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.
Today’s Parenting Pointer
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.
I’m reminding us because now we hold the torch. We have the privilege and responsibility to be that voice in our child’s life and heart. We get to say “Way to go!” and smile as they stand an inch taller (not from pride, but sweet confidence) and help them know someone is in their corner, loving them well as they stretch their wings and do new things or just as they exist – being just who they are.
I want to share what I’ve been doing lately. It’s sort-of a spiritual discipline in a way. I’m watching. I’m simply watching my children. Now, part of this comes to me because of my age. I’m a nearly 48 year old mom of a 5-year-old. I had my children later in life. My oldest son was born when I was 35. My youngest when I was 42. I’m old enough to be someone’s grandma – even my youngest son’s. All that life experience has taught me a few things. First of all, you realize how fast seasons fly by. Next you realize that the big things are big and most things don’t fit in that category – at all. I may not have the energy I had in my 20s, but I have the wisdom and patience (most of the time) I surely lacked then.
So, I’m watching. While my son is sitting eating an evening snack and chatting on about the imaginary games he and his friends played that afternoon, I’m listening. Beyond the listening I am just soaking in his essence. I’m memorizing the moment and taking in the sweetness of what God made in him – exuberance, fearlessness, joy and a passion for life and people. I’m praising God for this boy as I sit in awe that I could be a mother and this boy could be my son.
Childhood is a magnifying glass. You know it. The sights, smells, sounds and places of childhood remain past their season. They form us and are larger than life. When I watch my son I see the world through his lens – I stoop low into his childhood and I see the world the way he sees it. I know him better and I love God more through this watching.
Sometimes my watching involves staying near when I could do something else. We go to a park playdate with a bunch of other mommies. You know the temptation to go chat and fill my own tank by getting in some girlfriend time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, sometimes I need to be present for my son. I forgo the opportunity to socialize and I run with him on the playground. We teeter-totter and I push him on the swing. We race down the slides and I catch the moment knowing it is zooming by and I have held something precious by choosing well. I’ll never regret spending those times with him. Never.
With my older son, my watching takes a different form. He straddles boyhood and the young manhood looming on the near horizon. He likes to talk about his interests and they aren’t always on my list of top ten things I want to discuss – like reconstructing his scooter, the latest Percy Jackson novel or how he wants to save money for an IPhone in a few years. But I listen. I give him my undivided attention knowing that his days here with us are shifting like sand and before I know it he’ll be off to college and looking for a job and meeting a girl and … so today I watch. I show him he matters by simply being present. I watch this boy-man whom I cradled only a few short years ago. I watch the intricacies of his personality grow into dynamic facets of individuality and independence. I watch him get passionate and focused. I get a front-row seat to the unfolding of what God put in him and is now drawing out. I don’t want to miss an instant of it by being too preoccupied with things that just don’t really matter or last.
There is one more lesson I’ve taken from being a bit older. People will have a number of friends. Workplaces will have numerous workers. Our country has millions of citizens. My church has many members. My children only have one mother. I don’t shirk those other responsibilities, but I keep that perspective in mind. God made it that way. I am the only wife my husband will have (God willing) and the only woman these two boys will call, “Mom.”
I encourage you to watch your children. Take them in like a magnificent sunset – appreciating all the hues of their unique personalities. Savor the goodness of what God has given you in each child and cherish the precious gift of motherhood.
Yesterday I shared about the year I soaked in John 15 and I encouraged you to respond to the invitation to abide. There is another part of that section of God’s Word that I don’t want to pass by. It is this:
I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. … These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.
So far my refreshers have been very warm-fuzzy, get your good slippers and a cup of tea and cozy up with Jesus kind of moments. But this one, well, it may not sit that way at first. I didn’t want to overlook it, though. A partial look at scripture is skewed and incomplete and leaves us feeling jipped somehow.
So here I go where some angels may fear to tread …
The first part of the verses here may cause us to run and hide like Adam and Eve and start stitching leaves ASAP: “Every branch in Him that doesn’t bear fruit He takes away.” I don’t know about you, but my knee-jerk reaction is, “Oh no! I’m sure I haven’t born fruit,” or “Maybe my fruit isn’t good enough.” The temptation is to get busy for Jesus just so He won't throw us away.
There are a few things wrong with this unconscious theology (not my term, but I sure love it!). First of all, we are promised that no one will snatch us from His hand. We are also promised that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus and we are promised He will never leave us nor forsake us. Beyond that we are told that He did all the work it took to secure our salvation – all we have to do is believe and receive. So what IS this verse talking about?
Well, I did some digging, and in a nutshell, the old experts who wrote commentaries (like Matthew Henry) say that those who are “in Him” and don’t bear fruit are usually those who profess Him, but haven’t formed a relationship with Him. In other words, back to yesterday's post, they aren’t abiding. You know the church-going people who love the church and get busy for the church and even pray and lead MOPS groups? Some of them are not in touch with Jesus. Shockaroo, I know. I’ve been there – working hard to earn what was already given freely - longing for belonging but missing the heart of God. Let me assure you if you are worried about whether you are “in” you are already His. People who are not committed to Jesus don’t stress about it. But, if you relate to attempting to bear fruit without abiding, I get that too. Slow down, sweet sister, and follow His way ... cut the busyness and abide. Don't worry, He won't cut you off. Just the opposite will happen. That abiding is His priority. You will be obeying His Word and His heart behind that word. Then your actions will have deep roots.
I just want you to know this verse about “not bearing fruit and being cut off” is not for the Christ follower.
So what is? Well, it’s this pruning. Ugh. I know. There’s a promise here and it isn’t one we want to hear. We will be pruned. Even the fruitful branches.
Every winter I go in my garden and I whack my roses back till they are bare branches sticking up out of the ground, exposed, fruitless, even ugly.
And for months they sit there, looking abandoned and useless. If they could speak they’d probably cry out against this gardener who used to just trim off a few leaves here and there – ones they didn’t want anyway - and who would admire their blooms and pick some to put right on the dinner table. This same gardener does this lopping with shears and cuts back EVEN THE FRUITFUL BRANCHES. It seems nearly cruel, except, when you know the heart of the gardener. I cut my roses back so that they may bear even more fruit. The coming year as they start to come out of this dormancy they have fresh, healthy leaves where older parched ones were growing.
They have blooms that come in more readily and profusely than before and I can enjoy that rose bush even more than ever.
So it is with us. Expect it. God will prune us – just when we think all is well and those ducks are lined up the way they ought to be and the bills are paid and the kids are behaving and our ministry is soaring. Just then He will prune. Remember, then, the heart of the Gardener. He prunes you that you may bear even more fruit. What He cuts away needs to be removed to make room for the new thing He is doing. Yes, you feel exposed, vulnerable, empty, unproductive, but in due season this will pass. He tells us all of this so His joy may be in us and our joy may be complete. Knowing that pruning is a part of His loving care helps us to expect it and to keep it in perspective when it comes – and it will come regularly. It is His way and His way is good.
P.S. I promise you can take out the slippers and the tea again tomorrow.
Photos of roses pruned, budding and blooming courtesy of Pinterestl; Slipper Feet courtesy of Bing Images.