A few months ago I took a very scientific approach to finding out what parents were hoping to instill in their children….you know….I asked on Facebook. I got a variety of answers. Some were hoping for their child to have a love of learning, to be successful, to work hard. I spent a lot of time thinking about what my hopes are for my kids and I found myself floating between things that the world says are great and things that are Spirit-filled. I hope for my children to be financially stable, for them to fall in love and stay in love. I hope for them to find something that they love to do as a career. I hope they will take care of me in my old age (wink). I hope they are successful. We spend a lot of time instilling these concepts in our kids. We work on our letter and numbers. They have chores they need to complete. We try different sports and activities to see what they will be good at, but when I really slow down and think about the things that will make me the most proud of them, it isn’t their success at a sport or in a career. It isn’t their ability to find and hold down a steady job. It isn’t even that they will be “happy.” It’s more important than the stuff that comes from a “good life.”
I really want them to be good people. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruits of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Ever since I memorized these as a child, I have always thought of the fruits of the spirit as what should come out of you if you are full of Jesus. Some of these I feel like we work on with our kids on the regular. Concepts like patience are constantly coming up in our home. “Be patient with her, she’s grumpy in the morning.” We love well and we laugh hard. We even talk about kindness and what it means to be kind with our words and actions. I think that some of the more counter-cultural concepts are faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Our culture doesn’t love these concepts. We constantly hear about marriages breaking up due to unfaithfulness. We praise aggressiveness in sports and winning at all cost in business. We are bombarded by marketing that encourages us to buy now, eat now, drink now. I think its hard to raise gentle kids who don’t get walked all over. I think it’s hard to raise kids with self control and patience when so much around them is about instant gratification.
Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t try. Perhaps we could raise a kinder and gentler generation. My hope for them is that they love others the way Jesus did, holding nothing back. My prayer for them is that they put others before themselves and take care of others recklessly. I’m going to look for these fruits in my kids this week and put just as much energy into encouraging and pointing out their success in these areas as I do when they write their names with no backward letters.
This week I cut my daughters hair, stitched up a hole in her special blankie she has loved well since she was a baby and prepared clothes for a consignment sale. In short, there has been a lot of cry this week. It is so true that the days are long but the years are short. As I think about our oldest heading off to Kindergarten I’m filled with anxiety. Is she prepared academically? Have we done what we need to do to prepare her? I’m also filled with sadness over how fast these baby/preschool years have gone. As I’m filled with anxiety and sadness she is overwhelmed with excitement. She is curious about what school will be like. She can’t wait to ride a school bus. She is anticipating all the new friends she will make and all the cool things she will learn.
Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
The older I get the harder it is to embrace this idea. Change is frightening but knowing that we don’t have to go it alone is comforting. So as I cry over her curls, patch her blankies and stare at clothes that can’t possibly be too small for my baby girl, she is ready to attack these new experiences. God, please give me half her courage to not only weather changes in my future but to embrace them.
I find myself all the time saying, “When we get there?” or “When this happens?” When the boys are potty trained life will be so much easier. When the kids are in school, things will settle down (don’t worry, all my mom friends with older kids have set me straight on that lie I have been telling myself). When we move or when we have the money…
Recently, a guest preacher spoke about Exodus and Moses’ journey through the desert. He spoke about how we all have a desert of sorts to cross. This could be a lay off at work, a delay in our plans to grow our family or a death in our close personal circle. He spoke eloquently about his own personal deserts. He even used visual aids. Each week he had a jumbo pad of paper and a black marker and he would make a diagram of the journey that Moses was on and how it was not dissimilar to the one we are on too.
I’m pretty sure he wanted us to leave encouraged. If Moses, who killed a guy, can be used by God then so can you. Journey on to your Promise Land. Trust God. March forward good and faithful servant. And don’t get me wrong, I got all those things but the thing I noticed the most about his talk were his visual aids. Every single diagram he drew was a circle. First this happens then this happens then you come back to here.
Hold up preacher man! You’re telling me my life is not a straight line or even a curvy line headed in a distinct direction but a circle. I’m out. Next. Bring in the next guy. Kidding. Kind of.
So often I find myself focusing so fully on the destination. When we get completely out of debt we will be superheroes! When the kids get bigger we will be able to take amazing vacations! When I lose weight I’ll be happier! When my house is clean my friends will think I have it all together!
What if life is not a straight line headed to a destination? What if it’s a cycle of closeness to God, hardship and renewal? What if it’s caring deeply for someone, being hurt, crying and then caring deeply for someone again? What if its teaching our kids by example, failing, talking through the failure and then teaching our kids by example again? In lieu of viewing this as a hamster wheel, how freeing is it that all we have to do is our best in this moment? Tomorrow we may fail but today all we have to do is try. Regardless of the desert we are crossing there will be a promise land coming up next that will renew us before we hit our next desert. The things that are most important to me are things that never come to an end until I come to an end: loving others deeply, parenting my kids, serving others in a way that Jesus would have enjoyed.
No destination to race toward. No deadline to hit. Just beautiful circles.
After a recommendation from a friend, and a free movie channel weekend, I watched Moms Night Out. It’s a comedy about a group of three mom friends who are stressed to the max and in desperate need of a childless girls night out. Long story short, everything that could go wrong does and during their crazy night they end up in a tattoo shop getting advice from a heavily tattoed biker named Bones.
As one of the women is mourning her night gone wrong and her failures as a mom Bones drops this wisdom. “It’s beautiful to watch one of God’s creations just doing what it was made to do. Ya’ll spend so much time beating yourselves up. I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mom he did.”
Huh…..roll that one around in your doubt filled, anxiety ridden and critical head for a few minutes.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.