Last night I was repeating: “God loves my kids more than I do. God loves my kids more than I do. God loves my kids more than I do.”
FavoriteSon went out. On a Friday night. First time driving in heavy traffic IN THE DARK.
“God loves my kids more than I do. God loves my kids more than I do. God loves my kids more than I do.”
In the end, God brought FavoriteSon home safe.
Actually, his friend drove him home because they finished up after 11pm and his dad and I won’t allow him to drive past the State of Florida driving curfew for 16 year olds (11pm). We have to go pick up his car today, but it’s a very small price to pay to reinforce the lesson that we don’t break the law, even if he “probably wouldn’t have gotten caught.”
Eleven year old PinkGirl auditioned for Beauty and the Beast this month. Of course she wanted the part of Belle. At the four hour cast call backs the week after her first audition, she sang and read for Belle. The only other character she was asked to try was Babbette, the feather duster.
She couldn’t do the walk.
In the end, she got the part of Madam. The Wardrobe.
She hadn’t been asked to sing or read for any other character, and the role of the Wardrobe wasn’t announced until just before the role of Belle, so as she heard the other parts being assigned to her fellow cast members, the process of elimination gave her false hope. When her name was called, she was completely blindsided.
The moment they were dismissed, she bolted out the door, still in her jazz shoes. She held herself together until she was about three feet from the van. Since she had run out so fast, none of her friends heard her break down crying.
I got in the van and quickly drove to an empty spot in the parking lot.
Immediately – and I mean IMMEDIATELY – she leapt to the conclusion that she wasn’t good at the one thing she thought she was really good at. The decision made by this stranger somehow represented the real truth and everyone else who had ever told her she was good was just being nice. This was a sign that she should quit. This was proof that she wasn’t as good at singing and acting as she thought she was. This was God saying no, not only to Belle, but to theater. She was just fooling herself, wasting everyone’s time and her parent’s money.
She said all these things to herself and to me through broken tears. Then she SCREAMED them again at God. At the top of her lungs, she DEMANDED to know why He was breaking her heart. She told Him that He was making her feel WORTHLESS. When she wrapped her arms around my neck sobbing and screamed “I thought you LOVED me!” at God, it wrenched me. Exhausted from the screaming, she broke down again, sobbing, telling God she was sorry. That she loved him. That she would always love him. No matter what.
This had nothing to do with being disappointed about not getting the part of Belle.
Sure, she was sad and disappointed she didn’t get the role she was going for, but that’s happened before. She played an eel in Little Mermaid – and you know she didn’t go into the audition wanting that part. She was heartbroken when she didn’t get the part of Ti Moune in Once Upon this Island – she wanted that part so bad she became the secret, silent understudy because she wanted to be ready in case the lead couldn’t perform for any reason at all. And less than a year ago, she auditioned for Annie – the role every little actress dreams about – and the part went to her best friend.
She wasn’t just sad and disappointed about not getting a part. If only it were that simple. This was a full blown identity crisis. I looked it up:
identity crisis (noun) A period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
Here it was, two months after her 11th birthday, and she was convinced her dream of a career in theater was being taken from her. And of course, GOD was doing the taking. If she wasn’t an actress or a singer, who was she?
Sitting in the parking lot, I knew she wouldn’t be able to hear me until she had had it out with God. I didn’t stop her from screaming at Him. I didn’t reprimand her for talking to Him like that.
God can take it.
I waited. I held her. I stroked her hair. Kissed her forehead. I prayed that God would give me the words to say and that I would know the right time to say them. Suddenly, she seemed to literally run out of tears and – no surprise – she had a terrible headache. Her eyes were red and puffy and her face was pale. Her blood sugar was bottomed out and she needed to eat something. There was a Chick-Fil-A in the parking lot so I went through the drive-thru and parked again.
As we sat in the van and ate, she was quiet. Still crying, but quiet. I took a chance that she could hear me, and I decided to approach the smaller issue of Belle first, before I even tried to talk to her about her belief that it meant she wasn’t as good as she thought she was. I was hoping that if I could lessen the significance of the trigger event, the resulting blow to her self-confidence would be softened at the same time.
I told her I didn’t understand why God allowed this to happen. I said that when we face a trial, sometimes God shows us why right away, sometimes he shows us why much later and sometimes, we never get to know why.
Me: “Do you know what just happened with Aunt Wendy’s (my sister) teaching job??
Me: “You know she works at a bank 3 days a week, but about a year ago, she got hired as a college instructor to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But the kind of teaching job she got wasn’t the kind where you just get hired and you keep the job until you leave or get fired. For this job, she got a contract to teach for one semester and then when that was finished, she got another contract to teach for another semester. You know what happened this semester?”
(negative head shake.)
Me: “She didn’t get a contract. They didn’t even call her to tell her they weren’t going to give her another contract. She was confused and hurt and upset and very worried about how they could pay their bills when she found out. Now she only has work 3 days a week. She couldn’t understand why God would allow this to happen. Then you know what happened?
(another negative head shake.)
Me: “CutiePie (my 1 year old nephew) got very, very sick. And Aunt Wendy didn’t have to leave him and go to work. She got to stay with him and take care of him most of the time he was sick. She posted a picture of him on facebook, sleeping after he was feeling better and you know what my comment was?
(another negative head shake.) “So thankful you didn’t have to teach today. God works in mysterious ways.”
(smile and tiny laugh)
I asked her if she was ready to talk about why God might have allowed this to happen in her life. Even though we can’t see the world from God’s point of view, what reasons could we think of from our limited perspective as humans?
PinkGirl: I think it’s a test.
Me: “What kind of test?”
PinkGirl, welling up again: “To see if I would love God no matter what.”
(From the moment she found out she was auditioning for Beauty and the Beast she had been praying and telling God she would love Him no matter what part she got and that whatever part that was, she would do her very best. Her dad and I prayed that prayer again with her the night before call backs and I prayed it again with her in the car on the way to call backs.)
Me: You may be right. Could it be another kind of test?
PinkGirl: “Like what?”
Me: “Could it be that God is helping you figure out if you really love theater as much as you say you do? Because, this will definitely happen again. More than once. You will want some other part and you won’t get it. And in some cases, you won’t even get a smaller role in the show you audition for. In some cases, you won’t get any role. You will probably NOT get the parts you want more often than you WILL get the parts you want.
(silent tears on her waffle fries)
Me: “PinkGirl, I don’t lie. You know I tell you the truth. You are good at this. And as good as you already are, you have the potential to get even better. I’ve told you before that I believe you can make a very good living in theater your entire life if you just don’t quit. I mean it. But you have to figure out if you can handle the disappointments that come with the joy. Do you love doing theater – no matter what?
(silent tears again)
Me: “What about your witness? GreatTheaterCompany isn’t a Christian organization. Some of the people there know you are a Christian. You invite your castmates to pray with you before shows. How can you be part of God’s story? Because HIS story is so much bigger and better than Beauty and the Beast. We need to start praying and asking God how He can use you to work all things for good.
Me: “I think it’s pretty safe to say it is. Do you trust that God knows what he’s doing and that this dark thread will help make the tapestry beautiful? Even if you don’t get to see it until you see Him face to face?
(positive head shake with the tears again. I got another hug.)
There’s a certain person in my daughter’s life, who if she allows it, erodes her joy. I’ll call her TheBully. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward PinkGirl is often passive-aggressive. Every day after school, PinkGirl tells me what TheBully did that day. And every day, PinkGirl and I talk about how she might handle her interactions with TheBully. I’ve encouraged her to include TheBully in her prayers.
I’ve asked PinkGirl to consider that there might be things in TheBully’s life that we aren’t aware of that make her unhappy and her unhappiness might be why she acts the way she does. I’ve explained that some unhappy people try to make themselves feel better by making other people unhappy too. They don’t know they’re doing it and while it really doesn’t make them feel any happier, it does make them feel less alone. I’ve called to her attention that TheBully is also unkind to other people and I’ve tried to help PinkGirl understand that she shouldn’t take it personally.
But I’ve also told PinkGirl that even if all those things are true, it doesn’t give TheBully the right to act the way she does.
It’s not okay.
PinkGirl and I talk about it at length and every day, I conclude by saying that I believe it’s possible for her to stand firm and not let TheBully control her actions. Every day, I tell PinkGirl that it’s possible to tell the truth – even truth that might hurt someone’s feelings – using gracious words. PinkGirl remains steadfastly unconvinced and consistently counters that TheBully will “tell lies” about her to “everybody.” “Everybody” will be mad at her. and she will get into big trouble with the teachers.
Every day, I tell PinkGirl that’s not true. And every day, she tell’s me I don’t understand and that I’m wrong.
The freakish optimist in me gets so exasperated with her. How can my daughter be such a pessimist?
And then I get smacked in the face with a little empathy.
There’s a certain person in my life, who, if I allow her, erodes my joy. I’ll call her Narcissa. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward me is often passive-aggressive. After a few years of praying about – and relentlessly lamenting to my husband about – these interactions and countless discussions with him about why God is allowing this person in my life and what I’m supposed to do and say to her with the love of Christ, I finally . . . blocked her out. Literally and figuratively.
I’ve spent the last few months flat-lined against the messages in her body language, her wounded facial expressions and the disgruntled and sarcastic mumbling. And flat-line has been working for me.
Recently, the passive aggressive behavior morphed into a face to face, non-ignorable conversation. Skilled communicator that I am, I couldn’t think of one thing to say that fell in line with God’s command to speak in love. The words of the great philosopher, Thumper the bunny, kept echoing in my mind: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
So I stood there, speechless.
A few days later, a colleague/friend, who had witnessed the encounter, brought it up. My first response was to assure her that it was okay and to explain that, by the grace of God, I was in a place that Narcissa’s behavior didn’t bother me and that my focus was on my work.
But then my friend, a fellow Christian, said, “It’s just been weighing heavy on my heart.”
I’m not in a place where I can simply block her out. And I couldn’t ignore the fact that God has used her in other situations in my life to point out things I couldn’t or wouldn’t see. As I listened to her explain how Narcissa’s behavior was affecting her, I silently prayed that God would give me the right words to say. My initial thought was to sooth her soul, to help her accept the behavior of the person who was causing her so much heartache. Not once did I consider the possibility that the issue could be resolved. When my friend mentioned speaking with Narcissa about all this, my immediate reaction was, “ohhhhh, nooooo. That would not be a good idea.”
As she persistently brought up possibilities of addressing the problem, one by one, I shot them down: Can’t do it. Never gonna happen. There’s no situation in which that would turn out well. The fall out would be too far reaching.
The next day, alone, I thought: Who was that? I’m freakishly optimistic. I believe “can’t” is a four letter word. My mantra is “Just because I haven’t thought of an answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I just haven’t figured it out yet.”
What kind of power does this person have over me that I would abandon such a core characteristic? What kind of power does she have over other people? What kind of power does she have?
and what kind of example am I setting for my daughter? I had to fess up.
In the car ride home from school,
I said: “So, I had an epiphany. Do you know what that is?”
Me: “It’s a realization. I realized something today. You know how every day you tell me what TheBully did and I tell you that you need to stand firm and not let her control your actions? How you need to talk to her and tell her the truth using gracious words – even if it will hurt her feelings? And how every day, you tell me that you can’t do that because she will tell everyone lies and the teachers will get you in trouble and everyone will be mad at you …
PinkGirl: “Well not my real friends.”
Me: “True. But am I getting all this right? Am I leaving anything out?
PinkGirl: “No. That’s pretty much it.”
Me: “I realized I’m doing the same thing you are. Who’s TheBully in my life?”
PinkGirl, quick as a flash: “Narcissa.”
Me: “yep. I realized that I’m expecting you to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for getting so frustrated with you when you refuse to try and work out your problems with TheBully.”
So. Now I either have to start coaching PinkGirl about how to physically and emotionally distance herself from TheBully or I have to refocus my efforts on preventing Narcissa’s passive-aggressive behavior from negatively impacting my thoughts and actions.
If you read my last post, I should probably steer clear of Narcissa for a while. Because right this minute, emotions are not a factor in my decision-making and communication. I could easily, objectively and thoroughly tell Narcissa the truth and be completely unaffected by ANY reaction she has.
Unfortunately, because there are other people involved who would be negatively impacted by the repercussions of an honest conversation with Narcissa, I think my best course of action is to keep praying the prayer I’ve been praying for years: “Lord, if you won’t change my circumstances, please change my attitude.” If I want to shake the Hypocrite Certificate, I think I need to teach PinkGirl that same prayer. And how to physically and emotionally duck and weave to stay out of TheBully’s line of sight.
CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.
(the premise is that children who are capable of delayed gratification are more “successful” than children who can’t delay gratification. The test? Give a kid a marshmallow and tell them they can eat it – BUT if they can wait 10-15 minutes, they can have TWO marshmallows. Some kids make it. Some kids don’t. Some kids find a way to eat the INSIDE of a marshmallow and make it look like they didn’t eat it. That would be the little girl with the pink headband. The kid vs. marshmallow test video begins around the 3 minute mark.)
PinkGirl spent nearly an HOUR crying last night. About E.V.E.R.Y.thing. She went from one problem to the next, never stopping, sometimes overlapping. When, between tragedies, I suggested that she might be exhausted, she said,
“Mom, sometimes I just need to exhale all my emotions.”
God gave her to me on purpose.
I’m so thankful she’s so self-aware and articulate.
During PinkGirl’s uncontrollable tearfest, one of the many, many things she was crying about:
“and technology is going to replace books!!!! (weepy hiccups) That’s why Borders closed. People are going to stop buying books and everybody’s just gonna have Kindles!!! (each syllable in the word Kindle lasted about 10 full seconds – more weeping).
Me: “Hey, now that’s not true. What did I get in the mail JUST TODAY?”
PinkGirl: “boookssss” (pause for more hiccups) “But, how did you order them?”
I feel the need to spend some time at (a brick and mortar) BAM.
The weather is beautiful! I made FavoriteSon go out into the backyard tonight and do NOTHING.
I told him he could talk to God or just listen, I didn’t care, but for FIVE minutes, I wanted him to sit outside with the wind in his face and look out over the pond behind our backyard and do NOTHING.
He came back in 10 minutes later and said:
“That just made me realize I need to mow the backyard.”
I’d REALLY like to say I don’t know where he gets it.
A few months ago, 10 year old PinkGirl and a friend were talking about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
PinkGirl: “Mom, why does God make bad things happen?”
(Lord, I’m gonna need your help with this one.)
Me: “I don’t necessarily believe God makes bad things happen. I believe God allows bad things to happen. Sometimes we get to know why, sometimes we don’t. You remember the Bible verse about now I see in a mirror, dimly, then I shall see face to face?”
PinkGirl: “uh huh.”
Me: “It means that we don’t always see things clearly or understand why things happen while we are here in this life, but when we get to heaven, we will understand.
I looked up at a tapestry of Disney princesses hanging on her wall. (thank you Lord)
Me: “You see that tapestry? How beautiful it is? That’s because we can see all of it – from the front. This is like what God sees when he looks at the earth.
But look at this.”
I turned the corner of the tapestry and blocked out a small piece in my hand.
Me: “This is what we see. Just this little bit. We can’t see all of the tapestry because each part of our life is just a thread. We’re so small, and our vision is so limited, that all we can see are our own threads and the threads near us. Sometimes, it’s not very pretty. What does this look like to you?”
PinkGirl: “I dunno, it’s too small, it just looks like little blobs.”
Me: “It doesn’t look like little blobs to God. His vision is unlimited, so he can see the whole thing at the same time. And, since he’s the one who’s weaving the design, he knows exactly where each thread is supposed to go. Even if we could see the whole thing, it would still look like a mess.”
I pulled the tapestry back as far as it would go.
Me: “Can you tell what it is now?”
Both PinkGirl and her friend: “no.”
Me: “And see how there are all different colors here? Some are bright colors, some are dark. I think of the dark colors as being the trials in our life. We all want our life to be wonderful – to be light colored threads. But what would the front of this tapestry look like if all the threads were light colored? Would it be as beautiful?”
I turned the tapestry back over, showing the front side again.
PinkGirl: “It’s a flower!”
Me: “Yep. God knew it would be. His job is to weave the tapestry. Our job is to trust that he knows what he’s doing and that in the end, it will be beautiful.”
Thank you Lord, for helping Herb Lockyer write a book (Dark Threads the Weaver Needs) in the middle of his grief and for leading me to read it a few years ago.
“My Life is but a weaving between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors, He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride,
forget that He seeth the upper, and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly,
shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand,
as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.”
Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” Genesis 33:5
Every night, when my kids were infants, I would slip quietly into their room and lay my hand on their backs to make sure they were still breathing. Sometimes, when they were fussy and I was afraid my touch would wake them, I would silently position my finger in front of their nose to feel their breath.
Infants. Who am I kidding? I did it for years. I just needed the assurance that they were breathing before I could sleep.
Tell me I’m not the only parent who’s done this.
I realize that my actions had nothing to do with whether or not they took their next breath. I was just checking for my own peace of mind. Laying my hand on their back was not what prevented them from dying of SIDS or some other freakish undetected “one minute they’re breathing and another minute they’re not” disease.
The Lord, in His mercy and grace, allowed my children take each tiny breath. By His mercy and grace, he still allows them to take their next breath.
Why am I thinking about this now? My kids aren’t at risk for SIDS anymore. My daughter will be 11 years old this year. My son just turned 16.
16. Two weeks ago, my son got his driver’s license.
And there it is.
Am I ready for this change? Of course not. and YES. YES I AM!
The two weeks before he got his license were particularly challenging chauffeur weeks for me. My daughter had drama camp from 9am to noon every day and my son got a summer job with flexible hours. My husband’s travel and work schedule made me the “go-to” guy with the car keys. I was spending hours and hours each day in FavoriteSon’s car with only 20 to 30 minute breaks in between drop-offs and pick-ups. By Thursday of the 2nd week, I was DREADING the thought of sitting in a vehicle.
Thursday was also the day FavoriteSon got his driver’s license.
Friday morning, I got up and drove PinkGirl to drama camp. I arrived back home about 20 minutes before FavoriteSon had to leave for work.
Decision time. Do I ride shotgun with him, drive home, drive back to pick him up and ride shotgun while he drives home? Or do I let him make the single round trip all by himself?
If I was WITH him he would be safe. If he drove by himself, he might get into an accident.
I know. I KNOW.
What was I going to do? Make him drive to work with my left arm stretched across the driver’s seat to protect him? Because THAT’S effective. Ummm hmmm. A loving mother’s straight-arm. More effective than a seat belt.
Just like a hand on his back.
I let him go. Literally. I didn’t even watch him drive away. Yes, I was ready for the break from driving, but more importantly, I was saturated with the knowledge that my presence in the vehicle with him had nothing to do with his safety. Not anymore. Our instruction and advice over the last year helped to prepare him, as did the two driver education courses he took. He was equipped for the responsibility. The State of Florida confirmed it by giving him legal permission to drive. All. by. himself.
His father and I still have so much more to prepare him for. But this? This we’ve prepared him for. This he’s ready for. Now, just like when he was a baby, his life is in God’s powerful and loving hands.
As hard as it is for me to comprehend, God loves my son more than I do.
Making safety the priority tells our children that we think God is incapable of doing what He said He would do for His children . . . But when we put our confidence in God’s power rather than the safety nets we place around our children we find that even children can learn to rely on God’s overwhelming presence to protect them as well as to enable them to flourish in the world system. Tim Kimmel Grace-Based Parenting