Family: It’s a Big Word

“Family” is the concept that looms largest in my personal horizon. I only realized it in terms of articulating it to myself in 2016. So, this is fairly new: to compose a complete view of why this idea of “family” is so central to my entire life.

I began to understand how it impacts so many of us, although in varying ways and  degrees.

Why Me, and Not You?

This is the place where I began to really think, rather than simply struggle.

First, I’m a sixty- something and have lived most of my allotted years. When it comes to family, I went big- I had ten children… and endured long – stayed married for 43 years as a stay-at-home-mom.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I have struggled in one way or another all that time. I never seemed to have really settled within myself. One perennial struggle was to have a cohesive family unit- when what I actually was part of was more like a “herding cats” scenario.

The Light of Dawn

This past year, as I found myself within that familiar cycle of trying to coordinate family get-togethers while everyone else was less than enthusiastic about making plans, I asked myself “Why?”

Why is it so vital to me that we gather together and build relationship, and the others (father and children) seem so indifferent, even resistant? It used to be couched in a “what is wrong with me?”/ “what is wrong with them?” emotional whirlpool, but a different perspective dawned on me.

What is different between us?

That I find the need central, while for them it is peripheral to the rest of their concerns. What explains this conflict of  priorities?

  • Because I am a woman, and a mom? No, that doesn’t explain it, others aren’t like this.
  • Because I made my life choices in that direction? No, it was the impetus, not the outcome.
  • Because I came from a broken home? Yes, that begins to explain it.

Not only did I come from a broken home, but I had no real place in my family of origin. I was a rejected black sheep. The reason is not important, but the effect was the key influence of my life. It colored everything.

My husband came from an intact family, as did my children. I believe they see that part of their life, being in a family unit, as a matter of course. It is settled for them.

My great struggle is seeing that such things aren’t settled by default, but must be grown and cultivated. I don’t apologize or dismiss the power of that insight. I do have one great flaw, however… what does such a family look like? How does it form, especially when given such poor soil?

I value family so greatly, because mine was lacking. I wanted to create family in my life.

I Don’t Have Answers, But I Get Inklings

In these big concept struggles of life, I move further from having the answers (as in “one size fits all”), but I get bigger inklings. And those help me. They create more peace and contentment, and make me much easier to get along with as they disconnect my need to fix the world from daily interactions with the people important to me.

10 Great Inklings

  1. We all have needs for acceptance and love, and it isn’t all about me.
  2. Keep trying to connect, and try to make the majority of connections loving, supportive, pleasant.
  3. Leave the past behind. Get to know the person that they are, now.
  4. Your needs, insights, and contributions are important, so are theirs. Blend, make recipes, value all the ingredients. Know when to leave certain things out of the mix.
  5. Be there. Be present. Be hospitable. Invite. Engage. Allow. Make clear boundaries.
  6. Choose to keep trying as long as fruit is possible. Know when to cut down the tree. This comes from Jesus’s parable of the fig tree. To pour yourself out into areas of life that don’t produce means that less is given to those that will. Be productive.
  7. Glean wisdom, but don’t compare.
  8. Stop the negativity habits; Encourage positive interactions, speech, attitude, gratefulness, and all things edifying.
  9. While oversight may be in your hands, control is not.
  10. You cannot change others, but you can change yourself. That may be the catalyst for circumstances or for others, but it is growth in your own life. It will result in true satisfaction.

My Contribution: A Sense that Family is Important

This lack that became driving force, struggle that became recognition, became what I contribute to the world. I gave it through defiance and by going to war against the norms of my generation. As a SAHM, with homeschooling, home birthing, attempts at homesteading, and having a big family on one (sometimes below average) income.

I don’t contribute the means or the goal, but the concept that a family has intrinsic value for everyone, in some way. That value is not dictated by method, numbers, or even culture.

If the value is dictated by anything, it would be a true understanding of love.

Regrets and the Future

To dwell on regrets is not useful or conducive to change. It only mires one in the past with a distorted filter. We have today, and that forms our future life… with family relationships or otherwise.

People give up on family. Too soon and too often, when it is the messy stuff of living that creates the full spectrum of being.

I believe this is why God has worded relationship with Himself in terms of family. There are many ways we relate to each other, but the closer we are the more we see it in familial connections.

Someone is a sister or mother to us, a father or brother, and a “significant other” is husband or wife. We can’t divorce ourselves from our need to belong. It remains, struggling and gasping for expression.

I want that expression to be a healthy one that promotes growth in each individual. I outlined what that means to me.

…So far…

 

 

 

On Parenting

Not having blogged here seriously for a long time, I am not going to apologize for that now. You may find some of the reasons if you read between the lines- or maybe not.

warning: this may turn into a long post. it will certainly go deeper than I have on this blog for a long time. you may not want to read what I have to say. don’t say I didn’t warn you

How did I find myself inspired to write here today? On this topic? I visited the blog of a long time blogger who has become a new mother. She said this:

Looking after a newborn baby is really, really hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and it’s relentless. People keep telling me that it gets better or easier. I hope so. I’m pooped. ~Meg Pickard

When I read that, I remembered back …way back to my first introduction to motherhood, and yes, that is very much a description of how I felt at the time. I don’t know if there was a generation more unprepared for parenting than mine- at least among those who were like me.

Why do I think that?

  • We had jumped from ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ to ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘All In The Family’
  • Smart Girls prepared for careers, not families; and Supermom wasn’t going to show up until much later.
  • We had come from smaller families, and didn’t help raise siblings, and our moms and dads were all getting divorced. At least in my circles. Elsewhere in America, too, if the statistics tell the story.

How did this play out for women like me? We were sorely under-prepared for taking care of babies. We were socked with that relentless exhaustion and tried to play catch up with learning how to change diapers, adjust to feeding schedules, and generally learn parenting and household skills on the fly.

Humans are survivors- and women like me and our babies survived. From our survival lessons came the supermom syndrome. Which, for me, translated into a frenzy of trying to make everything “work”. And if you were like me you could make everything look pretty good…. on the outside. A house of cards, if you will.

This is getting ominous sounding, don’t you think? Well, in some ways it was, but in others- there were good times, there were some things I would do again, but the overall tone of life? No. Perfection makes a hard taskmaster, and I would trade that for making “Nurture” the keynote of our family. As it was, the keynote was more of “Accomplishment” as framed by my environment.

The reason I would change that focus and tone might be found in the name of a category I have on this blog, one that I haven’t yet found heart enough to fill up, but perhaps this post will be filed there,”Broken Heart Devotionals”.

Because another hard truth not told to new parents is the fact that not only can you fall deeply in love with your babies, but that they can grow up and break your heart. Not all of them, not inevitably, but it is one of the possibilities. And a parent needs to recognize that. It could change our focus and remove some of the deception that seems to infect every generation in some way or another.

I’m not going to get all sappy here, and I am certainly not going to imply that this is the inevitable outcome. Perhaps for some it isn’t in the cards, not even as a possible condition, I don’t know. I do know that when such heartbreak hits, it can come as a complete surprise… the same arrival of surprise that the exhaustion brought to an unprepared, naive mother in those first few months. With the same impact to your psyche, and your sense of what life should be.

Do not mistake facing reality for regret. There is no regret in the wonderful people that came into my world. I am happy for each individual child being a part of my world and the world at large. There is only sadness that I didn’t understand that nurture and tenderness, taking time for small moments, and living the love I felt for those people was more important than anything.

Anything.

And if I were to sum up my advice, thoughts, and stories on parenting in one thing it would be be that last paragraph and its emphatic underline.

But I have more to say. Just don’t let go of that one nugget of truth, which is the only real piece of advice I wish to pass on.

Sifting Through The Sand Of Motherhood

Sand, because motherhood will both polish you and wear you down. It will get in your shoes, but it is also lots of fun to play with. In the right conditions it will focus you on the truly important things of life, even if a little late.

To go back to that mother’s observations which I began with:

It’s also really boring much of the time. No-one tells you this. In fact, I think it’s probably frowned on to say it. But if you’re used to being surrounded by agile minds conducting fascinating thought-experiments and verbally jousting at work every day, looking after a baby gets pretty tedious rather quickly, especially when they’re too young to play or engage much with their surroundings. There’s something about the relentless monotony of routine (is it feeding time again? So soon? I could have sworn we just fed a few minutes ago…), and the fact that your brain has been sucked out of your ears by exhaustion, and the need to be constantly entertaining or on the move. It’s knackering.

I see some things have not changed much from my generation. I think we gave that attitude to the next generation as something of a legacy. Perhaps it was the gleam in the eye of our divorced mothers, and we inherited it ourselves? It said, “Smart girls are bored by the dailiness of the life of Motherhood”. Not that this was the essential point of Pickard’s post- it wasn’t. I simply plucked it out as saying what I, and many like me, felt- to the letter. Or thought we felt because we were supposed to feel that way as modern, hip, thinking women. and whether you think a certain way, or think you ought to and subscribe to it- it boils down to the same thing.Many of us Baby Boomer mothers struggled with it in one way or another.

I think it is ‘Supermom’ residue, personally. which is the opposite of “Earth Mother” persona. E.M.’s have to live in this society,too, so I don’t think they get off scot-free. They are, however, more apt to take time for their mothering, as part of their identity.

It’s Not All About Mothers

Mothers are not all there is to the forming of a child’s life, and psyche. But I do think, that like fathers in their way, mothers of my generation went sort of AWOL. And we got mixed up about what makes a good mother. We got too much into the debate over working and not enough into the conversation of what loving a child looks like.

And even if mothers do things right, it doesn’t insulate them, their families, or their children from the vicissitudes of our society, which has lost its mooring. Really, it has. No one can even define the semantics of our roles or actions in any substantial way today.

But thankfully, one thing stands against all the assaults and assails of whatever is wrong with us as individuals and as a society, and that is that “Love Never Fails“.

It really doesn’t. If you really love your child or your spouse, or any relationship with true care and concern for them as a human being, as someone that matters, then you will go a long way toward nurturing that soul. And they will thrive from it.

Don’t get sidetracked about what that love looks like. Don’t get fooled by some made-up experts rules. Do things that puts the wellbeing of that person on the top of your list.

Being a Christian, I don’t think there is any defining lesson on what that looks like more than you might find in I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter of First Corinthians. I don’t think we can make up what love is like any more than we can make up what nutrition our child needs. There are certain hard wired realities in humans and in life.

We could be more wise about disseminating real facts on that. Just like real facts on neo-nate development. Certain things happen and develop at certain stages, humans need certain things to thrive. Lets be very real about what those things consist of and how to properly deliver them to each other and to our families.

Love has elements of attachment, elements of freedom, and elements of hands-on actions. There are many recipes for a healthy relationship, and part of life’s challenge is to use the elements in a way that produces a whole human being.

For those who found themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, there is a new day to work at creating a life of Home cooked, life giving, wholeness making Love. It will be seasoned with humility, because it is hard to start over, to let go of preconceptions, and to admit we make mistakes.

But I’m very hopeful we can do this.


All right. I guess that is all I have to say about being a parent, and what I hoped to communicate. Til later, friends…

I remember these days

Jeff Sher has a number of fascinating short videos that are a meld of his art and motion.

HT Julie Leung

The Father’s Blessing


It’s become tradition for me to repost this on Father’s Day, it seems. I feel even more strongly than ever the importance of a father’s blessing, but I also have a wider scope, now, of what that means. Although my father was a very critical person, although he found it hard to express positive things to me, and the unfortunate interference of a late life focus on someone who took advantage of him and helped alienate him from family, still…. for much of my life, my father was probably my greatest advocate and, in his own way, was there for me with a blessing.

Happy Father’s Day! It is a wonderful privilege to be a father, and a weighty responsibility. We all know the many pictures of the role of fatherhood, but if we peer into them with a little more investigation the idea of blessing starts to form.

Read the blessing from Genesis

49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel. 3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. 4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it. 5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence. 6 Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. 7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel. 8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. 9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. 13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon. 14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down among the sheep pens. 15 When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor. 16 “Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward. 18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord. 19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels. 20 “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king. 21 “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. 22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. 23 With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. 24 But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, 25 because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb. 26 Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than[n] the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. 27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” 28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

Jacob blessed his sons. Isn’t it interesting that there was a blessing appropriate to each individual child? There is a destiny for each of us, and how great an advantage to have a father’s blessing.

I gave this idea much thought when going through the working out that was necessary in my relationship to my father. Of his children I had the closest relationship with him as his oldest and as the one who kept as removed from the divorce hostility as was possible. Yet, through the years I came to realize what a damaging effect his absence and family brokenness had upon me as a daughter, wife, woman, and person. It was one of many barriers to receiving the blessing of my father, because I think one avenue of a father’s blessing is the time he spends with his child. A Father’s blessing is the encouragement, the insight he offers, and the care he holds for his children. As with Jacob it is not a cookie cutter method of parenting, but part of the dynamic effect that a father has on each one of his children, and leader’s insight into what is appropriate for the personality and future of that individual.

We don’t have much comprehension of the importance of a father’s approval and blessing in our culture; tending instead to diminish the role of the father and his influence. I think this has partly to do with the desire to rationalize divorce.

The idea is that it is OK for the father to go missing- he isn’t of much import anyway- just a nuisance and outdated appendage in our “evolutionary”, modern way of life. That is the way we are given to think about fatherhood in our society.

Except that the need for one’s father never was bred out of the child.

Children who receive their father’s blessing are children with a great advantage in life, a greater sense of their place in life, and of their potential. It isn’t that humans can’t compensate, many of us do compensate, but it is a fact that we must compensate for something important that is missing.

Fathers are men who have many facets to their lives, as they endeavor to succeed in their dreams, ambitions, and working out their own potentials, but the wonderful opportunity for a father is to pass that on to further generations. To let the lessons, the blessing, and the wisdom gained in their own lives to be given, with forethought and deliberation, to their children.

So, this is what I wish for every father today, whether a brand new one in the midst of raising the family, the one already having grown children, or as residing emeritus grandfather:

Give your blessing to your children, find their good qualities and their potentials and verbalize that to them. support their dreams as you would have wanted your dreams and visions supported and encouraged. Direct them. Inspire them with your own aspirations. Create a legacy of blessing in your family… believe in the importance of your own impact and influence- just because you are their father. No divorce negates that, no failure need obscure your ability to pass on a blessing to your children.

Bless them as only you can.

related posts:
Where’s the Blessing?
Father’s Day Report

When first blogging I wrote this – it was on one of my former blogs:

A Father’s Blessing

Luke 11:
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.

Do father’s know the power of their blessing? Do they understand the cry of a childs heart to know not only their father’s approval and good intentions , but the determined good of expressed blessing?

How many are hobbled in life due to the absence of their father, of never knowing whether their fathers truly accepted them? Or how many by the fact that that love and acceptance was hidden in a fog of personal problems or negative verbal habits of criticism?

A fathers blessing is a powerful thing in a persons life, and it is more than just motivation. It is like a stamp of approval, a certificate of worth.

If we miss it, there are other things with which we compensate, and there is even a special promise for those who find that their mothers and fathers ‘forsake” them, but that isn’t the way we are set up, and it isn’t the way in which we may best operate.

Fathers hold a special place for their children, and they have the opportunity to impact the future through their childrens lives in a wonderful way. By way of their blessing.

It is not only worldly good, and it isn’t only positive words, it is what that father may most be gifted in his ability to give. His encouragement, or his example, his care, there could be many vehicles. But whatever the vehicle, it is the heart and the desire to see that child reach all the potential in life.

Looking at the blessing that Israel left his twelve sons, not only that which was passed to him by his forebears, but an individualized blessing for each son, each in his own destiny…. to have a success and a desired end.

There is need for the fathers blessing today. It makes a better world for the children.

~llona

Lies We Live and Die By

keelthepot blog writes Dean’s Divorce Proceedings was a really good read. The writer quotes Jen Abbas’ Generation Ex:

I’m still, at 31, working on being happy with myself. Sociologists, psychiatrists, and academics can downplay it all they want. Divorce affects us. Watching a parent walk out the door on your mother and on you is something traumatic. In the 80’s, parents who divorced used to talk about how the parent “left the other parent, but not the kids.” Taurus Feces. You leave the wife, you break the family. They also used to say that people shouldn’t stay together “for the kids.” Ditto. All you tell your children when you walk out is, “you are not important enough for me to stay.”
This sounds like I blame my father. I do. I also blame my mother. Neither one of them put the kind of work, love, and sacrifice into their marriage that they should have. Unkind? Maybe. I’m sure I didn’t know everything about their marriage since I was only there for six years of it. But I’m also certain that if they had asked for help, gone to some kind of therapy, and really died to self the way that Christ asks of us, they would still be together today. And I would be a very different person.

It is very hard to find honesty about the effects of divorce and other such cultural issues. A few years ago, I might not have said that… I might have held out hope that we are facing these things and looking at the consequences and outcomes that are now obvious. But we aren’t. Science isn’t- at least not in a way that gets reported in the media. And so…. it is in the shadows… in the secret places where people confess their weakness and their hurts that we see glimpses of the truth.

We are helping to weave the lies of the present generation- we are passing on and we are lending our support to lies that will unravel our children and grandchildren, that will strangle their hopes for happiness… because they will have believed it until it turns and devours what they hold most dear and runs away laughing, mocking, and leaving them shattered.

Didn’t we feel enough pain from our own shattering under the weight of the lies that we had embraced. Didn’t we? Or are we only pimps and madams who lure them into our own web of immorality and degradation? Our own sins seeming to be forgiven if only we shut our eyes to the fact that they exist? Continuing to make merchandise of their lives that we might comfortable continue in our sins untroubled.

No it isn’t easy to sort out. I know that. But exchanging lies will never bring the wholeness to humanity that is so needed.

The Mommy Wars

Reposting this from Nov. 3, 2004 in the interest of defining some things about SAHM’s and some of the cultural myths that are *still* with us.

Prologue:
While keeping track of the election results and discovering new blogs I came across a set of things that caught my interest and have the common thread of comments on parenting, and being a mommy in particular.

The first was a book,Home Alone America, which the webpage headlined as reopening “The Mommy Wars”. I suppose that is related to the “Cultural Wars”, or a subset of sorts. I read the interview with the author, Mary Eberstadt , and she basically uses research to point up the problem of parental absenteeism, which includes the role of Mom, though it doesn’t restrict the problem to that. ( According to reviews).

The second thing was an article from the Wall Street Journal, which you can access in pdf form, here or look up on the Wall Street Journal site, it is called, “The Carriage Trade: Stay At Home Moms Get Entrepreneurial”.

The third, also a book review article, is

The all-too-female cluelessness of “I Don’t Know How She Does It”
from Salon.com.

Those were the inspiration, here are my thoughts-

…. but first, know that I am not wading into the mommy wars. If you are going to read my thoughts, get ready for a realistic look at what it is to be a SAHM in our culture, and not a blow by blow dissection of working women’s choices.
Continue reading The Mommy Wars

Teach Your Children Well

What do you teach your children? What sorts of things do they soak up from your example in relationships and practical, important areas of life like handling money and directing their financial future? We imprint them with more of how we live in these areas of life than we verbally teach them. I wonder if some of that doesn’t come from the familial need to identify. To reject wrong thinking is somehow disassociating ourselves from the family group.

The Biblical concept of being teachable would help us in both the teaching and learning aspects of our families. We under rate the influence of our living habits, both in consequence and in setting example for others. I think it all boils down to the point that my pastor made in a recent sermon: the parable of building upon the right foundation is absolutely key to having a life that withstands storms and pressures. The foundation dug into the rock is nothing more than simple obedience to the commands and teachings of the Lord.

It is just that simple.

All the other stuff are just teaching aids to the main lesson.

Conserving Farm-Raised Children

via Moonmeadow Farm

Conserving Farm-Raised Children

If we want a decent food economy and a decent rural landscape, we have got to find the ways to prepare and encourage our farm children to grow up to be farmers. Because of the dominance of industrial values and the prevalence of economic distress on the farm, our rural schools act and have acted for a long time–as child-confinement operations, where our farm children are gathered up, processed, certified, and shipped out. This may be the most urgent “farm crisis” that we have.

The Family Altar

If you’ve read my posts lately I mentioned our Advent tradition of the Advent log, a couple times. I was thinking about how this is one form of the idea of a family altar- an ancient and venerable custom. I don’t hear much about it nowadays, but in the early years of my Christian walk, in the seventies, we often heard it mentioned. The time we spend as a family centered formally around the table to worship God and consider scripture is what is meant by “family altar”. Too many times we isolate our experience of worship to church buildings and officially constructed services or meetings, but stretching back through time it was an accepted form to have a private altar in ones own home- you might see it in movies that depict life in Medieval or Renaissance castles, in M’Lady’s private chambers.

I think it is an idea to consider again.

In our own history of trying to have family worship time, there have been many starts and long pauses. It is especially difficult for passive men, men who leave the religious leadership to the moms, to incorporate this into their days- but to the degree they do, it becomes one of those pursuits that are looked back upon as a truly worthwhile use of effort and time. Who couldn’t use more of those times in their lives?

During the year if you find yourself successful even a quarter of the time- one week out of four- it builds a great deal into the life of the whole family and cements relationships. It doesn’t have to be fancy, either. Simple Bible readings from Proverbs and Psalms are what our family normally utilizes. Although like everything else, the more you put in, the more productive the outcome. That is why it is apparent during our Advent season, we put more time and focus into gathering around the Lord.

I know it can be challenging. It is not easy to start new things, especially when you have ideas of how uplifting it will be…only to be faced by distracting toddler fidgety-ness or sullen teenage “I don’t want to be here doing this”-ness. But if you persevere you can find creative work-arounds that end up making it something everyone eventually appreciates. And you get a little more practical-minded about what real spirituality is, as well. Don’t underestimate that lesson!

A few of the ideas that work with toddlers is to keep it short- and involve some entertainment. Something like teaching the nursery-toddler class at church. Puppets, felt boards, or just having some songs. The key? Habit, really. When children have the habit of listening and sitting quietly for something… it isn’t so much work. That takes making a habit. Someone somewhere said it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. So there you go- try to have family altar time for twenty-one days in fairly close proximity.

If we once get some believing prayer as part of it- I think it really takes off. But like other types of exercise ( this is sort of like spiritual exercise) you have times when you …fall off the wagon? Is that a good phrase for it…hm… You just get busy, actually. And then you start over, forgetting those things and moving on ahead. I’m sure there are some disciplined people who don’t do that… but they don’t live at my house. Anyway, the best recommendation is always success in action. The “just do it” approach. So if you are having an Advent time of family worship, maybe you could consider working that into your year. This is probably more important for those of us not in the mainstream denominations, since they have regular church calendar activities through out the year that (traditionally anyway) used to encourage families to have meditations and readings at home. It could end up being the best gift that you give to each other this year: More of Jesus.

Raising Children-God’s Way

How hard can that be?

Today I read an a post on parenting. New parents, Christian parents, never get tired of reading the secrets to success in parenting, it seems. Forgive me if I am tired of it. Forgive me if I seem short and cranky when I write about this. I don’t mean to rant, but I have been parenting for 30 some solid years now. I have been through the wringer, because I have tried very hard to follow the advice and I have had to hold fast in some very difficult storms. Storms that threatened to shipwreck our home, at times.

And placebo advice can make me feel grief that is difficult to restrain and redirect. Because all those well meaning voices truly..mean well. But I decided to tell you all the truth. Real, Godly parenting is both extremely simple and extremely hard. It is just plain hard, and you cannot guarantee either your outcomes or your pathway. You are going to have to come to grips that only God can do that- and some families seem to have more grace than others, although I think we can rely upon God to give more when that is called for.

The Simple:
You have to parent daily.
You have to build bridges of communication.
You have to put yourself aside and put your child’s needs forefront.
You need as much consistancy as you can possibly muster.

The Hard:
There is no one method.
You are human.
You have no final control over the circumstances of life, only over yourself( and that is more than most of us can handle).

The hard means there are influences other than yourself that will factor into your childs life. Not all of those influences are healthy or helpful. You are coming into this with influences and factors of your own, in personality and upbringing. Society is not sympathetic to you, and no one will give you a break, parenting has become an unthankful job.

The simple means that there are things that work. It means that children are flexible and forgiving, and they love you and will respond to what you put into them, beyond what you might expect. The simple does not mean that these are easy things to do, but that they don’t take lots of training or even wisdom to accomplish. They just are time-tested ways that parenting works.

God’s Way in parenting means you pray alot. That is what following God’s way in anything will entail- lots of people get parenting quite well- they have things built into them, or they work hard at building relationships, but if you are going to parent as a Christian it is as simple and as hard as the rest of your relationship with Him. I wish that I had listened more fully to God and less so to the well-meaning teachers and experts. I wish I had had less well meaning interventionists in the Church- who second guessed all my parenting, and more loving rebukes, like some of my friends gave me, that were along the lines of common sense.

We still have the whitewashing of sepulchres as the approved methodology of the Church. Shame on us for that. If we did more to support and love the young mothers and fathers and children of the Church- that would go much farther to producing godliness amongst us than tens of thousands of programs, seminars, and well advertised books.

But we dont. That would just be too simple, and doesn’t swell the coffers near as much…doesn’t make for great statistics,either; although it could go a long way to reduce those shameful other sorts of statistics that the Church now wants to explain away…divorce, pornography use, and all the other stuff that lonely broken people are helpless to resist.

So forgive me if I have tears when you are wringing your hands over how horrible the world is and how much you want to tsk-tsk and herd together.

Be willing, instead, to keep communication open when it is so very, very hard, because all your standards have been tossed aside, and you are forced to see the damage and hurt that you wanted to protect that child from come to pass. Keep open and cry and pray all night because you can’t sleep. Understand that all the teaching in the world is only in hope of a open ear. And sometimes it will take time to create that between you and your child. Understand that there are strong lies in our society, and you will not win the battle against all of them. But keep trying. Keep the faith, so your child will have somewhere to return if the decision to go the Prodigal’s way is chosen.

Keep the fires burning and keep the door unlatched. Love them.

That is all I can tell you. And I am sorry that I cannot applaud your methods and your exteme enthusiasm. Because I know it’s endurance that wins the day in this thing… and that we are quite weak in our ability to walk in humility and love. But I hope the best for us all… it is the highest of callings to raise the generation that will continue after we have all gone. It is worth the sacrifices and the investment.

Invest more in the child than in the method. It pays a far better return.