Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.

 

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up, as well. My mind is too weak. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

My Garden

IMG_1821In this life, faith is a never ending journey. I love that it is. I reflect on where I was and where I am going…and I am astounded by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord knows I could never have done any of this on my own. I try to peek through the present to imagine where I will be five years from now. Will I be where I am now?  Will I have taken a few steps back? Or will I be more mature than I could possibly imagine?

I feel as though I am currently in a lonely stage of my faith. Wait? Aren’t Christians supposed to walk alongside each other?  Yes, I believe we are. I also believe sometimes He sets us apart to be alone in our own Garden of Gethsemane. Our puny sense of garden can never compare to Jesus’.  Maybe, though, it goes to show our sufferings should bring us to our knees in thanksgiving and thus strengthen us for our own crosses we bear. Our crosses, in comparison to His, are like feathers gently tickling our backs.

This morning, I was driving to the gym.  I was exhausted from yesterday, a horribly stressful day. Our dog had a medical emergency and almost died. Seriously, we skipped church to take him to the emergency vet.  You know we do not take missing church lightly here in this household.  But, like my sweet Oliver said, “It’s okay we missed to church.  Ranger needed us to and that was more important this time.”  Our dog is stable as of right now, but boy oh boy talk about wiped!

Rein it back in, Stace.  

So, I was exhausted but forced myself to go workout. On my way, loose prayers were running through my head.  I saw a group of three ladies running along the path together and thought how nice it would be to have that in my life. So, I started praying for a good friend to come along in my life. I feel as though I need someone close by.  I am someone who loves people and friends, but more I love having that one friend. My introverted self needs that one friend to lean on. I especially miss that with my faith journey right now. I’ve missed that in my life for quite a while. I do have awesome friends and don’t feel lacking in love, it is just I sometimes need more closeness than a group can provide. Make sense?

I know, I’ll never be close to a true Garden of Gethsemane moment. Right now, though, I feel as close as I ever could or ever have in the past. I feel weight and it is making me tired.  I see people asleep. Just like Jesus wanted the disciples to be awake, I want people to rise from their slumber. He urged them to pray so they would not enter into temptation. He wanted what was best for them. He wanted the will of God to be done. But, they couldn’t carry it through at the time and fell asleep. He was only a stones throw away, but yet alone. He had to be.  I can feel His humanity in that moment, can’t you?

We aren’t all meant to be awake at the same times or in the same ways. Although, I do yearn for someone to connect with where I am in my journey, I realize it is okay to be alone sometimes. God knows why I must be.

The deity of Jesus separates me from ever relating to the full power of the garden. The cup he wanted taken from His hands, I can never feel the full weight of. What had to happen, no human could ever endure. It had to be the Son of God; it could only be the Son of God. I try to place myself in His journey, only a sliver I can feel.

By the grace of God, my garden is but a speck of dirt, my nails are merely annoying splinters, and my cross a feather. My garden is my time with God. It strengthens me for times in my journey I must go it alone. Well, not really alone because He is always wth me. Duh.

 

 

We are Moana

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I must confess, the movie Moana ignited a bit of inspiration. There may have been a few times I pulled out my phone to take notes for this exact moment of sharing my thoughts with you. I’m laughing at myself, but at the same time I must embrace it. I think we can and should find inspiration wherever and however we can.

The day before, the subject of life journeys was planted during a bible study, so it was already somewhat on my mind. We discussed  Mary’s journey to be exact.  Yes, I know Christmas is over…but we are a group of busy moms who get behind from time to time. That is much the norm in the journey of motherhood.  Things never play out exactly as we have set out in our minds. There are more bumps and bruises than we ever thought possible.

Anyway, I enjoy making parallels between peoples lives. It allows me to feel connected. It helps me to see how even we really are. Although Moana is a fictional character in a fictional plot…the core of the story (not the entirety of it) is powerful and relatable in our ordinary lives.

The following may seem to be quite the stretch and in a way it is, but this is truly a glimpse into my over-thinking head and how it functions. No, this movie was not biblical. There are just parallels I decided to point out. Was there worldly thinking scattered throughout this movie?  Yes, of course there was. Just as there is worldly thinking scattered in my own mind. It wasn’t a Christian film. But despite that being obvious to most, I feel it actually is important to point this out. At the end of the day, I want you to know our power comes from God, not ourselves as the world will try to tell us. That point is by far more important than anything else I am about to say…

The water chose Moana to embark on a journey to save her people. God calls us to do the same. She felt a pull in her do be doing something more-something different than what her little world was telling her to. One time she went into the sea like she thought she should and it ended in disaster. It left her feeling lost and confused. It was because it wasn’t the right time, she needed to know more. She simply was not ready.

When the time was right, she knew it. She got into her boat and off she went. She felt brave, encouraged, and empowered. Then, things got messy. We all know how messy life gets, even when we are doing the right thing. Can I get an “Amen”?

Her boat flipped.  She got tired and scared.  She got angry and yelled at the water (just as we do to God). The water would gently pick her back up and placed her back on the boat when she went overboard. The water picked her back up…but did not make her journey easier.

Moana made it to Maui and was disappointed. He was not what she was expecting. He was not the hero she envisioned. How many times have we felt the same. Maui doubted the water and even asked why the water couldn’t bring the heart back itself. Many in this world ask the same sort of questions about God.

There was even a point where Moana tried giving the heart back to the water. She went back down and got it. The rough waters didn’t calm because she decided to carry on. Maui didn’t magically become easier to deal with. Why did she do it? Nothing could silence the voice inside her. Nothing can silence the voice inside any of us. Sometimes we need to work on how to hear it. Sometimes we choose to ignore it.

God will never force us to answer His call. It is out of His love for us that He doesn’t use force. It is hard to wrap our heads around it…I know. He doesn’t calm the waters of life. But He is always there with us. Always.

You see, I am Moana. We all are. We are called, in our own unique way, to restore the heart of the Lava Monsters who have had their hearts stolen by the world. One difference (and there are more) is that we are still on our journeys. Our happy ending is yet to come.

Baa Baa Booyah

I want to start out by saying I am no sheep expert. Not even close. The most I know about sheep is what I have read in the bible, been taught in Sunday School as a child, or have heard in sermons. They have no sense of direction. They don’t like being alone. If they fall and get in a certain position they can’t get out of it. We’ve heard the stories of sheep wandering, not being able to find water, or whatever else. We are told they are not the most intelligent animals. Then, we are compared to these animals right after we are told how dumb they are.

Hmmm, I don’t think God sees us as dumb or wants us to look at ourselves as such.

I mean I get it. We are sinners. We screw up.  We can do dumb things. We are human. There is a certain sense of humility admitting these things.  So, naturally we say we are dumb like sheep. Maybe we are wrong to say this. Maybe calling sheep dumb stems from worldly thinking. What the world sees as wise and strong is not the same as what the bible tells us is such. Maybe sheep aren’t so dumb after all.

Think about this:

  1. Sheep know and follow their shepherds voice. They know it is better to follow their shepherd than to be in control of their own life. Don’t we all struggle with submitting to His will?
  2. Sheep know it is better to stay with their flock.  Yes, sometimes they get lost (don’t we all.) The point being is wandering away from the church, the body of believers, usually doesn’t turn out so well. This isn’t saying we shouldn’t be around people who don’t have faith. We need to love all people.
  3. Sheep have four stomachs.  Totally unrelated but crazy, huh?
  4. Sheep know their weaknesses. Come on, if we all admitted our weaknesses and allowed God and others to lead us in places where we falter…whoa…we could accomplish so much more.

See where I am going with this?  It takes a wise person to know following our Shepherd is the best way to live. Without a doubt, the wisest people I have known in my life were the ones who followed Him faithfully. Times when they got lost, they allowed our Shepherd to carry them on His shoulder to go back to the flock.  Ultimately they knew how dumb they were being when they lost their sheeplike (humble) attitude. I don’t know about you, but I see sheep a little differently now. What a blessing it is to be a sheep. Baa baa booyah!

 

Death

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I’m dying.

The air doesn’t fill my lungs,

as it did in the past.

My body aches.

Every step I take is slower.

I hear a voice.

I reach out.

All I feel is empty space.

Empty promises.

I close my eyes and pray.

His Word fills the emptiness.

I let out my last breath.

I am free.

New air fills my lungs.

The pain is gone.

My path is clear.

My steps are boundless.

This truth is where,

my peace is found.

I no longer live,

it is He who lives in me.

Through the power,

through His endless love.

I am brought back to life,

time and time again.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
-Galatians 2:20

Unwrapped Present

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Have you ever had an idea, a great idea, maybe even a brilliant idea that just sits there?  You think about it and you may talk about it.  It feels right.  It feels straight from God.  It lines up with scripture. You know you have the spiritual gifts and passion for it, but it sits there on your shelf in a neatly wrapped package, untouched. Well I have. I actually do right now. When I think about reaching out to unwrap and use it something stops me.

I used to daydream about it. Then I would get impatient and disappointed in myself for not doing something. I was almost convinced it was fear stopping me, but when I would reach out to grab it that something that stopped me felt right too. Makes sense, right? It was like I knew this was something I truly need to do, but also I knew it something I was not ready to do.

I prayed, prayed, and prayed some more. I was reminded of God’s timing. God does not live through the restraints of time like we do. A day, a month, a year doesn’t mean much as far as eternity goes. He is patient, he properly prepares us, he knows the plan we need to follow. Trust Him and His timing…know there is a time for urgency and there is a time to wait. Waiting is not a bad thing.

Someone once told me something I really need to remember every day of my life. It was something like this: God first, then your family, then your ministry (or God’s work), then everything else. When you get these out of order you will see it in every aspect of your life. So, maybe the reason why I haven’t been able to unwrap my present is because I had these a little mixed up. And I didn’t fully realize it. You probably don’t fully realize it. You are doing the best you think you can, you are doing good things, and you are a good person. You are just doing things out of order.

Through the busyness of life, we get swept away and Satan loves it. It is his best attack against us faithful God-fearing ones. He knows we aren’t going to stop believing in God and trying to do His work, so he tries messing with the order in which we should follow. Next time you have that great idea and it seems to just sit there, try looking at the order in which you are following. Maybe all you need to do is move things around a bit and God will help unwrap your present when the time is right.