Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Parenting Aptitude

Before I became a parent, I had a great vision. My children would be respectful, obedient, kind, loving, diligent in their work, and helpful around the house. They would love God and love serving others. Quite simply, they would be perfect and I would make sure of that by training them in the way they should go, so that when they were older they wouldn't depart from it. Okay, you can stop laughing or smirking now. I had them (the children) and it didn't turn out quite like I hoped.

If I were to try to tell you all the many ways that I have failed as a parent, I'm sure you could relate. However, the wonderful thing about failing and about falling flat on your face with your plan in hand is that you learn the biggest parenting lesson of all: humility.

It was my first "failures" that lowered my view of the perfect parenting plan. I began to realize that a schedule and feeding plan were not going to guarantee a happy baby after all. My mind was opened to the possibility that there might be more than one correct methodology to raise my child. I began to view other new parents with more sympathy. I didn't know it all and I could learn.

Over the years God has seen fit to keep me fresh and up to date on humility.

There was letting go of homeschool for a time and knowing that God is able to teach my children what they need most whether they are in public school, private school, or homeschool. I have no idea what my kids will face in the future while He knows exactly.

There was getting counseling (not that there is anything wrong with that!)  As long as it is someone, you know, who really needs it. But, not me, because it seems to imply that something might be wrong with me. Yes, another dose of that humility please.

The latest of my parenting failures has been potty training. Isn't that funny? You can't even imagine how FUNNY it is. Pee here and poop there; I am just laughing all the time.

My older children trained easily shortly after they were two years of age and it was pretty much done in a few days. Really. Now, I don't think I ever said it out loud, but God knew the thoughts of my heart: "Seriously, why would anyone wait until their children are three to potty train? Any normally developing child should be trained between 18 and 28 months. It's not that hard." hahahahaha. So, now I have this wonderful three year old who is still not potty trained. I approached the training just the same as with my older ones, but alas, God had another big slice of humble pie for me.

Now, can I tell you the very best thing about all of this humility that God keeps sending my way? He does it because He loves me. He sees my in my foolish, arrogant, and self-righteous ways and He knows that I need Him. And when I am so "strong" or sure of myself, God is of no use to me. I am not going to be calling on Him, realizing my need, and crying out for His help. He cannot truly touch my soul until I come to the end of myself and admit my need. Humility does that. It brings me low so that I can see clearly. And when I can see how hopeless and helpless and feeble I am, then I am ready for grace. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And He pours it out freely.

Many of my parenting goals are the same as before: I am still training them towards loving and serving God. But, how I view my role is very different. I can't break the sin mold that is in them; I can't force them to choose rightly. Jesus alone breaks the power of sin and replaces that heart of stone with a heart of flesh.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Epic Fail

I hear that recording again. It's the one in my head that says, "You are not doing a good job at ______", or "You've really got to start doing_____", or "When are you going to get a grip on _____". And when the message is finished, someone hits the repeat button as if I want to hear that again!

All of these messages carrying the same meaning: Epic Fail (in the language of my teenage daughter). I am falling short. I can't measure up. I've gotta get serious about whatever. It is enough to drive this mommy insane.

And drive me insane it does. I find myself feeling anxious, angry, rushed, pushed, crabby, short-tempered, on edge. Then I try a little harder. I make a new plan. I come up with some ways to conquer the world--at least, just my little world. And guess what? IT DOESN"T WORK! I am only repeating the cycle on a different level.

On these days even my prayers burden me down. "Lord, I'm sorry, I failed at that again," "Lord, I'm sorry I'm not doing a very good job at this parenting thing." "Father, will you help me to be a better mom, a more patient wife, a more gentle person, a kinder neighbor, etc.?" No surprise that a prayer life would dry up under those conditions.

Finally, I just say to God, "Father, I want to live for you. But I am struggling in every area. I am struggling just to talk to you. If I could just see Your face, if I could just look into Your eyes and see Your grace there. I need You."

And then I hear Him so clearly, not audibly, but clearly just the same: "Karen," He says as He looks into my eyes, "I want you to know that I have never been disappointed in you." Tears well in my eyes as His grace pours over me.

"Never?", I ask.

"Never." He says. And the burden falls away. I don't have to try harder, do better, be more. I only have to come to Him. He will give me rest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.