Tag Archives: God

Falling in Love Again

flowers

I grew up in Nebraska, went to school in Arkansas, and moved immediately after college to Texas.  I birthed all of my kids in Texas and created a lovely suburban life in Texas.

Then, in an act that MANY thought was crazy, we moved our family to the northeast to experiment with life a bit.  After several months years of massive culture shock, I found a rhythm.  I fell in love with a city.  With her people.  With a region.  With an honest, raw life.
* We lived on an unusual street populated with people passionate about making their neighborhood better, committed to each other, and endlessly creative with ways to do both.
* We found a crazy-good church filled with open armed, lovely people who spent their energy attempting to draw my kids to deeper things, and attempting to radically transform our city with acts of service and love.
* My husband started a business that was flooded with accolades and honor, with nothing but fulfillment and financial potential.  It was the completion of a long-held dream and was a source of continual expression of his relational and professional gifts.
* We benefitted from the culture and brilliance of a town that was the home of Yale University.  We regularly attended jazz festivals in the town green, participated in arts and idea festivals in various venues around town, went to concerts and plays, got our kids golf lessons at the Yale golf course and found a Yale graduate as a Spanish tutor for our boys.
* And don’t get me started reminiscing about the breathtaking seasons, orchards, and ocean.

WE changed – were transformed by this place.  We were reintroduced to a reality from which we had insulated ourselves.  We were challenged by the tough questions of faith.  We were encouraged to rethink community, social mission, politics, social transformation, hospitality, traditions, among many, many others.  We aggressively worked to break down the “us” versus “them” mentality.  We fought fear, financial lack, and culture.

And then God asked us to leave it all.  Just when this foreign land became familiar and I became fluent in the language of the region, when the work that we’d invested was beginning to pay off and life wasn’t such a struggle, we were uprooting.

When the initial job offer was received and I quieted myself enough to ask God what His vision was for us, the direction He gave me was, “If this earth is your home, of course you’d stay and reap the benefit of your years of toiling; however, if heaven is your home, then I’m asking you to take what you’ve learned and build up another work of mine in Dallas.”

I fully believe that my investment on this earth is to build God’s kingdom, meaning that my efforts are directed towards eternal things.  To me, it is pretty clear delineation – this earth is not my home.  There were other reasons that formed a case as to why we felt that we should move, but this directive was always in my mind.

So we moved.  We hit the ground running and I felt really hopeful about what might be here for me and my family.

downtown-dallas-from-the-trinity-river_l

But the other day as I was reflecting on our short time here, the Lord stopped me and exposed a part of my heart to me that I had effectively covered. I’d moved – but if I was really honest, I hadn’t allowed room in my heart for ALL that Dallas is.  On the surface, I was helping my kids land well, showing them the joys of living in a large metroplex, exploring our new environment and investing in our church community.  But on the inside, I realized that I was looking over my shoulder quite a bit.  I was resenting the warm temperatures in winter and was envying my northern friends every time that it snowed.  I was allowing myself to be cynical when I shopped for produce, recognizing that it wasn’t as fresh as if I had picked it myself.  I was realizing (and didn’t like the fact) that it is way too easy to be isolated in this spread out city.

I know those are silly and/or petty issues, but my lack of wholehearted investment left room for resentment to creep in.

HOWEVER, I recognize that I’ll miss out on SO MUCH that God has for me and my family if I don’t fall in love again with this city.  I will never really connect if I am looking over my shoulder.  I’ll not be effective in our new mission if I don’t intentionally put myself fully in.  If I’m looking back to what was, I’ll put out a vibe that I’m not really available.  A part of me will be withheld from truly investing, and that missing part will be noticed.  Relationships will stay shallow, and I’ll be a fraction of the person I am intended to be.

All of the above is not to say that Dallas hasn’t warmly welcomed us, or that I haven’t connected with people here.  I really have, and I see the potential for such deeper relationships.  I know that God is in complete control of my growth, and that this new place has as much to add to my journey as the former place did.  In fact, I believe that the parts of my heart that became awakened to His love for His people and His earth will be some of the gifts that I have to give to this new place.  I just recognize that for all of this to happen, to a great extent, it is up to whether or not I fully embrace this city.

This is a lovely city filled with lovely people.  I am eager to see what God has in store for me as I learn to put myself out there even more!

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What is Parenting Success?

How do I, as a parent, define success?  The question is a really valid one, and one that deserves to be part of a parenting philosophy that guides your actions.

Do you define success by whether or not you’ve been completely consistent throughout the day?  Throughout the child’s life?

Is success defined by kids that bring you honor by their behavior?

Is success defined by kids that make it through adolescence without a major mistake?

Is success defined by kids that are followers of Christ?

Or could it be something completely different?

Let me suggest that successful parenting could be defined not by the product that you produce, but the process of daily parenting.

Because my faith in Jesus guides every aspect of my life and all decisions with my family, I believe that my faith in Jesus should guide my parenting. Therefore, to me, successful parenting has less to do with the outcome of my child’s behavior, and more to do with whether or not my daily parenting brings glory to God.

When it comes down to it, my amazing children all have their own wills and their own stories.  I do believe that I have influence over the choices that they make, but I certainly don’t have control over their lives.  Since that is the case, the definition of success should be based less on whether or not my kids succeed based on a certain standard, and more on whether or not I’ve brought honor to my faith along the way.

Obviously, because I believe so strongly in finding parenting mentors, and because I’ve read and written quite a bit about parenting, I think there is a lot to being well equipped for the job of parenting.  I strongly believe in doing research and studying for this position.  However, a lot of advice and a lot of information in books revolves around the idea that, if you follow specific steps to parent, or if you model your parenting around various philosophies, your children will turn out great.  The implied message is that if your kids don’t turn out as you hoped, or as you were promised in the book, you did something wrong.  You didn’t work the system specifically enough.

I’ve known way too many fantastic parents who did everything “right” but ended up with kids who followed the “wrong” path.  One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, a pastor whom I highly respect, had a brother who spent his adult life in jail.  The same parents, the same parenting process, a completely different result.

If your instinct is to make yourself feel better by trying to figure out where other parents made their parenting mistakes, what inconsistencies must’ve been in play, what signs they might’ve missed, then you’ve defined parenting success differently than I have.

What I have seen, both in scripture and in life experience, are examples where the right philosophy and methods were used without netting good results, but God was still glorified.

If that is the case, then don’t be so quick to judge yourself (or others) if your kids:

…don’t listen and obey the first time.

….throw temper tantrums repeatedly.

….don’t treat others with kindness even though you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to do so.

…don’t choose the right friends.

…don’t follow the spiritual path you’ve dreamed for them.

Those issues shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ve had success as a parent.

So how do you know if you’re succeeding or not?

I propose that the starting point to answer that question is looking at whether or not your process of parenting glorifies God in each and every parenting opportunity.

If you have to correct your child, did you do it lovingly?
Did you do it with patience?
Were you self controlled?
Did you set the right example?
Did you act out of the spirit instead of the flesh?
Did your behavior point your children to God?

Of course, the above standard is simply a goal – we are not going to be perfect. And the good news is that even our imperfections can point our kids to God if we follow through with humility, ask for forgiveness, and model that though we might fail, we’ll keep on trying through His strength.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I care desperately how my children turn out.  I believe that we should forever be working towards training and leading them.  I find comfort in Proverbs 22:6 where it says that if we train up our children in the way they should go, then when they’re old they’ll not depart from it.

However, when it is all said and done, it is not about me or my kids, it is about God.  If He has been glorified by my actions, whether they be successes or failures, then I have been a success.

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To Celebrate, or Not Celebrate – The Halloween Debate

So what do you think about Halloween?

I received an email this week from a very conservative group whose mission is to restore the Christian family culture one home at a time.  Its message was that there are 5 truly scary things that you can do this Halloween, one of them being to not skip Halloween celebrations. The opinion communicated was that Halloween was conceived in evil and has remained a celebration that uses children to promote a fascination with superstitious fear; therefore, it is our duty to skip the traditional holiday festivities.  (It does give alternatives, such as celebrating Reformation Day.)

When we moved from the south to the northeast, we came with many values to which we were very committed.  The avoidance of Halloween was one of them. We didn’t celebrate Halloween, nor did we watch much mainstream media during that time period because we knew we’d encounter all kinds of dark imagery and scary scenes.  Our kids were much younger at the time, and it was very important to guard their hearts from scary images that would trouble their minds.  It also was easy to dismiss a cultural mainstay such as Halloween by simply explaining that we don’t celebrate it.

When we moved onto our street in the northeast, we were quickly informed that this community took Halloween seriously.  It wasn’t the darkness and evil history of the holiday that they celebrated.  It wasn’t the costumes and pumpkin carving that they took seriously.

What this group of people took seriously was making this holiday an opportunity to love on the kids from the projects that are 3 blocks from our homes.

It was the opportunity to welcome kids and their parents from the neighboring streets that might not otherwise ever step foot on our properties.

It was the opportunity to take one more event to cultivate fellowship within the neighbors that sat on their front porches the whole evening, often times straying from their stoops to sit and visit with friends on other stoops.

My husband and I had to make a big decision.  Do we take part in this celebration that had been so easy to dismiss before?  It might be difficult to do because it came into conflict with our present value system – but if we didn’t, we’d miss out on an opportunity to strengthen relationships within our inner-city neighborhood and to join with our amazing neighbors as they celebrated our community.

It wasn’t that this group of people didn’t celebrate other holidays.  They equally valued and honored all cultures, and they made a habit of celebrating Easter with the larger neighborhood, having fall festivals, conducting soccer camps, sponsoring educational summer programs, etc.  All of these celebrations we quickly became a part of with them.  Halloween had just become one more opportunity to live out the values of generosity, openness to others, and community among all neighbors.

Hadn’t we moved from our home in the south to be a part of such things as these values?

The first year, we sat on our porch and shared candy with the huge traffic of kids as they passed by.  We roamed from home to home visiting with other neighbors who were out doing the same.  Our kids stayed with us, not in costume, but observing the way that a heart to love can transform something evil and make it beautiful.

As the years have gone by and our kids have gotten older, we still celebrate with our neighbors this opportunity to reach out lovingly to our fellow neighbors.  You might find our kids in costume, and you will see pumpkins carved on our stoop.  You will definitely see a huge supply of candy being distributed to the variety of kids in our area.

     


The last thing I want to do is to raise kids who blindly fall into every cultural tradition without applying thought and value to their decisions.  But along the same vein, one of the last things I want to do is to raise kids who shy away from opportunities to reach out to people because they value their traditions more than people.

To the organization I referenced earlier, Halloween is a clear-cut issue:  it is clearly evil and is to be avoided.  To me, it is an issue that should be handled with prayer and thoughtfulness.  It should be weighed with the scale of love, and within a greater context of community outreach.

So, what do you think about Halloween?

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Filed under Family and faith