God’s Expectations

Phil and our first-born

” I could never live up to his expectations.”

How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful.

The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs,  just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.

Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure.

We parents and grandparents must guard our speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding our children. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. Thankfully, my parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling.

My younger brother can fix anything. He was this way as a young child. Whenever he visits, he fixes something. (Oh, about our coo-coo clock…when are you coming to visit?)

My parents expressed pleasure when I won the bubble-blowing contest, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theater, things my brothers did not do.

I do not remember a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences seemed important in our family. My brothers may see it differently than I do, being the only girl, I always felt valued for who I was.

What a gift!

Phil and I tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –

Psalm 62:5   “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children.

We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations.  The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours.

I find this verse, Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version, so encouraging –

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“

Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren!

Yet this verse states the fact that what God, our Father, has planned for them is better than anything I can even think or dream!

So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.

Don’t Give Up

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This camellia is just beautiful right now! I was lamenting the fact that it is blooming so early and that a freeze or frost might kill the blooms.

Phil said to just enjoy it while it lasts. Stop worrying about what MIGHT happen.

So, I am trying to do that. I have no control over the weather, or how that weather effects our plants. It has been unseasonably warm this February and things are budding out and blooming earlier than I can ever remember.

This camellia is a bush we transplanted from Phil’s Aunt Priscilla’s home after she passed away at 95. We had given her this plant for her 80th birthday (I think) and she had taken special care of it. She fertilized it regularly and pruned errant limbs as needed. When Phil’s family was getting ready to put Aunt Cil’s house on the market, we went to collect some items with special memories for Phil.

Phil decided he wanted the camellia bush, so he got a shovel and began to dig it up. The roots were much deeper that he anticipated and it was quite an effort to finally dig it out. We were not sure that it would make it, if there was enough root still attached to maintain life when transplanted in our yard.

So, we brought the plant 146 miles from Moravian Falls to Dillsboro and took great care in transplanting this camellia. Phil dug a large hole, put in rich, composted soil from the garden, and then planted the camellia, watering it generously.

And, we KEPT watering it. My father took it upon himself to make sure it did not dry out, which would kill what roots were left.

The leaves on the plant gradually dried up and fell off. (For those that don’t know, camellias are an evergreen shrub, they only shed leaves as new leaves push-off the old ones)

Soon, there was only three brown stems where there had once been a lovely, full shrub.

Well, we left it that winter and hoped that maybe new growth would poke out in the spring.

Nothing happened.

No new leaves.

So, later in June, I decided that I would plant something else in the place of that camellia. I started to dig around the bottom of those dead looking stems and …

SURPRISE!

There was a new stem starting to poke up from a root next to the old, main stem! I was so excited, I called Phil to come over and see that puny little stem.

We took great care then to water, protect, and nurture that fragile little stem. Now, four years later, it is a vigorous bush with lovely pink blooms as you can see from the above photo.

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In Galatians 6:9-10 Paul says this –

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Notice Paul is encouraging the Christians in Galatia to NOT GIVE UP!

We must be careful not to give up on

  • our children
  • our grandchildren
  • our teenagers
  • our parents
  • OURSELVES

Paul encourages us that at “just the right time” we will reap the harvest – or see the results.

IF WE DON’T GIVE UP!

God’s time is not our time.

God is God.

I would have missed the blessing of these beautiful blossoms if I had given up on Aunt Cil’s camellia.

We will miss God’s blessing if we give up on those we love and care about.

And, may we do good to everyone.

 

Late Bloomers

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“Look at these blooms!”

I have just returned from a trip with my mother to see my brother and sister-in-law in Eugene, Oregon. I fully expected to see our flower beds in that dried out, dead leaf state that results from a freeze.

But it is October 31 and we have not had a freeze yet!

These late bloomers are especially beautiful to me because they are unexpected.

These flowers are showing off their beauty “out of season” and therefore are that much more enjoyable. This caused me to think about the seasons or phases in our lives and the fact that this delay can create a special appreciation….if we recognize it.

As parents and grandparents we are often looking for developmental milestones in our children. These can be as varied as –

  • talking
  • walking
  • hitting a baseball
  • riding a bike
  • reading
  • writing one’s name

When there is a delay in reaching one of these “milestones”, it can cause anxiety. Yet, often children develop at various rates because not everyone is on the same developmental time-table. Each human is an individual. There are so many variables in life that affect development.

Each stage of a child’s life becomes more precious if we enjoy it for what it is. a “season” or “stage” of life. Some mother’s lament the passing of the baby stage while others look forward to meaningful conversations with their teenagers.

Wait….are those meaningful conversations possible?

YES!

A well-known passage of scripture in Ecclesiastes  3 addresses the various seasons and times in life. We often read this in regard to major life events. I think several of these verses apply aptly to raising children.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

God has a season and a time for everything. It may not be according to our timing, in fact many things probably WON’T be according to our timing.

Yet God in His infinite love and wisdom will carry out His plan in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

If they are precocious and do things “early”, enjoy that season.

If they progress at a “normal” pace (whatever that is), enjoy that as well.

If they are “late bloomers”, enjoy the surprise and joy of accomplishment with them. The wait can make it all the more sweet.

Above all else, remember – God is faithful.

For Such a Worm As I

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The pew was shaking –  I knew because my parents were giving my little brother and I the “evil eye”.

The pew was shaking because we were trying our best to suppress the laughter that arose every time we sang that song. After once being overcome with giggles, a simple glance at each other set us off again.

Did that ever happen to you? Do you remember how hard it was to stop – even knowing the trouble we were in if we didn’t stop.

It happened every time we sang the hymn – “At the Cross”

“Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”

That was the line that did it! That set off the giggles. It is a beautiful hymn with deep and heartfelt meaning. But for Gregg and I, the vision of ourselves as worms brought on laughter every time we sang it.

Sometimes it is hard being a child in a worship service.

Three weeks ago we attended the worship service in Maryland where our daughter and her family attend church. In the seats in front of us I saw two “tween” age girls who were writing in notebooks during the service. As we stood to sing the closing hymn, I glanced down and saw that they had been taking notes during the sermon. I asked one of them about it afterwards and she said,

“Our youth leader gave us these books to encourage us to pay attention to what the pastor was saying.”

What a blessing!

As a teacher and committed note taker myself, I was thrilled! These young girls were following along as the pastor preached and writing down statements they wanted to remember. The notebooks had a two page spread for each Sunday. There was space for such things as:

  • date –  topic
  • verses used
  • notes
  • questions I have about the sermon

I thought this was a great way to introduce adolescents to note taking. These two girls seemed very engaged with the process.

It is a challenge for children to participate in worship services, yet it is such a blessing for children to learn at a young age that they can sense God’s presence and learn to honor him through worship. God gives instructions to his people, the Jews, before they enter the promised land. They have spent 40 years in the wilderness and God wants to make sure that they REMEMBER the lessons he has taught them.

Doesn’t that sound just like a parent?

Deuteronomy 4:9-10

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Teaching our children the importance of authentic worship is best accomplished when they see their parents and grandparents worshipping authentically.

Some ideas we found helpful when our children were small were:

  • expect excellent behavior, clearly communicate expectations before the service
  • do not threaten. If a child misbehaves, take them out and correct behavior right then
  • threats prolong misbehavior and the child will keep misbehaving to see just how long they can get away with something before the parent intervenes.
  • give grace as a child is learning to worship respectfully, encourage them as soon as their behavior improves
  • talk about the service afterwards, at dinner, or on a walk, ask questions
  • do NOT criticize the worship service in front of your children, such as complaining about the choice of songs, the sermon, or the special music. This will breed disrespect for the participants in the worship service.
  • pray together as a family that your worship will honor God

Looking back on my over 64 years of participating in worship, I am so thankful my parents included me as a young child….

even a worm such as I.

 

Deep Faith

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“They are fine. They have deep faith.”

My older brother spoke these words in response to my question, “How do you think Mom and Dad are doing?”

Ever since Garry said that, I have been asking myself a question –

Deep Faith – what is deep faith?

It is more than hope.

It is more than a reasoned sense.

It is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that GOD IS FAITHFUL.

No matter what happens, no matter how I feel, God is faithful.

As my “tween” grandchildren would say – “God’s got this.”

My 91-year-old father has been in the hospital and we are waiting for results from a myriad of tests. In the mean time, we must have deep faith. No matter what the results, God is faithful.

God is faithful to my dad who is weak and doesn’t like being in bed, poked and prodded.

God is faithful to my mother who is watching her mate of 68 years struggle.

God is faithful to my brothers and me as we watch the rock of our family seeming to fade.

Deep faith is based on the immovable, unchangeable, irrefutable fact that God is faithful. God will fulfill His purposes and His word assures us it is for our good. God is love.

Shallow faith is subject to the circumstances around us. Just like a shallow rooted plant, shallow faith

  • dries up when it is not watered
  • it is easily uprooted and destroyed
  • it can wither from being crowded out
  • it’s existence is based on outside conditions

Hebrews 11:1-3 (NIV)

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Deep faith.

The kind of faith that stands firm no matter the circumstances.

May we have this deep faith in our loving, heavenly Father.

 

 

 

Unsolicited Advice

Three Generations - Four Mothers

Three Generations – Four Mothers

“Don’t give advice to your adult children unless they ask for your advice.”

I made this statement to a friend whose daughter recently got married. Now she has a son-in-law for the first time. This couple recently moved to another state and my friend wondered about sharing some practical advice with them that she thought would be helpful.

We have three sons-in-law, and I realized early on that as soon as our daughters got married, their source of advice switched. As well it should.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:24

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

So, the man and wife each LEAVE their father and mother and become one. Notice it doesn’t say “and become six” which would include both sets of parents.

Leaving is not just a physical act, it is also intellectual and emotional.

  • leaving physically  – changing location of “home”
  • leaving intellectually – understanding what it means to become one, choosing your spouse over others
  • leaving emotionally – feelings that your love and loyalty goes to your spouse first

That is why we shouldn’t give unsolicited advice. When we do, our adult child is put in the middle and must decide between following the parent’s advice – or the advice of their spouse.

That is not fair.

Do I always follow this practice myself?

Absolutely not!

Do I never give unsolicited advice?

Unfortunately, I do.

But I have three daughters who will respectfully let me know – “Mom, this is not your business.” It is a very good thing that they do. I don’t want our daughters or our sons-in-law to dread my interference in their lives.

I had 20+ years to tell our children what to do – to mess with their lives. That was enough time.

We often look back fondly on the “good old days” of our children being young and think that our grandchildren should have the same opportunities. We remember how we used to do things and think it was so much better.

But was it really better? Was it better because we were young and we remember how it felt being young?

Our children and grandchildren will look BACK on these current times and someday remember them as “the good old days”. Imagine that!

What can we do when we see something that sincerely concerns us about our adult children or grandchildren?

Pray.

Philippians 4:6-8  (TLB)

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

When our adult children do ask for advice – give it respectfully and thoughtfully. What a blessing it is to have adult children seek our advice!

When my parents lived with us, Phil would often ask my father for advice, especially when it came to plants and trees, my father’s field of study. My dad is the kind of person who never gives advice unless asked, which is a reason we were able to live together so well. In the past several months, two of our sons-in-law have asked Phil for advice. Phil also does not give advice unless he is asked. We were blessed that they valued Phil’s thoughts.

So, remember to treat our adult children as we want to be treated. That is why the golden rule is golden…..

Picture Perfect?

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What would Jesus’ family Christmas photo have looked like?

“It’s like we get those perfect Christmas family photos everyday now on Facebook and social media.”

I heard the above statement on the radio and it certainly struck a chord with me. My friend, Alice Marie, and I had just been talking about the unrealistic impressions that “perfect photos” often bring.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pictures on Facebook! I joined Facebook in the first place so that I could see the photos our daughters posted of our grandchildren. I also enjoy seeing friends’ and acquaintances’ pictures and activities, some from very far away.

Yet what impression are we sharing? That we are “perfect” and all is peace and light on the home front?

We all are familiar with the idea that “a picture speaks a thousand words” – but are those words accurate? Do they reflect real life?

Let’s imagine for a moment that there was photography at the time of Jesus birth. What would the first family photo of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus look like?

  • Mary and Joseph had traveled that day, so they probably looked pretty tired
  • They had the dust of travel on their clothes
  • There was no room in the inn, so they were offered a stable for shelter
  • Their clothes were certainly not “festive” or “color coordinated” (so, ok, Phil – color does not ALWAYS matter)
  • The animals were nearby, though they were not the pets often included in our holiday photos

So, here is the picture – the family is gathered in a stable, a great setting considering the current trend to use rustic backgrounds for photos. They are in rumpled, dusty clothes, a grouping of three – odd numbers are always good visually. The lighting is good because oddly enough, there is an unusually bright star shining right over the new baby. How fortunate is that?

But wait! There seems to be various men and boys crowding around to get in the picture! They brought sheep with them! They don’t seem to be related to this family of three. (maybe they can be photo shopped out later)

The parents are smiling, weary, but happy smiles gazing fondly at the new baby.

The Baby….

What would that photo of Jesus look like?

Would it radiate with the glory of His heavenly Father? Would there be any indication of the incarnate presence of God? Jesus birth made the angels announce – Luke 2:13-14

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The more I thought about what a picture of Jesus would look like, the more I thought that He would probably look like an ordinary baby. Tammy Youmans said her grandson Micah said – “Jesus rolled himself up into a baby.” I love that image.

We are so much more than our outward appearance, aren’t we? So was Jesus when He was here in human form.

Jesus was fully a man – and fully God.

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth with family and friends this year, let’s take LOTS of pictures and share the joy and fun we experience.

Let us also remember that pictures don’t show the heartache of loss of loved ones, the pain and suffering that is often unseen but is a part of all of our lives.

Let us remember the words of hope the angel shared – Luke 2:10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

God’s perfect gift – Jesus.