No Pain, No Gain or WAY to GO! MOM!

Many of you watched some or part of the Women’s World Cup soccer action this month. Our soccer playing daughters watched with keen interest and often loud evaluations of the US team and their opponents. I saw a bit of it, and like all sports for me, unless my child is playing, my interest is limited. This interest will soon grow to include grandchildren I am sure. Because I never played on a sports team in my life, I have no personal experience to draw on, so unless someone I know is playing a sport, it doesn’t hold my interest.

But – I do know that to succeed as an athlete, it takes a significant commitment of time, effort, and sacrifice. I saw that with our children. Choosing to play a sport precludes other activities. I remember when one of our daughters quit violin lessons to play sports. I was heart-broken, but she was 13 and had to make a choice since practice and games made both impractical (some families do work through this dilemma successfully). The same commitment, sacrifice, effort and time is required if one desires to succeed in music, dance, drama, art, or other pursuits. The key to gaining proficiency and pleasure from these activities is very similar despite the great diversity of skill required. The self-discipline a child learns through practice is an important life lesson. Practicing something is the way one learns and improves. The first time a child tries to do something it often becomes painful, either literally or emotionally – sometimes both.

Our granddaughters have learned to ride bicycles recently and we have enjoyed watching them ride up and down our driveway, improving the more they practice. Yet, it started out with tears from scuffed toes, stuck pedals, and hurt feelings. There were even several crashes.

I found myself thinking as I watched Pop, Mom, or Dad help each child with their unique challenges in learning to ride a bike that it is just the way God sees us. As I face new challenges of being a parent, I will mess up, get hurt, pick myself up and try again. If my first attempt fails at making bedtime, mealtime, or bath time smooth and effective, I will keep practicing and try a new strategy. I give myself that kind of grace when creating art, but why am I so hard on myself when it comes to parenting? Do I realize how unrealistic it is to expect instant perfection? What kind of nana would I be if I expected my grandchildren to ride bikes perfectly the first time?

Effective parenting requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and sacrifice. It requires that I give up some things so that I focus fully on what is important – my children. It also means that I will make some mistakes and learn from those mistakes. (God Bless our first-born!!!)

Our culture celebrates the sacrifices of time and effort that athletes make to excel. “No Pain, No Gain” is often touted. I want to celebrate the mothers of young children who are giving their all each and every day, who don’t give up even when they are discouraged, who press on! God is so blessed when we look to Him for strength and grace. Romans 5: 1-5 says:

 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Manners Matter

We have had the privilege of spending lots of time this past month with all 9 of our grandchildren. It was especially nice because three of our grandsons live across the country from us, so we are blessed whenever we are able to have time together. Our grandchildren are learning manners, and it is so nice to hear “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome” and other polite phrases from these little ones. It is often amusing as they learn the correct meaning, and therefore the correct use, of polite language. I gave one of our grandsons a snack and his mother said “What do you say to Nana?” He replied “sorry” while putting the snack in his mouth – I couldn’t help but laugh!

This training in manners from parents is so essential, and not often valued in our current culture. Manners have sometimes gotten “bad press” in the recent past because those imposing “correct behavior” sometimes had ulterior motives. Various ways of behaving and speaking classified people, often unfairly. Yet common courtesy should never go out of style and it is even more important as our children interact with people in a culture that is increasingly more diverse.

Speaking politely and showing thankfulness are ways to honor others. As a high school art teacher, I see many students who use polite language and those are often the students who have lots of friends and are highly regarded by their peers. Students who are demanding and rude are generally the most unhappy people and not surprisingly, seem to have few friends.

I had a student ask me last year, “Mrs. Woody, why do you always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to us? ”  I answered, “I want to speak respectfully to you all, just as I want you to speak respectfully to me.” It is exactly the same for us as parents. We must model for our children the language and words we want them to use. This is especially true of how we speak to our spouse. Our children will talk to their dads just the way we talk to our husbands. Yes, and children will talk to mom the way they hear their dad talk to her. OUCH! When we ask for help from our spouse or children do we say “please?”  Do we respond with a “thank you?”

Manners mattered enough to Jesus that He singled out one man who came back and thanked him after being healed. Luke tells about this situation in Luke 17:11-19

 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (emphasis mine)

“Thank you”  was important to Jesus because it revealed what was in the man’s heart. Those polite words do the same thing for us, our spouses, and our children. It shows that we value and appreciate each other, just as Jesus does.

Do The Next Thing

We just had the privilege of taking care of our three granddaughters for a week. I am left with two overwhelming feelings – first – exhaustion  – and then a new and deep respect for our daughter and son-in-law as parents. I had forgotten just how constant the care of young children is. There is never any down time while 6, 4, and 2 year olds are awake. As you mothers of young children know – you must be ever mindful of where your children are and what they are doing.

I enjoyed every minute of  our granddaughters’ visit, yet I must admit  I was worn out. I had planned to do several small projects while they napped or after they went to bed. One project was crocheting a border around a new, small blanket. for the 2-year-old to carry (so it wouldn’t drag in the dirt)  RIGHT!  That did not happen. I was reminded of some helpful advice I received when our children were small. Elizabeth Elliot, author and Bible teacher, encouraged young mothers to deal with overwhelming stress by encouraging one to just “do the next thing”. I found this piece of wisdom so practical because I remember many times being overwhelmed by my responsibility as a mother of young children.

Instead of focusing on all I had to do and knowing there were not enough hours in the day to get it all done, I would “do the next thing ” and focus  instead on the task at hand. It sounds so simple – but it is excellent advice and it works. When I  felt overwhelmed I would change the next diaper, put the next load of diapers in the washing machine (yes, I am old enough to have had three in CLOTH diapers at the same time), or make the next peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I found that it was not so much the difficulty of any one task that was overwhelming, but the sheer number of things that MUST be done. I found that instead of being paralyzed into doing nothing, I was able to gradually accomplish the most important tasks. In the workplace people prioritize, but with small children the “priority” task is not always the most important task. Sometimes reading a story FIRST will offer a child the attention they need and then afterward allow you to start supper without a screaming appendage attached to your leg.

It is part of life experience to be overwhelmed at times. In Psalms, David addresses God in desperation –

Psalm 61:1 – 2  “Hear my cry, O God; attend  unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” When David was overwhelmed, he cried out to God. I have done that often and will again in this journey as a mother. It is a blessing to know I am not alone with these feelings and that my heavenly Father hears my cry and answers. I had begun writing this post on July 4th, but the “next thing” for me that day was our 6 grandchildren, my parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece, two daughters, two sons-in-law, a son and husband. So, a week went by without a post, not a big deal. Doing the next thing did NOT mean I finished everything, it did mean I finished some things and accomplished what was most important that day as a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, and wife.

Then, I did the next thing.