Stop the Parenting Wars

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A friend of mine once said that our first child should be sent home with a gallon of pink amoxicillin and a How-to-Fix-It-Book. Parenting.  It’s a word that brings great joy, but it also causes all kinds of other emotions.  Fear.  Anger. Disappointment.  Pride.  Love.  Hilarity.  You name it, I think parenting can make us feel, well, almost anything.

There are a gajillion parenting theories out there to help us get through this journey of joy, fear and love all rolled together.  A few days ago, I read a couple of articles on discipline that I would label “extreme.”  They represented each end of the spectrum.  One advocated little discipline, the other almost adult-like discipline.  Both articles made me cringe.  Talk to any parent, and they will give you a different opinion about what works and what doesn’t.  And now, parents can sign up for classes to teach them how to be better parents!  Attachment Parenting, Grace-Based Parenting, Love and Logic, Dare to Discipline, The Five Love Languages for Families are all names of books and schools of thought that have attempted to give the Christian parent a sure roadmap to raising emotionally and spiritually healthy and mature children.

Through the years of raising our own three daughters, being far from perfect, making plenty of mistakes and working with families in church and military life, I have learned some helpful insights:

1)  Whatever the advice is, we need to hold it up to Scripture and know the entire context of the biblical passages.  Does it line up biblically?  And are we taking verses out of context?  The Bible is full of parents, good (Timothy’s mother Eunice) and bad (several of King David’s kids had ALL kinds of issues) to study, as well as endless wisdom.  I have been guilty of putting a certain author or speaker on a pedestal where only God and his Word should be.

2) What works for one family may not work for another.  What works for one child may not work for another.  We learned to glean from all the advice, taking the good and separating the bad for our particular family dynamics and personalities or where perhaps we disagreed with the advisor.  We also learned to lean on prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

3) Discipline is not a bad word.  Biblical discipline (a) is consistent and true, (b) emanates from a legitimate authority (c) establishes boundaries and compels action and/or change.  Biblical discipline is concerned about the whole child and presenting a child to maturity!  The original word in the Greek implies an action that presents one who is mature and complete, lacking in nothing, reflecting  the very glory of Christ.   In other words, it’s how you raise your child into adulthood, not a method of punishment!

4) We must be careful to discern cultural expectations.  Perhaps the best insight I’ve learned over the years is one I first became aware of in one of the counseling classes Pastor Mike (my husband) and I took in seminary.  Family dynamics can be co-dependent, independent or interdependent.  A person can be codependent, independent or interdependent.  The very nature of American  culture teaches that independence is best.  The biblical and sociological reality is that God never intended us to be independent but interdependent!  Interdependency teaches that we need a relationship with Christ and fellow believers.  Inter-dependency teaches accountability for actions with family members and society in general.  God created the family to be the very foundation of society!  For it to work, we need to foster healthy relationships that are mutual and caring.

5) We need to be parents of grace and not push our children to adulthood before they are ready.  Children mature differently.  We tend to define maturity by age and how our legal system defines age-appropriate milestones, such as driving and voting.  Maturity depends on many factors, and we need to consider each of our children individually.  We need to have grace for not only our family but also other families.

6) Developing grace-based godly character should come above all else.  We need to be an earthly example of the grace that God extended to us through Jesus Christ.  And we need to help our children – and grandchildren- be secure in a world that is increasingly changing toward Christians.  May our families be Psalm 1 families:

Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners,

or join in with mockers.

2But they delight in the law of the LORD,

meditating on it day and night.

3They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

and they prosper in all they do.

4But not the wicked!

They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

5They will be condemned at the time of judgment.

Sinners will have no place among the godly.

6For the LORD watches over the path of the godly,

but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and know you are not alone.  It is possible to refocus and be intentional about your parenting.  A new year is a good time to reassess and set goals for your family.  I’ll touch on Intentional Parenting in the next blog.


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The Sign

A slightly stooped man carefully stepped out of his red truck, his thinning gray hair blowing random directions in the gusty autumn southwest winds.  The truck was not old and was not new.  It wore the dents and scratches of his craft.  He walked around to the truck bed and began unloading gray cement foundation blocks.  A new sign for the small church on the corner? I wondered.  Everything I knew about the denomination, well, plain, simple and functional fit.

That corner was one of the busiest in our area.  No matter where I was coming from, I had to turn on it every day.  And so I watched, fascinated, wondering what the sign would look like.  My husband joined in the guessing game.  Maybe it was just going to be one of those signs that required information to be manually lettered.  There were no electric wires that we could see.  Why would they use only gray foundation bricks?  Why are they going so slowly??  Why is the primary builder one man?  Oh, others came and went, helping with the basic masonry, but the slightly stooped man with the thinning gray hair that blew randomly in the gusty autumn winds as fallen leaves swirled around him slowly wielded his tools mostly by himself.

One day, beautiful and distinct brick-colored bricks appeared over the gray cement foundation blocks. The slightly stooped man now wore a jean jacket and sometimes a red ball cap over his thinning gray hair, as the winds turned toward the northwest and blew the dried up autumn leaves into the harvested corn field across the busy road.  I wondered how many other people who drove past the corner with the small church watched and wondered.  How many other people wanted to know why they didn’t just put up an electronic sign, because you know, that’s progress.

Once the man completed the bricks, he added large lighter color limestones, carefully selected for their shape and shade,  around the edges of the sign.  A curved piece appeared on the top of the sign and dark, opalisque tiles filled it, and smaller limestones bordered it, bringing out the colors in the tile.  Still, no writing, no church name, no information.  What good is a sign with no information? I thought.

For a few days, the wheel barrow and stones sit idly around the sign, and I lose interest. The days grow shorter and the dusk takes over the sky at 3:30 pm now.  It’s as if I look through a lense that has finger prints on it and nothing quite comes into focus.  Although I love the holidays, the waning daylight makes me often feel half functional.

But yesterday…yesterday, lamps appeared at either end of the sign with no information.  Large black wrought iron lamps with old world Dickens charm, warm flame-shaped bulbs shining through the foggy afternoon.  How could this be?  We had seen no electric wires.  The slightly stooped man with the thinning gray hair and the jean jacket stood with his sometimes helper gazing at the sign, a tool in his hand.

And that’s when God whispered.  I AM like that stooped man with the thinning gray hair that blows randomly in the wind.  You are like that sign that he creates.  You may feel like ordinary gray foundation blocks but I craft extradorinarily ordinary souls from scratch.  Let me take my time.  Let your light shine for Me as I finish my work.

God is not finished with you.  He fashions a one of a kind work of art, building the foundation first.   That foundation is Jesus Christ.

 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

 

 

 


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Pumpkin Pie Muffins

P1070816These muffins will fill your kitchen and house with all the perfumed spices of autumn!  And they are very healthy.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, 375 for non-stick pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes but be sure to watch!

Here are the ingredients:

2 cups unbleached flour (or 1 cup unbleached, 1 cup whole wheat if you don’t mind the heavier texture)
1/3 cup brown sugar (or 1/3 cup honey added to wet ingredients)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup applesauce (if you want to eliminate all the butter, use all applesauce)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 TBLSP dark molasses
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 C. raisins or dates
3/4 C. walnuts

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Combine until moistened. Try not to overmix. May need a smidge extra buttermilk. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy with some hot tea!


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Epic Failure

It’s been so dry that every time I hose down the potted mums, a half dozen bees appear for a drink.  They don’t bother me.  All they want is some water.  Yes, that’s how dry it’s been in Ohio.  The finches hang out at the thistle seed, lazy and fat.

I love the sound of rain even when it’s been raining for days. This morning, I got up early just so I could stand outside in the dark and feel drops falling on me.  But the drops did not fall.

I pulled my container plants out in a nice messy row so that they could soak up the freshness.  But they remain dusty and pathetic.

I am not fresh.

This has been a week of epic failure.  Can you spell A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E?

I think it all started earlier this month when not one but every clerk, waiter, checker, and retailer asked me if I was getting ready for the big weekend.  Did we have plans?  What big weekend, I wanted to know?  Oh, yeah.  Labor Day Weekend.  I felt like asking the Lady Violet question in proper Maggie Smith British (For you Downton Abbey fans),  ”Excuse me, what is a week-END?”

My husband is a pastor.  We work on weekends.  Did I really spout this to every poor unsuspecting person?  Even the girl at Target.  Yes, I did.  I tried to sound joyful about the prospect, but inside, I confess, I was wishing that we were getting ready for the big weekend.  Our daughter called, and I promptly told her that everyone else in Ohio was at the lake.  What were they doing for the Big Weekend?

Never mind that we have been given the privilege of sharing God’s hope, love and peace.  Never mind that we can freely worship and enjoy the encouragement of other Christians.

I yelled at the cat that he was in my way, when clearly, I was in his way.  Picked an argument with my husband, who picked back.  Quit on changing the seasonal decorations in our house, because why put up any autumn decorations when it’s 80 degrees outside?

The epicness (is that a word?) of my failings culminated with an hour back and forth “discussion” in an online comment section under an article about Donald Trump.  Please don’t judge me. Thank you, God, for the Bible study on Hosea.  This week, I learned about God’s unfailing love and how He rescues us over and over and over….

Even from online comment sections.

Seriously.

And then I saw this.

pumpkin

I knew everything was going to be all right.  To everything there is a season.  Maybe we need seasons of A-T-T-I-I-T-U-U-D-E to understand why we need G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E.

“Bless the LORD O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…”  Psalm 103:2

These benefits would include the amazing creation of the pumpkin.  Oh, yes, and people.  We all need hope.

What are you grateful for today?

 


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