Remember the “He loves me, He loves me not” game with a daisy that you’d do? Pulling a petal off one by one to see if it ended with “He loves’ me or “He loves me not.” It struck me today that it’s something we can also play with our lives. Maybe it’s the “Good mum, bad mum” version. The one when you’re a good mum because you got the kids off to school on time and without forgetting or losing anything (including your temper!) and then bad mum because it was a “lunch order” day. Good for doing the laundry, bad for not serving them enough vegetables at dinner.
Or perhaps for you, it’s the “Good Christian, bad Christian” version. You know, the one when you’re good because you started the day with your quiet time, or prayed with someone that day, or you’re star of the day because you shared your faith. But then you hit yourself with the “bad Christian” label because your mind wandered during your Pastor’s sermon, you know your attitude in life definitely leaves you lacking, or you can’t remember when you last prayed.
Playing this game is as futile as the daisy one. It doesn’t achieve anything but put you on a rollercoaster of emotions as to whether you are winning or succeeding at life – parenting , being a Christian etc. It keeps us tied to guilt. And really at the end of the day, it’s a guilt game. Sure you can have days when you feel like you’re nailing it, but you will also have days when the condemnation and guilt railroad you into depression and failure.
It runs contrary to God’s will for our lives, which is to see us reside in grace. A grace that forgives the failure, gives strength for the good and hope for the future. Grace which picks us up and let’s us keep going. Grace that doesn’t base love on performance. Grace which doesn’t give us a label, but says instead that you are loved, cherished and precious to God no matter how your day has gone. God is not a “He loves me, He loves me not” God. He loves you. Full stop!
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. ” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Herding Kittens, juggling monkeys – yes that pretty much sums up parenthood, in the early years at least. Haven’t reached the teens or tweens years yet! Herding kittens I think sometimes might even be easier. As it is, gone are the days of deciding to go out and then merely grabbing your bag and keys and doing just that. Two of the boys may be the in the car ready to go, while I rush around trying to locate a lost shoe for the third. Find said shoe and third trots to the car, only to then have one of the others get out having decided he actually does need the toilet. Then the other decides that he needs a toy. As I said herding kittens!
Nonetheless, this stage of life is busy but immensely rich and fun! But what can undo the enjoyment of it, is feeling that you don’t measure up to other parents – the mums at the school gate or in front of you at the checkout queue. But parents aren’t all perfect cookie cut outs. We’re all different. We were all created by God to be the unique type of parent to the children we have. It is important to embrace who each of us are as parents and not to compare to try to imitate others.
You won’t see me baking organic broccoli muffins for my boys, but you will find me on the floor playing Batman and Robin with their toys or reading the (entire!!!) series of Captain Underpants to them. We are all different. We might all go through the same milestones of our children, but we will respond to them differently as will our children. And while I know I certainly don’t always get it right, I have a God who loves me and lets me reside in an atmosphere of grace.
“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)
Remember you are the best parent to your children when you are you!
At home today my 3 year old and I went to walk down our stairs. That is, until he decided that it would be easier, more fun and less effort on his part, if I carried him down the stairs instead. So the request “Mummy carry” was made. And willingly I did. An otherwise inconsequential trip down the stairs became a shared moment between us as we giggled and whispered on the way down (plus I received a bonus cuddle!) My son made the request and I was willing to oblige.
Jesus said to us “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28), yet so often I find myself determined to do life in my own strength and stubbornly often with a lot of luggage. You’d think I’d know better – having travelled frequently and often with more luggage than I can handle I have learnt a trick or two. I don’t even attempt to do it in my own strength! I have caught a cab from my hotel merely to take me round the corner to the Train Station. I have been escorted in JFK International Airport by my own personal porter with a large trolley for all my luggage (he did offer! I think he thought there were a lot more people with me given the quantity of luggage!) But when it comes to life to the problems that weigh me down I’m less quick to ask God to carry them.
This offer of help is seen in the Psalms – “Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22). And it is seen again in 1 Peter – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”(1 Peter 5:7).
It was not a problem or a burden to carry my son down the stairs (he’s still little!), it was a joy. It’s the same for God, He’s not thrown by what we need help with, He wants to help.
My son I’ve decided is a wise boy, while I myself, need to be a bit more wiser!
The other day, things were just a bit tough in my 3 year olds’ world. From the pyjamas selected for him, to the lego pieces not going together correctly, to the choice of dinner. Everything was just too much for him and was resulting in tears – lots of tears. But as his mum, I knew his back story. I knew that the day hadn’t been an ordinary day – it had started early and involved a birthday party. I knew that my little chap was tired. I knew that the tears of frustration were actually tears of tiredness. And I knew that a reassuring cuddle (followed by an early night!) was all that was needed to right everything in his world.
In life though, we don’t always have the benefit or privilege of knowing people’s back story, of knowing how their day or their life is working out. We don’t always know what has precipitated the driving that cut us off or the rude and grumpy response to us.
We have a rule in our household. No one is allowed to be rude or dismissive of telemarketers when they call. And yes, while the timing can be exceedingly annoying and I really don’t need to be asked if I want a free valuation of our home or a ventaliation system installed, no one is allowed to be rude. Why? Because I know they all have a back story. I don’t know what the back story is, but I have sometimes thought that maybe they’re a student working these inconvenient hours to pay for their education. Maybe it’s a mum working an extra job to afford a better life for her children. Or maybe it’s someone’s first job and they are passionate about sales and people! I just know that whoever is at the other end of the phone – they have a story and so I choose grace.
Grace to not be another grumpy, annoyed person in maybe a string of them. Grace to be part of the good of their day (or even the inconsequential) and not the bad.
We need to show grace and compassion to those around us. To look beyond how someone’s actions are impacting us and to know that we don’t see the whole picture. We don’t see the moments before – the bad news, disappointment they’ve received, the hurt they’ve just encountered. We don’t know what they are going through.
Jesus walked this earth with compassion. He looked beyond and saw people’s back story and extended grace and hope. From the woman caught in adultery to the Samaritan woman, to Zacchaeus up a tree. He looked to see, really see. And they all had an encounter with God.
Last night at a conference, I was struck by the line in a song – ‘Your heart is kind.” Our God is a kind God. He treats us with kindness. He continually demonstrates kindness to us.
How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! (Psalm 36:7)
For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. (Psalm 117:2)
The irony though, is that often we aren’t kind to ourselves. We berate ourselves for having not met goals that we’ve set. We judge ourselves continually on our performance, whether it be on parenting, careers, relationships, health. We remember more often the failures, the bad and not the good.
The negative thoughts I entertain about myself are not from God. They’re from me! It’s me that is beating up and criticising on me!! Thoughts like “You should be doing more as a parent, you messed up by having that morning tea, you should be praying more….” can take a hold of us. The list can go on and on. Relentless in its barrage of failures and wrongs.
God though, He looks at me with kindness. He sees where I am trying. And more importantly, He loves me nonetheless.
Be kind to yourself. Take a break, have a kit kat!
Panic. Sheer panic! The front door closed behind me and I realised my keys to the car and house, my wallet, my phone were inside. I was left outside the house, holding my 12 month old needing to get to school to pick up my newly at school son and I was seriously almost out of time.
So I ran, baby in arms, down the road, round the corner….to my sister’s house.
I managed to gasp out the significance of why I was red faced and puffing with baby in arms and no car at her front door, and before I knew it we were safe in her car heading to school to collect my 5 year old. Just in time.
One month later. It was pouring with rain but I was inside my car, with my 3 boys, with a flat battery. A phone call to my Dad and once again I was rescued. The hubby left to sort out the flat battery once home from work.
They say it takes a village to raise a family. I’d have to agree. The incidents above aren’t isolated too – there are the unexpected Doctor’s visits, the need to be in 2 places at one situations, the I’ve had a bad night I just need someone to bring me a coffee mornings! It takes a village for sure.
I know I’m blessed to have family living close who help me out of these sticky situations, or who simply provide encouraging support. I have a lovely network of mums (far and near). We get life and encourage each other.
We live in towns and cities now, sometimes barely knowing who our neighbours are but it still takes a village.
We can be that village to those around us. We can look around and see those in our neighbourhood, at our schools, our churches and we can be that Village to them.