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Archive for December, 2011

Proverbs 22:6: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it..” 

Growing up is hard work.  There is no way around it.  Along the way, there are skills that have to be mastered, independence that has to be won, responsibility that has to be learned, and fears that have to be faced.  Even once you have arrived and are considered an adult, more growing up is still necessary as life will always throw at you new challenges that must be conquered in order to continue to improve your quality of life. 

We have a saying in our household:  “It is our job as parents to stretch you, but we won’t let you break.”  So how exactly do you help your children to stretch and grow and mature without completely breaking their spirit or leaving them feeling like failures when it takes longer than they thought it would to master a new level of independence? 

In my opinion, there are four essential ingredients needed to help your child stretch:  Encouragement, compassion, patience, and the restart button. 

Everyone needs encouragement when learning a new skill, reaching for the next level, or even remaining consistent with skills they have already mastered.  Who do you gravitate toward:  Someone who cheers you on and believes in you or someone who is quick to point out your mistakes, showing you how it can be done differently or better?  Even though instruction is a key ingredient to helping stretch your children, teaching without encouragement makes the process long and slow instead of challenging and fun. 

Compassion is essential as well; however, I have to be careful with this one.  If I show too much compassion, then I end up taking back the responsibility of the newly learned skill from my child and that backfires.  Then my children do not feel the sense of accomplishment that they can do it; instead, they are left feeling like I do not believe in them, which is the opposite of how I truly believe.  My husband has mastered the mixture of compassion and encouragement much better than myself.  I am still working on improving in this area. 

Patience and the restart button are also closely linked.  In the process of stretching, there are going to be set backs.  It is inevitable.  Nothing worth obtaining comes easy, to any of us.  Therefore, as parents, we are responsible for keeping our kids on the right track, not allowing them to settle for second best, keeping them focused on the end goal, but at the same time, allowing for mistakes and the need to start over sometimes or even to try a different approach altogether if the first one is not working well.  Each child is going to be different and have a different timetable for the mastery of their personal issues.  The main focus is that everyone keeps moving toward the desired outcome; not how long it takes to get there. 

We have three very different children.  One child wants to be grown up tomorrow.  Another one wants to eventually, but to have a say in the timetable, and the third one is still not sure how beneficial it is to have all that freedom, knowing how much responsibility goes along with it.  Our job as parents is to continue to help our children strive for the goal of independence while surrounding them with encouragement, compassion, and patience.  The most essential ingredient of all, packaged up with the others, is love.  If your children ultimately know deep down that you love them and desire the best for their lives, then even as you help them master their independence, needing to hit the restart button yourself a few times in your approach, the end result will ultimately be one of victory.

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“…He has never let you down,  Why start to worry now?  He is still the Lord of all we see, And He is still the loving Father, Watching over you and me…God is in control” (Twila Paris, lyrics to God is in Control)

Tuesday night Michigan got the first real snowstorm of the season.  By comparison to other storms, it was pretty minor except that the snow was heavy and therefore, weighed down the power lines and the trees.  Where we live, our power usually goes out with the slightest breeze.  We are typically one of the first to lose our power and not first priority to get it restored.  I wonder sometimes if our road is even on their map (just kidding about that part).  I went to bed and prayed that night to please spare us losing our electricity.  I knew I had a busy day of working on Wednesday and really wanted to have heat, fresh coffee, and the ability to get my work done.  It was a selfish request, pure and simple, but a request nonetheless.  When I woke up Wednesday morning to heat, lights, and that fresh pot of coffee, I was shocked to hear that 7700 people in our County alone woke up Wednesday morning with no power, but we still had ours.  I praised and thanked God for sparing us, then went about my day. 

At 5:20 p.m., after turning in my work for the end of the month, I was just finishing up the last little bit of work before quitting for the night, and the power went out after all.  I was really irritated.  Why did it go out now, when the storm was over, the sun had been shining all day, and it was getting cold and dark outside?  What would cause it to go out when there were no more strong winds, the snow had stopped, and everyone else was getting theirs back on and starting to function again?

I realized my irritation was not so much that we lost power.  I do not think myself better than anyone else.  I do not think that I should be spared when others should suffer.  We all live on Earth, therefore we are all subject to earthly disasters, trials, and results of sin equally.  My irritation was not that I was better than others; it was plain and simple, I hate being out of control. 

I react the same way in other circumstances:  When I have my weekend planned out with fun activities and my children suddenly get sick so we are now housebound or when I am looking forward to spending the morning with a friend and for some reason plans get cancelled.  Especially when I know that I need to eat less food and exercise more but I resist being “told what to do.”  It all boils down to lack of control. 

However, I need to really change my perspective.  In reality, I am not in control of many things in life.  Yes, there are a few things that I can control:  My emotions, my reactions to life’s disappointments, my health, the amount of exercise I chose to participate in, and what I put in my mouth.  But there are many things that are beyond my control:  The weather, my work, other people’s reactions, whether or not my children choose to obey, and the list can go on. 

I guess, when it boils down to it, do I really want to be in charge of everything?  I have a hard time balancing the things I am in charge of.  To add to that responsibility would be overwhelming to say the least and I am sure I would spend even more time trying to fix my endless mistakes. 

So, instead, I am going to work on changing my perspective.  I know it will not happen overnight, but I am going to try to embrace the things that I am in charge of, making sure to complete them the best way possible, and gratefully leave the rest in God’s hands.  If He is capable of controlling the whole universe (and He is and then some), then I think He knows best when it comes to whether or not our family has electricity, or whether or not my weekend plans have to be changed. 

The only other job description I have is to quickly learn whatever lesson He wants to teach me in whatever way He chooses, remembering that His ways are always the best!  That may sound easy, but for someone as stubborn as myself, that is sometimes the hardest part of the whole process.

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