Monday, March 15, 2010

What I said

I spoke at a women's retreat this weekend, and this is what I said ...

Faithwalk March 13, 2010

Learning about God through raising my own daughters and teaching her about God

1. Prayer

2. Introduction

Relatively speaking, I am new to the Friends church. Before arriving here in Newberg, my faith persevered often times in spite of the church rather than being encouraged from it. I understand those who would be disenchanted by the church, but still having been on the inside of it and the outside of it, I know that outside of Christ there really is absolutely nothing Good, and that comes from life experience. I have given thanks daily and weekly for the Lord’s leading us to Newberg Friends. Here I have found people who I respect, people from whom I might learn a thing or two, and a community where it seems that the aspects of my faith I cherish the most are of high value. I am incredibly grateful for finding this fellowship.

3. Some history, and topic

When thinking about what I was supposed to talk about, I found I had absolutely no desire to talk about what led me to Christ, It feels wrong to go through all the twists and turns that finally brought me to a point where I became Christian… The only really important thing to say might be I rejected Christianity because I didn’t like the culture of the church, and I came to the Lord because I wanted something so much better than what I could find in the world, and truly that is what I have found since turning to Christ when I was 21. From the folly of youth and the day the Lord lifted me out of my own mess, I can see a ribbon of his presence winding its way through my life, introducing and reintroducing himself.

I used to think I would have to turn off my brain to be a Christian, and it has been quite the opposite, that it has kindled an ongoing process of wrestling and reconciling and understanding. I love the story of Jacob wrestling with God, it speaks so much to life in faith, but while I feel like that characterizes my coming to Christ, that isn’t where I am going today,

More intriguing to me these days is the process I am starting of raising a child and what it is teaching me about God. How do I show my own children the face of Christ when I feel so ill-equipped? Sometimes I have wished I had a Christian upbringing, but seeing my husband work through reconciling his own Christian upbringing I am not so sure that’s where its at.

Here I would like to tell a little story about what our family looked like in the spiritual sense….

When I was growing up, I lived in a cul-de-sac with a couple other girls. They were from Christian families. Mine wasn't really that way so much.

Me and Karen and LaVonne played together alot. Karen went to an Assemblies of God church. Karen to this day is one of the sweetest people I can think of. She had a child like wisdom, good behavior and kindness that seemed to be a inherent part of her character. I thought very highly of her. One day I was over at her house for lunch. Before we could eat, she put her hands together, bowed her head and then in a little bit she stopped and ate her tuna salad on white bread.. I watched this. I had no idea what she just did, but I thought this was good, like she was. I asked her what she did, and through a mouth full of tuna salad sammich, she told me she prayed.

When I went home that night for supper, as we gathered around the table I announced "We should pray!" My parents looked at me.
"Ok then, pray." I stalled. I had never prayed before I realized at this point, and had no idea what praying really...I just had no idea.
The tension mounted for me, because as I was the youngest, the idea that anyone would pay attention to my suggestion was altogether unusual.
"Ok, well you have to stand up,"
"Because that's how you pray." The family stood up. At this point I am feeling really in trouble because here the same people who usually interrupt me and talk over me at the dinner table are doing what I am telling them to, and I have no clue what I am doing.

"You have to put your hand on your heart"
"What? You do not," said John, my brother.
"Just pray already, I'm hungry," says someone else. So I piously put my hand over my heart and said

"I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America..."

I have struggled with a sense of not really being equipped to raise a child to love Christ.
I hope to raise a daughter who perhaps doesn’t have to detour through so many painful choices before she comes to realize the value of the presence of the lord in her life. I don’t feel like I am without resources and some ideas of what is right and good, and that’s what I am going to talk about.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11

I do really feel like when I seek I find he DOES GENTLY lead those that have young. He gently leads me sometimes. And so I try to gently lead Addy. It is important to me that her learning be organic, without stress… gentle. This makes my time with her sometimes more like a rest from everything else—for that moment, the most important thing is that puzzle, or the fort, or the new art supplies. At times it seems that parenting is just a collection of moments, and making the best of each one as we are able to.

4. Resources for the job at hand

• I have found resources along the way that have encouraged me, reassured me, informed me, made me curious, and guided me and more than once I feel like the Lord has done the work for me when it comes to having the right heart about things happening, relating with my daughters

The best so far has been the community of moms I have found in Newberg and specifically at Newberg Friends. I really can’t say enough about how grateful I am that the Lord put us here. I appreciate the words of friends who tell me it’s okay for the kids to have nothing to do for awhile. I appreciate the simplicity of bumping into friends or strangers at a park. I am grateful for prayer groups, play groups with moms who I admire and respect and who have walked my path before. I am so grateful for this community which values the things that I value and around whom I am glad my kids will grow up. I am most specifically grateful for friendships with women who do not complain, but look for ways to cope with circumstances, women who set good examples as believers, women who listen and do not judge. I am constantly encouraged by the friendships the Lord is leading me to.

I have reassurance that the relationship that I have with my daughters offers me insight to the relationship and love the Lord has for me. How could I know the deep soulful love that I have for my girls if the Lord didn’t first have that love for his children? The quantity of joy I take in her has to come from somewhere, and I believe it comes from God, who delights in me as well.

1 John 3:16
By this we know love, because Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…

I know that I am not alone in this path with my girls. He is gently leading me as Isaiah 40:11 says

• Another resource I feel like I am learning a little more about is prayer. The sermon series about prayer resonated with me-Jeff and I talked a lot about it-and I started reading last summer. I read The Way of a Pilgrim by an unattributed author, but coming from the Russian orthodox church and also Prayer by Philip Yancey. The books have changed my prayer life entirely. My own prayer life had its shortcomings and I suspected that there was more to prayer than what I really knew about, because it never seemed as powerful as what people said. My readings lead me to see that prayer was something that might result only in changing my own heart about a circumstance, but so far that has been significant….

Now, when the virtues went around I am pretty sure I got shortchanged on patience.
Some of the suggestions about prayer mentioned in the book have really, really helped me to keep what is most important to me right in front of my face: to be a patient and loving mom at times when I wasn’t sure there wasn’t any more patient left. Daily with my girls, I cannot without regularly praying for mercy, patience, gentleness, self control and the measure of love that is required to be a good parent.

• Prayer has changed my decision making. It has clarified what the purpose of this time of my life is, raising children and looking for things that will make me a better mom. Sometimes that means learning from a gifted teacher of children, sometimes it means learning to play the piano, or other activities that do not require me to be a mom…. And when all else fails, sometimes being a good parent means a little time apart from the kid.

5. God gives me deeper understanding of himself through her

Being much time with a child really is a pouring out of ourselves. It can be really exhausting and also an amazing blessing. She verbally reminds me how God loves me, she blesses me with the singing of hymns we sing together. My heart grows when I see her loving God in her childlike way, and I am encouraged and grateful. In the difficult times the simplicity she represents which is a rest and respite from the complexity of messy problems.

Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t give us children to teach us something very specific about our relationship with Him, but I am not sure what that is yet.

While I talk about this, I hope it doesn’t sound like “I have this all figured out!”, what I have learned through trials is that I can control pretty much almost nothing in my life, but I can control how I respond. And I am still trying to get on top of that one.

The thing that makes me really joyful is that I am so very much at the beginning of this process, and I am looking forward to what God will reveal. If this sounds overly optimistic, it also again reminds me of how very much my daughters and this whole process is in God’s hands, I cannot worry (though I will probably try)

. It might be important to add, that while I feel like I am learning a lot, it’s because I have a lot to learn…

• Teaching her about showing Christ’s love to those around her, getting her past her own selfishness, and getting me past my own selfishness as well

• Authentically demonstrating my faith, mostly this is through the way I live, the choices we make as a family, priorities

• Choosing the responses what will resonate in her heart

• Showing her how, and what to pray for, and why.

• Nurturing her spiritual growth… what will this look like? I am infinitely grateful for moms around me who if they don’t have all the answers, they encourage me so much.

• Equipping her to go far in life, not hobbling her with hangups (is this even possible?)

In conclusion, the choices, paths or turns my daughters life takes are things that are in God’s hands. The only thing that I can really control on is my response to things that happen, so I pray the Lord will be there teaching me at those times too. Despite what I might lack in informing me how to raise my kids, I am constantly encouraged as the Lord seems to give me what I need, when I need it—how to pray, a community that seems tailor made for where we are in life, encouragement, friendships.

Read Psalm 25: 4-10

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