It never ceases to amaze me how God gives us exactly what we need...exactly when we need it. And so much more.
Basically I wrote half this post a couple months ago....a few more words here and there so I wouldn't forget this or that, and then it sat unfinished again.... But the passing time has only served to reinforce the point.
A few months back I just had this unsettled feeling. Our home just didn't feel like it should....lacking harmony. We found ourselves facing unexpected, surprising behaviors and seemed to be making up consequences and how to parent these behaviors on a whim. Bad Idea. I was pretty overwhelmed with most things, feeling like I just couldn't keep up with everyone's needs, never mind spend the time to figure out what to do about it. I pleaded for wisdom...guidance....and I decided to move a book from my amazon wish list to my cart. It had sat there for about a year (or two) and I figured it was a good time to read it. "Loving Your Kids on Purpose".....I love my kids more than I can express so I'd been hesitant to buy it, but it'd been recommended and my interest was piqued. What I didn't realize was that it would so accurately address exactly what we were struggling with.
There is nothing like holding a newborn close....studies even show that skin to skin contact between a mom and her newborn can make the transition from fetal to newborn life easier. Not to mention keep baby warmer, regulate breathing, enhance bonding etc. etc. It's such a special way to bond with your child. And though before we know it that stage has passed, I'm being reminded that the strong heart to heart connection is so important.....crucial really....no matter how old they get. I read "Loving Your Kids on Purpose" in two days....instead of the little bursts of sleep I would get between Kyleigh's cat naps all night....I couldn't put it down...didn't want to put it down. I felt so hopeful and excited as I read. It wasn't anything revolutionary...some of it I'd heard before...some of it I already knew....but it was coming at just the time we needed to hear it. It reminded me that our ultimate goal with our children is love...relationship...connection. The connection I'm living out with my newborn daughter is also one that each of my children NEED. Sure we want obedience and respect.....but if that's our ultimate goal, we're in trouble. As our heavenly father, God sets the example.....He loves us unconditionally, set the example, teaches us what is best for us, and then leaves the choice up to us. The natural consequences that follow are a result of our own choices and we have to live with them, but not without God's love and continued grace and support along the way. He doesn't withhold His love from us because we've disobeyed or messed up.....He doesn't dish out random punishments because we've fallen short.....He forgives, loves and remains true to who He is. It was easier to understand how to put the concepts into practical use with the examples given in the book, and we started right away. We felt so free! I hadn't realized how much we were letting behaviors affect us....but the difference was amazing. Don't get me wrong, we still have hard days(sss)....we still mess up (in fact both of us had to apologize to kids just this week for our own mess ups)....but I'm thankful for the reminders in this book, and for the timing, AND for the example our heavenly father has set for us to emulate.
James 1:5 " If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all...."
Parenting is a roller coaster. Sometimes I feel like we teach and teach and teach and teach....and there's little evidence of all the effort we're putting forth. Or we make one mistake after another and I feel like I should get the worst parent award. It's easy to feel discouraged, but then we have these moments that blow all of those feelings away. And there's God, encouraging us in a way that only He can orchestrate. In the midst of a chain of difficult days, this child and I would come to sit down at the end of the day and read our devotions, and day after day for that entire week, the topics jumped off the page at us. Our eyes wide, mouths dropping open....and the much needed smiles would come....God knew, we'd say, and we'd really stop and open to what He wanted us to hear. Be fair...tell the truth...forgiveness.....train up a child.....growing up right....honesty is the best policy....good parents....live in peace.....I mean really, this was not a coincidence people. And when it seemed like everything we'd taught was in vain, a little one would come running to share his victory...."He pushed me and said he didn't want to be my friend....but I was nice to him anyway." Wow....and we'd celebrate and thank God for teaching us these hard, but so rewarding, ways to live. And another would come home to share an essay written for school. One that was to be shared in front of the class, and signify what is the ultimate, most important thing in their life. And it began..."God is important in my life...." There's nothing I want more than for my kids to love God with all their heart. And I could not have been more encouraged. I remember the next day being so hard, followed by more just like it....but the light in the midst of the darkness was just what we needed.
One of the amazing things about teaching an older child about God is the way that they understand, ask questions, and allow you to see things from a new perspective. It's incredible to me the way that Keira soaks in the word of God. She constantly has questions for us.....thought provoking questions....and questions that bear witness to her own spiritual growth. She is always so excited about Wednesdays because it's Awana night. She's equally in love with soccer and her last soccer game of the season was unfortunately set for a Wednesday night. She told me later that all day in school she kept feeling like God was talking to her....for the first time, she really felt like he kept telling her to go to Awana. She couldn't stop thinking about it, and even prayed that somehow, someway, her soccer game would be cancelled or it would rain. If you know Keira and her love of soccer, this is quite shocking. Unknown to her, I received an email during the day that this would actually not be her last game because they would be in the playoffs the following week. I figured I would tell her she could choose Awana or the game, but was still pretty certain she'd choose the latter. I'll never forget her excitement and the look of awe on her face when I told her. She couldn't believe that God had really answered her prayers and she knew he really was telling her to go to Awana and made a way for her to do so. The icing on the cake was when she went to Awana that night, there was a boy there for his first time. And he spoke Russian. Do you know that one of the things this girl always longs for is other kids who speak Russian? God is SO good! This wasn't necessary, it wasn't any major deal if she had to miss Awana just once.....and yet He provided an opportunity for her to be in tune to what He wanted, confirmed it through the circumstances, and then blessed her with a desire of her heart. I know it was an enormous breakthrough for her....and such a huge encouragement for us....she's getting it!
We went on a little trip to Vermont
And so when Luke pulled up the next morning to tell me his brakes were gone, and we were now car-less....I was ready.....ready to witness how God was going to figure this one out! No answer at the first shop, too busy at the second. But work that night and no car? We prayed at lunch and I tried once more. Sure, he said, have it towed now and I'll get it done today, no problem. But how are we going to pay for all of this? Oh hey, remember two years ago when you closed on your home and they told you that in two years you could get rid of your PMI? Well it's been two years! But it gets better...you may as well just refinance since you have to pay for an appraisal anyway and the rates now are way lower. Much lower payments, sign us up! And since the closing is in November there's no December mortgage payment on top of a surprise check in the mail for an escrow rebate. Which altogether covered the transmission. My life is not one coincidence after another. My life is constant evidence of God's grace and love and provision. In perfect timing.
A few weeks ago Luke and Keira were acting weird. It didn't click that they were up to something, I just impatiently noted their odd behavior. A short time later they came inside. Keira was beaming as she handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, card and my favorite candy. She bought them with her own money (mostly :) ) Just to say thank you. For what?!! For helping with Karina's adoption and for everything we do for her. She had shared with Luke that she felt like thank you wasn't enough.....we'd had some really hard days in the midst of a lot of fun family outings, and she felt an overwhelming need to show her appreciation in a tangible way. I felt an overwhelming desire to sob. The flowers were a beautiful combination, something they put together themselves....all in my favorite color. The card was also in purple with a message that I will treasure forever. And my favorite candy. This girl has taught each of us to be more aware of one another. She's always thoughtfully incorporated the things that we love into everything she does. And I see the boys starting to follow suit....."this one is you, see the purple? oh Keira would love this, it's her favorite color!....can we pleaseeeee buy this for daddy, it's his favorite?!" She beamed every time I smelled the flowers and noted their beauty....every time I shared with someone what she did for me, or told her how much I enjoyed the sweet candy that day. I waited until she went outside to let the tears flow......so many many emotions.....
My God is so good. He gives us everything we need and His timing is perfect.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3