Big Families, Children, Christianity, Daughters, Faith, Follow Jesus, The Act of Motherhood

Life has Been Rozie


Dear Little Island Girl with Big Dreams,

When I first heard the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short,” I felt a little lump in my throat. It was a reminder that there would be an end to my daily mommying to you, my first baby.

Well, that day has come.

Today we reach that fork in the road and the years don’t only feel short, they feel condensed into this weird blackhole of life called “the past.” As I think about this, God whispers something comforting in my ear that seems almost a faint foreshadowing of the words we all want to hear someday in Heaven: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” I look at how far you’ve come and know that God has done an amazing work already in you and I am honored to have played even a little part in that.

As a mom, I fell short more often that I would have liked. I didn’t do everything right. I apologized often for my shortcomings and I’ve learned that it takes an infinite amount of grace to live more Christ-like each day.

The days and months and years went by, and as you grew into a young lady, something miraculous happened right before my eyes. You started to reflect Christ too. You offered me grace and comfort when I felt exhausted and weak. You gave me hugs when I needed them yet didn’t even know it. You held my hand in church when I needed a hand.

I cannot even put in words how thankful I am that God gave me the kind of mommy-heart that felt called to put Him at the center–albeit in my clunky-I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing-Jesus-take-the-wheel kinda way. He showed Himself through my motherhood experience.  He is kindness. He is grace. He is honor. He is just. He is faithful. He is love.

Therein lies my hope for you today. I want you to know that as you start this amazing college journey of learning, discovery, and growth, you will soar and you will dip. You will smile and you will cry. You will be happy and sometimes you will feel lonely. Yes, sometimes you will even fail–but He will not. Today, I leave you in good hands–the best hands actually. You are in God’s.

Tonight we will celebrate a communion service together and end with cheers and words of encouragement, with hugs and kisses and more hugs. Then I will turn around and walk away leaving a piece of my heart in a college dorm half way around the world and I will lean on our awesome God and trust that His plan for you is greater than mine, and it’s going to be amazing!

I love you Rozie. Sing to the Lord!

Love,

Mom

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Big Families, Children, Christianity, Daughters, Faith, Follow Jesus, Guam, Prayer, Ranting & Raving About Island Living, The Act of Motherhood

A Labor of Love

If you know me, you may have heard of how my second daughter practically came out running and hasn’t stopped since, or how I was induced with my fourth, sent my husband to get the other kids from school while I waited to have even one labor pain and proceeded to give birth, all within a fifteen minute span! I’ve told my stories many times over. I’m referring to the retelling of the “labor day” stories. We all do it–rehash the blow by blow of each experience with new moms, old moms, moms-to-be (albeit with small omissions to save them from sheer panic).

I know when I tell about the birth of each of my five kids, I get quite animated. Arms flail, voice quickens, eyes widen, volume escalates–and then the sigh of relief. Done. Some long and exhausting. Others short and, well, exhausting. I had all natural labors and deliveries which is quite the norm here on Guam because local women supposedly have “easier births.” Pshhhh! But I, like most women, enjoy telling the stories mostly because it is a Herculean accomplishment that is in the past.

Now that my oldest daughter is on the brink of her sixteenth birthday and my youngest is almost eight, I find myself reminiscing about those years bringing new lives into the world. (It doesn’t help that I’m also listening to soothing French cafe-type music that just brings tears to my eyes anyway).

Kids3 Kids2

If you’ve raised a child for any amount of time, you know one fact for sure. “Labor” doesn’t end once that little bundle of blessing arrives in the world. We labor every day to take care of our babies. We labor to provide for them, to keep them healthy and relatively clean. We labor to teach them and guide them. Along the way we also make many mistakes and we labor to become better moms. We tweak things. We figure things out. We watch others. Some of us pray and lean on God’s grace.

No, we don’t get constant applause and thank yous. We don’t get a 15% tip on the table after we’ve cleared it for the 6,402nd time. We don’t get a stellar review on our annual performance report. We don’t even get paid leave! In this season of my life; however, I’ve come to the realization that I spent more time than I should have on looking at the “don’ts” of motherhood.

I am profoundly grateful for the “dos” these days. I do get to see these young people develop into creative, young individuals. I do get to share in their dreams and hopes. I do appreciate the many lessons I’ve learned through the tough times that inevitably come with raising five kids with very different personalities. Most especially, I do get to experience a little bit of what Jesus did when He walked the earth. Agape love. Given but not always reciprocated. The truest “labor of love.” And this has drawn me so much closer to the Lord. How could I not be thankful for that?

Happy Labor Day fellow Mamas! Go ahead, rehash those stories that are such a part of our motherhood story. And let God be a part of your Labor Day because He made the biggest, sacrificial labor of all and continues to pour out all we need to refresh and be ready to labor on in our roles as mamas. Be Blessable!

Children, Daughters, Diet, Guam, Health, The Act of Motherhood

‘T’ is for ‘Too Far’ or ‘Terribly Tired’

Two of my daughters decided to take me up on the invitation to go on a late afternoon jog. We weren’t 20 yards from our starting point when my youngest daughter Gia started to complain. (I already expected this of course because I know her all too well).

I was able to keep her motivated for a whole mile, but she soon started asking her sister and I for a piggy back ride! We humored her for the next half-mile, but when she realized that we had a steep uphill walk to get back to the car she all but lost it!

She begged and pleaded to quit. She asked if we could hitchhike, call Daddy to pick us up, call a cab, anything!

I realized that this was so much of the parenting experience with each of our kids. We walk beside them and encourage. We walk behind them and push them uphill. We walk ahead of them and show them it can be done.

And just when the words “I can’t do it!” made it past her lips, I had a choice to make. I could piggy back her and save her from having to do the work. I could tell her to “suck it up” and trudge ahead. Or I could point out a destination and say, “Look, I bet you can make it to that lamp post!” or “I’m sure you can make it to that sign!”

We can break the big goals down with them so they can experience small successes! This is true with just about anything in their lives, whether it is athletics, academics or even finding authentic faith. Our role is to lead them, one step at a time.

I pointed to this street sign and I rooted for her as she huffed and puffed uphill and of course, Gia translated this particular sign to be a “T” laying on it’s side, symbolic for the phrases “too far” or “terribly tired!”

And that’s when our job gets really hard. When they think they can’t take another step. When they want to quit because they don’t believe they can make it. What then?

I haven’t always handled this juncture very well. I’ve often been the “suck it up” parent I mentioned before. These days, I opt for a softer response. A hand on a shoulder that says, “I know you can do this,” usually while I’m praying silently that we can get through it with the least amount of drama. Guess what? The softer response wins hands down.

She made it to the finish line (our car) and assured me that she wouldn’t be attempting that journey again. I think she will join me sometime in the future–simply because she has tasted the success of reaching the finish line, one agonizing step at a time.

You didn’t hear much about Talia here. She did very well. She even volunteered to piggy back Gia to shut her up:-) I love these kids!

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Big Families, Children, Christianity, Daughters, Faith, Prayer, The Act of Motherhood

Sanctification–A Beautiful Heartache

Cello AloneWhenever I hear a song with a cello, the world stops. My mind wanders to a place that I can’t describe as anything but a “beautiful heartache.” There is something soul-stirring about the deep, resonating sound of the strings that, in the hands of the right musician, can take you through the depths of sadness and despair as well as the heights of hope and inspiration! Pretty amazing for a single stringed instrument.

It hit me recently, that the process of “sanctification” or being “set apart by God” somehow “sounds” like a cello. I know–“Say what?” Let me explain. Actually, listen to this so you can understand the sound I’m talking about, then read on! I am raising four daughters and one little Prince Charming. I know that might conjur up images of tambourines and kazoos more than cellos, but humor me. Two of my oldest daughters are teenagers. Yes, I accept your sympathy. My third daughter is standing at the rickety doorstep of teen years as well. Yup! Scary.

Within my hormone-drenched house is something even larger. We are Christians. That puts a completely different spin on the whole experience of raising teens in a world that is so painfully opposite of Christian values. If you are not a believer, you might wonder what I mean. Here are some examples. We drive past a giant billboard ad from Pepsi which shows a bunch of young people partying with the slogan, “Live for today!” Although the bible does say, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” in Matthew 6:34, it clearly is not a recommendation to live today by throwing your hands up in the air and waving them like you just don’t care. Of course the ad prompts some questioning and discussion which may or may not lead to some pretty cool “Aha Moments” when my kids realize that the ad is meant to sell soda, not to be a reliable guide for their lives. Such moments might also be met with brick walls. The kind that say, “Seriously Mom! It’s just an ad.” Sanctification–it’s about having a godly perspective of the world even when it’s not easy.

Another example would be music. Music is so widespread and such an ingrained part of culture that it is difficult for young people (and many adults) to discern what is good to listen to or not good. I, like many believers, often lean on Phillipians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” So that is the yardstick by which we can judge what music we should listen to. It is definitely work bringing up children in an environment that has kind of given up on what is righteous and good. One of my kids asked me why President Obama and his wife like Beyonce so much and hold her up as a roll model for American children when she sings about really inappropriate things. The answer: Because even the President and the first lady are humans. They make mistakes. Sanctification–it’s about growing in the knowledge that only our Heavenly Father is infallible.

How are these experiences like the sound of a cello? As Christians, we are called to be “Christ-like.” This means that we should, even if it is a slow process, turn away from sin and grow in our faith. Sometimes we have to make choices that seem painful at the moment. Sometimes we have arguments over what is right and wrong. Sometimes we cry over relationships that must be ended because they are not bringing us closer to God. There is a depth of sorrow that accompanies sanctification, and if you are just looking at that single moment when hard choices have to be made, it might look like sadness or loss. Then, with God’s infinite grace, there will be shining moments, when one daughter encourages the other with Scripture that helped her get through a tough situation. Or when your little boy insists that he wants to pray and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins and come into his heart and he wants to do it “right now.” There is the sweet, smiling melody of a child visibly battling her own will to say “No!” and choosing to obey because God would want her to do that.

Paul Washer said, “Because sanctification is progressive, you will spend the greater part of your life chasing other things. And those other things will leave you empty and that is why ‘the why’ of trials.” I know that the song doesn’t end as long as we are here on earth. But that’s okay, because as long as this song, that resonates with deep, sorrowful lows, offers hope of beautiful and glorious things to come, I will continue to be grateful for all of it.

What challenges do you have as a parent, to raise your kids according to Scripture, in a world that throws some ugly curveballs?

 

Children, Christianity, Daughters, Faith, Prayer, The Act of Motherhood

Go Ahead, Take Off Your Mask! Encouragement to Teens from a Former Mask Fashionista

Over the past year, my teen daughters have been immersed in a theme at church, at school, and at home. It is extremely relevant for their age because they are maturing and figuring out who they are and how they fit in to the world at large. So here’s the big question that’s been asked of them: “Are you wearing a mask?” Teachers and pastors have asked the question over and over again. In other words, who are you being right now and are you a different “you” depending upon who you’re with and where you are at? The deep conviction that my girls feel each time and undoubtedly, many other kids feel, has been overwhelming sometimes.

Today, one of my daughters shared with me how sad she felt about watching many teens rise up and acknowledge their conviction before a guest pastor speaking at chapel about removing their masks and coming clean before the Lord. She wasn’t sad that they stood up. She was sad about what happened after they walked out the doors of the chapel. Instantaneously, the same sarcasm, vulgarity and mockery started up once again. This is a Christian school and some of these kids profess Christianity. She was dumbfounded that people she thought she knew so well could seem humbled and honest one moment, then turn right back to their same old ways minutes later. Mask off. Mask on. Or did the mask ever come off because maybe it was just a new mask being put on to “look” like a mask coming off?!?
I really struggled with words of wisdom to share with her and had to think, pray and open my Bible, because she said something right at the end of our discussion that really struck a chord in my heart.
“I’m so disappointed with my generation.” She believes that so many are no longer able to humble themselves and take off their masks because, as she put it, “It seems we might be able to take off one mask, but then there is another and another. Then there is a thick layer of make-up that is permanently fused to our faces!” In essence, she is saying that she doesn’t see hope for her generation of young people to come wholly and completely to the alter of the Lord. I think she is worried about her capacity to do so as well, if so many around her can’t seem to do so.
Here’s what I have to say about this and to any other young person who may read this at some point and be wondering if they too are hypocrites without any hope.
Dear ________,
 
We all wear masks. Some wear more masks than others and some have a harder time removing those masks than others, but we all have them. Here’s the thing, Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” The Lord sees right through all those layers. We are only hiding from people and from ourselves. If we elevate that fear we have of revealing our true selves above God Himself, we are making people, ourselves and our fear our idols.
 
Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I can just imagine how Paul must have felt writing this to the Romans. He was on a mission to point people to a Savior who can conquer fear. His message is as truthful and timely today–to you and your entire generation, as it was to the whole of Rome. Obediently offer your whole self up to God. Not just your “inside-chapel-self” or your “in-front-of-mom-and-dad-self,” but your 24/7 self! “Do not conform to the pattern of this world–” I know, it’s hard. Peer pressure is intense at this age. It’s way easier to talk the talk and walk the walk of your classmates than it is to follow the righteous path of perfection in Jesus. But you are not taking off any masks–not a single one, if you aren’t being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
This renewal comes in the form of BELIEF. If you truly know and believe the sacrifice Jesus made for your sins and for every sin you will ever make. If you have asked for forgiveness of those sins and have a repentant heart that urges you to turn away from your sin…If you believe that Jesus died and rose again to pay the price for your salvation…those masks mean nothing. They have no power over you. You don’t have to struggle with removing layer after layer. They will begin to fall right off.
 
Don’t despair. Paul also wrote in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for each and every mask-wearing, sin-loving, vulgarity-speaking child, teen, adult, man or woman. 
 
So don’t give up on your friends, or your entire generation, or yourself. Paul was offering the hope that is in Christ alone to all who heard his message. This includes you _______. So allow Him to take off your masks.
 
With All My Love & All God’s Love,
 
Mom (A former mask fashionista)

 Masquerade Mask

Big Families, BTW, Have You Seen My Head?, Children, Daughters, The Act of Motherhood

About Them Drama Kids…

Drama Kids
Drama Kids

LADY, YOU ARE CRAZY!

So my four drama queens just finished a grueling schedule of rehearsals culminating with six back-to-back performances of “Raise Your Voice”, a play inspired by the movie “Sister Act”. Whew! Talk about exhaustion. Some people, especially those who watched me trek the kids back and forth to almost daily rehearsals for two months, might say, “Lady, you are crazy! Why would you put yourself and your kids through that?!?” Here is the rhyme behind my reason.

My kids are a little “different” in a funny, yet intelligent, can’t-quite-describe-them kinda’ way! Where do such people gravitate? The THEATER of course! Joining a play gives my kookie kids a creative outlet. The two older girls have been doing theater for nearly half their lives already and the younger two girls just took their first steps into it with this play. I’ll admit that the schedule took its toll on my family as we already had a busy schedule. Church on Sundays was non-negotiable, but we had to alternate the other days we attended. That was really the most difficult decision.

THE “C” WORD

My eight-year-old was the first to crumble under the pressure. “I can’t take it! I want to quit!” she exclaimed after the first two weeks of rehearsals. That’s when I hauled out the “c” word that will forever be a part of their lives as they grow up into caring, successful adults. COMMITMENT. Ahhhhh!!! Over the course of the next several weeks, once a complaint or moan started to surface, it was easily quelled by the mere mention of the “c” word. They knew if they didn’t tread lightly, it could easily turn into a full-blown mommy-lecture! [shudder]

Aside from learning about commitment, they also dabbled in time management. The older girls, especially, had to pace their loads of homework and other extracurriculars had to sit on the back-burner some weeks. We managed.

They also learned a lot about people. They were exposed to kids and adults from all walks of life because the play was open to the community at large. It was great for them to see a more diverse group than they typically do at their private school. They made some incredible friends for sure!

WHAT IT TAUGHT THIS MAMA

The experience also taught me something. Every time we participate in theater, I learn to let go just a little bit. I learned that a kid might hate grueling rehearsals to the nth degree. He or she might want to cry when a director yells or a cast member gets the part she really wanted. She might also get very hungry because she didn’t pack an extra snack like her mom told her to–three or four times. There is a richness in the experience of theater that I could never offer my kids on my own. They will learn to communicate, to accept disappointment, to be inspired by some and be an inspiration to others. They will learn that all the “commitment” pays off on that stage when the audience is moved to tears, laughing hysterically, or sees themselves in a character on the stage. And this wise mama knew all along that no lecture would be necessary once each would-be-quiter walked out on stage with the lights shining and audience waiting in anticipation because that is the payoff–SHOWTIME!

And that little dumpling who pouted and insisted that the rehearsals were torture? She was the first to say, “So when is the next play?” Hmph!

 

Children, Christianity, Daughters, Guam, Ranting & Raving About Island Living, The Act of Motherhood

Modest is Hottest on Guam!

Maybe it’s the feeling of impending doom with four daughters of my own who, in five years, will be 19, 17, 15, and 13. It might be the baggage I carry from my own teen years. It could be that today’s cultural icons for teens quite frankly scare me! It’s likely a combination of all these things that makes me whole-heartedly welcome the message that Christian musical artist Jaime Jamgochian is bringing for girls on Guam.

Her ministry is called “Modest is Hottest” and her message is that today’s young ladies can still be cute and fashionable while not giving in to cultural norms. Girls can say, “I’m confident with who I am and how I look because God made me just the way He planned.”

Jaime’s hope is to promote a positive self-image in girls. We all know that there is a lot of room for positive growth for girls on our little island and all over the world really.

Jaime’s message and her music should be an inspiration to moms, daughters and single young women across our beautiful island. We don’t need to conform. We can look great while being modest–because MODEST IS HOTTEST!