Category Archives: parenting

getting on the bus with your children

First day of school – 1996

 

Several years ago, one of our church members cornered me in the hallway and seriously asked me if I would be interested in teaching a parenting class. I had to hold back the laughter as I (just as seriously) declined her offer.

“I’m not your girl. I don’t think most of my parenting tips would be welcomed. I’m old school to the core. In fact, I’ve told all my children to send me their future therapy bills when they get older as they’ll probably wind up on a psychologist’s couch one day because of me. Plus, the jury’s still out regarding my kids. Talk to me in ten years, and we’ll see where they’re at.”

Well, ten years have come and gone. And just a few days ago, someone made a comment to me about my four kids (now ages 29, 27, 18, 16) … about how “good” they are. Naturally, I beamed inside, quietly remembering the earlier request for me to teach a parenting class.

Oh folks, it’s only by the grace of God that these kids have turned out remotely “good.” Truly. If anyone shouldn’t have had four kids, it would be me. I’m a daily mess. In many ways I’m still “not your girl” as it pertains to parenting tips. But in talking with Billy last night and wondering what one tip (besides daily prayer and putting your kids smack dab in the middle of strong and fierce believers in Jesus Christ) might prove helpful to those of you in the middle of “growing up” some little ones, I came up with this. It didn’t originate with me, but it is something I’ve held onto ever since technology began to infiltrate every nook and cranny of our daily lives. Are you ready? Here goes…

When you hand your kids a phone, you are handing them the world.

Go ahead and read that again. Let it sink in.

When you hand your kids a phone, you are handing them the world.

Think about it this way.

You get little Johnny or Susie ready for the day. They’re fed, clothed, and let’s say, have a pack full of $$$ strapped to their backs. You take them to the nearest bus station, buy them a one-way ticket to anywhere, kiss them goodbye, maybe even say a prayer, and send them on their way to a big adventure. You’re excited for their new-found freedom, and so are they! Yippee. Johnny and Susie are growing up. Their independence stuns you, and you give yourself a pat on the back. They’re on their way.

To where?

Who knows, but they’re going.

The only problem is (well really there are a ton of them at this point), Johnny and Susie are five years old, maybe 10. Heck, maybe even 15. For sure they’re ready, right?

But before the day is out, you slowly begin to realize you’ve lost your child. You have no idea where they’re at, where they’ve been, who’ve they’ve talked to, who they’re with, or when they’ll return.

They are just gone. Hard to find. Lost and, by now, listening to anyone who might be inclined to offer some free advice on how to get back home. And you wonder where it all went wrong.

As it goes with Johnny and Susie on the bus, so it goes with technology.

When you hand your kids a phone you are handing them the world.

So you, as a good parent (not a perfect one mind you, but a good one), have a responsibility and a choice to make. Are you going to get on the bus with them in the morning, be in their space and in their day of wild exploration, or are you going to trust them to navigate safely through a big city … a really big world … and return to you in one piece?

It’s your choice to make. I know which one I made all those many years ago and the one I’m still making today.

I get on the bus with my kids, every single day. I know who they’re texting, and I’m not above reading those texts when necessary. We don’t do secret apps on our phone where messages mysteriously disappear (seriously, parents, don’t you get this?) and, to date, my teenagers don’t have social media accounts. They might someday, and when they do, they’ll better be able to take that bus ride by themselves. But for now, they’re still under my roof, and I still take seriously my role as their mom–to shepherd and shape their hearts safely through to adulthood.

So, there you go, folks. After reading this, you might agree with my earlier assessment about my parenting skills. I may not “be your girl.” That’s OK. I didn’t ask to be. But I’d be neglectful of this nagging feeling I’ve had in my head and on my heart all day if I didn’t tell you one last time…

Get on the bus with your kids before you lose them to the world. You only get one ride with your child, and it’s a short one. As always…

Peace for the journey,

(1-09-19/allrightsreserved.)

Jadon’s Fight

“Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.”  -1 Timothy 6:11

He lies here, stretched out and so very vulnerable, like when he arrived in this world. His chest is broad, his head is shaved, and in true Jadon fashion, his legs are crossed in just the way he likes to sleep.

Gladiator. That’s what comes to mind.

He is beautiful. He’s my boy, #3 falling in behind his two older brothers and just ahead of his sister.

I can’t believe we are here. My unbelief is trumped by the reality—the gravity of this moment.

We are here, six days out from the most horrific day of my life. I don’t like revisiting that moment. There will be time for that in coming days. For now, I want to focus on this one moment, the one reality that struck me profoundly at 2:00 AM this morning and has stayed with me ever since.

Jadon’s fight is so much bigger than a hashtag or a Go Fund Me account.

Jadon’s fight isn’t just about him, although he has every right to call it all his own.

Jadon’s fight isn’t just so his parents or his brothers or his sisters are able to watch him play ball, graduate, go to college, marry, and have children.

Jadon’s fight is grander than all these parameters.

Jadon’s fight is eternal.

Jadon’s fight is for you, everyone of you reading this now. Everyone who has checked in, prayed, given, loved from afar, loved up close. Stranger, friend, family, and even, perhaps, foe. Jadon’s fight doesn’t discriminate.

You see, if you know Jadon personally, you get this. He loves life. He loves people. He’s never met a stranger. He steps up to the plate when called upon. Of his own accord, he mentors young boys. He carries groceries to cars on food bank days. He ushers at church. He volunteers (he would joke “voluntold”) with Special Olympics, VBSes, and the Appalachian Service Project. He buys veterans meals when they come into Zaxby’s and is ready with a quarter when you need an extra sauce and don’t have any change. He has a verse ready when your spirit is downcast and a smile when yours is upside down. He’ll give you a ride; he’ll give you his shirt. He’ll find a way to work around a problem by creating a new solution (Have you seen his hillbilly bench press?). He helps his mom and never complains. Never.

He has a servant’s heart because he serves the Father’s heart.

And serving, friends, is what landed him smack dab in the middle of this very blessed mess.

Upon Jadon’s insistence, he and his father left the safety of his car to remove a tree branch that had fallen across the road so that others could safely, more easily move down a neighborhood street. And just like that, in a moment of serving—of bending low to lift up—Jadon was struck by a bigger tree branch that put him on his face. It has put us all on our faces, the very place where Jadon would want us to be …

Talking to God.

Thus far, it appears to me, mission accomplished. Thousands of us have joined in holy dialogue with the Almighty, all on behalf of Jadon. History is writing the story, and because my son’s words are currently buried somewhere deep within his gladiator soul, God has called me to serve as Jadon’s mouthpiece.

Since his birth, Jadon has been declaring his faith so very well before many witnesses. You are sharing your Jadon stories with us, and I am not surprised by any of them. I just rarely hear of them. Jadon’s humility often keeps me from knowing just how widely and deeply he’s sown God’s love into the soil of humanity. The harvest is coming to pass, friends, and the fruit we’re taking hold of (the witness of a young man whose name means “God has heard”) is ripening before our very eyes.

What a sight to behold! A good fruit in a good fight.

“Good?” you might ask. Yes. Good. Why? Because Jadon’s fight is not just a fight to live again personally. Instead, Jadon’s fight is an invitation for you and me to join him on the front lines of faith and to live eternally.

And that, friends, is exactly what makes all of this good.

So, if you’re inclined, would you join us on the battlefield? Would you be willing to step up and step into the glorious harvest of faith that awaits you? Jadon would want you there, alongside him, contending for the “bigger” that is beyond what we can currently see. Jadon wants you with him now. Jadon wants you with him next. Jadon wants you with him forever.

Jadon wants you with God.

I do too. So consider this your invitation to join us on this sacred road of suffering. Grab our hands, grab a tissue, grab a moment, and grab whatever fragments of faith you have. Let’s take hold of the eternal life to which we’ve been called. Together, with Jadon leading the charge, we can sow and grow an abundant harvest that will last forever! As always and forever…

Peace for the journey,

If you’d like to follow Jadon’s progress please visit my fb page. All posts pertaining to Jadon will be made public. If you’d like to read a nice article about Jadon’s story published by the Laurinburg Exchange, click here. In addition, Jadon’s has been featured on the local Charlotte NBC station. You can view it by clicking here. Along the way and as we go, there will be many ways you can help us. We’re not shy about asking. We need help at so many levels. If you would like to join Jadon’s fight in a financial way, please click here. Every dollar raised will go specifically toward paying for the financial cost of getting our boy well. We are eternally grateful! Please feel free to share the link to this post but keep in mind that all rights are reserved by me. If you’d like to use a quote, please seek my permission first. Thank you!

©F.ElaineOlsen. All rights reserved.

fly with Christ…

“At least in heaven we’ll be friends again.”

Tears fell from her eyes as she imparted a final hope regarding a relational struggle she’s been dealing with for the past six months. Tears fell from my eyes as well. As a mother, my greatest personal pains have always been attached to the pains of my children’s hearts. Whatever they’re carrying, I tend to carry as well.

It would be easier if I could divorce myself from the struggle, but that’s not the deal. Parenting doesn’t come with pause buttons or expiration dates. Twenty-nine years ago, I didn’t understand the magnitude of what parenting love would encompass, but I did understand at least one thing going in:

I would do everything within my power to keep my children safe.

Safe. Protected. No harm done. Minimal exposure to danger or risk.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that, as it pertains to their safety, my ability to control it was limited.
Fevers. Scraped knees. Upset tummies. Playground taunts. Broken bones. Broken relationships. Outside intrusions of all manners and manipulations. No, I wasn’t going to be able to prevent them all. Multiplied times four and, well let’s just say, my kids’ strife has earned for me my parenting stripes.

Even today, I still want to keep them safe, but after years of not being able to manage it perfectly, I understand something further, something deeper as it pertains to this shaping, parental love:

A mother’s safety can sometimes be restrictive to the neglect of being instructive.

When my well-meaning desire to make their pain go away prohibits their pain from being a way to mature them, then I have limited (and underestimated) the power of the tender moment.

It’s not that I wish pain on them as some warped way of growing them. Never. Oh that our heart-shaping would come to us more through our laughter than through our tears! But I’ve lived long enough, cried hard enough, trod deep enough through my own personal sorrows to believe that they have, in fact, made me wiser and, more importantly, moved me closer to the heart of God.

When I can’t understand the why, I can run to the Who. And it’s there, in that sacred space of aching exploration, where I receive an understanding that cannot be found in a textbook and a rich comfort that cannot be bought from a shelf.

I find Jesus, a Savior who does not retreat from my pain but a Friend who enters into it. Who waits with me. Who stays with me. Who walks with me. Who mentors me.

Jesus comes to my pain, and to the pain of my children, and, if allowed, shapes a kingdom heart—a heart likened unto his own. A heart that lives through the pain so as to rise as a witness because of it.

I don’t know what lies ahead for my daughter as it pertains to her current heart struggle, but I do know that hope lives in her—a hope not anchored in false realities but, rather, a hope tethered to the truth of Jesus Christ. And for that alone (at least this time), I am willing to loosen my grip on the safety net I’ve been holding beneath her so that she might fall into firmer hands…

A God that will not let her go. A Father who will keep her safe and who will grow her into a bastion of strength, grace, and eternal nobility.

No, I cannot keep her safe this time.

Instead, I will allow Him to do so.

So, fly with Christ, sweet one. And, as always,

Peace for the journey,
Mom

Everything Moments

These are days of plenty. This is a season of more-than-enough. This is holy generosity dispensed to me by the King.

This isn’t a season of less-than, although as of late I have been tempted to argue otherwise:

• Aging parents and accumulating needs making their withdrawals from the ledger.
• Financial interruptions that dip into the “summer fun” account.
• A lingering infection that coughs abruptly, heats up sporadically, and labors diligently to take hold of instead of break free from the flesh.
• Fractured conversations with the children I bore … the children I adore.
• Marital miscommunications that unearth seemingly forgotten pain and an oft-spoken question … (Again, Lord?)
• A sadness that sometimes sneaks quietly into my spirit, taking a long summer nap in the shade of my heart.
• High cholesterol, creaking knees, hot flashes, and a body that has failed me.

Cumulatively collected, it seems as if a detour around the poke-and-prod of summer is in order. Cumulatively and currently lived, however, I think I’ll stay right where I am. Why?

Because today, knee-deep in the might-be misery of my summer, I shared a bag of McDonald’s fries with my daughter, and I thought to myself …

This is good. This is grace. This is generosity. This is pure, untainted joy – an everything moment often uncalculated during a tabulated struggle. My life is filled to over-flow with everything moments. God has not short-changed me on anything. Instead, he’s lavished me with his holy everythings:

• Conversations and time spent with parents that cannot be replicated.
• Financial blessings that leave some wiggle room for summer fun.
• Prayers and medication that release me from my flesh, not keep me bonded to it.
• Enough love to mend fractures.
• Enough love to salve old aches and old conversations with a fresh helping of God’s mercy.
• Enough peace to awaken sadness.
• Enough laughter and humility to forgive the aging process.

God’s holy everythings are everywhere. It takes a holy heart to seek them out and then to hold them up to the light despite the shadows of a dimly-lit life. In doing so, in giving these everything moments a place of illumination while suffering through the pokes-and-prods of summer, we keep the life-ledger balanced.

Does a new pair of eyeglasses cost more than a bag of McDonald’s fries? No doubt, and it is one of the reasons behind my nagging worries this afternoon.

But to hold the attention (and the heart) of the one whose eyes rest behind those eyeglasses for a few moments? Well, folks, the ledger is more than balanced. The ledger is dripping with eternal abundance.

The Father who made us, knows us. He understands our summers … all of our seasons. He knows what will bring us peace, even as he knows about the turmoil that leads us toward unrest. Accordingly, along the way and as we go, he’s planted everything we need in order for our minds and hearts to push beyond the mayhem in our lives. He’s sown a garden of everything moments, so that we might be able to step outside of the temporal and to see his eternal. When life is measured through that set of lenses, life is duly celebrated.

So today, I raise a toast to my everything moments. To yours as well. Further still, I pray for eyes wide-enough to see them as they arrive, for wisdom enough to lift them up as illumination, and for a thankful heart to God for being so very generous with me. Would you join me in celebrating our everything moments today? I’d love to hear about some of yours in the comments below. Shalom. Be well.

Everything Moments (© F. Elaine Olsen, 6-28-2016, allrightsreserved.)

A spontaneous hug, a lingering kiss,
A ride through the park, a sunset unmissed.
A morning unhurried,wrapped safely in sheets;
An afternoon rain, an evening walk through the streets.
A tub full of bubbles, a gerbera in bloom,
A bird sweetly singing, a new bride and her groom.
A dip in the pool or a dip of ice-cream,
A nap in the shade, colored by the wildest of dream.
A smile round the table, for there’s corn to be shared;
Warm bread and soft butter, enough room to be spared…

For more love, more grace, more moments face-to-face.
More comfort, more strength, more confessions at-length.
Less guilt, less blame, more skin in the game.
Less hiding, less fear, more room for a tear…

Gently released, gently received,
Gently embraced, gently grieved.
Gentle hands, gentle souls,
Gently walking, fewer holes…
Left wide-open, left unguarded,
Consequently, less bombarded…

By nothing-moments that shouldn’t count,
By worldly standards that rate discount.
By devil’s schemes that work their ill,
By temporal needs that rarely fill.

Instead, by everything-moments that fruitfully amount,
By godly standards that take into account…
A Father’s love that heals all ill,
Eternal grace that lavishly overfills…

Everything.
with his moments.

Growing Up as a “Mean Mom” … {and give-away}

I had the privilege this evening of praying with a friend. The focus of our prayer? Our children – hers grown, mine half-grown. Or so it seems. Does the growth factor really ever come to an end? Does our growing up have an expiration date? I don’t think so. In that sense, we’re not so unlike our children. We, ourselves, are just big kids, a few steps ahead of the pack coming up behind us.

I’ve been a parent for the past twenty-six years – over half my life. I’m still at it with two children under my roof. In these almost three decades of doing mothering, I’m not sure anything about parenting has gotten easier. I’m certainly a calmer person today than I was twenty-six years ago. Years of living and growing beneath the shadowing wings of grace have afforded me this gift. Even so, I suppose there are times now when my parenting (as a job) has grown stale; day-old parenting as well as day-old bread isn’t as tasty as a loaf fresh from the oven.

This is why I’m thankful for my friend, Joanne Kraft’s, recently released book The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. I didn’t secure my copy thinking I had a whole lot of new mothering tips to learn; instead, I knew I would learn something further. I would have the opportunity to lean in and to listen to my friend’s heart. I trust her heart, and anytime you and I pull up a chair alongside a heart we can trust, we learn. We expand. We grow … up and beyond and further into the person God has ordained us to be.

Joanne’s book reignited something inside of me – a push of sorts to be more engaged in these final years of parenting the two children beneath my roof. The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids is not about getting your “mean” on. Instead, it is a grace-filled invitation to invest in the everyday worlds of our children and to say, “I’m here. I care. We’re in this together, and by God’s grace, I’m going to help you walk these next steps successfully.” Mean moms don’t leave the parenting to others. Mean moms fight hard for the hearts and futures of their children. I, for one, needed a reminder along these lines.

Did you know that Mean Moms …

• Walk by faith
• Put Marriage First
• Pray
• Model Honor
• Don’t Take Sides
• Make’em Work
• Use Their Words
• Say No to TV
• Slay Goliath
• Don’t Speak the Language of Busy
• Mean Business
• Embrace Failure
• Rule Technology
• Talk Purity
• Drag Kids to Church
• Eradicate Entitlement
• Friend Their Teens
• Focus on the Future

I didn’t either. Oh sure, I’ve been modeling most of these behaviors for years. I just didn’t know what to call myself. Thanks to Joanne, I now know. I am unequivocally a member of the Mean Mom Team. Why? Because as Joanne says in her book (pg. 18),

“I’m not raising a kid. I’m raising an adult.”

And I, for one, want to give my kids the necessary tools to become necessary adults in a society crying out for sound minds, good hearts, and godly souls. My children are my gift to the world. The grown-ups they become are a direct reflection of the intentional, mothering investments I’m willing to make now … today. Their growing up doesn’t wait until I have it together. Neither does mine. Growing up, instead, happens along the way and as we go. Accordingly, I pull up a chair alongside my friend, and I pull up my heart alongside my kids. Together, we say grace around the table to our Father who gives grace and who lends his strength to our growing-up days.

I don’t know if, years from now, my kids will remember me as a “mean mom.” That label is irrelevant to me. What does matter to me is that I am remembered as a mother who walked their journeys with them and who, in the end, led them straight to the front porch of heaven.

Thank you, Joanne, for the permission and for the invitation to revisit my mothering heart. This is rich privilege. They (Nick, Colton, Jadon, and Amelia) are my legacy. As always …

Peace for the journey,

This contest is now over – random.org selected the winner. Congrats to Natasha Grimes!

PS: Leave a comment for an opportunity to win an official “Mean Moms” travel mug AND an autographed copy of Joanne’s book. (USA addresses only.) Even if you think your parenting years are behind you or you simply need a shot of parenting adrenaline, I promise that there’s something in this book for you! It’s a strong encouragement for all of us.

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