Category Archives: Family

Everything is changing

 In 46 days we will move my daughter into a dorm room 6 hours away at the University of Missouri and then get in our car and drive home without her. None of the parenting books, MOPS meetings, Facebook posts or blog articles I’ve read have prepared my heart for what it is feeling right now.

I have never subscribed to “helicopter” parenting and have often been known to freely spout the wisdom that “our job as parents is to help them grow up to be contributing members of society, to leave the nest and become full fledged adults, blah, blah blah.” That advice always seemed relevant and wise when the next step was walking into a 3 year old classroom for 2 hours or hopping on a bus to join the ranks of full day school children. I relished the increased freedom I had when my children were finally old enough to leave me for a few hours each day. I had finally found time to take a shower or read a book or plan a meal in peace.

But this, this is very different. Our home will no longer be her “home base” and I am NOT cool with that. Oh, believe me, I’m trying to “suck it up” and make nice with this idea but honestly, it isn’t working.

Everything is changing so quickly around me this summer. One girlfriend is preparing to send her baby boy off to the military, and another just moved her mother into her home and is watching her slowly slip away to the ravages of dementia. We had to put our dog down after 16 years…so much change.

I remember when it seemed as if nothing was changing. One summer felt the same as the last. I was harried, tired, stressed out and begging for quiet. The kids woke up too early, made too much noise, fought too much, were bored way too often. Back then my girlfriends and I would spend each Wednesday watching the kids play in the pool, drinking margaritas, order fast food for dinner and play till the sun went down. We counted down the days till they all went back to school.

I guess I’m still counting down the days…

Today I was reading about God as ELOHIM, which means mighty creator, the one who was at the beginning of it all. The most ancient of all.

I’ve often thought about the Creator as the one who made everything I can see…mountains, trees, animals, the sun and the sky, the moon and the stars. But this summer, my eyes see the Creator as the one who created the texture of life. Happiness, sadness, love that makes the heart ache, the joy of memory, the pain of loss, the music of a baby’s cry, the warmth of a child’s unrestrained giggle. There is so much more of the Creator surrounding us than we will ever realize. Maybe it’s summers like this one when my heart is feeling more than my eyes are seeing that help me glimpse the Creator more fully.

The Bible says God created us in his own image. It’s possible that our physical image is a reflection of him but even more so I believe we reflect him in our unending capacity to feel and experience life, relationships, friendship and love. And I’m awestruck that all the emotions my heart can hold are only a glimpse of the ELOHIM who created me.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…

Soaking up summer has a different meaning to me than it ever has before. We are soaking up our time together, we are soaking up our love for each other, we are soaking up memories and kisses and hugs. I’m grateful that I’ve been created to experience all of these things even when they are painful because it all is a reflection of the God who created us.

There is a line in a song that says, “When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.” Sometimes this summer, I feel like this. But the next line says, “You are good.” This is the refrain of my heart. . . You are good.

ELOMHIM YOU ARE GOOD.

 

Peace vs Frantic this Holiday Season

Phill4My turkey is already thawing in my fridge, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Ready or not, the holiday season is coming and with it comes all the expectations, traditions, and general busyness that is wrapped up in the season.  The music, the food, the togetherness, the shopping, the concerts, Elf on a shelf insanity, Santa, etc…

Do these things come as welcome interruptions to our normal lives or as intrusions? Or do they fall somewhere in between?

I am generally a calm and peace loving person by nature, that is my role: the peacemaker. I go out of my way to avoid conflict when it is at all possible: it’s a sickness.

However, there is something about the holidays that brings out a side in me that is not something you would brag about in a Christmas letter. I have a lot of expectations for the holidays, they need to be special and inviting, include the many traditions that are important to me, include the foods that I have deemed “right,” include fast moving compitent cashiers and free delivery. I know that the song says “the streetlights blink bright red and green,” however, I’m really only interested in the green ones, the red ones are for the rest of you.

I become incredibly opinionated during this “most wonderful time of the year.” I’m easily offended. I tend to sped my precious girlfriend time to sit and chat about how disappointed I was or outraged I had become or shocked I am…

The complaining can go on and on and it doesn’t stop when I’m alone. Sometimes the most avid listener to my complaining is myself. I can reck havoc on someone’s character and worth inside my own mind for the benefit of making myself feel better or simply enjoying a good rant.

I think it has to do with the fact that I fear disappointment during this season. I want the magic and the mystery and the “Ah-ha” factor. I work so hard at engineering the holidays that when someone disagrees with me or simply has another opinion or heaven forbid slows me down in this quest, watch out!

I’ve discovered that becoming offended, angry or frantic during the holidays and just in general, is a choice. Crazy is not inevitable. It may feel like the season is out of control but I certainly don’t have to be.

This year, I’m choosing not to be offended, not to get angry, not to be frantic. I’m choosing to put others needs in front of my own. I am choosing to refocus how I view stress, people, and expectations. Why? Because that is where peace hides and I want peace in my life. I don’t just want to talk about how I want a more peaceful life, I’m going to choose to be intentional about it.

Philippians 4:5-7 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I need God to guard my heart and my mind this season. Friends, don’t lose sight of the fact that God will help you through this season. He can teach you gentleness. He will bring you joy. He will give you peace that transcends all understanding but you need to ask him.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” This Christmas song is a beautiful reminder of how we can effect the world around us, God helping us.

A Hebrews 11 Man

“What are we doing?” is the thought that kept repeating in my mind over and over as I listened to my husband and my mother-in-law ask so many questions.

“This just can not be real” was another thought that echoed like something shouted into a deep large and empty canyon.

It was only a few short months ago that my father-in-law was admitted into the hospital with a swollen neck. Just 9 short months to be exact. They told him he had cancer, and yet I remember looking at him and thinking, “he looks perfectly healthy to me,” except for the swollen neck of course. At that time he was the same man I’ve known since I was a teenager, teasing the nurses and always looking for a way to get people in the room to laugh.

Dad Bierma

“Dad,” as I’ve called him for over 22 years, is one of the most influential mentors I’ve had in my life. He is one of the smartest and wisest men I’ve ever known. A teddy bear, who gives amazing hugs.  His growl is always worse than his bite and in his heart, he is a real softie.

He was the first man to teach me that it was ok for a man of strength to cry…even if it was just a Coke commercial. He has always known more obscure details about anything than even my husband, which is saying quite a bit!

He is a man of God. He loves his Savior completley and unquestionably. He knows and follows the precepts that the Bible contains. I always listen when he talks about God’s creation, His love, His providence and His provision. A Hebrews 11 believer. A man who has been so powerful in shaping my spiritual life. A man who I will always look to for wisdom and guidance.

 

 

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One of the highlights of my adult life has been to cook for him! As the mom of four of his grandchildren, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to make birthday meals, Thanksgiving feasts, summer barbecues and Christmas dinners for him. No one loved my cooking more than dad. It has always been such a joy to cook for this man! And to kick him out of my “space” as I cooked…he was always hovering around my island and in my way as I worked to prepare meals. And I never hesitated to tell him so!

Oh, how I miss those days. The damn cancer has cruelly taken away his ability to eat and enjoy food. The last thing he had at my house was a cup of coffee.  Making that cup of coffee was an honor I will never forget.

I love him so much. I hardly remember my life without him. This man of God, a man of strength and dignity and wisdom. A man who has meant the world to me.

I’m so angry that he has spent these last 9 months in so much pain. I’m so angry that he has had to endure endless procedures and radiation that damaged his body in ways that are unspeakable, that he has had to go to endless appointments to receive chemotherapy. This is all too much, too sudden, too hard, too cruel, too…

How does one play the role of “daughter?” Or “son” Or “wife” Or “patient” What prepares you for this? How do you do this? Questions I continue to ask as I watch our family try to navigate cancer. I don’t even have the words to adequately describe what this is like.

How do you make decisions for someone you love so fiercely?

I’ve spent many hours wishing I could roll back the clock and really appreciate the mundane.  Why did I miss it? Why wasn’t I paying closer attention? I’d give anything to go back just once to hearing dad’s tenor voice, listening to one more lecture or seeing him sing in just one more choir.

In all of this he has been a fighter, the fiercest kind. Dutifully taking one step after another…so strong even when he is so weak. Loving God…it’s still so evident in everything he does. It’s simply amazing. He is still teaching me.

Dad is a true hero in my eyes. A man of God.

I hate this.

That’s all I can really say.

“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.” Hebrews 11:39

 

 

 

 

Marriage is tough, are you in it for the long haul?

o-COUPLE-HOLDING-HANDS-facebook    I sat with a group of women for dinner last Friday and we talked about balancing the tension of married life and raising kids. These two things seem to fit together like peanut butter and jelly, yet in reality, it’s much messier and requires more than anyone at the table ever imagined.

A common theme we all shared, was being desperately lonely and feeling separated from our spouses. This was a group of mostly SAHM’s, many reported that although they were constantly surrounded by children, the loneliness coupled with a sense of being unappreciated or misunderstood was a weight they seemed never able to put down. The role of mom and wife required being a maid, nanny, accountant, cook, and master scheduler. This role however, was not the problem. The problem was that the role of “friend and lover” was either anemic or nowhere to be found. Two people who had at one time dressed in their finest and promised to “love, honor and cherish” each other had settled on being room mates or house parents or worse, strangers.

The passion that was once shared between the two had been replaced with whiny kids, demanding bosses, work schedules that created exhaustion and a tenseness that never seemed to go away. The common questions seemed to be, “Is this all there is? Can I ever expect anything more?  And even, why is this so hard?”

One thing I can say to young moms is that the pressure cooker you are living in now with small children is not a life sentence… it is a phase. You will not always be as physically exhausted, sleep deprived or mentally unstimulated( Yo Gabba Gabba, Team Umizoomi for example) as you are now. These little people that seem to demand all of you and your husband’s attention all of the time until you are completely spent will not always be this way. That’s fairly obvious but I know that when you are in the storm, the end is not always in sight. As your kids get older, the demands of the job and on the marriage change. It does get easier in a way but the danger is that by the time the phase is done your marriage is too.

It amazes me how many marriages fall apart around the 15-20 year mark. I used to think that if you made it that long what followed was easy, coasting. However, years of neglect and relational abuse will eventually take it’s toll on a marriage. After the kids are “old enough” and don’t require so much attention I think people start to look around and decide if the marriage is worth staying for. If you are lonely, unappreciated, unconnected and uninvolved in the other person, why would you stay?

A solid marriage is not a fairy tale but I also don’t think it’s a still-life picture either. A solid marriage ebbs and flows with good times and bad. It’s a living thing that requires constant care and upkeep, health check-ups and sometimes critical care. Please don’t ever believe that taking a break from your relationship with your spouse to raise the kids will work. In fact, taking a break from growing together as a couple at any stage in your marriage is a mistake. Your relationship health is important always. You may never be in danger of divorce but I think we are constantly in danger of complacency.  Who wants to live like that?

This isn’t rocket science but it is demanding and difficult. It requires self sacrifice and humility, two elements that don’t come easily to any of us. Many times we, as parents, believe that the most selfless thing to do is to put the kid’s needs above our own, but that is relational suicide for marriages. There are so many people in your world that are counting on your marriage to succeed. Prioritizing your relationship with your spouse is the selfless thing to do. You have to stay in the fight, keep pursuing each other, work at staying in love…your relationship touches too many lives for you to get lazy, stop caring or give up.

Don’t be locked in shame if you need help, go get it.  Let’s hold ourselves accountable for how we think and talk about our spouses to ourselves and to others. Let’s get creative and dream of ways to fall in love all over again. Let’s put relational intimacy back to the top of the “to do” list.

Let me simply encourage you. Let me give you the challenge to take notice of the man you married, to stop being a martyr, the passive spouse waiting for him to notice you. Give him something to notice, invest in yourself and in what you are interested in.  Then turn around and also start to notice what he is interested in. Spend precious time and resources to reconnect. Hold hands.

Marriage is tough. It’s hard work. It sucks sometimes. It can also be great. Don’t let go of the longing for a great marriage.

The end game is a lifelong relationship, growing old together and finding a forever best friend.

Don’t lose sight of the goal when things get tough.

Put the goal right in front of you and work like crazy to get closer each day.