. I can scroll through my phone for more pictures; him bundled up in his car seat, sleeping in little footie pajamas, wearing the little hat we bought him, curled up in a classic fetal position in his newborn diaper, and a heart melting video of him sporting hiccups on his dad’s lap.

We are accumulating a massive amount of evidence Asa has arrived, in texts, updates and FaceTime calls. Though I have not felt the weight of him in my arms or seen his adorable little face with my own eyes, I know my grandson is here.

Because we live in a physical reality, we often have trouble believing something not yet seen or experienced. Faith is defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 1:6). Some believe if God can’t be seen He doesn’t exist, yet place great faith in what can be physically seen, but not fully trusted.

We trust the driver coming toward us in the other lane will stay there, the airplane will remain in the sky and take us safely to our destination, the grocery store will have needed food when we pull in the parking lot, and our paycheck will arrive at the end of the week.

We trust the pill the doctor gave us will make us better, the water coming out of our faucet is safe to drink, the repairman will show up to fix our hot water tank and the roof overhead will remain intact during the next storm.

We trust in so many temporary things, but fail to trust our Creator and Eternal God.

There are those who sincerely set out to disprove the existence of God but found it impossible to do so. Lee Strobel, in his book, “The Case For Christ,” and Josh McDowell, in his book, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” both explain how extensive research to disprove the reality of God led to their transformation from atheist to believer. Unlike these men, though I’ve never seen God with my own eyes, I’ve believed in Him most of life.

There is overwhelming historical proof He came to Earth through His son Jesus, and for those with open hearts, evidence He exists is all around us. For me, He shows up in numerous ways everyday; in the intricate designs of nature, in the laughter of a friend, in the quiet thoughts and impressions downloaded into my heart and mind, in His written Word gifted to us as a life manual, and in the miracle of my precious new grandson.

Jesus said to His disciple Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe” (John 20:29). If seeing is the only way to believe, then true faith is absent and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If you love someone you want to make them happy and steadfast faith makes God happy.

 
In this life I see in part, the things of Heaven and Eternity are obscured, as if I’m looking through a distorted mirror. This often creates a faith crisis. 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells me, “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Bottom line, God simply desires a life of total trust from me, even and especially when, I can’t see clearly. My trust demonstrates I understand how much He loves me and how He has my best interest in mind. Always.

God has set a date (Psalm 139:16) when I’ll leave the boundaries of this earth and go home to Him. I will finally see my Savior face to face (John 3:2) and the faith, I’ve struggled to hold onto through all the storms of life, will finally become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

For now, I’m seeing my grandson through a glass screen, but a trip is planned and soon I will see him face to face. I’m excited.

So I press on, looking forward to the time I see little Asa and eventually, one day, my Heavenly Father..

..with unwavering Grandmother faith.

“For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5
“We shall behold Him
O yes, we shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory
We shall behold Him
Yes, we shall behold Him
Face to face
Our Savior and Lord..”
~”We Shall Behold Him,” Dottie Rambo~

“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ;
One look at his dear face, all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”
~ Hymn, “When We See Christ,” Esther Kerr Rusthoi, 1941~

Worthwhile Investment

I left the library after picking up a book I had reserved. As I walked to my car I was suddenly transported back in memory to a time when my young boys and I visited the library every week.

We’d go home with stacks of books and I read to them regularly. Dr Suess. Chronicles of Narnia. Little House On The Prairie. Silly books. Fun books. Historical books. Bible stories. Informational books. Series books.

I wanted them to love books and words as much as I do (you can read about that here). I wanted to instill in them a love for reading.

love music books 1280x1024 wallpaper_www.wallpaperno.com_40

Because I also enjoy music, our boys were exposed to it as well. We were in church a lot, so of course, hymns and contemporary choruses and worship music, but also other genres.

We traveled to local concerts. Bill Gaither and the harmonies of the Gaither Vocal Band. Free symphony orchestra concerts in the park on summer nights. The New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra with invites by a friend who played violin there. Veggie Tales. The Donut Man. Ron Kenoly. The Blue Man Group. The Annie Moses Band and more.

We brought a video home one day, “Yanni, Live At The Acropolis.” David watched, mesmerized by the incredible solo of the band’s drummer. He watched it over and over and decided he wanted to play drums. We bought a cheap set, put it in the corner of the basement and signed him up for weekly lessons. He was nine years old and took lessons for the next five years. Eventually he started playing at church and youth group.

The year of Florida’s hurricane summer, 2004, the power was off at our house consecutively for twelve days. Besides cutting and hauling the mountains of trees that had fallen on the two and a half acre jungle lot of our Kissimmee home, there was nothing else to do but sweat. David pulled his father’s old guitar out of the back of a closet and started playing. His love for creating music exploded from there.

Our son grew up to love God, books, music and of course his wife, Clara, who is also an avid reader and book lover. They serve in several capacities at their church and Dave will soon be a published author and writes his own music, both lyrics and arrangements. (You can see all that here.)

I like to think I had a little something to do with that. Though we never pushed becoming a writer or musician on our son, exposing him to these things gave him interests to explore and options to consider.

If your children are small right now and time consuming and exhausting and wonderful and amazing and annoying and the myriad of things kids can be at any given moment, remember these few years you have to invest in their lives are incredibly influential and fleeting.

You are not yet seeing the long term dividends of the repetition, the monotonous and the consistency of your faithful parenting, but know this, what is important to you will very likely be important to them and will definitely help shape who and what they become.

Remember on the days it seems futile, when it appears you’re child is not listening, when you wonder if they’ll ever turn into useful humans…

Don’t. Give. Up.

Don’t wring your hands in despair.

Pray much.

Train up your child in the way he/she should go.

Keep doing the next right thing.

Expose them to God, His love, His word and principles and the beautiful and amazing things that still exist in the world.

There will come a day when you’ll have a memory triggered, as I did leaving the library last night, and realize…

It was all worth it.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Acceptance – My Special Education, Lesson #11

SanJuan from the fortI was packing for a week long cruise, the first real vacation Mike and I have had together in fifteen years. It was a celebration of forty years of marriage and a long overdue get away.

Our good friends had made time in their busy schedule to stay with Jon and our youngest son and his wife were joining us. Though we were excitedly looking forward to this time together, it was another family event Jon would miss and I was, again, contending with guilt attacks and assaults of sadness.

I sent my conflicting emotions to the back room of my mind and updated the long list of Jon care instructions, made sure his prescriptions were filled, printed out a medical authorization letter and remembered to leave his insurance and ID card and keys to all the places we keep Jon-locked.

After boarding the ship I knew bringing him would have been a disaster. Too many people, long lines, moments of hurrying then waiting, decks that didn’t go all the way through the length of the ship causing creative strategies to find our way around, debarking for ports and making spontaneous plans and last minute decisions for the day then hurrying back to the ship on time so it didn’t leave without us.

Transitions. Transitions. More transitions. Something Jon never does well.

There were other moments when we thought of him. “Jon would love this,” we said. The never ending buffet, the puffer fish shaped cup wheeled by on a drink cart, the magician at our dinner table doing coin tricks, the casino and it’s never ending spread of pricey “video games”, a giant floating hotel to wander through and him curiously and slowly poking in every corner, nook and cranny.

As we sat together at dinner each evening there was contentment in this extraordinary setting. Even our little grandson was along, growing inside the swelling womb of my daughter-in-law. But one of us was missing. My family was incomplete.

There are random moments in life that trigger twinges of loss, a mourning for what should, but never will be. We are forever fighting enemies of guilt, regret and loss and constantly rising to new levels of acceptance.

Acceptance is defined as an assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a situation without attempting to protest or change it. It is derived from a Latin word meaning “to find rest in.”

Some things we can’t control or change, we can only accept, but it’s often difficult to find a place of rest in circumstances beyond us. Living out of the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ is pure misery and leaning into the, “Are you kidding me? I’m supposed ‘to find rest in’ this!” is hard work, but peace can only come with relaxing into the ‘what is’.

Even when life is great, it’s still not perfect. On this cruise, we had to circumvent a hurricane and miss the most anticipated stop of the trip. While sailing on the far reaching edge of the storm, walking turned into a balancing act and we were woken in the night by rocking, rattling and clicking sounds and drawers, in our room, sliding open then thumping shut as soon as sleep came again. I was nearly attacked by a banana loving iguana on a Saint Thomas beach and every day was a bad hair day.

But it was easy to overlook these uncontrollable situations in the anticipation and excitement of another sunrise and new adventures.

Life sails on like a cruise. We board at birth and debark when taking our final breath. There are stops along the way, new places to explore, ports to experience. Some we appreciate, others not so much. Some we never wish to see again and others we hope for, but never experience when an unexpected storm changes the direction of our journey.

There are long days at sea, as we’re carried along, waiting, and trusting the Captain of our ship knows where we’re headed and how to safely reach our destination. With God at the helm we are offered guilt free, acceptance-based cruising and a place to find rest in the storm.

It’s the best way to travel and it’s never too late to book a lifelong trip.

So don’t wait. Start now.

Guaranteed, you’ll love the adventure.
“Jesus Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea
Unknown waves before me roll
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal
Chart and compass come from thee
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” ~ Edward Hopper, 1871

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

“Come unto me..and I will give you rest.” ~Jesus, Matthew 11:28~

The Chasm Between My Norms

chasmI opened my Facebook page this morning to pass along the exciting post our youngest son and his wife shared, announcing our first grandchild on the way (Yahoo!).

As I typed a comment and hit the share button I noticed my post underneath, from last night, about being out with Jon and his roll of toilet paper that accompanied us to the pizza place.

I usually don’t give it much thought, then there are moments like this one, when the wide extremes of my life’s norms, jump up and smack me right between the eyes.

Webster’s Dictionary defines normal as usual or ordinary; not strange.

One child growing up, getting married and having his own children is pretty ordinary.

The other child growing up and toting a roll of toilet paper to the pizza restaurant, standing in parking lots for thirty minutes before going inside a building, singing Disney songs to me at one thirty in the morning and the myriad of other unusual events that come with being Jon’s mom, Mr. Webster wouldn’t consider ordinary at all.

As I scroll back through some of my older Facebook posts, I’m reminded that life with Jon is anything but ordinary and some of it seems downright strange, yet everything about him and this life we share with him has become normal for us.

Occasionally, I’m sad, when I think of the usual milestones Jon’s will never experience, but today the wide extreme depicted by those two Facebook posts made me laugh out loud.

We live in a culture that is saying all experience, ideas and opinions must be either/or. And while it is true there are still absolute values, standards and morals, regardless of what culture thinks or says, my sons have placed me in a world that is both/and; the usual and the unusual, the ordinary and the strange, mixed together in a kaleidoscope of crazy wonder.

Today, I smile, thinking of the unique joy found in living a life that is a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the other. I’m perched on it, hanging on tight, mostly enjoying the ride, with no clue what tomorrow will bring

Maybe ordinary is overrated.

The Unapplauded Hero

super-hero-cape-flying-SupermomI met a Hero the other day.

She is twenty five years old.

She’s put aside her own hopes and dreams to care for a chronically ill family member.

She’s had to quit her job because the care needs are so time consuming.

At an age when she should be having fun, dating, building a future, career or a family of her own, she cares full time for someone in need.

She cries when no one is watching.

She wonders what the future holds.

She worries what will happen to her loved one.

She worries what will happen to herself if something happens to her loved one.

She feels guilt for wanting more.

She doubts God at times.

Her faith wavers even as she continues believing.

She is a full time caregiver. Someone desperately needs her. She is there.

She is learning at a young age the hardship and beauty of a laid down life.

If you are a single young man you might want to consider a woman like her.

She won’t have much time to date, but she certainly knows about loyalty, selflessness and love; all the qualities that make a great spouse.

She’s the unapplauded in the background. One who performs the mundane today, tomorrow and the next day.

But mundane is greatness when executed so selflessly.

Those who are faithful in little things will be rewarded with much (Matthew 25:23, Luke 16:10).

She will be honored for her faithfulness.

Man may overlook.

But God sees.

He sees it all.

He sees her.

She is brave.

She is strong.

She is incredible.

And He calls her Beautiful.

The Memory Keeper

cherrios copyJon’s fine motor skills developed slowly as a child. At 18 months old, one of the recommended therapies of the early intervention program he attended was picking up Cheerios from his high chair tray to help him strengthen his pincher grasp. He struggled getting his little thumb and forefinger to work together.

Cheerios accompanied us everywhere. He practiced eating them off the church pew during services, in the car from a cup, in high chairs at restaurants. I became obsessed with helping him learn to pick up those little O’s and get them in his mouth and admit there were days I was sad or frustrated, sometimes both, that it was taking him so long to do what other babies did naturally.

When David was 18 months old, he toddled to the cabinet in the kitchen where the cereal boxes were kept, opened the new Sam’s Club size box of Cheerios and dumped its entire contents over his head. I found him sitting in the pile on the floor stuffing Cheerios in his mouth so fast you’d think he’d not been fed for three days. I remember being a bit annoyed as I cleaned the mess up and washed Cheerio dust out of his hair.

As much as my boys were different, in other ways they were the same.

Jon made a trip to the pediatrician somewhere between the age of 4 or 5 because he had a pea stuck up his nose. Obviously picking up all those Cheerios taught him the fine motor skills he needed to get a pea from his plate to the inside of his tiny nostril.

David, at the age of four or five, arrived at the pediatrician’s office with a piece of styrofoam stuck in his ear.

I remember being exasperated with each of them both times.

As I think back on this Mothers’ Day, I realize, some of the most frustrating moments of raising children are now some of my fondest memories. Time has a way of softening the drama and exhaustion of motherhood.

Time also has an uncanny way of changing everything.

What was then an inconvenience and annoyance to my younger and impatient self is now a treasure stored in the safe box of my heart.

Having and raising kids is an adventure like no other and we all have the same gift of time to experience our children’s remarkable growth process.

Jon can raid the panty and fridge on his own now and has no problem putting large amounts of food in his mouth on any given day. David doesn’t stick styrofoam in his ears anymore but knows how to install it inside the walls of a house to keep the heat and cold out.

Moms, if you still have young ones, I’d like to tell you, in the everyday exhaustion and insanity of mothering, don’t freak out over the little things; but then I would be robbing you of some of the best memories to hold on to when your kids are grown.

Just know this: if that thing they’re doing frustrates you today, thirty years from now you’ll probably think of it and smile.

Time is precious.

Time is fleeting.

Time is a memory keeper.

Happy Mother’s Day!