Oh, and then throw it away.
When I was four years old, I got my left ring finger stuck in a belt sander. It sanded off my finger nail, and much of the skin beneath it. My mom made woodcrafts, and I’d been “helping” her while she sanded something down, cleaning off the sawdust from the table, the floor, and in a not-so-brilliant move, the powered-on sander. The cloth I was using to dust got stuck in the rotating belt, and my finger quickly followed. My mom turned it off as quickly as she could, and as tears rolled down my eyes, her soft, strong arms carried me from the basement up to the living room. We sat in the big pink chair in our living room for what felt like an eternity, my mom rocking me back and forth, holding a cloth to my hand, me crying, and eventually, her crying as well.
That’s the kind of mom she was, and still is. She felt my pain so deeply, it caused her pain as well. I’ll never forget that day, and the intense love I felt as my mom wept over me. I remember thinking that I’d never felt safer.
How to guide your children without controlling them
We encourage our children to strive for achievement. We try to shield them from the dangers of the outside world. We're concerned for their emotional well-being. What's wrong with that? As my friend Barb passionately says, "It's our God-given responsibility to care for and guide our children." As Proverbs says, "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck" (1:8-9).
But are there times when the best thing we can do for our children is back off? Dr. Grace Ketterman, a Christian pediatrician and psychiatrist, states that "your most important task as a mother is to enable your child to gradually become independent." But how?
Kids mess up. Guess what: It’s not your fault.
Recently while cleaning out one of my dresser drawers, I found one of the many “contracts” my husband, Gene, and I made with our daughter Katie to encourage better behavior and family relationships. Katie’s high school years were turbulent. I remember thinking one morning after she left for school: I wish we could have one morning that we don’t fight before she leaves.
Of course, I was the primary one in conflict with her. Her sisters tried to steer clear so not to upset her and be on the receiving end of a verbal jab. Gene didn’t clash with her like I did. In an effort to be a good mom, I tried to talk with her and pull out her thoughts and reasoning for whatever not-so-good decision she had made. I became her safe place to process her messy emotions in her messy way. I did my best to help her unpack it all and make sense of it. But often we clashed—big time.
When your husband’s companionship doesn’t cut it, female friendship does
I’ve been married for almost two years, and I finally made it out of the honeymoon phase this past month. The first sign I had made my exit was when I got annoyed that my husband, Jeremy, stole all of my covers the other night.
The second sign was when I started yearning for more girlfriends in my life. For almost two years, I was perfectly content to spend every waking moment with my husband (only a slight exaggeration). For the most part, my social needs were met, or so I thought. What actually happened, though, was that I ignored my need for deep, encouraging friendships with other women. As a result, I’ve become pretty lonely.
After college, I moved away from my closest friends for graduate school. After graduate school, I married Jeremy. Now two years later, I am desperately thirsty for a friend—and not just any friend. I want a friend who knows my deepest thoughts without me even telling her; a friend that will confront me when I’m not honoring God in my life; a friend I can encourage and come to know just as deeply as she knows me.
How one woman has learned to cope with raising five children—alone.
Somehow I missed the single-parent swimming lessons. I feel like someone just picked me up and threw me in the deep end—then threw five children on top of me! I’m a pretty strong swimmer, but I’d love someone to blow the whistle for a signal break so I can go sit in the hot tub.
This isn’t the pool I’d planned on jumping into. I don’t know if the pool analogy works for you, but I think it works well as a metaphor for my daily life of drowning in exhaustion, work, laundry, parenting, and paper. Occasionally I get a gulp of fresh air, but then I have to dive back down.
My body is tired of paddling. My mind is murky from too many decisions and too little sleep. My emotions are numb from trying to carry my children’s pain and heartache as my own. My spiritual life is in an SOS state as I continually throw my hands up for help. So how do I get out of the pool? Or better yet—to the lounging chairs?
Riding the waves of life . . . together
Dark waves swell and roll all around us. Our two-person kayak bobs haplessly in the mighty Pacific Ocean. To our right nearly 4,000 miles separate us from Japan. To our left 3,000-foot cliffs jut from the water.
But we're smiling. We can't help it. Seventeen years prior to this day we excitedly jumped into a marriage adventure—and it's been exactly that.
Nothing, however, prepared us for the challenge of paddling 16 miles in the rugged ocean. Couples flock to Hawaii's Garden Isle seeking romance and adventure. We hope for both when we sign up to kayak along Kauai's Na Pali Coast on our anniversary.
"A lot of folks call the tandem kayaks you're sitting in 'divorce boats,' " says our guide, Adam, a little too late as we bob in a group offshore. "They're the ultimate test of a relationship."
Sexual chemistry and infatuation can cloud your judgment of your man’s character. Here’s how to avoid disillusioned dating.
We know it sounds like a cliché, but in this case it’s true: single women are often initially attracted to qualities in a man that become problematic in marriage. Most won’t realize this until the fog of infatuation lifts. How can you single women be sure this won’t happen to you?
Why we sign up for it anyway
In my case, though, there’s been no handing him back to the parents. For the past few months, my grandson has been in my husband’s and my primary care. We do a lot less “jacking him up”—at least not before bedtime.
Just when our nest was nearly empty, we’ve been thrust back into the days of preschool artwork, trips to the playground, and stories before bed. It’s the best.
What isn’t the best is not knowing how long we’ll be doing this. Not because I’m anxious to get back to my life as I knew it. And not because I mind answering 473 questions a day for an inquisitive five year old. What’s difficult about not knowing is the thought of having to give him back. I’m crazy in love with this child, and in so many ways, I wish I could raise him as my own.
But I’m not his mother, and my husband isn’t his father; we’re his grandparents. This means we get the responsibilities of Mom and Dad without the authority to determine what happens next—and when.
Staff and readers weigh in.
We asked staff and advisers from Christianity Today’s discipleship resources to share some of the wisdom their fathers have given them through the years.
It’s difficult to turn boys to men. What to do about those who are M.I.A.
By her analysis, he has simply decided to remain a “pre-adult,” stuck between adolescence and adulthood. After reading her book it’s easy to understand why. In a nutshell, women, who graduate college in greater percentages (earning more degrees by a ratio of nearly 3:2) and with higher GPAs than men on average, are quickly making up ground in our current “knowledge economy,” which places a premium on educational credentials. While young women have been energized by historic, unprecedented opportunities for a self-supporting career in the workplace, young men have been gradually shrinking from adult responsibilities such as marriage, job, and family in favor of entertainment and diversion.
I was forced to decide if I truly could be grateful in all circumstances.
With virtually all of our material possessions destroyed and damaged (my neighbor literally gave me the coat off her back), we checked into a hotel. At dinner that first night, my husband looked at each one of us. With a catch in his voice, he said, “Everything I ever needed, I still have around this table.”
In that moment, I understood what it means to be thankful in all circumstances.
Two weeks later, we moved into a fully-furnished apartment with a short-term lease. All we brought with us—our family of five—was a laundry basket of clothes.
Stand in the gap for the next generation.
Even now, there are things I need to hear from my dad.
I spent last week at the beach in Destin, Florida, with my family. Five days of sitting on a beach chair in the sun, watching my nieces and littlest sister (and husband and brother-in-law) play in the sand and tide. I made some progress in one of the novels I took, but most of my books stayed in my backpack. The week was a time for catching up with my dad and his wife and daughters, for eating fresh seafood, for throwing the Frisbee on occasion, for seeing the rushing and retreating expanse my father has made.
One mother’s view on towing the line with her children
Last week I listened to an interview with Amy Chua, author of a new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua’s parents were Chinese immigrants, and by her own admission, they raised her according to the strict, highly regimented “Chinese way.” Chua has come under fire for raising her own two daughters similarly. Throughout their childhoods, they have spent countless hours each day practicing piano or violin. They’ve been prohibited from watching television and attending sleepovers. Chua also admits to using tactics such as berating them and doling out harsh punishments as a way of motivating them to do their best. Once she even denounced her daughter’s handmade birthday card, saying, “I reject this.” Chua believes that parents need to tow the line, sometimes in drastic, memorable ways, to fight off children’s natural bent toward complacency. Her critics say she takes this too far.
I happened to be throwing up at the time.
We have funny ideas about romance. We think of it as candlelight, being showered in gifts, and a stolen kiss. That may be sort-of romantic, but at my age those things have worn kind of thin. And I think they have for a lot of people.
Take Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, for instance. He’s probably the most romantic figure in fiction. Women hold him up as the ideal that they’re looking for. But what is he like? For most of the story he’s cold, distant, and insulting. He certainly never does the candlelight and gift thing. He doesn’t even steal a kiss! But he’s a man of action. When it comes right down to it, he moves heaven and earth for the one he loves at great cost and inconvenience to himself.
Shaking free from the bonds of expectation
I recently started watching Friday Night Lights, a show about the inner workings of a small Texas town and its obsession with football. The show centers on the high school football coach, Eric Taylor and his wife, Tami, as they—sometimes unknowingly—disciple the inhabitants of this small town in football and in life.
I’m only on the first season, but I’m already struck by Eric and Tami’s marriage. In fact, it might be the healthiest portrayal of marriage I’ve seen on TV . . . ever. In a sitcom world of oblivious, lazy husbands and manipulative wives, it’s refreshing to see a marriage in which husband and wife are equally supportive and kind toward each other.
I also appreciate that this fictional couple isn’t romanticized, but they’re healthy. Eric and Tami grapple through issues together. They unpack these worries at the end of the day, giving each other advice and grace as they go. And even in the thick drama of a television show, their lives aren’t flashy. In fact, sometimes the occasional mundane doldrums of marriage are so realistic that I wonder if I’m watching a real couple.
I never expected to be a parent to both my children and my mother.
The term “sandwich generation” is used to describe middle-aged adults (primarily 45- to 54-year-olds) who have elderly parents and dependent children. Based on this, I’m living a triple-decker club life. With a toddler grandson, a middle-schooler, and three college-age adults living under one roof with us, plus my 70-something mother in a nursing home 15 miles away, and my in-laws across the street, my husband and I are firmly pressed in on all sides.
According to an AARP report, we’re not alone. Forty-four percent of people our age have at least one living parent and one child under age 21. Approximately 7 percent live in a household containing three generations—oneself, one’s parents or in-laws, and one’s children. Parents my age are often paying for college expenses. At the same time, they may be footing the bill for significant medical expenses, running errands, and transporting aging parents to frequent doctor visits. Longer life spans (77.8 years is the average life expectancy) and couples waiting later to start their families has created a care-giving scenario that few families are prepared to manage.
I know. I’m one of those families.
Welcome to the Kyria blog!This blog is designed specifically for thoughtful, influential women who want more from their faith and who want to make a difference in the lives of others. We strongly feel God's claim on our lives and God's call to exercise influence in ministry to the body of Christ, primarily through the local church.
Kyria gets its name from a word in the original language of the Bible. In Greek it means "honored woman." The epistle of 2 John, for instance, is addressed to one such "kyria," translated there as "chosen lady." You may recognize the similarity of this word to "kyrie," which is the masculine form of the same word, usually translated "lord."
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The funny thing about families: Even if you're apart for awhile, when you get back together, it's like no time at all has lapsed.
Recently, my niece Jennifer graduated college. She was the first in our family to do so, and we all went to my sister's house in California to celebrate.
Dad looked the same, just a few inches shorter. He still drapes his legs over the side of a chair when he sits. I cried when I saw him, and I couldn't keep from staring at him and at my brothers and my sister. It was all so surreal. It had been 10 years since we'd all been together.