Monday, August 20, 2012

Emulating

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV~

We have an outstanding team at SNAPPIN' Ministries who have dedicated the past year of their lives to the development of a thorough, high-quality Parenting Together Mentor Curriculum.  Excitement is building as we are less than a month out from the premier of the program.  And as we spend more hours focusing on this area of building parents up, I find my mind wandering to my own growth as a parent.

No doubt, our past experiences, in all their variety and color, shape our style as parents.  Those past experiences begin with the way we ourselves were parented.  Of course, there are things we both embrace and reject from our own upbringing.  For example, I find myself fondly remembering how my own mother brought us up with a solid focus on faith, made each of our birthdays special and unique, and instilled in us the value of hard work.  However, I find myself departing from her refusal to admit making mistakes to her children, from not giving her kids credit for knowing more than she might think, and from making every parental edict "a hill to die on."  

Having maintained what I valued and filtered out what I disliked about growing up in my own home of origin, I have become better equipped to discern what to keep and what to discard from parenting information that comes via outside sources.  Laughably, I can remember my husband teasing me one day, early in my parenting journey, when I quoted one of my favorite resources stating, "They say you should do X."  He quipped without missing a beat, "Who are THEY, anyway?"  Point taken, I learned not to be so overly critical of myself as a mother.  At the same time, I have never stopped trying to be the best guardian and steward of my precious children that I can.

Besides reading everything I can get my hands on, I have found myself emulating or following the example of people I admire.  I have spent time with other mothers who have solid character and wonderful parenting skills.  A type of small group mentoring became available to me at one time through a Christian playgroup that a number of us formed.  We would take turns hosting at our homes with snacks for young and old, along with a Bible lesson and crafts for the kids.  I would glean so much from the other moms who were "walking a mile in my shoes" at the time.  I would take in what I liked or found effective from the other mothers, while discarding in my mind that which I knew would not work for my own family.

At one point, the small playgroup was not enough.  I felt heavily burdened as my third pregnancy became high risk and my marriage was enduring serious challenges.  Our church had a woman-to-woman mentor program, which I joined.  Despite never having done such a program before, I quickly felt comfortable with my mentor, Shara, who is still a dear friend to this day.  This truly kicked my parenting up a notch, as I watched Shara parent 7 children with relative calmness, work a job from home, love her husband, and have a deep satisfaction with what God had given her.  We talked endless hours and prayed together.  But more than anything, I watched her raise her terrific children.  I still find myself admiring her family, who exudes joy despite every hardship they have suffered.
   
Several months after our youngest was born, my sweet mentor moved back to Texas with her family, not only to be near loved ones, but also to get her husband closer to a preferred hospital to treat his cancer.  Before they departed, Shara found herself facing the fears of her husband's diagnosis.  I had the privilege of offering her support.  I was at a point where my endurance was built up enough to watch her 4 youngest children along with my own.  As I tearfully parted company with her, I knew this special relationship would live on in my heart forever.

Months later, I felt called to give back through that same woman-to-woman mentor program.  Though I didn't know why, I sensed God instructing me to enroll as a "big sister" or as a mentor at this time.  As always, my obedience to the Lord was blessed.  I ended up having much in common with my younger sister, Sue, and once again found myself in a position of mutual edification.  I was mindful to be a good listener, not to be a know-it-all, and to pray fervently with and for her.  This broke through the tough shell she had built around herself, and helped her to know that she was not alone in her hardship.

I share these stories with you to remind you that we are all shaped by our own personal experience.  That experience is worth sharing with others.  God made us relational creatures.  And He equips us with new tools for life's daily battles by allowing us to emulate others.  Modelling and mentoring works.  It ends our isolation, offering us the comfort of knowing that we're not the only ones facing difficult battles.  We identify with others through stories, and by watching how they do life.  We build one another up through empathy, compassion and prayer.  And simple as it may appear, mentoring can be life-changing.

This is what gets me excited or, as Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church puts it, rings my bell.  I have followed others as they follow Christ.  I have experienced it transform me as a wife and mother, taking me far beyond the skills imparted to me by my own mother.  My desire is to see every mother of a child with special needs given the opportunity to look at their child with infinite hope and rest in the knowledge that God is up to something big.  I can't wait to see parents go from deflated and tired to energized and empowered.  God is on the move, and I feel privileged to have a front row seat to watch Him work.

PRAY:  Lord, You have set forth the model of mentoring in Your holy word.  Just as your disciples followed You, let me also do the same.  And if I find myself dragging or down, help me to emulate another as they emulate You, faithful God.

* A special note of gratitude to team members, author, Jolene Philo, psychotherapist Stephanie Scheiber, LCSW, SAC and remarkable special needs mom, Donna Vanden Boom for their remarkable work and devotion to the development of this program.

**TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS UPCOMING OPPORTUNITY, E-MAIL BARB@SNAPPIN.ORG TODAY.

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