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Performance-based Parenting

24 Dec

I serve a perfect, all-knowing Saviour, but I am a work in progress and will be one until the day I depart this earth.

One thing I am struggling with right now is the idea that an attitude of gratitude is hard to teach to one’s offspring.  

I don’t necessarily think that is an issue restricted to special needs offspring.  I have seen enough examples of the “most entitled generation ever” to say that many of us have not been able to teach the concept of “attitude of gratitude.”  Or maybe not all of my generation even tried . . .  

I know that my special needs son needs to catch this as an attitude of the heart, not as an externally imposed rule from me.  I also know his college, which is a Christian school for special needs people, is aware of the need to convey this concept in a heart-to-heart way.  So we all keep plugging away at teaching it . . .

Where I think I have failed in the past is in not realizing that if I accept dismissive behavior directed toward me by my son, I am disobeying the part of God’s Word that says children need to be taught to respect their parents, and actually to treat every human being with dignity.  

It is subtle, this whole issue.  I certainly imposed consequences for blatantly disrespectful language or actions.  

What I didn’t see coming until it was in my rearview mirror was the tendency to hand me a “to do list” for which appreciation is never shown, but with a new list of demands being issued when the old list is finished.  

I spent my childhood trying to find one minute in which I felt I had completed enough actions to be considered a good daughter.  I now find myself spending my motherhood doing the same, in relation to my child.  I am measuring my parenting by whether I can ever get to the point where I have completed the “to do list” of things my kid wants done for him.  And the answer is . . . I cannot.  

There is so much wrong there, at so many levels.  Relationships should not be defined by what others do for us.  We all know that.  Or rather, the only relationship that should be defined by what others do for us is that of employer and employee.

But what makes me saddest is that I have not conveyed the idea of an attitude of gratitude.  I don’t often hear “thank you” when we cross one thing off the “to do list.”  Actually, I usually just hear that one thing being replaced by two more requirements.  And I know they are only requirements because I allow them to be.

I know that getting mad and pushing back will not solve this.  We cannot legislate an attitude of gratitude.  Sitting down like a mule and saying I won’t do anything more for my family won’t cut it either.  Nothing that is being asked of me is abnormal for family life.  It is just all being asked in a way that takes me totally for granted.  

I did just declare a moratorium for Christmas Eve and Christmas.  I will not acknowledge any requests till the 26th.  I am exhausted, ten days after my son arrived home from college.  We have been to two malls, the Navy Exchange twice, a thrift store, three special restaurants, the doctor, a beauty parlor (for haircut), and the grocery store that has six packs of Coke.  That is not factoring in all of the requests to jump up and find things for him at home or to do things for him that he has not yet mastered for himself (that is probably the special needs part–and, in all fairness, he is working on self-help skills and is making great progress).  

So, for those of you who have never lived with a special needs person, that may be an eye-opening rant, although I know we all have our own responsibilities in life and many, many of us live in a sacrificial way within our families.  

I just realize that it is a two-way street.  If we are nothing but sacrifice, then our children become nothing but takers.  

And, if my parenting is to be performance-based at all, I should at least take God’s view of my performance, which is that I should convey righteous standards to my child, not teach him to be a taker all life long.  

I take the point and . . . I run to my Saviour once again, to be found fully sufficient in Him and in His righteousness, while I walk this earth in fear and trembling, living and learning and growing and always knowing I fall short, but that in Him I have everything.     

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When is the right time to get right with God?

24 Dec

I have been thinking this week about an attitude of gratitude and how a lack thereof seems to be the basis for every sin we can commit against God.  

Nothing we can do to offend Him seems to be independent of Him and of the grace He has so freely given us.  He encloses us from all sides, and so does His grace.  Even when we act out against Him, we have to go through layers of His grace to do so.   

Everything we do to sin against Him seems to reinforce the idea that we think we don’t need Him and His stinking grace.  That we can make it on our own.  

Ironically, the American pioneer spirit that morphed into the American entrepreneurial spirit often seems to credit man for his achievements on his own, not factoring in the God who gave him his abilities and his opportunities.  

Absolutely right, President Obama.  We didn’t build that on our own.  American ingenuity did not happen in a vacuum.  But it also wasn’t empowered by government or by a community of other people.  At its base, it was empowered by God.  Everything is.

Knowing that, what do we do to be in relationship with God?  We acknowledge our neediness in relation to His abundance.  We accept His gifts, freely given to us.  Most of all, we accept the gift of His Son whom He sent at Christmastime to pay the penalty for our sins.

Sadly, many people go through life with no understanding that they owe gratitude to God.  They think God will be lucky to get them as followers.  And they put off the time when they will become His followers.  They may intend to do that after they have pursued every dream they have, independently of Him.

Problem with that is, there is never a good time to suddenly switch to a planned attitude of gratitude.  There are so many reasons to justify remaining independent of God.  And, when we do, we may find a way of becoming bitter with God when He speaks into our lives.

Case in point, how many people live their lives independently of God, then consider following Him when they grow older and suddenly face cancer or heart disease?  Problem with that is that those conditions can produce immense fear and depression, merely by inhabiting the human body.  Family members may struggle with the same emotions, trying to care for us while we are ill.  If we have not previously begun a relationship with God, there is a very good chance that we won’t see anything in these situations to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in us now.  Quite the opposite, we might get downright angry with God for allowing heart disease or cancer, even in a person 60 or 70 years old who has previously had a healthy life with many travels and adventures.  

Statistics show that it is extremely rare for a person who has lived life independently of God to suddenly turn to Him in the 60’s or 70’s. There is a very good reason God told us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth.

I plead with everyone reading this to get right with God this Christmastime.  There will probably not be a time later on when you are more likely to do so.  

And . . . if we fail to plan for eternity, we default to having the same situation in eternity as we had in this life.  An eternity independent of God.  In a place called hell. 

“Holiday Inn” (I bought it without having seen it!!!)

23 Dec

Since I am stretching myself this Christmas and trying to see some holiday movies I haven’t seen before, I watched “Holiday Inn” today.  I believe I have seen parts of it before, but never the whole movie.  

What I took from it was that Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire finally learned that manipulating a woman to win her is not cool!  They fought over the same women all movie long.  If one wanted her, the other wanted her.  Usually it was Fred Astaire, scheming to take away Bing Crosby’s newest love.  But Bing did plenty of manipulation of his own, trying to keep Fred from taking away his girlfriends!!!  

When once Bing backed off and gave a woman the freedom to walk out of his life, he wound up winning back the woman he loved.  Tellingly, he was the first to the altar of the two (we presume, from the ending of the movie . . .). 

This movie reinforces the idea that love of a human being can easily become idolatry (of self or of that other person).  Even though the movie was not meant to teach Christian theology, it was made in a simpler time when such lessons often came just by being part of the society back then.  

People are not possessions.  Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire learn that in “Holiday Inn.”  Have we?  

We Interrupt this Program . . .

23 Dec

With our son home from his special needs college in Wisconsin, Noel and I have been talking more than usual about social relationships, noticing how they work and where they can break down . . .

One thing we spoke about in the car on the way to church yesterday was the art of inserting ourselves into a conversation, or even changing the topic.  Lots of people struggle in that area, not just people with special needs.

Facebook and other social media have underlined this issue.  

So let’s try to go through it and see whether there are any rules that can be applied to entering someone else’s conversation.  

I would say (with my only expertise 55 years of being alive as a student of human nature and relationships):  

1) If you start the conversation, whether in person or on Facebook, you own the topic.  You get to decide if someone can change the subject or not.  Some subject changes relate to a topic and further it.  And some are just off the wall.  Your choice which ones you wish to pursue!!!  

2) If you are trying to change the subject in someone else’s conversation and the person goes along with you, great!

3) If you are trying to change the subject in someone else’s conversation and the person changes the subject back or tells you that you are going off topic, you can’t claim persecution. You can, however, go start your conversation on your own Facebook page or with other people (if in a group).  No one is forcing you to remain part of the original discussion.  In fact, it is bad form to remain in that conversation if you are only going to be there to disparage it.  

4) As in all of life, we all have free speech (at least in this country) but we have to find our own audience for it.  It is really, really bad form to intrude on someone’s conversation, when a group has gathered, with the sole intent of changing the subject to your favorite political hot potato issue!  Really.  And don’t commandeer someone else’s Facebook page for political grandstanding either.  

So there are several rules we have noted.  What have you seen?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Letting Go of Grudges

20 Dec

This mama’s story is awesome. Learning to forgive in the face of a real and measurable hurt to her child. Forgiveness is hard, but it is a requirement.

Sowing Mercy

“When we forgive, we are released from the bondage of the grudge.” Dr. Stephen LeBar, Pastor of Jenison Bible Church.

Grudges, or the longterm withholding of forgiveness, occur when our sense of justice has been offended. I may feel that I have not received the respect I deserve, the fruits of my labor, or someone I love has been hurt. We have been wronged, and we simmer with resentment. Grudges can also harm our own health and affect the people around us. They cause trouble and defile those around us.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15

When my oldest daughter was nearing kindergarten age, we noticed…

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Aside

“I Only Make Them Once a Year . . .”

17 Dec

At Weight Watchers this week, we were talking about those things we eat at Christmas because someone says, “I only make them once a year and I made them especially for you.”

It is hard enough to hear, “I only make them once a year.”  It is hard enough to hear, “I made them especially for you.”  

But combine those two and it is hard to refuse the treat (usually baked goods), no matter how hard you may have worked to budget Weight Watcher points for your day/week/month. 

I thought right after that, while looking at a poster of plump blueberries and ripe strawberries on the wall of the Weight Watchers meeting, how we always want to make intricate desserts for those we love. God makes these lovely berries, as the most intricate of desserts for us.  Since He makes them, we can’t improve on them as a dessert.  We can just serve them.  Even sprinkling sugar on them really does nothing for them when they are naturally ripened.  They are perfection, without needing man’s touch.

They are almost too simple for us to serve to our loved ones, because God did all the hard work involved in growing them. They are totally gifts of His grace and bounty.  And we, being by nature works-oriented, associate our own hard, intricate work with showing love for our family and friends. Thus . . . we bake and bake.

We bake and bake even when we know that delicious fruit, served plain, would be best for us and for our loved ones (I am not advocating always avoiding baked goods, as we have Weight Watchers weekly points for just such things–there is a balance to be found, after all!).

And God outdoes us every time.  It is a gift of His grace that He does that.  Just by making His lovely fruits to grow. 

Then I thought of the seasons in which blueberries and strawberries are harvested fresh.  I thought I heard God saying, “I only make them once a year and I made them especially for you!”

And, with a fresh understanding of His grace, love for God surged through me.  He really is the best Friend and Familymember of all.  

Merry Christmas! 

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Great Wolf Lodge is a Great Place for Kids at Heart!

14 Dec

Great Wolf Lodge is a Great Place for Kids at Heart!

I have always had a lot of friends, but I have never been in the “cool clique.” Cliques seemed too restrictive to me–they usually end up telling you who your friends can be!

So, you will understand when I explain how I was when I found myself wandering around the Great Wolf Lodge waterpark Thursday night, after the children had almost all departed for their storyhour with Santa Claus at 8 PM. I was alone, with my husband and his colleague occupied elsewhere. I also had never been to the Great Wolf Lodge
before.

Since the various activities in the waterpark are not clearly marked, I didn’t know which of these deserted places were usually only for children unless someone told me. I wandered through every body of water I could see and tried several fun things to do.

My friends have all chuckled and said that was “so Mary” and how fun my view of life is.

I don’t know how to do life any other way! Try things out or I won’t know whether I like them.

Since I am not worried about being a member of the “cool group,” there was nothing to stop me!!! And I got exercise points as I wandered around, swimming and exploring!!!

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