Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Friday, June 11, 2010

Training Up A Child

Two years ago, I asked my husband if we could make a small area in our backyard into a little prayer garden. It was already closed off to some degree by 2 walls of trellises and wooden fencing, with a roof of trellis overhead. Since then, we’ve been developing it, trying to create a place of retreat in which I can unwind outdoors. My prayer garden has a bench where I can sit, on my own or with someone else, sheltered yet open. I can pray, read, write, all while listening to the soothing sounds of the water fountain on the deck just steps away or the waterfalls in the pond a few yards beyond that. On another trellis which we placed there last year to provide the front piece of privacy, grows purple Climatis, a transplant rescued from an obscure corner of our backyard where it was unable to be admired. I also have pink Knock-Out Roses, unique Day lilies, Astilbe and Hukera; as well as a few decorative stepping stones and garden d├ęcor.

My husband bought me a beautiful climbing honeysuckle plant to be placed in my garden near a newly-installed trellis. The purpose of this fourth trellis was another way to add a final degree of privacy, while offering the ability to still experience the sights and sounds of the rest of the yard if desired. This honeysuckle is such a nice compliment to all of my other plantings. Just the other day, the landscaper in my husband emerged to show me how to “train up,” the vine so it grows up, not out. He said that when I see that the small vines are starting to grow outward, gently pull them back toward the trellis and intertwine them with it, allowing for a proper anchor to help them in their climb. As a writer mama whose heart is rooted in what God wants for my children, I naturally and immediately thought of an analogy between training this honeysuckle and training my children.

How true is that we are supposed to be training our children to grow up, toward God, toward Heaven, instead of growing out into the world? How many times have I thought about this, prayed about this, or written about it on this blog? The purpose of children is to bring glory to God, not just by having them but also by raising them with hearts for him, teaching them about His love and directing their paths toward His will for their lives. I think parents represent that landscaper, or gardener, gently pulling the delicate vines of our children’s hearts so that they may anchor themselves by the proper means (solid family life, modest behavior, prayerful hearts, like-minded friends) to be able to grow upward toward Him. It is our duty, our calling, to do this and yet, we often forget and find ourselves trying to strong-arm straggling vines back to their anchors, and sadly, some of us might give up completely.

It doesn’t take much to coerce those happy little vines outward, let me tell you. Just this morning I walked out, having forgotten about last week’s landscape lesson (shhh, don’t tell hubby!), and found many growing wildly outward, reaching for other anchors – weak anchors, unbefitting of the needs of the vines, drawing them into the shadows of the dark corners of the garden. Such is the same for our precious children, only exponentially worse. Everywhere we look, there are many of these weak “anchors,” many means for our children to be pulled out into the darkness. We can’t even turn on the T.V. without being assaulted with commercials from companies whose message not-so-subtly implies some sort of sexual agenda alongside their attempts to get you to buy their products. And how many packs of children run rampant in our neighborhoods, well past dark, unaccompanied by any adult, parents unaware of where their children are at any given moment? And what are those children doing? God only knows....literally.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” If we do what we are supposed to do, as God’s servants raising His children, if we stick to His teaching about taking these vines of our children’s hearts and anchoring them in the proper way, we will be rewarded with beautiful children whose hearts are deeply anchored in the important things of life, growing strongly toward Him, and the knowledge that we succeeded in this aspect of serving and bringing glory to Him.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fragile Life

Life is very short. It can be gone in an instant, a single flicker of a butterfly's wing - swept away in a moment we probably didn't even see coming. In the whirlwind of our daily lives, we don't really ever have the chance to stop and think about the fragility of life. And maybe it's not that we don't have the chance; it's that we don't take that chance. In the secular world, people are always speaking about how life is too short, so have fun and live it up as best you can; take risks, do whatever you want. We are taught more and more that all that matters is the "here and now" and living "in the moment." But living in the moment isn't always a good thing; and just doing whatever you want regardless of the outcome is never a good thing.

For the past week, I've been contemplating how very fragile life is; something I don't do very often, but especially as a mother, should. I have witnessed several times throughout my life the paper-thin reality of existence, and I am in awe of how far out of our control it is. It's out of our control when and how we die - our time here in this world just part of the sweeping momentum of the bigger picture; stirred up one minute, gone the next. It is hard to grasp this idea, to really understand its weight and meaning; to define how it affects our lives. But the truth is, we have to try. We have to think about these things..... But think; don't worry. Worry is so easy for us mothers to do but that is where God's design for Faith is supposed to step in and sweep us up into its strong embrace, whisking us away to be placed in the lap of our Father. We are only to think about life's teetering and smallness in regards to how our thoughts will produce actions that are pleasing to Him and follow His will for us.

Some of these actions for mothers look like this:
*Raising our children with not only the knowledge of Him but the experience of His love poured over us like warm oil, releasing us from our burdens and strengthening us within
*Spending time with Him, listening to His breath, His plans for us; searching for His gentle reminders of where our place is in His grand design (and showing our children how to do the same)
*Teaching our children to always be aware of their thoughts and actions, that they should be pleasing to Him in even the smallest of ways; and setting that example ourselves

I look into the faces of these beautiful blessings which God has given me to raise...and I see such an innocent wisdom, as if they know what my job is as their mother and are just waiting for me to fulfill it. I see my purpose buried deep within the irises of my daughters' eyes, daring me to become the strong, servant woman written about in Proverbs 31, modeling to them God's design for one who belongs to Him. I find my drive hidden in the expectant smile of my little boy, challenging me to teach him by example what it means to unconditionally love all who God places in our lives. I am often paralyzed within these moments of searching them this way, holding my breath because I'm afraid it's my last and I have so much more to do for them, and for Him.

Yes, life is fragile and so very short. But it's not about living out our days doing 1,000 things that make us happy or making sure we enjoy every single second. It's about taking this small amount of time to take in each breath we have to share with our families, our children, using every last millisecond preparing ourselves and each other for what God has called us to do for Him.