Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Of Those Weeks

Do you ever have one of those weeks when you don't feel like you're doing anything particularly well?

It's been one of those weeks for me. I haven't felt like I've been doing particularly well as a mother, a wife, a minister, a friend...anything. I can't make a long list of things I've done particularly poorly, but I just haven't felt that anything was done well.

As I write that, I can't help but ask, "What do I mean by that?" Saying I haven't done things well isn't about evaluating the performance, but more about presence.

I haven't been fully present in my roles or with the people I care about. It's just been one of those busy, stressed out weeks. And I am missing the people in my life because I feel like I'm running from one thing to another.

It helped me to read what Jennifer wrote at Conversion Diary in a recent post about some early morning reading she did (you can read the entire entry here: Toward the end of her entry she writes: As Francis de Sales points out, it's not that those little worries of life don't matter at all -- obviously, we have to attend to the duties in front of us -- but that we should always strive to keep them in perspective. In the end, they're not nearly as important as how much we loved, i.e. how well we served God.

Maybe on these weeks, I need to refocus on being present, loving generously, serving God well. Maybe if those went to the top of my to-do list, the other things that need to get done would be more likely to get done. And, the extra cuddles that would surely happen in the meantime would certainly be a benefit.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What I Learned From My Mother

I must admit it, there are days when I miss having a baby in my arms. There is something about that fresh-from-God smell and those sweet dimpled hands and even that newborn cry that just can't be beat. But no matter when I find myself longing for a baby, I never find myself wishing my boys were babies again.

After all, that would mean I'd have to give so much up. If the four-year-old were a baby he couldn't tell me that whale, watermelon, Whit, Wendy, and wacky all begin with "w." If the two-year-old were a baby we wouldn't be high five-ing over the fact that he pooped in the potty today. If they were babies again I would miss the hugs and kisses they shower on me at the just the right (and sometimes craziest) moments. No, no matter how wonderful babies are (and I think they are pretty wonderful) I am thrilled with exactly who my children are right now.

And this apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. I look back and I remember hearing my mother at different times throughout my life in conversations where she was asked what her favorite age for her children was. And I remember her answer was always the same - whatever ages my sister and I were at the time. Whether we were small children or even teenagers, the stage we were at on that day was her favorite (in spite of the struggles it held). And I would venture to say she would answer the same today. I'd guess that watching her daughters who are now 38 and 36 as we navigate our adult lives with professions and relationship and parenting and new opportunities is her favorite time of motherhood.

And I think, just as I hope to give my children a glimpse of who God is, that in this my mother gave me a glimpse of who God is. My mother showed me a God who wasn't always wishing today away, wasn't always focused on a different set of expectation, wasn't always wanting to go back to something easier or more endearing...but a God who was fully present with the gifts of any particular day and the gifts (and even struggles) of who I was (and am) on that particular day.

It's a gift I hope to keep giving my children...the gift of loving them today and on each today that is to come.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons from a Cookie (and from God)

Today was picture day at my children's daycare. (The best day for an injury, right?) On the way to the bathtub our two-year-old fell backward and hit his head on the corner of our dresser. Ouch! Lots of blood and tears ensued.

Thankfully my step-daughter works in a doctor's office and stopped by on her way to work. "Bring him in and the doctor will take care of it," she said. So, we loaded up and headed to the doctor's office.

Of course by this time the two-year-old was no longer crying...but he soon would be. First came a topical ointment to deaden the area for the shots to deaden it for the stitches. See why more tears were soon to flow?

By the time we got to the actual stitches we had an unhappy two-year-old. For the first stitch I held him on my lap, cuddling him close while strategically keeping control of his arms and legs. His father held his head still. His sister handed the doctor what he needed while trying to be a voice of comfort to the two-year-old. The doctor...well, he worked his magic on a still squirming head.

One stitch to go.

Suddenly something amazing happened. The brilliant big sister handed the two-year-old a cookie as a reward for being brave. And guess what? He sat up on my lap and ate his cookie while the doctor put in stitch number two much more easily and quickly...the two-year-old not even seeming to notice.

Here's what I learned. Sometimes all we do to try to take away the pain and comfort the children isn't the right thing. Sometimes they just need to find their own source of comfort. Sometimes they need to be surrounded by love but not squeezed by it.

Then it occured to me. Ah, I believe God teaches this, too. God...the ever present one who gives us freedom to turn toward or away from God's own self. God...the one who loves us more than we can imagine but does not contain us or trap us with that love.

Sometimes we need to learn a lesson from a cookie (and from God) about letting our children find their own way through pain even as we are present with them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Belief Turned to Action

Do you ever consider what you believe about God? Do you ever consider how what you believe about God makes a difference in your parenting?

When we are expecting children we plan and prepare for many things. We read parenting books. We consider how we will approach feeding and naps. We make decisions about how we intend to discipline. We decide if and when we will have more children. We choose names and nursery decor.

But when you were expecting a child did you stop to consider how your concept of God would affect your parenting?

Consider these questions...

Do you think of God as a heavenly cop waiting to catch you in the act of doing something wrong? Or do you think of God as a safe place to go even when you have done something wrong?

Do you worry that something you do or say could get you out of God's good graces, or worse, thrown into the pits of hell? Or do you believe that there is always room for you in God's kingdom?

Do you believe in a God whose love is conditional? Or do you believe in a God whose love is unconditional?

Do you believe that God is more interested in rules? Or do you believe that God is more interested in relationship?

I suspect that what we believe about God influences how we parent our children. I suspect that our beliefs get lived out...that they shape our actions.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One day last week I was driving the boys home from church after a late meeting. It was already an hour past their bedtime so it was unlikely that all would be well. We were having a discussion about the following day - a day whose schedule would be different than usual. In his tired state, the four-year-old did not handle the idea of different well. Finally after listening to me talk about what would happen and deciding that he didn't like it, he spoke in anger to me and said, "When we get home I will hit you in the face."

Yes, that's exactly what my four-year-old said to me.

Immediately I began to think through all the possible reactions I (or other parents) might have to this child's words. Almost as immediately the words of God that came through the prophet Hosea also came to mind:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down and fed them.
How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
(Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9)

The next thing that came to mind was something I've often heard my friend Virginia say when faced with difficult behaviors or situations: "We'll just keep them and love them."

As parents we are faced with times when we must decide how to respond to difficult behaviors. God chooses love. I hope we do, too.

(Meanwhile, in that moment, I was glad the four-year-old was buckled in his car seat where he could stay until he no longer thought hitting his mommy was a good idea! Thankfully it didn't take too long.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's All About God

Simply put...

If we really believe we are children of God, then everything we do is about God.

That includes how we parent.

Friday, April 16, 2010

God's Child

Tonight I went to a children's ministry training event. With our materials everyone received a pin that said, "You are a Child of God. I'll treat you like it."

As you're probably figuring out by now, that made me think about parenting.

Here's what I wondered...

What if when we looked at "our" children we saw them first as a child of God? What if we looked past the fact that she has your hair or he has his father's nose? What if we looked past the uncanny resemblance between the baby and his older brother? What if we saw right past the hair color and face shape to see the child of God in front of us?

How would you treat your children if you first thought of them as God's?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Right For Right's Sake

Several years ago I sat in an adult Sunday school class. I can't remember the topic at hand. I can't even remember the direction the conversation had gone, but I suspect we ended up talking about disciplining children. All I really remember is the statement that came out of my mouth.

"I wonder what the world would be like if we raised an entire generation not motivated by fear or threat or punishment, but if we figured out a way to raise them to do what's right simply because it's right."

The room went silent. There were confused expressions on most of the faces. I was told that I'd understand when I had children of my own.

I now have children of my own. I still wonder.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What if...

Here is a realization I keep making over and over again...

We parents are the clearest glimpse of God our children have right now.

(Pause for a moment of being overwhelmed)

Now, let's be clear...some days we show them who God is more clearly than others...some days we are better and closer to being who God asks us to be for them. Some days...not so much. Some days the way we represent God to our children is less than faithful.

But, what would happen if in our parenting we kept this reality in the forefront of our minds?

What if as we were driving our children to school (late, as usual) we remembered that all we do shows them God?

What if as we heard hateful words shared between our children (more often than we'd like to hear) we responded from the heart of God?

What if as we expressed our frustration with our spouse we remembered that our children who are playing in the next room would hear God's voice in our own?

What if at all times we kept asking, "What are my children learning about God by the way I am living?"

What if...