Crossroads

‘He’s going to grow up not knowing who he is’.

We’re a real crossroads in our life at the moment.  Us, my family.  Coming to America was only ever going to be a temporary thing.  Our three year visa was actually extended and we were granted an additional two years.  We have to leave the country by early next year.  Which brings us to now – a crossroads point in our lives where we are exploring options for what to do next, where to go next.

‘He’s going to grow up not knowing who he is’ – those words were casually yet pointedly spoken out to me last week.  A warning of sorts, by someone who cares, but a critical spirit tends to prevail at times.

Yes we may end up in another country, and not back ‘home’.  That may be where God leads us – or the doors may shut.  We’re open to whatever.  What is most important for us is to be where God leads us, where my husband’s skills can be most useful.

Our lives are not our own.  And this is what our children are seeing and learning.  This is what we hope they pick up both intentionally and through the natural process of osmosis, sponges that they are.

And so, to the words spoken as a warning, I rebuke them.

My boys will grow up knowing they are citizens of New Zealand.  Part of the Ngai Tahu tribe.  They are members of a wonderful and large extended family.  But, more importantly, they are children of God.  They have skills and talents and abilities – God given – and it is up to my husband and I to foster in them a love for learning, a love for each other and the wider world, and to develop servant’s hearts.

We are their example.

How we do things in our home, right now, at this crossroads point in our lives, sets the tone.

And so, we talk about the options we have before us.  We talk openly about God’s ability to open and close doors.  We show them that we’re praying.  We remind them of how God has always provided.  We include them in the process.   Not with every, single thing, but with hopefully a bit of wisdom and insight on our part.

And yes we are going to stuff up.  We may have to backtrack on decisions.  We may have to disappoint.  I have no doubt that my children will see me impatient and frustrated.  They will learn that things happen according to God’s timetable and not ours.  As we begin homeschooling to tide us over the transition period, crazy Mummy will no doubt raise her ugly head.

But my prayer, more than anything, is that they won’t remember the frustrations, and the ugly.  My prayer is that they will remember the adventure. They will see what amazing things happen when God takes the reigns, when we let Him lead our lives.  They will see that even in the unknowns of this crossroads time, our faith stands strong and steady.  They will know that as a family unit we are tight.  Unshakeable.  That there is strength in unity.

We are at a crossroads right now, but with God’s help, my kids are always going to know who they are, because they are mine, but more importantly – they are His.

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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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As for me and my house…..

……..we don’t have accent colours.

…….we don’t have matching furniture.

……..we don’t have seasonal decorations.

We do however have a whole lotta love and fun.

You know just when I’m beginning to feel at ease with living here and feeling like we’ve found our litle niche, something pops up and goes WHAM in our faces. Sometimes it is a flat out cultural difference between life here in the US and life in NZ. Sometimes it is a parenting choice we have to make that sets us apart from other families – because how we choose to do things may be slightly different to others. Often it is the two combined – parenting in a different culture – that makes us go whoa! What to do? What to do?

But we know what to do for the most part, because we know what we want for our family. We know what ‘As for me and my house’ looks like for us. And if we don’t already know – we’re learning as we go.

Now – before I get into the guts of this post I feel it is really really important to hear my heart. Really, please hear my heart. With the examples I am sharing I am not saying our way is the only way. I am not saying we are perfect and our decisions are always right. I am using a church situation as an example but I am NOT criticizing the church. I am merely using it as an example of how we navigate our way through these situations, when they don’t line up with what we would choose to do. What I am saying quite loud and clear is – you need to know what you want for your family, and make choices accordingly. Be intentional. Even if you’re the only freaks who think the way you do. At least we can be the foreign freaks for now.

Have you ever done those tests/ exams where you flip out a piece of paper at the back of the booklet and it has your a,b,c,d choices in boxes and as you read through the paper you shade in your choice of box? Then, to mark/ grade the paper, all the examiner has to do is place the clear sheet with the correct boxes shaded in on top of the student’s answer sheet and they can clearly and quickly see which answers are correct. The correct answers line up with the answer sheet and are covered over – the wrong answers stand out.

I want my life to be covered. I want the choices we make for our family to be easy – they either line up with the answer sheet we have chosen for ourselves, or they don’t.

Easter is coming up and with it comes the choices and decisions of how do we present the real gospel message of Easter to our children? One of our churches is hosting an egg hunt on the Saturday of Easter and we are making the choice to not go. It doesn’t line up with our answer boxes. In New Zealand Good Friday is a holiday. There is no school for anyone and the shops are required to be closed all day Good Friday and all of Easter Sunday. Church services are held on Good Friday. It is easier to re-inforce what it all about. Easter eggs can be part of the whole commercialism of the season – or they can be about the resurrection. It depends on how you present them to your kids. We have chosen to not give our kids eggs until Easter Sunday. It is what we grew up with, what we have done in the past and what we will do in the future. Easter Saturday is for mourning. For hoping. For remembering ALL that Christ has done for us. Easter Saturday is winter. It had to happen for Easter Sunday to happen. The rose bush has to be pruned for new growth and fruitfulness to happen. The leaves have to fall for new buds to be able to grow.

The ice-cream man with his cheery jingles does not visit the apartment blocks behind us in the wintertime. No. Ice-cream treats are for summertime. Easter eggs are for Easter Sunday. For reinforcing the message of incredible love. For being a complementary symbol of what we as Christians can rejoice in – the tomb was empty – there was and is new life for Jesus and for us. A hollow chocolate Easter egg is not what Easter is all about – no – but it can be a symbol to be used to celebrate all that Easter is. Legalistic idea of mine? You may well think so – but I do know that in this world there are enough distractions to lead any family away from remembering Christ. If there are ways out there that make it easier to show Christ as the hero of the story, to put the spotlight on him, then I choose that. Especially when Good Friday is just another working day for people here.

Cultural difference – yes. Big time. Parenting difference – yes. Does it mean I am a better parent? No. It just means that this is one thing we have thought about and decided does not align with our answer boxes.

The other whammo situation we’ve had this week has meant we went from ‘The best parents in the world, to the Worst’, in a period of about fifteen minutes, easy.

Our oldest earned the ‘right’ to go on a special trip with some fellow members of a club. It would have been a fun overnighter trip – but involves two full days of travelling and a lot of money for one kid, for one reward. The answer for us was easy. He is not going. Even if we had budgeted for the trip, even if we felt it wouldn’t be too tiring for him, even if he has gone on overnighters before (which he hasn’t), the answer would still be no. We just don’t spend that kinda money on one child. He is not ‘entitled’ to it and never shall be. We do things as a family. We spend money on family trips. There will come a day when he has to do things by himself – when interests and school events may well require him to have his own adventures and that is fine – we’ll be ready for that when that time comes as a teenager. For now, we will cherish family time as much as we can and we choose NOT to spend ludicrous amounts of money that we don’t have, simply as a reward for doing something he enjoyed anyway.

Mean parents? For about an hour last night he thought so. But you know what? He’s woken up this morning and has not mentioned a word about it. Instead he has started researching what he knows will be our next family vacation, made even more special because a set of Grandparents are flying in to see us.

Cultural difference? Yes I think so. I know more families within my circle of friends here that will spend more money on their kids because it is expected of them. Even people on very limited incomes. Peer pressure at its worst. I do think American culture is more extravagant than what I know. Just telling it like I see it. It is hard to have a different mindset where we don’t buy little Johnny such and such even if we had the money. Parenting difference? Yes. It makes us the ones that stand out as being ‘different’. I don’t think the parents that are letting their kids go on this trip are wrong, no, not at all. Their kids will have a wonderful time and make great memories. For now, I’m selfish enough for want my child’s memories to be ones where his brothers are beside him and his parents are there – cheering him on, being his biggest fans.

It is all about that answer sheet. What lines up with your choices and decisions with how you choose to live your life. Not about being right or wrong – but about knowing when situations come up, how does this look for my family? What will my decision be, based on what we believe and how we approach life?

As for me and my house……