Thursday, April 6, 2017

On Letting Go...

The big boy leaves for Europe tomorrow...without us.  It's a strange feeling, this letting go.  I remember the first time I felt it.  He was 3 years old, and Bill's Bus came to our Plum Street house to pick him up for preschool.  I wrote in his baby book (yeah..he's the only one of our kids who has one of these) that day that I was worried he would get drunk and high and have sex all on the preschool bus on Day 1.  Of course, that worry was unfounded, but it was my first taste of letting go.  Up until that point, I was the major influence and authority figure in his day, and that was about to change.

And here we are, 13 years later, and he's flying across the world for nine days.  He will have such a great time.  It will be yet another reminder to him that this world is SO much bigger than our little part of it.  I WANT him to go.  I'm so excited for him.  And yet... this mama heart and stomach is feeling a little bit of angst, if I'm honest.  What if something happens?  What if we aren't there to help him?  What if...  Honestly, those what ifs are not unfounded.  Things happen.  Most likely, everything will run like clockwork, and, a couple of weeks from now, we will be looking at his pictures and hearing his stories.  Realistically, the what ifs may come true, though.  Something might happen.  He might need our help and not have it.  The really amazing thing about the hope we have in the Father is that we will all be alright either way.  Our hope is not in everything going ok or in our ability, as parents, to be there when he needs us.  Our hope is in the fact that someone loves this boy WAY more than we do, and HE is able and present, both when I am present and when I am not.

And so, we send him off.  We buy the outlet adapter and we pack the extra memory cards for the camera and we tell him that we can't wait to see his pictures and hear his stories.  We do this because we know no other way to love, to allow growth, to parent...

I'm reminded of this blog post I wrote in July 2006 when the roles were reversed.  It is no less true today:

We’re en route to Haiti as I write. We left Marshall at 10:30 this morning. My heart was heavy, yet hopeful, as I left two of God’s most precious gifts in Marshall. The heaviness came from knowing I will miss them—their smiles, hugs, kisses, orneriness—and they will miss me—my hugs, kisses, my lap, my touch in the middle of the night. The hopefulness came from knowing they will become more like Jesus and I will, too. This is so much more than a mission trip to Haiti for me. It is a statement TO the self in me that is still left MADE BY the Jesus in me that I hope is growing daily. The Jesus in me is saying that I choose to live fearlessly. Nothing is worth more to me than bringing glory to my Father. My comfort, my peace, my safety, and my agenda have no value to me. They have been crucified. Even the comfort and safety of my boys is not more important than walking daily right beside my Savior. I have felt uneasy about going to Haiti from the very first mention of it, and yet, I feel no uneasiness at all because I know my Father and I trust Him. Who else loves me like He does? Who else knows me like He does? Who else loves my boys like He does? I rest in the shelter of His wings. I lay my boys in the shelter of His wings. There is no safer place.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

On Education, Getting Off Track and the Next Right Thing...

We've had one of those "headline" weeks here in our neck of the know, the weeks where I'm checking the news sites every half hour to see what has developed and Mr. Wood has no idea what is happening until I fill him in at dinner.  Those weeks are kind of thrilling for me, in a sense, which makes me wonder what kind of person I am...that someone else's heartache becomes excitement for me.  Well, that's a blog post for another time, I suppose.

So, anyways, the headlines here involve school employees (not in our town, but close by) allegedly doing illegal things with their connections as school employees.  A school official was quoted in an interview saying something to the effect's about the kids, we just hope they are learning (my paraphrase).  This part of this particular interview is what struck me, and it sent me on a thought path that really has nothing to do with the week's headlines, but here it does a person forget that school is about kids learning and growing?  I'm certainly not above forgetting this, and I could list times when I've forgotten my purpose and calling due to a misguided line of thought on my part...that I need to prove myself, be the best, rise to the top, get my way, or what have you.  So, I'm not coming at this from a position of perfection, but rather from a position of asking the question, "what can I put in place in myself to protect me from going there, from forgetting that school is about kids learning and growing and becoming?"

Because, this:

*I don't want to ever think that my career is more important than the kids in my posse learning and growing in the best possible way for each of them.

*I don't want to ever think that treating children with disrespect and unkindness for the purpose of making me feel "in charge" and powerful is ok.

*I don't want to ever think that I can cheat the system to make me or my kids (my own or in my classroom) look good to others and not in some way damage myself and the kids in my care.

*I don't want to ever think that appearing to have it all together while lying to myself and others about who I am is more important than being real and honest and full to the brim of integrity.

*I don't want to ever think that there is only one path (that looks mysteriously like my own path) for kids to be successful.

*I don't want to ever think that I can be the kind of person I wouldn't want my own kids becoming.

*I don't want to ever think that being an educator means I can do whatever I want and not deeply care for and invest in the lives entrusted to me.

So, how do we keep from getting off track?  Just like in every area of my life, I think the best chance I have is choosing to do the next right thing every single moment.  If my littles aren't seeing an example of giving, kindness, integrity, honesty, love, and excellence in me, then I need to stop and re-evaluate.  Education...educating...modeling how to live in the best way...if that's not what I'm doing, then I really should go be a barista at Starbucks (which, might I add, IS on my bucket list).

Friday, February 26, 2016

love, kindness, grace...

...three things sorely lacking in so many facebook posts or discussions regarding political leaders or aspiring political leaders.

For those of us who claim to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, these things must be present in our posts and discussions.  Who would want to be part of a family of believers who speak so cruelly and hatefully about people simply because they disagree with them?  I'm not sure if I want to be in relationship with folks who speak this way about other humans.  In fact, when you speak this way, I start to think I might prefer hanging out with the very folks you are speaking of over you.

President Obama is someone's husband, father, best friend, golfing buddy, college roommate...just like you and I are.  Simply because you disagree with his politics, should you classify him as evil or vile or wicked or stupid or an idiot (all things I have heard in discussion or on posts from Christ-followers in reference to Obama and other politicians just in the last week)?  Have you ever disagreed with your college roommate or your uncle or aunt about something?  Did you then go on to describe him or her as evil?  I hope not!  We can disagree without being hateful or rude or unkind.  You are better than this.  Christ calls...yes, to be better than this.

Do you disagree with policies, attitudes, beliefs, and decisions?  Press on in your disagreement.  Have intelligent, productive discussions about it.  Post insightful thoughts that help others see truth.  But, for the sake of all that is good and holy, stop being mean.

And one more thing, just because I follow Christ, don't assume that I hate President Obama and that I'm a staunch Republican...ask me what I think instead.  And then, when we find out that we disagree on some things, we can both treat each other with love, kindness, and grace.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Some stuff I like...

The Wood family is saving for a common goal.  All five of us are making sacrifices.  I think it's ironic that I can always find things I would love to have when I am in a season of not spending, but when I have a wad of birthday money in my purse, I can't really find anything I'd like to buy.  So, I'm creating this blog of "some stuff I like" so that, the next time I have a wad of cash, I can consult this list.

Who doesn't love Converse?  And rainbow pixel Converse?  Woah!!

I have wanted these stacking rings for SO long.  I can't decide if I would get one for each of the boys' names or something to do with my hot and sexy husband that I would wear alongside my wedding ring...either way, I would love to have one or three of these.

Strawberry Lemon Ice makes me think of spring break and summer.  I always stock up on Yankee Candles at Christmas time, but I typically buy wintery smells.  I think I could really benefit from this fragrance in our home!!

These pencils are SO cool!  They are bendy (bendable?  How do you say that??), they have amazing erasers, AND they are rainbow colors!!!  A few of my students brought these at the beginning of the year, but they have long since been used up because everyone knows how straight-up cool they are!

I am fairly certain I have never paid this much for a pair of shoes or any item of clothing, BUT if someone wanted to give me these, I would not refuse.  Have you jumped on the Bootie bandwagon yet?  I haven't, but these are calling out to me.

I would like to have a girlie suitcase that my boys will not want to use.

We grill outside on the gas grill all year long, even in the snow, BUT sometimes The Pioneer Woman does super cool things on her stovetop grill pan, and I want to be like her!!

I would like to have about ten of these.  A life rule for me is that a woman can never have too many wire baskets.  I would put pillows, afghans, papers, balls of yarn, or maybe even Simon in them.

I LOVE 5s and Ws.  I will take them anytime I can get them!  These are some great vintage letters and numbers.


What things would go on your list?  What stuff do you like?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

...on being a Mama

I always knew I would be a Mama someday.  I had a million baby dolls, and I cared for them like it was my job.  My cabbage patch kid was better cared for than our own flesh and blood babies, I think.  Even so, when the pregnancy test turned out positive in our little bathroom on Miami Street in Park Forest, I cried.  I'm slightly embarrassed to admit they were not tears of joy, but tears of sadness and fear.  My first words to Tim were, "Now we can NEVER go to the movies!".  I eventually transitioned to excitement over the next few months, but, if I'm honest, I was dreading the loss of freedom just a little bit.

Well, of course, we have managed to go to the movies plenty of times over the last fifteen years, and, of course, I wouldn't trade these boys for anything in the wide whole world.  They are fun, exhausting, hilarious, stinky, loud, adventurous, creative, maddening, and so much more.  Their presence in my life makes me a better person, a better woman, a better follower of Jesus.

As I reflect, though, on those initial thoughts in that tiny, palm-tree-tiled bathroom on Miami Street, I am reminded that many of the freedoms we enjoyed as young marrieds DID disappear with the birth of Isaac, and then even more-so when Ezra and Simon came along.  Losing some freedom isn't all bad though.  These children have pulled me out of myself.  It is difficult to focus only on what I want when a crying baby is hungry.  Sitting and reading a book for three hours is nearly impossible when siblings need help with negotiations..  I can't only think of my agenda when there are three basketball games to get to in a weekend.  My new shoes often get put on hold when the middle guy has outgrown his shoes AGAIN.  They pull me out of myself, these boys.  Their very existence reminds me that it is truly NOT all about me.  For me, this is yet another reminder that the gifts in our lives, whatever they may be, come from the Father and are carefully orchestrated to make us more like him.

I remain grateful for these three gifts.  Thank you, boys, for the daily reminder that it is not all about me.  I love you.  Love, Mama

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The baby comes no matter what I do...

As we were leaving for the hospital in January 2001, I remember telling Tim with genuine fear, "But I don't know HOW to have a baby".  His reply was, "Jenn, people who aren't as smart as you have babies all the time.  You'll be fine".  I giggled, and we got in the car and left.

Lo and behold, that baby came out, and it really had nothing to do with my skill or knowledge or preparation.  Isaac was coming out no matter what I did, really.

As Christmas day approaches this year, I find many things left undone.  Our Advent wreath only has one candle lit (which means we totally skipped two weeks of Advent).  We had great plans for it, but life happened and now we will light the rest tonight as we celebrate that baby.  I always make homemade cinnamon rolls, but I just bought canned biscuits to make Monkey Bread instead.  We never took a picture for Christmas cards, and somehow I just never sent any out.  I love Advent wreaths and homemade cinnamon rolls and Christmas cards, and most years, those things bring me great joy.  This year, however, they just aren't going to happen.

That baby still was born, though.  It had nothing to do with my skill or anything I had or had not done, really.  He came whether I was ready for him or not.  He was born right into the midst of my half-done Advent wreath and canned biscuit Monkey bread.  He was born to redeem me and save me, and he welcomes the real me.

I love him, this baby Jesus who was born and lived so well and then died to pay for my redemption.

Friday, December 11, 2015

For the Love...

“It is no wonder humanity has long preferred legalism, which involves much cleaner territory. Give me a rule any day. Give me a clear “in” and “out” because boundaries make me feel safe. If I can clearly mark the borders, then I am assured of my insider status—the position I feel compelled to defend, the one thing I can be sure of. I want to stand before God having gotten it right.”
― Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

This book is still messing with me.  I keep going back in and re-reading the parts I've marked up.  This one...yes, Jen Hatmaker, you are right...the legalism, it can make us feel safe can't it?  I mean, if I've followed all of the rules I've decided are important, then who can argue that I'm not in the clear?

The only problem is that legalism is not something Jesus loves.  I cannot find a picture of Jesus anywhere in his Word that paints him as a legalistic rule follower.  I can't find a list of rules where it says, "don't cuss, drink, or smoke and you are on God's good list".  I can't find it anywhere.

I DO find a Savior who loves, rescues, redeems, invites, welcomes, pursues, and disciples.  I find a man/God who embraces humanness.  I think that if he lived here in my town, he would be hanging out with people who don't have it all together and are honest about that...people like me who struggle with real stuff and don't mind talking about it...for me, it's stuff like pride and anger and gluttony and laziness and gossip.  For the other people Jesus might be hanging out with, it might be things like deceit and addiction and lust and who knows what else.

I think Jesus would welcome our talk about the ways we struggle, maybe even our thoughts about whether or not the struggle is worth it...  I think he would welcome our honest discussion about the shitty parts of trying to live in this world but not of it.  I believe with everything in me that he welcomes our honesty, our authenticity, our real-ness.

This is the God I love and serve.  I will go to the gates of hell for him if he asks me to because he has rescued me and I belong to him.  There is no list of rules...there is only love and belonging which then, amazingly, transform me into his likeness.