M: what comes after 2021?
M: oh, okay. So, 2023, 2024...
M: when will it be 2020 again?
M: (obviously struck a chord of sadness.)
B: aw, I'm sorry, I know. Its hard to say goodbye to time...but we will do lots of exciting things in 2021.
M: will we still be a family?
B: of course!! Oh my goodness, nothing can ever change that.
M: will there still be God?
B: oh, yes, nothing ever separates us from God.
M: will anything bad happen this year?
Sadly, yes. Bad things happen. That is an unavoidable truth our children should know.
It doesn't mean we ruminate on the bad things or live anxiously in fear of them. Instead, we remove the dichotomy lens of good and bad and we focus on instilling a superseding truth brought forth in this very conversation:
Nothing can separate us from God's love.
There's been a lot of discussion around change over the last year. Our world was literally upended by the pandemic and no one has been able to restrain themselves from expressing the desire for things to return to normal at some point.
There's been positive change, too; greater awareness of how to treat one another or hold regard for one another, despite even differences of opinion, coming up with innovative ways to conduct our daily lives with greater freedom and accessibility like working remotely, flex scheduling, and connecting with others virtually.
But let us not miss the opportunity to explain to our children the things that never change, what will always remain, even under the most dire of circumstances.
1. God's love for us.
2. Our love for each other.
As the adult, you may think that's a no brainer. But it may not be as internalized for your child yet, particularly during times of duress, and especially for children who may be more sensitive to change, in general.
So we read this Bible verse together.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38 - 39) NIV
We thought of some songs together that remind us we are loved. I have never been one for typical lullabies. I like singing gospel hymns or soft contemporary music over my children. Thinking of songs that express love, specifically, was surprisingly challenging for me, further reinforcing the need for instilling a reminder. In case you struggle with this, too, here are some I came up with:
Boats and Birds by Gregory and The Hawk
Comfort by Deb Talan
Your Song by Elton John
The Rainbow Connection by Kermit
Do You Remember by Jack Johnson
I have been reflecting on the evolution of my faith walk as it relates to the tradition of choosing an intentional word for the New Year.
I've been a believer nearly all my life but it wasn't until more recent years that I came to understand the true relationship that Jesus offers and the way of life He calls us to live. If that sounds like fluff talk to you, I urge you to ask me more about my testimony, because my faith was solidified over Christ's handling of the unexpected, devastating circumstances in my life and the lives of others. And trust me, it wasn't just that it all worked out.
But I realized there was a kind of maturity process to our spiritual life. Like a Polaroid photo I could finally see my faith was developing and with each new commitment to God, a piece of my picture was further revealed.
Despite the truth that sang in my heart, I still had trouble holding my faith in my mind continuously. I would often spiral down paths of self absorption and self reliance before realizing I had not factored my faith into things at all.
I started choosing just one word to cling to, to bring me back when I strayed.
At first and maybe for several years it was Prayer. This came out of total necessity after everything in my life had been destroyed. I had been stripped of all security and I felt in constant danger. The only thing I knew to do was pray. Luckily, that happens to be the best mode for God to reach us anyway.
Out of this practice developed my first new foundation in Christ. I turned to Him and He was there, simple and absolute. It was not easy and my life still looked like ruins for several years. But inside, He was knitting me back together, He was restoring me.
The next word I moved on to was Fearless, which absolved me of debilitating anxiety as I worked to identify my fears, call them out by name, and replace them with God's sovereignty over all. That is a whole, wonderful story for another day.
Now stable and relatively healthy, I found myself still having trouble remembering God on a day to day basis. I'd get distracted or wrapped up in other influences. Days would go by before I would think to consult Him about any matter even though I wanted, I needed, to be with Him in every step. So I graduated to the word Abide.
When I would feel myself falling out of attunement with God, I would return myself by repeating "Abide, abide, abide." It was a reminder that I wanted to live in the presence of God continually. That as long as I am within His shadow, like a lamb of the shepherd, I am held in love. It reminded me that God is my home and His home is in me. Not just a friend I phone in times of trouble, but a permanent source of healing, provision, and love.
2019 was the first year I can remember my chosen word coinciding with setting an intention for the New Year. I chose Peace.
I had gotten pretty good at honing the God's peace over trying circumstances. But as this bible verse states, I desired the peace of God infiltrate my entire being and be present with me always, not just in times of distress. It was also a healthy reminder that this type of peace comes over a process. It is not delivered all at once. It is grown like a garden carefully cultivated.
In 2020 I really wanted to put my indecisiveness and lack of confidence to rest. I chose Discernment.
Little did I know 2020 would bring a multitude of important decisions for the entire world. Which sources of information to trust, to wear a mask or not, to send your kids to school or homeschool, to hide your whole family in a bomb shelter or attempt a return to normal activities? As a parent, every step has been filled with deliberation, and I couldn't be more glad that I started off the year with the intention to ASK GOD for wisdom.
But there is a wonderful gift in a developing discernment. God could have at any time created mindlessly obedient beings. Instead He chose free will, which gives us the opportunity to develop any wisdom at all as we go through life making choices and evaluating our circumstances.
I loved meditating over each of these words and what God has brought forth through them in my life. I've already chosen my word for 2021 and will reveal it soon!
My six year old and I were cooking together the other day when he accidentally spilled a significant amount of flour.
"I am horrible." he moaned. The self-degradation surprised me, but I recognized the sentiment. I, too, had been known to ward off reprimand or rejection by beating my critics to the punch. I felt it was important to address this self-talk with him, but I found myself blanking on exactly how.
This came as a surprise, too, because I know so much about the psychology of the inner critic. I have so much experience, myself, with rooting out these echoes of shame and failure. But if there is any real test of how well you understand something, it would be how you explain it to a child.
For a parent, there is an added pressure and realization that you cannot control what your child does with this information. You are really only an influencer in their growth.
My first inclination was to make it a rule. "No negative self talk allowed." While that may be a short-term solution, it doesn't give us any real insight into the mechanism.
I spent several days thinking about this. Maybe it is just a hang up for me, personally, but I really struggled with putting into age appropriate words why this was important and how I could make an impact without being able to "enforce" it.
As with most explanations I've had to come up with for my children, I settled on basic, simple honesty. But it really took me a while to get to the phrase I felt captured this.
"The way you speak to yourself is really important."
When I boil down all the implications of self talk and the fears I have for him as I watch him begin to make this negative outlook a habitual response, this is the message that it really comes down to:
The way you speak to yourself is really important.
I think our children get a lot of messaging from their parents and society about how to behave towards other people. But for some reason, we don't spend a lot of time on self-respect. Not surprising, then, that many adults struggle later with the concept of self-care.
How we speak to ourselves reinforces our emotional first hand experiences. It makes all the difference between how we approach the future. If I fail, I fail two fold when my inner critic speaks negatively of my failure. If I fail but my inner voice maintains a healthy self-respect, I can learn from my failure and do better next time. I can move forward with confidence.
I think our children are capable of understanding there is a conversation going on internally and we, both parent and child, have a role in how the dialogue goes.
I have two young sons, ages six and four. From pregnancy and beyond, they have been mirroring back to me more than I ever could have dreamed of learning about myself and my own growth. As we grow together through this life, I hope to always mirror back to them the same inspiration, strength, and wonder they have shown me.