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perception-reality
Before I had children, I knew exactly what kind of parent I was going to be. After my first child, I just knew I was mother of the year. After my second child, I questioned whether or not I should give my children up to be raised by wolves – perhaps they would do better than I.

After my second child, I questioned whether or not I should give my children up to be raised by wolves – perhaps they would do better than I.

I went to the hospital yesterday to visit a friend who just had her first baby. It was a beautiful baby girl and I saw the joy and sparkle of new parenthood in her mother’s eyes. But what I didn’t expect was a mirror image of myself three years ago. There she was, my friend, a new mom, laying in the hospital bed asking me the very same questions I asked myself, my mother, my sisters, my parent-friends when my first child was born.

“She’s nursing every hour but the nurse says she’s supposed to nurse every two to three hours. Is everything ok?”

“She cries all the time. I’m afraid something might be wrong.”

“She’s not latching well. I’m afraid we’re going to have to supplement and I don’t want to.”

I heard my mother’s words in my head: “He’s three days old! Give him a chance to figure it out!” I looked at my friend with a smile and said, “Everything is ok. There’s nothing wrong. You’re both just figuring things out.”

That’s it. We’re all just figuring things out.

I have the privilege of leading a life group for moms at my church. There are new mothers of months-old babies, mothers of teenagers, and everything in between in our group. I love hearing from each of them the joys and challenges they face at every phase of parenthood. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being around them on a weekly basis, it’s that in every phase, whether young or old, we, as parents, are just figuring things out. There is no handbook. There is no club. I never knew how lonely that could feel until I became a mother myself.

Before I was a mother, I had this idea that all parents are in some sort of unspoken club, the kind where once you’re in, you’re told all the secrets, learn the secret handshake, and get winks and nods from other parents wherever you go. Kind of like the Masons.

Much to my chagrin, there is no such club.

No, in fact it’s quite the opposite. That doctor hands you the baby and then expects you to figure it out. Jerk. No handbook. Not even a pamphlet. Just a smile and a weak, “Congratulations!” He should have said, “Congratulations. You’re about to realize everything you thought you knew means nothing at all. Have fun!”

I will never forget that first day my husband went back to work after our son was born. My parents had been staying with us for a few days, cooking meals, cleaning up, helping us get used to the baby. But, like all good things in life, that came to an abrupt end and there I was, sitting on the couch with a brand new baby in my arms, watching my husband walk out the door and thinking to myself, “What now?”

We’re all just blindly walking around a giant room with our hands out, feeling for the next thing to grab on to that we call our “parenting philosophy.”

I had never felt so alone or scared in my life.

But this particular blog is not to discourage you. This is no, “Welcome to Club Hell. There is no escape.” In fact, this is to let you know that despite how it feels, there really is a club of parents. Despite what it seems, we’re all in the same boat, no matter what age our children are. We’re all just blindly walking around a giant room with our hands out, feeling for the next thing to grab on to that we call our “parenting philosophy.” It’s not always easy. It’s often quite frustrating. But I can assure you, you will figure this phase out. And as soon as you do, the next one will start. My sweet sister even had to remind me of this fact at Thanksgiving. My little “Princess and the Pea” wouldn’t sleep to save her life during the entire holiday. By Thanksgiving night I was ready to run away and tell God I died. I know for sure I gained a few more gray hairs that weekend. I saw them this morning. But as I was sitting outside alone in the cold wondering how I had become such a terrible mother, my sister came out to remind me in a way only she could that it’s ok. None of us has it all figured out. And that doesn’t mean we’re inept parents. It means we’re human. And, as my mother would say, “this too, shall pass.”

So sweet friends with brand new babies, I want to send you my love, my warmest wishes, and my sincerest prayers and tell you that it’s going to be okay. I know, even if you’ve only been a parent for a few days, that you’ve probably already felt overwhelmed and wondered what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. And we’ll all be there again from time to time.

But the blessings of being a parent – the sweet first smiles from your three-month old, the laughs at peek-a-boo, the silly games you play in the car, the first time your toddler tells you he loves you – those are the moments that will fill you up to overflowing. Those are the moments that will get you through the days when your infant screams when you hold her, screams when you put her down, screams when you feed her, screams when you don’t feed her. Those are the moments that will keep you from killing your son when he screams, “I CAN’T WANT THAT!!!” at you for the thousandth time that day. Those are the moments that will never, ever leave your heart and will remind you why God graced you with parenthood to begin with.

So hang in there. Take all the advice you get, put it together and form your own conclusions. Do what works best for you and your babies, not what Dr. Phil says. Or Oprah. Or your favorite parenting blog. So what if you have Disney Junior on longer than the recommended 30 minutes per day? (Thirty minutes? Give me a break!!) So what if you co-sleep? So what if your kid drinks cow’s milk at 9 months old? So what if you don’t immunize? So what if you do? It’s your kid and God gave you something precious that ONLY YOU have for your children – intuition. Use it. Trust Him. And have a glass of wine.

Everything is going to be okay!

I grew up in church. Ok, more specifically I grew up in a non-denominational Disciples of Christ church and an evangelical, charismatic Church of God private school. And then I went to a Baptist church. Ok so, more accurately, I grew up denominationally confused. The liturgical, dogmatic church where I grew up was in stark contrast to the charismatic, evangelical spirit-filled church where I went to school. Whereas on Sunday mornings I was wearing robes and lighting candles, on weekdays I was casting out demons and dancing in chapel. Then when I became Baptist I learned a lot about rules and expectations, most of which were set forth by the Baptist Faith and Message.

Needless to say, when I got into my twenties, I grew tired of it all. I wanted to get down to the truth. I didn’t care anymore about what one denomination thought, or what another taught. I just wanted to know the Bible.

Then I heard about Gateway Church. I heard lots of things about Gateway Church.

“It’s full of demons.” 
“They’re a bunch of rich folks in a country club.”
“They’ve only grown the way they have because they’re in the richest town in America.”

I knew there was something to it, because if people were that passionate against it, something was up. And whether for good or bad, I wanted to find out what was going on. So I went – perhaps more out of curiosity, but I went, nonetheless.

And for the first time in my life, something happened to me that I never thought was normal, or even possible for a sane person – I fell on my knees and wept right in the middle of the service.

I didn’t know what it was back then. I had heard terms like “anointing” and “presence.” I didn’t really care, I just liked it and wanted more. There was something to this place. It was full of something I couldn’t explain. (I now know that something is the Holy Spirit, and He has changed my life.)

Growing up with a veritable smorgasbord of spiritual influences left me confused at best. I didn’t know whether it was better to serve God in reverence, never ask questions and live in fear, or if it was better to cast demons out of the oven when the rolls burned. (When I was a little girl, I would literally lay in bed a night casting demons out of my bedroom. Yes, mom, it’s true.) The turning point came when I decided to strip my faith down to the Bible and nothing else. And when I found a church that taught the same thing, I was hooked. All in, no looking back, you might as well hand over the Kool-Aid ’cause I’m drinking it.

And now I’m in a place spiritually that not only did I never think I would be, but I never thought I wanted to be. I’m that girl – you know the one – who prays in the spirit language (you know, that scary thing that only weirdos do, otherwise known as speaking in tongues), who has seen demons cast out, who believes in miracles – daily miracles, who experiences the presence of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. I’m the girl who lifts her hands during worship and jumps in church. I’m the girl who lays hands on her children when they’re sick and teaches them to pray for themselves. I’m the wife who submits to her husband’s spiritual authority with joy because I know that he is submitted to the same God I am, and I don’t really have to worry about whether or not we will be on the same page. If we’re on God’s page, we’ll always be on the same page. I’m the girl that has faith that the bills will get paid even when there’s no reason they should on paper (and they always do). We’re the family that tithes even though we “don’t have it” and we see miracles continually because of it. We’re the family that gets excited about talking about sermons together, about talking about scripture we’re reading, about things we’re learning.

I never thought I would be that girl, that wife, that mother, that family.

I now understand that my varied denominational experiences each represented a part of the Trinity. My dogmatic, non-denominational church taught me about the awe and wonder of the Father God, the Ancient of Days. It was there that I learned about reverence, respect, and fear (the healthy kind). These things were good, but they weren’t everything.

It was in my charismatic private school that I learned about the Holy Spirit. He is power. He is everywhere. He brings life in dead places, dry bones becoming flesh. He heals, he revives, he restores. But He is not the only part of the Trinity.

It was in my Baptist church that I learned about Jesus. He died and rose again that we might be forgiven of our sins and live in heaven someday. He is Savior. He is redeemer. He is the one who sets free. He is the Son of God, God incarnate, Emmanuel. But he is only a third of a mighty three-strained cord.

It was at Gateway that I finally began to learn about a walk of faith in the power of ALL THREE – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I have learned that each part of the Trinity is power, is meaningful, is vital, but any one part without the other, or any one part placed above the other is not a true representation of the triune God. And without all three, we can’t achieve the blessed life.

I write this today, convicted of the truth that many of my dear friends are stuck in one of three aspects of God without experiencing the fullness of His power in the Trinity. Some of you are in a church where you follow the rules, you give your due respect and you go home and wonder why you’ve never had a miraculous deliverance from a problem, or illness, or financial burden in your life. I’m here to tell you it’s time to welcome the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Or maybe you’re in a place where all you see is a spiritual battle around you. You live in fear of opening doors to demons at every turn because they lurk in corners waiting to attack. I am here to tell you that He who has overcome the world, has already overcome the enemy! It’s time to get back to understanding the power and wonder of the Ancient of Days.

Or maybe you’re not a believer at all. Maybe you think all of this is a bunch of bunk made up by a bunch of lonely, confused kooks. Maybe so. But us kooks are changed, set free, and will never be the same. Say what you will, but you can’t argue with that. It’s time you give Jesus a try. What have you got to lose? On the other hand, if you’re wrong, what then?

God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit work in unity to bring victory, deliverance and power. I challenge you today to strip away your denominational filters, or your family heritages, or your preconceived notions and search for all of God in Spirit and in Truth. You will be amazed at the difference it makes.