shine your light

It’s been a crazy past couple of weeks (and all the busy mommies and daddies say “Here! Here!”).  Conferences, practices, our amazing girls made it to state basketball, my amazing niece made it to state basketball also, so late night basketball games at the Well, mixed in with all of our other crazy, and it made for a cocktail of even less sleep–with two boys, school, homework, extracurricular activities, and our action packed jobs–leaves my emotions a tad frazzled and frayed.  I was just about to pat myself on the back for keeping it all together — must admit the silver lining of spring break was a huge incentive — when Thursday night hit …

Max had had a pretty rough day at school.  Boy drama.  Over something pretty minor and silly.  I had bought the boys TOMS — they’re comfy shoes and they both fell in love with the “one for one idea” — although G thought that it was weird that the other kid only got one shoe.  After more thorough explanation, he understood and he was satisfied with the idea.  They were dark grey and camaflog.  Very “boy”, I thought.  Slip on, easy, vegan, and promoted a good cause.  Trying to be better about where our money goes to for things we need.  Momma satisfied, boys have easy spring shoes that are compliable with dirt.  G had a great day in his.  His friends loved them.  His teacher loved them.  “Mommy, see teeps asking me if dey are TOMS.  I teep on telling her, ‘No, dey are soos!'”.  Funny kid.

Max, on the other hand, had a “nightmare” of a day–for an eleven year old.  He was teased, taunted and tormented by a group of boys–two that have followed him up for the past few years of his life–to the point of tears.  No one in his ‘inner circle’–just a couple of mean kids.  He tried to just shake it off, but after hours of it–it just plain hurt.  A good friend of his knew how bad he was hurting and stood up for him, told the other kids to leave him alone–and let Max wear HIS shoes.  Seriously–what an awesome friend, brave friend, kind friend, loyal, sweet and true friend.  It’s one thing to KNOW the right thing to do, and it’s quite another to DO it when no one else is.  SO proud of this great friend of Max’s (who, by the way, didn’t think he was doing anything that was “that big of a deal”).  I have never, in all my days of being picked on as I moved from school to school to school, been teased to the point of feeling like I had to change what I was wearing–and I hurt that my kid felt this way.  But, moreover, my heart was just so happy that he had such an awesome friend that helped him out.  And that is how Max felt too.  He had a pretty crappy day–the kids hazed him and made fun of him “wearing your momma’s shoes?” “hey, sissy boy!” and other gender slurs I won’t even grace, but we only talked about THAT for about ten minutes–we talked about the amazing power of friendship for the rest of the night.  And instead of dwelling on all that negative, we focused on the good and I called Max’s friend’s mom to let her know (although I know she already knows) what an absolutely INCREDIBLE son she has. Friends are such awesome blessings! And then we took a couple of minutes to pray for those boys that were so mean.  How much fun can it be to walk around having the hearts of those kids, right?  Well, maybe it is, but just in case, we prayed for them. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those you persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 You never know the walk someone is walking…

So far so good, right?  Yeah.  Then the night took a turn.  And only because I let it.  I can blame my exhaustion, the emotional state of my mind, my fragileness, but in reality, I do this all the time.  I received a few messages questioning my parenting, what I place on my children, misinterpreting a few things I said–from someone who doesn’t even know me or my kids–and I took it much too much to heart.  I cried.  A lot.  It hurt.  A lot.  So, I went to the Bible and I prayed.  Because that’s what those feelings are calling me to do…

And then, I thanked God for that experience because it made me seek clarity in a place where I find my strongest purpose in life–parenthood.  It is a place I come to, each and every day, with absolute intention and mindfulness.  My heart, body, mind and soul are here–one hundred percent of the time–and I have two partners in this intentful, purposeful mission–my husband and God.  This is not a “fly by the seat of your pants” (longterm, no–on a daily basis, sometimes) journey for me or the parties involved.  And although we are all stressed, hurried, sleep deprived, anxious, and worried at times (I think it comes with the territory), we all love our babies and want what’s best for them.  That, I believe, is a given.  So, I must keep that in mind from the sender of these messages as well.

My boys were both born with big hearts.  It’s just the way God made them.  I’m not saying that in a braggy way at all.  It just is.  When Max was very little and would see someone crying, he would offer his blanky.  G was the same.  It was natural for them.  For many children it is.  My kids see sadness and want to fix it.  A gift and a curse at times.  They are “fixers” and “problem solvers”.  I have never had to force it.  If they hear someone is sick, they rush to the table to make a card or want to make them cookies (cookies make everything better, right?).  They want to stop and pray, right then and there, if someone has been in an accident.  When someone is crying, they are there with a hug.  Even if it’s their momma.  It’s their nature.  G says it’s “my Desus in me”.  It’s nothing I contrive or push.  It makes them happy, it’s who they are, they love to make other people happy.  And I so deeply LOVE that about them!

That being said, we have three “rules” in this house.  I’d call it my “mommy mantra”, but the hubs in in on this too.  Number one: KNOW WHO YOU ARE Most important.  You are a child of God.  You are an incredible, holy, amazing, unique, blessed, fortunate, undeniable, talented, uninhibited, beautiful, fantastic, dearly loved child of God.  You are who HE says you are.  Not who anyone else says you are.  Know this.  Always know this.  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 Number two:  SEE THE GOOD.  Find it.  Seek it.  From the beautiful sunrise to the sunset, it is there.  From the hands that give, to the mouths that speak encouragement, find those people, seek those things, and fill your minds, hearts and souls with all of it. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9  Number three:  BE THE GOOD. And from there, be the good.  You know who you are, you’ve seen what that good looks like and what it can do, now do it and be it for others.  From the smallest to the biggest of things, you can.  Every single day it is a choice–and you can!  God has equipped you with everything you need and we can do so much.  That is why we are here.  We all matter, and our choices matter.  Chose to be the good and make a difference.  However small, however big–you can. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2nd Timothy 1:7

And I don’t think we have to look impossibly far to see people hurting. And I don’t believe I am shining a spot light on the negative when I say this.  It’s a fact of life.  It’s real life.  People hurt and people need each other.  All around us.  Everywhere.  In our communities, neighborhoods, and abroad.  It’s as close as next door and as far reaching as continents away.  It’s a rather human epidemic.  And, the amazing and awesome upside to this?  We can HELP each other!  Halleluiah!  So awesome that we can be empowered to be a part of the solution, yes?

And if your children have never been bullied, never or seldom seen a kid being teased, or made fun of or hurt, that is SO AWESOME and I am truly, truly happy for you–but the antibulling campaigns, seminars, and conferences that are sweeping this nation and locally meeting with us at our schools say otherwise.  My husband’s 16 and my 13 plus years in education and the school system say otherwise.  Every year, unfortunately, it seems to be getting a little worse–and we are scratching our heads and asking ourselves “why?” and “how can we stop this?” and “what can we do?”.  And I’m not saying that just because I’m LOOKING for it so therefore (and that is why) I’m seeing it, it’s because I’m IN it and it’s THERE and we ALL want to help and make it BETTER.  And my kids are like that too, and I praise their AMAZING hearts for that and their friend’s AMAZING hearts for that and we neeed MORE AMAZING hearts like that!!!  YAY for AMAZING HEARTS like that!!!  And YAY for eyes that see it!  That notice, that empathize, that will stand up and not just walk on by.  That takes courage, and I will always and forever champion that!

Max told me this story a few weeks ago about a girl in his class that gets constantly picked on because she is over weight–and she’s kind of mean too.  Max told me, “I think she’s kind of mean because everyone is always being so mean to her, mom.  Hurt people hurt, right mom?” (we’ve talked about this a lot–how it’s not okay to be mean or rude to people, even if they are mean and rude, tough one for mommies too).  “That’s right, sweet heart.”  So proud of this kid.  “Well, a few of the kids got up in her face at her locker and were telling her she was fat and ugly again and told her she didn’t have any friends and it made me so mad and sad and it just hurt me, but I was kind of scared she’d get mad at me if I said anything and the other kids just kept saying it to her. It was pretty awful.”  Max said. “So, what did you do?” I asked him, getting the plates out for supper. “I walked over to them and said, ‘Well, I can tell you she has one friend.'” He looked at me and sheepishly smiled. “And what happened?” I asked. “She didn’t say anything, but she kind of smiled at me and the other kids just said to me, ‘Yeah, who?’ and I said, ‘Me! That’s who!'”.  One of the proudest mommy moments ever.  Best part?  Well, sadly, it happened again the next week.  Same scenario, same scene, but THIS time, she had TWO friends–one of Max’s buddies had seen what Max had done and followed suit.  I can only imagine it will keep growing.  Pretty awesome.  Don’t deny struggle from your kids.  They are strong.  They can handle the “negative”. They can do it.  They are so brave.  And they can cause a wave of amazing, truly amazing things to happen.

When you deny your kids struggle, you also deny them miracles.  Straight up–you deny them the most amazing holiness on earth.  Divine miracles.  My kids have seen and experienced those with all of their being–and continue too–all because of struggle.

Katie's Crusaders 2012 014

A friend of ours was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago.  Stage four-completely out of nowhere.  Max went to preschool with her oldest, and I had all of her children in preschool in some capacity.  Dearest family.  Loved them to pieces.  We didn’t sugar coat it, we fell on our knees and prayed our guts out, offered our love and did what ever we could to encourage and support this incredible family.  They ended up teaching my boys and Marty and I more about faith then any sermon ever could.  They were the most grateful people, for any tiny little gesture–in the midst of so much struggle.  Loving on my kids, sharing their joys, sharing their struggles and pain through humor and regular, good old fashion life.  And all my boys wanted was for this precious momma to get better.  Oh how we prayed!  When Max’s birthday rolled around, the importance of gifts to him seemed so trivial.  We were running in the Katie’s Crusader’s race to raise money for Nicole (her family was one of the family’s nominated to receive monies from this race–phenomenal race we continue to support every year), and Max decided that instead of presents, he just wanted his friends to donate money to her family instead–to help with all of their crazy hospital bills, surgery, treatments (I can’t even imagine!).  He didn’t tell Nic he was doing this.  On his real birthday, we drove over to their house and he gave her the checks and cash he had raised.  To him, it was the best present he had ever gotten–seeing her face, getting that hug–and playing with all their kids that day–as well as all the snacks Nic had for them.  What an incredible experience!  That’s real life folks.  That’s heart and soul.  And this struggle has a magnificent ending–through the rough and rocky road of ups and downs for this amazing woman–she kicked cancer’s butt–and taught my boys SO MUCH about faith and determination and never, ever giving up. I wouldn’t trade any of our tears or pain for that.  Jesus gets made real.  We almost get to see and touch him in experiences like that.  Nicole, we love you! And the boys STILL–every single night–pray for Nicole–every single night.  They pray for her body and they thank God for her heart.  And this mommy? She does too.

sara and ella at the hospital

And our baby Ella.  The boys continue to pray and pray and send cards, gifts, and love and rally their friends and family around this precious baby.  G’s teacher knows Ella because he writes her letters at school.  Even Holly, who cuts our hair, knows Ella, because as G was getting his hair cut–she is ALL he could talk about–Ella and her chubby cheeks and her “tutest smile!”.  Max sends photos of encouraging pics he draws calling for prayers for her out on instagram.  His fifth grade friends are praying for this little love.  Talk about amazing–fifth grade boys praying for a baby that’s just a few months old fighting cancer!  Tell me that doesn’t do your heart some good! And the faith questions that came from this made their faith muscles even stronger.  It made all of ours stronger! Watching Patrick and Sara go through this and the boys seeing this amazing family love and pray and look to God has also connected them even closer to humanity, to something bigger and stronger than them, and again–I would never take that away from them–or that yearning of theirs to help, to love, to connect, to want to heal and to support and encourage.  I will always, always, encourage that.  Because that IS WHO THEY ARE–and that is who WE are–and that is WHY WE ARE HERE. Manners, we love you, Ella, Sara, Patrick, Ava–prayers going up always.  And yes, she has the ‘tutest cheeks evva!’. Can’t wait to come and visit you all this summer!  Prepare to be hugged and kissed like crazy!!!

ten pas family

And our baby John–who is no longer a baby, but a rambunctious two year old.  This little guy was born, and it was suggested that maybe he shouldn’t be, without a complete heart. A living, breathing, super baby, just like our Ella.  The boys STILL call him Super John and yes, they STILL pray for him and thank God for him EACH and EVERY night — wish y’all could come to prayer time every night at our house.  It is quite uplifting.  Really, y’all are invited.  We’d love it.  The boys have seen pictures of surgeries, momma Gina has posted video blog posts of his giggles and smiles that have melted our hearts through the tears, and we have praised God and rejoiced — what an incredible journey of fear, trust, anxiety, faith and joy!  They have a road ahead of them, yes, but one met with sure steps because even though life is uncertain, their faith and focus is not.  And our family is so blessed to have been able to be a part of this story of love as well.  Super John and his family.  Another gigantic miracle. Just typing through all of these stories I have tears streaming down my face–such incredible blessings and miracles. Kyle, Gina, Abby, Caleb, and Super John–we love you so–and continued prayers for your journey!

Max and Otto

And then there’s this little guy.  His mommy is one of my sisters by heart.  The boys and I threw a baby shower for her, and due to our silly sport’s schedules, we had to throw it very early–and it’s a good thing we did–because baby Otto decided to come very early.  He gave his mommy and daddy and big brother lots of scares and even got an ambulance ride to the hospital for his second stay.  The nurses named him “Mighty Mouse” because he was so small, but so very fierce.  The boys never got to go with me to see him during his hospital stays as he was susceptible to catching anything with his fragile little lungs–but they sure loved this little boy and his big brother and this family.  Griffyn knew that this was the baby in Jess’s tummy.  He also knew that God would make him better–and that his brother Ross needed a big bag of Skittles.  That was absolutely necessary.  The boys thought Otto needed a super soft stuffed little lion to keep him comfy in his crib in the hospital.  That was also vitally essential.  And Jess, well, G thought Jess needed lip gloss.  Baby Otto is all over the place now–and the boys still fawn all over him.  Ross is the best big brother ever and Jess and Ben are the proud, grateful, loving parents of two bustling boys.  So many miracles.  The world is full of them.  All we have to do is stop and breathe them in.  My boys have held them, touched them, and continue to love and pray for them.  There are so many, many more.  Countless more in so many of you.  I am not leaving any one out intentionally as we love and are blessed by you ALL–so very–so very, very blessed..

And I will digress and say to all of you–and those we haven’t even mentioned–God’s got this–we love you, we pray for you always, and God’s got this!

last day of school and Mollys grad party May 2012 046

And  in all these lessons, experiences, prayers through struggle, I don’t think it puts too much of a burden on our children.  In fact, I believe the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.  I believe it only makes them STRONGER!!!  It gives them choices, voices, and enables them to act.  They are not helpless nor are they stagnant.  One of my most favorite songs is “With My Own Two Hands” by Ben Harper (you may recognize it from the “Curious George” soundtrack–sung by Ben Harper and Jack Johnson.)  We actually have the words to this song written in huge letters on poster board on our front door. It’s a reminder in all of our comings and going that we can–always–make a difference!  We can move and we can chose to make a difference!

With My Own Two Hands

I can change the world

With my own two hands

Make it a better place

With my own two hands

Make it a kinder place

With my own two hands, with my own, with my own two hands.

I can make peace on earth

With my own two hands

I can clean up the earth

With my own two hands

I can reach out to you

With my own two hands, with my own, with my own two hands.

I’m going to make it a brighter place

With my own two hands

I’m going to make it a safer place

With my own two hands

I’m going to help the human race

With my own two hands, with my own, with my own two hands.

I can hold you

With my own two hands

I can comfort you

With my own two hands

But you’ve got to use

Use your own two hands, use your own, use your own two hands.

With our own, with our own two hands.

With my own, with my own, two hands.

And even if, through struggle, things don’t go well, we know we will be okay.  That’s the other incredible value of teaching your kids and letting them go through, and allowing them to see, struggles and adversity with you.  No matter what, you will be okay.  Even if the end result IS negative, even if the end result IS something bad, you will be okay.  Because, here’s the thing, our HAPPINESS is NOT BASED on our CIRCUMSTANCES.  Nope, it’s not.  Just because you or someone else may be going through a rough time, doesn’t mean you or that person can not be happy.  Sure, it’s hard, it’s darn right trying, but it’s not impossible.  Hard, negative, trying, bad times–doesn’t equate with unhappy.  Happiness is a soul thing, not a state of affairs thing.  And maybe that’s where this momma and I differ.  So, I’m not afraid if my kids encounter unpleasantries.  I’m not afraid if they see them.  I’m not afraid if they step right into a pile of negative–because, you know what?  It’s going to happen.  I want them to be in tune to what’s going on around them.  I want them to have empathy and hearts that want to heal and help.  It’s not a burden that’s too great for them to bear.  It would hurt them more to walk away.

we rise

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2 thoughts on “In Defense Of Struggle…

  1. Angie, you are amazing. Thank you for this uplifting post. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You are an incredible woman, mom, sister, and friend. Your boys make our hearts super happy. Big hugs to the Mitchell crew. We sure do love you. See you soon. 🙂 With my own two hands and then some 🙂 LOVE it!!!!

  2. P.S.
    Big HUGS to Max the magnificent. Kids will never stop being cruel (adults too for that matter), but having positive ways to deal it helps ease the pain. I am so proud of you as a parent and proud of my nephews. You all give me hope in this crazy crazy world. Thanks for letting your love lights shine. It is much needed and much appreciated. Always water the positive seeds. 🙂 Love you.

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