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As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua

My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel.  It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.

I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter.  I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way.  So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.

Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:

God never gives up on me.

So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made.  This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate.  But he really wasn’t interested.

I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing:  “I give up.  He doesn’t care—why should I?”  And every day God responded with the same words:  “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”

So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average.  For which he is grateful.

I am weak and prayer is my strength.

Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears.  Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life.  We were desperate.

So we did what most people do when they are desperate.  We prayed.  I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative.  But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.

Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed.  Prayer became my life breath.  It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will.  Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.

I am so grateful.

Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give.  By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it.  Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with.  He couldn’t betray her by loving me

I understood that.  I was patient.  My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded.  And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.”  I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.

So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.  If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.”  So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.

It took 13 years before he could say those words.  I am so grateful I waited.

These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.

But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over.  We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.

I have felt like giving up.  And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you.  Keep believing.”

I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.

My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.

Yes, as parents we teach our children so much.  But I think God uses them to teach us even more.  And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.

I’m ready to get off the carousel.  Probably the roller coaster is next.

What about you?  What lessons are you still learning?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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In my previous post I talked about “My Best Gifts for My Grandchildren.” Today we are looking at some even better–though rather intangible–gifts.  

So it’s Cyber Monday.  And I’m online shopping for my children and grandchildren.  I bet you are too.

In the short run, they so appreciate receiving the “things” they want.  In the long run, though, they will be far more grateful for gifts that will last their whole lives.

After all, they didn’t exactly love the clothes you got them last year.  Or that movie with a good message.  Or even the fun—and expensive—family trip to Disney—everyone wanted to do something different.

Tired of trying to choose the best Christmas gifts for your children?

They probably have more things than they need, and won’t really appreciate your gift if it isn’t exactly what they want.

And wouldn’t we rather give them something lasting and meaningful?  So even as I make purchases to give to the kids, I keep these three gifts in mind and try to find things that will contribute to their growth in each area.

When I was fairly new into parenting, I found myself making some wishes for my children.  If I could choose three things to give them that would help them have a great life, what would they be?

I did come up with three fairly comprehensive concepts to wish for and pray for and hopefully give to my kids.  So here they are:

Gift#1 A Relationship with God

Knowing God is foundational for life and the relationship that makes all others possible (1 John 5:20). A relationship with God offers forgiveness of sin, power for living, love, joy, peace, patience, wisdom, an eternal family, courage, comfort, perseverance…I could go on and on.

As I pray for my children and grandchildren, I find myself coming back to this most basic need of all: to know God.  To really know Him as Father, Savior, Redeemer, best friend, counselor.  So when I don’t know what to pray, this is where I go: “Lord, may they know You.”

Gift #2 A Good Character

A good name is to be more desired than great riches; favor is better than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

Character influences reputation, which affects our relationships with people, our confidence level, and our ability to achieve.  Character helps determine the contributions we will make in life and will contribute to peace of mind and a clear conscience.

Good character qualities to seek to grow in our children include integrity, responsibility, humility, generosity, discernment, kindness, self-discipline…and a sense of humor.

Gift #3 A Useful Life

What is a useful life?  One that utilizes gifts, abilities, talents and opportunities for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Why is this important?  God has created each of us for a purpose.    He has given us what we need to fulfill that purpose, and he expects us to use those gifts, multiply them, be a good steward of them.  (Matthew 25:14-30).  So we need to help our children discover who he has made them to be and what he has designed them to do.

As our children grow into useful lives, they will sense their value, enjoy life and know they are contributing something significant.

My children are all grown now, with children of their own.  Though they continue to grow—and I continue to pray—there is plenty of evidence of wishes come true, of gifts received and lived out. I am grateful.

What about you? What gifts are you hoping to give your children?

c2012 Judy Douglass

Related article: My Best Gifts for My Grandchildren

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Lost!

The haystack was high—bale after bale piled up and surrounded by loose hay just begging for running, jumping, rolling.

Grandboy Ethan squealed as he clambered to the top, then tumbled down to the bottom. Again and again.  Suddenly I realized he was planning to slide down the far side.  My turn to run—around to the other side.

No Ethan.  Where could he be?  Under the hay?  Back on top?  I looked everywhere.  I called his name.  I asked his brother.  “What does he look like?” a dad asked.  “What color is he wearing?”  a mom inquired.  Debbie arrived back with the other boy.  I headed out in widening circles.

Where could he have gone?  To the ponies?  For a candy apple? After the ducks in the pond?  I searched everywhere.  I asked for help.  Ethan was lost and I would not quit looking until I found him.

As I arrived back at the haystack empty-handed and distraught, Debbie was pulling Ethan out of the nearby long, blow-up, crawl-through caterpillar.

We cried.  We rejoiced.  We reprimanded and hugged.  We thanked those who helped.

Sounds a lot like Luke 15:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”(Luke 15:4-6)

Sounds a lot like God.

From the very first lostness, God has been seeking.  Pursuing.  Entreating.

And when He finds a lost loved one:

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:7)

How were you found?  Is there someone you love who is lost?  Let me know in the Comments.

C 2011 Judy Douglass

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