Monday, November 7, 2011

Passing It On from Elizabeth

She says it with a conviction born of experience. She shares personal thoughts from a perspective many may not understand or agree with, but I think she is onto something at the core: There is no fixed if/then formula for raising children.

There are those who want the play book, the recipe, so parents can turn out the product of our hearts' desire. It doesn't work that way.

Parenting books abound today with 10 Point Plans and promises of a new kid by Friday, but few will honestly share the pain of estrangement from children when life choices cause division in families. I talked with a mom last week who gripped my hand and said through tears, "Twenty years. Twenty years! That's how long I have been waiting and praying for my son to come back."

Elizabeth, cancer survivor and mother of nine children, knows a thing or two about parenting. I found her writing link on Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience site who has energized the practice of living with heightened gratitude daily. Because I have enjoyed Ann's inspiring writings about giving thanks, I am inclined to have her inform my day on other topics as well. The title alone caught my eye: What I'm Never Going to Tell You.

At some point in the process of maturity--or lack of it--our offspring will make their own choices. Some of those choices may send shock waves through our homes, shaking the very foundation of identity for parents who think their work product is a reflection of them, and it is so easy to do this in our culture. My generation did it too. In fact we think we started it all in true ego-centric baby boomer fashion.

We lived the generation gap and made such sweeping life choices over a period of time that our collective parents must have been dismayed at the social upheaval that changed the landscape in America. So I totally understand a young adult's desire to make his or her own decisions and to do it their way. I get it. It helps to have an elastic waistband, so to speak, in parenting to allow for a little discomfort when parents and kids butt heads over predictable issues because conflict is going to happen.

Yet, there are often  points in families where even the most elastic band fails to contain the teen/adult child whose own declaration of independence severs ties we thought would be unbroken as mothers.

I meet with young moms each week who yearn to pour themselves into this parenting role and give their best to the privilege of raising faithful, healthy children. I understand the desire to give this vocation our best shot. We don't get the chance to do it over. I also hear in Elizabeth's writings a word of comfort, a healing balm, to the moms and dads who, having done the best they knew how to do, then watched in dismay as children renounced their faith, rejected those who love them and separated themselves from their families. The heartbreak is palpable. Some have reconciled; others have not.

We pray for God to inspire, sustain, and accompany us on this journey, because parents need all the help we can get.

Sometimes the inspiration comes to us from one another, and so I offer Elizabeth's own honest words in case you are in a place of estrangement or pain as a parent. It is from Nov. 4, 2011:
What I'm Never Going to Tell You.

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it James 1:2-5.

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