Hello, my friend!
Today I'm welcoming back one of my favorite people to the WWP blog: Laura Phelps. One of my favorite things about Laura is the way she makes me laugh. She also shares my love for Jesus and women, and I know you'll enjoy her writing. In addition to raising her four children and loving on her husband, she works for WWP as a phenomenal Regional Area Coordinator. Laura blogs for us once a month, and once a month you'll hear from me. With love, Lisa
When my children were tiny babies, I was terrified to cut their fingernails. Absolutely terrified. Now, 17 years later, I am riding in the passenger seat of my mini van, with my teenage son at the wheel. And let me just say, that I would feel less anxiety if you were to blindfold me, force me to do a shot of tequila, hand me ten newborn babies, and a rusty nail clipper, and say, "clip away!"
Nobody tells you about this when you are thinking about having children.The loss of control, the absolute fear for their safety, how the fragility of their life can paralyze you.
You do not hear about it.
And the thing is, my kid is a good teenage driver. Confident, and careful. But still. Sitting there next to him, I have found more places in that minivan to hang onto, and have hit that imaginary brake more times than you can count. I will not even answer my phone, for fear of distracting him. Of course, when I yell, "Slow down!" grabbing the ceiling and stretching my legs out like I am about to stop us from hitting a brick wall with my incredible legs of steel, I end up completely panicking him; I become his worst distraction of all.
I am not good at this.
I have seen many a teenage driver on the side of the road, next to their smashed up car, speaking into their cell phone (calling mom and dad, no doubt) and I want to throw up. Really. I want to pull over, take their phone, say, "I see your kid in front of me and they are FINE" but excuse me now, because I am going to throw up."
They look like babies to me. I remember sitting in Driver's Ed class with my son, looking at the young faces of every student driver around me and thinking, "I do not want to be on the road with any of you!"
But time moves on and kids grow up and like it or not, it is their turn to drive.
There is no imaginary brake.
I do not have legs of steel.
I can throw up all I want.
It changes nothing.
Well, I'd be really skinny, I suppose.
But as far as the kids are concerned, it changes nothing.
Like it or not, they are ready to hit the road.
Actually, ready or not...they are going to hit the road.
It's funny, as a "former mommy blogger,” to look back on those posts that really defined my life at that time. The diapers, the women at the park with the dirty looks, the kitchen messes, the long days that had no naps, the isolation, the feeling fat, wondering what my purpose was, wondering if I was good enough. At the time, life was so hard. And yet, at the end of the day, I put my baby in pjs, that most likely had feet and an adorable animal print, rocked them and kissed them, and put them safely in bed. A bed with bars. And a tent. They could not get out.
Why don't we make beds like this for teenagers?
I decided a few weeks ago that I needed backup.
Because I can not get my teens to sleep in a crib.
Because I can not prevent them from getting in a car and driving away.
And because if I start throwing up on the side of the road, people will begin to talk about me.
And so now, when that worry starts to build up...when my mind starts to go in all the wrong, dark places that the devil hopes it will go, I call on backup.
I put together a team.
A team of Saints.
My own Super hero squad, if you will.
When the tears are too much and the anxiety sky high, I call out to them.
I give them my children.
Saint Sebastian, Saint Monica, Saint Augustine, Saint Therese, Saint Michael, Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Joseph...blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati...these are just some of the ones I call on. And of course, they are all lead by their Guardian Angels and our beautiful blessed Mother Mary.
And the best part?
They always show up.
And my teenagers? They may not know it, but the Saints are there..and they are guiding them, and they are whispering to their hearts.
They think that I have finally left them alone.
They think I am no longer pushing my ideas and my ways and my crazy Jesus-talk in their faces...
but they are wrong.
I could not be any more present.
A mother who prays is a serious weapon.
You see, we have this cloud of witnesses.
They surround us.
They have shown us how to run the race. (Heb 12:1)
And our kids?
They are running a race that is faster, and more dangerous than the race you and I ran.
Their stress is higher, the world is louder, and we need to fight hard to get their attention.
We need backup!
How stupid am I to have been trying, all of these years, to help my children by my own strength?
My son takes his driver's test this week.
Most likely, he will have his driver's license by Friday.
I have asked my husband to take him, because I am too afraid.
But I can rest in peace at home, knowing that he does not ever go out on the road, or into this world, alone.
I will see to it that his car is filled.
He will be surrounded.
And no matter what.
No matter what bumps he hits and unfamiliar roads he takes.
No matter how many accidents, how many dents, how fast he goes or how lost he gets.
No matter who he drives with.
He will have backup.
He will run his race, he will persevere, and by the grace of God, he will finish well.
Regional Area Coordinator
Walking with Purpose
Read Laura's blog here: http://www.lauramaryphelps.com/
I don't know about you, but the fact that today is Ash Wednesday makes me wonder where January went. I'm still finding stray Christmas ornaments in weird places around my house.
But regardless of the fact that I feel like Advent has barely ended, it's time to gear up and figure out what I'm sacrificing for Lent.
What came to my mind wasn't a need to stop eating caramel corn from the Jersey Shore or vanilla lattes from Starbucks (to which I say, thank you, Jesus). But two things that are standing in the way of my spiritual freedom surfaced in my heart. I believe wholeheartedly in this truth: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus takes it really seriously when something is standing in the way of the freedom He gave everything to purchase for me. He's telling me that these things NEED TO GO, not just during the season of Lent, but for good.
Here they are:
Oh joy. I just look at those two things and see the uphill climb involved in breaking the hold of old habits and side stepping well-worn ruts in the road. Striving-trying my hardest- has been my go-to way of behaving. The thought of not doing it makes me worry that I won't accomplish anything at all. Comparing myself to others has caused me to run my race faster as I've always enjoyed a little healthy competition. But when it becomes an unhealthy distraction, and actually leads to discontentment? Not good. That's a form a bondage that Jesus doesn't want to see in my life.
Striving goes beyond working hard. It's white-knuckling and ignoring the inkling that maybe it's ok for things not to be perfect. It's looking at what I need to get done and being intolerant of the thought of not finishing well. Writer and research professor Brené Brown describes the dig deep button as “a secret level of pushing through when we're exhausted and overwhelmed and when there's too much to do and too little time for self-care.” This unhealthy pressing forward has been my norm for far too long.
Comparing myself to others is looking in someone else's garden and thinking they have it better or easier. It's thinking their spiritual gifts are better than mine. It's thinking my obstacles are higher, my limitations are greater, and their teeth are whiter. Whatever. Once I'm on a roll, all sorts of things can make the list.
There's very little point in saying I want to be free of these things if I'm not willing to actually do something about it. So these are some of the ways I'm going to work on this during Lent:
I'm going to stop trying so hard.
Even as I write that, I get nervous. Because isn't trying hard what gets me where I need to go? My kids are going to read this and think I'll never make them dinner again.
Here's the deal- sometimes we need to over correct in order to get back to a place of balance. So when I feel like I'm really trying hard and am hitting the dig deep button, I'm going to stop. I'm going to ask God if it's ok if I just let Him run with the task for a bit. Trying hard is going to be a signal to me that I need to assess what's really going on. I'll probably make dinner anyway, but I might take a fifteen-minute break to refresh myself and let the meal be late.
My anthem for Lent is going to be It Is Well by Bethel Music.
I'm going to sing this song every day, from my heart. When life feels out of control and less than what I'd hoped for, I'm going to sing, “It is well with my soul.”
Because it is.
Because the most important things are being taken care of by God.
Because it isn't up to me.
Because He is in charge.
Because not one thing, not one pain, not one inconvenience, not one obstacle intersects my life without God having measured me Him against the hardship. And if the suffering has been allowed, that means He concluded that apart from Him, I can do nothing, but with Him, this can be endured and overcome.
While the road up looks pretty steep, I know that it isn't up to me to break these chains. In 2 Corinthians 3:17, St. Paul reminds us, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This is deep soul work, and this is where the Holy Spirit reaches in and heals. Oh come, Holy Spirit.
And I'm going to close my eyes and listen for the memory of my Minnesotan grandmother's voice. If she was still here, I think she might say, “Lisa girl, there is a different way to live. Back when I was raising our family, we didn't experience the pressure and pace that you do. Keep searching for that freedom. Relax a little. Let go.”
So I'm going to listen to her advice-to relax, let go and breathe. Would you like to join me? Listen to these wise words in the following video. Their mature, seasoned voices encourage us to continue to seek freedom in a world full of demands and impossibly high standards.