Best Buds

Hammocks

This is happening in my backyard today. Two twenty-something best buds hanging out. Literally. And seeing them there, swinging in those hammocks, is good for my soul in so many ways.

I can’t even remember when Jordan became a part of us. There’s a face in my memory. Chubby cheeks, big brown eyes. He’s maybe seven or eight. Squirrelly. Happy. Not much different from now, just younger. And sometime along the way he worked himself from birthday party guest list to just-like-a-brother, and almost-a-son.

He started calling us Mom and Dad and helping himself to the fridge, and that’s when we knew. He’s here to stay. And that’s okay. It goes both ways, and if it’s chore day, Jordan knows to pitch in like family. And the truth is, he usually pitches in even better, setting a standard of cheerful labor for the rest of us to follow.

He’s a frequent guest at our table, and welcome. Usually. As long as we’re not having Thai burgers with just enough for the family and no extras. That’s when someone might subtly suggest a quick run to Chipotle. But mostly dinner is better when Jordan’s around. Especially lately. He brings joy to our table on days when we’re stressed, and even the grumpiest teen lightens up a bit when Jordan’s in our midst.

A while back Jordan introduced us to a TV show that became a family obsession. Psych, featuring Shawn and Gus. Detectives of sorts, and best buds. And there’s a quote in the last episode (the one that made us all cry.) If Luke was here he’d recite it for me easily, but since he’s not around at the moment I had to look it up on YouTube just now. Shawn is proposing to Juliet, and Gus is there, too, helping out. And… Jules, will you marry us? Me? Mostly me? Even though Gus is always going to be part of the deal. And someday he’ll have his own Juliet.  

And I remember Kiana was here watching with us, and all of us looked at her and laughed. That’s going to be you, someday. Marrying Grant and Jordan. And we’re kidding, of course, but only sort of.

It’ll be all brothers and Jordan standing with Grant in the wedding. Two blood brothers, two adopted, one brother-of the-bride, and one honorary closer-than-a-brother.

It hit me the other day. One more thing to make me weepy. And I can’t even write it now. What happens when Grant moves to Des Moines? Will Jordan still show up for dinner?

So, Jordan. I’m not sure if you ever read the BoyMom blog. But if you do. If you are… How about this? Right here and right now I’m extending the invitation. The door will stay open. The fridge is all yours. And somehow we’ll be sure there’s an extra helping at dinner. Even a Thai burger, just for you. Whenever. Forever. You’re always welcome. Please come and hang out.

Tribute

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Confession. The success of this operation has very little to do with me. Boy Mom, yes. But I’d be sunk, and I mean really, really sunk, without the boy dad. He is my hero, to be sure.

This is not just Father’s Day sentimentality. Believe me, this tribute is long over-due. And hopefully it’s not the first mention. If you’ve been reading between the lines you should know by now the depth of my gratitude. The measure of my indebtedness.

Perhaps the most profound thing I’ve learned over these past six months is the true meaning of sacrifice. And not mine, but his. Kyle’s. I’ve said it before. My own ability to die to self has been tested and proved lacking. Not his. Not lacking, that is. His is the real deal.

He lays himself down for all of us, all day every day, and sometimes long into the night. When he’d like to lay himself down in bed, more often than not he’s burning the midnight oil with one last man-talk, or one more video game. Not for his sake, but theirs. And finally when he comes to bed quiet and weary his dad brain is still firing long into the night. On those nights he gets back up and pulls on his sneakers, slips out into the dark to have one more whispered conversation with God. Asking for help, mostly. Wisdom. Grace. Sanity.

He is so determined to enter their world, and this isn’t easy. Five boys, each so unique. And this boy dad wants to know each one. No matter how foreign. No matter how hard to reach. He’s relentless, not giving up.

Recently he’s taken up fishing and car shows. Invested a small fortune in Rubik’s Cubes. Spent an afternoon removing brakes from BMX bikes. Searched the internet and greater metro for the perfect bike park (and as far as we can tell the best option is still just up the road.) Taken countless trips to the gym to shoot baskets. Hundreds of baseballs pitched in the cage. Evenings spent watching bad rec soccer. One more guitar purchase for graduation. A family package of new smart phones. A cable add-on to watch Colombian soccer. And no wonder they think Dad’s supplies are endless.

Which of course, they’re not.

He works three days a week from his home office, just to be close to the action. And those home days used to be quiet, a welcome break from a long commute. But the truth is, lately the commute is a convenient escape, and I feel quite sure any other man on the planet would opt for the long drive to freedom. But not this dad. He chooses home.

He chooses to stay close for them, and for me. He knows I need him, too. I need his nearness. The safety of his presence. One mom versus too many boys, and I wish it wasn’t so, but I am too easily overwhelmed. Even on his days away he checks in often. Wanting to be sure we’re all okay.

He makes me think of Paul, the apostle. Pouring himself out like a drink offering for the rest of us. Giving it all, to the last drop.

Happy Father’s Day, Kyle. You’re amazing, and I love you. And all these boys, they love you, too. Even if they don’t say it. Even if they call you Grandpa and Gordo. What they mean is – Dad you’re awesome. Thanks for everything. You’re our hero.

Porch Prayers

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This morning Kyle and I started our day together, praying on the porch. Today his heart is heavy. He sighs several times before he has words. I feel his spirit groaning, and I know. It’s hard.

I miss having fun. That’s what he says first, and it’s true. Even recreation these days feels a bit laborious. We work hard to play. Our family vacation last week was rich and good, but not light. Nothing is light. We miss that. 

We’re used to having fun together. Laughing and playing. And right now, in this season, our laughter is just a bit forced and our playing takes more than a little effort. I don’t say this to complain. Just to share. Last night I shared with a trusted friend and she said now I know how to pray. And we do need prayer.

So this morning I pray with my husband, and I’m talking to God, but I’m also talking to us. I’m reminding us. Again. Of all that’s good. Good to overflowing. Really. Every day surprises of goodness.

Yesterday at staff devotions there was a passage chosen just for me. Straight from God. Ridiculous. So perfect a pastor who knows my story laughs out loud. True prayers are born out of present trials and present needs. Bread for today is bread enough. Bread given for today is the strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow.* Really? This is like a page out of my journal. Yesterday’s manna and today’s requests.

And this happened yesterday, too. Coming home from a day of work, and just inside the front door there’s a basket filled to overflowing with sweetness. A card with my name on it. Two neighbors who thought I just might need a blessing. And this was no small blessing but lavish generosity, treats and flowers and a card for coffee. A candle and a book. And the book is one I’ve given away time and again, but never had for myself. Jesus Calling. I open my new pink-bound copy and find today’s date. Relax and know that I am God with you. When you desire My will above all else, life becomes much less threatening. Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities–things that are beyond your control. Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain.  

I can’t even use the old excuse–if only I could hear God’s voice. Seriously. He speaks nearly audibly, I hardly have to pay attention.

And so we pray. Kyle and I together, early in the morning before anyone else is up and making demands. We thank and we ask, and when we’re finished our eyes are moist, but we’re okay. We know there will be manna again. Bread for today and a pledge of bread for tomorrow.

Unplugged

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We spent three days together at Rock Ridge Camp enjoying God’s creation, relatively unplugged. After the second day teens were asking to go home, and it wasn’t that they didn’t like it. It’s just that everything is such a stretch. So many things are new and different. So we make adjustments and we savor the moments, taking them as they come.

Kyle noticed the change as we traveled north. One boy who tends toward screen addiction willingly set I-pad aside for window gazing. Completely absorbed by the view. And just the other day I noticed this, too, when I walked through the kitchen, arms full of peonies. Mom, what are these flowers? Momentarily abandoning a video game to get a closer look.

So for at least one teen unplugged was okay for a couple of days. Trading technology for a fishing pole was a satisfactory swap, and with sweet reward. A few good-sized smallmouth bass, or smallies according to the camp director. And on the last day our budding fisherman netted himself a real-live snapping turtle, to everyone’s surprise. A big one, too.

The youngest of our crew, and most social by a mile, had the hardest time embracing unplugged. It wasn’t the games he was missing, but the girls. And what if I miss an important text? Bummer for us, remote as we were, cellphone service still connected, and messages still came, like it or not. But we did our best.

Overall it was even better than expected, and though short in number, our days were rich and full. Great family memories, breath-taking beauty, lingering quiet. Camp staff who spoiled and blessed us, and filled up our souls with just what we needed.

We each had our favorites. A mile-long hike up shore to a rope swing was worth a repeated trip for every boy. Another hike afforded mountain-like views; the weather was gorgeous and flowers were blooming, and the only disappointment was cliffs too low for jumping, which was secretly okay by me.

My flesh-and-blood youngest conquered his fear of heights on the high-ropes course – a small wonder given his older brother shouting Don’t fall! from down below. And all of us had a first-time-ever experience the morning we rode scooters pulled by sled dogs down a long dirt rode to a campsite for breakfast. Who thinks of such things?

Each night boys pulled couches together making a giant nest of blankets and pillows. Saying no to bedroom and bunks, three brothers slept in a pile of cozy togetherness right in the front room. It was there in that mess of bedding and boys we made our most sacred memory. One night after dinner, all of us gathered for scripture and blessings, placing Anderson medallions around the necks of our newest sons. Making a covenant commitment of devotion and love.

God sent me a gift for the journey, too. He knows my fondest for special books for special places, and this time was no exception. Every free moment I made my escape to my secret place, nestled in pines with a perfect view of the water. And there God spoke through a favorite author, a perfect message for life and season. A Loving Life. I wouldn’t have guessed until I started reading. The book’s all about covenant love. Fitting beyond imagining, and just for me.

We’re home now. Refreshed and renewed. Closer, and sweeter.

Thank you God, and Rock Ridge.

Fight

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So much for chick flicks. During the past several months the only movies I’ve seen have featured fast cars, super heroes, and fiery explosions. Proof I am living fully immersed in a guy’s world. And the crazy thing is, they’re growing on me. The guys, and the movies, both.

But I’ve noticed something. There’s been a common theme in the flicks I’ve seen, and it’s not what I would have expected. The tough guys often are duking it out for the love of home and family. Even super heroes turn to mush when it comes to wives and children. I never thought I’d say it, but my recent glimpse of the big screen tells me family loyalty is in vogue.

And fighting for family is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

There are days, I’ll admit, when it feels like we fight with more than for. Just getting out the door with all these teens can be a battle. Strong wills and testosterone and the nature of flesh – and compliance a foreign concept. Not to mention the clash of cultures, and is it even possible to reconcile Colombian macho with Minnesota nice?

Luke told me a while back, “Mom, I’m praying the Holy Spirit will give you anger.” And it’s true I could use a thicker skin. But Luke knows as well as I – there’s a battle that’s worth it, and anger that’s holy, and a family worth fighting for.

There’s an image in the Bible that’s powerful. It’s the image of God fighting for his family. I wrote a book about it a few years ago. Unofficial and unpublished, but a book nonetheless. The Covenant Story. I wrote it for my boys. I wanted them to know about the fierce and furious love of a heavenly father who fought to the death for his kids.

Just this morning I reread a favorite passage, found twice in the Bible. A picture of God bursting forth from the heavens, breathing out fire, devouring enemies to rescue the one he loves. He rescued me because he delighted in me. You should read it. Really.*

Next week we’re going on vacation. Six Andersons, minus Grant, who took off with buddies early this morning for a road trip of his own. The rest of us will head up north, to show our new boys the best of Minnesota. And to show them what it means to be a family.

We have some special plans.

There’s a family symbol worn by Anderson brothers. A necklace engraved with a sword. And a reference to a prayer. It’s a symbol of all that it means to fight, and all that it means to be family. And it’s time for two more boys to be ushered in.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

*Psalm 18:1-19 & 2 Samuel 22:1-20