Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Please Help Me!"

Our tired bodies climbing the stairs together, Essie headed to her room, and I headed to mine, relieved that she was retiring so willingly. I set my sights on a long, hot shower to wash off the day. Not necessarily a difficult day, just a long, normal one, and I relished the late evening solitude.

Several minutes later, under the heated, streaming water, I heard Esther cry out: an urgent, sharp sob, high-pitched and intense.
Her cry crescendoed into a wail, "Please help me!"
More crying.
"Please, please help me!"

What ten year old cries that?! My heart melted right into the drain along with the running water.
"Please help me!"
Pounding footsteps thundered up the stairs, and I heard muffled voices through the wall that separates my shower and the stairway. I bounded out of the shower, grabbed a towel and rounded the staircase sopping wet. Corbin had already gotten to Essie, along with Bran and Basden. Essie continued to wail and cry while everyone else huddled around her foot.

"She stepped on an earring," Bran told me, raising an eyebrow.
I would love to say here that Branson and Basden acted out of the utmost compassion, but seeing the smirks on their faces, I sent strong eye-to-eye communication that they be nice. Do not make fun. I took note that they had both run to her rescue. But seeing the severity of the impaled earring stem lessened their sympathies.

In Esther's defense, it was a decent puncture. She'd leaped from her furry rug into bed, and in doing so put all her weight on the bayonet-earring. And it was her "starter" earring, the one from getting her ears pierced, so the stem is thick and solid 14k gold. Not real willing to yield as it struck her tender, unsuspecting foot.

Checking in on her later, I found Corbin snuggled in bed with her, both sleeping soundly. Evidently she fell asleep whimpering and slightly offended, but I imagine comforted and reassured in her daddy's arms.

As for me, even after rounding that corner and realizing it was minor, even after seeing her snoozing contentedly, the thing that kept echoing in my mind was that awful wail, "Please help me!"

Nothing would have kept Corbin and me from running to help our daughter. I don't know what Corbin was doing downstairs when he heard her cry out, but it wouldn't have mattered. Even as sinful, imperfect parents, absolutely nothing would have kept us from dropping everything to save Essie.

So how much more does our Father in Heaven RUN and rush and bend to save us?
Sometimes we get ourselves into the mess, and sometimes the mess just happens. But in His perfect love, it doesn't matter.
He delights in saving, loving, comforting us.

I think of the "Please help me!" cries I've heard all around me just this week... failing grades, panic attacks from stress, an unexpected pregnancy, bad phone calls from teachers, biopsies, and setting the tombstone on a child's grave. All of these things ~ and yes even earring impalements ~ the Lord delights in saving us.

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!  Matt 7:9-11

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Cannot Do

Sitting on the edge of his bed, when the clock strikes much-too-late, I exercise all my self control to listen, listen, listen. Another late-night conversation, where emotions flourish, pressed hard by fatigue and a long day. I'm grateful for the transparent conversation, but it results in a sleepless night for me, laying awake with worry and regret.

"What can I do? How can I make things better for him? What should I have already done differently to help him avoid feeling like this?"

Happiness. Goodness.
My children's, my husband's, anyone's but my own.

I'm slowly learning, and accepting... I cannot possibly manufacture another person's happiness, or their goodness.
No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I love them.
It's not on me.

Some things I can count on:
- My children (and husband) will struggle, and
- I am powerless to determine their happiness.

And if their happiness is my goal, I will come up short every time.
The same can be said for their goodness.

I'm a slow learner, but I am learning. And guess what?? I'm finding joy and freedom in the process.

In his recent book, "Parenting," Paul David Tripp writes,
"Good parents... have come to understand that they have no power whatsoever to change their children and that without God's wisdom they wouldn't even know what is best for their children."
Ok wow, that's a statement. Again:
Here's the bottom line for every parent: the change that has to happen in each of your children, you can't create. In fact, nowhere in his Word has God tasked you with the responsibility to create it. Good parenting is about becoming okay with the fact that you are powerless to change your child. In fact, good parenting is about celebrating the fact that God has and never will put the burden of change on you. Because changing your children is a burden that we could never bear, God bore that burden for us by sending his Son to be the author of lasting personal change. The burden that caused his death liberates us parents and gives new life to our children. Now that's good news! So our job is simple; it's not to create change, but to be humble and willing instruments of change in the hands of the one and only author of change. (p. 62)
I think if I'd read this book five years ago, those statements might have flown right over my head. Or perhaps I would have disagreed, thinking the author had raised extra-difficult children. And I'm pretty sure I have a few friends that upon reading that paragraph would burn the book.

But as for me, with three teenagers and one pre-teen (let's be honest, FOUR teenagers) in the house, I wholeheartedly agree.

And it's a relief, to be honest. A relief that it's not my job to create lasting behavior and ultimately change my children's hearts. We can model and guide and love and certainly pray, but change is not in our parenting job description. 

What freedom!!

One of my dear friends recently challenged me to pray two things:
1 - Lord, show me my sin
2 - Help me to see my child through your eyes

Oh. my. word.
And so far, if I could sum up my take-aways from Tripp's "Parenting" in a couple of sentences, it would be the same.

Lord, show me my sin.
And help me to love your children ~ these precious ones you've entrusted to Corbin and me ~ well.

A few more quotes I'm chewing on that qualify these ideas:

"Mercy ministry always comes down to this: you can help, but only Jesus can heal." - Rosaria Butterfield, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (describing caring for foster children, but I'm beginning to view my parenting through this lens)
"It's my job to love you, it's God's job to make you good." - Ruth Bell Graham  ~ to her husband(!!)

And last but not least, of course I hear Cappy's voice, "A person is about as happy as they decide to be."

Amen and amen. Let us lean in, love well, and prayerfully wrestle demons over our children as necessary. But then may we leave the happiness and heart change to Jesus, the One true Healer.