Thursday, May 6, 2010

Growing into our own boots

My last journal about setting expectations for Caleb that encourage him to flourish rather than frustrate him has kept me thinking.  A few things stood out to me while writing that post that I just can't get passed without writing it down.  I guess this is my part two of Tiny Boots. 

The flourishing child (and later man) that I want for Caleb reminded me of Psalm 1.  It speaks of a man very much thriving, a man whose "delight is in the law of the LORD." (vs. 2)  That by the way is an AWESOME statement!  Wouldn't it be great to be described in such a way!! 

Back to the man.  The Bible says ...
He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water... that brings forth its fruit in its season
Psalm 1:3 (emphasis mine)

I have LOVED this chapter since high school, but never noticed until now that the tree itself (aka the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD) has a specific season to produce its fruit.  I have a specific harvest time in my own life.  Hopefully, like any tree, that harvest time with come around year after year. 

God knows those particular moments in our lives.  He nourishes us and He teaches us so we can yield fruit in our season, not too early and not too late. Season after season, year after year. God does have expectations for each of us. He has expectations that He would like me to meet today, some that I won't be ready to meet until tomorrow, next week or next year. We can be confident that the expectations He holds for us are not out of our reach. It's easy for me to get overwhelmed with others' expectations of me, as if they are a burden for me to live up to. Maybe because of that, I can fall into the habit of growing burdened by God's expectations even though they really aren't a burden at all. It's actually pretty AWESOME that God has expectations for me. That means the God of all creation both on earth and in the heavens knows me, believes in me, and has hopes and plans for me. Remembering that makes His expecations inspiring instead of burdensome. I can be sure His expectations aren't out of my reach. I know I can make it to where He wants me to be.

I don't have to look at Holy Harriet down the pew and think, "I'm awful! Why can't I have it all together like her!?!"  I'm on my own track. I'm not running Holy Harriet's race. I have my own season(s) for fruit. Of course this shouldn't be used as an excuse to stay stagnant. I shouldn't be standing still on that track. But like I said in the last post, God is thrilled that I'm on the track, running my race. I don't have to walk into self-condemnation because I'm not up to par. Who set that par?  In truth, none of us are up to the real par on our own. That's the whole message of the Gospel.

When I feel overwhelmed or overstretched, I can know that this tension does not come from God (note I said overstretched, stretching is quite normal!). When we feel underused or incapable, we can know that is not from God either. God is perfect in his parenting... in his preparation of you and me. Maybe we're placing the unattainable expectations on ourselves. Maybe we're attempting to attain them without His help. Maybe we're not trusting Him to enable us. Maybe we're letting our fears or worries overshadow our awe of Him and His faithfulness to complete the work He began.  He who started the work will be faithful to complete it in you.(Philippians 1:6, emphasis mine)

He will not expect more from us than what we are able to give today, this hour, this minute. We can meet His expectations successfully. But go back to Psalm 1, His expectations will not be attained without me, the tree, gaining nourishment from those streams of water.

There is a reason that tree was planted there, the same reason why we must be firmly planted in Him and in His Word. 

We can't expect to flourish in our season if we are not accepting the pruning, the prodding and the nourishment from Him.  And yes, we can certainly deny Him of gardening our lives.  As truthful as my previous statement was "We can meet His expectations successfully", so is this "We can NOT meet His expectations successfully" unless we allow for His help. It's real easy to deny that help. 

In the last journal, I quoted John 15:1 and 2b, I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener...every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

There's much much more to that chapter.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.       John 15:4,5

I guess it's a good thing we have Him then! 
To go back to Philippians 1:6, He's the one completing the work in us.  We're allowing Him to do it. 

So when I know God has placed a certain responsibility or goal in my life, like parenting, and I feel incapable or overwhelmed by the task, when I'm doubting whether I can follow through successfully, I need to stop and look at where my strength and where my wisdom is coming from.  Am I going to His Word for advice, for help and encouragement, for the direction I need to take with a child that is having trouble sharing his toys or throwing himself on the floor in a fit?  Am I grasping at straws, trying anything and everything without much thought? Am I spending time in prayer? Am I responding by instinct, whatever my flesh feels like at the moment?  Am I listening to Him lead?  Am I near His streams of water or wandering in some wasteland?

A friend of mine made such a poignant comment, "As a mom, I feel like I am a little girl learning to "walk" all over again. I trip, I fall - God helps me up, dusts me off and cheers me on to take my next step. I am desperate for His help each and every step of the way."  I love this.  I certainly relate to it.  Isn't it awesome that He is there each and every step of the way?

How relieving that we're both under the same yoke together.  I am not the one carrying the load or even determining where to go, He's right there beside me carrying the bulk of the weight and guiding us right or left with His infinite wisdom.  Together, this tree will produce sweet fruit in its season.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.               Matthew 11:30

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tiny Boots

**I'm finally finishing one of the many posts I started awhile back.  Fortunately we do NOT still have snow boots planted by our front door.  The sun is now out!!**

We've had some crazy snow here over the past couple months so our snow boots were implanted by the front door. Pen's, mine and Caleb's, side by side. It's so cute to see Caleb's tiny boots sitting in between our much larger ones. Just looking at those boots taught me a lesson.  They are a tangible reminder how small he really is.

He is still so small.

He is now talking and running, he climbs, he slides, he wants so much to play like the big kids. But he's still so small. It's easy to forget that. Parents of adults or teens might think I'm ridiculous to have to remind myself of this, but it's true none the same.  I am certainly guilty of treating him as if he's older than he actually is at times, expecting more from him than he is capable of doing and becoming frustrated when he doesn't comply. I have to constantly watch myself to be sure I'm not making these overblown expectations a habit.

In general my husband falls on the other end of the spectrum (it's a good thing too, imagine if we were both prone to the same extremes!). He admittedly loves to baby Caleb. He still wants to spoon feed him each bite of dinner even though Caleb's long been capable of handling a spoon and fork. He just doesn't want to give up those special things a parent gets to do for their baby (except diapers; he is more than ready to give up diaper changing!).

Both my husband's tendencies and my own, if left unchecked, can hinder Caleb as he grows. If I were to place my boots on Caleb's feet, he would not be able to move (well, except face first towards the carpet). If I were to attempt to stuff my feet into Caleb's boots it would be none to pleasant. My bones would be cramped and if kept that way, they would deteriorate. Growth would be hindered.

In the same way we don't want to frustrate Caleb with overblown expectations.  We don't want to handicap him with underrated expectations.  Of course as parents we don't want to do anything at all that might impede him from being who God wants him to be.

Isn't it a relief that God doesn't sway either way! We are not treated in either extreme by our Father. He is the perfect parent. Family and friends may coddle us through our weaknesses or struggles while others beat us up for them. God does neither. He loves and He enables. Others Christians may judge us even as we are learning, seeking and so desiring to grow. God is cheering for us while running the race, not just upon reaching the finish line.

Discovering the correct balance of expectations is pretty difficult as parents. Determining where the line between extremes lies for Caleb at 23 months is difficult. But tomorrow he will be one day older, he will have learned new things, grown in comprehension and physical adeptness... and the line moves again, the balancing act continues. Neither extreme, expecting too little or expecting too much benefits my child. So we continue our mental scale, weighing their current abilities and comprehension, praying that we do what is best for him, that we won't be ones to hold him back, nor ones who push him too far too fast.

He knows exactly when we've hit our quota. He knows even more than the number of hairs on our head. He's aware of the rate at which our brain synapses are currently firing. He knows the maximum weight we can bench press (even if it's just the bar!). He knows the depth of our Biblical understanding, our physical and spiritual stengths. He's fully aware of the growth we've made after a troubled childhood or an untroubled childhood.

Isn't it interesting that the number of hairs that our head holds changes daily (or for some of us minute by minute)!?! If He can keep track of our falling strands, I think He can handle the rest as well.

The Truth God has given us, the directions He takes us, and the cousel He gives will never frustrate our abilities nor will they handicap us.  They may prod us, prune and cultivate us but only to make us flourish. 

That's the kind of parent I want to be to Caleb.  Lord, help our training of Caleb encourage him to flourish!

"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."                           Jeremiah 29:11

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener... every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."  John 15:1,2b