Parental Heartbreak

It’s likely that if you are a parent reading this, you’re familiar with the awful feelings that well up within us when others cause pain in our kids’ lives. Sure, sometimes pain is caused by something our kids did or said, but right now I’m referring to the non-“you-brought-this-on-yourself” brand of hurt. This kind of hurt brings out Mama Bear instincts of protection, and “oh no, you did NOT just do that to my baby,” kinds of feelings. I’ve been there. I’m guessing you have too.

This is also the kind of hurt that brings out the comparison game. It’s possible we all play it sometimes. We either think it to ourselves or God-forbid, say things like this directly to our child: “Well, I’m not surprised that so-and-so did that to you, because his parents have let him get away with such-and-such since he was born.” (Because the little snippets of their parenting we see make us experts on what happens in their house…)

I’ve played that game, and there are no winners. After all, we’re all trying to maneuver through this parenthood thing and make it to the other side shouting, “That’s my child!”, and be proud of who we are pointing to…all the while knowing that if they do make it into adulthood as a productive, kind-hearted human being, it’s due to about 10% parenting and 90% God’s grace. The next time I’m tempted to play the comparison game, please remind me of the scientific 😉 percentages I presented, and also that as parents, we are on the SAME TEAM! Let’s support each other a little better.

And let’s remind each other that instead of going down the road of comparison, where we should really be heading is right into the arms of God. God knows how we feel when our children endure any suffering. In fact, during the darkest night known to mankind, He experienced parental heartbreak that we can’t imagine!

God sacrificed His only Son for all of us. Jesus was mocked and ridiculed by a mob of people not worthy to pass judgement on anyone, let alone the King of Kings. He was beaten in an unbelievably cruel fashion and suffered to a point beyond our imaginations. He died an inhumane death. Oh, and the crowd that gathered around this horrific event? They CHEERED during His demise. How beyond-words-heartbreaking for Jesus’ Father!

But…how awesome that we can place our parental heartbreak and our heartbroken child in an all-knowing-God’s hands and that we can thank Him for being in control of the situation and for knowing how we feel…God knows how we feel. How awesome is that?

Then, while standing with our child through the painful situation, how awesome is it that we can prayerfully stand back and boldly trust God to work in and through our child’s heartbreak and life! Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive His mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need.” And then we can thank God, because sooner or later we will surely witness a victory in our child’s life, courtesy of a Heavenly Father that’s ‘been there.’ How awesome is that?

Ready To Run

How many times have you heard the Prodigal Son story? I would guess that it’s one of the more well-known parables from the Bible. As I sat in a church pew several years ago listening to that scripture being read…for maybe the fifteenth or maybe even the fiftieth time…there was something that struck me as if it was the first time I heard it.

What detail hit me like never before? It was the image of the father running to the Prodigal upon his return home. As soon as he spotted his son in the distance, he ran. Why did he run? I believe one reason is that he wanted to leave no doubt in his son’s mind that he was still welcome, valued, and deeply loved. No less welcome, valued, or deeply loved than he was before he left of his own accord on a quest for something better than he thought his father could offer. The father was aware that his son had thought his ways were better than his father’s ways…he ran anyway.

He runs to us too. It’s not just a story. It’s a truth. It’s a promise. In Luke 15, it’s the third of three parables that Jesus Himself told in an attempt to illustrate to a crowd how important, loved, and sought-after all of God’s children are. I can almost imagine Him tripping over His Heavenly feet in His hurry to reach us. Isn’t it mind-boggling to be treasured like that? Especially after we go our own way and purposely sin. Especially when we seemingly look into our Heavenly Father’s eyes and boldly say that our plan is better than His plan.

We are not worthy to be loved to that extent. We are not worthy to have the Creator of the Universe desire to be so intimately involved in our lives…we never will be. But, that’s the way it is. (Thank God.) He is incredibly concerned, caring, and compassionate toward each and every one of us, regardless of our past – regardless of our decisions. It doesn’t matter if they are decisions that completely diminish the importance we place on His plan for our lives – He’ll still run to us. We have a God that still welcomes us, values us, and deeply loves us beyond words.

How can He love us that much? I don’t know. But He loves us as a father that waits in confident expectation for the prodigal to come home so He can lavish him with unmatched love, affection, and undeserved blessings. That I do know. And I never want to forget that. Ever.

It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. We have a God that sincerely wants us to come home. He’s waiting for us. He’s watching for us…and He’s ready to run.

Can There Be a Better Job?

Working at a preschool is easily one of the biggest blessings in my life. The teacher I assist and I have had numerous conversations that extol the positives of having this exact job, and often the conversation ends with one of us saying, “There just cannot possibly be a better job, can there?”

My preschool ‘work history’ includes being a volunteer parent aide in its very first year, then a teacher’s aide for a couple years, a co-teacher for a couple years, and then taking a break for a few years to substitute teach at the public school and start my Kindermusik venture. There were two wonderful preschool aides that worked there in the meantime. When the job opened up again in October, I did not hesitate to tell the director and teacher that I was interested in coming back if they would have me!

What brought me back? Oh, among other things: the opportunity to watch the preschoolers grow, the opportunity to see their excitement when they are identifying letters and correctly forming their sounds, the opportunity to see how an art project done by 26 different children with one example can have 26 different variations because this standardized world hasn’t yet squashed their creativity, the opportunity to see them rally around a fellow preschooler when one of them is sad, the opportunity to see them so easily forgive each other when their classmate reacts in an ‘oops, I shouldn’t have done that’ manner, the opportunity to teach them some Christian fundamentals in a Christian preschool, such as Jesus loving them no matter what, and the opportunity to have conversations like the following on an almost-daily basis:
“Miss Gwen, I have terrible news!” “Oh no! What is it? “My mom lost the back to her earring!!!” (Exclamation points to infinity if I was to tell you how distraught this 4-year old sounded.) She also happens to be one of the little sweethearts that answered our end-of-the-school-year question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with the very serious answer: “a princess.” In her defense, I would imagine that earrings are a pretty serious accessory in the royalty world. Moments like that are infinite and priceless and they brought this wayward preschool aide back to her previous job.

Are there challenges? Yes. It’s not all lollipops and rainbows…although lollipops and rainbows both have their place in preschool…but yes, there are difficult moments. Moments of, ‘No, that is not okay to treat your friend like that’ talks. Moments of seeing their frustration when things aren’t going the way they had hoped and moments when they just plain miss Mom or Dad and our hug doesn’t quite cut it. Moments like that are difficult. And I am sometimes exhausted, because it’s non-stop activity and bustle and hum and controlled chaos. To be honest, there have been times at the end of the week, I’ve come home, put my feet up, and fallen asleep by 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Just this last week, there was the adorable little girl that couldn’t figure out how old her mom was for our Mother’s Day gift they were making. We were having them make their best guess if they didn’t know. When she struggled to come up with an answer, I said, “Well, I’m 44…how old do you think your mom might be?” “24” was her immediate answer. I happen to know that her mom is 43. If I look 20 years older than her mom, I guess I’m going to blame my hectic preschool schedule for the toll it’s taken on my appearance. 😀

Earlier in this school year, I was experiencing some rather tough stuff. Most people have no inkling, as I was pretty private about it, but my eyes were wet with tears when I got to work, and tears were shed on the way home, (seriously, I admit I’m a crier, but it was an above-and-beyond-ridiculous amount of crying, even for me.) But the in-between time? When I was surrounded by cuter-than-cute 3 and 4 and 5 year-olds? No tears. Only smiles and belly laughs. No thoughts of what my mind was going to wander back to when “work” was over. The preschoolers made me forget, if only for a while, but they truly made me forget. I don’t have to be going through trauma to realize just how precious these God-given children are or how God-given this precious job is!

How God Got Me Through a Mess is a potential title for another blog, but I believe being employed at the preschool at this exact time in my life was part of His divine plan for ‘getting me through’. I really do.

It doesn’t hurt that the teacher I assist and our preschool director both happen to be women that I would put on my “women whose faith and parenting and teaching skills I most admire” list and that they’re also two of my…what’s the 44-year old term for BFFs? Oh, let’s just call them BFFs. It doesn’t hurt that one of the students is one of my nephews, and every time he calls me “Auntie Gwen” my heart melts. It doesn’t hurt that being called Miss Gwen by my non-nephew preschoolers also melts my heart. It doesn’t hurt that I get to spend time with children who still have their child-like faith intact and that haven’t been jaded by difficult circumstances or unanswered prayers. It doesn’t hurt that we rarely have a day without at least one hug from a preschooler for seemingly no reason at all. It doesn’t hurt that with the 3 to 5 year-old population, we sometimes enjoy celebrity status when they see us uptown or at a football game…they are actually pretty pumped that we are in the same place! But even without all those perks, I believe I’d still be there. Because there just cannot possibly be a better job, can there? Thank you, God.

I’ve Got This

Have you ever had an overwhelming problem that you tried to figure out all by yourself? Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope…the end of yourself, but my goodness, you’re still going to cope on your own? The “I’ve got this!” mentality?
I have. I’ve tried to figure it out, so that I don’t “bother” God with my problem. Also, there have been times when I’ve tried to figure it out because…well, God wouldn’t understand.
You read that correctly. I seriously sometimes think that God wouldn’t quite ‘get’ it. And when I finally get to the point of, “Ughhh – my solutions aren’t working…time to call on God, I’ve laughed out loud when I’ve caught myself trying to explain my problem to Him. You know…helping Him so that He’ll comprehend? So that He’ll ‘get’ it? I’m even so helpful that I sometimes suggest possible options as to how He could solve the aforementioned problem. I give God “multiple choice” (So thoughtful of me, I know.)
Tell me I’m not the only one…
However, as time goes on, I am realizing that He really is tuned-in, that He’s aware of everything current, and that He truly desires to be intimately involved in our lives.  “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, And lay Your hand upon me.” –Psalm 139:1-5 (NRSV) And I don’t think it matters to Him whether it’s the mundane moments or the exciting events. He cares about all the “stuff” that we care about, because He genuinely and deeply cares about every single one of us. “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered…” Luke 12:7a (NIV)
So go ahead – try to stump Him. Your problem isn’t too contemporary or trendy or complicated for Him. He knows what’s happening in this world! He knows what’s happening in your world. After all, you are talking about Someone who always has been and always will be.
We serve a God who “gets” us. We serve a God who cares about everything we’re going through. We serve a God who not only HAS the answer, but IS the answer. Go ahead and “bother” Him with your problem.
He’s got this.

Arrogant?

I was once asked if I thought it might be seen as arrogant to say that I know I’m going to heaven when I die. You know the statements we sometimes make about being excited to see God face-to-face or to see the beauty of heaven? I’ve made those remarks before. I even wrote a song about heaven in which the final phrase of each verse says, “When I see my Jesus, I will run to Him.” To say that I’m excited about seeing Jesus and spending eternity with Him is an understatement!

So…to be challenged by the question, “Do you think it sounds arrogant to say you know you’re going to heaven?” made me think. I mean, really, really think. Gosh, I do know this: me and arrogance don’t often occur in the same sentence, because I’ve had an inferiority complex for many years of my life! Wait…I don’t mean to brag about my humility. 😉

But, back to the ‘arrogance’ of being secure in my ultimate destination. I’m not saying that I DESERVE to go to heaven. I could give you a list of sins that I have dealt with throughout my life, and you’d know I haven’t earned any heavenly crowns. However, that list of sins? I’ve been forgiven of every single one of them. And next time I sin, I’ll be forgiven again. So, no, I’m certainly not saying I SHOULD be in heaven. I’m simply saying I know I’m going because God promised heaven to all that repent, accept what He did on the cross, and surrender their lives to Him… and my God is a God of kept promises.

When I consciously gave my heart and life to Jesus and made a decision to strive to live for Him, He said, “Awesome! I’ve been waiting for you to realize you can’t do this on your own! I have plans for you that I’ve had since before you were formed in your mother’s womb! I can’t wait for you to spend eternity in Heaven. You know there’s a room prepared for you, right? Now let’s get to the business of fulfilling your purpose on earth, so that others can see me through your words and actions.” Ok, maybe not exactly those words, but…maybe something along those lines?!

My assurance that Heaven is going to be my home someday is all about Him, and very little about me. It’s nothing about my accomplishments or performance here on earth. (Thank God!) It’s about what His Word says. Romans 10:9 says, “For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (TLB)

Arrogant? Nope. Just completely confident in a God that comes through on absolutely everything He says.

You are His treasure

God says you’re His treasure. Don’t argue with Him on that – you will not win.
When do you suppose He delights in us the MOST? I’d guess when we use the unique gifts and personalities He’s given us to show others His love, His forgiveness, His mercy, His kindness…His character. So accept the fact that you are His treasure…deal with it……and get out there and honor Him in your words and your actions. And when you mess up, because we all do…remind yourself that you are loved beyond words by God Himself, and start anew.

(first printed on Facebook.com/GwenThielgesMusic page)

Out of my comfort zone

If God is prompting you to go outside of your comfort zone and you’re hesitant, remember that He is already there – you will not be alone! He doesn’t call us to do something, and then leave us hanging. That’s just not His style! His Presence is available to us at all times.

I didn’t write this in reference to starting a blog…but it applies!

My ‘out-of-my-comfort-zone journey’ begins here.

As my blog continues, I hope to see you come along on my journey.