There are so many thoughts rolling around in my head that I want to get out before they get pushed aside in the hustle and bustle of life. I am hopeful that they will be thoughts that might encourage and help someone out there.
Our family drove to Virginia this past weekend for my brother's wedding. The trip involved over 1,100 miles and over 20 hours in the van in 5 days with 4 children under the age of 8. While we were there, two of our boys had the honor of being in the wedding as ring bearers. The other two, being quite little were just passed around or chased around.
the boys and my older brother at Christmas
I love my children dearly, and am thankful for the privilege of getting to be their mother but it's not always the most encouraging job. Many jobs have a clearly defined beginning and end. Those jobs give you a sense of satisfaction upon completion. You can see the progress that you've made. You can see the work of your hands. It's for that reason that my husband likes mowing the lawn. You begin and see what needs done, you work hard for a bit and then you finish and see a final product that is improved from when you began. Motherhood--or fatherhood, or parenthood--isn't quite that cut and dry. It's not a sprint, but a marathon. It's a LLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGG job. And in the thick of it, it's hard to see any progress at all. In fact, often it's easy to see all the ways you are failing--or at least you don't seem to be succeeding. Often you see all the areas that need improvement and none of the improving. Lately I have found myself being quite critical and focusing on the shortcomings of my kids instead of seeing their victories or strengths. Along comes the wedding weekend.
The wedding was in Fredericksburg, where we lived for 6 plus years. We haven't been back in nearly 2 years. It was so refreshing to pick back up with the loved ones that we got to spend time with while we were in town. I only wish we had had more time to visit with more of our friends and family. Besides spending time with those that we already knew and loved, we also got to meet some of my new sister-in-law's family and friends. During the short time that we were there, we were encouraged by many people to keep up the good work. We were told several times that our boys were sweet, kind, well-mannered or well-behaved. And while those people obviously didn't see the kids for long or in their "normal" setting, it was so refreshing to hear. It meant so much to us that Pete and I both mentioned it on several occasions on the way home. It made me think of how thirsty I was for some encouragement. How weary I had become, and how the words of a few others had helped to bolster my spirits and water my dry ground. It didn't undo any bad behavior or habits my children have. It didn't erase all sin and fighting in our household, but it gave me back a bit of a spring in my step. And even while I've been typing I've had to referee a dispute, which made me laugh at the irony. But the point that I'm trying to make here isn't that my kids are perfect or that I've got parenting figured out-because that's far from the truth-but that we can encourage one another. The point is that our words are powerful and can be used to help each other out. I was challenged to pass along the blessing that has been given to me. If I see something praiseworthy in one of my friend's kids, to share that with them. I mean, really, all kids have praiseworthy attributes, right? So, if I see those, I want to praise that kid and tell his or her parent about it.
Steve Green has a song on his "Hide 'em in Your Heart" CD that says, "Encourage one another, and build each other up! Build each other up! Build each other up!" and then later, "don't tear each other DOWN!" It's straight from 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and I am challenged to try to take those words to heart. I'm hoping that in doing so, I might start a ripple effect with my kids and they might do the same. Maybe you can try it, too.