Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grace...the Miracle Drug for Kids

I am motivated by guilt most days. I am praying for God to reveal to me the power of His grace in place of my guilt.

Instead of focusing on enjoying a lazy afternoon playing cars with my son, I sometimes feel like I have to recite the ABC's, have him brush his teeth, count to 20 with flashcards, and go over vocabulary with him until I am blue in the face. And the biggest problem is, I can tell he is frustrated from my rapid fire speed teaching method.

My whole life I have done everything rapid-fire. Its the way I am wired. 

The truth is that I can't do it. I can't do this parenting thing perfectly. My kid will excel at some things- maybe race car driving or demolition (his two favorite activities right now and he'll be 2 in 8 days) but me trying to be his educator, his disciplinarian, his friend, his pastor, his entertainment director, and his mother is all very overwhelming.

The most overwhelming aspect among them all- my missional purpose. I am the one to tell him about the Gospel- the first one. He will see me either living it or denying it by my actions on a daily basis. Wow. Talk about a test of my faith.

If I can share a secret with you- I've never led anyone to Christ. I remember I told a friend of mine in church that fact nearly 10 years ago and he looked at me like I had just kicked a litter of puppies. But since then, I feel like I have come to an understanding of God's design. Especially the design of his church and of his flock.

I am constantly reminded of the verse in 1 Corinthians 3: 6-9, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 

I love to serve and be hospitable. I love making friends with people from all walks of life- namely unbelievers (or if I can call them something less negative- truth seekers), and loving them, listening to them, and never judging them. They know I am a Christian but, I don't force it on them. But those seeds I plant? I  haven't done the reaping of those seeds. However, God assures me that I play an important role in his field. So I believe him. 

But this is one life I am leading to Christ. On a daily basis.

Its hard (and in our works based nature) not to try and keep up in a law culture. We are told there is a formula: plug in the right amount of discipline, creativity, play dates, and socialization to make them successful adults. However, to me- I already know what kind of adult my 2 year old son is going to be. Sinful. This means that I have to approach teaching him about life from a place that puts God in the middle of it. 

On one particularly hard day- meltdowns were aplenty I believe God led me to a verse in Isaiah.  Chapter 54, verse 13 says- All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. 

My children, when we have more, can only be taught by God. Which means that I need to be plugged in to Him too. But I can't simply try to get them to act like Christians. I need to give them the foundation to know what it means to live by grace and to show that grace to them. I still have a long ways to go.

However, I am ordering Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick soon just to help give me some practical pointers on how to implement this. I know it begins in my heart.

My heart is bent towards perfectionism- and behavior modification. I stumbled across some journals today  that I wrote when I was a young teenager. Every page was splattered with ways I had let God down. Dozens of entries on how I was a horrible person, and I knew I needed to get it together. I was preaching moralism not grace. Somewhere along the way I bought into the lie that I was capable of being anything but a fallen person.

I know now, I will never have it all together. And instead I want grace to permeate my life. I am working on leaving legalism in the past and focusing on the good gifts God has given me- namely and primarily, grace. At a woman's conference a few weekends ago, Jan Quick was speaking on parenting. She said it best, "We don't have perfect kids but we serve a perfect Father." I want this fact to be real in my life, not just some saying that I hang on the wall behind my toilet. 

If you are looking for a miracle drug to make your children better behaved, keep on looking. If you are looking for the only miracle that can better your children? Look to the cross. 

Still learning by grace,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our First Trip to the ER and Other Highlights

I don't want to be yet another mom that waxes poetic about the hardships of raising a child. And so I won't be.

Instead, I shall be a mom that talks about how immature I am as an adult and how my nearly-two toddler makes that very apparent to me on a daily basis.

 I have always wanted to be a mom. Well, let me rephrase that in light of what I know now. I have always wanted to be a mom in the way that you hope to run a marathon someday but really have no idea how much training and commitment it fully requires.

Decorating the nursery and picking out baby names was about as involved that I had ever been in child rearing before Mr.J busted onto the scene. I, myself, was the baby of my little family and was not one to ever apply for a babysitting license- I didn't particular warm to children even as a tween. However, my mother always said, "Its different when its yours."

She was right.

The difference she speaks of doesn't make it easier when your little tornado is shoving a spoon full of peanut butter into your laptop's USB connection- but it does make it manageable and miraculous all at once. I find myself saying in moments like that, "Oh look how creative he is. We have a real Picaso-meets-impressionist here, don't we? Genius."

The truth is that we all make up excuses for our children- good ones and bad ones. While we discipline the best we know how and give them a moral code and hopefully a great example of Christian living, they are ours. Which means they aren't perfect. Drat.

Every child have our genetics and our sins in addition to their own gifts and their own ghosts. However, they have an entirely different centigrade of genes and ingenuous that we can't begin to understand and ever hope to take credit for. And because of this, we see all of the little splintered hopes of our childhood turned into adulthood, and we want to give them everything we had or didn't have.

My son had his first trip to the ER at 20 months of age (just two days ago). While this is something that high-energy-kids are prone towards- and you know its coming if you are a parent of a Tasmanian devil incarnate- you are still never fully prepared. This was proven true when I found myself screaming at my mother while holding my son's bloodied hand in a dirty dish rag. Oh, how awful I am in moments of panic. He slammed his little finger in a drawer. That was all.

No knife juggling to be seen, no dare-devil leaps from the top of the slide, no trying to balance himself on the back of the couch. Instead of these moments which could have prepared me for such a horrific injury- I was blindsided. He nearly took the tip of his left index finger off, and while it could have been soooo much worse, his moment came from the unexpected. Just like everything else thus far in parenthood. 

After taking my son to the ER I limped back into our vacation condo with frazzled nerves like the end of a severed electrical wire. I climbed into bed with a glass of wine in hand and a shirt covered in blood.

With the acid still unsettled in my stomach, it is in moments like those that we discover how deep a parent's love goes. While silent and not-so-silent prayers were uttered from my lips as my son went from hysterical to hyperventilation- from the waiting room to the discharge counter- I hoped to take the pain on myself. I couldn't. I wanted to make it go away. I had no way of doing that. Take the tippy-tip of my finger instead, Lord.

And yet, there it was still intact. Still functional. So why did everything inside of me hurt so bad?

Going through this for the first time led me to God. And of course, this led me to Jesus. Mary had to watch her son be mutilated beyond recognition. And I couldn't even stand to watch my son get 3 stitches. I don't know why God made the world so full of thorn-covered roses. Why can't there just be beauty without the ugliness? I don't know. That's what makes me the child of God instead of the parent I guess.

True love in this world is only fully bloomed when pain is present. Labor and birth is the perfect example.

Regardless of spiritual awakenings found only in hospitals amid fear and loathing, I am hoping we won't have to go through something like this anytime again soon.

So what am I learning today?

I am learning to be patient in the process of pain. I am learning that the combination of relaxation/vacation/children is not possible. Oh well, I can relax in 18 years, right? Oh wait, how old do kids have to be to get a motorcycle license? Cripes.