Having a two-year full of energy is a joy. Discovering the world again through his eyes has been a blessing, but more importantly, it has helped me renew my awareness of the wonderful world of creation. From lizards and butterflies to fossils and shooting stars, the universe is alive and moving. The fingerprints of God are limitless.
Before Benjamin came into our lives, we were like many parents. We had questions and concerns mixed with excitement and anticipation. We looked forward to the opportunity to help a tiny human grow, develop, and discover their passions and potential in life. But that raised so many questions about our abilities. Do we have the skills needed? More than just provide basic human needs and get him from point A to B to engage in typical activities, we were concerned with the questions and growth not common in our culture.
So how do you research something when you don’t even know what questions you should be asking? Speaking to friends yielded the common responses of child well-being. While that was good to validate our initial thoughts, it did not answer the deeper questions that many of us do not discover until later in life, if at all. How would a child’s life develop if some of those deeper questions or concepts were part of their life at a younger age? Are there examples to follow in the world? If we do find a role model, the dangers of role models are that they often set a cap for expectation instead of empowering to grow beyond the role model.
Ultimately, we decided to read, continue to ask the advice of family and friends and be open to challenging or mental models that might be stagnant due to lack of new knowledge. The hope was that openness and awareness would present new ways to think. Two books gave us good fodder to think about. The first book was called Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline. This book not only was very helpful for my sister in her parenting, but it is also used by churches to help parents reimagine parenting that works with the development stages of children. The goal is for children to understand choices and consequences, but it also gives the children the ability to make choices/decisions based on options given by the parents. Children then live with their choices.
The second book which has shifted our paradigms for rearing Benjamin came from actress Goldie Hawn. Yes, the actress who starred in movies like Overboard, Bird on a Wire, First Wives Club, and so many others generated a book from a program that is transforming the lives of young people all over the United States. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Goldie had flashbacks to her youth of the 8mm movie reels shown to youth during the Cold War Era. She wondered how the terrorist events would shape young people if they would have mental scars as she did. She created the Hawn Foundation that brought leading child experts, neuroscientists, and developmental professionals together to explore the effects of 9-11 and how we could mitigate the negative effects. The result was a program offered in select schools that taught children resiliency. Knowing that we cannot prepare young people for everything, we can equip them with the mental framework, skill sets, and the empowerment to tackle tough situations. The outcomes had more positive effects than they realized. Increased grades, better attendance, lower anxiety, and better-balanced youth excelled better in life. Parents wanted to know how they could support the school program at home, and 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children – and Ourselves – the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happier Lives by Goldie Hawn was published.
Resiliency is how we cope with life. It allows us to process known information and devise a strategy to move forward. Coupled with a framework for what defines a healthy, life-giving, and affirming existence relies on the parents’ and communities to cast that vision. Like a role model, this becomes a society model for how we live in function as global citizens and as part of creation. Recent events have highlighted the need for teaching resiliency as well as defining what it means to be part of a community. It also reminds me that I need checkpoints established in my own life to reflect if I am moving forward as a child of God and if I am continuing to support that journey for my son.
Awareness of a challenge or problem is the first step. Research and understanding the parameters or depth is the next. This step is critical but often glazed over, because we tend to move toward doing something which leaves our efforts not as potent as it could have been. The third area is collaboration and idea-sharing from diverse points of view to generate possibilities. From there the scope and realistic ability of a group can be ascertained. Perhaps the groups need to be widened to have the effects we desire. Once a vision has been cast, a strategic plan for viability and success should be created so that members understand the various parts and directions. It also allows outsiders to see how they can join and contribute. Then, the plan should be implemented with checkpoints and evaluations done along the way or at the end if it was a smaller scaled project. Humans grow best through trial and error. Those lessons stick with us better than reading or lectures. The goal is to be active in living out our call. The church is still relevant today and has the power to cast visions, model true Christian community, and equip ourselves and our neighbors with skills to live more fully.
I have been so impressed with our churches in the last few months. Ministries have adapted, transformed, and grown their reach through social media, online worships, and virtual gatherings. Most of our churches have not slowed during this time, but they have ramped up their ministries to use creativity to continue to share the gospel and God’s love to a world living with ambiguity, fear, and concerns on how to move forward. I pray that our churches continue to listen to God’s ever speaking voice to open new avenues for awareness and find the wonder of creation and the joy that Benjamin is sharing with us each and every day.
Blessings and Peace,
Rev. Jeremy Albers
Director of Outdoor Ministry at Slumber Falls Camp
New Braunfels, Texas