Seasons of Parenting

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by Becky White

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Parenting has many seasons and each holds unique challenges and blessings. First there is surviving the all-encompassing exhaustion of infancy and the endless physical demands of the toddler years. In those years we also experience the sweetness of innocence and trust in ways that show us the dependence God longs for us to have with him. The physical contact and affection can be both a sweet gift and a huge drain but God uses those years to grow our endurance, to show us our selfishness and our need for his grace in our lives so we can extend it to others. 

The preschool years are full of questions and challenges as our children learn to think and act independently from us. But, at the end of the day they still long for us and it’s a huge gift to be able to satisfy their needs just by being present in their lives and loving them where they are. In my experience the elementary school years have been a more peaceful season–the kids are more independent, but not too independent and as parents we are finding our stride and beginning to feel more confident (we’re also sleeping more, so that helps!). Then, adolescence hits — sometimes all at once, sometimes it creeps up on you — but it comes. This season is full of new experiences in parenting that challenge that growing confidence and teach us to stay humble and reliant on God. There is joy in watching our children change into young adults but inevitably there are “growing pains” for both parents and children and the need for God’s grace becomes more and more evident in both their and our hearts. Finally, there’s the highschool graduation, the moving-out and those children that we once held in our arms are now beyond arm’s reach and living their own lives. As a parent, our prayer life becomes everything as we realize all the seeds we planted and cultivated so carefully are not necessarily ours to harvest; rather the “Lord of the Harvest” will be the one to bring about the growth, and He was the one doing the planting all along.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like the “yoke” of parenting that I carry is easy and light. The weight on my heart for my children to know God and trust him can feel crushing. My fallback in those times is to doubt God’s goodness and wonder why He isn’t coming through for me and my kids. I focus on my stress and the burden I feel for my childrens’ souls. But, praise God for his mercy and grace! He is too good to leave me in my doubts and gently and patiently reveals where my perspective is wrong and needs to change. In repentance, I find that the reason my load is heavy is because I fail to trust his goodness and greater love for my kids. The weight of leading them to trust Him is his to carry, not mine. I find it easy to believe the lie that I’m alone instead of believing the truth that He is always with us and his grace is sufficient. I carry unnecessary weight because my attempt to do everything “right” forgets to rely on God’s strength, and attempts to save my children through my own effort rather than waiting on God to work in them through the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

In the end, the “seasons of parenting” are all fully encompassed by the grace of God. His strength carries us through every step. God uses parenting to reveal to us more of his own heart and to shape us more into the likeness of Jesus. This privilege of parenting and teaching the truth of God’s Word to the next generation is God’s gift to us. Our children’s salvation is God’s gift to them (just as it is to us) and He will see that work completed in their lives.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…”

2 Corinthians 1:3

From One Generation to Another

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by Juan Terrazas

A couple of years ago at a Path United staff meeting, a few of us were working on details of what the future of the organization would be. During the meeting we were contemplating the measurements of what a successful Path student would look like. As we were discussing, I was asked the question, “What do you want for Zion?” As I heard the question directed at me, my emotions were aroused, and I began to tear up. I teared up because I remembered the pain and suffering I had to go to through to obtain the life I have today. My mind immediately went to the stories of King David and the path he laid out for his son Solomon.
David was a young teenager when he was anointed King, but he didn’t become King of Israel until several years later. Although he had some great accomplishments such as defeating Goliath and reuniting the land of Israel, David faced numerous trials along his path. David fought his battles and conquered all that he could with the guidance of the Lord. Towards the end of his life, David had a desire to build the Lord a temple, but the Lord told him Solomon would be the one to complete that task. So, before King David died, he did everything possible to make sure Solomon had all the resources he needed to build the temple. Because of his father, Solomon had rest from his enemies. He had the freedom to build the Lord’s temple.
As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I expressed to my fellow staff members that I wanted Zion to have the freedom to fulfill the call of God in his life without having to face the battles I had faced. I fought the battles; I conquered all I could; I have prepared a Path for Zion. Now, my son will have less things to distract him from the presence of God. Zion doesn’t have to worry about his father being deported; he doesn’t have to worry about hopping from home to home; he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from. 
All this is not to say that Zion will never have to struggle. On the contrary, I believe a broken and contrite heart is what brings our hearts closer to the Lord. He will have his own battles to face, but he will not be alone. Someone has gone before him on whose shoulders he can stand. What I give to Zion is far beyond more valuable than anything materialistic. I give him the knowledge and love I have received from the Lord. I give him the tools and relationships he will need to face his battles. Zion will reap the benefits of the seeds I have planted. What I give him shall be passed down from one generation to another.
Psalm 145:1-7 ESV
I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

Sticker Chart

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by Rachel Bartlett

Have you ever used a sticker chart for your kids?  Maybe your family has a chore chart or used a sticker chart when potty training. We have our kids place a sticker on a chart as we cheer and encourage them along. But where is my sticker chart?

Make the meals and snacks; gold star.
Help with school work; gold star.
Clean up snot, dirty diaper, or throw up; platinum star.

Does anyone see what I do? Or even more importantly, does anyone see where I struggle? There are days when we can’t find the strength to do the work. There are days where those gold stars seem out of our reach.

In Genesis 16, we meet Hagar. She was a servant of Abram and Sarai and becomes pregnant with Abram’s son. When mistreated by Sarai, Hagar flees to the desert. Pregnant, tired, and hurt, she meets an angel. This angel proclaims over Hagar that her unborn son “will dwell over against all his kinsman.” Hagar called out to God with the name El Roi, the God of seeing. God saw Hagar when no one else did.

Many years later (Genesis 21), Hagar is forced to flee again from Abraham. With her son by her side, she wandered through the desert. Hagar was thirsty, close to death, and all she could do was cry. She had forgotten the claim she made in that desert years before. God sent another angel to comfort Hagar and a well to nourish. His promise that day was the same as many years before. “Lift up the boy … I will make him a great nation.”

God’s call to us is similar. We are to raise our kids to be a great nation of followers of God. And He sees us along the way. With every victory, every struggle, and everything in between, He Sees. Praise El Roi!

He Graciously Meets Us Where We Are

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by R. Potatoes

It was a crazy busy Friday. I was out running errands when the case worker called, “We have a large sibling set that just came into DFCS custody. I don’t have any details on them but can you take some of them?” The answer is always yes.

Late that night, two completely traumatized little ones were dropped off with nothing but a grocery bag full of dirty clothes (two sizes too small). In a snap, we were thrust back into the stage of blow out diapers, large baby equipment, car seat acrobatics, bottles, tantrums, and very very very sleepless nights. Our extraordinarily tiny home became a revolving door of case workers, lawyers, and therapists. Our calendar was filled with doctors appointments, court dates, family visits, sibling visits, and home studies.

We were absolutely not enough (nor equipped) for what the next several weeks threw at us from every angle, but God was. Those sleepless nights – full of frustration and snide remarks over whose “turn” it was – slowly turned into the quiet time when we’ve prayed some of our most vulnerable prayers. We prayed for the endurance, wisdom, and strength necessary to parent and disciple these little image-bearers. God has met us there, every time!

Foster parenting has a special way of putting a magnifying glass on our fleshly sin: the kind of anger we have to work through towards birth parents and the broken system as a whole, the selfishness in mourning that we will not be around to experience the fruit of the seeds we are planting, the desire for appreciation that never comes, the envy towards people who are not called to this life and don’t have to expose their families to unimaginable brokenness and trauma. We are constantly repenting from these sins that marinate deep in our hearts. He consistently humbles us to our core, and gracefully meets us where we are. 

No matter what season of parenting you are in, God is always there waiting for you to lean into Him. He promises to give us wisdom when we ask, so don’t leave his promises on the table.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1:5

Opportunity vs. Sabbath Rest

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by Rachel O’Dell

As I was debating, in my mind, the pros and cons of accepting the invitation to write this parent encouragement for New City Kids, it dawned on me that I ought to blog about the actual stress of weighing the pros and cons of any opportunity (or decision) that we make in life. So this post is very “meta” because, why not?

Every opportunity taken in life is going to involve some added layer of work (if only for a short time) unless we off-load something else before taking up the new task. And of course, new opportunities taken can then lead to other new ventures, (i.e. more work). Someone doesn’t offer us an opportunity to get rich (or advance in our career) while we just sit in a La-Z-Boy watching money enter our bank account. If they do, it’s a scam. 

Work is not inherently bad. We know that God gave work in the Garden, before the Fall. Work done for the Lord is very fulfilling. It’s only when it feels like a Sisyphean task that it seems to drain joy out of us. 

Personally, my main work these days includes home schooling my daughters, driving my children to activities, navigating the challenges of raising an autistic son, serving on the worship team, and completing my time in service as President of the Greater Gwinnett Reentry Alliance. All of this work is very fulfilling! But even so, I long, as I’m sure we all do, for Sabbath rest. I want a nap!

Hebrews 4 speaks of entering God’s rest. We look forward to a day, in the new Earth, when we will be able to glorify God with our work while also benefiting from the Sabbath rest. But for now, we must alternate between the work and the rest. Here are some ideas on how we can do this well:

1. Make sure our work is being done for God’s glory and not just for the next opportunity. 

2. Understand that raising our children to know and love Jesus is our highest work priority. 

3. Do not worry over missed opportunities and what we might have done with our life. 

4. Do not work without rest. And when we rest…

5. Acknowledge that God is our Provider. All the work in the world cannot give us (or our families) a “perfect life”. The perfect life is found only in the life Christ lived on our behalf. 

Rest in his finished work on the cross. 

Faith and Experience

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by Maya Rondy

In 2008, I made a decision to follow Jesus as my Savior and as my Lord. This was a big change for me because before I had always wrongly believed in many gods. In the beginning it wasn’t fun at all; I didn’t understand what the Christian life was supposed to be like. I didn’t know how my own life was to have meaning. The reality was, I wasn’t even sure that I belonged to Jesus.

But Jesus revealed himself to me, convincing me that He is real, and my life completely changed. Day by day, my faith started growing stronger. I read Jeremiah 29:11 and began to have confidence that God has a plan for me and my family. Today, I know the meaning of my life and that I have a future.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 
Jeremiah 29:11

At this time, my family and I are learning to lean on Jesus and not on our own understanding. This involves learning how to be patient and forgive one another. I’m amazed as I see how much we have changed. For example, when my husband sees I am upset about something he will come to me and pray over it. 

As I began to sense God’s calling on my life, I never expected that my husband would be supportive. Yet this turned out to be the best part of my life – he supports me in ministry! Yes, while we were figuring things out there were challenges. But I read in Romans 8 that no one can separate us from the love of Christ. This powerful Word gave me hope and kept me strong as I realized that there was no challenge too big for God.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:38–39

By God’s grace we are still together. I see God working in our lives and can’t wait until I hear my husband testify about it as well. For now, we are still walking with Jesus as a family. Our story is not done yet.

The Value of Serving in New City Kids

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by Joe Brand

When I consider the impact of New City Kids in the life of our family, I smile.

We did not have school age children when we came to New City Church. However, our youngest child had several occasions to serve with New City Kids and observe children’s ministry leadership. She came away with a deeper appreciation for how a local church serves families. We were elated to see how well she was equipped and trained and how immensely she enjoyed the process and service.

Like most churches, New City can use additional volunteers in the work of coming alongside parents as they disciple their children.

If you want to have a profound impact on your children,
put them in New City Kids.

If you want to have a profound impact on your own life,
consider serving there yourself.

A Glimpse Into How God Sees Us

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by Mitchell Brannan

One of the most exciting parts of moving out of our apartment is that we finally own a flight of stairs (that are actually inside of the house). On the contrary, it also happens to be one of the most dangerous and scary parts while raising a curious and mobile Courtney. We did not give too much consideration to just how deeply she would share our fondness for these stairs, but we quickly found out. As soon as she laid eyes on the shiny wooden stairs on the side of our living room – glistening in the sunlight – she knew something wonderful and magical must be at the top just waiting for her to explore. Almost as soon as we moved in, we promptly made our first errand to the store to purchase a baby gate, as our make-shift blockades of moving boxes would not last long. When we came back and installed the gate, we had anticipated a serene and peaceful moment as we were liberated from the anxiety of Courtney falling down the stairs. However, to our dismay, our final click of the gate was met with a piercing and furious temper tantrum. She flopped herself on the floor, looked at us dead in the eyes, and screamed in anguish, as if to say “How on earth could you deprive me of somewhere I want to go that I am absolutely positive would make my life better and happier.” As a former baby, I can speak baby.

In June of 2020, Hannah and I were on a wonderful path with my graduation on the horizon and a secure job lined up in Atlanta. Both of us were longing to transition beyond the transient lifestyle of college life, and were ready to begin laying down roots in the North Druid Hills area. It all seemed to be going according to plan, until the lockdowns hit. Like many industries, my future employer had to adjust and downsize a great deal in order to stay afloat. Things seemed uncertain, but I was assured by my manager that my full time position would remain in the cards as long as I continued on my path to graduation. But in November of 2020, 6 months before my graduation, I received a disquieting phone call. My whole department, along with my job, had been dissolved. I now had approximately 6 months to find a job before graduation, and Courtney was just days away from being born. While I would love to sit here and tell you I handled the situation as Jesus would and put my complete and utter dependence on Him, trusting in his providence, there was an honest part of my heart that sincerely doubted God’s decision. It was saying to Him, “I was so sure this was the best route for our family, God. We have a church, a community, prospective houses / neighborhoods, and a “secure” job. How could you possibly see it best to deprive us of this path?!”

This sinful part of my heart was exposed for only a moment, until God graciously provided us with a new job, a new community, a new home, and a new (City) church in Lawrenceville! To which my fickle heart went happily back to trusting God’s plans again, leaving my doubts and frustrations with God behind me. No more than one year later, when I saw Courtney’s eyes (as she wailed at me in disbelief) and my explanations of “We are doing this because we love you,” and “this is for your own safety,” did nothing to de-escalate the situation… God whispered to me and said, “is this not how your heart reacted to Me, when I put a gate in your path?” Though I may not have expressed my frustrations externally the same way Courtney did, she was a mirror image of my heart in that moment, nonetheless. This has become a routine pattern God has implemented for the sanctification of both myself and Hannah, where God has allowed us, through parenting, to humbly experience a small sample of what it is like for our Heavenly Father to “parent” us.

Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

I’m Still Growing Up

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by John VandenOever

It was 1980-something and I and my fellow graduates stood awkwardly on the church platform. Each one of us stood beside a proud father as he grasped for something to say about his child. Debbie, tall, with a gift for pulling pranks, blushed red as her father began, “Debbie, was always a big girl…”

My father didn’t embarrass me, but he did leave me befuddled. “I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said to the church. What? I thought. Where is this coming from? I was 18, graduating high school, and he was 38, on his third career, pastoring his second church. “I had to grow up,” Dad continued, “and so, John and I grew up together.”

He spoke as if he were an adolescent, not my Dad, who knew pretty much everything. I tried to disagree with him, but he had his mind set on confessing that he was still a work in progress.

Today I’m 14 years older than that version of my Dad, with four high school graduations in the rearview mirror and our fifth and last child’s pomp and circumstance just over the horizon. And I’ve never felt his words were truer. I’ve had to grow up with my kids, and I’m still a work in progress.

I could easily lament my regrets and warn you to avoid them. I’d say: Keep your career in its proper place. Set your concerns about money in God’s daily care. And Every day as you sit, walk, rest, and rise together show your children that Christ is lovely, real, and very near. But I won’t burden you with my mistakes, or give you a program.

Though I’m still growing up, this I know: It’s not my grip on Christ that keeps me in His kingdom (John 6:37, Psalm 63:8). Neither is it my grasping hold for my children that makes them His. He was their Father before me, and He will be their Father beyond my life, to eternity. My role is temporary. At best, it gave them, in microcosm, a reference point for all of God’s loving care for them.

It’s been important to teach them, disciple them, encourage them, and I’ve sinned plenty with my meager investments. But perhaps even more, I’m a model of weakness. Like my father once did, I need to be willing to say so.

Though our hearts ache as we walk past their empty rooms, there is much to celebrate in this season of life. Somehow, we’ve become great friends. These young adults listen to their parents, and more importantly, we listen to them—a lot! We’re learning from them, and finding that they view the world a lot less selfishly than we did.

Right now, as it seems like even their smallest choices threaten to become decisions with life consequences—they feel overwhelmed. Like the world might crash in. So now, more than ever, this is the time to tell them how confused and broken I was then, and how confused and broken I still am. But for Christ, I’d have no hope. But more and more I’m getting glimpses beyond the veil, of how Christ has held my hand through it all.

Recently I was running errands in my car, praying. I was troubled about many things, mostly about how to put three kids through college this year. That’s when I stopped at the library and went inside, still in prayer. While browsing I found a bookmark on the stacks. It was that familiar verse from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV). I thought, How nice! I hope somebody finds that, it could be really encouraging—BOOM! Wait, the bookmark is for me. God is answering my frantic prayer with this peaceful reminder. He is in control.

I had to grow up as my children grew. I’m still growing up. And you are, too.

God’s Goodness in the Ordinary

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by Natalie Kliewer

Scrambled eggs, crunchy bacon, fingers laced around a mug of piping hot lukewarm coffee – another ordinary, slow morning. Predictability sizzling in the skillet, the air smells like déjà vu. This isn’t the first morning I have sat here in these pajamas, watching my husband flip pancakes, listening to our son ramble on about caterpillars and butterflies, constantly eyeing my daughter to make sure she isn’t eating too fast.

It is exceptionally beautiful and yet the splendor is often overlooked; the mundane feels like it is lacking grand, new adventure. Normalcy isn’t near as exciting or shiny as the spontaneous surprise.

Maybe you’re like me. There have been moments…days…seasons where you have felt unseen. Within the walls of your home you are putting away dishes for the hundredth time, refereeing sibling squabbles, kneeling down to wipe crumbs. Outside your home you are sending what feels like the hundredth email, navigating rush hour traffic, or impatiently sitting through another drawn out work meeting. Mundane tasks, constant work, tiring repetition…what if we stopped to realize that the unseen work in our lives is still sacred and holy work that God has called us to for His purpose?

In Philippians 4:11 Paul writes “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” What stands out to me most about this passage are the two words, “whatever situation.” This means whether I am a tired mother tripping over another Hot Wheel car, a working parent balancing the demands of work and home life, or a single parent navigating a season of loss and disappointment…whatever my situation.

When Paul wrote these words he was imprisoned for sharing the gospel, chained, and most likely experiencing a great deal of pain and suffering. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a season where contentment came easy.

Instead of giving in to my sinful desire of discontentment, apathy, or grumbling, it is my daily prayer that I may see God’s goodness in the ordinary. I pray that by His grace, I will be able to demonstrate His love through whatever He gives me each day. I pray for an eternal focus, even during the humdrum moments of life.

During this season of parenthood, I am praying that the Holy Spirit will steady my focus. Friends, I hope my daily struggles will challenge you as well. May we be parents who smother peanut butter and jelly along with smothered prayers for the little mouths who will devour it in two seconds. May we remember that the diapers we change are that of little unbelievers who are observing us constantly (even when we are tired at 3am). May we sit with our kids on the porch and sip a glass of lemonade through a straw of thankfulness. May we sacrifice our alone time to be present after a long day at the office. May we choose over and over again to serve those in our family for the glory of God. Amidst the busyness of parenthood, let’s slow down our hearts and act with purpose…even when it feels like our work is monotonous and unseen.

The big moments of life are grand, but the richness of life seeps in from the cracks of the ordinary. The only true answer for contentment and peace comes from our loving Father. Cling to the gospel, embrace an attitude of prayer, and rejoice always – whatever your situation.

So many of the big lessons in our life are not radically learned overnight; God refines us in the simple and small moments, day in and out. One day I want to look back. One day I want to tell my kids about God’s goodness in my life, to show them that He has a purpose in the beauty, the hardships, my shattered dreams, and even the ordinary day-to-day. I want them to know that motherhood was one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I will celebrate the simple, mundane moments of motherhood because by His grace, it is radically changing me.

These are the days where dishes pile higher, and laundry multiplies like rabbits.

These are the days of snotty noses, slides, and bike rides.

These are the days of choosing to start, even when you are behind; a surrender to self, an embrace with humility.

These are the days of trying to blend the water and oil, Mary’s heart and Martha’s servanthood.

These are the days we fail. By God’s grace, these are the days we succeed.

These are the days we recite the mantra once again…

Rejoice always.

Grace abounds.

Goodness exists.