Parenting, Prayer, Patience and Other Things I Suck At!
Believe it or not, people often ask me for parenting advice.
Every time someone asks me how I raised such great kids, I stumble for an answer. I usually say, “My kids are proof that prayer works, because they all turned out better than me.”
And while that is totally true, it is a pat answer that barely skims the surface of parenting issues. I’m sure that most every parent ever has uttered millions of prayers. I bet even atheist parents throw out requests for help to some unknown force they hope will help them understand why their precious toddler is beating his head on the floor in response to not being allowed to eat a rotten banana peel. (Yeah that happened!)
So, while I absolutely 100% believe in prayer… (well I know logically and from experience that prayer is powerful) I still really, really stink at it.
(As I start to write, I realize I have tons of stuff to share about this, so I will probably make this a continuing post.)
Here are my first three lessons about prayer, parenting, and patience:
God isn’t manipulated by rituals and religious practices. (You can’t nag God into doing what you want. Trust me! I’ve tried!)
There is no amount of prayer, Bible reading, giving money, serving, church attendance, quoting scripture or listening to KLOVE that will guarantee me the outcome I am seeking. This is a really hard truth to accept when your child is going through something hard.
It is a truth that I still fight.
Twenty years ago, we found out my oldest son’s pituitary gland did not function which meant he had to have daily growth hormone shots. While this is a commonly used therapy these days, it was brand new back then. And giving shots to a toddler was not easy. On top of that, he had asthma and some severe allergies. One doctor told me, “Yeah, treating all of these conditions is more of an art than a science.”!!!
My second son also had a heart condition and somewhere during this time, we were surprised with the addition of my third son. My husband was in grad school and I worked in daycare. I was beyond overwhelmed. I remember people coming up to me during my pregnancy and asking, “What in the world are you going to do with three kids?” I would burst into tears and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing with two!!!”
In my bratty first world religious nature, I got mad at God for my problems. It all felt unfair to me. We were trying to serve him and he wasn’t coming through for us. I gave him the silent treatment and pouted.
My prayers were more like lists of demands and negotiations than conversations with my loving Father who is also the Creator of the universe.
I knew the ACTS formula of prayer. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
But I used it like a formula to get what I wanted:
Dear God, you are the Ruler of the universe, Creator of all, my Father, all powerful…I confess that I’m anxious, I judge people and I’m impatient with my kids. Thank you for my family, my friends, my church and providing for all my needs. Now, here is my list of things I want you to do for me and why I feel that I deserve these things…. Amen. P.S. I’m going to be really mad at you if you don’t do what I asked, especially the stuff for my kids!
One day, God broke through all of my drama and reminded me of what I claimed to believe: All that matters in this world is your relationship with God. If you serve him and do good in the world, then your life was a success no matter what hardships you endured along the way.
Yes. I know that deep down, but I don’t like going through things and I especially don’t like for my kids to go through things!!!
So, I continue to fight every problem that comes our way. Even after seeing all the good God has done in the lives of my kids, I still struggle to trust him.
When my adult children go through things, it is far from automatic for me to trust God with those problems. I still throw myself on the floor and whine like a spoiled toddler. But, I’m quicker to be honest about how I feel. And I’m quicker to listen and I’m learning a little more every day to trust and focus on the good even during the struggles.
It’s hard to recognize God speaking to us. Even though I was often a whiny brat in my prayer life, I was also keenly aware of how much I needed God’s wisdom in order to raise my kids.
I have the fortunate misfortune of struggling with anxiety and depression. I say that it is fortunate, because in order for me to gain control of this struggle, I have had to develop a discipline of prayer, journaling, exercise and (somewhat) healthy eating. All of this kept my dependence on God fresh in my mind.
Seeking God is a discipline that takes practice. The truth is, I’ve never experienced God giving me a command from heaven in a booming Mufasa voice. Honestly, his “voice” sounds a lot like my own thoughts, only the message is different.
And because of this, unless I slow down, quiet myself and sit and try to listen often, I will probably miss hearing what God wants to say to me. Through the years, I have learned that God’s voice is the calm voice of peace that pushes me to deal with areas in my life where I need to change.
Because of this, I often start my quiet times with praying for God to show me where I need to change. I think it is part of being humble before God and fearing him.
I know for certain that this discipline is what guided me into parenting well. Without seeking God, I was irrational, impatient, insecure, emotional, and needy. I still had break-downs, bad days, and made tons of mistakes. But, I got through them and God redeemed those times.
In my prayer times, I have confronted all kinds of issues in my life and gained freedom from them. I also learned to see my children as God sees them.
You probably don’t know what God is doing. Sometimes, I really wish God would write me a letter and explain how all of the stuff in my life is going to work out in some amazing way. Often in our attempt to explain a “reason” for everything that happens, we make God sound like some big cosmic jerk. My personal pet peeve is when children die and people say things like “God needed another angel” or “God will bring some good out of this.” Really? Well, whatever the good is, no thank you. I’d rather have my child back!!!
The truth is, life is full of evil and unfairness that happens to us all. Those of us that follow God know that there is meaning in it all. We have the power of God working in us to get through this life. None of that means that we will always know what God is doing.
One example of this from when I was raising my children:
We moved to Rhode Island during the summer after Nathan’s freshman year of high school. I prayed and prayed about finding a church. I researched every church website in RI before we moved and found a great church. I thought we were all set. We could move in June and Nathan would have great Christian friends by the middle of July. I even got him in on a youth mission trip our first summer here.
Only, I didn’t know that Rhode Islanders don’t travel from one town to the next. We were moving from the mountains of NC where we drove 20 minutes to go to a grocery store and an hour and a half to go to a mall. It never occurred to me that Nathan’s church friends wouldn’t drive ten minutes to hangout in the next town over.
As this reality hit me, I tried everything in my religious resources to force God’s hand but he never fixed this problem. Nathan graduated from high school with amazing friends but no supportive Christian friends.
It seemed like a no-brainer to me: Christian kids need Christian friends. God should have honored that prayer request.
Only, God was doing something bigger in Nathan’s life.
I had no way of knowing, from my limited perspective, that God was opening Nathan’s eyes to the ministry that he is now involved in. Nathan developed his passion for those outside the church by spending a lot of time with people outside of the church! If Nathan had been welcomed in to a bubble of church friendships he probably never would have developed the heart he now has for those that are far from God.
Nathan got to experience life outside the bubble for a few years and it changed everything for him.
The entire time that God was doing this amazing work in Nathan’s life, I was begging him to fix the problem I saw. I even gave God an ultimatum one day: “You either show me that you are doing something here or I’m moving back to NC and living in my parents’ garage.” (we were all struggling to fit in here at that time)
It seems comical to remember feeling that way as I type this. Now I’m whining about moving to Connecticut. I LOVE Rhode Island! Why do I need to move again?
You’d think by now my go-to would be automatic trust, but I’d still like a letter of intent from God!!!
And here I am 47 years old, dealing with a whole new set of issues. I’m a lot better at the parenting thing now that the hardest part is over! But I still suck at being patient and praying with an attitude of trust but I’m growing!!!
I’d love to know what kinds of things you want to hear more about. I really want to answer your questions and I’m honored whenever someone asks me something. Message me, email me, comment on my website or FB page with your questions and I promise I will try to write about them!!