As many of you know, this month has been a big one in the life of our family. Less than three weeks ago we cheered, celebrated and rejoiced as we watched our eldest, Laura, walk across the stage to receive her diploma from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. That great day started off the evening before with Westmont’s Baccalaureate. It was knock-your-socks-off good! What a time of worship — praising the One who has faithfully gone before our daughter (and all of the graduates) during these years of school. The music played as the class of 2015 began their procession.
What better song could have been playing than this old hymn? I had tears in my eyes as I sang the words in my heart:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
He is the Fount of every blessing! His streams of mercy are constant. His love is redeeming. His help is great. Our beautiful inheritance is coming. He seeks and rescues. His blood intercedes. His grace is consuming. He is worthy of our loudest praise and our unabashed proclamation (which is not even good enough). Oh, praise Him for all He has done!
As a mom with olders — two college-age, one high school-age, two middle school-age, I’m asked regularly what it takes to parent well — especially in the teen years.
You see her beautiful smile, you hear about her outstanding GPA, you discover her long list of accomplishments and the many talents she’s been given. But behind this face is a story — one that is 21 years in the making. As parents, we are a part of that story every step of the way.
I’ve been praying about what it takes to parent well. How do I answer when a mom of a pre-teen looks at me wide-eyed, fearing what might be ahead?
Let me make this short (is that even possible for me?). There are a lot of different parenting styles. I’m a big believer that one size does not fit all. That there is not one and only one way to parent correctly.
BUT…as I’ve spent some time reflecting, I realize there are some things that were critical in helping our daughter grow into the woman she is today.
This one is HUGE. It starts at home. When your child is very young, look for ways to help her (I’ll use “her” because this blog is about my first-born, a “her”) help out. She could help put Daddy’s shoes away or help make the bed for a sibling. As your child gets older, serve a sick friend by making a meal. Serve an aging neighbor by dog-walking, visiting or yard clean-up. Then, look for ways to serve your community. Regularly visit a nursing home. Volunteer in a hospital. Serve food at a local ministry. Something. Anything. Just look for ways to serve. Be intentional in this area.
Let’s be honest. It’s way easier to cook a meal without “help” from a 5-yr-old or 10-yr-old. I could sort the laundry in 7 minutes flat, but it dragged out to 15 minutes when I began enlisting the “help” of my 6-yr-old. Water gets sloshed out of the toilet when I have “help” with bathroom cleanup. It might be torture for Mom or Dad (or Grandpa, as in our case) to have “help” with preparing a garden, but these moments of “helping” are extremely valuable for our children. Get their “help”!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll enlist “help” for about 15 minutes, use up all your patience, shoo everyone away and finish the job yourself. *Sigh* Story of my life. Thank God my daughter turned out the way she did in spite of me.
Being in Charge
When Laura was 9, I asked her if she’d be our lunch lady. The deal was this: If she made lunches for her brothers and sister, she would not have to help with lunch cleanup. Laura hated cleaning up, so she went down to the kitchen every school day to make pb&j sandwiches, cut up apples, load carrots onto plates and pour milks. She owned it like a boss!
There were countless (and by countless, I really mean a few) lemonade stands. Our kids worked together, but they were in charge of making the signs, making the lemonade and setting up down the street.
Those lemonade stands led to an Operation Shoe Box yard sale. One year, Samaritan’s Purse had a special not-at-Christmas-time shoe box gathering for friends who were affected by a tsunami. Just six months earlier we had spent a decent chunk of money filling 12 Christmas shoe boxes. Money-making Dad didn’t really have any money to give for these special boxes, but our kids really wanted to participate. So, we encouraged them to think of ways to raise some money. Long story short, Laura led the charge and our children worked hard to hold a yard sale with the proceeds going to fill shoe boxes. I helped gather belongings we were willing to part with, but that was all the adult help they got.
As a homeschooling mama, often spread too thin, I gave Laura the “job” of reading to little brother Ben. When she was in 8th grade, she decided to read and do history and science with him. I remember feeling guilty about this, but the Lord gave me the realization that it was good for Laura and Ben to have this time together.
It’s good for our children to have something to be in charge of — whether it’s taking care of a pet or researching colleges, we must let go of the reins and push them to work independently.
Celebrate holidays, celebrate birthdays, celebrate milestones, celebrate the Lord’s provision. I’m not talking big, Pinterest-style celebrations here, people. Just look for reasons to sing, dance, go out for ice cream, throw confetti, make posters. Celebrate together!
These areas have all been life-giving for our children.
But, there are still speed-bumps and blips on radars along the way. Parenting is rewarding, but it is the most life-altering, self-sacrificing, challenging job out there.
If you are parenting teens, or if you will parent teens in the future, I have three words for you…
Be on your knees for your child.
Love your child without abandon. No matter the obstacles. No matter the cost.
Never give up.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. I’ve shaken my fist at heaven and yelled, “This SUCKS!!!!!” (and I loathe that word).
And then I think about how difficult it is for my Father to parent me. Oh, how He loves me. How He pursues me over and over again. How He never gives up on me.
May we be a generation of parents who pray, pursue and persevere.