The Road to Peace and Calm

My oldest son enlisted in the army. He leaves tomorrow for basic training. Someone asked me how I felt about that. Proud. Hopeful. Scared. Worried. My list of WHAT IFS are pretty long. In the end, I have to believe that God has his hand on my son. Every once in a while though, I forget. Have a little freak out. Then take a deep breath and believe again. 

I had a birthday this week and I’ve been trying to do a little looking back at the last year. A little looking forward. Reflecting. I’m middish forties now. You know, I really had this belief that as you hit your middle years things would kind of calm down. Not pregnant and changing diapers. Not in the buying-a-home stage any more. My husband’s work and career are stable. I’m fully immersed in raising my children. We’ve been at the same church for years and years and love it. Life should be pretty smooth by now, right? 

Instead I am finding that the role of spectator to my adult children’s lives is a lot more tumultuous than I was anticipating. My husband has learned to ask me, “Do you want me to fix this or just listen?” And I find myself now, as a mom, no longer in the fix-it role for my adult kids, and just in the listen and support role. And so I stand on the sidelines and cheer and pray and try really hard not to worry. (Let me add that they are great kids, making good choices, it’s just really easy to worry.)

I will also add that taking on the role of foster mom has done nothing to make our lives peaceful. Probably the hardest part is, again, the fact that as a foster mom you don’t have a lot of control over the situation. Your job is to love and care for the child, but the child’s future is in the hands of lawyers and judges and bio-families. And you really want to fix-it: I’m going to decide what’s best and that is what we will do. But instead you are only called to support from the sidelines while others make the big decisions. 

Maybe the word I’m looking for here is Control. I think maybe I had this perception that as I got older I would have a lot more control over things. Control means no nasty surprises. It means things go the way you planned.  Calm. Smooth. 

Of course, probably not a lot of personal growth when you control everything. Looking back this past year, I can see a lot of pain. But I also see a lot of change and healing. Growth. I was put in a lot of places I didn’t want to be. As a result, I learned a lot more about forgiveness. Patience. Kindness. Grace. Self Control.

So here I am, middish forties. My son is going off to be a soldier. I have no control over this situation at all. But I’m going to learn a lot more about faith and prayer. Fostering. I can’t control the outcome, but I’m learning a lot more about how to love hurt people. Raising children. You want everything to work out perfectly for them, and it doesn’t. But you learn to trust that God loves them even more than you do and he has a plan. 

I want control because that seems like the path to peace and calm. But really, the path to peace and calm is faith in Jesus. My middle years are full of craziness, but I can also testify that my inner life is a lot more peaceful than when I was in my twenties. My faith is stronger. And I guess that’s the kind of peace and calm that I need. 

Sleeping on the Boat

I have a problem with worrying. I latch onto something. Worry it to death, until finally enough time has passed that it is no longer an issue. I take a deep breath of relief. Then I look around and pick up another problem that I can worry about. It has occurred to me that unless something changes, I will be doing this the rest of my life. I can’t relax until this problem is solved. I can’t relax until I know that this is going to be ok. I’ll feel better once I know this problem has been fixed. 

I will never run out of problems to worry about. There will always be another problem waiting patiently for me. There will never be a time when I can just sigh and say, finally, all my problems have disappeared.

Now, in my defense, some of these problems are big whoppers. Giant problems. Anyone else faced with these problems would be just as down and worried as I am. They’re not things I can just shrug off as inconsequential. They are huge. In fact, I’ve got one of those giant worries facing me right now. 

My brain works really hard to fix these things. It plays out every single scenario it can think of. What if it turns out like this? What about that? What about if this happens instead? And I guess that’s probably a form of trying to have control over the situation. If I fully understand every single nuance and variation of the problem, maybe it won’t be so scary and overwhelming? 

I woke up at 5am this morning. My brain instantly focusing onto my problem and worrying it to death. And I could feel myself panicking. And I suddenly remembered a picture my daughter painted.

She called it, sleeping on the boat with Jesus. And I was reminded again. Keep my eyes on Jesus, not the storm. He’s in control. He’s got this. Just focus on him. 

I was thinking about that more this morning and I also remembered the scene from the movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies where the bowman shoots the dragon, using his son’s shoulder as support for his arrow. His son is freaking out and he calms him by reminding him to look at his father, not the dragon or the destruction around him. Look at me. 

I was reminded again how much I and my family are loved by God. He’s got this. He’s in control. Just focus on him. The storm rages around us, but we are safe. 

I know I’ve written about worry before. I learn how to let it go. And then I forget and get right back into the habit again. So, this is my timely reminder. Again. Worry does nothing. Doesn’t fix it. Doesn’t make me feel better. And I’m never going to run out of things to worry about. So, might as well enjoy my day, choose peace. Keep my eyes focused on the only one who has the power to fix the problems that surround me. Trust him. And take a little nap on the boat.

Kite Flying

Last Sunday, Easter, we took the kids to the park in the afternoon, and for a special treat, we got all the little kids a plastic kite. The kind they sell cheap at Walmart. We spent the afternoon trying to help six kids get a kite going at the same time, and chaos erupted. I suddenly remembered why we hadn’t flown kites in a long time. Group kite flying is not very fun. Only one child successfully got her kite up and kept it up. Everyone else was frustrated. 

This Sunday, a week later, I decided to return to the park and try this kite thing again. I only took a couple kids with me this time and we only tried to get one kite up in the air at a time. It was also very windy, so I was sure that we would have much better luck. 

Nope. 

I have come to the conclusion that our kites are too cheap. We just don’t have the right kind of kites. This theory was brought home when a guy appeared on the scene later with his two kids. They brought out a beautiful, obviously well-made, professional grade kite. And it flew so high. So beautifully! The kids and I admired from a distance. 

Of course, it also takes some skill. The dad flying the kite passed the string to one of his children and after a while it crashed to the ground. Which makes me think that what our family needs is just one, really nice kite. The older kids can take turns using it and the little kids can watch. 

Quick subject change. I’ve been thinking about control. Lack of control. The need for control. And how that runs contrary to being a Christian. Even to just being human. There is so little that we have control over. We can’t control the weather or any natural disasters that might pop up. We can’t control the spread of viruses. We can’t control cancer. We have very limited control of the actions of people around us. 

Me trying to control my life kind of reminds me of standing out in a field with a cheap kite that has serious design issues, a tangled string that won’t come off the reel in a timely manner, wind that gusts and swirls haphazardly, and the end product is my kite wrapped up in a nearby tree branch.

The Christian walk requires trust and faith, the opposite of control. I have to somehow believe that, first, God loves me. His end goal for me is for me to be with him in Paradise. This time here on earth is a time of refining and growth. Second, God knows what he is doing. The things that happen here are not a surprise to him nor do they hinder God’s will from happening. Third, I am not going to understand everything during this lifetime. Bad things are going to happen that knock me down. I’m not going to be happy with everything that comes my way. Maybe, I’ll be able to look back and see how everything worked out for good, and maybe I will never see how any good came out of it. But, the fourth, and last point is God is good and I can trust him. 

And when I trust him, it’s kind of like handing control of the kite string over to a master. Someone who knows what they are doing. Someone who has the ability to transform my broken kite into a beautiful masterpiece. And that’s the life I want. Me in control is not a pretty thing. Me trusting God makes my life a beautiful thing to see.