Thursday, February 19, 2015

What’s Your New Name? {Discipleship, Part 1}

I’m stuck this morning in my thoughts between my response to the beginning of Lent, all the awkward conversations going on in my house these days and how badly my floor needs sweeping right now.  Here I sit, needing to warm my coffee again, thinking I can’t go into the blushing dialogues bouncing off my walls and cleaning floors is beyond boring.  And, really, who wants to read about Lent?  I mean, I am one of the strange ones—and I’ll most likely have some things to say as I go through the season, but it’s day one {day two now that I am just posting} and all I’ll do is encourage you to ask Him if He’s calling you to participate.  Just a quiet invitation.

Traditionally, Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him.  {I think this is from Noel Piper.}

So there you go.  Consider yourself invited.

My kids love pictures.  They remember things— or think they remember things— because they’ve seen the pictures so many times.  Times with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends, recitals, vacations, “firsts”, camps, holidays and silliness around the house.  I know some of these snapshots will define their childhood one day- that only a few of these screens and screens of photos will stick with them and this is how they will remember growing up. Just certain snapshots.  It might be a good picture and it might not.

This is the “straighten up or I’ll point my finger at you again” finger.  Works every time. {I got that tactic from Sarah.}
Of course, we want any snapshot someone sees of our life to be a “good one”, yes?  And I think about raising my kids, watching them make choices, knowing that some snapshots are going to be…….less than I have prayed for.  I have a few of those from my own adolescent years.  Times I wish could be erased from friend’s memories or parent’s memories.  For my own kids’ sakes, I have to remember, I was “on my way” to becoming an adult.  I was “on my way” to learning to make good choices.  I was “on my way” to figuring out what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.  In SO many ways, I still am.  However, my kids are just beginning and I continue to pray for others to come along side me and disciple them in ways that will change the course of their lives.  Discipleship can make such a difference.  Allowing yourself to be challenged in and held accountable to the teachings of Jesus is life altering.

So thankful for Alyssa, Emily and Remey {below} who regularly invest love, time and sweet words into BOTH of our kids.

“Miss” Barbara from the Montessori preschool my kids attended-- an amazing lady who taught my kids volumes
I’ve always enjoyed reading about the disciple, Peter.  He was a man’s man, not afraid to speak his mind, fiercely defensive and as impulsive as they come.  The beautiful thing is that we get snapshots from Scripture of Peter “on the way” to becoming a devoted disciple of Christ. And from a few snapshots from the gospel of Mark, I see three main areas that are paramount in the discipling process— for anyone-especially me, but for now, my kids.  I’ll share just one this time.

Being discipled in the ways of Jesus can define define our kids’ purpose.

The first snapshot of Peter we see in Mark 8 is when we hear his confession of who he believes Jesus to be.  Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter simply states, “You are the Christ,” and in Matthew 16 he adds, “Son of the Living God”.  This is a big deal and a great moment for Peter.  You could say these words became a turning point in the history of salvation because Peter has declared that Jesus was NOT a forerunner of something else— but THE FULFILLMENT of all of God’s promises given throughout Israel’s roller coaster history.  He wasn’t a prophet— HE WAS THE PROPHESIED ONE.  Christ, Messiah.  He was finally here!

I think it’s worth getting a little more information here—and we get a little more detail from Matthew’s account and how Jesus affirms His unpredictable disciple, so right after his confession, Jesus says,“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

First thing I love here is that He acknowledges who Peter USED to be— BEFORE he became a disciple of Christ.  Don’t miss that Jesus called him to be one of His own before Peter was even “on the way”.  And then in verse 18, - second thing I love- Jesus confirms who He sees Peter becoming— a rock {petros}— and, at this point, Peter was anything but a rock.  Peter was impulsive and unstable.  Simon, son of Jonah to Peter- a rock.  Jesus had a purpose for calling Peter to be one of the 12 and He uses this opportunity to remind him.  He saw Peter becoming a strong, persevering leader.  Just by calling Peter by his new name, reminding him in this moment, He is defining Peter’s purpose of playing a significant role in the founding of the early church— the vehicle through which the gospel was spread all over the world.

I think, as parents, we can all see the value of kids knowing their purpose— even if it’s just for temporal tasks.  They are more focused.  They show more devotion to the task.  They are more satisfied when it’s completed.  As discipling parents, we get to be catalysts in helping them discover the eternal purposes God has for them- in every season, preparing them for their eventual life calling.  Following Jesus defines our purpose.  He defines our kids’ purpose.  We don’t.  He chooses what new name to call them.  We don’t.

This woman, Christy, who prays regularly for my two.
This one- Denise-- discipled and is still discipling me and now loves my daughter in eternal ways.

How did following Jesus change Peter?  How did Jesus define Peter’s purpose?  In Acts 2, after Jesus ascends to heaven, Peter is the first one recorded to speak to the followers of Christ who were all gathered together. Then in Acts 10, he proclaims the gospel of Jesus so clearly and so passionately, it makes you want to jump up and down because HE GOT IT!!  For us to read in the gospels where he was and then read how Jesus changed him, we get to see Peter leading the early church,  fulfilling his purpose — as defined by Jesus.

From Simon, son of Jonah to Peter— a rock.  The confession on which Christ would build his church.

Many of you know, for several years, my name was Barren and now it’s Momma.  One of his purposes for me was to raise two kids from two other girls’ wombs.  But we had to choose His way and not ours.  He defined my purpose.  Not me.

I also have an old name of Rule Keeper that I have to keep erasing off the top of my paper.  My new name is Grace Receiver.  Early on in marriage, He defined my purpose to live out grace giving and receiving in the context of family relationships and community.

So what about you? Or your kids? What did He used to call you and what do you hear Him calling you now?  Your kids?  Has he revealed that to you?  If you are a disciple of Christ, what new name is God calling you that helps define your purpose?  What does He call you now that He sees you becoming?  Do you sense what new name He may be speaking over your kids?

As we understand MORE of who Christ is, the MORE we understand what He requires of us.  As we follow Him, He defines our purpose.  Whether He gives us big picture or just marching orders for the day, He defines our purpose for living.

Let Him define your purpose-- and your kids’ purpose.  Listen for your new name.  And theirs.

And grandparents can never know the security that comes to children through being loved no matter what.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Middle School: Coaching and Bananas

Maybe I’ve said this before— as your kids get older, it’s harder to write about parenting.  Not because there is nothing to say, but because, now, a larger filter is in place being that the kids are older.  Parenting is SO much of what fills my time, mind and heart, but there are stories that just can’t be told. Conversations that can’t be shared.  Enlightening moments for a momma that won’t be divulged….. for years maybe.  Not here anyway.  And this is why my writing has slowed.  The words I would have normally written a few years ago are the words spoken to Jeff in the quiet house once the kids are tucked away in their rooms.  In the den over coffee.  Between our pillows as we fall asleep.  On the phone when I get a moment in the car by myself.  As a parent, you know, there is much to discuss.  And much to be bewildered by.

And with an 11 and 13 year old, our roles have been shifting for the last two to three years.  Less control, more freedom, more choices, more scratching our heads wondering, “why that choice exactly?” or “what were you thinking?” or “do they think we aren’t on to that??”  I still have much of the same role I’ve had for years but spending more time “coaching” seems to be where I find myself.  I cannot anticipate every little scenario they will experience or think through all the things they will need to know regarding— well, fill in the blank!  Texting curfews, participating in “selfie competitions”, clearly defining “short”, hacking texted conversations on the shared family phone, wearing t-shirts longer than shorts, watching a YouTube video at a friend’s house ABOUT a game they aren’t supposed to play on the X-Box etc.  I told someone the other day, you can hold back only so much for only so long but at some point, it feels like a tidal wave and you’ve got no choice but to face it and swim.  Whatever it is you’ve been holding back, it’s coming and you’ve really got to prepare yourself.  I’ve written much on this— even not too long ago— so let me get back to this new role thing.  Coaching.

That first day of school when she wanted her hair straightened, when he desperately needed a hair cut and his shorts needed ironing....  I got the hair straightened.  

When they don’t run the plays like I have called them over the years, I want to revert back to control- due to fear, wondering if they will ever “get it”.  What will this same mistake look like in five years?  I think, all the time, “Haven’t we had extensive conversations regarding this very thing?  Didn’t we just talk about this yesterday— or this morning?”  As frustrating as that IS, I want them to have many chances to run those same plays while under our roof.  And I want to see them get it right.  Not for me, but for themselves.  For them to see the difference in a poor choice and a wise one.  For them to experience what it feels like each time they get it wrong or get it right.  For themselves.  So they will know it personally— what bears good fruit and what is just rotten.

It’s funny— we have been studying King Solomon for a few weeks during breakfast.  We know there are some really great things about him and how later in his life, he kind of lost his head.  That’s putting it mildly.  We are just at the good part now but Scripture just nails you —-nails your kids.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable I was the other morning, reading through the material and asking the questions minutes after a confrontation regarding one of my kid’s integrity.  I almost felt sorry for this child because the questions were so pointed.  “What is King Solomon’s advice on being kind and truthful? What is King Solomon’s wisdom about accepting discipline when you need it?  What is King Solomon’s wisdom about listening to parents?”  Ouch and ouch.  Each question asked after the applicable Scripture was read.  I couldn’t have tailored made it any more fitting for the crime at hand that morning.  I was sure to turn the book so the kids could see I wasn't making it up.  But even in their squirming, they talked.  For this I am grateful.

Can I tell you how much I love these NAKED faces from two years ago?!?

That time you took a really cute picture with your best friend and had your eyes closed-- 

Even though all the words and all the reminders can wear me out, I really just want to keep the conversations going.  Because of that, I feel a big part of my job is not to shut them down.  Therefore, I must choose my words carefully as things spill out of their growing-ever-more-clever mouths.  Do you know how fast I am capable of flipping their switch to OFF?  When I see the look of irritation or disrespect on their face before “Umm, Mom” is uttered— and my coolness is emitted.  Or at the latest, in mid-sentence.  Because I head in to correct the first wrong thinking I hear.  Talk about needing a muzzle.  I have a friend whose kids are long gone from the home now but she told me about all the bananas she’d eat while in the kitchen listening to her teenage girls go on about their days.  She’d stick a banana in her mouth {quickest thing to grab} to keep her mouth shut and just listen to them.  She’d go about her business, thinking through all she’d heard and when the time was right, she’d bring up the things that concerned her.  Giving them the safe place to talk—openly, freely— and keeping her words at bay until a better moment— was the wise thing to do.

That time you painted your face for the homecoming game and maybe didn’t even watch the game.....
Middle school is prime-time parenting.  There is no coasting here.  Deciding on the deal breakers ahead of time is critical and that’s not as easy as you’d think.  Of course, things laid out in Scripture are non-negotiables but the things that aren’t specifically mentioned in Scripture that might LEAD to something questionable, something contrary to what the Bible teaches-- bam-- you’ve got me.  I’m all a muddle and I need wisdom from the Lord.  Unshackle the legalistic tendencies and pray for His clear direction.

These kids are STUCK in the middle of “young” and “grown up” and it’s not fun.  None of us thought it was fun.  And yes, so much of the foundation has been laid by now but now we get to watch them build on it—- with solid, tried and true material or with who knows what?  It might be a joy or it could be very painful or heart breaking.  In those observations, I am trying to figure out this coaching role— not stepping in where it’s not a deal breaker or when I feel there is a valuable lesson to be learned and finding those moments when hearts are soft and open for a little advice.  Even though I am not a huge banana fan, I can learn to love them if it means my kids having a safe place to express their thoughts and try out some ideas.

So if you ever wonder why I haven’t posted in a while, picture me standing in my kitchen listening to at least one middle schooler who is perched on my kitchen counter— with a banana in my mouth.  ; )

{Please feel free to share any insights into this transitional role for parents-- especially those of you who have already made the leap to teenagers.  We are listening!!}

{Also, here are more succinct and eloquent thoughts from Sandra Stanley-- Andy’s wife from Northpoint Church.  My friend, TJ, sent this to me as an encouragement as she knew I had been processing some of this.  Her blog is GREAT- easy, quick reads packed with practical wisdom.  One more resource on this subject-- Focus on the Family just aired these 2 broadcasts-- check them out.}

Friday, February 6, 2015

Love: Soaking It In and Giving It Out {Julia's 13th Birthday}

Words fall short in too many of life’s experiences and the response of asking my friends to help me to celebrate Julia’s 13th birthday this winter was one of those.  They all came.  They all brought words of love and wisdom and encouragement and blessing for her.  And it was very humbling.  For both of us.

 I regret not getting a picture of everyone who came that day but here are a few of them!  {I can't thank you ladies enough!}

As a parent, I want to make these milestones meaningful and sometimes this can be done within our family but as our kids get older, I realize the need- and benefit-  to bring more people in.  Our kids need to see the benefit of having close friends, living in community and being loved as a family by other people.  The investment and the fruit is invaluable.  We all win.  We are all challenged.  We are better people because of these friends.  My kids have richer hearts by having been loved on by our families and friends.

That particular morning I was a bit frazzled for some reason.  I think a few different circles of friends were colliding and maybe I was too distracted with the occasion to make that an easy transition for everyone.   Looking back, I felt like an observer that morning and not much of an engager which I regret, but Julia took it all in.  As much as she could.  And that’s the most important.

There were such soul feeding words spoken to her and over her that it was difficult to contain it all in our hearts and minds.  We recorded most everyone and have many words written or typed out.  She still has all of the cards and papers in a special place in her room and I know she pulls them out from time to time.  I pray she will find them life giving and purposefully directional throughout the years— and that the truths will blow in from the Spirit as different circumstances surround her.

Jeff snuck in at the end {is "snuck" a word?} and made us all cry.  If there is a daddy who delights in his daughter, this is him.

On a lighter note—

After school on Friday of that week, we picked up all of the girls in her class and took them to M.L. Phillips Elementary School where she and her friends hosted a party for some of the girls in the after school program.  Now, this was fun.  I brought the party food and they did the rest.  They brought nail polish, make up, hair toys {requested by the lady in charge of the program}—- and then they went to work making these little girls feel pampered and special.   I was so impressed with each girl in her class.  Not one hung back but each one engaged the girls and did a super job.  I was very proud of them.

Then we all came back to our house!

I’ve never had this many girls in my house at once.  I really think their favorite part was giving the gifts and watching her open them.  I loved getting to know some of them better— and their parents as they came to pick up.

The next morning, Julia and I left for a day together— making our first stop— doughnuts.  And since this isn’t a normal stop for us, I called my friend TJ to ask her where the closest one was.  Crazy but she was on her way to get doughnuts with her daughter and Atlee— two of Julia’s oldest friends.  AND I had the letter with me that TJ had written to her after she was born because I was planning on reading it to Julia sometime that day, but it was turning out way better than I had planned.

So over glazed, sprinkles, blueberry, cinnamon twist doughnuts and bad coffee, TJ read her beautiful letter to Julia for the first time.  I loved that two sweet friends were there to hear it- hear some of Julia’s story as told by TJ. It was the perfect way to begin the day she was born 13 years earlier.

Maybe Julia’s highlight of the day was getting an Instagram account on our “family iPhone”.  So here is her first post.

She and I enjoyed a day together giving her a chance to spend some of her birthday money.

I gave Julia a ring of mine that day with two {very} small diamonds to remind her of the birthday letter I wrote to her -- “Kindness and Truth”-- a physical reminder of two very important virtues.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
{in her case, her finger}
Write them on the tablet of your heart.  Proverbs 3:3

How I pray for this to be true-- of myself and of my sweet daughter.  It was a super week of special people, meaningful words and loads of fun.  And I didn't even write up her weekend away with her Daddy!  Later?!