Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It's Over

My normal Sunday routine was changed last minute when I learned I would chauffer three teenagers to cheer camp three counties away. I was driving to retrieve them when this thought stopped me in my tracks as it slid across my mind: her childhood is over.

My eldest turned 20-years-old Sunday. We celebrated at Buca di Beppo Saturday evening with her boyfriend, best friend, and her siblings. This was her selection for the big day.

I immediately began to was in that moment I realized that the shift was finalized. That place where the line is drawn in the sand between rearing the child and remembering their childhood. The formative years are over. I'm not sure why 20 is the age that I feel this way with her; let's be honest, she has parented Jason and I for a very long time...

I just kept saying out loud to myself, "Did she enjoy her childhood? Did I teach her what she needed? When she reflects back over these past 20 years does she have anything to overcome, or is she launching from a solid foundation to only continue to build?"

In March, Jason and I were asked to be the guest speakers at the Couples Banquet at the parent/child center. Those who invited us wanted us to speak from a place of overcoming challenges (teenage pregnancy, poverty, marrying young, etc...) to accomplishing our goals in life. I pondered this for weeks, and as usual at the midnight hour God said a couple of things to me: build your dream home & give them a childhood they don't have to overcome.
(Nothing like looking at your wife's notes 10 minutes before taking the microphone)

I'm not, by any means, equipped to counsel people on life, but I can share my story. Jason and I have built two homes, the first was brick and mortar, but the second is our's the one we build every morning and the one God spoke to me about sharing. We frame the walls of our day with our words...we try to speak life to each other, and our children. "Good morning, I love you, be encouraged, be God's man/woman today..." You'd be amazed at how changing your words in the morning will set the tone for your day, and the way your family responds to you. On the days we fail at this concept it truly has a negative effect on our days.

But the other portion of the presentation was: Give Them a Childhood They Don't Have to Overcome. I think that's pretty self-explanatory so I won't drone on about the details, but I say this now to bring this blog full circle. As I stood in front of those couples in March speaking about these revelations God had shared with us so many years ago in our moments of desperation, I had not stopped to realize that I was on the cusp of having this moment in my own life with my daughter; the moment where I stopped and looked at her to say, "Did you enjoy your childhood?"

If I could impart anything to parents of younger children through this blog, invest in your children daily with words, proper discipline, prayer, wisdom, instruction, love, and building memories. Don't let a day pass where you haven't fed them more than just food...for tomorrow they will be 20 and flying on their own.

(Yes, I know she's still mine, and she's still listening to me, and all those wonderful things, but it's different now...)

In other Thomas family business:

Sunday, due to my cheer camp chauffeuring duties, I had to miss these sweet boys being baptized! These two nephews are the epitome of snips & snails, and dirt & 4wheelers. They are rambunctious, red-headed (one of them), and now redeemed! I cannot praise my God enough for their salvation, and thankful for a momma who has been faithful to take her babies to church and bathe them in the word until their day of salvation! 

I adore living beside my sister and getting to watch her sweet girls grow up. We passed down some books to my oldest niece this week that belonged to my girls. Books that will teach her about manners, money, friendship woes, and her body. Another reminder that life is moving too quickly. I snapped this pic as I pulled into our subdivision last evening. I love the way she plays with her babies, and wished I had taken more time to just play with mine at this age.

The middle girl had her appendix removed a couple weeks ago. It was her first experience with anesthesia...needless to say we captured some videos to cheer us up on gloomy days. Apparently, teenagers live through their phones and wifi is as important as food. The hospital's wifi was not behaving after her surgery was over and she couldn't respond to her friends text and calls. The tears flowed until she sobered up, and our tears from laughter flowed freely. Good thing she sobered up...she was plotting a lawsuit against the hospital, the wifi company, and the people in the room beside us who were surely "hogging all the wifi!"

Back to the 20-year-old: I didn't know there was such a thing higher than Dean's List but she accomplished just that: President's List! We came home from vacation to her diploma in the mail, and it's decree that she had graduated with "High Distinction!" I've also watched a passion-to-craft ignite in her this summer as she sits at the counter each night, in her dad's game room, painting canvases, and various items. She is working ahead for her future "little" she will have as a part of her sorority this coming fall semester.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Secret Room...Where I Fight

"Is that door a different color again," asked the husband with his head cocked sideways and one eyebrow raised.

"Describe...different color..." - a wife diverting the conversation.

When we built this house in 2004 we designated an office space for my husband's business that housed his many files, franchise binders, and the dinosaur-sized-desktop-computer we then owned. As the years have moved on, he has digitized all his files onto a much smaller laptop, which has migrated downstairs to his "man cave" area.

This migration left this hidden office, that is tucked away behind our master closet, unused on a daily basis, and therefore inevitably becoming the "catch-all" of our busy lives.

In 2014 I wrote a blog that was the beginning of a journey to transform our home into something that better served who we are today as a family. My journey of transformation took-on a new meaning later that year and continuing until now; here we are on June 29, 2016 and I can tell you I'm just now getting to a place of completion with most of the house. My redecorating journey ended up serving as a grief counselor as last year I lost a total of seven people who were somehow a part of my life, and another co-worker last month. I've spent my extracurricular time attempting to design my grief away.

As I painted my front door a total of nine different times, bought a billion different chairs, rugs, accent pillows, and curtains, my husband just sat back and let me do whatever I felt like for the day. I think he knew it kept my mind busy, however, there were still times I just needed a place to collapse and cry.

As I found the energy to tackle this mound of junk covering what used to be our home office, I spent an entire day painting and trying to figure out what I would use this hidden room for. I considered a couple of options but decided I would just decorate it and let it become whatever it was to become.

I was drawn to this room. I had moved my prayer time to this area. My husband asked me if this was my war room...I guess it is. I prayed beside my bed before this, but I can tell you that having an area, wherever it may be, is healing for our souls.

I have encouraged my children to create a place in their rooms where they pray, meditate, read the Word of God, and lay down their cares for the day. We all need a place of refuge, and as our church sanctuary serves as a refuge for us in a corporate body setting, I have discovered a prayer closet (as the Word describes) is a gift to us from God. The power of praying out loud, speaking our cares and concerns, and just being in communion with our father is more healing than any other form of communication I have ever experienced. I spoke about Psalms 91 at Hope Group Monday evening, and how this Psalm describes a secret place with God, a place that protects us from the enemy, and gives us rest...that secret place is in prayer...the very shadow of his wing where he protects us.

As the rest of the nation/world is debating how to handle the ever present evil in this world, I learned a long time ago that I cannot fight this evil with my fist, more guns, or gun control, however, the Word says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, so I fight this present darkness on my knees in prayer and worship: my most powerful weapons of warfare. How protected would we become if every home in America had a place of prayer that was used on a daily basis. Daniel prayed three times a day and interceded on behalf of his people and God delivered.

I watched God deliver a young man from anxiety attacks Monday evening in my living room. I saw his face and knew from experience what was happening...after talking him through some verses and explaining how to be set free from it, he looked at me and said, "It's gone!" I just grinned...He told me he hasn't had any anxiety since. This is from a young man who was struggling with 3-4 attacks a day, every day for over a year. My God is my refuge and strong tower, and I am overwhelmed he allows us to share his good news with others, and then watch him work in their lives. Watch him become their strong tower of refuge.

My favorite piece:

I adore decorating our home with items made for me by friends/family. I was scrolling through facebook one evening and came across a friend who had discovered a new talent. My heart was drawn to have her paint me an angel for my room. The first time I laid eyes on it I was overwhelmed with emotion, I knew it was perfect for this place that I would be carrying mine and so many other's needs to my father. And it is... (Thank you, Jennifer Carmine.) 
The yellow rose is from my daddy's casket spray...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Heart Gushes

This girl used to dress up in her Sunday best and go to the high school each year and watch the prom goers enter the doors. I had to be there to cover prom for my job, but she loved to tag along dreaming of the day she would go to her first prom. It's a bitter sweet moment on this journey I call motherhood...
My Saturday off work started fairly early with the boy's agenda in my left hand and a cup of coffee in my right.

The boy has a J-O-B! Stop here and praise Jesus. Thank you.

He will be slinging hotdogs and slushies this summer at the aquatic center. This new prestigious position required some grownup moves on his behalf this morning. We headed to the bank to open his first checking account, then to city hall to fill out the proper tax forms, and our last stop was to Quick Care for a drug test. We walked in to a room full of teenagers chugging water attempting to force their bladders to perform so they could "take" their test and leave.

As soon as his test was over, I headed home to an anxious girl who was waiting for mom to start curling her hair, she kept reminding me how excited she was for the night. Within three hours I had one head of hair finished, her friends make-up finished, toenails painted, Band-Aids on feet, dresses ironed and taped in place, and a few photos snapped! Her smile in these photos are worth every piece of stress and fret I experienced today. Isn't she lovely...and her date Charlie rounded out this gorgeous couple. My heart gushes.

In other Thomas family business:

The girl is home from college, back to being a sandwich artist at Subway during the day and has spent her nights being a cooler artist. She was invited by her boyfriend to his frat formal. I had no idea that the appropriate response to this was to gift the date with a hand-painted cooler. She worked for nights on-end to complete this; I'm super impressed!

We had a wonderful Mother's Day at my sister Buffy's. My children crossed another threshold in life as they were responsible to clean up the kitchen after lunch. But the best part was seeing the handmade card my niece made for my sister. My mother helped her find photos of her mother from childhood. Mammaw got mine and Buffy's photos confused so I made the card! Priceless. You're welcome for the appearance on your card, Buffy. 

We celebrated this girls 27th birthday last night at my moms. She came into my life when I was 13, and was the missing piece to our lives. She made us a sisterhood of 7 girls. I remember when my husband, then boyfriend, wanted to go out with me I would give him conditions to earn the date. (Don't ask me why, long story) Anyway, one of the tasks was to assemble her tricycle. Seriously, where has the time gone. 


Saturday, March 19, 2016

My Shallow Thinking

Missed opportunities are all around us as adults, parents, and Christians. I almost missed mine a while back.

In my walk with Christ, I have learned to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit speaking to me, and the discernment God gives. (this has been tricky over the years…)

I once saw this saying on Facebook: Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone YOU RAISE.

That struck a chord in me, reminding me how we raise our children matters more than what we can see with our natural eye. They are not only our next generation of political & social leaders, but our spiritual leaders, too.

I pondered what else could I do? Should I read the Proverbs to them twice a day? Should I take them to church more? But over time, trails, and tribulation I have discovered that the best lessons are learned by showing them how to be the “body of Christ.”

We can teach them, take them to church and let our pastors preach to them, Sunday school, youth trips, Christian music, read and pray over them, (and I encourage all of this for the recipe to be whole) but at the end of the day we have to get to a point where we see our tribulation as an opportunity.

It’s in these moments Paul the Apostle wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

In our weakness He is made strong…

I struggled for years to understand this verse, so I would just gloss over it, and move on to other scriptures I could somewhat understand.

But this verse…

How is he made strong in my weakness?

I’ll show you how in the past that became very true for me and my child.

This child owns an expensive piece of smart technology.

We had a friend of this child visiting with us, and they spent several nights with us over a short amount of time. I received a text from my child to say that this friend needed to go to our house and get their phone charger, and my child had given the friend a key to get in to retrieve the charger.

Immediately, I was quickened in my spirit that there were ulterior motives. (be sensitive to the spirit, discernment…)

I was taken back that I felt this way because I genuinely enjoy this child. But I hung onto the feeling and let my husband know what I was feeling and he met the child there, who was already leaving, and made sure the key was returned.

A week or so later my child realized the smart technology was missing. With other context clues in place, the decision was made to confront the friend and ask. This is hard. You never want to make accusations that are misplaced…it’s a delicate situation. The friend denied having the item. However, I was convinced they had it and my flesh was raging! I was WEAK in my flesh. I wanted to scream and yell at this child, I wanted to bash parents and make the biggest scene over my child being done wrong…but most of all I wanted my child’s item returned. I wanted to make them PAY for their wrong-doing…but I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to HUSH…be still!

As my child and I were headed home I was asked what our next step was.
Here’s my chance to put my faith into action: I shared that we would pray that God send the Holy Spirit to this friend to convict them for stealing IF they had stolen the item. And that is how we would “give it to God” and let him take care of the situation. “In my weakness HE is made strong…”

So we prayed.

The following day my child received an early morning text from the friend who was absolutely heartbroken about their actions. They confessed they had the item.

My child got a little hot-under-the-collar with the “friend” and sent me the text messages.

This is where God said, “Misty, lead your child to extend grace they way I have extended grace to you two. You didn‘t pay for your sin…Jesus did.”

I texted my child to say, “We are going to show them grace. When someone is sorry and apologizes we forgive them, and love them through it. Your friend is lost, and lost people do lost things. We prayed for Holy Ghost conviction and it came. Praise God.”

The next morning in my prayer time I was thanking God that my child’s item was being restored the them, because that’s all I could see…my child had something stolen and it was being returned after we prayed.

I was so shallow in my fleshly thinking…God said, “So much more have I given you both. I gave you the opportunity to show someone grace who has never experienced grace. I taught you both that I am who handles your problems, casts all your cares on me, be anxious for nothing, rest in me. I am the one who restores what was lost. I restored what the enemy was attempting to take: your child’s friendship. When there is strife, unity does not exist, and in unity is where my spirit flows, and my ways are higher than yours.”

I just wept…it wasn’t about my child’s stuff. It was about my child’s friendship…about our witness…about our growth in our own faith, and about God giving me the opportunity to TRAIN my child how to be the light in a dark world, and the door is still open/the friendship still exist/the bridge isn‘t burned so my child may still be the very one who will lead this person to Christ.

Thank you, God, that when I am weak you are strong, and you order my steps.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world,” John 16:33

Friday, March 18, 2016

Words Are My Favorite

I don't ever remember fantasizing about being a mom. I had baby dolls when the Cabbage Patch Kids frenzy came along, and remember well my preemie named Ashley. My middle girl still has her.

But being a mom in real life wasn't even on my mind. Maybe because I had a baby sister at 13.

But never a mom in real life.

God gave me three babies by the time I was month before turning 24.

Surprisingly, I never received a manual on how to raise them. So we headed full force into parenting with nothing...not even a helmet.

Eventually, the tantrums came, the potty training was easier with each child, and I began to craft plans for what I wanted them to know, learn, practice in life. As they grew, I grew. God showing me, guiding me, and protecting me as their mother...and most of all, blessing me.

My 40th birthday came with a world wind, and I covered most of it in a blog yesterday, but there were a few things my children gifted me that I can not miss an opportunity to journal in this dairy of mine. 

The middle girl has dealt with fear and anxiety most of her life. I always have said if I die you better send Mallory on with me because she will not make it without me. With this preface, she burst through my bedroom door the morning of my birthday, waking Jason and I, and said, "Happy Birthday, mom! I have worried about this day my entire life; the day you got old. I always thought 40 was the day someone turned old, and then you would be close to dying, and I would do the math to see how old I would be on this day and I knew I would be 17, so I would tell myself that surely I would be old enough to handle the day you got old. But here we are, on the day I've dreaded my entire life and you not even old at all!"

I'm not exaggerating! At! All!

Later that day she had sweet words to boast on my facebook page. She's the funniest...I adore her wittiness, her boldness, her fabulous memory, and her ability to overcome! She's never failed to tell me when she's aggravated with me, but always reminds me how much she needs me and loves me!

The eldest daughter, who never speaks aloud, however, we learned she raps but we've rarely heard her speak, blessed my soul on the day I "got old." She was away at school but found time to write me a sweet birthday sentiment. My heart gushed...She's never really told me what she thought about my parenting style, skill (or lack thereof), and example for her. It's that precious moment when your children grow up and start becoming your friend, and with maturity begin to speak into your life the way you've always tried to speak into theirs.

The boy laid down beside me and hugged my face, telling me happy birthday, and how much he loved me. He texted me later in the evening to ask me if I were having fun. How telling that he cares if I am enjoying my time away. This boy...THE boy.

I'm not sure I would have chosen to even have children, but I am so thankful that His ways are higher than mine. They saved my life, and now they bless me daily.

The husband spent time creating a box of memories for me. There were several cd's full of music that mean something to he and I, movies, and other objects that only he and I understand the meanings behind. But he created a binder for me full of photos, memories, and a letter he wrote me - which are my favorite - words are my favorite!

In other Thomas family business:

This how the eldest girl and I communicate:

I accidentally sent her a text message meant for the husband. I'm still belly laughing!
(That's really not our cat)

My constant words of warning to my children: Don't take The Pot!

Words are my favorite!

Oh yes, Happy St. Patrick's Day!