On being a parent

So tonight I’m having one of those, ‘wow I’m really a terrible mother’ moments. I’m not of course, I might not be the best but I know I’m not really that terrible, but I definitely had an ‘epic fail’ tonight. The thing about being a parent is that of course we all make mistakes and I’m sure there will be times in the future when my kids will remind me of some of those mistakes. At least I can be thankful that they can’t remember them all… But that’s part of being a parent I think, we learn with our kids, we grow together.

People say that being a parent is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do and cliche as it it, it is so true. Because it’s not like a job where you can have training or a manual to refer to, you just have to get on with it yourself and do the best you can. Oh yes I know you can read up on it and read different peoples views on parenting but at the end of the day it’s just you, the parents (or parent) that make the decisions on the operating procedure.

The stakes are high.

Too high really. Because of course you can’t be impartial about the work you are doing because you’re too intimately involved in it. You can’t just quit when it gets tough or you get fed up. But then by the same token the rewards far exceed any you get in employment. Like your child passing their driving test, or hitting a 6 (cricket…) or drawing a beautiful picture and writing ‘I love you mum’ across it, or even just sitting down with them to veg out and watch TV together. Those moments are when your heart melts and it all makes sense.

That’s why, when it goes a bit wrong you really feel it.

Like tonight. 

Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t do anything really awful, and in the morning it will probably all be forgotten but it doesn’t stop the feelings of guilt, or that I feel I’ve failed as a mother tonight.
And the thing is I know there will be loads of parents out there thinking the same which is I guess, why I’m writing this. If any parent says they have never made a mistake with their kids, I guarantee they are lying! I learned once never to see others as perfect parents, which is the danger, thinking that no one else ever makes parenting mistakes. I really looked up to this family and they were the kind of people everyone loved so much, people would always say ‘oh aren’t they wonderful’. Then through circumstance I came to spend some more time with them and I soon discovered they were just like everyone else, they made mistakes too, they were not perfect! None of us are, so we just have to do our best and above all love our kids.

The thing I hold onto is that my heavenly father never has those bad parent moments. And whilst I feel terrible right now, I know that he’s just loving me, loving my heart, loving that I’m trying to do the right thing for my kids, loving that I want the best for them, he’s loving that I am just loving them. And I will never stop doing that. There will be other mistakes I’m sure, and there might be tough times, but nothing will stop me loving them.

Pastoral Care & Social Media #cnmac13

'Head in hands' photo (c) 2010, Mike - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

One of the best sessions I went to at this weekends Christian New Media conference was about Pastoral Care in the church and how that links in with Social Media. To be honest I don’t think I’m a naturally pastoral person, in fact my kids will tell you I’m pretty unsympathetic, so it was a surprise to find myself in this seminar – perhaps God led me there, perhaps it was just me faffing and not deciding which one to go to until the last minute. Either way I’m so glad I went. Led by a passionate Will Van der Hart and the lovely Katherine Welby it was an interesting mix of ideas and a sessions that really got me thinking.

In the church we bear a great responsibility for Pastoral Care, perhaps too much sometimes (but that is another post entirely). Jesus is referred to as the ultimate pastor –  the Good Shepherd caring for his flock. He told the parable of the shepherd who went after the one lost sheep. But often I think our reactions to the ‘lost ones’ are mostly in judgement and not compassion. I don’t mean just generally but, well, think about this:

I mentioned in yesterdays post that I am sure we can all think of people who use Facebook in pretty inappropriate ways, there are those who live out the intimate details of their lives in infinite detail, there are those who would do better to speak face to face with those they name in their status updates. Just think for a minute, if you are completely honest, what is your first reaction to those kinds of posts? Because I know my first reaction is not always a particularly Christian one. But the truth is, if someone is posting the minutiae of their life on a social media site, there is probably a reason for it…

Will talked on Saturday about the fact that people who are suffering with pain from past experiences possibly have wrong boundaries, possibly don’t even recognise there should be boundaries. People like that can become dependent on the attention they get online and the responses to those kind of posts. 

So as a Christians do I not have a responsibility here? What would Jesus do? as the old saying goes… Well I’m really not sure and this is the thing – I’m left wondering how can we turn this around? How can we react in compassion, how can we use social media in our pastoral care?  for our and others benefit?  Katherine Welby talked about how communication can bring freedom for a sufferer, but that in turn the screen can keep one captive. The thing with social media is that it’s relatively easy to communicate or to get information out, but then it’s also easy to hide too. From my own experience I know that an admission of needing help or revealing a difficult situation can then be followed by an immediate withdrawal, a regret of sharing the information in the first place. That’s one of the dangers with social media, in the physical world one can go and knock on someones door (ok so they might not answer but the point is it’s much harder to hide in person).

We need ways of enabling, helping and encouraging people online rather than just the quick fire status reply ‘praying xx’ or ‘thinking of you’ or even just clicking ‘like’ – another thing I’m sure we are all guilty of as Will pointed out in his talk. What should be our default position here? Because just a quick fire reply might relieve some guilt from ourselves but it sure ain’t going to help that person…

I don’t have answers, these are just some thoughts that have been going through my head, something to ponder on I guess. But if you’ve been thinking about this too or have some thoughts do post in the comments section.

The digital world and the real collide… #cnmac13

So, yesterday I went to the Christian New Media Conference. As a blogger I’ve planned to go to this for the last three years and for one reason and another I’ve never made it, so it was great to finally get there yesterday.

These days there is a lot of talk about how ‘real’ the digital world is and whether virtual relationships can replace real ones. But the thing is, and anyone who uses social media and embraces the digital world will tell you, it’s not about replacing it, it is just a part of it. The curve of development in technology in recent years has exploded (mixed metaphor alert…) and there’s no two ways about it, technology, social media, digital communication are here to stay. Like it or not. 

As a soc med fan I have made some wonderful and useful connections online many of whom I would refer to as friends even though I’ve never met them. This is a new way of connecting with people and we all need to learn new skills to get the most out of it. Virtual relationships are never going to replace those we have with the people who are physically around us and we needn’t be fearful of that.

So yesterday for me was like two worlds colliding. I met a whole load of people who I have ‘known’ online for quite some time plus I made a heap of new friends too and I think that was one of the most valuable parts of the day.  Like Pete who I met on the train and Laura who had tweeted me in advance to say she’d travelling up on the same train as me. We’d never met before but we all became buddys for the day. Or like Anita whose blog I have followed for some years now, we first ‘met’ in person when a fellow blogger invited us both to lunch and yesterday we met over lunch for a quick catch up, and she then introduced me to others who I ‘know’ from the blog world. 

It was also great to be in a room full of like-minded people. So often people just don’t ‘get’ social media, especially in the church, some are so anti and often their  reasons for being anti it are completely valid, but like anything we need to embrace the positives and learn from the negatives. We can all give examples of people posting their life histories and intimacies on Facebook and I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of that at some point. In the church we have to be even more careful, especially in leadership that our use of social media is ‘appropriate’ but we must be careful not to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ too.

I’ve loads to reflect on from yesterday and took copious notes so I’m sure there will be several posts to follow but for now I’m just excited about the future of digital communication and how we can harness that within the church…

“I Could have been…”

A brief conversation today made me revisit this thought – of what ‘I could have been’. 

So often people say things like “I could have been a…’ or if it weren’t for X I could have done this… 

Oh how we yearn for so much more. Are we ever satisfied I wonder?

Thing is, for me my ‘I could have been’ would probably be ‘…could have been dead’ or ‘…could have been in prison’, or ‘…could have been angry and bitter for my whole life’,  or ‘…could have been stuck in a dangerous or harmful relationship…’ or could have been so much worse…

But in all these things I thank the grace of God that none of those ‘could have beens’ ever happened…

I sometimes think about what my life could be like if God wasn’t in it. You see 20 years ago I was rapidly descending a slippery slope into a dark and uncontrollable world. I was into drugs, wasn’t a fan of myself, didn’t eat, really just wanted to get as far away from anyone who knew me as I could. And although of course I know God was there all that time, I certainly wasn’t paying him any attention. 

But now I can look back and see all the things that he rescued me from. Saved me from. Truly saved. There were very real times when I put myself at ridiculous risk. Risk of assault, attack, overdose, arrest and prison to name just a few.

I was an angry young woman. But by God’s grace I am here today. And I am here with a wonderful husband and family. And I am happy.

And I know that none of what I lived with and went through will be wasted. Through all that I have learned compassion, not to be judgemental, I have learned to look past the exterior, to love people. I am so thankful for all that God has blessed me with because it ‘could have’ been so different. My life could have been so so different.

And that is what God’s grace is all about. Getting something you don’t deserve, but you get it anyway, a free gift. And what a gift it is. 

I hope that I will always walk through life being thankful for what God has done for me, remembering where I could have been. Because although it’s not nice remembering some of that stuff and it can be painful, it just helps me to remind me that nothing is about ‘me’, but it’s all about Him.

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