Books

Parenting: The Calling (Ch. 1)

Posted on June 14, 2017. Filed under: Books, parenting, Parenting: Gospel Principles, personal |

I am currently reading Paul David Tripp’s book called Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family.  It is from a Christian perspective, and though not everyone will agree with all of the advice, here are some of the things I’ve learned from the chapter.

Chapter summary: This chapter was about how parents have an extremely high calling. The chapter begins with this quote:

Principle: Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.

This chapter was pretty sobering in its reminder of how important parenting is. It started off by walking us through the stages of a child through little scenarios.

  1. The two year old won’t eat his peas.
  2. The Kindergarten teacher is sending home notes because your kid won’t stop talking.
  3. Your children are misbehaving and making the day extremely difficult to get through.
  4. You’ve just had one of the best conversations with your eleven year old… EVER.
  5. Your pre-teen is embarrassed by you and doesn’t want to be seen with you.
  6. You take your family to a movie, and the fun family comedy has way too many sexual innuendos that you will need to talk about with your kids later.
  7. Your kid moves away to college and doesn’t need your help anymore.
  8. Your child moves home from college while she is looking for a job. You have to find the balance of parenting an adult.
  9. You’re haunted by regret. (This is where I got emotional.) You remember the little promises you didn’t keep, or all the moments of failure.

Tripp points out that all of those little scenarios have one thing in common: they are all about a calling as a parent. He breaks down our calling into two categories: 1) Parents are treasure hunters, and parents are valued spiritually.

His first point about being a treasure hunter is that our choices and decisions are all reflections of our core values. Many things compete for our attention and to be on the “throne” of our hearts; possessions, recreational activities, people, etc. We often get overwhelmed with them and they hold too big of a spot in our life.

“Parents who are too controlled by possessions (houses, cars, lawns, furniture, artwork etc.) tend to be so busy acquiring, maintaining, financing, and protecting their possessions that they have way too little time to invest in their children in the way God intended. Or parents who love possessions too much tend to be so uptight about protecting their possessions that they unwittingly turn their home into an uncomfortable furniture and craft museum that their children are taxed to live in” (Tripp, 2016, p. 26).

Tripp challenges his readers to humbly look at their own lives and identify any areas that might compete with the value of parenting. What gets in the way of giving parenting the importance and value it deserves?

The second point explains how our high calling as parents is about getting to be “a principal, consistent, and faithful tool in his hands for the purpose of creating God-consciousness and God-submission in your children” (p. 30).  Parents get the amazing job of helping their children understand spirituality and pointing them to Jesus.

My take aways– After reading those initial scenarios, I thought to myself, “thank goodness my actual parenting hasn’t started yet.” But when I thought more about it, I realized that it has. I believe that my every day choices are reflective of what my parenting will be like in the future. If parents are truly treasure hunters, then what I value today definitely has consequences on what things I will value down the road.

Photo 2017-05-23, 12 40 28 PMThe ‘regret’ scenario really struck a chord with me.  I don’t want to make it all the way through my life and then look back and wish I had spent more time savouring the little moments. When Adelyn was first born, many people told me to cherish the time because they grow up way too fast. Cliche, I know… but I have actually tried to take that advice to heart. Jim and Pam were given this advice for their wedding, and I have been trying to do the same thing with Adelyn.  I am trying to live in/cherish the moments we are in. As much as possible, I am trying to be present when I am with her.

It has been really interesting entering into this journey of parenting.  When people ask Photo 2017-05-12, 10 16 46 AMme what it’s like to be home with Adelyn, I have a hard time explaining how much I am enjoying it. You see, I am one of those people who has always been GO GO GO. I have been extremely busy and seemingly involved in everything. Being home with Adelyn has caused me to slow right down.  And let me tell you, there is beauty in the rest. I have really enjoyed this slow pace and spending time with my daughter. We work around her schedule and I’m at home A LOT. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I am.

 

It also makes me happy/excited for my choice to go half time next year.  I know this IMG_2564choice isn’t for everyone. Some would rather be home full time, some would rather go back to work full time… but I’m going to be half time, and I think it was the right choice for me. I am learning that my family needs to come first before my job; I need to practice
making my husband and daughter a priority as I LOVE teaching, and I know it can easily creep in as a higher priority if I let it.

Some people may wonder why incorporating a spiritual worldview while parenting is important. Tripp does a great job of explaining why our role as parents is to help our children see the Creator.

“Your children have the perverse and life-shaping ability to look at the world around them and not see God. They will consistently see the signs (the created world), but they will consistently fail to see what the signs point to (the existence and glory of God). And if you don’t acknowledge God… you will then insert yourself in the middle of your world and make it all about you” (p. 30)

When we make this life about us, we end up living for the unsatisfying flavours of the week. We keep filling our lives with things that we think will make us happy. Often times these things can be good like family, work, career, aspirations, love etc. But they never fully satisfy us. When we shape our worlds around ourselves we end up always needing more because nothing human/earthly can meet these deep needs.  I believe that it is only a spiritual relationship with the Creator that can give us ultimate purpose and joy. When we have that, we can rest and live in a state of gratefulness/contentedness because it is not affected by our shifting circumstances.

What I want for Adelyn is for her to have a steady rock to hold to. I will try my best to teach her to have a spiritual awareness that will outlast her day to day troubles.

Just for fun:

Parenting fail #4- There have been three times when I’ve got home and realized that I forgot to do up Adelyn’s seatbelt in the car. Oops…

Photo 2016-12-02, 10 01 11 AM

Parenting fail #5- I accidentally took her to her six month check up appointment when she was only five months.  I didn’t tell the doctor/nurses when I realized three minutes in. I just smiled and nodded at all the milestones. Thank goodness she is a big baby. She came out as 97th percentile for six months!

 

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Parenting: Introduction

Posted on April 22, 2017. Filed under: baby, Books, Christian, parenting, Parenting: Gospel Principles |

I am currently reading Paul David Tripp’s book called Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family.  We were given this gift when our daughter was

Photo 2017-01-15, 10 27 44 AM

Adelyn was dedicated Jan. 15, 2017

dedicated at our church. Now that I’m finished my masters, I actually feel like I have time to read it!  I will start reading some other novels as well, but I figured why not start with a parenting book while she’s young! Not everyone will agree or believe everything this book says, but I thought it would be good for me to blog my way through it and share what I am learning as I go. (Also a great place to post some of the pictures I have of Adelyn just sitting on my phone!)

Currently our daughter is just about 7 months old.  I started reading the book tonight, and though the chapter was already talking about behaviour, sibling fights, sports teams and academics etc. (which don’t apply to our current situation quite yet), I figured there’s no better time to learn about parenting then now. And sure enough! I was already convicted of some things in my heart that I feel I need to work on.

Chapter summary

The Introduction’s main point was that parents can either be ambassadors or owners. Tripp explains this as your worldview about your children; do you believe they are yours to own or is your job to ‘steward’ them as gifts from God?

“Ownership parenting is motivated and shaped by what parents want for their children and from their children. It is driven by a vision of what we want our children to be and what we want our children to give us in return” (Tripp, 2016, p. 14).

This is very similar to the marriage advice he gives in his book, What Did You Expect?
He said that we often use our spouse as vehicles or obstacles to get what we want. It can be the same with our children. It becomes a user/consumer mentality.

His alternative is ambassador parenting.  This is the view that our children are gifts from God and we don’t own them, but we steward them to the best of our ability.

“The only thing an ambassador does, if he’s interested in keeping his job, is to faithfully represent the message, methods, and character of the leader who has sent him” (Tripp, 2016, p. 14).

An ambassador parent’s job would be to try their best to reflect godly principles and messages to their children.

My take-aways

1) My identity does not come from Adelyn. Period.  “Owner parents tend to look to get

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‘Auntie’ Ashley having fun with some Snapchat filters!

their identity, meaning, purpose, and inner sense of well-being from their children” (p. 17). Funny how I used to find myself struggling with getting my identity from my job!  Have a kid, and sure enough… that can be easily replaced by a little one.  Now, I know I can take great JOY in my daughter.  I can love how cute she is, how good she sleeps, how well “behaved” she is when she is tired etc. but this does not, and should not reflect my true worth. The point is, that if my worth comes from her appearance and behaviours, then I will be the most proud parent one minute, and the most discouraged, disappointed parent the next.  It’s the “Saviour” complex.  Looking to Adelyn to have her make or break my day is not a role she was made for.  Ambassador parents are “freed from asking family life to give them life because they have found life and their hearts are at rest” (p. 18).

2) I don’t have to dread Adelyn’s awkward older years. I am a primary teacher for a reason. I love the cuteness of kids ages 3-7. I find them adorable, funny, clever, and their

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Photo credit: Laura Barberis via Flickr

imaginations are magical.  I’m not going to lie, I find 9-13 year olds kind of annoying. I do want to eventually teach that age group as I love that they are getting to be more independent and critical thinkers at that age.  (They also behave way better for their teachers than their parents)… but to be completely honest, I find them awkward and sometimes irritating.  My husband Jon and I have already joked about how those years with kids are going to be terrible.

This chapter totally convicted me of my selfish desire for my child to always be cute and funny for MY selfish wants. Owner parents “struggle with the crazy, zany phases that their children go through as they are growing up. They’re not so much concerned about what that craziness says about their children, but what it says about them” (p. 20). On the other hand, ambassador parents “have come to understand that parenting will expose them to public misunderstanding and embarrassment somehow, someway. They have come to accept the humbling messiness of the job God has called them to do” (p. 20).

IMG_2294

Speaking of messiness…

If I am to honour Adelyn in every way that I can as her parent, I need to allow her to grow into the little human God has called her to be.  I can release her from living up to my expectations, and I can try my best to impart knowledge, grace, and love to her. She is already an awesome baby DESPITE me, not BECAUSE of me. I’m doing my best, but have already had so many parenting fails! I need to remember the truth and strive to be an ambassador parent.

Just for fun share time. I keep track of many of my parenting fails in a note in my phone. It keeps me humble 🙂

Parenting fail #1

IMG_2355

First week of parenting: I thought breastfeeding was going great! I figured she was perfectly latched and that the milk was going, I don’t know, into her mouth?

Parenting fail #2- I spelled her name wrong on the invitation to her church baby shower. Oops!

Many more fails to come! Anything connect or resonate with you? Do you struggle with ownership parenting? Comment below and share your experience!

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The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective Part 2

Posted on August 5, 2014. Filed under: Christian, Hunger Games, reflection |

If you have stumbled across this post, and you haven’t read Part 1, you can read that here. It might give you some context as to what I am talking about!

In this post I am going to elaborate on what ideas and themes in the Hunger Games I “reject” from a Christian perspective.

The first theme I see in the Hunger Games that I reject is the idea of “owing someone something/keeping score.” Early on in her life, Katniss was given loaves of bread from Peeta so that her and her family wouldn’t starve. She let this act of kindness hang over her head, and though she was thankful, she felt as though she continually owed him throughout the story. She wasn’t fully able to thank Peeta or even speak to him before the games, and then during the games, these feelings continued to surface.  When she finally took care of Peeta near the end of the Games and saved his life, she finally began to feel as if they were “even.”

At the climax of the story where the remaining tributes were forced to the Cornacopia, Thresh’s decision to let Katniss go was also based on the idea of “owing something.” Katniss had taken care of Rue, protected her, fed her, and ultimately honoured her in her death.  Thresh was also from District 11, and so when he learned that Katniss took care of Rue, he showed his appreciation by not killing her, but letting her go.  Katniss feels connected with Thresh in that moment, because she admits to knowing what it feels like to owe someone something, and so she understands his decision deeply. Once everyone’s debts are squared up, they leave each other knowing that they are now able to fight for their lives because they don’t owe each other anything.

thresh

Though many readers may connect with this theme, and even though I feel a sense of honour at what Katniss or Thresh did, I reject the principle behind it because it lacks the true understanding of grace or mercy. The idea of owing someone something, or making things even is the exact opposite theme from my first post- self sacrifice. The Christian gospel is different than any other religious belief for this very reason. Some religions say you need to do things, and follow rules to earn God’s favour. If you do this, then God will do that.  The gospel says you can do nothing to earn God’s favour; you already have it.  When Jesus died on the cross, he died completely innocent on behalf of the world’s sin.  He rose from the dead, conquering death (and therefore sin) and he now expects NOTHING in return.  Get that? Nothing. It is one of the hardest things for mankind (including myself) to understand.  Romans 10:9 says, “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Christianity only takes belief.  Technically, we owe God everything, we owe him our salvation, our eternal life, but there is NOTHING that we can do to even out the relationship.  We can’t do more, we can’t be better, because he will not love us more for trying harder.  God loves us SO much that before we were even born, He sent Jesus to die so there would be a way to have a relationship with the God of the universe. The problem with Katniss’s response to Peeta and Thresh, is that she will never be able to experience a deep peace.  If Peeta does one more nice thing, or saves her life again, she will continually feel like she will need to “earn her salvation” and keep things even with him. Though I often stumble with this concept of earning my own salvation, I am so thankful that as a Christian I can experience peace knowing that I am loved, accepted, and saved the way I am, and that I don’t have to earn my way into heaven some day.

scale

The next principle I reject in the Hunger Games is the idea that the Capitol is a happy, joyful place. Sure they have great food, a plethora of clothes, trend setting fashions, and copious amounts of money, but we all know that the author wants us to see past that. The idea here is that the Capitol is meant to be a stark contrast from the districts, or more specifically, District 12.  The Capitol is made to look enticing and attractive, and it does, after comparing it to what the people of the districts have to face on a daily basis. The irony is that as Westerners (North Americans/Western Europeans), we ARE the citizens of the Capitol! Compared to the rest of the world, we are the fools who spend our money on outrageous things.  We are the ones that perform ridiculous procedures on our bodies, and talk about things that would sound atrocious to someone who struggles to find food every day.  So why I reject the idea that the Capitol is actually a happy place, is because when I look around, I know that as a society, we AREN’T very happy.

capitol fashion

Even though we have “things” that are supposed to make us happy, we always end up needing more.  Our consumerist culture demands that we buy the newest and latest thing, and then marketing tells us that once we have it, we will be happy. But we all know that this isn’t the truth.  Go to a landfill.  Everything in there was once NEW. It was once shiny and precious as well.  When I look at the Capitol, I can compare it to sin.  When we chase after our own desires, it looks good… it looks REALLY good.  It might even feel good, taste good, even satisfy, for a time.  Nothing in our world was created to meet that deep need we have inside of us.  Ever hear of the God shaped hole in our heart? It’s not the most perfect analogy, but I know that it often rings true for me.  The analogy is that we have this God shaped hole in our heart that we keep trying to fill with iPods, clothes, houses, love, sex, cars, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses etc.  But we are always left wanting because the only thing that can fill that void in our life is someONE who is outside of this world.  Someone who doesn’t shift or fade or deteriorate. Someone who is beyond our human standards.  Someone who is so much greater, that no matter how much we have of Him, we will never have it all.  This person is Jesus. Even though Katniss and Peeta can appreciate the delicacies of the Capitol, deep down they know it is not satisfying.  They don’t fall into the belief that the Capitol is happy, and they don’t think that if they move to the Capitol, magically all their problems will go away. They seek a deeper peace, and a deeper rest than the Capitol has to offer.

The third idea I reject from the Hunger Games is when Katniss’s mom emotionally abandons her after her father dies. This is a sad but true human response to suffering. I can’t even say I fully understand the pain people experience when they lose someone close to them.  I have experienced death before, but thankfully I have never experienced someone in my immediate family dying. I can only imagine the deep suffering one must go through when this happens. That said, I reject the idea of shutting others out when death occurs. I believe God has put us here to live in community and to do life together. I think that the best part of the human experience is when we get to connect deeply with other people on this planet. Often times the deepest connections inter-personally happen when one or both parties have experienced a type of suffering, and they are willing to share that burden with the other person.  I think that Katniss’s mom could have experienced more hope and healing had she let her daughters in after her husband’s death.  Though difficult, I think that we, as humans, need to reach out to others in our times of struggle. The times when Katniss experienced peace for her broken heart were when she was allowing Gale or Peeta to comfort her and walk with her on her painful journey. Solitary battles leave lonely hearts.

broken heart

All in all, there are few themes that I reject throughout the book.  I think Suzanne Collins has done an excellent job of maintaining a thread of hope throughout the story, even through the seemingly hopeless conditions Katniss found herself in. I only reject the above principles because through a Christian lens, I know there is a better and more hopeful way.  I don’t think that Collins should have omitted these themes because a lot of them helped to drive our protagonist, Katniss, into the circumstances she often found herself in. The dark parts of the text make for an interesting story, and an even more redemptive ending… Which I will talk about in my next blog post, part 3; The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective- what I “redeem.”

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The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective Part 1

Posted on July 24, 2014. Filed under: Books, Christian, Hunger Games |

I had already seen the movie… and HATED it. I remember leaving the movie theatre disappointed in the lack of character depth and over cheesiness of the film. That said, I still went to the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, and came out not hating it, but not loving it either.

I am a teacher, and so therefore I get the summers off. Even though I have to put up with all the sunshine, good weather, and extra sleep, there are some positives to having the summer off- I get time to actually read for enjoyment.  This week on Sunday, I started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

We were heading to the lake that day, and so I started reading it in the car.  When I was there, my aunt commented on the book, sharing that it’s pretty dark.  I hadn’t really thought it was that bad yet, so I kept reading.  It was holding my attention and interest, so I read all of Part One that day.  But something inside of me was nagging me to do a little more research. So before bed, I looked up some of the summaries and reviews of the book. I found out that later on in the book, there was going to be a graphic rape scene, and a lot of the book has to do with sexual content etc. I decided to stop reading it and save my conscience and mind the images that would most likely end up haunting me. (I don’t do well with that kind of thing.  Did I mention I teach grade one… and quite enjoy the innocence of it!)

On Tuesday, I went to my parents house as we were going up to the lake again. (Tough life, I know.) I ran upstairs to their bookshelf to see if they had any other books I could read.  Lucky for me, my dad got the Hunger Games trilogy for Christmas. I dove right in.  That was on Tuesday, and I finished the book yesterday…. which would be Wednesday. Sigh. Yes I’m a nerd.  But in my defense, it is very well written and has an excellent story line. The movie does not do it justice.


I was reading my Bible this morning and because the Hunger Games is fresh in my memory, I was making some connections from the themes in the book to Christianity. That, my friends, is where this post is coming from. I plan on posting what I receive, reject and redeem about the Hunger Games from a Christian perspective. Post 1 is what I “receive.”

Receive:

The idea of Self Sacrifice: From the very beginning we see the theme of self sacrifice through the protagonist, Katniss.  We know that Katniss is constantly looking after her mother and sister by hunting in the woods illegally and providing for them before herself, but this is just a foreshadowing of what is to come by Katniss volunteering to die in place of her sister Prim, and the rest of District 12. I “receive” this idea because I see it paralleling Jesus so easily.  Jesus chose/volunteered to die in our place.  He loved us so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of us dying and going to hell.  He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice even though he knew what that outcome would be. Katniss didn’t volunteer thinking she would win, she volunteered knowing she would die.

i volunteer

Peeta is also a great example of self sacrifice.  The book tells the story of him deliberately burning his parent’s bread, so that he could run out and put it into Katniss’s starving hands. He was abused for his choice, but made it anyway. Throughout the story, Peeta continually is the depiction of self sacrifice. He constantly puts Katniss’s needs first, and we get the impression he has decided to put her well being before his own no matter what. This makes me think of how often Jesus did this in the Bible. His self centred disciples are constantly making the kingdom of God about themselves and their own kingdom, and though Jesus rebukes them, he continually loves and serves those he is with.  He never once chooses to put himself first; even when his followers hurt and abandon him.

I receive the idea of Evil: In The Hunger Games, The Capitol is represented as being evil. It is The Capitol that is causing oppression on the districts, it is The Capitol that is witholding food and forcing the districts to live in fear.  Gale and Katniss agree on this while hunting in the wilderness, and Gale even suggests running away from its reign. I “receive” this idea because in our world I also see oppression and evil happening.  I don’t blame some governing body or city, but I do blame sin.  All it takes is one look at the newspaper to know that there is something wrong with our world.  There is a disproportioned use of power.  There are deaths that are inhumane and preventable.  Something is just not right.  Though the Hunger Games is often considered part of “dystopian literature,” I see our world as being dystopian. In Genesis it says that the world used to be perfect until sin entered.  When Adam and Eve took that fruit, they allowed sin to enter the Earth, and more or less screw up everything that was good! Thank God that He had a plan to redeem this world and restore it! There are still many evidences of grace today where we can see a glimpse of that once utopia, and without those, I feel like we would all feel utterly hopeless. Fortunately I know that even though we are living in a very fallen and depraved world, there will be a day where Jesus returns to restore it to its former beauty.

forbidden fruit

The idea of real love: Though Katniss is a hard hearted character, the author allows us to see little blossoms of her true love, and one of these is Prim.  Katniss truly loves her.  She would do anything for her sister, even give up her life. She has moments of fondness for Gale, her mother, and even Peeta, but the audience knows that she truly LOVES Prim.  Because Prim is left behind so early in the book, we get to experience Katniss’s sisterly love again when it comes to Rue.  Rue is more than just an ally to Katniss; she becomes a sister. Though short lived, we see the fruits of Katniss’s sisterly love when she spends the night in a tree with Rue. Katniss has a peace that night that casts out all fear.  Her nerves are calm and she can enjoy the company of Rue without the heavy loneliness that had been following her throughout the games. 1 John 4:18 says, “there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear.” The idea of real, true love points me to the Lord.  When we truly experience the love of a heavenly Father, every fear and worry seems to get a little smaller and less significant. His love gives us a sense of safety that not even a human’s love can.

Furthermore, Peeta also reveals true love to the readers. All along, Peeta seems to be thinking about how he can love Katniss more.  His strategy before, and during the games, is always to keep Katniss safe and allow her to live. His love is what draws the Capitol’s sponsors in, and provides help for Peeta and Katniss when they need it.  Though Katniss behaves as though she loves Peeta, the Capitol, (and the readers,) always have their doubts about her true feelings.  Peeta’s love stands the test of time and circumstance.  At the end of the Hunger Games, when the announcer shares that there can only be one winner, killing Katniss doesn’t even cross Peeta’s mind, though we can’t say the same for Katniss. Katniss is Peeta’s “bride,” his love, and he is willing to die for her.  Again, this so clearly reflects Jesus.  He calls the Church his bride, and he loves the Church beyond measure. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Peeta was throwing his knife away, while Katniss was grabbing her bow to kill him. Jesus was giving his life away, while we run to sin that ultimately kills Him.

Does the book, The Hunger Games, have a clear message of the gospel? I would say no, but I do think there are elements of the gospel in the book. When we open our minds to receive these, we are able to take a beautiful story and let it strengthen our faith in God and what He has done.

Hunger_games book                     bible

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