Tag Archive | parenting

Restore the Fathers

Jesus with childrenFather’s Day is just around the corner. How very appropriate and heartbreaking that the immigrant crisis—children being torn from the very breasts of their mothers—now center stage in our country should be garnering so much notice at this time.

My grandfather was an immigrant. Granted, his parents went through the arduous process of coming legally, but had they not been able to do that, if they had been fleeing a dangerous situation and needed refuge, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my grandfather been taken away from them.

We lost our younger son at Sea World one time. It was only for a few minutes, but the terror that was in my heart during those few minutes has never been forgotten. Had anything happened to him, I would have been devastated. So to know that hundreds, no, thousands of parents are experiencing their children being taken away from them by authorities in a country they thought would be their refuge is completely unimaginable.

The law of the land, they say. It’s biblical to obey the governing authorities, they say.

How they can look themselves in the mirror or even sleep at night is beyond me.

Families belong together. There is no excuse. Maybe the parents have broken the law, but IMG_0654there are better ways to handle the situation. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration, but I am a fan of people. You can’t treat them like animals. They are not cattle or sheep to be separated for slaughter.

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. While you’re celebrating your own father, or being a father, or fathers that you know, take time to pray for those fathers who have had their children forcibly removed from their care by the governing authority, that they would be restored to their children.

And weep for them, as I’m sure Jesus is doing even now.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 19:14)

This post is a part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link up. Come join in the fun!

 

image from vvsventujuparapija.lt

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First Ask Why: A Book Review

Parenting books are plentiful, it’s true, and trying to fit your family into the mold of what others have done is impossible. So it’s refreshing to read a parenting book that gives you the freedom to be your own family while still suggesting principles that will help point your children to Jesus.

First Ask Why coverIn this her first book, Shelly Wildman encourages parents to engage in intentional discipleship, positioning your kids to follow Jesus as they grow in independence. By asking why we do the things we do, we’re taking a closer look at our efforts as a family.

The message that spoke the most to me was near the end. In a chapter titled “Strengthening our Ties,” Shelly confronts something that families these days don’t want to hear: We’re too busy.  She says, “Driven by today’s American culture, parents often believe that if their kids don’t play sports or aren’t involved in some other activity outside the home, then their lives won’t be successful. But that argument plays on parents’ fears and emotions. We can’t fear being a little countercultural when it comes to protecting time together as a family, because that time together makes us stronger.”

I confess to feeling that fear. College applications and having a resumé filled with accomplishments drive us to over scheduling our families so that we teeter on the very brink of burnout and exhaustion. What are our kids learning from this?

That performance matters. That who they are will forever be tied to the things that they do.

My 9th grade daughter is concerned by the fact that she doesn’t have any activities to add to her resumé. She’s in virtual school (meaning she does all her classes remotely on a computer), so obviously extra curricular activities are not as easy to engage in.

But more important to me than the status of her resumé is the status of her heart. Have we made an intentional effort over the 15 years of her life to point her to Jesus?

Prayer, service, cross-cultural experiences, family memories. All of these and more are areas in which Wildman encourages parents to disciple their kids. When asked what makes her book different from other parenting books, Wildman answers:

“So many parenting books are ‘how-to’ books. They seem to say, ‘Just follow these 10 steps first ask why memeand here’s what you’ll get in the end.’ But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

“Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

“Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

“Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.”

First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship is available now for preorder on Amazon, CBD.com and Barnes and Noble.

Web_Shelly-2Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

 

Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind—a book review and a giveaway!

IMG_9112You often hear the saying, “Parenting isn’t for cowards.” Oh, how true that statement is. Even if your kids aren’t running off the rails, there are challenges and fears and missteps all along the way.

As kids approach adulthood and get ready to leave our little nests, the anxiety can ramp up even more. Did we teach them all they need to know to survive? What if they never want to come visit? How will I know that they are still making good decisions?

The truth is, we can’t know all the answers to those kinds of questions, but we can trust that God has our kids in the palm of His hand, no matter what direction they may presently be going.

After reading Brenda Yoder’s Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, I am reminded that all along this journey of parenthood, I am not alone.

Writing mostly to women, Yoder, who is a licensed mental health counselor, addresses the big issues we face as we prepare our kids for independent life: Mom grief (which is most definitely a real thing), building family ties, setting boundaries, self-care, marriage during the fledging years, among many others. I found myself with a crick in my neck from all the nodding I was doing in response to what I read.

One such nod-inducer was this statement: “Being a mom is something you do; it’s not IMG_9113who you are. When you accept this, you’ll be more peaceful, confident, and free as each child walks out the door.”

Yes!

So many of us moms have centered our lives around our children, that we have no idea who we are apart from them. But the natural order of things is for our kids to move out and move on. And when we are so wrapped up in trying to make sure our kids turn out just the way we want them to, their mistakes can shake us to our core.

Yoder says, “Your children’s struggles can paralyze you if you let them define your faith, your family, or your parenting. It’s not accurate to define yourself by the choices your kids make.”

How freeing is that? Our job is to follow hard after Jesus. What our kids decide about their own faith is theirs alone. We influence, we guide, we counsel, but someone once said that parents take too much credit when their kids succeed, and have too much guilt when they fail. Yoder says, “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not your responsibility to raise godly kids. It’s your responsibility to be a godly parent.”

IMG_9114In many ways, our clinging to our kids can be a detriment to them. Yoder says, “Our children need permission to say no to our expectations so they can say yes to God’s gifts and callings.”

Filled with much more godly wisdom and counsel, Fledge is an excellent book for anyone facing or in the midst of the empty-nest years. There is such joy we can find in these years if we lean into the Lord and trust Him with our kids.

You can preorder Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind” on Amazon before the March 16th release date by clicking here.

Consider joining the Fledge Parent Forum on Facebook as well by clicking here. A community of people in the same season is a great encouragement!

Enter a chance to win!

Leave a comment about why you need this book for a chance to win a free copy of Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. One winner will be chosen on March 15.

 

*disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

Rules and Relationship

It’s been a tough few months.

And when it affects my kids, it makes it tougher still.

Here’s the question: Does relationship trump rules?

checkoff-listI’ve been a parent for more than 21 years now, and I think I have a pretty good relationship with my kids. But I’ll tell you, they know there are rules. If I tell you to do something, you do it. Whining and fussing doesn’t get you anywhere in my house. My kids trust that I’m not going to tell them to do something immoral, illegal or impossible (although keeping their rooms clean does seem impossible at times). They trust that I love them and what I tell them to do is going to be for their benefit somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m human, and sometimes I want them to do something for my convenience. “Can you bring me my phone that I left on my bed? (because I’ve settled in my chair in the other room and you’re right there by my room)” But in the context of our relationship, they know that I’m not always doing that. And they ask me the same kinds of things, and more, because, well, kids.

Do they ever question my directives? Yes. Do I pull the mom card sometimes? (You know the drill: “But why?” “Because I’m the mom, that’s why.”) Yes. But they know that I love them. They know that they’re safe with me. They know that I ultimately want them to become fully functional members of society, and people who follow after God’s own heart.

When my kids have been pushing back against some of the things they’re told to do, child fighting with parentwhat I say to them is this: If you have a hard time obeying me, whom you can see, how much harder will it be for you to obey God when He requires something of you? This is practice for listening to God and doing what He asks because you trust Him and you know that He loves you.

I would think it should not have to be said that blind obedience to every authority is not wise. I’m talking about obedience in the context of relationship. Every parenting expert worth their salt knows that children thrive in an atmosphere of stability and boundaries. Allowed to run free with no rules, children will flounder. Loving guidelines and abounding grace create a healthy atmosphere for kids to thrive.

If my kids tell me over and over again that they love me, that’s going to mean a lot to me, but if they continually question my authority and break the family rules, some tough love is going to have to come into play. I wouldn’t stop loving them, but there would be consequences for their actions.

So how does this apply to our relationship with God?

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). He didn’t say, “Keep my commandments or I will stop loving you.” In fact, in context, He’s just been telling His disciples all about going to prepare a place for them in heaven and sending them the Holy Spirit to help them. But He knew it would be important for them to do what He has told them to do. For their sake. Not under compulsion, but because they love Him and want to do what He says. Did they mess up? Sure. Look at Peter as a classic example. He denied Christ 3 times. But oh, the restoration that took place on the beach before a fire after Jesus was resurrected. (See the 21st chapter of the book of John.)

grace tattooI love my husband. We have been married for almost 27 years. He doesn’t want me to get a tattoo. I want one. Just a little one. Nothing huge. I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with tattoos. But he doesn’t want me to get one. So am I going to go out and get one when he happens to be out of town? No. Why? Because I love him and I am going to respect this desire of his that I not get one. I do what he asks because I love him and I know that he loves me. He’s not asking me not to get one just to keep me under his thumb. I know he would love me even if I did get one, but it would be disappointing to him that I made this choice. And I would feel the break in our relationship.

Do I give rules to my kids and then reject them if they don’t follow them?

Will my husband stop loving me if I get a tattoo?

No. And we’re broken human beings who make mistakes.

We can be assured that God will not abandon us if we break His rules, put into place for our protection. But our disobedience is not without consequences. God’s love for us is not measured by how well we follow His rules, but our obedience can be a thermometer of how much we truly love God.

The gospel opposes earning but is not opposed to effort.

 

Images from agingwithpizzazz.com; whatisoppositionaldefiantdisorder.com; pinterest.com

The Parenting Trap

Here’s the hard truth. Are you ready to hear it? It’s not going to be popular or sugar-coated or comfortable. It’s a trap many parents walk into with the best of intentions, but ignorance of the gospel. Ready? Here it is:

12-2-03You can do everything according to all the experts in your parenting journey, and your kids could still walk away from Jesus.

♦ Stay together as a couple with love and happiness in your household. check

♦ Go to church as a family, build a firm foundation of faith. check

♦ Pray together, both as a couple and as a family. check

♦ Encourage openness, ask the hard questions, be there for them emotionally. check

♦ Provide things for them, but don’t over indulge. Help them learn the value of work and study. check

♦ Give lots of physical affection and words of affirmation. Let them know they are always loved. Show grace, yet speak truth. check

♦ Give them both an anchor and wings. check

Fact of the matter is, no matter what you do right, or what you do wrong; no matter how hard you pray or how close you feel your relationship is, your children still have the choice to go their own way.IMG_6263

It’s heartbreaking.

That’s how God feels all the time. He so loved the world that He gave His only Son to restore the broken relationships. And still people argue that He doesn’t even exist. They insist that they’re better off without Him. They want to do their own thing without restrictions. Without consequences. Without fellowship with God.

It’s devastating.

And yet He loves His children, rebellious or not, and we love ours. He refuses to give up on them, constantly seeking to woo them back. And we don’t give up on ours.

Love them well. I haven’t yet figured out yet what that looks like, but I know part of it is not throwing their sin in their face. I know it means maintaining a relationship and speaking truth in love. I know it means letting them know that they are loved no matter what they have done, simply because they are my children.

“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b, NIV.)

fullsizeoutput_193On this earth, our nights of weeping are not yet done. But the promise is this: rejoicing comes in the morning. If I didn’t believe that, I would curl up and die.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV.)

If loving wayward children well can reflect the deep, deep love God has for them, then I will keep loving mine, praying for that day of repentance.

I could look back and say, “We should have made sure they were owning their own faith. We should have listened better. We shouldn’t have let them hang out with that person. We should have kept a better eye. We shoulda, shoulda, shoulda.”

Don’t fall into that parenting trap. Do the best you can, and surrender your children to Jesus. And pray, pray, pray.

Their salvation is not your burden.

Their decisions are not a reflection of your worth.IMG_0780

Much as I want my children’s lives to look like the pretty postcard I pictured when they were born, it’s not about me, and I’m not in control.

No matter the pain and heartache I experience with every decision that rejects Jesus, God is still good.

Through my tears I won’t fall into the trap that says I blew it somewhere along the line; I should have been a better mother.

After all, it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus. It’s always about Jesus.

From Death, Life

IMG_3589This is my backyard. Looks good, doesn’t it? If you look closely, though, you can spot the imperfections. You can see the tracks the dog has made as he madly chases his thrown ball. You can see the weeds that have gone unpulled. And if you look closer still, you can see where some plants have just not made it, despite our attention.

Recently, I noticed several examples of places where we thought we had taken out a plant that was dead only to find, months later, that it is thriving again. This comes as a surprise to me, but it really shouldn’t, because it’s so much like God. He reminded me of that this morning.

First, around our pool enclosure we have rows of a pretty flowering bush called Ixora. We had a bad frost several years ago, and all those bushes suffered. Over the years the other bushes made a good comeback, but this little one never recovered. So my husband pulled it out.

Or so we thought.

Second, next to our koi pond, we had a little variegated plant called Stromanthe (at least I think that’s what it is). It grew and blossomed and did really well. For awhile. Then the leaves started turning brown. Though it was large and seemingly happy, something was not right in its little world, and it started to decline. I tried pruning it back, cutting away the dried brown leaves and trying to shape it up a little. But it didn’t respond to my touch. Eventually, we made the decision to pull it out and once again my husband did the deed.

Or so we thought.IMG_2048

Third, we had a beautiful avocado tree in our backyard tragically eaten by beetles. I wrote about that several years ago. You can read that story here. When we found a gnawed-upon fruit that the squirrels had discarded sprouted in the corner of the yard, we thought, well, what could it hurt? So we transplanted that tiny seedling into our front yard, watered it daily, kept an eye on it and hoped. You can read about that part of the story here.

And then something miraculous happened in all 3 cases. New life.

IMG_8106Our pulled-up Ixora is small but blossoming.

The seemingly dead Stromanthe is tiny but growing.

And that little avocado seedling is now a nearly 20-foot tall tree and has fruit of its own.

Amazing.

And the lesson here? Other than caring for, watching and hoping, we did nothing to cause the new growth. It was only and always in the hands of the Creator. Sometimes it took mere months to see the growth; sometimes, as in the case of the avocado, it took IMG_8077years.

In the letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7 ESV).

Do you have a child who is straying? Pray, love, care for, encourage, don’t give up hope. God is at work, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.

Given up on your marriage? As long as there is breath in your body, pray, nurture, and don’t give up hope. Oh, please, don’t give up hope.

Do you see only death around you? Death of dreams, of chances, of families? Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

IMG_8102Make no mistake, we have had other plants over the years that have, simply put, died. The uprooting was complete and they never came back to life.

Sometimes children never come back to the Lord. Sometimes marriages fail, despite our best efforts.

But God.

He is still working. Sometimes the new life and growth is in our wandering child or our wounded marriage. And sometimes it’s simply and profoundly in us.

 

It Starts With Spilled Milk

After my post the other day regarding lying, I had a conversation with several young moms about how to encourage an atmosphere of grace in their homes when they are more prone to be rule followers.

spilled-milkThat’s a great question. I think it starts with spilled milk.

Surely every parent, sometime in their parent life, has experienced a child spilling milk or some sticky drink either at the dinner table or in the car or on the carpet. Your reaction to these accidents helps set the tone for bigger mistakes in your child’s future.

Mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn.

Here’s what I suggest could be said in different circumstances.

Your child spills his/her drink.

Oops! Well, I’ve spilled my share of drinks, too. Let’s clean it up together and see what we can do to be more careful in the future.

Your child breaks a favorite item of yours on accident.

I’m sad this got broken, but I know you didn’t mean to break it. It’s just a thing. You’re more important to me than that [insert broken item].

You forget to do something you promised your child you’d do. 

I’m sorry I forgot to do [insert whatever it is]. I was wrong to not follow through on what I said. Will you forgive me?

These are all common circumstances that every family can relate to. Building an environment where your child is not afraid to tell you they did something is critical to helping them understand that grace reigns in your household. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for their bad choices, but choosing to do something wrong and having something happen by accident are different.

Open dialog happens from a very early age. Listen to your children with your full attention. Ask them questions. Help them come to their own conclusions about issues. Let them express themselves in an appropriate, respectful manner.

With my kids, I found that there was a little bit of a Catch-22: We had such a close relationship that they didn’t want to disappoint me, even if I had never made performance a priority. The notion that lying to me is more disappointing than the original act doesn’t seem to get through their heads!

The most important thing I think I do is to keep telling them, “I love you.” And it’s never the person I’m disappointed in, it’s the choice. That is emphasized time and again.

 

Amongst many other forgotten things, I’ve had countless items borrowed and lost, and a favorite bowl knocked off the counter and smashed, all accidents. All covered by grace because the lossshattered-trust was unintentional.

But I’ve also had my trust absolutely demolished like that favorite bowl by a child lying right to my face. Things hidden from me because that child knew those actions would grieve me.

But grace wins every time. God will deal with the sin. I’ve given consequences for the actions to my minor kids. But for my adult children, I’ve cried, prayed, told them truth over and over, but ultimately, their decisions are part of the journey God has them on.

And sometimes that journey goes through the stream of spilled milk. Will it be a sour experience or a sweet one, ending in a pool of grace?