Sunday, July 15, 2007

That Continuous Balancing Act

The following excerpt is taken from my daughter's blog. It speaks to an area of concern I often have considered. "Muse" along with us!

The Musings:

One thing I simply have to comment on in regards to the weekend outreach activities is my appreciation for the couple who headed up the children's programs at 2pm & 3pm yesterday and today. They did such a great job with planning and preparing, involving a number of children, and then presenting skits and songs and games. I sat there knowing firsthand just how tired their 3 young children were (like Daniel and I, they will celebrate 6 years of marriage this October and are expecting #4 this year) and exactly how many hours of their weekend were spent on these events, and I was very challenged by their sacrifice.

To be brutally honest, if someone like Daniel had asked me to oversee such programs, my first response would have been, "2 and 3pm? Are you crazy??? Don't you know that's my kids' naptime? Sorry, buddy." And even if I'd gotten past that point, I doubt I would have found a way to write skits and stories, prepare children for acting and costumes for children, thought through games and prizes, etc. But that was not their response.

Not at all.

They responded with enthusiasm and energy and then they went above and beyond what Daniel had asked for. And even in moments like when their not-yet-2-year-old was crying because of spent emotions and too little sleep, there were still smiles on their faces and expectation of good in their words.

It reminded me of a very wise man's challenge to Daniel a couple years ago: "How are you doing with leading your family in sacrifice?" I remember when Daniel shared that question with me, struck by the word in when I might have inappropriately chosen the word through. I was challenged because he was right and I was wrong. After all, the call to discipleship doesn't ask us to simply cheerfully endure the sacrifices (even this is often challenging for me, I confess), but to go so far as to look for opportunities to die to self.

I tend to be so over-protective of our family boundaries and I'm often afraid and hesitant to place demands on Gabriel, Bronwyn, and Jackson for the sake of local church and Kingdom work; and yet I simultaneously want my children to grow up with a willingness and eagerness to give of themselves. If my example to them is one of self-preservation-- even in the name of family-- how can I expect them to serve beyond what comes easily and pleasantly to their flesh? And who better to teach and lead them in sacrifice than their very own mom and dad?

At any rate, I applaud this family for their tireless work over the weekend. Not only were many small children blessed by their efforts, but this wife and mom was convicted and refreshed in a vision to sacrifice as a family-- gladly and cheerfully!-- for the Lord and His bride.

Great thoughts and observations, Bri! Here are some of my own along those same lines.

One of the pitfalls (as I see it) in a strong message on family is the tendency to respond by "hunkering down" to the point of non-active service in the kingdom. It's true that we need to have our minds renewed regarding the need to invest in children and families. Guarding our time and energy so that our children have all they need is necessary. Knowing boundaries is, therefore, essential - but, having set our boundaries, we must also then be willing to abandon those very boundaries from time to time for the sake of sacrificial service.

Being encouraged to love and good works, knowing how to sacrifice in service to the church, and continuing in giving above and beyond what is comfortable is the flip side of focusing on family. We must understand and practice both sides of the coin.

Kids learn to sacrifice for the church and the brethren when they've seen it, tasted it, loved it, and practiced it themselves. Nothing can replace modeling it before them, then doing it as a family, and finally, releasing them to it. Much as we all would like the world to go away at times so that we can just live life simply (at least, admittedly, that has been the cry of this mother's heart at times), we are called to serve the kingdom and the local church as well as our homes.

Learning to hear His voice becomes essential. Messages of family investment and then a call to local church service seemingly contradict, pulling us in two different directions. "What is too much? What is too little? Can someone just tell me how many hours or activities are allowed?"

Nope. It's not that simple. You are you and I am me. How we function, what we can accomplish, and what we should accomplish are not the same. So don't feel condemned by what someone else is or isn't doing. Find challenge, yes. Feel freshly inspired, of course. Glean ideas and ponder anew what your family is focusing on, practicing, and sacrificing. And then do with confidence what He is asking you to do.

And remember, these two claims on our time and energy are not incompatible. Serving cheerfully and sacrificially side by side with your children not only kills two birds with one stone, providing inestimable opportunity for teaching and building relationship as well as fulfilling much needed ministry, it also leads them automatically (well, almost...) into a sense of accomplishment and purpose in His kingdom, cementing in their hearts a determination to serve Him always. They grow in a sense of value and worth as well as a love for Him as they see His blessing upon their labors.

Know the seasons, be sensitive to your family's true needs, sacrifice regularly with a cheerful heart, and regroup when needed. Make boundaries, but be flexible with them.

Sounds contradictory? I don't know if you've noticed, but many things in the kingdom can appear that way. I guess that's why He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. His true sons are lead by the Spirit - we'd be lost without Him on this one!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your title says it all-yes, it is a continuous balancing act, for sure! I wanted to add that a "safety net" that I have grown to appreciate and cherish in this balancing act is the input from my husband. It has been such a blessing for me to submit commitments that I make outside the home to him. When I do this the times of "sacrifice" do not become times of "neglect."
Judes :-)

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a period of time after Avery and Riley were discharged from Crouse... We had soooo many people coming over to "see" the boys...people who had been faithfully praying for them and were anxious to hold the little miracles. Well, just imagine me- who had been away from the older three for quite some time- trying to keep things in order for the two (still four pounds, sick and on oxygen) babies at home while trying to entertain these guests. It had never occured to me that some people (not always deliberately) could be so needy. Even when they knew I was busy and super tired, people would drop by and ask for this or that and want to just stay around for hours and chat with us. At this point, I was pumping my milk and bottle-feeding it to the boys. Avery would take 30-40 mins. to drink one ounce because he didn't have the suck/swallow thing yet. They were both eating every two hours. I was totally sure of two things- The Lord wanted me to share these precious miracles who had been covered and lifted in prayer by all these caring friends. BUT- the way it was happening was not ever going to work. Being young and not-so-full of wisdom, I got on my knees and prayed for direction in this very specific area. Not even an hour later I saw my good friend, an older and very wise woman, (who, by the way, I had never shared my trouble with)taping a big sign to my front door. It read "The Criscitello's are thankful for your prayers and are excited that you have come to see the boys! Please feel free to come in, wash your hands, change a diaper, feed a baby, or maybe do some dishes while you visit. Make yourself at home, stay as long as you like, but until the boys are off oxygen and monitors, Eric and Lisa will be busy with their care." She said she had seen what was happening and was worried because I wasn't doing anything about it! :~)
I was a bit uncomfortable with the sign at first- until Eric came home and read it. He got a big smile and commented that it was great- just what needed to happen! No one was offended by it, and after that- no one asked me for ice water or tea...they just sort of helped themselves. Phew! It was amazing how I grew through that trial. Still growing from it as I look back. Thanks for sharing on this topic. I have also learned to remember who we are accountable to. I used to concern myself with the feelings of others- sometimes more than what Eric had asked of me or even what I knew God wanted from me. Now I'm learning to heed that Voice and put hubby's requests first- and I've seen time after time how the blessing quickly follows. It's so much better to be in His will- and it's just so awesome to know how to find it! If you are truly His and willing to obey and follow Him 100%, you can never be "held back" or "over-do it" in this area. Thanks again-

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved Bri's post, too. The question posed to Daniel really challenged me, and Ryan, too. There really has to be a balance. Family is important, but the reason it's important is because we want to have shaped, true arrows. And that's what this comes down to, isn't it? How are we shaping those arrows? Do they know -- from watching, from example, and from experience -- that they are being shaped to serve God?

This made me excited all over again to raise children who will learn to serve right next to me. It reminded me right away of how many church workdays we all would participate in as kids. I remember comet and sponges and scrubbing scuff marks off the walls! Our whole family would be there, and enjoy our bag lunch together when we were all done!

And that's the kind of stuff I can't wait to do. To make sure our calendar includes lots of days that say "CHURCH", and make it a whole-family affair. It's worth sacrificing the stability of routine -- the ease of which I already find myself clinging to! -- to teach our children that we live and die for the Kingdom. And they can, too!

Sorry this is so long. But thanks, Mom, for working so hard at that balance, for teaching that the Lord was important enough to put school on hold once in awhile and go fold bulletins -- or whatever! I haven't had to ever, not once, work at convincing myself to make serving the Lord and the Church a priority, because just always was. What a blessing!

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