The Most Profound Parenting Advice I Ever Received

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To listen to the audio recording of today’s post, click here.

Several years ago a group of us young moms sat around talking about our desire to raise children who deeply loved the Lord. Our children were babies, full of innocence and complete reliance on us. How could we raise them to place their faith in Jesus and grow in Him in a world like this?

A mentor mom listened carefully before she said something I’ll never forget, and it is the very thing to spark something inside of me changing me in ways I never imagined. This mentor mom said, “We can only lead our children as far as we ourselves have gone.”

Let that soak in for a moment. We can only lead our children as far as we ourselves have gone with the Lord.

If I stay at a pace of 5 minutes a day with God, how can I expect my children to give God more than 5 minutes of their day? If I’ve never grown to see God in ALL of my life, how can I expect my children to see God in ALL of their life? If my prayer life consists of basic “God bless us and keep us safe” type of prayers, how can I expect my children to view God as a personal God who desires intimate conversation? If I don’t let the truth of scripture guide every single decision I make, why would I think my kids would do differently?

If I make excuses for why I don’t have time to read His Word, why will my children believe His Word is more important than anything they read or do? If I prioritize my life so that I run around frantic and busy pushing God to the end of my to-do list, why will my kids want to make Him their first love? If I chase other things harder than I run after God, why will my kids want to run after Him?

When I first began to ponder these thoughts, the task seemed daunting. Until I began praying a prayer that changed everything. “God make me love you more than anything in this entire world. Make me love you more and more every single day.”

If the greatest command (Matt 22:38) is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, I imagine that asking God to love Him more than anything else brings delight to the Father.

I want my kids to know that I love God more than I love them. More important than wanting my kids to know this, is for them to see this played out – authentically. Kids are hypocrite detectors. They know in an instant when we say one thing but live another. If I proclaim to love God more than anything, yet “loving God” occurs only on Sunday mornings, my kids will know that the love I proclaim is love with my lips only.

I talk to moms all the time who tell me they want to spend more time with God, they want to pray more, read the Bible more. They want to live a life that He flows through so that their kids will walk with Jesus and never turn away.

The only way for this to happen in the culture we live in is total immersion. No sprinkling will do.

Satan roams the earth seeking to destroy and devour our children and us. That is his goal. One of his methods is to make us love this world, to see it as mostly good with a little evil. If we view the world this way, we live in this world and we sprinkle in a little God for good measure. We take our kids to church on Sunday. Maybe Awana or VBS. We say our bedtime prayers and we hope that is enough. It’s exactly what satan hopes we do.

This world wants to consume our kids. To battle back, we must totally immerse our kids, soak, saturate them to the very core with Truth. That means reading Bible stories isn’t enough. Going to church once a week, not enough.

If we want our kids to grow up to be a light then total transformation must take place in us first. That will guide everything we do in the lives of our children.

This doesn’t mean that the spiritual lives of our kids rest solely on us. I was raised in a loving home, but one that didn’t have Christ as its first love. God is Sovereign and uses many methods for pursuing His children. Our kids are given to us for a time, and we are good stewards when we raise them to love the Lord with everything in them. Ultimately, the decision to love and follow the Lord rests on our children. But we have a great calling in their lives to model to them the way.

Parents, it starts with us. If we want strong christian kids, it starts right here in our own hearts. We surrender it all to Christ. We come to Him empty and desperate with a simple prayer. “Lord, I’m desperate for you. This world is evil and terrifying, but your Word tells us to take heart because you overcame the world. I desire to love you more than I love anything in this world. I desire to raise a family that loves you wholeheartedly. Lord, make me love you more today than I did yesterday. I’m not capable of loving you even a fraction of a degree the way I want to love you. So I ask you to make my heart love you more. Take me and transform me. Then let your Spirit overflow from me influencing the ones you’ve placed in my life. My heart’s desire is to be a family that follows you wherever you lead us no matter what.”

Often our desire to raise children who love the Lord is so fear-driven that we do the exact opposite of what we should do. We begin to push away our children from the very thing we desire for them. When we let fear rule our hearts, we cling tight, we dig our nails in, we fight. We begin to attempt to control life around us because it’s the only way we know how to fight the fear. When we do this, Christ isn’t flowing through us. We have pushed Him into the shadows. Christ isn’t fear. He is freedom, grace, beauty, and truth.

When we are ruled by Christ, we walk in total freedom. When we have soaked in His truth and know His promises, fear is pushed back into the darkness where it came from.

I tell my kids all the time they can’t control the people or the circumstances around them. All they can control is their own actions and reactions. If my greatest desire is for my kids to walk with the Lord, if I’m not careful that will take precedence over my love for God, which should be more important than my child’s walk with God. If my child’s walk is most important, fear will move in. Little by little.

Satan loves to distract us. His desire is for us to be so focused on raising kids to love the Lord, that we become desperate for it. He will shoot his arrow setting little fires for us to put out that will increase our fear. We will place all our efforts on putting out fires in the lives of our kids in order that they can love the Lord. When really, it’s much simpler than that. We make Him our first love.

When He is our first love, His light shines through and radiates to those around us. Our words won’t be as needed because all that flows from us pours out love. Love changes the world. Love changes our families. Love changes everything. It all starts with love. It all ends with love. All that happens in the middle is because love poured out for us and we’ve allowed it to flow through us to others.

The most profound advice I’ve ever received is to make God my first love. When He is my first love, I will never be the same. When love courses through me, it impacts all around me. This is why it’s the greatest commandment.

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Getting the strong-willed child to obey

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You can listen to the audio recording of today’s post here.

A strong-willed child will not be backed into a corner. They are always positioning themselves to maintain a certain level of control. The more out of control they feel, the stronger their reaction becomes.

When Andrew was a toddler, the strong will was too much to handle. I would enter into battle with him determined to win. To show this child who was really in charge. Until God began to teach me through my own strong-willed nature.

Andrew has a passion for baseball. A true love for the game. His love for the game combined with his uber social nature makes any day that ends with baseball a good day. If Andrew knows he has practice or a game, he will dress in his uniform hours before he needs to. This is why the events that unfolded caught me by utter surprise.

I told Andrew we would be leaving for practice soon and instructed him to get ready. He began to moan and complain. Excuses fell from his lips about alleged ailments that would prevent him from practicing. It was so drastically out of character, that I fell for the first 2 ailments. Then I noticed that I’d solve an issue only to have a new mysterious ailment arise.

Strong-willed children like to cut to the chase. So I laid it out there. “Andrew, what is going on? You love baseball, but today you are looking for excuses not to go. What’s going on?”

It was a new team. A new group of kids and coaches. But this has never bothered him in the past. I’d been at each practice and knew that nothing had happened to him to cause this shift.

“I just don’t want to go!”

We entered into an hours worth of debate. Me instructing him that he made the choice to play on this team. We’d made a commitment. We wouldn’t quit simply because he didn’t feel like playing now. He could choose not to play after this commitment is over. I called my husband for advice. Multiple times.

My husband and voice of reason reminded me that if I allowed Andrew to back out of his commitment out of fear of failure or for whatever reasons, I’m only setting myself up for a tougher battle next time Andrew faces a situation that looks too big and scary for him.

Andrew began to dig his heels in. “I’m NOT going to practice.” With a non-strong-willed child, this isn’t so much of an issue. With my other boys, you simply tell them the consequence for disobedience, and they oblige. Even if not happy about it. With Andrew…not the case.

“Mom, I don’t care. I’ll take any punishment you give me. No matter what, I’m NOT going.”

Deep breath. Deep breath. I began to give myself talks of encouragement. You are the parent. You are in charge, not the child. God, help!

Then the worst happened. He already needed no real excuse to not want to go. Then we realized his equipment was in his dad’s car. Now we entered a new level of freaking out. At this point I’m grabbing big brother’s glove, another brother’s helmet, another brother’s bat.

“Mom, no, this is embarrassing. I’m too embarrassed.”

“Andrew, that is silly. It’s not a big deal. We are late. Let’s go.”

A strong-willed child doesn’t care about time when being forced to go where they don’t want to go. In their head, they aren’t going anyway.

Sweat is now pouring down my back. “Andrew, I really don’t have time for this. Get in the car right now!”

“Fine, I’ll get in the car, but I’m NOT getting out of the car.”

A strong-willed child will always look for how they can maintain control. He might obey, but he still attempts to control the final outcome. Ultimately, he wants to be the boss of him and he thinks he knows best. This is the point I have to remind myself that for his spiritual good, I have to teach him to desire to live under the control of God’s will not his own.

We race away as I begin to thank God for this small act of obedience. In the middle of my praising God, Andrew begins to panic from the back seat. “Mom, turn around. Right now. Turn around. I’m not going. You can’t make me go. Turn around!”

For the 5 minutes of the drive, I tried the rational lines of communication. But if you have a strong-willed child, you know that rationalization never works. When panic set in, Andrew was unable to hear logic and reason. He didn’t care about consequences. He wanted his way.

In his younger years, I would have jumped in my heart to that point of anger. Why won’t this child obey? Why can’t he just do what I say? I’d become frustrated. Often lose my own senses of logic and reason and focus simply on getting him to do what I wanted. It’s funny because it is like a game of battle of the strong wills. We each just want our own way.

There is a difference in a strong-willed 2 year old and a strong willed 7 1/2 year old. A 2 year old will often at some point give in. Or physically you can force them by picking them up and taking them where you want them to go. I can’t physically pick up Andrew anymore. I can’t physically force him out of the car to go where I want him to go.

In all actuality, I’m not in control. Control. This illusion. As a parent, we think we have control. With a more passive child, we believe that we have the secret to parenting figured out. We can even look at other seemingly out of control kids and think the parents should take a cue from us and get those kids in line. I know this because my first two kids were compliant and obedient. Andrew is obedient, but strong-willed. If he didn’t love God as intensely as he does, I can’t imagine how much harder these struggles would become.

Control is like grasping at the air. Parenting isn’t about controlling. It’s about molding, shaping, guiding. More than anything it’s training a child to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

But in the heat of the moment, if I’m honest, I just want the child to obey. I want to train them to love God in the sweeter moments of life. When we are 15 minutes late to practice, I just want them to obey. God doesn’t parent like this. He is less concerned with outward obedience and conformance and more concerned with the heart that arrives there.

We pull into the parking lot and begin a 30 minute, yes a 30 minute, battle. He laid right there on the seat and cried for 30 straight minutes. I tried all kinds of discussions and rationalizations. My husband drove all the way to the field to bring him his own equipment. I was very clear about the consequences he would face for choosing this type of behavior. He didn’t care.

The thing that surprised me is that while I was frustrated, I felt more sad for him than anything. This child loves baseball. He loves being with other kids. He just kept saying over and over how he was embarrassed. And embarrassment is the worst feeling in the world for this child. A fear of embarrassment was causing this.

I looked on him with sadness. I saw how satan was attempting to steal this child’s joy and passion away from him by using fear tactics. And I got angry. Fuming angry. Not at my child, but at the enemy of my child’s soul.

At some point Andrew agreed to get out of the car and walk towards the field. Along the way, he collapsed on the grass multiple times. I felt the burning stares of parents as they looked on our situation from afar. I imagined their thoughts about my parenting. I imagined them saying things like, “Poor child. His mom forcing him to play baseball. He’s so young. He shouldn’t be forced to play.” I imagined them saying, “Can’t she control her child.” Or “Kids these days are just pushed too hard.” Or “If that were my kid, I wouldn’t stand for that type of display.” All kinds of things went through my head. Guess what the root of that was? Fear. Embarrassment. The same emotions taunting Andrew were chasing me as well. I’ve simply had more experience dealing with them.

Out of my fear of what others thought of my parenting, I would get down as close to his ear as I could imagine and through gritted teeth say, “Andrew, you need to get up and walk onto that field. We are now 30 minutes late. You are letting your team down. There is no reason for this.”

Actually, there was a reason. Fear. Embarrasment. Who is the author of that? Satan.

That is when it struck me. Andrew was being controlled by satan’s tactics. Andrew wasn’t in control. He just thought he was.

At this point we were halfway between the parking lot and the field. He planted his feet firmly in the grass, looked at the field, looked at the parking lot, then looked me square in the eyes. His swollen eyes looked deep into my heart. “Mommy, I’m not going. No matter what. I’m not going.”

“Andrew, I need you to listen to me. Who do you love more than anything in this world?”

“God.”

“Who hates God?”

“Satan.”

“Who wants more than anything for you to be scared and embarrassed? And who wants to keep you from doing what brings you so much joy? Who wants you to miss out on playing the sport you love with other kids you love?”

“Satan.”

“Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Right now you are letting him control you. You decide right now to show satan who is boss. Satan is not the boss. You are a child of God. You have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you. Because of that, satan is not the boss. Show him who is boss, Andrew.”

That strong-willed nature that dwells so strongly in him, straightened his chest and stood a little taller. “I need a tissue first.”

“Ok, hold on.” I raced to the bathroom before he changed his mind. The strong-willed child always looks for some area to control. Like agreeing in his own way to go, but only after getting his way of getting a tissue (which he really didn’t need). And that strong-willed nature doesn’t want to be controlled by anything not of God. That strong will would show satan that God was actually in control.

I watched as he walked onto that field. 35 minutes late. An hour of intense battle. But it was worth the fight.

The fight is for their walk with the Lord. It’s for their confidence in Him. It’s for their need to see that God is in control and when we walk in obedience to Him, blessing awaits us.

At the end of the day, we don’t control our kids. It’s an illusion. The desire of our heart is for them to live under the control and influence of God alone. Not desiring to maintain their control, but to recognize the One who loves them fiercely and desires for them to recognize when satan is attacking them. And in those moments fight back out of that strong will and show satan who is really boss.

 

Don’t laugh at my video but do take the dare

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Last year I attended the Allume Conference, where I met Krista Gilbert (she’s next to me in the middle of that picture). It took all of 2.2 seconds for me to fall in love with her. Her heart for moms, for the family, for ministry flowed right out of her. And I loved her instantly.

One day at the conference, I stumbled into one of my friends, who quickly whisked me away to this little conference room. I had no idea what I was walking into. She told me it was a project Krista was working on, something about making a video, our roommates were in there.

I went along to support my friends and roommates. Had I known I would stand in front of the camera, I might have hung back. I’m not a quick thinker. I’m a processor, reflective in nature. I need time to decide what I think before moving or speaking on it. I like to practice what I will say before I say it to be sure it comes across clearly.

Well, I’m learning about God’s playful side. The part of Him that smiles down with a little chuckle in His heart and twinkle in His eye. I’m learning to laugh along with Him in these uncomfortable spots.

Krista invited me to record a Mom Dare, so I did. And ya’ll. Goodness gracious. Just watch the video. All I will say is that you can see my head looked like someone wound up the excited nod knob and let it go. My head is just a bobbing along, and several times I thought my smile would turn to laughter as I tried not to look at my roommates watching me do what feels soooooo uncomfortable for me!!

There is no turning back now because it is recorded and out there for the world to see. So forget my camera awkwardness and go take today’s dare.

Jump over to Meaning in a Minute and take today’s one minute dare. I do believe it will bless you. We all need to see His goodness a little bit more in our daily grind.

Just for fun here’s the awkward video.

 

Dear Moms- I dare you

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Join me in The Mom Dare with my friend, Krista Gilbert over at Meaning in a Minute.

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Moms –
You are the difference-makers. Change agents. Heroes. What you do every day – the hugging, working, teaching, organizing, praying, carpooling, cleaning, playing, laughing, crying, serving, and giving – it changes the world by deeply impacting those right at your kitchen table.

We see you. We like you. We know you – because we are also you.

We are moms….and when we find some time, we also write. And we’ve gathered together as a group to bring you a dare that is just for you.

Enjoy – we think we’ll have some fun together!

Here is what you will get when you take the Mom Dare:

  • 12 days of 1 minute dares for moms of faith (even moms have one minute)!
  • A special interview with a different blogger/writer every day.
  • Free printables and ideas.
  • Encouragement for the journey of motherhood.
  • An invitation to be a part of an exclusive Facebook group for the Mom Dare where you can ask the writers questions, and receive feedback.

The dare kicks off this coming Sunday, May 8 (MOTHER’S DAY!) and will run through Thursday, May 19. I will be featured on May 17th and I’d love to hear from you on that day!

Sign up for the dare here!

 

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Dear Young Mom, When It Seems Too Hard and You Want To Press The Easy Button

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You can listen to an audio recording of today’s post by clicking here.

Jacob is twelve, yet if feels as if yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital. My boys are 19 days away from the last day of school. Even they realize the accelerated stride of life. How did fall to spring arrive and depart with such haste?

I want to run up to every young mom I see, grab her by the shoulders, and tell her not to brush off the well-meaning comments to enjoy and relish every second with her littles. To take that tiny hand and hold it until the tiny hand pulls away first. To stop even when time feels rushed, simply to count the dots on the lady bug. To stretch out the night time prayers and snuggles an extra minute or two. To say yes to the request to spin them around in circles just one more time.

I want to say to these moms that all the energy and love they are pouring in that seems to go unnoticed isn’t unnoticed at all. It only feels that way. It’s building something holy. Holy work is hard work.

I want to tell these moms to let themselves look silly. Run in the park when it feels ridiculous because others moms seem well-dressed and put together. To lay on a blanket finding pictures in clouds. To tell stories that have no ending.

I have encouragement for you young moms. The ones who have little ones who exhaust you until you have nothing left to give. The ones who are touched and talked to until you reach the point of wanting to hide in a dark closet. The ones who struggle with days that feel nothing was accomplished and you feel you don’t measure up. I have words for you I hope give your heart what it needs today to keep doing the hard and holy work of fulfilling your calling.

Dear Young Mom,

You are in the most precious season of life. Doesn’t always feels so precious, I know. The fatigue, sleepless nights, unshowered days, makeupless face. A messy house and no energy left for friends and fun.

My husband used to say, “These are the best days of your life.” Funny, he’s said this for many years, at various stages. He is always right. At each phase, it’s been the best days of my life. Even the hard ones are the best ones. The hard days are the ones I’m most aware of my need for Christ and most aware of His Presence in the daily muck.

Lord willing, one day you will stand at a graduation ceremony, and all you will see when you look on that stage will be a little boy blowing bubbles in the driveway or a little girl twirling in her princess dress in the kitchen. And you will wonder where the time is hiding from you. Surely there is more. More of those little days of innocence.

Time is something we can’t rewind. We don’t receive a do-over. It’s a gift we receive and have a choice how we will use it. The season you are in will not last forever. Each day passes at the same pace. Each season moves along steadily. We can’t slow it. We can’t backtrack to do it differently. We have one chance at the hard and holy work of raising these littles into spiritual giants in a culture that wants to devour them.

Young mama, put your game face on. Dig those heels in with fierce determination to choose the road less traveled, the narrow path. Don’t follow the masses of culture in parenting. Pull your children in close, hold them tightly for this season because the season of release is upon you with a speed you won’t believe.

This isn’t new. Most moms from past generations would agree, time moves fast. You, however, are parenting in a culture unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Your calling is placed on an incline. To do what’s right is hard. To raise these kids in a see all, share all world. Hard isn’t an appropriate word. 

When my boys were little, I didn’t see how the world around me parented. I looked to God’s Word and to christian parenting books. Social media didn’t taunt me with pictures of perfection in every home but mine. And social media didn’t provide me an escape from digging into that hard and holy work that I felt desperate to run from.

It’s more than taking every moment captive. It’s beyond that. It’s taking intentional days, intentional moments, and intentional parenting to new heights. You, young mama, must become a warrior yourself. In the gentlest of ways, you must fight back against the invisible push of culture rushing towards your family.

Sweet mamas, you are precious in His sight. You have been entrusted with His children to raise. They aren’t yours to keep forever. They are a gift to you for a brief season of life. Rise up to your calling.

The crushing pressure of life will make you crave the easy button. When you are desperate to simply get through the grocery store with no meltdowns, the easy button is to place an iPhone in your child’s hand. Choose not the way of the world. Instead, enter the hard and holy work that moms from every generation until now have walked. Teaching self control, discipline, restraint, and behavior in ways that will embarrass you or make you feel like a failure. Just remember, you aren’t parenting for the approval of anyone in that store. You have a hard and holy calling. Work for the well done from your Heavenly Father.

Success in the eyes of the world looks very different from success in the eyes of God. What looks like failure to the world can be a victory for raising your miniature spiritual giants.

When you are exhausted from fighting nap times and bed times and all you want is a few minutes of peace, the easy button will call your name. Tempting you to put an iPad in their lap so you can escape. Fight it. When they learn to obey and find contentment when they aren’t being entertained, you are priming them for some of the most beautiful lessons in life. When they’re not instantly gratified with entertainment, you are opening up the doorway for a life of patiently waiting on God.

Devices satisfy us in an instant. They immediately feed our cravings. They entertain us. They sweep us away. Placing devices in their little hands will distract them from the lessons God has for them right now. Lessons that will set them on a path for learning to listen for His still small voice. Lessons for learning that God works on His timing not our timing, not at the speed of our device. Lessons that we don’t get what we want when we want. Lessons that life is not all about us.

Life is sacred and holy. Time is a gift.

Culture will tell you that you are ridiculous if your little one doesn’t have screen time. Culture will even give you reasons to justify why it’s good for them. Culture will tell you how smart it will make them. How ahead of the pack they will move.

If there is one area I would say is most important in their little years and this fleeting season of life, it is screens. Screens will steal your time in a way you will not see as stolen. You won’t see what you are missing when you don’t know what you are missing.

In other words, if your child is behind a screen for a couple of hours, you will not see what was missed in that 2 hours. You will see the positives that happened. Maybe they learned some new letters or shapes. They are happy and smiling, so all seems well.

But what if the distraction of the screen was gone. What precious conversations could have taken place? What heart lessons could have formed? What could have been planted underneath the soil when eye to eye you are connecting?

There have been times that I know I would have chosen the easy button of technology had it been available to me when my boys were little. Now looking back, I can’t imagine what might have been lost in that time. I will never know, and I don’t want to know.

Who knows….maybe if they’ve never learned to depend on screens for entertainment, when they are 12, rather than running to a device to fill their time, they might just say, “Hey, mom, want to throw the football with me?” Maybe when they’ve spent their formative years building relationships through well-spent time, they will choose time together rather than wasting it on pursuits of pleasure.

To fight this culture in order to protect your little ones and cherish these days takes intention.

It’s being ok with looking ridiculous, for being different, not fitting into culture. It’s being ok taking the hard road.

The hard and holy work of parenting will be filled with tears, laughter, frustration, overcoming, heartache, joy, anguish, worry and fear, failure, triumph, laughter, confidence and peace. The hard and holy work of parenting is writing a story in your life and theirs.

Here’s the thing, it’s not just about the kids. What I want to encourage you with is this. This thing called time is a sneaky thing. While beautiful in the gifts time gives to us in the parenting years, if the time is not held closely and watched with intent, it will slip away.

Your job is hard. Motherhood is hard. Always has been, always will be. What you are creating is a beautiful story. Time fills the pages of this story.

When you stand at a new chapter- graduation, weddings, grandkids- what do you want to fill these pages? What story do you want time to tell?

One day you will have your time back. No one will place their sticky hands on the refrigerator you just polished. No will will spill a bowl of cereal on the freshly mopped floor. No one will be dumping out drawers of freshly folded laundry.

One day the incessant chatter will be no more. The pulling on your skirt will cease. Your aching back and tired arms will be stronger.

I pray for all us mamas, that one day we look back with contentment over how we chose to enter into the hard and holy work and how we managed this short window of time we’ve received as a gift.

Hard and holy work is a gift. Cherish the gift of time, remember it’s here today and gone tomorrow. This very moment will never be again. Make the most of each one.

Love to you!

 

 

Parenting In A Culture Where No One Is Wrong and Teaching Our Kids To Own It

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I gave clear instructions as to my expectations. I even went as far as writing down the four things I expected them to do, time frame to finish, and consequences for failure to complete in a timely manner.

At 12 and 10, I don’t feel I need to micromanage my older boys. The 4 instructions should have been common sense. Things they need to do every night. Pack your lunch and clean your mess well. Put away any clean laundry in your room. Brush teeth, get ready for bed. Clean up all dirty clothes and bathroom mess. Simple.

Andrew and I finished up reading his favorite baseball book. The one that is ridiculously long. I’m sure I wasn’t the one who bought this book. We dogeared where we’d pick up the next night, said our prayers, snuggled for a minute. The door opened a crack. “Hey, mom, I’ve finished everything.”

Surprised at the record time, I asked, “Everything on the list?”

With complete assurance, he nodded is head, “Yes, every single thing.”

Kissing Andrew’s head one last time, I whispered goodnight and closed the door. I walked downstairs for a glass of water before beginning the nightly reading session with Jacob and Zachary. When I entered the kitchen, I froze.

How in the world could he possibly think he completed the 4 simple things when the kitchen looks like this? Two bags of popcorn, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, a sticky knife, crumbs galore, all the drawers wide open, dirty dishes placed next to the sink. It looked like they hadn’t lifted a finger towards that list.

Initially, I was agitated at the fact that they are 10 and 12 and should just know better. I shouldn’t have to tell them to clean up after themselves. The fact that I had specifically asked them and they failed to obey is what I wanted to discuss with them.

One of the boys had followed me down the stairs. He was the first to hear my thoughts. He immediately began cleaning. “I’m sorry! I’ll clean up my mess.”

I hollered upstairs for the missing culprit. I began the same discussion with him I’d just had with his brother. However, this child immediately began to defend himself, to build a case for why he was right. “You didn’t tell me to clean up that mess.” “That part isn’t mine.” “You said…..”

What could’ve ended in 2 minutes ended up becoming an hour long process.

I sat him at the table and we did the back and forth. Each stating our case. Showing how we were right. We heard a key in the door and paused as Steve walked into our tense dialogue. We each began retelling our versions, which surprisingly were vastly different in details.

Steve remained mostly quiet as my son and I continued. Then this child’s emotions spiked, and he bordered that point where you begin to say things you will later regret. Those things that will hurt your heart when your emotions settle and the heat of the moment passes. This is the point I asked him to simply go upstairs.

I’ve learned when my boys are emotionally charged isn’t the best time for us to have the discussions. Tempers flare, anger threatens, and words can become dangerous weapons. When the battle is intense, we will never convince each other why we did what we did, why we said what we said. And simply put, we are pretty selfish creatures. We are prideful and tend to look at our own wants, needs, and sides of the story. We falsely believe the person’s eyes we look into have become our enemy.

Psalm 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

In the middle of the argument, I excused the brother who failed to argue, the one who owned his part, apologized, and made it right. For him it was end of discussion.

The entire time I argued/discussed with the other brother, God kept saying, “You do this, too.” At one point I caught my husband’s eye and had to keep from laughing. I’m sure he was thinking that this child and I are so similar at times it’s scary.

After he went upstairs, Steve said, “I wish someone would always tell me to go away when I got angry. It would keep me from saying things I’d later regret.”

“Yeah, me too.” I had to know. “Steve, do I do that too?”

With a slight twinkle in his eye, he said, “Yes, sometimes. It’s just that usually, I’m wrong. But when you are wrong, yes, you do that too.”

Ouch. I knew it was true because I saw it played out and I heard God saying, “You do this, too.”

It gave me what I needed to talk to this child. First, I stopped by the brother who’d been excused.

“Listen, I want to point out something. When I showed you the mess in the kitchen and pointed out where you guys failed to obey fully, I appreciate the fact that you owned your part and made it right. You didn’t make excuses for why you didn’t obey. You didn’t even simply clean up only your mess. You simply realized that yes, you hadn’t done what you were asked to do, said you were sorry, and made it right.”

He stopped reading his book, gave a sleepy grin.

“I wish I were more like you in that way. You’ve always had a heart that is quick to repent. God uses you to teach me.”

His grinned broadened. We prayed, I tucked him in, kissed is head, and gently closed his door.

I walked into the next room. He sat propped up by his pillows, reading lamp casting a soft glow on his maturing features. His face had softened drastically. His jaw wasn’t set, his shoulders relaxed, hands clasped on his stomach.

“Listen, I need you to understand something.”

He looked up at me with those eyes that look the same as the newborn eyes I remember gazing into. I remembered back to thinking I could never envision this sweet, innocent baby challenging our love in any way.

His demeanor was completely different from only 15 minutes earlier in the kitchen.

“The major issue wasn’t about your failure to do what was asked. That was the starting point. But it goes beyond that. It’s how you handled yourself and the situation when confronted with your failure to obey instructions.”

He nodded. Eyes still so soft.

“You are not perfect. You will make mistakes. It is how you handle the mistakes that is most important. Can we own our failures? Can we simply say we are sorry and do what is required to make it right? Or will we allow our pride to blind us so that we only make a defense for ourselves?”

I continued, “Conflict and confrontation are normal parts of life. Human nature is to look at the conflict only from our perspective and form our response from that position. That is where pride begins to take root. We become selfish even in our own points of view.”

“I know this because this is what I do many times. I wish at your age I had begun to learn these things. At 39, I’m only beginning to see things differently. The heartache I could’ve saved if I’d entered disagreements looking from common ground instead of from my position only.”

“I hate to disappoint people. I hate to fail at something or fail someone. Out of fear, I will try to protect myself. I will state my case so that the person will not see me as a failure or a disappointment. Often, I create greater disappointment in my inability to own my own mistakes and say I’m sorry quickly. Bottom line, it’s pride.”

I could tell he was really listening. Not just trying to get through a lecture. This time there was no lecture. Truly, I shared my heart. It’s one of my many struggles as well. I get it. I get him. I feel for him. It’s what I do. As a parent, it breaks my heart to watch his pride stand tall. I know the dangers of pride. I know how it grows. I see in lives around me how this very thing has destroyed relationships.

“Jesus was the most beautiful picture of humility. Never elevating himself over another. Always choosing the lower position. To the very point of death. For us. He could’ve made his case (and he would’ve been right), he could’ve demanded that everyone see his point of view. He did nothing of the sort. He submitted to the Father. He humbly went to the cross. And He never said, “You all just wait and see. You’ll know I’m right sooner or later.” No, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Even to death, He thought of others first.”

I looked back over the things we’d exchanged downstairs. His defense of his defense. ‘I can’t just submit if I don’t think I’m wrong.’

I was struck by this because it’s how I often feel as well. I can’t submit to what you are saying if I think I’m right. But that is not the example of Jesus. He submitted fully. He was right. He gave no defense. He left that to the Father. And so should we.

I’m learning alongside these children that we are raising. Before we argue our case and defend ourselves, maybe we need to pause. See the part that is ours, the mistakes we made, and own them. Say we are sorry quickly, not after defending ourselves, and move forward to make it right.

The sweetness of God in how He parents us as we parent our children, His children first.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6The Message (MSG)

3-6 The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

When My Anger Broke Out On My Children

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Psalm 37:8-9 “Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated, it can only bring harm. For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

Something snapped inside me. A raging fury welling up from the pit of me. Slamming down the lunch box, I lurched at him standing with the refrigerator door open in his hands. I snatched the door handle from his hands, slammed it shut with every ounce of rage now fully visible for all to see.

The words poured out like the bile they were. All over my child. “How dare you speak to me like that. Why do you think you can speak like that?”

Silence in return. His face reddened with anger in his eyes matching mine. He held his tongue. Mine ran with wild abandon. And then I pulled away.

As I walked away, I felt weak and shaky. All energy expelled through my anger, now I stood blanketed by shame, guilt, and humiliation. My selfish pride demanding respect from my child in a way that disrespected him right back.

He returned to the refrigerator door. “Great, you broke the door. That is what anger does.”

I felt the anger again. This time in the form of sheer disgust. The anger at myself.
This refrigerator I’ve never been fond of. It has an odd mechanism on the door that is fragile. The left side must close before the right. A piece must fit neatly and securely in order for the right side to fit. Break one side and it affects the other.

This door mechanism was out of joint. I was out of joint.

My anger broke out. And in the aftermath, I saw in the faces of my children I’d broken more than the door. I’d broken hearts and spirits. Deflated, defeated, hurt, disappointed.

When anger breaks out, it breaks all that stands in its wake.

The condemnation began. The fiery accusations. The taunts. Some example you are for your kids. You just set them up for a great day. Just wait until you try to homeschool them….home all day to fight these battles – have fun. They will always disrespect you. You have no control over them. Look you can’t even make them talk to you the way you wish they would.

I let the enemy have his way. I imagine he stood right in the middle of our kitchen pushing button after button, whispering threat after threat. Even as the boys walked out the door with angry, sad hearts, the enemy didn’t stop. He kept telling me to punish myself.

I closed the door behind the children as they left with the carpool. I stood for minutes replaying the devastation that took place in a matter of seconds. It didn’t take long to realize my anger came from somewhere else. It wasn’t really a simple disrespect from my child that caused that fury to spew.

I sat with the Lord, words were few. I’m sorry.

I felt numb. Exhausted emotionally. I sat with the Lord stunned at my behavior. It seemed to come out of nowhere.

Was it worth it to give my energy to my anger? Did I get what I wanted? Did they stop sassing me and show the respect I demanded they show? Of course not, but who thinks rationally when anger drops the gloves? Where had that been hiding in me? Who was I in that moment?

Fear. The root is my fear.

I fear my children will turn away from the Lord one day. I read story after story. I hear it from friends. It terrifies me. And satan knows it. So in those moments my children show the sin in their hearts, the enemy says, “See, they will wander away one day.”

I fear losing my kids. I fear the loss of control. I fear so much, and this fear lies under the surface. It takes a mere hair trigger to set off the explosion.

I’m tired of fighting for control. I don’t want to let anger win. I’m tired of worrying.

What I can’t wrap my head around is this endless grace and mercy God bestows. I deserve to be done with. I deserve Him to give up on me. I deserve to suffer much harsher consequences than a broken refrigerator door.

As I sat in the silence with no words but “I’m sorry,” I felt His tender compassion. I felt His warm embrace. I heard Him whispering, “It’s ok, my child, I love you. I forgive you. You are mine and I’ll never let you go.”

Then I remembered. I prayed a dangerous prayer at the beginning of the week. God, make me love you more than I do right now.

In the hours that followed my undoing, I almost felt unable to bear the lovingkindness, the mercy, the forgiveness, the unconditional love. It makes no sense. Unworthy of forgiveness with no ends, yet that is what He offers. Unworthy of love when my actions are beyond unloving to those He’s graced to me. Yet He tells me His love isn’t hinged on my efforts. It makes no sense.

In those hours, I felt rushes of His love over me. My heart that wanted to continue punishing myself continued to feel it might explode from within me with this growing love for God.

I wish I could say I immediately accepted His forgiveness and held tight to His promises of love and mercy. But they were too good for what I felt I deserved. So I held them at a slight distance. Close enough to see, not close enough to own.

The days that followed I fell again and again. In my rejection of what He offered, I suffered the consequences. It’s the place the enemy wanted me. Pride kept me there.

It was a trap, and I felt the chains with every move I made.

I stepped outside to simply be with Him. The wind chimes swinging gently. The blue sky proclaiming His glory. Suddenly, I remembered the prayer from the beginning of the week. Make me love you more.

Is that how? By falling? By seeing the disgust that still lives inside me? And knowing that when He looks on me, He loves me despite my heinous actions? Because He sees His Son when He sees me?

It’s one thing to read about His mercy, His lovingkindness, His grace. These become church terms that I fear lose their meaning. We sprinkle them in conversations, but do we understand their magnitude?

As I sat outside listening to the wind chimes, watching the birds flit from branch to branch, I felt Him. This is when I knew that He had been answering my prayer to love Him more.

It was Holy Week. I was already reading daily devotions on the path to the cross, the great love poured out, the great redemption, the great rescue. Sin, penalty, death, into freedom.

In that moment, it became as personal as a mom who lost it on her children, broke the refrigerator door in her wrath, and couldn’t forgive herself, much less allow her Savior to forgive her. Again.

In the days that followed, I continued to fight. I fought grace. I fought mercy. I fought tender loving kindness. Until I had no fight left in me. Spent and exhausted, I surrendered to His love. And this mama who didn’t feel she had an anger issue, surprised and disgusted by the disgust that resided in the depths, allowed God to rush His waterfalls of grace over her.

I never expected Him to grow my heart to love Him more in this way. It was surprising in ways I still can’t put words to.

I broke the refrigerator door on a Wednesday. I had to rig it shut. No one seemed to be able to do it but me. Each time someone tried to close it, I’d have to get up and assist. I had to be the one. Each time it was a reminder of my fall, my pride, my anger, my fear. But God did something that week.

Until I stopped fighting Him to receive His mercy, I felt shame at that door. When I surrendered to His love, I felt His tenderness each time I had to delicately close the door just so.

Thursday night the entire mechanism ended up falling off. It took a bigger fix to fix. Family would be arriving on Friday night. I knew that my dad or step dad would be able to fix what we were unable to fix. Another reminder. I was waiting on my dad to fix my mess. My Heavenly Father left the throne to come down to me to fix my mess once and for all. I will continue to make messes with my life, but He has already poured out the punishment for what I mess up. Now He wants me to accept what He has already accomplished and walk in that love.

Friday night the door was fixed. It works like it is brand new. Truly He makes all things new.

One day, everything will be truly new. Each day His mercies are new and fresh. New starts. But one day, He will do it for good.

Revelation 21:5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”