SOUTHEASTERN BOUND (and Successful Parenting)

Kelsey's acceptance letter

My oldest daughter, Kelsey, received her acceptance letter in the mail recently from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. She sent me a text with the photo (shown to the left) of the letter with a pendent included, and, well, I paused for a moment to reflect on this good news as tears welled up in my eyes.

Ask anybody that knows me very well and they’ll tell you that I don’t cry… ever (well, I did cry one time when my favorite team lost in the final seconds of the big game, but that’s a another story for another day). But when I received Kelsey’s text that day with this exciting news… I cried. Yep, I admit it. I sat down in my chair behind my desk, and in that solitary moment of emotional reflection… a few crocodile tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to deal with the emotion that my baby girl was “officially” growing up.

I guess you could say my tears were a mixture of joy, sprinkled with a dash of pride, all colliding with the reality that my little princess would no longer be sleeping in her bed, under our roof, eating at our table, commandeering “my TV remote”… well you get the idea. Yep, it’s the stark reality that her mother and I now have to come to terms with that our oldest daughter is no longer our cute little princess, sitting on our laps, asking question after question, many times not even pausing long enough for us to answer, barreling down the highway of discovery. She is now a growing, beautiful young lady, full of passion, vision, dreams, creative ideas and plans for her life and… who also loves Jesus with all of her heart. By any definition, I would say that’s what true success looks like!

As Karine recently posted on her Facebook wall: “My greatest gifts to this world are Kelsey Cencebaugh, Ashley Cencebaugh, Rebekah Cencebaugh, and Andrew Cencebaugh. All four of you will be greatly used for and by God. What more could I ask for!”

What a treasure. What an accomplishment. What a gift. What a success in life!

If you are a parent who’s reading this post right now, I want to encourage you by saying, you are not defined as a successful parent based on how much money you make, how big your house is, how many cars you own or how many big screen TVs you have hanging on your walls. You are deemed successful as a parent when you lead your child into a growing relationship with Jesus! And once you have both taught and modeled what it means to be a growing follower of Jesus, you can send your children off into the big, scary, dark world without fear, knowing that you have dedicated them to the Lord; that His hand is upon them; and that the Holy Spirit is the best guardian you could ever ask for.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote:

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.

So, we are challenged, as parents, to supply our children with the basic faith essentials of helping them to find their roots in Jesus as their lives are being built on him, the very foundation of our faith.

Colossians 2:7 (NLT) says,

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught

Remember this…

True success in parenting is not measured so much by how our kids behave as by who they are becoming under our watchful care!  So, let’s lead them wisely… and then stand back and watch who they become and what they will accomplish for God’s glory!

Oh, by the way, grab some Kleenex… you’re gonna need it!

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Raise Up A Child

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Andrew Cencebaugh 3If you’re a parent, you’ve probably referred back to this Scripture from Proverbs 22:6 many times, especially when you’re children do something really dumb or that drives you crazy… but that’s for another topic for another day.

While this Scripture is not necessarily a law, it is a strong principle from God’s Word that reminds us of our responsibility, as parents, that our first priority is to raise our children to love Jesus and to put Him first in their lives.

However, many who may be reading this entry right now are painfully aware that there are no guarantees. We may do everything right, modeling and leading our children on the right path of following Jesus, only for our kids to grow up and walk away from their faith that we have helped to instill in them through their early years. How does this happen? Simply put… Free will. Ultimately, each one of our kids will have to make their faith in Jesus personal; they will have to own it someday if it is ever going to endure.

You see, this reality is fresh on my mind because a couple weekends ago I had the awesome privilege of baptizing my son, making him the last of our Cencebaugh household to follow the Lord’s example in this wonderful experience. And just like the times that I baptized my three girls, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion and a deep sense of pride and gratitude as I led him through this moving encounter. It was a priceless moment that I will always remember and cherish… even as my own children grow older and begin to “walk on their own”, slowly but surely becoming more and more independent. My only prayer is “Lord, I trust that Karine and I have raised them right and that they have cultivated a faith that will endure.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 gives us some great steps to building this kind of strong family:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)

As you can see, it all begins with loving God with everything you’ve got, giving Him all of your passion, dedication and devotion. It all starts there.

We are also given some basic instructions as to how we can demonstrate our love for the Lord and building a solid Christian home. In verse 7, there are three golden opportunities that we can take advantage of and begin to apply every single day. But, I’m also a realist, and I understand that with today’s family schedules as they are, every single day may not be feasible. However, the following is a solid pattern. Let’s strive to instill “faith talk” in our families on a regular basis…

  1. at the dinner table,
  2. when you travel, and
  3. at bedtime.

This is a great way to raising children in “the way they should go” and creating a home that is filled with faith in God and love for one another. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

BE INTENTIONAL

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“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” Ephesians 5:15-17 (NLT).

You only get one shot at this home-building thing. Only one. And time is not on your side.

Have you ever had that sickening feeling that the clock has started, the race is on… and you don’t even have your shoes on yet?

As a pastor, one dream I’ve had on more than a few occasions is that I wake up, forgetting what day is it, and then realizing to my horror that it’s Sunday and I’ve completely forgotten to prepare any notes or thoughts for the service that morning… I feel completely unprepared. That’s exactly how many young parents feel—waking up one day with the responsibility of parenthood, feeling utterly unprepared and panic-stricken, beginning this parenting journey.  

Think about it… From the moment you tenderly unwrap the blanket around your first baby after the trip home from the hospital, the nagging sense in the pit of your stomach hits you like a ton of bricks.  The hourglass has been upended. You have one chance at this.

That’s why the apostle Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to give careful attention to how they lived. In essence, he was saying, “Don’t be a fool! You better wise up! Now is the time to take advantage of the present, because once it’s gone—it’s gone! You can’t get it back! 

The CEV translates it this way: “Make every minute count. Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.” 

Can you sense the urgency in Paul’s admonition? 

You may already have teenagers at home, and you’re thinking, “I’m afraid it’s too late for us to instill Christian character and biblical values in our children. We haven’t been intentional in teaching them how to follow Christ by themselves. We got into this game a little later than some. Is there anything we can do now?” 

I would answer by saying a resounding “YES!” for little is much when God is invited into the mix!

If you determine in your heart today to transform your home into a rock solid Christ-centered home… it will make all the difference in the world! God is the redeemer of time and opportunities wasted! Just give Him your very best TODAY! Don’t worry about past mistakes or missed opportunities. Be the very best steward of your present and future!

Don’t underestimate the power of Almighty God in the transformation process!

It can happen… and will happen… if you will only dedicate yourself as a parent, and if you will dedicate your children (or grandchildren), and your home to serving God’s purposes from this point on! Be intentional in growing your faith at home!