Sunday, March 28, 2010

I think I have been a Parenting Pharisee

My last blog post was about parenting and how we feel so inadequate and lost in how to parent our older kids. I have to add some more thoughts to this post. They are some things I have observed in our own parenting journey and thought maybe some of you could relate to this as well.

I mentioned that I have been operating in my own strength with raising our kids because it is something I have been doing for so long that I feel like I should know how to do it. I realized something else, too, that I think has made me pridefully rely on myself and my 'knowledge' way too much. This, I think, has even been a bigger hindrance to finally admitting that I don't have it all together. It's the fact that I have read at least twenty parenting books, attended parenting seminars, and took classes and bible studies specifically concerning parenting. I've stuffed my head full of every bit of knowledge I need for these years. Therefore, I have reasoned in my head, I am equipped. I am ready for anything...


There just isn't any parenting book or seminar that can specifically walk you through this phase. There just isn't. It is not as cut and dry and black and white as parenting our little ones is. It's not rules-oriented anymore. Saying 'no, because I said so' doesn't work with ten and twelve year olds. Also saying no to them out of fear of saying yes doesn't work so well either.

There are parenting books out there that try to tell you step by step how to 'do' this phase of parenting. They speak as if you do everything just like they tell you to that the result will be model kids. Unfortunately, I bought into this. I believed that I could just follow their program religiously and all would be well. Oh, that word 'religiously' just summed up what is wrong with doing that! I was doing exactly what the Pharisees did when they had their long list of rules to abide by. They got so caught up in their rules that they were completely blinded to the freedom they could have experienced in walking with Jesus.

When I tried to follow a parenting program to the nth degree, I placed that program before God. It became all about the program and not about God. It became all about 'I need to say this and do this and then I will get such and such result'. And then when I didn't get that result I analyzed how I did everything, wondering what I had done wrong since I didn't get the anticipated result. Meanwhile, I think God was waiting on the sidelines, gently knocking on the door to my brain and whispering, 'Excuse me, I created these children. Quit turning to these man-made rules and just turn to me.'

The bottom line, once again, is that it all comes down to relying on God and walking so closely to Him that His thoughts become our thoughts and His ways become ours.

It seems that, for me, parenting these older kids works better when I forget all of those parenting strategies and just:
1.) Love them and let them know it! (Love covers a multitude of sins! 1 Peter 4:8)
2.) talk to them, talk to them, and then talk about things with them again! Talk to them about how whatever they are doing/not doing does or does not line up with Scripture...always letting Scripture be the backbone of whatever we are discussing with them.
3.) Pray with them and for them

And forget the 'how' we are supposed to be doing this. When I get caught up in 'how' I am supposed to be parenting, I just don't give God free reign to work.

Love and Communicate--funny how all relationships always comes down to these two things, isn't it?

One last thing--I am going to quit calling it 'parenting'--it sounds so cold and standoffish. It really needs to be called discipling, right? It is discipling in its truest form.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When God Shows Up

About three weeks ago Eric and I were at our 'wits-end' in our parenting. We felt in over our heads. We feel like we are moving into a new phase and season of parenting with our twelve and ten year old and we feel so ill-equipped and inadequate.

Honestly, I've been stuck for several months, in denial. I wanted to ignore and deny the fact that I have a twelve year old and things are changing in the way we must parent. I was grieving the fact that Joshua (and soon, Sophie) are starting to need us to be there for them in completely different ways. I have been dragging my feet, screaming and kicking--not wanting to begin this scarey phase.

I was discussing this with my mentor-friend, explaining how I felt like I was totally failing, explaining how we completely don't know what we are doing and that this was such uncharted territory for us. Her advice was the best advice I think I have ever received when it comes to this whole parenting thing. It was completely monumental and 'perspective-changing' for me. So, of course, I just have to share it with you!

She said, "Good. It is a good thing that you feel like you are failing. It is a good thing that you feel so ill-equipped and like you are grappling in the dark, not knowing where you are going. You are exactly where God wants you because He wants to show you how to lean on Him and experience His power in your weakness."

She went on to explain to me the freedom I would experience once I laid this down before the Lord, admitting that: 'I've got nothing. I know nothing. I am in over my head here. I need you, Lord, to show up and take the wheel!'

As I pondered this, I realized that I had been a mom of 'small children' for so many years that at some point I quit worrying/questioning every move I made and how I was parenting them. Somewhere along the way (maybe at child #4???), I got pretty confident in my own strength. I realized I was also trying to parent my older ones in my own strength as well. I had believed (falsely!) that I 'should' have it all together when it comes to parenting because I had been doing it so long. I realized that I had pridefully not wanted to admit that we completely feel lost and in over our heads with these older kids.

So, we have completely lay it bare before God. We have confessed that we are completely weak and hopeless with all of this and we need His strength.

Wow. She wasn't kidding when she said there is great freedom in laying down our burdens before the Lord. The freedom I have began experiencing is incredible. And the changes I have seen happening in us and in our older two children since I have quit feeling like I have to have it all together have been so encouraging.

It's funny to me how this lesson is one that seems to come up over and over again in my Christian walk. I'm sure that this is not the last time I will have to learn that I need to rely on God and not myself.

'And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' 2 Cor. 12:9

'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you...' 1 Peter 5:7

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Too Much

There are decisions to be made about school next year--will we do any outside classes? Where will we do them? What kinds of classes will we take? Does the Lord even want us to take any classes? Would it be wise to spend our money on such classes? Oh, but Joshua's friends are going to be taking classes here and Sophie's will be taking classes there and in a week is the early registration and if you don't register then the classes get full...and you have to put down 1/3 of the cost just to secure the class...and think about what they are going to miss out on if they don't take these classes...and they'll be missing out on all of these opportunities if you don't sign them up.


Are you going to do cross country next year? and don't forget flag football--everyone from Joshua's basketball team is doing it; he'll be the only one who's not. And don't forget baseball. We can't NOT do baseball. And where are you doing baseball? My kids learned a lot of interesting language last year at THAT baseball league; I wouldn't do that one. And what about swimming? It's only three mandatory days a week at the Y. Oh, and volleyball. Don't forget volleyball. That's only two days a week. And let's not forget the summer art class, everybody's doing it, you know. And it only meets one day a week.


And what about the summer camps? There is art camp. And then there is church camp that is only a mere $250 per child. But come on, Mom, everybody is going--I'll be the only one not there! And let's not forget soccer camp, basketball camp and Lego camp. And don't forget Vacation Bible School. And then there are the Zoo camps. And don't forget Camp Hi-Ho that costs so much that we would need to take out a second mortgage. Oh, and then we have Drama camp--Oh, Mom, I REALLY want to do this one; we actually get to be in a movie that will be seen across the country...


Which curriculum are you going to use next year? Well, you've got to do this one for writing--it's only $200, but totally worth it. And this spelling program only takes 45 minutes of your daily time per child for eight straight years but the payoffs are worth it, really. And you really need to homeschool per the Charlotte Mason method--you'll only be reading outloud to your childen three hours a day. and don't forget Latin--your kids really need to be learning Latin or you can just forget about high SAT scores. It only takes two hours a day to diagram sentences in Latin and we had to hire a Latin tutor just to pass our Latin exams. And I know the language is dead, but it's worth it, really.


Don't forget to send in the rebate for your new phone. And we've got to take back that movie that we bought for Joshua that didn't work. And Sophie needs a pair of jeans that fit. And Jeremiah's tennis shoes are falling apart. Owen's shoes are two sizes too small. No one has any short sleeve shirts and shorts in their drawers--changing that out for five people will take at least five days. and Sophie doesn't have any Spring clothes that fit. And the DAV is coming by today--make sure you set out all those boxes full of stuff. And don't forget to pay the electric, phone and cable bills today. And you better sign up for the homeschool convention and that Tim Hawkins show--it's almost sold out. And have you made that doctor's appointment for your husband yet? He might have high blood pressure and if he collapses in the middle of one of his work outs it's gonna be your fault.


Make sure that you don't buy regular milk from the store anymore. It's full of hormones and your daughter will wind up looking like Dolly Parton by the fifth grade. Instead, you'll need to go across town every third Tuesday at 4:00 pm sharp and buy goat's milk for $5.99 a gallon. And if you don't make your own bread you aren't getting the 28 essential vitamins that every child needs. And make sure you buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's Market on Monday afternoons. They are pesticide free. And did you hear about that amazing new drink that you can buy and drink daily? It only cost $6.99 a gallon but it is guaranteed to rid your body of toxins and increase your life span by 10%. Is your baby food homemade? And if you don't have your own garden of home grown vegetables you're just not taking care of your family...


Are you holding your child to first time obedience? And are you teaching them sign language? Oh my, if you don't then they will be whiny. And what about blanket time? Room time? And definitely let's not forget couch time. If you are not doing couch time your children are positively ruined. You might as well give it up. Are you taking advantage of that window of time when you put your kids to bed? If you don't you will not have good, open communication with your children and they'll never ever tell you anything. Are you having family time? Family devotions? Family nights? Are you taking each of your children on one on one dates? You better do this once a month or they'll never feel loved. And what about date nights? Once a week you better do date nights so that your kids know you love each other.....


Oh my. No wonder I am experiencing shortness of breath these days! I am sure you can relate to many of these 'things'--maybe you don't homeschool, etc. but you can exchange the curriculum choices to teacher choices and what not. We all have our lists of things pulling at us and closing in on us until we feel like we can no longer breathe. Granted, many of these things listed are really good things. I am reminded of the verse: 'everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.' 1 Cor. 10:23. Many activities are good, but is God calling us to all of them? I heard Beth Moore say in a bible study, 'You cannot do 100 things to the glory of God!' There is so much truth in that statement and it is also a truth to remember when choosing what extra classes and activities to put our children in.'

I think it comes down to the question: In what and in whom do I put my trust? So often, I choose to put my trust in the activity or achieving a desired output. But God tells us to trust in Him. He tells us to 'seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well' Matthew 6:33.

So from a practical standpoint, what does that look like exactly?

As I have been feeling 'pulled and pushed', God gave me a picture of writing down all of these decisions regarding school and activities--laying it all out before Him and then waiting on Him and His Wisdom. Waiting on God. Wow, such a hard concept for us westernized people who are used to receiving information in a matter of a few seconds. Yet God wants us to wait on Him and allow Him to lead us in all of our decisions. And if I can't wait on Him for His guidance, than where is my trust? It's in myself and the activity. If I am more concerned about 'missing out' then I am in whether God wants us to do the activity in the first place, than I am no longer allowing God to lead us....I have pushed Him out of the driver's seat and taken over the wheel.

I keep hearing God say 'less is more' and 'live simply' in all areas of your life. The hardest part is actually applying this (and applying it consistently!) I constantly feel like we are tempted by the 'too much' lifestyle.

Lord, help us to daily trust you to lead us and not get caught up in what everyone around us is doing! Help us to 'not turn from to the right or to the left', to not look at what this person or that person is doing. Help us to look to You and You alone, knowing that if any of we lack wisdom, we should ask You, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to us. (James 1:5)

In Jesus' Name I pray all of these things, Amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

No, I am not kidding

Often, our kids play with the neighborhood boy--Ben--who lives across the street. He is an only child so it is like an instant party for him when our kids come out and play.

Ben is quite the creative fellow. So, I wasn't surprised when he brought out his magnifying glass on Friday afternoon and was trying to 'burn' things. Sophie ran inside to get an Oreo, saying they were going to try to 'burn' it. They were magnifying the rays of sunlight upon the object and basically trying to start a fire. I wasn't the least bit concerned--whoever heard of such a thing actually producing flames? I even thought to myself, "Hey, this can be my kid's science experiment for the week. Thanks, Ben!" (Sidenote: by the way, don't think for a minute I wasn't on to Sophie when she came in for the Oreo. If you know Sophie, you know her love for food and you know she had an ulterior motive. She had plans to eat that experiment when it was all said and done.)

Anyway, they spent their time Friday afternoon experimenting. So, Saturday rolls around. Wes and Jeremiah played outside with all the neighborhood kids for a little awhile before lunch. While they were having lunch I asked them: 'so what do you guys plan to do after lunch?'

Wes' response: 'Oh, we'll probably walk around with Ben and burn things.'


I chuckle inwardly. I suppress a smile. Ha, Ha. Walk around and 'burn' things. Good thing it's all just innocent fun....

Ten minutes later I look out the front door to check on them and about pee in my pants. THERE IS A FIRE SHOOTING UP OFF MY NEIGHBOR'S DRIVEWAY WITH FLAMES ONE FOOT HIGH. The pyromaniacs are next to it, looking on. All three of them.


I dialed Ben's mom, whom I have on speed dial for reasons such as these. 'Excuse me, but there is a fire with one foot high flames in your driveway...'

Moral to the story? Do not let your child play with magnifying glasses and paper. Seriously.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010