Suffering

I was reading a book by Joni Eareckson Tata this morning. There was an interesting statement in the book that I totally agreed with I just hadn’t put it into words. The paraphrase is that in our lives we seek to put an end to our suffering or mask it in some way. We hate suffering. But she was saying that suffering is what leads us to understand that we cannot do this life alone. We need God and we need those around us. When we have physical suffering we seek pain relief, medical science has come to the place where we, for the most part, don’t have to suffer. If we are suffering mentally or emotionally we have pills for that too. We medicate even positive suffering like childbirth. No one has natural childbirth anymore, why would you want to?

With my last child I decided to go to a birth center and have a natural child birth. I did it. I survived natural child birth and lived to tell about it. I also learned something. I appreciate my birth and those moments after birth so much more with that baby than with my medicated childbirths. The suffering brought me great satisfaction and peacefulness after it was over. I had a sense of accomplishment and now I know I can handle a great deal and survive it. I think in our efforts to numb any suffering in our lives, we cheat ourselves. We never experience all we are meant to experience in our suffering. We need suffering to experience true joy and dependence on God. We walk around thinking we have it all together and we can do things on our own. If we allowed ourselves to experience suffering in our lives we would have no illusions that we can handle everything on our own. We need suffering.

There are times in our lives when we cannot numb the suffering. Times when we try everything we can and it still doesn’t work, the suffering continues. My children will always have special needs, we cannot change that. I would like to, I would love for them to be “normal”, but they cannot be. Not here on this earth anyway. And I have asked many times why God would allow them to have these limitations, and why he would give them to us to raise? It’s not easy. It’s suffering, at times. We hate their disabilities sometimes, we never hate the child, but we do hate the limitations that their disabilities impose on them. I would give anything to not deal with that some days. But God has allowed this. I realize that He is working something in us through this suffering. I have prayed and hoped that this suffering might be relieved, but I won’t anymore. God has a reason for this and if I cut it short prematurely whatever he is working will not be fully realized.

If you are suffering today, know that God is working something in your life. Don’t try to get away from the suffering, don’t try to numb it away. Let it work in you and lean fully on God and those around you. You will be better for it.

 

 

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Goldfish

Today I am sick. I am feeling pretty rough but still being a mom you just have to drag yourself out of bed and keep going. Moms don’t get sick days. So, instead of my usual profound statements about life, lol, I will leave you with a cute little story from yesterday.

I was also sick yesterday and not on my “A” game, otherwise this never would have happened. I would have seen it coming, but alas, I did not. We buy Goldfish crackers in bulk around here. We go through one of those really big boxes per week. I had just opened a brand new box and given Joshua a few. Then I left the box on the table and walked out of the room for 2 minutes, seriously, 2! I came back and not only had he managed to get the box down from the table, but opened it and poured every last goldfish onto the floor. At this point, not feeling well, I really just wanted to cry when I came back into the room and found this catastrophe. But I just didn’t have the energy to cry or get mad about it. Jordan came into the room as I was standing there staring at the mess wondering what to do about it. I mean this is $6 worth of goldfish, you can’t just throw them away. Not in this house anyway. Jordan so wisely said, “it’s okay mom, I will help you pick them up and put them back into the box”. So, that is what we did. And so I warn anyone visiting my house in the next week, don’t eat the goldfish!

Perfect Parents

When did we all decide that we have to be perfect parents? I was sitting quietly, a rare thing indeed, the other day and pondering why I feel the need to be a perfect parent. I don’t mean I shouldn’t try hard to be a parent, but I can never be perfect and yet I expect myself to be. I think we as parents put way too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We have this idea that if we do everything right our kids will turn out wonderfully. That isn’t always the case, I know of many parents who did a bang up job of being parents yet they have messed up kids and the opposite is also true. There are children who are doing really well and yet have terrible parents.

I was thinking about “back in the old days”, like the colonial period. I really like that time period and I am just crazy enough to think that it would have been cool to live back then. I am sure that would last maybe a day, when I had to do laundry by hand outside in the cold or kill my own dinner. But I daydream about what it would have been like to live then. I was thinking about the parents back then. They usually had a lot more children than most of us today do and yet I would bet you they didn’t worry about being perfect parents. One reason, time. They didn’t have time to worry about such things. There wasn’t time to worry about whether or not to get little Johnny a cell phone or not, or whether to let Suzie date yet. People didn’t have time to worry about such things, they were just worried about survival. I think maybe we have too much time on our hands these days and that brings about worry.

I have been worried lately about the amount of time I get to spend with my oldest son, Samuel. He, unlike the others, is at school most of the day and then when he comes home there is homework, dinner, baths and bed. I don’t really get to spend much time with him except on the weekends and then it seems the younger ones take the majority of that time. He is turning 8 soon and I can’t believe our parenting journey with him is almost halfway over. Time just slips away when you are not looking. I worry about how my lack of time is effecting him. I am sure that people in the old days didn’t even think about such things. And, for the most part, their kids turned out way better than ours do today. There are many reason for that, but I think that one thing that messes up our parenting is that we spend way too much time thinking about it. There are millions of books sold each year on the subject of parenting and I have read most of them. In fact, Glenn and I lead a small group on parenting. I do think it’s a worthwhile subject, obviously, but sometimes we can get too caught up in doing things just right that we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. You have to learn, as a parent, that there are things worth trying to do your best job at and other things not worth even bothering with. I have decided that one of the things not worth bothering with is my oldest son wearing dress shoes to church. We have battled over this issue, but I decided I can either force him to wear the shoes and he is uncomfortable and grows to hate church because of it, or I can let him wear more comfortable shoes. Does it really matter? That is a very personal question for each parent, but I have decided that that issue does not really matter to us. Each parent has to think about what things are really important to them and those things will change in each family. The point is that you cannot make issues out of everything or you will wear yourself out.

Worrying about the future does not help you make any progress. It’s like rocking in a rocking chair, you are expending energy but not going anywhere. I can worry all day about things in the future, even important things that might be worth worrying about, but it will not change those things. Joshua, my third son, is about to turn 2 years old. He isn’t talking yet. I have spent a lot of time worrying about that and if he will ever talk, but it has not changed him talking at all. It does affect me though, negatively. I cannot change Joshua, he is getting speech therapy and we are hopeful that someday soon he will talk, but until then I have to leave it in God’s hands.

I feel like there are a lot of parents out there who need to put less pressure on themselves about parenting and they would be a lot happier. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t worry yourself so much about being one. Do your very best as a parent, but if you mess up, as we all do, remember that there is always tomorrow and allow God to forgive you and move on.

 

Courage

Last night we saw the movie Courageous at our church. It was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It’s a Christian movie made by the same people who made Fireproof. The essential message of the movie is to have the courage to be a better father and husband in a world that doesn’t place high value on those titles. The movie talked about how detrimental it is for children to not have a father in their lives growing up and I can attest to that fact in my own life.  Statistics show that 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, 90% of homeless and runaways come from fatherless homes, and 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes. That would suggest that having a father around is very important to the overall well-being of the child. Of course there is a difference between just having a father present in your life and that father being there for you. My biological father and I have a relationship; he is in my life, but is he a father figure to me? No. I would venture to say I do more parenting of him then he does of me. That is a sad fact of a lot of fathers today.

What children need is a father to be involved in their lives. Ephesians 6:4 states, “4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The Bible commands fathers to not be passive, but active in the training and instruction of their children. Fathers need to step up and be present in their children’s lives.

Personally, I have to say that Glenn does a great job of being a father to our children. But it takes effort. I know there are times when he is doing stuff with the kids when he would rather be doing something else. And I know he is aware that the kids are watching him and he is trying to be a good example. He is not just present in the kids lives, he is there for them and that is intentional. Parenting has to be intentional, you can’t just be in the same house with your kids and think you are parenting them.

Glenn and I were watching that movie last night and some of the scenes were about fathers parenting little girls, and young women. We both commented on how foreign that seems to us and how it makes us a little nervous to think about parenting a girl. But I know Glenn will do a great job at it, because he will be intentional about parenting her.

One theme in the movie is about stopping the chain of destructive parenting in your life and doing things differently with your children. I did not have a good father, and I have to be intentional about stopping that bad parenting chain with me and my children and being there for my boys in a way my father wasn’t. I am not a father, but I am supporting and encouraging Glenn in his fatherhood with our boys and making sure it is better than the experience I had as a child. That is one thing I am looking forward to about having a little girl someday, changing the pattern of fatherlessness in my past and creating new habits and parenting in our children.

Pictures

Today I thought I would share a couple of pictures of the three youngest boys playing. I don’t have any of Samuel, my oldest, he was at school. I just love to see them all playing together. The other day all four of them were playing ball together. It was such a joy! Those are the moments that make the daily grind of having a “big” family worth it. And someday soon we will be adding a pretty little flower to all these thorns. I am just going to warn all potential dates she may have in the future, you will have four big brothers to get past first! I just love my boys, they are great. They love mud and trucks and loud things. They wonder why you should take baths when you are just going to get dirty again anyway. They would eat 24 hours a day if I let them. They seem to find trouble wherever they go. Boys are a joy and they are simple, for the most part. Sometimes I wonder what I am getting myself into with a girl, only time will tell. But I know she will be different from all this boyness. I am sure it will be wonderful.

Play with those who play

(A guest post by my husband Glenn)

Over the last few years, fatherhood has taken on a new meaning for me. During the early years of a family, many of the parental responsibilities involve manual labor (changing, feeding, rocking, burping, etc…). These acts of love towards my children were authentic and meaningful, and I still think fondly about when my older boys were just babies and how they have grown. And as they have grown, I have recognized the need to mature as a father, into one that plays with those who play.

Romans 12:15 exhorts us to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This verse is contained in a passage full of illustrations of love in action. To me, it exemplifies togetherness, connection and comraderie. When I think about my childhood growing up, some of the most special memories that I have deal with time spent with my father hiking, playing baseball in the front yard, climbing up the “dusty mountain”, and riding (and falling off of) bikes. As a father myself, I am beginning to learn how to build this sort of relationship with my sons.

One of the things that I have found through this process is that you can’t always bestow your personal interests on your child, thus making it easier to find that common bond. For example, as hard as I tried to encourage Samuel to play Legos a few years ago, he was much more interested in Thomas the Tank Engine. Consequently, Ruth and I must have learned not only the names of every single obscure locomotive in the franchise, but also their personality traits and whether or not they were “really useful engines.” More recently, I have been presented with the challenge of understanding Pokemon, with all of the nuances inherent within a line of toys that must continually reinvent itself to maintain commercial appeal (sorry – still an adult brain playing here). Every day on the way to school, it seems that the conversation returns to Pokemon – “Dad, which Pokemon would you have if you could have one in real life? Which Pokemon would win the battle – Charizard or Wailord? Why are ‘Black and White’ Pokemon not really ‘Black and White’?” While I am not always able to answer the questions correctly (or even logically), I do my best to maintain this connection with my son, because this is his own way of being vulnerable to love and relationship. If I were to ignore his efforts to engage with me in this way, I would risk damaging our relationship and his perspective on his own importance.

We have been taught to live together with those around us in love. And whether that means rejoicing, mourning, or discussing the intricacies of Japanese comic book characters, it is our calling to love our children in a way that makes sense to them. Let’s just hope I don’t have to learn Bakugan…