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When I Was A Perfect Parent

I once was a perfect parent. Before I had children of my own.
When I was a Perfect Parent

I Was a Perfect Parent

As a teenager, one who obviously knew it all, I believed I would be a certain way as an adult. I was one of those people who believed I knew how to handle whatever life had in store for me. This included parenting.

*Insert slightly insane laughter here*

There is a meme floating around the internet that states: “I was a perfect parent. Then I had children.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so incredibly accurate. Too many people (me included) believe they’ve got it all figured out–life, fitness, parenting, their make-up; only to have reality kick them solidly in the solar plexus. My old friend, Reality likes to remind me of its presence regularly.

When I was still a perfect parent–living under my parents’ roof, wearing clothes they bought for me, talking on the phone (a landline!) they paid for; I swore I would never treat my children the way my parents treated me. I wouldn’t keep my children from doing what they wanted, make them do chores, or tell them no. I would be different. I’d understand them, and treat them with “respect”.

I’m sure God chuckled at my plans. My parents did.

When I was still a perfect parent--living under my parents' roof, wearing clothes they bought for me, talking on the phone (a landline!) they paid for; I swore I would never treat my children the way my parents treated me. I wouldn't keep my children from doing what they wanted, make them do chores, or tell them no. I would be different. I'd understand them, and treat them with

Before the birth of my youngest my niece and I spent some time sitting on a bench overlooking the Puget Sound. The sun was warm, the sky was clear, the seagulls were begging scraps of our lunches, and it was a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle we’d been dealing with for the last few months. Taking a few moments to enjoy the beauty the LORD has created, and to truly appreciate it helped to relax my anxious heart.

It also helped me to understand something about myself.

I’m not a perfect parent. In fact, teen me would spend a lot of time rolling her eyes at adult me. I might have thought my parents were strict, but they were nothing compared to how I am as a parent. Part of this stems from a moderate battle with anxiety, but not all of it. Simply put, my priorities have changed, as have my views.

God is the Perfect Parent

God has blessed us with three beautiful children, not to be perfect parents, but to teach them and train them up in what is righteous. Much to their dismay, that includes horrors like sweeping, making their beds, and cleaning bathrooms, and picking up toys. It also requires them to spend time with us, to not put their friends above the LORD or their family, and to forgive each other when we stumble.

Something else that comes along with this is the amount of freedom we allow our children to have. Our eldest is only nine, and regardless of how my husband and I were raised the world is a much different place today than it was twenty years ago. Yes, she can play outside without constant supervision, but there are rules that have to be followed, and consequences if those rules are ignored. This is a relatively new freedom for her, and I still have several bad moments where I want to keep her in the house away from any chance of getting hit by a speeding car (see, anxiety). I’m taking it a day at a time, and maybe I’ll be more relaxed when they’re visiting me in the retirement home.

The point is, there are no perfect parents on Earth, except God, and of course those who have never had children. We as a society (especially women) spend so much time judging the merits of one person over another that we seem to forget we’re all just stumbling along doing the best we can. Have some people lost their way? Yes, but that isn’t for us to judge. There are people in this world who have been called to help those who have fallen. Instead of casting blame and pointing fingers, it’s time for us to come together and build each other up, and to raise our own children with love, compassion, and grace.

 

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How Patience Helps Us Grow



Each morning as we sit around the breakfast table we do a devotional as a family. Once in a while the topic will spur deeper discussion with my nine-year-old daughter; usually she remains silent while she drinks her milk and stares at me as if I just asked her when she was leaving for the moon.

This morning, the topic was patience, something I’ve never been particularly good with. I’m more of an instant gratification person. Of course, three children later, instant gratification seems more like a fairy tale, and patience is still something I’m struggling with.

Often I wonder what lesson the LORD is teaching me on the (many) days my children conspire to make me crazy. I assume it is patience, but until today, I didn’t truly understand what that meant in a spiritual, Christ-centered way.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.

Romans 5:3-5

It’s such a wonderful feeling to know how much God loves us, even when we aren’t patient. The Bible is always here to help; to remind us to rejoice even when we’re struggling, because we have the Holy Spirit, and it continually fills us with His love.

Blessings,

Sare

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Changes

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…
1 Corinthians 15:51-52a

On May 6th we welcomed our third child into the world.

She is beautiful, wonderful, and such a blessing to our family.

After two weeks of labor, where i didn’t dilate past four because of scar tissue, I was finally admitted to the hospital. Six hours later, our cuddle-bug was snug in my arms.

She was born at 1527 weighing 8 pounds 3 oz and 21 inches long.

Changes are coming.

Blessings, Sare

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Fellowship

In January when I prayerfully chose Fellowship as my Word of the Year, I left it up to the LORD to decide how to use it in my life. I never quite expected it to lead me where I am currently. I thought maybe it would envolve me continuing with our small group, or maybe I’d do an ocassional social event.

Apparently I wasn’t thinking large enough.

Since January, I’ve not only continued to attend small group, but I’ve been led by the LORD to do so many things I never would have considered before. Now, as we’re coming closer to the end of 2015, I’ve realized how blessed I’ve been by this word and God’s plan for me.

Each day I learn something new about myself, and each time I walk out my door and step into a situation that doesn’t allow me to hide inside my house, I grow stronger. I get closer to the person the LORD has designed me to be.

Thank you LORD for guiding me to Classical Conversations and the community we’re building here, and thank you for placing on my heart the desire to fill a role in Children’s Ministry at my church. Neither of these things would I have ever thought to do myself. You are an amazing and loving Creator.

What blessings are you thankful for?

Blessings, Sare

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Sex Trafficking and the Invisible Victim

This isn’t my usual blog post style, but as I walk with the LORD, the harsh realities of this mortal world hit me. Today, and everyday, let’s pray for these women and children.  If you don’t share anything else, share this.

Walking down a dingy city street, people tend to keep their heads down. They try not to make eye contact with the scantily clad women offering ‘a good time’ to passersby. To many these women aren’t even people. They’re not worthy of acknowledgement, let alone concern. The common belief is women who are on that street chose to be there, and they could leave at any time. The truth is, many of these women are still children who are condemned for making a life altering choice when they’re not even old enough to vote. Society has many names for them; “hookers”, “hoes”, and “prostitutes”. Somewhere, someone once called them “sister”, “daughter”, or “mother”. Our communities should call them victims.

Human Trafficking is the illegal movement of people, for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. This occurs daily, both internationally and within the borders of the United States. Between January 1, and December 31, 2014 the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received reports of 5,040 cases of human trafficking. 1,581 of those cases involved children, and 974 of those involved sexual exploitation.

In a story covered by the Seattle Times, the FBI rescued 105 victims of sex trafficking and arrested 150 pimps in 76 cities in a three day period during July 2013. Almost all of the girls ranged from 13 to 17 years-old.  Although the majority of the girls were rescued from the larger cities of San Francisco, Detroit, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Denver, the under-age sex trade isn’t exclusive to large metropolitan areas.  Trafficking happens everywhere, but because the public is unaware of the red flags, it goes unnoticed.

Victims don’t always appear to be in need of rescuing, but are in danger just the same. If you or your friends begin dressing less appropriately than before, have unexplained absences from class, show signs of sexualized behavior, display expensive clothing or accessories, has an older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle, or shows signs of gang affiliation those may be warning signs connected to sexual exploitation.

According to recent arrest records in Kitsap County [Washington], 32-year-old  Ricky Lee Grundy Jr. was arrested on charges of Promoting Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor, Human Trafficking, and Organized Crime. The records indicated that at the time of Grundy’s arrest he was using Backpage.com to prostitute a 14-year-old and 15-year-old out of a hotel in Port Orchard, a city with only one high school and a population of less than 13,000.

When asked how many minors are affected in the Kitsap County community, Sandy Hill of Freedom13.org said, “You know, it’s hard to get accurate numbers, because the law does try to protect them [the minors].”

Traffickers select and groom their victims by finding them at malls, coffee shops, arcades parks, or walking down the street. Any place that young children and teens hangout is prime hunting ground for these men and women. In many cases, traffickers will use young men and women in the same age group as their targets to build trust and create relationships. They’ll approach the children, and strike up a conversation asking pointed questions about their age, family, school, and what their schedules are like.

Children and teens are often easy to manipulate, because they’re young and inexperienced. Their relationships with their parents are either strained or broken; many feel their parents don’t understand them, and their opinions don’t matter. Traffickers know this and use it to their advantage. They offer these girls their youthful dream of family and acceptance, and once the girls have bonded with them, it is a slippery slope into the sex trade.

Sexual exploitation comes in many forms. The women on the street corners selling sex are most often the victims of trafficking. The looks-too-young-to-be-eighteen woman dancing in that club is also likely to be a victim of trafficking, and is too young. Massage parlors and topless barista shops have also been found to be one-stop shops for underage, trafficked girls. The “barely legal” actresses on pornography videos are also potentially the victims of trafficking.

While the girls and women appear to be doing this work by choice, the reality is much different. They’re dancing on that stage, standing on that street corner, or waiting in that hotel room, because they have been emotionally and physically convinced that is what they are for. In their minds they are only worth the money they make for their pimp. In other cases, these girls belong to a gang, and consider their traffickers as family, while they’re sold and traded like property. These girls and women have twisted understandings of what love is. Others are just afraid, because they have been controlled by blackmail and threats involving either bodily harm to themselves or to younger siblings.

We as a society are guilty of perpetrating the victimization of these women and children. Sharedhope.org states that “online pornography is driving the explosive growth of child sex trafficking.” Child pornography has become more than a $3 billion annual industry, and statistics from Demandingjustice.org show 1 out of every 5 pornographic images is of a child; and 55% come from the U.S.

In Washington State the sentences handed down for offenders who are caught purchasing sex with a minor are a minimum of two years, but a recent Seattle area study showed the average offender spent 0.6 years behind bars, and 30% of the offenders received suspended sentences.  However, Washington State is improving. In 2010 the state legislature passed the bill SB6476, revising provisions related to sex crimes involving minors. Since then the penalties for trafficking and purchasing minors has increased. SB6476 imposes the impounding of vehicles used to commit commercial sex abuse of a minor; defendants can no longer claim they did not know the victim’s age; minors are consistently defined as anyone under 18-years-old, and the victims have access to special services and shelters they otherwise did not have.

Human trafficking happens anywhere there are people, and the victims are often far from home unaware of where to go for help. There are victim services located all across the nation, specializing in victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. Several in Western Washington include: Scarlet Road in Bremerton (scarletroad.org), a non-profit organization helping victims in Kitsap and Mason Counties; Rebuilding Hope Sexual Assault Center in Tacoma (sexualassaultcenter.com) works with victims in Pierce County; and the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (seattleops.org), a non-profit organization working with victims in King County.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking in Washington State, there is help. Contact Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN) at 206-245-0782.

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Working Through It

The past few weeks have been hard. Events I’d like to have control over, but don’t, brought my father’s death back to the forefront of my mind, and my emotions are raw. These emotions seem to be reflected back at me through my daughter as well. She is such an amazingly strong and loving little lady, but I see the sadness lurking behind her eyes. While she is happier now than she was a few months ago, I still see the shadows that dim her happiness.

It concerns me that I see in her a child trying to take control of her surroundings. So much like me, only far too young to have those responsibilities. I do everything I can to remind her to be a kid, to keep her focused on things more positive than the random emotions tearing at my own heart.

We’re working through it.

God’s working through us.

I know there is a reason to all this, and I have faith that in the end it will all be for the better. Until that time I do what I can to keep the balance. I workout to strengthen my body for God’s work, and I spend time with Him daily. I turn to Him in thanksgiving as well as for strength.

Some days are easier than others. There are great days, and then there are days when I’d rather never get out of bed again. On those days even sunshine doesn’t seem as bright, and I am reminded just how imperfect I really am.

I’m thankful that God loves me anyway.

So, together, God, my daughter, and I will work through it.

Together.

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Why We Don’t Participate in “All-Fools’ Day”

Ever since I was first introduced to April Fools’ Day in the early years of elementary school, I’ve dreaded the first of April. I hated falling for lies in the guise of ‘jokes’, and most importantly I hated not being able to trust the people I saw each day.

I’m sure it didn’t help that the way kids played jokes weren’t particularly funny. The jokes–or in most cases the pranks– were often mean-spirited and made the person, unlucky enough to be caught in the middle, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Some people, like myself, hate being in a spotlight of any kind, and these types of jokes are akin to being thrown onto a stage in a fully-packed stadium.

If jokes are supposed to be funny, those situations failed dismally.

As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed that many people never outgrew this rather childish and loathsome activity. However, many of the ‘jokes’ are now played online. For instance, at any given moment today I could scroll through my Facebook feed and see numerous posts about pregnancies. Now, for many this isn’t a big deal, but for people who are desperately trying to conceive, or have experienced the loss of a child, it isn’t an amusing topic.

Also, in this age of social media, there is a much wider base for ridicule. In the case of a few people on social media who post outrageous–yet totally plausible ‘plans’, and then sit back and watch as their friends and family ridicule and tear down each other for believing the words in the first place.

My children haven’t had the experience with All-Fools’ Day, because they are both young and educated at home. My daughter is much like I am, and though we enjoy goofing off and telling actual jokes, we never aim to get a laugh at someone else’s misfortune.

As a Christian, albeit a rather new one, I feel that the overall point of this day is decidedly UN-Christian. Nothing about it promotes a happy or exciting and enjoyable experience. I feel that this one day of the year is used as a way to say, “Hey, it’s okay to make fun of others, or to hurt, ridicule, and embarrass others, because it’s ‘just a joke’.”

We spend so much time dealing with bullying and abuse in our society, yet no one seems to blink about the pranks and jokes associated with this particular day on the calendar. Shouldn’t we use every day to teach our children the difference between a joke that makes EVERYONE laugh, and something that causes one person to be laughed AT? Shouldn’t we teach our children that it is never okay, not even one day a year, no cause others pain and embarrassment? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children that a lie even on the first of April, is still a lie?

I’m sure there will be people who feel I am overly-sensitive. That’s fine. It won’t be the first time those words have been applied to me in life. The difference now is, I’m an adult and I’m a mother. The only thing I care about it raising my children to be respectful of everyone, regardless of who they are or what time of the year it is. I don’t ever want my children to feel like it’s okay to make fun of someone, or be made fun of.

Even if it makes me out to be “overly-sensitive”, I will not confuse my children by participating, or allowing them to participate in something that at the very core marks what is wrong with our society. Words and actions affect people. The date on the calendar doesn’t change that.