When Your Son Asks: Remembering Our Deliverance

Mancub at age 10 sleeping on the way home from Arkansas.

I want my kids to remember me with a soft kind of fondness–that perfect balance of light and hope, discipline and humor, friendship and love. A warm and fuzzy mama–but at the same time tough as the lady who delivers our mail. Have you seen her? She can bench 400 pounds, I know it!

I want my kids to think of me as a good example, someone they want to imitate.

One problem: I’m far from perfect. I screw up fairly often. At least as much as Donald Trump says offensive stuff on TV. I mean well, but …

I was reading through Exodus (actually, that’s inaccurate. I’m so lazy I have somebody else read Exodus to me, on an app. Because there’s an app for that). Anyway, this scripture refers to the story of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. I just love the first sentence.

14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

When your son asks you, “What does this mean?”… how well we know this feeling, mamas. How well we know that frightening reality that somebody put us in charge of these precious human beings as IF WE WERE GROWNUPS. Grownups with answers. Grownups who hold those memories in the palm of their hand.

Sometimes, I sweat bullets when my son asks me questions. They used to be so easy.

“Hey Mom. How do you make instant oatmeal?”

“Hey Mom. Can you watch me go down the slide?”

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Why doesn’t the dog eat at the table with us?”

Lately, the questions are much more hard core.

“Mom, how does God feel about transgender people?” (This one’s easy: LOVE)

“Mom, I think my friend is in trouble. Can we help?”

“Mom, why does God let bad things happen?”

I don’t know all the answers. But I don’t ignore the questions. We look it up. We talk about it. I want to be the one, along with my husband, that is able to answer those “What does this mean?” questions.

In this verse, God is instructing the Israelites in the importance of remembrance. There’s no way these children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, will ever know the sound of the cries of Egypt as they woke to find their firstborn children dead. It’s just too horrific. Over 400 years of slavery, of the Pharaoh killing the baby boys–the Jewish mothers hiding their babies, shushing their cries.

And the angel of the Lord passed over…

There’s no way the children would remember the unreal feeling of freedom. What? We are free? We can go? The feeling (and then, the eventuality) this freedom can’t last– that the Egyptians would change their minds and maybe call for the blood of the Jews to rectify Pharaoh’s hasty decision. The absolute miracle of the Red Sea parting down the middle as thousands of slaves left forever. The smell of the sheep and goats (and all those people) and the heaviness of the hastily packed possessions–the sheer terror and doubt that any of this was real. But they were told to try to make them understand–the importance of storytelling and ritual. Unleavened bread eaten in haste as we planned our escape. This is what it means, Son. This bread–it is a symbol of our deliverance.

I’m fortunate (NOT gonna say #blessed because I HATE that) to have never been in this kind of bind–this kind of slavery. But we all know a type of bondage.

Addictions.

Debt.

Disease.

Abuse.

Pain.

Crippling fear.

Anxiety.

God is not JUST the God of the past. He knows us. He knows you. HE has the answers.

I don’t always know what things mean, but when my son asks me, I’ll tell him.

I’ll tell him that we are free.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Love Your Depressed Friend

bridge

I think it’s time I just come clean.

I have been suffering from depression and anxiety for as long as I remember. It’s always there, sitting quietly in the corner, letting me know that maybe today is the day he’ll take charge again.
I do my best to keep him there.

But wait. I’m a Christian. How can I call myself a Christian and also suffer from depression? Does this mean I am somehow a liar? Shouldn’t the sacrifice of Jesus be enough to heal me forever from this darkness that threatens to overcome?

Well, here’s the short version: the blood of Jesus IS enough, but sometimes, I’m still sick. Sometimes, God chooses to leave us in our illness. He’s still THERE for us, but he does NOT always heal us.

Even the best Christians get sick now and then, and I’m hardly the best. We don’t blame a woman for acquiring breast cancer. She is celebrated as a fighter. We don’t blame a child for acquiring leukemia. We pray for her healing and think of her fondly, hoping against hope that the tests will come back clean.

Why am I supposedly in charge of my depression? How is this different from any other disease? I’ve had it my whole life, and chances are slim it’s going away. If you are my friend or my family, here is what I need from you.

  1. You can’t really fix me. You can support me, call me, make sure I’m alive.
  2. You can watch my social media and decide if my posts have become too dark. It’s okay to reach out to me. It’s even okay to get angry with me. Just don’t expect me to “buck up” or “be thankful” or “move on” just because you think I’ve “wallowed” too much.
  3. Force me to go do things. Make me leave the house and get some sunlight. If I try to lose myself in my work, don’t let me. Tell me you love me and come over if necessary. If I can’t get out of bed, climb in with me.  Watch reruns of “Downton Abbey” until you can’t stand it. Make me shower.
  4. Make sure I’m taking my meds. No, you don’t have to parcel them out like a nurse or anything, but just ask me … gently…if I think they are working. By the way, DO NOT ask this if we are fighting. This is the equivalent of your husband saying “Wow–are you on your period or something?” NOT COOL.
  5. Love me anyway.

Thank you, Jenny Lawson, for your new book Furiously Happy which reminded me that I can be crazy and still hilarious and cool. You are my hero.

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 25th Birthday

jody

25 years ago (and nine months), the pink stripe unmistakably proclaimed my suspicions that I was pregnant. Lee Bausinger and I had been married about six months, and we had about $5 to our name. If I remember correctly, we were living at a hotel in California (not THE Hotel California, just so you know), working for a few weeks until we would move to Winter Park, Florida where Lee would be attending Nuclear “A” School for the Navy.
Needless to say, I was worried. I worried about the pregnancy, I worried about gaining weight, I worried about moving so far from my beloved Arkansas. I worried about what kind of mama I was going to be. At 18 years old, let’s just say I knew diddly squat about parenting, and had in fact proclaimed to anyone who would listen that I wasn’t going to have kids. They are expensive. They do disgusting things like pick their noses. They go through a period where they don’t even know how to use the toilet! I shuddered to think of the implications.
But God knew better, and pregnant I was. If the test didn’t confirm it, my inappropriate consumption of bean burritos and Little Debbie snack cakes would have been a tipoff.
There were a few scares, as Miss Jody doesn’t like to be kept waiting. I was hospitalized and put on medication to stop premature labor. It was terrifying, and for the first time, I realized how precious this little life was. I realized there were no guarantees.
The labor took a long time, and I was young and dumb and didn’t know to ask for an epidural. When Jordanne Bausinger was born (it only took 18 hours), it was well before the due date. Jody likes to say she doesn’t like to be late. She was 8 pounds and had a gorgeous head of black hair. I took one look into those baby blues and lost my heart forever.
Those baby blues have long since deepened into a lovely green, much like my mother’s eyes, and her mother’s before her–a reflection of our stubborn Irish-Scotch ancestry.
Jody, I love you. I love your protective heart, your perfectionist attitude, the way you take on too much and don’t know when to stop (wonder where you get that?). I love your loyalty and your witty sense of humor. You are one of my greatest accomplishments. Happy birthday, Sweetheart. Next month, you graduate with a double major (Music Education and Performance) and the world will be set on fire when you storm the scene.
I can’t wait.
I know I will miss you when you leave to embrace your future, but I can’t be selfish anymore. It’s time to share you with the world.
I love you.

***

Want to read more like this? Check out Tina’s best-selling book on Amazon:

Tina Bausinger has published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, IN Magazine, and the Tyler Paper. She's working on her Ed.D at A&M Commerce.

Tina Bausinger has published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, IN Magazine, and the Tyler Paper. She’s working on her Ed.D at A&M Commerce.

Cold Coffee and Speed Limits

On Marching Band, Second Chances, and Joy

H&L

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7 

I picked them up after band practice today.

Her smile was noticeable, even from several feet away–braces can’t mask loveliness that comes from the inside. Her hair is stuffed into a bun, and she laughs a bit at the awkwardness of scrambling across the seat. It’s kind of great.

Even better? The smile that my son wears when they tumble in the car, a pile of instrument cases and water jugs. The contrast between his demeanor a year ago and today–it’s remarkable. The fact that two  teens maintained a long-distance relationship for over a year–the fact that anyone can, let along two kids in high school–it boggles the mind. But they did it. They didn’t give up. It was anything but easy. It was heartbreaking.

But she’s here. She’s back. After over a year of a very painful move cross-country, Watergirl’s family is on its way back too–and they sent her first…so she wouldn’t miss band camp.

I know this decision has not been an easy one. I’ve heard bits and pieces of the dilemma as her parents made a very difficult choice to again uproot and come back. Who is ever 100% sure of God’s will–even those who speak to him most intimately? The truth is, we pray and ask for guidance and wait for an answer. Sometimes, heaven is silent and the clock forces us to make our best guess. Sometimes we must make a decision from our gut and trust that God is looking out for us.

I know only a tiny bit of the back-and-forth that Watergirl’s mama and dad faced. They want what most people want–to do the right thing for their family. Add in a congregation they love (and one that loves them back) and the equation is further complicated. They say that moving is one of the most stressful of life events–right up there with divorce and death. When we move from one town (or state!) to another, there is always a bit of divorcing of some sort, isn’t there? It’s separation, it’s saying goodbye. It’s packing and unpacking and loading and unloading and taking furniture apart and putting it back together again. It’s turning off power and turning it on again. It’s tears and stress and we snap from the pressure.

But then–we see the smile of a young girl.

Lance and Becky–I know you can’t see it right now; you are still making your way back to Texas, so I’ll try to describe this smile your daughter wore today. I’ll try to describe the grin my son wore because of your daughter’s smile. It’s a smile of contentment, joy, and a realization of the miracle of unexpected second chances.

Thank you–and I can’t wait to welcome you back to Texas, with a big smile.

5 Things My Chihuahua Taught Me

puppies

My little chihuahua Goliath (the brown one on the left) died last week. While he was only about six pounds, the impact he’s left on my life much larger. I lost my father to cancer in September 14, 2003, as the leaves were just boasting their autumn colors, setting the Arkansas countryside afire with color.

Those first days — I have little recollection. The fog of grief is powerful, and it’s able to obscure many details. One thing I do remember is waking to find a tiny puppy on my chest. My husband knew I was lost–and wanted me to be found again. What better way to come back to the land of the living than to have a puppy to take care of?

Little did I know how much he was taking care of me.

Here are 5 things my chihuahua Goliath taught me.

1. Size bears no importance to authority. Even though he was the smallest of our three dogs, he was definitely the Alpha. The other dogs listened to him and obeyed his commands to check the yard for intruders, to get OFF his pillow, to let him go first at the food bowl. I remember this as I rapidly become the shortest in my house!

Goliath as Study Buddy

2. Sometimes just being there is enough. There are so many times I was upset or sick and Goliath would join us, sitting on our laps or nearby. It’s not as if he could sing me a love song, send flowers, or convey words of wisdom to help me with my problem. But he didn’t have to–his warm puppy presence cheered my heart and slowed down my manic mind.

3. Resting is important. I’m a type A personality and find it hard to just relax. Even if I’m in front of the television, I’m often writing, grading, planning, researching, returning emails–long into the night. Goliath was the King of Comfort. He would always find the fluffiest pillow, the coziest blanket to lie on. He had to keep up his strength as Alpha in case the family needed his help barking. He learned to do this in power naps–VERY powerful naps sometimes lasting 22 hours out of the day. He was like a bully baby.

G resting

4. Protecting the family is a duty. Goliath took this job seriously. Well, he took the job of telling the other dogs to take it seriously seriously. This is how it works. Rocky will perch on the top of the recliner, peering out the window into the dangerous neighborhood, scanning for gang activity or potential killers (or postmen). If a threat hovers, Rocky will sound the alarm, waking Goliath, who will join in the warning call. Lucy, the German Shepherd and self-proclaimed Family Police Force will burst out the doggie door with enough power to shake the house, teeth bared. Usually it’s just a squirrel (we call him Henry and he loves to mess with Lucy–but one day…). Goliath was more of the Police Dispatcher.

5. Dogs (and pets) are irrevocably part of the family. They accept us in any manner we present ourselves: grouchy, unshowered, whatever. That day when he just rested his head on my hand for the last time–I knew that would be forever seared in my memory as a day I lost a dear friend.

Goliath enjoys a puppy cone

Rest in peace, sweet friend. In my heaven, I’ll see you there–and I’ll bring the softest pillow in the world, and a puppy cone.

8 Things Good Leaders Know

TinaBausinger

I am always looking for opportunities to teach my son about leadership. As a college professor and professional in the community, it is my job to lead others on a daily basis. So many times we assume kids learn this trait by osmosis, but that’s not always true. Of course, we should always do our best to model good leadership as a parent and someone they are always watching, but it’s more than just that. Here are 8 things I’ve learned about being a leader and what I want to pass on to my kids.

8 Things Leaders Know

  1. How to treat others. If you don’t know how to be kind and polite, then you are not a leader, you are a bully. A leader must be respectful to others, even those who have nothing to give back to them. Say please and thank you. There’s no excuse for rudeness. A good leader does not need to be brash.
  2. How to be assertive, not abusive. There’s a difference between assertive and bossiness. Being assertive is more about not letting others push you around or talk you out of the right thing. It’s confidence with grace.
  3. When to say no. A good leader does not take on too many projects at once, because she knows that she is only one person and it’s difficult to do a good job when you are spread too thinly. There are only so many hours in the day, and we have to remember that each commitment takes up one more slice of our precious time that might be more wisely allotted.
  4. When to step in. Sometimes, nobody asks you to be a leader, even when it’s plainly obvious that one is needed. Many times, others don’t see the need, or else are afraid to take on the task. If you are qualified and you see a position that needs filling or a problem that you can solve, the worst that can happen is that someone tells you no thanks. There are times when this is more urgent than others. For example, if you are in the grocery store and an elderly man falls over clutching his chest, and you know CPR you MUST step in and help him. If you don’t know CPR, this is not the chance to practice by any means, but statistics prove that many people just freeze up during emergencies. Maybe you don’t know CPR but you have your phone on you and you call 911. This is stepping up. This is solving a problem—leadership.
  5. When to not step back. There are other times when we, as leaders, really want something that we know deep down we are not qualified for. A good leader will wait until he or she is ready. They will procure the proper training, or talk to someone knowledgeable. They will take the next step towards their goal. They will not give up.
  6. How to not burn bridges. Many people, when leaving a place of employment, do so with a blaze of glory—Tweeting, posting on Facebook, etc. all of their personal grievances that caused them to quit (or be fired) in the first place. This is a bad idea. A leader never burns bridges; instead, she tries to make peace with those she’s leaving behind. You never know when your paths might cross again.
  7. How to admit your mistakes and apologize effectively. Leaders are only human. Mistakes are going to happen. A leader does not make excuses or blame others when she makes a mistake. A leader apologizes immediately, accepts blame, and asks how to make things right.
  8. Never, ever do the bare minimum that’s expected. Always give 110%. Leaders are never lazy.

Think I’ve  missed something? What do you think makes a good leader? Comment below!

On Fettuccini Alfredo and Forgiveness in REAL Families

On “Leave it to Beaver,” Ward comes home from a long day at work, and not only does June has a pot roast ready, but she serves it wearing a dress, heels and pearls. The worst thing that ever happens to Wally and the Beav is that Beav gets a bad grade on a test (that’s ok Beav! We’ll try again next time!) or Wally has to take his second choice gal Susie to the dance (that’s ok Wally! Janet was a !@#$ anyway). Just kidding…I don’t think Wally ever got turned down for a date.

The point is, the problems are never that bad, and the solutions come in half an hour (minus commercials).

In real life, in real families, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s a bit messier. It takes more than half an hour–sometimes months, or years–to work things out. Kids and parents both are damaged in the process. Relationships suffer and need some healing. This is what happens in REAL families.

We’re a normal family. When I say “normal” I really mean … normally messed up. We’re a real family.

We love each other, but we’re imperfect.

We hurt each other with our words and actions.

We’re careless, selfish.

We use the last of the toothpaste and don’t tell anyone.

We borrow one another’s clothes and don’t return them.

We hurl out insults (supposedly in jest) that wound as bitterly as the real thing.

We promise to do things (and forget).

We promise NOT to do things (and forget).

We put ourselves first. Most the time we don’t even realize it.

But sometimes we do and keep doing it anyway.

Thank goodness for Jesus.

When I say that, I need to clarify. I don’t mean, “Thank goodness for Jesus” because I expect him to swoop in and wipe the slate clean. Jesus does forgive, but our words and actions linger long after they’ve been said or done. As seen in the news recently (yes, I’m referencing the Duggars) any kind of abuse can’t just be “forgiven” and forgotten.

When I talk about “Real families” don’t think for a minute I’m advocating any sort of abuse, ever. The girls in that family, and all others who were victims, will deal with the consequences not only of the repeated acts BUT also the secrecy surrounding them. They are victims on many levels, and I’m not even talking about the extreme patriarchy that is twisted way beyond any measure God intended. By making everything a secret, it inevitably transfers part of the blame to the victims, and they’ve been through enough. Hearts hold wounds long after the scarring occurs.

But back to the task at hand, the forgiveness of everyday hurts, not abuse but just everyday life.

I do believe in the healing power of Jesus’s forgiveness, with all my heart. But I need to be careful to not abuse His love, his sacrifice by calling Him in over and over to clean up my mess. I can’t abuse Him like a giant jar of Whiteout, doing what I like then dumping His grace all over my mistakes and giving myself an excuse to do it again and again.

When I say, “Thank goodness for Jesus” I mean, I’m so grateful that He pricks my heart and my conscience, exposing my humanity, my sin to me just in case I start thinking too much of myself. I don’t want to get in the mindset of thinking justice for others and mercy for me. I need to spend time in prayer and quiet, listening for that still small voice to let me know when I’ve done wrong. When I’ve hurt those I love in deed or action.

It’s not enough to say “I’m sorry,” though that’s a good start. Jesus taught us to repent and turn from what we are repenting from. That if we don’t wish judgement to fall upon us, we must stop whatever it is we did in the first place. We must demonstrate the forgiveness with actions of love.

This week has been a rough one-nothing too serious but plenty unpleasant. Do I love my family? YES. Do I mess up? CONSTANTLY. Do I love them enough to admit it, out loud, and apologize?

Errrrrrrrrr….

That is difficult.

I don’t WANT to be wrong. I am wrong often, but that doesn’t mean I want to admit it.

But admitting it is important to healing. If I nag my kids, if I wound my husband with my words, I need to apologize, but that’s not enough. I need to demonstrate through my actions that I’m sorry.

One way I do this: Fettuccine Alfredo. If I’m feeling especially repentant? ANGEL hair pasta. See what I did there?

I know this is a horrible transition but I really want to give you this recipe, because nothing says “I’m sorry” like Fettuccini Alfredo.

The recipe I use is from Pioneer Woman’s website, EXCEPT I add cooked chicken and extra cream, because the portions are too small for Mancub and Papa Bear. I pretty much double the whole thing, if you want to know.

Now that I’ve posted it, I’m gonna watch another episode of the Beav. There seems to be an issue regarding a torn baseball card, and the Beav is really gonna get it this time.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/fettuccini-alfredo-recipe.html