A Counterfeit Parent.
Such a huge mixture of tomboy and feminine little lady.
Baby loved throwing rocks into the river. She also liked the mud along the banks!
"Look Mom! All wet!"
Little river treasures.
River hairdo for Itty.
Morgan and me~
Pictures of us taken by my sister Amanda, who has Downs. She loves to take pictures - probably because she has seen her two older sisters carry around their cameras for years now. She takes pictures of everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. She is way more of a "photographer" than I!
Over the weekend, Amanda stayed with us for an afternoon/evening. She wanted to shoot my big camera. She didn't exactly ask - she just picked it up and started shooting away! She's a pretty good shot after all her camera practice but if she wants you in her picture, you have to hold your pose a LONG time - it takes her quite a while to decide how she will take it, focus, and then finally - push the button.
When I downloaded the shots from the other day and discovered all the ones she'd taken, I was quite fascinated with her choice of pictures. To see the world through her eyes is always so interesting.
Photography by Amanda
The older three boys were up the river fishing while I watched the younger ones in the shallow area. Shelton got a little impatient with the fishing and began to float a log down the river. . . the sun was just beginning to go down and when I saw what he was doing, I belted the babies tight in their stroller and ran in the water to get these shots of his adventure.
Once he moved the log into the deeper part of the river, he rode it down the river, but not without a few spills - getting completely soaked.
He would push the log up current for another log ride.
He was so cute riding down the middle of the river in the current on the log.
As the sun went down, Scott and Christian came on back - having caught two bass and another little fish. They can't wait for the water to warm up a bit more and spend the day out there. Scott didn't exactly have the vest that fit him but he didn't care - the small one was better than carrying everything up river by hand.
Here they are in the car as the boys were loading up all the gear ~
I brought my lap top out here to the windy soccer fields this afternoon. I can watch from the car today, thanks to a good parking space, and let Baby nap.
Itty is sitting here talking to me. She asked if peppermint candy comes from peppers. She's sucking on one because I have dozens all over this car because when I am bad morning sick and have no other option or remedy on me, I pop a peppermint in, no matter how unappealing it sounds, so that I can endure just a bit longer. Never helped in previous pregnancies, but does just a tad this time around.
Robert and I have had some good discussions lately about this journey of parenting that we find ourselves smack in the middle of. Wow, is it ever a huge responsibility and wow, are there so many ideas and suggestions from all types of sources and belief systems.
Doesn't it seem daunting once you start hearing all there is out there on the subject? Ok, maybe not for some, but it is to us.
I want to think it is more simplistic than all that. The more I read, or listen to, the more I think I might as well just give up. I don't want to feel that way because I don't want to give up. In fact, I want to be spurred on and more things to DO just doesn't spur me on, it defeats me.
I get in God's Word though and see like with all our relationships, it's really all about loving God, loving our children. It IS simplistic in that way. . .
But it's not in another way - because we humans don't simply get that love stuff. We don't get just loving God and loving others. Or at least I don't. It doesn't come simply - it's an all out war. I come away bruised and bleeding more often then not.
One of our discussions this past week was about how much should we protect our children. Yeah, searching for that balance.
Like in nearly all things, we've witnessed the "ditches" first hand since the two ditches just happen to surround our community. We have connections on both sides of the ditches. We've got friends in both. There is just the "throw them to the world, no worries, responsibility - they'll turn out all right." Then there is the overly protect ditch - "Don't be in the world, don't be of the world, therefore - don't reach the world." Both result in. . . I'll leave it blank 'cause the word I am thinking of might not be so kind.
But how does one know and find the balance? We can't find the balance, and we aren't balanced if we don't just simply GO TO GOD (instead of just taking what others say we should do) and as a couple, get on our knees. Ask, listen, wait, rest.
We desire to prepare our children to GO OUT. We believe this going out is gradual, not a sudden thing. It's something that is our goal, something we practice, work towards, give opportunity to, talk through, fail through, walk through together as they are in our household. It must start young - and we must be visionary and willing to be active in their lives every step of the way.
We desire our lives, and our childrens' lives, to be salt and light in this world, not hidden under a bushel. Or rather, not hidden behind mama's skirt or daddy's control. We desire for them to be prepared for the real world and the temptations and this doesn't happen by just protecting them from everything and then one day sometime past the age of 18, thinking they are ready.
Protecting our kids does not arm them to know how to fight the beast of self. Parents can protect their children and adult children from the world until the day they die and that won't deal with the heart, nor the worship of self.
I really think the war and battle we wage in this life is not against the world so much as the very beast that is in ourselves. The love of self. The worship of our own way, desire, lusts, and passions. Our children are no different.
Our children can be taught all the right things, we can protect them from all the wrong things, but if God has not made Himself known to them and self is their god, then eventually. . . lust will win, the world will win. It might just be in their secret lives, but they will feed their flesh. They will fall - it may be in their private life and you may never know because you've taught them how to keep it all good looking on the outside.
My husband and I don't really find robot type parenting attractive - where all the kids wear, do, say, and stay away from all the things they should. So what if the outward carton of a child looks amazing and keeps all the rules if the heart is dark? So what if no one ever knows the heart is dark. . . God knows.
Isn't what He knows as the truth all that matters?
Robot children grow into adults and feel empty and lost, but can't even acknowledge it because there is so much outward upkeep and performance to continue. Often times they would never believe they are a robot merely programmed, because along with the programming, they've been told they are godly. They don't question.
They believe they are the real thing, but they are a counterfeit. All the while knowing not how to deal with the pain of secret addictions, fears, and bondage of judging others because life was always all about them being a successful project by their parents.
Robert and I don't find any comfort when we see the world's way of parenting either. "Kids" parenting kids to just be kids forever. Kid meaning - never look outside of yourself, life revolves around YOU.
The robot type children are for sure more pleasant to be around than the say, the just above child mentioned - but still. Are we really just after pleasant children?
Maybe as Christians we are?
Frankly, I'm discontent with that. I don't want just pleasant kids who do all the "good" things, but eventually must stand, heart exposed, to their Maker.
Really, I guess selfishness could describes both types of "ditch" parenting, just played out in different ways. They are destructive and stumbling blocks to children knowing who God is.
So what is the answer? I sit here looking over hundreds of children playing soccer. Parents spectating. I pause, take a deep breath, thoughts whirling about like the soccer ball that's just been kicked crazily out of bounds by my own dear child. . .
How do parents like us know what the narrow path is between the two selfish parenting ditches?
We look around, trying to find SOMEONE who we think emulates this balance and family structure!
I look for parents wanting to protect from that which is not of the Lord - from that which will have damaging consequences -- yet giving vision and preparing their children to reach a lost and dying world with the gospel.
I look for those raising kids that know it's okay to be "weird" without being so "weird" that they are no longer a witness to the world but only some sort of distraction to the real message of the gospel - Possibly nothing more than conservative religious freaks or an interesting reality show.
And that's the problem - LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO FOLLOW.
Looking for what appears to be outward successful parenting based completely on how well we think the kids turned out.
That reminds me of a verse Robert read in our Bible time last night. 1 Cor. 4:5 says, "Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in the darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. . ."
Robert and I have been discussing how really you can't know how well the parents did, or the kids turned out - unless that family has all grown adults who have been married for ten plus years who have all maybe passed the age of 40. Then look at their lives, ask the tough questions of the heart and then you will know the true outcome. Then you will know I guess if the parenting that took place was a "success."
But actually, no - not even then - according to 1 Cor. 4. We find it so easy to look at what appears on the outside and pronounce judgement - either they are "good" or they are "bad." But God says no because He is the One who knows all things hidden and He knows the purposes of the heart.
So how much of what we do as parents really has all that much to do with how our children will be as adults? It's kind of what I think even on a smaller level as I watch all these little soccer teams out here tonight. How many of these kids whose parents had them coached in soccer will actually be good soccer players?
I think we can never count out the grace of God and the Redeemer that He is in saving lost souls who weren't raised with "good" parenting. Praise Him for that.
On the other hand, I do think as parents what we do and don't do affects our children tremendously. Hugely. God can overcome. . . but still, as parents, how we live (not so much what we say) forms who our children become more than we will ever want to admit.
I want to get to the simplicity that I think lies at the core of parenting.
I find I drift from one little thing to the next, still trying to make sense of it all and hoping for a list of to-dos that will promise me that all my kids will flee all sin, experience no failure, and have less suffering in life than I! HA.
See, selfish parenting is in us all. If I love my child, I would not desire no failure and a life free from suffering - in fact, I will know such things come to all! For it is the failure and sufferings that indeed would need be to teach my children humility, brokenness, and repentance - which is the only way for God to draw near and for them to be saved.
If I could sum up what I want to be more than anything as a parent is would be that I DON'T WANT TO BE A COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIAN. I think this might just be the core. The simplicity of parenting that we overlook and fasten on so many other things to.
How do we prepare our kids to face real life (because they will one day or another unless you just have them live with you or next door to you on some compound until you die - not suggesting that) and to wage war against the selfishness, lust, the temptations of the world? I don't think there is a better way to prepare them then to be the "real deal" ourselves.
There are a lot of counterfeit parents. The children grow up thinking that's Christianity - when it's just counterfeit.
People wonder why children turn against their parents' faith -- often times it's because it wasn't real faith. It was just religion. A lifestyle with God's name attached to it. Children need to taste true Christianity, not counterfeit. They know the difference, deep down.
When I think of "counterfeit" I think this could define parenting as well. . .
-It's the parent who tells their children to be kind to their brother and then yells at them when they spill a glass of milk.
-It's the parent who tells them to be leader and stand alone, and yet follows and lifts up the next homeschooling speaker that comes along instead of searching things out for themselves and seeking God above man.
-It's the mother who tells her son not to look at porn but is constantly eying and looking in judgement at every good looking women who isn't dressed as she thinks she should be. Judgmental-ness in parents can often drive the children to the world. Their heart knows the hypocrisy.
-It's having a form a religion (or godliness) but denying it's power (verse in Col. somewhere).
-It's the mom who tells her kids not to be selfish but can't take a day away not indulging in computer addiction.
-It's the parents who give to missions but wouldn't dare dream of preparing their children to be in situations where they would have to be light themselves.
-It's telling our kids to not complain and yet they know we live in discontentment and bitterness over our circumstances.
-It's telling our children to love others when they hear us talk badly to our husband about everyone we think isn't doing what we think they should.
-It's demanding in idolatry and pride that our children honor us and not living a life deserving of it.
-It's acting one way around our family, and putting on a show in public that is really not who we are.
-It's promoting modesty and morality yet flirting with the opposite sex or using our words or actions to receive affirmation from those who are not our spouse.
-It's telling our kids to obey without question, yet they see us worry and fret and question God over the smallest things. They see a lack of trust in our lives, so why should they trust us? And why should they trust "our" God?
-It's getting onto our kids for being lazy, but looking to them to do things that really we could do ourselves if we'd just get off our backside.
-It's getting embarrassed when are kids do something in public that doesn't make us feel or look good, yet correcting our spouse in public, never thinking of his feelings.
-It's requiring our children submit to our desires when we won't even think twice about denying our husband's.
-It's telling them to look to God, and yet finding satisfaction and filling our emptiness with anything but God.
-It's telling them that the heart is what matters, and yet spending tons of thought, time, and money on our own outward appearance.
-It's getting upset when they are proud. It's getting angry when they frustrate us.
-It's telling them not to lie, and yet not openly acknowledging and confessing when we are wrong. I can't write how many times I've seen this to be true - parents who are not humble enough to be honest with their failures and sins with their own children - confessing and repenting when they are wrong. . .
It's like the result is children who grow up to be the most supreme liars - not just in word, but with hidden lifestyles and addictions. It's a sure way to raise a counterfeit Christian: adult children who have the form of godliness yet have no power of God in their life.
Counterfeit: it's when the outward appearance of something seems like the real thing - but it's not the real thing. Counterfeit parent: the appearance of a good parent, but our children really know differently.
So does this mean that if we aren't always godly, perfect parents - saying one thing, but live another - that our kids are destined for hell?
Thank God, no - He saves all kinds from all backgrounds. But I do think by living as counterfeit Christians/parents that we give our children much to overcome in understanding God and true relationship with Him.
I wonder if the biggest and greatest thing we can be and do as a parent is to not be counterfeit.
I wonder if our kids would be able to spot counterfeit quicker if they lived with the real thing.
I wonder if our kids would be less pulled by the world, more open to God.
I wonder if parenting is really simply between God and me. I wonder if to be the best parent is to be the same in my home as I am to others outside the home.
I wonder if to be a good parent is to be quick to confess, slow to anger, real and open in communication with God - and has a whole lot less to do with forms of child training, education, and parenting techniques.
I wonder if we were all honest with ourselves if we'd find we are more counterfeit Christians to our children than the real deal. I beg myself to ask this question and be real with it.
Ultimately the hearts of my children, their lives, their eternal destiny, relies upon the God who made them.
But as parent, for many years, their formidable years, I am who they associate God and Christianity.
I can set up a big ol' wall and a stumbling block for them in coming to God - or I can be an avenue in which they come to understand and know Him by. God can break through any wall, but my calling as a parent isn't to be that wall!
This week these have been my thoughts - my passion - my prayer - my plea. My place of repentance. My place of need. My place of grace and the revealing of His kind and and tender mercy.
Oh God, make me real. Fill me and consume me - I don't want to be a counterfeit Christian and I don't want to be a counterfeit parent. Without You, without communion with You I am and I will be what I do not desire to be. I don't want to be a stumbling block to my children because I do not give an accurate or righteous representation of You.
I want to be an avenue, a vessel that You use to draw them and reveal Yourself to them through. When I am not, may I be quick to acknowledge my sin, humble before my children.
Thank You that You promise to answer us when we call to You.
P.s. - Thank you to all of you who have purchased card sets! The children have loved this! They have a jar set out for the savings.
P.s.s. - And as for "Our Love Story" -- There is a summation and it will come.
As I have re-read my journals from my engagement time period - the details, the pain, and issues I would have to touch on to be accurate to what took place I do not have the peace to write on at this time. But I do think there is something to be written and I do believe He will show me what that is as I continue to pray, and wait for His leading.
Thank you for all of you who have messaged with such encouragement along the way and who have understood, and praise God along with me as He has made redemption the underlying theme and His glory known through suffering.
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