Parenting and Laying out a Fleece

My eldest daughter is getting married in nine months. I can still remember walking out of the doctor’s office smiling as my view of myself and the world was shifting with the news of her impending arrival. Those nine months dragged on and on. I have been warned many times that these nine months will be a blur. I am not prepared to host an event that holds such promise and potential for disaster at the same time. I am, however, more prepared to hand her over to the man I know God has chosen for her.

As my children started getting older I wondered how in the world I would know who they should date and who they shouldn’t. Should they even date? When they marry, there’s a 100% chance the groom will have problems. How will I know the good from the bad, the normal dysfunction from the absolute deal-breakers? Will I even have any say in the matter?

When this daughter of ours was growing up, she was a very spiritual child. She loved God in an intuitive way. From an early age, she dealt with God directly, not through us. It was an amazing thing to witness and comforting to know that her foundation was solid. I used to tease that the boy who came around to date her would have to know his favorite verse in Amos in order to impress us and her.

So fast forward to when she was 19 and we were going to hear her new boyfriend preach. We had not heard him preach before and, between you and me, I was hoping the preaching thing was just a phase for him. You see, I knew she really liked this guy and I knew I didn’t want her to have to be a pastor’s wife. He started out with a welcome and a little humor and then he told us he would be preaching on one of his “favorite” verses in all the Bible, Amos 4:12. I can’t really explain what I felt when I heard him say that. I had not repeated the warning about Amos to anyone in over ten years. I had forgotten all about it. Then with those few words, the memory of it all rushed back and I was floored. Fortunately, he could not see my eyes from where he was preaching or he might have panicked at the sight of me fighting off the emotions that came along with it all.  It was my sign, my fleece  that I had not purposely laid out, to answer all my questions about what was best for this precious child. God was telling me that she is precious to Him too and He had this taken care of long ago.

It was very clear from the beginning of the sermon that this was no phase for him. He has the gift and the calling. I can’t tell you what the sermon was about or how he applied the words of that verse to his message that day, but I know I think about it often. When they are sitting around unable to pick a restaurant because they are both people-pleasers, I am tempted to worry about how this will play out in the many decisions that will be swirling around them so soon.  When I think of what a suburban girl she is and what a country boy he is, I wonder if I failed to prepare her for life with him. He had such a great upbringing – he knows how to do just about anything. I should have taught her to can or sew or something. These are the worries you start to give into, but I have the great comfort of knowing he is the one and they will be as prepared for marriage as anyone can be.

I realize it is only necessary for my daughter to be sure. Ultimately, it is her decision. But God lovingly gave me a special confirmation for my heart to make letting go of her easier. I have thought about purposely laying out the same kind of fleece for my other children so that I will be pleasantly surprised again. I’m not sure it would work the same way if I set it up purposely. Part of the beauty is the serendipity. All I can recommend is that we keep our eyes wide open and know our children so well that the sign God gives will be neon. We must also believe that He enjoys giving us gifts like this. If you do put out a fleece for this or any other area, remember that the sign Gideon asked for was supernatural. Don’t pick something that could possibly be coincidence. Only God can do such unlikely works. Set your bar high.

The sign God sent was for me, but the marriage they enter into will be theirs. My work, such as it was, will be done.  The life she will start will be separate from mine because she has always been, and will continue to be His child.

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While you were being a good mom 8/12/2011

My week has flown by. How about yours? I got a new (to me) laptop this week and it is great to be portable and modern. I spent more time online this week, which is great for the Friday link-sharing party! Here is what I found while you were molding and scolding the leaders of tomorrow.

Mosquitoes –   Between the extreme heat and the mosquitoes, summer is just not fun anymore. According to this article, the answer lies in the bottom of your clothes hamper.

Lamentations of the Father –as in the father of a household, but it works for mothers as well. I read this before there was a world wide web to share it. It is timeless and hilarious and I find myself thinking of its contents often. It is long but you can add it to Favorites and savor it on the days when the kids are really getting to you.

the problem with romance in films

Romantic pornography – This is a contradiction in terms at first glance but the writer is trying to warn us against the emotional porn found in romantic comedies and novels. I thought I was immune until I read this. Ridiculous romance is not limited to Fabio and his bodice-wearing babes.

Now for some laughs –  Please don’t let me offend you by laughing at this video. If the people in it were trying to spread the Gospel, I would never laugh at them, no matter how awkward they are. I have researched it and found that they are from a California cult that encourages New Age and positive thinking with a dangerous mix of church-speak. When I first saw it I thought, no wonder people are scared of Christians if they think this is what we are like at church! Sorry to all my Facebook friends who saw this long ago. For me, it never gets old.

never, and I mean never, say “never”

I have six children.  That means there are at least six things I said I would never do as a mom. Each time I would start a sentence with “I would never….”, then boom! I would be pregnant again with a child that was sure to do whatever I had just taken an oath against. 

Before I had children, I had many years worth of promises that I would never do what I saw others do with their children. As Raymond Duncan said, “The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.” I was nineteen when I had my first child, so I was three whole years smarter than that even!

It would take too long to name all the things I said I would never do at that time. God in His infinite mercy spared me on the first time around. He knew that my first child had enough strikes against her with such a young and prideful mom. He spared me from too much humbling, on her account. Of course, I believed things went well because I was so awesome.

There’s nothing like a second child to correct such an assumption. After having an idyllic life with one child who slept through the night at two months old and a tiny apartment that had nothing in it to clean, the other shoe (or baby in this case) dropped and it was on. This little cheeky girl would not sleep til one in the morning, no matter what genius things I did to her schedule. She still can’t sleep until one in the morning. It was a losing battle. She got into things, she made messes and she pitched fits. She was a different child and God was grinning down on us knowing this was only the beginning.

Let the Humbling Begin!

Without going into each child individually I will just tell you, if I spoke against it, they started doing it. Thumbsucker…check. Blankey toter….yep. Poop protester….oh yeah. I shopped around for specific pacifiers, I climbed on the floor in the night looking for said pacifier. I started calling pacifiers passies. I stopped washing them when they fell on the ground in a place I judged to be reasonably non-toxic.

I let them wear whatever they wanted, even when others might see them. I lost the battle against the word “fart”. I slowly found myself sleeping with a child in our bed during a difficult year of our lives. I nursed one of my children for two years and I wore a sling. I even started telling them “because I said so.” I’m not saying those things are bad things to do necessarily, just that I was haughty enough to claim I would never do them.

I’m not sure that the verse that says to judge not lest you be judged is about this kind of dynamic or not. I am constantly spreading the word of Grace, not judgment. I had very little grace towards other parents until I dealt with these things myself. Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t take so much for us to shake our heads and say we don’t know what we would do in any given situation?

Women are especially guilty of judging each others parenting skills. So many things contribute to what we do and what we believe about parenting. Moms can be so afraid of condemnation that they don’t ask for help when they need it. We need to keep an open mind and an open heart towards other moms and support each other rather than tear each other down.

One of the hardest verses in all of the Bible: Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

This is the high standard to strive for. The verse about pride going before destruction also comes to mind, but let’s pray for God’s grace to spare our children from that one while we are raising His child.

Let’s All Bow our Heads and Say “Grace”

I am republishing this post today as a reminder to myself. Anyone out there need some grace today?

My six-year-old is known for saying some dinner-stopping stuff, but this past week she let one fly that I will need to remember forever. She started by saying that she loves her daddy more than she loves me. Now that may sound awful, but I was glad to hear that one.  Her daddy would have been gratified to hear it, if he had been there.  He is always having to be the heavy around here so he gets the lower flow of the warm fuzzies. The reason she gave is what echoed in my head and still stirs around uncomfortably in my gut. She said, “Daddy loves God more than you.” …Ouch. Wow. Really?

Of course I had a ton of questions for her. Why did she think this? He prays with them every night before bed and I have them pray. To quote her, “He prays more than you.” Then my ten-year-old piped in with, “But Mommy reads her Bible more than Daddy.” Oh dear.

I have lots of explanations for why they think these things. That is beside the point. I was left wondering why my little one didn’t see me loving God. Do I not teach her right from wrong on a minute-by-minute basis? But…have I explained where I get all those standards from? Do I not talk to her about God and Jesus and love and sin? Yes, but…

I realized I was avoiding talking to them about spiritual things because I am afraid. I am afraid of doing the classic talk-the-talk without walking the walk. I know too many who have been burned by this hypocrisy. There is no way I could live up to all the ideals I want to teach them. It is one of the hardest dichotomies of parenthood. My children see me for who I really am. They see me get angry and tired and complain and make jokes at the expense of others. They see me dance like a fool to a Kesha song. They see me laugh my annoying laugh at less-than-spiritual things on 30 Rock. This is why I don’t want to preach to my children. I’m very prone to give up doing something if I can’t get it just right.

So God in His great timing has been teaching me about grace. Not just the work of grace that He did on the cross by reconciling us to God, but the constant state of grace that we live in every moment. I realized, through the work of the Spirit, and my great ladies group, that I have been trying to reach a place where I no longer need grace. I was striving for the ultimate sweet spot where I would live consistently and be transformed into some other kind of Christian who didn’t need to feel failure or darkness or doubt or defeat. This place is one we are all to look forward to, while at the same time realizing our inability to achieve anything but human-ness this side of heaven. Until that great day, we rely on Jesus as our righteousness. Not to teach it to us or help us achieve it but to BE it for us. It is our only peace.

So now my job is to be human and spiritual with my children. I will try to do this more each day, keeping grace in mind as the motto for me and for them. I can demonstrate love for them even when they fail. I can  explain to them how this is possible through what God has done for me. I’m only sad that I learned this so late in the game. The beauty part is, His great grace will cover that too.

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Your Growing,Thriving Women’s Ministry

I have always been intrigued by the idea of women’s ministry. What a privilege it would be to hear from God and speak into the lives of women everywhere. I would love to speak that one sentence or write that one paragraph that helps the lightbulb glow for a woman I have never met. To do what Beth Moore or Larry Crabb or Henry Cloud have done for me would be the greatest work in my imagination.
I am often reminded, by helpful articles, books or friends, that my family is my great ministry now and I absolutely agree. Even though I believe it, it has always felt like some sort of consolation job til the dream job comes along. Right now I’m paying my dues in the grunt work of life. Until I typed it, I didn’t realize how awful that sounds, how awful it is to think that way.
So to remind myself, and you too if you feel like you are just biding your time, here are some of the many ways I was honored to serve God in my life for the past few weeks.

Beth Moore getting into it, as always

My family worked together to help a man who fell in the road beside our house. We are one of the few families that are at home during the day. This made it possible for us to help this older gentleman by calling an ambulance and staying with him. The sad thing is, we found he lived only three doors down and we had never met him or his wife. We know them now.

I talked to a mom about homeschooling. She was ready to give up. I have seen this time and time again; moms new to homeschooling who feel so inadequate to do the job God designed them for. She really wants to home school . All she needed is to believe she could. Any of you homeschooling moms out there have this pep talk to give. Don’t hesitate to give it.

I talked to my daughter about anger and forgiveness. God has been showing me so much on this subject through my small group. I’m so thankful I had the words to give when she needed to hear them. 

 I have been able to spend time with my very busy 17-year-old who is about to graduate. She hurt her knee while hiking so we have been to doctor’s appointments  and I have helped her at her job. I got to see how hard she works.

By now you get the idea. To be clear, I am not bragging on how busy and important my life is. Quite the opposite. My life is laid-back and very quiet. Still all these encounters come my way. Add to the above: advising my husband on heart matters, teaching Kindergarten Sunday School, being called on to help a little girl who was showing signs of a problem, teaching my ten-year-old about the formal apology, talking a really mad friend down off an angry ledge, talking through a big misunderstanding with another friend, consulting a newly pregnant young woman on the importance of protein during morning sickness, discussing career plans with my 17-year-old, and talking with my 6-year-old about lying, again.

Women do these things and more every day. We all have a growing, thriving women’s ministry. As women we routinely do things that have eternal impact on the lives of others. God has been calling my attention to each interaction for the past few weeks because He knows I was discouraged. Now I want you to think of your list of tasks you have been blessed to do for the Almighty God and be encouraged as well. Be an encouragement to others and share your lists in the comments section below.

Like I was Saying….

I have just passed the 21 year mark of parenting.  It took most of those years for me to start appreciating the irony of some of the things I say to my kids – things God is always having to say to me, over and over again. Continue reading