3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them

3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them

It was a sunny, April day in 2007. I was 7 months pregnant with our third daughter, Lucy. Katie was 3, Julia was 18 months. Mom and Dad called me on speaker phone to confirm what we had been suspecting for years. The diagnosis was in fact, early on-set Alzheimer’s.

This crazy-amazing, crazy-painful thing happens when you become a parent. And I suspect it happens not just for those who become parents, but simply anyone who passes into the chamber of adulthood. (The two happened for my simultaneously. I gave birth to Katie at the wee age of 21. God bless her.) Through the lens of adulthood, through the lens of parenthood, we are able to more clearly see the stories of our very own parents. Therefore, a seemingly crystal-clear view of our own childhood. Crazy-amazing. Crazy-painful.

Just as I was beginning to get my feet under me as a mama, I desperately needed to walk back THROUGH my childhood, not AROUND my childhood with my mom. I had so many things to ask her, to apologize for (mainly for stealing all her sane brain cells) and honestly, I needed to express to her some wounds I had been carrying for far too long. And at the end of the day, I wanted to sit at her wise feet and ask, “How did you do it?!”

Alzheimer’s does not always smile a friendly smile on rehashing the tricky road of hurt. Alzheimer’s steals the ability to navigate such bumpy waters and emerge healed. Bottom line, any of the complicated matters my heart needed to discuss with my mom, would only hurt her with an everlasting, earthly hurt.  On this side of glory, she would never be able to emotionally heal and process from ANY critique or questioning. The disease held her mind in captivity.

And so as an individual soul, whatever frustrations I had, whatever cracks I needed her balm to heal, I had to find that peace and forgiveness by never uttering a word to her, but by transforming those wounds into energy to serve her and love her well until her very.last.breath.

As a daughter who now stands on this side of losing a parent, from a place of much humility and tender thought, I have some advice for parents with grown children, and for grown children with parents.

Parents of Grown Children,

We need you say 3 things to us before you die. And we might need you to say them to us more than once.

I am 12 years in to this parenting gig, and I am overwhelmed at the number of times I have ALREADY wounded my children’s hearts. It is VERY sobering to realize that the decisions I am making on their behalf, decisions I have ALREADY made on their behalf, will live on in them forever.

Parents, say you are sorry.
Grown Children, forgive your parents before they ask for it.

It is healthy and good to walk through our childhood. It is good to name the things our parents did well and pass them on to the next generation. It is also healing to name the things that they got wrong, process it deeply and purely; grow from it, heal from it, but you MUST NOT camp there.

My mom spent a lot of her final days and years apologizing, but the painful kind of apologizing. The kind of apologizing you wanted to plug your ears and wish away. It was awful to hear her apologize for things she had no control of, “I’m sorry I fell. I’m sorry I forgot. I’m sorry I spilled. I’m sorry I misspoke. I’m sorry I wet myself. I’m sorry I’m confused. I’m sorry I’m such an inconvenience.” My heart would break each time. And with each apology, as a family, we attempted to meet them with, “It’s ok, Mama. It’s ok. You don’t have to apologize. It’s ok!”

Grown children, regardless of the pain inflicted, forgive your parents. FORGIVE.YOUR.PARENTS. They are broken vessels living every day with a bit of sovereign grace to see them through. I do not know your pain, nor do I pretend to understand it, but I know the forever mark they will leave on your mind and in your heart. And when they are gone, telling them they are forgiven is no longer an option.

Parents, tell your children that you are proud of them!
Grown Children, be willing to admit in your heart of hearts, how desperately you need to hear these words.

She smoothed the table cloth over and over again. She was nervous and was trying to busy herself with a task. I was cleaning up lunch, and because her ability to move was limited she could only watch me. I cannot imagine how that broke her. The Mama, the matriarch, the one who spent her life busying herself in the kitchen, could only sit helplessly and watch. She apologized, “I’m sorry I can’t help! Let me do the dishes. Find me the broom and I’ll sweep”, she rocked forward trying to sweep crumbs into her soft palm. “It’s ok Mama, you have cleaned up more meals than my brain can imagine. Just sit there and talk to me.” She sniffed back tears. “You’re such a great mom, Sara Suzanne!” she whispered, barely audible to my ears. My throat clogged with ugly tears, “I learned from best,” I choked out.

You cannot imagine the life-gift written on my heart when Mama would compliment me. For every crappy mom day I have, her words of encouragement remain and pull me through.

Parents, tell your children you love them!
Children, take every opportunity to do the same.

She said it constantly. Coming and going, calling and hanging up, sitting, sleeping, eating, walking. A brief pause, turn of her head and gentle, “I love you!”

The disease made it urgent.
The disease made it more beautiful every time she said it.
The disease made the words stick and linger.
The disease made it flow more often and more importantly.

Alzheimer’s took her brain, but never her love.

Her hands were the softest I had ever held. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. Death was approaching and our time with her was ending. I nestled my nose along her frail and cold cheek and wrote on her heart the very thought that I wanted her to take into eternity, “I will love you for always!”

Isn’t it time for you to lay your weapons down?
Isn’t it time to apologize for hurt you’ve caused?
Isn’t it time to forgive?
Isn’t it time to say something kind, something life-giving?
Isn’t it time to receive such life?
Isn’t it time to say, ‘I love you?”

It is. I just know it is!
Now go…you might not have tomorrow!

~Sara

Alzheimer's, 3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them
(Photo Cred: Capture Photography and the brilliant, Jessica Flynn)
Dear Mamas With Small Children

Dear Mamas With Small Children

Dear Mamas With Small Children,

If I could, I’d steal you away and make you come sit on my porch for an entire day of rest. It’s getting a little chilly here in Mississippi, so I’d wrap you in fuzzy blankets and serve you something steamy and warm.

First, let me get all my *not so little* children out the door for school. Wait! Julia forgot her glasses, I’ll be right back. Just sit here in the silence and listen to the leaves rush to their winter homes below. Those bells chiming in the  background? That’s French Camp Baptist saying hello through the brisk, morning air. It’s delightful, isn’t it? Hum that familiar tune while you wait for me to return, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

I’m back. Glasses delivered. Let me grab my French pressed coffee and we will sit.

I have something urgent to tell you.
Something that could possibly change the course of your day, your month, even your life.

I inch my front porch seat closer and closer to yours.  Now our knees are touching through our fuzzy blankets. I take my little Val Hall-hands and encapsulate them around yours. I squeeze a comforting squeeze and begin to speak over you:

“Sweet Friend,

I see you struggling. Carrying an insane amount of pressure, expectation and weariness on your shoulders. Your eyes are void of life and energy. You haven’t slept well in weeks, months, possibly years. Your soul is aching, so unbelievably dry and cracked like a scorched desert. You can only dream that you’ll feel alive again some day. Your heart lays in bondage to the sewage of comparison and mom-guilt. You’ve convinced yourself you’re getting it all wrong, and have completely screwed up this mystery called motherhood. You’ve let lies etch “FAILURE” all over this season.

I’ve been there. Oh, I have been there.

With a 5 year old, 3 year old, 1 year old and a new born. We moved away from everything we knew, everyone we knew. We were 1,000 miles away from Mark’s parents, and 1200 miles away from my parents. A new job, a new town, a new state, a new home, a new community, a new baby, a new church, and an entirely new season of motherhood; mother of 4, 5 and under.

So many days, I was just surviving the ebb and flow of, “Mom. Mama. Mommy. Mom. Mama. Mommy!”

I knew at the conclusion of everyday I needed more of Jesus. Kids have this way of wicking out every good and patient feeling in you, and leaving you raw with wickedness.

My behavior-modification guilt stirred; “You should be getting up before the children to have a quiet time with God.” “You should be staying up late after they go to bed to have a quiet time with God.” “You aren’t praying enough.” “You aren’t making the kids memorize enough scripture.” “Do they even know what justification is?!” “Go Sunday School more!”  “Work with them Mon-Sat on sitting still in the sanctuary!– They’re so disruptive during the service!”  “You are failing them spiritually, Sara!”

Oh the sticky web of guilt I wove. But can I tell you something?
Jesus set me free from that putrid line of thinking!

I tried to set my alarm to get up early. I failed.
I tried to stay up past 8:15pm. I failed.
I played more bible verse cds in the car. Until I lost my sanity, and turned Justin Bieber back on.
We worked on sitting still in church, until we joined the Oasis and the very base line of Sunday mornings was the low hum of small voices chatting and moving about. FREEDOM!

OHMYSTARS raising small babies is EXHAUSTING! I just wanted to sleep. And you know what?! Jesus was ok with that. For years, I would place everyone in their rooms for nap time and I would feel the Holy Spirit invite me to my own spiritual nap time. I’d crawl up into my bed and visualize that I was crawling into the lap of my God. I would cry, “HELP ME! Know my heart!” and He would whisper, “Rest! I’ll fill you up, I will help you and I know your heart, sweet daughter!”

Please don’t convolute what I’m saying. I’m all about some alone time with Jesus! In His word, quietly in prayer and worship. But there is SO.MUCH.FREEDOM within those walls. Freedom we rarely extend to mamas with small children. I remember MANY Beth Moore studies in my kitchen, answering questions with a baby on my hip and one hanging on my ankle. I remember saying many prayers in motion. Many pleas for assistance not scheduled into “quiet times.”

Seriously, who has a “sweet hour of prayer” with 4 kids under 5?!

Ok, so maybe you do. But I didn’t.

And God was NOT disappointed in me. He wasn’t freaked out because I didn’t wake up with the sun like the Psalmists. I drooled on my pillow until a little person insisted I get up. I’d pray to Him in the dead of night, while the house was utterly still and I nursed a new born baby.  I knew of His kindness to me all throughout the trenches. He routinely revealed Himself to me as the God who meets us where we are.  And where I was, was in the muck of raising tiny human beings to be somewhat functional. And there is NO muck like child rearing muck.

I knew this from my head down deep into my toes. It sustained me during really dark seasons.
This last year, a friend of mine showed me a verse that actually, totally and completely supports what I knew ALL ALONG!

Isaiah 40:11
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs into his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
HE GENTLY LEADS THOSE THAT HAVE YOUNG!

other translations:
He gently leads the nursing ewes.

He gently leads those that are with young.

Are you catching this?
Do you see how the Lord deals with the mamas of the young?
Do you see it?
Can you receive it?
Can you believe it?

Mamas of Small Children,
He deals with you GENTLY! He knows your portion. He acknowledges the weight you’re carrying. He sees with tender eyes your exhaustion. He knows you’re depleted and worn. And you know what? He deals with you GENTLY! Maybe that’s how you should begin to deal with yourself also; GENTLY!

Maybe that gentleness will give way to rest. And that rest will bring you a flash of hope, and that flash of hope will rain an ounce of life onto your desert heart. Because we all need some rain, don’t we?”

I can see you need a refill.
Those tears streaming down your face? Let them roll.
You’re safe here on my front porch.
I’ll go grab us some Kleenex and a refill.
I’ll be right back….

~Sara

motherhood, raising children

What Our Kids Learn The Last Month of School

What Our Kids Learn The Last Month of School

I asked Mark to stop and get me some coffee on his way home from work yesterday, because my stash was running low. Me – coffee =’s a national security crisis. Coffee is one of my love languages. I’m not afraid to admit I’d give up food before I’d give up coffee. This is what he delivered.

There is a reason he didn’t pick up JUST one or two, but THREE packages of coffee. We are in the final stretch of school. The ninth hour, the ninth month, the ninth inning. However you want to label it, we are nearing the end. Four weeks, and the 6:15 AM alarm goes from green to gray, and the whole house shouts HALLELUJAH! If Lucy’s eyes were a downloading ticker, it would indicate she is 99% complete. When Lucy gets tired, she gets crazy delusional. Last week, she walked in the door from school, laid down on the ground with her back pack STILL on, and stared at the ceiling for an hour. God love her. I believe she is ready for the third grade train 🙂

We’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier, and waking up later and later, because our bodies are all, “I love this bed! I love this bed! I love this bed! I can’t get up! I can’t get up! I can’t get up! One more snooze! One more snooze! One more snooze!”

Based on rough estimations, I have made and packed 360 lunches and 480 water bottles. At the conclusion of this school year, I hope to pass Kindergarten for the 5th time, 2nd grade for the 4th time, 3rd grade for 3rd time and 6th grade for the 2nd time. I have relearned so much this year; I am a complete wizard with my multiplication math facts. ‘Go Dog Go’ is STILL a really long book for a new reader. I have totally enjoyed reading Harry Potter through the eyes of my daughter. I increased my historical knowledge of Chinese Emperors. And seriously, I can do a mean Brachiosaurus impression (yes, I had to Google the correct spelling!) I’ve learned A LOT, and so have my cherubs. But like Lucy, my brain is full, my body is tired and we’re all ready for a small fast from school.

But all the the teachers, who feel the exact same way, respond in unison, ” DON’T QUIT YET, THERE ARE STILL FOUR WEEKS LEFT!”

Yes.there.are.

While our brains have broken the standard rule, “all things in moderation”, and we are teetering on obesity of knowledge; we press on. In between dodging the “can you check us out early?” requests, and “do we have to go?” pleas, I’ve decided these final weeks of school are SO MAJOR in the lives of our kids.

Major, not because the bulk of their educational foundation is being laid in these final days, or the climax of passing their current grade is at hand, but because their character will be solidified in pushing through the uncomfortable.

Littlejohns don’t quit!

So much of life is bearing down and holding on in the uncomfortable. Leaning hard and heavy until the work is done. Be it physical work, spiritual work, martial work, parental work, or just work-work. We don’t have the luxury or the permission to walk away when life gets complicated and messy. In real life, you don’t get a summer vacation.

My kids are incredibly blessed to watch their dad live out a life of faithful, hard work. Every morning, rain or shine, spring or summer, cold or hot, tired or awake, encouraged or discouraged, excited or bored, bank holiday or not; Mark shows his love to our family by consistently showing up to work. This writes perseverance on the story of our children’s hearts.

“Finish well” I’ve whispered to sleepy, after school eyes.

Or some days, when you turn an olive oil bottle into a weed vase, it’s just “Finish, my love! Finish.”

Y’all we can do this!
Cheers! *and all the olive oil bottles clank*

~Sara

What Do You REALLY Want For Your Children?!

What Do You REALLY Want For Your Children?!

Lucy just walked out of the house in purple shorts, a red and white striped shirt, and fake camo Toms. Julia left with her “boy” tennis shoes on that she insisted she get for the school year. Not caring one lick they came from the boys section of the shoe department. Neither one, pausing at all with insecurity and doubt about their wardrobe choices.

I shook my head as my little women exited. I love how incredibly diverse, unique and JUST SO THEM, they have grown to be. I decided a million years ago, that clothing was not going to be battle I fought with my girls (or my son). Obviously, if it was inappropriate or outrageous, we’d have to go to the mattresses, but other than that, ‘Shake It Off’ mom, ‘Shake It Off”……

I have struggled my whole life with reading, spelling and math. I had to receive significant help from a tutor just to pass the second grade. School was never just ‘natural’ for me. Every grade, every course I had to work my bootie off. Therefore, my heart is INCREDIBLY tender to anyone who struggles with these areas. I want my children to champion these subjects because pain was stirred into the paint can of that canvas for me. I want confidence and victory to be their paint brush.

Spelling and reading out loud, has not come as naturally for my Julia, as it has for my other two girls. Every week, we spend hours, HOURS, working on spelling words. I know that my motivation to help Julia conquer every spelling list, oozes out of my own insecurity.

So often, the nudge we give to the rudder of our children’s lives, comes from the very deep waters of our own weaknesses, strengths, failures, hurts, victories, challenges and experiences.

You were an athlete and benefited from kind coaches, the physical challenge and the comradery of being on a team. Therefore, there is a high emphasis on sports in your home.

Athletes were cruel and unkind to you. You were cut from the basketball team in the 7th grade, and have loathed all things sports since that day. Therefore, you do whatever it takes to steer your children in the opposite direction of sports.

You quit piano at age 11, and have regretted it everyday since then. Therefore, all of our children are enrolled in piano lessons somewhere….. And BY GOLLY, they aren’t quitting 🙂

The stress of performing a piano piece in front someone, almost sent you to an early grave. Therefore, you are completely ok if your children NEVER play the piano.

You were a complete book worm, and spent your childhood traveling from adventure to adventure between the covers of a book. Therefore, books are valued and encouraged in your home.

You struggled with reading and were laughed at when you read out-loud. You never received a stupid Book-It prize from Pizza Hut, and never once attended an AR party. You could care less if your kids love books.

OR…. You are hell bent on every single one of them living on Pizza Hut pizza for the rest of their lives, and you read like ninny to them every day.

You see, our children can become the sum of our own, personal equations, unless we are VERY, VERY careful.

I’ve not been a Mama for long, but I feel like 12 years and 4 children later, I have a better understanding, a clearer viewpoint. It is SO incredibly important to know in your gut your personal equation. Walking THROUGH and not AROUND your own childhood, will enable you to sift through why certain things light you up more than others.

In my insecurity about spelling, there are times I have pushed and pushed Julia, and sometimes I’ve gone too far. If I didn’t know WHY I did that, it would be VERY difficult for me to back off and see the harm I could be causing. Even more important, I might create a whole different can of pain for Julia, by being blinded to my motivation for her success. Julia is NOT ME! Julia is apart of a whole new equation that does not have to be tainted and stained by my own.

On the flip side, there are BEAUTIFUL and DELICIOUS lessons we can pass on to our kiddos because of our own equations. Finding this balance is the journey of parenthood.

One such delightful moment happened for me last week. I am kind of in love with words, and have made no bones about passing down my love to my children. They have heard me say countless times, “UGH! Find a different word, that one is so tired!” Now, altogether, we roll our eyes when any Duggar uses the word ‘surreal’, because they’ve said it like 345,755 times…. (More money to the counseling fund!)

Any way, Lucy wrote us a song. I love when my kids write anything…. But a song. I used to write songs when I was little. There are many of you who had to suffer through my songs, I’m just so.sorry. But suffer we did not, when Lucy sang this piece for us. I did not take a video, but I have one in my head. And maybe someday she’ll sing it for me again. In the meantime, here are the precious, precious words my SEVEN year old penned.

What Happened To This World?
By Lucy Littlejohn

What happened to this world, or did I become evil?
What happened to this world, but did you know that I’m ashamed?
Did you know that I’m loved.
Did you know that I’m saved.

I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord.

What happened to this world, or did I die?
You gave me yours, I gave you mine.
You’re my God, You’re my God, You’re my God.

I trust you!
I trust you!
I trust you!
YEAH!
You’re my God!  

I don’t know your sweet equation. I don’t know you child’s sweet equation. But I know everyday, we have an opportunity to evaluate our equations, learn from them, decipher where errors were made, and write and rewrite until a more tender and gracious balance is reached.

Happy Writing!
~Sara