Celebrating Ascension

Last Sunday was Ascension Sunday when we remember Jesus ascending to Heaven.  Jesus had been with the apostles for 40 days since His resurrection.
“…he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”  Act 1:9

 When I saw this cute idea on Cultivated Lives, I knew my girls would love it.  The blue Jello and Cool Whip clouds are such a fun visual reminder of Ascension.   

Last night I surprised Pete and the girls with their Ascension desserts.  (You can see mine were not nearly as cute.  Reddy Wip from a can does not hold up like Cool Whip!)   I added a strawberry cut into the shape of a heart to represent the promise of the gift God would send after Jesus' ascension. 

Our family has been reading the Book of Acts each morning since Easter, so instead of reading the biblical account of Jesus' ascension, we played "Ascension trivia."  Emily (6) surprised us all by having all the answers.  She of course thought that deserved a reward.  You can guess it where this lead....

The joy of watching the girls enjoying their blue jello (I don't serve a lot of blue food around here.) and just spending a few extra minutes at the dinner table together, was such a great reminder to me that raising faith in our children doesn't have to be serious or difficult, we don't have to have the perfect devotion guide or a seminary degree.  It can be as simple as some blue jello, a can or Reddi Wip and the time to talk about our great and loving God.

As for the little strawberry heart... Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift God would send.  They waited 10 days, and then received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This is marked by Pentecost in the church calendar.  My girls are marking off 10 days on our chalkboard.  Next Wednesday night we will celebrate it.  I will share ideas for celebrating Pentecost and the church's birthday next week. 

Of Course You Are Not Mom Enough

After a week of everyone asking, “Are you mom enough,” I think it is just time to come out and admit the truth. I am not mom enough.  There I said it.  You might feel better if you admitted it too.  Let’s just all take a deep breath and confess, “I am not mom enough.”  Feel better?  Now I am not making light of motherhood, I’m just exhausted by the fact that mothering in America has become a competitive sport.   We pretend to be enraged by last week’s Time magazine, but moms are forced to wrestle over this question most days.

From the moment we find out we are pregnant, we prepare to enter The Mommy Games. We arm ourselves with the latest parenting books and fortify our homes with space-age safety gear.  Without a moment of parenting experience, we boldly enter the most common Mommy Game, judgment.  We judge the baby sucking on the grocery cart handle.  We judge the loud kid at church.  We judge the neighborhood nose picker.  Bad moms, bad moms, BAD MOMS we declare!  We will never allow these things. 

While still pregnant we commit ourselves to playing another Mommy Game, perfection.  We will make the right choices to create the right end product.  We map our parenting path with the organization of a strategic planner. We pick our sides in the battles of the day:  Sears or Ferber, nursing or a bottle, Montessori or a nanny. We make our selections with the goal of creating a more successful kid than our neighbors.     

When our precious little bundles arrive, the terrifying reality hits and we feel far from being mom enough.  The diapers leak and the baby screams.  Colic sets in and no one sleeps.  We get a prescription for Prozac.   Instead of asking a fellow mom for help, we play another game, deception.  To the outside world, we can make it all sparkle.  We dress up the baby and comb our hair.  We sign up for infant massage classes and play classical music in the minivan.   As we drive out of the neighborhood, we see the neighbor yelling at her kids and we triumphantly shout, “Bad mom!”  We almost forget our insecurities. 

For the first 5 years of my daughter’s life I was a black belt competitor in the Mommy Games.  I would match my breast-fed, co-sleeping, sling-riding, baby signing toddler up against any one of those neighborhood Ferber babies.  She was bright, and quick, and happy. I banned the TV and made all my own baby food.  I enrolled her in the best mommy/toddler classes and took pride in how she stacked up in the competitive world of Gymboree classes.   I hid all my insecurities and parenting blunders behind the cutest little girl on the block. 

While I was very successful at the Mommy Games, there was a toll to playing.  Trying to be “mom enough” will suck the very joy out of motherhood.  You can’t enjoy your child if they are a product to perfect.  While you are busy pretending that everything is perfect at your house, it’s difficult to be close to your friends.   To create true friendships you have to be honest.  You have to be able to cry over your struggles and laugh at your mistakes.  You have to stop thinking parenting is a game to win, because the deeper you get in, the more you realize how very, very hard it is.  But the simple truth is we are all woefully unprepared and ill-equipped.  Individually we are not mom enough, but when we are brave enough to give up the Mommy Games something wonderful happens.  C.S. Lewis described it this way:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

When we realize that we are not the only one, we can gather with a sister or two and cry out to the real parenting expert who promises:

“When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there.” ( Matthew 18:19-20 The Message)

In that place where we stop the competitive games, and lean into His strength, we can experience His promise that:

“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Cor 12:9 NIV

With His grace and power with us, surely we’ll find that we are actually more than enough mom. 

Mother's Day Blessings

Growing up, we had the tradition of making breakfast for my mom on Mother’s Day.  I have a clear memory of the first year that I helped in this process.   My dad, sister and I rode bikes to the local grocery store.  I was too young to ride that far, so I sat on a seat behind my dad.  I don’t remember riding there, but I remember riding back.  I held the pineapple.    Circa 1979, before Whole Foods and year-round tropical fruits, a fresh pineapple was a big deal.   Riding home, holding that prickly pineapple, I knew I had been given an important job.  To get that pineapple safely home.

When we got home my dad made breakfast, with small jobs for my sister and me.  Knowing my mom, she surely commented at breakfast that it was the sweetest, most flavorful pineapple she had ever had.  I am sure when I tasted it, I agreed, for there is a sweetest found in learning to bless others.  My actual role in creating Mother’s Day breakfast was minimal, but I was included in honoring my mom. What a gift my father gave me.

I have just finished reading The Gift of the Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent.  This beautiful book looks in depth at the important biblical principle of parents blessing their children.  In the last chapter of the book, the authors list a number of ways to bless older children.  One really stood out to me, and I would argue that it applies to young children as well. 

Give your children the chance to return the blessing to you.  For me, it’s easier to give a gift than to receive it.  But as I’ve learned over the years, it’s important that the blessing become a two-way street.  While we need to travel the road first and give our children the blessing in every way, they also need to be able to express their blessing back to you.   – The Gift of the Blessing

Thirty-five years later I remember that pineapple because I was blessed to have the opportunity to bless my mother through it.  As we move toward Mother’s Day, I want to encourage my mama friends to allow your children the opportunity to bless you this weekend.   No matter how small or messes or chaotic the act might be.  Bless your little ones this weekend by allowing them to bless the mama who loves them all year round. 

Proverbs 31:28  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ...
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mamas   May you be mightily blessed this weekend and always.

Mother Daughter Bible Studies

Emily (6) and I were recently invited to join a    mother-daughter bible study that one of her classmate’s mother, Cindy, put together for all kindergarten girls and their moms. Cindy told me that she wanted to create an opportunity for girls and their moms to study God’s Word together and to grow in their relationships with one another.   When Cindy invited us to join, she made a self-deprecating comment about not really having experience in this type of thing, but that God had laid it on her heart.    I actually love when people make comments like that (the genuine ones at least).  It gets me excited, because when God takes people out of their comfort zone, He is normally going to do something amazing.  This certainly proved to be true with this little group of moms and girls. 

The group meets on Saturday morning for about 2 hours.  The time incorporates the four basic elements of Christian life together; fellowship, study, prayer and the breaking of bread (eating).  The girls and moms had time to chat, play, and drink a cup of coffee to start the morning.  Then we all gathered together for a short teaching and discussion about a key verse that Cindy had prepared on a small card for each girl.  The girls sat in front of their moms, forming an inner circle of girls, surrounded by a circle of moms.  After the discussion, the little girls prayed for one another, with each girl praying out loud for the girl on her right.  Some girls were shy, some were bold, but each took their turn seriously. (There were not many dry eyes among the mamas.)  The moms also had a time to pray for the girls.

Cindy had prepared little flower pots for each girl to plant a flower in as an activity after our prayer time.  After the pots were done, everyone enjoyed muffins and fruit (and some more coffee). 

I later heard that at the girls’ school, the fifth grade girls started doing this same thing with their moms in kindergarten.  They have been meeting once a month for six years.  Today when little girl (and big girl) relationships seem to be marked by bullying, gossip, cruelty, and backbiting, what better antidote could moms offer their daughters?  Too often I know I am guilty of thinking, “wouldn’t it be great if our church offered______________.”  You could fill the blank in with a lot of things.  A mother-daughter bible study has been one of them for me.  Perhaps you have been longing for a way to connect with your daughter, and her classmates and moms.  I encourage you to follow Cindy’s example.  You don’t have to have a seminary degree or a showcase home, if God has laid such a ministry on your heart, know that He will equip you to lead it. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

While I don’t think you need a curriculum to follow, sometimes a starting place is helpful. For daughters in 3-6th grade, I would recommend looking at 8 GreatDates for Moms and Daughters: How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion,and...Modesty! by Dannah Gresh, or for littler girls, Tea Party Bible Times for Mom and Me: Fun Bible Studies to DoTogether by Mary J. Murray. 

For moms with boys, I am sorry for leaving you out on the recommendations.  I do not personally know of a good resource and my searching just came up with more mother-daughter books.  If you know of one, please leave the title in comments.