Permission to Parent

This evening I read a fantastic blog post that is doing ‘the rounds’ at the moment.    Written by Steve Wiens, who happens to be a husband, Dad, pastor and runner, this blog post speaks to parents of small children in a very real and honest way, tinged with a good dose of humour.

I bet Pastor Steve was not expecting this post to create quite the stir it has.  But it has.  Not sure how many tweets today have been talking about it, but the number of facebook shares for this post are well over 3,000 already.

You see this open letter to parents of small children addresses the fact that we’re all bone-weary.  We’re all hopelessly head over heals in love with our little munchkins.  We’re all learning how to handle the very (often) demanding personalities, needs and desires of our offspring.  And we’re all desperately trying to enjoy, yes to even savour every single. blessed. moment.  When not every moment is even slightly enjoyable.  Truth.

What interests me is how well-received this post is turning out to be.  Yes the writer does a fantastic job, I love the humour, I get the honesty, I get it all, I really do.

What stands out for me though is, we’re starving.  We – parents – of all cultural backgrounds, of all walks of life, whatever our socio-economic status – we’re starving for permission.  Permission to just get on and do it.  Permission to parent as best we can.  Permission to feel like we can do this, and in fact we are doing it.  Permission to stop comparing ourselves with others, our bambinos with other bambinos.  Permission to help each other, be the best we can be.

We applaud Steve Wiens for writing such a great piece and we receive it, we embrace it.  We want to know we’re doing an ok job with parenting.  We want to know that others struggle with the very same issues that keep us awake at night, that drive us to create engaging and colourful chore charts/ potty training schemes and help memorize spelling lists/ state capitols and the periodic table….

I look at my facebook list of friends, and I’m thrilled to say that I see each and every parent there is an active and involved parent.  Yes we’re all on a very long and hard journey.  Yes to some of us parenting comes more naturally than others and some of us were blessed with better childhoods than others so we have a few more clues about parenting than others…..but every single parent I know is doing their darndest to do the very best they can.

So why don’t we encourage more?

Why don’t we point out brilliant behaviour when we see it?

Why don’t we thank our neighbours for their kids’ marvellous manners when we hear them (yeah Frosti and Kurtis I’m talking to you!).

Why don’t we tell the other Mum at school pick up time how well their kid is doing with new reading skills?

Why don’t we smile at the exhausted parents of a houdini toddler, and tell them that yes their kid is a ‘busy’ kid, but by golly that’s leadership material?

We’re starving.  Parents of small kids especially but I don’t think it gets much better as the kids get older. We still need permission from each other to get frustrated by the challenges we face, we need to know it is ok to put the clocks forward an hour(stealthily – unseen by the kids who can actually tell time) to hasten bedtime when we need to and we need to celebrate the victories together. Big victories.  Small victories.  We’re in this together.

Let’s try to feed each other’s souls just a little bit more, yes?  After all, one day my three boys are hopefully going to marry……we could be parents in-law one day to your little princess……

Let’s try not to starve, together.

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Building Your Lifeboat

storms

I’ve been marinating on this little ditty, this little nugget of truth since I saw it on pinterest a couple of weeks ago.

You see it is all very good and well to read these words and to believe them.  It is another thing to actually live them out.  And gee……there is absolutely no denying the truth of these words when you see someone living it out…..when the truth they have stored up in the silence is the only thing that gives them hope, it helps them carry on, sees them through the hard times, when the storms come.

This past week I’ve had the honour to walk alongside a friend as she has encountered one of life’s curveballs.

You know that mixture of feelings you get when you go for your big anatomical ultrasound scan, when you’re about 20 – 22 weeks pregnant?  You’re thrilled to actually see this little person for the first time, you may or may not be eager to know the baby’s gender, but you also have that slight uneasiness..hoping everything is ok with that baby.  Wanting a good report for everything.  Well Lindsay didn’t get that all clear that we all hope for, not then anyway, and she has another wait of a few more weeks before she gets definitive results from more tests done this week.  You can read this part of her story here, and she writes it beautifully, so much better than I ever could.

I said it is an honour to walk alongside her through this and I truly mean that.  I can see the fruit and the evidence of what Lindsay and her husband build up in the silence, carrying them through the uncertainty.  Giving them hope and that peace that passes understanding.  You see it is not that Lindsay and CJ are perfect – nope – they are human, just like the rest of us – it is because they serve a perfect Lord.  They are conduits of the Holy Spirit – vessels – that’s all.

I like to think of ‘the truth that we build up in the silence’ as being the things we build our lifeboats out of.  Lifeboats to keep us afloat when our ships are capsized by life and life’s curveballs.

*  The word of God = the body of the boat, the hull.  Knowing God’s word means knowing God, knowing his heart, and who wouldn’t want to know the creator of the world’s heart?  In Ephesians 6 Paul talks about the armour of God and of putting on the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  The bible illuminates, it reveals to us the good and the bad, it gives clarity to the wise and the unwise.  The sword, the bible, is used for offensive and defensive purposes.  Jesus used the bible to counter Satan’s attacks when in the wilderness.  The word of God deep down in our souls is going to keep us afloat when storms come.  We can depend on God’s word and the promises in his word.

*  Prayer = the gps/ radio in your lifeboat.  The prayers that you pray in the silence come back to you in the storm, when you don’t have the words to say, when you can only muster up that Holy moan. An utterance. Prayer is just communication with the Lord and the *best* thing about prayer to me, is it keeps your perspective right, it keeps you looking up and out so that you’re not consumed by your here and now.

No relationship survives without communication, including our relationship with the Lord.  Prayer – communication is necessary for growth and intimacy.

*  The companionship of Godly friends = the outboard engines on our boats.  Sometimes when we walk through the trials of life we can walk that ever bit faster with a friend by our side.  Things can be so much more bearable when you have a shoulder to cry on.  Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to make good friendships great.  It involves a lot of vulnerability, on both persons part, a lot of trust and a lot of wisdom.  It is never a good thing to just spill your guts to just anyone, but when you know who can be a great friend to you, and when you make room in your life for them and them for you……friendship is one of those things that can get you through anything.  C.S Lewis said “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
You know this past week the easy thing for Lindsay to do would have been to hide away.  To just hibernate with her husband while working through the emotions and seeking a Godly perspective in all the waiting.  But in doing that she would have been denying her friends the opportunity to reach out to her, to uphold her family in prayer and the opportunity to partake in a miracle.  The harder thing for her was to share with people where she was at – and God was glorified.  She could call on these friendships because they have been established in the silence.  When life was a little easier.  And then, when the storm came, the outboard engine of friendship helped to push her along a little….reassuring her….

Now here’s the scoop, the latest on Lindsay’s baby, Charlie.  Lindsay’s OB (who also happened to be my amazing OB, a great man of God) emailed her today with the news that the fact that the ultrasound that Lindsay had yesterday showed no abnormalities in the baby’s heart, that it was normal, was a gift from God.  The ultrasound yesterday was so different from the bizarre one from the previous week shows that the baby was healed.  This was not a technical glitch, but a healing.  Praise God.  Praise Him.

And here’s the thing – because Lindsay chose to include others in her journey, both in her real life and through her writing, others have been blessed.  My own faith has been boosted.  What my husband and I prayed for, in the quiet of our time with the Lord, has been heard.  Countless others have likewise stood in faith with her about this too and prayed for healing – they have been touched and who is glorified?  Not Lindsay, not CJ, even though they are strong leaders and amazing people in their own right.  No, the Lord is glorified in this healing of baby Charlie, because the Lord is the reason for their peace and their very purpose.

Lindsay and CJ still have a few question marks hovering over their little Charlie’s life – but nothing can take away from the fact that this life is God-ordained, this life has a purpose, this life already has an amazing testimony of God’s healing power and this life is loved.  Loved by the people around him already, but even more so by the one who created him.

Whatever the next weeks or indeed the years to come bring my dear friends, they will be riding out the storms just fine.  They have a lifeboat.  They are building their lifeboat……prayer by prayer, bible verse by bible verse, friend by friend, they are building their boat.

All of us will encounter storms in our lives, it is not a matter of if, but of when……when will you need your lifeboat to hold you afloat until your seas become smoother?  And will that lifeboat be ready for when you need it?

 

 

 

Lord, I’m sorry

As I write this there are people all over the East Coast of America being lashed about by Hurricane Sandy.  For many it is a case of prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

I’m sure daylight will bring with it stories of bravery, heroic acts and also sadly, tales of tragedy.

This is rubber meeting the road stuff.

People facing trials with a capital T.

And you know what.  It is a very good reminder to me, that by golly the devil is so good at distracting us from what really matters.  We are so easily led astray from the most important things in life.

In my own life I’ve been struggling with worry and day to day troubles. In the big scheme of things they are not major things – but – still – in the now they are important to me. And I’m finding the need for peace – seeking that anchor to hold my thoughts and runaway emotions at bay.  But I’m realizing more and more……..these things are all distractions from the very mission I have been given.

To know Him and to make Him known.

That’s it.

That’s what it boils down to my friends.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Yes Hurricanes can and do cause devastation.  Livelihoods will be forever lost. The forces of nature can cause damage beyond repair – in people’s hearts as well as with material possessions and the very land itself, and this is all sad, and tragic and words cannot even describe just how terrifying this must be for some people.

But.

I have something to offer people.

I have hope.

I know a Lord who says come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.

I know a saviour who accepts the least of us, and in his Kingdom the very last shall be first.

I know a King who says not to worry about what you’re wearing, or what you have in your bank account, for in the grand scheme of things, these things matter not.

Instead of my eyes being turned from the side to other side, with Mummy woes and health issues and blah blah blah…..I know I need to concentrate more on loving people and introducing them to the very one who gives me Hope.

What matters most, more than anything else – quite simply is, where are my friends and family going to spend eternity?  Where are your friends and family going to spend eternity?

This is what I cannot be distracted from.

The lights may be out in New York City, but God’s still there.

I’m sure that many Christians will have many opportunities to share God’s love, right now.

The lights may be out in my neighbours’ houses, but I still need to shine His love to them.

The parents on my kids’ sports team may be stressed and overworked, but I can be a listening ear.

The lonely kid, the bullied kid in my oldest’s class can be invited to youth group, and pulled alongside a strong leader.

The overwhelmed mother, at her wits end, can be invited over for coffee and a safe place to sit.

Lord, I’m sorry for being distracted by the daily worries of this world.  May my perspective always be like yours – may I seek out ways to show people your love and your light and lead them to you.

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Wise and Harmless

Arrogant.

Alienating.

Assuming.

These are not very nice words associated with not very nice feelings.

These negative feelings can easily be put on, likes pieces of clothing, covering up our souls, bodies and spirits.  We can dress ourselves in these sad feelings as quickly as we can dress ourselves in the feelings of:

Humble and unconceited

Integrated and included

Thinking the best of and not jumping to conclusions

But here’s the thing.  I know which feelings I would rather clothe myself in.  Today and everyday.  And I know what feelings I would like my friends to be dressed in.

And I know my written words have the potential to dress people in feelings.

As corny as it sounds – I love all my friends. I really cherish friendships and I really value my non-Christian friendships as much as my Christian friends. BUT  I fear I clothe my non-Christian friends with my arrogance from time to time. I fear I throw ideas out there that alienate them and I fear these friends bear the brunt of a lot of my ill-assumed ideas.

Do you ever stop to think about what yours and my ‘Christianese’ does to our friends?

Our social media worlds filled with Christian-speak?

When you’ve been a Christian for a while you have certain things ingrained in you.  You think and speak certain things in a certain way because it is what you believe and what you can relate to and some of it is a direct result of the hand of God at work in your life.  Changing you.  Moulding you.  The master heart surgeon at work.

And this is good and this is right and we shouldn’t hide our lights.  For we may indeed be the only bible some people read.

But.

In this and through this, my words still need to bless others.  Not to assume superiority.

In this and through this, what needs to come first always to Christian and non-Christians are words that are loving, kind and thoughtful.

The gospel does offend people.  We are in a battle where people’s eyes and ears are blinded to the truth.  There will always be people in my life who don’t understand the way I think, and the way I live. I can be open and honest with my thoughts, beliefs and convictions – but I can do it with conscious thought as to not appear arrogant.  Not to alienate the minority of my non-Christian friends from my majority of Christian friends.  And not to assume that all my friends are on the same wave-length as me.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

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Finding your His ‘thang’

There are a lot of things that I just don’t know.

Until five minutes ago I didn’t know how to do that cross out your words html stuff.

I get completely lost and overwhelmed in a lot of theological and ideological discussions.  It doesn’t matter that I have a University degree.  I still get overwhelmed.

I don’t know how to fix the kids’ bath plug when it comes out.

I often don’t know the right words to say to make someone feel better or to really hear what they are saying.

There are so many practical and spiritual things I just do not know.  Yet.

This I do know:  it takes nine tubs of 32 ounces of yoghurt plus 8 lbs of frozen berry mix to make fruit and berry parfaits for 45 people.  One should always take one’s own vegetable peeler when cooking in large quantities and people are impressed by the little touches – the garnishes, the cards that describe the flavours and the freshness of food.

I had the privilege of catering for an event in the weekend.  I used to do this a little in New Zealand.  Not as an official business – but if we hadn’t come to America I was looking into making it so.  I’ve done some dinner parties, food for a funeral afternoon tea, engagement parties, 21st parties and have helped other caterers with weddings.

This was my first gig to do in America, so I was hoping I wasn’t too rusty.  I had hoped I hadn’t bitten off more than I could chew.  But I got in that kitchen and I loved it.  I loved the planning, the list-making, the shopping, the challenge of keeping costs down as it was for a ministry event, the food prep and all the work on the day.  I loved it.

As I was de-briefing myself yesterday and realizing that I had over-bought in the lettuce department and I could have cut the carrots the day before and they would have still been ok, I was then struck with the thought that food really is my ‘thang’.  It is one of my God things.  And I came up with a list, like bam bam bam, all about how you know if something is a ‘thang’ for you or not….so here goes….

If ‘something’ is your thang:

*  it will bring you joy

Yep.  If doing something makes you happy, truly happy, and not want to run for miles in the other direction, then that’s a good thing.  The fact that I enjoy the whole prepping of food, the making and even the clean-up…means it is a thang.

*  it brings others joy

Food brings most people joy, right?  Our gifts, our ‘thangs’ are not for ourselves, they are for others.  To bless, encourage, exhort, come alongside.

*  it gives glory to God

Our talents and abilities are God-given so any praise or recognition we get – should be attributed back to the maker of these abilities.  This is something I’m still working on.  Not that I take the credit myself for a job well done, but just how exactly to point the way to Jesus….how to show others that without Him and His help, I couldn’t do anything.  I guess I don’t get a lot of compliments in day to day life, so when I do get them, it is hard to know how to respond to them properly.

*  your ‘thang’ combines supernatural and natural giftings

That reality that at the end of my ability, God steps in with His help…..That my talent is limited but ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’.  I’m sure I’m not the first caterer to pray in 90 degree weather that the food stays cool enough.  That even though the fridge space is very limited,  that the food doesn’t get too hot.  And as I cut and spooned and poured and baked, I was praying for the event happening outside.  Praying for lives to be changed, for open hearts and open ears.  That my part of the day be a blessing to others.

*  your ‘thang’ involves an element of risk

That’s why I crossed out the ‘your’ and added in the ‘His’, in my title.  If we always did things that we knew we could easily do, there wouldn’t be any reliance on God and His help.  There wouldn’t be any growth in your life from the ‘stretch’ factor.

And once again, if any credit or glory for your ‘thang’ gives you the glory, puts you centre-stage, then this isn’t right,  really it should be Christ who is front and centre-stage when you’re stepping out for Him.

There are so many opportunities and ways to serve the body of Christ.  If you open your eyes to the needs – opportunities are endless.  But there is a huge difference between doing what you can do, and doing what you should be doing.  What your ‘thang’ is.

Rick Godwin said this on twitter sometime last week – ‘You don’t get credit in life for being busy? Activity is not necessarily accomplishment!’

I had the honour of serving some amazing women on Saturday, by using my giftings and relying on God’s power to make up for what I didn’t know and for handling the details I don’t always get right.  My darling husband did his ‘thang’ by encouraging me in taking this step, by asking for my feedback, by being my taste-tester for new recipes and for looking after our children on the day, so I could totally concentrate on the job at hand.

If we all found out what our ‘thang’ was, and then did our ‘thang’ and gave each other freedom and encouragement in that, wouldn’t the global church be a mighty force?  Wouldn’t the ‘body’ be able to work fluidly and at full capacity?

So let me encourage you to find out what your thang is….and…..just do it….remembering that:

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done – C S Lewis

Five Minute Friday: Beyond

Five Minute Friday

 

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write.  Simply write.  So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

Start.

Beyond.

There’s always something, someone needing us.  The lists and expectations ever present.

There are always bigger conversations around us.  The need to see the needs of the world, beyond our kitchen windows.  The constant arguing, yes arguing over issues such as women’s and men’s roles in the church.  Words that are mis-read.  Words that are misunderstood.

So much time, going over and over the same issues.  If not the issues of our own immediate worlds, then the issues of our greater communities.

I wonder if it grieves our Lord’s heart?

These distractions that cause our sister to rise against sister.  Brother against brother.

For there is so much more, beyond the differing of opinions.

Souls.

Souls that need Jesus’ love.

Souls that are not helped by small and inward looking lives.

Beyond.  Beyond the distractions.  Lord I want to leak and ooze with love.  Beyond my limitations.

Stop.