Posts Tagged ‘Christian Parenting’
When the nurse takes your child away, the child you have borne, nursed, tended, and loved, there is an emptiness and you turn to the only place worth turning.
When the doctor tells you that all is indeed not right, that your fears were not the imaginings of a hypochondriac mother, but in fact correct, there is an emptiness, and you turn to the only place worth turning.
When you turn to God, the perspective changes. What is pain becomes joy. What is loss becomes opportunity. What is lifeless clay, dead wood, or hard stone becomes beauty with purpose.
I see now that the child I was gently trying to shape with education, family time, Bible readings, and chats, is in the only place worth being, in the hands of the Master. My careful designing, delicate sanding, gentle rubbing are all acts of a mother without the Master’s vision. A wimp. A dreamer. A woman afraid.
The Master takes the clay and breaks it down and builds it back up until the day it is ready for His delicate design.
The Master takes the wood and hews large chunks, chiseling away the dead wood until it is ready for fine sanding.
The Master takes the stone and attacks it with a vengeance, bringing forth form from stubborn stone, until it is ready to be polished by the rubbing of the Master’s hand.
Such transformation can only succeed in His hands, in the hands of the Master.
The Master knows when to force and when to touch gently, when to chisel and when to sand, when to cut and when to rub smooth.
As a mother, I let my children fall, so that they may pull themselves up and walk. I let my children fail so they may learn the hard work of success. I let my children know disappointment so they may enter life with realistic empathy, not an entitlement mentality bred by misguided parenting.
As the Master, God does the same. He lets us fall. He cuts and hews. He polishes and adorns.
Making us what He wants us to be.
Making us His.
Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand,
so are ye in mine hand.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
We subscribe to Netflix. (I know. Who cares, right? Stick with me.) For a “low, low fee” we receive a DVD in the mail. We watch it, send it back and receive another one. Good movie. Good popcorn. Good company. Not quite enough room on the couch. No movies to stock at home. Good times.
For a long time, I liked adding things to our queue. When everyone else was in bed at night, I would sit at my computer and add “things” (carefully selected “things,” of course) to the queue. I’d rate what we’d seen so the automated powers that be at the Netflix headquarters could, in their ultimate techno-wisdom, suggest more things that I’d love! I’d look through their suggestions and add those to my queue. Never mind that they were often wrong. I kept doing it! My queue was up to 386 shows–wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting shows. Yup…386 of ‘em.
Why? Because I didn’t want to miss anything. I didn’t want to miss the great special on Roman architecture when we study the Ancient Romans…in six months. I didn’t want to miss the eye-opening documentary on the children of World War II when we study the twentieth century…in two years. I didn’t want to miss that great chick flick that I would never watch because I never watched chick flicks. In fact, I never watched any flicks in my queue.
Put on your listening ears. It’s life application time.
My life queue, much like my Netflix queue, had gotten too long. I spent all my time researching what we would do, organizing what we would do, planning what we would do, dreaming about all the things we would someday do, getting other people’s opinions on what we should do. They were all wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things. I didn’t want to miss any of them. I spent whatever time I had left over sifting through my life queue for something to fit into that precious bit of remaining time. I was busy, I was exhausted, but I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything.
I was so afraid I would miss something, that I was missing out on my own life.
Did you catch that?
I was missing out on my own life.
I don’t remember a time in my adult life when I had not struggled with the heavy chain that my life queue had become. Projects were started and not finished, children were disappointed by one more “we ran out of time,” friends were neglected, my husband had a cookie drought. I was involved in everything, but truly involved in nothing. Even when I completely cut out my out-of-house activities, my want-to-dos took over.
It was my husband who finally helped me understand this debilitating obsession with not wanting to miss anything, thereby missing everything. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I cried. Yes, I did something about it.
I lugged six enormous bags of magazines to the library, magazines full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things that I would never do. I filled two garbage bags with catalogs full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things I would never buy. (Don’t nag me about recycling. Being nagged is not currently in my life queue.) I emptied filing cabinets, boxes and binders–all highly organized, all full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things that I had not looked at since the time I organized them. (I didn’t recycle those either!) I threw away countless notebooks full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things I need to know to be healthy and productive, and it was the most empowering and productive thing I ever did with those notebooks.
I purged wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things from the stack of piano music that we would never play, and left the music we love. I ceased my ongoing search for wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things to add to our homeschooling queue, because what we’re doing already is good enough. I took the grocery savings book I’m writing, which, by the way, is full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things about feeding your family for less, and I filed it away for a day when my queue has room. I closed my email account so I did not have to deal with the 15,000 emails that poured in while we were traveling through the States this summer, emails that may or may not be filled with wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things. And I purged my Netflix queue.
Then I sat down and watched a show. The whole thing.
The purge continues.
I’m giving the boot to lonely socks, because, let’s face it, they ain’t never (and I mean AIN’T and NEVER) going to be anything but lonely socks. I’m bidding a joyful adieu to those horrible based-on-the-movie Disney books I can barely tolerate reading. I’m getting rid of every self-help book I can lay my hands on, and finishing my read through the Bible. I’m saying farewell to the curtains that never got put up, the art supplies that never got used, the curriculum nobody likes, and the patterns and material that remind me how much I did not get done when my bigger girls were small.
But it’s not about the stuff. It’s about the mindset. Most importantly, I am purging my mind of the things in the world that tell me I’m not good enough because I feed my children macaroni and cheese from a box on Tuesdays, because they’re not studying Latin in third grade, because I’m not involved in a single organization, because I haven’t sent Christmas cards in four years, because I don’t know what herbs will cure the croup, because I’ve made only $500 over the past five years, because my thighs jiggle, and because, by golly, I still wear my favorite cardigan from the 90s…the early 90s. I’m purging unrealistic expectations, negative opinions about our family and our God-directed choices, legalistic (but not Biblically supported) mandates, and unhealthy comparisons.
I am standing taller, smiling more, and getting things finished. My family is having fresh smoothies every morning because I don’t spend an hour sifting through the daily 250 emails. I am more patient. I have time to kiss my babies, kiss my husband, pet the dog, and kiss my husband again. I can see my desk, find my dictionary, and my phone is always charged…and that’s a really big deal for me.
Best of all, whenever a new idea, a new plan, a new curriculum, or a new “thing” pops into my life, I just pop it right back out with no regrets. There’s nothing out there worth missing what God has given me right here.
And I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten.
Father’s Day finds us again. Just us. My man, our children, his favorite pie, a new atlas for the perpetual explorer, a pile of handmade cards reflecting varying degrees of ability and all slathered with love for him.
No other father shares the pie, not his, not mine.
One was carried too soon away; one walked too easily of his own accord. One left memories, the other scars.
I watch my girls with their father, and I smile, and I cry.
There is something beautiful, something touching, something indescribable and wonderful about a father who loves his girls.
There is a hidden blessing in the casual way they take him for granted, knowing he will come home, knowing he will sit at the head of the table, knowing he will lead his family in prayer, knowing he will set them back on the path when they stray, never doubting, never questioning, just knowing.
And I smile, and I envy, and I praise God for him on his day, every day.
And when I miss what might have been, and long for what will be, I remember that, although He takes no pie, my Father is here, loving, leading, setting me back on His path. There is something beautiful in just knowing.
I recently attended my youngest brother’s wedding. I’m not generally the tearing up type, at least when not pregnant. (If you’ve been pregnant, you know there’s no getting through the touching coffee commercials at Christmas without turning into a blubbering pile of sap. Please tell me it’s not just me. It’s okay to lie…just a little…just this once.)
When I saw my mother dancing the mother-son dance with my brother, the groom, I had a simultaneous flashback/flash-forward experience. (It’s similar to having a split personality juxtaposed on some inverted space-time continuum. Don’t try to figure it out. Nod and smile. Nod and smile.)
I remember when my little brother was, well, little, my darling little tag-along. Now he’s 6’4″ and married and living in NYC doing things like operating a power drill and buying his own groceries. He probably even has a job, although being a musician, I’m never entirely sure. When did he learn to tie his shoes?
And now I have another precious little tag-along, my own little man. He’s still shorter than I am. His power drill runs on batteries and only tickles when he drills his little sister’s forehead. He helps push the cart at the grocery store, which is still as exciting as getting a driver’s license, and his job is making his bed and cleaning the music room for a dollar a month. His musical opus is belting out “Do, a deer, a female deer,” and most of his shoes have velcro. He seems so…young, and the future seems so…distant. But I know better.
At the wedding, while my mother swayed across the floor in the arms of her youngest son, I saw myself in 20-some years dancing that dance as the mother of the groom and then the music ends and I hand those big brown eyes and intoxicating smile and spontaneous affections (not to mention the results of endless hours of training) over to his new bride. I would have hugged my little man a bit too tightly and not let him go had he been there, but he wasn’t, and I had to wait all too long to get back to him. When I did, he got an extra long squeeze and a handful of half-melted M&Ms I had saved especially for him. (They really do melt in your hands. Who knew?)
Too soon the little man in the toddler bed in my bedroom will be a husband, a father, a man, and I will be proud and pleased, but I will always miss the little person he is right now, my very own promise of how great a man can really be.
And I savor the moments and the memories and the words.
Words like these:
“My nickname is Super Fast Muscle Boy, but you can just call me Boy.”
I’ve been bragging about those muscles for four years now. Wow, can that boy carry groceries for his Mama. Won’t the future Mrs. Super Fast Muscle Boy love that?
And won’t she love His heavenly focus?
“God never has to knock on doors, Mommy, because God is everywhere!”
“I love God, and I love both my grown-ups. Do you love God, too? And do you love me, too?”
Do we ever! And forever!
I leave you with this little family adventure from a couple night’s past, brought to you by Super Fast Muscle Boy:
“Mommy, can you please help me get this popcorn kernel out of my nose?”
Sure, Super Fast But Slightly Short on Common Sense Muscle Boy. Anything for you!
The sun warms them. They play, as small children do, in an imaginary world bigger than their own, inspired by the lure of the few simple objects in front of them. I love how children–some–can make a world out of a stone, a stick, a small beetle passing by. I pity those who cannot.
I watch closely, knowing human nature, noticing the trend, wanting the truth. I am right.
Bored with her own, she takes his toy. He asks for it back, nicely, as trained. She says no and that it’s hers. He asks for it back, not so nicely, training slipping. She sits on it, her stare daring him. He screams, training gone. I’ve seen this before, throughout the afternoon. It’s what comes next I wonder about–the knowing.
Her mother: “Well, he sure is emotional.” She and her husband exchange looks, their parenting skills once again proving superior. The knowing I seek is not there.
I want to tell her. I want to say that her angelic baby has been pushing him and testing him and trying him and manipulating him. I want to tell her that he is a fallible human being, a man-to-be, yet in the making. I want to assure her that we are aware of his weakness and are training. I want to tell her a lot of things, not the least of which is the danger growing in the heart of her daughter.
But I don’t.
“My son,” I confess, “needs a little more training.” An understated truth.
I rise to go to him. The movement startles the angelic girl, who hastily shoves the toy back at my boy, now sobbing, over-reacting, broken over the treachery of a pretty girl. She looks at me, faux-innocence on her face. I look back, knowing on mine.
I take his hand and we go, he not wanting to because he is (sniff) havin’ (whimper) fun (sob).
There is more training to do. Training in how to respond when the nice does not work, training in Christ-like behavior, training in letting go, especially when life is not fair.
There is much more training to do. Training in what–and Whom– to look for in the heart of a woman.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
My daughters know it, recite it, try (though fail, as does their mother) to emulate it. Now he, not yet four, must know it too.
Lord, grant eyes that see where my children need Your guidance, wisdom to lead them to Your Word, and a strong jaw to bite my tongue in a blind world. Make me–despite all–an example to my children. Give my children Godly friends, and prepare for them Godly spouses with hearts directed toward You. Perhaps strangers to us now, prepare their hearts and ours in Your ways. Guard hearts, guide footsteps, and let all feel Your arms holding us close. In Christ, Amen, let it be so.
What do you teach your children?
If I could translate the state and federal education requirements into layman’s terms, I perhaps could compare them with our plan, but alas, I cannot. Regardless, we follow a better code for training our children: God’s code. We teach in the same manner in which we live, from a perspective of God as Creator and Savior. We do not compartmentalize our faith by placing it in a Bible study category and leaving it there. Every subject is taught with the understanding that we are learning about God’s creation for the purpose of better living for His glory and fulfilling the Great Commission of bringing the Word into all the world.
Science is taught in the context of a Creator-God. History is studied with an awareness that this is the story of God’s hand throughout the existence of the world, from Creation to modern times. Languages are learned with the idea of improving communication skills in a world that needs to hear the Gospel of Christ. Music and art have the potential for great service within and for the Kingdom. Math and logic are mastered for their intrinsic worth in forming good and capable citizens of the world and God’s kingdom and because we have a logical and ordered God who designed the order that we study.
In the study of all subjects, our children are led to think and discern. They are given the tools necessary to analyze new ideas and determine for themselves whether each new thought is in line with a Godly worldview. In a world where emotion, sound bites, and immediate circumstances determine people’s philosophies, our children are being grounded with solid principles and logic abilities to break through the political, religious, and societal muck that blinds most people to the immediate and longterm consequences of their choices. In simple terms, they are learning to think. They are being equipped with a strongly principled foundation against which to judge future decisions. And they are being taught to discern right from wrong, smart from…not-so-smart.
That is the abstract. What about the black and white?
Ask and ye shall receive.
Our children, like most students, study Bible, history, science, math, grammar and writing, public speaking, reading and literature, thinking skills and logic, Spanish, sign language, home economics, physical education, art, and music. The difference between our schooling and the common educational facility is that everything here is taught with the underlying principles outlined above, and much is taught without a lesson plan or curriculum. We do not need a 45 minute home economics course when the children have been working alongside me since they were small, cooking, sewing, making candles, knitting, learning to manage a household by actually doing it. Whereas I made soup in high school and called it home economics, my children make soup and call it lunch. They don’t know they are learning any more than they know that many other children cannot make soup without a little help from Campbells. They do know that they can make a great bowl of soup!
A future post will outline our classes more specifically, for those interested. For those not interested, it would be a great time for a nap…which gives me an idea.
It’s time for a confession:
I am a paranoid perfectionist. Yikes. That does not sound pretty. Well, it ain’t! (In fact, the perfectionist in me is having a very difficult time not removing that “ain’t.”)
I am one of those mothers who focuses on getting it right. I lie awake at night regretting words misspoken, time misspent, and attention misdirected. Comparing myself to the “experts” of Christian parenting, I see myself falling short, and soon battle the uphill struggle to catch up, measure up, straighten up, but I just can’t get it right. How will my failings affect my children?
What to do…what to do…?
When medical concerns come up (about every 15 minutes), I bolster my immune system, analyze medical records, dwell, dwell, dwell on every symptom in every family member, and settle into a pattern of anxiety bordering on panic. To whom should I listen? Where should I turn? What should I do?
Whom to trust…whom to trust…?
When financial issues arise, I struggle with my inadequacies. I seek to support and help my husband, but how? Should I step into this arena, head down that avenue, or tap this skill?
Where to turn…where to turn…?
In short, I have an exhausting mental character flaw that makes life a little more murky than it needs to be.
In steps God. Read the rest of this entry »