Tag Archives: Family

Learning from those you’ve taught

When our children were young it was hard to imagine them taller than ourselves, driving a car, waking up to their own alarm clock without our knock on the bedroom door as the back up, getting to work, on-time, 5 days a week, paying rent, deciding where to live and with whom without your time, effort or approval.  It’s hard to imagine them as an adult separate from yourself, living a life that is full, vibrant and apart from your care.   And even harder to imagine that they would be my teacher, my  mentor and a model in areas of my life.  Inconceivable in the early years.  Getting a daily shower was inconceivable in the earliest years.  I find myself beyond the disbelief of imagining my children as adults.  I am there.  And what I’m finding is that I’m learning from them.  They are going places in their lives I never dared or dreamed for in my own.  Perhaps I was never brave enough to risk because of my own insecurities.

How often do I admit I don’t know how to do something, I need help and then ask the one person that I have alienated for that help and in so doing build a bridge of relational restoration?  Watching a child, my child, my emerging adult child take that step of vulnerability, risk and humility I will not soon forget.  This was a moment when I was challenged by the example I saw in my child to examine my willingness to humble myself with those I need to rebuild a bridge of relationship with.  I don’t recall ever teaching or modeling this myself.  In fact I have said and done things in his presence that would have led to the opposite behavior.  How did he get farther than I have ever been in this arena?  He is humbly leading me now.

I hear a young adult navigating their way through a world of needs, hurt, pain and sadness in the lives of those around them.  Speaking words of compassion, truth and comfort into their lives.  I see the tangible acts of love and care extended through simple ways of listening, remembering, including, seeing the dignity in the most needy all around them.  Where did she learn that?  I was quick to dodge and ignore the needy, for fear of my safety, for fear of  her safety, for a host of selfish reasons.  She was there to watch and observe those things in me.  And yet she’s taking a different path.  Stopping to listen and engage the stranger, including the weak and frail.  How did she get farther than I have ever been in seeing, really seeing, others?  She is teaching grace and compassion to me now.

Each week they are hosting coffees, deserts, dinners, bbq’s, impromptu gatherings of the newly formed relationships in their home.  They are practicing a way of life that includes others, generous with their time and resources and willing to continue to expand their relational circle beyond the familiar and comfortable.  Their home is a bright spot on their street, where others come uninvited to join in, and they are welcomed.  Where did she learn that?  The home she grew up in did not feel this way, though now I wish it had and did.  The standard she sets is high, maybe more than I can see for myself.  She gently coaches me with her encouragement, experience and wisdom.  She is modeling generous hospitality to me now.

Our children come to us as babies and we teach them everything.  How to eat, walk, play nice, clean up, read, spell, work hard, forgive, speak truth, be honest.  As a parent when I was caught in the day to day of teaching, leading and coaching them it was hard to imagine that they would someday out pace where I was.  But they are.  I wish I had known then that perhaps all my shortcomings would not “ruin them”.  I wish I had rested in knowing they were not destined to be limited by my own limitations.  I wish I had known then to be easier on myself and my expectations for them and for me.  But I am learning now.  From them.

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August 1, 2013 · 1:52 pm

On going home

Visiting my aging parents brings a myriad of emotions, thoughts and reflections.  I reminisce with them of funny stories, vacations taken and camping trips soaked in rain.  There are the stories they can’t seem to recall, the ones they will never forget and the tales that grow over time with each retelling.  I observe their habits, how they manage thru the daily routine and try to get a sense of what life is like when it’s just the two of them at home alone.  When I slip away from the lunch table and busy myself in another room they forget that I am there. It is then that their conversation ranges from the mundane of the weather, the escapades of the squirrel’s routine visit to the yard (they’ve claimed him as their own and named him Speedy) and sometimes even a glimpse of their warm conversation with one another that displays a shared life of 58 years and the love and deep concern they have for one another.  This is the moment that I cherish and know that their love does run deep and strong, in spite of the rhetoric, bickering and “show” that is displayed for us, their children.  it is then that I begin to ponder my own path that I am carving out as I travel down that road of age and decline.

Several years ago as I thought back over my parents aging process I could see some very definitive choices they made.  In their 50’s and 60’s they were mobile, traveling, engaged and still expanding their world.  But somewhere along the way as they approached 70 and beyond they began to “circle the wagons” as I used to call it. Their world became smaller and smaller, less travel, the adventurous spirit was gone, no new friendships, and they became disengaged with the world and their contributions to it.  And I would say even their contributions to family, grandchildren. The circling of the wagons was to keep out change, vulnerability and danger.  To protect themselves from uncertainty, dangers and calamity.   As I watched their lives over the last ten – 12 years now I have seen their health decline, their mobility lessen,  nothing uncommon as we age into our 80’s.  But what about me.

I was just past 50 when I started to reflect on all this.  And I could often be heard saying, “I’ve got 20 good years left, maybe.  What am I going to do with it”. Some of my friends thought I had a death wish.  Some thought I was being presumptuous. But as I explained, if my life and health went as my parents had, then I have until about 70 to be active and healthy, if I get that long.  No guarantees.  So what did I want to do with my 20 good years, where I was engaged, involved, contributing, expanding my life?  I never wrote it down, but I made a mental list.

  • Say yes as often as I could to opportunities.  Even if they were scary, I’d never done it before or it was unfamiliar. Say yes and try.
  • Make new friends.  I wanted to keep expanding my circle of friends, and not the FB kind.  And not the acquaintance type.  Real friends,  the kind you laugh and cry with and share life with.  I wanted more of them.
  • Plan to move. (don’t plan the going away party just yet) I want to be close to my kids wherever they are across the country (and at this point they are just that, CA, MI, IL) I want to visit them, spend time with them, in their lives and towns, not just mine.  If or when they have children of their own, I want to know them, which will mean going to them and welcoming them where I am.  Whether we move or not is still talk more than reality but I want to be mentally ready to start over, make new friends, learn a new town.
  • Learn new things.  I want to keep reading, listening to discussions, engage in thought, keep up with technology, try a new game.
  • Expand my world. The opposite of circling the wagons.  Embrace change, even create it if things seem too much the same.

The last 5 years have been full.  I have traveled, I took a class, I made new friends, I accepted a new position, I even dared to go onto the SU campus by myself, twice.  I have ventured to learn from some very bright people who allow me to be in the room with them and contribute.  Though I often wonder why, I am grateful they welcome me.  I have chosen to remain a learner, because I don’t know it all and never will.  And I have continued to grow in my faith as well.  My faith is not a destination but a direction that I choose to follow. One that takes me towards Jesus not away.  There’s no end in that.  I want to trust, reach, listen, obey. And that never stops.  I have seen others live ahead of me that have been great examples Doug B., Norma G., Jack M.  Their faith is real and continues to expand.  They have not circled the wagons and shrunk back, waiting for the inevitable.  They are pioneers pushing forward and I am hoping I can follow in the path they are walking.

I have invited my mom and dad to come to live in my town, in a house across the street  and their response was ‘that just wouldn’t work’.  Why? “We belong here.  In this house.”  They are tied to a place, a house, an address.  I told them I don’t want to be tied to a house, I want to be connected to people.  That is what home is, it’s who you belong to and with.

I come home to Fayetteville grateful for my husband, my kids and my life.  And determined to live it fully.  Because my 20 good years is down to 15 now.  If it is shorter than that, it’s ok.  I’m living it full on.  And if it’s longer, then that’s a bonus.

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A look back – Mom, I have a question

As I look back over my first year of blogging I started with the one below.  Only 12 months ago, but so many questions have come since then.  This post from last December is a good reminder for me as the troops begin to gather for Christmas,  to listen and heed my own words . . . .


Dec. 24, 2009  –  Mom, I have a question.  Over the years this has been a frequent opening line from our children.  It can precede a request for a friend to come over, money for a movie, tonight’s dinner menu or something much deeper.  It’s their way of saying, I’ve got something on my mind and I don’t quite know where to start.

As the years have come and gone the topics have gone from requests for a friend to come over, help with a game or toy, to relationships that are hurting, major decisions or help with struggles on an adult scale.  And, no surprise, I don’t have the answer.  Oh, I have the answer to tonight’s dinner menu, well, maybe, but when it comes to the tough questions, I’m as stumped as any parent. Some questions have nice, simple, clear answers. But usually the most important questions seem to jump up out of nowhere and almost take your breath away.  They’re the type of question that gets answered from your heart, your experience and from your own hurt or disappointment.  It’s so easy to start talking before you think.  Those questions deserve more than a quick answer.  When I’ve been slow to speak and quick to listen it’s been better not to answer at all but ask a question in return and let them share in the discovery of thinking through the possibilities.  I think those have been some of the best Q & A times we’ve shared.

The questions still come even though our 3 are hundreds if not thousands of miles away.  Only now, they come by text, cell, email or whatever the latest language might be. And I hope they keep coming for a long time.

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Collaborate

Doing anything alone can get, well,… lonely.  Discouraging, stuck for lack of resources and difficult.  Anything, and especially parenting.  But when we are collaborating with another, say the church, then the potential for success is much greater.  Collaborate is a book  containing the thoughts, ideas or philosophies of 35 different authors on how the church and family can collaborate together to encourage the spiritual growth of children.

Thirty five different authors giving a glimpse of their thought or experience is a bit like going to Baskin Robbins for ice cream and having an incredible tasting session with those little pink spoons.  Each one gives you an instant feeling or “mmm, I want more”, “not bad” or “ooo, don’t need any more of that”.  WIth 35 different views (tastes) I was able to find a few of each.

Each time I read a book, I can always find a few take aways.  Here are mine:

  • The church can help the family by just giving them an opportunity to be together with no hidden agenda. With family members torn in different directions with busy schedules they need a reason to just “be” together in a shared experience.  Nothing wrong with a good ole’ game night just for fun!
  • The church would do well to take every opportunity to equip parents to be involved in milestone events (like baptism) rather than pull their children away into the hands of the “professionals”.  Provide parents the tools, resources, training and encouragement they need, not do it for them.
  • Parents of teens need all the encouragement they can get.  Don’t beat them up with guilt, judgment or comparison.  The church would do better to build a culture of compassion, compatriots and mentors for both the teen and the parent.
  • Provide a shared experience for the entire family for the family to rally around.  A weekend service where everyone is hearing the same topic/story/scripture is one Big Idea.  Perhaps a shared experience around a service project or event that provides both the family and church to encourage one another.

Collaborate is a good book to get an introduction to the many varied ideas that are being used around the world to bring the family and church together.

To hear what others are saying about Collaborate:

http://www.collaboratebook.com

http://www.ministerslabel.com

http://www.facebook.com/CollaborateBook

http://twitter.com/CollaborateBook

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Filed under Books, Family