Being a Woman ~ A Guest Post

This spring, the Called for Such a Time team was honored to join Northeast Presbyterian Church’s Women’s Ministry Spring Retreat entitled “Lift Up Your Eyes”. Together we worshiped, studied, prayed, cried (of course), and were deeply encouraged by one another and our Heavenly Father. Goodness, these ladies blessed us with their passion for walking in Christ, and their desire for community! Maggie McKenna was a part of that day, and she shared with us some of her reflections following the retreat. We’d like to share with you some of what Maggie wrote as so much of it highlights the deep convictions God has laid on our hearts as a ministry team. Enjoy and be encouraged! Thank you Maggie!

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I love being a woman. I am a mother to three daughters, have two sisters, three sisters-in-law, and a 90-year-old mother. My life is surrounded with women. I even have a husband that I cajole into watching “Pride and Prejudice” which, he claims, is turning him into a woman!

I know that God has a mission for women…we, the life-givers. To embody Christ daily as we self-sacrifice for our husbands, children, and, frequently, aging parents. God’s grace enables me, as a nurse, to be a part of women’s health issues. I know that just as physical health is progressive, spiritual health also requires constant attention. God wants us to be healthy physically and spiritually to fulfill this mission. Self-care helps us to be refreshed to fulfill our mission better!

I love women’s ministries. Women’s bible studies, retreats, prayer sessions, and Christian community has helped sustain me and grow my faith as we frequently uprooted and moved our family all over the country and world as my husband completed a career as a Navy pilot.
Women’s ministries helps me be a better wife and mother.

I recently participated in a women’s retreat with my 28-year-old daughter. The retreat was led by a ministry group named Called for Such a Time. One take-away from the retreat is that the community of Christian women needs to support each other during hard times, sad times, and happy times. Additionally, we must teach and learn from each other to love our husbands and raise our children in a Christ-centered home. I cherished the opportunity to share the lessons with my daughter. Christ’s example of servant-leader is the example we, as women of the church, all need to follow.

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I encourage all women to find a place in the community of a scripture-based women’s ministry. It will deepen your faith and prepare you to be a better woman of God. We need the women’s community for support to press in and hold us up. To help us. To encourage us. We need each other! Mary, in Luke 1:46 (ESV) prayed, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” We, as women, want to magnify the Lord. We desire future generations to call us blessed. That is a job well-done.

Maggie McKenna is a wife of 35 years, a mother of 3 adult daughters and a grandmother of 3 baby boys! She is also a nurse working in Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and a women’s heart program at Providence Hospital in Columbia, SC. 

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Gardening 101

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I am a doer.  I like to make things happen, see tangible results, and check them off my list.   Did I mention that I have 5 children, spanning preschool to middle school?  Good justification for never sitting down and being still, I know.  But it’s still no excuse.

The typical type A parent, I am also a problem solver. I want to figure things out and make things “right”.   Get to the bottom of things. FIX IT. Whatever it is, I want it fixed!

I also assume it’s my job to fix it

One of my most recent and prominent realizations is the fact that my children fight A LOT.  They try to FIND ways to make each other mad.  The older ones will just say the most hurtful things, on purpose, and wait for the sting.  They put each other down and make snide comments intended to lower their sibling’s self esteem. They steal from each other, mock each other, lie to each other, hit each other, and destroy items most valuable to the other.

 

As their mother, it is so painful to watch

It just breaks my heart to see my children tear each other down. It makes our home a difficult place to be.  It goes against everything I imagined when I dreamed of having a baby and a family.

I wanted love, joy, and kindness to flow from my children.  Patience and self-control.  I desired for my older, saved daughters, to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in their daily lives.

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As a mother, I can not allow my kids to purposely mistreat each other (without consequences). 

And as that type A mother, I will try anything.  Do anything.  To encourage my children to get along and lift each other up.

First, I tried verbal encouragement. “That’s not nice,” I would sweetly sing.  “Apologize to your brother,” Dad would bellow.  Little reminders would be posted around the house to “ love one another” and  “Do unto others…”.  Nothing changed.

I tried behavior charts. Rewards for desirable behavior.  Consequences for unwanted behavior.  I explained to them how I felt and asked them how their actions affected others.  I explained to them why it was wrong. I read scripture to them. I cried. I raised my voice. I prayed for them to be kind and loving to each other. The fighting continued.

I took them to church, to conferences, to Bible Schools, to Youth Group, and to Christian camps.  I exposed them to Christian families and encouraged healthy friendships. I even tried to remove negative aspects of their life that might cause them to be bitter and nasty toward their siblings.

 

I spent an enormous amount of time and energy trying to change their behavior

 And then God reminded me:

John 15

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener (v1)……Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (v4)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt so stupid.

Not a one of us, my children included, can bear the authentic fruits of the Spirit if our heart is not tethered to Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

 

Those fruits I desire to abound in my home are fruits that only the Holy Spirit can produce in us.  Sanctification is life in the Spirit.  The sanctified person bears the fruit of the Spirit and crucifies his or her sinful nature.  None of us is without sin, but the saved person fights against sin and clings to the Spirit.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.

My saved children do not read the Bible on their own.  They do not take the time to reflect on His Word and pray.  They are NOT attached to the vine.

So why would I expect them to bear good fruit? 

And is it truly the fruit that I’m concerned about?  Yes, that’s the annoying part that got my attention. The squeaky wheel.   

 

But the real issue is: What is at the root of that behavior?

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Their behavior reflects what is in their hearts.

 

What I really desire is NOT a change in their behavior, but a change in their hearts.

 

 

And that begins with time in prayer and in God’s Word.

(remaining in the vine)

  

I must take ownership of the fact that I do not emphasize that enough.  Somehow, I had gotten so wrapped up in fixing their behavior, that I had forgotten who our gardener is. I had lost sight of the MOST IMPORTANT thing I should be instilling in my children.  A desire to read God’s Word and be tethered to him.  The change of the heart occurs at the hand of God. 

I can not change the hearts of my children.

It is not my job to fix them.

 

It is certainly my job to instruct them, train them in righteousness, and set a standard for obedience.  My role as a mother also includes praying with them, praying for them, nurturing them, reading scripture to them, talking to them about God, telling them about Jesus, listening to them, encouraging them, taking them to church, teaching them God’s word, being in the Word with them, and modeling my relationship with Christ for them to see. Each one of these things is very important.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Do not provoke your children unto wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.  When you walk, they will guide you.  When you sleep they will watch over you. When you awake they will speak to you.  For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.  Proverbs 6:20-23

 

God has placed a great responsibility on me as a parent. I must be diligent in tilling the soil of my child’s heart and sowing the seed of His Word.

But I can’t do it for them.  They can not live vicariously through me or anyone else.  It is vital that they have their own personal relationship with Christ.  It is critical that they “remain in the vine” and seek to know God personally.  I can not expect the condition of their heart to improve if God is not their master gardener.

Since God so lovingly reminded me of my folly, I have made some changes in my home.  Bible reading is becoming a daily occurrence.  I am helping my older children to learn how to read the Bible and have quiet time for themselves.  We are buying journals and I am teaching them some ways they can use their journals in their time with God.  I ask them to read from dedicated scripture passages every day so we can talk about them with each other (I am reading the same passages in my quiet time).  I am going to teach them how to use the Index to find topics they may need or want to spend more time with.   I am purposely focusing on God’s Word as our daily bread.  And I can’t believe it took me this long to get here.

The degree of our spiritual strength will be in direct proportion to the time we spend in God’s Word.  (Elizabeth George.  A Mom After God’s Own Heart)

 

It is nice to snuggle up under the electric blanket and in complete silence, take in God’s Word together. How cool it is to sit by the fire with my girls, Bibles in hand.

My oldest has a hard time in the morning. She is just like her mother. Not a morning person.  I am encouraging her to have a passage open beside her bed so that she can read it BEFORE she comes downstairs.  Just like God has recommended for me to do.  I keep forgetting that my child is not a baby. She is old enough to begin a routine of Bible reading and prayer time (she has probably BEEN old enough… she’s 11). It’s me that didn’t take the time to teach or encourage her in that practice.  

And when we are having respect issues or other heart issues, I ask my saved children (who are also my only ones old enough to read) to read from the Bible. I take them back to God’s Word.  I tell her (both of my older children are girls) to spend some time in her  room meditating on whichever passage(s) I chose.  I sometimes find it appropriate to also do that when she is experiencing some overwhelming emotions, such as sadness or anger.

There is power in God’s Word. It is important that my children experience that for themselves.

 

I will continue to “feed and water” my precious children

and

surrender the results to God

By His Grace,

Lisa

another great post is linked below:

http://www.gospelfamily.org/#!Temper-Tantrums-Sin-Grace-/c16ee/A6ACC901-79E0-4191-A2C7-D69704FF4557

 

*I have 4 girls and one boy.  My older girls are 13 and 11 and my only son (age 7) is sandwiched between them and my younger daughters.

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11 Things I’ve Learned In 11 Years of Parenting

 

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Parenting is infinitely harder than I ever imagined it would be. And infinitely more rewarding. Very few things in this world have filled my heart more than the sleepy newborn snuggling on my chest, or the enthusiastic little leaguer waving from the outfield, or the curious new Christ follower listening intently as I share truths from His Word. Parenting brings some of the greatest joy and most heartbreaking pain. Such a huge responsibility because so much seems to hang in the balance. In my 11 years as a mother, I’ve learned some important things beyond the obvious that have come as a bit of a surprise to me. These 11 things now inform and guide how I do this thing called parenting.

#1 SINNERS SIN. Ummm… yeah… seems pretty obvious. But if you’ve ever asked one of your kiddos, “Why in the world would you do that?”, then you know what I’m talking about. When we are shocked, perplexed, and confused by our children’s sinful choices, we are forgetting that they are, in fact, hopeless sinners in desperate need of Jesus every day. Just like us.

#2 BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS AREN’T A DISRUPTION TO MY DAY, THEY ARE THE AGENDA OF MY DAY. There is a radical shift in my daily focus when instead of being irritated, annoyed and inconvenienced by their sin, I begin to recognize the teachable moments they afford. Every single ugly argument, disobedient action, and selfish attitude gives me the opportunity to speak the gospel into my children’s lives. After all, my main job as a mother is to teach and model confession, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation.

#3 BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION WILL NEVER CHANGE THE HEART. A loving parent provides expectations, boundaries, and consequences for behavior. But I must, must, must keep in mind that behavior management techniques and consistent discipline will never change their hearts. There is no sticker chart or reward incentive or punishment strong enough to make a new creation in Christ. Outward compliance may not reflect a true heart change. 

“Maybe God’s goal wasn’t for me to raise a good rule-following child, instead His goal was for me to raise a God-following adult.”          Lisa TerKeurst

#4 MY JOB IS NOT TO RESCUE MY CHILDREN FROM PAIN, BUT TO WALK WITH THEM IN IT. It took some intensive (and expensive) therapy for God to break me of the destructive patterns of co-dependence. To learn that I could be okay even if those I love the most aren’t okay. The mysterious role of suffering in the lives of believers to mold us into the image of Christ applies to my children as well. As painful as it is to watch my children in pain, I get to surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit, who loves them infinitely more that I ever will.

#5 SURRENDER THE RESULTS TO GOD BECAUSE THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. This one makes me weak in the knees. Example after example in Scripture points to evil parents raising godly children and godly parents raising evil children. I am quite certain that my children’s spiritual journeys will take twists and turns that I never would have chosen for them and in the end, I have no guarantees. I can imagine no greater pain than my children not knowing new life in Christ. And God is good. And His grace is sufficient for me. No. Matter. What.

#6 GRACE, GRACE, AND MORE GRACE. Teaching them God’s law is an essential part of helping my children understand the gospel because His holy and perfect law shows them just how much they need a Savior. But it is grace that will save them. The grace demonstrated by a Savior who loved them so much He died to fulfill that perfect law in their place. And I can never teach, preach, model, live or give too much grace. Contrary to what the world or our parents or our own natural inclinations tell us, shame and punishment will never produce a Christ follower, only His love has that power. 

“What causes actual love for God is God’s love for us. His love for us is what motivates love from us. The Bible is very, very, very clear that grace and grace alone carries the power to inspire what the law demands. Love, not law, compels heartfelt loyalty.”                        Tullian Tchijidjian

#7 I GET TO GUIDE MY CHILDREN INTO WHAT GOD WANTS FOR THEM, NOT WHAT I WANT FOR THEM.  I must constantly examine my own motives for how I lead them in making life choices. My dreams may include college, marriage and solid equity in a nice family home, while God’s dreams for them might be inner city ministry straight out of high school, life-long singleness, and a rent controlled apartment. Am I willing to let go of what I think will make them happy and yield to what God knows will make them holy? Ultimately, I must keep in mind that my greatest desire is for my children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

#8 PARENTING IS AS MUCH ABOUT GOD DISCIPLING ME AS IT IS ABOUT ME DISCIPLING MY CHILDREN. There is nothing like parenting (except maybe marriage) that brings all my junk to the surface. Impatience, anxiety, pride, control, anger and downright selfishness to name a few. The beauty of it is that when I acknowledge my sin and invite the Holy Spirit to do His work in me, I take leaps and bounds on my own journey and my children get front row seats to the sanctification process!

#9 SOMEONE HAS TO BE THE ADULT. I am embarrassed to admit how many times this phrase crosses my mind as I am about to lose my cool with my children. It kind of makes me laugh and certainly calms me down when I’ve reached a boiling point. How can I expect to teach my children to use self-control, patience and love by living in the Spirit when I so clearly display the fruits of the flesh before them? I’ve come to realize that in all of our relational conflicts, while the results might be important, they are not what’s most important. The most important thing is how we treat each other in the process.

#10 “I WAS WRONG. I’M SORRY. PLEASE FORGIVE ME.” These words are spoken in our home every single day, very often by yours truly. I am amazed that so many of my friends who grew up in Christian homes never heard their parents apologize for anything. I get that it’s hard, but it is also an incredibly practical, simple and powerful way to preach the gospel to my children in our day to day life. When I use these words with my husband and my children, I am acknowledging my sinfulness, modeling humility, and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. What a beautiful picture of the gospel!

#11 THE MOST INFLUENTIAL THING I CAN DO AS A PARENT IS TO SHARE MY OWN FAITH JOURNEY AS I WALK IT. As my children grow, I’m sharing more and more of my own struggles, joys, failures, revelations, trials, questions and victories. And not just in retrospect, but right smack dab in the moment. When I’m anxious or sad, I share how I’m struggling and we pray. When God has revealed a healing, life-changing truth during my time in the Word, I excitedly share it with my children. When I’m disappointed and doubting God’s goodness, I tell them and we remember His promises together. When I’m petitioning God with heartfelt prayers, I do it out loud for them to hear. My primary goal is to give them a glimpse into what life with Christ looks like and God’s amazing and undeserved faithfulness to me.

As much as I’ve learned, at any given point in time I feel like I’m falling short in one or two or ten of these areas. And I’m sure I’ll add a whole lot more to the list in the next big chapter of parenting: teenagers. Though I know with certainty that I will continue to both fail and succeed in this most precious and important responsibility, discipleship is not teaching perfection, it’s teaching dependence. And God will be faithful to guide me and grow me every step of the way.

 

Held by Him,

Leslie

For a print out list of these 11 Parenting Reminders, click link!

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Motherhood Lessons from Sunflowers

Motherhood lessons from sunflowers

I’ve always loved sunflowers; they are so bright and cheery. When was the last time you saw a sunflower? Outside my library is an outdoor nature area containing a crop of sunflowers. Today when I went to observe them, there were several plants in various stages of their life cycle. As we sat and studied these plants, my mind drifted to the different seasons of motherhood. I hope you will join me as we look at these sunflowers, as I believe there is something we can learn from each stage.

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The first sunflower was beautiful, stunning. It got the most oohs and aahs from my children. Standing up tall and straight, its vibrant yellow petals pointing to the sun. Yellow has always been one of my favorite colors because it exudes such joy and warmth. This flower was full of life and vitality.  Beautiful colors contrasted against the crisp, blue sky. This flower reminded me of the seasons of motherhood that we go through that are full and robust.  We are busy and satisfied. We see joy in the moments. We overflow with happiness. We feel vibrant and alive. Those are blessed times indeed. Of course during this time there is a potential pitfall, which of course is pride. We can easily look on others who may not be experiencing the same season as us with judgement or criticism. We can easily want to draw attention to ourselves: our success, our ministries, our fruit and away from the sustainer of our every breath.

I know: I’ve been that flower!

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The second flower made me so sad to look at. Unlike the bright cheery yellow of the first sunflower, this flower’s petals were a crusty gold/green all curled up around the head. Instead of standing up tall, this flower was so weighed down it seemed as though it’s stem could snap off at any moment. One word came to mind as I looked at this flower- “Weary”. As moms we go through moments/days/seasons of weariness where the weight of having to care for the lives of our little seeds becomes too much to bear. The pressures of worry and fear, the real losses of children and family, financial difficulties, strained marriages, prodigal children, illness, and more can weigh us down so much we wonder if we will ever be able to hold our head up again. But just as the sunflower needs to go through this phase of its life cycle, so we must go through seasons of weariness.

Moms, we need each other. We need to encourage and build up one another! We need to be sensitive to the “weariness” in each other. We may not always be able to see the hurt in each other (man, we are good at putting on happy fronts, aren’t we?). But God can reveal the needs of others to us- if we are open to see them. If you aren’t in a season of weariness right now, reach out to help a mom who is. Bring her a meal, take her to coffee, offer to watch her kids for the afternoon, pray with her, send her an encouraging note or email.

And if you are currently that weary mom, weighed down like this sunflower, know you are NOT alone. You can read more about weariness here and here. Pray that God will show you what he wants you to learn during this season. God loves you, and He will sustain you.

I know: I’ve been this flower.

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The last flower was a dark grayish brown with wrinkled up leaves and a bent stem. It’s head had lost most of its seeds that now laid strewn across the garden bed. My kids eagerly picked up one of the seeds to take home. This flower reminded me of this verse in John 12

24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

As moms, we are daily called to die to ourselves. Dying isn’t pretty. We don’t like to talk about it. Nobody would pick up the last sunflower and put it in a vase. But there is something quietly and significantly beautiful about this plant, dying so that it’s seeds (bursting with life) may go forth. I sometimes envision God calling me to die to myself in some BIG calling like going on the mission field or starting a new ministry. But God calls me to carry my cross DAILY. Right now. Today. In my own home. In the mundane tasks of everyday life. In cleaning up messes, kissing boo-boos, teaching lessons, and doing a LOT of laundry.  I’m called to die to myself and that’s HARD. Well…because honestly, I’m REALLY selfish and stubborn. I don’t want to continually do the same task in joy rather than complaining. I don’t want to respond with gentleness when I’m filled with frustration. I don’t want to take the time to discipline in love and seize the teachable moment when I’m annoyed that MY day has been interrupted. In being reminded to die to myself, I come to the end of ME and fall before the throne of Christ.

And that is why I want to be this last sunflower.

It is your daily cross that makes you weep more than any other thing; that sends you to frequent prayer; that leads you to ransack the promises; that makes you cry out, like Jesus, “Father why is this?”;

that causes you to put both arms around the neck of your Savior in yearning love; that makes you sick of earth and self; that gives you wistful longings for heaven.

Oh, precious old homely, daily cross, what deep, tender, far-reaching effects thou hast wrought through all these prayer-paved years- G.D Watson

And moms, I would just like to point out that dying to self and carrying our cross, does not mean you neglect yourself in the care of your family. In fact, the health of the seeds depends on the health of the plant. Sink your roots deep into Jesus. Cultivate flourishing soil by striving for health in relationships and health in yourself! Fertilize your mind. Grow in your interests and soak in beautiful things. As it says in John 15,

2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Abide, mom. Take care of your plant, carry your cross, and trust God with the harvest!

Galatians 6:9- Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up

 

Hugs,

Julie

 

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Mothering Encouragement!

 

God leads those with little ones

Being with my kids 24/7 is an awesome privilege, but also a huge challenge. How often I fear that I am damaging my children when I don’t walk in the Spirit, when I sin, when I lose my patience with them. How often I fear that they won’t turn out right, that my efforts to lead them to Christ will fail, or that they will grow up to have negative feelings about their childhood.

But God’s word gave me the most awesome picture that puts those fears to rest.  I have a friend, mother to 4 grown children, who often encouraged us younger moms by saying, “remember, girls, He gently leads those who are with young.” So, finally I went to find that verse and read it in context. Here’s what it says (in the NIV):

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart;

He gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

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This is an awesome passage talking about how God will restore Israel. But do you see the incredible promises to us as mothers? He gathers the lambs and carries them close to His heart. And He gently leads us, the moms who are with young. I guess I’ve always had the image in my mind that I was the one responsible for carrying my children. That as I follow Christ, I carry my kids along with me – a tough job that I’m called to do. But as I read this passage I see that in reality He is the one carrying them and loving them. They need not be a burden to me. All I need to do is surrender myself to the Shepherd and follow where He leads. He, the good Shepherd, will not stumble, will not drop His lambs, will not let them down or sin against them. He does not lose His temper, or shout, or slam things, or grumble at them when they whine. He is completely trustworthy and He loves them with a depth that I can’t even comprehend. God still gives me the responsibility to “nurse” the young lambs He has entrusted to me. I get to love them and pour my life into them and be their example, but I also have the promise that He will carry them and that He holds them close to His heart. As I follow Him and watch Him, I will learn and become more like Him as I nurture my young ones. Cool, huh?

I thank God for leading me, for making me more like Himself as I follow Him, for being a God in whom I can place all my trust, for giving my husband and me the privilege of joining Him in the task of raising our children in His word and His ways. I hope you are encouraged along with me and strengthened as we move to the end of Isaiah 40 and read:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might, He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:28-31

Kerri

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Friday Morning Parenting Fails

Friday morning parenting fails

Wow. It’s not even 8am today and I’ve done it all wrong already. While my preference is to get everyone off to school before letting Jesus hit the reset button, this morning may make me take a second look at that predawn, groggy eyed, fuzzy minded quiet time.  Everything was running smoothly; it is Fun Friday after all!  The kids jumped out of bed with lots of chatter about weekend activities.  They talk about the small town Mississippi/ BIG deal high school football game tonight.  I casually remind Graham that his buddy, and only friend in our new town, will not be attending the game.  

Graham: (Very irritated) “Then I’m NOT going!”

Mom: “Yes, you are going to the game.”

Graham: “No, I’m not.  Papa will watch me.”

Mom: “Papa has out-of-town company this weekend.  Maybe you’ll see some kids from school. You can have fun without your friend there. You are coming to the game. End of story.”

Graham: (Growl. Grunt. Whine.) “Then bring a blanket ‘cause I’m putting my head under it the whole game.”

Mom: “Fine.”

In the past, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to categorize this as any sort of parenting failure at all. The old me would have chalked it up to “Life isn’t fair. You’ll be fine. I’m the one with REAL issues. Try some grown up problems on for size.” But I am in a very different place now.  3 ½ years of therapy, recovery, support groups, and learning to process feelings has made a big, soft, touchy-feely, mushy mess of me.   I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was actually a Minor Parenting Fail.

Off we go, with just enough time to get the boy to school and then make the 10 minute trip across town to the girl’s school.  Yes, it only takes 10 minutes from East to West city limits in small town MS.  Except when THERE’S A TRAIN STOPPED ON THE TRACKS!!!  Ugh!  Just as I realize we have earned ourselves the first tardy of the year, the girl blurts out,

Elizabeth: “It was SO much better where we used to live. I have no friends. I hate living here.”

Mom: (Frustrated, irritated, no Jesus time yet) “What are you talking about?  You have friends at school!  You play with our two neighbor children every day. And I tried to get you to invite the little girl who lives behind us over for a play date, but you said no. Whose fault is that?”

Elizabeth: “I only have one real friend here. My real friends all live in South Carolina.  I hate it here.”

Enter Major Parenting Fail.

Mom:  (Completely unsympathetic and irritated) “How do you think I feel? I only have one friend here too. I left friends I’ve had for 25 years. This is where we are going to be for at least 2 years, we all need to just make the best of it.“

As soon as the words come out of my mouth, I realize what I’ve done.  I have thrown everything I’ve learned about emotional health out the window. Things like: being a good listener, asking open-ended questions, affirming feelings and acknowledging pain, empathizing, modeling, and walking alongside.  Crap.  Instead of supporting and understanding, I minimized, compared, dismissed, shut down and tried to fix.  In a minor way with my son and a major way with my daughter.  I suddenly remember that my children, too, have left everything and everyone they’ve ever known when we moved from South Carolina to Mississippi for my husband to go to school.  We’ve been here exactly 6 weeks and we are all just beginning the grieving/adjustment/this is our new life thing.  And it’s not like I am unaware of it;  I think about it constantly, in fact. But on a frustrating morning when we’re running late, the caffeine hasn’t kicked in, and I haven’t spent time setting my heart on things above, I forget.

Years ago, I would never have been able to wrap my mind around why my dismissive responses are such a big deal.  Kids need to learn resilience and letting go and moving forward.  They need to learn to make the best of where they are and be thankful for what they’ve got.  And all of that is true.  But today, I tried to make them jump all the way from the disappointment and sadness straight to acceptance.  I tried to bypass the whole acknowledging uncomfortable feelings, actually feeling them and processing through the hard stuff to the comfortable place of loving the life they’ve got.  That was my m.o. for 36 years, hard-wired and unchanged.  Bad feelings are bad to feel.  Move on however you can.

The truth is that I’ve had a hard time processing the change and feelings of loss myself.  “We all just need to make the best of it?”  My therapist would be appalled.  (Not really… she would say something all life-giving and gracious that makes me cry.)  But if I was my therapist, I would be appalled by my reaction.  Because I know better now, and I am getting better slowly but surely at processing my own uncomfortable feelings, communicating these thoughts with my children, and walking alongside them as they do the same.

So I am exceedingly thankful that the day is not over at 8am.  When I pick up my precious little munchkins at 3pm, I get to do some “clean up.”  I get to tell them I’m sorry for not being a good listener. I’m sorry for minimizing their feelings and dismissing their pain.  I get to model humility and processing difficult emotions and a willingness to change.  And that, will be a Major Parenting Success.

 

Held by Him,

Leslie

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