…is tough! More than anything on earth, I want my children to grow up to love the Lord, and not just in a surface way. I want them to be IN love with God. I want their lives to revolve around Him in the same way that I want my own life to revolve around Him. And I know that they are individual souls who will have to make their own decision, but I want to do everything possible to portray the Kingdom of God to them in as accurate a way as possible. As such, I have been thinking a lot about my own parents, and how they raised me. They were amazing parents, and, though I’m not saying that they are perfect, they did a-LOT of things right. The major ones that come to mind:
1. They loved us beyond all reason. I firmly believed growing up that my parents loved me far more than the average parents loved their children.
2. You know that verse about teaching your kids as you walk along the road and as you lie down and wake up? They did that.
We often reviewed the books of the Bible in the car. My mom made it fun, like a game. Also, I have clear memories of snuggling in bed with my mom and saying “chain prayers.” Again, this was a fun treat. “Hey, you wanna say a chain prayer?” my mom would ask, with the same tone she’d use to ask, “You wanna go out for ice cream?“ We loved it. As we got older, we would try to make our prayers long, like hers. Her prayers were full of how much she loved us, and she would spend time talking to God about each of us, highlighting our strengths and special qualities. We loved it. And even though we played sports and had homework and my dad usually had to work late, my mom would valiantly succeed in getting us kids to Wednesday night church. We’d always stop by Dairy Queen on the way home, b/c she said we all deserved ice cream for making it to church:).
3. They loved church…and worked their butts off for it.
They were involved with everything. My Dad has done announcements since before I was born, is a regular Sunday school teacher, and is basically the church maintenance man and landscaper. All unpaid, of course. He was always on this or that “logistics committee,” and had some role in almost every event. And they both put all they had into it. When my mom did the weekly newsletter (for ten years!), she made it so fun that people were lining up to get copies. When she taught Sunday school and VBS (which she always did), she went all out with fun programs and prizes. When she taught crafts for Camp Canaan or VBS (again, a long standing tradition), she made sure the kids had good crafts, even though this often meant she paid out of pocket for supplies, since the crafts were above the church’s budget. And she did it for the right reasons. I will never forget an instance when I was helping her prepare from some craft which involved painstakingly cutting out tons of maple leaves. I was feeling a bit resentful for “always” being made to help out with craft preparation, and I was expressing to her the futility of our maple-leaf-cutting endeavor. “Mom,” I said, “Don’t you know that kids are just going to go home and throw these crafts in the trash can? In a day or two, they will forget they even made them! What is the point of all this work??” I will never forget her reply: “Kim, I’m not doing this for the kids.” Huh? That was truly a shocker to me. She followed that zinger up with, “I’m doing this for God. People don’t know the half of what I do, and if they did, they wouldn’t care anyway. But that’s okay. I’m not doing it for them. Everything I do, I do for God.” That has got to rank in the top 5 most influential things anyone has ever said to me. It rocked my world.
4. They showed me that working for God (I was going to say the church, but then thought about my mom’s statement), is incredibly rewarding even by earthly standards.
Our church owns 57 acres of land, and my parents have literally put hundreds and hundreds of hours into that land. Some of my best memories are out at “the property,” as we called it. One of my all-time best memories is actually an amalgamation of several similar incidences. Before we moved out there, my parents would take us there some evenings so they could work. They would mow and fix and do whatever they were there to do, and my brother and I would ride 4-wheelers, pick scuppernongs,and cherry tomatoes, and have fun. I love how, even though they would rightly make us help them sometimes, they never made us bitter against “church work” by forcing us to live out their passions. So we played on those evenings while they worked. They would work until it was too dark to work anymore, and then we’d turn the lights on in the pavilion and play ping-pong. My dad is not much of a game player, so times when all four of us would play something really stand out in my mind. Those nights were so happy for me.
5. Their lifestyle was just “this short” of radical.
Or maybe it was radical. I don’t know; it’s hard to judge when I grew up with it. I do remember when I thought they had gone off the deep end. When I was 12, they decided to sell our beautiful two story house that I LOVED, in a beautiful neighborhood that I LOVED…to move out to our church’s property so that they could better take care of it. To do this, they bought the trailer that was located on the property, way back in the woods, at the end of a half-mile long gravel road. When they announced that this was their plan, I thought that they had seriously lost their minds. I thought they were on crack. I cried and fought and fought and cried. They were unmoved. I remember wailing at one point, “But this is our HOME!!” My Dad shot back, “Our HOME is where our family is.” That also probably goes on the top 5 most influential things list. You don’t forget moments like that. At least, I don’t. And of course, like everything you do for God, it ended up being a huge blessing. I spent the next 6 years of my life–up until college–living at the property and coming to love it. And all that time, My parents worked constantly to upkeep it. At the time, I thought it was normal for people to mow everyday in the summer, normal to install headlights on your tractor so that you could mow the fields at night. Now I see that to do all that–unpaid–is insane. Insane! But it opened my mind up to the idea that loving and obeying God is kind of insane. Turning the other cheek is insane. Giving everything to Him is insane. It is a radical lifestyle. It does not make sense in the eyes of the world.
I really, really hope, and I pray everyday, that Greg and I can walk with God, can keep in step with the Spirit, in a way that reflects the Kingdom to my kids. Just like my own parents did to me. I’ll tell you one thing. They are a tough act to follow. I haven’t touched on the half of what they did, the half of how they lived (my dad’s thoughts on giving still blow my mind). But I have the benefit of their example. And I have a God who for some reason has decided to live in me. And I have an amazing husband, who has his own set of amazing parents. So I’m hopeful.
And the praying everyday can’t hurt:).
I originally published this post on my family blog on May 27, 2009. I was reminded of it this week as I pondered the idea of living counter-culturally and what that might mean for my family at this time. Whenever I think about how my goals and desires for my family, I’m naturally drawn to ruminate on my own upbringing and what my parents’ did to introduce my brother and me to the kingdom of God. As the post suggests, I have a great example in my own parents (as well as in Greg’s parents). That much, of course, is just as true today as it was in 2009.