March 24, 2009

Lent

Howdy learned about Lent in his Sunday bible class and decided that he should give up desserts for Lent. I was very impressed that he would choose this voluntarily especially since it hadn't even crossed my mind to observe Lent. It hasn't been easy for him. He's used to having dessert every day (a habit that I am more than happy to see being put on hold). After about Day 3 he was having second thoughts. He said, "I think I picked the wrong thing." When that means he's given up precisely the right thing.

In a show of support for his struggle, I decided to give up something as well. I have given up reading novels for Lent. This, of course, means that I am not reading my usual 5 or 6 vampire books each week. It hasn't been too difficult until these last few days. It helps that I haven't had any new books around to read but still I'm going stir crazy without my books. I took the kids to the library today and I thought that I would just look at the paperbacks so that I could see what I've been missing. They didn't have a single book that I would have checked out. I think that's supposed to be a good thing.

I've never observed Lent before and I know I'm not doing it properly now. The idea isn't just that you give up something important. I believe you're also supposed to pair that with setting your mind on God now that you've removed this desire that is usually in the way. To be honest, I don't think it's actually considered observing Lent if it's not done with the right mindset. What I'm doing is really only moral support for my son. I'm not teaching him any valuable lessons here, just that he can live without sugar longer than he thought.

I have close friends who go through Lent with it's full meaning close to heart. As I think about what it means to replace those "priorities" in your life with thoughts and focus on God, I am convicted that I need to do this more on a daily, hour to hour basis, as opposed to a yearly, dictated event. I am aware of God's presence in my life. It's His will that opens my eyelids in the mornings, not my own. But that's not enough. That's like saying, "I'm aware that I have children but I'll get to them when it's convenient." If my children had to wait to be taken care of until I got around to it or when I was "in the mood", they would have starved to death years ago!

I spend almost every waking minute immersed in my childrens' lives. I can tell you what they will ask for at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can flip through the TV and tell you which kid will want to watch which shows. I could even tell you what they would say in their bedtime prayers most nights. I know what they like and what they don't and I try to give them what they like. I can tell you who's tackling whom just by the muffled voices drifting down from their bedrooms. I am not just "aware" of them, I live and breathe them. My children, children who were given to me by God and ultimately belong to Him alone.

Our call is to be completely immersed in God, to live Him, breathe Him. We need to know where He is in our lives even when it seems like His voice is muffled. It's not enough to know of Him, I should be intimately involved with Him, His word, His teaching.

But still, I find a complete sacrifice of spirit and will to be much more difficult than any physical sacrifice. Nothing I give up will compare to giving up my own selfish wants and desires and replacing them with His words and deeds. I'm not sure I can do that completely in 40 days.

March 9, 2009

Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed. There's no better word to describe what I'm feeling right now. I've been a little stressed lately. Imagine that. Actually, it doesn't happen quite as frequently anymore. But it's been weighing on me lately. That's why I've been reading 6-7 books a week and getting nothing done. It all came to a head Sunday and I dumped it all on my husband as usual.

I suffer from the same guilt that I'm sure all parents experience. You know that feeling of never doing enough for your children? There's always more that could be done, should be done. It's just a fact of life. But the problem with me is, I truly am not doing enough. I'm not just being hard on myself. I'm not teaching the kids everything they're supposed to be learning in school. I haven't been studying the bible with them or reading them verses or stories. They don't know how to bathe themselves or ride bikes or other things that independent kids their age know how to do. They are not playing sports or taking lessons. (Well, they take piano lessons but I never remember to have them practice.)

I love that I have been entrusted to love and care for and guide my three children. But when I think about all that entails I'm overwhelmed. It's my job to make sure they hear about God and know the bible, I have to teach them respect and decency and manners. I have to make sure they know how to care for themselves and the world around them. It's my job to teach them games, read with them, show them how to pursue their interests and make friends. And that doesn't include all the 13 state required homeschool subjects or the quirks of Austism that I have to help them deal with. In some respects, I can see why so many kids grow up with no values and no sense of respect or responsibility. It's so much easier to stick them in front of the TV or video games. It's a lot harder to be a constant presence and really know what's being planted in their minds, not to mention trying to combat it all.

The truth is, I'm lazy. I know, no surprise there. But I know my kids, I know how they learn best and what they need. They do best when our day is run by the clock. They have to have specific deadlines or nothing will ever get done. Most children do better with structure but I think mine take it a little deeper. The problem is, I hate it. I resent having to plan out every minute of every day. I hate living by the clock. I would much rather just have a general idea of what the day should look like and hope that it comes close to that. I like to stay up until midnight or 1am and sleep in until 9am. I prefer to eat when I'm hungry and run off to do errands whenever I get around to it. But this is not the way my kids function. I have to have our routine posted up where they can see it. They need to know what to expect. And they don't do well with unstructured time. Of course they get it every day, but it usually culminates in wrestling, fighting and crying, in that order.

It's hard knowing that the best thing for my kids is completely contrary to the way I would prefer to live and my natural tendencies. I am not a great housekeeper. I wouldn't even consider myself a good one. But how can I expect my kids to get themselves dressed when they don't have clean clothes in their dressers? How can I expect them to try new foods and get over their food issues when I don't cook a healthy dinner introducing new foods? How can I expect them to get in the habit of cleaning up after themselves when they're used to living among the clutter? I want them to show respect but I've never explained why or taught them on a consistent, day-to-day basis. It's not ingrained into them so of course it doesn't come naturally.

I love my children and I am so grateful that I get to be home with them. I want a whole house full, busting at the seams. But I can't even run this one smoothly with only three. I think this is a challenge that God is presenting to me. This life isn't about me and what I want. My task, my most important job at this period in my life is to nurture and mold these children. I am to provide a warm, safe, stable home for them to grow up in. I am to be the example of the kind of life God wants them to live. What kind of example am I? Am I the kind of person who starts each day thanking God for all that He's given me? Or do I start each day grumbling about all that I've been given to do? If I truly believe that God has given me these children, that I have been honored with the task of raising them, I need my life to reflect that. I need to be doing what I can to be that example for them. I am their guide in this part of their lives. I should be preparing them and directing them on the right path. Whether or not they choose to take that path is up to them. But I need to make sure they are equipped to deal with their choice.

Father,
Please help me to remember that it all comes down to you. You are the most important thing that I am supposed to be teaching my children. So often I get bogged down in the details and forget the bigger picture. I pray that I can always keep in mind that I am to be preparing them for life with you, not just life in this world. I pray that I will be an example to them of what it means to live for you and not for myself. Help me to have patience, wisdom, and plenty of rest. You are so good. I pray that I will keep my focus on that and not on the things that overwhelm me. I thank you for all your love and blessings. Amen.