Seasons of Parenting

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by Becky White

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Parenting has many seasons and each holds unique challenges and blessings. First there is surviving the all-encompassing exhaustion of infancy and the endless physical demands of the toddler years. In those years we also experience the sweetness of innocence and trust in ways that show us the dependence God longs for us to have with him. The physical contact and affection can be both a sweet gift and a huge drain but God uses those years to grow our endurance, to show us our selfishness and our need for his grace in our lives so we can extend it to others. 

The preschool years are full of questions and challenges as our children learn to think and act independently from us. But, at the end of the day they still long for us and it’s a huge gift to be able to satisfy their needs just by being present in their lives and loving them where they are. In my experience the elementary school years have been a more peaceful season–the kids are more independent, but not too independent and as parents we are finding our stride and beginning to feel more confident (we’re also sleeping more, so that helps!). Then, adolescence hits — sometimes all at once, sometimes it creeps up on you — but it comes. This season is full of new experiences in parenting that challenge that growing confidence and teach us to stay humble and reliant on God. There is joy in watching our children change into young adults but inevitably there are “growing pains” for both parents and children and the need for God’s grace becomes more and more evident in both their and our hearts. Finally, there’s the highschool graduation, the moving-out and those children that we once held in our arms are now beyond arm’s reach and living their own lives. As a parent, our prayer life becomes everything as we realize all the seeds we planted and cultivated so carefully are not necessarily ours to harvest; rather the “Lord of the Harvest” will be the one to bring about the growth, and He was the one doing the planting all along.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like the “yoke” of parenting that I carry is easy and light. The weight on my heart for my children to know God and trust him can feel crushing. My fallback in those times is to doubt God’s goodness and wonder why He isn’t coming through for me and my kids. I focus on my stress and the burden I feel for my childrens’ souls. But, praise God for his mercy and grace! He is too good to leave me in my doubts and gently and patiently reveals where my perspective is wrong and needs to change. In repentance, I find that the reason my load is heavy is because I fail to trust his goodness and greater love for my kids. The weight of leading them to trust Him is his to carry, not mine. I find it easy to believe the lie that I’m alone instead of believing the truth that He is always with us and his grace is sufficient. I carry unnecessary weight because my attempt to do everything “right” forgets to rely on God’s strength, and attempts to save my children through my own effort rather than waiting on God to work in them through the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

In the end, the “seasons of parenting” are all fully encompassed by the grace of God. His strength carries us through every step. God uses parenting to reveal to us more of his own heart and to shape us more into the likeness of Jesus. This privilege of parenting and teaching the truth of God’s Word to the next generation is God’s gift to us. Our children’s salvation is God’s gift to them (just as it is to us) and He will see that work completed in their lives.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…”

2 Corinthians 1:3

From One Generation to Another

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by Juan Terrazas

A couple of years ago at a Path United staff meeting, a few of us were working on details of what the future of the organization would be. During the meeting we were contemplating the measurements of what a successful Path student would look like. As we were discussing, I was asked the question, “What do you want for Zion?” As I heard the question directed at me, my emotions were aroused, and I began to tear up. I teared up because I remembered the pain and suffering I had to go to through to obtain the life I have today. My mind immediately went to the stories of King David and the path he laid out for his son Solomon.
David was a young teenager when he was anointed King, but he didn’t become King of Israel until several years later. Although he had some great accomplishments such as defeating Goliath and reuniting the land of Israel, David faced numerous trials along his path. David fought his battles and conquered all that he could with the guidance of the Lord. Towards the end of his life, David had a desire to build the Lord a temple, but the Lord told him Solomon would be the one to complete that task. So, before King David died, he did everything possible to make sure Solomon had all the resources he needed to build the temple. Because of his father, Solomon had rest from his enemies. He had the freedom to build the Lord’s temple.
As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I expressed to my fellow staff members that I wanted Zion to have the freedom to fulfill the call of God in his life without having to face the battles I had faced. I fought the battles; I conquered all I could; I have prepared a Path for Zion. Now, my son will have less things to distract him from the presence of God. Zion doesn’t have to worry about his father being deported; he doesn’t have to worry about hopping from home to home; he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from. 
All this is not to say that Zion will never have to struggle. On the contrary, I believe a broken and contrite heart is what brings our hearts closer to the Lord. He will have his own battles to face, but he will not be alone. Someone has gone before him on whose shoulders he can stand. What I give to Zion is far beyond more valuable than anything materialistic. I give him the knowledge and love I have received from the Lord. I give him the tools and relationships he will need to face his battles. Zion will reap the benefits of the seeds I have planted. What I give him shall be passed down from one generation to another.
Psalm 145:1-7 ESV
I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

Sticker Chart

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by Rachel Bartlett

Have you ever used a sticker chart for your kids?  Maybe your family has a chore chart or used a sticker chart when potty training. We have our kids place a sticker on a chart as we cheer and encourage them along. But where is my sticker chart?

Make the meals and snacks; gold star.
Help with school work; gold star.
Clean up snot, dirty diaper, or throw up; platinum star.

Does anyone see what I do? Or even more importantly, does anyone see where I struggle? There are days when we can’t find the strength to do the work. There are days where those gold stars seem out of our reach.

In Genesis 16, we meet Hagar. She was a servant of Abram and Sarai and becomes pregnant with Abram’s son. When mistreated by Sarai, Hagar flees to the desert. Pregnant, tired, and hurt, she meets an angel. This angel proclaims over Hagar that her unborn son “will dwell over against all his kinsman.” Hagar called out to God with the name El Roi, the God of seeing. God saw Hagar when no one else did.

Many years later (Genesis 21), Hagar is forced to flee again from Abraham. With her son by her side, she wandered through the desert. Hagar was thirsty, close to death, and all she could do was cry. She had forgotten the claim she made in that desert years before. God sent another angel to comfort Hagar and a well to nourish. His promise that day was the same as many years before. “Lift up the boy … I will make him a great nation.”

God’s call to us is similar. We are to raise our kids to be a great nation of followers of God. And He sees us along the way. With every victory, every struggle, and everything in between, He Sees. Praise El Roi!

He Graciously Meets Us Where We Are

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by R. Potatoes

It was a crazy busy Friday. I was out running errands when the case worker called, “We have a large sibling set that just came into DFCS custody. I don’t have any details on them but can you take some of them?” The answer is always yes.

Late that night, two completely traumatized little ones were dropped off with nothing but a grocery bag full of dirty clothes (two sizes too small). In a snap, we were thrust back into the stage of blow out diapers, large baby equipment, car seat acrobatics, bottles, tantrums, and very very very sleepless nights. Our extraordinarily tiny home became a revolving door of case workers, lawyers, and therapists. Our calendar was filled with doctors appointments, court dates, family visits, sibling visits, and home studies.

We were absolutely not enough (nor equipped) for what the next several weeks threw at us from every angle, but God was. Those sleepless nights – full of frustration and snide remarks over whose “turn” it was – slowly turned into the quiet time when we’ve prayed some of our most vulnerable prayers. We prayed for the endurance, wisdom, and strength necessary to parent and disciple these little image-bearers. God has met us there, every time!

Foster parenting has a special way of putting a magnifying glass on our fleshly sin: the kind of anger we have to work through towards birth parents and the broken system as a whole, the selfishness in mourning that we will not be around to experience the fruit of the seeds we are planting, the desire for appreciation that never comes, the envy towards people who are not called to this life and don’t have to expose their families to unimaginable brokenness and trauma. We are constantly repenting from these sins that marinate deep in our hearts. He consistently humbles us to our core, and gracefully meets us where we are. 

No matter what season of parenting you are in, God is always there waiting for you to lean into Him. He promises to give us wisdom when we ask, so don’t leave his promises on the table.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1:5

Opportunity vs. Sabbath Rest

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by Rachel O’Dell

As I was debating, in my mind, the pros and cons of accepting the invitation to write this parent encouragement for New City Kids, it dawned on me that I ought to blog about the actual stress of weighing the pros and cons of any opportunity (or decision) that we make in life. So this post is very “meta” because, why not?

Every opportunity taken in life is going to involve some added layer of work (if only for a short time) unless we off-load something else before taking up the new task. And of course, new opportunities taken can then lead to other new ventures, (i.e. more work). Someone doesn’t offer us an opportunity to get rich (or advance in our career) while we just sit in a La-Z-Boy watching money enter our bank account. If they do, it’s a scam. 

Work is not inherently bad. We know that God gave work in the Garden, before the Fall. Work done for the Lord is very fulfilling. It’s only when it feels like a Sisyphean task that it seems to drain joy out of us. 

Personally, my main work these days includes home schooling my daughters, driving my children to activities, navigating the challenges of raising an autistic son, serving on the worship team, and completing my time in service as President of the Greater Gwinnett Reentry Alliance. All of this work is very fulfilling! But even so, I long, as I’m sure we all do, for Sabbath rest. I want a nap!

Hebrews 4 speaks of entering God’s rest. We look forward to a day, in the new Earth, when we will be able to glorify God with our work while also benefiting from the Sabbath rest. But for now, we must alternate between the work and the rest. Here are some ideas on how we can do this well:

1. Make sure our work is being done for God’s glory and not just for the next opportunity. 

2. Understand that raising our children to know and love Jesus is our highest work priority. 

3. Do not worry over missed opportunities and what we might have done with our life. 

4. Do not work without rest. And when we rest…

5. Acknowledge that God is our Provider. All the work in the world cannot give us (or our families) a “perfect life”. The perfect life is found only in the life Christ lived on our behalf. 

Rest in his finished work on the cross. 

Faith and Experience

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by Maya Rondy

In 2008, I made a decision to follow Jesus as my Savior and as my Lord. This was a big change for me because before I had always wrongly believed in many gods. In the beginning it wasn’t fun at all; I didn’t understand what the Christian life was supposed to be like. I didn’t know how my own life was to have meaning. The reality was, I wasn’t even sure that I belonged to Jesus.

But Jesus revealed himself to me, convincing me that He is real, and my life completely changed. Day by day, my faith started growing stronger. I read Jeremiah 29:11 and began to have confidence that God has a plan for me and my family. Today, I know the meaning of my life and that I have a future.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 
Jeremiah 29:11

At this time, my family and I are learning to lean on Jesus and not on our own understanding. This involves learning how to be patient and forgive one another. I’m amazed as I see how much we have changed. For example, when my husband sees I am upset about something he will come to me and pray over it. 

As I began to sense God’s calling on my life, I never expected that my husband would be supportive. Yet this turned out to be the best part of my life – he supports me in ministry! Yes, while we were figuring things out there were challenges. But I read in Romans 8 that no one can separate us from the love of Christ. This powerful Word gave me hope and kept me strong as I realized that there was no challenge too big for God.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:38–39

By God’s grace we are still together. I see God working in our lives and can’t wait until I hear my husband testify about it as well. For now, we are still walking with Jesus as a family. Our story is not done yet.

The Value of Serving in New City Kids

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by Joe Brand

When I consider the impact of New City Kids in the life of our family, I smile.

We did not have school age children when we came to New City Church. However, our youngest child had several occasions to serve with New City Kids and observe children’s ministry leadership. She came away with a deeper appreciation for how a local church serves families. We were elated to see how well she was equipped and trained and how immensely she enjoyed the process and service.

Like most churches, New City can use additional volunteers in the work of coming alongside parents as they disciple their children.

If you want to have a profound impact on your children,
put them in New City Kids.

If you want to have a profound impact on your own life,
consider serving there yourself.

Equipping Women for Ministry

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Knife Fighting the Devil

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"You don’t have to bow to your feelings.”

Sounds pretty simple, right? My emotions have a place, and rightly so, God made us to be feeling creatures, but emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately.

I have been thinking about the analogy of being a racquetball court instead of a sponge. I think somewhere along the way I got this idea from the book, Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovich. For me, being a racquetball court (and not a sponge) means I don’t have to absorb other’s emotions around me and take them all in. When I absorb the emotions of my kids, for instance, I become enslaved to them. Or if I absorb the frustrations of others, I think I must “fix it”. Rather, the wall of the racquetball court feels the hit, the sting even, of the ball, yet it lets it go.

If I am a sponge with my kids, it means that when they are happy, I am happy. When they are mad, I am mad. When they are scared, I am scared. We can logically see how this is not helpful when we take a step back. Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and responding in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by other’s emotions or his own.

Most of us can identify with being trapped in the endless cycle of FEEL – ACT – FEEL – ACT. We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because He cares for us. I imagine throwing emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and asking Him to lead me in the truth, then bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.

In his phenomenal book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller says this about Naomi as we see her at the beginning of the book of Ruth:

“Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. She didn’t have to act on her feelings. She felt anguish, yet she was free from the tyranny of her feelings … if we follow (our feelings) we become trapped by them.”

Naomi is dealing with great pain and anguish – and most of her anguish comes because she trusts that God is Sovereign and good, but she can’t see it in her circumstance.

There is something liberating about not being trapped in our feelings; being able to feel and lament and love deeply – yes! – but not having to act on every emotion that rears its head up. Satan may prowl around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour – whether through internal suppressed emotion, or explosive words, or anything else, but the truth is: Jesus IS the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the Lion. While Satan prowls like a lion, his power is limited by the power of the true Lion – the eternal King.

As I was driving to pick up my kids from school this week, I was in the midst of “knife fighting with the devil” as my husband lovingly says, internally fighting between my flesh-driven instincts and thoughts (the barbarians roaming the streets of my mind), OR looking up to Jesus, attempting to sing and proclaim THE truth louder than the thoughts in my mind, and this worship song by Phil Wickham came on leading me to worship and to the truth of freedom in Christ:

Out of the silence, the roaring Lion declared
The grave has NO claim on me!
Hallelujah! Praise the one who set me free.
Hallelujah! Death has lost it’s grip on me.
You have broken every chain!
Jesus Christ – my Living Hope.”

This King has delivered us from the tyranny of ourselves if we belong to Him. We are not held hostage by emotions, or our past, or our sin. We are filled with and empowered by the Spirit to kick out the lies, for me, it’s the fake conversations I’m having with others in my mind, particularly if I’ve been hurt or am angry. We can replace these with the truth.

The Lord has delivered me from myself; the Lord IS delivering me from myself. All I have to do fall into dependence on and look up instead of down, planning my response in my own strength by staring intently at the circumstance.

Submitting to the Lord and leaning into him instead of our natural flesh-driven responses, having to wait and trust, can lead us into sweet moments of worship. Even the sins of others, or choices of others, are allowed by God to impact me because it drives me to Him in dependence which becomes a sweet opportunity for growth and sanctification.

This is soul work. This is good work. And it’s also a knife fight with the devil.

A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering

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A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering

A beautiful, liturgical prayer from the folks at Rabbit Room. 

Christ Our King,

Our world is overtaken by unexpected
calamity, and by a host of attending fears,
worries, and insecurities.

We witness suffering, confusion, and
hardship multiplied around us, and we find
ourselves swept up in these same anxieties and
troubles, dismayed by so many uncertainties.

Now we turn to you, O God,
in this season of our common distress.

Be merciful, O Christ, to those who suffer,
to those who worry, to those who grieve, to
those who are threatened or harmed in any
way by this upheaval. Let your holy compassions
be active throughout the world even now—
tending the afflicted, comforting the
brokenhearted, and bringing hope to
many who are hopeless.

Use even these hardships to woo our hearts MORE