let them fly

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My “baby” (just finished her freshman year in college) boarded a plane this morning to take an international flight… all. by. herself. I am a bit nervous. I am anxiously awaiting updates as she makes her way through three flights, three airports, immigration and customs, money changing, and a bus ride to a destination where she will finally connect with friends. I will be counting the hours… minutes… seconds?

I go through second guessing… Is she ready for this? Did I tell her everything she needs to know? Will she get stuck somewhere?

And then I remember… I raised her to do this. I am not an overly protective, micro-managing, hovering type of mother. I want her to be confident, try new things, step out of her comfort zone, take adventures. I want her to figure it out on her own… or be able to ask for help. I want her to make her own (wise) decisions, trust her instincts, lean on her faith, be strong and not afraid of the unknown. 

I want this for all my children… and I want this for those I supervise at work and in ministry. One of the hardest things to do is to let them fly on their own… be in charge, take over, make the decisions. One of the key lessons in leadership is: get. out. of. the. way. Let others lead.

Will they make mistakes? Yes.

Will they make poor decisions? Sometimes.

Will they need help? Sure.

Good training, modeling, and coaching is crucial, but there comes a time when it is really only our pride and our fear that stand in the way. I have seen many leaders that hang on to leadership for too long, wearing too many “hats” of responsibility that could be released to others. I’ve done this myself. But I’ve learned that when we sense a lack of leader candidates, they oftentimes step up only when we are out-of-the-way and there is a real gap to fill.

It’s OK to feel nervous… to worry a bit from the sidelines… even to remain available for a quick touch-point .. but it is not OK to hold them back by our own fear or selfishness.

Let them lead. Let them go. Let them fly.

Is is hard for you to let go? How have you learned to let others lead?

broken hearts

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One of my children broke my heart the other day. They made a poor choice that really disappointed me. I hurt for them and for the other people involved.

That was not the first time I hurt for one of my very normal, very imperfect children… and I am sure it won’t be the last time.

I’m confident that my children often have no idea how their choices and actions affect me as their mom. They certainly pay the major part the actual physical, emotional, and financial consequences, but there is a ripple effect from all they do.

As a parent, I carry part of their experience with me. I grieve the unfulfilled dreams and hopes I had for them. My heart aches for their loss. I cry for their pain. I pray for further growth and maturity. My soul yearns for their forgiveness and healing.

GRACE

I have learned through my own mistakes over the years that grace is a precious gift to receive during times of pain. My children are usually completely aware of their error; they don’t need judgement, criticism or lectures. They do need to know that – whatever happens – I love them still.

CHOICES

I need grace too. I could beat myself up with self-doubts, guilt and second-guessing. Was there a lack in my parenting that somehow “caused” this? Did I not hug, teach or discipline enough? Although I already know that my parenting is not perfect, it was helpful when a friend reminded me that even God – the perfect Father – has imperfect, mistake-ridden, continually erring children. Our situations are very rarely simple cause and effect. Each one makes their own choices.

NEED

In the midst of the ups and downs of life, my (almost adult) children need me. Some times they need someone to listen; other times then need a long, strong hug. Some times they need practical help; some times they need me to “just” pray and give them time and space to work things out. Some times they need advice, counsel and the encouragement to reconcile, restore and choose better the next time.

…because there will be a next time. I would do almost anything to protect my children from pain. When they were very little, I could fool myself occasionally into thinking that I could control their environment and choices. I know better now.

The question is not IF my children will avoid poor choices and pain. Instead WHEN they are hurt and hurt others, the question is HOW will I respond?

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How do you respond to your children’s (or others’) poor choices? What helps you respond well?

supermom doesn’t live here

I have no delusion of having been a supermom… 🙂

My husband and I have determined that we will never be ones to write the “How to…” parenting book.  The other day, however, a new friend asked me for a few tips about parenting young ones, and I quickly thought of a few things that helped me enjoy the process. I hope they might be an encouragement to you…

1. dynamic walk with the Lord… I just couldn’t ever make sense of the daily struggles and sacrifices, contrasting opinions and peer pressure, if I wasn’t secure in Him. Time with Him was often just snatches of desperate pleas for help during the day, but I realized that when – although I didn’t always get it – I longed for time with Him, I was probably doing OK.

2. investment in my marriage: Conferences, counseling, regular (every week) dates, communication, getaways…  so essential and very worth it for us to stay connected as partners! We loved parenting, but we always understood that our marriage was a priority, and we made time for us. Now that the kids are almost all moved out, we are really looking forward to being together – just the two of us – not dreading it or wondering what we will do without the kids around.

3. with #1 and #2, reflect on and choose what works for YOU and YOUR family! I am not a “kid’s world” person, so I needed time with adults each week. I loved being involved with the university ministry – discipling and mentoring, and involving our kids. I also home-schooled for many years and loved it. I have the gift of leadership and always led side-by-side with my husband. I used a lot of organization and structure to make life “livable” for me. Living in a foreign culture, I had help with cleaning and cooking. (I still don’t do much of that!) BUT… that worked for ME… each woman and marriage is different… God’s incredible creativity isn’t limited to creation… it is available for each marriage and family also. It is available for you!

4. last, but related to #3… do what YOU need to do to get refreshed… I spent so many years feeling guilty because I thought I “should” want to dress up and go out to a fancy dinner for a date, when I really preferred to lay out in the sun and read/discuss a book with my husband… or go to a yard sale… or run by myself… coffee dates with friends and women’s Bible study groups were also great for me. My recharge is not the same as others – I finally figured out that was ok…

I was so encouraged that my friend was asking questions, because asking questions is the first step to finding the way in a very complex and challenging life… May God bless you on your journey!

What are you doing to enjoy the process? Are there some other “tips” you would suggest as an encouragement to others?

it’s a process

Get back in your chair.
Eat your food.
Chew with your mouth closed.  
Stop goofing around.
There will be no desert, if you don’t eat the vegetables.
Just try it – you might like it!

Doesn’t sound much like leadership advice, does it? I had four little ones, living far from family, and often felt like I was just hanging on by a thread.  Especially at meal times.

I remember reading a parenting book during those days where the author described family mealtimes as a treasure… all the family gathered around the table, telling stories, laughing, enjoying the togetherness… and I thought, “What planet are they from?” I couldn’t even imagine ever treasuring meal times; they were just a lot of work for me.

And those mealtimes were work – for a season.  We worked on basic manners, and we worked on gratefulness, respect, patience, self-discipline, conversation skills, and the willingness to try new things.  Character issues.  Future leader issues.

It was easy for me to get discouraged and tired and lose sight of how the small daily details fit into the big picture. It was easy to compare and feel like others were doing something more significant for the Lord…

I still struggle with that today.

But when I take time to get away with Him, God reminds me that every experience in life is an opportunity to grow and develop… or to invest and build in to others – future leaders. The small things are significant. My life matters. The daily disciplines help develop character. I just have to remember that the spilled milk and the sticky hands are all part of the process.

Do you get lost in the daily grind? What helps you remember that the process is important?

PS: Today I understand. Mealtimes with my crazy, incredible family are a treasure… but I still have to encourage them to eat their vegetables.