Do you ever feel tempted to play God? To take over? To make something happen the way you feel strongly it should happen? To get involved in the “how” of something that you feel confident in the “what” or “why” of? You have!? Want to be best friends? I am tempted to do this on a regular basis.
I once took a strengths assessment and discovered that one of my greatest strengths is my sense of responsibility. That sounds good, right? Don’t you want to have people in your life who have a strong sense of responsibility? Who won’t bail on you in the middle of something? Who will take ownership over a task? Who will not drop the ball? Who think ahead and count the cost before committing? That sense of responsibility has served me very well these past 39 years – it helped me get good grades in school, complete my college degree, be a faithful spouse, a devoted mom, a dedicated employee. It has helped me stay on top of finances and keep the housework from getting completely out of control. Not a bad strength to have!
So what is lurking on the flipside of the coin of responsibility? For me, it is a tendency to want to control things that are either beyond my ability to control or exceeding my right to control. As a responsible mother, I want to raise my son with attention to detail – I don’t want any character issue, health need, spiritual discipline, or mental aptitude to go unnoticed or unattended. Why? Yes , because I love him, but also because I feel responsible. The danger comes when I take my responsibility to far. I stop focusing only on my responsibility to do the right thing in a given situation and, in addition, take on the responsibility for the outcome of the situation as well.
To be responsible for myself: my actions, attitudes, and words; is a wonderful thing. To take on the responsibility for anything beyond that is where I start to get into trouble.
In a scientific research environment, experiments are conducted to arrive at conclusions that can lead to helpful solutions to difficult problems. Lots and lots of experiments are conducted before the solution is reached. In order to get the specific desired outcome that they are looking for, scientists isolate all the different variables that could have an effect on the outcome of the experiment. They do this in a sterile environment where they control every possible variable. That way when they complete an experiment, they know exactly how and why the result was achieved and they can replicate it.
My overreaching sense of responsibility would LOVE for life to take place in a controlled, sterile environment. I don’t know about you, but in the complex world I live in, I can do all the right things and still end up with a result that is riddled with the effects of all the variables I couldn’t control along the way… variables like other people’s actions, attitudes, and words, my own limited understanding and perception, and the effects of an unseen spiritual war that is going on all round me at all times.
Repeat after me: “I am only in control of myself! I cannot control any other person on this planet without eventually hurting them. I cannot control every variable. I cannot control other people’s priorities or their desires. I cannot control the outcome of any situation, only my role in it.”
Responsibility is a wonderful attribute, but taking responsibility for things that are clearly God’s responsibility is, at best, setting me up for frustration and, at worst, paving a road that leads to deception and destruction. I think I need to create a pin board somewhere in my mind for my “Junior God” badge. Any time I find myself overstepping my bounds, I’ll remind myself to head to that pin board and hang that badge back up where it belongs. There is no such thing as a Junior God, but there is such a thing as a “dearly love child of God,” and that is the badge I want to wear instead.
How about you?
When our son was a toddler, we learned a nifty parenting trick. After suffering through meltdown after meltdown whenever it was time to transition from one activity to the next, we discovered that if we gave our son a 5 or 10 minute warning before the transition was about to happen, the meltdowns were a thing of the past. "Tim, it will be time to help clean up toys and say goodbye in ten minutes." "Tim, dinner will be in five minutes, so get ready to stop your video." As long as he knew what was coming and when, he could cope. When he had time to wrap things up or finish on his own terms, he was golden. If the meltdown wasn't completely averted, it was at least lessened in severity.
Don't you wish we had the luxury of those kinds of warnings in life as adults. "Carla, in six months you will not be living here any more and you'll have to start over." "Carla, within the year, that person that you are so attached to will pass away." "Carla, in the next week someone in your family will become ill." Just a little warning, wouldn't that be nice? Just a little heads up so we can wrap our minds around what is coming and finish or adjust on our own terms.
The thing is, these little advance warnings weren't the most valuable things we could offer our son. Yes, they made life a little more bearable in the moment, especially as he was making his way through those toddler years, but it was never meant to be a way of life. After all, we wouldn't always have a warning ourselves. Sometimes we would need to make a transition with little to no warning and we would need him to trust us and spring into action before his emotions could catch up. What we really wanted him to learn were things like - Your Mom and Dad love you and we are in charge. We know what is best and we are working with an agenda that includes more than your immediate happiness, things you just aren't prepared to understand yet. The more you trust us, the more you will see that we have your best interest at heart. We may ask you to do some things that you do not want to do, but it is never out of cruelty. At the end of the day, what we really wanted him to learn to do was to rest in our trustworthiness, and to respond based on our relationship not on an attachment to an established, predictable routine.
The same is true with our walk through life. The routine will inevitably vary, so putting our trust in things always being the way they have been in the past is foolish. Many times God will orchestrate situations in such a way as to soften the blows of painful change. Other times, however, we will be called upon to simply respond in faith-filled obedience, when there is no resemblance of the normal routine anywhere in sight, no promise of how things will be resolved or how long the transition to a new normal will take.
In the end, through the pages of scripture, I have been given three things that are of greater value than a glimpse into the immediate future:
At the end of the day, this is what has been offered to me and it is what I have to offer the world. It isn't a safe, predictable routine, it is a relationship with the One who created all of us and has a vested interest in our future. It isn't an advance warning system of difficult changes that lie ahead and it isn't a promise that life will be easy or pain-free. It is the message of the gospel and it is enough.
"Are you parenting to survive the next 20 minutes or to enjoy the next 20 years?" - Julie Richard
I heard this quote during the "Leading & Loving It" webinar this afternoon and I thought it was worth pondering and passing on. I think every parent of a toddler or young child has been guilty of "parenting to survive the next 20 minutes" at some point, if not on a regular basis! Those are difficult years, to be sure. When our son was that age, Jason and I read a book that referred to the toddler years as the "first adolescence," and encouraged us to stand our ground and make sure that we established ourselves as the consistent leaders of our home during that time. The book suggested that if we did so, the second adolescence (the teen years) would go much more smoothly. Well, the second adolescence is just about upon us, so I'll have to let you know how that plays out.
So what does parenting to enjoy the next 20 years look like? I don't have all the answers, but here are the first few things that came to my mind as I reflected on this idea:
1. Avoid overreacting.
2. Parent out of faith, not fear.
3. Choose your battles wisely.
4. Focus on character development.
5. Extend grace.
What do you think? How do you avoid survival parenting?
Yesterday my son went with his youth group to volunteer with Target:Dayton. They served a meal to the people who came in need of one. Some were homeless, others barely getting by. Timmy was in charge of the coffee.
As we drove home, after the bus dropped him back off at our local church, I asked him about his experience. These are the 3 simple things he shared with me and the profound lessons I learned from him:
1. Tim's quote: "Not everyone there "looked" homeless." Mom's lesson: Not everyone I meet today who could use my help or encouragement will "look" like they need it. That doesn't mean I should withhold it. Target:Dayton provides their services indiscriminately and lets each individual decide whether or not they need them and want to receive them. I should be so generous with my time, resources and attention.
2. Tim's quote: "I didn't know there were so many people in Dayton that were homeless. There were so many of them." Mom's lesson: The need in the world is greater than I realize or have ever actually seen with my own eyes. If I saw it all at once, it would likely overwhelm me and paralyze me. The need is great. I would be wise not to forget that.
3. Tim's quote: "There was a lady who worked there who came up to me and told me I was doing a good job." Mom's lesson: It helps to know when we are on the right track. Serving others isn't easy and when I see someone doing it well, I should tell them so. We all secretly wonder whether what we are doing is making a difference and whether we are "doing it right." Words of encouragement are precious gifts that keep the givers giving.
One bonus lesson I learned: The first time our children (or any one else for that matter) experience something, we need to pay attention to their reactions and descriptions. When we have "been there and done that," we forget the power of a first experience and the unique perspective that comes with it.
"Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?'"
This statement is part of a conversation I almost didn't have with my 11 year old son, Timothy, yesterday in the car on the way home from Wal-Mart. Once I had time to process that entire conversation and the events of that day, I knew that I would need to share it here. Some things are just too important NOT to share.
Earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy brought rain, snow, flooding, power outages, and havoc all throughout the northeastern United States. My husband, who has been gifted with a heart that longs to serve others in tangible ways, immediately sensed that he was meant to help those who were affected in some way by the flooding and devastation that the storm caused. He knew he had to go. We have been out on a limb (where God has called us to be) in so many ways, over so many years, that I didn't even bat an eye at this. Could we afford for him to go? No. Did we know how it would happen or where he would stay? No. Did that matter? No.
Jason pulled $500 out of our emergency fund, packed his duffel bag, pillow and sleeping bag, borrowed a church van (loaded with bottled water donated by church members), and I prayed over him and kissed him goodbye at 8:30am on Wednesday morning. Sometime before lunchtime that very same day, I got a phone call from someone we dearly love. He had been planning to make a donation to a disaster relief organization to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and heard that Jason was going. He asked how we were paying for the trip and I told him that God would provide. He said he was standing at his bank counter and wanted to wire money into our account to help out, and could I please give him our routing number and account number! Guess how much he gave, without me ever telling him what we needed. $500 exactly. That money, combined with the $120 that various people from Grace Baptist of Cedarville had pushed into our hands/pockets as they dropped off bottled water, will no doubt meet whatever needs come up in the days ahead as Jason offers a cup of cold water, a hot meal, the gospel of Christ, and his physical labor to those who need it most.
Wednesday afternoon, as Timothy and I were driving back from Wal-Mart, I hesitated to tell him that story. I didn't know if he was old enough to really understand the process of trusting God in that way. I didn't want to give him a false impression that you could just run out and do whatever you wanted for God and that he would throw money at you to cover the cost. Still, something in my spirit told me it was worth the risk that he might learn the "wrong lesson" in order to share what God had done and give Him glory. When I relayed the story, Timmy had the biggest smile. He said, "Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?' Then I hear stories like that and I KNOW. I KNOW HE IS REAL and I think how stupid it is to think He isn't."
I am so glad I shared that story with my son. Just in case someone who is reading this is wondering, "Is God really real?" I thought I should share it with you as well. Two questions for you today:
1. What spiritual conversation have you not had with a young person in your life because you aren't sure he/she is ready for it? May I venture to suggest you give it a try? Children and young adults are far more spiritually attuned than we give them credit for!
2. What has God done in your life lately that you need to share with someone else? I know how much that story encouraged my son, and I am hoping it encourages you as well. What stories of His goodness have you not shared with others? We need to hear them!
Hebrews 10:25 NLT "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."
Today I had the opportunity to share with subscribers of Cedarville University's ParentPrep blog about the top fears Christian parents have when sending their children off to college. Check it out and pass it on to those who may be encouraged by the message. CLICK HERE
A few days ago, my son and I went on an early morning walk to the local coffee shop. Well, I walked anyway. Timmy rode his scooter. To his credit he stayed with me most of the way, and when we reached a long stretch of smooth sidewalk, I gave him clearance to leave me behind and enjoy the ride. As I walked along by myself, I noticed that I kept passing these tiny little black insects on the sidewalk. They looked like miniature caterpillars. Every few steps I would pass one, slowly making its way across the path. I had to be careful not to step on them. In the half mile I walked, I probably passed 50 of them!
Eventually I caught up to Tim who was waiting for me at the street the coffee shop was on. We went inside and enjoyed some time together, sipping our drinks and chatting about the day ahead, and then we started the trek back home, hoping to make it back before it started to rain on us. As I walked and Tim rode his scooter, I asked him how many of those black caterpillar-y bugs he thought he had passed on the ride to the coffee shop. He had no idea what I was talking about. One by one, as we walked, I started pointing them out to him as we passed by them. "Look! There's one. And another! And Another!" He was shocked that he could have missed them. I explained to him that he was going so fast, that their movement was undetectable to him, so he probably just saw them as tiny black lines on the sidewalk, if he saw them at all. I was going slow enough that I could take notice of them, perceive their comings and goings and realize what they truly were.
Before I knew it, Timmy was off again scootering toward home. I was left thinking about how much of life I race by every single day, and what I am missing in the process.
I went to a local book sale yesterday. It was in an old high school gymnasium and there were rows and rows of folding tables covered with all kinds of books, all for $2 or less. I went SLOWLY up and down every aisle not wanting to miss a potential treasure. The stack of books I walked away with made me laugh. There is no rhyme or reason to the things that caught my attention, but I suppose that is also just part of who I am. I like a multitude of authors,a plethora of genres, a variety of musicians, and don't even try to pin me down on what my favorite color or animal is!! How can one get tied down to just one of ANYTHING?!? ... other than a spouse, of course. :)
One of the books that caught my attention was, Faith of Our Fathers, by John McCain. I brought it home (for 50 cents, no less), and started reading it last night. In the prologue, are the following quotes:
“Our family lived on the move, rooted not in a location, but in the culture of the Navy. I learned from my mother not just to take the constant disruptions in stride, but to welcome them as elements of an interesting life.”
“First made a migrant by the demands of my father’s career, in time I became self-moving, a rover by choice. In such a life, some fine things are left behind, and missed. But bad times are left behind as well. You move on, remembering the good, while the bad grows obscure in the distance.”
I had to pause after reading this section and think about the influence that John McCain's mother had on his life. The book itself, is not about her. It is about his father and his grandfather, who were both Four Star Admirals, and about McCain's own life and how he tried to live up to his impressive military heritage. Even so, his mention of this gift of perspective from his mother in the prologue speaks volumes to me about the impact we can have in shaping our children's view of the context of their lives. His father and grandfather gave him an example to strive toward and his mother gave him a proper perspective of the challenges of his military upbringing. These influences came together, by God's grace, to make John McCain into a man who, later in life as a prisoner of war, had the fortitude to refuse a dishonorable early release by his captors based on his family legacy and endure five years of torture and solitary confinement.
As parents, it is our responsibility to give our children an example to follow and an attitude to embrace. Children don't get to choose the family or the circumstances that they are born into, but they do get to choose their attitude. There were many times in John McCain's life when he resented the pressure of being the son and grandson of Navy Admirals. His mother could have commiserated with him... she, no doubt, suffered greatly as the wife of a man who was away more than he was home and who was constantly in harms way. But she didn't. She taught him that his life was "interesting," not bad, "interesting." Over time, this birthed in him an ability to see his circumstances as temporal and his chosen attitude as permanent.
As a little girl, my parents moved our family from Florida to Arizona. We moved away from every family member and friend we knew. We moved from a lovely, brick ranch home on acreage with a pond in the backyard and horses across the street to an aluminum mobile home in a trailer park in the desert. You might think that as a child, I was devastated by the change. I was not. It was an adventure! It was an adventure because my mother and father made it an adventure. I vividly remember my mother telling me about the "chandelier" hanging in the dining room of our new home in Arizona. (It was really a simple hanging light fixture, but because of my mother's excitement and description, it was a chandelier to all of us, and we couldn't wait to get to Arizona to see it.) I remember as we drove across the county line in Arizona, as we crested a hill and the town we would be living in came into view, my father said with great pride, "Look! The promised land!" It was lovely, but it was a different kind of lovely than we had ever seen before... desert instead of forests, wide open spaces, sand and bright red rock formations instead of grass and lush greenery, a man-made lake instead of the Gulf of Mexico. In that moment, and for the rest of my childhood, however, there would be no comparing it to what we had known before, it was only "the promised land."
As an adult I have moved many times and seen much of the country and I am grateful to my parents who gave me an example to live up to and an attitude to embrace, and now it is mine to pass on to my son.
Proverbs 22:6 KJV "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."
We are officially licensed foster parents. I have no idea where this road will take us. How many twists and turns, ups and downs we will encounter. I suspect tears will be involved, as well as laughter. I just read the following quote on a blog that was written by a foster mom the night she picked up their first foster baby. I want to remember it. And live by it.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!