He’s Praying for Her Already

My eldest son has a job, but not a driver’s license yet. That means that I get to drive him. It’s become one of my favorite parts of the week. Our 8 minute car rides to and from his job are often quick bursts of deep conversation.

Like last week when he asked me “How will I know when I’ve found the right girl?” He’s fresh off a heartbreak, and we’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about girls.

“It’s not in how you feel -butterflies in the stomach,” I told him. “Or that you can’t stop thinking about her, or that you’re all goobery and tongue-tied in front of her – those things are just signs that you’re attracted to someone….but when you find a girl who makes you want to be a better person, that’s the one you want to marry.”

He sat through a red light just thinking, then he said, “I pray for her already, Mom. I pray for the girl who will someday be my wife. I ask God to keep her safe and protect her, and that He keeps her close to Him.”

“What made you do that?” I asked him.

With a twinkle in his eye, he said “She’s already making me a better man and she doesn’t even know it.” He laughed and then said, “It just seemed right. Plus how cool will it be when I finally meet her to be able to tell her ‘I’ve prayed for you every day since I was seventeen.'”

Be still my heart.

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Belonging, Love, and Home

When I was 14 years old, a horrible car accident changed the dynamic of our family forever. Soon after that the house my family lived in was no longer a safe place for me to be. It wasn’t long before my single-and-never-been-a-mom-before aunt let me come and live with her.

She was glamorous. At least I’d always thought so. Her house was funky and cool, and unlike our house which felt lived in, hers was clean and bright. It was also packed with books. Each of her floor to ceiling bookshelves were often loaded two rows deep with novels, and she placed no restrictions on what I could read. So I did. I spent the after school hours until she got home drinking in the peaceful calm and silence of her house, I wouldn’t turn on the TV or radio until she pulled in the drive, and immersed myself in the eclectic library all around me.

It felt very sophisticated to be living in a house which had been decorated on purpose instead of a haphazard happening that just somehow came to be. The flower beds showed her love of gardening, and that was a revelation as well. The idea that yard work wasn’t a chore but a joy, and that back yards could be more than home to a swing-set or the place where the dog pooped. There was a hammock in her back yard, stretching out beneath the shade trees, where I would swing and listen to the wind ruffle the leaves all around me. It was the place where I began to find healing from the constant strife and fear my family home had become.

I didn’t live in that magical house very long, but the memory of it is written on my soul. When I close my eyes and imagine heaven, it very often looks like a small funky house on a side street in a coastal Texas town. Clean and bright. Sunlight flowing in through the windows and peace hanging heavy in the air.

I spent a few days with my aunt this past weekend, taking the baby to meet the woman for whom she was named. It’s not the same address, she moved years ago back to the college town she’d loved, but the feel of it is unchanged. The peaceful curl-up-on-the-couch-with-a-book and rest a while feeling is exactly as I remember it to be.

I haven’t been to her house in years. We have a lot of children, so it’s more practical for her to come to us, and so it was with amusement that I looked around her kitchen and saw so much that looked familiar. The colors. The dishes. The pottery collection. They’re all the same as mine.

I didn’t do it on purpose. Ten years ago I bought a Mexican pottery platter that I thought was pretty, then another, and before long I was collecting Talavera. Fiestaware dishes seemed to naturally compliment the vibrant colors, and so I swapped my plain white plates for a riot of color. Little by little, I slowly added pieces that spoke to me without thinking too hard about what it was that they were saying.

It was only when I stood in her kitchen early on Sunday morning that I realized they had spoken to me of safety and home. My time in her house was only a short season of my life, but the impact it had on me is still reverberating today. So much so that the platters and bowls sit on my shelf that whisper softly to me of belonging, love, and home.
Photo credit: Carl R Jr. via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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Three Years Later And Still Moving Forward

Today marks three years since Ella last walked. Next week will be three years since she could even stand with crutches. That seems unfathomable to me. There are days I struggle to remember a time when she walked, and other days I keep expecting her to jump up and run. Her brother ran down the hall last week in the familiar cadence that was her footstep. It sounded enough like her old step that I woke instantly from a sounds sleep, running around the corner to see that he was the only one awake. I struggled to breathe in that moment.

I miss the girl who walked. It almost feels a betrayal to admit that I miss her. I miss the shy girl with the bashful grin who wished for invisibility above all else. I look at old photographs of her, and they seem like someone else. I love the girl she is today, but I desperately miss the girl she she was and would have been. This is the one day out of the year that I allow myself to think of her.

I waited until she’d gone to the movies with friends, and then I took her worn out ballet shoes from the trunk where I store my mementos and memories. I cradled them in my hands, this last tangible remnant of a girl who danced, and at last I let myself apologize to her. I couldn’t find answers or get help fast enough to save her. I failed that little girl.

It’s taken a lot of therapy for me to be able to come to terms with not being able to keep her safe. That’s the primary job of any parent, but it isn’t always possible. You can’t protect them from enemies you can’t see. That doesn’t mean I’m not sorry. I would change all of it if I could.

And here we are preparing to run the gauntlet again. Although this time in a more predictable one. These next few years are the ones I’ve been dreading. She turns 13 in three weeks. The cute kid in a chair is rapidly becoming the young lady with wheels. She’s been at peace with her body until now, but I worry. Puberty is hard enough for normal kids, and I don’t want her to hate her body.

Until now, she has lived in a protective bubble of people who love her and tell her how amazing she is. That can’t go on forever. Last week’s first encounter with a mean girl at a party left her momentarily floundering. She’d never faced that kind of venom before, and I can’t shield her from it.

With all of the obstacles that we’ve faced in the past three years, all the fights we’ve fought and won, there aren’t many as destructive as the acid tongues of other 13 year-old girls. My girl is not going to safely blend into any crowd. She’s going to stand out, and not just because she can’t stand up.

And we’ve reached the point where all we can do is love her and pray; so please keep us all in prayer as we make the daunting changes from little girl to teenager, homeschooled 7th grade to traditionally schooled 8th grader, and shy little mouse to a lion that roars.

 

 

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Candles Out! ~ lessons from a Baptism ~

This weekend, our sweet Rita Lucile (known affectionately as Rita Lu) was Baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Which means that she got wiped free from Original Sin, and I got to spend the weekend sniffing the holy baby head.

Saturday afternoon, our family and a few close friends came together to watch our girl officially get de-heathenated.

My beautiful friend, Heather Renshaw (writer, blogger, amazing human being) flew in from the Pacific Northwest to be Rita’s godmother, and our eldest son stood as godfather.

Do you see this joy? This is why we asked her.

The water might have been a little bit colder than Rita would have preferred. We told her that it’s never easy letting go of sin. I’m not sure she was all that impressed with our reasoning.

She’s the first of our babies to cry when being Baptized. We’ve had them be stunned, indifferent, or sleeping when the blessed water was poured on them; but Rita Lu was the first to screech in protest. Our normally easy-going girl sure was fast in letting us know she wasn’t happy at all.

It didn’t take long for her to settle back down. A little bit to eat, the heavenly smell of chrism oil, and some reassurance from Mom soon had her back to her own happy self.

It was a little strange to welcome our girl into the Church without the hoopla and fanfare that came naturally in Oklahoma when we were surrounded by family, but strange isn’t always bad.

While we may not have had a crowd of relatives, we did have a few close friends who joined us. Our friends aren’t even Catholic, but they love us so they showed up to celebrate our daughter with us. Thrilled to have been asked to share in our special occasion.

After the Baptism, we spent some time explaining the inside of our church to our friends who had never been in one before. They asked about the Stations of the Cross, what the altar was made from, and why there was a tabernacle. It was one of the best gifts we got that day, the chance to share what we believe with some of the people we like and love.

In the almost week that has followed, one of them has continued asking questions. I don’t think she has any interest in converting, but is seeking a deeper understanding of the theology and traditions of being Catholic.

It’s been a great lesson for all of us. We tend to be very private people despite my years of blogging, but maybe we shouldn’t be quite so much. We invited the people we never thought would come, those from other faiths and no faith, and felt almost like we were imposing on them when we did. Their saying yes gave us the chance to share something we know to be both beautiful and true, to evangelize painlessly to those around us. And we were reminded once again that we are supposed to be a reflection of God’s welcome and love, and not hide our lights from the world around us.

Candles out! We are called to enlighten the world and Baptize all peoples. That has to start with the people who are the very closest too us.

 

photos by Desiree Chapman and used with permission. All rights reserved

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When Your Mom Is Too Cheap To Buy You Spinners

Teachers everywhere hate them, and Pope Francis used them to explain the Trinity.*

Fidget Spinners are the latest fad to achieve the magic balance where adults are annoyed and kids are happy to drive them crazy. They’re the latest “must have” item for kids everywhere.

Which almost makes me feel badly for my poor children whose mother adamantly refuses to shell out the $7+ for the whirling toys, and I even refuse to be persuaded by tears and pleading.

“If you want a fidget thing-y so badly,” I told them, “go make your own.”

As the corner of my 15-year-old’s mouth twitched a little, I knew I was in trouble. “Challenge accepted,” he answered me before disappearing upstairs into the infamous Lego room.

Several hours later, my children were all splayed out on the couch happily twirling their own spinners, each its own unique design. Created entirely of Lego bricks, these fidget spinners cost us nothing. (We already own ridiculous numbers of Legos. That’s why they have their own room.)

Here’s what he’s come up with so far:



…but if your spinner can be Batman…

always let it be Batman!

Now get building! Let’s see your spinner creations.

*the Pope Francis post is satire.
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How To Get Along With Your In-Laws

It’s been seven years since I first wrote this post, and I still stand by it today. With my eldest daughter engaged to be married, and soon to have a mother-in-law of her very own, I decided to dust it off and bring it back for everyone who might have missed it the first time or just in need of a reminder.

 

A very sweet reader, Katie, asked about my good relationship with my in laws.

She wrote “How long did it take? I’m having an extremely hard time with it all. I feel like there is so much tension when it comes to parenting Ethan. I don’t understand how to fit them into our lives. I’m definitely unlike them and it feels like we’re always clashing. I just don’t get it.”

Katie, a bit of advice from someone who’s been married a while and is now part of a close-ish family.

1. This is real life; it’s not a fairy tale.  It’s hard to remember this, because we all have fantasies of girls’ lunches and how wonderful holidays with the in-laws will be.  They’ll love our children, and the warmth of that will spill over onto us.  When that doesn’t happen, it’s easy to feel as though you are loved only for certain parts of your anatomy.  I have a friend who refers to herself as the “family uterus.”  The glow that lights up the world of her husband and children never quite makes it over to her.  You can be bitter and angry or you can learn to deal with it and let it go.  Make the decision to deal with it, it will save you a lot of time and heartache.

2.  Never complain about your husband to his parents.  It’s important, so I’ll repeat it. Never complain about your husband to his  parents.  They don’t care about all of the things that he does that are annoying.  All they hear is that either you think they did a bad job raising him, or their little boy lives with a woman who doesn’t appreciate him.  You have friends.  They’re not your mother-in-law.  There’s a reason for that.

3.  If your husband’s job takes a lot of time, requires travel, etc.  don’t whine to his parents about his being gone.  It doesn’t come across as the loving wife who just wants him home, you come across as needy and  a burden on their son.  Tell them you can’t wait for him to get home, but then move on quickly.

4. Have a life outside of being married.  Find a hobby, a circle of friends, volunteer, be up on current events, something for you to talk about when you talk to his parents.  It helps them to see you as something other than the girl who stole their son, and gives you a topic to steer the conversation toward if it begins to get uncomfortable.  It also gives you the confidence to deal with it if they never like you.  You’re fabulous, so it’s their loss.

5. Be yourself.  It took me years of living in a house decorated with country blue and yellow with flowers everywhere, because it’s what my mother in law liked, before I gave up and started decorating with my own eclectic mix.  I’m happier in my surroundings and my in laws like me better, too.  Trying to be what I thought they wanted was a lie and they could smell it on me.  Instead of making me a part of the clan, it made them wonder why their son would want to be with  a dishonest person.  Now they get to see the woman their son fell in love with, and they can see the reason why.  Who you are is lovely, go with it.

6. Don’t share too much information.  His parents don’t want to know every minute detail of your life together.  Please, please, please keep private stuff private.  A good rule of thumb is: if you won’t tell your grandmother, don’t tell your in laws.

7. Call them regularly to update them on your family.  I know this seems like a contradiction after #6, but it’s not.  I call mine religiously every two weeks and text pictured of the kids every couple days.  It’s enough time that they wonder how we are, but not so frequent that it invites meddling.  Tell them about the baby’s first steps, how he likes to throw the Cheerios, and about the sweet way your husband looks when he falls asleep with the baby on his chest.  Think of the things you would want to know if your baby was living somewhere else and tell them those things.  Ask questions about his childhood and let them reminisce.  You’ll both be happy you did this.

8. Send flowers and cards for every birthday, anniversary, and holiday.  Let your husband sign the card first; you sign it second.  It gives them the illusion that he remembered.  Your mother-in-law will know it was you, she has a husband, but it lets her pretend that he did it.  You can get an ego, or you can let her be happy.  Go with happy.

9. There is a saying that “A son is a son until he takes him a wife, but a daughter is yours for the whole of her life.”  There’s truth to that, and they know it.  They’re very frightened by you.  Your whim can determine how often they see their baby for holidays, how easily they get to talk to him, and you are the gatekeeper for the grandchildren.  They are a bit desperate.  Calm their fears by making sure they know that you don’t have any desire to cut them our of your lives.  Make sure that holidays are split with your family 50/50.  A girl’s parents delight in a wedding because they are gaining a child. A boy’s parents cry because they could be losing one.  Help them to see that they are keeping their son and gaining you, too. (Whether they want you or not.)

10.  Be polite.  I don’t care what they say or do, there is no excuse for rudeness or snarkiness.  You’re better than that.  Be nice.

11.  Pray for them.  Nobody can change a heart the way that God can.  Try everything else. Then make sure you pray.

It took years for us to get to the good place we are in, but you can get there.  Just be calm and in control.

As for how they are with your son?  He is your boy not theirs.  Be firm about this and don’t ask their advice unless you are willing to listen and give them a say.

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Abortion Severs The Family Tree

Seventy-something years ago, this woman was pregnant with her first child. When it turned out that her adoring fiance was actually a married man with a pregnant wife, she made the brave decision to let him live, and place him for adoption. (It could very easily have gone a different way. Legal or not, there were abortions in 1945.)

Because of her choice,  this little boy

became the son of these people

He grew up to become this man

Because of her choice, he became the father of the three of us

and we become the parents to all of them.

When we talk about the morality of abortion, we tend to focus on the mother and/or her baby. We think about the little chubby pink cheeks and tiny baby toes of those precious first months. But abortion robs us of so much more than the tiny infant with the gummy grin. It steals away all of those people who would have come from them as well.

And this one wouldn’t be engaged to that guy and (hopefully) getting ready to begin a whole new generation.  (I’m dreaming Grandma dreams over here.)

We often focus, in the abortion debate, on the right of this baby to live

but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s about whether on not this one will get a chance to live too.

Photos by: Shelbi Moore, Desiree Chapman, and our family. If you want to use them, ask.

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The Land Where Nerds Are King

Once upon a time we had friends who spent their free time in a land of chivalry and make-believe. They put on costumes, went by different names, and pretended to be a part of times long past.

I found the whole thing highly amusing, and politely said this wasn’t my thing but my inner voice was screaming

via GIPHY

Then there came a boy who was my beloved son, and he dreamed dreams of becoming a fearless knight. While boys his age were discovering girls and cars, he imagined grand adventures, and wrote tales of dragons and daring, princesses and how best to save them.

Two years of public school bullying had left him questioning who he was and what he wanted that to look like.

“Go find friends,” we urged him. “You need people.” And we pushed him towards the places where he could find people like the rest of us. The “normal” ones.

God bless him, he never complained, trying track, Crossfit, church youth group, and hanging around the local coffee shop. No matter where we sent him, he found no brother knights. He found only ordinary people.

During a late night scroll through Facebook, I stumbled once again across the citizens of the Ansteorran Kingdom.

I sighed, admitting to myself that he would be who he would be. Turning to the boy-man sitting nearby, I asked, “Have you ever heard of the SCA?”

“No. What is it?”

“The Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s this club for Renaissance Faire type of people. They study history, fight with swords, wear costumes…they basically live in their own nerd world every chance they get.”

His eyes grew wide, and he said, “Really? That sounds amazing? How long have you known that this was a thing?…nevermind….it doesn’t matter…..really? A whole nerd world?” And for the first time in a long time, he smiled.

We went to his first sword fighting class last week and again this past Tuesday. He’s clearly in his element. For the first time in a while he’s not the weird kid, he’s actually one of the cool ones.

As I watched him fighting last night with a rapier in one hand and a dagger in the other, the joy on his face told me he’d come home. The rest of us may live our lives in the “real world,” but for this son at least, the vibrant world of Ansteorra is where he’s meant to be.

Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire. – St Catherine of Siena

 

all photos are property of Paul Mitchell aka Galen of Bristol and are used with permission

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The Old Broken Fork

Once upon a time, my husband’s grandmother was a young woman who was engaged to be married.  (It’s hard to think of her as that young woman in her early twenties.  She was old as long as I knew her.) Her fiance’s aunt and uncle took her shopping for a wedding present, determined to buy flatware for the young couple.

Grandma had a definite picture in her mind of what she wanted on her table.  Having grown up on a farm in Oklahoma, she was used to making-do and going without, but when she dreamed of being a grown-up, she imagined shiny silver utensils gracing her dinner table. Her fiance’s aunt thought that pretty had no place on a farmer’s table, that utilitarian and sturdy were the only way to go.

When grandma pointed hopefully at stainless steel with flowers on the handle, his aunt shook her head and pointed out a plain set with wooden handles.  His poor grandmother fought back tears and said, ”But I don’t really care for that set.”  Nothing was purchased that day, but at the wedding a few weeks later the whole family exclaimed over the generosity of the aunt and uncle who gave an entire set of flatware and at their sensibility in buying the sturdy kind with the wooden handles.

Eventually the tine broke off of one of the forks, and Grandma smiled to herself that the “sturdy” set had broken.  It wasn’t long before she discovered that the broken part of it made it into the ideal hook for fishing things out of pots and for flipping bacon.  It became her trusty utensil and was used more than anything else in her kitchen.

For 10 years, she lived with the set that she hated.  She squirreled pennies away in the hope of replacing her ugly flatware. When she had enough money saved, this frugal child of the depression drove the utensils to the dump, pausing for a momentary pause before gleefully flinging it into the pit….all of it except the broken fork.

By the time I met her, she was already slowing up with age, but she still had all of the fire of her early days.  Sunday mornings at her house were always church followed by a big breakfast which she insisted on making.  In her hand, as she regaled us with family stories, was an old wooden handled fork with a broken time.

His grandmother is gone now, slowly slipping away from us years ago.  It was hard to look at her frail quiet frame and see any trace of the woman she had always been.  But when I go home, I look on my window sill, see that old worn out fork, and remember the defiance of a woman very near my own age who once flung the detested set into the trash heap and then laughed all the way home.  I remember, too, the aged and caring hands of a kind and generous woman who made breakfast for her grandson and his new bride, passing on the history of their family with pride and a touch of humor.

I remember the first time she put that fork into my hand and asked me to finish the bacon because she had to sit down.  It felt as if she was passing the torch from one generation to the next, and I became her heir in the care and keeping of the history of our family for all of the Frechs who will come after us.

I am not a sentimental person, attached to material things, but I’m kind of in love with my old broken fork.

 

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Wheelchairs, Skating, and Gratitude

Three years ago, I dragged Ella to a skate park. If she’d been able to move her legs, she would have been kicking and screaming. As it was, she went under extreme protest.

“I don’t want to do this,” she huffed. “I’m not this girl.”

“You could be,” I told her. “You might like it if you give it a try.”

“I’m not a skater girl. I’m a ballerina.” She stated with absolute certainty.

It took three times down a baby ramp for her to concede that skating in a wheelchair wasn’t the worst thing she’d ever done. Three years later, she flew down quarter pipes, carved corners, and sassed her way onto the podium to win the WCMX Women’s World Championship.

Three years is a long time when you’re twelve, but Ella hasn’t forgotten that horrible first car ride. When the media asked her if she’d like to give a shout-out to anyone watching at home, she shook her head and told them “The only person who deserves a shout-out is here. It’s my mom. If it wasn’t for her bringing me, I wouldn’t be here at all.” Then she glided over to me, wrapped her arms around my middle, and laying her head against my side whispered “Thanks, Mom.”

And then the 2017 WCMX Women’s World Champion let her mother drive her home.

 

 

 

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