A Birthday Prayer for My 13-Year-Old

Birthday prayer

My baby girl turned 13 yesterday. She’s officially a teenager.

There’s something about having your youngest child enter her teens. Childhood in your house is officially over. You’ve got five years left until they’re 18.

When my girls were babies, people told me the time would fly. I didn’t understand then what they meant. Sure there have been long days, hours, even minutes, but the years have flown, and I’m now the mom to two teenage girls. My job is less hand holding and more pushing out of the nest.

It’s become a tradition for me to use this space to offer up a birthday prayer for each of my girls on their birthdays. So, this one is for my sweet baby girl as she turns 13.

birthday 13

Embracing Your Season

seasons

The sun is shining, and it’s warm here today. We’re probably still in for some more cold weather, but it’s clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren’t so little any more. They’re growing up fast, and I’m trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn’t been a lot of time to write. There hasn’t been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They’re only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that’s hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I’m in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We’re juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband’s parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that’s what I’ll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, spring also has it’s great moments — the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He’s calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When You Don’t Know What to Do

God knows 1

I have this daughter. She’s 12. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s compassionate. She’s stubborn. She’s challenging. She sees the world through a lens I don’t have and marches to a beat I don’t hear.

And she is, oh, so hard to parent. She makes me think hard every day. She makes me question whether I’m doing the right thing every week. She makes me pull my hair out at least once a month.

And she makes me want to hold her tight and hug her hard every single minute. Because this world is tough when you just don’t quite fit. When your heart wants to do the right thing, but it’s a struggle to find your spot. When no one else seems to see the world quite the way you do.

As her mom, I want her to be everything that God designed her to be. I want her to be the beautiful, compassionate, joyful person that I see not nearly often enough. I want her to examine the world through that lens that is so uniquely her own, so I can find out just what she’s going to do with that perspective.

I have often said I would like to live inside her head for just one day, so I can see the world as she sees it. Because the world she sees, I think, is very different from the one I see.

I love all of that about her, but it makes it so very difficult to parent her. It makes it hard to know what to do when she has problems at school. How do you encourage her to fit in when the things that make her not fit in are the very things that you know are going to serve her well in the future? How do you decide if the struggles she’s having are important for her character or simply unnecessary and a change would be good? How do you know you’re doing the right thing for this child who is so very different from you?

You don’t. You don’t know. You may never know.

All I can do for this child of mine is pray hard over her. All I can do is wipe the tears when they come, deal with the frustration when it erupts, and hug her close and let her know she is loved by both me and God — even when she is at her most unloveable.

The only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that God knows.

God. Knows.

He knows her better than I ever will. He knew her before she was formed. And He surely loves her more than I can.

And He is the source of wisdom. So, when I don’t know, when we don’t know, what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

When You’re Too Tired for Christmas

Christmas struggle

Christmas is in four days. My house is decorated. My kids are excited. And I am tired.

This year has worn me out. 2015 has been a long, hard slog from January to December. Every time I thought we had conquered the mountain in front of us, we reached the peak to find a taller mountain behind it.

Illness after illness has hit our family hard. Stroke, meningitis, thyroid, liver. You name it. We had a taste of it this year. This year has been so tough that both my daughter and I completely forgot she broke her hand in October. You know it’s been a rough year when broken bones don’t even make the Top 10 Events of the Year list.

And, yet, there have been moments in this year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The precious perspective that my 14-year-old has gained embodied in the words she said the other day, “Just think, six months ago my biggest worry was staying on my soccer team. That doesn’t even register now.”

The shared moments with my husband where we tried to tackle the mountain together, knowing that when one failed, the other would pick them up.

The intentional moments with my 12-year-old created because she simply needed some time with her mom.

Because in the midst of the trial, in the midst of what seems like never-ending struggle, there is beauty. God is creating a better perspective, a stronger family and a sheer reliance on Him.

So, as I sit here four days before Christmas, I am reminded that the very first Christmas was probably the end of a very long year for Mary and Joseph. Unmarried and pregnant in a culture that had no allowance for that. Miraculously pregnant, but with a story no one would believe. I imagine Mary and Joseph felt very alone and very afraid. They knew God was creating something wonderful, but they were the only ones that knew it.

Two young people, teenagers, really, on the road to Bethlehem. No place for them to stay. A baby on the way.

And, yet, God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I’m sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I’m sure they were scared. I’m sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.

God creates beauty out of chaos. His plan to save the world started with two young people having a baby in a cave in Bethlehem.

And, I’m reminded this Christmas, that if God can do that, He can make something amazing out of the crazy that has been our year.

So, this Christmas, if you’re struggling to just put one foot in front of the other, if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember this: God specializes in making great things out of difficult times. Jesus’ birth is proof of that.

 

The End of Me

End of Me

The FTC requires that I tell you that I received the book The End of Me for free in exchange for a review, and I was compensated with a gift certificate. The opinions in this blog are my own, and I would never recommend something to you that I don’t love myself. With the formalities out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

The past six months have been tough. I’m beginning to feel a lot like Job. They have looked something like this: meningitis, throat abscess, tonsillectomy, broken hand, hyperthyroid diagnosis, liver issues, ER visit, father-in-law has a stroke, and the dog sprains his ankle (yes, that can happen). The last four happened last week.

And that’s just the major stuff. We’ve also had school issues, relationships beginning and ending and the normal, everyday drama that comes from having a 12-year-old and 14-year-old daughter.

Several weeks ago, I started reading The End of Me by Kyle Idleman, which was sent to me by Family Christian, and it spoke to me. It spoke God right into the midst of this mess we call our lives right now. It stopped me in my tracks and made me realize that I truly have to get to the end of me before Jesus can truly use me in the way that He wants.

There are no easy answers in this book. My life didn’t immediately become hunky-dory as evidenced by the nightmare that was last week. I am truly at the end of every bit of strength and sanity I possess to make it through tomorrow.

But what this book made me realize is that I’m of no use to God when I’m trying to do everything myself. I can’t be effective as a wife, a mom or in ministry if I’m doing it on my own.

The End of Me made me realize that I have to truly mourn my sin and follow Jesus’ example in humility if I want to have any effect in the kingdom of God. I also have to let God work even through my weaknesses. God requires authenticity, He wants us to lay our ragged, worn out, I-don’t-know-what-to-do selves at the foot of the cross so He can showcase His strength through our weakness.

Kyle Idleman uses the Beattitudes to discuss the beauty of truly mourning our sin, the importance of humility, and why we need to be authentic. He shows that the upside-down logic of the Beattitudes has the power to change the way we see the world.

In the second half of the book, he uses Jesus’ encounters with others as examples of how God can use us in our weakness and our imperfection. From the parable of the great banquet to Saul’s encounter with Jesus, he vividly shows how when we get to the end our ourselves, God can then use us in a mighty way.

Reading this book didn’t make my life perfect, but it offered perfect perspective on the idea that God can only truly use me when I come to the end of me.

When You’re Not “Fine”

Fine

This space has been empty for a while. Life has been crazy — some of the good kind of crazy, and it seems like more of the bad kind. I’m kind of to the point where I’m almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning to find out what new crisis is going to erupt.

I’ll be honest, it seems like every time I open a door or turn a corner in life lately, there’s been something unpleasant behind it. Very little about this life seems easy in this season.

I would love to write a blog post telling you that when we’re in the hard season, all we have to do is rely on God and everything will be fine. That sounds great, but it’s a lie.

You see, anyone who tells you that things will be “fine” when you’re going through a rough season is wrong. Those tough seasons in our lives sometimes leave us in a place that is far from the place we started, the place where everything was “fine.” Those tough seasons often mean we lose something — a loved one, our health, a marriage. When we come out on the other side of a tough season, we are changed. We are different. And we may not be “fine.”

Am I saying that God doesn’t have everything under control? No. I am saying that God’s plan is never for you to be “fine.” It is for you to be in a place where you can see Him and share Him. It is for you to be in a place where you have to rely on Him. It is for you to be in a place where others can see Him in you.

But that place may not be easy. It may not be fun. And it most certainly might not be “fine.” But one thing you can know for sure is that no matter what that place looks like, no matter where it is, God is there, too.

That’s the truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons — that God is there. He’s not asking us to go anywhere He’s not willing to go, too. And though we may shed many tears and even spend time shouting at God, He’s there, He loves us, and He’s walking with us — even when we don’t think He is.

There is something to learn in this season. There is growing to be done. And when this season passes (and, honestly, I hope it passes soon), I’ll be on the other side a different person than I was before this season began. But I don’t want to be “fine.” I want the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve become to shine brightly for Jesus. I don’t want to be “fine.” I want to be His.

Something to Sing About

sing

I could hear her saying something as I buckled the baby into the shopping cart. Okay, so it was actually more like yelling but bless it if I could even tell. I had totally crossed over into the Mom-Zone.

You know, the place where the world could be ending but all you hear is the inner-monologue-of-the-now, “Must get the baby in the seat before a car runs over us.”

The consequence to this stealth focus?

You agree to anything.

And apparently I had agreed in thirty seconds of non-listening to sing a rousing rendition of  “This is the Day” while we moseyed through Target.

Sweet heavens.

Now my girl has got vocal direction down, y’all. I mean I thought I knew the song but I DID NOT. When she started with a “This is the day…” I was all like “This is the day…” And I was met with a sigh and an “Um, Mom, no. You sing ‘That the Lord has made.’”

But sadly, I had entered the Zone again…

So we went through this exact dialogue about five times until she finally she broke through it with a, “Mom, I really need you to focus!”  I mean, c’mon now. Shouldn’t I be delighted that we are singing about Jesus in Target?!?!?

And BAM.

I got my act together, we found our rhythm and we did our thang. But alas, when we hit the “together” part of the ditty, things fell apart. I’m all “This is the Day” and she’s all “Jesus Loves Me.”

Shortly after this confusion and preciously right as we walked up to an unsuspecting cashier, my girl bellows with ear piercing volume, “IT IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE!!!!”

And Jesus loves us, this I know.

I suppose you are wondering, “Sara, what in the what does this have to do with an everyday truth?”

Well, I’ll tell you…

We all have these kind of days as a parent where things get ridiculous and veer off course and all we know gets drowned out by the our inner-monologue of “IT IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE!”

But it is.

We can go from blissfully happy to my day is ruined faster than it takes us to go from the parking lot into the store. But this is the day He has made. And we have the choice to wallow in our ruin or persevere through and count it all joy.

I’m not talking about some kind of false “Oh, today is magical!” when you are knee deep in poo. I’m talking about being grateful for the gift of a new day. I’m talking about how it’s really pretty great to have the chance to sing loudly in the aisles of Target with someone you love.

Because it’s in those kind of moments that you remember…

He loves me and He’s given me a new day.

And really?

No matter how you look at it, THAT is something to sing about.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail.

When Mom Isn’t Enough

Healing

“I didn’t get invited to the birthday party.”

“My friends were mean to me at lunch today.”

“Everyone else has a date to the dance.”

Any one of those statements is designed to break a mom’s heart. And over the 14 years I’ve been raising two girls, I’ve heard each of those and many more.

Every time it happens, I look at whichever child is uttering those words and wonder. I wonder why others can’t see what I see. I wonder why they can’t see that my quiet, loving, sensitive child is a force to have on your side with her strong sense of loyalty and wicked sense of humor. I wonder why they can’t see that while my quirky, exuberant, brilliant child may not fit any mold that’s ever been cast, her different way of thinking brings so much to the table.

When your child gets left out or hurt by others, it’s hard to help them. It’s hard to convince them that they are beautiful, smart, funny and worthy of friendship and love. Because you’re their mom. You have to say those things, and they know it.

There are no magic words that can heal the hurt. There’s no amount of ice cream or brownies that will make the sting go entirely away.

All we can do is be there when they cry, pick them up when they fall, and love them through it all. Because growing up is tough. They’re going to get left out. They’re going to get hurt. And we’re not enough to heal the hurt.

But God is.

God is the ultimate healer. He heals the broken-hearted. We know that we can’t fix all of our kids’ problems or heal all their hurts. And our kids know it, too. That’s why we have to point them in the direction of the One who can heal them. While we’re loving our kids through the disappointments and the hurts that life brings, we have to point them toward their loving Father who is ever so much more powerful than us at bringing healing.

Because as much as I love my girls, God loves them more. He delights in binding up their wounds. He hears their heartbreak. He collects their tears in a bottle. Because He loves them. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them.

So, when disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.

10 Things I Wish My Kids Knew

wish2In our house, we’re in the midst of the tough pre-teen and teen years. The easy days are few and far between. If it’s not one child having a crisis, it’s the other. Hormone-induced tears are a part of nearly every day. Some days I’m my girls’ best friend, and others, I’m the worst mom in the world.

Being a mom in this season is tough. You never really know which kid is going to walk through your door after school — the happy, care-free one or the moody, the world is ending one. There are days when I really would like to throw up my hands and just walk away.

But these two girls? They are the living extension of my heart. They are precious and amazing. They are mine. And there is so much they don’t know about what goes through my heart and mind as I parent them through these turbulent years. Here’s what I wish I they knew:

  1. I really don’t like disciplining you. I only do it because I want you to learn to make wise decisions. I want you to know how to exercise self-control and think about the feelings of other people.
  2. When you’re curled up in my arms sobbing your eyes out because of something someone else did or said, look up. There are tears in my eyes, too. Because I remember what it was like to be your age. Even though you think I don’t understand, I really do. I was your age once, and mean kids have existed since the beginning of time.
  3. When someone treats you badly, I’m going to tell you that you need to forgive them and move on. But even as I’m saying those words, I’m fighting my own battle to do the same.
  4. I don’t just make up rules to make your life miserable. I make rules to keep you safe and to teach you boundaries.
  5. I’ve never done this parenting thing before. I’m going to make mistakes. Please know that I’m doing my best.
  6. I am always praying for you because even though I mess up sometimes, God never does.
  7. I am trying to give you the space you need to become the person God wants you to be, but it’s hard. In my mind’s eye, you’re still my little girl.
  8. I am always on your side — even when it seems like I’m not. I always want what’s best for you. I always want you to succeed. I always want you to be happy. Sometimes, though, those things only come through tough lessons.
  9. Letting you fail at something is one of the hardest things for me to do. But I know that if I always step in, you will never learn the lessons that failure can teach you. Just know that when you fail, my heart hurts as much as yours does.
  10. I will always love you. No matter how much you screw up or how much you push me away, I will always love you. I will always be there to pick you up. When the days are long and the crisis hits, I will always be a safe haven for you.

 

Not So Picture Perfect

 

Pictures Once upon a time I loathed being the girl in the photograph.

I hid behind so and so. I offered to take the picture. Or I’d excuse myself to the restroom to the point I’m sure everyone in my family thought I had a bladder problem.

This at a time when I was the size of a toothpick, had not one wrinkle or gray hair and nothing sagged. (Mamas, you know what I am talking ABOUT…MMMMHMMM.)

Fast forward to today…

Where I am the proud owner of wrinkles and gray hair and flab (especially the kind that jiggles when you wave your arms.)  And the sagging? Oh friends…

Forget. About. It.

On top of the obvious differences between 28 and 38 and four children later, I also have a body that’s been through the physical ringer in the last few months.

Bruises in random places. Feet that turn blue and look like they have been borrowed from a 90-year-old man with frostbite. A face that is preciously puffy from steroids. Hair that’s thin on the top and looks like a small animal took up residence on the bottom. And lest we not forget the not-so-fashionable roots that only exist because I am NOT spending money on highlights that are going to fall out.

(Bless your little heart, Dave Ramsey.)

In other words, 2015 will never be called, “The year Sara looked like a supermodel.”

But you know what?

This mama has been in a RIDICULOUS amount of pictures.

Because the one thing I’ve learned in surviving a stroke, losing a dad and fighting through life-threatening health complications is this, my sweet, sweet, mama friends:

Pictures of us aren’t for us.  They are for the littles, the tweens, the college kids and even the grown-ups that are someday left behind.  And I promise you, they don’t care if you are a size 2 or 22, if you’ve had a bad hair day or even if your face is the size of a small planet.

All that they want is you in the picture.

You may find it hard to let go of your insecurity.  You may give yourself a pep talk every now and again (I know I do.)  You may even have to remind yourself that it’s not about you.

But as you enter the season of pumpkin patches and field trips and Christmas bedhead mornings, remember this:  You are just as beautiful as you were ten years ago.  And really?

You are probably even more so.

Because nothing is more beautiful than a broken vessel used to do great things. For the more we break, the more beautiful we become. And the more beautiful we become, the less we notice our broken bodies and the more we pay attention to the hearts they house.

So go on, mamas, take that picture or two or twenty.

Take it for your loves. Take it for the one who has to fight to stay in it. Take it for the one who knows it might be her last.

Just. Take. It.

And even as the camera flashes, know that real beauty comes from a heart filled with Jesus-sized love and the rest is all just dust.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail.

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