When the Stakes are Raised

Since becoming a parent, much of my life has taken on a different meaning. Charged with raising, training and discipling the little gifts God has given us, requires a deep commitment, a steady resolve and the incredible grace of God. Already, we've questioned our methods with the kids, we've both had moments when we knew we totally blew it or didn't handle a particular situation well. It amazes me that at almost 2 years and 6 months old, our kids have driven us to our knees in desperation and in search of truth and wisdom, on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Already! Aren't the teenage years supposed to be the challenging ones??? Believe me, I now know better than to think that. From the moment both of our kids entered this world, our "real" job as their parents began. And while we've learned what feels like a lifetime of lessons, we know that it only gets harder from here on out because the stakes only get higher.

However, it is extremely humbling to know that for every time when I've lost my patience or made the wrong decision, the Lord has already gone before me and behind me, to "clean up my mess." Not that my kids don't suffer the consequences of my bad decisions, but what relief to know that His grace is greater than my best attempt at motherhood. In my weakness, His strength shines through. Because of my shortcomings, His mercy is all the richer. And when my efforts fall short of the mark, His grace is more than sufficient. For me and for my kids.

That's the truth that we strive to set our minds on. That's the freedom within which we operate.

And yet, there must be real life obedience and wisdom on our part, when it comes to parenting. And active fleshing out of our faith and God's wisdom for families. Kids don't raise themselves; but Lord help them if they have to. In my 2 short years of parenting, it's very clear to me that we have to seek the Author and Finisher of our faith for the way in which we should go. Left to our own "wisdom" we will not get the job done well. In Psalm127:4, the Lord tells us:

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth."

Not only are our kids the arrows, but according to this, we are the warriors who release them. Yes, warriors, as in, those who wage war. Not against our kids, but against the influences who are seeking to devour them. Against the enemy who has them locked in his gaze. So when the day comes and we release those arrows from our quiver, they will go in the direction of the target we have established. They are ours to hold for awhile, but eventually they have to be sent out and I don't know about you, but that is one sobering thought. It's a directive that makes me consider my parenting now. Today. In this season. In this hour. What or Who am I pointing my kids toward?

As the sounds of a radio station I love filled my house yesterday, the daily Family Life Today broadcast came on and my ears were perked when I heard the name of the woman they were interviewing. Dannah Gresh, an author I've read several times in relation to books she's written for teenage girls. She has a ministry dedicated to purity and modesty and everything I've read or heard from her is based solely on God's word.  She is also a Mom, of a teenage girl, which immediately gives her "street cred" with me :) She's living what she's teaching and I appreciate that.  Anyway, she was being interviewed about a book she released in the fall, which I hadn't heard about until yesterday. 
I haven't read it yet, but I did order it because the interview was so compelling and like I said, I have really loved her stuff before.  It is such a timely message that has really hit me of late.  So many of our little girls (and boys) are growing up in a world that is way beyond their ability to handle, is waaaaaaayyyyy too sexual, and not age appropriate AT ALL.  And while the drive of culture is not always within our control, our kids exposure to it, is.  We are their parents and what Trav and I often wish we could convey to our junior high parents is, YOU HAVE TO RIGHT TO LIMIT WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE ALLOWED TO DO!!  That's part of your role as a parent.  And far too many of us don't like being the "bad guy" so we just turn a blind eye to it and want to pretend that it will have no affect later in their lives. 

I realize that I have potentially stepped on toes and that's not my intention.  My own toes have been trampled just in listening to the interview yesterday and today.  BUT, what it has done is make me stop and think about the decisions I am already making, now.  At 2 and 6 months.  Their innocence, their purity, and their exposure to the world has been entrusted to me (and to Travis).  The little choices we make today will lead to bigger choices tomorrow.  That's just a fact.  One of the most sobering stats that Dannah shared yesterday was this...

In a recent study (don't remember the exact year) a poll was taken to determine the top 2 favorite TV shows of girls 8-12 years old.  Any guesses as to what they might be??  Disney channel shows?  American Idol?  Nickolodean stuff??  NOPE.  The top 2 shows are:

1. America's Next Top Model
2. Desperate Housewives


Do you know what is was in 1980??
The Care Bears.

Is that as appalling to you as it is to me???  It just breaks my heart and it answers so many questions.  NO WONDER why our girls are having sex at earlier and earlier ages.  NO WONDER why so many are held in bondage to eating disorders and body image depression.  NO WONDER why cutting and suicide are now seen as viable escapes to problems that seem "overwhelming."  At 8 and 12, when girls should be playing with dolls and role playing and making art projects and just enjoying being a little girl, they are instead being bombarded with images that their minds can't handle.  They are having doors opened to worlds they didn't know existed and having to deal with the inevitable consequences.  And who do we lay the blame on??  The media??  The "world"??  The Church??? 

I honestly think it falls squarely on the shoulders of Moms and Dads. 
Whether nieve or not, unaware or just lazy, we MUST bear responsibility for our kids and how we allow them to spend their days.  If we won't do it, then someone else will.  And just so you don't feel like you have to dodge a stone from me, I want you to know that I include myself in that same group.  ALREADY I need to un-do some things I've gotten lazy about. 

But, the good news and perhaps the most redeeming thing about this, is that we still have the time to turn the ship around.  As long as our kids are alive and under our roof, we can repent and acknowledge where we've gotten off course.  We can ask them to forgive us for being lax about something we should have regarded highly and protected and we can explain why we are now choosing to make the decisions the Lord is leading us to make.  Although your child may not like you or appreciate the sudden about face, they will respect you and one day, understand and be deeply moved by your love and care for them.  They will catch your heart's desire to OBEY the Lord that you profess to believe and that example alone, will impact their faith and their lives to come. 

Please take a little time and listen to this 3 part interview and buy the book.  Espeically if you have a daughter, no matter how old she may be.  I've included the link here so that you can do that.  You may think a few ideas are radical, but I would say that often God's ways are.  We will never do everything perfectly as parents and we shouldn't make decisions because someone other than the Lord tells us to.  He is the only judge of our parenting skills that matters and He's given us His Word as our standard to follow.  So many people think He's said very little about parenting, when in fact, He's said a great deal about it.  I'm learning just how much in fact. 

Mom's, so many of us are the schedule keepers in our families, the gate keeper of the TV (especially during the day) or the one who makes most of the family purchases.  Let's be wise about what we allow and let's encourage each other in that, with the same grace our Heavenly Father bestows on us.

This isn't easy, being a Mom.  But these little faces and the worlds of potential they possess make all of it very worth the hard work, the tears, the mistakes and the victories. 
Praying for my fellow Moms today...
For the warriors in us that need to rise up.


TaDa! Creations said...

Oh wow, Stephanie, that was eye opening. Indeed it was Care Bears when we were that young and I was dumbfounded to hear what it is today. I can't even walk through the mall with my kids, without planning our route very carefully.

BTW, we go to the same church and Shana Anderson sent me a link to this post. Another blog you might enjoy is Sarah of Clover Lane. She had a post on this same topic just last week.

~Angel Eagen

Robyn said...

thanks for this!

Ron and Peggy said...

AMEN, sister!

Leslie said...

What a wonderful post!! My son turns 2 in a few weeks, and I relate to every word that you said. We don't watch tv (mostly because he isn't interested), and only listen to Christian radio. The other day when there was a commercial on the local channel, I was flipping through the secular stations, and very quickly turned it back to the Christian station, because I was scared little ears would hear just in those two seconds. I feel so compelled to guard his little heart and mind of the things of this world so that my little "arrow" will shoot straight when I release him. But...can't think about that now because I get teary eyed : ) So, thanks so much for all the encouragement to your fellow-moms...warrior-on!!

Meredith said...

So thankful for your post! I will definitely be investing in this book! Miss you friend!

Toni :O) said...

Thanks for a wonderful post....loved it and I as a mom to an almost eight year old girl, I will most certainly be looking to pick up this book! Thanks for the insight!

Darla said...

I'm right there with you, Stephanie. Thank you for voicing the concern over our kids' purity and holiness. Oh, how I long to (even in some small way) be a model of Christ to Clara.

amy said...

great post, Steph! i already see sooo much of the world's influence on abby just at preschool.... and she's 5!!!! the resources you provided were excellent! thanks so much! :) love you, sweet friend!