I received several submissions via email from contributors to the Practices of Parenting Carnival that do not have their own blog (yet…hint hint). I wasn’t able to include all of them but here are three that truly stood out to me.
A deep thank you to all of you that emailed: Consider this your invitation to start a blog to share your heart, it’s beautiful.
Kevin: The Practice of God in the Crib
I wanted to offer my perspective as a father and an alternative male voice in response to your call for others’ practices of parenting. Many of the practices you have addressed resonate with me, but I confess I have trouble thinking of my own approach to parenting in these terms. Perhaps, I have not felt confident enough to step beyond our own family’s context and make the leap from the particular to the universal or perhaps since I am no Oswald Chambers and too post-everything [Editor's Note: You, too? Me, too.] to admit the level of structure I truly employ, I use my own made-up terms.
What I do have is a strong conviction which informs how my wife and I relate to our kids, that when God commands us to love the “least of these” he is also talking about our own kids and families.
I have had a few moments when I felt like being a parent has intersected with my own search to hear the voice of God. One such moment occurred during the more than two-year period when our daughter did not ever – not even once – sleep through the night. As I sat crib-side in the middle of another frequently interrupted night, asking God to provide some measure of divine confirmation that any of this mattered, I felt him say, “Your daughter is one of my “least of these.” This is how you serve Me. This is how you honour Me.”
As a pastor’s kid, I have witnessed examples of selfless servanthood that still humble me today and examples of guilt or duty-motivated service that still anger me today. It is tempting – perhaps especially as a man – to see our own kids as The Obligation that needs to be addressed prior to leaving the home to go Save the World. How many board meetings and Alpha groups and service projects and Bible studies and prayer evenings can I add before my own kids at home might as well be those orphans for all the time they spend with me? What will I say if Jesus says, “I was hungry. I was naked. I was crying and cranky and not sleeping and whining in my crib at 3 am.”
Would I say: “But Lord, Lord…I didn’t know it was you. I’m sorry I yelled at you – I was so worn out from all the ministry I was doing in YOUR name!” as if God will tolerate my evangelical passive-aggressive guilt trip?
No, it is God in the crib – it always was – and at the table throwing jam, and peeing on the new carpet and running in the parking lot not heeding any warnings.
It is God in our homes.
As we do unto the least of these, it is as unto Him.
Anne: The Practice of Jesus Music
My friend, who is not a believer, asked me how I teach Benjamin about God. I realized that much of our “teaching” comes from the fact that we listen to lots of “Jesus music” in our house. While Benjamin loves his Sunday School songs, we also listen to lots of upbeat worship music (like Jesus Culture, Bethel Church,David Crowder, Hillsongs) at home and in the car, and he, since about age 2, has sung along. Now he asks many questions about the lyrics.
I realized that listening to our “Jesus music” is how Benjamin gets many of his ideas about who God is. One of the lines to a song includes the phrase “God is all around”, so one day Benjamin asked me where God is, and then he answered his own question with “He is all around, Mummy, like in the song”. As he listened the other day to a new song about God’s power to break the chains, we got talking about how mighty God is and how he can do anything!
Listening to the lyrics of some well-written Christian music is really helping ME to articulate who God is to my son. I didn’t start keeping this music on more frequently because I had decided this was how I would teach Benjamin about Jesus. No, I did it so that I could stay calm and grounded myself! The ups and downs of a day in toddler-land can be very trying! If it means I have to turn on “Oh How He Loves Us” yet AGAIN for Benjamin to have another “concert” so he can play his drums and belt out the lines at the top of his lungs about how, “Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy“…well, those are words that bless this whole home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kristin: The Practice of Focus
I’m a new mama so I really only have one Practice of Mothering. For me, it’s an all-encompassing one.
I focus on my daughter. I focus on my mental state so that I am in the moment, in HER moment; not at the sink full of dirty dishes. I focus on pushing down the memories of the NICU so I can focus on her silly 18-month old grin that looks like it was never in the NICU. I focus on my gratitude for her life, and for my ability to respond to her. I focus on eating well, resting, and playing intensely with her because it’s these things that keep my focus OFF of the fact that I have MS.
I focus on God’s amazing healing abilities. I focus on my daughter’s loving dada and God’s provision of people like Gramma, Papa, and Aunties. (You know the one – special friend of mama’s who more than deserves that loving title.) I focus on the fact that we’re all different; skinny, chubby, tall, gangly, short….so those pesky percentile graphs don’t keep me up at night.
When things start to get out of focus, I shut my eyes and pray.