Our New Blessings ~ by Heidi Harris

HarrisbirdsI remember early on when I was first introduced to Lifestyle of Learning™, I heard a testimony discussing pets. I was hearing that as a parent, I should lay down my selfish reasons to NOT want to have pets. I was a parent who often severely limited my kids interests because it wasn’t convenient for me or I wasn’t willing to take the time to teach them the responsibility behind that interest, etc. This particular discussion really impacted my life!

I’m not sure how I previously expected my kids to ever really mature in things. I guess I thought that time would just teach them what they needed to know. I guess I thought this even though I knew that didn’t work well for me when I was growing up.

At the time I was feeling like a failure that my oldest (16) was lacking in several character traits that I had failed to teach her and thought it was just because I hadn’t found that right curriculum yet.

When I first heard this discussion about pets, I felt convicted and it wasn’t too long after that time when 2 of my kids began really talking about wanting pets (birds for one, cat for the other). I didn’t really know what to do about it since I was so new to Lifestyle of Learning™, but for the first time in my parenting I didn’t say an automatic “No”. I just said that we could definitely talk about it.

We went to the library and got some books. The kids studied the animals and studied how to take care of them for several months. Their interests were not fading away, but in fact, only increasing!

My 11 yr old ‘interviewed’ other bird owners and gathered their input and suggestions. Through this process, she narrowed down which bird she thought would work best in our family and which type she would enjoy having the most. My 8 yr old volunteered to clean out the litter box at her Grandmother’s house when we would go there for our weekly visit. They were each preparing and developing in responsibilities (like vacuuming, picking up toys, etc.) that would be needed for when the time would come that they could have a pet.

So, we recently added parakeets (for my 11 yr old) and a kitten (for my 8 yr old) into our family!

HarriskittyI am so thrilled that those old days of my selfish relating are fading away! I know that I NEVER would have allowed my kids to have these pets if it wasn’t for Lifestyle of Learning™!  I am SOOO thankful! I am seeing new things in my kids that I never would have gotten to experience! These animals are so precious, and I know that I wouldn’t be able to open my heart to them if I hadn’t been able to open up my heart to my kids in this area. I still have so much to learn and so many areas to grow, but I am thankful to be able to begin to grow good fruit in our relationships for these smaller changes.

I KNOW how I would have been with these animals before. It’s still very fresh to me. I know that I never would have gotten the animals in the first place, and IF I happened to, I would have used it as a point to always bring a rebuke. “You haven’t fed the kitty today…this is why I didn’t want to get one. I am always having to clean up things that nobody else wants to do any more because of these animals!” etc. All my responses would have been very ME focused.

I didn’t see how laying that down and picking up their interests could have positive results. It just didn’t seem possible with my old understanding and relating. I said “Yes” to the animals because I knew in my heart it was right, while at the same time not really knowing how or when this was going to all work out. So I am THE FIRST ONE who was surprised to realize how sweet it is!!!

I really believe that the Lord’s hand is involved with these birds and kitten because we sort of expected the cat to eat the birds in the first day! Or at least we recognized it as a potential concern. We had the birds for a month before getting the kitten, so we had time to enjoy the birds and enjoy my daughter enjoying the birds.

When we got the kitten, IN THE PAST, I know that my other daughter’s interest would be pushed to the side for the sake of my feelings. If the kitten tried to attack the birds, we would have blamed our daughter, though we wouldn’t have seen it that way. Instead of doing those things, we talked about helping the kitten to know that the birds were friends and not food, and that she would need to be gently taught and trained just like we are (well…the new us).

We talked about how we have so much room in our hearts to not only care about the things we care about but to also to care about the things our loved ones care about.  We’ve started to focus on each daughter’s concerns as if they were our own. They have begun to take on each other’s concerns little by little, and we are continuing to work on that slow by slow.

Yesterday we left to go run an errand, and we realized that the bird cage was left out where the kitten could get to it without being supervised. We still want to watch and make sure that we can trust the kitten completely before we leave for hours on end. So, we ran back to check to see and make sure the door to the bird room was closed. Everything was okay, and I know this meant a lot to my daughter.

In the past, I wouldn’t have taken the time to detour from my errands to be concerned about her concern of the birds. I would have lectured her on being responsible and this is why you have to do blah blah blah. I would have told her that if the cat ate the bird, it was one of those consequences.

I am so glad to have a NEW way! I still have areas in my process of learning to love that I don’t see how it’s all going to work, but things like this just increase my faith to continue to believe that ONE day I will be able to connect dots that I wasn’t able to see as being connected while walking it out on a daily basis.

WE love our new animals! I REALLY AM SO THRILLED that we have these new pets. They are such a blessing, and I have Barbie and Marilyn of Lifestyle of Learning™ Ministries to thank profusely!

~ Heidi Harris

[My story continues here]

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