How will God interview parents? Will He judge them based on how they raised their children? Or will He judge them based on how many of those children made it back to Him on the straight and narrow path? Nathan Mitchell, the Clinical Director of the ANASAZI Foundation, gives a surprising answer!
“A lot of times, when I’m talking to parents, I ask them to consider this interview that we all imagine that we’ll have with God at the end of our lives. Because, as a parent, sometimes I fall into that trap of thinking that that interview with God is going to have on that ‘Did your kids all go to Church? Did they stay on the straight and narrow path? Did they not do drugs? Did all, you know, follow that pattern?’ I don’t think He’s going to ask: ‘What did you do with these children that I gave you? How many of them did you bring back?’
“I think the question that He’s going to ask is ‘Did you learn to love them? Because that’s why I put them with you. That’s why I put that person in your life—in a very specific way—so that you could learn to love the way that I love.’
“And to me, that concept changes everything. Then I don’t have to be the one to make sure that this person never does drugs. It’s certainly my hope and I’ll certainly do everything that I can, but if anything becomes more important than my relationship, than my love with that person, then I know I’ve got it upside down. Even if that thing that becomes more important is a righteous thing. If it becomes more important than that connection then I might fail the interview.”
Let us know what you think about this interview in the comments below!
When someone struggles with depression, they will often feel as though their life is a burden to others. Ganel-Lyn Condie, a speaker and author, lost her sister to suicide in 2014 and the grief is almost overpowering. Ganel-Lyn has often expressed the feeling that she would rather have her sister—with all her imperfections—than to go through life without her.
In the video below, Ganel-Lyn talks about her sister’s suicide and tells anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts that they are not a burden.
Remember when the best days of your life were filled with simple things–when things like catching a butterfly, chasing a lightning bug, being hugged or tickled by someone you loved, reading a good book, running through the sprinklers, or having a water gun fight were the center of your universe?
Whatever your childhood looked like, what were the little things that could make your day? Was it a smile, a hug, or a moment of fun? Or was it something else altogether?
For the past two weeks, my kids have been bouncing off the walls about the fact that they were getting bunk beds. In fact, just minutes after hearing we might get the beds, the two had already chosen bunks for themselves. After that, they just got more excited by the day. Every day they asked repeatedly when we were going to get the bunk beds and when they were going to sleep in them for the first time.
So it goes without saying that when we finally picked the beds up and brought them home, the kids were ecstatic. Later, while laying on the top bunk, my daughter gave a contented sigh and said, “This is the best of day of my life!”
Isn’t it interesting that children’s lives are filled with these moments–moments that cause them to think, “This is the best day of my life”–one right after another.
What’s even more interesting though, is the specific things that make their days seem so great. It’s not the big things we would think of, but little things that cause children to have the best days of their lives. Things like a fresh chocolate chip cookie with a glass of milk; a few moments spent curled up on the couch, snuggling up with a good book; a hug just before bedtime; seeing a real, live fish for the first time; riding a bike without training wheels for the first time; getting a puppy; or any of a hundred other little things.
But what about us? What causes you or me to have the “best day of our life”?
It’s the little things (and the feelings behind them) that make children’s lives magical, and lead them from one “best day of my life” moment to the next.
Couldn’t developing this tendency to see and celebrate the little joys in our lives be healthy for us as well? Couldn’t we learn to see the world through the eyes of a child again–focusing on what we have instead what we lack?
Look at your own life through the eyes of a child. What do you have to be grateful for? What one thing would cause you to have a “best day of my life” moment today, if you were a child again?
This past week I watched a cute, little nine-month-old boy, sitting in church with his parents on the front row. Suddenly, right in the middle of the quiet church meeting, he made a noise that I had never heard before. Smiling as wide as he could, he loudly sucked in air while squealing at the same time, resulting in a sound like a jet engine stuck in reverse. The noise definitely got my attention the first time he did it, but what kept my attention (and everyone else’s in the room) was the expression on his face. He was elated. Each time he made that noise again, he laughed and chuckled more loudly. He was learning something new, and he was enthralled by it.
As I looked around the room, every person I saw was smiling deeply, and looked to be thinking back on their own life or their own experiences as a parent. Afterward, no one had anything but good things to say about that boy and his innocent, disruptive noise from the front row. I think everyone in that room could remember feeling just like that little boy once before. Seeing him so pleased with himself as he learned something new was a beautiful moment.
But why do moments like that have to stop when we grow up? Why can’t they continue?
Well, they can and they will. All we need to do is learn to re-apply the principle that causes such moments in our lives.
Having more “best day of my life” moments simply requires you to have a grateful heart. You must see what you have, not what you lack. You must appreciate the moments that exist in your life, and ignore the ones that don’t. In short, you must cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is the biggest key to an enjoyable and fulfilling life.
What are you grateful for today? What moments today have reminded you–or could remind you, if you just gave it a little thought–of the “best day of my life” moments from your past and childhood?
As I write this article, my daughter runs past me, pausing to tickle me. Then she runs away, squealing in delight as I try to catch and tickle her in return. And though it distracts from my writing, I am reminded that this is one of the moments for which I must be grateful. Instead of seeing a distraction in my daughter, shouldn’t I see how loved I am in her eyes, and the way she wants to be near me–and loved by me in return? Shouldn’t I see an angel that I am blessed to help raise, care for, and love? That moment made my day, and became a “best day of my life’ moment to cherish for the rest of my life.
I want to strive to see the moments in my life that should make this day and every other “the best day of my life”.
What about you? What moments have you already missed because you’ve been too busy, too distracted, or too focused on what you lack? What moments could you rediscover as “best day of my life’ moments in your own life?
May you have a ‘this is the best day of my life’ moment today, and every day hereafter…
A recent letter to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax shares a couple’s concern about their daughter, who they describe as a “mean girl.” The couple claim that they have done everything to help and encourage their daughter, and have made her the “absolute highest priority” in their lives. In response, Hax gives this piece of advice that I would like to elaborate on: “Don’t let her keep thinking that you, her friends, and her world are there for her.”
But, why does a girl who is so beloved of her parents turn out to be a bully and cause problems for those around her? Shouldn’t we make our children our very “highest priority”? There are popular parenting methods that suggest we never turn our children down when they want something, never say no to them even when they misbehave, and always tell them that they are amazing in every way. On the surface, this type of parenting practice (often called unconditional love, or unconditional positive regard) seems like the right thing. However, I am going to warn you now, if you really practice this kind of parenting, you are in for trouble.
The famous psychologist, Alfred Adler, warned parents about this very parenting method, saying that it could result in a child’s development (or lack thereof) of social interest or social feeling. What Adler means when he talks about “social interest” is the desire in a person to benefit the people around them, to improve the lives of others in their families and communities. Adler argues that parents who meet every need of their children and never allow them to be disappointed, are doing a great disservice to both the children and society as a whole.
This advice might be quite hard for the over-pampering parent to digest. But while there are many concerns that these parents might have, I have chosen just three to address here.
1. I want to give my children everything they want.
Some parents feel like it is their duty to fulfill all (or most) of the wants of their children. Sometimes it is because the parents themselves lacked things as a child, and want to make up for their own loss. Some believe that their children will love and appreciate them more if they give the children everything they want. These parents never say no to a child’s bad behavior or many wants, because they believe that saying no is what bad parents do.
A three-year-old child can dominate these kinds of parents simply by demanding to use their iPhone. The parents just give in, because they don’t like to see their child disappointed or suffering (or they just can’t handle the tantrum).
The problem with this kind of parenting is that the real world simply does not work this way—where all demands are automatically met, just because a child wishes them to be. If a child is raised thinking that all of their wants should be fulfilled and all of their behavior should be tolerated, they are in for some very difficult years once they leave home. As adults, we know very well that the world will not provide us with all we want. We simply will be disappointed from time to time. And employers, friends, and spouses will not treat all of our misbehavior with a smile and a kind word (sadly, even adults sometimes learn this lesson too late).
So what are parents to do? Let your children be disappointed.
A few times when I have disappointed one of my children by not giving them what they want, they have said, “This is the WORST DAY OF MY LIFE!” When they say this, I pat myself on the back, and say, “Good Dad!” If the WORST day of my child’s life is made so simply because I wouldn’t buy them something or let them do what they wanted, it means that my children lives are pretty amazing.
This is not to say that we should have our children go without necessities of life. Of course you should meet those needs. But certainly toys, iPhones, and Xboxes are not necessities. It is good for your children to not get what they want sometimes. And when the child’s needs are trumped by the needs of a parent or sibling, the child will learn to develop empathy and awareness of the needs of others.
2. I don’t want my child to have to struggle.
The desire to keep your children from having to struggle is in some ways quite noble. We don’t like to see our children get hurt or have struggles in their relationships with others. It makes sense that we would want to fix their problems and make their lives easier. Some parents even think it necessary to intervene when it comes to situations at school with their children’s teachers and coaches, and attempt to keep their children from facing consequences for their actions.
What is the result if we keep our children from struggling? Again, by doing this, we keep children from learning to deal with normal life. Whether or not we like to admit it, Buddha was right when he claimed, “Life is suffering.” And Adler teaches that parents who do not teach children how to deal with struggles, those parents will “lead the child to regard himself as the center of events, and to feel that all other situations and persons are hostile to him.” Such a child will see the world as a hostile place as they grow up, because no one is stepping in to solve their problems.
3. I want my child to think that he is the most important, amazing person in the world.
This idea is a particular problem of American parents. We live in culture hyper-focused on the self—self-esteem, self-love, self-actualization. We think that we must engender this self-love in our children, push them to see themselves as wonderful, amazing, and successful in every way. We give medals just for showing up to sports teams, so that everyone feels special.
What could be wrong with this?
The problem with encouraging self-love is that we give children the impression that they are the only beings in the world who matter. We teach them that their happiness, their pleasure, and their successes are the only things that count toward having a good life. This kind of attitude keeps them from ever developing the “social feeling,” which Adler claims is the hallmark of a healthy personality. This is the problem the parents I mentioned at the beginning are facing: the over-indulgence they have given their child has led her to lack compassion and empathy for others—to become what they call a “mean girl”.
I am certainly not advocating that we spend a lot of time harping on our child’s faults. But we can spend much more time helping our children to see the needs of others and to find ways to benefit from helping those around them. If you offer your child opportunities to sacrifice their needs in order to help others, I think you will be surprised at the capacity for kindness in children. We know that the joys we experience in our lives come from the capacity to love and be loved.
Adler teaches how important “social feeling” really is to our community. He says, “Everything we call a mistake shows a want of social feeling. All errors in childhood and in adult life, all faulty character traits in the family, at school, in life, in relationships with other persons, in work, and in love originate in a lack of social feeling.”
Allow your children to struggle. Allow them to be disappointed. Say no. Give them opportunities to sacrifice their own needs and desires for the benefit of others. Children need you to help them learn these lessons—and to learn them young—so that they can move forward in life.
I wasn’t prepared to become a mother when my son was born just six short months ago. But I didn’t know it at the time. After all, I had the crib and clothes and boxes and boxes of diapers. I had taken birthing classes and child development courses and had done my share of babysitting. And this wasn’t a surprise pregnancy. I had consciously made the decision to have a baby. My husband and I planned the timing—as much as it is possible to do that. We waited a while after we were married, because we wanted to make sure that we were “ready” to have kids.
But I wasn’t ready to be a mom. I just wasn’t prepared.
I Wasn’t Prepared for Motherhood
I wasn’t prepared for my body to suddenly start producing enough milk to feed a small village. I wasn’t prepared for the ache in my back that came from constantly bending to pick up my child and then carry him around until he fell asleep. I wasn’t prepared for a child who wanted to be in my arms constantly—or what that would do to my social life. I wasn’t prepared for the yellow poop that spread all up the back of his clothes 3-4 times a day or the spit-up that would sporadically cascade down my neck and chest when I was least expecting it. I wasn’t prepared for the months and months of running on empty because, between worrying about SIDS and listening to my son scream, I hadn’t been blessed with sleep. And I definitely wasn’t prepared to be thrown-up on the moment that I finally did drift off to sleep.
And I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love him.
I wasn’t prepared for how he would fit so perfectly in my arms—no matter how much he grows. I wasn’t prepared for the feeling that would rise up in my chest and completely overtake me as I watched him take his first breath. I wasn’t prepared for his little fingers to wind their way through mine, and then for us to snuggle up holding hands. I wasn’t prepared for how worried I would be about him, that I would lay my hand on his chest just to feel it rise and fall as he slept. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would ache for him when he is sick or hurt or afraid. I wasn’t prepared for the pride that would well up inside of me whenever he managed to achieve some new feat—no matter how small. I wasn’t prepared for his big, beautiful smile or his infectious little laugh.
And I definitely wasn’t prepared for how immediately he would love me.
Me. He loves me—for no other reason than the fact that I am his mama.
This child—this perfect little human, who was recently just a couple of cells inside my body, this miracle of nature who just barely came into being—has changed me. In just six months, he has taken a woman who had spent 28 years constructing herself, and completely transformed her. He has made me into something new.
He has made me a mother.
And suddenly I understand. I understand that fierceness that drives a mother to give everything she has for the good of her child. I understand that surge of adrenaline that enables mothers to defy logic and science, simply because, in that moment, their child needs them. I understand the desire to change the world, to move entire mountains and whole continents and even planets in the galaxy, in order to make the world my child lives in a better place to be.
And I appreciate my mother for loving me that much. All of the years and years of Mother’s Days when I told her I appreciated her and all of her efforts, I wasn’t telling the truth. I couldn’t totally appreciate her, because I didn’t really understand.
I couldn’t know how her heart ached with my sorrows, how her mind was always occupied with my welfare, how much she deeply desired for me to have everything the world could offer—and of course how much poop she had to clean up—until I was in her place.
I am so grateful to my mom for being that person for me, and I’m grateful to my sweet child for being born and giving me the opportunity to learn to be that person too.
“But something went wrong. For some reason, the surgeons had gotten pulled away from [my mother], mid-surgery, and left her open on the operating table for hours. A blood clot formed, causing her to have a stroke, which paralyzed the right half of her body. Everything had changed in an instant, and she wasn’t to blame for any of it.”
I grew up hiking, sledding, ice skating, climbing trees, and camping–all things which my mother taught me about. She also taught me how to sew, cook, clean, write, draw, paint, use power tools, do laundry, make my bed, decorate my house, eat a balanced diet, and so much more. As far back as my memories go, I can recall seeing my mom skillfully making Halloween costumes for all of my brothers and myself every year. I remember seeing her make delicious meals for us three times a day, bake beautiful and tasty cakes for our birthdays, and keep our pantry and fridge stocked with healthy snacks and homemade treats. She kept a vegetable garden in a large portion of our back yard and colorful flowers in pots lining our porch every summer. I recall often walking into our garage-turned-wood-shop and seeing her behind a set of safety goggles as she carefully used the band saw which my father had given her as a birthday gift. She regularly painted stunning images onto random slabs of wood or scraps of paper, creating masterpieces out of ordinary and uninteresting things. She took pictures of every adventure any of us kids experienced, whether it was family road trips across the country or our first softball or baseball game. She helped turn my ideas for school projects into impressive and award-winning realities. My mother’s hands have always been some of the most talented and creatively gifted of any I’ve known.
When I was nine, my mom started having chronic headaches, and shortly after was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was about the size of her fist, and we were surprised to learn that she’d had it her entire life. It was a benign mass of skin, tooth, and hair that had attached itself to her brain before she was even born. For over 30 years she never experienced any adverse effects from it. She had a full childhood, graduated high school and college, got married, bore four healthy children, and was living the happy life she had dreamed about when it was discovered.
After consulting with various medical professionals, she was given the choice to either leave the tumor as it was and deal with constant pain and an early death, or risk a very intense surgery to remove it. To her, the choice was obvious: she had a better chance of living out her life fully if she had the surgery.
We all prayed and fasted as fervently as possible that the surgery would all go well for mom. And we had complete faith that she would come out of it fine.
But something went wrong. For some reason, the surgeons had gotten pulled away from her, mid-surgery, and left her open on the operating table for hours. A blood clot formed, causing her to have a stroke, which paralyzed the right half of her body. Everything had changed in an instant, and she wasn’t to blame for any of it. Her beautiful handwriting was gone. She could no longer paint or draw. She couldn’t drive a car. She couldn’t keep a garden or cook meals for her family. She couldn’t even speak any of the words her mind could think. She had suddenly become a talented and gifted mind living in a broken and seemingly useless body.
As she came out of surgery, and reality set in for her, my mom knew life wouldn’t be the same. She wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed from that point. But no matter what, she was determined to move forward. So that’s what she focused on doing.
She refused a handicapped pass for our car; she explained in her slurred and broken words that she wasn’t handicapped, just a little sick at the moment. At one point she approached my dad, and humbly explained that she’d understand if he wanted to divorce her and move on with life so that she wouldn’t burden him. My dad looked at her, flabbergasted, and sternly replied, “I married you for eternity. This is just a part of it.”
Every day for weeks and months, we had friends drop off meals at our home and offer help and support for our family while mom was recovering. Slowly but surely, she went from being bed-ridden, to sitting in a wheel chair, to using a walker, to limping around on her own, and to eventually driving herself to the gym three days a week to exercise.
Now, she is a totally different woman from the one who came home from the hospital that day. She has recovered beyond what any of those doctors ever expected. She can walk up and down stairs. She talks and carries on conversations in person and over the phone. She gardens relentlessly every summer. She drives from the farm in the country, where she and my dad live, into town to run errands and buy groceries. She makes my dad lunch for work and loves to try cooking new recipes. She uses that slightly withered right hand to write notes to put in care packages and to lovingly sign birthday cards for each of us every year.
The list of things my mother cannot do herself is very short. And for those things, I always tell her, “That’s okay mom. We’ll do that when we’re resurrected after this life.”
She has passed her cheerful and optimistic way of thinking onto me and each of my siblings. The things I have learned from my beautifully imperfect mother are truly limitless. Aside from the many life skills she taught, I’ve learned four main life lessons that I couldn’t have learned any other way, all of which have influenced me in everything I do.
1.Forgive others no matter what they do to you. My parents both agreed that they didn’t want to sue the hospital or surgeons for the mistake. Trudging through a messy lawsuit wouldn’t have gotten my mom’s abilities back, and putting my mom through an ordeal like that would have done more damage than good–both mentally and emotionally. My dad made certain that the medical professionals who were responsible felt remorse and guilt for what they had done, and then simply asked for the best physical rehabilitation available. Clinging to anger and vengeance would have prevented much good in our lives. We would have been so overcome with bitterness and sorrow that we would have missed out on the love and compassion that developed within each of us.
2. Find purpose in your adversity. When asked about her ordeal, my mom always says she would do it over a thousand times just to have the closeness we gained and lessons we all learned from it. The frustrating limits she suddenly experienced were worth the perspective she gained, the patience she learned, and the tender love she was able to feel toward others. It was worth the bonds and friendships my siblings and I created as we relied on one another throughout her recovery. The things that we couldn’t have learned in any other way have made the struggles and challenges invaluable. Her struggles have not been in vain, and understanding the good that has come from them has given them purpose and value.
3. Speak well of others. Everyone has flaws. That’s a given. Not only is it rude to point them out, but when you do that’s all you focus on. Every time you see or think something negative about someone, think of something positive too. When you do this, you’ll find that it’s easier to love others, and others will find it easier to love you back.
4. Tenaciously pursue your goals. Don’t give up. Don’t let others determine how you feel about yourself and your situation. Your life is yours to navigate, and you determine much of where you’ll go and what you’ll do based on your attitude and outlook on the future. Keep pressing forward no matter the odds or opposition that comes your way.
What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from your mother? What qualities does she have that deserve sharing and honoring this Mother’s Day?
It seems very appropriate that I learned one of life’s greatest lessons while sitting in a classroom.
I was in college at the time, meeting with a bunch of other twenty-something-year-old kids for our church group. There was no church building available, so we met in a classroom at the law school. Being young, we naturally knew everything that there was to know about life. So when our church leader—a man in his late forties—walked in to teach us about marriage, we all yawned and sunk further down in our chairs.
The church leader was a humble man. He had grown up a farmer, with no major education to speak of. He was quiet and a little socially awkward. It was hard to imagine him dating at all, let alone giving us any valid advice on the subject. This man is old, I thought. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be dating in today’s world.
He started out slowly, cautiously.
“When I was first married,” he began, “my wife and I didn’t make very much money. It was clear that we needed another source of income. A friend talked to me about stocks and investments. It seemed like a really great way to make some extra money. But I was nervous. There was also a big risk of losing money. Still, the benefits seemed to outweigh the risks, so I decided to try it out. I started out investing with very small sums. And I made some money.”
“But the thing about investing is, if you don’t take risks you don’t make much,” he continued nervously, fumbling with his tie as he spoke. “In order to really make a worthwhile investment, you have to be willing to put down a good sum. This is hard to do. The potential risk of losing that money is scary when you’ve worked so hard to earn it. However, I realized that my small investments weren’t amounting to much. So I decided to put faith in my friend and let him advise me on some larger amounts. And after that, I began to make real money. Don’t get me wrong. I lost money a few times too—A LOT of money. And it was very frustrating when that happened—devastating even. When that happened, it made me question whether I wanted to ever invest again. But in the end, I kept doing it. I also kept reading and learning about good investments so that I could make better ones in the future. In the long run, it’s been a great thing for my wife and family. It has given us the financial means to do a lot of things that we would never have been able to otherwise.”
What does any of this have to do with marriage? I sighed as I glanced up at the slow-ticking clock.
And then came the kicker, the thing that made this whole lecture worth it:
“Life is all about making investments. When you put in very little, you can only expect to get very little in return. Making big investments, on the other hand, is scary, but can reap huge rewards. Dating, for instance, requires big risks if it is to amount to anything. You have to go out there and really give your whole heart. And that is scary, because you stand to lose a lot if it goes sour. But what you can get out of it is truly worth the risk. The love that is shared in a good marriage, where both people are constantly making deposits and giving everything they have, is the greatest return you will ever receive on an investment.”
These words took up residence in my brain that day, and have lived with me ever since. With every relationship I entered into afterward, this advice was there. When I was tempted to hold back part of my heart, it came leaping out at me. This advice is what drove me to first utter the scariest three-word phrase—I love you—to the man who is now my husband. And this advice is the one that surfaces again whenever I give an exasperated sigh after a day chasing and changing, feeding and cleaning up after my beautiful son.
From the day that sweet, humble man spoke to us, I have striven to invest every ounce of love I have in my relationships. Sure, I’ve had some losses. My husband wasn’t the first man I dated after hearing this lesson. I had my heart broken more than once. But the returns I have received from my beautiful marriage have made my losses seem trivial and all of my investments seem meager.
Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but it is enveloped in more love than I ever imagined existing back when I was a student sitting in that classroom-turned-church. Our love is warm and full and sweet. And it is this way because of what we both give. Yes, putting our hearts out there also puts us in danger of deeper hurts when we have bad days. But these risks are totally worth the rewards that come a majority of the time.
If you want to be rich with love, you must first be willing to take a risk and give every bit that you have. Risk it all. I promise, you will one day be glad you did.
Motherhood really is a tough job. One thing I think the makers of this video got wrong, however, is the compensation. Mother’s may not be compensated with cash, but what they are given in return for their efforts is so much more wonderful. Every day when I look down in my son’s eyes, I feel that I am extraordinarily blessed to have such a wonderful job–even if the client is a bit fussy.