Wednesday, September 18, 2013

She's Only a Figment of Your Vain Imaginations

She's not real, you know?  She doesn't exist.  You continue, day after day, to measure yourself by her standard, but she's a fraud.  A lie.  A misrepresentation.  A vain imagination.

There are no perfect mothers.

There are no perfect wives.

There are no perfect homes.

Every mother goes through ups and downs with her children.  Every mother has deep fears that her kids won't "turn out" right.  Every mother wonders if she's doing as much good as she is damage.  Every mother worries that her kid is going to do something, someday that will be put on a public display, and effectively communicate to the world that the truth is, no matter how often she tries to prove otherwise, she just really isn't a good mom.

It's sad, because while each and every one of us are "that" mom, we simply refuse to say so.  Our Facebooks, accountability groups, Twitter feeds and Instagrams tell beautiful stories of God-honoring children that respect their elders and have grand visions for their futures.  And while those stories are probably very true, we only share half of the truth.  We run to social media when we're on a parental high, but I don't see anyone posting from the other pages in their books.

If we were honest, half of our posts would look like this:

"If my teenager stomps out of the living room mumbling under his breath one more time..."

"I was totally humiliated by the clothes my teenage daughter chose to wear out in public today!"

"Some days, I feel like my kids would rather be ANYWHERE on the planet than at home with their family."

"I don't like my children today.  I am sick to death of the rebellion and disrespect."

"When it comes to their Spiritual walk, my kids are all talk and no action.  It scares me to think of what kind of adults I'm breeding over here."

But that's not what our feeds look like at all, is it?  And because they don't, we do two very dangerous things.

First of all, we rob ourselves of the joy of having sisters come alongside us and hold us up until the good times come.

Second, and probably worst of all, we alienate every single mother on the planet.  We, by only sharing the good stuff, effectively write "failure" onto the mirrors of every mother that reads our version of "life" that we choose to share.

Have you been there?  Have you read  one more post from a super mom with beautiful, passionate, artistic, sensitive, benevolent, prudent, wise children and thought, "Lord, why can't I be more like her?"

Well, dear mother who believes that what goes on behind your doors never happens in other homes, I think you are more like her than you think.

We're in a pickle.  And we're in it together.  We live in a culture where our children's lives are on display (whether we display them or not.)  Gone are the days that "sin" could be handled within the quiet wisdom of a family.  Now sins, failures and shortcomings are on such display that mothers feel more like agents than shepherds or stewards of souls.  Culture tries to tell us that our real jobs are to cover up the failures of our offspring until they are "good" enough to unveil.  Culture tells us that our real job is to parade the accomplishments of our children so that our audiences are effectively distracted from the fact that our kids don't pray, give or say no to sin.  Culture says that it's okay if, after reading of the blatant rebellion of another kid in the community, you sigh a big sigh of relief because, after all, your kid is still okay.

Well, why?  Why do we do it?  Why do we continue to put our children on shaky pedestals and then let it destroy us when they totter?  Why do we say we love and support other mothers, but then only share enough of our lives to make sure that they feel like total and complete failures?  Why do we refuse to be vulnerable enough to help a neighbor with their kid, even when it means that their kid will ultimately influence our own? Why do we continue to believe that what people believe about us trumps what God knows about us?  Why do we read in the Bible that the confession of sin is the beginning of a changed life, and then do EVERYTHING in our power to make sure that our children do NOT confess sin?

Why?  Because we are our second worst enemy.  Our first-place enemy tempts us with a deep, thick, ugly pride that whispers, "You're only as good as they think you are," and we swallow his venom.  And we enjoy it.  Don't kid yourselves.  We enjoy those posts that make us believe our children are safe from the apples in the garden.  We enjoy that smug feeling when people tell us how good our kids are.  We even secretly enjoy that sick, slick confidence that creeps in when we're watching another mother wallow in the shame of her child's sin.

We love it.  If we didn't, we wouldn't do it.  If it didn't make us feel so good, we'd probably be spending our time searching the Scriptures to see what God says to do about our troubles.  If it didn't make us feel so smug, we'd probably be knocking on the door of a humiliated mom to give her a hug.  If it didn't let us off the hook for the things we know but don't show, we would probably be planning community meetings in an effort to save our children from one trap or another.  If it didn't make us feel so superior, we'd probably be on our knees, begging the All-knowing, All-seeing Father to break us and mold us into the people He wants us to be.

I will close with a confession.

I don't want to be the mom that uses the humiliations and failures of other moms to fortify my self-esteem.  I don't want to be the kind of mom that cares so much about what you think of me that I refuse to take an honest look at the relationships my children have with their Creator.  I don't want to be the kind of mom that has a terribly bad day with my children but tells you that everything is amazing.  I don't want to be the reason you feel like a failure.  I don't want to sacrifice the depth of my family's understanding of confession and repentance just so I get an invite to your party.  I, personally, want to be done with the pride that ensures our self-fulfilling prophesy of failure and destruction.

Lord, help me.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Today, LOVE.

You are at your wit’s end. You’re hanging on by a thread. You’re questioning everything. Gone is that great confidence you once had about raising and schooling your children without professional help. The house is a mess. Your oldest has developed an attitude problem the size of Texas. Your toddlers woke up believing they were trying out for a mixed martial arts bit in the town talent competition. You watched your middle kid purposefully knock over his drink just so he can hear you say his name. When your husband left for work, you almost asked him if he was planning on coming home. You can’t remember the last time you crossed off your to-do list, the doorbell is ringing and you’re not sure if you brushed your hair today. 

What do you do on the days you simply don’t enjoy being locked in the house with your children?

Where does your strength and conviction come from when the warm and fuzzies wear off?

How do you do the right thing for one more day when you’re mad at those you’re doing the right thing for?

I could give you volumes of “tricks” to try that might help you schedule your day, clean your house, tend to each child, grant immediate consequence for disrespect, build family morale, please your husband, lower your stress level, and check off that to-do list, but that’s not what our hearts need to hear. We’ve had it with good advice. What we need is someone to speak to that woman inside us who worries that she’s “messing up” her family. To that woman, I want to speak a gentle reminder:

You can clean the house later. You can address the disobedience when your head is on straight. You can sit down with a notebook and a pencil with your husband and make some necessary changes tonight. You can treat yourself to a blow out at the salon tomorrow. Plan your family meeting, but not today.
Today, let that truth settle in your heart. LOVE covers a multitude of sins. Love, not rules, covers a multitude, not just a couple, of sins. 
Remember the last time you were in full blown rebellion? Tell me, was it yelling and screaming that brought you back? Was it threats? Was it a set of bold-faced rules plastered to the fridge? Or was it love? Was it the gentle love of the Father that broke through your spirit and called you back? Was it the sweet love of an honest friend who hugged you and cried with you and talked with you until you remembered your first love? Was it the faithful, loving prayers of your husband who didn’t know what you needed, but was intimate with who you needed? 

I am not saying ignore what you see. And I am not saying that your oldest, youngest, middle, husband and self don’t need to make changes before the actions get better. But I am saying, for today, go hug that teenager when he rolls his eyes at you. Today, run your fingers through your ten year-old’s hair and laugh about the spilled milk. Get in the floor and wrestle with those preschoolers. Clean the living room. Cook your man’s favorite dinner. Just for today, LOVE. Remind your family what they’re fighting for before you make them fight. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

All of Thee Above

We live in a multiple-choice society. We're raising kids that don't understand what it means to choose. Gone are the days that people had a singular favorite genre of music or one best friend or even a solitary home in which they raise their family. Drive-Thru windows, cable television packages that offer hundreds of channels, the scan button on our car stereos, and the frozen food section of our grocery stores have trained us well. So well, in fact, that anything that requires an actual "choice" confuses our senses and offends us to the core. 

Face it: We don't like to make choices. 

It's worse than that. We have such a heartfelt vehemence towards making solid, 100%, til-death-do-us-part choices that when someone hints that a definite choice is required, we raise a banner of defensiveness and start blogging our brains out about the "audacity" of people that require us to choose.
Don't believe me? Tell me our society doesn't have a hard time choosing a diet, choosing a friend, choosing a zip code, choosing a spouse, choosing a car, choosing a style, choosing a name for their cat. We struggle against the ink of anything that whispers of "forever" or "line in the sand." We have learned to eloquently dance around questions that require a definite answer. 
And sadly, our children are watching. I can tell they are because they are acting just like us. They can't choose a genre, a gender, a game plan or a god. They desperately want to be just enough of everything to fit in anywhere and not offend anyone or ever be backed in a corner and asked to make a choice that might alienate them from anyone. Anywhere. Ever. 

And yet, a single, solitary choice stands ready to define their absolute existence. 

I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:11)

Let that sink in. No savior. I can't fathom that for my children. Simply typing the words takes my breath away. 

No savior.

We must stop raising politically correct kids. We must show our children how to alienate themselves from crowds when it's called for. We must teach our children that it's okay to be the only kid in the room that says "no." We must teach our children that it really is okay to say, "I'm sorry, but you're wrong." If they are ever going to grow up to be adults that say, "As for my house..." then they absolutely must, as children, practice saying, "That's not what the Bible says." 

Will it make them lose friends? Absolutely.

Will they be called judgmental? You betcha'!

Will it get them into arguments that cause them to question their convictions? It will.

Will it mean that not everyone everywhere will agree with your child all the time? Yes. 

But it will also mean that the next generation won't sell the souls of their children for the thrill of popular opinion. It will also mean that the parents who raise our grandchildren won't be afraid to define the difference between right and wrong. It will also mean that our kids will know the difference in absolute truth and cultural relevance. And it will also mean that when given the choice of "savior" or "no savior," our children won't forfeit their forever while they wait on a multiple choice.