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October 24, 2016

Messy Kitchens, Messy Kids, Messy Parenting, Faithful God

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This week we have the privilege of reading and hearing wisdom from the messy kitchen and beautiful heart of Jeannie Hagopian.  Jeannie, too, lost a dear friend to cancer several years ago and has walked the same road of grief many of us are walking now.  Her wisdom and guidance over the past several months has been invaluable as she has given me permission to hurt, grieve, and make space for the mess and ache that death brings but to also hold hard to the Hand of God, trusting He will be faithful to lead us all down the path of hope and healing.  She gives us wisdom and encouragement on the path of parenting this morning, and in all places in our lives that feel a bit messy, where we stop, look around, and say, “Here, Lord, life doesn’t look like I thought it would.”

Jeannie grew up in South Carolina with her sister, Margaret, who has done a few guest posts here on the blog!  After college, she lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for a decade where she met and married Jesse.  Jesse grew up on Cape Cod, and slowly they felt God calling them to leave D.C. and move to the Cape to be a part of a church planting situation there.  They moved to the Cape 2 years ago and it’s been a hard transition in many ways, but their hearts are heavy with the need for the Gospel in the New England area and for Christians there to be encouraged.  Jesse and Jeannie have 2 children, Margaret (7 years old) and David (5 years old), and a baby girl due early December. 

You might be trying desperately to avoid the fact that life is messy.  Or you might be so aware of how messy life is that you don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings.  

Parenting (and the family nucleus) is at the heart of life; so, it should NOT surprise us then that parenting too is messy.  It can feel like parenting just offers up constant contradictions and “forks in the road.”

  • How do we provide structure while also being flexible to the unpredictable realities of life?
  • How do we show the Gospel of Grace while also setting clear boundaries from an early age?
  • How do we foster a sense of the priority of our family relationships while also reaching out to those who are most lonely and marginalized in our community?
  • How do we prioritize teaching our children true and beautiful things while simultaneously exhibiting love in action and responding to the needs of others?
  • When do we give a second chance or know when to kick the rebellious teenager out of the house when their choices are so destructive it could cost them their very lives?
  • How much do we protect our children from evil and confusing messages?
  • Do we spend over our grocery budget to exclusively buy organic chicken for our children or throw packs of the “buy one get one free” deal chicken in our cart and give more the child in a 3rd world country who needs a simple meal?

The questions and dilemmas and second guessing can go on relentlessly.  And our current cultural moment, Google, and pressures are not helpful in our fight for balance (and sanity!).  What’s right for one family will probably look very different for your own.  There are guiding principles and then there’s the million of gray areas that we’ll find ourselves wading into each day as we raise our children.

Once again, life is messy and our decisions are rarely clear and come with perfect peace.  I write this from the trenches of messy parenting.  I’m not writing this post because my children are well-behaved and have proven any method “successful.”  I have two strong willed children who are sinners in need of grace.   We have read a lot of parenting books, we’re honest with other Christians about our struggles, we discipline our children, we have family devotionals when possible, we pray a lot.  Sometimes our children are delightful additions to society and our home.   But guess what?  Our children have very defiant spirits; they have slammed doors in our faces and even spit on us, and most days I feel as if I am a broken record…”Don’t use that tone, stop hitting your brother, put your shoes on the first time I ask”…And I’ll think to myself, “This is not how I envisioned my parenting to be.”

If you fit in the category of “human”, then most of your relationships, endeavors, marriages, children, jobs, bank statements, homes and health are probably also NOT going quite as you had originally planned or hoped.  I always come back to this C.S. Lewis quote, “Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuilt that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.”  

So what is hurting you right now and not making any sense?  Don’t try to compartmentalize, blame it on someone else, busy yourself, or offer up a quick solution.  God has never promised to deliver us from these trials and messes.  He also never offered quick solutions to His children.  Because the reasons these trials are in our life right now are complicated, confusing and at times utterly unexplainable from our limited points of view.  BUT He has promised to be with us.  He has promised to protect our souls eternally if we are covered in Christ’s righteousness.  He has promised us that these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  This is messy but gloriously Hopeful.  And as Susannah wrote in her beautiful post on True Hope“The razor edge of hope is a hard place to walk.  Actually, it’s an impossible place to walk, save for the anchor tied to our souls that firmly fixes us to God.”

In your relationships and specifically your parenting, how are you doing at ultimately trusting Him?  Yes, part of trusting is being faithful with what is set before you but it is also casting all your cares and anxieties into His care. Steadfast minds and perfect peace are ours when our whole beings are trusting (Isaiah 26:3.)  How are you doing at encouraging your friends in their own messes to deal with their hearts before God before you immediately offer up advice or grumble alongside them?  Are we just offering each other a sleep training book, natural home remedy, glass of wine, or listening ear while ignoring the deeper (and sometimes more awkward question to ask!) like, “What would it look like for you to know Him more and love Him more in the middle of this mess?”

“Like everything else God calls people to, God doesn’t call people to be parents because they are able….Why would a God of perfect wisdom ask inadequate people to do such an important job?  The answer is so important to grasp.  God calls unable people to do important things because ultimately what He’s working on is not your immediate success, but that you would come to know him, to love him, to rest in his grace, and to live for his glory.”  Paul Tripp

To receive further encouragement on the messiness of life but the faithfulness of God, connect with Susannah this week on Facebook.

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