Parenting on Purpose: Living with Purpose

Living with purpose

The fourth thing our kids need to know when we send them out into the world is what it means to live with purpose. As my oldest son, Russel, is preparing to leave for college after he graduates this year, I am more focused in on how important this is, than ever before.

Like many soon-to-be college students as they embark on the next season of their lives, he is asking himself a lot of questions, such as, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” He is realizing his answer to that question will drive what he studies and majors in. He is asking how much he wants to make, what kind of lifestyle he wants to have… all great questions. On top of that, colleges are scouting him out, offering scholarship opportunities and petitions for him to come to their school. It’s a lot to process through for any high school senior, much less one who is graduating a year early at the tender age of just sixteen.

As my son is pondering these things, my heart is pondering many things as well. I wonder, have I poured everything into him he needs? Have I helped him understand enough who he is in Christ, how loved he is, and how important it is to live a life of surrender to God– for His glory? When our pondering moments come together and we talk through the transition that is coming, I listen and then I try to slip in a little nugget of wisdom… I try to plant a seed to steer his soul-searching in the right direction… and sometimes I outwardly remind him that the most important thing in life is to live within God’s will, fulfilling the purpose He created Russel to fulfill in this life.

That is my hope for my children — that they live within God’s will and that doing so matters to them. In my prayer time, I ask God to set them apart, to consecrate them for His glory, to use them in amazing ways to further His kingdom here on this earth. I want nothing more than for my children to seek God first in all things as it says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” And as they seek God first I trust He will meet their every need. To seek God first… there is nothing more noble than that.

I also think on verses like Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” This verse reminds me that we all have a void that only God and eternity in Heaven with Him can fill, that nothing on this earth can satisfy. My heart’s desire is for my kids to turn that void to God and not look to worldly things, careers, achievements or relationships to fill it.

My absolute dream for my kids is that they live successful lives on this earth, storing up for themselves treasures in Heaven that moth and rust cannot destroy. I do want them to do great things, have a good lifestyle, find a career path where they can live out their gifts and talents and pass on God’s love to those around them, but I want them to do it from a place where they recognize none of these things in and of themselves are their purpose. But rather, their purpose is who they are day-to-day as they walk out all they do in all the hats they wear. 

That brings us back to our family mission statement I started with in the first Parenting on Purpose post. I would love nothing more than to see my kids grasp and carry this out in their lives. That is — “We, the O’Donnell’s, live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our everyday lives.”

For me, I feel if my kids grasp this as they head out into the world, they will start that journey from a place of wholeness — a place of knowing where their identity lies — a place of knowing there is nothing better in this life than reaching Heaven and getting a big hug from our Heavenly Father along with a precious, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” As a mom, nothing would bring greater joy.

What does success look like for you as you prepare to send your kids out into the world, and how do you explain living with purpose to your children?

Amy O’Donnell

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

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Parenting on Purpose: Embracing their Unique Design

Just be You“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

It’s amazing to me that four kids could come from the same parents and be so different! We have one blonde-haired blue-eyed beautiful boy, with a tall dark and handsome brown-haired brown-eyed older brother and a hilarious and strong-minded light brown-haired and blue-eyed younger brother. Then we have our precious daughter, the youngest of them all, who is uniquely crafted in every way. We love the diversity this brings to our family. We love watching their strengths develop and cheering on their natural gifts and talents. And we have released holding them to any standard the world says they should live up to, because that’s unfair to them.

That wasn’t always the case though. You see when we started parenting, we jumped on the treadmill we saw so many other parents on. When our oldest was old enough we put him in soccer and a home school singing group, then with our next we put him in soccer and football and gymnastics, we added on a third and got him in gymnastics along with our second… we were going all the time! We were also spending a lot of money.

About the time I had my fourth, our daughter Kylie, we realized with such a large family we needed to spend our time and money wisely. With that in mind, we wanted to put our time and money into something for each child that would really shape them for their future, based on the strengths we saw in them at the time. So we took a time out. We took everyone out of every activity, and for a good half a year, really just breathed, rested, and David and I talked about and sought God on where each of their strengths really lied.

As we did we began to see each of their uniqueness more clearly and celebrate it. We began to call out the gifts and talents we saw in them, realizing God instilled those traits into our children. If he saw the need to put them in our children, we for sure wanted to do our best to train them up in a way that they saw those areas as strengths they could use to contribute to the world and glorify God in.

For some areas it was easy. For example, our second son, our blondie, Brendan, plays piano by ear. As we saw him drawn again and again to sit on the bench and listened as he tinkered on the keys until he brought out beautiful melodies and songs we recognized without even knowing how to read music, we knew he was musically inclined. We felt responsible to encourage and foster that. For our third son, Ethan, we saw him draw these amazing cartoon characters and hang them on his wall and sit for hours creating art that was unbelievably beautiful. We cheered that on.

It’s easier to identify those gifts and talents, such as those mentioned above, that are outwardly so obvious. It takes a little more effort to see what strengths lie in our kids who don’t seem to have such an outwardly apparent talent. My oldest is like that. He’s brilliant, a year ahead in school, but he’s not a musician or an artist. He is a decent athlete, but not driven to sports like  many boys. He swam on the swim team for a few years of his own choosing, but it was not where his passion lied. For him, we looked at his actions and tendencies around our house. For example, the way he serves our family is so selfless. I remember even when he was one year old, I’d say, “Russel, will you go get me a diaper?” And he’d run down the hall smiling, get one out of the stacker, and run back with such joy. Serving others is a strength of his. Leadership is another strength. As the oldest of four, he’s always been part older brother to our kids and part guardian. He can’t help himself. His nature is to guard and protect, as much as it drives his siblings crazy sometimes, I really appreciate it. As he has matured he has embraced his leadership gifts and talents and soared in programs like PALS ( Peer Assistance and Leadership) at his high school, where he gets to interact with other identified leaders and mentor younger kids in the community who come from unstable homes.

For our daughter, it wasn’t so difficult to figure her out. I always say she could run our home. She had the boys hopping and wrapped around her finger at just six months old. Rather than pegging her as bossy, or strong-willed, we like to say, “She is a leader and we are shaping her.” She is self driven, creative, loves gymnastics, and is identified as a leader in her school. We want her to see her strong nature as a gift, after all, God made her that way. Too many girls we see with similar temperaments are not taught to celebrate and walk in who God made them to be and they grow up conflicted and unable to use their leadership skills the way God intended. We don’t want that for her.

We feel our success as parents depends on our ability to call out and raise up these precious kids God has entrusted to our care, in such a way, that they make the mark God created them to make on this world. In order to do that, it’s imperative they feel comfortable in the skin they are in and are content in being themselves as they trust God to guide them to use those gifts and talents for His glory.

How do you call out the uniqueness you see in your kids?

Amy O’Donnell

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Parenting on Purpose: Intimacy with God

walking with godWhether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

When it comes to Parenting our kids on purpose, the second most important thing we need to teach them is how to have a personal, intimate relationship with God. As I type this, I’m reminded of the story of Eli and Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. In this story, Eli is training Samuel to be a priest. One evening, they both laid down for the night in their usual fashion. This was no ordinary night though. On this night, as Samuel was trying to drift off to sleep, he kept hearing the sound of someone calling his name. “Samuel, Samuel,” the voice called out. The first three times Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “”Here I am; you called me.” Initially, Eli responded back with, “My son, I did not call; go back and lie down.” The third time Samuel came to him, the light bulb went off and Eli realized God was calling out to Samuel. This time Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'”

The whole time, God was calling the name of Samuel, he didn’t realize it was God. That’s eye-opening. He hadn’t learned yet how to discern the voice of God. Being able to hear from God is a big part of having an intimate relationship with him. We are responsible to teach our kids what that looks like.

One thing I have learned as a parent is that our kids learn more by our examples than by our words. Telling my kids something is important,with out modeling it decreases the weight of my words. So one of the key ways we teach our kids how to have an intimate personal relationship with God is by having one with him ourselves.

For me, I love my time with God first thing in the morning. I get up early just to sit with him, pray, worship and read my Bible. It’s the best start to my day. My kids have learned that when I am spending time with God, its sacred. They know not to disturb me unless it’s an emergency. I’ve taught them that, because I want them to see that my time with God is very important to me, just like my time with each of them.

A few months ago, I went upstairs a little before the time we normally wake the kids, and I found my third son Ethan sitting at his desk. He had his hands folded in prayer, his head bowed. He had gotten up early to spend time with God. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t disturb him. I just smiled inwardly – it so warmed my heart. I treasured the sight of my son rising early on his own to talk to God. I couldn’t help but think, he is learning by our example.

Our goal for our kids is for them live a surrendered, dependent relationship with God — that they would be able to hear and discern his voice and want to do His will above all else. And in the end, reach Heaven and hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For this to happen, they need to understand how to have an intimate, personal relationship with God and the value of following hard after Him. In addition to modeling this in our lives, we talk about the Bible, have times of prayer and devotions as a family, and attend church together.

How do you teach your children how to have a personal, intimate relationship with God, and why do you feel this is important?

Amy O’Donnell

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Love is the Foundation

OLOVef all the things we want our kids to know before we send them out into the world, there is one we feel is at the forefront. That is – we want our kids to know how much they are loved by God and by us, unconditionally.

We are a family that says, “I love you” and we show it through hugs and affection all the time. We have found it’s easiest for our kids to feel loved and valued by us when things are going well and they are making great decisions. It’s when they mess up that we feel it’s especially important to reiterate our devotion to them, even as we talk through the situation and consequences.  We’ve found a way to verbalize this with a phrase we’ve had to use many times in tough moments. That phrase is, “I love you as much right now as I loved you before you made this poor decision.” That right away reminds them they cannot earn our love and they cannot lose it, based upon what they do.

The first time I remember coming up with this phrase was when my son Ethan was in second grade. He came home one afternoon with a note from his teacher saying he had called a little girl in his class a name, and not just any girl… but a girl who, as it turned out – lived two doors down and attends our church. For a hot second, I thought, “Geez, why couldn’t it be someone who doesn’t go to our church? This is embarrassing… we work at church and are heavily involved there…” Oh my, the places our minds can go in moments like that! Our kids keep us humble, that’s for sure!

As I asked more questions, he explained he didn’t think he was the only one at fault. She had pushed his buttons until he reacted. Regardless of who started it, I explained that the second he called her a name he was wrong and would need to make amends. It was at that moment in the conversations that the now often used phrase was birthed. I said, “I love you as much right now as I loved you before you made this poor decision, and because I love you I am going to walk with you to her house so you can apologize and ask her forgiveness.” He was beside himself. He said, “What if her whole family comes to the door and I have to apologize in front of her mom, dad, and brother!?”  I put my arm around him and said, “If that’s what we have to do then that’s what we’ll do. I’ll be by your side the whole time; you won’t have to do this alone.”

So we walked over to her house. Her whole family did come to the door and Ethan apologized. They were gracious and forgiving and he scored point’s big time by making amends.

That day, Ethan learned a few valuable lessons. The first, He learned he is loved no matter what, just as it says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He also learned he never has to walk through anything alone. He saw God’s love in action through me – just as I stood by his side, God stands by our side when we make poor decisions and have to walk through the tough consequences of our actions. In love, He never abandons us in those moments, but sees us through. Ethan also had an opportunity through the experience to walk out our family mission statement, which is, “We, the O’Donnell’s, live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our everyday lives.” In that moment, he unveiled God’s love by making amends. He glorified Him by having the character to apologize when he messed up and by valuing the little girl’s feelings.

Just as Romans 8 says above, there is truly nothing that can ever separate us from the love of God. If you aren’t aware of just how much God loves you, I pray this story will give you a greater glimpse of how very special you are to your Heavenly Father! He loves you as much right now as the day you were born. You are special to Him, loved unconditionally.

Love,

Amy O’Donnell

P.S. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will cover the second key thing we feel our kids need to know to be successful in life.

SHINE 2013 Family Matters Break Out Session

http://vimeo.com/77979642

Amy O’Donnell, Lynn Cherry, Heather Frierson – Family Matters – Your children, your spouse & your soul – This break out session offers wisdom for a healthy marriage and family. You will be equipped to parent on purpose – teaching your children to embrace God’s love, live with passion and be an answer to the problems in the world around them. You will learn strategies for honoring your man even when it doesn’t come naturally. Women who have experienced infidelity will find courage and hope in God’s ability to restore our soul. Amy, Heather and Lynn will cover it all in a fun, captivating, real and relevant way.

Jump Into Summer

summer_time_bw

As recently posted on the http://www.AustinCru.com website. I hope this article will inspire working and non-working mom’s alike to… Jump Into Summer!

I recently took my three youngest kids to one of our local pools specially designed with water slides and a tubing river for families to enjoy. I worked all day, so my plan was to relax on a lounger, sip sparkling water and read a book while my kids played away. I scoped it out, found a great spot to relax, and settled in to enjoy the unseasonably cool, cloudy summer evening.

As I sat, I found myself watching parents go down the water slides with their children. These were people, like me, who’d probably worked all day, yet there they were – fully living in the moment. There was something so beautiful about it. The smiles on their faces, parents and children alike, were priceless! As fun as it seemed for them, I didn’t follow suit. I didn’t want to get chlorine in my hair; I didn’t want to go under…. I made excuses to sit on the sidelines and watch life happen right before my eyes.

I took my kids again a few days later. At first, I sat and watched again. I watched my kids laugh, I watched parents laugh, and then I watched my two middle boys leave their baby sister out. I watched her go up the large slide and come down, and then do it again, with a little less joy than normal. Finally, I called out to her across the pool and asked, “Kylie would you like me to go down the slide with you?”

To say she jumped at my offer would be an understatement; she pounced on it! We met by the slide, she took me by the hand and proudly walked me up the stairs. We went down together and laughed, and yes, we did it again and again! Did my hair get wet? Absolutely. Did I go under? You bet! Did I have a moment with my daughter I will treasure forever? No doubt.

I have learned it takes planning and intentionality to set the table for these moments to happen, especially in light of all the hats we wear and all we do. It also takes the decision to jump in and fully embrace these special “to be treasured” times with our kids!

If you need a little help with your summer planning to make this summer an extra special one, here’s a list of some fun things available for you to do in the Austin area. If you live in another city, Google is rich with lists to consider for fun in the sun with your fam! Whatever you choose, my hope for you is that you jump in and make the most of it, that you laugh a lot and be a child again yourself! It’s good for the soul.

Happy summer!

Amy O’Donnell