Parenting Baby Christians

My kids were 7 and 5 when my journey started. We had just moved to a new town, my son was in second grade and my daughter in kindergarten. We had been in a new community for 6 months or so. They were both missing their old house, familiar surroundings, and questioning why we had moved. I can’t claim that we were the picture of a happy family, it was the opposite. I was on the path to recreate the life that I had as a kid and I can truly say that meeting Jesus was the best thing that could have happened. Because I committed my life to Christ, I learned that I could stop recreating the past. I could change the way I parented my kids.

I think that the most pertinent thing for me to share is that because I lacked peace and any understanding of my own value, parenting in a way that would encourage my kids to be confident in themselves was impossible. My relationship with my kids was similar to a Sargent and Private in the army. Yikes! Gosh, even thinking about it makes me cringe, the good thing is that it is all forgiven and writing this just makes me so thankful for that. Anyway…because I parented out of my experiences and out of my pain, both of my children experienced and acted out with insecurity and fear. Because I was very isolated, we didn’t have moms groups and play dates. I didn’t teach my kids how to relate to other children or how to be confident in who they are at a young age. Without anything to guide me in another direction, we were headed toward heartache.

The beautiful thing about committing your life to Christ in the middle of your parenting journey is that you get a do over. In that first year of Christianity, I came face to face with my biggest fear. My son was being verbally and eventually physically bullied by boys in his class. My flesh reaction was to pull him out of school immediately. Run from the problem and hope that it wouldn’t happen again. The cool thing is that something rose up inside of me that wasn’t me. It was the urge to face the issue. We did move him to a different classroom. We prayed, I cried with my son. But I am really glad that we stayed at that school. The next year, all but one of those boys left to attend another school. The one who stayed became a good friend to my son, they would laugh and joke together. It was an amazing transformation. A true victory over fear.

The goal of my parenting journey has changed since I came to know Jesus. Instead of trying to control my kids and prevent bad things from happening, I have let go. My children are not reincarnates of me and they are not destined to recreate my story. They are individuals entrusted to me by a loving God that have their own purpose and destiny. I have the honor to cultivate the fulfillment of that destiny. I have learned that my kids have value to God, that they are a gift to me (Psalm 127:3). It is my charge from God that I teach my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I allow my kids to make mistakes and learn from them. Both of my children now come to me for counsel when things are difficult and they need help. Parenting has turned from duty to joy.

I have learned that my children are not the center of my world. My children are a part of my destiny and definitely a part of my legacy. However, they are along for the ride God is taking me on and they participate in my destiny just as much as I am supposed to cultivate theirs. Motherhood does not define me nor does it control me. It is a part of me but only a part. While there is no scripture to support this, I would say that the results of making my children the center of my world created certain death of anything that had been laid out before me as my destiny apart from parenting. I have given up the guilt and shame that comes with what the world tells me I should do to give my children a fairy tale childhood. I am grounded in this: that teaching my children in the way they should go means that I am preparing them to one day live life apart from me. The more they depend on me to solve their problems, to entertain them, or to be their maid servant the less likely they will be prepared to care of themselves or function responsibly as adults. Being a Godly parent means that I am their example of a God fearing individual. I pour into them love, grace, and mercy, which is so much fun! I show them by example the heart of God that is for them.  When they leave they will spread their wings and fly. This does not mean that I don’t enjoy camping or throwing the ball or painting my daughters nails. The small things are what bring us joy! But the desire of my heart and the desire God has is that both of my kids know Him and have a relationship with Him. And if they depart from a relationship with God, I trust that Jesus will chase them down, tackle them and kiss them all over (Luke 15:11-32). They turn red when I say this but they know that Jesus has an unrelenting love for them and if they stray, they will be found (Luke 15:4-6)! Thank you Jesus that parenting has become a true joy and that I can trust in you to teach me the way I should go so that I can teach my kids they way they should go!

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Daughters of the King

I remember so clearly, the voice of my friend in her offense, “You are a princess! He should never treat you that way.” I was talking to a friend about my husband; we were in a disagreement and I wasn’t handling it very well. I needed someone to vent my frustrations to and I quickly found out I shared personal information with the wrong person. I just needed to talk, I didn’t need advice. I wanted to be understood, I wanted someone to know why I was the way I was at the time. When I heard those words, I knew what I was hearing was not the truth. But, somehow, those words landed in my heart and the next few months were made harder as I tried to make someone treat me like the princess I was supposed to be. It backfired, hard.

I often think that marriage is where the rubber meets the road in this whole Christian love thing. I don’t have an easy marriage. We disagree a lot. Often our disagreements lead to offense and arguments. During times of intense disagreement, I can step back in time and assume the old image of myself before I met Jesus. If my husband doesn’t affirm and accept me than I am useless. That old lie works less and less but I get tripped up sometimes, especially when I am doing something his way and I haven’t really accepted his process. I walk it out in my own power, then things get ugly.

In women’s ministry we like to call ourselves princesses. As daughters of the King, we are royalty. But royalty comes with a cost. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galations 2:20). The cost of having a new life in Christ means we have to take up our cross…DAILY (Luke 9:23). Husbands can be cold, callous, and stubborn. Wives can too. Friends can have good intentions that end up hurting us. The truth is that we are going to experience Christ’s sufferings in our lives (1 Peter 4:13). What matters is how we act and react as a result of those sufferings.

When I think about my friends response to my situation, I so desired a listening ear rather than a ranting defense. I can’t change what happened but as I recount the situation, I see how Jesus would have responded. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas and being taken away by the Roman guards, Peter instantly and violently defended his Teacher and Friend by cutting off the ear of one of the guards. Jesus gently restored the man’s ear and gave Peter a rebuke, “Put that sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” (Matthew 28:52) We all want to do that for our friends…be their defender. In that instance, my friend was being a defender at the cost of truth and at great cost to peace in our household. Sometimes, as daughters, we have to bring our sisters into truth, even if it could cost us a friendship. Often what is best for us as Christian women is to walk out what we say we believe rather than preserve a friendship that would be strained by worldly advice that bears no fruit.

The Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians, if read a certain way, says what love is and isn’t. I’d like to take a little liberty and say that what love isn’t sounds like a worldly princess…

A worldly princess cares more for herself than others.
She wants what she doesn’t have.
She struts.
She has a swelled head.
She forces herself on others.
Is always me first.
She flies off the handle.
She keeps score of the sins of others.
She revels when others grovel.

A daughter encourages a daughter to Godly princesshood…

She never gives up.
Puts up with anything.
Always trusts God.
Always looks for the best.
Never looks back.
And keeps going to the end.

Now THAT is God’s daughter.

I am not saying this to condemn, nor do I believe that my friend was intentionally acting this way or encouraging me to act this way. Rather, I would say that there is a tension to being a Daughter of the King. We aren’t always going to be treated the way we would like to be treated. Mistreatment happens in church and outside of church. With Chirstians and non-Christians. Marriages and friendships bring us into each others emotional junk and relational mess. No one has this love and life thing totally figured out. We all have messy things in our lives. Sometimes we need a listening ear and encouragement to follow Jesus. Jesus did hard things. With His home inside of us, we can do hard things too. The kind of friend I am looking for are those that want to be God’s daughter and encourage me to be God’s daughter. Sometimes our strongest defense is our friends best offense. It’s okay to say “buck up buttercup…this marriage and Christianity thing is a bumpy ride. You can rise above it, girl! Because you are a daughter of THE King.”  

 

Mentoring and Marriage

“Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God.  They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.  Instead, they should teach others what is good.  These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands.  Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5

I don’t believe in fate or coincidence or luck anymore (although I still wish people good luck sometimes; old habits die hard).  I believe in destiny.  I had a date with destiny in June of 2010.  I met a Titus 2 woman.  A woman who became my mentor.  She is like a second mother to me.

There is no way that I could have entered the battle for my marriage alone.  While I had Jesus at my side, I simply did not have the courage to act the way I needed to without someone’s guidance.  Not only was my mentor my cheerleader but she was my prayer warrior and support to run to when things got really hard.  My marriage got worse before it got better.  With a new identity, a new heart, and a mentor to train me I was ready to be open to what it would take to save my marriage.  I was embarking on a journey that I know many would not take.

Without my mentor I was on rabbit trail after rabbit trail reading books about how to win over my husband.  A lot of what I was reading suggested things that I had already tried and worked for a period of time; then we’d have a fight and all was lost.  It was a constant one step forward, two steps back.  The question I had before me: was I going to control my husband and be controlled by my need for him (the curse of Eve) or was I going to allow Christ inside of me to prevail?

My mentor gave me a sheet of paper with 1 Peter 3 on it, from the Amplified version. Even though I was offended (well, probably mad is more like it), that is what I went after.  Standing behind me was a mentor encouraging me to practice it, no matter what my husband was doing to me or behind my back.  Christ in me produced the 1 Peter 3 woman.  Who is she?

In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives, when they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him – to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband.] Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.  For it was thus that the pious women of old who hoped in God were [accustomed] to beautify themselves and were submissive to their husbands [adapting themselves to them as themselves secondary and dependent on them].  It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his leadership over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority).  And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you]. 1 Peter 3:1-6

My mentor gave me a copy of the first chapter of Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartin.  This prayer is AMAZING!  It changed how I prayed for my marriage and my husband.  Her prayer asked God to change her, not her husband. With answered prayer for a new heart in me, my new prayer was: unify my husband and I and change me, Lord.  It was clear that me trying to change my husband wasn’t going to work.  Changing me was the only thing I could call upon God for and he has answered with a resounding yes.

During this stage of my walk with Jesus, I learned discipline.  I chose to have faith that God would work in and through me to be what my husband needed.  I had to allow my husband to continue to do whatever it is he wanted to do without a peep from me.  I cannot say that walked this scripture out perfectly, I got scared and anxious sometimes.  But it was enough; grace and mercy found me when I needed it.  I decided to hold on to my faith in Jesus and let God work it out.

What does that look like?  I stopped fighting for my marriage.  I allowed God to go to battle for me.  Instead of holding on tight, I let go.  I told my husband that I was not holding him hostage in our marriage and that he could leave any time.  These words were said with peace in my heart.  He knew that he could leave and I wasn’t going to cling to him.  I also told him that my choice was to stay in the marriage and work though our problems.  Although it was extremely hard, I had faith that if he did leave, I would be taken care of because God loves me and provides for me.  I had to allow my husband to say whatever he wanted to about himself, about me, about our children and our marriage without defending any of those things.  We have had a lot of uncomfortable moments. I have had mud pie on my face more times than I would like to admit.  I chose to keep quiet.  God is my defender, not me.  What made this possible?  The understanding that my husband is separate from me.  He is responsible to God for everything he says and doesn’t say,everything he does and doesn’t do.  If I control him, he cannot be Fathered by God; instead he is controlled by me so that I don’t look bad and we don’t receive consequences.

I understand today that my husband is a son of God.  God is his Father and because God is a good Father, my husband is under the law of grace and mercy, not failure and consequence.  God is gentle and kind, a controlling wife is…well…not.  Prior to our mess, my husband had not received Jesus.  He was leading a selfish life and it hurt his family greatly.  However, I pursued my relationship with God and fellowship with a mentor who supported my cry to be changed.  My husband now knows Jesus because I trusted God to work.  I laid down my fear and anxiety to save my marriage.