The Joy (& Pain) of Raising Boys

Joshua 2 to 21 V2As the mother of three boys (age 13, 21 & 22), I am constantly learning new things about raising sons, which is very different from raising my daughters, now both 26-years-old. How do you raise a godly man? A man that will be caring, responsible, and confident; one that will be his family’s spiritual leader?

How do you mother someone who never stops moving long enough to have a conversation, who likes to pee outside, and is often found jumping off the highest thing he can find? A boy who has a vocabulary full of “whys” and whose favorite one-word answers are “good” and “nothing”…usually to “How was your day?” and “What did you do at school today?”

And then throw in the fact that boys just love their mamas. For example, my son Joshua has always made me feel like a rock star in my own home with the way he loves me. This bond and his sweet personality made it very hard for me to discipline him. When he did something wrong, he would immediately say he was sorry, and then hug me. This did not excuse him from the consequences of his actions, but his loving spirit definitely made his sentence lighter. I’ve always told the kids that you get more with sugar than you do vinegar!

He used that ability on his elementary school principal often. In 1st grade, I was tired of him getting sent to the office for behavior issues (like climbing on the urinals in the bathroom). I told him, “It’s not a good thing to visit the principal’s office. You only go there when your teacher doesn’t know what else to do with you.” He replied, “Well, she likes my hugs.” What was I supposed to do with that?

Although his early years were insanely rambunctious, Joshua also had this amazing sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Once when I had a headache (but had not mentioned it to anyone), I felt his little hand on my shoulder. When I looked back, he was praying for me. Over the years, I’ve tried to help him understand that this is a special gift from God that he is to use to build His kingdom. But how do you know if you’ve done enough?

I recently had the opportunity to go to L.A. with Joshua and his band Rellen to meet their new producer and his amazing team of professionals (which included management, branding & PR, multimedia, life coach, stylist, car service, etc.). It was truly a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. Watching my son interact with music business professionals and take direction in the studio from his producer was incredibly humbling. He made me so proud. He worked hard. Whatever he was asked to do, he did without hesitation, with a great attitude.

Once while recording vocal parts, his producer said, “Got it. You didn’t hold that last note out long enough, but it’s good.” Not satisfied, Joshua replied, “I can do it again.” To which his producer said, “Let’s get it.” Once more and it was perfect! That’s the kind of effort I wanted to see from him.

His effort and attitude was a far cry from the struggles we had just trying to get him to just clean his room. Was this the same boy? Did he grow up overnight?

It reminded me of the day he turned sixteen. We had a party at our home and I made chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas, and all the fixings. Joshua was sitting on the couch with his friends (some of whom were girls) when I mentioned that the fondue was ready. He sarcastically replied, “You know I’m allergic to chocolate.” What? Since when?

His attitude that night just progressively got worse towards me. It had happened overnight…my son was “killing the mother” just as Dr. James Dobson described in his book “Bringing up Boys.” This was the season in his life when he would begin to separate himself from me. He needed his own identity. I understood, but knowing that didn’t make it hurt any less, and yes, I cried.

Standing in that recording studio in L.A., I felt like crying again…actually I did. The first time they played Rellen’s new song and I heard Joshua’s voice, I just couldn’t hold back the tears. He was moving into a new season of his life…a season where he will make his own decisions, discover who he is, and stretch his wings.

Just like on his sixteenth birthday, I’m not ready for this season either. But these are the moments of parenthood where all of your character-building efforts are tested and proved; the moment when you realize you have done what God asked you to do:

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

– Proverbs 22:6

My focus now has to be to fully rely on God to protect and guide Joshua. This is so different than shaping and molding him. My job now is to pray continuously for him; to provide advice when asked; and to provide support for him when things do not go as planned (because they never do).

It’s very easy to second-guess our parenting decisions. But I know that God entrusted me with being the mother of sons on purpose for His purpose. I’m going to enjoy this launching season in Joshua’s life, and be happy that I still have one more son to raise.

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The Secret to True Joy

joy

When I think about true joy, I always think about Christmas. It’s my favorite time of the year. The lights. The tree. Family & friends. Great food. Giving gifts.

Now I’ve had some memorable Christmases in my life.

Christmas 1980: Most Unexpected Christmas Surprise
My sister Alysia & I had just finished opening our gifts (there were not very many), when my Dad said, “Why don’t you see if Santa left something outside for you girls?” We ran to the front yard…nothing. We ran to the back yard and there it was, every young energetic girl’s dream…a big, beautiful trampoline! We burst through the back door in our pajamas and jumped on that trampoline in the cold for hours. I’m not sure I ever remember having so much fun!

Christmas 1993: Most Unforgettable Shopping Trip
I guess I should not have been surprised that this ever happened. I mean, Tommy’s first words to his son after I gave birth on November 12, 1993 were “Hail to the Redskins!” (singing it, of course). A few weeks later, we went to the toy store to Christmas shop for Ashley & Joshua. I walked back from the Barbie aisle to find the cart loaded with a hockey stick, football, baseball bat, and other assorted sporting goods. Tommy actually looked surprised when I said, “Put it all back. He’s a baby.” I think it’s rather ironic that instead of a sports star, Joshua turned out to be an amazing musician just like his Dad.

Christmas 2010: Most Important Christmas Lesson
Every Christmas tradition I had went straight out the window that year: Jacob got sick on Christmas Eve, which meant that I couldn’t lead worship at church and that we couldn’t go to the movies. None of the older kids or my in-laws showed up on Christmas morning (because no one wants to be around sick people), so instead of chaos, we had quiet. Then it snowed 14” in my front yard and all our family Christmas parties were cancelled. That year, I learned to focus on the people in my life and worry less about the way things are “supposed to happen.”

But this year topped them all…

Christmas 2014: Most Wonderful Christmas Gift
On December 16th, Tommy had surgery to remove a larger excision of the Melanoma on his upper arm, as well as any affected lymph nodes (they took four). Then we waited for the pathology results from the lymph node biopsy. As the possibility of skin cancer having metastasized into my husband’s lymph system hovered over our holiday preparations, we chose to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. No matter what the results of Tommy’s tests were, the best gift we could receive was the gift of Christ. God provided a way for us to have everlasting life and a relationship with Him through giving us His son. This is the reason we can celebrate in tough times. There is hope in Christ!

And then the news came…

While preparing to sing for the first of three Christmas Eve services at church, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, Ashley, who happens to be the nurse for Tommy’s surgeon. Dad’s pathology report is clean. There was no cancer in his lymph nodes, Mom. The melanoma on his arm did not spread and the doctor was able to get it all!”

My heart could not contain the joy that I felt at that moment. I laughed and cried. I called Tommy and we thanked God for the good report. The gift of health is not one that we take for granted. There are many who are suffering today. There are many who did not get good news reports. That is why we need Christ and the unconditional joy that knowing Him provides.

We were not expecting to face cancer in 2014, but God has done wonderful things in our lives through this journey:

  • We are closer to God & our family.
  • We appreciate every moment together.
  • We stop and smell the roses.
  • We don’t sweat the small things.
  • We are more focused.
  • We love more.
  • We laugh more.
  • We praise more.
  • We say no more.

We are excited to see what God has in store for us in 2015 and we have big plans:

  • We will celebrate more often…Big things, like my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary in July, and small things, like another day together.
  • We will spend more time songwriting, so that the joy of God’s goodness and mercy will be heard long after we are gone.
  • We will love by serving each other, our families, and our communities.

We know that we will find joy in every moment and that God’s name will be glorified through whatever comes our way!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Overcoming the One-Two Punches of Life

RockyHere it comes… you just felt the blow of the first punch and before you have time to move out of the way, you almost black out from the second.

But as Floyd Mayweather, Jr. says, “Boxing is real easy. Life is much harder.“

Whether it’s relational, financial, emotional, or health-related, we have all felt that way before. Sometimes we are barely recovering from one thing before something else happens.

As Christians, we are still only human. We cry, we get angry, we retaliate, we withdraw, because we don’t understand. And we won’t. Not here. Not now. But we have a BIG God. And he hears our cries.

The Bible says, God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help. No matter how desperate the trouble.” Nahum 1:7 (MSG).

This has never meant more to our family than right now. The week of Thanksgiving we received news that Tommy’s pathology report from a skin cancer biopsy was positive for malignant Melanoma.

Punch #1: Leukemia. Punch #2: Melanoma. Unimaginable.

Even though the doctor in Texas told us that skin cancer was a risk for Leukemia patients due to their compromised immune systems, we never thought that it would really happen. So yes, we cried. And yes, we don’t understand. But here is what we do know:

  • God loves Tommy.
  • God loves our family.
  • God is still in control.
  • God does not cause sickness.
  • God will increase our faith and our testimony.
  • His name will be glorified through this journey.

But here is the BIGGEST, most amazing praise:

  • IF Tommy had not gone for a routine physical in June, and
  • IF he had not been diagnosed with Leukemia, and
  • IF we had not gone to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas for a second opinion, and
  • IF she had not mentioned the high risk of skin cancer in Leukemia patients, and
  • IF our daughter was not the nurse for a wonderful plastic surgeon (who has been doing skin cancer screenings and surgeries for 30 years) we would not have been able to get an appointment until April 2015,
  • THEN this malignant Melanoma would not have been found and Tommy would definitely not be here at this time next year.

That’s how I know that God’s hand is on Tommy. That’s how I know that the one-two punch life has dealt will NOT knock him out!

God is good and we can’t do this on our own. We all need Jesus and the love of our Christian family. If you are going through a difficult time, please let me pray for you. Leave me a comment and I’d be honored to pray for you.

And I am asking the same thing from you. We have some scary things ahead of us and some major decisions to make:

  • Melanoma surgery is scheduled this month for a wider excision and also to remove any lymph nodes affected (and send them off for biopsy).
    Pray for a clean pathology report.
  • We are also consulting with MD Anderson Cancer Center to get an appointment with their Melanoma specialists for follow-up treatment.
    Pray for coordination of care efforts between the Leukemia & Melanoma doctors in Texas.
  • Tommy is still planning to do the clinical trial for Leukemia after the first of the year, but we have to take care of the Melanoma first.
    Pray for God to provide the financial means for Tommy to be able to participate in the Clinical Trial. Also pray that the Melanoma will not exclude him from the trial.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7. That’s the way we overcome. 

Other related posts:

The C Word: Through it all, it is well

The C Word: Through it all it is well

The ultimate measure of a man is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

IMG_6061

On August 8, 2014 we heard the word that makes everyone cringe…cancer.

We knew it was a possibility after Tommy’s routine physical showed that his white blood cell and lymphocyte counts were elevated (actually tripled), but he was not sick, had not been sick, and had not been around anyone who was sick. Google finds everything…even the things you don’t want to know.

This led to panic after we realized that the specialist we were being referred to was not only a hematologist, but also an oncologist. After weeks of appointments and tests, Tommy received the phone call with his diagnosis: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)…exactly what Google searches revealed, but not what we wanted to hear.

How could this be true? Tommy rarely gets sick. In fact, if you get sick, he is the one you want around. He will make you homemade chicken soup, and tend to your every need. It was my bright idea for him to even go to the doctor in the first place. Since we met our out-of-pocket maximum for the year, the appointment was free. So much for trying to save a buck.

The word “cancer” evokes a sense of fear that you can’t explain. And it is everywhere. Almost everyone knows someone, somewhere who is battling or is in remission from this terrible disease. Tommy’s dad passed away in 2012. We also have several amazing friends who are fighting courageous battles right now.

It has taken us months to wrap our brains around this unwelcomed word in our home. We cried. We spent countless hours researching this particular type of cancer and the best options for treatment (well, I did…Tommy now calls me his “handler”). We told our families…the hardest being our children (ages 12-26). We asked friends to join us in prayer.

We are thankful that this is the “good” kind of Leukemia (which sounds ridiculous unless you have cancer), but we are thankful for “good.” We are thankful that the BEST doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas are caring for Tommy. We are also thankful that he is eligible for a clinical trial that has the potential to put him in complete remission.

Through it all, we have kept our eyes focused on God. He does not cause illness. We live in a fallen world where there is a very real spiritual battle going on. We knew that if we let fear overtake our thoughts we would not be able to focus on God’s promises: He will never leave or forsake us. He is in control. He loves us. He cares about every detail of our lives. We continued to praise God for what He did for us on the cross. No matter what our circumstances look like, His promises remain.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
– Romans 8:28.

But we found the most healing and power in praising God through private worship, and through leading others in praise and worship at our church. There is no doubt that when you praise God through the trials of life, He blesses you with a peace that you cannot explain. We have felt closest to God during these times of worship. Our thoughts are on Him and not our circumstances.

God is with us through this storm, and He will be with us forever. He is Lord of all, and has a perfect plan. As the new song “It is Well” from Bethel Music says, “This mountain that’s in front of me will be thrown into the midst of the sea.”

He will take these broken moments and weave them into a beautiful tapestry to the glory of His name. Tommy and I are thankful to be His children, and we are thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Through it all my eyes are on You. And it is well with me.”

Helping Your Children Share Their Faith

Guest post from Sus Schmitt:

“Your kids are so good!”

I was finished seeing the doctor, having left our three children (ages six to twelve at the time) in the waiting room unattended. The two women at the front desk were amazed how they had quietly read and occupied themselves during my appointment.

“They have all been Christians since they were three and four-years-old,” I explained. “It makes my job easier because Jesus lives inside them.”

I tried to make it clear what it means to be a Christian and gave God the glory for the good behavior of our children, then I gave the ladies tracts about how to know Jesus themselves.

Also, when we took our young children to a restaurant, older couples would often come up to our table and remark at how well-behaved they were. Again, I gave tracts to these people and explained that the kids were Christians.

When the kids were a bit older, I began to take the initiative to share my faith more consistently instead of waiting for people to approach me. Being the youngest, our daughter had been watching me do this for at least eight years when our family went through three hurricanes in six weeks in 2004…

After a hard day of cleaning and fixing up from Hurricane Jeanne, we took our family out for some fast food. We stretched our thirteen-year-old daughter’s confidence by asking her to go back to the counter on her own for a take-home container. She was a little nervous, but before she tried it, she asked for a tract from me, so she could give it to the gal behind the counter! We were really pleased to see her take that initiative and gain a little more confidence.

Sus SchmittSus Schmitt serves as a Technology Ministry Developer for Women’s Resources at Cru. Her goal is to equip Campus Crusade for Christ staff to have more effective ministries through learning technological skills. Her main medium to do this is through her blog, eQuipping for eMinistry. Sus also maintains a personal site, Mike and Sus.org and an evangelistic site, The Sovereign. You can find her on FacebookYouTubeTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest. Sus is enjoying her new role as a “nana” to a cute, little boy.

Helping Your Children Share Their Faith by Sus Schmitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

2 Boys + 2 Instruments = $6 & My Heart

Tristan & Jacob

He will completely deny it, but my son Jacob is a street musician.

It was a Saturday morning and his friend Tristan from school had come over for a sleepover. Tristan brought his violin, so that he and Jacob could “jam.” They had both rented their instruments four days earlier for the 5th Grade Strings program at school and only knew how to play one thing: the theme from the movie “Jaws,” which Tommy had taught Jacob the day before.

Tommy & I had a 4-hour class to attend and left the boys with Joshua until we returned (seemed reasonable at the time). Tommy’s instructions to the boys were simple: Don’t leave the house.

So as we drove into our neighborhood after class, we were shocked to see two little boys…one with a cello and one with a violin…standing on the street corner (a block from our house, I might add). My mind was racing and I was MAD!

Tommy pulled the car over, rolled the window down and firmly said, “GO HOME.” (In hindsight, I wish I had taken a picture of them standing there, because they were really, really cute…and surprised to see us!)

Tommy said he imagined them running around the neighborhood with these expensive instruments and tossing them into the bushes like they do with their nerf guns! Not sure that imagery helped when we had to discipline them.

The moment of truth arrived. The boys walked into the house, heads down. Tommy grilled them about what they were thinking, why they disobeyed and left the house, why they had their instruments outside. After some lame, no good answers, Tristan spoke up and said, “Well, we made $6 bucks!”

OH. MY. GOSH. Do not laugh. Do not laugh. Keep a straight face. It was literally all I could do.

“What? Who gave you money?” I said.

“The people in the cars,” replied Tristan.

Good grief. These kids are real, honest-to-goodness street musicians. That has to be some kind of record. I can see the Guinness World Book of Records headline now:

In four days, 10-year-olds learn theme from “Jaws”
and earn $6 on street corner!

The boys were appropriately lectured about the dangers of street-corner musicianship, disobedience and so on. But my mind could only think of Jesus when he disobeyed his parents at 12-years-old and stayed at the temple in Jerusalem when his family had left for home (Luke 2:41-52).

After three days, his parents found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions. I completely understand how relieved, yet angry, his mother must have been. And yet, the Bible tells us that he went home with them and was obedient, and his mother treasured these things in her heart.

I too was angry (laughing, but angry), but I know that Jacob is learning…to stand on his own, to venture out, to try new things.

I will never be able to stop smiling when I think about the day he was ready to show the world his music…my little street musician.

I too will treasure these things in my heart.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127:3-5

How do You Respond to Life’s Travails?

myfewfingers31Guest post from Greg Stoughton:

I came from the womb missing some fingers and toes, likely from ectrodactyly or split-bone syndrome—a rare genetic condition that affects one of every 5 million people born.

My parents reacted well. “You have a choice,” a wise doctor advised. “You can hide him and act as if he doesn’t exist; or you can love him, treat him as normal, and see what God does.” I am indebted to their response of unconditional love.

As former pastor Chuck Swindoll says, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

I agree. And I admit my need to gauge my response in hard circumstances.

I came to Christ post-college at age 22. His Word has since affirmed my value and worth. Like you, “I [too] am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are [His] works. My soul knows that full well” (Psalm 139:14). God doesn’t make junk.

The acceptance of my physical differences has provided a platform from which to encourage others and tell God’s story.

My shell isn’t the issue. It’s the travails of life that trip me up. How do I respond toward my wife? What do I say back to my boys when my buttons are pushed? Is a close friends health issue really “ordained of God” (Psalm 139:16)? Do I react with faith, believing that God can heal? Can I count car problems, home repairs, mundane tasks at work or needing financial support “pure joy” as said in the Book of James?

“We tend to be far more concerned about circumstances than God is,” writes Steve Douglass in Enjoying Your Walk with God. “Adversity leads to quality growth so that we are prepared for His special opportunities.”

Okay. It’s a bit scary for me to write: But Lord, sign me up. Continue your work in me for greater personal and spiritual growth.

Greg StoughtonGreg Stoughton has served with the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru for 21 years. He presently provides communications support to Cru president Steve Douglass and the Executive Leadership Team. You can read more of his story and life experiences at  www.mymissingfingers.com

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