Read: 1 Corinthians 12:22-26

One of the first adjustments a parent makes is sending their children to school. (If you decide to homeschool, the issues are different but still very real. That was not my experience, so I cannot speak to those.) I sent three children to school and I experienced three different responses.

Our oldest daughter loved school. She loved it so much, in fact, that in the first week of school she informed me that Mrs. Yoder was the best person in the world. I, on the other hand, was “wrecking her life” because I made her go to bed. Quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy competing with her kindergarten teacher for her love and affection.

Our son hated school. He put on his brave face and went to his classroom like a trooper, but an hour or so later, I received a call from the school. He was a mess. The first week of school, I spent a lot of time conjoling Ryan and assuring him that he could be a happy farmer at school. I even gave him a Jolly Rancher to have in his pocket to remind him to be a Happy Farmer. Cheesy? Yes. At the end of the first week he told me he didn’t like it because “it is too much time away from you.” How sweet, right?! (He denies that today.) He also informed me at the end of the first week: “I will think about it and decide if I will go back on Monday.” Obviously, this wasn’t my preferred response to school either.

Our youngest daughter left for school with a bounce in her step and she adjusted very well. She didn’t say I was ruining her life when I announced bed time and she didn’t mind being apart from me. This was helpful to me as a mom, while at the same time difficult. It seems like she could have missed me just a little.

Your children will all be different and respond in their own unique way to changes in routine and in life. And their responses may not remain constant.

Twelve years after beginning school, all three of our children went to college. Interestingly, they all experienced their freshman year at the same university.

Our oldest daughter (and I) cried the first two weeks of her freshman year. It was gut wrenching to have her gone. She called nearly every day the entire four years of college.

Our son couldn’t wait to go to college and never once looked back. He didn’t call often, but we still remained a vital part of his life.

Our youngest daughter willing went to college and spent her first year on campus. The first semester went fairly well, at least on the outside. The second semester increased in difficulty every day. By finals week, I spoke to her three or four times a day in an effort to calm her fears about finishing well. She opted to live at home the final three years and study at a local university. This was a life-giving decision for her.

In many things, there isn’t a right or wrong. Children are just different. As parents, we do well to give them room to not only be different from one another, but to change along the way. Things that came easily at one point in life, may not always be easy.

In our scripture reading today, Paul emphasized that in the body of Christ we are all different and yet so necessary. The same is true in our families. We are all put together in unique and valuable ways. Caring for one another and appreciating those differences is essential.

Be alert and flexible as parents, allowing children to flex, grow and change. Love them deeply. Stay in their corner.

Dave and I are in an awesome phase of parenting – empty nesters.

Most parenting begins at the same place: infants and toddlers. The most basic job a parent has in this stage is to keep the children alive. Somedays it feels like herding cats.

Parenting toddlers!

I remember the day I came upon my youngest daughter with the baby powder container. She was covered from head to toe as she continued to sprinkle the powder into her hands and rub it on her legs looking at me with the most innocent of faces. She smelled delightful. So did my carpet.

Or the day I found my son with the box of tampons. He was patiently opening each one and pulling them apart. It was a tedious task. No wonder he was so quiet.

And how about the time I discovered my toddler picking her nose at night and rubbing it on the wall. At least she wasn’t eating it, right? Eventually I just papered over the booger covered wall. I couldn’t wash them off.

At this stage of parenting, adults are the strong human leaders of the littles. We dress them, point them in the right direction and hope they don’t get their clothes dirty or a hole in their pants before we get to where we are going.

And so they grow. The issues change over the next stages of growth and development, but certainly parents are needed to provide boundaries, listen to heartbreak stories, pick up pieces when they fall, hold them back when they are on the precipice of disaster.

Then, somehow, we find ourselves with nearly grown children. They still sleep at home at night, but they drive, earn money, make decisions and those inevitable words begin to loom on the horizon – EMPTY NESTERS. Because this is the ultimate stage of parenting.

This is where Dave and I find ourselves. We are genuine empty nesters. Two of our children are married, one is engaged to be married but has lived on her own for a couple of years. They are gainfully employed, owning homes and cars and all things necessary for independent living. Suddenly, we find ourselves with a lot of space.

This is not a bad thing. It is different. And it brings it’s own challenges. We are still parents, but now we are parenting adult children. In this wide open space of parenting, the rules of engagement change. We no longer set boundaries for our children. We don’t remind them to come home on time, or put away their clothes. We don’t provide an allowance or take away their car keys if they misbehave.

There are times when we watch them struggle but we aren’t invited to participate either in word or action. These children of ours are building their own homes, with their own children and stepping out of the way so they can do that is difficult. No one said it would be so hard.

At the same time, it is also rewarding. It is a blessing to watch our children struggle and succeed. Just like the butterfly coming out of the cocoon, there needs to be a little struggle to build strong wings. Difficult to watch, yes. Necessary, yes.

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Eventually, they say the roles reverse and our children will begin to parent us. I witnessed that with my husband’s parents who both passed away. Indeed, there may come a time when we need assistance from our children. But, to my children I say, it’s not yet!

Where are you in this journey called parenting? Perhaps you have not begun. Some will decide not to take this road, others strive with no success. No matter where you find yourself right now, enjoy the journey. Maybe you are in the midst of diapers and late night feedings, toddler activity or adoloscent angst, high school drama, post high decisions or empty nesting – every stage has it’s highs and lows. And virtually every stage will pass to the next one like the changing of seasons. Sometimes roughly, other times without much notice.

Two words come to mind that I would like to put before you regarding parenting.

Consistency and Respect

One of the most difficult aspects of character development for me was consistency. Tedium sets in when a parent continues to encounter the same obstacles day after day. And it is tempting to just throw your hands in the air and say, “Who cares!” But you care! I cared! We will never be sorry if we remain consistent with our children.

The best and most profound advice I received regarding child rearing came from a cousin. One afternoon as we talked about successfully raising children, I asked her what she does. She said, “I respect them.” I went silent.

Respect is to esteem someone, to recognize their sense of worth and excellence. And your children deserve your respect. There is no greater gift than to look at your child and esteem and value their worth and the excellent traits they bring into the world. This simple advice changed the way I saw my children.

Stay tuned this week as I sort through the boxes of childhood memories and share anecdotes of parenting. If you aren’t a parent yet or the journey to parenting has been wrought with difficulty, my heart goes out to you. That is so discouraging and I honor you as you take next steps in the process.

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I think that’s the reason we become parents. Seriously! If we knew how hard it would be, we might take a second thought. But I know why I had children in spite of how difficult it was at times. Because I believed that, in the end, it would all be worth it. The joy would outweigh the sorrow. The reward would be worth the cost. And that is exactly how it has been. I wouldn’t trade having children for anything in the world, but it isn’t easy.

There is no easy stage in child rearing. Some stages are just preferred to others. And to be honest, most days feel like a crapshoot – a risky or uncertain matter. We try to understand our children. You know, what makes them tick, how they will respond, their patterns and personalities. Somedays we get it. And the next day, it is like we have a completely different child. See, a crapshoot!

My advice to new parents: approach life with children gently and with a sense of humor. These little bundles aren’t trying to wreck your life. This too shall pass.

My advice to all parents: they aren’t trying to wreck your life. Love them deeply, stay in their corner, you will get smarter in a few years. This too shall pass.

Jesus loved the children and said we should be like them. I don’t think he meant narcissitic; but rather, pure, innocent, full of joy, eager to learn, willing to take a chance.

Read: Mark 10:13-16

I am certainly not an expert on parenting. I realized that as soon as I had my first child. But I learned a few things along the way and I thought it would be fun to take a wander through my archives of parenting experiences. Who knows what we will encounter! I hope this helps you, my readers, to be gentle with yourselves if you are parents and maybe even provide a laugh or two along the way.

Read: Psalm 121

Today as I read this psalm, verses 5 and 6 stand out to me. The last few days have been HOT! When I am outside, I look for shade or something that will protect me from the burning rays of the sun.

I need that in life too – protection from the harsh realities of life on this planet. I find that in friends, family, community. He provides what I need so I don’t swelter in the heat of life’s circumstances.

Do you know his protection? Come under the shade of his presence and experience the safety of knowing him.

Summer is in full swing…finally! And it is Saturday! What a great combination!!

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:9-13

Today enjoy the fruit of your labor in some way! Allow yourself to sit back, relax and experience God in a fresh way.

Read: Isaiah 26:3, 7-9a

I am sure I have read these verses before but when I read them again today I had to pause. My first response was, “Huh?” Seems to me that somedays my way has been rough and steep. So I reread them.

My second response was, “Hm!” And I thought, “Do I really know?” Maybe without Him by my side, the way would have been different.

And I pondered it some more. Certainly life is filled with difficulty and the way does seem rough and steep at times. Finances are low, emotions run high, sickness visits, accidents happen, death comes. That is the stuff life is made of for everyone.

Read: John 16:33

These two passages sound strangely similar to me. In the one, we fix our eyes on the Lord and he gives us perfect peace. As we trust in him, he smooths the way out before us. In the other, Jesus promises peace even though life is filled with trouble and sorrow.

I had to conclude that I don’t know what trouble and sorrow without Jesus is like. I put my trust in him when I was six years old and continue to look to him every day, my heart filled with the desire to bring glory to Him. I am grateful today that even in the darkest of times, he has been my companion.

In what or whom have you placed your trust? Does your way seem rough and steep, filled with obstacles? Consider placing your trust in Jesus. The way will still have trouble and sorrow, but your heart will be filled with the peace that only Jesus can give. And what better way to scale the heights than with Jesus by your side!

Perspective. In eighth grade art class, I learned to draw a house in perspective. You know, so it looked three dimensional instead of just flat. I felt clever and accomplished.

Perspective. It is what we need every day to keep ourselves from swirling out of control. In the fall of 1990, Dave and I built our first house. We had been married five years, we didn’t have a lot of extra money and we had two children. I was a stay at home mom with a garden the size of Texas.

Building the house is only the beginning of making a plot of land a home. There is yard to seed, bushes and trees to plant, walls to decorate. The house is just the beginning.

The summer of 1991, I spent a lot of time on our front porch (it seemed like anyway) snapping green beans to preserve for winter. (That was when I canned and preserved a lot of stuff.) As I sat there and snapped my beans, I looked at our unfinished landscaping. The ground was hard as rock, the weeds were tall as the house and I was a disillusioned home owner. I wanted to get this finished! I spent a lot of time that summer stewing that there were weeds rather than bushes and flowers!

Perspective. From the vantage point of time, I can see it wasn’t worth the energy I gave it to be upset that the landscaping wasn’t finished in my time frame. And to be honest, I could have taken more initiative to pull weeds and keep it looking clean until we had the time and resources to do the job properly.

Read: Ecclesiastes 6:9

Sometimes I ask myself if there is anything I wish I would have done differently along the way. In this situation, I wish I would have been more content. I wish I had enjoyed the process as much as the end result.

Is there anything robbing your perspective today? Does something eat at you and keep you from embracing this moment? Enjoy where you are today! Enjoy the process of the next steps as much as the finished product!

I am restless today. The restlessness is in my body, not my mind. My mind is at peace. It’s an odd combination for me.

Read: Isaiah 26:3-4

What did I do today with a restless body and a peaceful mind? I helped my daughter. Her baby is just a bit over four weeks old and didn’t sleep well last night. So, I went over today and cleaned her bathrooms and then worked outside in her landscaping. It kept my body busy.

The scripture reading for today has always been a favorite, but prior to this moment, it has been something I wanted to experience. Perfect peace! And somehow it always eluded me. But today, I confess that my God in whom I trust, has brought me to a place of perfect peace.

How about you? What needs to change in order for you to experience perfect peace? How can you fix your thoughts today on the Lord God who is our eternal Rock?

Tonight I am watching the Chicago Cubs play the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It is “authentic Cub fan night” and you are invited to send in your picture to be used later in the evening on the big screen. That is if you show yourself to be an authentic fan!

Saturday evening we were at a wedding reception for a really special couple and I chatted with some close friends about what it means to be authentic in community.

Tonight I read a blogger I follow and she talked about what it means to be authentic in her life.

All day I have been pondering what I want to write tonight. I kept swirling around the same ideas – all are off shoots of AUTHENTICITY!

To be authentic is to be true to your own nature or beliefs, true to yourself and who you are. It is knowing yourself and then representing what you know in a truthful and open manner.

I have not always been authentic. There have been times when I was hesitant to share my feelings for fear they would not be reciprocated. There have been times when I waited to share an opinion on a topic until I ascertained what others were thinking. And there have been times when I fell silent rather than speaking up when I perceived I would be standing alone on an issue.

Perhaps that is why I find Jesus so attractive. He was authentic to the core. He didn’t wait for anyone to give him their approval (John 2:24) And when they did, he didn’t trust it anyway. (John 4:41) He also knew exactly why he was here and he never wavered! (John 12:49-50) Guided by the knowledge that his purpose was to glorify his Father, Jesus said and did whatever his Father told him to do. Wow! To live with that kind of confidence is my dream!

But too often I act like many of the people who encountered Jesus and believed but lived in constant fear of being exposed. (John 12:42-43) My dream is to live boldly, but it’s so easy to be distracted by the praise of humans.

But more and more I grow immune to what others might think or say. I find myself less concerned with what is “right” and more focused on what is loving. I worry less, smile more and enjoy the twists of life.

Today as I mowed my lawn – you know, so many great ideas are birthed during a lawn mowing session – I pondered what I wanted to be true of me in this season of life. How do I want to be more authentic? Two traits came to mind. I want to continue to develop as a parent to adult children. I want to know how to do that well. We never stop being parents, but our tactics and responsibilities change. I want to be always learning in that regard.

And I want to grow as an authentic listener. I am a good talker and I often have great things to say. But I want to listen in such a way that others go away feeling valued, understood and heard.

John 13:3 says this: “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table…” Jesus lived confidently from a place of knowing. That is authenticity.

Are you confident in your purpose? In what ways do you need to grow in authenticity? Who is already present in your life to help you take next steps?

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me the last few days. It’s been fun to call to mind events from the past that have shaped and molded who I have become.

As I remember, I see two benefits. First, remembering helps me see how God is present in my life. I see how he was with me in difficult times, I see how he preserved my life, I see how he guided my activity.

Secondly, I see the beautiful times when he said no. I know. It sounds strange. I recently finished a book entitled “The Beautiful No” by Sheri Salata. When life hands us a “NO,” we often wriggle and squirm and look for the yes. But looking back later, we find that the “NO” was the best gift we could have received at the time. It opened the door for another, more beautiful yes.

A few years ago I constructed a life timeline with memorable events, both good and bad. I was surprised to find that the most momentous yeses in my life followed traumatic noes. My conclusion: A beautiful no made room for an even more splendid yes to come my way.

As you have remembered, did you find there were traumatic noes? Did you wonder what place they had? Why are they there? Go back, and look for the way they cleared the way for a beautiful yes later!