Look and Learn
by Captain Emma Spencer, UK Territory with the Republic of Ireland
28 NOVEMBER 2000 - THE DAY I BECAME PARENT. Some would argue that you become a parent once you begin to carry a child within you. It's an interesting question. When does one become a parent what defines you as such? John A. Shedd writes, 'Simply having children does not make mothers.'
Captains Mark and Emma Spencer with son Khaim and daughter Anais
As I left the hospital carrying my precious bundle, terrified of this new world of parenting, I was bursting with joy and, nevertheless, clueless. However, I knew that in my parents I had a perfect example of parenting. Little did I realise how difficult parenting would be.
In my own upbringing I have one compliment and one criticism! The compliment is that my parents raised me brilliantly; and the criticism they made it look so easy. I have longed to reproduce what they so effortlessly achieved. Well, at least from my viewpoint.
My parents were not Christians or churchgoers from the start of my life; however, they were not unfamiliar with things of the Christian faith. This undoubtedly influenced their parenting. Just a few years after my arrival their lives were transformed by God's grace. Several years later they were called into full-time ministry as officers in The Salvation Army. Our life of adventure began!
|Practical ideas for developing faith in your family|
- Write the names of family and friends on individual pieces of paper and place these in a jar. During family prayer time, each person pulls out one or two names to pray for.
- Have a worship service at home. Sing together; pray together; let the children be creative. Our children are enthusiastic about worship and dance!
- Sponsor a child in a developing country (or a missionary family). As a family, pray for them, and write and draw pictures to send perhaps with additional treats.
- Have a money box labelled for a particular cause and let the children add their money as God leads them.
Despite the busyness of their officership, they were always there for my brother and me, most noticeably at the start and finish of our school day. From my young perspective, they rarely appeared stressed and always had time to listen. They nurtured within us a love for God yet never forced their own spiritual experiences on us.
My parents encouraged us to achieve our best but never demanded anything particular of us. They enlightened us with the choices available yet never chose for us. Suitable boundaries were suggested, but my parents let us decide where these should be placed. They never seemed to argue. We know we must have driven them to disagreements!
Other people's lives were not discussed in front of us. My parents loved people and demonstrated how to love. Family time was important and treated as a priority. Love was given unconditionally.
As a teenager I was proud to have such parents. As a young adult I was amazed at their continued support and encouragement. Now, as a parent, I am in awe of what they achieved. Each day I am baffled as to how they achieved it. I accept their godly model of parenting as a gift from God, and see different aspects of their model unfolding in my own parenting.
Over the years my parents have revealed to me more about those years, particularly the challenges of officership, which I can now relate to. These revelations sometimes come as quite a shock! They knew how to protectively shield their children.
|My ideas for building relationships in the community|
- Litter pick-up. We spend a day picking up litter in our neighbourhood.
- Carols on the driveway. Each Christmas we invite the people on our street to come and sing carols with us and a small brass band. We enjoy mulled apple juice and mince pies in the house afterwards.
- Summer barbecues. We invite our neighbourhood and school friends over to the house.
My parents have always believed that their calling to officership included the whole family and that God's plan for their lives was intrinsically linked with his plan for ours. Of course, we know that God sees the bigger picture and takes care of each family member's needs and dreams all of this evidence of his amazing power and love.
You may think this sounds too good to be true. The reality is that we had our difficulties like any family, but the foundations were strong and the focus was God.
Of course times change. As I consider the world we live in now I am under no illusion. Life is very different and this has to be reflected in the way we parent.
As a Christian mother raising children in a pluralistic and morally ambiguous world, I often feel stretched to the limit and in daily need of resources to equip me for such a task. Two main roles I feel I should fulfil in my own personal calling as a mother are to build my children's confidence, and to teach them how to love others and demonstrate God's love. I believe that the way in which I can build their confidence is to walk life's path with them, whatever that may be, until they are ready to walk on their own.
Someone once said, 'As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.' My children are watching to see how they should love others. It's important for me to model love, but equally important that I allow my children to see this love in action. Together as a family we try to reach out to others. I want my children to be protected from the harshness of life and still understand how difficult life is for many others.
Major Chris Pears with daughter Captain Emma Spencer and granddaughter Anais
I love Paul's verses that instruct us to look at God and imitate him. In Ephesians 5:1-2 he stresses the relationship between parents and children:
'Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behaviour from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that' (The Message).
As we seek to love each other, love others and ultimately love God, this becomes our 'family mission statement'.