Sunday, April 12, 2015

Don't ask me to write a book on parenting.

Back in the day, when my babes were babies and my biggest challenge was pottytraining, I was pretty confident as a mom.  I had read the books, done the research, and was going to raise up these kids correctly in the name of Jesus and watch the fruit ripen as they neared adulthood.  I had it figured out.

But there was one problem.

My kids were not robots.  They could not be programmed, no matter how babywise I was at growing them God's way.  I shepherded their hearts, I romanced their hearts, and I creatively corrected.  I prayed and trained and counseled and taught them how to share.  They are very good kids, beautiful and smart and polite to the n'th degree to any adult who crosses their paths.  They are loyal friends and funny as can be.  But God has done a massive work of humbling in this mama's heart as my kids have entered the teen years.  No matter how much I trained, sheltered, coached and homeschooled there are some massive struggles that are just going to be part of their experience.  Identity, body image, race, navigating relationships, why they are here, who they are in Christ; these are huge issues for any child but even more magnified in kids who have experienced early loss.

My kids are sinners.  So are yours.  They are enticed by the world and resisting the influence of this almost godless culture is extremely difficult.  The generation that is now in the teen years could be the most narcissistic generation in history.  Just think about it.  I can prove that point in one word.


Need I say more?

Our teenagers are barraged almost constantly by tiny images playing across tiny screens, telling them to pose just so, make life look fun and perfect, and the more "likes" you get the more popular you must be.  We have never had a generation like the one coming behind us and, frankly, WE HAVE NO FRIGGIN' IDEA WHAT WE ARE DOING.

The parenting books don't deal with this.  Even the ones that mention it are only working out of theory because WE DON'T KNOW the long-term effect that the social media culture is going to have on our kids as they become adults.  We just don't know.

My kids have firm boundaries around their phone/internet use.  As they get older we plan to gradually loosen those boundaries in order for them to develop their own sense of discernment regarding social media.  (Don't think I haven't considered going Amish just to avoid the whole modern technology thing.  Thankfully my hubby's love of cable TV sports nipped that idea in the bud!)  But the fact is, after all of this research and i-blood, i-sweat, and i-tears my kids could hit 18, say "see ya'" and be out the door and on the first porn site they can get their hands on.

That, my internet friends, scares the crap out of me.

I don't have an answer.  I can't guarantee anything we are doing in our home is going to work and that they will turn out ok.  And neither can you.  We are treading in unknown territory and it is driving me to my knees on a whole new level.  Not only do I pray for purity in the lives of my children, I pray for their protection against online predators, for them to have a desire for the things of God and a complete aversion to the things of the world.  I continue to set firm boundaries and enforce a sense of propriety in how they contact friends and members of the opposite sex.  But I have also had to step back and shut my preachy mouth because, the truth is, only God can make them want what is right.

"For it is God who works in you, to will and to act according to His good purpose."  Phil. 2:13

Do I believe this?  That He will work in my children, that He will make them want what He wants and get true satisfaction from obedience to Him?  I have to.  It is my only hope as I raise my children in this crooked and depraved generation.  I admit I have read lots of parenting books.  I am a researcher by nature, but I have learned to pick and choose what seems right for my family at the time and not buy in to the latest philosophy or parenting fad.  No matter how many key phrases I have memorized and ready to apply in the teachable moments, only God can speak to the deepest places in the hearts of my children. Sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of His way and, though it may be painful to watch, let Him do the hard heart-work that needs to be done in order to refine my kids and make them more like Christ just like He did when I was a teen and young adult.  I imagine my mama could blame me for a few of her gray hairs (though I'm sure MOST of them were from my brother!) but she never preached or lost it when we screwed up.  I imagine she spent many hours on her knees for us.

I can do no less for my children.

This parenting season is HARD, much harder than I ever imagined.  I feel the clock ticking on their years at home and the pressure to do it right and well can be overwhelming.  I want them to love me, to come home often for holidays and weekends when they are in college, to look back on their childhood with sweet feelings of love and acceptance, to know that they are the five greatest gifts I have ever been given and that their father and I have got their back no matter what.  But I also don't want to parent out of fear, which is a struggle for me.  Despite the ticking clock, I have to live for today and for eternity.  I have to honor God above all.  Only He can woo their hearts and make them want what only He can offer.

But don't think I won't snatch that phone out of their hot little hands when necessary!   What in the world did our parents take away when we smarted off...our Ataris?  Good grief.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why Christians remind one another, "He is risen."

On Easter Sunday, a prominent young Christian posted a photo on Instagram.  It was simple...just three words against a plain background:

 "He is risen."

Many responses were supportive.  Some were just weird.  (You know how those social media comment sections are...there are some looney birds hanging out on their computers.)  But one caught my attention.  It was a comment that said, "I don't know why Christians continue to use that phrase.  It is outdated and silly. We look at it and think it is just useless, meaningless."

I have chewed on that all day, realizing that, to a world that chooses to live apart from relationship with God, denying His very existence, it may truly seem silly, useless, meaningless.

So, whoever you are, I would like to explain why we use the phrase "He is risen" at Easter.

Christians have been persecuted for centuries.  Early believers would find themselves in hiding, trying to survive waves of torture and death, trying to protect themselves and their families.  Knowing who you could trust could be very difficult.  But they came up with a symbol that was known only amongst the followers of Christ which enabled them to identify those who were a part of the brotherhood. says:

When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company.

Not only was this smart, it was beautiful.  Imagine the relief in the heart of a desperate, scared, on-edge follower of Christ when they drew one arc of the fish and the stranger beside them joyfully drew the other.

"He is risen" holds a similar significance to us today.  Why?  I can give you three reasons:

1.  Because persecution is on the rise.  Darkness is encroaching and taking over the world and we feel it crowding us together.  Why would anyone hold to a "narrow" faith, a silly need for a supernatural Savior when the world tells us we can achieve a higher consciousness by looking deep within ourselves? Because, as the Christian recording artist and author, Andrew Peterson, often reminds us...

"The stories are true."

In other words, He IS risen.  Our faith is not in vain.  We hold to and are held by a real God whose real son died a real death and walked out of the grave ALIVE AND WELL.

2.  We have seen the headlines, the beheadings, and most recently the slaughter of 147 precious children of God in Kenya...not because they were black, but SOLELY because they were followers of Jesus Christ. (Go here if you want more information, but I warn you the images are graphic. But sometimes we need to face the reality in order for us to fully realize what is going on.)  We see these headlines (or the appalling lack thereof) and we know that the persecution is coming our way.  We know there is a time coming when it will be our necks feeling the cold blade of the executioner, when we are told to reject Christ or die.

But He IS risen.  He promises it will be worth it all and He proved it by regenerating his mutilated, dead body, folding his clothes neatly, and walking OUT of the TOMB.

3.  We are watching the battle rage over our children and their genertion.  We see how crafty the enemy is, how he is wooing and deceiving our young ones who want to just fit just be normal.  But we know normal is usually not Godly, normal is most often not Holy.  We know the things that tempt our kids will destroy them if not placed under the authority of Jesus and, unless they KNOW who they are and Whose they are, unless they take hold of the FACT that Jesus conquered sin and death and walked away from it victorious, having been seen ALIVE and WELL by over 500 witnesses...unless our children can answer "He is risen" with a confident "He is risen, indeed!" they will not have what it takes to stand up to the incredible peer pressure all around them.

And, mamas, lest we forget...our faith is not in our parenting or any "how-to" book on raising kids.  The battle is painfully, blistering hot and we will be tempted to run away from the heat without the Truth to protect us.  He IS risen, His promises ARE true, we CAN trust Him, even with the most hardened teenager, the most critically ill child, or the most debilitating of special needs because HE IS FULLY AND COMPLETELY ALIVE.  There is more to the tapestry that we cannot see on this side of Heaven, more to this life than what we are living in the present.  We serve and obey a God who put His money where is mouth is...He gave it all, intentionally and freely, for us.   Then, He walked out of that stinking grave clothed in clean linen with the scars to prove it to anyone who doubted.  (Because He knew us.  He knew we would doubt.)

Is that not the most amazing, freeing, ridiculous, beautiful, sci-fi worthy thing you have ever heard?  I understand why you may think we are crazy!  But you need to understand that we say "He is Risen" because we need to remind one another that the resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. We can and, through the strength of the Holy Spirit, will endure.  Yes, we know it sounds unbelievable, but if He is not risen we have no hope.  If He is not risen we are wasting our time. The evidence, though is there.  It is in history and in the Word of God.  Research it for yourself.  God understands your need for proof.

Jesus IS risen from the dead.  I hang my hat on it.  I hang my eternity and the eternities of my children on it.  I hang my marriage and all of my friendships on it.  He IS risen.  Seek Him and I PROMISE you will find Him.

The stories are true.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It was a dark and stormy night...

The skies are darkening as the storm nears.  I know many are praying it away, but I'm not.  Don't get me wrong, I do NOT want a tornado.  I know all too well the damage they can do.  But thunder, lightning, trees bending in the wind?  For some strange reason that sounds wonderful to me on this Good Friday.

I had high and lofty plans for today.  We would start our day with lit candles, reading about the cross, solemn hearts reflecting on His sacrifice.  Then, after child #3's speech therapy, I would run a quick errand and school would commence.  Next, child #4 would go for his OT evaluation and I would come home to proofread essays, make dinner, and get our crew ready for the Good Friday service at church.

Yeah, that isn't exactly how the day went.

Oh, we made the appointments, the essays are written, but I have procrastinated and ignored the task I should do and they have not been proofread.  I sat in my husband's office and played on my phone while my hubby did work on the computer and the kids screamed at each other upstairs.  I have no idea if what they are wearing is appropriate, but apparently it is what they will wear to church because I am out here on my front porch typing this.

Correction:  Child #4 just walked out here in mismatched, stained athletic clothes.  Ok, he will have to change.  I can't be that loose.

Oh great, apparently there is a tornado warning in the next county. Whatever.

Anywho, suffice it to say today I have not been great at reflecting on Jesus.  A Good Friday fail, if you will. So this crazy part of me thinks it would be perfect to end this day in a storm shelter wrapped in blankets with flashlights aglow, praying for safety.  
Because in a weird way it parallels the world on that first Good Friday, when the sun hid its face and the curtain was torn in two, when the disciples huddled in fear because all hope seemed lost.  It wouldn't be all bad, would it?  

Yes, it is Friday.  It is stormy and dark and hearts are afraid, but just you wait.

Sunday's coming!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Getting real. Wanna join me?

Dear Reader,

Oh, this blog.
How many times have I recreated it?  Changed the focus?  Tried to find what the heck I want to write about?

The truth is, I just want to write.  I love it.  But I have written myself into a corner by focusing too narrowly and not allowing myself freedom to hammer out whatever suits the moment.  I want to glorify God, and I also want to laugh...maybe even giving you a good chuckle as well!  Most days, my life doesn't look very inspirational.  I have yelled at my kids, or I have ignored the laundry, or I have totally sucked at schooling and they all want to go to "real" school to get away from psycho mom.

Yeah, that's the stuff I have stuffed because it didn't fit the focus of my blog.

Don't get me wrong; God speaks so clearly sometimes, and I have shared those moments here.  But sometimes I just can't believe what one of my kids said, or I read a really good book, or I want to show you the real me...dirty dishes and all.

So, once again, I am piddling with new blog buttons and headers and thinking about what I really want to say to you.  I want to shout grace, I want to say "I get you!  We need each other!  We can't do this mothering thing alone!"  I want to tell you about the whiny day my 8 year old had and get an "amen."  I need to tell you how my teenager said that thing that I swore before kids my kid would never say to me and get reassurance that they will still come home for Christmas when they are grown.  I would love to share how I looked at myself in the mirror and realize there is a good reason I am no longer getting carded when I order a margarita.


And I want to continue reminding all of us that God is right here, present in the midst of this messy season of life. That He speaks and moves and we can trust Him even when we don't trust ourselves.

So here I am, starting fresh again.  I will decare the glory of God, and I will share all the stories and weirdness flittering about in this sleep-deprived, caffeine-dependent, overwhelmed brain of mine.  I hope you will stick around.  I especially hope you will share your stuff as well!  It is so much more fun if I don't do all the talking.  Let's hang over a cup of coffee and help each other through the hard days.  Let's rejoice over the small victories and cry together when all of our dreams are teetering on the edge of destruction.  Life is so much better together.

Love, Jeanine