Raise Them Strong

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The other day my youngest and I were out and about with friends and headed to the zoo.  I’m not sure what the girls were even talking about.  But you know tweens. They talk, laugh, and giggle at just about anything and everything.

We were headed down the interstate and I hear mine say,

“Life is severe!”

I can’t remember anything else she said after that.  That got my attention.

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She’s 12.  And, life has proven to be severe for her.  Now, in all good perspective, I understand we aren’t sitting in a cancer ward, or at a funeral home, or living in a war-torn village.  All things considered, it is an overall blessed life.  But, for her, it has had some challenges.

She has had to walk away from a community that she has known since she was four-years-old without barely a goodbye.  This was where she realized her passions and had some dear and strong friendships.  This community had become incredibly personal to her and the center of much of her life.  Her father’s job was over and she was soon cut off from many she considered family. Her world was turned upside down over night and a once safe place, was no longer safe.

She has faced anxiety about her future and the loss of the only world she really knew.    Unfortunately, she has learned tough lessons on rejection and betrayal, grief and loss.

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I’ve been thinking about my children and how, as a parent, I have gifts I need to give them.  After some of the things we have been through lately, resilience is one of the very best I can give.

It’s not something I can bestow upon their heads by tapping a diamond encrusted wand and sprinkling some pixie dust.  Now, wouldn’t that be a trick!  So much cooler…and easier!  But, alas, this gift doesn’t come that way.  But, its value almost can not be measured.

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“Life can be severe, but you will make it!  You will be just fine.”

One of the worst things I can do is kill myself making everything work out exactly so to my children’s specifications and requests.  Because, life happens.  Jobs change, you don’t always make the team, the doctor’s report comes back ugly and scary, you aren’t always the chosen favorite, and sometimes people walk away.

As a young adult, I  had my first taste of hardship.  No matter how hard we tried, things didn’t seem to go our way.  Instead of the Midas touch of gold we had the leaden touch.  It was quite a rude awakening.  Up to that point, we had enjoyed lots of success in college and things ran quite smoothly.

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I know there are many who learn hard lessons way too early.  Much earlier than anyone would ever wish.  But, I grew up in an upper middle class, church attending, two-parent household, with a younger brother, a dog, and a cat.  Everything, pretty much, except the picket fence.

So, you can imagine my shock and fear when I was faced with significant hardship for the first time.  I was a young married pastor’s wife starting a church from scratch.  It was tough.  We barely made enough to live, much less bring another human into the world.  Yet, we did.

It wasn’t an easy path.  Fast forward 15 years and unknown to us, a whole new level of hard was stretching out ahead of us.  Yet, this time, we had three very impressionable, young humans in tow.

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When they were younger, we could protect and shield them from much of it.  But, now, not so much.  They are smart and perceptive.

I get discouraged when I begin to think through questions that rattle through my brain.  I feel a panic that threatens to scorch my heart.

Why do my kids have to experience such things?  

Why do they have to experience loss, rejection and betrayal?

So many things I didn’t have to experience until adulthood.  

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But, here is the next question.

Why not?

Self pity rises up and threatens to suck the life and light out of everything if we don’t ask this simple question.

Why not? 

Who are we to expect to escape hardship?

Seriously.  Jesus said we would have trouble, but to take heart, because we can overcome because of Him.

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So, as unpleasant as it is, we have to face the truth.  We are not exempt.  Our great hope comes, however, from our great source.  We live in this fallen world.  But, we are journeying towards the other side.  Bumps, bruises, scars and all.  We are stronger, smarter, wiser, tougher and more resilient than ever.  We have a story to tell.

A story of a God who walked through the desperate darkness with us.  Church hurt is excruciating.  Being wounded in the house of our friends is a tough pain to swallow.  As, a mom, I would give anything to protect my children.

There is much we can shield them from, but you can’t shield them from life.  

If we want to raise strong, emotionally healthy adults, we teach them how to walk through pain and disappointment.  It is better to learn how to be strong and resilient early in life.  You are then equipped to walk this life out with grace.  These aren’t lessons merely talked about, but lived out day by day.

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I have met some of the most open, grace-filled, and loving people in the last few weeks.  They are becoming our new community.  These people have been through about as much as we have—maybe more.  But, they are good, kind, big-hearted people.  They know what it means to travel through the hard, dark places and come out stronger on the other side.

That’s what I want to be.  And that is what I want my children to see.

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What Are You Looking At?

1-1234699141PRLFI’ve been thinking about today’s blog.

I wasn’t sure the direction I wanted to go…until now.  I don’t know, call it writer’s block.  I never really want to write a post without some kind of inspired direction.  I had several seemingly disjointed thoughts rolling through my mind and couldn’t bring them into any cohesive thought, until now.

I’ll let you in on my analytical brain’s journey.

My first thought from the week:

My personality doesn’t do well with conflict.  For the most part, I think most people do not do well with conflict.  However, I do know there are some who seem to enjoy it…get a kick out of it.   But, that’s not me.  It causes me a level of anxiety that sits in the pit of my stomach.  Generally, I deal with conflict by avoiding the person with whom I am having conflict.  Not the best tactic, I know, but that is my default mode.  As I am growing, I am learning not all conflict resolution has to be traumatic and disastrous.  I am making baby steps toward handling conflict that results in positive and life-giving ends.

My second thought from the week: 

I don’t like to complain about being in ministry.  There are many great rewards, opportunities and joy.  However, it’s not easy at times.  In fact, there are unique challenges, disappointments and pain other professionals don’t experience, much less their spouses and families.

I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum.  Christians don’t always act like Christians.  And, honestly, that can be a disappointment.  But, on the flip side, Christians have been living, breathing fleshed-out hands of God in my life.  In some congregations, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  In fact, keeping in mind I don’t do well with conflict, there was a time during a very difficult season, attending church was too painful and I would have to leave the worship service because of severe anxiety.  Sadly, for a while, it didn’t feel like a safe place for me.

I wasn’t even the “personal” target for attacks.  My husband, mainly, and occasionally one of my children were the focus of the attacks.  It seems people forget their responsibility as Christians in a body of believers.  When someone decides to “take on” an issue in the church, they often forget the collateral damage that is done.  When issues are addressed in a toxic way, many hearts lie wounded in their wake.  It’s not just the leader affected, but his wife and children as well.  God reminded me “He sees it all and knows it all.”   He will make right the wrongs.

My third thought from the week: 

This is the greatest of all from the week!!  As I was walking the circle in my neighborhood, I took notice of the beautiful spring blooming around me.  It was such a beautiful day! As I was trying to reign in all my thoughts and see what kind of coherent message I could bring from it all, it hit me straight on.  I realized my rambling thoughts were coming together!

  Nature yells out the very existence and hope of God.  It was screaming out to me a message I needed to be reminded of!   The joy and hope I sensed in that moment caught my attention.  As I was looking at the yellow-flowered weeds in the field near my house, I got it!  I remembered a verse I had come across the day before reading through some journaling I had done last year.  Psalm 27:13, 14.   Yes! It was all clear now.  The seemingly random thoughts were coming together to form one powerful thought!

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Life is messy.  Stuff happens.  People disappoint….some over and over again.  People don’t act as they should and many times we are hurt by others’ selfishness.  But, life is also very beautiful.  Or at least it can be.  It depends, though.  And frankly, it depends on you and me.  I’ve experienced enough toxicity to last me my lifetime.   Life can require responses or decisions from me I feel are unfair at times.

I just choose over and over not to focus my attention on that.

Maybe, right now you see harshness or injustice.  Perhaps you are experiencing a motherload of inconvenience and disappointment.

But, if you quit in this one snapshot of a moment, you will never see the finished portrait.

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If you quit now, you won’t see the would-be, finished, beautiful product. 

Our hope and joy lie in God and our trust in Him.  Such beauty and grace resides in Him.  He promises to show us His goodness in this lifetime.  So, focus your attention on what you WANT to see.  Stop focusing on the unfinished business; focus on the promised beauty.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”