Each summer we look forward to more margins and more family time, right? This season also offers most of us needed moments of reflection—of looking back. July’s Heart of Womanhood blog is written by a seasoned momma who looks back so her Heavenly Father can give her His perspective to live forward as a confident parent in Christ! Take five minutes to relish the wisdom of my dear friend, Diane Cullen, and her invitation to spend some sweet time looking back this summer. With Jesus we can check our rear view mirrors, leave regrets behind, and drive forward into the future—fueled with God’s perspective as His joy-filled parents.
When I became a parent I, along with most of my friends, read multiple books on parenting, attended parenting classes, had parenting discussions, watched parenting shows, and listened to parenting podcasts and sermons. We wanted to learn what the “experts”, or at least those ahead of us, were saying about how to raise godly, healthy, obedient, kind children who would grow up to be productive members of society, and most importantly follow the Lord. Our hope was that in doing “all the right things” we might be close to being the perfect parent. At least we would try.
Looking back, I have journeyed the parenting road now for 31 years. I have watched others journey this road as well. I have seen joys, bumps and bruises, sorrows and celebrations. Since most only post glossy images on social media, it can seem everyone else has it figured out, until they don’t.
I remember years ago when I was having a particular issue with one of my children, I asked an older mom in the parenting ministry at church for suggestions. At the end of our conversation I asked her how long I should expect to work on this before I would see changes in my child. She paused and said realistically it would take a year (or two) of consistent effort. I don’t remember now what the issue was, but I do remember being grateful for the perspective of time. I thought it would only take a month or two. Having someone be honest with me helped me endure and be patient.
I now find myself in the older woman role. As I mentor younger women, I try to give perspective—and hopefully wisdom. In this blog post I’d like to “Look Back” on my parenting journey and offer some perspective I wish I had been told.
Start with Scripture
First, be careful from whom you seek advice. Some of the authors I read early on were new parents themselves, or not very far along in their journey. Some had children who later rebelled terribly causing them to change how they parented and write new books. There is a reason the Bible instructs churches to choose leaders who can manage their own household’s well, which includes children (1 Timothy 3:4). For parenting, the best place to start is with scripture. Look up scriptures regarding parenting and study them in context. Dive deep to understand what words mean by looking up the original meaning. There are apps which can help you do this. Use scripture as the primary tool that guides you. If you read or listen to others, filter what they say through scripture. If their advice doesn’t line up with scripture, then don’t follow it. Don’t only go to peers for advice. You don’t know how their approach is going to work long term. Find parents who have grown children or children who are old enough for you to see the outcome of their parenting. Ask them to share their journey – what they have learned including successes and failures. They are not going to be perfect. Ask questions. Be teachable.
Second, keep perspective. This season of training children who will become adults is short. When my children were little, older moms would often say “it goes so fast.” This comment seemed a little annoying to me at the time. Probably because I was in the thick of things with five children ten and under. Time seemed to pass so slowly. I couldn’t imagine ever being able to say the same thing. But now I do. Perspective sees that the training part of parenting is fast. I am still a parent although my role has changed. The years with the children at home are to teach, instruct, and train. It takes time to do this well. It is worth taking the time to be intentional, present, aware, and to speak Biblical truth into your children’s lives while you can. The seeds planted will grow even if it takes time and is slow. Prepare them with the next season of adulthood on your mind. They will be on their own soon. Perspective will help you look at them as children quickly transitioning to adults.
Make time for fun
Third, make time for fun! You need to have fun. Your children need to have fun. Fun creates great memories and helps build relationships. They will need your wisdom and maturity, but laughter and fun builds bridges and creates safety. It will also help your relationship down the road when they may not seek your advice but will enjoy your company. If you have a hard time coming up with fun ideas, let them help, look up ideas, or ask others.
Be a safe landing
Fourth, be a safe landing place. Create a home of grace where they are loved the way Jesus loves…unconditionally. Let them know questions and doubts about faith can be discussed. Struggles can be shared. But Truth, presented with much grace, will be sought. If you questioned or struggled with your faith, share this and your journey to resolution. Or if you made unwise decisions, share this too so they will feel free to come to you with their questions and struggles. Give them room to wrestle without compromising Truth.
Be relaxed, not perfect
Fifth, be relaxed, not perfect. I have yet to meet one perfect parent and I doubt you will be the one to break that trend. So give yourself grace. Forgive yourself when you misstep. Ask the Lord for forgiveness. Ask your children for forgiveness. Model for them a humble heart. Allow the Lord to mold you and shape you. Share with your children as you learn. Show how the Lord is graciously teaching and molding you into His image. Be teachable. Be patient with yourself and them. It may take some time. It could take years. It is one of the best gifts you can give them.
Leave growth to God
Sixth, remember you can do all the “right” things, but you can’t control whether your children will follow your advice or your Lord. This is a hard one, especially when we try to do all the “right” things. We unwisely think we can guarantee a certain outcome. Throughout scripture though we see examples of children raised in truth but not walking in the Truth. Scripture tells us to talk about God’s commands as we sit and walk along the road. Talk about them when we lie down and when we get up. Basically, we are to have it be a part of our everyday life and conversation (Deuteronomy 11:19). We are to be faithful to plant and water the seed, but the Lord is the one to make it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Pray for your children that the Lord will bring the harvest for the seeds you have planted and watered. We aren’t told how many seeds to plant or how much water to give, or how long it will take to grow. We are just told to do so then trust and pray.
Love them well
Seventh, love them well. Love covers a multitude of sins. It covers ours. It covers theirs. Love how our heavenly Father loves us. Love how you would want to be loved. This kind of love comes from spending time with the Lord and asking Him to fill you with His love for your children and others.
Looking back, the experience of being a parent has been better than I ever imagined, harder than I ever imagined, and more refining than I ever imagined. I am forever grateful to the Lord for the joy of being a parent, the perspective it has given me of God’s love, His grace, His compassion, and the lifelong friendships I now share with my adult children.
Keep looking back and live forward as Christ-confident moms,
Moving forward—–Diane wisely advised us to plant and root all of our parenting in scripture. From the beginning, the Heart of Womanhood Ministry has been designed to draw the hearts of moms and daughters closer to Jesus and each other through the inter-generational study of God’s Word. If you would like to move forward this summer (or fall) engaged in powerful and practical Bible study with your daughter(s) or granddaughter(s), check out our Portraits of Womanhood Series at http://heartofwomanhood.org