Thursday, October 04, 2007

More on the end of the parenting honeymoon

Okay, I can’t stop thinking about the end of the parenting honeymoon (you didn't think I could leave it to just one post, did you?). It just has such a nice little ring to it. I thought each of your comments added so much to the original post, because we are all grappling with the same thing in varying degrees.

We’ve all been dealt a set of cards. For most of us, it’s quite a different hand than we planned on.

Our Sunday school class has been going through a little book called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. I suppressed a tiny roll of the eyeballs when the book was suggested, because I usually hate rah-rah books on “doing big things for God.” They are mostly written by men (or by empty-nester women), for men (for empty-nester women), and leave out those of us whose “big things” weigh 30 pounds and ask for “pink milk” all day long. The mention of seasons of life or of raising children as “ministry” is completely overlooked. They make me feel that what I’m doing at home isn’t a “big enough” thing for God.

I come away thinking, if only I didn’t have these little kids, I could really do something for God’s kingdom.

But despite its very un-catchy title (AND its lack of home-focused examples, AND the fact that it reads a bit like a cheerleading manual), this book by Mark Batterson has set the wheels in my brain spinning. The book centers on the story of Benaiah, a man who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and then went on to become the commander in chief of David’s army. Batterson spends the entire book reiterating this point:

Our greatest opportunities are often disguised as insurmountable obstacles.

We can choose to run, or to avoid situations where we might encounter “lions” in our lives (the safe thing to do) or, like Benaiah, we can “grab the lion by the mane” – valiantly stepping toward the insurmountable obstacle – the thing that may even be the source of our greatest fear – and as we do, believing God to do big things in our behalf.

Batterson gives examples throughout the book: Abraham, David, Gideon, Esther, and Nehemiah are familiar stories of people who took a stand in their day, in their situation. Most of the modern-day examples are people who changed careers, risked it all in business start-ups, or went into foreign missions. Batterson’s lion was to start a church in Union Station in Washington, DC. Those are all Big Things.

Sigh.

But what about me? I’m home with five kids. I’m doing laundry. I’m cooking. I’m wiping little hind-ends. We have trouble getting it together to have family devotions regularly. Compared to leading an army, it seems so small.

And yet…I feel strongly that I am needed here. Now. I would even go so far as to say that a lifetime of charity work on the other side of the world would not be worth losing my kids. I know what I am doing is important. Sometimes it's just hard to see it because the Big Thing is often disguised by a bunch of little, seemingly insignificant things.

Does that mean God is not interested in what I am facing daily? Of course not. God knows. I love this verse:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

So what’s my lion? What are my seemingly insurmountable obstacles here at the end of the parenting honeymoon?

I thought of a few:

  • Keeping my marriage strong, when kids’ needs seem to be so insistent
  • Raising kids to know and love God in today’s culture
  • Finding balance with our schedule so we can have dinner together most nights of the week
  • Strength to deal with ongoing character issues such as selfishness, anger, carelessness

Some days, these seem completely impossible. The current is too strong. It feels like we are losing ground.

One of my favorite lines from the book is this:

There is a pattern that I see repeated throughout Scripture: Sometimes God won’t intervene until something is humanly impossible. And he usually does it just in the nick of time. I think that pattern reveals a dimension of God’s personality: God loves impossible odds…

Too often our prayers revolve around asking God to reduce the odds in our lives. We want everything in our favor. But maybe God wants to stack the odds against us so we can experience a miracle of divine proportions. Maybe faith is trusting God no matter how impossible the odds are. Maybe our impossible situations are opportunities to experience a new dimension of God’s glory.

I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my prayers for my family have been mostly aimed at keeping myself FROM lions. I am the master of the safe route. I want God to make my life easier: “Give me some children (but not too many, Lord).” “Help my children to be calm (so I can get all my work done).” “Help my husband have a steady job (so we don’t ever have to go without).” “Help my house to hold together (so I don’t have to be inconvenienced).”

Maybe it’s time to look at post-honeymoon parenthood with a new perspective. At this point in the game, I don’t need any convincing to realize that things are never going to be perfect around here. But maybe that’s what God’s been waiting for all along. Maybe He’s been secretly stacking the odds against us so we will trust Him to do something really great with our family.

I think it’s time to stop asking God to take away the “lions” in my life. Instead, I want to ask God to help me welcome opportunities to face (with His help) the things that seem so overwhelming. That cause me the greatest fear. Things like making the most of our time together, rather than wishing for more of it. Maybe making concrete plans, rather than waiting for the "perfect" time or method to disciple my kids, to take a weekend outing, to show my husband how much I love him. What about setting the standard high when my kids show no signs of appreciating it?

This means I need to take my focus off myself and how impossible the situation seems, and to begin to focus instead on how infinitely big God is. He wants me to take the hand I've been dealt, and, without fear, to offer it back up to Him.

I want to start praying ridiculous prayers like Jonathan did before he and his armor-bearer fearlessly took on the Philistines: “Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6)

How about you? What “lions” are you facing at the end of the parenting honeymoon?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found your blog from Rocks in my Dryer and really look forward to reading you every day. Today's really hit home. Your list was like reading my mind. I am slowly learning that God loves me where I am at, not where I think I should be. And right now I should be taking care of my three children and my husband - that is where God wants me. Thank you so much for your thoughts! You are truly a blessing. Michelle - Arkansas

Andrea said...

Yes!!!!!!!!
I want to scream YES!!
Great minds think alike, indeed they do. :) But perhaps it's having a teen girl in your household to come to these conclusions. ;)
I have learned this past year to tell God--"bring it ON" because *whatever* happens, He is in control, and His power can be manifested through our *weaknesses*. Amen?
love you and your thoughts!!! So blessed to be on this journey with you.

Michelle said...

Right now I'm just speechlessly overwhelmed but I've got to say thank you for today's posting. I simply cannot tell you how powerfully God spoke to me through you. Even though we are not at the same stages of life and those challenges you speak of are but beautiful, cherished memories for me, the challenge to let God be who he is and to work in my life through the lions is the very same. May God bless your day and you know it! Michelle

Melanie said...

I found you through Joy in the Journey(a friend of mine in real life). You have an amazing talent to write about things that moms/women worry about and struggle through each and every day. God is using you in our techy society to reach women who need to hear truth from someone who is VERY real about herself. I look forward to your posts each day. Today's hit home for me as I take a break from vacuuming and mopping to catch what you had to say today. Thanks for being real and using your God-given gift to encourage women across the globe. You are an encouragement to me in rainy Oregon. Thanks!!

angeleyes Blue said...

If you have found the cure for a family dinner please do share. My 2 are now in high school. Life between school, homework and extracurriculiar activities has been a challenge. I still insist that kids are home for dinner every day! Dinner is at 6PM. It has been for the last 7 years or so. I still wil get the phone call.

Mom What time is dinner AGAIN? I am going to e late. Can ****come too?

I even had one boy--the neighbor say Mrs T why do you insist that your son be home for dinner every day? Before I could answer, my son told me not to explain because **** wouldn't understand. In ****'s family it is eat whenever you want usually in your bedroom by yourself.

Sorry--I guess that family is very important and even though dinner is not a big thing and I am not a good cook--at least we eat as a family.

Terry said...

I couldn't have said this any better if I tried. Your "lions" are eerily similar to my own. Thanks for the wonderful post.

PEZmama said...

The lion I am facing right now is the one that keeps screaming "WHAT ABOUT ME?"

Thanks for this post.

Barbara H. @ Stray Thoughts said...

I found your blog from a link somewhere else, but I don't remember where. I've been following it for a few weeks now.

I love this post. I remember so often feeling like all the demands and needs were just impossible when my kids were younger. But that caused me all the more to lean on Him.

So often throughout Scripture there are phrases like "that they may know, "that they might see," etc. I think ofttimes God stacks the odds so just so people can see who He is and what He can do, that they might know Him and trust Him all the more.

Your phrase about doing "big things for God" is echoed in a book by Sharon Hinck called The Secret Life of Becky Miller. The main character is a mom of 3, active in women's ministry, wanting to do "big things for God," and realizing a big part of that is right within her own four walls. I highly recommend it. It's one of my favorite books.

Susanne said...

Wow, what a perspective! There is much to think on and mull on here Katherine. I think I'm going to have to totally turn some thinking around on my part!

Ami said...

Wow, Katherine! Thank you for this post. It has hit me right where I need it. I have felt like I'm at the end of my rope lately with my kids, and I find myself frustrated (even self-condemned) about my lack of patience. I keep praying that God will help me with my patience, yet feel frustrated at the end of each day when I feel no change. Maybe my prayer needs to change to, How can I use this struggle for your glory, Father?

Marc and Charity said...

Thank you. I'm in the midst of it all right now...feeling overwhelmed, tired, inconveinced, etc. I needed reminding about this today.

Marian said...

This was such a great post, Katherine! Thank you for taking the time to articulate such important thoughts.
God has worked fervently on me quite a bit on this point over the past several years. I am a slow learner, but I am slowly getting it. Our pastor is fond of quoting Isaiah 43:2, emphasizing the word THROUGH, and I appreciate every reminder. ("... you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. WHen you walk through the fire, you will not be burned... For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One...")He wants me to walk WITH Him THROUGH!

The very low point I shared with you the other day in a fit of raw vulnerability is NOT where I live; it is a pit I've only fallen so deeply into once before, and God hoisted me out within a day. (I just wanted to tell you how ironic your "end of the honeymoon" theme was from where I sat reading that evening!)Even so, Satan is SO ready to try to nudge me over that cliff the minute I let go of God.

Do you subscribe to Beth Moore's LPM blog? Well, God used her to speak just to me (Yes, just for me! It's all about me! Well, and maybe a few thousand others, by the miracle of his spirit...) the same day I read your post on this. Please go, read, and be blessed!
http://livingproofministries.blogspot.com/2007/09/quick-word-on-my-way-to-mountains.html

love ya! =)

Etta said...

How very timely for my personal journey right now. My "lion" is me holding down the fort without going insane, basically alone while my husband works all the time so that I don't have to get a "real" job. (And by that I mean, one where I get paid in dollars, and more than the $100 a week I make teaching Mother's Day Out.) I know that this is all part of the Lord's character building as we move towards church planting, but honestly, somedays I just want to go get a teaching job, put my kids in daycare, and pay off those bills 3 times faster. YEt I know that is not where the Lord wants me, and it's not really where I want to be. But it would be so much easier.
Thanks for this post Katherine.

Marian said...

Your comments about doing all of the little things remind me of that Mother Theresa quote. I don't think I remember it exactly, but it goes something like, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." A good one for a mother, huh?

Anonymous said...

I just have to tell you I love you! And I don't even know you! But you really get this mothering thing and I am so inspired every time I get to read your posts.

The other day it hit me that as a mother of five ranging from 3 to 12 yrs (yep, the tween daughter thing happening here), everything so far in my parenting experiencing has been like "early labor." You know, exciting, some progress, a few real pains, but still happy and breathing fine, thinking you've got it made. THEN, the real labor pains hit. The kind that make you want to shout, "Okay, I want out of this now, please make it stop!!" But there is no turning back. And even though I know that raising my children faithfully will make me a better person, even create something glorious out of me because of the help I need God to give me . . . still, it can cause a little bit of panic to look that far ahead. You are right, we are pushed up against the impossible odds so we will have to use faith to see us through.

Thanks for all the encouragement and most of all, for understanding.

Roslyn--Alberta Canada

mommy-fied said...

You already know I love your stuff. Yes, I'm a master of safe route too.

My "lion" is how to be a living example of a godly person with a very personal relationship with God to my kids. Which leads to my struggle with living a surrendered life daily.

And just to keep you updated, my son's confirmed to be suffering mild hearing loss in his right ear. Will be going through further checks before the very likelihood of having to wear a hearing aid.

Am working hard on Trusting God!

Beck said...

Your posts are always so shockingly timely in my life - I read last night about a French author who has written a book about how having her three children was not worth it, and encouraging other women never to have kids. Her kids are in the late-grade-school-early-teens, the very age you're writing about. It bothered me all night and now I've read this and feel content again.

Kristin said...

Loved this post. I am so tired right now I can't even think right or put into words what my post-honeymoon issues are. I just need to keep plugging through and it does get easier, right?

voni said...

Recently my oldest entered the wonderful (not so) world of middle school. I am seeing more and more how important ministering to our children is. More important then a few extra bucks, an extra cup of coffee, or girls night out is. Not that those things are bad of course.
Anna, my daughter, asked if she could start a Bible study in our home after school because she felt she needed the encouragement and she wanted to include her friends. I'm so exited for what God will do in her life. Even in the midst of being in the middle of the Lions den every single day. All the little things we do as moms add up into huge things!
Your blog was an encouragement to me today. Thanks

Nikki said...

Yep, yep, yep. You've touched the heart issues of many, many women, myself at the top of the list! Although I only have 2 kids, it's so easy to get lost in a "kiddy" world, and lose perspective. Thanks for reminding us about the bigger picture!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

So true - thanks for the reminder. I find myself needing to submit to the sanctification God is providing through raising five children. G.K. Chesterton said "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."

Anonymous said...

Katherine,

Two comments. Our pastor said this morning something I think is important to every parent. "A child's feeling of security comes not from how much his parents love him/her, but from how much his/her parents love each other."

Secondly, you will know what your lion was when your children are grown and on theur own.