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The Gentleman.

jh-dusty

All of those moms and dads who’ve already blazed the trail of raising children warned me. Don’t blink, they said. Time flies. You won’t believe how quickly the years go. The days may seem long, but the years are so short. You know they are right. But, you just don’t imagine your child not looking like this:

jh-two

Then, one day, like today, you wake up and your baby boy is 14.

jh-anna

And, you realize you live with one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving souls on the planet. A young man who loves God and loves people. Who loves music old and new. Who loves playing guitar, enjoys a good game of golf, all things Marvel, and spending time on the deck with friends and family. A guy who calls my adult friends HIS friends. A sweet soul who is a joy and so much fun. 

John Henry,

It’s hard to put into words how amazing this past year has been with you. Every year has been amazing. But, this year, especially, I’ve watched you become so sure of yourself. Confident in you who are and who God is within you. You don’t withhold your words when you want to encourage someone. You don’t withhold your arms when someone needs to be comforted or when you want to let someone know you love them. You don’t withhold your love. You give it. You live out the word gentle in gentleman in how you treat people. You are considerate. You are always aware of what is going on around you. You are aware of people and their needs. And, when you see a need, you are quick to do all you can to meet that need.

And, one of the reasons I’ve loved this past year so much with you is because, you have become one of my dearest friends. I am so thankful I get to call you my son and one of my best friends. You’re a good, good friend, John Henry. You are the salt of the earth….always making the lives of those around you better. I don’t know what lies ahead for you, but I know, without a doubt, that your future is filled with so much goodness. Because, you have been goodness, and you ARE goodness.  Whoever said the teen years are hard or “just wait until they are teenagers,” never met John Henry Landreth.

Thank you for teaching us all how to treat one another. For being the best brother. For playing light sabers with Jett and being so sweet and loving to him. For allowing yourself to laugh at your sister when you know something she says is funny. For dancing with me in the kitchen and surprising me with your sweet hugs. For the honor you give to your daddy Kris. For the way you admire your daddy Bryan. For the way you love Janine and trust her wisdom. 

For epitomizing a true gentleman. For making us feel better about ourselves and the world. For being YOU.
Happy 14th Birthday, John Henry. I love you more than I could ever express!

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

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What Good Will It Do?

I enjoy running. I might be the “world’s okayist runner” according to Anna, but I do it still. She gave me this nickname when I ran a couple of races with my mom and good friend, David Gamble. They both placed first in their age groups. Not me. I placed second in one race and didn’t even place in the other. “Congratulations, Mom. You’re the World’s Okayist Runner,” she told me. There are weeks I get out there almost every day. There are weeks I get out once or twice. And, there are weeks I don’t get out there at all. Some of those days, I don’t run, because I think if I can’t devote at least 45 minutes to it, it’s not worth it.

This morning, I had exactly 25 minutes to run, so I gave it what I had instead of justifying not doing it. As I was running, I began to think of how many things in life we justify not doing, because what does a little bit matter? What good will it do? It’s kind of like that diet we blow and justify eating the cookie, because, what does it matter now?

Or deeper life stuff….What good is reframing my attitude about this when I’ve allowed myself to spiral into this negative thinking about all of that?

What good is refraining from buying this when I’m already piled up in debt?

What good is doing something special for my spouse, when he or she hasn’t said or done anything special for me in months?

What good is that little bit going to do?

What will that little bit of good change?

Everything. It changes EVERYTHING. I really want to shout this. IT CHANGES EVERYTHING!

I cannot tell you the times I have done what seemed to be “a little” or seemed to not be worth my time only to reap huge dividends from it. From moments like in this post where I made a decision to make things right in that moment instead of saying, “I really blew it already. What’s the point?” To moments when I’ve laid next to my husband and reached for his hand when I’ve been frustrated with feelings of “we aren’t taking enough time for each other.” In those moments, I could play the blame game. Or, I can take his hand and make an investment into our marriage instead of making a withdrawal with a feeling that may or may not be a real truth….

And, that’s the kicker: a feeling that may or may NOT be truth. This brings me back, once again, to one of the greatest life changing principles ever: Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.

Stop saying your little isn’t worth it. Stop buying into a thought of your spouse not meeting your needs that may not even be true. Stop believing that your twenty minutes of exercise will not reap any benefits or skipping that purchase will make a dent. Stop saying, “when it rains, it pours,” and say and do something that yells, “But, let me show you all the amazing things God HAS done for me!”

Things happen. Life happens. Things will get in the way of a morning run. Life will get in the way of a lot of things that we have little to no control over. But, there are things we DO have control over. How we respond to those things and how we LOOK at those things.

Your little not only does a whole lot of good. Your little can change EVERYTHING. Your little can set a marriage on a course for an unbelievable connection and goodness. Your little can teach your children about forgiveness and mercy. Your little can lead to another little and another little where you live a life free of debt. Your little can turn a seemingly crappy day into a moment of pure gratitude for what isn’t crappy. And, there is SO MUCH of the not crappy.

There is so much good. Do the little. It will give you a lot more of the good.

I may be the world’s okayist runner in races. But, I sure want to win in the race that really counts.

So I run with purpose in every step…. 1 Corinthians 9:26

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Reset.

calm

“Remember. You show our children how to respond to stressful and difficult moments by how you respond to those moments.”

This was the reminder Kris gave me over the phone last night. You know, sometimes, when our husbands are right, we kind of want to roll our eyes or maybe throw a pie in their face. I jest a little. But, I couldn’t do either last night. I told him I recognized that my response was not good, and that I had allowed myself to get overwhelmed and would work through my stuff. He told me recognizing I was not in a good place did not make that place right. Again, he was right. So, I had to make myself right. And, I needed to do it right away. Not the next morning when all of the mercies are new. But, I needed to adjust then. In THAT moment.

It’s hard. We can work ourselves up faster than Clark Kent can turn into Super-Man. Then, we implode. Because, negativity is designed to do just that…..implode. We have to stop feeding it and giving energy to it. “When we hang up, reset your emotions, and go make it right,” he told me with the most tender of tones.

I didn’t have to wait for a sunrise to make that moment of spiraling emotions right. I just had to push the reset button. I didn’t feel like doing it, because staying in my overwhelmed emotions seemed easier. They validated me. They allowed me to justify my responses to stress. But, they didn’t produce anything good.

They didn’t model mercy or compassion.

They didn’t model the scripture, “be anxious for nothing…”

They didn’t model how to respond when life gets hard.

They didn’t model light.

They didn’t heal anything or anyone.

We can’t always calm the storm around us, but we can ALWAYS calm the storm WITHIN us.

And, that’s exactly what I did. I spoke to the storm within me, and said, “Peace be still.” I called my children together and asked forgiveness and spoke peace to them. In the very moment of my overwhelmed emotions, I reset and made it right.

You, too, always have the option to reset. No matter how powerful those negative emotions become….the God within you is greater. It is simply choosing to acknowledge who you really are and tapping into the peace that is already within you. Because, you have everything you need already inside of you. Everything.

You lack nothing.

Today, I choose to create my calm. I choose to model it. I choose to be the light in the dark and the calm in the storm. I choose to reset.

What do you choose today?

Be a lamp, a lifeboat, a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like shepherd. – Rumi

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We’re In This Together.

You know how you get into a season of parenting and you just love that season you’re in? I’m in one of those. Parenting is fun and exhausting and heart-wrenching and hilarious. And, so many more things. I love it that I’m in a season where I can have parenting fails, and my children recognize it as a parenting fail….and, they are able to shake it off and laugh about it. Yesterday was one of those days. First, in the check-out line at Ingles I noticed Jett put something in his pocket. He pulled out a lollipop.

Me: “Jett, do you know that’s stealing?”

Jett: “Yes.”

Me: “Do you know what happens when you steal?”

Jett: “You get rich.”

John Henry looks away, because he knows Jett doesn’t need to see him lose it. I try to reconcile the situation, and I still buy the lollipop. You may call buying the lollipop bad parenting, but I call it “It’s Monday, and Mom is tired.” So, whatever. At least, he now knows we PAY for candy. That’s my justification, and I’m sticking to it.

On the way home, I get a phone call from Kris filling me in on Anna and her appointment with the ENT. Anna, who has had chronic sinus infections for the past two years, apparently has her adenoids to blame for it. She also has her enlarged adenoids to blame for her inability to breathe well. I cannot tell you how many times she has told me, “Mom, I can’t get a good breath,” and I have responded, “It’s all in your head.” Swear. I am winning. You can imagine the hay day Anna had on the whole, “I TOLD YOU I COULDN’T BREATHE, MISS IT’S IN MY HEAD!!!!” I said, “At least you’re not allergic to chocolate!” She sort of laughed. Sort of.

Then later, I tell John Henry about some friends of ours who recently lost their dog. He knew this dog and loved this dog and spent time with this dog. I thought I was preparing him before he hears from someone else. Instead, he responds, “Oh my word, Mom. Why did you tell me that? You’re awful! I didn’t want to know this! You are having so many parenting fails today!”

I told John Henry I wasn’t trying to win any parenting awards. He said, “Clearly,” then he laughed.

We finally settled into the evening, and after putting the little bandit to bed, I decided to get him out for a family UTV ride across the farm. It was hard getting Kris on board, because he was all tired and acting like an old man. But, I was all I just wrote a blog post on living an adventure, so get up, people. A sleepy Jett got on the UTV and said, “Just so you know, when I go to bed, I’m tired.”

We made a memory. And, we forgot all about my parenting fails that day and took pictures of the beautiful, dusk sky. We remembered that at the end of the day, we are all in this thing together. Homework, projects, attempted thievery, surgeries, losses, wins, celebrations, disappointments, funny stories, doctor appointments, laundry, and even bad parenting moments. Sometimes, you need to pause them all and just be. Be in the moment. Be in something different than the day to day routine. Change it up. Be spontaneous. Be content.

Just be.

utv

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Living An Adventure.

Jett haybale

Now that the kids are back in school, and I’ve stopped celebrating my freedom, wiped my tears, I’m going to try to get back into the habit of writing everyday. One thing I’ve learned is that the more I write, the more I have to write about. The less I write, the more I stare at my computer and try to remember how in the Sam Hill I did this everyday. When we don’t use our gifts, they lie dormant. No good for anyone. (Thank you, dear friend, Susan Harp.) So, here is my attempt to use it, and hopefully along, the way make you laugh or feel all the feels or be reminded that life is good, and YOU matter.

My kids started a new adventure this year at St. George’s Episcopal School. Anna even started a new adventure taking ballet. Who would’ve thought that my girl who insisted on dressing like she was trying out for the NBA would decide she’s a dancer? Or John Henry would decide one day, “I want to learn the cello.” Then, there is Jett where every day is an adventure. So much to do, to explore, to learn, to grow. Kids just get it. But, sometimes, along the way, we grown-ups don’t get it anymore. We stop imagining ourselves doing something new. We stop imagining the life we really want to live. We stop imagining, we stop being thankful, and we stop living an adventure.

I started reading Mark Batterson’s new book, A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life Into the Adventure of A Lifetime. Batterson writes, “Kids get adventure. Its innate. They live life free of worry, full of faith, and with their eyes peeled for the next big adventure. We should live with holy anticipation of what’s around the corner.” I began thinking about how God wants us to become like little children. When the disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, He called a child to Him and said, “Become like him.” Become like a child. Forgive like a child. Love like a child. Seek adventure like a child!

As I read, I began taking inventory of my own life. I have seasons I stop living an adventure. I honestly think I’ve been in one. It’s not that I haven’t necessarily done adventurous things lately. Doing a helicopter tour in Hawaii this past July was a definite stretch for me in terms of adventure. However, it’s been more of the absence of observing life and being truly thankful for it. I believe our imagination is birthed in our observation of life around us. It’s birthed when we slow down our minds and slow down our motions to breathe in Him. To look intently into Jett’s eyes when he is taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. To notice how his eyes get so animated and to appreciate how passionate he is about his story. It’s birthed in sweet conversations with Anna when she asks questions like, “Tell me more about how we hear the Spirit within us.” It’s birthed in moments like last night when I begin singing a song, and John Henry says, “I can play that on guitar.” So, he does, and we begin singing these words together:

How do I say thank You, Lord
For the way that You love
And the way that You come

For all that You’ve done
All that You’ll do
My hearts pours out
Thank You

You don’t have to come
But You always do
You show up in splendor
And change the whole room

How do I say thank You, Lord
For the life that You gave
The cross that You bore

For the love You poured out
To ransom my soul
My hearts pours out
This thankful song

A life of adventure may not always be climbing Mt. Everest or taking some big risk. A life of adventure may be in having that hard conversation. It may be in noticing God in every moment. It may be a moment where your heart pours out thanksgiving for a life that is just so good, and a God whose goodness never stops pursuing after you. That’s the environment, those are the conditions, where imagination is birthed. And, imagination is what sets our life up for the adventure of a lifetime.

Be aware. Slow down. Notice. And, above all, let thanksgiving be your language. Because, there is no greater adventure than a life filled with gratitude.

 

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Filed under gratitude, life, Motherhood, Uncategorized, Writing

Don’t Set People Up To Fail You.

Originally published in The Grip

A while back, our 13 year old, John Henry, got upset with his dad and responded to him poorly. Kris decided to take his phone and keep it until he apologized. While I knew Kris just wanted John Henry to recognize his poor response and how his words hurt, I wasn’t on board with his strategy, and Kris was open to hear my heart on it. At times, Kris and I disagree with how the other is handling a parenting issue, and one of us checks the other. I felt, in this situation, Kris was setting John Henry up to fail.

“He should know to go to his dad and ask for forgiveness and make this right.” Perhaps. But, sometimes, we know to make something right but have a hard time doing it, for whatever the reason may be. Placing expectations on someone to respond in a certain way only sets that person up to fail you. I’ve seen countless relationships that function this way. Especially in marriage. One sets the other up to see if he or she will respond in a certain way, and if that person “fails the test,” anger and resentment abound. “If she doesn’t come to me and apologize.” “If he doesn’t notice what I did and say ‘thank you.’” The list of examples could on and on. Instead of testing someone who doesn’t even know he or she is being tested, go to him or her. Share your heart and what you are needing from that person. Make sure you don’t come in on the offensive with words and phrases like, “you always” or “you never.” Instead, put it back on you. “It makes me feel unappreciated when you do this,” or “I am needing this from you right now.” Pay attention to your sound and tone. Go into the conversation not only ready to share your heart, but prepare yourself to listen to the other person’s heart as well.”

Kris made the decision to go to John Henry and ask him why he responded the way he did. Kris explained how his words hurt him. Both were able to share their heart, and there were no unfair expectations placed on John Henry without him knowing those expectations. Kris was able to coach John Henry in how to respond in situations when he gets angry and upset. It became a coachable moment instead of a set-up and test. See the difference? The same applies in all of our relationships. Don’t set people up to fail you. It’s simply not fair. And, more times than not, that person will, indeed, fail you. You have two options when you are wanting something from another person: 1) Go to them, and share your heart with the tenderest of tones, or 2) Decide it’s something you can let go and manage without. Both options are necessary at different times in our lives. Both options place you in a position where you are choosing the relationship. Both options are redemptive. And, neither is unfair.

Let’s not place expectations on people. And, if we do, and they fail us, let’s choose forgiveness instead of resentment. Let’s play fair, extend mercy, and handle each other with the greatest of care.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Colossians 3:13

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When We Run Into Problems.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

These verses carried me through the hardest time in my life over 14 years ago. I read this passage again this morning with a different set of eyes. A confident set of eyes. A heart that knows and understands. A life that can testify to it over and over and over again.

Our initial reaction to adversity and problems isn’t, “Well thank you, Jesus. This is going to grow me and strengthen my character.” No. It can be anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and so many other things. Certainly not happiness that we get to endure something hard. It’s not a normal reaction. Hey, you’re normal. So, I am I! However, once we get over the initial shock and awe of it, we get to make a choice how we are going to through the problem. Whether the problem is as large as what I endured 14 years ago when my husband walked out or even if it is as small as a conflict at your work, we get to choose to endure it with a confident hope that He will grow us and work it for our good.

So, what do we do after we get over the initial onset of a problem? I wanted to share some things that I do that may help you, too. First, I vent upward. That means I don’t share my problem with someone who isn’t on the same page of life with me spiritually. Because, that person may feed into my anger or resentment where nothing redemptive comes from it. I vent to someone who has compassion but who also brings light to it. They help me process it from a position of forgiveness and understanding. They remind me to trust Him. The conversation is always redemptive.

I slow down. Haste causes us to react instead of respond. It causes a build up of negative emotions and feelings that are hard to come down from. I slow down my responses, my comments, my time. When we slow down, we are able to think more clearly, take captive our thoughts that are negative more easily, and avoid making the mistake of saying or doing something we might regret.

I pray and meditate. This keeps my heart soft and refocuses my thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Don’t worry about your problem. Don’t dwell on it. Tell God what you need, and THANK Him for everything He has already done. Everything He has already delivered you from and made better for you. Re-center your thoughts on Him and on thankfulness. When you catch yourself dwelling on the problem, replace that thought with all of the good in your life. Everything you have to be thankful for. THEN, peace will flood your life.

Finally, I am open to change. What if I am the one that is the problem? What if God is not just working something for my good, but what if He is changing ME? What if I created the problem myself? Stay open to accept responsibility. Allow people you trust to speak into your life.

All problems are meant for our growth. I learned a long time ago to say, “Nothing goes wrong in my world.” Instead, every situation is an opportunity to grow. To learn. An opportunity to be a better friend. A better mom. A better wife. A better person. Without running into hard situations, it is impossible to become BETTER. So, with that knowledge, we really can rejoice in hard times. Because, we are then presented with an opportunity for our lives to be better. We may not always see the end from the beginning and know the hows and whys, but we can trust in the One who is working all things, ALL, for our good.

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