I made a commitment this past year before the Lord that I was going to do everything I could to enjoy my, now, 12 year-old’s last year of ‘childhood’. Living by His Leading, it was going to be a “gift” that I intentionally gave my son throughout the year. While I know he is still ‘a child’, I can see the changes already as he tries to exert his independence and find his place among the men of the family. I know, that it won’t be long before the dynamics of our relationship change forever, so, for the year of “11”, I felt the need to savor every moment – what I didn’t know was that this “gift” was for our whole family too…
He doesn’t like me fussing over him as much anymore, snuggles are getting fewer and fewer and while I am proud of the man-child he is- my heart aches a little more knowing that my role in his life is shifting just like it did with his older three brothers. Have you ever felt like you’re racing against time and doing all you can to press pause for just a little while longer? Looking at my not-so-little prince this past year, standing at the life marker where childhood will so soon be just a memory… my heart just lept as a mother and I knew I needed to make the most of these fleeting days.
So, this past year we crafted our brains out. We cooked crazy dishes and goods that he was interested in. I tried my hardest to be his number one fan in football (though I think, ultimately, his dad deserves the title). We watched silly YouTube videos that only a preteen boy would find funny.
We went to an indoor playground. We went to the zoo and the beach. We took nature walks- lots of them. We danced and ran in the rain- every time it poured. Lego creations are everywhere. The library got lots of visits.
I played video games and made mental lists of all the cool and fun toys and games he wanted for his birthday and Christmas because I know that the days are coming when he doesn’t ask for toys anymore.
When the holidays rolled around, we decorated the house in true Christmas spirit- just the way he would like it. Lights everywhere, the dancing snowman was allowed to blow through batteries, a Christmas village was started, homemade ornaments- the works. If it snowed, we bundled up and ran outside to enjoy it. If it was cold, we built a fire and watched Christmas movies. We played Christmas music and talked… a LOT.
His response to all of it? “This is the best day ever!” “This was so much fun” “Thanks mom”.
And I took pictures, so many pictures!
All this happened because I was living by His Leading. They weren’t just bright ideas of a mom trying to be cool.
Some people, who may not have understood from the outside looking in may have thought I was going a little overboard, trying to accomplish the Pinterest-worthy life, trying to be another ‘superwoman’ among the masses. I’ve read articles about how it is wasteful to spend so much time and energy on seemingly indulgent things and activities, and because of their strong opinions and critical projections I wondered if I should scale it back a bit…
I thought about how just three years ago we weren’t sure if I would live to see another Christmas. I thought about how scared my children were that they might not have a mom at all that Christmas. I thought about all the doctor visits, the varying diagnoses, the physical therapy, the grief process I was also going through, and the daily FIGHT in my faith to take each day as it came and celebrate simple victories like being able to get up and walk for the day. I remember the trauma that we’d all been through from that because, it hurt them to see me like that, a family tragedy that affected every member, another cross-country move and the loss of relationships that meant the world to us. How those years stole a crazy amount of childhood from my kiddos. This has been the first year where I have felt closer to normal in a long time so…
Forgive my “UN-Apology”, but…
I’m not sorry for taking the time I have been gifted with now to make my man-child smile, to make my whole family smile. I’m not sorry that I chose not to get my hair done this year so that I could afford to buy some extra presents and craft materials. I’m not sorry for passing up hanging out with my friends so that I could be MY child’s friend. I’m not sorry for taking the energy I have for the day and making it count with my family by reading that extra story or coloring that extra picture. I’m not sorry for giving up much-needed sleep to go look at bats flying at night, super moons, orange moons, blood moons, fireflies, constellations and Christmas lights. I’m not sorry for all the messes that impromptu science experiments have caused. I’m not sorry for the inconvenience and time it took to let 8 baby birds and 4 overprotective bird-parents take over our yard just so my kids could have the chance to witness the miracle of life in the animal kingdom. I’m not sorry for the countless other ways I have worked, with God’s help, to bring some joy and nourishment and enrichment to my tribe.
I’m not sorry for letting God lead me in my path, my journey, my family, my ministry–HIS WAY.
Anyone outside looking in can come to just about any conclusion they want to, but only God and I know what has transpired between us and I pray, that for those reading this, that maybe this year, just maybe we can all stop glaring at the outside with criticism and judgement and maybe, for the love of our good God, we can try to understand a little bit of the “inside” of what we merely “see” outwardly in each other’s lives. Maybe, we can all consider that we might not be seeing the whole picture.
The mom who goes a little overboard may be doing so for a particular reason or to minister to her family that they have value and are “worth it” to her and to God, because they may need to hear it AND feel it. The mom who “has” to read the bedtime story “no matter what” may be doing so because it may be her last and there might not be a guarantee that she’ll wake up the next morning. The mom who won’t buy the store-bought cookies might not be a snob at all, but she may just want her love to touch the cookies that are to be eaten- because everything tastes better when love is an ingredient.
If God tells me that hanging extra Christmas lights in the house is something that will add a little joy to my child, then how is that WRONG??? Honestly, instead of picking apart one another’s lives and declaring how much God “disapproves”, can we just consider that MAYBE God disapproves MORE of our criticism of each other??? Maybe this year, everyone can just focus on God and His Word concerning themselves instead of others and maybe, just maybe- our lives and homes and families will be a little warmer, brighter and lovelier than before. It’s my prayer for the Body of Christ as a whole and my goal for myself- to build something beautiful for Him. And I can’t do that if I am focused on critiquing everyone else’s lives.
So a beautiful thing did happen-
The whole family joined in. My older boys sat down to play a video game with the man-child. One even decided to decorate his own Christmas cookie instead of just watching the littles do it! They came to football games and watched movies with us instead of hanging out in their ‘caves’. We pulled out board games and art supplies. They joined us at the beach and the zoo. The littles had a blast with it all too. They grabbed the camera out of my hands several times to add their own perspective to the family photos. Family talks became more frequent, with everyone hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Lots of “God-inspired” conversations happened throughout the year. God’s done some pretty great things and cultivated some awesome family-fruit that, I’m sorry, I just cannot feel sorry about.
My man-child isn’t 11 anymore. At 12, he received his first set of cologne and “big-guy” deodorant. He announced his first chest-hair yesterday. He’s asking grown up questions and thinking big thoughts. No matter how many boys I do this with, the ache is still the same, but the joy is there too. Another ‘man’ is joining the clan. And though I will miss the boyhood days, I look forward to watching him become who he is meant to be.
And what started out as a goal to savor the “year of 11” turned out to be a breath of life into my whole family and I don’t regret one second of it. One of my older children remarked, “Hey… you’re back.” one day while I was baking and cutting up and doing life- and I realized that those hard years had also stolen a huge portion of who I used to be and who I was known to be. So, 2016 has turned out to be so much more than the “year of 11”– a gift intended for my son became a gift for me and, my whole family.
Living By His Leading
As 2017 arrives, I want to let God build on that. Healing, restoring, breathing His Life back into all of us. I want to let Him continue writing my story, my family’s story and I want to tune my ear to His Voice and deafen it to any voice that isn’t His. The stakes are too great- what if I hadn’t listened to savor “The Year of 11” for my son??? Wat if I had ignored God’s whisper and invitation for something beautiful? What if I’d listened to those articles and social media posts, the voices that discouraged me from ‘going overboard’? I’m so glad God’s leading took over!
Listen to God this year dear one- don’t let the voices of criticism, judgement, cynicism, mere opinion and hate drive you. Be careful not to be that voice to anyone else either. Try to remember that only God sees the whole picture of someone’s life. Ask God to give you “A Year Of ____.” And then embrace it with your whole heart and watch Him cultivate unexpected, lovely fruit in your life and the lives of others. That’s fruitful living my friend! Living by His Leading!