How do I Parent?

Recently I had my parenting questioned. It’s kind of hard when you feel like you have been judged and found lacking.  It always sends me reeling a bit. I have to really think about what was said. Is there merit? Is there truth? Am I wrong? Should I change things? 

And then, I have to just stop. 

 

The truth of the matter is I am merely human. I am not perfect, nor will I be any time soon. In fact, not on this side of eternity. I am a flawed human being trying to raise ten other flawed human beings. It’s a recipe for messiness. 

 

Then you have to consider all the different goals parents set for themselves. Am I trying to raise a child prodigy? Am I trying to raise an athlete? Am I trying to raise an activist? Every parent you talk to is going to have a different set of goals in their parenting. And that’s because each of us are different with different strengths and talents that we hope to pass down to our children. 

 

Even when we have what seems like the same goal, “I want to raise Godly children”, the way we envision that is very different. The way we hope to implement that is very different. 

 

For some people, raising Godly children means that they are going to keep their children from being exposed to ungodly things. For some it means that they are going to immerse their child in the scriptures until they can almost recite the entire Bible. For some it means getting their children very involved in a church community where they live, eat, and breathe church. For some it means awakening a heart for the lost, encouraging their children to pray for the nations and look for opportunities to reach out to the lost whenever possible. 

 

I can guarantee that whatever area you as parents decide to focus on, that is probably an area that is close to your heart and an area where God has done a lot of work in your life. We naturally want to pass on to our kids the things that we know and are learning. 

 

So, here is what God has been working on in my life. Grace. No Fear. Love your neighbor. 

 

Grace. It is imperative to me that my children know that God loves them, he has forgiven them, and he is the only one who can enable them to walk the Christian life. Their own will power will never be enough to keep them from turning in the wrong direction. Only God can save us and then change our hearts. 

 

No Fear. It is imperative that my children not be afraid. Not be afraid of losing God’s love. Not be afraid of losing my love. Not be afraid of being rejected. Not be afraid of people who don’t believe the same as them. Not be afraid of going out into the world and sharing love with whomever they meet. Not be afraid of making mistakes and not being perfect. Fear not. I believe that phrase is repeated a ridiculous number of times in the Bible. 

 

Love your neighbor. It is imperative to me that my children learn how to love their neighbor. Though this is an action that we need God’s grace for, I need them to keep asking God for grace and keep pressing in to this. Keep trying to understand the people around them. Keep seeing each person in their life as a highly valuable treasure that God loves. Keep on learning how to love. It’s the second greatest commandment. First, Love God, second, love your neighbor. 

 

How do you teach your children these things? Beats me. I’m not the parenting expert. Each day is me fumbling around in the darkness, trying to do my best on my good days, on my bad days, just trying to keep everyone alive. I have no idea how to raise Godly children. But, thank you Lord, God does know. He gives me just enough grace for one day at a time. And one day at a time I try to model a complete dependence on God. I try to model Grace. I try to model No Fear. I try to model loving my neighbor. That’s about all I can do. The rest is in God’s hands. 

 

May we have grace for each other as parents. Instead of getting caught up in the comparison game, let’s just encourage each other. 

 

When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect

Making plans seems to be part in parcel of being human. We have this life laid out in front of us and we feel an urgency to do Something with that life. Everyone around us tells us that we need to be doing Something. We ask little children, What do you want to be when you grow up? We pester our teenagers as soon as they enter high school…What do you think you want to do after high school? College? Which one? What do you want to study? How about the armed forces? Does that sound interesting? Or tech school? You can make good money being an electrician! Have you ever considered going into teaching? 

 

People just can’t leave us alone about our “futures”. And so, naturally, we make plans. We have this life in front of us, we must plan. 

 

Some people make a plan very early in their life and then they follow it, step by faithful step, until they have reached their end goal and entered into the life they always wanted. And we all shake our heads in amazement and say, Yep, I knew they could do it, they’re just that kind of person. 

 

Then there are the people who just can’t settle on any plan. These are the ones that go to college and change their majors five times. Or maybe it’s the ones who pursue job after job, but can never stay in one place for too long. And we shake our heads at them. You just need to get a plan and stick to it!

 

I think for most of the rest of us it goes more like this. We make a plan and pursue it. Then something happens, we discover while student teaching that we really don’t like being around kids. Or maybe an unexpected financial burden arises that keeps us from going to that flight school we always wanted to attend. Or a personal tragedy, a death in our family, awakens a previously unknown desire to enter the medical field or become a hospice nurse. 

 

We all waver and bend as life shoves us this way and that, following whatever road seems to be the right one at the moment. Always making plans. Not always accomplishing those plans. 

 

I am familiar with plans not turning out the way I thought. At the age of 17 I thought I would study piano, become a piano teacher, get married in my mid-twenties and have 2 children. 

 

Yeah. That didn’t happen. (For those of you new to the blog, I dropped out of college after 2 years, married at the age of 20 and have 10 children.) 

 

Some people say that God has an exact plan written out for our lives and that it’s our job to sit still and listen and wait for him to reveal this plan to us. Other people say, God gave you gifts and talents for a reason, pursue those gifts and talents and God will use you wherever you go. I, of course, love to walk the middle road. I’m sure that God has a plan for me, but I don’t think it’s his habit of sharing the details of that plan. Instead he uses our gifts and talents to direct us. He uses earth-shattering events to redirect us. He uses simple self-awareness (hmm, I actually really hate this career) to direct us. He uses people in our lives who build us up or tear us down to send us in search of new paths. He uses whatever he wants to get us where he wants us. And there is a lot of peace in that. I saw an awesome meme the other day:

stupiditymeme

Plans come and go but God is constant and nothing surprises him. I’m going to keep making plans, keep pursuing them…But perhaps it’s not the destination, the fulfilling of the plan, that is so important, but rather the journey along the way. 

 

 

 

Leave No Trace

In the Bible in the book of Revelation, there is mentioned this 1000 years of time when Jesus will rule on the earth. I am not a theologian or a scholar. I have heard some good teaching on Revelation, but the best teachers all freely admit that there is no way of knowing what everything means. The important thing is that Jesus is coming back. 

 

So, every once in a while I think about that 1000 years. Lets just say, for the sake of my idea, that Jesus was literally going to come to earth and rule the earth for 1000 years? What would that be like? What would he do? 

 

I have a theory. Here it is. I bet he would spend that 1000 years having all the people work on cleaning up the mess they made of the earth. 1000 years to go and gather all the trash out of the ocean. 1000 years to clean up all the toxins and chemicals that have been spread all over the ground and water. 1000 years to eliminate from our environment all the cheap substances we’ve come up with that are causing cancer and killing off the insects and other animals. 

 

It seems like a worthy way to spend the time. 

 

This past week there have been demonstrations around the world where people are demanding changes be made to fight climate change. 

 

I know that some people don’t believe in climate change. And you have a lot of evidence to back up your beliefs. I get that. But, even if you don’t think the climate is changing, or you think the present climate change is simply happening because of other natural reasons…Can you not at least acknowledge that the current way we are doing things is hurting our planet? Even if the climate isn’t changing, our oceans sure are filling up with plastic trash. The amount of garbage and trash that the United States is producing is crazy. The chemicals that the Big Food Industry are pouring on the ground is killing off our insects and especially the bees. Whether the carbon emissions are causing the weather to change or not, they certainly are causing air pollution. 

 

We can not continue as we are without reaping heavy consequences. We already are reaping heavy consequences, we’re just not paying attention.

 

I am as guilty as the next person. 

 

Convenience is a big part of it. It’s not convenient to take my own bags to the grocery store. It’s not convenient to take stuff to the recycling center. 

 

Cost is another big part. I am trying to raise a large family with a limited amount of money and buying the “responsibly packaged” organic food at the store is simply not in my budget. Like, not even anywhere close to being in my budget. 

 

But, there are definitely things I can do. I can recycle. Our city actually makes it pretty easy. I can take my own bags to the grocery store. I can be careful about not putting poisons all over my yard that are hurting the insects and bees. And probably the biggest thing, I can talk to my children about it. Instill a desire in them to treat our earth carefully. Instill in them the habit of recycling. Start making them aware of problems in our earth that need to be addressed. 

 

It is my hope that our current culture of “Do whatever you want as long as it makes you money” can be replaced with the camping mantra my husband has taught us when we go camping…Leave no trace. Leave nature as it was or better so that the next person who comes along can enjoy it too. 

 

 

Better Late than Never

This past 9-11 was interesting for me.  I suddenly got interested in the events of that day 18 years before.  Yes, every year our country has a day of remembering, and every year I have felt melancholy as people shared different memories from that day. But I did not feel like I was entering into the mourning like my friends were. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I was living in bush Alaska. I had an almost one yr old baby. I was pregnant with my second. I didn’t have a tv. The events of that day seemed very far away. I did not sit in front of the news and watch the events unfold. I just heard about it after the fact, in a tidy little written news article I found on the internet. I also had a very complicated history with the US, having lived in Haiti while the US put that country under a strict embargo. Seeing firsthand the suffering that the Haitians endured because of US politics made me feel very ambiguous about being an American. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I saw it as an outsider. How sad. Those poor people. It was some kind of crazy disaster that was happening far away to people that had no connection to me. 

 

So, this past 9-11, I suddenly felt very curious. I started watching little video clips that people had posted about various aspects of that day. Then I got on Youtube and found where someone had posted an unedited clip of the news, playing straight from 8:30am to 11am on that day. Over a couple days, I sat and watched the whole thing unfold. I cried a lot. Suddenly feeling very connected to the confusion and pain and bewilderment as people watched their country being attacked. I went and found another video that was made a year after, that showed what was happening at the government level during that time. I watched an amazing clip of a fireman who had been in the building when it collapsed and somehow he got out. He gives God all the credit. I watched some footage of different news camera men who had been on the scene, watched their live footage as they lived through the chaos. I watched an amazing little documentary about all the boats that spontaneously gathered to help evacuate Manhattan. And I cried some more, this time at the wonder of people coming together to help each other, uniting.  And then finally, I felt like I had watched enough. 

 

And I wondered. What was that interest all about? I’m still not sure. I do know that I hate mourning. I hate entering into emotional pain. I distance myself from it. It’s not good that I do that. Instead of feeling the emotions, I just shove them down. I used to be pretty purposeful about it too. If something was getting too overwhelming for me to handle, I would literally envision a big walk-in closet. Then I would envision myself going in, taking an empty box, setting the problem into the box, shutting the box, and putting the box on the shelf, and then I’d walk away. 

 

Perhaps God is letting me do some catch up. Let’s open that closet door and start unpacking all those boxes. One at a time. 

 

A Boy and His Kitten

kitten

We got a new kitten this weekend. Or rather, my ten year old son got a new kitten this weekend. Because of course, that’s what this crazy house needed, another pet.  

 

But, my son has been asking for approximately two years now for a pet. And I’ve been putting him off because his brothers had pet ferrets and a pet dog, I had a pet cat, his dad had pet fish and I didn’t feel up to taking on more than that. In fact, I have been pretty emphatic that we were done with getting pets. In fact, my husband said, no more pets unless some of the current pets find a new home. In fact, we were united in our stance against new pets.

 

But he kept asking. Pleading. Coming up with all kinds of creative ways he could manage a pet so we wouldn’t even notice it was around. We tossed around the idea of him getting a fish. No. He wanted something he could cuddle. Then I suggested that he take part ownership of the ferrets and dog since his oldest brother was very busy and was on his way to being gone for a year. No. He wanted his Own pet. 

 

And then a week or so ago he told me that his friend who lives down the street had kittens at his house…could he have one of the kittens? And I thought about it and really couldn’t think of any reason to keep saying No to this poor child, and so, I ended up saying Yes. (And his father grudgingly agreed.)

 

Why? Because he’s quirky and I think he needs his own special animal friend. Why? Because  he is not wired to enjoy school work and yet his teachers tell me that he works hard and is a model student in their classes. Why? Because I let my older children have pets and I want to be fair. Why? Because I secretly like kittens and while he’s at school, I’ll get to hold it… 

 

This parenting thing is complicated. Finding the balance between not losing your own sanity, making sure your kids are happy, and making sure they’re also learning how to be responsible. Not killing their dreams, but not spoiling them. 

 

I love my son. He’s very different from me and I have found it a challenge to meet him where he’s at, instead of trying to force him into a mold that is easier to handle. And that is the essence of parenting. Learning how to let go of your own expectations and instead work with what you’ve got. 

 

What I’ve got is a highly intelligent, creative, business-savvy boy who tends to create waves amongst his siblings, who loves to learn new things, (just don’t ask him to read it out of a book), who knows how to wrap his teachers around his little finger, but struggles with the daily playground politics. He’s a kid who is willing to work hard if he’s going to be compensated. He can take a cardboard box and tape and turn it into anything you want. He is a Master Lego Builder, and the arch-nemesis of his younger sister. He frustrates me and delights me. He’s a boy. 

 

And now he’s a boy with a kitten. 

 

And my pet tally has now gone up to: 

 

1 dog

2 ferrets

2 cats

5 fish

3 crawdads

 

I have a feeling those numbers will change again. 

 

Fat Fridays: You’ve Got to do Something

Hey everyone. I’m back. Kind of. This past Sunday at our church, our pastor gave a short video message from his home. He is currently recovering from a very serious medical ailment. In the video he was explaining what had happened to him, and lessons that God was teaching him through the experience. He related how he took a serious downturn, an ambulance was called, but he was still wavering on whether he should go to the hospital or not. He asked his grown daughter what he should do, and she said, “Well, you’ve got to do something!” 

 

That statement, along with a couple other things he said, really resonated with me. 

I’ve got to do something. 

 

I’m at a place where I no longer believe in my ability to overcome this weight once and for all. I no longer think that I can just find the right plan, get myself revved up enough, and then, Voila! I will lose all my weight. That fantasy has died. I have a horrible feeling that this is going to be a life-long struggle. 

 

But at the same time, I can’t give up. I’ve got some serious health problems. I’ve got to do something. 

 

And so, I try once again. One small step at a time. This week I have been working on cutting out sugar. I’m hoping to tackle eliminating wheat next week. One small step at a time. Heading towards a low-carb diet. I got on my elliptical a couple times too. It’s something. 

 

Approaching a diet without hope and energy is a different experience. I’m just feeling realistic. I need to make these changes for the sake of my health. I don’t know if it will produce dramatic weight loss. I’ll probably cheat on occasion. But, it’s something. Right now that’s all I can do. 

 

 

A Poem by My Daughter

Something a little different today. We just found out that my thirteen year old daughter won a prize in a writing competition held by the Knoxville Writer’s Guild this past May. I’m so proud of her. She finally let me read her poem and I thought it was beautiful. I asked her if the poem proceeded from an in-the-moment emotion or if it was a place that she stayed in. She said it started off as an in-the-moment emotion and then it just morphed into describing other girls she knew and Middle School.

 

She’s a Girl

by Ruth Heneise

 

   This day 

That the lord made,

 She needs first aid

Cause she’s dying 

Of fright

She lives in the dark of night

 she lost the spark of light

And of potentiality 

She no longer wants to be

A doctor, dancer, astronaut

she stopped tryin to dream, stopped tryin to flaunt

Her body and her vocals

      You wonder why the locals

Don’t know she exist

Its cause she didn’t persist

They think she’s thirteen and lean

But she’s lanky and she’s cranky

Her feelins

Are wheelin

Out

And about

She’s beat on the street

Beat down she’s gonna drown

Cause she’s sinking

Cause she’s always thinking

Trapped

But overlapped

By the hope

That she could cope

With humanity

But that future is grim

As dim as

The light (that ain’t bright)

Behind the eyes

Of the girl in disguise as

A person

But the truth is worse than

The fear.

It’s clear

To see

Cause,

She doesn’t

Just 

Have fear of isolation

She isolates herself

Removed from the shelf

Of comfort

 which is dirt

Dirt cheap

She got her clothes from her bros

And her charm from karm

karma(if she believed in stuff like karma)

Would be on the down side

Of good to

AT LEAST I TRIED

But she’ll pause this ramble

Cause you stopped trying to unscramble

The message behind

This waste of your time

So she’ll give the explanation 

To satisfy your expectation

And she is

A poem

A world

    the essence

The presence 

Of words so beautiful

Words so tactful

Words so thesaurical 

The world is a poem

The poem is a world

She’s the world

She’s a poem

She’s a girl