Sunday, January 10, 2016

Serious Advice 19-20: Relax and Stay Connnected to the Lord

(This "Mom Advice" series - for dads, too - starts at the bottom of the January posts with "Mom Advice #1: Expectations.)
            #19  Parenting is a learning process and we all do it differently.  Go easy on yourself.  When I was a child, I didn’t realize that parents could be scared and clueless and unsure.  That went against the whole idea of being an adult.  Adults knew what to do in any situation.  Adults were confident and wise, even at the ripe old age of twenty-five. 
            I used to think that parents had the answers, that they had an innate sense of what was the right thing to do in any given situation.  And what they didn’t know, they looked up in the big book that they all got when they became parents.  You know, the one with all the answers. 
            Well, maybe I didn’t get in the right line because I never got my book when I had kids.  Instead, the curtain was pulled back and the truth revealed - so much of parenting is really done by the seat of your pants.  Oh, I know some parents do better than others, and it comes more “naturally” to some than to others.  But it’s a job were all of us go from not being parents to being parents.  It’s a job where we all have to learn as we go.  And we all come to learn that we know a lot less than we thought we did.  As I see it, the older you get, the more you learn, the less you know.  Which is why we parents desperately need the Lord.   We need to be constantly on our knees in prayer.
            I have never prayed more than when something concerns one of my children.  Being a parent is the most rewarding job, but it’s also the most emotionally distressing job.  And it can cause me to feel more helpless than anything else.  There have been many times, in anguish and helplessness, when all I could do was pray, “Lord . . . Oh, Lord . . . please help!  Just help!”
            I’ve prayed this four nights in a row as I slept sitting up in a chair, holding my horribly croupy baby on my chest who would go into a panic every time he woke up and struggled to breathe.  And I prayed it as I walked him around outside in the cold winter air, all bundled up in the middle of the night, so he could breathe a little easier.
            I prayed this as I waited days for test results to see if one of my young counseling clients gave me fifth’s disease, which could have caused serious problems for my unborn baby.  (And then I prayed, “Thank You, God . . . thank You, thank You,” when the test was negative.)
            I prayed this for a couple days when I thought my toddler swallowed a Lego and I was afraid that it wouldn’t pass properly.  Thankfully, nothing ever happened.  He must not have swallowed it, after all.
            I prayed this as we struggled to make the right decision about my son’s Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.  And then about his dead tooth that caused an abscess.  It was a couple years’ worth of stress and research and prayer.  Looking back now, God was good and helped straighten the path as we walked forward in faith and leaned on Him.  And because of that time and the research I did on the best foods to help bodies heal and stay healthy, we now eat far better than before and have much better health.  His tooth decay ended up making us all healthier in the long run.
            I prayed this when the same son ended up with a bacterial infection on his finger as a one-year-old that turned his finger bright red with pockets of white pus all over it and that required a trip to the doctor and anti-biotics.
            I prayed this when my husband struggled for months with mysterious gut issues which seemed possibly very dangerous and I feared losing the father of my four children.  And I prayed it as he went in for a CT scan to check his internals.  (Thank God for the internet this time.  I was able to confirm my suspicions that the problem was the chia seeds that we recently added to our diet.  We don’t touch them anymore.)
            And most recently, this week before Christmas (I'm adding this new stuff on Dec 20, 2014 to this advice section that I wrote years ago), I prayed this as I sat up for four nights with four children suffering with the flu (while I am sick myself), waking up at their every moan or fidget to get them water, ask how they felt, help them to the bathroom, or take their temperature.  (They were on the floor in my room or in my bed while my husband spent the night in another room). 
            We haven’t all been this sick ever.  My kids have never had fevers over 102 degrees.  But three of my boys did this week.  My five-year-old spiked 102.8 on two days.  (He slept and stayed rehydrated till his fever went away.)  But my eight-year-old woke up with a 104 fever, which quickly climbed to 104.7.  I called my husband home from work, had him buy some Children’s Tylenol (which we didn’t have on hand and have never had to use before), and took him to the doctor to rule out any other secondary problem that might cause a fever that high.  But it was just the flu.  So we gave him a dose of Tylenol and put him to bed. 
            The during the next couple hours, he woke up twice and was hallucinating.  He was opening his mouth and staring blankly into space.  He was looking around the room in fear, saying “They are fighting.  They are fighting.”  I asked who “they” were.  Were they demons?  But I couldn’t get an answer out of him.  He just said, “Technically, I just beat them.”  He tried to brush away bugs that weren’t there.  “There are 7,000 bugs.  4,000 . . . 5,000 . . . 6,000 . . . 7,000.”  When he went to the bathroom, the soap on his hand scared him and he kept trying to shake it off.  He would stare right past me with glazed eyes and not even realize I was there.  And when he did look at me, he’d stare at my chin in fear, his lips quivering.  But he never could tell me what he saw.  Was it bugs or maybe a hideous demon mouth?
            I have never had that happen before, and it terrified me.  I panicked that maybe I really did “boil his brain” with that fever (even though I did all I could to get him help as quick as possible) or maybe the medicine ruined his mind and now he would always be messed up.  How is it that every other parent could give their children Tylenol regularly but the first time I do it, I ruin my child forever? 
            (Not being sure if this was just “dreaming with his eyes open” or if it was some sort of demonic harassment with demons taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable state, I did say out loud, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command any demons in this house to leave.  And Lord, please put a hedge of protection around my son’s body, mind, and spirit.  Protect him from any spiritual harm or any physical harm from the fever and medication.”  So many times, all you can do it pray.)    
            I laid down next to him for the next two hours while he slept, just to be there when he woke up and to make sure he got water every time he did.  (He hadn’t been drinking much.)  And I just prayed, “Lord . . . please help.  Just help.  Please, let him be okay.  Please, let him return to the fun kid that he is.  Let his brain be okay.  Let me not have ruined him forever.” 
            When he woke up the third time, I asked him if he wanted water.  And in his normal “What a pleasant surprise, thanks for asking” way, he said, “Sure.”  And I knew he was fine.  Thank You, Lord!  Thank You! 
            And then yesterday, my twelve-year-old, who we gave a dose of Tylenol to when his fever hit 103.5, had a similar reaction.  He woke up an hour later, walked out of bed and sat in the hall and had no idea why.  He couldn’t figure out how to close his mouth around the thermometer and refused to accept it.  And he stared blankly right past me.  But he slept it off pretty quickly and felt better.  Yet, as I write this, he still feels a bit like he’s walking through a dream.  I’m still waiting for us all to be fever-free and back to normal.  It has been a long week of praying.  A long week.      
            Being a parent is the hardest and most terrifying (yet most rewarding) job there is.  Every little thing hits you deep in the heart.  And so many, many things make you call out to God in all helplessness, asking for His help, guidance, mercy, and grace.  Life is hard enough, but I couldn’t imagine trying to parent without having faith in God to be there for you, to help you through, to guide and protect, and to make something good out of the bad. 
            One of the best things we could do as parents is to admit that we don’t always know what to do and that we are afraid . . . and to let that fear drive us to God.  We all make mistakes and are completely clueless at times.  None of us are perfect.  Your kids know that, too, so there’s no use in trying to act otherwise.  Model for them how we should handle it when we do or say something wrong and when we don’t know what to do.  I think that’s more important than making it seem like we never make mistakes or like we always know the best course of action.  Be able to admit that you need help and have a little grace toward other parents who are figuring out this whole thing alongside us.  And let your fear drive you to the Lord and drive you to your knees.  Learn to pray, “Lord, please help.  I don’t know what to do.”   
            I think as parents, as well as just as Christians, we need to be firmly grounded in the Word.  The best “big book of answers” is the Bible, of course.  And we shouldn’t go a day without connecting to God’s heart and mind and wisdom through it.  Solomon’s words to his son in Proverbs 2: 1-8 could very well be God’s words to parents: 

                        “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way for his faithful ones.” 

            So. . . 

            #20  Lastly and most importantly . . . Read your Bible, pray, seek out other Christian parents, pray, spend time with the Lord, and pray!  Pray for your family, pray for your children’s salvation, pray for the salvation and protection of their future spouses, and pray for God’s help in doing this most sacred, difficult and rewarding of jobs.  And when you feel like you just aren’t doing as well as you wish you were, pray as I do.  Lord, please take the imperfect, little bit that I can do and multiply it for Your glory.  Read your Bible, pray, pray, and then pray some more!  Enough said! 
             Psalm 119:9-11: “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” 
            Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. . . .”
            Well, this takes us to the end (of course, it’s not really the end) of my list of lessons I have learned along the way.  Wow, I really didn’t expect to get all serious and preachy like that when I started that first goofy list of advice in the “Mom’s Advice” posts.  But these are thoughts that I’ve wished at different times that I could share with others (and remember for myself).  So maybe this is my way of getting all that bottled-up advice out.  And since I’m the one writing this blog, I can put it all here.  You don’t have to read it, though, if you don’t want to.  But . . . wait . . . you already did.  Ha-Ha-Ha! 
            [Before I close this section out, I do want to clarify something.  I just said to pray for your children’s salvation and their future spouses’ salvation.  But one thing we need to remember - so that we don’t wrongly blame God for failing to answer our prayers - is that salvation is a matter of choice.  It is up to every person to decide if they want to make Jesus their Lord and Savior or not.  God will not force people to choose Him and our prayers cannot force them, either. 
            But while “Lord, save so-and-so” may not necessarily be effective, I believe that we can and should pray that God places the Truth in their paths and that their eyes and ears are open to it, that their minds understand it, that their hearts are soft and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s calls, and that God surrounds and protects them from the diversions and lies and blinders of the evil one. 
            I did this once for a friend.  I prayed over and over that God would put the Truth clearly in her path and protect her from the diversions of Satan.  And one day, she called to tell me that while she was in the stall in a public restroom, she looked down on the floor and there was a pamphlet explaining the way to salvation.  She came to Christ not long after.  God works in mysterious – and amusing – ways!]  
            I may have nearly a decade of parenting and three children under my belt now (and sometimes it does feel like the kids are actually under my belt, clinging to my pant-legs as I leave to go grocery shopping), but I still find myself surprised at times by the thought that I am the mother now.  (Update: And now, as of Dec 2014, I have 14 years of parenting and four kids.)
            Every so often I sense a huge discrepancy between how “grown-up” I feel and how grown up I must look to my kids.  Sometimes I still feel too young to be “the mom.”  But I’ve learned a lot since first becoming a mother.  And I hope that I’ve been able to pass on a little of what I’ve gathered over the years so that you can learn from my good times and my short-comings.  Being a mom is such a special and glorious role.  And I pray that you are able to embrace it fully and gratefully, for the sake of your family, eternity, and God’s glory!  Amen!