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Posts Tagged ‘Mothers Day’

This morning I get in my car and decide it’s a twenty one pilots kind of day. How do I know that? See that guy in the middle of the photo? That’s how I know.

Yeah, I know I’m supposed to be composing fiction. I have a book due to my publisher in a few months. But sometimes a different kind of writing is in order—like the day before Mothers Day, a day when I’m reflecting on important things like influence and legacy and sheer teeth-gritting faith. Let’s see if I can pull those things together with a few snap-shot stories.

About thirty-three years ago, I was in my late twenties, angsting over wanting to have a child, having trouble trusting God with His will. I was taking a fertility pill called Clomid, and I remember one morning dropping one of those expensive tablets. It rolled under the refrigerator, I couldn’t reach it, and I sat down on the floor and burst into tears. How was I going to get pregnant if I couldn’t take my last dose of the month? Anybody ever been there?

A couple of years later (after the miracle happened and my beautiful baby boy was born in the same hospital I was born in), I was lying on my sofa, asking myself a super-serious question. If I’d known this baby was going to eat and cry (and not sleep) twenty-four-seven for six months—with no end in sight—would I have cried over that pill under the refrigerator? No kidding. Ryan was finally down for a nap, I knew I needed sleep, and I couldn’t sleep because my body wouldn’t relax, knowing he was going to wake up and howl any minute. Anybody ever been there?

Five years later, I get a phone call from Cottage Hill Christian School. Ryan’s in serious trouble. His kindergarten class was in the sanctuary practicing for graduation, and one of the custodians interrupted, hopping mad because some imp kept unplugging his vacuum cleaner. Yeah. Funny now. Pretty embarrassing at the time. Anybody ever been there?

Not long after that, I’m singing in the choir at Dauphin Way Baptist Church, trusting my kids to the care of our wonderful friend Rita Catchot during the service. I can see Ryan lying full-out on a pew, apparently asleep (but at least quiet) during the sermon. On the way home, he proceeds to relate the entire contents of the sermon (which included the plan of salvation) to his dad and ask if he can give his heart to Jesus. A year or so later he casually informs us he’s told his sister she needs to get saved too, and explained to her how she can do that. So she did. I hope you have had that experience. Very cool.

And then middle school. Ye gods and little fishes! Can we just skip that period? There’s the rotten raccoon tail nailed to a bedroom wall. There’s the arrow shot across our backyard fence, sailing into the open window of an apartment—thank God the only thing it hit was a mattress. There’s a very clever and cruel poem written to lampoon a science teacher. A cake dumped out of a second-floor church window onto a car below. A dive off a Tennessee riverside cliff into six feet of water. My prayer life took on a certain level of desperation laced with disbelief. Really, God? Is this your idea of a joke?

High school brings more hair-raising adventures. Car wrecks. Crazy girlfriends. A laser pointer (apparently a weapon) deployed in a basketball game. “Borrowed” school keys. Expulsion from Christian school. Public school locker room fights. Hacking the family computer. We try homeschooling, which becomes a blur of reading and discussing some magnificent classic literature, fighting our way through trigonometry and chemistry (both of which ultimately require tutors—thank the Lord for Sharon Whatley and Mike South), me completing and publishing five novels, and taking some truly wonderful field trips together. Then, to our relief, Cottage Hill Christian Academy allows Ryan to complete his senior year and graduate. Cottage Hill Baptist Church, what a ministry you had to our family!

And still the struggle wasn’t over. I’d love for Ryan to tell this story from his perspective, but from my side it looked like pure and unadulterated rebellion. Testing every boundary to see what would stick, what would hold fast, what would remain true. My most horrific memory from that period—and this was, I guess, about ten years ago—is listening to my cherished son state that he had had enough of our rules and he was off to join the army. If we wouldn’t take him to the recruiting office, he’d walk there. The irony escapes none of us, haha! And then when the army rejects him because of a kidney stone, this brilliant kid fails out of his first semester of college and loses a full scholarship—because he simply won’t go to class. The only things remotely interesting, it seems, are computer programming and history!

God intervened somehow with a series of events leading to Ryan living with his Aunt Dianne in Houston. They saved each other, and that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say—within a year he’d joined the Navy, reconnected with a high school friend named Nicole Salter (now his lovely wife), and begun to get his act together. Funny how the voluntary act of submitting to discipline is different from that imposed from the outside. You can’t convince me that God didn’t design us with free will, and you can’t convince me that He doesn’t have ultimate control over his creation. Those two things go together, intertwine, pull in a magnificent tension that our brains can’t comprehend.

Because, you see, in all the seeming chaos of mothering this difficult, insanely creative and intellectual young man, growth and shaping and preparation was going on in my own life as well as his. Nearly every day, as a public school teacher, I encounter difficult, abused, smart-alec, violent, fragile, funny, overeducated, spoiled, talented kids. I can respond and interact with a supernaturally calm confidence because a) God has walked with me through some pretty harrowing stuff and b) the truth of His Word never fails. Never. I mean that. Biblical principles hold true.

That day Ryan angrily strode out of my house, headed to somewhere in north Alabama to join the army, if I could have pictured what would happen on May 12, 2018, I might not have been so distraught. But that’s the thing. Brokenhearted infertile young woman, sleep-deprived young mom, frazzled older mom, worried mother of a prodigal…you’re not allowed to see beyond the moment. And that’s a good thing. Because things can get worse before they get better. Faith is hard.

But hang in there. Trust God and let Him hold you. Lean in.

Today Ryan is a romantic, tenderhearted husband and father, a great disciplinarian, holds down two jobs and has served his country with distinction and honor. And he gives me books and music at every opportunity. And teaches me how to safely handle a firearm. And takes me to lunch for Mothers Day.

So why twenty one pilots? About a year ago Ryan gave me an iTunes gift card (may have been last Mothers Day) and said, “Mom, you need to buy this album Blurryface. You’ll love it.” At first I didn’t. Had to listen a few times to get the lyrics and get used to the rap sections. Now I’m obsessed. It’s happy, hopeful music, with a core of faith that runs just below the surface, intelligent literary references and clever lyric construction. Most of my 60-year-old contemporaries wouldn’t like it. But my 31-year-old son understands me deeply. And when the sun is bright on a spring day and I get to meet him and his family for lunch, I drive with the volume wide open on a song with these lyrics: “She asked me, Son, when I grow old, will you buy me a house of gold? And when your father turns to stone, will you take care of me? I will make you queen of everything you see, I’ll put you on the map, I’ll cure you of disease.”

At lunch we chat with the children—Roz has brought a fuzzy stuffed kitty with red mittens she named Meow-head—and look up the poem about three little kittens who lost their mittens on a phone and read it outloud (who knew it has such a weird twist at the end?). We talk about movies and books, including the one I’m writing. I outline my current plot, ask him for his take, and he promises to think about it (he’s quite talented with suspense storylines). I’m so grateful I didn’t give in to despair and frustration in earlier years. I’m grateful that God really does work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose. I’m grateful He loves Ryan more than I do, knows him better than I do, wants his good more than I do. I’ve got a metaphorical house of gold, and I feel like the queen of everything I see.

Grateful I am. Happy Mothers Day!

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