As a teenager, one who obviously knew everything about everything, I believed I would be a certain way as an adult. I was one of those people who believed I knew how to handle whatever life had in store for me. This included parenting.
*Insert slightly insane laughter here*
There is a meme floating around the internet that states: “I was a perfect parent. Then I had children.”
It would be funny if it weren’t so incredibly accurate.
Too many people (me included) believe they’ve got it all figured out–life, fitness, parenting, their make-up; only to have reality kick them solidly in the solar plexus.
My old friend, Reality likes to remind me of its presence regularly.
When I was still a perfect parent–living under my parents’ roof, wearing clothes they bought for me, talking on the phone (a landline!) they paid for; I swore I would never treat my children the way my parents treated me.
I wouldn’t keep my children from doing what they wanted, make them do chores, or tell them no. I would be different. I’d understand them, and treat them with “respect”.
I’m sure God chuckled at my plans.
My parents did.
The Reality Of Parenting Is Drastically Different
Before the birth of my youngest daughter, my niece and I spent some time sitting on a bench overlooking the Puget Sound.
The sun was warm, the sky was clear, the seagulls were begging scraps of our lunches. It was a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle we’d been dealing with for the last few months.
Taking a few moments to enjoy the beauty the Lord created, and to truly appreciate it, helped relax my anxious heart.
It also helped me understand something about myself:
I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t really have this parenting thing down.
In fact, teen me would spend a lot of time rolling her eyes at adult me.
I always thought my parents were strict, but they were nothing compared to how I am as a parent.
Part of this stems from a moderate battle with anxiety, but not all of it.
Simply put, my priorities have changed, as have my views.
God is the Perfect Parent
God has blessed us with four beautiful children, not to be perfect parents, but to teach them and train them up in what is righteous.
Much to their dismay, that includes horrors like sweeping, making their beds, cleaning bathrooms, and picking up toys.
It also requires them to spend time with us, to not put their friends above the LORD or their family, and to forgive each other when we stumble.
Something else that comes along with this is the amount of freedom we allow our children to have.
Our eldest is only eleven, and regardless of how my husband and I were raised the world is a much different place today than it was twenty years ago.
Yes, she can do solitary things without constant supervision, and she has experienced the joy of middle school ministry events (where her mother wasn’t invovled), but there are rules that have to be followed, and consequences if those rules are ignored.
This is a relatively new freedom for her, and I still have several bad moments where I want to keep her in the house away from any chance of getting hit by a speeding car or abducted (see, anxiety).
I’m taking it a day at a time, and maybe I’ll be more relaxed when they’re visiting me in the retirement home.
The point is, there are no perfect parents on Earth, except God, and of course those who have never had children.
We as a society (especially women) spend so much time judging the merits of one person over another that we seem to forget we’re all just stumbling along doing the best we can.
Have some people lost their way?
Yes, but that isn’t for us to judge.
There are people in this world who have been called to help those who have fallen.
Instead of casting blame and pointing fingers, it’s time for us to come together and build each other up, and to raise our own children with love, compassion, and grace.
Each morning as we sit around the breakfast table we do a devotional as a family. Once in a while the topic will spur deeper discussion with my nine-year-old daughter; usually she remains silent while she drinks her milk and stares at me as if I just asked her when she was leaving for the moon.
This morning, the topic was patience, something I’ve never been particularly good with. I’m more of an instant gratification person. Of course, three children later, instant gratification seems more like a fairy tale, and patience is still something I’m struggling with.
Often I wonder what lesson the LORD is teaching me on the (many) days my children conspire to make me crazy. I assume it is patience, but until today, I didn’t truly understand what that meant in a spiritual, Christ-centered way.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.
It’s such a wonderful feeling to know how much God loves us, even when we aren’t patient. The Bible is always here to help; to remind us to rejoice even when we’re struggling, because we have the Holy Spirit, and it continually fills us with His love.
Anxiety can make you feel like you’re all alone in a room full of people, while simultaneously drowning you in wave after wave of everyone else’s needs and wants.
Even having the comfort of a compasionate and loving God, can often get lost in the mire of panic, exhaustion, and worry.
I’m not sure when I first experienced anxiety, but I’m pretty sure I was in elementary school. Possibly as early as first grade. It likely reared up the same time as the pecking order at recess.
I do know, it hasn’t gotten better with time or maturity.
Instead, it ebbs and flows, but never really goes away.
The older I get, the more I notice it in my everyday life.
It is no longer confined to the moments of show-and-tell, reading aloud, class projects, or being called on to answer a question.
Now it is present anytime I have to be around people other than my immediate family. It happens when I know I have to run errands, change my routine, or participate in a social engagement for my children.
Being Anxious Isn’t Confined To “Real Life”
It even happens in online discussion groups in college.
The day I found out my school was moving from chat boxes to video conferencing for our class meetings, I had an epic anxiety attack. I don’t do videos, or anything that requires me to record my voice. At least not voluntarily, or without a whole lot of stress and, you guessed it, anxiety.
Though I pray about it continually, the panic and anxiety rarely disappears completely.
Since the birth of my youngest, what once started out as a moderate inconvience has become something almost debilitating in its occurance.
Sundays have become a struggle, because I’m torn between the need to fellowship and worship the LORD, and the desire to hide away because of the panic squeezing my heart.
Add this anxiety to the SAD that plagues me, and there are many days when the only place I want to be is curled up in bed, under a warm blanket.
This might seem like a good way to spend a day, and it is when it is a choice.
When it isn’t a choice the joy that would normally come with it is missing.
I have faith the LORD will help me through this season of life. He will give me the strength when I am weakest. I just need to remember to give it to Him.
In December of each year, I prayerfully focus on what word will be my focus during the upcoming year. Each year this single word keeps me focused, not on myself, but on God’s will for me. This year, that word is LISTEN. It’s such a small word. Just six letters, but it will be a tool during the next twelve months to help me focus on the LORD.
Each day when I wake up, I’ll pray He will use it to teach me, to guide me through the day. This one little word will be a reminder each day–not only to listen to Him, but to listen to my body and to those around me. This year is a time to truly listen to Him, to be silent so I can really hear His words. It is a time for less talking and more listening.
I’m blessed to have the love of the LORD, and to get this time to worship Him through this One Word.
In case you’re feeling terribly alone today, please realize you’re not. The LORD is with you. He has been with you since before you took your first breath. He never leaves you or forgets you. Those are human failures, and Our LORD doesn’t fail.
Be peaceful today, dear friends, and let His wonderful light shine through you.
An ideal day in my world very rarely includes anyone other than my husband and children. I’ve never been comfortable being in front of a group of people, or really putting myself out there, because ‘out there’ is a very judgmental place. Why then, do I hear the faint pounding on the door of my comfort zone as the local sheriff places the notice to vacate?
I can’t help but wonder how long I have before the bars I so carefully installed are removed from my windows.
For months now I’ve struggled to hear God’s words. The knowledge he was speaking to me didn’t change the silence in my heart. Then, last month while I was working on my Sex Trafficking article for class, I heard a faint whisper. I felt a spark, a slow burn. The LORD is speaking to my heart. I can’t tell just yet what he is guiding me to do, but I have an idea where I’m supposed to begin.
I’m being educated in journalism, a calling I’ve felt for the majority of my adult life, but I’ve struggled to know what I am meant to do with it. I’ve become disillusioned by the SECULAR media, both print and cable, and know I don’t want to work in a field with a moral compass that often doesn’t point to true North.
What does that leave me with? It leaves me with God. It leaves me with the words He gives to me, and the opportunities He provides for me. I want my words to guide people to Him, to His light, and His glory.
Even if that means I am evicted from my Comfort Zone.
I ask you all, dear readers, to add a quick prayer for this journey–that I may have the opportunity to share His love with others through the written word–or whatever other medium He chooses for me.
Pinterest is an amazing thing, and by amazing I mean an unimaginable time-sucking, black hole of inspiration that can either brighten a person’s day, or cause them despair over their own lack of creativeness.
The other day while I was wasting time taking a break and scanning the latest pins on Pinterest, I came across this post on Bible journaling. Every time I see a post about journaling, it sets a fire inside my heart.
I want to journal my Bible study. I need to journal my Bible study.
We’ll forget for a moment how horrible I am about remembering to journal, and instead focus on the small fact I can never decide what I want this amazing, important, and useful study tool to actually look like. I can’t even get past the bare bones of how I want it set up, so there is no reason to fret about actually using it, right?
Some people say that a plain composition book is all you need, while others have a much more aesthetically pleasing idea. I’m pretty sure my inner-librarian (the same one who cringes every time I force myself to hi-light a particularly meaningful verse in my Bible) would have a flat out panic attack if I journaled like this.
I know writing down my thoughts while I’m sitting at the feet of the LORD is important, and it would be a great way to reflect later on what I’d learned and where that knowledge took me. I just can’t seem to get past my own perfectionist tendencies that bog me down in the details instead of the big picture.
Do you journal? What kind of book do you use? Is it a handmade one, a spiral notebook you pulled out of your cabinet or a composition book you picked up at the office supply store? Do you decorate it and make it artistically appealing, or is it just your words and impressions on a white paper?
As always, I will turn to the LORD for answers to this problem, and maybe I should avoid Pinterest before it causes me even more confusion. 🙂