Ninja Turtle Backpack

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Our twins start middle school in one week. When we were discussing the school supplies to be purchased, I asked whether their backpacks were still in good shape from last year. Tanner’s mind reeled and then his eyes widened and he said, “No way! I need a new backpack.” I was perplexed by what appeared to be a look of mortification and asked him, “Why? What’s wrong with your old one?” And then I remembered…. Last year in the 5th grade, he selected a teenage mutant ninja turtle backpack that resembled a turtle shell. 

He loved that backpack when he picked it out. He even convinced me it was worth the extra buck$ to buy it for him. And now one year later, not even in middle school yet, he intuitively knows that a turtle shell backpack is too “childish” for middle school. 

As a mom, I am both happy and sad. Happy that my young man understands what it is to mature and embrace new seasons in his life. After all, it would be odd to see a 35-yr old business man wearing a turtle shell backpack to work. A man needs to let go of things like that at some point in his life. So in that regard, I am proud of him and the young man that he is becoming. But as I stand here in happiness and pride, I also feel the tug of motherly lament. His season of little boyhood is dwindling. This puts a knot in my throat. 

Every mother knows the feeling. It’s simply beyond words. It’s hard to keep the tears from welling up in my eyes as this season in life begins to turn. But in the tears, there is also joy and admiration. I pray he continues to mature and move through life in a healthy way as every strong and successful man should. 

I joked with him and said,”Your backpack is in perfectly good shape. You really should use it.” We all giggled and imagined what that would look like on the first day of middle school. I guess that scared him a bit, because when I walked by the backpack hooks in the utility room, I noticed the space was void where that turtle shell backpack had hung all summer. I guess he hid it for fear I might not have been joking. 

To all the moms this new school year, whether it be kindergarten, college, or something in between… You’re not alone. Look up and thank God for the healthy development of your child and know that we are all shedding a few tears of mixed emotions with you.

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His First Crush

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My son (10) informed me last week that he met the nicest person he has ever met. Her name is Hazel. She is a student at his school and this is the first year to get to know her. When I asked what she does to be so nice, he explained that she has a soft voice and she is really nice to everyone and never makes fun of anyone. She likes to help people. And she makes these cool mini clay creatures and sells them for $.25. He placed an order for a bat (the animal, not the sporting kind). Today she gave him the bat to hang on his backpack; upside down of course. He apparently gave her $1 because he liked it so much. Sigh. May he always appreciate the company of the kind and creative Hazel’s of the world.

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On Dad’s Shoulders

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Many children in Texas took the standardized STAAR test this week. All of their hard work and all of the teachers’ efforts for the year were put to a test. That can be a lot of pressure for everyone. The school sent home a reminder sheet, “Prepare for Testing Day”:

1. Get a good night of sleep;
2. Eat a good breakfast;
3. Arrive early;
4. Use your testing strategies;
5. Double check your answers.

The morning of the first testing day, I loaded up the car with my three elementary school children. Their bellies were full and they had their sharpest No.2 pencils in hand. On the way to school, I gave them a pep talk. “Take your time. Don’t get nervous. Do the best you can do. You’ve worked hard all year. I know you’ll do great.”

As we approached the school, there were the usual parents scurrying here and there. Children with backpacks were scampering out of cars and making their way to their classrooms. I waited at the intersection while the crossing guard protected the line of children trotting across the crosswalk.

Then I noticed a very tall and youthful dad with his son on his shoulders. His son was smiling and laughing as his dad took the time and effort to trot towards the school. He even stuck his hands out like an airplane in full trust that his dad would not let him fall. This child was about to take the same test as the rest, but he did not have anxiety on his mind. He was focused on the comfort and joy that his dad had to offer.

And then it dawned on me. Our Father! He lifts us up so we can soar on wings like eagles! So I am offering a new “Prepare for Testing Day” list:

1. Pray for wisdom;
2. Have faith that your Father has your back;
3. Do not be anxious, but instead rest in His comfort and have peace;
4. Rejoice in everything; even testing day, because this is the day the Lord hath made;
5. You worked hard all year, so go rock this test and do it for His glory!

My kids and I said a prayer before we exchanged our usual morning hugs, kisses, “I love you” and “Have a great day!” His peace and glory were upon them as they rushed to their classrooms.

We all go through tests in life. Some tests are academic, some are related to work and others are a life test of some sort. And yes, good sleep, good food and good strategies are good things to do to prepare. But let’s not forget our Father! When we have a test, he is always there waiting for us to climb on His shoulders and rejoice. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us. No matter the test, we can soar on wings like eagles.

Rejoice in Injury?

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My 10-yr old son recently had hernia repair surgery. Upon arrival at the hospital, the pre-op nurse began asking me a series of medical history questions about my son. She rattled off a very long list of illnesses and health conditions. Asthma? No. Cancer? No. Lung conditions? No. Neurological issues? No. Heart conditions? No. Diabetes, blood pressure, head injuries….? No. No. No. The list was painfully long. Tears came to my eyes. I began to think of all the families that answer “Yes” for their children and loved ones. And I thought to myself, “Dear God, thank you for this blessed life of ours. Please Lord, please, hold up those that are tasked with managing pain or illness in their lives.”

As much as I had succumbed to “mommy worry” for my son, his issue was minor in the scheme of things. He came home the same day. He will be back to flipping in the gym and competing within 6 weeks. With an overwhelming heart of gratitude, I will not take our good health for granted. I will rejoice in our Lord and say “Thank you.”

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let all know your forebearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.”
-Philippians 4:4-9

Slip Sliding

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Got kids in school? What do your mornings look like before school and work? If it’s anything like my house, it is usually scurry, hurry, scurry and hurry some more! We have five people running different directions with a dog barking at the cat who taunts him from high places. We try to fit in a morning devotional, but sometimes it’s simply me whispering under my breath, “Lord, please help me.” It really is an organized chaos…. Well, mostly organized.

One morning we were all running later than usual. I hear my 10-year old daughter yell from her bedroom to no one in particular, “Has anyone seen my pink sneakers?” I begin to think of all the places I might have seen her favorite pink sneakers, “Living room floor? No. Entry way? No. Backyard? No. Laundry room? YES!” So I holler back at her, “Check the laundry room!”

Then I start to become even more frazzled when my 9-year old son says, “Mom, have you seen my hoodie? I can’t find my hoodie.” Now you can imagine what my self-talk was at this point. And please don’t lecture me about night before preparations. We actually do pretty good most mornings, but this was just an off day and my exasperation was growing.

As I am giving the “FIVE MINUTES UNTIL WE LEAVE!” shout-out, I am feeling like we really need to get going. In all my hurriedness, I look up and notice my daughter running through the kitchen and sliding in her socks around the corner singing as loud as she can with a big smile on her face. She gives a little jump of glee and exclaims “There you are!” as she sees her pink sneakers.

I furrowed my brow and thought to myself, “We don’t have time for such nonsense. Doesn’t she know that we are in a hurry?” And then it struck me like a lightning bolt. Time is going to pass at the same speed and we are going to accomplish the same things we need to accomplish no matter our attitude. We can be hurried and scurried or we can be happy and glad. My daughter had it down. She was being joyful and expressing glee. She was not going to focus on the fact that she could not find her sneakers. Rather, she preferred to express joy for finding them! She made me smile.

Of course we have time for such “nonsense”. I felt ashamed that I was the window for the enemy to bring impatience and frustration into our home where it did not have to be. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all be as joyful as our children? All too often we trade our glee for the hurrying and scurrying of our world. And then as parents, we can sometimes use our exasperation to stifle the joy in our children’s hearts.

So the next time your child is being joyful amongst the chaos, just remember, the expression of glee is Jesus in their heart! Embrace that joyful “nonsense” and maybe sing along with them.

Luke 10:21 (NIV):
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

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Jesus and Back-up Bologna

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What does bologna have to do with Jesus and Easter?

I am not a practicing Catholic. However, as a family, we decided to give something up in the spirit of fasting and prayer in anticipation of Easter and celebrating Christ’s resurrection. So tonight, we explained Fat Tuesday to our kids and enjoyed a not so pretty, but yummy homemade strawberry cake with cream cheese icing. Woot! Woot! We are Mardi Gras wild that way.

While indulging in this sweet treat, we went around the table announcing what we would sacrifice in the days ahead. My boys dug deep sacrificing candy and sodas. Then my 10-yr old daughter proudly announces, “I am giving up all meat… except for bologna.” My husband and I traded our raised eyebrow looks.

Now I am not sure where that bologna comment came from, because we don’t have bologna in the house. And I don’t know the last time she has eaten bologna. But I was more surprised about her entertaining the sacrifice of meat. You have to understand, we are a meat and potatoes family! Some health experts would probably shake their head at our weekly meal plans, but a meal is not a meal in our house unless it has a heaping helping of protein. And that protein is usually meat.

So I asked her, “Are you sure you want to give up meat lovers pizza, cheeseburgers, grilled chicken, steak, bacon and all of your favorite meats?” I explained that I did not want to discourage what is in her heart to sacrifice, but I wanted it to be reasonable. We also discussed the number of days between now and Easter. She respectfully took in all of my “wise” counsel. Then she confidently replied, “Jesus died for me. He gave up his life for me. I am pretty sure I can give up meat for him.”

She also reminded me that she has bologna for back-up. I love it when my children are bold for Jesus. They often teach me how to live in bold faith. I am one proud mommy tonight.

Matthew 19:14 ESV
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

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