Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's Not About Being Liked

Parenting is on my mind lately, which is probably a good thing since I do have five kids. It should probably rank somewhere near the top, right...? Lately my thought has been about how much parenting is needed, and when does it stop.

Before I had any kids, my plan was to have some kids that I could be friends with. I wasn't going to have to yell at them because we would just like each other and they would listen because they liked me.

You can stop laughing now.

It only took a few years for me to figure out that this wasn't going to work. By the time I was 24 I had three kids who weren't listening. Correction. They were listening; they were not obeying. It must be because I wasn't trying hard enough to make them like me, I reasoned at the time. If I disciplined them, that would be mean and then they definitely wouldn't like me. I was more concerned with living in the moment of happiness than looking to the future of what kind of adults I was raising.

John Rosemond, parenting expert, puts it like this: Overwhelming numbers of today's kids are growing up thinking their mothers are obligated to them. Because the mother-child relationship has turned upside-down, inside-out and backward in the course of 40 years, today's child is at great risk of becoming a petulant, demanding, ungrateful brat.

He said it. I didn't.

Twenty-three years have passed since I had my first child, four since I had my last. (Yes, I'm sure he's the last.) I won't say that I have raised petulant, demanding, ungrateful brats, but I can definitely see the fruits of the seeds I planted. I was not a Christian and had no exposure to biblical discipline when I was raising the first batch of kids. While I thought I was providing a loving and accepting environment for them, I was actually teaching them that they were in charge. Have you ever been left in charge when you felt totally incapable and overwhelmed by a situation? It's a scary place to be when nobody is qualified to be the grown-up, and the grown-up in charge is too busy making friends to discipline anybody.

I am glad to say that I've learned a few things over the years. I can see the difference between loving your kids by being their best friend and loving your kids by being the grown-up in the house, the one who makes the decisions that won't endear you to them in the moment but long term will pay off. I am brutally aware that I am raising adults who need to be equipped for the world they will live in, a world that won't cater to them like their mommy.

God has not left us alone in this all important task. Just for fun, because there are too many to list here, do a search at on the word "discipline" and see what it says. We can apply everything to our kids that God applies to us. Here is one of my favorites:

For these commands are a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and the corrections of discipline
are the way to life.
Proverbs 6:23

Monday, May 24, 2010


Parenthood does something funny to a person...suddenly, your whole life is all about the baby. Every thought, every dream, every hope you have seems to center around this person that you are completely and totally responsible for. There is nothing you would not do for this precious little being, nothing you wouldn't do to give him everything you could.

I was visiting with a friend today about the change in her brother since he became a dad when it hit me.

We are "the baby."

"Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to be called children of God." John 1:12

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just When I Had It All Figured Out....

How long do you have to do something before you know there might be a better way? And, when you find that out, how long until you actually try the better way?

As I've mentioned before, I am a fairly capable git'er done kind of girl. I don't usually look for challenges because I figure I'm doing pretty well just the way I am. That has all changed recently.

I was challenged to enter a triathlon. Technically a mini-triathlon, but there is really nothing mini to me about swimming a 1/2 mile, riding a bike for 12 miles, and running a 5k.


Without a nap in between.

In accepting this challenge, I have started training and learning to do things a different way. Like swimming. I always knew how to swim, but apparently there is a right way to breathe so as not to hyperventilate. When I was at the Y trying to swim laps, the life guard was very helpful, telling me how to position my head in the water and showing me a better way to kick. At first the normal "I know what I'm doing" voice wanted to override his advice, but then I realized that he might really know something that I don't.

The same thing happened when I became a Christian, but this time it was the Word of God letting me know there was a better way. I started seeing that my regular way of thinking and doing things might not be the best way, even though learning a new way was not always easy. Like learning a new way to swim, I had to be focused and intentional about the thoughts I was entertaining and the choices I was making. It did not come naturally at first. There are a lot of days that it still doesn't come naturally, when I want to go back to old habits and routines, and I find myself floundering like a drowning girl, wondering what went wrong. It would be silly at that point to insist that my way is best, when clearly it isn't. The Bible gives us everything we need for life and godliness, so that is where I should look for direction and counsel.

So, if I listen to the right advice and train diligently, I might actually survive this triathlon. 'Scuse me. Mini-triathlon. And this thing called Life.

How about you? Spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. What have you decided to do, or what has been decided for you, that will challenge everything you thought you knew? Leave a comment, share your thoughts, let me celebrate your challenges with you. Any opportunity to grow and learn is a cause for celebration, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

(Im)Perfect People, Perfect God

I always used to think that the Bible was full of perfect people. That was before I actually started reading it. Since I had this preconception, I couldn't understand what was so good about the Bible. Why would I want to be like these people? They were disobedient, impatient, whiny, distrustful...some of them were even murderers and adulterers.

Sarah and Abraham (Abram) were promised a son. When it didn't happen as they thought it should, Sarah arranged for her husband to have a baby with her servant. Why did she take a promise of God and twist it to fit her own timing, instead of taking Him at His word?

Jonah was told to go to Ninevah and deliver a message of hope and salvation to a really dark nation. Instead, feeling that these people were not worthy of God's mercy, he got on a ship heading the exact opposite direction. Who was he to decide who was worthy to hear the message of God?

Eve was living in a paradise with nothing to do but make babies and enjoy life. She fell for the lie that there was something bigger to be gained by listening to the voice of the serpent. What could possible be more wonderful than the privilege of hanging out with God in the perfection of His creation?

Peter promised to stick with Jesus, even to the point of his own death. Instead, as soon as times got scary, he bailed. He denied knowing Him. How could someone who knew Christ in such proximity, in such sureness, do that?

The Bible is full of real life examples of imperfect people, people just like us. How many of us have denied Christ through our actions...? chosen the world over knowing God...? decided who among us was worthy of hearing the message of hope...? taken matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God...?

No, the Bible is not full of perfect people.

It is full of a perfect, faithful God. A God who loves us in spite of ourselves, who knows us better than anyone, even if we don't know Him. God still gave Sarah and Abraham the promised son. God gave Jonah time to change his mind and brought deliverance to the people of Ninevah. God did kick Eve (and Adam) out of the garden, but did not leave them without resources. And to Peter, He offered grace, a face to face opportunity to "undo" his worst moment.

Now when I read the Bible, I read with an eye open to how God relates to people who don't always make the right choices. People like me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Reality of Mother's Day

Mother's Day.

Fewer words strike terror in the heart of a man than these two.

The weight of expectation that these two words carry is considerable. The media gives visions of diamonds, flowers, chocolates, massages, sweet dimply faced kids carrying specially wrapped gifts...ahh, the glory of being a mom.

The reality is that the kids will still fight on Mother's Day. Our husbands don't turn in to mind readers for a day. Some of my friends will spend the day paying homage to their husband's mothers (you know who you are!).

I fell victim to the media hype a few years ago. My day ended with tears in the Perkins Restaurant parking lot. I was visiting with a friend the other day who also spent a Mother's Day in tears in a Perkins Restaurant. I'm betting there are more of us out there, and it had nothing to do with the food. I had an unholy tantrum about how I deserved to be celebrated. (Those of you who read my blog know that I am occasionally given to bouts of self-centeredness. Researchers are working on a cure right now...)

Anyway, I was on the slippery slope of expectation. When we stop looking at what we get in life as a gift, and a gift from above at that, it becomes an expectation. Andy Stanley says we can never be truly grateful when a gift is rooted in expectation. Good point.

God has been working on my heart for some time now. The Christmas that followed the Mother's Day tantrum was interesting...all my kids and husband said they had no presents for me to open in the morning. My mind flashed back to how I felt the day after the Mother's Day tantrum, and I was determined to be ok with this. I focused on the joy of giving, the privilege of making Christmas special for everyone else, and Who we were really celebrating anyway. As it turned out, all my gifts were at my mom's...they had secretly all bought pieces to the Willow Tree Nativity and needed to present them all at once. I was very glad that I was gracious instead of pouty in the morning.

Anyway, back to Mother's Day. Elizabeth Murphy says we should look for little mother's day moments all year. I am choosing to pray for each of my kids and granddaughter, thanking God for the privilege of having His children in my life. I have enough friends who have struggled in their quest to become moms to realize that I need to stop taking this for granted. I am choosing to focus on how I can better serve Him through them.

Today, when your husband or kids ask what you want to do for Mother's Day, don't get irritated that you have to tell them.Give them a little grace...they just want it to be nice for you. If you say "Whatever you choose is fine...", you better mean it. Resentment is an ugly thing. Personally, I get to go on a bike ride with some girlfriends while Rob and the kids fix dinner. Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Maybe brownies for dessert if I have time to pick up a mix.

That sounds perfect to me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How To Follow

This post is kind of a natural flow, at least in my brain, out of Following Distance. Sometimes we really want to follow where we feel like God is leading, but life keeps getting in the way. It's like trying to run a sprint, but hurdles keep popping up where you didn't expect them. You start to think that maybe you misunderstood what God really wanted in the first place.

A few years ago at the Women's Retreat with Renee Swope, I came home with a burden to follow God, like I wouldn't be able to breathe if I didn't get moving in the direction He was calling me to go. Except, I didn't know what direction that actually was. I prayed and read, read and prayed. I kept coming back to verses about waiting. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7. So, I would sit really still (for like 5 or 10 minutes) and wait. Nothing. No flashes of lightning, no God-given insight. Probably because I was asking the wrong question...I was thinking too far ahead.

I wanted the five year plan, and God wanted me to learn a few things before we took another step. I confused the learning a few things part with thinking that God forgot He had a plan for me. Do you ever find yourself in a situation, thinking you have veered off course, and then find out it is exactly where you were supposed to be? Like I mentioned in Following Distance, sometimes going in a circle is part of the journey. You can walk past the same scenery, metaphorically speaking, and not see things the same way. That happens to me all the time, especially in regards to how I view my relationship with my husband. God has definitely taken me on a journey there.

Sometimes I feel like God's plan and purpose for me will be affected by the behavior of others. If Rob doesn't act in a certain way, I am afraid he is slowing me down or getting in the way of something that God might have for me. Sick, I's all about me. That should be a flag any time I start to think like that. I am praying to see every situation in my life as a chance to glorify God through compassion, gentle wisdom, and obedience to the life He has called me to live. If opportunities change or disappear because the time isn't right but I acted in a godly way, not bitter, judgmental, or resentful, then God will bring something even better my way.

My need to have others act in a certain way reflects and insecurity/doubt in God's ultimate power. He is not "sovereign when..." or "sovereign if...". He is sovereign and in charge, period. His plan for us will come to fruition through His power. Only we can stop it through our own self-centeredness, pride, insecurity,and sin. I don't want to get to the other side and see the video of what could've been. I get so mad sometimes because I feel like I could be so godly and worthy if only other people would...fill in the blank on any given day. That sort of thinking is totally contrary to how God wants us to be.

Next time you are trying to follow but feel like you are going nowhere, check out the scenery. Does it look familiar? Is there something you were supposed to see or learn here the last time you passed this way? Are you thoughts, attitudes, and actions lining up with God's Word?

I can promise that God has not forgotten about you. Isaiah 55:11 says "so shall the word that goes out of my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it." If you have had a word from God, He will not forget about it or change His mind. I know God has big plans for you, my friend. Trust Him with the life He has given you.