Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walking right

I gave up watching Law & Order about two years ago. A few weeks ago, however, Johnny was gone, and I turned on L&O: Criminal Intent. I like the characters, and I thought it would be a good way to pass the time. The opening portrayal of evil was a little shocking to my spirit, and it occurred to me that this might not be the healthiest thing to set before my eyes. Then my oldest daughter came in and plopped on the couch. I thought, "Well, we're through the worst part. The rest is just a puzzle. It will be okay if I watch it with her." Then my youngest needed me, and the television just had to be turned off. This scenario demonstrates that when faced with evil, the Lord will make a way of escape. Every time, however, we must choose to walk through the door He's opening up for us...or continue in the evil.

It doesn't seem that Facebook or Seinfeld or Super Mario Galaxy can really be called evil, but it very much depends on my state of mind. My entire being is made to respond to God. I am alive to Him, and He is everything to me. He is the Vine; I am the branch. He is the Good Shepherd; I am the sheep. So when He calls to me, and I don't come, isn't the not coming quite evil? If I hear His voice, and I do respond, and then choose later to spend some time on Facebook or the Wii, it is not sin. Living the Christian life is really quite simple: respond to God.

Just because something is easy to grasp does not always mean it is easy to do. If you are reading this, I pray that you will be strengthened in your inner being, that "from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit" (Ephesians 3:16) and that your heart "will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those He called" (Ephesians 1:18). May you walk closely with Him today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My universe

Parenting is like creating your own universe. You decide the rules: bedtime, when to get up, when and what your kids eat, what is okay and what is a no-no. Your children see you as omnipotent and omniscient. You are the world to them. This seems a little daunting sometimes, but I kinda got used to being in control of the world. I made a pretty good world.

Then my kids got older. Last week I confiscated all the cell phones in the car just because they were annoying me. I needed five minutes without texting. When my fifteen year old handed hers over, I realized that she was obeying me not because she thought it was a good idea, but because it was my universe. I saw myself as a very fickle god.

Our family vacation was great, but I still struggle with seeing the glass half empty sometimes. Noticing the problems is natural to me. I saw a lot of things in me that were petty or small or less than I would like. In my own family, the world of my own making, these things were amplified. My flaws are picked up in my children's behavior; they are reflected in the rules that I make that govern my family. Now that my kids are older, my flaws are very often pointed out to me. Eek.

Not to switch the subject, but have you noticed God's universe? He created a world with boundaries (the sun rising & setting, the food we have to eat, the seasons). He created a world with rules. He disciplines and acts in a way that magnifies who He is. But God managed to create a universe where He looks good (hmmm...maybe because He IS good?). When given the opportunity, I didn't pull things off quite so well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Warping our kids

I often joke with my friends about all of our kids needing therapy, as if there is nothing we can do, they will somehow be messed up by our behavior. This joke started out intending to communicate mercy: we all mess up, everything is okay. But one day it hit me that I was completely wrong. In fact, I wrote it on a Schlotzsky's napkin: we are not warping our kids. (I also wrote on the same napkin, "Coreopsis is a cool word." I'm random like that.)

My parents did not warp me. I was born warped, into a warped world. Something inside me is just a little twisted, just a little off, and things don't go like they should. It's true of every single one of us, and when we get in a group (ie, Planet Earth), that warpness can get amplified. Had my parents been completely perfect in all of their words and actions and thoughts toward me, I still would have issues. The fact that my parents are not perfect is like saying, "The sky is blue."

And so it goes for my kids. One of my very dear friends has a daughter who is like me. Her home life is different than the one I grew up in, and yet some of the characteristics I would attribute to my childhood look the same in her, without her having my experiences. So I would have turned out that way, regardless? Who knew.

I don't give my kids permission to blame me in their therapy sessions. I think it's great if they want to talk with someone about how something I have done has hurt them or confused them or made them angry. It's fine if they think I have sometimes been unfair. I'm really sorry, and I hope they can forgive me. Instead of convincing my kids that I am doing the right thing, I think while they are living with me, I will try to communicate that I love them. I really, really love them.

I know people who came from the same home and see their upbringing in completely different ways. I know people who show their parents grace, and people who almost make up things about how bad their parents were. Part of how my kids see me will be their choice. It would seem that neither they nor I can truly judge my parenting correctly. It would seem that I should leave it to God to judge me (after all, He has plans to judge me, right?).

I hope that my kids will realize that I love them. I hope they choose to see the best in my heart. May God surround them with all kinds of people who will show His love to them, and may they learn mercy and kindness and how to deal with the warped-ness inside us all.