Monday, February 15, 2010

Freeing Truth about You, Mom--and Your Kids!

Jesus said it first: “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:12) It’s also where we start in the first lesson of Heart Talk, which I hope those of you in Mom to Mom will remember.

And it’s essentially what author Leslie Leyland Fields does for parents in her most recent book: she sets parents free by bringing us all back to God’s truth. "Parenting Is Your Highest Calling" and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt is the title. When I first heard it, I was a bit puzzled. Then I read an excerpt from the book in Christianity Today’s January 2010 issue (It’s the cover story) and knew this was one book I wanted to read.

It did not disappoint, and I highly recommend it to you—especially to those of you who might ever have thought you must be doing something wrong if your “mom job” doesn’t bring you unbroken joy and fulfillment 24/7. Or who felt guilty because you aren’t doing enough. Or who don’t always love your child unconditionally. Or who have concluded you obviously don’t have the right techniques because your children aren’t happy all the time, or don’t seem to have turned our perfectly. Or those of you who have wondered why—if God has called you to be a mom—the job seems so exhausting and overwhelmingly difficult.

Have I got most of you covered by now?

This is a very real book—one of the many things I love about it. Leslie Leyland Fields is a real mom (she has six kids). But she is also an honest mom. She is not afraid to share the very real struggles and challenges—as well as the joys—of her mom-life.

She is also a very interesting mom. Her six kids range from pre-school to college age. She lives on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and she and her family run a commercial fishing business in the summer. During the school year, she teaches in Seattle Pacific’s Master of Fine Arts program—which may explain her excellent writing style. Many of you know I was an English teacher in a former life, and it was a joy to find great writing and solid truth on parenting in the same book!
Best of all, though, this book is founded on balanced Biblical truth. As the author moves us away from myths that have grown up around the subject of parenting both from our culture and from the Church, she continually points us back to Biblical stories and principles that shed the light of God’s truth on our parenting.

Which brings me to my one quibble with this book. On p. 105, she lists all the verses she has found in both Old and New Testaments that speak to the raising of children, but inexplicably omits what I think of as a pivotal passage: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and 20-25. Elsewhere (p. 49) she does refer to part of a parallel passage by citing Deuteronomy 11:19 as teaching us how to teach our children. But those of you in Mom to Mom know I have to ask how Deuteronomy 6 could possibly be left out of Biblical passages on parenting!

Other than that one exception, I found myself nodding and agreeing throughout this book. I kept thinking, “That sounds just like what we teach in Mom to Mom!”

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes, to whet your appetite:

“We cannot be Jesus; we can only need Jesus…We do the work of parents, which is to point our children to Jesus.” (p. 134-135)
“God is using our children to conform us to the image of His Son. . . . Our children reveal to us what we know we are: beggars before God.” (p. 26-27)
“This is what God wants most from all of us: our hearts. Godly parenting begins not in the rules we or other people make for our children but in pursuing a genuine relationship with God.” (p. 115)

Overall, Leslie Leyland Fields calls us back to solid reality about God, us, and our kids. Our children are, as we continually say at Mom to Mom, His first. God is not finished with them—or us!—yet. He loves them more than we do. We are called to be faithful—not necessarily “successful.” Ultimately, we are all called into relationship with Him first. As we get to know Him better through His Word, we will find, as Fields observes, that “God’s truths about parenting are as glorious and freeing as God Himself, while our own half-truths are as human and limited as we are…” (p. 9)

Fields describes her book (on p. 10) as “a deep gaze into the parenting heart of God, our Father.” He is our loving, merciful, grace-giving Father. What could be more freeing?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We Mean Well, But . . .

“Our intentions are usually good. We mean well, but sometimes we get in our own way—and yours!”

That’s what one woman in a Mom to Mom group told me she’d like husbands to know about wives. Her words echoed in my mind as I looked out at the faces of the men Woody and I spoke to last Saturday. And when I had the opportunity to talk with a few of them afterward, I was even more convinced of how true these words are for husbands as well as for wives. Not all husbands and wives, to be sure—but so many of us!

The men seemed genuinely interested in learning how they could better love their wives and keep passion and romance in their marriages. Often they seemed confused as to what women really want. One man even asked afterward, “How can I say “I love you” to my wife so she really hears it and knows I mean it? Sometimes it just sounds sort of mechanical.”

Just the week before at Mom to Mom, women shared the ways they let their husbands know how they appreciate and admire them. My favorite story was from a woman who said she had recently been at her husband’s place of work—an auto body shop. It so happened that some of his work colleagues were there, and as he introduced her to them, the conversation allowed her to comment on what a great husband he was. She passed on a few compliments that just came naturally but were heard by his work buddies.

As much as she appreciates her husband, she had confessed to us at Mom to Mom that her pet peeve is that her car never seems to get the little dings and scrapes fixed in his busy shop. But! Funny thing…when the other men left, his first words to her were: “Honey, what was it you needed fixed on your car?”

The power of appreciation!

Which brings me back a little closer to home: on Saturday I shared with the men how much the little things mean to us women. I emphasized especially how much being appreciated means to us.

I also shared a “little thing” Woody had done last week that I really appreciated—and actually remembered to thank him for: on Wednesday mornings—garbage day at our house—he usually brings the trash barrels and recycle bin out to the driveway since they are heavy for me to move. When I got up last Wednesday (he had left much earlier), I saw to my surprise that he had also taken the trash bags out of the kitchen. Something I usually do but had forgotten. I thanked him when he came home that night, and he said, “They were really heavy this time, and I didn’t want you to hurt your back.”

That time I remembered to thank him. But then there was yesterday. A very unusual thing happened: Woody got home that night before I did. As I was scurrying around throwing things together for dinner, I was irritated that he didn’t get up to give me a kiss when I came in. After all, I do that when he comes home—but there he was, calmly sitting in his chair leafing through an oncology journal. And I was even more irritated that he didn’t—without being asked—bring the last groceries in from the car. As you can imagine, I managed to let him know how I felt—nicely, of course.

But what I failed to notice until this morning when I woke up—yes, this morning, after sleeping a full night between lovely clean sheets—was what he had done before I got home. Seeing unfinished tasks in our bedroom, he had emptied the laundry basket, put away the clean clothes, and had put the clean sheets on the bed—yes, without being asked! And what had I noticed last night?

So much for being right on top of appreciating my husband!

These might seem like pretty little things in the bigger scheme of life. But little things do matter, don’t they? Especially in a marriage. Your comments to my last entry expressed this eloquently. BTW, thank you to those who sent in comments. I was able to share parts of them last Saturday and they really hit the mark!

Little things... Expressing appreciation... The power of words...

Just some things to think about this Valentine’s week.

Which leads me to a word I wanted to leave you with. It came to me when I was thinking of a word I would use to describe Woody. (Try that for your husband some time!) It’s gracious. That’s the word. More on why that word came to mind some other time. But for now, it’s something I want more of.

Gracious speech.

A grace-filled life.

A grace-giving marriage.

It comes only from God, really. It’s my prayer for me and for you—and for our marriages.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What Do You Wish He Knew?

Good news, girlfriends: It’s not January anymore. But the bad news? It’s February.

February in Wisconsin is generally not a big improvement over January in Wisconsin. This is true, apparently, across the country. I’ve been hearing about snow and ice and Mom to Mom “snow/ice days” in some of the most unlikely places.

There is, however, some good news about February. I’ve always preferred February to January. For one thing, it’s the month of Valentine’s Day. I really like Valentine’s Day. And it’s beautiful here today: light fairy-flake snow is falling gently in our yard and transforming the ordinary into something exquisitely beautiful.

Also—much bigger news—this year it is also the due-date-month for our fifth grandchild. He’s not due till February 16, but today marks the beginning of the two-weeks-before-due-date window, so who knows? I could be going to New Hampshire any day now to hang out with Soren and help Bjorn and Abby with their precious new little boy. Can’t wait!

Here’s some other news about February. Woody and I are preparing to teach a seminar at a big men’s conference this Saturday (“No Regrets” at Elmbrook Church here in Brookfield) on “Keeping the Romance Alive in Marriage.” Why is that good news? Two reasons: First, we have to practice what we’re getting ready to preach. :) And second, I love doing things like this together with Woody.

But, here’s where you come in—note the title of this blog. I need your help. Being one of the only women scheduled to be in the building with thousands of men, I want to represent all of us well. And I want to give these husbands some help in understanding what “keeping romance alive” in marriage looks like from the wife’s point of view.

So, here’s my question: What would you like your husband to know about your perspective in keeping romance alive in your marriage? What would you like him to say? Or do? Or not say or do? If this feels too personal, feel free to generalize: What would you like men to know about a woman’s perspective on what romance and passion look like in a marriage?

The conference is only a few days away, so rapid response would be appreciated. And even if you don’t get a chance to respond, I’m thinking this might be a good question for you to ponder anyway—and perhaps discuss with your husband. It could be good preparation for Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of which, Woody plans to do a little experiment with these men as an opener. First, he’s going to ask them: “How many of you know what tomorrow is?” (Note to any women who haven’t heard: Sunday, February 7, is Superbowl Sunday.) Guess how many hands will go up?! Then he plans to ask them: “How many of you know what one week from tomorrow is?” Now girls, you all know what that is.

I wonder what that show of hands will look like...

Stay tuned. And thanks ahead of time for any help you can give me.