“A Cruel Kindergarchy”

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I’ve been thinking about this lately – from the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung.

Diagnosis #4: You Need To Stop Freaking Out About Your Kids

He writes, “We live in an age when the future happiness and success of our children trumps all other concerns.”  Thus the term Kindergarchy – rule by children.

“Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be.  It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives… Now, it’s much more involved.  There are so many rules and expectations.  Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism, not just in the church but in our culture.”

“As nanny parents living in a nanny state, we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable.  Both assumptions are mistaken.  It’s harder to ruin our kids than we think, and harder to stamp them for success that we’d like.  Christian parents in particular often operate with an implicit determinism.  We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children.”

“One of the best things we can do for our kids is to find a way to stop being so frantic and frazzled… We must make parental sanity a higher priority.”

Right.  No more parental craziness.  The end of the cruel kindergarchy – no more rule by the children.  Relax.  Now, how do we do that?!

Evil Sons

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These verses terrify me:

“And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.  At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end.  For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them.” 1 Samuel 3:11-13

“When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba.  But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” 1 Samuel 8:1-3

Eli and Samuel were leaders – priests, prophets, judges.  Samuel in particular is heralded as one of Israel’s greatest leaders – he oversaw the transition from a tribal federation to a kingdom during a period of war, laid out the rules for how the kingdom was to be governed, anointed Israel’s first two kings, and then deposed King Saul when he was disobedient.

Yet – and it’s such a big yet – his sons did not follow the ways of God.

Terrifying really.

Such realities push me to pray more, love more, teach and rebuke and train more… But each must stand before God to give an accounting on his own, without his Momma in the background pleading for him.

Please dear God, continue to call my children to follow after you with all their hearts.

A Reward for the Baggage-Keepers

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“The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.  David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.” I Samuel 30:24-25

I made a passing joke about this verse last week, while several of us moms kept everyone’s backpacks and clothing while they were out running a race.  We all laughed, but the importance of the principle remains.

In the body of Christ, in the family, in the workplace, and in our social circles – we are all different.  We have different skills and abilities, different passions, different job descriptions, different personalities, different histories and experiences.  Nevertheless, we are all valuable.  Important.  Worthy.  Each of us bring something different, but equally valuable, to serve in the Kingdom of God.  And, according to the Bible, we share equally in the rewards when they come.

The Screwtape Letters, and one for Moms

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Up next on the Thirsty Girls Book Club list, an old-time classic:  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.Screwtape

Yes, it was written in 1950’s era English and yes, it’s an interesting format that might take a bit of head-scratching to put it all together… but it is one of the most interesting religious satire books we’ve ever discovered.

Reviewers write, “A milestone in the history of popular theology, The Screwtape Letters is an iconic classic on spiritual warfare and the dynamics of temptation.” “At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written. 

As I’m introducing our group to the imaginary dialogue between demons plotting the fall of a young believer, I was delighted to discover this blog article last week.  It is written in the same style as The Screwtape Letters, but addressed to a young Mom.  Read it once and laugh.  Read it a second time and take notes regarding the plot and tactics of the enemy in his efforts to discourage this young lady.  It is excellent!

http://www.organizinglifewithlittles.com/2014/01/26/for-the-unappreciated-mom/

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – An Important Book

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Two snow days in north Florida gave me time to catch up on my reading. wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is an important book.  Read it.  Have your kids read it (5th grade and up).  If I was a middle school teacher I’d have my students read it too.

It is a fictional story of a young boy that touches on significant and enduring themes:  Kindness.  Courage.  Friendship.  Peer pressure.  Bullying.  Internal character versus external appearances.  Forgiveness and reconciliation. Parenting.  And others.

“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place.  And if you do this… someone, somewhere may recognize in you the face of God.”

I cannot wait for Book Club night to discuss it!

Phases of Parenting

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Imagine dividing up parenting into phases.  Andy Stanley* has suggested this breakdown:

Ages 1-5  Discipline

Ages 5-12 Training

Ages 12-18 Coaching

Ages 18+ Friendship

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks.  I have a 12-year-old middle schooler.  It’s crazy how suddenly she “grew up”.  It’s clearly a new phase of parenting.  We are shifting from “Mom decides” to “You decide with the help and influence of Mom”.  And on what basis is she making decisions?  On the basis of all the training I have provided (or not provided!) in the last 10 years.  Eeeekk.

Here are a few other bits of wisdom for the coaching years:

– If you fail to discipline and train your kids when they are young, then it’s too late.  You cannot suddenly add discipline when they are teenagers.  Doing so provokes rebellion and communication breakdown.

– You cannot “be friends” with your middle schooler.  You are the coach.  Coach is not the same as friend.

– “Don’t freak out.”  This is your mantra as long as you have teens in your house.  Don’t freak out.  Be calm.  If you freak out they will stop talking to you.  Don’t shut down the communication.  Leave them open to coaching.

– Say “Oh no, that’s terrible!  What are we going to do about that?”  See how you can use your words to communicate that you understand the drama and that you are on their side?  Then let them work out a solution.  Practice encouraging from the sidelines, not charging out into the middle of the field to sort things out.

– Remember that the most important things are not the urgent things.  (True for much of life!)  Do not allow seemingly urgent issues and activities replace the important things…

– Sometimes you say “no” to good things (sports, ministry, whatever) in order to invest more in your kids and have time with them.

– Don’t lie.  Don’t let them lie either.

– Teach them to honor their mother.

– Let them fail when the stakes are low.

– Help them see how their faith intersects three important things: 1. Decision making, 2. Relationships, and 3. School.  You can do this partly by talking all the time, everywhere, in a natural fashion about how your faith affects your thinking processes too.

– And finally remember that “Later is Longer”.  You have only a few short years of parenting, but you will be friends with your kids for 60 or more years.  Make the hard decisions now.  It’s ok to cry for a night.  Later is longer.  Always.

*Our Wednesday night dinner/small group has really enjoyed Andy Stanley’s “Future Family” series.  Session 5 he co-taught with his wife and they discussed parenting. http://www.northpoint.org/messages/future-family

On Brain Surgery and Other Dramas

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12 years old.  Kinda young for brain surgery, really.  One of my best friend’s daughters is having brain surgery tomorrow, December 4th.  Here she is – with her surgeon Dr. Ben Carson at Johns Hopkins today as they get ready for tomorrow… (Rare case of pediatric trigimenal neuralgia, if you must know.)

It’s exhausting to think about.  Overwhelming.  Actually, for them, I think it’s been all that and a whole lot more for the last 4-5 months of trying to figure out what is wrong with KT Rose and how to go about fixing it.  I really cannot relate.  It’s hard to have empathy for a situation that is so far from what most of us ever have to endure.

As I thought about KT Rose and her brave-by-necessity parents… I am not sure what to say.

Yet I do have one story to tell.  This incident was one of the biggest dramas I have faced as a Mom… but it pales in comparison to brain surgery.

Yet the truths remain.

My son Mark had his tonsills out when he was 6 years old.  We were living in Germany and the German hospital sent us home on the 7th day.  In the middle of that night, our first night home, he ruptured something deep in his throat.  There was blood was everywhere – it was like a scene from a horror movie that I couldn’t make stop. I had to call a German ambulance and send him back to the hospital, the one we’d left only 12 hours ago, with my husband for emergency surgery to stop the bleeding.

The adrenalin rush of the crisis was absolutely exhausting, and we’d already had a week in the hospital… I didn’t know at the time that it would be two more weeks until we would finally be free, sent home to rest and heal and make new blood on our own time.

The ambulance left our house with Mark and my husband around 2 AM and then suddenly it was just eerie and silent.

I paced the hallways.

There was no way I could sleep, so I cleaned up all the messes in the house.  I prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.

Ross called around 5 AM to say the surgery was over and Mark had been moved into the recovery room.

I watched the sunrise around 6 AM and drifted off to sleep finally.

I had a dream, but really it was more like a vision as the details were so clear and it was just a picture… not moving pieces.  I saw myself, curled up in the fetal position, in the palm of God’s hand.  Of course.  The meaning was so clear.  I was in His hand… just curled up, exhausted.  Resting.  He had it all under control.  I could relax.  Sleep.  Let go.  So I slept finally.

(It was another two years before something odd occurred to me.  Why was it me in His hand, and not Mark?  Shouldn’t He have been confirming that Mark was in His hand?  But no, what God really wanted to say was that I was in His hand.  Apparently that’s what I needed most, was to know that He was cradling me.  Comforting.  Protecting.  Controlling.)

I slept the sleep of the dead, the exhausted.

For one hour.

At 7 AM my phone rang.  It was Christa, one of my closest friends in Stuttgart.  She was the one had been picking up my daughter from school all week, feeding her dinner, and keeping her busy until my husband and I changed shifts at the hospital every night.

“What in the world is going on?!” she asked.  “I have been awake since 2 AM – praying for you.  Now tell me what’s happening.”

God woke her up to pray for Mark and our family.

When I most needed help, I couldn’t do anything about it, but God could.

I still don’t understand how prayer works in the economy of God but I do know this – He is in control.  Of everything.  Including waking up your friends to pray for you.

How awesome it is to serve a God like that!

Love, hugs, and prayers to KT Rose.  Mom and Dad, rest in peace.  You are in the palm of His hand.

Sleep as best you can.  Some of us may be up praying for you.