Restraints and Containment

 “Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10: 7-10

Have you ever tried to contain something that is not containable?  Surprisingly, maybe not so,  I had a child that did not yield to a restraint or containment of any kind.  He was like a little Houdini.  Before he could walk he would climb out of his crib, high chair, over the baby gate and out of his car seat.  If it was meant to restrain or contain him.  Forget it.  Not happening.  No way.  No how.

I think his first stunt was crawling out of the bed.  We didn’t know he could get out and during the night, to our surprise, he showed up in our room trying to get in bed with us.  The next day, we lowered his mattress as far down as possible.  It worked, for a few days.

We didn’t have a nanny cam so I decided to watch him one afternoon to see how the little rascal was getting out.  Clever little boy.  He would use his changing table to pull himself over the bed railing.  Once atop the changing table he would climb down the table by using his toes in the hardware of the drawers.  Keep in mind.  He was not walking, at this time and he was upstairs.  Good news was he couldn’t reach the door knob so at least we could keep the door closed to avoid an accidental fall down the stairs.

His next escaping adventure was with security gates.  Somehow the little stinker could just, with upper body strength pull himself over and unfortunately sometimes the gates themselves would fall.  We decided to invest in two pricy thick security gates.  Again, our efforts proved to be in vain.  The gates worked for a few weeks.  He couldn’t pull himself over these.  They were a little higher and much sturdier than the previous ones.  However, these heavy duty thick plastic gates were made to look like a lattice fence.  Alex, figured out he could, again, use his toes, connect them between the open spaces and climb right over.  All this before he could walk.

After he learned to walk, he was much more difficult to contain.  He climbed on everything and had no fear of anything.  He frequently dug himself out of the high chair while being strapped in.  No clue how he managed to get out of the restraint.  But he did.

Then one day, we were headed to Concord to visit my sister and her family.  We heard a little rustling from the back seat and I turned to find Alex completely out of his car seat and sitting in the seat between his carseat and Amy’s.  We stopped put him back in and harnessed him well, or so we thought.  A few minutes later Matthew from the rear seat is laughing saying, “Mom, he’s out again.”  I looked back just in time to see him crawling out of his carseat and looking very proud of himself.  Needless to say, the next few days we researched car seats and found one that was supposed to have a better restraining system. As always, it worked for a little while but he somehow managed to slip his arms up through the restraints, no matter how tight or high the restraint was.  He knew if he could get his arms out he could wriggle the rest of his body out.

The good news was over time, he finally learned it was for his safety but honestly there was no containing that little booger when he was little.

When I think about how active and daring and challenging and scary, at times, it was raising him as youngster, I stand amazed how self-controlled and cautious and wise he is today.  He didn’t initially realize that the restraints and containment were for his protection and safety. When he did realize they were meant for his protection,  it had to be his choice to adhere to them, not mine. He chose well.

Just like us.  We sometimes feel restrained or contained by following Jesus.  We fail to see the benefit so we buck the restraint.  We decide to crawl over the fence.  When we do this we are left unprotected and that’s a scary place to be.  Jesus doesn’t want to hem us in to harm us but to keep us from danger.  To keep us safe.  Until we get to the point, like Alex, to see that it’s up to us to choose the safety and security that Jesus provides, we will continue to escape the protection every time.


Choosing Wisely

It’s funny how the order of things sometimes gets confusing.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that a lot of folks think Alex, my third child, is actually the youngest. Well, he’s not.  Alex just made a different choice about higher education after high school.

Alex’s senior year of high school was filled with aspiring thoughts of playing collegiate golf. It was his dream. He was, in fact, given the opportunity to walk-on at Brevard college. However, a few weeks before the start of school, Alex informed us that he knew Brevard college was not the place for him and he couldn’t go to a school just to play a sport he loved. Hence, the decision to attend Blue Ridge Community College.

After his Freshman year, he was burned out. Begged us to allow him to take at least a semester off so he could work full-time .

Together, we decided the better choice was to go part-time, work and play golf. Part-time would keep him in the groove but allow him some time to refocus and figure out what he really wanted to do. It worked.

By the end of his second year, He decided to pursue a degree in business. All the while, making sure his classes would transfer to a university.

A few months ago, he received and acceptance letter to Clemson and UNC Charlotte . The only two schools he applied to.  After thoughtful prayer and consideration, he made his decision to attend UNCC.

Here’s what he had to say about that decision:

Since I’ve had numerous people asking me about my future school plans, here’s an update:

I’ve decided to attend UNC-Charlotte this upcoming fall. While I did really consider enrolling into Clemson, I’ve felt led, due to numerous factors, to attend Charlotte.

It’s been one heck of a ride since I got out of high school and at times has been fairly directionless. In May, I will graduate from Blue Ridge Community College with an associates degree. Now, would I change the path that I chose? Absolutely not. Honestly, I would really like to urge high school seniors that are unsure of their future plans to pursue this route. The benefits are astounding and there is no shame in attending a local community college.

This process, at times, has been quite the struggle… and at other times very rewarding. I cannot wait to see where God leads me on this next journey of my life.

Two days ago, he brought home his cap and gown. He will be graduating on May 13th and we are thrilled for him. He has chosen a different path but one that was wise for him.

One of my favorite quotes from The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst is, “Wisdom makes decisions today that are still good for tomorrow.”  Alex has used wisdom to make good decisions for himself and the dividends will be huge

I am so proud of this young man and his ability to think and reason through choices. He will be the first one in our family to actually hold a degree of some sort.  Like I’ve recently said to both Ryan and Matthew, “Bout time somebody gets a degree of some sort in our family. “.

Dear Matthew

Today is no different from any other day. I think of you often, maybe more than I should, but being your mom gives me that right and privilege.  Besides, I can just because I can.

As I was walking along this morning, I noticed squirrels playing around trees and one took off, scurried up a tree with the other one not far behind, climbing another tree.  Determined the one was not going to do something without the other. Watching them scurry about reminded me of when you and Ryan were little.  You always wanted to be where he was and doing whatever he was doing.  You actually contrived in your little noggin that you were as big as he was and you should be able to do everything he could.

For example, when you were barely 4 and he was almost 6, you were angry because be could tie his own shoes and you couldn’t. Boy, did you put your heart and soul into learning how to tie your shoes. One particular morning,  you promptly descended from the car as normal and headed up the stairs to go into preschool. As I looked back to watch you walk up the stairs, I noticed you stopped abruptly. Plopping yourself smack in the middle of the stairwell because your shoe was untied and you were determined to tie it. Knowing full well how this would end, I pulled my car into a parking space and headed over to you.  The frustration meltdown had already begun, tears bursting from the sides of your eyes and the look of sheer defeat on your face.  You said, “I’ll never learn how to tie my shoe.  Never. Never. Never.”  Finally, when you calmed down and took your time, you were able to tie your shoe. Sobs of defeat had turned into cheers of jubilation.  “I did it.  I did it.  I can tie my shoes just like Ryan.”

Sometimes, I didn’t know if it was your stubbornness or sheer determination that always propelled you to excel at anything you set your mind to, maybe a combination of both.  Your stubbornness gave you the drive and your determination saw it through completion.  So, it’s no wonder that you are where you are today.

You have such a big kind heart for people, especially your family.  You have always made time to cultivate and maintain relationships with all you love. I remember last year when Papaw found out he had Stage 4 lung cancer.  You knew you were going to be out to sea for awhile and you also knew his prognosis wasn’t promising.  You struggled to decide whether to come home or just wait it out.  During one of our conversations you said, “Mom, it’s Papaw.  He’s a fighter and I know he’ll fight this but statics are not in his favor.  So, I’ve decided that I am going to come home because I won’t regret it either way.  If something happens to him while I’m gone, I’ve seen him.  If it doesn’t that’s even better.”  Thankfully your XO pulled all the stops and got leave approved so you could come home.  What a blessing it was for us all.  Your presence is like a soothing balm or like a warm blanket on a bitterly cold day.

You have such a gift for bringing joy and entertainment.  As a child you constantly wanted me to entertain you because you were always bored.  In your mind, you fashioned me as your ticket for entertainment.   Remember that one time, when you were probably 9 or 10  and I looked at you and said, “Matthew, God put me on this earth to entertain you.  He put me here to love and take care of you.  If you want to be entertained, go entertain yourself.”  As always, you took me very literally because that how your mind works.  By the time you were 15, you were entertaining folks with your amazing magic card tricks.  You worked hard and diligently to train yourself.  In fact, you entertained many folks at Ci-Ci’s pizza on Monday evenings, landed a few gigs for Relay for Life and even got yourself a nice write-up in the Times-News.  Ironically,  the one who wanted to be entertained became the entertainer.

Your passion for God and people always fascinated me. You always took up for the underdog.  You always sought out those who seemed helpless. You were always, always comfortable in your own skin and you never shied away from sharing your faith.  You didn’t have to follow the crowd.  You could lead one.  I don’t even think you realize the difference you made in the life of others.  I sure hope they tell you one day.  I know you’ve made a big difference in mine.

You always had a knack for seeing beauty in everything, you always took time to smell the flowers.

Your adventurous spirit has taken you to many places in Europe and even Australia, not on Navy time.  You even took a helicopter ride to the Great Barrier Reef and swam with the sharks and bungee jumped at one of the scariest places I’ve ever seen.  Survived it all. Fully anticipating the next great adventure.

And now, you’re on one of the biggest adventures of your life.  A deployment.  I don’t even know where you are and probably don’t want to know.   I know you’re in deep, deep waters and I know there is a level of safety there.  Here’s what I am sure of….”You will never go where God is not.”  Max Lucado  Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and he will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Which is the reason for my hope.  I’m not just clinging to a lofty idea, I am hanging on every word of God because I know it to be Truth.

So, while I wait and hope and pray, believing that God has you “engraved in the palms of his hands” Isaiah 49:16 and , “The Lord himself watches over you!  The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.” Psalms 121:5

When you read this, which won’t be until you’re in port or finished with deployment and wonder why in the world I didn’t send it directly to you.  First, it’s far too long for an email.  They’re suppose to be short.  Second, I could simply print it off and mail it to you, but who knows how long that would take to get to you.  Simply put, I want to make sure as soon as your feet hit dry ground you know how deeply loved and special and unique you are and it’s really ok in book, if others know that too.  Besides, let’s go back to Ryan’s infamous quote, “Because I can.  That’s why.”

Also I want to give to hope to other mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children etc that there is this crazy mom in North Carolina who prays for their loved ones the same way I pray for you.  Not only do I pray for their loved ones, but I pray also for them because I know what it’s like to want a word.  One word just to know all is well.  It’s called praying strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

And so today, will end like every short version of my email.  Guess what?  Today is one day closer till I get to see your face again.  That makes my heart very happy.

I love you,