Successful Parenting (and other midnight worries)

I used to think that parenting meant trying really really hard to create the ideal life for your child. The right food, the right house, the right books, the right vacation and the right parenting.

These things matter. But when a bomb explodes in your life and all your plans are wrecked and all of your “right” options are just kicked outta town, you learn a few things.

You learn that vacations are nice but what you do on rainy afternoons and another evening home is what makes warm familiar memories. The simple wrestling matches on the living room floor, telling funny stories and game marathons where one kid almost certainly ends up crying.

You learn that being a gourmet organic cook would be ideal, but kids will love the comfort of your simple wholesome cooking just as well.

You learn that it’s more about being consistent in immersing yourself and your kids in God’s Words rather than having the right words and right parenting techniques.

You learn that when your life is wrecked, it means a new beginning. An opportunity to model to your kids “Living the Wrecked Life” so they can see God’s grace living and active in your less-than-perfect life, instead of your perfection exalted and standardized. It’s humbling, but it bears good fruit.

I’ve learned that it can seem real convincing that if you just do this or buy that or go there or be more like them, your family will be better off. Truth is, you never can get the circumstances quite right for your kids and it’s the wrong battle to fight.

I think I’ve wasted a lot of time fighting the wrong battles and praying for the wrong things. God knows what you have and He’s not expecting you to better your own life. He’s asking you to lose your life and to find it in Him.

That’ll impact your kids a whole lot more than ship-lap in the kitchen and a cute farmhouse laundry sink. Although I do love those. But there’s bigger better things that have nothing to do with what you can provide or create.

It’s about living a life and leading your family in leaning into what God has provided, Jesus, and living a life of becoming a new creation of grace. His creation.

Do you feel that pressure lifting?

Maybe you’re living in a place far from family. Maybe your marriage is struggling. Maybe you’re facing staggering financial stress. Maybe you’re losing sleep because your life seems like a mess in every direction you look and you’ve never felt more “less than” in your life. And when you think about raising kids in the mess, you wonder how on earth they’ll survive it with you at the wheel.

Here’s the thing: the only circumstances you need to be successful, are ones that drive you to Jesus. The only parenting technique you need is dependency on Jesus. The only house you need is the foundation of Jesus. The only decorations you need are wisdom and grace. The only life you need is one in Him. The rest is just stuff that is passing like the wind. Life in Jesus is lasting and true and strong and good and saving – forever. It is the gold, the only gold in the stuff of life.

Bring your mess, bring your less-than-ideal, and come. Not scrubbed up and cleaned up and looking good. But empty-handed asking God to grow His work, His grace in the middle of it all. Don’t miss it.


Run away or stay?

One of my favorite things on Instagram is Mari Andrew. She takes abstract concepts and creates simple pictures that almost always perfectly characterizes feelings and realities that can be difficult to describe.

She recently has been set back by illness herself and I’m finding that many of her drawings make me say, “Yes, exactly!” I love the drawing below about empathy. Check it out:

It reminds me about the value of being with someone in hard times. Our reaction is to run away, avoid or feel like we’ve failed as a friend when we can’t solve things.

But this picture captures some of the main ways we can be a true friend when life becomes painful or hard.

We can reassure our friend that even though the worst could happen, we will be with them in it. And more importantly God will be with them. The only thing worse than devastating events in our lives, is being alone and forgotten in them. Maybe that means sitting in the hospital room with them, inviting them over for dinner or just making yourself available in any way.

We can take on practical ways to help. It’ll look different for every family and person, but it will always include showing love and kindness through everyday service. When Jesus’ disciples were weary or sad, what did he do? He baked fish for them. He fed them.

We can pray for them. Today an older woman in our church reminded us that our first priority in serving others should be prayer. It’s not an afterthought but the first thing we go to! Pray that their faith would not fail. Pray the promises of God for them. Pray for them to experience Jesus’ compassion and tender care when life is raw. Pray for opportunity to show love just as Jesus has loved us.

We can remind them who God is and what He’s promised. Sometimes pain makes it hard to see straight. The promises of God can seem far removed or a “nice idea” when you are living a hard reality. But that’s exactly when the promises come alive and valuable to us. This is when we move to walking by faith and exercising that. But we need the promises and the reminder of who God is RIGHT in front of us so that we can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I want to grow in this area of being a good friend who empathizes. After all, isn’t this just another way of loving our neighbor? So many times we get caught up in worry about saying the wrong thing or assuming other’s have it all figured out, so we stay away. Or, even worse, we are so consumed with what’s going on in our lives that we stop looking out for others.

Jesus is the perfect example of one who empathizes. He did much more than empathize, but he illustrates drawing near in weakness. As we show empathy to people around us, we allow others to experience the love of God and in turn we are changed more into the image of Christ.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

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