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Don’t Withhold Your Love

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my conscience instructs me. Psalm 16:7

The water ran steadily from the faucet, cascading over piles of dishes. I stood there waiting. Waiting for the hot water to kick in, forgetting our hot water heater died on us. Mesmerized by the steadiness of the water, I stayed. Still. Quiet. These are typically the moments I hear His voice.

The moments the world around me is quieted, pushed aside.

Don’t withhold your love from him.

I snapped out of my daze. Where did that thought come from? I dared not move. Waiting for more. The explanation.

In the next moment a forgotten dream from the previous night played in my head. It was a snapshot, the briefest of scenes. Can you even call this a dream? It happened in my sleep. Forgotten until the moment at the sink.

In the dream the setting was Andrew misbehaving and me “advising” my husband not to withhold his love from Andrew when he disciplined his behavior. That was it. Just the instruction.

Prior to the standing at the kitchen sink waiting for water to warm that would never warm, the morning had been a reversal for Andrew and me in regards to our homeschool reading lessons. One of the reasons we started homeschooling was the realization that a school setting for a child who struggles to read created for him anxiety causing a shut down to learning. Last year we made miraculous progress and this year has surpassed my hopes. Until that morning.

He was back to his old ways. Fighting against me to do his lessons. A total shut down to learning.

I closed the lesson and sent him to his room where he could remain until he got himself together, cooled down, whatever needed to happen.

Each time he would come out of his room, my responses to him were short and distant. I was tired, frustrated, and wanted him to see that I wasn’t simply happy and smiles when he acted this way and school days took this path.

In college I loved learning how to build spreadsheets. Especially creating cells with “if, then” formulas. If this plus this equals this then this. To me it was life captured in blocks that made sense. Natural consequences at play in math.

At times I build spreadsheets in life. I begin to create if then statements in my surroundings. Because they make sense to me.

As the day marched forward, I began to see a change happening in him. A change in his attitude. An acceptance of the situation turned to a desire to get back in my good graces. A change in tone. A change in everything. But each time I ushered him back to his room making sure he knew that the lesson we didn’t complete would eventually get done. He’d nod fully accepting. And there was a sadness.

The kitchen sink. When God brought that thought into my mind and the remembrance of that dream, I got it. Andrew would interpret my response to him as a withholding of love. He’s always struggled to interpret well. He often sees things not at all how they were intended. And this is the dangerous ground I walked.

If I withdraw from him, He would interpret it as a withdrawal of my love. He has always gauged facial expressions to determine where he stands with someone. He studies more intently than he ought. And I’d forgotten that he looks too closely at facial and bodily expressions in an effort to determine how someone feels about him.

God is so good. So incredibly amazing. I find myself speechless. There are no words. That God would instruct me while I sleep in preparation for what I would face and how I would react. And His gentleness. His kindness.

Romans 2:4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

I thank God for His tolerance. His patience and kindness. At times His goodness is too much for me to handle. He doesn’t treat me as I deserve. He doesn’t treat me how I treat others. He is purely good. Good always.

What I deserved is God to grab me by my shoulders and shake me. To rail at me, “I don’t treat you this way. When you act up do I pull back from you?”

But He doesn’t. Instead, He speaks to me according to my natural bents. He lets me trace a trail, connecting dots along that path. He knows me. He knows if I learn this way, I’ll never forget it.

Then God did this. Sent my little boy to me asking this, “Mom, can I have a hug? I need a big hug.” I reached down and squeezed him hard, not letting go first. He squeezed back, allowed me to kiss his cheek. And I said, “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

Redemption is around every corner with the Lord.

Grow them into men who love you with their whole heart. Give them a heart like David’s, one after God’s own heart. Give them a spirit like Caleb that follows you wholeheartedly. Make them strike fear in the eyes of the enemy. Instruct their hearts with truth, even as they sleep.

These are a few lines I pray with or over my boys every single night. But the one I hold dearly is instruct their hearts with truth, even as they sleep.

I want my kids to seek hard after truth. To be protected from lies and deceptions. To be saved from chasing a false reality.

But as I’ve prayed these for my boys, God’s been answering them for me too. He speaks always. He knows I’m a ‘squeeze the most out of every moment’ kind of gal. The kind that wants even the sleeping hours to produce or reveal in some way. So He does. And on this day He did.

And all I can say is. Wow. Wow, God. The God who listens and speaks. The God who loves and cares. We praise you. We thank you. Make our hearts crave you above all things. Draw us into you, make us ultra-sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We love you.

I’m Leaving the Good Mommy Club

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I listened to a Focus on the Family broadcast that I can’t shake. It was John Rosemond speaking on Raising Well-Behaved Children. The title had me.

I don’t want perfect children, but I desire obedient children. I don’t want children who can’t think for themselves or form their own opinions, but I do want children who will not challenge every word from my lips or argue each instruction I speak.

John Rosemond’s words have been scrolling through my mind. He talked about how our generation is more concerned with building relationships with our kids than being leaders and disciples to our children. Considering the fact that I attempt to build a strong relationship with my kids, I knew I had to explore this line of thought.

I love the words of Josh McDowell, “rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” John spoke to this and said he believes Josh would agree that to have a relationship, you need leadership first.

John goes on to speak about the ‘good mommy club’. This is the club where to be a good mommy you spend as much time as possible with your children (among other things). He said, “My mom expected me to pay attention to her.” Whoa!

Here’s where I will take this in a different direction. My mind began to ponder our drive to become intentional parents.

John Rosemond said he wants to liberate women across the country from the good mommy club and restore marriages.

Over the past several weeks, God continues to show me where I need His freedom. I need His freedom in everything. Often I push back and think I have life under control or that I know best. God gently brings me to a place where He shows me that freedom through Him and His strength is what I truly need.

God didn’t ask me to be in the good mommy club. He asked me to be in the ‘love Me with your whole heart club’. Many of my best efforts are attempts to take His glory.

Jesus wants to carry the weight of glory so I don’t have to.

On any given day, I can scroll through Facebook or Twitter or my blog roll, and I can read amazing, amazing, amazing words that encourage me to be more intentional, or instruct me in being a better mom. I see pictures of what everyone else does with their kids, and suddenly I feel what I’m doing doesn’t compare.

It’s not the fault of the words I read or the images I see, it’s what I do with those words and pictures. Often I turn these well-meaning words into commands to try harder. It comes back to me.

The online world doesn’t need to change. The bloggers don’t need to stop blogging. The posters don’t need to stop posting. I need to change what I do with the words and images when they enter my heart.

If I’m not careful about the words I allow to shape and impact me in my parenting, in my spiritual walk, in everything, I can very easily make ready a field of fear in my heart. Fear of failing my kids. Fear of how my kids will turn out. Fear of them making poor choices. Fear over everything in my life.

The words we allow to shape us have the potential to create fear which quietly fuels our desires to become more “intentional”, which could possibly turn into try-harder parenting in disguise.

To be an intentional parent is to be a parent on purpose and to parent with purpose. 

Intentional parenting isn’t merely filling bucket lists, creating memories, going on special date nights, attending every field trip, and playing for endless hours. All of these moments are lovely, but if we aren’t careful, these can add up to a list that will never be satisfied. They will whisper to our soul, “You will never be enough.”

Our world is making intentional parenting something it doesn’t have to be. Something more complicated than it should be.

The harder I try to be a good mommy, the bigger my fear grows. With good reason. My focus is on me, not Him. My eyes need to be fixed on Him, not the world around me that tells me what a good mommy looks like. My eyes need to be fixed on Him, not my children, who at any given moment cause me to tremble at the possibilities I see. My eyes need to be fixed on Him, not the fear of what others think.

If our kids need us to be a leader, which makes way for a healthy relationship, then the best place to start is fixing our eyes on the ultimate leader who came for us.

Maybe when we fix our eyes on Him, intentionality becomes effortless. Maybe intentionality becomes a byproduct.

Today I will release my membership from the good mommy club. Care to join me? I’m taking my eyes off what the world, the blogs, and social media says I should do to be a good mommy, and I’m fixing my eyes on Him. I will let Him make me the mommy He wants me to be. It might not look like the best mommy to the world, but if He is leading me, it will be the best version for the purpose He sets before me.

I think I agree with John Rosemond. I think freedom will feel really nice. Christ came to set us free. He covers us with grace through the sacrifice.  He came so nothing would hold us captive again. Even being a good mommy.

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One small step

 

When it comes to our family histories or our current family situations, we all start from a different place.  No matter your past, you have the ability to change the future for your own family if you so desire.  Maybe you don’t need to do anything different from what you grew up with, but you feel that you are failing on doing as well of a job as your own family did with you as a child.   You want to create the same relationships with your children that your parents created with you.  Or you want to create better relationships with your kids than what you grew up with.

Life today is different from even just one generation ago.  More distractions, a busier lifestyle, and a faster pace of life make it more difficult to carve out time and space to really connect with our loved ones.

I love Nike’s “Just Do It” motto.  If you want to do it, it’s simple, just do it.  Well, we may not always feel capable of just doing it.  Life can be more complicated than we would prefer at times.  Though you may not feel that you can “just do it” in making a change in your family, you can just do something.

  • Set a goal–  What is your goal?  The most succesful people in making positive changes in their lives are goal setters.  Not only will they set a goal, they will write it down.  Studies show that when we write down our goal, we are exponentially more likely to accomplish that goal than if we don’t write it down.  It is important to be realistic  with your goal.  Set a goal worth setting, but don’t make it impossible to reach.  With each goal reached, you can always set a new goal.
  • Be intentional–  You know you want to create moments in time that your family will treasure.  So you must be intentional with your time or your time will vanish into thin air before you realize it.  Make a plan for what you want to do with the time you will carve out.  Figure out how you can carve out the time you want.  Does your family regularly eat on the road between activities and you desire to have regular family meals?  Look at your calendars and schedules, determine what can be eliminated or shifted around, make your goal the priority, and make it happen.
  • Act on it–  You’ve set your goal, you’ve intentionally carved out the time and made your plan to achieve your goal.  Now act on it.  Put it into action.
  • Take one small step everyday- You can’t reach your goal overnight, and you shouldn’t try.  When we are impatient in the process of reaching our destination, we often will become frustrated and throw our hands up thinking it is impossible to make the change.  But if you take one small step every day, you will be amazed when you reach your goal and look back on  all that was accomplished.

My oldest son just completed 2nd grade.  One of his nightly assignments was to read 10 pages.  He is a lover of books, so I thought this would be a breeze.  Until our schedules kicked into full gear and he was exhausted from a full day of school, chores, activities, etc.   However, he remained diligent to read nightly.  At the end of the year the teacher handed out scrolls to each of the children to show them how many pages they read over the entire school year.  Each child was blown away by the results.  They couldn’t believe that reading a simple 10 pages a day, could amount to thousands of pages collectively.  One student read 5,800 pages!  My son read 1,302 pages and was so proud of himself.  What  a great lesson for them to learn so early that when we set our minds to something and act on it daily, great things can be accomplished.

One small step a day.  Given time you will reach the top of that stairway, grab ahold of your goal, and realize it was worth every small step taken to get there.

Resources for goal setting:

http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/step-5-write-your-goal-down

http://family-life.familieswithpurpose.com/setting-family-goals/

http://blog.mysanantonio.com/stepfaniebishop/2012/05/creating-summer-goals-for-your-family/

Resources for being intentional with your family:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.aspx?ID=%7BD016C451-E6DE-443A-A32D-BC038A2AA02D%7D

http://www.hiphomeschoolmoms.com/2012/04/being-intentional/