Plans for a Hope and a Future

hope-and-future-graphicsAside from ministry, my other job is as a professor of public health.  Although I didn’t expect it to be a part of my teaching job, I realize that my graduate students and I are traveling together through a fascinating analogy of life. Right now, they are studying how to design programs to help people maintain or regain their health.  They are trying to set up interventions that lead to positive outcomes.   This requires that they have a scientific knowledge of health and of what motivates behavior.  In real life, it also requires that they stay flexible and be willing to re-design as new knowledge or circumstances come into play. This last part is frustrating for students as they would like to see a clear scientific process from the beginning to the end of their goals.  It would be nice to plan once and see everything follow as expected.  However, plans require adjustment.

As the parent of a child with special-needs, I recall being frustrated in the same way. I studied my children, their strengths, weaknesses, struggles and stumbling blocks.  I also studied pertinent research so I could put into place therapies or circumstances in which they could thrive, be healthy, learn and grow. This was good.

However, much to my dismay, 23 years of parenting  taught me that reaching desired outcomes is not a scientifically predictable, linear process.

parents in maze

In contrast, the process can be ridiculously tangential, unpredictable and unscientific (at least from my point of view).  Maybe the plan is perfectly executed according to God’s design, but at times it can seem like a cruel maze.  We might be moving toward our destination and then something takes us back to the beginning or sticks us in some blind dead-end.  But in my experience, someone or something would lead us out of that place and forward again.  The beauty was that the someone or something was often an idea I would never have imagined. I learned to be flexible and to adjust.

There are good things in my children’s life that had little to do with following a scientific or perfectly executed plan.

They are things that happened in round-about, seemingly random ways– yet they created powerful outcomes.  I learned that when my plan did not lead to the expected outcome, then God could execute His plan for my children.

Today’s lesson is this–if you find yourself stressing that you are not following the plans you made or that the plan is not working as expected, you can put that strain behind you.

God doesn’t need us to execute perfectly designed parenting blueprints for our child to reach desired outcomes. 

Do the best you can and rest in the Biblical assurance that God is walking through life with your children. He can manipulate the most unexpected and unsavory path to reach a desired destination because His blueprint is perfect. As my graduate students are learning, flexibility and a mind open to new information aids the journey to positive end-points.

We don’t know the details of God’s plans for us or our children.  That’s where faith comes in. However,  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about God’s intentions, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”



Pray, Show up and Trust

parenting effortsAre your parenting efforts making a significant difference? How can you know? Spoiler Alert! –You can’t know!

Parenting is just like that.  You may be working on potty training, language skills, academics, or polite behavior.  You may research the best strategies, prepare and even get teaching “props” to enhance the learning.  But sometimes your kids don’t respond in the way you want. They don’t react like your friend’s child, or like the blog-post child, and they certainly don’t meet your expectations. Then what?

A recent experience reminds me of this issue.  I traveled out of state to present a workshop to encourage parents raising their children who had disabilities. I spent weeks trying to perfect the workshop. When the day came I began by introducing myself and asking the participants to do the same.  Their introductions through me for a loop!  The room was filled with loads of teachers and only a few were parents who had special-needs children. What? I am happy to speak to teachers– but I use a different presentation. That day I was ready to talk to parents and my preparation reflected it.

What to do?  I presented my material as planned and tried to tweak it with discussion (theirs and mine) in order to meet the needs of teachers.  However, this group was quiet, leaving me uncertain about whether my attempt was successful.

This is when experience saved my day:  

It told me just to teach to the best of my ability.

It told me that the participants were here for a reason because this event had been prayed over in advance.

Experience told me that God sometimes takes us by surprise and uses us in ways we don’t expect.

As a matter of fact, at the end of the day one woman told me she attended the workshop to get continuing education credits, but that she realized she was really there for her own personal encouragement.  She gained spiritual insight she didn’t know she even needed.

You might be doing something now on behalf of your child or some other situation in your family.  You may not be seeing the results you expected.

It’s okay. Take comfort in knowing that sometimes much is happening even though you can’t see it.

As I sit here blogging in a coffee shop, I just ran into a friend who is a women’s minister.  She told me that a group of moms in her church have been using my book, Persevering Parent, in their support group, and how much it has helped them. I had no idea about this group–and it’s been in progress for six months. Good things happen that are beyond our view.

Are you unsure if your efforts are making an impact?

Take heart and know that your efforts with your children are changing them little by little in ways unseen. The situation where you see no progress may be transitioning to an outcome that just has not been revealed to you yet.

In short, over 25 years of parenting, God has repeatedly taught me to do three things:  

1) pray about situations,

2) show up, and

3) trust Him with the rest.

In what ways are you discouraged?  Are you praying about it? Showing up?  Then trust God with the outcome!

“So do not throw away your confidence: it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what He has promised.”  Hebrews 10:35-36