Living in a world that has standards of what is acceptable, what is admirable, what performance is deemed normal puts pressure on us mamas. We feel the pressure to conform to the expectations of others. We even fear, that if our child does not behave perfectly, we may be the one at fault. Maybe we do not have the right philosophy of child training. Maybe we have not been strict enough.
But God designed children to move, imperfectly, from childhood to adulthood, with our coaching, encouragement, training and love. He never intended that we live up to other's arbitrary rules. Each of us is as different as fingerprints are different. Each personality as unique as snowflakes.
Learning to see our children through God's eyes and loving them for who he made them to be brings great freedom and joy. Nathan John. His name meant, blessed and gracious gift of God. And so Nathan has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. God has used him almost as much as anything else in my life to show me His goodness, His ways and His blessings. I just didn't know that he was the tool that God wanted to use to s-t-r-e-t-c-h me so much. Nate has been truly a gift from God, because through him I learned things and understood truth-- things I would never have seen.
Nate has always been dancing, singing, laughing, talking, bigger than life. When others would walk on the sidewalk, Nate would be wandering, running, climbing, up and down the curb, but never in just a straight line--that was not a part of his make-up. He heard the music of a different piper and drummer. He was not ever going to fit into the box--it was not the way He was made--a little like his mother.
With his antics and strong opinions and outspoken ways, some people would say, "This boy needs a stronger hand. You need to spank him more."
But, harshness never won the day with this child.
How many times did I hear, you need to control him, you need to be stronger and firmer than he is.
But, I remembered that he was God's gracious gift to us and so we would pray.
I noticed that when I would sit him next to me in my comfy overstuffed chair, by himself, he would talk and talk and talk--at 3 years old he could talk for 45 minutes almost without stopping if I asked him questions--even then he had a lot to say. Oh, I figured out, he is an extravert and needs to have alone, talk time so he can express his heart.
If he was agitated or upset, if I put my arm around his shoulders and touched him or tickle or scratch his back or got down on his level and was gentle and loving, he would settle down and respond to my instruction and love. God used this gracious gift to show me that harshness and over-bearing correction was not the way to his heart.
I began to see him not through the eyes of my cultural expectations, but as God saw him--a spunky, mysterious, strong child who had a big and passionate heart.
In a speech class, with my two older kids when he was 8, I was expecting my two older to shine, because they were, well, older. But, Nate was already committed to being a hero, started dreaming of being superman in his life time, and when he gave a speech on Audi Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II, he blew all of the adults away. "You have a performer on your hands. He was the most believable child who spoke the whole night!"
(But, how could I have known then that he would become an actor in Hollywood, a movie producer?--Who really thinks his or her child is suited for Hollywood or the movies?)
And so I tucked these things away in my heart. Out of the box from the beginning, I had to rethink my parenting paradigms and ways. I didn't know that he was extremely ADHD, with issues on the spectrum, for some years--I was just trying to figure out his puzzle.
(My mother said, "He is just like you were as a little girl--active, busy, opinionated, always with friends, and you used to lay down on the floor and have screaming fits--you were probably ADHD and we just didn't know it.")
He questioned everything--and so I learned to see things from his eyes--he was bright and intelligent and helped me to see the world in a less-American, middle of the road, Evangelical eyes, and open my heart to see as Jesus sees--loves people for who they are in their heart--especially in his high school years.
Nate accepted and loved all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. He did not criticize them for their external failures, but looked for their internal value. A heart as good as gold, always seeing through the hypocrisy of people, he called us to have integrity in our hearts and lives.
He taught me not to care what others thought of me, but to say, what is the real truth in this situation.
We threw all the formulas out the door and learned to live by faith.
He is a pied-piper of sorts and gathers people around him. And so, we learned to broaden our horizons and love those who were also outside of our comfort zone. We had a house full of all sorts of teens in all sorts of phases--because they were Nate's friends and he would bring them all to our home. And we learned to love them all. What a blessing we would have missed!
And these were the years we discovered that Obsessive-Compulsive--in an extreme form--was another mysterious and wonderful way Nate was designed by God. And, so I was to find that it was what had plagued me most of my life. When I had him tested, I was answering yes to all the same questions. And then found that another of my 4 children was also obsessive-compulsive off the chart. It helped to make more sense of our challenging lives--that their issues were not behavioral, but real issues that I needed to see with God's eyes of wisdom and not my own.
His faith in God grew stronger and stronger over the years as he would overcome many very difficult obstacles in his life.(car accident totaling his car, jobs, peer pressure and some rejection; health, and more.)
Now, I see, that many of his trials and challenges and difficulties were because God was building him and strengthening him and testing him to become a warrior for Christ.
How can you ever become a general if you are not first faithful as a private. And God knew he was taking Nate to more difficult arenas where he would already have to know what standing strong in a difficult world would be? God's eyes saw that Nate would be in acting, and God gave him a personality to imagine great stories, a heart that didn't live to please people, a bigger than life personality because he had a different story to live.
Through being his mama, I have learned to see others through the eyes of God, to look at their heart, to seek to see their God-crafted beauty of personality and dreams, rather than judging them by performance or perfect behavior. We all need grace.
And now, I am thankful that God sees me through His own values of loving me, redeeming me, showing compassion to me, providing for me, because I am His own child, as Nathan is mine. And He has given up everything to show me His love and to grant me redemption.
Nathan and I shared real life stories in our new book from struggles to stages to heartbreak and triumphs. I hope the stories will make you feel at home with your own life through the story of ours.
Thanks so much for encouraging Nathan and me this week with your support of our new book, Different. You are the best of friends. We appreciate you helping us get the word out to your friends. Thank you so very much for your love and support.