I turned the mini-van into our neighborhood, so ready to be done with the afternoon of errands. My younger two in the backseat needed some down time to free range after our full school morning and I was itching to get to my laptop for a slew of writing tasks.
I would have a delightful window of time to work on my stuff before we loaded back up to meet my 17-year-old after football practice.
I pulled into our driveway and turned the van off. Just as I was about to give some instructions for the afternoon, my cell phone buzzed. It was my 17-year-old.
“Hey,” I answered, trying to smooth over any tone that I already felt interrupted.
“Hey, Mom. I forgot my cleats. Can you bring them to school?”
Ok – let me freeze right here.
I know the consensus among so-called experts would advise a parent in this situation to just say no. Parents should not rescue, they say. Let the child experience natural consequences and solve the problem without stepping in.
Believe me when I say my own agenda was also screaming no. Turning around to help him now would mean another 45 minutes at least before we’d be back home.
But I didn’t hesitate on this one.
“Sure. I’ll bring them to the field,” I said backing down the driveway for another round trip to his school.
There have been plenty of times that I’ve knotted up with frustration or launched into a lecture or let the consequences teach but I’ve also learned that sometimes you step in to help because -- this is what a mom does.
Maybe the experts would cringe at that. Maybe they’d say I’m rewarding irresponsibility or crippling my child’s ability to figure it out.
But if I’ve learned anything in this parenting it’s that rules without mercy wind me up way too tight. We all need grace.
Some situations call for a bright-line rule.
Sometimes I need to call the child downstairs to put away shoes left in the living room.
Sometimes I need to call the child and review the rule on where to put our shoes.
Sometimes I need to hold the shoes until the child can pay their ransom.
But strict rules enforced with absolute consistency make me feel more like a master sergeant than a mom – and they don’t account for real life.
Because departures can get busy and time gets miscalculated and tasks get forgotten. And in those situations – if it’s not chronic irresponsibility – then maybe what’s most needed is not to tow the hard line but to offer grace.
Sometimes I just need to quietly put away the shoes because that’s what a mom does.
Or clean up their late night snack.
Or help them with an 11th-hour deadline.
When I reassure myself that this is part of a mom’s territory, my expectations adjust and my feelings follow. The irritation that usually rises and the sense that I’m being put out unwinds.
Grace just releases all of us.
I got an urgent call yesterday from an installer who was ready to start work on our out-of-town rental. He had special-ordered material and his worker was all scheduled to start installation except for one hang-up: he hadn’t yet received my deposit.
Because I’d forgotten to send the deposit.
The invoice had become buried under other papers in my stack and now I had two choices: I could press pause on my entire morning, load kids up in the car and drive the hour and a half to give him a check or I could call my son who lives in the same town to help.
I sent a text to my son: “Can you take a check to the house for me this morning?”
He didn’t hesitate. “Sure!”
There was no lecture. No irritation. No I'm-not-going-to-step-in-so-the-consequences-can-teach.
He extended grace when I needed it.
That’s what a family does.
This time last week, I woke to the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine. The storm – stalled for days in the warm Gulf waters – had finally made landfall just after midnight. Most of Hermine’s wind and rain passed over us through the night as we slept.
We lost power sometime in the dark small hours of morning, causing the smoke alarm to give a half-hearted warning periodically, but all our electricity was back on by the time the last of the kids got up on what would be a no-school day.
The hurricane didn’t do any damage, thankfully, although it left a swath of yard debris. Our front lawn was littered with heavy limbs, green leaves and twigs, and hundreds of rangy branches draped with Spanish moss.
Friends west of us did not fare as well. The storm came in right at Florida’s elbow – the crook where Florida’s panhandle and peninsula meet.
In the panhandle city where we lived for 11 years, more than 100,000 homes were left without power. The storm uprooted huge oaks and toppled tall pines, making a tangle of downed electrical lines and blocked roads.
I’ve watched as friends have posted statuses all week: “Finally have power! Friends please come for a hot meal and hot shower” and “Day 6: still no power.”
Friends also posted lots of these pictures:
Thanks Hermine -- needed a fresh start.
A new start. Cleaned out. New life.
It’s been 10 years since Florida has had a direct hit from a hurricane. Storms can certainly bring their share of damage, leaving a trail of brokenness, damage and debris.
But there’s also this paradox: storms are a catalyst for new life.
Look at what science tells us comes from storms:
New life. Fertile soil. Abundant growth.
What’s true in the natural world is also true in the spiritual world. Storms in our life can certainly create destruction and damage.
Some storms howl and rage as they move over our life, but leave behind no real, lasting destruction.
But those other storms. They batter with full force, striking at our very roots, toppling us and leaving the life we knew in tangles. Even the best preparation falls insufficient.
Like nature, there’s this paradox: storms can be a catalyst for new life.
Storms can clean out the dead wood of our soul better than a thousand sunny days. When what we thought mattered so much is cleared away as so much worthless debris, we are opened anew to needed Sonlight.
Life’s storms can do their damage. Yes, they can. But if we will cling to God, even the most devastating storms can create in us fertile soil and make a place for abundant growth. New life that never would have come in the breezy ordinary.
Not new life despite the storm but new life because of the storm.
The hard work is not just in navigating through a storm; it also comes after the storm. Wreckage must be cleared; rebuilding must begin.
It will look different. New life always does. Not Plan B, but Chapter 2.
We have this hope from our good God: the new life that springs from the fertile soil of our suffering can thrive – strong, vigorous and abundant.
*This post appeared originally at TrueandFaithful.net.
For some time, I have felt overdrawn. Each day, as I went about my tasks and took care of my family, I went to bed a bit more depleted.
I felt like an aluminum bucket of water. Every morning, God would pour into my bucket as I went to him in the Word. But the needs of my day exhausted the water. Each need was like a hole in my bucket that allowed me -- or required me -- to pour water over that task, that person, that concern, that project.
It began to feel like the water was pouring out of the holes faster than I was getting filled by God. For the last few weeks, I’ve been scraping the bottom of the bucket and nearly emptied, I knew I needed a spiritual reset.
This week, I finally carved out a day for a spiritual retreat. I got away by myself -- to just sit at Jesus’ feet without a deadline and with nothing pressing me to get up and get back to work.
My only real agenda was to immerse myself in the Living Water and to recast a vision for my walk with God, for this season I’m in, for the work He’s given me and for my family.
It has been good. I am refreshed and more importantly, I have a renewed vision for all that I see God doing.
When reading a biography of Mother Teresa a few years ago, I was impressed with her commitment to take this kind of spiritual retreat every year. She began the practice as a young novitiate and continued every year, despite the demands on her time, the overwhelming need and all of her responsibilities locally and globally.
In fact, it was on her annual spiritual retreat where she first heard her “call within a call” to leave the convent in Calcutta and minister to the poorest of the poor.
Jesus also stepped away for spiritual refilling and taught his disciples the practice as well.
“…crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:17
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” Mark 6:31
We understand the busyness of coming and going. We get not having a chance to eat – or to eat well – on some days.
Phone calls, texts, stacks of papers in the to-do pile, people that need meals prepared and cleaned up, “Mom, can you pick me up?” and “Mom, I need your help” all had me at a place where I was bone dry – needing deep breaths, my own thoughts and space to hear God’s.
Creating Spiritual Retreat
Retreat means to step back or draw back. My retreats have four essentials:
This isn’t a planning day for me. It’s not a day to schedule out the year’s schooling, put together a new chore system or align my calendar.
A spiritual retreat is where, first, I spend generous time in the Word. I don’t read the Word to teach it or to write about it. It is soul-deep replenishment for me.
Second, a spiritual retreat allows me generous time for prayer. Some of it is formal prayer but most of it is an ongoing conversation as I work through prompts and listen to God’s direction.
Casting a Vision
Finally, I work through a spiritual assessment and questions that help me study where God has been moving; what is working and what needs to be changed; and areas of need for me, our family and each of my children.
The perspective I get when I step back and really examine life is amazing. It helps me to take stock of our lives, to be proactive and to make choices for the year rather than just react to those things that blare the loudest.
And always, life rights itself as time and prayer and God’s Word replenish me.
I've created a 19-page printable Personal Spiritual Retreat Journal for all email subscribers. This journal includes space for thanksgiving, confession, assessment, prayer prompts and more. You can get this free journal when you subscribe here.