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No Fear Parenting


Not too long ago, just a few months in fact, a horse and young rider appeared through the woods in front of my house. The boy, just 10 years old, in his worn chaps, boots, and cowboy hat, tied the horse and played for an hour or two with my kids. I fed him good in case he might faint, offered water to the horse lest it fail, and warned him about the coming storm. The cowboy, who’d grown a few inches in the short span of that afternoon, laughed at my handwringing and rode the twelve miles (10 as the crow flies) back home, crossing one major road, then through fields and sagebrush and wild terrain.

As he left, I’d made him promise to call me when he got home, and it was clear I was the only one afraid of the looming thunderclouds, I could see it in his plucky blue eyes. The call came a few hours later, “Mrs. T, you don’t have to worry, I’m in the fields near my house now, I made it.”

I cringed for just a moment, wondering if I’d ever have the courage and steady mind of this boy’s mother, sending my babies off into the wilderness like that — Bears, cougars, snakes! Mostly, I was just in awe at the common-sense no-fear parenting in action. The lack of a parent tagging along in this little narrative only means, let me assure you, that this family has raised a confident and skilled young man. (Mom called me later to see how the whole thing unfolded and I praised her fortitude!) Yes, the boy comes from a long line of rugged pioneer stock and rides a horse as well as he walks — and had a cell phone and a hunting knife on him. And he’s been trained in survival skills practically since he was born — there is the balance.

Me? I send my kids to school with their own personal hand-sanitizers and force them to wear coats because I am cold. What kind of moral virtue and perseverance is that teaching?

In the meantime, I’ll be working toward not over-sanitizing my kids’ childhoods. Watch out, they may not gallop ten miles to a friend’s house, but maybe I’ll let them go bird hunting by themselves on the back 10 acres.

Mother, did you know?


I was blessed to spend Christmas Day with some wonderful and rare women, all mothers to me in one way or another. We talk about Mary on Christmas Day because of her special motherhood. I think on Christmas Day, perhaps even more so than Mother’s Day, it’s right to celebrate mothers and their place in this world.

My actual mother, here with her favorite cup of tea (this is the best tea I’ve ever had, as she says about what’s in front of her at the moment). She’s lived a quirky and eccentric life and somehow raised four girls and they raised her. She is a blessing, even in the difficult days of the caring and cleaning and frustrations of old age. She now forces us into comedic breaks which we really need. My husband said “Happy Halloween” to her on Christmas morning, and then she refused to believe us when we said it was actually Christmas — “no, you’re joking!” she insisted. When I was a little girl and young adult, she would unfailingly tell me I was beautiful, smart, talented, and a wonder. She had a small world in her mind and didn’t have a lot to compare me to, so I took her words with a grain of salt. But I’ve since understood to never underestimate words like this, they are powerful and shaping, and when spoken in child-like faith are a sort of beacon of light and hope eternal.

Next is Tana, my mother-in-law. She’s been my friend and mother for 17 years now, and is a piece of my foundation. She raised three boys, and that alone makes her a rockstar. Her boys are funny and warm and love her and each other, true evidence of mothering well-done. God knew I needed some help and sent me Tana. Her fierce loyalty and deep friendship is really something. She is part of this group of seven women who went to high school together — what, 50 years ago? — and they still get together without fail a couple times a year. She inspires me to be a good and faithful friend. Also, I’m terrible at celebrating milestones, and without her help, there would have been far fewer birthday parties and other commemorating events in the lives of my children.

And Donna, the matriarch, without whom there would be no mother-in-law and no husband. She’s the only grandmother I have, my own grandma who was also a rare and beautiful soul, has been in Heaven for two decades now. I love this woman so much. Donna’s bright smile just makes me happy, and she is always happy — honestly, I don’t see her melancholy ever. True, I only see the best foot we put forward in the world, but when I’m thinking that life isn’t fair or I should have it like such-and-so, I think of her. She’s been through some battles and is the epitome of gracious long-suffering — though she would never see it that way. What, I haven’t suffered, she would say. She is practical, compassionate, consistent, and full of divine grace.

I am ever grateful for these mothers. William Makepeace Thackeray said that Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of children. I would add that it’s the name of God for all humanity when we’re in need of patience and forbearance and unconditional love — and a voice to say, “you can do it, honey.”

Near the place of offerings


I realized something today about location. That’s the mantra of real estate, right? Location, location, location.

Reading in John 8, where Jesus is speaking about the validity of his testimony and the pharisees are challenging his authority to appear as his own witness, there was tucked into a verse something I never noticed.

He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. John 8:20

Why was this location mentioned? Why was Jesus teaching next to the offerings? I followed the footnote back to Mark 12:41, where Jesus is again speaking next to the place where offerings were put. In the Mark account, Jesus is noticing the poor widow who offers her two small copper coins. And this footnote told me something interesting about the location:

The temple treasury is located in the court of the women. Both men and women were allowed in this court, but women could go no farther into the temple buildings.

Yes. This was the answer to that niggling question in my head, one of those minor details that tend to trip me up. I believe Jesus was teaching and seated next to the temple treasury not because he wanted to keep a parsimonious eye on who gave what, but because it gave him access to both men and women. This revelation spoke to me about my own locale and area of influence — am I sharing my faith in the venues that reach the most people, regions that include sometimes overlooked populations? What can I do about this?