Saturday, January 28, 2012

Family = Important

I have a little "rant" raving in my head. It has been for many many years. I guess I've never written about it. I don't even think one measly little post could cover my thoughts entirely on the issue. But I feel like trying, nonetheless.

Parenting. Man. It is so incredibly important.

I just watched the movie Courageous a few nights ago and was blown away. How those fathers changed their lives and parenting styles goes along exactly with how I view parenting.

Many parents do a good job raising their kids, but few parents do an extremely fantastic job. There is a difference.

If you've seen the movie, you can recall how the fathers changed their mediocre approach to parenting and started aggressively pursuing their children's hearts.  I like that.

I've been serving vigorously in ministry since high school, and have worked alongside my husband in youth ministry for 6 years. We've seen the results of good parenting and not so good parenting in those teens lives. You can see a difference in a child's life when their mom and dad actively work on a deep relationship, when they take on the full responsibility of being the spiritual mentor (instead of always leaving it up to the pastors), when they continually foster open communication with their child and know and care about what's going on in their heart.

There are two sides to parenting, in my opinion. (I know I'm not some famous so-and-so with six degrees... so you don't have to believe me if you don't want to). One part involves fostering respect for authority in your child's life with correct discipline, but the other part involves finding the root issue in your child's heart and seeking out what makes them tick, what hurts them, what makes them act the way they do. You can't just shove rules down their throat without relationship. Everything will blow up in your face if you do this. I've seen it. But you also can't give them everything they want and act like their best friend. People don't care about what you know, until they know that you care. Every child is unique, every situation so different, that it requires love and sacrifice on the parent's part to search out the best plan of action in that very moment.

I read an awesome article written by Ron Luce in a parenting magazine from Focus on the Family recently. I wanted to scream, "YES! YES! He is SO right on!" after I read his article. Ron Luce started Teen Mania ministries and runs different conferences and discipleship programs for teens- he's pretty much amazing. He wrote in his article about how he has studied his three children over the years to know how he can most effectively foster a deep relationship with them and help steer them in the right direction. He gave an example of how his teenage son was struggling to find a youth group where he fit in and felt comfortable. His son ended up liking a group almost an hour away, and asked his parents to drive him there every week. Ron wrote that because he wanted his son to thrive spiritually, he did it. How sacrificial and beautiful. He also wrote that he regularly reads spiritual books with his son, and then they meet for a weekly father/son breakfast date at a restaurant to discuss what they read. He said that by reading a book together it helps his son open up about issues he might not normally talk about.

I think many parents mean well, but they are missing the mark. We can't just send our children to school and church and hope they "turn out well in the end". It's our job to mentor them, train them, teach them, and the pastor's job is to supplement what you are already doing at home. I've seen many parents in my day blame the pastors for their children walking away from the Lord. I know pastors have a big influence in teens' lives, but ultimately the responsibility falls on us as the parents. When we stand before the King of Kings, will we whine and complain that so-in-so didn't do a good enough job pastoring us and our children, and blame them that everything didn't turn out right? No. We will take responsibility for our own actions and give account of how we lived our own lives.

I'm not saying this method is a fireproof method for raising perfect kids. I'm just saying that I've watched a lot of kids grow up over the years and have taken mental notes of the positive and lasting impacts great parenting has on children.

SuperDan and I have had the privilege of working alongside many amazing families over the years, and we've noted how the children were raised with the desire to develop the same habits. We've also seen some "not so good" parenting and taken mental notes on what not to do.

Of course I've had my moments where I felt like a failure as a parent. There have been times I have bent down on my knee to apologize to my daughter for something I did. Every day I ask the Lord for grace and wisdom to raise her. But I hope that through all this I am becoming a better mom every single day.

There is one particular teen from our old youth group that stands out in my mind and I will never forget. I always noted to myself how respectful he was to us, how willing he was to help out, how confident he was in himself despite others around him, how caring and equal he treated everyone around him, and basically how awesome he was. As I got to know his parents over time, it became crystal clear why he was so grounded and wonderful. I found out that he and his dad regularly had a bible study together with another father and son every single week. It occurred to me that the lessons and spiritual food he was being fed in our youth group was absolutely supplementary to what his father was already teaching him every week. My eyes fill up with tears even thinking of him while I type this because I treasure this family so much.

I don't know what the future holds for our family, but I do know that I take parenting seriously, and that will always come before work in our lives. Actually, our desire is to get involved in ministry that works well with our family situation. Currently I have a deep desire for young moms and their children because I can bring Sitora with me and foster our spiritual enrichment together (think playdates, mom small groups, nursery, etc... ) I don't want to send her to a babysitter all the time so I can be involved in work that pulls me away from focusing on motherhood. As Sitora grows older every year I will gladly get involved in the children's ministry, youth ministry, etc... so that I can be an active part of her life while serving Father at the same time. I once knew a lady who served as a youth leader so that she could be involved in her daughters' lives in a deeper way. She invited her daughters' youth group friends over on a regular basis for small groups and parties, drove the carpool to events, and served alongside the youth pastor as much as possible. I bet sometimes those teenagers drove her crazy. I bet sometimes she didn't feel like hanging out with teenagers on a constant basis. But I can tell you today that as adults those girls have a deep love and respect for their mother. I want to be like that mother.

I have more to write on this subject, but now it's time to read 10 bedtime stories to my daughter and pray with her before she goes to sleep. These seemingly small things can add up to big things later in life, and I don't want to miss one moment.

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