Category Archives: parenting

The Longings of a Daughter’s Heart – I Never Knew my Father

The relationship between a father and a daughter is crucial to her emotional well-being and self-esteem.  I don’t need to read any research studies (of which there are many) to tell me this is a fact.  I see it reflected in my life and in the lives of women around me.

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The lack of a strong emotional bond with her daddy can have a life-long effect on a woman.  That relationship is so important that it affects a woman’s view of her relationship with God.

I grew up with a father who was a frustrated perfectionist.  He liked things to be “just so” and his way was the only right way to do things. Having seven children, you can imagine that rarely were things done to his specifications.  This led to much disappointment and frustration for dad.  He had a difficult time forgiving others and letting go of past mistakes.  He struggled to express affection verbally or physically to those around him, including his family members.  This combination of unforgiveness and lack of affection led to deep feelings of shame and unworthiness in his offspring.  His children loved him and would have done anything to win an encouraging word from him, but he was incapable of communicating praise.   It was a mark of his own brokenness, and I only bring it up to warn parents of the consequences to their children if they are modeling this kind of behavior.

You can imagine that my view of God was skewed for many years.  I knew God loved me and offered forgiveness for my sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world (that means you and me!), that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever (anyone!) believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life.”   I understood that in my heart and I clung to that truth.  Yet for many years, the slightest mistake or failure on my part would send me running in shame from God.  I knew He must be disappointed in me and that I had proved myself unworthy of His love.  Of course, that is a lie from the pit of hell, but I battled those thoughts for many years.  Truth be told, I still battle those feelings sometimes.

My life radically changed at the age of 17 when I accepted Christ as my Savior and finally found peace and forgiveness.  Almost immediately God gave me such a love and understanding for my father.  God graciously showed me what a broken person my dad was inside.  He didn’t know to behave any different than he did.  Dad was from that generation of men who did not express their feelings.  He was the strong and silent type.  Even if he had recognized that what he was doing was wrong, he would not have known where to go for help, or dared to ask for it.

With God’s help, I was able to let go of past hurts and resentments.   I worked hard for the rest of my father’s life to build a relationship with him.  I called several times a week and traveled twice a month to visit for probably the last twelve years of his life.  I wrote letters and notes.  It took tremendous courage, but I began to hug him and tell him I loved him.  He was stiff and uncomfortable at first, but slowly, he began to respond.  I confess that for years, I cried each time he put his arms around me.  We had many conversations about his life and work.  I am thankful for every moment.

You may be wondering, “How can you say you never knew your father when you spent so much time with him?”  You see, there is a difference in spending time with someone talking about their work and their life and having real conversation.  Our conversations revolved around my dad and his work.  Topics he was comfortable talking about.  He did not initiate conversation.  He did not ask about my life, my work, my passions, my kids. He didn’t really take the time to know me.  It is a loss I feel to this day, but I chose to accept the relationship that my father was willing to give to me. I treasure the knowledge that in heaven our relationship will be the way God intended it to be.

If you are a father, please hear me when I say your relationship with your daughter is vital to her spiritual and emotional well-being.  Let your relationship with your little one be such a reflection of God’s love and grace that she can’t help but be drawn to relationship with her heavenly Father.

Maybe you see yourself having made some of the same mistakes as my dad.  It is never too late to begin a better relationship with your child.   It may take time and work to build the relationship, but start today.  Spend time with her.  Offer encouragement and guidance.  Listen.  Pray together. When she disobeys or fails you, correct her and offer forgiveness.  Your words and actions will have a life changing effect on your daughter and may determine her eternal relationship with God.     

There is an old song that always makes me think of my dad.  It is called, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”.

I am linking this week at Word of God SpeakGrace & Truth,  Coffee for your Heart,  Looking Up Link Up,  Sitting Among Friends and Faith ‘n Friends.

Letting Go Of Perfectionism At Christmas – 3 Tips

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I learned perfectionism at an early age.  The quest to prove myself worthy of love by doing everything perfectly (or not doing it at all) was learned at my father’s knee.  It has taken a good portion of my adult life for God to break me of it and for me to learn God’s love for me is not performance based. He loves me even when I fail Him, which I do often and in spectacularly public ways.

Christmastime can be hard for frustrated perfectionists, especially if small children are involved.  Years before artificial Christmas trees were invented, my dad would spend hours drilling holes in the trunk of our Christmas tree to “fill in the bald spots” with branches taken from the bottom of the tree.  Once he got the bald spots filled in, he would put the tree in the stand.  However, it never stood perfectly straight, so more time would be spent stringing guy wires from the tree to nails in the wall to keep it perfectly aligned. Only then were his six frustrated little girls allowed to approach the tree.800px-Christmas_tree_with_presents

Years later as my husband and I began our tradition of going to a tree farm with our young children, I frustrated everyone (myself included) by searching for the perfect tree.  Nothing was ever good enough for me.  I could always find some fault with any tree they found: not big enough, bare on one side, too spindly, etc.  It was not a fun excursion.  I finally decided that picking out the tree was better as a tradition the kids shared with just their dad.  They had a great time and no matter what tree they brought home, by the time it was decorated and the lights were on, it looked beautiful.  Here are a few other things I learned through the years.

Tip #1.  If you find yourself stressing about everything being perfect this holiday season, take a deep breath and walk away.  Take a moment to yourself and think, “Is it worth taking the joy out of Christmas because I want everything to be just so?”  Let your children’s memories be of the joy and happiness of the holiday season.  Teach them to embrace the imperfect and to encourage those who are trying, no matter the result of their efforts.xmasdinnertable                                                                                                                  photo by flickr_NC intoruth

Tip #2.  Stop comparing yourself to others!  No offense to those of you who have your house perfectly decorated, your holiday baking all done, and every gift exquisitely wrapped and under the tree, but your super capabilities make us “normal” folk feel inadequate.  I no longer torture myself looking at Pinterest or magazines that give me unrealistic expectations of what the holiday should look like for me, and I am happier because of it.   Looking at pictures of things that are beyond my means makes me discontent.  I choose to be thankful for the life and home that God has provided for our family. Christmas_presents_under_the_tree_(11483648553) Tip #3.  It isn’t about the presents.  Repeat after me, “It isn’t about the presents”.  Children, especially small children, will not know that you did not find the perfect gift.  As the parent, you are responsible for helping them to have realistic expectations.  If you are joyful, no matter how few gifts are under the tree, then your children will be joyful, too.  You set the tone of the day for your children.  Don’t let the lack of money determine your enjoyment of the holiday.  Teach your children the joy of making a gift for those they love.  Teach them to serve others as their gift to Jesus.  There are many free activities to enjoy as a family.  All you have to do is seek them out.  Your children long for your presence and time with you, even more so at the holidays.  Treasure these moments as they are all too quickly gone.FullSizeRender (33)

Tip #4  Learn to love the imperfect gifts in your life.  This is our sad little Christmas tree.  Yes, I know there are all blue lights at the top and multi-colored lights at the bottom.  I know the ornaments are old and tired.  But you see, every year my sweet husband gets out the tree and decorates it for me while I am at work.  It is a gift to me. I have learned with God’s grace to love the perfectly imperfect gifts in my life.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do yourself and your family a big favor this Christmas.  Let go of your unrealistic expectations.  Give your heart and home over to Jesus as you celebrate his birth.   Your holiday season will be full of joy.

I am linking up this week with Grace & Truth  and Purposeful Faith.

A Favorite Christmas Movie For Children

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
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One of the memories I cherish of when my children were young is of them watching a charming film by Disney called “The Small One”.  You may have never heard of it, but it is worth watching on YouTube or even searching out a copy to buy.

It is an animated movie about a young boy and his donkey named Small One.  The boy is forced to sell the donkey who is old and weak.  He searches for a buyer but is unable to find one except for the tanner who wants him for his hide.

When all seems hopeless, a kind man comes along who is looking for a gentle donkey to carry his pregnant wife…to Bethlehem.

Do you or your children have a favorite Christmas movie?  Let me know if you enjoy, “The Small One”.

 

When Caregivers Age – Making Tough Decisions

I have shared often about my superhero mom who has been caretaker and advocate for my developmentally disabled sister for almost 54 years now.

Jean Evanger and Janice Evanger

My mother did an amazing job of helping my sister Janice reach her full potential, fighting for every step along the way.  My sister was born in 1961, so the fight for education, treatment, acceptance, and meaningful work was arduous but taken on with a vengeance by my tiny mom.  She devoted herself to this task and kept tight control over every aspect of my sister’s life.

Oct 1963   Janice school 1965     Janice and Mom

Many of the resources available to parents of special needs children today were nonexistent in the 1960’s.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the many parents like my mom who fought to open doors of education, inclusion, and opportunity for children with disabilities.

My mom is now 92 years old and Janice will celebrate her 54th birthday next week.  While Janice has not lived at home in many years, she still comes home to visit and stay a night or two with mom every few weeks.  This has been the routine for years with my mother meeting Janice’s every need while she is at home.   Mom has trained Janice to depend on her for everything and sometimes she has difficulty accepting help from one of her sisters.

While my mom is still mentally sharp, she is frail and has struggled with illness this last year.  She has had several falls since August.  Janice also has had a decline in health and is unsteady on her feet.  She is now larger and heavier than my mom.

Trying to convince my mother that it is no longer safe for her to have Janice home alone with her was a months-long battle.  At times, she still tries to press the point that she could be home alone with Janice when she visits.  My sisters and I have to gently remind her that, “No, it is not safe for you or for Janice.”  Even though another sister is set up as co-guardian for my sister, in the case of mom’s eventual death, it is hard for mom to give up the tiniest bit of control.

Recently a friend recommended I watch a video on PBS Independent Lens called, “Mimi and Dona”.  This video is well worth watching and has so many lessons for us as parents.  The love and devotion between this mother and daughter is a beautiful thing.  But, parents, even parents of special needs children would be wise to train their children to be as independent as possible.  To do otherwise is a disservice to your child.  I encourage you to watch this video.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts about the video or your concerns as you face decisions regarding the care of your loved one.