Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 16: Saying I'm Sorry ... Sharing the Load



Welcome  to Day 16 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him. 
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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Saying “I’m Sorry”

I’m not sure if it was her generation or if it was a personal thing or just the fact that she grew up with her own world of hurt, but my mother was not really good at saying, “I’m sorry.”  The first memory I have of any real attempt at an apology was well into my adulthood when she said, “I’m sorry for all the things I did that hurt you growing up.”  It was a teaspoon of water on a raging fire, but you know what, I’ll take it.  She was sorry and under that apology I could feel the depth of hurt she must still carry in order to be unable to say something more concrete. 

I do love my mother, so I am sharing this downfall only to let you know the history of apology skills in my family.  This is pioneer territory for me as a mom.  I’m not building on years of generational modeling.  I’m striking new soil here. 

Somehow God is the Great Gap-Filler.  Before I had children, I was given a gift of hanging around people who regularly talked about looking at our own side of the street and taking responsibility when we mess up and hurt others.  It was through this culture of self-reflection that I was rewired to be more appropriately apologetic and to even make amends when it was possible.  I thank God for that foundation because as a mom I’ve had plenty of opportunities to say, “I’m sorry.”  Daily. 

Like you, my kids can push my buttons and sometimes I snap like a dry twig in fall and get edgy with them instead of responding in my calm and loving tone.  I can see the hurt on their face right away.  I wish there were a vacuum to suck up mistakes and rewind time just to the point where I hurt the sweet child I love.  Instead, I have to do what is hard.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.” 



Sometimes I am preoccupied with all it takes to run a home, a part-time job, be a somewhat decent wife and friend and home educate.  My son will want to share something and I realize I’m not giving him the attention he deserves because my mind is elsewhere.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.” 

I can find things undone which I asked one of my sons to do and make an assumption about how they didn’t listen.  In my hurry I say something a little blaming only to find out I am completely off base.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.” 

Then there are the times one of them hooks me into a power struggle.  We grapple over an issue even though I know better.  When we enter these kinds of tug-of-wars, no one wins.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.”

What I’ve learned over the years of practicing I’m sorry is that it helps to say what I am sorry about.  “I’m sorry I didn’t do a good job listening to you right then.  I’m really overwhelmed with a to-do list right now, but what you are saying really matters to me.  Could we talk about it in ten minutes when I can sit and give you my full attention?”  Then it helps to listen while they tell me how I hurt them.  “Do you want to tell me how that hurt you?”  Oh yeah.  They often do.  “Mommy, that hurt my feelings when you didn’t listen to me because I was saying something important.”  Ouch.  No wonder my mom wasn’t into this.  But then I can say, “I know.  I am sure that did hurt.  It probably felt like I was saying YOU weren’t important and it isn’t that at all.  You are so important to me.  I just have too much on my mind, but that’s about me, so let me get finished so I can show you just how important you really are to me.”  Finally I can hug them if they need it or offer, “Is there something I can do to make it up to you?”  Usually they say, “No,” or sometimes they say, “Yes, you can listen to me when I talk.”  Such goodness. 



I’m teaching my kids skills – skills I never had as a child.  I’m teaching them to apologize specifically and take ownership when they hurt others.  I’m teaching them to listen to how they hurt others.  I’m teaching them to offer restitution or some comfort. 
What I’m not doing is teaching them to ask for forgiveness.  You may notice that.  I think forgiveness is a gift we receive.  When I have already harmed someone, I don’t need to ask them for a gift, I need to give them a gift – the gift of my truly repentant heart, the gift of my listening ear and the gift of my willingness to make it up to them if I am able.  When my boys apologize to me, I do offer them forgiveness and it is through that example that I teach forgiveness. 

We don’t do perfect over here.  We mess up.  We say “I’m sorry” and we reconnect.  I am so grateful I had support to learn a new way and that our family is living out the healthier way of saying the hard and wonderful words:

“I’m sorry.”   

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Be Refreshed

Sharing the Load

God invites us to cast our cares on Him and to take His easy yoke.  He is the strong tower where we can run when we are hurting or fearful.  God knows we will need His shoulder to lean on.  Throughout the years I have heard Christians say, “God never gives you more than you can handle,” as if they were quoting a line from the book of Romans.  I have found the opposite to be true.  God often gives us way more than we can handle.  He allows life to overwhelm us to the point that we have to reach upward to Him and outward to others.  He intends us to depend upon Him and often allows circumstances to remind us of our need for His help and our need for others around us.  In the letter to the Galatians He says:

Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

He gives us one another.  He says we belong to one another and He calls us to love one another.  How do we love?  One way is bearing one another’s burdens. 

This goes two ways.  When you look around at people you know, can you see their burdens?  Invisible, yet heavy, some are weighed down with anxiety, a full-plate, conflict in their marriage, self-hatred or a spirit of jealousy and competition.  Can you come alongside these sisters of yours and shoulder their cares with Jesus? 

Beyond that, and sometimes this is the harder thing to do, we need to invite others into our burdens.  How can they share the load if we never reveal our need?  I’m one of those “get-er-done” girls who likes to keep all ten of my plates spinning on my own {thank you very much}.  I got that way honestly.  I was praised for achievement while failure wasn’t welcomed.  I learned that helping others was a good thing to do and I found that when I was needed I didn’t have to be too vulnerable.  Thankfully, God has reached into that brokenness and allowed me to show my weakness and to learn to help others from an entirely different motive.  In the meantime He’s been walking me into learning to receive. 

When we let others carry our load with us, we are giving them something beautiful.  It is blessed to give.  I am way less than perfect, but for years I didn’t want to let that be known.  I did everything in my power to make others think I had it packed up and wrapped with a bow.  Portraying perfection keeps people at arm’s length.  Intimacy is strengthened when we show our weaknesses and needs to others.  The more I have shared the real ups and downs of my life with others, the more they have been drawn to me.  God has blessed my open weakness with His strength and the gift of people who care. 

Can you think of a few people who are near to you whom you could call this week and take the risk of asking them to share the load you carry?  Can you share something that is on your heart?  Can you ask them to do you a favor? 

This is the law of Christ: that we bear one another’s burdens in love.  Carry them for others, but allow them to do the same in return. 
 
I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery.  If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here.  Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher.  And, as always, I do love hearing from you.  Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 15: A Little R & R ... An Easy Yoke



Welcome  to Day 15 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

A Little R & R

Part of what I’ve taken from all this study about rest and the need to allow downtime is that I need to teach my children to have space in their days as well.  My boys are past the age where they naturally nap.  What we do instead is have a mid-day break we call, “Quiet Room Time.”  For the first fifteen minutes we lay still on our beds – that way if anyone needs to nap, they just might sleep.  After that they can play quietly in their rooms or read on their beds for the remaining half hour.  This 45 minute pause gives us a time to refresh for the second half of our day. 



The other thing we do (not every day but at least two or three times a week) is to have tea.  Now you know I have two boys.  I’ve been having tea with them since my oldest was around two.  Tea is a part of cultures all around the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Austrailia, Africa and Asia.  In other cultures there is a later afternoon siesta.  The wisdom of cultures way older than the United States is to pause and connect and rest in the mid-afternoon.  I think when the early colonists threw tea in the harbor in Boston, they decided that was the last American tea party.  I say we can pick up the custom again.



Having tea doesn’t have to be fancy.  We do use some antique cups I have collected.  I serve a bit of fruit, some sort of cookie or crackers and some meat and cheese or other little finger food.  It isn’t important what you serve as much as it is to sit together and reconnect and slow.  Often I read from a poetry book or from Aesop’s Fables.  When my boys have friends over or neighborhood kids pop by at tea time, we invite them to join.  


These two habits are just part of how I am teaching my boys the importance of slowing and taking a daily rest.  I am teaching them to be human beings, not just humans doing.  I am teaching them to step back and recharge.  I am hoping these rhythms of rest go with them into adulthood and bless them as they lead their families and contribute to their workplaces.  I hope you consider how to help your children to learn to incorporate healthy rest in their day. 
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Be Refreshed

An Easy Yoke

Some things bear repeating.  Another way to say it is that God has to echo to get my attention.  There have been times when God used a line in a sermon (sometimes completely unrelated to the main point in the message) a friend’s comment and then a reading in my devotional to reiterate a piece of wisdom or a warning or an encouragement. 

One time was the summer we were considering sending my oldest son to camp.  I was so concerned as the camp was not Christian.  It was a camp devoted to outdoor and ocean skills and it was going to be a chance of a lifetime since a family member was generously paying the $3000 tuition on his behalf.  In our home that’s money towards college, not summer camp. 



God sent this verse: “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”  Now, I knew this verse in context, so the first time it hit me, I dismissed it.  Jesus prays this over the disciples about them being hated by the world and Him sending them as His ambassadors anyway.  But, still it niggled at me – “I can pray this for my son.”  Bit by bit over the next few weeks God repeated that same verse and I began to hear His invitation.  He was inviting me to trust Him with my son as Jesus had entrusted His disciples to the Father as He allowed them out of the safety of His presence. 

This trusting transfer is part of what we are called to repeatedly in Scripture … 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”


How is your yoke? 

In the Old Testament times leading up to when Jesus was speaking, a yoke not only meant that which was put on cattle or oxen, it meant any burden as well.  Deeper than that, the term zygos was used to mean troublesome laws imposed upon one, Especially the Mosaic laws which were added to by the Pharisees.  Jesus is giving us a layered invitation.  He knows what bears down on us.  We take on burdens that we are not meant to bear.  We attempt to follow oppressive instead of receiving releasing grace.  

When Jesus offers us to take His yoke, He is telling us we can live a life of freedom in Him – free from anxiety and fear.  We can live free of having to earn what is graciously given.  We can live free of the responsibilities which are not ours – like the outcomes of our children’s lives – while we devote ourselves to Him and His love and allow that love to guide us and flow out to our children. 



If your burden is heavy, come to Him.  He is gentle and humble in heart.  You will find rest for your soul today as you mother your children.  Keep coming to Him.  Don’t just go once.  Every time you pick up a stress or a care or a weight that is too heavy, come.  Come to Him.  Keep Coming.  He will meet you right here in your motherhood moments and allow you the freedom He died to give – again and again.  

I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery.  If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here.  Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher.  And, as always, I do love hearing from you.  Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you.

Photo of tea food courtesy of kempinski.com; photo of tea courtesy of pinterest; photo of scuba diving courtesy of CIC Camps; photo of bedroom courtesy of asdahome.com; photo of welcoming hands courtesy of imagearcade.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 14: A Healthy Balance ... He Cares for You


Welcome  to Day 14 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart is to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

A Healthy Balance

Running on Empty - It’s the theme of our modern society.  We take on soccer for one child, ballet for another and little league for the other and then we have church, AWANA, Small Group and Bible Study (all good, but activities and commitments nonetheless).  Then we volunteer for ministry opportunities, go to the gym, and take on leadership roles in one or more of the kids’ activities.  We end up with barely a meal eaten together as a family in the hub-bub of all the “goodness” we have taken into our lives in the name of enrichment. 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 13: Mom, Look! ... Pruning


Welcome  to Day 13 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart is to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

“Mom, Look!”

Every child shouts it from the playset, from their craft area, from the ball field: “Mom, Look!”  They long for us show our delight in them.  Each achievement gives us an opportunity to cheer them on. 

If you had a cheerleader mom, you know how she helped give you confidence and built in you a sense that you had something to offer out of your unique self.  On the other hand, if you had a mom who was less than attentive or encouraging, you know how that lack travels with you through life.  God, being the Great Redeemer, will send others who fill those shoes in due season, but the original void somehow remains – even if only as a shadow. 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 12: A Bit of Fresh Air ... Abide



Welcome  to Day 12 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart is to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

A Bit of Fresh Air

I’m sitting inside writing this parenting pointer and that is a bit ironic since I am going to encourage us all to go outdoors with our children.  I could date myself and say, “Back in my day …” and then tell you how we ran out the door at the crack of dawn and returned home for lunch, went back out, came in for supper and finally were in for the night when the street lamps came on. True story.  No wonder the need for parenting books has skyrocketed in this generation – our children are with us so much more of the time we actually have to figure out what we are going to do with them! 

Seriously, though, some of my fondest memories of childhood were the unstructured hours spent outdoors with my family or friends.  My family were hikers and birdwatchers and before you think that was amazing, just know that I had many bored moments on some trail waiting for my parents to spot a rare bird while I stuffed my hat with poison ivy for entertainment (another true story).  Despite the down moments (which probably served to teach me a great deal about patience and not being the center of the world and how to have fun with very little material around me – except the poison ivy, of course) my childhood time spent outdoors fed something innate in me.  

Children are made to be outdoors. 
 
This really is the park where I played growing up

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Day 11: Not Another Project ... Surely Goodness will Follow Us



Welcome  to Day 11 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart is to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him. 
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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Not Another Project

No one could possibly have prepared you for what you would feel when you became a mother and this little tiny child completely took your breath away.  Each child expands your capacity to love even more.  It is nearly overwhelming to think how much love we can feel. 

As my children grew I was in awe of them and of God’s gift to me – the gift of motherhood.  Simultaneously I felt other feelings.  I felt inadequate.  I felt fearful.  It wasn’t the kind of fear you feel when you had to walk home from your friend’s home in 10th grade after watching a scary movie and you were just sure someone was following you.  This parental fear is much less poignant, but way more gripping.  Having had a rough adolescence and having made many poor choices which ended in situations I would regret for years to come, I feared that my precious little son would end up in circumstances like I did.  I wanted to do everything in my power to keep him from falling into a lifestyle full of sin and regrets. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 10: In the Grip of Grace ... He Makes Me Lie Down



Welcome  to Day 10 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 

My heart is to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him. 

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

In the Grip of Grace

How much thought do you give to grace?  Dallas Willard used to say us Christians burn it up like rocket fuel.  We may think of grace when we think of salvation – saving grace.  Certainly it is by grace we have been saved, through faith.  This gift of God – this lavish, undeserved blessing – this God come down, stooping low to save us from ourselves only to bring us near to Him – is unthinkable goodness. 

Beyond salvation, grace is a daily necessity in our lives.  Grace is the means by which we offer more than what is deserved.  It isn’t just mercy (not to belittle mercy) as mercy says, “I won’t give you what you deserve.”  Grace says, “I’ll give you goodness you don’t deserve – and that in abundance!”