Thursday, April 20, 2017

Radley Moon

Yesterday marked a year that we have been without sweet Radley Moon. My cousin's child was such a beautiful boy with a joyous heart that touched all who knew him. I struggled all day trying to gather my thoughts and still don't really have a grasp.

When Radley was born, my daughter and I went up to the hospital to meet him. He was so sweet and I loved getting to see the instant bond my daughter had with him. A few months later my son was born. Atticus and Radley were the most precious babies together. I called them The Mockingbird Boys as they were both named for characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. I am so grateful that our families lived close enough to get to spend time together regularly and for a about a year and a half, life was perfect.

Then we got the news that Radley had leukemia. I was actually supposed to babysit him the day they found out. I remember waiting for them to come to the house and then worrying when I couldn't reach them. Life changed forever that day.

Over the next year and a half, we did not get to see Radley much. Between his limitations from treatments and my kiddos general childhood exposures, getting time to actually visit was few and far between. Technology allowed us (and many others) to keep up with Radley and see how he was doing. I was always amazed at how smart he was and loved to hear his sweet voice. The few times we did get to see him were incredibly precious, even more so now.

Obviously, any emotions I have pale in comparison to what his parents have gone through and what they experienced yesterday. I learned that my cousin is one of the strongest women I have ever known. I know she had serious ups and downs, as would be expected, but she always put Radley's needs first and reflected on each win and set back with a grace I could only hope to have.

This is not the first person I loved that I have lost but that didn't lessen the pain. My grief patterns don't follow typical stereotypes. I don't cry a lot and often my practical side takes over, rationalizing situations. It's taken me years to not feel awkward about that and just accept it's who I am. This time has been no different. Radley's death was tragic and my heart broke. I cried and then cried again when I had to tell my daughter. Then the tears stopped. Even yesterday, although my heart was sad and I had a melancholy feel about the day, I was not able to cry - my mind just kept going back to Radley and his parents.

I debated how to honor Radley. I sent forever flowers (made from wood so they will never die) to his parents and talked with my little family about what we should do here. We decided to buy a special bush and plant it in our yard. I think we will do this each year as we remember the wonderful child that he was and the happiness he brought into our lives. We will also be donating to childhood cancer research in his name each year.

I believe that God never had plans for children to die of cancer (or any of the other horrible things that happen in this world). Our world has made choices throughout time that create tragedies for others - often those that didn't deserve it. It doesn't make it easier to understand or experience, but for me, my faith in God is my refuge of peace. I trust in His love, grace, and mercy to carry me through the dark moments of this life. My prayer is that very soon we WILL find cures for all the different types of cancer, and other parents and families will not have to experience this kind of pain.

Radley Moon McChristian - you were a beautiful light that is missed greatly. 

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Kids and friendships...

I shared this link about social engineering last year on Facebook. I think it's important enough to share again. Like I said last year (and this author mentions as well), I don't feel everything has to be an everybody in event. But there is a difference in having a core group and being exclusive.

Growing up, I moved a lot...10 school moves in K-12. Each move meant breaking into new social groups. It was not always easy. I was a small and very quiet child. I was easily bullied and/or picked on because I struggled with some self-confidence issues. My family was not wealthy - actually there were times that were quite rough and I couldn't do a lot of things others could. These kinds of things don't make it easy to find a core group - I didn't actually find that group till college. I could have easily been the kid sitting by themselves...and at different points I was. However, ultimately I was fortunate because there was almost always at least 1 kid that would reach out and bring me into the circle. These were thoughtful souls who saw past their immediate self and made life better for others. Shocker wasn't the parents who stepped in to make sure I was included. It was individual kids being kind.

That is not to say that parents were not involved (well maybe some weren't), but particularly as small children, it really was kid-to-kid interactions, not parent-lead. For better or worse, this changed as I got older. I remember some junior high moments (small school experience) where parents definitely made sure everyone was at least invited. But, I also remember some parents who were very blatantly exclusive. I have no problem with parents having only a few people to their home rather than a full class, but I remember a few specific times where parents would loudly talk about plans at pick up, in front of kids who were not invited. That is just insensitive and honestly rude.

J has friends...some closer than others. That's reality. It's okay for kids to learn the difference between a close friend and a friend. My prayer and hope is that my kids will find a core group that is supportive and loving, but that that very same group will be open and welcoming to others. I think parent involvement sometimes needs to happen. Children are still learning how to navigate life. Friendships are part of that and understanding how to act with our friends in positive ways, doesn't always come naturally. I try very hard to not solve all her problems for her, but I don't have any issue with talking about what is happening and helping her find solutions. Sometimes that means giving suggestions. Sometimes that is just sitting quietly while she processes what she should do. She is very tender-hearted about people getting along and she has shared with me how hard it is for her to be in the middle of friend arguments. She wants everyone to get along and feels some weird pressure to help make that happen. When that doesn't go well, she gets stressed about it and feels like she didn't do enough to help - so very me. We're both working on this concept. To let her navigate all that on her own is not fair. However, if I step in all the time and just take care of it for her, that won't help either.

This weekend, I let her have a "late-over". If you haven't heard of this idea, it's like a sleepover, except everyone goes home at the end of the evening. This was kind of an experiment and luckily it went well. For many reasons, most logistical, I limited her count. That meant some of her friends, whom she really does love, wouldn't get invited. That was hard for me to do, but there was no way I was having 9-10 girls in my house for 5-6 hours - not enough space, food, or sanity. It was hard for her to know she wouldn't get to invited all her friends. So what I did was tell my daughter that she didn't need to be broadcasting the event at school. I know they still discussed it, at times probably within ear shot of their friends who weren't invited, but I hope that was very limited. I reminded her several times that it wasn't a secret so she didn't have to hide it, but it wouldn't be very nice to talk about all the fun they were going to have while someone who wasn't going was listening. I hope she listened. I know she wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but like pretty much any kid, she gets excited and doesn't always think about who might be around to hear things.

All this is to say, there is sometimes a fine line between being inclusive and exclusive. I think talking realistically with kids about these issues is important. I have told my daughter that she will not get invited to everything in life and that is okay. She is reaching an age where she is able to pick her own friends instead of just playing with her parents' friends. There are good things about that, as well as many challenges. My prayer is that both of my kids remain open-hearted and are conscious of others. That they will be aware of others who may need to feel included and then actually make attempts to include them. I also pray they each have a best friend or two that can be "their person" because it makes like just that much better to have someone who gets you.

Life is sticky, but awesome. Here's hoping we are raising kind, happy, interesting people who will make it even more awesome. :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stop taking it personal

These past few weeks I have been learning to let it go.  Not the Frozen-stays-in-your-mind-for-3-days-"Let It Go" but for real let-it-go lessons.  It is so easy to take the comments (or actions) that people make toward you, about you, about your kids, about your beliefs, etc., personally and I have been extremely guilty of doing just that too many times.

Although it may sting a little when people say things - like constantly comparing all the good things in my children to The Husband and his side of the family, while only contributing the negatives to me - it does absolutely NO good for me to take those comments to heart.  (Yes, this is one of the lessons I've been dealing with and still working on the letting-it-go...hoping that this post will help me release from those frustrations).

The main reason I have been thinking about this issue is from watching and listening to various people I have been around recently.  I am noticing how many of us get caught up in personal feelings when the issue really might not have anything to do with us at all.  Even comments things that technically do relate to your/my personal life aren't usually worth getting upset about because most of the time the comment that is driving you crazy really just stems from some situation in that other person's world.

Think for a minute about the last week.  How many times did you take something personal?  Were those things actually personal attacks or did you just have some knee-jerk reaction to it?  I know for me, the knee-jerk reactions are common.  Now, I am good at masking my hurt/frustration/irritation/whatever most of the time but I allow too many comments or situations to fester under my skin and irk me.  What good is that doing?  Absolutely no good whatsoever.

"Well, duh" you say.  I agree. Duh. It's just that sometimes I need a little verbalization and validation to get my mind to fully LET GO so I share this with whomever may be reading.  Lucky you. So, here I sit, now released and ready to play some LEGOs with The Wee One.  Life is good.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Revisited

As I sit here in the couch with my 5.5 year old, I am reminded of when my daughter was this age.  On Valentine's Day that year, she was officially 5 months old.  We decided we would go out as a family and celebrate.  We made our reservations and got dressed up and out we went.  Keep in mind we were living in a small Oklahoma town at this point.

As happens with many Valentine's plans, things didn't go as expected.  After an hour and a half delay in our reservations, we finally got our food around 10 o'clock that night.  The wee one had done well the entire time but as you can imagine, she was a little put out by this point.  I was holding her trying to get her to calm down enough so I could eat my very awaited meal when an older, grandmotherly woman came over and literally swept her out of my arms.  This lady was nice and bounced the wee one a couple of times and then...


Yes, she literally walked right out of the room and we couldn't see her.  As Brent sprinted after her, I had visions of this woman running down the road with my child taking her God knows where.  Brent found her in the other room just bouncing the wee one.  She was very calm and nice and just said she wanted to give us time to eat a quiet meal.  Apparently, she was the owner's mother and she was just exhibiting some old-school, small-town kindness; however...WHAT THE HELL?!?!

Looking back, I am able to laugh a little.  That night my heart raced.  Between that experience and one a few years back where we spent more time in traffic than we did at dinner, we've since decided that Valentine's Day is best celebrated on an alternate day if we are planning to "go out".  Otherwise, we'll just chill at the house and enjoy our family's love.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  I hope you know how loved you are and are able to share that love with another.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Following Romans 14:13

I've written about this topic before, but it is such a prevailing wind in our society that I feel the need to bring it up again.  This particular post is for those who call themselves Christians - a call for each of us to examine our Christian walk and how our personal walk may affect others.

Recently, I chatted with two different individuals who are struggling in their belief structure.  One never had much support or guidance in her walk of faith and the limited exposure she has had was negative.  The other has had parental guidance and encouragement but has been surrounded by peers who live lives that contradict their faith in very negative ways.  For both of these young women, the concept of being a Christian has been severly damaged based on the example of those who claim to be Christians.

We put heavy emphasis on spreading God's love and doing mission work, which I applaud, but when we do not put the same importance of sharing God in our every day life, we are not living up to God's call for our lives.  I am a firm believer in the concept that your life is a constant testimony to God.  I do not know if anyone has been saved just by watching the actions of a Christian, but I do know (personally) many who have turned completely away from God based on the actions of Christians. 

Although there is always that fine line where individuals have to determine what to take in and what not to pay attention to (i.e., "well the Christian hurt my feelings so I won't believe" is a personal choice), those of us who do purposefully call ourselves Christians must consider how our walk may affect others - particularly when it is blantant, hurtful behaviors - even more so when those hurtful behaviors are done "in the name of Christ." 

I believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe that He was the only sinless individual this world has ever seen.  I believe that He willingly sacrificed Himself as a sinless person to cover my sins (which are many - both public and private).  I believe that I must admit my sinful nature and my specific sins to God and accept that He made this sacrifice.  I believe that in so doing this, I will not be granted a perfect, pain-free life but that I will have His love, grace, and mercy to support me through the dark and rough times.  I believe it is important to share experiences with other Christians and non-Christians as appropriate to support each other and be the body of Christ.

I am a sinner.  Although there are some people in my life have labeled me as "the one who always does everything right," I know that that is just a label and I have had (and will continue to have) my fair share of sinful acts and various struggles in life.  Some of these have played out publically.  Some have merciously played out on a more private scale.  There are things in life that I feel personally convicted to cut out.  There are somethings that are not hinderances in my faith and I have not (at least at this point) felt convicted to remove them.  I watch R-rated movies - Gasp!.  I occasionally drink alcohol - Double Gasp!.  I listen to music other than just Christian - Oh, say it isn't so!.  For me these are not a big deal.  They do not go against any foundational belief in my faith.  I know for some, these types of things may hold a greater significance and they may feel led to behave differently.  These should not be issues that create division.

My focus should be on loving others as God loves me.  Not judging them.  Not condeming them.  Not making them feel like less of a person for not following or walking exactly like I do.  When I hurt another, whether intentionally or not, I need to apologize.  When I am hurt by another, whether intentionally or not, I need to graciously forgive even when it is difficult.  On "paper", these are not difficult concepts.  In everyday life, these are the areas where we cause real and lasting damage. 

Questions I ask myself...
When was the last time I took the time to welcome the visitor at church and really talk to them?  When I see a person on the side of the road asking for money, do I pass judgement whether I give them money or not?   Do I take a minute or even a second and talk to them or just pass some cash over and rush off or roll up my window so I can separate myself from them and their situation?  When I hear a judgemental comment being shared about someone, do I step in and defuse the situation?  When I hear a loved one say, "I just don't know what to think about being a Christian.  I just don't think it's all real" do I ignore it or talk to them to find out why?  When someone tells me they can't believe the Christian life because of how they have been treated by other Chistians, do I open up and share that Christians are full of flaws and we each practice our faith day-by-day, but that the true belief of the Christian faith calls us to be loving and forgiving?

Do I hurt or hinder the Christian faith (or potential Christian faith) of others or do I encourage and help develop that faith?

Lasting of my all-time favorite songs: