Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How the Duggar's were an answer to prayer

I was recently the recipient of some really valuable parenting advice {and an answer to prayer}, me along with 5,000 and some other people.  Joe and I had the opportunity to attend an event where the guest speakers are the parents of 19 children {and counting}.  I was really eager to hear what they would have to say.  Joe and I enjoy watching their show on TLC and even though I am pretty sure I could never mother 19 children I have a lot of respect and admiration for them.
So, half out of curiosity I went, wondering what they would have to say and if I would be impacted by their point of view. Listening to them share was an answer to prayer, more than I even knew at the moment.  Jim Bob and Michelle had so much to say, so much encouragement and practical ways of raising children to love others and the Lord.  Joe and I both left with far more than we ever expected to receive.
I have recently been coming to the realization that praying for my children is by far the best thing I can ever do for them, it is the most powerful way I can impact their lives.  I've also been realizing my incredible need for wisdom and my own inability to know the answers to their questions and their needs.   Bethany continually amazes me with the amount of thoughts she carries inside her head and when those thoughts come out I'm often speechless.  I swear, the Lord has given me this child to prove my incompetence at living life without Him and to drive me to Himself.
At the event I attended, Michelle was asked how she manages to spend time with all of her children.  She answered that she goes deep with her kids quickly.  If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, then it is addressed right where they are.  She also takes turns running errands with each child and on the way out the door she is already asking them, "How are you doing?"  "Is there anything you need to talk to Mom and Dad about?"  Is there anything we don't know, that we need to know?"  and my personal favorite, "How can I pray for you?"  She said usually all she has to do is ask one or more of these questions and then the rest of her time with that child she just listens.
This statement really caught my attention and I made a mental note to do this very thing more often with my kids.  I usually ask similar questions when I'm spending alone time with one of them, but that isn't on a regular basis or nearly often enough. I asked Bethany out of the blue this past week if she had anything she needed to talk to me about.  She thought only a short minute and said can we talk about it later.  She immediately knew what she wanted to talk with me about, but felt rushed because others in the house were close by.
The next evening we sat down on my bed and she explained her inward thoughts and struggles of unloving feelings toward Joseph.  This has been an issue we have talked about many times in the past.  Bethany is the type of child that takes things to heart and really wants to change.  When she is unable to change, she beats herself up and thinks she is a bad person.   She really struggles with self-condemnation and worries that she is a bad christian whom God does not love.  I've had a hard time getting through to her and explaining that our behavior does not change God's love for us, though sin does separate us from Him.
I wonder where I've missed the mark by making her feel that she has to be perfect all the time and if she is not then she is a terrible person.  It's a struggle for me to tell my kids, "Don't do this, or act this way!" and yet add that they will mess up and will need forgiveness many times over.  I guess it goes with a parental fear that if I tell them they will fail then I'm saying that it's okay and then they won't try to do better.
I'm realizing though, in doing this I'm leaving out a huge part of the human nature and God's nature to us.  I've left out the fact that we can not be better, be more, on our own.  We require serious help from God and He is eagerly wanting to help us.  I want my children to get that at an early age, and yet I've never really thought about telling them until recently.
Bethany and Joseph are both getting to the age were they can understand and be taught about the Lord and obedience, beyond a 2 and 3 year old level of God-loves-you and obey-me-because-I-said-so.  For me this requires intentional training, taking the time to listen, to pray and to know the Word myself so I can direct them to it.  I think when our children are babies we have such high hopes for what we are going to teach them and how we we going to raise them, yet they are babies and we attend to all their outward needs because it is essential.  Then without noticing we fall into a habit of thinking, "When they're older I'll talk to them about. . ."  or "When they're older this is what I'd do with them. . ."  If we are not intentional, then time slips by and goes on and we are doing nothing we intended to do.
As Bethany and I talked, I remembered something Jim Bob Duggar shared.  He said that Michelle will ask her children when they struggle with sinful thoughts or think negative thoughts about themselves, "Who do you think put those thoughts in your head?"  The answer is the devil, so the child realizes the devil is the one trying to direct them wrongly and that they are not a bad person, the devil is the evil one.   This advice was so applicable to Bethany's situation, the Lord reminded me of it when I was listening to her talk.  As I've said before, this is a huge issue that we have dealt with many times and I frequently have resorted to telling Bethany, "Just stop doing that. . .just don't feel that way. . ."  Knowing I was not giving her the tools to change, I would pray for answers and wisdom on how to help her. 
This advice was a way to help Bethany see the bigger picture, it was an answer to prayer.  I am so thankful that the Lord generously gives wisdom when we ask, James 1:5.
As all of us, Bethany struggles with sharing her thoughts and feelings sometimes and says, it's embarrassing.  Most of the time, it's because she is afraid we will be angry with her or be disappointed in her if she tells us what she's really dealing with.  I was able to share with her that the devil wants her to keep her thoughts to herself, because then he can keep her all to himself.  I explained that when we confess our sins to another person, the devil loses his power over us, James 5:16.  Michelle Duggar shared this as one of the things she teaches her children, once again the Lord provided very fitting counsel for a repetitive issue we deal with at our house.
I don't know where you are on your parenting journey, if this advice is helpful to you and your family, but for me it was encouraging and I wanted to share it for my own personal testimony of God's goodness.  Each family is different and I love that we all have individual ways of raising our children.  My family, certainly isn't the Duggar family, I do not strive to be, but I did appreciate the wisdom they offered and the encouragement they shared.  This world needs more people speaking out about the value of family and the priority it is to God.  And like my children, sometimes I need advice on how to go about raising my children, I don't need to be left with a do-it-because-I-said-so or just-fix-it answer.  Thankfully, the Lord is not that kind of parent, He supplies the answers, whether through the Bible or through other people.


Our Crazy Crew said...

Awesome! I think , for me, it is all about using everything as a teachable moment, speaking love and truth into their lives, not dumbing down the things of the Lord, teaching them about cost and payoff of decisions...good and bad, and sharing with them everything the Lord is showing me...letting them see me being led by the Holy Spirit, and being authentic...good and bad. It is amazing watching them "get it" and respond in kind!

Anonymous said...

Loved you post. Today in Bible study we were talking about God's Calling on our lives. It ended up being a really good discussion. One lady, who has a severe downs syndrome child, said she felt like her only calling right now was to care for her husband and her daughter (her other kids are grown). Then another lady said she prays for each of the teacher's a her kids schools on a daily basis, rotating which ones she prays for on which days. As we were all discussing we began to change our mindset from "all we do" to "this is what God as called me to do". Sometimes we get to the point, as women, that feel "all we're doing is....", when in reality, that is exactly what God has called us to do and it IS a high calling. Being intentional were God has is is ubber important. Glad you were encouraged. I'm just on the start of mommy-hood, but I'm realizing nothing is more important than being a Godly wife and Godly mother. Wouldn't trade it for the world!


Doll Clothes Gal Pal said...

I love this post from you dear. :)

Our Family said...

I really appreciated reading this! To be honest, I have been a little turned off from the Duggar's because so many people seem to compare our family to theirs- although we "only" have 5 children. But, I love how you were able to learn from them & receive encouragement in raising your little ones!! You have definitely encouraged me to check out one of their books from the library!