Especially for BoyMamas of Seniors

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As you all can tell if you read this blog, I’m not doing too well at keeping up.  Last year, I was hopeful that I could give this some attention and be a resource for some of the moms of boys that I meet not only around the country at events, but the “members of the boymama club” that I recognize in the park or in the grocery store.

But, due to many factors in my life the past 5 months or so, I have really dropped the ball.  I also had a big transition going on with my youngest son, Benji that I couldn’t share publicly until his band was announced and had their official launch party.  Since that was last week, my “gag order” is now expired!  I’ll be sharing more about this part of our journey next week.

But, that’s not what I want to write about today… this is a quick post for moms of SENIOR boys.

I know you’re already exhausted and are either in the middle of preparations for graduation or you’re just trying to remember your name after all the hoopla last weekend!

Regardless of where you are in the “May Madness”, take a breath for a couple minutes.  Rest in the fact that you have given your son everything you have to be a successful human being.  Yes, you’ve made mistakes, but you’ve just crossed a major finish line and deserve a huge pat on the back!  If you still have a party to throw or lunch to cook for 50 relatives, “hang in there” and know that at the end of the day, making sure your son feels celebrated (and whether or not you’re stressed out) that day is more important than the college water bottle labels being perfect or the personalized cupcakes you’ve made or ordered.

Some of you may feel like a zombie because this year has been a painful one as your son has pushed so hard in his attempts to “get ready to launch” that he’s bruised your heart and crushed parts of it that you didn’t even realize he could.  Or maybe, like some Mamas I know,  you’re secretly grateful (and ashamed) that he’s about to go because you’re “rung out” from a tough year of navigating life with him.

I know that my last year with Graham was the hardest one we EVER had!  He turned 18 in May before his Senior year and thought he was a ‘full grown man who didn’t need a mama interfering in his life or decisions’. It was so bad that I almost kicked him out of the house before he left for college.  He apologized to me soon after (his vision cleared when he was thousands of miles away at school enduring his first summer preparing to play college football) and we’ve healed from that difficult year.   We both have some scars that remind us it was not a ‘bad dream’, but actually part of our journey as mother and son.  If this is you… please hear me say, “this is not the end of your story with your son!“.  I was broken-hearted and didn’t know if I could recover from the pain of that year, but I did.  I now have a great relationship today with my son who’s turning 22 tomorrow!  I’ve also been able to let go of my boys in a more purposeful way in the past 4 years as a result of what I began to learn that year.

David Thomas, author of Wild Things and DayStar Counseling in Nashville, has been a huge part of my journey with my sons helped me understand that it’s necessary for boys development to want to get out from under their parents roof.  That as a 17 or 18 year old, it’s critical that he separates and feels the desire to go out on his own into the world.  Sometimes, in order to do that, they push really hard… especially against the one holding on the tightest.

So, my advice here is pretty simple…. “Lean in” to the reality that he wants to go and that’s a good thing.  If you need a reminder of the alternative, check out the movie “Failure to Launch“.  While as Mamas, we may not want our kids to go, that’s the goal we’ve been working towards since their birth.  Remember, we want them to go out into the world and be a functioning adult.   We want our sons to make their own path and become the best version of himself!   Also, be aware that his heart is full of mixed emotions of being “ready to go” and “scared to death“!  He’s probably been operating on very little sleep with all the hoopla and is running on a low tank of emotional fuel, so give him some grace when he snaps at you.  I’m sure you’re tired too, so try to take care of yourself and ask for help from your husband, family and friends.

Enjoy these days as much as you can!   Celebrating HIM with joy is truly the best gift you can give him.  How he feels when he’s in the kitchen with you or in the car riding home from an event will be what his memories are made of twenty years from now.  Be patient if he wants you to wait while he takes 1000 pictures with his friends, or back off if he only wants you to take a few.  I promise he won’t care so much about all the Pintrest projects, but he will care that you recognized he was becoming a man and you let him go with as much grace as you could muster while loving him with all of your heart!

If I had a graduation cap to throw in your honor, I’d do it right now!

Bravo BoyMamas! Much love and peace from here.

Christmas Back To You

2014 Christmas card pic from Stanford football game Fall 2014

2014 Christmas card pic from Stanford football game Fall 2014

I hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season and having fun counting down the days with your family and friends.  I’ve been out on the road doing some Christmas concerts and celebrating Thanksgiving with my sons and the Stanford football team in California, so I’ve just finally put up my tree!

For so many of us, the Christmas season is bittersweet.  We experience the joy and the pain in technicolor as we hold sweet memories, sadness, songs and our Savior’s birth in our frail, very human hearts.  Just ten days ago, my family marked 10 years since my daddy went to heaven at the age of 65.  It hit me harder than I’d expected and I found myself crying on and off for days thinking about how much I miss him.

Since 2004, Christmas has never been the same for me and my family.  But, like many of you, we hold on to the hope that we will be together again.  That part of my story helped me realize that what we all are really longing for at Christmas is heaven.

No tears…no pain…EVERYONE we love in the room, and as we sing in the carol, O Come Emmanuel, “bid envy, strife and quarrels cease, fill the whole world with heaven’s peace”.  As my family waits for my 94 year old grandmother to head there soon, I’m again reminded of that reality.  No matter how pretty we make our homes, how perfect everything looks, it’s only going to last long enough to get some good pictures and hopefully build a few memories around the table with those we love.

Late last night, after a fun night with friends, I sat in the stillness by the tree.  I felt like a kid on Christmas eve looking at the lights and counting down the days until my son, Graham gets home from college for a few days.  Since he plays football, he’ll barely be here before he has to return to prep for their bowl game, Dec. 30th in the 49ers new stadium.

So many memories flooded my mind and heart and I just sat in those feelings for a while until I wandered off to bed.  I’m grateful to finally be at a place in my life where I can allow myself feel the joy and the pain of life on this earth for 50 years and all that it’s held for me and my boys. I hope and pray that you may be able to do the same this year… in the midst of it all, even if it’s mostly pain.  I’ve learned the hard way that if you “block the pain“, the also “block the joy, love and life” that helps us get up and face this crazy world another day.  (I know you’re probably bombarded with a million things today, so I’m trying to keep this short, but please know that I know it’s not an easy 1-2-3 process that I’m talking about.)

I want to share a few songs via video from my Christmas tour, Christmas Back To You.  I wrote the title cut when Graham was a Senior and I realized it was his “last Christmas” at home with me and Benji — just the 3 of us– as my “little boy”.   It’s a tear jerker…. even this past Sunday night, at a concert in Birmingham, I couldn’t sing it without crying at the end.

That’s why I’m also posting the second one, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas featuring my son, Benji (as a 14 year old who’ll turn 18 in a few weeks.)  We had so much fun recording it and when I do it live Benji appears via video and steals the show every night!  I’m also including a little video (Benji “Being Loud”) that I show before we do the song of Benji as a preschooler.  It should’ve been a major clue to me that one day he’d inform me he wanted to be a rapper! He was “free-styling” as a four year old!  Some big news will be announced in early 2015, so keep your ears open for more news on his music.

Click here for the Christmas Back to You video.

Click here for the Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas video.

Click here for Benji “Being Loud” video.

I truly hope that God’s peace and joy bring Christmas back to you this year.

Much love from my house to yours.

Bigger Than His Body

I know most of you know that my son, Graham is #52, the starting Center for Stanford Football.  It’s been such a thrill watching him play this fall live and on national tv.  It’s especially rewarding to see him stepping into so much of what I’ve always known he was meant to do beyond football as well.  Graham was “Red-shirted” his Freshman year, which means he practiced every single practice with “all that he had” knowing that no matter what… he wasn’t going to play in the game.  I really can’t imagine what kind of discipline that takes.  Especially, when you’ve been an All American in high school with more offers than you can count coming out of high school.

Graham’s worked really hard the past few years at Stanford and has learned several lessons the hard way.  His journey is his to share if and when he chooses, but as his Mama, I’m really grateful he’s made it to his “sweet spot!”  I’m so grateful to get to see him not only play his heart out on the field, but see him stepping up as a leader on and off it.   Graham’s always been a people person. He’s able to relate and talk to anyone and willing to help, so it’s not surprising to me that every time I go to Stanford, other parents tell me how much Graham has helped their son with the huge adjustment of college football.

This week, this video (Shuler on Stanford) was released by Stanford Football and I’d love to share it with you.  A friend of mine in Dallas tweeted me after seeing it that “Graham’s heart was bigger than his body” and it made my day because Craig saw what I’ve always known about my “mountain of a man”.   I was reminded again that God does above and beyond what we can ask or think when He opens doors for our sons that lead them to be the best versions of themselves and step into their own unique calling.

Graham would be the first to say it’s been a rocky road the past few years… again, his story to tell.  But, if you have a son enduring some of those times, I hope this encourages you to step out of the way and trust God with his journey.  I’m incredibly grateful for the coaches at Stanford, especially Head Coach David Shaw for creating a football culture that is as concerned with my son’s character and education as with his football abilities. They’ve raised the bar for Graham and his teammates and my son is benefiting from that environment in more ways than I can count.  It’s definitely helped me rest easier knowing that they truly care about Graham now and who he’s becoming as he enters adulthood.

This morning, I did a radio interview for WBYN (107.5 FM) for a benefit concert that I’m part of in a few weeks in the Philadelphia area.   The host started off our conversation telling me that he’d seen Graham’s video this week and wanted to talk to me about him and his perspective on being at Stanford.  Of course, a delight to this mama’s ears!  I’ve shared it on facebook, but it prompted me to write this and share it here too.

Last week, I was at their game against Notre Dame (tough game in horrible weather) and I tried to endure it in my ski jacket and rain gear, but wimped out and joined the old folks in the gym watching the big screens.  I’m grateful that Friday night, I can watch Graham in my pjs on ESPN 8pm CST kickoff vs Washington State.  I’m hoping for an easy win, though I know in the PAC-12 that doesn’t happen too often, but my stomach has just recovered from the tension of the last game.  My sweet mama is hoping for that too. She text me during the last game and said, “Graham needs to play a different position… this is too intense!”  My mom doesn’t watch football, but is watching Stanford this fall with her 94 year old mother.  They’re cheering for Graham along with all of our family and friends!

After the game in the 30 something degree rain.

After the game in the 30 something degree rain.

Hope you’ll join us cheering for #52 and Stanford if you’re home tomorrow night and are able to catch the game!

Peace and love from here, Kim

Next weekend, I’ll be hosting our last “BoyMama Weekend” at The Nashville Treehouse.  We still have a few spots available if you are within driving distance of Nashville, would love to invite you to join us.  David Thomas (Wild Things, The Art of Nuturing Boys) who’s my special guest is worth coming for alone!  We also have real conversations about parenting, great music, gourmet food and a wine tasting woven into a few days of R&R for moms of boys.  www.nashvilletreehouse.com/boymama 

worst blogger award goes to….

Well, so much for my attempt at blogging once a week! I think it’s been almost 2 months since my last post. Leaves are covering my deck and driveway as fall and October are coming upon us quickly here in Nashville.

I know, like me, many of you are overwhelmed by the events around the world that are like nothing we’ve known. I think that’s partially why I haven’t written. In the midst of some incredibly disturbing times, we have to keep going on with our lives in our little corners of the world. The anniversary of 9/11 and so much of what’s going on across the globe weighs on us in ways that I don’t think we’re even aware of. In cities like Ferguson, MO and in my hometown of Memphis fear and hopelessness are knocking louder and louder at our doors.

It’s unthinkable that while we were dumping ice on ourselves, Christians were being slaughtered. Tomorrow marks two years that Pastor Saeed remains in prison and in danger. It’s all too much to wrap our hearts and minds around on most days. Yet, we wake up to another sunrise on another day and look for reasons to hope while love those who come our way. Even though I try speaking out and doing what I can to stand against the evil that’s raging, I still have a helpless feeling as I watch it all on the news.

As I sat down to write on a perfect day in Nashville, I’m reminded of some of the “big moments” I’ve had as a mom the past 6 weeks against the backdrop of such heaviness.  I know that trying to “catch up” is pretty hard to do….it’s like trying to go back and fill in your journal, yet another place I’ve never been consistent in writing!

I’ve already been to California twice to see my son as the starting Center for Stanford. That first snap in the first game was pretty surreal for me. I don’t know when I’ll get used to seeing him on the field or on national television. I decorated our living room in so much Stanford swag for the second game that Benji made fun of me.  FYI, My tv is not this big, this was done using a projector on the wall.  This doesn’t look so crazy, but believe me, if you saw the dining room and the foyer, you may agree with Benji that I went a little over the top!

Stanford vs USC game on ABC

Stanford vs USC game on ABC

Benji’s almost fully recovered from his surgery and has some exciting opportunities on the horizon that I’ll hopefully be able to share next time.  The Nashville Treehouse is growing and brings more joy to my heart than I would’ve ever imagined.  In the midst of that we’ve lost members of our community and heard the news that the cancer is back with a loved one. Another reminder that life is such a mixed bag… it’s so bittersweet most of the time.

So, I wanted to at least write something today for those of you who’ve connected with me here. I have a simple truth to share with you that I’m sure is a reminder to most of you, but as I’m nearing the end of my “child rearing” days with my boys, I’m more and more convinced that the years I poured my life into them matter. Those years in the trenches…. THEY COUNT!!! Hang in there!!!!

As I watch from a VIP seat, I see my sons move towards their own journeys as young men. I’m becoming more of a “consultant” and especially with my 21 year old, learning to have an adult friendship with him.  Especially with Graham, my job as a mama is becoming simplified in many ways after almost 22 years.

A few weeks ago before I said goodbye to him in Palo Alto, I sat with him at breakfast and talked to him about how much I love him and believe in him with tears streaming down my face.  I was grateful that we had a seat that no one could really see me because as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop the tears.  My job at this point is to speak life to him about who he is and to love him unconditionally regardless of whether or not I agree with all of his choices.  Strangely enough, it’s getting easier and easier to do.  As I tried to explain to him, the more I trust God with him, the more peace I have and the more pure love I feel for him that is not tied to anything that he does or doesn’t do.  As simple as it is, it’s always a huge reminder for me that if I can love my son that way, how much more does God love me that way and give me grace to love those around me? “Perfect love casts out fear” takes on a whole new meaning for me these days and as Rob Bell and Bob Goff both so eloquently say… “Love Wins” and “Love Does”!

So, love everybody you can today!

PS. Check out my “BoyMama Weekend” video and please consider joining us at The Nashville Treehouse in a few weeks!

https://vimeo.com/105068786

I Will Always

At Stanford Fall 2013

At Stanford Fall 2013

I wrote this a few weeks ago for The Nashville Treehouse blog and thought I’d repost now that I have a better place to put it.  🙂

Recently, I saw someone’s post on facebook about a mother’s stages of “carrying her children” that caught my attention. I can’t remember it all, but it started with “carrying them in your belly” and it ended with the idea of “always carrying them in your heart”.

Last night, I had one of those times that comes to all mothers… where my heart was heavy with concern for my son. Not just because he’s on Spring Break (definitely a good time to pray!) , but because he’s navigating some tricky waters as an almost 21 year old young man. He’s a college student bombarded with all that comes to him at a very tough school, playing PAC12 football, living in a totally different world than he was raised in at his private Christian schools in Nashville Tennessee and everything else that young adults are faced with as they head into adulthood.

As I sat in my dark den late into the night praying for him, I asked God to remind me again of the promises I’ve held on to the past few years, that I’m sure I’ll hold on to for decades to come.

In the stillness, I heard those simple yet rich words echoing in my heart…. “do not be afraid“…. “fear not”…. “My peace passes all understanding” and many more familiar verses and truths. I heard enough to go to sleep in peace grateful for a God who sees and hears the prayers of a tired mama’s heart. This morning, I had countless “sacred echoes” that reminded me of His plans and purposes for my son … for his future, so I held tightly to the hope that filled my heart. As I sat in the dentist chair for 3 hours, I randomly landed on one of his favorite artist’s music and listened to some of his songs over and over again (grateful for a dentist who provides headphones that helps drown out the drill sounds!). I spent more time praying for him and asking God to speak to his heart as clearly as He speaks to mine. I wanted to find a way to let Graham know that I was praying for him, but I didn’t want to sound “preachy”.

I prayed for the words to text to Graham that would convey my love and care. I pushed SEND and was so grateful to get a text back that said “Thanks Mama. You always have that 6th sense with me. Love you.”

If Spring Break has worn you out or brought up fears for you with your teenagers or young adults, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to ask for His ‘unexplainable peace’. Whatever’s going on that has made your heart is heavy, I hope you’ll be encouraged by my sharing.

I will ALWAYS carry my sons in my heart, but I’m glad to know that One greater than me holds them in the palm of His hand.  My boys and I used to sing “the Lord is always with you, no matter what, no matter what“,  so I loved hearing from Graham that he was reminded recently that no matter where he goes or what he does, he can’t escape God’s presence.  I’m so grateful for every reminder that He really is ‘God with us‘… into the darkest night or in the deepest sea.  I’m hanging on to that too.  Peace to y’all today.

Today Show

Sweet Sunday Surprise

 

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Sunday Chorus concert Brentwood Academy

This past Sunday, I had one of those ‘unexpected mama moments’ when you wish you could freeze time. I was blindsided by my emotions as I sat at Benji’s school chorus concert. He led his choir in Paul Baloche’s well known worship song, “Open The Eyes of My Heart”. Benji had a life changing experience in Haiti this January on a winterim trip with his school, so he sang it in Creole and in English.

I knew he had the solo, but I had no idea how it would feel to watch him lead this song that I had sung countless times through the years as a worship leader myself. Since he could talk (and sing), Benji always sang his heart out in the car and at church, school, anywhere he could… very much like I did as a kid.

Some of my favorite moments from his childhood were hearing him sing praise songs while raising his little hand, as he had his own “church service” in the backseat of my car.

Sometimes, he would even chime in if he heard a lyric on the radio that didn’t fit his ‘preschool theology’. I remember one time when Sheryl Crow sang “I’m still the king of me” in one of her songs and he interrupted her song and said, “No, your not, God is!”

Benji  elementary school

Benji elementary school

Though he loved music, like a lot of kids in Nashville with parents in Christian music, Benji told me early on that he didn’t necessarily want to” follow in my footsteps into the Christian music scene”. He announced to me that he wanted to be a “hip hop/pop artist in mainstream music as a Christian”. Earlier it was “just rap”, but we’ve thankfully progressed from there.  He went on to say that “when he wasrich and famoushe’d give money to orphans in Russia”. (Side note—I’d visited orphanages in Russia around that time and he and Graham both begged me to bring home brothers for them, but as a single mom, I had to tell them that wasn’t something I could take on.)

For the past several years, I’ve supported Benji doing what his heart tells him to do with his music. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve had to trust God with a bigger plan than what Benji has or what I could have for him.   It helped that he promised me that “he talked to Jesus about it,  that he’d keep his lyrics clean and his pants pulled up”, but I also know the pitfalls of ANY genre in the music world, so I spent many nights praying for protection and wisdom for him and those of us helping to guide him.

It’s been a tough couple of years for him as he’s learned some things the hard way, but that’s a whole other story for another day….

Anyway, on Sunday, as soon as Benji opened his mouth to sing, a steady stream of tears poured down my face. I was so happy, so full of joy and gratitude, that I could barely handle it. I was trying to video him and trying not to embarrass him, since I was sitting on the front row. It was one of those moments as Mama that you see a little piece of the fruit of your labor and a glimpse into who your child has grown up to be.   To see the same little heart that used to sing at the top of his lungs in his car seat now singing as a 17-year-old young man was a truly priceless gift on an otherwise normal Sunday afternoon.

If you’re a Mama, you’ve probably had one of these moments where you get to “see” your child operating in their gifts and talents, as well as in their own unique personality. It truly is more precious than anything you can describe when they happen. Sometimes they’re in public and sometimes in private. When you see your child do something kind for a stranger or to a sibling, it’s pure healing oil for our “road weary” mama hearts.  Many of you saw the videos I posted earlier this week and sent so many kind words, so I wanted to share a little more in the hope that it encourages you today if you may be in the ‘hidden and dark places’ of the “growing” season with a son.

I don’t know what the future holds for Benji, but I do know that I can trust God to help him find his way. I’m grateful that several years ago when he dropped the “I want to be a rapper bomb on me” (before LeCrae and TobyMac showed you can do positive rap and hip hop), that I didn’t react out of my own desires for him.

I’m grateful for some of the brave folks in my world that told me not to limit what God had for Benji or to “put him in a box”. I found a way to trust Proverbs 22:6 that says “train up a child in the way he should go”, not necessarily the way “I think he needs to go”, but the way God uniquely designed him.  For my son to go into the world as his own “original version of himself” – bringing what only he can bring is what I believe I’m to train him for!

I may never see Benji led a worship song again, or it may be what he ultimately does for a career, I don’t have a blueprint for his life and calling. But, for me as his Mama and biggest fan, those 2 minutes and 30 seconds on Sunday, were a little taste of heaven and reminded me that God’s timing and plans are much better than mine.

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Here’s a little video snippet. Click here to watch.