Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Zach!

I have a mental treasure chest stuffed full of memories, but among the most dear and precious to me is one that happened at 10:52 am on December 31st, 1982. The memory consists of two simple words repeated to me three times. The words were ‘thank-you’. They were spoken by my husband, John, with tears of joy running down his cheeks the moment the doctor presented us with our first child and only son, John Zachery Noble.

John’s words of thanks for our beautiful, healthy son (and tax deduction) were his own, but they were also an echo from my heart. The echo was equally thankful for a beautiful, healthy baby (and the fact that being ten days late didn’t make my labor very long or hard). J
While the focus of December 31st in our family is on the fact that it is Zach’s birthday, for most people, the day is traditionally a time of making promises and resolutions to do all sorts of things—or to stop doing all sorts of things. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’m asking…even pleading with you to make the same New Year’s resolution I made for the first time that New Year’s Eve morning in 1982.

The resolution I’m asking you to make? To be thankful every single day for the privilege and blessing of being a parent. You heard me. We should be thankful every single day we can be called Mom or Dad.
Being a parent isn’t easy and it’s not always pleasant, but it is always a privilege to be thankful for.

That being said, I’m thankful Zach was such a happy, pleasant baby. I’m thankful Zach was a little boy who refused to entertain the thought of training wheels (at age 3), a little boy who lovingly cared for his little sisters, who worked side by side with his daddy from the time he could carry a hammer and I’m thankful for the times I was the one he looked for when he crossed the finish line in a track meet or cross-country race. I’m thankful for the dogwood blooms and for the help in the barn when we couldn’t save a ewe in distress of lambing. I’m thankful for the daughter in-law and two precious little girls he has given us.
And yes, I am even thankful for the difficult times—the times most parents experience to some degree or another. I’m thankful for these times because in working through them, we learn what we are made of and what it really means to be thankful for the bond of family now and forever no matter what.

So as you make your resolutions (or not) for this year, live each and every day of 2015 with an attitude of thankfulness that you are a parent.

Momma D

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa Doesn't Play Favorites

The other day I read a letter from a mom to parents everywhere. The letter requested that parents not give their children expensive gifts in the name of Santa Claus. She asked that if parents felt the need to give their children expensive gifts at Christmas time that they let their children know these things are from them; letting Santa give them the smaller, less expensive gifts. The reason for her request was simple—she wanted her children (and millions of others like them) to feel just as loved and valued by Santa as those children who received bigger and better gifts ‘from him’.
You see, this mother’s little girl came home from school the other day feeling less valued and loved than some of the other children in her class. It seems they had been discussing what Santa was going to be bringing and several of the little girl’s classmates were getting a (whole) lot more than she was.
This momma’s heart was breaking when the little girl said, “Does Santa like some kids more than he does others? Does he like _____ more than he likes me?”
When I read this, two things happened.
1)      My heart became heavy. It became heavy for this momma who was faced with repairing her little girl’s belief that she was as precious and valuable as anyone in Santa’s sight. My heart was heavy for the little girl who was made to question her self-worth and who is already aware that to some (many), your value is measured in dollars and cents. My heart was heavy for everyone who is missing what this season is all about.

2)      I could relate. I remember putting a play kitchen on layaway and needing the entire three months to pay that sixty dollars. I remember putting gifts under the tree every Christmas Eve after the kids went to bed while John asked, “Were we able to do it? Are they going to happy when they wake up and see what they got?”
As I write this, I find myself recalling many memories of Christmas' past and I realize few of them are about the actual gifts I've received. They are about the people and places I have experienced Christmas with. I am blessed to have a lifetime of Christmas memories and family and friends who understand what Christmas is really all about and it doesn’t have a thing to do with money.
What message are you sending to your children this Christmas? Is it a message that says bunches of presents equals bunches of joy? Or is it a message that says the only present that really matters is one wrapped and given with love?

Merry Christmas,
Momma D

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Real Santa Knows What He's Doing

For the past several years I have had the esteemed honor of taking Mackenzie and Macy to see Santa…the real Santa. Seriously—this guy is the real deal right down to the long white beard and a kind, gentle smile and personality.
This year, though, while we were waiting in line to see him, Mackenzie said, “Nanna, he’s going to ask Macy and I if we’ve been good, isn’t he?”
“Yes,” I said, “he is. And when he does, you can both tell him you are very good girls because you are two of the best girls in the whole entire world.”
She listened to what I said, smiled and her sweet smile with a look of relief in her eyes, hugged my leg and turned back to the displays next to us meant to keep the kids occupied while they waited to meet Santa.
Mackenzie’s question wasn’t asked with a great deal of anxiety or dread, but it bothers me that we (we, meaning society in general) have placed the thought in our children’s minds that Santa’s goodness and generosity is performance based. We’ve demoted Santa from the giver of love and good cheer to one who rewards only the ‘good’.
How sad is that! What’s more, if a little child is worried about what a stranger in a red suit and beard thinks of them, what do you think goes through their heads and hearts when you make them feel like they’ve disappointed you and let you down? What impression are you leaving in their tender little hearts and impressionable little minds when you give the impression that your love and respect have to be earned?
Our children don’t ask to be born. We make that decision for them. So the very least we can do is to let them know they don’t have to earn our love any more than they should have to be good in order to have a present or two under the tree on Christmas morning.
Our wait to see Santa was relatively short and both girls climbed up in his lap ready to tell him what they wanted. And you know what? Santa didn’t ask if they’d been good. Instead, he smiled at the girls and said, “I can see you are both very sweet (not good) little girls, so tell me what you’d like for Christmas.”
See, I told you he was the real deal.

Merry Christmas,
Momma D

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Freckles and Stars

Last week I was browsing through a popular shopping website checking to see if there were any bargains I couldn’t live without. There weren’t, but I did see something that is forever imprinted in my mind and on my heart—a little girl’s necklace that said,

A little girl without freckles is like a night without stars.
It took all of about a half a heartbeat for images of three year-old Macy to start flashing through my mind. Not only does she have freckles on her little nose and cheeks, but her smile lights up a room (and your heart) at least as much as a sky full of stars lights up the night.

And then I thought of my children, children in-law and Mackenzie, Reuben, Laney and Essie. Each of them has their own unique way(s) of lighting up my heart. None of them is more special than the other or makes my heart any warmer, but each is different and works its ‘magic’ on this mom’s heart in a special way.
As parents we sometimes work so diligently to keep things fair and even between our children that we see them as one instead of the unique and precious individuals they are. We are so careful to ‘prove’ that we don’t have a favorite that we cheat our children out of knowing that each one is the favorite in their own special way.

So go ahead—take the time to let each one of your children know why they are the stars that light up your heart and sky. Let each of them know what your favorite thing(s) about them are. Go ahead…I dare you to make each of your children feel special and let them know they have their own special place in your heart that no one or nothing on earth can replace.

Momma D

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Caution: Christmas Carolers Not Welcome

Now that the Christmas season is here, I naturally think back on special memories of things I’ve done with my family and those kids I call mine from the many years spent as a youth director at church. There are literally enough memories to fill a book (or two), but one that is particularly special because it still makes me laugh is one that involves caroling and a nursing home…

It was Saturday morning and the other youth director and I were taking a fairly good-sized group of elementary and middle-school kids caroling at the nursing homes in our community. The first stop we made was to the home where a couple of our elderly church members were living, so we planned to make their rooms our first stop. But when we walked into the building we found the lobby full of residents so we decided to brighten their morning with our cheery voices. And so we sang. We sang Up on the Housetop, Joy to the World, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Silent Night and of course, we finished with a hearty rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
As soon as we finished the last note of our final song, one of women in the room who was sitting in front of the television, turned to the woman sitting next to her and said (in a loud voice), “I’m glad those *$*# kids stopped singing. I couldn’t hear the television.”

I am laughing as I write because I can still see the looks of shock on their faces. This was immediately followed by one-syllable comments of “Wha?”, “Huh?” “Uhhhh” which was then followed by pursed lips trying to hold in giggles. It didn’t work. But that was probably because I was laughing, too.
We quickly regained our composure and left the room to sing for those we felt sure would be more appreciative. As we walked, down the hallway, the kids started talking about what had happened…

“Did she really mean that?”
“No, I don’t think so. Old people are just like that sometimes.”

“Why didn’t she like our singing?”
“Who knows? Maybe she has bad memories of Christmas or maybe she’s sad because no one comes to see her.”

“Or maybe she’s just a grouch.”

“You think?”
“Oh, well, we didn’t mean to make her mad. Besides, it’s the thought that counts.”

“That’s right. We meant well.”
They meant well. Their intentions were as pure as pure could be—to bring joy to elderly people at Christmas time—and no matter how it was perceived by some (or one), that really was what mattered. After making sure they understood they had done nothing wrong and that one person’s response should not keep them from trying to make people smile, we continued caroling and had a great time doing so.

But as I think about that day now, I also think about how many times as parents we take our children’s actions at face value rather than looking to the heart of the matter and their intentions.
When they cook breakfast and set the toaster on fire do we only see burned toast or do we see an act of service out of love?

When we have to corral a run-away llama do we see a hassle or do we see a child who was trying to do extra chores because she wanted to help out more? (My kids know what I’m talking about.)
When the orange towels fade onto white t-shirts, do we see a child that is trying to do more than they are capable of or do we see a child trying to help out while you are sick in bed with the flu?

Are you getting the message here?
Our children are not perfect. Sometimes they make messes and mistakes in the process of doing something with the purest and best of intentions to help…serve…love.

The question is this: Do we see past the mess and into their heart or do we leave the impression that we are just waiting for our children to ‘stop singing so we can hear the television’?

Momma D