I love going to conferences! Adoption and foster care, home school, women of God, marriage, to name a few. I love spending time learning from experts in the field. I love hearing stories from those who have failed and those who have found solutions. I always walk away from conferences feeling like I can do it. ALL of it. Every piece of advice I will begin implementing the next day…or maybe even as soon as I get home! I leave motivated, encouraged, and ready to conquer whatever goals I have set for myself and my family.
The problem is that a few days later I feel defeated, discouraged, and ready to give up all over again. It’s not because I didn’t learn from the conference. It’s not because the speakers gave false hope or unrealistic solutions. It is simply because I tried to do too much, too fast. I heard so many new things that I wanted to try them all! The reality is that the ideas I heard may have sounded simple from the stage or breakout room, but they actually took lots of preparation and planning. They didn’t work overnight. Not even for the experts.
Many of you may have attended the Tapestry Conference recently and you may have left filled with hope and encouragement, but are already beginning to feel like maybe you didn’t learn anything. Don’t give up! You need realistic expectations and a plan to make them happen.
So how do you set realistic expectations for yourself and begin to implement the things you learn at a conference? Prayer, planning, and perseverance.
This is often our ‘last resort’ in parenting (or maybe even life in general). I know that some of you are offended that I said that, but hear me out. When we have a headache, we take medicine. When the medicine doesn’t work, we cry out to God to take away the pain. When our kids are not behaving the way we want, we find a friend and ask for advice. We pick up a dusty book on the shelf, or we try to implement a strategy we heard an expert speak about at a conference. Once we’ve done all those things, then we cry out to God in our distress. The truth is that God can use all of those things (friends, books, experts, medicine) to help us, but we often do things backwards. Before we begin to implement a new plan, we need to reach out to God and ask Him for guidance.
God is our refuge and strength, an very present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1 (ESV)
Often times we have a plan in our head. We want to try something new with our parenting and it seems so clear in our head, but then implementing it is hard. We get stuck somewhere along the way and we give up. We revert back to our old ways and say that the new way didn’t work. In reality, we didn’t really have a plan. For us, we have to put all of our plans on paper. ALL of them. Prioritize the things that must change right away and the things that can wait until next week.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)
Now that we have prayed and written down our plan, then we can pick where we want to start. I like the Dave Ramsey approach to debt payoff, and it can work for our plans too. Start with the small, manageable goals. If I want to make sure my kids eat a healthy snack and drink plenty of water each day, I look at my schedule, figure out when I need to add in snacks, WRITE IT DOWN (preferably in a place I will actually look, like on the fridge), and then jump in and start. It may not happen perfectly every day, but don’t give up. Once you are doing that more consistently, then you can pick another goal to begin tackling.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4 (NIV)
This parenting journey is not easy. Many of us did not realize just how hard it would be until we were in the midst of the messy. Until we felt like we were drowning. We can easily lose sight of the joys of parenting when we find ourselves here, but oh there is so much hope! God can use the messy to bring us to a place we never dreamed of going. God can use the hard things to show us His faithfulness. Here is an open letter that Amanda Purvis read at the ETC conference last spring. Be encouraged. Keep going.
A version of this blog post first appeared here on OneBigHappyHome.