Training in Righteousness
Other places I blog



web stats

Find Me On Twitter

Entries in Parenting (69)


Two things I know for sure

There is a courtship/dating theme a-buzz on the interwebs again. Oh, how I remember those days when it was my teens, and I was reading and thinking about this. I read just about everything on the subject, was too sure of myself in most things, and likely more opinionated that I ought to have been.

The matter is complicated because how we guide our children is influenced by our family situation/dynamics. The truth of the matter is that what works for one person doesn't for another. There are still a lot of questions about the matter, and there are a lot of things unanswered. 

But I do know two things from watching it up close and personal. 

First, if the goal of the dating/courtship scenario we adopt for our families is based on a desire to avoid our own bad dating past, we have the wrong motives. This is not about us; it's about guiding our children. And it begins with being made in God's image, and how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to deal with each child as an individual while at the same time upholding biblical principles in each situation. This isn't about how we can make up for our own mistakes.

Second, whether you call it dating or courtship, if your children have a relationship that becomes too serious for their maturity level, and it ends, it will quite possibly be devastating. It will feel very much like a divorce. And it will affect your entire family, especially if that special person became like one of your own.

My young adult children have expressed the opinion that especially in church youth groups, boys and girls are not taught to be friends. Once they are into puberty, the warnings begin, and it is almost like the are instructed to be wary of the opposite sex. There is more worry about what can go wrong than developing friendships. I think they may be on to something.

For an excellent book on the matter of dating and relationships, check out Sex, Dating, and Relationships. I wish it had been around when my kids were teens.


Share in the joy

Recently, my son shared with me what he's been doing at his summer job. He's an intern at the church he attends. He absolutely loves this job, and I am so thankful to hear the joy in his voice when he talks about it. I'm thankful to hear him say it's the best job he ever had. It's even more sweet because over the past year, I've watched my son go through the biggest trial of his young life.

There was little I could do for him other than pray. He had to walk through the trial to reach the end of it. I know it was hard. I know he struggled. I had to be careful how much I asked because he's a big boy, and he doesn't need his mommy hovering. At the same time, I didn't want to appear like I didn't care and wasn't sensitive to his grief. I wanted so much to relieve the pain and sorrow. Even though I knew his grief would leave scars of a good kind, I wished things were easier. I wanted hugs and home cooking to be enough, but he needed more than that. He needed the grace and love of his Saviour. It is always hard to see our children as anything else other than the wee ones we cuddled and cared for; it was harder over this past year, because I could see a pain I could do nothing about.

But God was faithful, and I knew he would be. I prayed that my son would see it, and he did. Seeing that he has turned a corner toward healing is a gift. As mothers, we pray for these moments; these moments when our children see the faithfulness of God in their own lives. Those moments make up for those nights when we lay awake, hoping and praying they will be okay.

It was my privilege over this past year to share the burdens of my son, and to weep with him. And now the darkness is dissipating, and the the sun is out. Now, I have the blessing of sharing in his abundant joy.

Of course there will be other trials. I have three children, after all, and I don't know, nor do they, what's coming. But for the moment, I will revel in this joy of knowing that my child has learned a lesson, straight from the hand of God and into his heart. He has learned that it was good for him to be afflicted, that he would know God's statues. (Ps. 119:71)


Ghosts in the grocery store

Yesterday, I ran into the mother of one of our kids' friends. It's been about nine years since I met her, and for a while, she and her family were part of our lives, especially her son. He was such a kind, sensitive boy, and he could make us laugh.

Seeing her, catching up with how her kids are and filling her in on mine, drew my thoughts back to those days. They were good days. But during those crazy days with our teens home and other teens frequently in and out of our home, I dropped the ball. I was a little more invested at times in the lives of other kids, to the detriment of my own. It's tempting; our kids don't think we're all that cool, but other teens do. And that can be a heady experience. And it can be one's downfall, because sometimes, if you're not watching you miss things. 

As I drove home, thinking about my conversation with my friend, some of the many mistakes I made replayed in my head. There were quite a few on that seven minute car ride. At the wheel of the car, I cringed inwardly at them. How could I have been so foolish? I learned a lot though that trial, but I still wish I could erase many things.

When we feel the weight of sin, there are really only two choices: to seek forgiveness or ignore it. Ignoring it isn't good at all. The Psalmist, in Psalm 32 explains how he felt when he did not address his sin:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. (v.3-4)

Sin interferes with our fellowship with God. Sometimes, the Spirit will prompt us about our sin, and we won't acknowledge it, but the guilt is still there. The conviction of the Lord will feel heavy to us. That moment when we realize we're guilty can leave us reeling. And even after we have sought forgiveness, we may still feel the burden of knowing that sin always, always has consequences.

Psalm 103 has words to answer the feeling of wasting away:

He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (v. 9-12)

I am so thakful that God did not deal with me according to my sin. And even as that chance meeting dredged up some unhappy and shame-filled moments, I praised God for His forgivness. We must not take for granted His forgiveness, and sin with abandon. Sometimes, we don't feel the weight of sin so hard, and we're like David, when he was rebuked by the prophet Nathan. We may need someone to give us a wake-up call, and those wake-up calls can be pretty sobering.

I will admit to feeling a little blue after meeting up with my friend. But I didn't stay there. I rejoiced in God's forgiveness. It is a precious thing to us, day by day as we walk in faith.


Praying for young dads

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit with a friend for a couple of hours. During our visit, she filled me in on what her son is doing. I always liked him; such an easy-going, kind young man.

He's now married with children. His wife recently delivered a baby. As my friend talked about the new baby, she shared with me some concerns about her son. She was concerned about the extra domestic responsibilties he's taking on at the same time as he is taking on more work responsibilities. She is worried about how he handles the stress. She seemed almost reluctant to mention it. She observed quite accurately that it isn't really popular to suggest that men have a hard time at anything these days, even in Christian circles.

While it regularly grieves me to hear how some men treat their wives and families, I also know some young people whose mothers did things that would curl your toes. Sin affects both moms and dads. And I understood my friend's concern for her son. Even though we may not think they do, fathers battle stress and anxiety, too. And the weight of the physical and spiritual care of their families is very real. 

My husband was always great at taking over things with the kids during those years when we were in the thick of parenting small children. Even if he had perhaps struggled with a bad day at work, he was seldom grumpy when I would unceremoniously thrust a crying baby at him when he walked in the door and had barely removed his tie. My husband does not get anxious, and I think over the years, I may have taken advantage of that. I think I should have made more effort to give him a break on the weekend, rather than staying out all afternoon with the girls, poking around in the fabric store. He really didn't complain, but I should have thought about it. That's how love is demonstrated: we put someone else first.

I have two sons, and as I contemplate them with wives and children some day, in addition to praying for them regularly to be able to deal with the serious responsibility of being a father and husband, I'm going to encourage my husband to regularly talk to them and encourage them in that pursuit. How often do young men get that kind of encouragement? Where is the book entitled, "Help for Overwhelmed Dads?" I know there is attention to life in the workforce, but what about coping regularly with the reality of having lives dependent upon you? 

Stress is real for fathers. A man has to work at a job he hates but can't quit because the four other people at home must eat tomorrow. A father cannot finish his education because supporting a family and paying tuition is cost prohibitive. A father is unemployed, and every day, he feels the weight of it. Add to this the care of his children and loving his wife. Yes, fathers have stress, too. I have personally seen that unemployment can make a young man feel trapped and isolated, sort of like being confined to the house with sick toddlers for days on end.

Like my friend observed, it isn't popular to say that men have it bad at all. I don't believe for one minute that it is necessary or wise to compare who has a more difficult job, a husband or a wife. We each have our tasks, our vocations, and God equips us to do them. That doesn't mean they are trouble free. Instead of comparing who has it worse, we should be praying for servants' hearts. And the sad reality is that it is still more acceptable for a woman to share the details of how stressful her life is, while men are supposed to be quiet about it. Let us remember that the Scriptural exhortations to avoid complaining are directed to both men and women.

Today, I am more adept at recognizing when my husband is stressed out. I'm thankfulf for that. I wish I had been better when the kids were younger, but as always, he doesn't look back and complain about it.


A mother by any other name

Here are some post-Mother's Day thoughts, for what they are worth.

In recent days, I have seen articles pondering the question of what to call homemaking and motherhood. Is motherhood a job? Is being a homemaker a "profession" like others? Is it a "choice?" It's a complex issue, one not really answerable in a short blog post.

I can't honestly say I thought a lot about those questions when I was a young mother. Life was too busy. The task seemed painfully obvious: I had children who needed me, and I cared for them. I had a husband, a home, a local church to serve in, and was studying for my degree part-time. What did it matter what it was called? Would being called a "domestic engineer" have made a night with an asthmatic child shorter? If I found being called a "housewife" objectionable, would I have packed it all in and quit? No, the name didn't seem all that important. The only time I really pondered it was when my Seventeenth Century European History professor suggested kids were better off having a mother who worked rather than one who was like me, dependent upon a husband's income, and a general drain on society. I never liked that class, anyway.

Now that I am older, I have had time to think about such things. Perhaps it was good that I didn't try to define it when I was younger.

Motherhood is a vocation. If you are unfamiliar with that term, do check out Rebecca's definition. In a nutshell, God gives us work to do. Whether it's working as a nurse, sweeping a floor, or fixing broken appliances, God gives us vocations to serve other people, and through which we bring honour and glory to Him. God gives us the vocation of motherhood. If you have a child today, regardless if whether or not you "felt" called to be one, you have been called to be a mother. The evidence of that vocation is the child (or children) you have. Now, work in that vocation to the honour and glory of God. Whether you call yourself a "domestic engineer" or have no problem saying you are a "housewife," your vocation is clear. This, of course, does not rule out balancing more than one vocation, including a job outside the home. But neither vocation is more sanctified than the other. The point is to work at whatever vocation God gives us for His glory and not our own.

My vocation has been in my home for 25 years now, and while it has evolved with the change in my circumstances, my task is still before me, and I'm still going to do the work before me as to the Lord. If I go into my vocation for the purpose of gaining the affirmation of other individuals rather than to serve God, I'm going about it all wrong. I suspect that many of these terms we conjure up are less about the work at hand and more about the need to gain acceptance from others.

Whatever we call ourselves, our primary "name" is Child of God. Whatever vocation we are in, or how they change over time, we will always be God's children. That is a name I can embrace with all certainty.