Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Full Schedules, Thin Souls

Have you been living under the weight of parenting as a competitive sport?  

As a parent of a kindergartner, I am just beginning to get a real-time sense of the pressures on parents and children in school.  It's so easy to spend our days rushing our children from one enriching activity to the next in an effort to keep up with society's staggering pace. Tensions are rife as parents sense the need to stay on schedule and children wane in enthusiasm to keep up.  All this "enrichment" brings squabbles, tension and exhaustion.

What are the outcomes of this pace on our families?

Our children

  • Our children become more easily stressed as they do not see their parents come down nor learn to individually foster that peace themselves.  Being stripped of this essential skill may be manageable now, but it could foster burnout later in life when pressures will only mount.
  • They can develop the need to be constantly entertained rather than an inkling for creative play and the opportunity to naturally gravitate toward what attracts them through casual exploration.  In other words, they sidestep an essential phase of God-ordained self-discovery.
  • Most importantly, they may benefit from advancements in a particular skill from an instructor, but they miss the monumental benefit of extensive time with parents for the instruction that is meant to shape their whole life.

  • Afraid our children will miss out, we set the bar high for our children - and ourselves.  We live days of constant scrambling and exhaustion.
  • We may masterfully keep many small balls in the air, but in doing so, we lose hands for the big ones.  In other words, our children may be expertly scheduled, but our own self-care, faith practice, and even marriages can suffer.
  • We lose a sense of fulfillment.  It's easier to run mindlessly from one activity to the next than to employ introspection.  Yet God created each child and each family as unique with different rhythms.  When we neglect his creation plan, we only serve to undermine the very thing we are looking to build.

In effect, our schedules are full but our souls are thin.  

Are you feeling this way, weary mama?  Do you know what our faith can do?

First, we can look to Christ.  In modeling the way we were meant to live as Christians, Christ was unafraid to buck the trend while teaching us the path to true life.  He valued introspection and intentionally removed himself from the crowd to seek the Father's direction.  He sometimes made decisions that differed from people's expectations to remain faithful to a larger truth.  He often operated on the periphery of society and proved to be the most powerful there.  These are principles that we can apply in our parenting too when facing societal pressure.*

Second, we can draw strength from an insightful metaphor.  The other day I heard a pastor describe two kinds of birds.  There are birds who flock together, who travel in groups.  But there are also eagles who travel alone, soaring high above the fray.  As Christians, God ordained us to be eagles.  It is only then that we can reap the full benefits of our faith.  In this case, those benefits are a happier home life and the increased emotional health and stability of our children in a culture that can inadvertently undermine these things. 

We can cast off any insecurity and anxiety as parents and appeal to a higher standard - the call of God in our lives.  Only then can we find freedom rooted in a larger purpose, and the kind of renewal for our weariness that society cannot offer.  That freedom comes with a promise too:

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40:31

*For scriptural examples regarding my points about the life of Christ above, see Luke 5:16, John 8:2-11, and Matthew 9:10 respectively.

If you liked this post, please check out my iBelieve article that explores this topic too. Click here to read "3 Common Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid."

If you're interested in making God's promises a part of your daily living, don't miss the free printable that I'm giving away on my blog to new email subscribers.  This professionally designed printable lists scripture's "5 Promises to Live By."  It's emailed to you so that you can print out as many copies as you'd like to hang up as reminders! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Counter the Lies in Our Heart

Have you ever felt:
  • Excluded
  • Flawed
  • Under-qualified
  • Unlovable
  • Or even, unworthy of your blessings?
These emotions are treacherous.  They're treacherous because we can all feel them. They're treacherous because they can persistently whisper down deep below the surface. On the outside, we may look fine.  But these insecurities can secretly chip away at our souls.

It's one thing to know God's promises, but it's another to really believe them.  How do we take what we read on the pages of scripture and make them a part of how we esteem ourselves?  How do we replace lies with God's truth?  I am not talking about composing a sound belief structure.  I am talking about rewriting the very personal voices in our head and heart.

The other day my son brought home a jelly bracelet in the shape of an airplane.  He was really proud of it.  It was a reward from one of his teachers for his helpfulness at school. Well, little boys seldom sit still with things they treasure.  It didn't take long before he was pulling and twisting his bracelet until it resembled one thing - a hot mess.  It looked nothing like a bracelet or airplane at all.

That's when he said, "Mommy, would you like to see a magic trick?"

Enticed, I replied yes.  

He marched over to his dresser, strung the bracelet around one of its knobs, and pulled the bracelet in a particular way.  "This is how you have to do it," he said.  I had no idea what he was talking about until he walked back over to me and showed me the bracelet in his hand: It was a perfectly formed airplane again.

Later that day while I was brushing his teeth, he turned to me and asked, "How does my bracelet go back to being an airplane again, Mommy?"

I described how it was formed:  The plastic was heated up really hot and put into a mold. The bracelet has memory from that initial molding.

I was struck by the similarities between the bracelet and us.  We too have been molded into a particular shape or destiny by our Creator.  God fashioned us and knew us in the deep before we had even come into existence.  We can never erase his initial molding.

Just like my son and his jelly bracelet, we can make make a mess of things sometimes. That mess may be the actions we take, or it may be the lies we allow to whisper to our heart.  The great news is that although that mess may distort our reality, God promises that it can never undo the mark that he's put on us.  We may feel pulled and twisted, but God knows how to restore us and make things right.  

So if you're feeling excluded, remember that God is for you - who can be against you? Romans 8:31

If you're feeling flawed, remember that you were created by God with purpose and intention.  Psalm 139:13-14

If you're feeling under-qualified, remember that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.  Philippians 4:13

If you're feeling unlovable, remember that absolutely nothing can separate you from God's love in Jesus Christ.  Romans 8:38-39

If you're feeling unworthy of your blessings, remember that God has good plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Jeremiah 29:11

Our Creator who formed us is close at hand.  The words on the pages of our scripture weren't written simply for faithful people in times past, but God is uttering them to each of us right now.  He has formed us in his image as a people whom he wants to bless with his promises.  It's how we're made.  It's his gift through faith.  And to receive it, we simply need to fully rest in our Creator's MARVEL at his mark and workmanship.

If you're interested in making God's promises a part of your daily living, don't miss the free printable that I'm giving away on my blog to new email subscribers.  This professionally designed printable lists scripture's "5 Promises to Live By."  It's emailed to you so that you can print out as many copies as you'd like to hang up as reminders! 

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