Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Confession About Motherhood

Earlier this summer, I had to drive to Dallas to take my mom to the airport. I am not one to waste a trip to one of my favorite cities, so I planned a late morning museum trip with my two kids after the airport drop-off. It was a crazy busy day at the museum, with buses of summer camp kids unloading from every direction. There were swarms of kids in matching t-shirts and lanyard name tags. But I was fearless. I am a mom and a teacher. Not much scares me.

I had a diaper bag packed with everything a mom could need. We slowly wandered through the various museum floors, looking at dinosaurs and playing games with magnets. We waited in line for three-year-old Jude to try his hand at the remote control trucks. He played for a long while, and then we headed down to the first floor to the preschool play area. My son even got to push the elevator buttons. I fed Ella snacks along the way to keep her content. I was winning at motherhood.

Downstairs, Jude played in a pretend grocery store and filled his reusable bags with plastic produce. Little Ella crawled around the infant play area, staring at herself in plastic mirrors that were covered in baby fingerprints. We went outside for a few minutes so that Jude could dig in the sandbox. But it was creeping up to lunch time (and nap time), so I announced that it was time to go. I knew my announcement would be met with resistance. My son was having fun. He didn't want to leave. But I put on my best cheery voice, and I tried to bribe him with the promise of a snack and drink upon arrival at the van.

Once we were outside the doors of the museum, I made a huge mom mistake. Jude spotted a section of concrete that was covered with shallow water, perfect for splashing. There were shade trees and open spots for sitting. And I feel like I need to tell you that I long to be a yes mom. I want to say yes to Jude baking with me, even though it takes twice as long and I end up with extra mess. I want to say yes to stopping at parks, even though we had planned on going straight home. I want my kids to have wonderful memories of spontaneity and surprise. So I told him to take his shoes off and go run. And he did.

For the next 15 minutes, Ella and I sat in the shade while Jude ran and played. But my poor girl was spent, and I knew it was time to go. And that's when it started.

First, Jude wouldn't put his shoes on. I tried to put them on for him, but he just kicked and screamed and made a huge scene. So I decided we would walk to the parking lot without them. I warned him that the ground would be hot. I grabbed his hand, and dragged led him along. He cried the whole time, yelling "Nooooooo!" with every step. Before we crossed the street to get to the parking lot, I decided that my son needed to be wearing shoes. So we sat down on a bench, and I proceeded to fight all 35 pounds of him. He screamed and flailed and attracted the attention of every single person in our general vicinity. I was embarrassed but determined. I spoke calmly to him while he went wild.

Once I got his shoes on his feet, he would not walk. He literally fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I knelt down, picked him up with one arm, and I hoisted him up onto my hip. At this point, he was still screaming and yelling his loudest no, as if he was being kidnapped. I carried him to the parking lot with one hand, pushing Ella in the stroller with the other, trying hard not to burst into tears. When the van was finally in sight (but still not close), I put him down. I told him he would have to walk, as I could not carry him anymore.

And then he sat down.

At this point, I was mad. Like raging mad. Everything inside me wanted to just walk away and leave this child to whatever natural consequences might come from sitting defiantly in the middle of a busy parking lot. It was irrational, and I didn't care. I was done.

I didn't leave him there. Not exactly. I did walk to the van and park the stroller, all the while keeping an eye on my son.  As I walked back toward him, he began to run the other direction. And honestly, it was one of the worst moments of my parenting life. I ran after him as fast as I could, and I picked him up like a football and marched him back to the van. He stopped crying. He stopped screaming. He stopped saying no. He knew he had pushed me too far.

I called my husband, and I cried. I don't remember everything I said, but I remember saying things I shouldn't have. Venting about my kids in front of my kids is something I try not to do. But I was just so exasperated. I felt so overwhelmed.

I am a good mom.

I work hard to be patient and loving with my kids.

I do not yell and scream at my children.

So how on earth did I end up with a child that does not listen?

Why did I not get a sweet, respectful child?

It is just so unfair.

I may not feel these things regularly with the same kind of intensity that I felt them that day, but I do feel them. Having a strong-willed child is hard. It requires so much more patience and love and grace than I have. And when I feel like I am not getting the respect, the obedience, and the performance that I deserve, I feel cheated. I hate that motherhood isn't easier. I despise being spoken to in a disrespectful way. I look back on my own behavior as a child - what parts of it I remember- and I wonder why my child treats me in a way I wouldn't have dreamed of treating my parents. I worry that other people will look at him and think "Why doesn't she discipline that child?". I worry about how his outbursts make him look to other people. I worry about how they make ME look.

My son is full of personality. He loves to sing and run and be tickled. He has an amazing memory. He loves music and has better rhythm at the age of three than most adults. He loves his sister fiercely. He thrives on routine, and he loves people. And sometimes, he shows his sinful self. And all of the parenting books in the world can't fix that.

So my confession about motherhood is this: I cannot control my son's behavior. Nor can I control my daughter's. And I don't think I was meant to. That's not my job. My job is to love and teach and correct. I pray for my kids. When we notice our kids struggling with obedience or anger, we quote Bible verses to them about these particular things because we believe that Psalm 119:11 is true. I work hard to respond to them with grace and love. It doesn't always work. I definitely fail. But my mistakes as a mother don't define me any more than my son's mistakes define him. And I don't have to own his mistakes. I don't have to carry them as my own failures. He is still young, and he is learning. And honestly, so am I.

His independent spirit is going to make him a fantastic adult. He is already filled with personality and leadership skills. As he grows and matures, these things that make me crazy on a daily basis will become the things I admire about him. But in the meantime, while I work to convince him that he is not the boss of everything, I have to let go of some things. I have to let go of my dreams for a perfect child. I have to let go of my expectations that fun outings will be fun from start to finish. I have to let go of the feeling that I deserve a certain kind of child.

So instead, I hold on to my faith, to the fact that I was never meant to parent him in my own strength. I can't do this without Christ. I hold onto the unconditional love that I have found in Christ, and because of that, I can love my kids even on their worst days. I hold onto the knowledge that God's word is true, and these verses that we quote to them are not just words but are life-giving. They will lead them to faith and obedience. These things will keep me going on the hard days.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Looking Back... just needing to stop and tell you how good God has been to us

I am a fan of looking back. One of my favorite parts of social media is being able to look back on each day in previous years and remembering the places and people that filled up my past. It's fun to see growth and change in that way. It is also sobering when I see comments from people who have passed away. Sweet messages from my dad and my aunt, who went to heaven without much warning, and long before I was ready for them to go. But mostly, I feel joy and gratitude when I see the way God's hand has moved in my life.

Three years ago I posted a note on Facebook about why we were leaving Delaware. We had only been there three short months. I felt confused and sad, and I had no idea why God was moving us. We had already done so much moving. But in that note, I listed the things we needed to be able to make our move back to Texas. I was very specific in laying out the areas in which our family needed prayer. I remember that the future felt so nebulous, so unknowable. But I knew that we had a list of needs, and God knew how we would answer. As I read those requests this morning, I was overcome with thankfulness. Because God had gone before us, preparing the way, preparing provision before we had need.

If I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee and tell you the story in person, I would. But the kids are napping, and leaving the house might mean makeup and changing out of yoga pants. So I'll just tell you here how He did it. Because houses and jobs may seem everyday and ordinary, but they are downright miraculous to the homeless and unemployed. And that's what we were. So here's what we prayed for, and here's how God came through for us.

We prayed for housing. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved us for housing almost immediately. Despite our last minute move, they placed us a beautiful, two bedroom apartment with washer/dryer hookups, and y'all, it was on the first floor. Of course, we had crazy loud upstairs neighbors, but we recently moved to the second floor and we get to be the crazy loud upstairs neighbors. Hallelujah. This last apartment was our home for the last (almost) three years. This was a record setting residence for the Turner family. It was the longest we lived anywhere since our wedding in 2011.

We prayed for a job for Jake. He found a job almost immediately. He bought computers and tablets for an online technology company. He worked this job for his first semester, until God provided a ministry job for him.

We prayed for a job for me. Once we got back home to Texas, my dad welcomed us back to his church. He offered to let me step back into my previous position as Children's Minister, giving up part of his salary to make sure I would get paid. I served at Trinity Baptist Church for Jake's first semester. I got to spend valuable time with my dad during those months. I would walk into the church office with Jude, and we would look back into my dad's office. My dad's face would light up when he saw Jude us. Jude got lots of extra one-on-one time with Papa during that time. We had no idea how precious those memories would be. My second job was a teaching job at Science, Etc., a homeschool enrichment program in Fort Worth. They needed someone to teach History and Geography. The job was only two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, so I would need someone to keep my son during that time. We quickly discovered that the seminary offered a Mom's Day Out program, and that classes were offered only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have no doubt that this was orchestrated by God himself.

We prayed for a church home. Going back to my dad's church for our first few months was like moving back home as a fully grown adult. It's good and beneficial and healing, even, to be around the familiarity of family. But it's not where you're meant to stay. Those months at Trinity Baptist Church were a breath of fresh air. We needed those months to regroup, to rethink what we wanted in a church home. And I'll admit, I was more than hesitant about walking into another new church situation, whether it was just for attending or for employment. It all made me nervous. But again, God knew what we needed. Five months after we arrived back in Texas, Jake took a position at Lane Prairie Baptist Church in Joshua, Texas. Everyone was so incredibly friendly and kind, but I had no idea how much I was about to need my church family. Through my dad's accident and passing and those hard days that followed, the people in our church showed us the love of Jesus in more ways than I can count. God knew that we would require extra care during that time. Two and a half years later, Lane Prairie is home for us. Jude walks into the church building like he owns the place, stopping to give high fives and to hug every senior citizen he sees. And there are lots to be hugged, y'all. I have made sweet friends that have celebrated and grieved with us. We are loving our time at Lane Prairie, and we look forward to however many more years of ministry God gives us there. We hope it's a long time.

In the past three years, there have been a thousand gifts that we didn't know to pray for back then. Like I mentioned already, we got the gift of time with my dad. I was home in Texas for six months before his accident. Through his coma, I was never more than a half hour away from him. I was able to visit him several days a week. I was able to spend time with my mom during those difficult, uncertain months. As a result of my dad's accident, I saw my Aunt Judy regularly. She lived in Houston, but she came up often to check on my dad. We didn't know then that she had cancer and would be taken from us just a few months after my dad's passing. We have been given the gift of people. So many people. God brought us back to previous friendships that we left behind in the DFW area. He gave us our church family and seminary family. God orchestrated a friendship for me with the campus nurse. Do you know what it's like for a worried mama to have the wisdom of a nurse just a text message away? I do. She has become one of my dearest friends, always ready to encourage and help problem solve. My teaching job is such a life-giving thing for me. It's the kind of thing I would want to do even if I didn't get paid to do it. That is how much fun I have teaching. (Don't get me wrong, the money helps us live, so I like getting paid.) I have so much freedom and I work in such a positive environment. Anyone who has ever tried to teach in a toxic environment knows the blessing in this. He gave us a baby girl to round out our family. We get to celebrate her birthday tomorrow, and we are so grateful for her.

I know I am kind of rambling.

But I needed to tell you.

I needed to stop and say "God did this, and I am acknowledging that it came from him."

I know that even if God hadn't done any of these things for us, He would still be good. He would still be faithful.

But these are all good gifts. And they did come from Him. And I want to spell it out because there will surely come a time when the future is hard and uncertain. And I might need to look back once again and remember how big and faithful our God is.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Day We Lost Him

We lost him long before we lost him. And we didn't know that he was truly gone for a really long time. We kept waiting for him to come back to us. We waited for the feel-good movie ending where the coma patient opens his eyes, looks around, wondering where he is while his loving family cries and gathers around. And that's just not the way it went for us.

It was a Tuesday morning, and I was at school. I got a call from my sister that my dad was being rushed to the hospital after a fall off of a ladder. She said my mom was upset, but I still didn't understand exactly what was happening.

Do I need to come?

She said yes. And so I went downstairs to tell the office that I needed to leave. When my husband called a few minutes later, he was telling the same story, but he used the word "unconscious". My sister Kari hadn't said that. That's when I felt the urgency. I got into my car, and I rushed to the hospital in Arlington.

I relive that day in pieces.The scariest parts stick out the most. 7 or 8 of us crowded into a tiny room in the ER. Waiting for the doctor to come tell us what on earth was going on.

Bleeding on his brain. 

A blood clot. 

Emergency surgery. 

A waiting room filled with family and friends.

Before his surgery we went back to see him. He looked like himself. Or himself after a fall. A little bleeding. He was a little disheveled. He wasn't awake. But he was going to be fine. A little surgery was going to fix him right up. I just knew it. We were scared, but we held hands, and I prayed over him before he went into surgery. And then we waited.

Pastors came to visit. Friends and family came to sit with us. But before long, they told us that the surgery was done. It had gone well. We were able to go see him, and even though his blood pressure and heart rate seemed a little inconsistent, he seemed fine. We all kind of breathed a sigh of relief, even though we were unsure of what would come next.

My sister Ashlae and I decided to run a quick errand, since our babies were on their way to the hospital with their dads. We hadn't come prepared for an all-day hospital stay with kids. But just a few minutes out of the parking lot, we got a call to come back to the hospital. It looked like my dad might not make it. We turned the car around, and I panicked. I prayed out loud in the car.

Please, God, do not let him die. Do not let him die.

And I started to realize that this might not be so simple after all.

We had no idea what kind of damage was done as a result of my dad's fall. There was so much swelling in his brain. The neurologist said that we wouldn't know anything much until he woke up. We never considered that he might not wake up.

For several days, we waited for his heart rate and blood pressure to stabilize. There was a tangible burden lifted when the doctor finally told us that he thought my dad was "out of the woods". He said the recovery might be slow, but we would just have to wait and see. We expected that within a week or two, he would be fine. Even if he wasn't completely healed and back to himself, we never expected what would come next.

What came next was waiting.

Long days of uncertainty. Days turning into weeks. Weeks turning into months. Hospital visits. Short conversations with nurses about medical procedures and conditions that we didn't understand... until we did. Scary he-is-not-going-to-make-it moments... except he did. Songs sung by a hospital bedside. Scripture read. Prayers prayed. Conversations where we would talk and try hard not to notice that he wasn't talking back.

He woke up in the only ways his injured brain would let him. The occasional eye flutter. The slightest hand squeeze. The doctors said it was all nothing. I will never believe that it was nothing. But I also know that he was never fully aware. And I am thankful that he wasn't. It would have been a hard way to live life, unable but also aware.

We had him for eight months like this before he was gone. Like really gone. We had said the things we needed to say. We were tired. He was tired. With one illness, he was freed.

On the day of my dad's accident, we had so much hope. It was a hard day, but we believed that God would be faithful and that His will would be done.

Here we are, two long years later- and can I just tell you- we still have hope. We will see him again. And we still believe that God is faithful.


My faith has been shaken.

I don't understand why.

Some days prayer doesn't come easy.

I miss him terribly.

And it still doesn't feel fair.

And for now. This is just it. This is how it feels. This is what we have.


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