Monday, May 26, 2014

Part 2: Ages and Stages

Who Holds the Trump Card: God or Me?

My 15 year old is a talented drummer, and loves to play basketball. It has been a rule that each child must play any instrument as well as two years of piano/basic theory which I can teach them myself. As a result, this son has played the drums for almost 7 years. He has taken to beat making, composing via midi, and sound engineering in the past year. Lessons in music theory have begun, however, I sense the Lord telling me to halt drum lessons for a year.

"Say what?!"

This is a perfect example of trusting God and not trumping my wants, rules, and traditions over God’s plans for my children. As far as the drum lessons, I have wondered: Why God? But it really doesn’t matter. For me this is Proverbs 3 to a "T".

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:4-5) 
Every child is different, and as parents we learn not to “lock-in” what we decide is God’s route for them. I will graduate my third child, Maria, this month from our home school “academy”. At seventeen, she is a gifted musician and photographer with an entrepreneurial spirit. Although she took her college boards, I realized that she wanted to experience the real world instead of a college bubble immediately after high school. She will intern for a year at a local media group, work on the side, and begin her photography business: MNW Photography. I’m so proud of her.

I do know that there is a time in our children’s lives where they have to begin to “own” their future, their behavior, their desires, their faith, their education, and their talents and skills. For my children it has been sometime in their mid-teens…for some earlier, for some later. Perhaps this is that time for him when it comes to his love for music. I cannot “make” him practice forever. Maybe drum lessons was a stepstool to his passion for music composition/recording. There I go wondering again. It really doesn’t matter. I know the Voice of my Shepherd and the voice of the stranger that I will not follow. The Holy Spirit leads me into all truth. I put my faith that I am hearing God on this issue. No drum lessons next year. Okay.

I’ve always told my kids that although they have grown up with the Bible and God as a part of every day conversation, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:9) at a young age, that the time would come when they have to “own” their faith.

Our maturity as parents mirrors the quality of our own walk of faith in God. Do we really trust God? We should. He will keep them. After all He is the One who helps us learn how to train, teach, shepherd and steer them in the first place.  

Every child goes through a “wayward" faze. For some, it’s complacency with school while others deal with issues from immorality to disrespect. One of the most difficult lessons we go through as parents is walking the tightrope of protecting our kids with biblical boundaries and rules, while also allowing them to make bad choices in order to understand and accept godly consequences.  A person cannot truly live if they do not have freedom. We cannot cage our children forever. At the same time, we must have a biblical understanding of permissiveness versus godly boundaries. The ages and stages change and shift in this regard, hopefully through our own wise discernment and not the trends and philosophies of contemporary culture. We must lean on God alone to steer us in this journey.

As I write this draft, I am also making dinner. I just reminded my four year old to go potty and I’m listening to my fifteen year old go from practicing his inversions for 8 minutes to playing around with the various sounds on my electric keyboard. Years ago, this level of multi-tasking would have made my fuse short. I would have harshly reminded my son that he was supposed to be practicing his music theory. I would have been stern and critical. However, I’ve grown up a bit. Even now I’m calm, as I fix this sentence because my 2 year old just grabbed the mouse while I was typing. Oh my.

Have you ever feel like telling your kids, “Gimme a break!”

I think our kids feel the same way.    

So, rather than nagging, I’m letting my fifteen year old “play around” on the keyboard for fun, instead of practice his intervals and arpeggios. He’s done a lot of history and literature today. It was too hot at lunchtime to go outside to play basketball. He needs a break.

This moment of "play" during school hours is a good thing. I know it is stimulating his creativity, which is necessary for any  talented person.  So I am glad that I’m older and wiser. God's loving-kindness has matured me as a parent. I’m calm. 

This is my life as a parent. And it is good.

So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. (Luke 2: 48-50)

Lord, help us to understand that sometimes our children will have a better idea of what You are calling them to do, than we do. Help us yield completely to Your route for their lives, never anxious, but understanding that You, their Heavenly Parent, ordained their lives for Your pleasure, Your purpose and Your glory.

Part 3: Potty or Parent Training (To be posted mid-June)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ages and Stages Part 1

Have you ever been so exhausted that you stood at the gas pump and stared at the instructions—as if you’d never put gas in your vehicle before?  I’m raising my hand.

Have you ever had to juggle working, husband and/or children time, domestic duties, and personal time and dropped not one, but all of them? I’m raising my hand.

Have you ever been in a season as a stay at home mom where your husband worked another job or long hours? Inevitably, you would get so tired that you entertained the thought of putting the kids in bed an hour and a half early? My hand is still raised.

What about this? Do you have a teenager who will be able to get their permit within the year, or an adult child who is faithfully praying for their future spouse? I’m raising my hand.

How many times have you been asked: “What do you do for a living?” If you are a parent,  your initial unspoken answer may be, “What do I do to stay alive?!”

I LOVE my eight children (two are in heaven due to miscarriages). I know that they love me back. If someone or something would come against them….ugh, I may end up in jail. Love protects and will sacrifice life itself to do so.

But loving isn’t easy. In both marriage and parenthood we learn that love is not just a noun, it’s a verb. And a tough one to live out at times.  But the process of learning how to love well is one of the most worthwhile missions that we can undertake.

My children are 22, 20, 17, 15, 4 and 2. We have been in a constant state of transition since my firstborn graduated from our home school and began community college four years ago. 

Tomorrow, I will experience a sense of satisfaction that will be new and extremely encouraging. My firstborn will graduate from the University of Virginia. It’s a neat feeling that I’m sure every caregiver feels when they have worked hard to put a child in the best possible position for them to achieve their God-given dreams.

Sometimes I feel like I grow up more than my kids. I probably do. The birth of children reminds us how grateful we are but the stages that each child experiences, reminds us how clueless we really are.

The stages our kids go through teach the great value of taking a deep breath and counting to ten. They teach us to laugh or at least try to smirk and not grimace when right after a cup of water spills on the table, a cup of juice falls on the floor. Maybe that three year old is just not ready for a no lid cup yet. Oh well.

As much as my children mature, I do too. At 44 years old, I’m a much better person now because these six extremely wonderful treasures have shown me my inadequate humanity and convinced me that daily I need to draw from the reality of God’s unconditional, unceasing, enduring, and tangible love.  

I hope that you enjoy this multi-part blog post: “Ages and Stages”. Even now, I chuckle as my four and two year old watch their early morning “Little Einsteins” show and my oldest gets dressed to go to the Valedictory Exercises at UVa with her dad.  I never would have planned for a 20 year gap between kids. But my God knew exactly what He was doing. He was saying, “Tina, study Me and how I have parented you. Then you will know how to parent generations of kids.”

"Okay, Daddy. I will."

Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Matthew 5:41

Today, I pray that you will take God’s hand and arise out of whatever situation is stealing the abundant life that He desires for you. Our Father in heaven knows what you need and He will provide. 

End of Part 1

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My current multi-part blog post-in-progress is becoming more about the stages we go through as parents versus the stages our kids go through. I think we may grow up more than they do! Stay tuned.