"Blessed is she, who has believed, that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Monday, February 27, 2012

Struggling with the Sovereign

I was going to follow up my previous post with talking about perfect parent syndrome. It is one of the chapters in the book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. Actually they talk about Stock Family syndrome and how it starts with wanting to appear perfect, especially as the perfect parent. I was going to talk about how I struggle with wanting to be the perfect parent. 

But my life the last week has been more about my kids. One in particular. My son. My funny, athletic, tender-hearted, hugging, turning into a teenager son. About how I want him to be more normal and how my faith shakes. 

At least for a little bit.

We had his  latest IEP meeting (Individualized Education Plan) and when we got the results from his reading assessments for the year, it hurt. Practically no improvement this year. At the start of the school year, I was so hopeful and excited to see what God was going to do this year. I was believing Him for big things. For big improvements. And apparently, for something that isn't in His timing and plan. At least, not now.

Every time I have to go to an IEP meeting, or meet with a teacher regarding his reading, I come out heart-sick, angry and let down. 

The truth is, I feel all those things toward God. 

As a parent, to watch your kid struggle with something just breaks your heart, but to put on top of it something that feels like misplaced faith in a God who you believe in and love so much, sometimes it just feels too much to bear. 

I think, "Wouldn't it be better to give up believing God is in this than to believe that He is choosing to allow this for my son?"

I struggle mightily with the fact that my son has something that I can't help him past. That my role in all this is to support and encourage and pray, but not to fix.

In the way that He always does, God listened. He acknowledged everything I was feeling. How do I know? I just do. I feel it inside. I feel like I have been heard. I feel like God wants me to let it out, to share everything with him, even the ugly stuff that I am scared to say, but can't hold in. Even in the midst of being angry and hurt, I still feel like he wants me to bring it all, everything I have, blasting with both barrels or crying out a broken heart. 

And I do. 

Blast away with both barrels and cry. Accuse him of disinterest. Of being unfair. 

After I had had a day to work around my anger and remind myself that God loves my son, and is working out something in his character that will glorify the Lord, that will show my son the sovereignty of His plan and His love for my boy, I picked up my current Bible study for our ladies group.

Now, I am not going to tell you I was feeling particularly excited to get into my study. We are studying David and I felt about as far from the man after God's own heart as I could get. I still wasn't particularly interested in spending time with God yet, but I have made a commitment to do the study and so I opened the pages and grudgingly began to fill in the blanks and read the Scriptures noted inside.

And wouldn't you know it, there God was. I had no idea what the study had in store for us this week, where the author would take us, or what Scripture would be applied. But guess what? God did.

We are doing Beth Moore's study "David: Seeking a Heart Like His". This is what I read:
"When we wait on God, He gives supernatural strength and accomplishes the inconceivable.  did you notice how God gave David the vision for the temple but his offspring was to build it? God can entrust a vision or an idea to us that may be ours to pray about and prepare for, but not participate in directly....." 
A couple of paragraphs later I read this: 
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32
In His sovereignty, He knew exactly what I would be struggling with, and He knew exactly what I would be reading. I tend to think that he was sitting there, waiting for me to catch up with Him. After I read what I read, I had the distinct feeling that God was saying, 

"You, my daughter, forget who I AM. I couldn't wait for you to get here. I knew that we needed to meet right here and I wanted you to see me show up right on time... like you just said I never do. I love you, and am ALWAYS involved in everything that hurts you, that makes you cry, that tries to pull your heart from ME. You are never alone in your hurt. And what you seem to forget so easily is that I love your son more than you will ever be able to understand; I am with him through all of this, every second of it. Every step of struggle, my hand is on his shoulder."

In that little section of study, God showed me that I was not waiting on him, that I was wanting to see things done my way, in my timeline. 

He was reminding me that He will only move in His way and His time because they are good and perfect, and my plans are... well.... not.

He sees so many things that I never will, has planned things I know nothing about. And I tend to forget that He loves my boy so much more than I do and that I will never comprehend the depth of it.

He reminded me that I need to keep praying for and preparing for what God is going to do in my son's life, but what God is doing with and in Him is between the two of them alone. 

And he reminded me that He had given up His own Son just so He could do these things for my son.

So, no post about perfect parenting today, just an honest glimpse into how God shows up to comfort a heart that is doubtful, angry and hurting.

 He is so good. All the time.

 Even when I tell Him he isn't, he patiently waits for me to figure it out.

And then we start again on this Walk of Faith between a Sovereign God and a fickle, doubting faith-girl.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Parenting BEYOND your capacity

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."2 Corinthians 12:9

After school is my favorite time of day. I love it when the door flies open and the kids come in chatting about their day, showing me things and settling in after a hard day. 

Yesterday I had laid out several snack options on the counter for them to choose from. They got their snack, started homework and after-school activities, and I didn't get the other snack options put away as quickly as I normally would. I went into the kitchen later and discovered they were all gone. Both kids swore up, down and side-ways that they hadn't touched them. Since the dog can't open the packages by herself and the cat refuses anything that doesn't have the words "seafood feast" on it, I was pretty sure it had to be one of them. They both stubbornly refused to admit to taking the extra snacks. Finally, frustrated and truthfully, really disappointed that the guilty party would allow their sibling to get in trouble too, I gave the same punishment to both. Fair? I guess. It is a hard call to make when you know one is innocent, but the guilty party just won't back down.

This situation really got me to thinking how wearing parenting can be. All day long there are little choices, little decisions that we have to make. Teachable moments are all around and opportunities come along where you have to decide, show grace or teach that decisions have consequences. It is enough to have any parent running for the hills. You want to be the safe parent who they can turn to with any mistake or bad judgement call, but you also have to be the one that teaches discipline, humility, putting others first and self-control. When those things aren't shown, you become teacher, guide and disciplinarian. How do you decide which situation gets what response? Where is the hand-book??!

While it might not be a handbook, I have found a book that really helps when it comes to those times you want to just throw your hands up and beg God to "take them back, PLEASE!"

This book is called "Parenting Beyond Your Capacity" by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. 

Now, hear me out! It isn't another one of those books that makes you feel like a failure because you have missed a thousand opportunities, nor is it chocked full of statements that are designed to make you feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to start doing RIGHT NOW to win the heart of your child and grow a productive and valuable member of society. 

This book actually tells you that you CAN NOT do it alone! You are not expected to be perfect, you weren't MADE to be a one-person, child-rearing genius, and that there IS a plan to help you get on track, to help you make some of those hard-call decisions.

Following are a few quotes from the book that really spoke to me. 

"Being a good parent is hard, and in the short term there is not a whole lot of glory attached to it. You can't coast through it. It is intentional.  Anybody can have a child; being a good parent takes work and prayer."

Thank you for telling me I am not the only one that feels parenting is hard! So many people make it look so easy! Sometimes I wonder what it is that everyone else gets that I seem to be totally missing!

"I can promise that even for the most intentional parents, there will be nights when all you can do is fold your hands and cry, "God, help me!" I imagine God hears that and thinks, "I thought you'd never ask!"  You will make plenty of mistakes, and that's okay. Mistakes are often opportunities to show your children not only your fragile humanity but also the way you respond to failure."

What a great reminder that I am NOT alone in this. Not only that, but there is actually someone that knows my children better than I do, that has a plan for them, and that WANTS to be involved. It also reminded me that it is OK to not be the perfect parent, but that I need to admit it and rectify it, where my children can see, and often to them directly. I forget that simply my example to them is the teacher they learn from most, not the words I say.

"Too many of us buy into the myth that we need to become the right kind of parent before God can use us. In reality, God is longing to tell His story through our imperfections and brokenness....Rather than painting a picture of a perfect family, God wants to use family as a canvas for His redemptive story.  He wants to use the family to show us what it means to have an authentic, everyday faith with a God who redeems and restores broken people."

Sometimes as parents we forget that it really isn't about us. We forget that we have a role to play, that the story isn't starring us. It is all about God. Wow! Doesn't that take the pressure off?! 

This thing of parenting isn't about "getting it right", it is about letting God be God in our lives, in our children's lives, and in the very middle of this crazy, messy, imperfect family. Sounds kinda like the verse from above, doesn't it? 

More to come from this great book later, but I just had to let you know, if you are struggling with some of these same things, that not only are you not alone, you were designed to have amazing help through this thing we call parenting! 

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."Isaiah 41:10