Over these past 12 months or so, God has really changed alot about how I view my family. Once we were just on survival mode. And that was ok. It wasn't great and I desperately wanted it to change...but it was ok for that time. Having had 3 children under the age of 3 plus an auto-immune blood disorder and losing a spleen can make you go into *just* surviving believe me.
But deep down I still longed for more.
Many tear filled prayer sessions were spent between me and my Heavenly Daddy crying out to Him, asking Him to show me and Brett the way to bring up these kids. And He really has been answering our prayers in some profound ways this year and I thought I might share them here as an encouragement to any others who may be reading this and who might also be struggling in these areas.
The first thing He said was a reminder. It was something we had agreed upon and acknowledged many times together but hadn't really gotten a hold of what it meant. You know when you say or believe something but then you get a deeper revelation of what it *really* means? Well this was kind of like that. The reminder was that these children are HIS not ours. They are ours in the sense that He has entrusted them into our care and that we are to love and care and honour them but not in the way that I was taking for granted before. I guess I just kept thinking about them as being little extensions of us...not people just as they are. And yes, they are extensions of us too but they are MORE than JUST that. When we used to hit a brick wall with discipline for example, I would think, 'why can't we get them to understand this? What am I doing so wrong?' I still struggle at times with this but now I am praying, 'Father these are YOUR children. You created each one and you know their innermost beings. You know how to reach them. Please show me the best way to teach them' this truth or principle or whatever it is. He has already created them with purpose, with passions, with gifts, with ways to reach this broken and hurting world for Him. Of course they also have areas that need discipline, moulding, shaping and correcting and it IS our job to help shape, correct, discipline and mould (among other things!) in a God-reflecting way. BUT we don't do it alone. He is the One who does that work THROUGH us so it is only natural that He should lead the way :)
The second thing He said was that we are to disciple our kids. I had always thought that the words discipline and disciple seemed very close for a reason and I think it is because they go hand in hand. The difference is 'IN'. Yep just 2 tiny letters. And the idea is right there in those letters too.
See I really believe that discipline is something that we do AS WE DISCIPLE our children. It is something that is done withIN the context of a loving, caring, intimate relationship. It is so much harder to *just* discipline your kids -believe me; been there done that! Discipling is what we are called to as parents. Behaviour is important but it is NOT the only goal. Winning and shaping their hearts is. Jesus set up the most beautiful examples of what a discipling heart looks like; to His intimate friends He was their mentor, their teacher, friend and their confidante. He put Himself and His needs after theirs and was the perfect example of a servant. He spoke to where they were at and humbled himself before them. He didn't have unrealistic expectations for them but continued to challenge them in profound ways. He disciplined and rebuked them when necessary. He had compassion for them and loved them, teaching them continously about His plans and His ways using His Words. He was patient with them and gracious to them; forgiving their many transgressions time and time again. He sacrificially gave up His life for them and for us generations later who would also come to believe in Him.
See, i'm getting this picture about how I should parent my children just by seeing the example of Jesus' love for His disciples. Discipleship is not an easy road but I believe that it is the right road, for us as Christians, to be travelling on.
This year God has helped me become my children's mentor, teacher, friend and confidante. He's teaching me about how to consider their needs above my own (which is such a tough one for someone as naturally selfish as I am!) and how to serve my family in practical ways that communicate how much I love each one to them. He has been teaching me how to speak to where my kids are at, not just where I WANT them to be or where I think they SHOULD be but where they actually are. Challenging them in ways that extend themselves towards Him and His purposes in their lives is sometimes a difficult task but one that again, He can show us the way in. Having compassion on my kids, sympathising and empathising with their weaknesses has been a HUGE challenge for me. That alone has changed so much around here I think! Instead of snapping a quib back like, 'oh you're fine hop up' when one of my kids falls down, I will go and see if that child really is ok and say something more along the lines of, 'sorry honey that you fell down. That must have hurt. Are you ok?' and more often then not, I find that the incident is over and done with since they feel heard and loved and cared for. I'm sure you're not like that, but i guess with 3 littlies, I rarely took the time to see that kind of stuff since i was *just* surviving. He has also helped me be more patient with my kids (although i find this is my NUMBER 1 AREA OF STRUGGLE). Praise Him that I am a work in progress!!! In the Bible, I see Jesus being gracious with His followers time and time again and man am I glad for that example! Sometimes my kids push me and then ask for forgiveness and then 5 minutes later they are doing the same thing again! I'm sure most of you can relate to this. What a phenomenal concept Jesus shows us- to forgive and forgive and then continue to forgive. I'm not saying we be walked over as parents or anything like that, but often times, our children's levels of immaturity and rebelliousness leads to these kinds of times and what better way to show them that we love them unconditionally than by forgiving and discipling them and continuing to do it time and time again AND in grace? And again this is what I mean about the Lord changing us as parents because we SO could not do that in our own earthly strength hey. And the last part of what I shared above that i think relates to parenting is that by Jesus discipling his followers' hearts, He was winning for Himself generations to come. Psalm 145 says, 'One generation will declare your works to another. They will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty'. We are praying for generations that we may never ever see who will come after us who LOVE Him, KNOW Him as Lord and Saviour, who WALK intimately with Him in His Ways according to His Truth and who SHARE Him with others. We are not saying that they ways we are bringing our children up will guarantee this - not at all. Each person needs to make that choice themselves as to whether or not they will serve the Lord. But we DO believe in sowing and reaping as a principle aznd we also do believe that we should sow EVEN when we do NOT see fruit. In the Bible in Habbakuk, he declares, 'Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour' (chapt 3:17-18). In other words, though there is no *fruit* or *life* to be seen, though it looks like a lifeless and devestating situation, I will CHOOSE to still trust in the Lord - I will CHOOSE to look to Him still. James 3:18 says, 'Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness'. Again, our children and their children and so forth will have to make their own choices but we believe our job is to be faithful to Him and let Him do His work in their hearts.
The final thought I wanted to share this morning that He has shown me is that forgiveness is a mighty powerful force. Humbling ourselves to our kids when we raise our voices, say harsh words, berate them, humiliate or embarass them or do a myriad of other things to hurt our children, is a way that truly shows them our love. It also teaches them how to respond to others when they wrong someone. When we as parents fall short, we go to our kids and acknowledge that we have done or said the wrong thing and actually say the words, 'i'm sorry can you please forgive me?' we also finish with a great big embrace. I read once that the number one thing kids would like to change in their parents is that they are not hypocrites! No one is perfect and our kids know that so when we pretend to be....damage can be caused. Letting them know swiftly that we have done wrong, apologising for it and showing love to them has helped our relationships with our kids so greatly.
I've got other things I would love to share but must jet now. I wonder what your thoughts are. Please feel free to share them in the comments section.
AND this should go without saying but I will say it, especially for those of you who do not know me and my family in * real* life....I don't have all the answers nor do I pretend to. I just share some things that the Lord has been teaching me and trust that you will take away from it anything that is of Him to encourage you in your walk and life. And all that I say, I say in love.
God bless and more another time.