Mid-Life Children and Senior Parents

There are a lot of jokes made about a midlife crisis, but there’s nothing funny about the challenges an aging parent and a son or daughter experience in these years.   There are difficult and delicate situations unique to this season of life between parent and mid-life son or daughter

The previous post dealt with how parents sometimes feel towards their children when Dad and Mom are in mid-life years.  Now let’s flip the context.

Children’s Feelings Towards Parents at Mid-Life

Here are a few struggles adult children sometimes experience during their mid-life years with senior parents.

  • “I’m worried about your financial decisions”.  There is an entire industry that is centered on taking advantage of the elderly . Couple that with a susceptibility that sometimes accompanies those that are older and it is a recipe for disaster.

I know of a situation where an unscrupulous contractor gave a bid on a job for a senior, collected his fee from a personal check, and never returned to do the work.  The check was cashed and was written for over $20,000.   It created a nightmare for the family to try and recover the money, both with time and paying attorneys.

Those in their senior years are targeted by crooked organizations soliciting money to support “noble” causes, at least in name.   And again, multiple checks are written to support these “charities”.    I know personally where this has happened.

This is difficult for mid-life sons and daughters to watch happen.

Because we honor our parents we respect their privacy and autonomy.  This creates a tension between their independence and our wanting to help them make wise financial choices when they may be vulnerable.

Of course, not all senior adults have this problem.   I don’t mean to broad brush; but it is a problem for many.

Christmastime with my sweet Mom!

Another concern that often surfaces…..

  • “I’m worried about your health”.     As we age disease or illness become our companions.   Pain becomes a part of life and it’s more difficult to walk and do the things one used to do.

My parents rarely went to the doctor through the first twenty years of my marriage, but that began that change in my forties.   Now, my Mom will go to the doctor a couple of times a month.    We have regular conversations about her health we never had years before.

Some of my friends (all of them in their mid-life years) have had the sad experience of helping an aging parent through Altzheimers disease.  One friend wept often with me as his mother battled this terrible disease.

One day I visited a friend in his office and on his desk was a book about dementia. He was reading it to help one of his parents.    Some attend classes to help equip them for this new season of life as they assist their parents.

We never think of having to research and learn about these issues in our 20’s or 30’s.   But this is a reality for many in the mid-life stage.   It not only affects the parents, but also the children.

Others have experienced a parent getting lost while driving and not being able to navigate their way home.    No one knows where they are; they don’t know where they are.   It’s frightening for everyone.

Mom and Dad at Opryland Hotel on one of his bus trips. This was one of their favorite places to go. This picture was taken about 10 months before Dad’s stroke.

Some would feel toward their parents at this time…

  • “I’m worried about your ability to keep up with your house”.    All homes require maintenance; things need to be repaired.   Upkeep requires both energy and finances, both of which many aging parents lack.

They have every right to live where they want to and we should do all we can to make that happen.    Often, senior adults downsize and want to move to a place that is more suitable.   For example, a place that only has one floor rather than to having climb stairs.

But it is a concern for mid-life sons and daughters.

Another struggle for some…

  • “I’m worried about your unrealistic expectations of me”.   This is one of the greatest tensions of all.   No one wants to give up their independence and parents can interpret genuine concern from adult children as ingratitude or manipulation. 

This is exacerbated when there are unresolved conflicts simmering between them.   Now words are easily exchanged that never would have in the past.   Sometimes brutally.

I read an article in USA Today that the front part of our brain begins to diminish in  function as we grow older.  One of it’s purposes is to filter our words, that we would not say that which is unwise.  As the filter decreases, so our raw and hurtful words increase. 

Combine that with unresolved issues from the past that are mentally rehearsed (negative words, lack of gratitude, absence of affirmation) with both parties and it brings increased severity of conflict.   Guilt that has not been resolved results in a surface relationship that is waiting to destruct.

This time of life can be what lights that fuse.

One final area of concern…

“I’m worried about you leaving me”.    The closer the relationship, the deeper this emotion.

My father had a stroke and gradually began to weaken because of heart disease.   It was difficult for me to see him slowly decline and realize that he was in the process of dying.

I was talking with a close friend during this season who had also lost his father a few years earlier and he could sense my sadness.   He asked me, “Rick, do you feel like you are grieving your father’s death before he is gone?”

That was exactly what was happening.  I didn’t want to lose my father and my heart was hurting.  Though Dad was a believer in Christ, going to Heaven and had everything to gain, the anticipation of the losses I would experience were heavy.

I’ve not written this to excuse adult children not to care for their parents, but to help us understand some of the emotions of this time of life.   Also, I wanted to encourage those in their younger years to consider some of the possible issues they might experience in the future and also to realize the massive indebtedness they have to Mom and Dad.

One of Dad’s good qualities is that he didn’t speak negatively about people. He was an encourager.

We must not forget that our parents gave their time and their lives for us when we were helpless and now it is a privilege to return our love for them, even though it intrudes on our schedule.   How often did they stay up all night rocking us when we couldn’t sleep and drove us thousands of times to practices, school, and youth activities because we couldn’t do so ourselves.

All of these items I’ve listed mentioned involve an investment of time on the part of the mid-life son or daughter.  And love demands we do that.

Advertisements
Posted in Aging parents, conflict, Family Issues, Father, Mid-life issues, Mother, Parenting, Senior adult issues | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Relating to Your Parents at Mid-life

Years ago I taught a small group of married couples that were in the mid-life stage.   It was one of the most fruitful seasons of my ministry.   I brought a series of lessons that dealt with issues unique to that stage of life. I learned much from preparing the material and it helped me as I approached that stage with my parents.

Typically this blog has been geared around Bible principles as they relate to family issues.  I believe that the Designer of the home and family is God Himself and the design He has given is found in the Scriptures.   We cannot have ultimate and lasting success and violate those principles. 

The next few posts will deal with life at this stage, specifically as regards to parents to children and children to parents.   The thoughts will have reference to biblical truths, but many of them are things we learn through experience, sometimes in a hard way.    I trust they will cause one to think and be helpful.

For those that are currently in this time of life, I hope you will find encouragement and some direction.   For those that are younger and not quite there, I hope they will cause you to prepare mentally and prayerfully for some painful and difficult conversations.   And even more so that you might develop compassion and understanding for each other, on both ends of the spectrum.   When I taught the material it caused me to do all of these things.

Mid-life is about change and transition.    Most of us aren’t prepared for it and experience the growing pains that come with it.

One of those difficult transitions concerns relating to parents in mid-life years. We are unprepared for it because we haven’t thought about it.   No one ever talked to me about it.   I don’t remember hearing anything about it.   Perhaps I wasn’t listening while they were talking about it, but I should have been.

Some of the most painful questions I receive come from people that are in their mid-life years and are facing sensitive issues with their parents. These series of posts are meant to be read as a collective group.  The first two posts will state the challenge and problem in this time of life. The third will bring some answers and solutions.

Mom and Dad’s wedding, December 6, 1956.

What are some of the unique challenges of parents towards children at mid-life?

The following is not a comprehensive list, but are some of the most common issues that surface at this season.

Parents Feelings Towards Children at Mid-Life

Here are three common emotions that aging parents have as their children approach mid-life.

  • “You don’t spend enough time with me”.

Mid-life is when most people are stretched more than at any other time of life in terms of their discretionary time. Not only is there is full-time job (often with management or leadership responsibilities that are more challenging to be released from), but there are now multiple children and teenagers to care for (which includes driving to appointments, practices, games, and rehearsals).

Then, there are experiences you have looked forward to as your children are now in their teen years.   A special trip, being recognized at school, an all-star game.   They happen only once and you want to be there.

That makes for a recipe for some tough choices as the unique needs of senior parents become a reality and they conflict with these special times.    It’s easy to lecture and tell others what to do when you aren’t faced with the consequences of the choice, but quite another when you are staring at the choice and you feel the responsibility to do both things.

Part of the tension: a mid-life parent’s time is at a premium (perhaps more than at any other time) and usually their parents have more free time than ever.

A personal illustration.  My precious mother had three children in five years.  She was finished child-bearing at 24 years old.  Paula and I have seven children and I was 42 when we had our last one.  (Paula was 24 when our first was born; I was 26).  My sister, Melanie, has twelve children and was 43 when she had her last child.

Now, there are some major differences in outlook, perspective and expectations if Mom has similar expectations of time from us that she was able to give to her mother during the same season (in terms of quality and quantity).  This brings some difficult choices by Melanie and me that could result in a relational train wreck if this is not handled delicately.    It is not an issue of right or wrong, but of good and best.   To make those choices we need wisdom.

(I must insert here that unless you have read other things I have written that we hold our dear mother in the highest regard and would gladly sacrifice money, energy and time to serve her.  There is no way I could even estimate how much she has given to us.  My purpose in this example is only to show the tension that can come from expectations based on quite different realities, that is all.)

It is a shame – and wrong – that our parents should feel unwanted and lonely in their senior years. But the underlying emotions, “You don’t spend much time with me” are real during this time from many senior parents toward mid-life children.

My mom’s 80th birthday!

  • “You are ungrateful, after all I have done for you”.

This is much more personal and painful when spoken.  Sometimes is isn’t said, but the message is communicated by their spirit when they pull away.

The sad reality is that sometimes this is exactly the problem. But sometimes it is a result of an expectation that wasn’t met; it is the expression of a heartfelt frustration of not being understood or an extension of the first emotion stated above.

A while back I was visiting someone in a nursing home over a period of weeks. I got to know a few people there during my visits and one was a sweet lady that was always outside by the front door sitting in a chair. She was dressed immaculately and cheerful, greeting everyone that walked by her.

One day I asked her why she was always in her place by the door. I thought it was because she enjoyed the fresh air.  She replied, “I’m waiting for my son to visit me”. When I inquired about how long it had been since she had seen him she told me it had been many months.   It broke my heart.

Occasionally I would ask her if she had seen her son and she told me he still hadn’t come by yet. The last time I visited there she was stationed by that door.   Waiting.

That is tragic and wrong. No matter how busy we are in our mid-life years, our parents deserve better. One day there will be regret we didn’t do better.   We can never fully repay our parents.

But there may be times in an unpleasant exchange when you will hear a faint (or direct) accusation of ingratitude, when you feel that isn’t the issue at all.   It’s just that we do have a boss that doesn’t understand and we are attending some other events for the kids.   And there are hurt feelings.

  • “You are taking advantage of me”.

This is usually seen when you have to step in and take away their car keys.

The older parents become, this is more of a reality. When it becomes dangerous for an aging parent to drive because of their vision or reaction time, it is the right thing to do – for their sake and others. However, it is anguishing for both parties.    (Younger people not in mid-life years yet, read that last sentence again). 

This is an incredibly difficult conversation to have with your parents. Even the more so when you are close with them and want to honor them. Perhaps they would have done the same thing if they were in your shoes, but the pain of losing their independence and (what seems to them) their self-respect is more than they can bear.

This includes not only not allowing them to drive, but also taking charge of their finances – the check book, credit cards, debit cards.   Today, wicked people target elderly folks and petition them through phone calls and emails to give to bogus charities.   They scam them out of thousands of dollars because of their susceptibility brought on by age. I have seen this happen a number of times.   It makes me angry!

Also, I know this pain all too personally.  I remember when we had to take my father’s car keys from him and forbid him to drive.  That day was the most difficult thing we have ever had to do as children.   It hurt my father deeply. It hurt us deeply.    He was a professional driver and could drive better than any of us, but health issues had caught up with him.

I knew we were infringing on my beloved father’s dignity, from his perspective. But it had to be done.   After a few weeks he accepted it and things got back to normal, but I know for a period of time he felt betrayed and that we had taken advantage of him.

I’ve talked to friends of mine that have experienced the same types of responses and conflicts with their parents in this season.   It is a reality.

My writing this is only to prepare those of you that are younger to consider these facts and to have mercy on your parents. And perhaps for anyone that is in their senior years that might read this to have mercy on your children.    For those in mid-life years perhaps this can be an encouragement that you are not alone in the stress of this unique stage of life.

There will be misunderstandings.  It’s just a difficult time. But it can be a blessed and wonderful time, too. I’ll come to that in a later post.

Posted in close family, communication, conflict, disagreements, expectation, familiy issues, Family Issues, Father, Mid-life issues, Mother, Parenting, problems, Senior adult issues, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gaining Wisdom through a Mentor

When I was in college I began to read and study about what made for a strong family.   I wanted to reach my potential as a husband and as a father.   While I had an incredible example in my own father I needed to make sure that I was doing everything I could to not mess it up.

For example, concerning parenting I read the book of Proverbs and looked for principles about raising children.   Wherever I found a responsibility of the parent I underlined the verse and initialed a “P” beside it; whenever there was a responsibility of the child I wrote a “C” beside it.

I went to the school library in my free time and read books that dealt with marriage and family life.   There weren’t a glut of books on the topic in the mid-70’s, like there are now.   Though I wasn’t engaged I was serious and desperate about learning everything I could about what the Bible taught about family life.    After all, He designed the family unit and tells us how it is to function.

The Bible states that one of the fundamental keys to building a strong home concerns the wife and mother.   And one of the primary characteristics that gives her such influence is wisdom.

“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”  (Proverbs 14:1)   Notice that it is a “wise” woman that makes the difference.

So, how does a lady cultivate God’s wisdom?   

One of the ways is mentoring.  It is a popular subject today, but it was taught in the Bible thousands of years ago.   While discipleship and mentoring are not the same and have their own distinctives, the general principle of both is given in the following text.

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”    (II Timothy 2:2) 

There is a chain of influence mentioned in this verse: “thou” (Timothy), “me” (Paul), “faithful men”, and “others”.    This spiritual chain began with Paul and through his discipleship/mentoring it resulted in a multi-generational impact in his own lifetime.

You, too, can trace your own spiritual heritage to some degree.   Part of passing the baton includes mentoring which results in a growth of wisdom.   You ought to be receiving a baton of wisdom and passing one on, all at the same time.

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”   (Proverbs 13:20)    We cannot give what we do not have.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction”.   (John C. Crosby)

Dick Vannoy, we served together on a church staff in Virginia. He spoke into my life about the nuts and bolts about management and leadership. I am indebted to him.

Older, spiritually mature women have a responsibility to mentor younger women and those that are younger have a responsibility to seek mentors.

“The aged women…may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”   (Titus 2:3-5)

The above Scriptures list some of the issues where younger women need encouragement and instruction to become who God wants them to be.

While these topics can be covered in a Bible study or small group class at church, the context and intent of the passage concerns a personal mentoring-type role.   A place where much of the learning occurs in the ebb and flow of life though a lens of experience rather than going through a strict curriculum.

The writer states that failure to do so results in reproach upon God’s name – “that the word of God be not blasphemed”.    Much of the erosion of the Christian home and the accompanying mocking from those that reject God’s Word is due to a lack of personal mentoring.

As a grandfather I am to pass on to my grandchildren what others have deposited into my life. It is a stewardship I take seriously.

What should we do?

Be a mentor.   If you are older and have walked with the Lord longer than someone else then you have some things to share with them.   Sometimes it involves things that didn’t work.  Don’t allow the feeling of I don’t have anything to offer to prohibit your investing in others.

The motivation is to instruct those behind you so that they might not make the same mistakes or might grow at a more rapid pace than you did.   This is one of the joys of investing in people!

Find a mentor.   Everyone should have mentors in their lives.   Do you have someone to go for advice and help?   It is not always a close friendship, but someone whom you respect because they have had positive progress in areas where you lack.

It is important that they have enjoyed some degree of success in that area. One cannot give what they do not have.

If you want wisdom replace watching television, surfing the web, burning through Netflix episodes and invest that time with a godly mentor.    Ask them to have coffee somewhere.   Come prepared with some questions.

This isn’t a counseling session, but a time to pick their brain and to discover solutions.   Again, a close friendship may not result from it, but you will gain some incredible insights if you will take the initiative.

Dr. Les Ollila, one of the wisest men I know. I learned, and still learn, so much about spiritual leadership and practical living from him. A great man.

When our first child was born we lived in another state away from our families and rarely saw our parents.   My wife had several older ladies in our church that were good friends and she found sound advice from them in what to do with a newborn    That can be a trying time for a new mother.    These ladies were a blessing to us!   They have no idea how much their mentoring helped Paula.

I did the same thing with men that were older and wiser.   I remember teenagers in our youth ministry that were stellar and I thought I want to have children like that.  One day I went to the father and asked him a few questions about how they had developed some of the positive characteristics I saw in his boys.   On the spot he invited Paula and me to their home for a meal and that was one of the topics we discussed.   I learned some helpful things that night.

He and his wife became our mentors though the word “mentor” was never used.  I just knew they had some experience and knowledge that we didn’t have, but we wanted.   The interesting thing is that when we went to their home, we didn’t have any children.   I was hungry to learn before the opportunity and responsibility was ours.

One of my professors in college is a mentor to me.   I still call him on the phone occasionally with questions and he graciously helps me.   He is in his mid-90’s now.    For over forty years he has been speaking into my life.

Dr. Wymal Porter, one of my professors in my Bible classes in college. An incredible teacher and one whom I still call for counsel and help.

You can learn from people that have passed on!   Read great books and learn from people that are wiser than you.   Let them become your mentors even though they are gone.

“…he being dead yet speaketh.”   (Hebrews 11:4)

You will become what you spend time with and focus on.

Occasionally we have have young couples approach us concerning their marriage and parenting. We get together and tell them the good, the bad and the ugly.    Of course, we never betray personal matters within our family or our children, but honesty must be part of a mentoring conversation.

How about you, my friend?

Who is mentoring you?

Who are you mentoring?

When was the last time you went to someone that was faster, quicker, smarter, more experienced and you asked them for advice?

Do you read books that will help you?    Someone said, “The person the will not read is no better off than the person that cannot read”. 

Dr. Lloyd Smith, he was the music director in my church when I was young. Humanly speaking, he is one of the reasons I am in the ministry today.

I turned 60 this past year.   I walk slower and I get tired a lot quicker than I did ten years ago.   But my spirit still burns bright for Christ, I know more about life than I ever have, and I love deeper and broader than when I was younger.   I don’t want to waste what the Lord has given to me, even my failures.

Recently I wrote down a list of names of some younger men in our church that I wanted to spend some extended time with to pour some of these things into their hearts, if they so desire.   It would be one of the best uses of my time as a Pastor.

My son called me the other night after returning from a short vacation with his family.   He told me about a book that he had read.   He said, “Dad, I remember that you told me that you tried to read this book every year and so I thought I would read it again, too”.   He shared that I had given him the book and inscribed a note in the front and put the date under the note.   I gave it to him when he was 13 years old.    Now he is reading it in his 30’s.   And the beat goes on.

Mom and Dad, let’s be faithful to mentor our children first, but let’s also mentor those that are behind a bit in terms of knowledge.   And, for the sake of our marriage and children, let’s find some good mentors.    It’s an essential if we are to have wisdom.

Posted in Family Issues, mentor, mentoring, wisdom | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gaining Wisdom through Prayer

Recently we celebrated the 80th birthday of my Mom.  It was a wonderful and fun evening as we honored her.  In the days before it I found myself reviewing the years of my youth.  I had specific memories of my parents raising me, my sister and brother.    My heart was filled with gratitude for the foundation they had given to us.

A mother has a vital role in the home.   Her strong influence, for good or bad, is recorded in the Bible.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”   (Proverbs 14:1)

In recent posts I have been developing this idea of how specifically a mother shapes and builds her family.   (The same principles apply to a father, too).    Here we continue the importance of wisdom in building a family and how it is cultivated.

All of us have appreciated our parents more as we have matured and realized their sacrifices on our behalf.

“When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”   (Attributed to Mark Twain)

As a father I have valued wisdom and sought to discover it.    Often over lunch dates with Paula our conversation would drift to an area where we needed direction concerning our children.   When we left the restaurant the solution wasn’t within our grasp, but our pursuit of the answer had begun.   We desperately needed the wisdom of God.

Where does a parent go for wisdom?  

The most fundamental means to gain wisdom is through the Word of God.   As we read the Bible there are commandments God expects us to obey.  While the Bible doesn’t give direct commandments to cover every issue we will face, there are principles given to guide us.    God’s way is always the wise way.   We cannot violate the design of the Designer and not expect painful consequences.

But sometimes we need direction from God on how to apply a specific principle in a unique situation.   Where to go to college?   Who to marry?   Which job to take?   What car to buy?   Should I have the surgery?   Is it time to move?

When the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue, God has promised to give us wisdom in answer to prayer.

The story is told of King Solomon (a man known for his wisdom and insight) where he had to make a difficult decision. When he came up with the solution it was practical and solved the problem. You can read about it in I Kings 3.

How was he able to respond with insight that was remarkable on short notice?     The reason the king was able to respond with wisdom is because he had specifically asked God for it.

And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.” (I Kings 3:7-10)

He was humble in acknowledging his lack of wisdom and the Lord was pleased with his request for it.   God delights when we do the same thing.

One of the most vital lessons we can ever learn is that wisdom comes in answer to prayer.

“For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) The expression “upbraideth not” means that God doesn’t rebuke us or become weary when we call upon Him.  We are His children and He wants us to have guidance as we navigate this life.    It is a promise – “…(wisdom) shall be given him”.

When Paula was delivering one of our children there was a problem and she became frantic and pulled me in close and said, “Rick, you have got to pray for God to help us”.   I had no idea what to even say to God in that moment because things had happened so fast.   I simply cried out to Him and said, “O, God, help us.  Please work on our behalf.”

And He did.   Though the birth of our child was six weeks early and there were still challenges ahead, the issue at the moment was resolved.    Little did we know that was the first of hundreds of prayers for wisdom and help over the next couple of decades for our precious child.

The most beneficial things Paula and I have done concerning receiving wisdom as parents has been our dependence upon the Lord as we have trusted in His Word and gone to Him in prayer.    When we neglected that, the end result wasn’t pleasant.   The harmony in the family was disturbed and God’s name was dishonored.

Four generations. Mom, my daughter, April, and my granddaughter, Darcy.

God delights to give wisdom to those that would ask Him for it.  What a privilege we have to come to the very author and designer of life and pray for His direction and help!

Friend, what issues are you struggling with and don’t seem to have any answers?   Have you tried other means to find answers and neglected the Lord?    Are you confused about what to do as a family?   Is your marriage about to dissolve?

Take heart.    Wisdom is to be had at the throne of God for His children.   Go there and lay claim to it and He will grant it to you.

“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense.   We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all”, wrote Oswald Sanders.

 

Posted in adversity, Building a family, Children, Decision-making, Family Issues, Marriage, Parenting, prayer, problems, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gaining Wisdom through a Time Alone with God

Being a mother is exhausting.  It involves almost twenty years of constant giving with very little in return.   And that is just for one child.  The fatigue is multiplied with more children. 

If there is not a plan to replenish personal resources then weariness will inevitably result in deep discouragement.  

When we are tired it is easy to lose perspective and ultimately lose hope.   So, what is a mother to do?

This is Jordan, my third son, and middle child. He is our miracle child, born six weeks early and he had to stay in the hospital for several weeks before he could come home. Big sister and brother, Ashley and Jeremiah, are enjoying having another brother.

The Bible says that a wise women builds her family and a foolish woman destroys her family.

“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” (Proverbs 14:1)

How does a mom build herself in a practical way?  In previous posts I have dealt with this issue and will continue it in this post and others to follow.   While the focus is on the wife and mother, the principle and application also applies to men in their role.

The first place a wife and mother must give attention to in building a strong home is her own self.  It is impossible to pour something out of an empty vessel.   You must have strength to offer strength.

When the flight attendant makes their speech one of the pieces of instruction deals with the oxygen masks.   We are always told to put the mask on ourselves before the children.   This seems counterintuitive, but it makes perfect sense.

If the parent is unconscious, the child cannot help herself.   Likewise, a mother needs to take time to gain inner strength to be able to help her children as well.

One of the vital areas a mother needs in order to bless her family is wisdom.   The Bible says of the virtuous woman – “She openeth her mouth with wisdom…” (Proverbs 31:26)    When she spoke she had something worthwhile to say.   Her children and husband were blessed and helped by her words.

What a gift!   Wisdom is a foundational building block in building a strong and healthy family!  Yet, it is a rare quality.  Just because a person is intelligent doesn’t mean they have wisdom.

Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective.

Charles Spurgeon wrote,Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

Where does wisdom come from?   In the next few posts I want to focus on three sources of wisdom that will help a mother gain strength for her task.

A mother (anyone for that matter) builds wisdom in her life through a daily, meaningful time alone with God.   Wisdom is the result of replacing your thoughts with God’s thoughts.   We cannot do this apart from knowing the Word of God.

God’s thoughts are found in His words in the Bible. That’s why it is called the “Word of God”.   When we read the Bible we are hearing Him speak to us.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”    (Isaiah 55:8)

Every decision we make goes through a filter of presuppositions that have been developed through our lifetime.  When presuppositions are wrong, conclusions and actions will be wrong.   And we will live with the pain of the foolish decisions we have made.

While there are several purposes for a daily appointment with God, one of the most important is for God’s wisdom to be poured into your mind and heart.

Remember, you cannot give what you do not have.   The Bible says to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”    (Colossians 3:16)   The Bible contains the wisdom of God because it contains the mind of God.   And we need it on a daily basis.

No one will ever have wisdom apart from a daily intake of the Scriptures.

The most important discipline a mother can have is a meaningful time alone with the Lord every day. It will transform her life on many levels, one of them being in the area of giving her wisdom and insight.

It’s a time when I can hear from the Heavenly Father’ s heart and gain His wisdom and perspective.

Recently I was going over my message for our church early Sunday morning, but I couldn’t focus on it.  Earlier my mind had been hijacked by a negative thought that I couldn’t release.  No matter how hard I tried to dismiss it, the painful thought remained.

Finally I laid aside my notes and opened my Bible to a familiar passage that dealt with such times.   As I began to read it, the truth of God confronted my thinking and immediately peace replaced the angst.

Such is the power and the wisdom of the Word of God.    I need it every day to help guide me and to transform my life.    Take some time each day and invest the truth of God’s Word into your mind and heart that you might know life from His perspective.   This is wisdom.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”    (Psalm 19:7)

Posted in Bible, Bible reading and prayer, Family Issues, Time Alone with God, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building Your Children

When I was in the eighth grade my mother asked me to sit down.   I could tell she wanted to have a serious conversation and I thought I was in trouble.   However, she wanted to pass on to me an important truth.  What she said has stuck with me to this day.

She said, “Rick, these will be the best years of your life and I want you to take advantage of them.   They will go by quickly and you will remember them, so make good use of them and don’t waste them”.   It was not only what she said, but how she said it that made me remember  that moment.

That was just one of many talks Mom had with me that helped direct and shape my life.   I will always be indebted to her for the investments she has made in my life.

Mom and me at “Top of the River” Restaurant in Guntersville in the summer of 2011.

A mother has an in incredible influence in her home.  The Bible speaks of her power to build her home – and also her ability to destroy it.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”   (Proverbs 14:1)

This is what my mother did for myself, my brother and sister – she “built” us.  It is what my wife has done for our children.    Now, I’m watching as my children are parenting and building their children, my grandchildren.    What joy I have in seeing this!

This begs an important question: how does a mother build her children?

The Bible gives many ways to do that, but I will only give two in this post.   (The same truths apply to a father in terms of investing and building his children).

You build your children when you highly value them.   Many children wonder if they are important to their parents.   Some kids feel like they are a nuisance and a hindrance rather than a blessing.

Scripture clearly states the high value God places on children.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”   (Psalm 127:3-5)

Notice several expressions.   God says children are “an heritage of the Lord” and “his reward”.     The word “heritage” has the idea of an inheritance, a valued possession.   Children are precious gifts from God, on loan to parents to train for Him.  The word “reward” means “to compensate”.   They are not a penalty, but a blessing and an honor from God.

So, our children are not to be viewed as an obstruction to our happiness or our career goals.   In fact, the Bible says that “happy is the man” that has many children.   That’s not true if they are a burden.

Another text from the Bible on the worth of our kids – “…thy children like olive plants round about thy table.”   (Psalm 128:3)

Here, children are compared to olive plants.   Why olive plants?   Because the oil it produced was a valuable commodity – including cooking, medicinal, and also a medium of exchange in that day.  The idea of these metaphors is clear – our children are to be valued by us.

We must believe our children are important and communicate that to them.   This must be reinforced by our words, the time we give to them, our attitude toward them, and the way we speak of them to others.

Some of the most important words a child can hear from a parent are “I’m proud of you…I’m glad God brought you into our family…I care about you and love you”.

Many have never heard these words.

Do your children sense they are important to you?    Do you take the time to communicate value to them?   Do you ever tell them that you are proud of them?

Second, you build your children by teaching them.   I’m not speaking here of academics as much as spiritual training from God’s Word and in practical areas.

Parents have a divine commission from God to teach their children.  The Bible teaches that the primary teacher in a child’s life is to be his father and mother.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”   (Proverbs 22:6)    This commandment is given to parents.    A local church and school can assist parents in training their children, but the ultimate responsibility is on the shoulders of the parents.

Parents can delegate some things, and should, but they are to supervise and oversee what is taught.   We cannot abdicate this responsibility without consequences in the lives of our children.

Paula and I purposed to homeschool our children early on and we did that with all seven of our kids.   We knew we needed to delegate certain academic disciplines that we couldn’t teach as they went into high school.   But that didn’t cause us to forfeit our interest in their academic classes or those that taught them.

When one of our children was taking a psychology course at one of our local colleges and brought the textbook home I asked to see it.  I sat down with them, looked at a few topics in the index, and turned to the various sections and pointed out the wrong teaching that contradicted with the truth of the Bible.

They said, “Dad, how did you know these things were in here?”   That was part of my responsibility to help them be on the lookout for that which is wrong.   Even if it is taught by an authority.    There will come a time when I’m not around to watch out for what is entering their mind and soul and part of my training them is that they would know how to do so.

A child has a special appreciation for those that teach him and a parent forfeits that when they leave teaching solely to others.    I think I gained respect and confidence to some degree from my teenage child when I showed them the problems in the text in the psychology book.

Here are a few passages that show the responsibility of parents to invest God’s truth in the hearts of their children.    Please don’t rush through these; note the emphasis on teaching and whom is to do the teaching.

“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons”.   (Deuteronomy 4:9)

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”   (Deuteronomy 6:7)

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”   (Ephesians 6:4)

God chose Abraham to be the progenitor of His chosen people; one reason was that he took fatherhood seriously.   Note what God said about him – “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”   (Genesis 18:19)

There are other passages in the Bible that state the same truths.  This responsibility cannot be delegated without consequence.

What can Mom and Dad teach their children?   Here’s a sampling to trigger your thinking.   Keep a notebook and write things down as you think of matters children need and make the time to invest in the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Teach them God’s Word.

Teach them to cook.

Teach the how to properly respond to adversity.

Teach them a proper attitude towards authority.

Teach them how to work.

Teach them how to spend, save and budget money.

Teach them how to dress.

Teach them how to choose friends.

Teach them how to have a conversation.

Teach them how to have a hobby or play a sport.

Teach them to how to determine good music.

Teach them how to write a thank you note.

When I was a young boy I remember my Mom leaving home one night a week and attending college classes.   She walked out the door with her notebooks and textbooks in hand and returned several hours later.   But she only did that for a semester.

Later  when I was old enough to understand what was happening I realized that the rigor of the classroom and demand of time was too great for her to work during the day and to be a mother for Melanie, Hoss and myself.   She wanted to get her degree, but she never did.   All three of her kids have gone to college and finished, but the one who gave us life didn’t.   It still hurts my heart to consider this.

My mother laid her life down for us, but in doing so she build her home.    I’ve seen Paula do that over and again for our kids in ways they won’t fully understand until they are older and have their own children.

Ours is a day when mom as a homemaker is unappreciated and undervalued. Yet, the most important thing a mother will ever do is to leave a godly legacy in the hearts of her children.

It’s true“Every wise woman buildeth her house…”   (Proverbs 14:1)     And she deserves our praise, respect and gratitude for doing so.

Mom, keep teaching your children.   The rest of us that have been taught are to honor our parents for their teaching, whether it was by word or example.    If your mom is still around, tell her that you appreciate something she taught you – and do it today.

 

 

 

Posted in Building a family, Children, family, Family Issues, mentoring, Mother, Parenting, Teaching, valuing your children, wise family | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Building Your Husband

After Paula and I were engaged one of our frequent conversations was the kind of home we wanted to have.    We both were believers and that meant God’s Word was the guide to our roles and responsibilities.    Both of us were committed to following those functions as best as we could with God’s help.

The Bible teaches that the wife and mother has a key role in building the family – “Every wise woman buildeth her house…” (Proverbs 14:1)    Whenever you see a strong home you know there is a wise woman in that home.

Notice the word “build” in the Scripture above.   There are some specific areas she cares for that result in building her home.    How does a wise woman “build” her family?  What are the practical means by which she accomplishes this?

A home is strong when a wife builds up her husband.    Of course, the same principle is true for other members of the family.   We are to each edify the other (I Thessalonians 5:11).   But I want to place the emphasis here as the text above in Proverbs does on the wife and her role in building the family.

A wife has an incredible influence in the family; a power unknown to her.   When she encourages and praises her husband he thrives in that environment.    Men are especially responsive to honor and praise.

Here are two simple ways a wife can build her husband

  • Build him with an attitude of respect.   Contrary to the cultural confusion on genders today, the Bible is very clear: “male and female created he them”.  (Genesis 1:27)

Within these two genders God designed men and women to be different, not only physically, but emotionally.  Women thrive primarily on attention; men thrive primarily on admiration.   This can be illustrated in a number of ways, but a single blog post doesn’t suffice for that level of detail.

This is a simple, but important way a wife can honor her husband; show him that you respect and admire him and do so sincerely.

The Bible says to let “the wife see that she reverence her husband”.  (Ephesians 5:33)   The word “reverence” has the idea of respect.    Certainly it includes his role as the leader of the family is to be respected.   But it also speaks to a need God has placed in his heart to sense honor from his wife.  It is how he interprets love.

Respect and honor is such a powerful motivator that it can influence an unbelieving husband to give attention to the Word of God when he is not interested in spiritual things.  Even a man that rejects Christianity will listen to his wife when she respects him and honors him.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”   (I Peter 3:1-2)

Notice that this unbelieving husband is watching the way she lives and that her response to him is to be “coupled with fear“.    The major thrust of the book of I Peter is how to respond to unjust authorities.   Here, he speaks of a wife having an attitude of respect and reverence for her husband’s role in the family.

A wife’s sweet and gracious demeanor is more powerful than any nagging words to pressure him to attend church or participate in any spiritual activities.   Our attitude and spirit speaks louder than our words.

I have a friend whose wife was converted to Christ and she was so excited about her salvation that she wanted her husband to also know the Lord.   She would make sure that the radio was on a Christian station whenever he was around.   When he came to the dinner table she placed Christian literature for him to read by his place setting hoping he would read it.

The very opposite happened.   In her sincerity and zeal to reach him he felt condemned by her, that she was better than him and the last place he would ever to was to church, especially the church that had done this to his wife.

This sweet lady quickly learned that this wasn’t working and began to practice the truths of honoring her husband and loving him, showing him respect, and not preaching at him.

It wasn’t long after that, he did attend church with her, and soon he did trust Christ as His Savior and they began to have a Christian home.   But it was her respect and honor that won his heart.  He interpreted that as love.

That same need in a man’s heart doesn’t change after he is saved.    If you want to build your husband, build him with your attitude, a genuine heartfelt attitude of honor and respect.

  • Build your husband with your words.  One of the most powerful ways a wife can motivate her husband is by how she speaks to him.

The Bible says of a virtuous woman that “…in her tongue is the law of kindness.”   (Proverbs 31:26)

The word “law” means “that which governs or rules”.    It has the idea that her speech was governed by the principle of kindness.   While all of our words ought to be ruled by truth, that isn’t sufficient.  The principle of kindness and grace is also to be a part of our speech.

The way you speak to your husband will either edify or discourage him.    People don’t react as much to what we say, but to how we say it.    And that includes our family.  Make sure your words are kind and gracious.

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”   (Proverbs 16:24)    When our words are like honey they are like food that bring health to the body.   Such words are like vitamins that bring health to the soul (and to the body).

In the family, our words come back to us like a boomerang, especially from our children; what we say and how we say it.  They not only pick  up our vocabulary, but the very speech patterns and tone in the way we speak to each other.

A wife’s attitude establishes the atmosphere for the family.   When she reacts to the leadership of her husband the children learn that same attitude of resistance.  When she uses words that aren’t kind then the children pick up on the same type of words, even when they are young.

Yes, I know many men are gruff and rude and they need to abide by the same principle.  Absolutely.  But the purpose of this post is limited to the importance of the wife and mother and her influence in building a strong family by her attitude and words.

Recently I finished bringing a message to our church family on a Sunday morning.  Usually we are some of the last to leave the property as I take time to speak to people.   That particular day I was especially tired and knew that I had struggled to communicate as I spoke.   Finally we piled in the car and Paula was driving and my mind was filled with discouraging thoughts.

“You did a bad job today”.

“The people deserve better”.

“If you didn’t have this disease, you would be more effective”.  

I was battling discouragement and I still had another message to bring that night!

We drove quietly for about a mile and then Paula reached across the seat and patted my hand and said, “That was a really good sermon today.   You’re a good pastor.   You helped a lot of people today.  What you said helped me”.   

She had no idea of what I had been thinking.  While her words didn’t match my feelings, what she said made an incredible impact on my perspective and my disposition.   In fact, I still remember her words several weeks later.  

Dear lady, your attitude and words make more of a difference than you can ever know in your husband’s heart.   Rather than focusing on his faults and failures, find something to praise and God will use it to build your home.

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success”.  

 

Posted in Admiration, Affirmation, attitude, close family, Encouragement, Family Issues, Growing marriage, Happy marriage, Husband, Marriage, Roles in Marriage, Strong Marriage, Wife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment