If you’ve been following my sporadic stories for a while, you may recall me mentioning this once in a lifetime experience during my early teen years when my father, a pastor, had to cancel church service due to a blizzard dropping overnight. For all of my southern living readers, this was not the little three to five inches of snow and ice that shuts down your communities. No way! I grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Things only shut down when there were three to five feet of snow on the ground. Not this powder fluffy stuff that gets my kids more snow days in a year than I experienced during my entire elementary and high school career. This was the real deal. My father cancelling service was a HUGE deal. You have to understand that my father, well…the man was like the post office. He was always ready for church come rain, sleet, or snow.
Now, imagine me waking up to a winter wonderland outside of our home and being ecstatic that I get to sleep in and do absolutely nothing but lay around and watch television. My younger siblings were ready to build snowmen and have a snowball fight. That all came crashing down when my father, a pastor, walks in the room and says, “Come down to the living room, we’re going to have church together.” Parents, if you have experience with teenagers and little children, I am sure you can imagine the reaction my father received. I couldn’t understand why everyone else got to have the day off from church and we had to sit there and experience church in our living room. I mean, did my father have some sort of sermon quota that he needed to meet?! Was it absolutely necessary for him to take us through the motions of praying, singing, reading scripture and him teaching about the text? I thought this was the most over the top thing he could have ever done. He was being extra! Clearly, he had not received the memo about snow days.
The reality I face as an adult approaching the status of “middle aged” and parenting several children is that what my father was doing was presenting us with the experience that our time with God does not get forfeited by our circumstances. You see, every morning before the sun would shine, I would hear my father in the bathroom getting ready for the day and then he would head down to the basement where his office was located to have his time with God. It became so much of a practice for him to do this that when I gave birth to my last baby five years ago during the wee hours of the night/morning, I told Corey that he could hold the announcement for our other family members until the sun came up but I was sure, without a doubt, that my father was awake because this was his practice for as long as I could remember. What appeared over the top to me as a child was really setting the foundation for me to build from as an adult.
I constantly question the status and depth of my relationship with God based on the example I am setting for my children. In my mind, I am comparing myself to the standard that my father set in our home. I don’t pray with my children before I leave, I don’t slather their heads with oil and pray down heaven to earth in the hallway while they’re sleeping. I just grab my items for the morning and run to work. I feel like I am not working to disciple my children. Has my father ever told me I was a bad mother because I don’t get up at 3:00 am to shower, lay hands on my children to pray for them and go to a quiet space in my home and study/read the bible? No, he hasn’t. But I have been telling myself that I wasn’t doing a good job because I wake up with just enough time to read a chapter from the bible, read a quick devotional and play a song while getting ready for the day.
A couple of months ago I posted a survey on social media through my stories on Facebook and Instagram. The question was “Did your parents pray with you when you were a child?” The response was about 85% to 15% for yes versus no. I asked this question because when I look at the photos and videos of various families I follow on social media that pray together either in the morning or at night, I think to myself, it can be done if it’s a priority. My father and mother prayed for and with my siblings and I for as long as I can remember. To this day, I can call and ask them to pray with me. But here I was not making a habit of doing this for myself or for my family. Corey and I try to make it a practice to talk to the kids about God and Jesus. We try to open up one of the many children’s bibles they have to read a story and discuss what happened. But when I compare myself to the level I wish we could be at it’s not the daily interaction that I want my children to have.
A few months ago I learned something and I happened to learn it on one of the most exciting days of my family’s life so far. The day we closed on our current home (A testimony in itself that you can watch us reveal to our children here or watch my husband and I share about the process here.) my husband and I took the day off from work but for the kids it started off as just another regular day. My husband always drops all three of the kids off to school and it’s a bit of a process. But the amazing thing I learned this day was that every morning when they all get in the car and before anyone gets dropped off to their building, they have prayer together. Most of the time Corey is leading the prayer but occasionally, my daughter Kirsten will volunteer to pray. Caleb is a little on the shy side so he doesn’t volunteer as much as Kirsten, but he will whisper a prayer when he wants to.
My heart was overjoyed when I learned this was happening. Here I was beating myself up and trying to think of ways to be more intentional with discipling my little ones and Corey had already been doing it. I was missing out on the moment because my day starts earlier than theirs, but the important thing was that it was happening.
I happened to catch an episode of a podcast with two Christian women that I look up to for many reasons, Chrystal Hurst & Priscilla Shirer. Priscilla said something that really made an impact on my views of myself and my family. She receives so many questions from mothers like me who are trying to figure out more intentional ways to disciple our children and beat ourselves up because it’s not an everyday thing. I am paraphrasing here, but she was saying that it’s important to remember that when we see photos and videos on social media from them or other people that we are only seeing the highlights. These moments are not constant occurrences for their families either. It may be rare to have everyone together. No family is perfect. When she said it, it made sense but boy was I looking for some deep tip that I could use and apply.
To anyone reading this, please remember what the singer Jonathan McReynolds sings…comparison kills. This goes for me too. Here I was thinking of myself as lower because I wasn’t performing to the standard I assigned myself and was comparing myself to. So, I am choosing to take that and run with the thought that I will never have the perfect formula to disciple my children. Some of the things I do may even bring about the disgruntled reactions my father received from me like that Sunday we had church in our living room. But the important thing is to plant the seed and pray that God gives the increase.