Perfect Parents—The Myth We Need to Release

by Edie Melson

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  Psalm 27:17 NIV

For anyone who has a child, the thought of perfect parenting elicits a range of emotions, from hope to discouragement to outright terror. We all hope we’ll be good parents, but most of us realistically expect to fail in some ways. And every parent I’ve ever spoken with lives in fear of being such a bad parent that they will mess up their child permanently.

I’m writing this as I look back over my parenting journey. We have three grown sons, so the intense time of parenting is past. Sure, we still give advice—when asked—but for the most part we’re finished.

Looking back was scary at first. I was afraid of the regrets and remorse I’d feel, from all the shoulda, woulda, coulda scenarios. But the process of evaluation wasn’t nearly as terror-inducing as I expected. I’d like to encourage you with some of the insights I gained.

The most important part in my parenting review was that I was looking back from a secure vantage point: standing beside God. By that, I mean I prayed first and asked Him to share His perspective on my journey as a parent. He showed me several things I hadn’t noticed.

He reminded me that He wasn’t like the animated stork that I’d seen in the cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings growing up.

He NEVER delivered the wrong baby to the wrong parents.

He chose my husband and I as parents for our boys before the beginning of time. And He did it knowing the mistakes we’d make, as well as the parts we’d get right. He used us, good and bad, to help shape our kids as they grew. Until I began this process, I’d never considered that perspective before—that God chose us as much for our weaknesses as parents as for our strengths. I’d never thought of this verse in the context of parenting before.

Does that absolve us of guilt where we’ve been wrong? Absolutely not. But it gives me a hint that perhaps God is true to His word and can bring good out of bad.

The other thing He shared with me was the fact that perfect parents don’t guarantee perfect kids. I could have done every single thing right as a mother but because of free will, any of my sons could have chosen the wrong path.

How do I know this is true? Because God is perfect, and look how we turned out. He did everything right, but we still chose to go our own way.

So when you look back (or ahead) as a parent, remember that your child’s future isn’t in your hands. God’s got this, and He always has.

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.comand on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: Can you think of a weakness you have that God has used in your parenting?

 

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Losing Them Before They’re Gone

by Kathy Howard

My mother was witty, fun, and smart. She danced in the kitchen, talked her way out of every traffic ticket, and ran her own business. She read constantly, created intricate cross-stitched pieces, and could quote baseball statistics like a pro. She loved Jesus and adored my dad.

Mom may still be living, but years ago, dementia took the person she was. The disease slowly changed her personality and tore down her ability to effectively relate to other people. Although it happened over time, the reality hit me one day. “Mom” was gone; just a shadow remained. And I’ve been feeling the loss ever since.

We were always close. Even after I married and we moved hundreds of miles away, Mom and I stayed connected with regular, long phone calls. I went to her with parenting questions and friendship issues. She always cared, always listened, and always had some words of wisdom.

I never realized how much I had depended on Mom until I couldn’t. But then I discovered that in some ways, our relationship had hindered my dependence on God. When something happened, instead of turning to Him, I called Mom. When she lost the ability to listen and understand, I began to learn how to take those things to the One who would always listen. Always understand.

The psalmist David knew about personal loss and painful relationships. Yet David learned to cultivate a deep, satisfying relationship with God that brought him comfort in the midst of grief, security in tumultuous circumstances, and joy that surpassed any loss.

In the sixty-third psalm, David emphasized God’s presence with His people. Whether through death, betrayal, or simple change, human relationships will always fail us. But God will never fail us. Our earthly relationships can never meet all our needs, but God can meet every need. He can quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. His love is better than life itself. (See Psalm 63:1-8.)

When you feel alone, when a sense of loss overwhelms you, turn to the Truth. You are not alone. God is with you. Remember the times He has made His presence known to you in the past. Reflect on those moments you’ve experienced His loving care. Whisper His name and turn to Him. Depend on His strength and sustenance.

Yes, our relationship with our parents is different than it once was. Now they depend on us. Now they need our help. Our guidance. In many ways, we are the parent and they are the child. We grieve the people they were and the relationship we had with them. But, in our grief, let’s not miss what we still have. Who they are now.

Today, my relationship with my mother is drastically different than it was. Yet I’m seeking new ways to find joy in the relationship we do have and to help her enjoy the life she still has. Mom can no longer read, stitch, or dance. But she does like watching planes take off and land. So recently, we drove out and parked next to the airport. And we sat and together we watched the planes.

“You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:7-8

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Join the conversation: How has the relationship with your parents changed in recent years? What are some practical ways you can enjoy the relationship you have with them now.

 Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Getting Out of God’s Way

by Kathy Howard

Our great God never wastes anything. No struggle is fruitless. No pain futile. No challenge in vain. God can work in and through every situation He allows into our lives – even the worst of circumstances – to bring about our good and His glory.

My caregiving journey was still fairly new when I realized God wanted to use the experience to do something in me. If I would cooperate, my relationship with my father-in-law would be a tool in His hand to shape my character and refine my faith.

When Wayne’s dad first moved in with us, he was fairly independent. But as time passed, he needed us more and more. With Wayne commuting a long distance to work, much of the responsibility logically fell to me. But Pappaw’s growing dependence exposed the rough places in my character and areas of spiritual immaturity.

So many things bubbled to the surface – like selfishness, impatience, and shallowness. Every day seemed to reveal another layer of my sinful flesh. Irritation quickly rose up when a last-minute doctor’s appointment meant I had to cancel a lunch date. And instead of responding to his occasional harsh words with gentleness and grace, I sometimes uttered sharp words of frustration.

The demands and pressures of parenting my father-in-law did not cause these sinful attitudes and actions. The relationship merely jostled my heart, causing what was already there to spill out (Matthew 12:34).

In our human weakness, we ache for our struggles to end. We long for the hardness of life to ease. Yet God wants much more for us than an easy life in this world. He wants to make us like His Son (Romans 8:28-30). He wants our lives to bring Him glory and point others to Jesus.

God will use every possible means to rid our lives of sin and shape us into the likeness of Christ. One of His primary shaping tools is trials (1 Peter 1:6-7). In God’s skillful hands, life’s difficulties and challenges perform like a chisel on our hearts and souls, shaving off sinful rough spots, cutting notches, creating gentle curves, and forming smooth bevels.

Yet, sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. Rather than submitting myself to the Master Craftsman and trusting His refining process, I fight God’s purposeful work. I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. I complain that He isn’t working. That He doesn’t care. That surely, He doesn’t see our plight.

Do you ever feel the same way? Too often, God’s children walk through our days near-sighted. We only see the struggles, challenges, and trials at hand, forgetting that the eternal glory awaiting us far outshines these light and momentary troubles (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Be assured, God knows your every physical need and struggle. He sees your sleepless nights, your tired muscles, and your frayed emotions. He hears your groans, your sighs, and your prayers. He is keenly aware that you are often overworked, overstressed, and overlooked. He not only knows it all, He cares. He cares that you hurt and grieve for yourself and your parents.

This temporary struggle – no matter how difficult – cannot compare to God’s eternal purposes for you and your loved ones. Keep your eyes on the prize of God’s glorious salvation (1 Peter 1:9). Rest in the assurance that God will not waste a single tear. And embrace the joy of Christ. It’s yours today.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 Kathy HowardAbout the author: Kathy Howard‘s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents releases TODAY!! Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? This new devotional book explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions30DaysHope_AgingParentsCover 300RGB for reflection.

You can find a sample of 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents here.

 Join the conversation: Can you see God working in the midst of your trials? In what ways have you fought God’s refining process?

Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash

Does This Nightmare Serve a Purpose?

by Yvonne Ortega

“Dad’s in the hospital. He may have dementia,” my younger brother told me on the phone. The rock of the family? The one who took care of Mom when she had Alzheimer’s? Our only living parent? My mind swirled.

“Let me know when Dad will be discharged, and I’ll spend a week with him,” I told my brother. Dad would be safe in the hospital, but it would be different at home.

When I arrived to stay with Dad, I realized how bad his situation was. I found overdue bills on the counter. Dad had never owed anybody a penny. “I cleaned the refrigerator before you came,” Dad said. Yes, the shelves were clean, but the food on them was green with mold.

One morning, Dad stormed into the dining room and screamed, “I can’t find my washcloths,” and he threw his arms up in the air. “I can hardly wait for everybody to get out of here. Then I can go on by myself.”  He did not see the need for a home health aide.

The father I knew would have found those washcloths. I went to the bathroom, opened the linen closet, and there on the same shelf where they belonged for the past forty years, were the washcloths.

That was not the only test I endured that week. Dad’s constant repetition tested me daily. On a Saturday morning, we drove an hour and a half to meet my younger brother and sister-in-law for lunch. As I drove, Dad said at least twenty or thirty times, “You’re going the wrong way.”

Each time, I would remind him we were going to a restaurant, not their home. “Oh, okay.” Five minutes later, he would tell me the same thing again. The GPS would have guided me, but Dad would talk over it. I would tell him, “Dad, you can’t talk when the GPS gives me directions.” It was no use. He didn’t remember what I said. By the time we arrived at the restaurant, I felt emotionally drained and dreaded the ride back to Dad’s.

Every night after Dad went to bed, I would cry myself to sleep. Dad was alive, but I had already lost him. The house felt empty enough with Mom in heaven, and now Dad was mentally “gone.”

I took my struggle to God. God, what purpose can this cruel disease serve? How will it benefit Dad or me?

I reached for my Bible and read James 1:4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV).

The nightmare of Dad’s dementia most certainly tested my faith, but it would develop my perseverance. God was intent on me becoming “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I decided I would entrust Dad’s care to God’s unfailing love.

When we are in the middle of a trial, it is hard to consider it pure joy. But they are a tool in God’s hands to work His purposes for us out in our lives.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

yvonne ortegaAbout the author: Yvonne Ortega speaks with honesty and humor as she shares her life and struggles to help women find comfort, peace, promise, and purpose. As a counselor, she brings a unique perspective into the heart of women. She is the author of four books: Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. You can learn more about Yvonne at www.YvonneOrtega.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a broken to beautiful through griefwinner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Yvonne’s devotional book,  Broken to Beautiful through Grief, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Have you ever struggled to find a purpose in a nightmare situation?

 

 

Family Matters

by Deb DeArmond

“Tact is the act of making a point without making an enemy.” – Sir Isaac Newton

I love this quote. Turns out Isaac Newton was not just a gravity genius. He apparently was a relationship guru as well. Must have come from a big family.

I was raised as an only child; my only sibling was 16 years my senior. By the time I was two, he had gone off to college and never returned to our home state. We grew close only after I grew up. So, as a child, I had my folks all to myself. I never needed to call “shotgun” to ride in the front seat, never had to split the last cookie with a younger sibling and never had the heartbreak that comes with being asked to sacrificially yield the last of the ice cream to another child in the family.

Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? I won’t lie—it was a great life. One I discovered (later in life) my friends envied. But it turns out, there was a dark side.

I never learned to share. Or at least to share graciously.

When required to do so in the midst of a school event or neighborhood pow-wow, I was known to be demanding, bossy and loud about what I wanted. Later I learned it was behavior considered immature. Who knew?!

Experience had taught me differently than it had my multi-siblinged comrades.

I eventually developed the ability to effectively relate to others, but it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t overnight. And now I wonder how I ever avoided being pushed out, pushed down, or simply outcast. I’m very grateful looking back that it hadn’t gone that way.

Now, as a full-grown adult, I watch as we all struggle with the urge to “have it our way” even in the relationships that are most important to us in life: our marriages or family members – adult kids, sibling in-laws, aunts, uncles, even grandparents have their preferences. It’s hard not to campaign for the thing you want. It can be tough to set aside your own preference without feeling sulky and sullen.

But it’s also not okay to simply let the loudest voice lead.

How do you cope? For starters, stop being the loudest, and start being the clearest voice— to bring a sense of peace and order when the conversation begins to give way to self-interest without regard for the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others.

We can have candid, open discussion without damaging the people we love the most. Effective communication skills and using the Word of God as our guideline is a foundation that will stand every time.

Here are two Spirit-led reminders, designed to help us walk in love.

Show deference. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…” Romans 12:10 (NIV). Putting the interests of another above our own is counter-intuitive to the flesh. Deferring to others will always cause people to sit up and take notice, because it’s not how the world does things. So this action serves a dual purpose, as it draws attention to our great God.

Be willing to give up your own preference. “…[Love] does not insist on its own way…” (1 Cor. 13:5 ESV). Spirit-led love is not Burger King. It’s not always going to go our way. Set your preference aside and listen. Be willing to be changed by what you hear.

And remember: how you say what you say matters. Volume does not equal leadership.

So, remember, tact counts. Just ask Isaac. Turns out that apple bonk on the head must have loosed some real Godly insight!

When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways,” 1 Cor. 13:11 (Passion).

DeArmond-29 copyAbout the author: Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by ChoiceI Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers, whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married, create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb.

 Join the conversation: What challenges do you face in communicating with family? What has God taught you about this?