Devotional Thoughts: Raising our Children

I remember my dad being asked once how he raised us so well and he answered that he kept us in church. I was contacted yesterday by a previous multi-housing ministry student saying she wants her daughter to grow up knowing Jesus loves her no matter what. She asked if she can come to church.

The children I’ve raised and am raising weren’t in church in their younger years. They lived lives of survival and suffering. I’ve had foster kids who only ate with their hands. Most of them would stab a piece of meat and hold it up in the air and take bites like it’s on a stick. I had to throw out a dresser that was ravaged from only 8 months of use it was scratched and damaged so bad! I don’t even know how you do that! These children weren’t taught table manners. They weren’t taught how to take care of what we had because they never stayed in one place for very long. They weren’t trying to be rude.

When you’re not taught certain things as a young child it’s much harder to change those things later in life after habits are developed. Teaching our children they have a spiritual life is essential for their mental and emotional health. I used to tell my kids they have to go to church but they don’t have to believe a word that’s being said. It’s what we do as a family. I do not push my faith on my kids but each one I’ve adopted had chosen a life of faith and I’m grateful.

Most children will gain most of their faith by watching their parents. Can my kids see God by the way I live my life? Am I pointing my kids to Jesus? It really does matter. I believe a parent has much greater influence than the church in the life of a child.

We’ve all heard the saying, “do as I say, not as I do.” Our kids are very likely to do as we do.

I had a conversation with a dear friend last Sunday about how it’s so easy to not show up at church, especially if I’m feeling sad that day. We talked about how on those days if we just show up we feel like we get a blessing. We’re around people of faith who encourage us. God can speak to us powerfully through Christian community. Christian community is essential. If I don’t have a church community I don’t even understand what I’m missing. I’ve heard people tell me they had no idea how different and amazing life can be until they plugged into a group.

It’s worth a fight even later in life to get your kids in church regularly. I’d say it takes consistent attendance for a few months before you’ll feel like you belong in a church. Relationships take time.

Let’s raise our children in God’s ways in our homes and in our churches. This is our superpower that has the ability to change the world!

Journal 1: My Daughter Has an Eating Disorder, The Nightmare We Lived in 2018

My daughter has an eating disorder, the kind that convinces you that you’re nothing and you shrivel up into a frail bony shadow.  We first noticed this when she came home one day from managing the high school Lacrosse team.  She was clearly dehydrated and looked terrible with bags underneath her eyes.  She told me she didn’t eat or drink all day long.  Ironic because she was in charge of feeding and hydrating all the players on the team!  Weak and exhausted we fed and hydrated her and put her to bed.  She wasn’t back to normal until 2 days later.  That was in February.

By March we knew something was wrong so we talked with a counselor at the high school who recommended we see her doctor.  He put her on a depression med.  We saw an upswing in her eating and mood for about 3 weeks and things started to spiral downward once again.  He also referred her to a G.I. doctor but the appointment we received was for September so we just had to wait it out.  This is a constant struggle with Medicaid, long waiting lists to see a specialist.  From there I started my research online and making phone calls to see what the next step would be when got there.

Next step was to visit an eating disorder clinic in a well-known University for an assessment, but, bad news…  You have to wait 2-3 months to get an appointment!  We survived and encouraged our daughter to eat and drink.  Assessment day finally arrived.  We answered many questions and left emotionally tired and were told we’d hear something within a week.

We were then referred to an intensive outpatient clinic about 30 minutes away from our home.  She would see a therapist, dietitian and eating disorder physician all together.   This took about 3 hours each time we went.  We were told to MAKE her eat.  We choose her food and make her eat it.  We also had to supervise her in the bathroom for 45 minutes after her meals.  We had to write down everything she ate and keep a detailed log of her nutrition.

She is trying.  Her anxiety is so large that she vomits at the table half way through a meal.  She cries and says she is trying to eat and get better and now her body won’t allow her to do so.  We keep meeting with the clinic weekly.  No physical progress is being made because her body won’t digest food.  It’s gone without for months.  Constant diarrhea and vomiting that seems to come from anxiety.

In July I press the clinic to take the next step.  Everything I’m reading says the earlier you intervene the better off the patient is long term in life.  They make the referral and now my daughter is hospitalized.  She has been there a week.  The intake process was emotionally exhausting for 3 hours.  Days later, crying phone calls begging me to come and get her.  I had to explain coming to get her means she DIES.  The lining of her heart is already damaged and thinned from malnutrition.

BAD NEWS…  Her insurance won’t cover her for any residential facility here in NC.  We have to take her all the way to a hospital near Richmond, VA.  Cumberland Hospital for Children.  I HATE MEDICAID!  This child has been through so much in her life and now she has to go so far away!  I could write a book about how Medicaid creates difficulties for my foster and adopted teens.  They go through enough and having to navigate the system takes a lot of time and stress to get my kids what they need.

This is Journal 1, the first part of a series of 6 entries that will be posted daily for 1 week.

One Step to Living at Peace With Ourselves, God and Others

Over Christmas break my teen daughter expressed she was having trouble sleeping.  She felt worried when she was laying down at night.  I asked her what she was worried about and she couldn’t even seem to pinpoint the problem.  A few weeks later when school resumed I asked to see her grades.  I discovered quickly why she was stressed out!

She had a 0 for a paper that was supposed to have been turned in on December 21st.  It was now January 3rd!  Over break I helped her brother edit a paper he worked on and tweaked many times.  She watched as we went through this process knowing all along she had a paper she hadn’t done.

When I discovered she had an outstanding paper I reminded her of one of our household mantras: “Work before play!”   If our work isn’t done, it’s not time to “play.”   If my homework isn’t done I cannot watch TV for example.  This is a simple teaching of priorities to my children.

I explained that she would be grounded until she finished the paper she had outstanding. It had to be written well enough to turn in.  I helped her work on this and edited it and she turned it in.

“No wonder why you couldn’t sleep!” I said.  “You were hiding from me that you hadn’t done one of your responsibilities.”  She was punishing herself with worry when all she needed to do was get that paper done.

One life lesson I’ve learned is that I am at peace when I have fulfilled all my obligations and responsibilities.   I too cannot sleep when I have something I’m behind on.  I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night to work on things that are worrying me.   Sometimes just making a simple list helps me tackle what’s stressing me out. This helps me feel more organized.  I feel like I have a deeper grasp on what’s ahead.

I think this has a spiritual lesson for us as well.  Our hearts cannot live in peace if we are hiding things.  Confession is a healthy practice that helps us all be more emotionally and spiritually healthy.  It’s healthy to name our faults and weaknesses before God and to the people we trust.  It feels soooo freeing and good when we can break free of something that is worrying us deep in our soul.  Making headway in an area that we feel we are failing in builds our confidence.

If we just do what we are supposed to we feel at peace.  We can even get ahead! Hiding things we don’t want others to discover is very stressful.  Each day is a fresh new opportunity to stop hiding things and make them right.  Step up to the plate and start doing that one thing that bothers you that you’re not doing well enough.

I imagine this is why criminals who are running from the law sometimes turn themselves in.   The unrest in their souls and the stress of always thinking they’re about to get caught is excruciating.

Lay it down, confess it, do your best to make it right and move on.

The wisdom of Proverbs 28:13 (NIV) says it best:

  “ Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,

    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

My daughter did this and she is sleeping soundly now!   I hope this discussion will help her strive to keep up with her schoolwork better and will encourage her to apply this lesson to the other areas of her life as well.

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