At Thanksgiving this past year, we had the joy of spending some time with all three of our children together with their families. More than once, I was just overwhelmed with joy and several times to the point of tears welling up in my eyes as I thought of God’s amazing grace that continues to show God’s kindness to Cindy and me and our family. There are no magic wands or lists to follow that could even come close to orchestrating our family. Each child is so unique with the way God has designed them, and then you add the preciousness of their spouses and we have such a conglomerate of character, “characters,” personalities, physical abilities, and passions that simply cannot be because of any great thing we have done, but an absolutely undeniable gift from God to His great glory.
So, I thought I would jot down some things that I’ve learned, am still learning, forgot, advise, or not advise as the case maybe. So, here are ten…for what they’re worth. They are not earth shattering thoughts nor are they prioritized in any way. Just…random thoughts.
1. Relationships are hard work. From the very beginning, work very, very hard on your relationship with them. You are not their “friend,” you are their parent. Especially at the beginning. As they grow and demonstrate they can discipline themselves this relationship grows and change will occur. Don’t hover over them, but don’t keep them at a distance either. As you change in age, responsibility, and life stages, understand they are changing too. Walk with them and work very hard at it. It is hard, laborious, rest-stealing work. Nothing comes easy. Wrestle, struggle, weep, pray, and again I say, work!
2. Keep looking down the road. You are training them for tomorrow, next month, next year, when they leave your home, and ultimately for eternity. Don’t expect them to be 8 before they are finished being 7. Patiently take each day with the view they won’t probably get it today—but someday they will. We must give them an eternal perspective. This takes time to form in our own minds so why don’t we give our kids time to “get it?”
3. Take time to learn them. God made them on purpose. Do you know that purpose? We are designed to give God glory. Find out the fascinating parts how God made them unique. Watch them—every part of them. How do they act or react and to what situations are they really moved? Watch facial expressions, eye movements, bodily reactions and learn to decipher what God is doing in them and through them. It takes times. Don’t be afraid to spend time.
4. Teach them very early what “no” means. So many children do not get authority simply because Mom and Dad did not teach them what “no” means. It often means that they also don’t grasp “yes” very well either. This leaves them very insecure.
5. Be consistent. Spirit-driven, Christ-centered people are people who are not perfect, but demonstrate consistency. Children who never know what to expect from Dad or Mom because of huge swings of emotions or “moods” are once again raised in an insecure, fearful environment and those insecurities and fears are devastating to them.
6. Constantly speak truth into their lives. Everyday presents “Kodak moments” to speak God’s truth into their lives. Don’t miss them. They are precious times of relational heart-to-heart times that often do not come around the same away again. Store them in the library of your memory. A consistent focus on what is true keeps them in the realm of God and His glory. Learning to discern what is true in life must begin with the parent. Don’t be fooled by imitations. Satan is a liar. Sin itself lies. Christ, His Word, and the Spirit are all revealers of truth for all of life. Learn it, live it, model it and speak it into their lives. Truth doesn’t come by osmosis.
7. Laugh often and hard! Don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh with your kids often and laugh hard. We have had tears in our eyes and our guts hurt with laughter. We laughed at ourselves, silly things, and even laughed a corny jokes. Now that they are grown, they are now saying the corny things and we are laughing just as hard…well, most of the time!
8. Build traditions into your lives. We have many memories that we all share and are now seeking to make more. We have places for vacation, we have holiday traditions, we have many “Sipe-isms” as well as times with extended family that we all cherish together. These are things that are like glue that keep us all coming back for more. As fun, weird, or difficult as family (and extended family) can be, are all opportunities to grow in Christ-like love and reminders of God’s grace to all of us.
9. Make all of life ministry. Being a pastor meant that my kids were pastor’s kids, but I doubt they knew it much. Cindy and I sought to make ministry a life rather than a ministry. In other words, we got to share life and ministry all the time with our kids so they really couldn’t decipher when we were “ministering” and when we were living life. It was all one. Loving God and loving people cannot and should not be put in dividers and segmented. I am overwhelmed now to see them doing what they have done all their lives. They are making a living by it now. Pure grace!
10. Cherish every step. I think Cindy is better at this then me, but learning to love and cherish every step of the way is a must. This demands a certain contentment combined with delighting-in-the-moment way of handling each moment through the years. Each child moves through life in his/her own way that should be cherished, enjoyed and not rushed. The mothers contentment at where she is in life is crucial here. If the mother is always up-in-arms and creating drama for her and everyone else, she is not cherishing the moment. Life moves at break-neck speed and we will miss things that are very dear if we are not alert. Stop and enjoy right where you are in life and where they are.
Just my thoughts…and I’m sure there’s more thoughts out there.