"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teacher? Student?

Do you ever feel like God only gave you kids so that you could learn from them? They reflect us back to ourselves, say OUT LOUD the things we think so that we can really hear it, and sometimes - I am totally convinced - say the very words that God Himself puts in their mouths for us.

Recent things heard in our household:

"I don't want to say what I really think only to have my face slapped with it." Ouch. That bugs my kids as bad as it bugs me, huh? To be heard...patiently and truly heard...is a beautiful gift.

"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Why do *I* have to get in trouble? He did it first!" Yep. I hear ya. Consequences rot. Especially when you were led into the behavior that earned them. However, you had a choice whether to follow. Learn to think critically and decide for yourself; casting blame is pointless. Yes, Mommy had to learn that the hard way, too.

"Why do I always do that?! I don't want to but I do!" Oh, darlin'. Lord, remind me to respond with compassion; I'm right there with you, kiddo.

"Mommy, Daddy... I love you even when I hurt you." spoken with hugs and direct eye contact. Ever disbelieve or respond harshly to that from one of your kids...only to realize you've said the same thing to God a million times?


Lest anyone have any doubts about why I was entrusted with these kids (not because I'm so smart or gifted but because I have so much to learn!!), allow me to enlighten you to what I discovered as I proofread this prior to posting. This post was written, start to finish, as the intro and various quotes came to mind. Assuredly, the last one listed was the one that prompted the post but the order changed in my head as I wrote and came out as you see it now.

Why is this significant? Because, as I checked for spelling errors, I found that each quote originated from a different child and they are listed in the correct birth order. This was not intentional. I honestly did not consider the mouth from which the quotes emanated; I just knew that these specific words had stuck in my heart this week. EVERY SINGLE ONE of my children has taught me something about myself, my God, and my relationship to Him and others. Thanks for the living lessons, Daddy. Help me to learn them well.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Resurrection: to make alive that which was dead

Interesting conversation with the hubby this morning. We were feeling strange - for the second year in a row - because Easter is here and we are doing...nothing special. Nothing religious. No Easter service, no eggs, no baskets, nothing. And we don't feel bad about it. Then Dan told me about a conversation he had with a coworker last night.

The coworker was angry. Really, righteously indignant-type angry. He is a Christian and had to work today. On Easter Sunday. He can't go to church. His take: "It just makes me so mad. As Christians, on Easter, we're supposed to just totally focus on Jesus. And here I have to work instead of being in church and focused on what I'm supposed to focus on."

Dan's response: "I was a minister in churches for 15 years. I worked EVERY Sunday - including EVERY Easter Sunday."

It stopped the coworker in his tracks. That had never occurred to him before. And it was a reminder again to us of how differently we view our walk with Christ now. That walk is a daily, personal relationship, not just a "special dates and occasions" acquaintanceship wrapped around certain programs and activities. We *can* focus on Him and the meaning of His resurrection - and the power of it in our lives - whether we are at work, on a playground, doing laundry, herding kids, whatever. The power of the resurrection works in our lives DAILY, in and through ALL of our activities.

Some will see what I'm about to say as heresy but I know it to be truth: the fact of the matter is that the power of the resurrection is MORE evident in our lives now that we *do not* attend religous services regularly than it was when we did. Jesus is a real person in our lives, capable and willing to love us for who and where we are, having COMPLETED His redemption in our lives. We can rest in that and just be who we are meant to be. We no longer worry about doing the things we *think* He (or others who claim to know Him) requires us to do to be good enough. None of the relationship with Him rests on what we are "supposed to do." It is totally and completely about what He has already done. The resurrection is the power to heal, to rescue, to complete, to reconcile, to love. It is the power to LIVE in the freedom of knowing that reality is finished, completely accomplished. When He hung on the cross and declared "It is finished" He meant it. For all time, for all creation. It is finished. He accomplished His purpose. There is no undoing it no matter how we fail or falter. We are free to live.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Free Range vs. Fear Filled

Okay, so it's been forever since I've posted. And I have a ton of things to report: new part-time job, new friends at said job, beginning to see how that whole living-your-faith-outside-the-church-organization thing is becoming a reality, great stories about the kids and the hubby... and yet... And yet I'm breaking my long silence for a rant. I'll get back to that stuff, I promise. But I have just got to vent.

When did we become a society that insulated our children, giving them a false security in the belief that if they simply follow the rules no danger will ever befall them? When did we stop realizing that LIFE, if lived properly, involves risk? That such risks are not only worth taking but are VITAL to our growth and development? That through facing risks, we learn wisdom, restraint, acceptance of failure, responsibility, tenacity, resourcefulness...any number of character traits that make life the grand adventure that it should be? To steal a favorite descriptor from a friend, when did we trade in our "Free Range Kids" for "Fear-filled What-Ifers"?

What brings this rant on? Today a 9 year old child was killed at Disney World. He was biking ON A BIKING TRAIL with his 11 year old friend. A bus passed. For whatever reason, he left the bike path, struck the side of the bus, was drawn underneath, and killed. Tragic. And the response?? The traditional "Disney is evil," mixed with tons of blame-casting in both the driver and child's direction, and then the one that infuriated me:

"WHERE WERE THE PARENTS??? I mean, come on! What were an 11 year old and 9 year old doing riding their bikes ALONE? My kids aren't even allowed in the front yard alone, nevermind riding bikes along a roadway."

What??!! Your 9 year old has not the freedom to play outdoors? Really? Do you have any concept how many children ride their bikes to school on much more dangerous streets than those at Disney's campground? Where were the parents? Probably at their campsite relaxing and thinking with joy about the freedom and fun that their kids were enjoying riding the short distance - along a clearly marked bike path - to the playground/pool area. Trusting that they had instructed the kids in proper bicycle safety (both were wearing helmets). Knowing that freedom is sometimes worth the risk. And knowing that an intelligent 4th/5th/6th grade child has the capacity to handle that amount of freedom.

Did that child make a mistake? Yes. Did it have tragic results? Yes. Was a vacation in the happiest place on earth forever marred by a horrific accident? Yes. Is it worth stripping children of freedom in order to make sure nothing bad ever happens? NO!! (btw, it wouldn't work anyway...planes fall into living rooms, cars crash through storefronts, fires break out, falls happen, heck I found a scorpion poised on the shoulder of a shirt in the closet once...the belief that absolute safety exists is a ridiculous lie in itself.)

Let's teach our children that bad things *can* happen, whether we are in our homes, on the streets, in a theme park, wherever. Not that they should be AFRAID of everyone and everything but that they should learn to be observant and make wise choices. Let's teach them to overcome bad things so that they can have confidence in facing adversity as they grow older. Let's teach them that while there are some things for which a specific person or event is to blame, it is never worthwhile to spend our time casting that blame; this just embitters and paralyzes us and makes us incapable of enjoying the beauty in life. Let's teach them that they are capable of making the wise choices, give them opportunities to do so, and be there to help them put the pieces back together when they fail. And if, in doing so, they fail in a manner that causes them harm, our hearts may break, but we will know that they lived a life worth living. A life not paralyzed by fear of the what-ifs. A life basking in the beauty and joys of experiencing life to the full rather than sitting indoors wondering what boogie man lurked just outside the door.

Okay, I'm done. But if anyone asks you WHERE were my kids' parents when they break their leg jumping into the creek behind our house, just know that I've taught them the dangers, stayed with them for several creek adventures, and am confident in their capacity to make the wise choice on that score. The choice is up to them now. Go get 'em my free-range kiddos!!!

**Edit: Of course, the day after posting this, my youngest decides to take advantage of the mad rush to get Daddy out the door to work, leave her known playtime boundaries, go visiting, and enter the rv of someone we've never met. Grrrrrr. More teaching about the bad things that can happen, shrinking of the boundaries, and a later attempt at regaining the freedom to be trusted on the porch seem called for. This whole philosophy of training your kids to handle freedom plays out in a *very* time- and energy-consuming way. But I'm still convinced that the payoff of confident, aware, character-filled kids is totally worth the work and risk!!!