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Dear Son

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I never imagined how much you would fill my heart with joy.

Your curiosity, laughter, compassion and smile is contagious.  You must be where the people are and you force a belly laugh when you hear us laughing because you want to join in.  You make friends wherever you go.  As we pass strangers, you hear, “Ah, que bello!  Los ojos!”  You never slow down, not wanting to miss a thing.  You are fearless as you pull the dogs tails or try to mount them like horses.

You know what you want.  Even if that means taking the butter right off the bread to eat it directly.  Or picking out your daily clothing and shoes, including your pajamas.  You never stop chatting, even as you go to sleep.

My dear son, in just a matter of months, you have made me a better person.  I am challenged to grow in my compassion, patience, authenticity and communication.  You are teaching me to slow down and see the flowers, insects, animals around me.  You are teaching me to pray as you reach out for my hand and give an enthusiastic “Amen” every time.  You are teaching me to love, to embrace, to want what is best for someone other than myself.

Thank you, my precious boy.

Love, Mama

Photo by Betsy Markwald

Come and Sit

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“Come” is the most recent command my son is learning.  With four dogs in the house, he’s grown accustomed to hearing it regularly.   He’s more liberal in using the command than obeying it.  Of course, the dogs don’t understand him but it doesn’t minimize his urgency.

The beauty is when I don’t demand that he draw near is exactly when I’ll find him cuddling up next to me as I am reading.  Throughout the day he’ll randomly wraps his little arms around my neck or grab a finger to reassure that I’m here and not going anywhere.  These fleeting moments in my day render me speechless.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  What I love most about the cuddles with my son is that they’re unprompted.  I’m in his presence and he’ll just initiate the hug, the finger grab, the face hold.

Why then is it so hard for me to take the same unabashed approach with My Father?  He is always present.  He desires to give me the rest that I so long for though seem to search for everywhere else.

As my son reaches for me today, may I be reminded to seek comfort and peace from My Father.

Amen.

 

Hermit or Hero?

Hero or HermitIn 2010, I moved to a new country, one with the highest murder rate per capita in the world.  Not exactly my vision of where I would raise a family one day.

Years later, I began teaching at a local high school.  Impacted by the increasing violence, I wanted to challenge my students to be part of the solution.  So I polled my twelfth graders, “How many of you would help a victim on the street?”  Less than 4 students out of 100 said they might help.  If the victim was a family member, the poll results flip-flopped.

It was much easier for me to pose the question than to answer it.  I didn’t want to admit that it’s more comfortable to be a hermit than a hero.  And now, as a parent, I must face my lack of courage more honestly.  I can no longer do one thing and say another.  I have a real and daily audience now.  And I want to teach him to be courageous.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Will you?

We’ve Been Robbed!

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As the youngest of six, I grew up hearing stories often enough that it was hard to remember which ones I wasn’t even around for.  One of which was when my mom was walking my brother home from school with a classmate and his mom.  My brother, bounding in the door first, immediately rushed back out yelling, “We’ve been robbed!”  She tried to ignore his call for alarm but there was no way to minimize the concerns of the others without proof.

To my mom’s chagrin, she ushered them into the kitchen, the scene of the crime as she left it just thirty minutes prior.  Open cupboards, overflowing drawers, half-prepped ingredients, dirty dishes in the sink and pots and pans were all part of the debris.

Today was that day.  Most days, I do my best to maintain order.  Well, at least the parts that will be visible, right?  I often try to do the same thing around people, present my best side.

Both are exhausting…the mess and the order.  Which is why it’s freeing to just say, “This is today.  Yes, it’s been nuts.  And no, I have not been robbed.”

Mercy in the Mundane

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Another dirty diaper.  Another treasure hunt of “Where did one of the dogs pee?”. Another leak in the roof.  Another trip to the store, I forgot something.  Some days it feels like I get my 10,000 steps just trying to keep up.  How is it that the day can feel so long and still get away from you?

The barrage of social media with so-and-so’s recent workout, favorite restaurant, best recipe, latest vacation, newest purchase, current home renovation or…well, the list is endless, doesn’t help.

It’s a lot harder to celebrate the mundane.  Most of my days are spent either at the house or in the car.  Of course, no day is the same, but it can certainly feel like it after awhile.  Some days I feel like I’m racking my brain for how to mix it up.

It’s easy to play the self-pity card–to blame the husband who is away traveling as you’re cleaning up another dog mess or the long line of traffic when you’re already running late but it doesn’t change anything.

The truth is when we blame, we’re usually avoiding something much deeper.  Is it really my husband’s fault that the dogs peed again?  Why then do I default to blame most of the time when I’m tired, disappointed or just, well, bored?

Mercy is defined as “compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”  Perhaps I can start today showing a little more mercy to myself.  We can be our own worst judge.  I can also extend mercy to my fellow driver by allowing him to merge or to my husband with a welcome home hug.  It is in these smallest of things that we are human.

Boys & Marriage: Vow to Me

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Before getting married, I wasn’t much for titles.  Don’t label me.  Don’t pin me down.  I wanted to think of myself as independent and a free spirit.  Yet, somehow, that seemed to change overnight without my knowing.

One week after my wedding, I moved to Central America.  Within seven days, I went from what I thought was having a clue to none at all.  No work, no friends, no language, no tv, no internet.  Whatever will I do?

As I began meeting people, at least the few who spoke English, I found myself begrudgingly answering the dreaded “What do you do?” with “I’m Chris’ wife.”  It felt hollow.

I was lonely and I was lost.  It’s not an easy transition to married life, let alone an entirely new life.  I’m still figuring it out.  This cross-cultural experience has had me scrambling for identity–something familiar, something I can point to define me or even as my own.  Yet, each time I reach for it, I seem to come up empty-handed.  It’s rough having your world ripped out from under you.  But it also has you seeing things for what they are.  May I not lose sight of what is real and what I truly need.

May my vow today be:

  • I will choose to connect with my Creator
  • I will make time to be active in some way
  • I will forgive myself when I don’t do the above
  • I will slow down for what matters without feeling guilty
  • I will speak up for myself
  • I will not make excuses
  • I will spend dedicated time with my son
  • I will tell my husband what I like about him
  • I will discover what truly brings me joy
  • I will be disciplined for my own sake
  • I will enjoy the good gift of wine and chocolate
  • I will let go and stop thinking I have control
  • I will stop wishing for what once was and embrace what is
  • I will choose to believe that the Lord rejoices in me more than I do in my son

Photo by Jess Koehler     https://www.jesskoehler.com/

Boys & Marriage: Vows to My Son

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At the end of October, my son will be 18 months old.  He grows more observant every day, adding new vocabulary and interests by the minute.  Recently, my most joyful moments are filled with his laughter and discovering new curiosities together.  I’m most impressed with his amusing humor, as he puts things on his head to make me laugh or makes every object a phone.

It’s exciting and scary to see how much he picks up in a day.  Lately, while pointing my finger, I’ll scold, “No, don’t throw that.” or “Be gentle with the dogs.”  Immediately, he’ll point back, smirking, “No.”  It’s no wonder he smiles as he does it because I can never keep a straight face.  So, of course, he’s learned.

It makes me wonder what he has already observed of our marriage.  Co-authors of Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, state:

“What this means is that parents who pause mid-argument to take it upstairs–to spare the children–might be making the situation far worse, especially if they forget to tell their kids, “Hey, we worked it out.” [Dr. E. Mark] Cummings has also found that when couples have arguments entirely away from the kids, the kids might not have seen any of it but are still well aware of it, despite not knowing any specifics. | Cummings recently has shown that being exposed to constructive marital conflict can actually be good for children–if it doesn’t escalate, insults are avoided, and the dispute is resolved with affection. This improves their sense of security, over time, and increases their prosocial behavior at school as rated by teachers.”  (p. 185)

 

I was most profoundly convicted by Cummings’ challenge to not escalate the conflict or use insults and resolve it with affection.  I’m more of a conflict avoider.  When it arises, I tend to avoid it or somehow make it explode.  It’s a great combination.  I make life super easy for my husband.

Now, as a parent, I’m more motivated to be a good example for my son.  First, this means I have to learn to manage conflict better myself before I can somehow teach it.

May my vow to my son today be:

  • To be more patient
  • To identify and name what I’m feeling so I can teach you about your own emotions
  • To speak kindly and respectfully to you and your dad
  • To be walk through conflict with your dad when I want to walk away from it
  • To commit to resolving any conflict you’ve witnessed in front of you
  • To laugh with you every day
  • To celebrate the smallest details of our day together
  • To not be afraid to tell you No
  • To study you and your interests so I can know you more
  • To be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness

I love you, my dear boy.

Photo by Betsy Markwald  https://www.betsymarkwaldphotography.com/