Summer of 2018, on my birthday, my oldest two boys bought me a DIY Wooden Sign project at The Board and Brush studio. My oldest was out of state doing an internship, so my second oldest came with me to help me make the sign. We were having a great time and the project was coming together when about halfway through, the thought hit me that this project was an almost perfect parallel to parenting.
The feeling was so powerful it almost took my breath away. I stood for a moment and stared at this 18-year-old young man who I clearly remembered as a scrawny little infant and the tears welled up. He knows this look in my eyes well and came over to give me a hug. We were both anticipating the upcoming goodbye as he was heading out of state to college in a few weeks. I pulled it together and we finished a beautiful project that hangs proudly over my fireplace. The entire time I was making mental notes and taking it all in and silently praising God for this precious gift.
When I returned home, I grabbed my bullet journal and started writing furiously, wanting to hold on to every drop of wisdom I gleaned from that night. The tears flowed and the words spilled onto the paper. I closed my journal and went on packing that precious gift up for college.
The next few weeks were a blur of planning, packing, hellos, and goodbyes. Once the boys were settled into their dorms, I dove into homeschooling my two littles. The year rushed by in a flurry of joy, sorrow, laughter, fear, late night phone calls and nights without words. I blinked and it started all over again. The planning and packing, the coming and going. Every day I looked at that beautiful project above my fireplace. Some days I hardly noticed and others it took my breath away all over again.
It’s been one year now and I am finally ready to pull out the bullet journal and try to piece those notes into wisdom.
The Parallel of a Project and Parenting
Step 1: Gather the plan, the wood, and tools.
If you have ever been to a studio like this before, you know it’s an amazing experience. You pick your project in advance and when you arrive the clean boards, sandpaper, paint brushes and anything else you will need are right there waiting for you. The professionals know how this will turn out but I’m not so sure.
Then I remember those squealing little newborns that took their time or rushed violently into my arms. This boy, in particular, was laughed into this world and the doctor even let me be the first hands to pull him to me. I was so thrilled and confident! The kind of confidence that comes from ignorance and hopefully a deep faith that this really wasn’t in my control anyway. God had us in His hands and He had a plan. He knew what this child would grow up to be and He had provided everything my husband and I needed to bring him up in the wisdom and admonition of the Lord.
Step 2: Read the Instructions.
The creative geniuses behind this studio gave us instructions and advice. They were clear and concise, but they didn’t answer all my questions. Which colors should I choose? Exactly how much should I sand the wood? Should we homeschool? When should I let him have a phone? God in His wisdom gave us an instruction book that addresses all our parenting concerns with principles and grace. Some details He left for us to bring to him in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts. Some decisions we make will be wrong, some are neither right nor wrong.
Step 3: Distress the wood.
We used special hammers to soften the sharp corners and add texture to our project. They gave us earplugs and we started banging away. It wasn’t always pleasant. I was afraid I was making mistakes, distressing when I should leave it alone. Disciplining when I should allow natural consequences to prevail. I looked at my precious gift, the one we used to call “Red Bottom the Pirate”. We were assured that this work we were doing would provide beauty we wouldn’t see until step five. I stepped out in obedience and trusted the Lord with the results.
Step 4: Apply sandpaper.
Gently smooth out the rough places. Remove the splinters that might hurt other people when they encounter the project. Teach them the preciousness of others. Return those shopping carts, respect people’s homes. Show compassion to others so they will learn from your example.
Step 5: Stain the wood.
Pour out the color generously to fill in all the gaps and make the blemishes beautiful. Lavish them with love, seek forgiveness when you mess up. Cover even the parts that won’t be seen. Look at what that distressing accomplished and be amazed!
Step 6: Brace the back.
Drill two strong boards into the back to keep the wood from falling apart. Be careful to not go all the way through. There have been many times when I know you feel like falling apart. I know you do because I do too. I can hold you because I am held by my loving Heavenly Father.
Step 7: Apply the Stencil.
Slowly pull the paper backing from the stencil, paying attention to every detail. Free the beautiful words from the paper. Open that funnel and give him freedom, a little at a time. See how he can be trusted! When it seems like too much, and the words start to tear, go backwards, just a little and let him find his place again. Soon he will be free, but the wisdom will stick with him.
Step 8: Paint with Color.
The choice is yours! But I am starting to get tired. I am decision fatigued. It’s too hard to choose. The young man steps in. “Bright white mom!” Of course, my son. Stand out! Be seen! You have so much to offer.
Step 9: Pull off the Stencil.
Go slowly, too fast and it starts to tear. I’m seeing the flaws. The things I forgot to tell him, the things he can’t learn without failing. Some of the mistakes are so bad they stopped me in my tracks. I wonder if the whole project is ruined. The professionals step in and help us fix it. Choices are made. If we sand it and cover the mistakes, we will lose some of the brightness. We choose honesty. No one is perfect.
Step 10: The Finished Project.
A beautiful picture frame, a work in progress that will be changed over time. The tears come back. It’s not perfect, especially if you study it closely. Take 10 steps back and see the whole project, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. I’m absolutely amazed. I made mistakes; I wasn’t enough. But God is enough and He loves this project even more than I do. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!