Tuesday, September 26, 2017

True Repentance

So school started a few weeks ago.  Our oldest is a first grader and so while I am relatively inexperienced in the broad scheme of things, I think it is safe to say that at least in our household back to school adjustment is TOUGH!  

Last week was week 3...I think.  That really doesn't matter because the point is that last week was ROUGH.

There was crying, yelling, defying, more crying...and all of this led to...TIME FOR BED!

As peacefully and firmly as I could muster I put the hot mess of a six year old to bed and prayed that she would get some rest.  I was in the process of getting her younger sister into the bathtub and moving toward bed when the previously consigned to bed child insists that there is something in the living room that I need to see.

I send her back to bed and eventually make it into the living room to see 

"I Luv You" and I Sare sare sare sare sare sare sare... written all over the marker board.  

Little did I know that at that moment my battle with said child had only just begun.  You see I had put her to bed before her beloved reading time and she was determined to get it back.  In that moment, her very thorough apology was really just all about getting out of trouble and getting her reading time back.  

Knowing that it would lead to further meltdowns I acknowledged her apology, affirmed my love, and sent her back to bed.

After several more rounds of whack a mole later her attitude had changed.  Rather than just talking about getting privileges back she was talking about working together to help her change her behavior.  She said, Mommy I want to do something to help me.  Promising her we would talk about it the next day, she finally fell asleep.

And I can honestly say that while our difficult moments haven't completely disappeared we have been working together to stop them before they escalate.

You see the point is that true repentance leads to a change of heart, a change of attitude, and ultimately a change of behavior, it is not just about getting something.

Repenting of our sins is more than just an apology to God.  It is a deep grief and sadness over our sin and a commitment to let God walk alongside us to do better next time.  

I pray that I have the strength and courage to face my sin and to truly repent and then the humility to ask for help from God to change each and every time it is necessary.  And while I am not grateful for a long night of difficult behavior, I am grateful that my daughter is learning something as important as repentance at a young age. 

Time to Grow Up

Not long ago, our family took a bike ride.  A new phase for us in biking involves Kate, our 6-year-old riding along on her own two-wheeled bike.  In biking, and in all things, she is eager to be out on her own, independent, but making sure that her safety net (in this case, her daddy rollerblading right beside her and expertly avoiding near collision every two seconds) is close by just in case she decides she needs it.

AJ, on the other hand, during this bike ride was snugly tucked into the Burley bike trailer, with a few stuffed animals and her blankie and was completely content to sit back and be pulled along.  In biking, as in life, she has shown much less need to be independent and resourceful, but remains content to be the baby of the family.

And if we're being honest, Mom has been content with that too!

Ever since this bike ride, where I saw my children's personalities personified on two wheels, I have been reflective on growing up.  More specifically on being so proud of Kate as she takes leaps and bounds towards maturity on a weekly basis (with the occasional regression to two-year-old tantrums for no apparent reason) and on needing to encourage (and allow) AJ to take some more steps toward independence.

Our spiritual journeys are not so unlike our natural progression and development. And we can just as easily fall into the different categories that my two very different girls find themselves in.

One category is the highly independent category and forging ahead at full speed.  At first blush this seems great and like the right way to go.  But God never wants us to be out ahead of him or so independent that we don't need him.  Even my independent Kate as described above, is really only independent on her bike when she knows her Daddy is right there with her.  At each intersection she panicked a little and needed the reassuring and steady hand of her expert rollerblader Daddy to help her stop and stay steady before forging on again.  So independence and a desire to be moving forward is good only in so much as we acknowledge that without God we are like an awkward 6 year old learning to ride a 2 wheeler.  Without that acknowledgement we really are in our place of needing to grow up by acknowledging our weaknesses and our need for God.

On the other hand, we have those that might be content to receive salvation, the gift that God has graciously given us, and then to somewhat coast through life.  The writers of the New Testament spend a lot of time writing about this topic of maturing and growing up.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity

Ephesians 4:11-16 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves,and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
In the scriptures above, the concept is specifically addressed, and in many others the idea is more implied but the concept of growing, maturing, deepening our knowledge and our relationship with Christ, while also letting go of the things of the past (or those things that were more immature) is apparent. 

As for applying these reflections and this wisdom I have a few thoughts.

Are you someone that is trying to outrun God?  Are you running out before Him, not being patient to wait and listen for his direction and thus also outrunning his sustaining safety net?

Are you someone that has been content to be somewhat swept along with life, tossed back and forth by the waves (or the whims of the world, or the bumps of a Burley) and not established roots in a growing knowledge of God?  If so you may feel safely secure but the roots of growing in Christ help you stay grounded and not be swept up and caught up in things that take you down the wrong path.  You also may miss out on so much of the beauty and experiences that life has to offer.  If AJ spends her whole life in a Burley imagine how much she is missing by only being able to see the small view from the confines of her shaded window shade and how many experiences she is missing by not taking a more active part in the journey.

Both are dangerous places to be and require us to submit fully to God and to commit to growing up in Him.  Growing up through surrounding yourself with a community of believers who will help you grow, through personal times of study and prayer, and through stretching yourself to go and do.  The life of a Christian is one that we are called to go and do, to love, to give, to lead, to teach, to share Christ everywhere. Each time we step out into these situations, in obedience and submission to Christ, we continue to grow and learn.  It is a beautiful cycle...one I don't want to deny to my children and one I don't want to get away from myself.

At the risk of overdoing a point and mixing analogies, horsemanship provides a good picture of what it looks like to walk along with God in growing up.

When you lead a horse, you don't want to be out in front dragging the horse along.  Often times this will cause a horse to stop in its tracks and go nowhere.  You also don't want to be too far behind a horse being drug along well because that's just not safe and because your job is to lead not to be led!

Rather, if you are leading a horse you should walk right alongside, almost instep with the horse both urging it forward and holding it back from going too far ahead at the same time.

This is where God desires to walk alongside of you:  right beside you.  The irony is that God is right there walking and knows the right pace to walk and the right place to stand.  Our job as the horse (yup you read that right) is to not be too quick and to not allow ourselves to be drug, but to submit, obey, and trust...and in the process to grow up.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Planting Seeds

Most days I feel like I am running circles around the same parenting trees again and again.  I utter the same phrases with various levels of patience over and over.

"Use your words."

"How do you ask nicely?"

"Speak kindly."


It is easy to feel like these lessons and many others that are of more or less importance are never going to sink in.

And then, every once in awhile you get a small glimpse of hope that all that you do is really making a difference.

Like when you hear, "AJ that hurts me, will you please stop?"  and AJ says, "Ok." (I swear, this happened!)

Kate brought these marigolds home from preschool early this spring in a small styrofoam cup.  They were three tiny sprouts that barely survived in the windowsill while Kate over-watered them daily.

I eventually managed to get the little sprouts into the ground and watered them somewhat faithfully.  To be honest, I was fairly confident they were never going to amount to anything and I was worrying about having to break the news to Kate.

But then I watched as they slowly started to grow, bigger and bigger and then they burst forth in bloom into the amazing bush you see above.  Every time I catch a glimpse of it I smile a little remembering the little cup and the tiny little sprouts and how it has become the captivating feature of my backyard at the moment.

I may not see all of the seeds that I am planting in my girls' lives blossom and bloom into something beautiful.  But there are many that I will get to see....and I can't wait.

And in those moments where I fear that the seeds I am planting are in some way defective, I will remember the marigolds and keep planting and watering.

Lastly, I will remember that while I get to plant the seeds and nurture them, it is not me that makes them grow.  That miracle belongs to our Father in Heaven alone.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

10 Things I am Teaching My Kids...That I am Learning Too

10.  Be responsible for your own things. Pick up after yourself. Treat your things well.

Sure, I don't have a tendency to step on my toys and throw them in the midst of a temper tantrum, but God has blessed me with a great house, beautiful yard, flowers, a small garden, a tiny flock of chickens, and so much more. It is my responsibility to not be lazy and to take care of these things well without complaint.

9. Face Your Fears.

The dark. Crowds. Monsters under the bed. Putting your face in the water. These are fears my kids face and are encouraged to overcome on their own with a lot of encouragement and help.  I have my own fears.  Some are relatively easy to face - like my fear of heights, but others I can make excuses and shy away - like speaking up even if my opinion is unpopular or speaking truth even if it might cause hurt.  

8. Share and be generous

I may not run around clutching my favorite item of the day to my chest yelling MINE in quite the same way that a pre-schooler does but I do notice that some things I clutch more tightly than others.  I am intentional about being generous, but I want to make sure that I don't put a limit on God and withhold certain things.  That is not to say that my girls aren't allowed a few special toys that they don't have to share (don't mess with AJ's blankie people...BAD things happen!), but I know that God is generous and a great gift giver and if he asks me to share something I hold dear I want to trust Him and obey.

7. Have a healthy approach to food

Oh you know simple things like don't eat your feelings, or eat when you're bored, or tell me your hungry when you really just want to tickle your taste buds.

6. You are not in charge. You don't need to know it all. Hear it all.  Say it all. Understand it all. YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL...

oh yeah, neither am I.

5. Don't assume (the worst)

Kate often will approach  me asking for something with an attitude that suggests I have already said No and thus whining and convincing is necessary in order to get that glass of water.  Or she will react to something as if there was ill intent even if it was just a misunderstanding or an accident.  

In much the same way, I can often jump to conclusions about my kids behavior or what I see in a situation or even judge someone's intentions when I really have no idea.  

4. Solve your problems, don't whine about them

When Kate or AJ are "in a mood" they have a tendency to react big when something little isn't perfect.  If a doll keeps falling out of the toy carseat, or a certain outfit won't go on a doll, then we can get extremely upset.  Sometimes this leads to refusing to continue to play with the doll and pouting in a corner.  The refusal to find a way to solve the problem or ask for help, ends up taking away play time. 

When confronted with a challenge, problem, or something that just isn't how we want it, we can crumble, fold, stomp, yell, and whine (c'mon you know you've done it too) or we can take it to God, ask for wisdom, and come up with creative solutions.  Be a problem solver, don't let them handicap you and your fun.

3. Use Your Words

A couple days ago it took Kate about 10 minutes to choose to say "May I have milk please" without whining, baby talk, or random unnecessary noises, in decibels loud enough for me to hear.  She also has a tendency to resort screaming and grunting at me when she is angry.  

So I have gratefully matured beyond this point but I still struggle to put all of my feelings into words and express what I need in a positive way with those that I care about.  Just because I don't scream and grunt doesn't mean I am always using my words.  Stuffing them is just as harmful.

2. Be Patient

Have you ever been asked 17 times for one cup of juice in a matter of 60 seconds?  Most moms have.  

Have you ever counted how many times you have said "will you please be patient?" with an obvious edge of impatience in your tone?  I admit, I haven't and I don't want to.  Teaching patience starts with demonstrating it.  All I can say is, God, I need your help, please!!!

1. For the love, please just obey!

Don't ask why. Don't make excuses.  Don't argue with me why you don't need to. Don't obey when you feel like it.  DON'T SAY NO!!!

Did you know the Bible says things like, don't judge, don't complain, don't hate, don't let any course or unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, be kind, be joyful, love others as yourself.  I want to not just be a hearer of the Word, but also a doer; to realize that these words were written with an intention to be followed and obeyed to the best of our abilities.  Not when we feel like it or it is convenient.  Not to be argued with because it doesn't make sense anymore.  Not to make excuses why it just isn't easy.  You get the picture.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

She Makes Me Better

I grew up with the incredible blessing of having horses in my back yard and the opportunity to ride from a very young age. The first horse I can really remember riding is Bingo. She was an older horse and we nicknamed her "the babysitter." She taught us all how to ride and she kept us all safe. If you were riding and started to slip off she would stop. She also made you do what you were supposed to do or she wouldn't do what she was supposed to do. In addition to that, her gaits were so rough that if you could learn to sit in the saddle as she was bouncing you around the arena then you were doing well.

I graduated from babysitter Bingo to Dangerous Dandy after several years. Where Bingo was safe, Dandy was wildly unpredictable. Where Bingo was old and wise Dandy was young, smart, and athletic. Where Bingo made you do everything right he made you do it right and work for it. If you were leading him and got out in front and were pulling him he would stop. But if you stood at his shoulder and walked alongside him, he mostly would plod along willingly with you. If you were trotting at an upbeat Huntseat pace he would make you kick, nudge, cluck, urge, and pray with every step to keep him moving. If you were perfectly lined up at a jump he would go over it unless there was a cow at the other end of the arena, or a shadow, or an imagined cow, or he just didn't feel like it.

In very different ways theses horses made me a better rider and taught me a lot of other things as well. And God provided these horses in the perfect order to teach me in the right order, to insure I didn't quit riding or lose my life. ;)

Fast forward several years and I have transitioned from horses to kids. Our first, Kate is much more like Dandy. Prior to her birth I had believed that if I did everything a certain way then my kids would be perfectly behaved, totally obedient, etc.  I was quick to judge other parents on the behavior of their kids.

But from a very young age Kate has totally blown this theory to pieces.  She is much like Dandy, making me work extremely hard for every step.

But my point in writing is not to lament my challenges with Kate.  Rather to give glory to God for the personal growth and Godly dependence that comes out of this.

As Kate gets older, and I continue to have to work hard for every small and big accomplishment in our day - like getting out of bed or getting dressed - to every character trait developed - like patience - I realize that God is teaching me every step of the way through.

She makes me better because she makes me look inside myself to address my own sin. She makes me better because she makes me dependent on God for more grace, more patience, more creativity, and more endurance that what I have on my own.

Here are some of the things that God (and Kate) have taught me:

1) We are all sinners.  I need grace.  Kate needs grace.  We need to give each other grace.  Recently I finished reading a book called Grace Based Parenting that helped me to realize this truth and helped me to realize that how I respond to Kate's challenges has a big impact on her and how she will see herself now and in the future.  I don't want to be surprised, to shame or embarrass her, or to condemn her for her mistakes.  I want to love her, forgive her, and teach her to go to God to help her learn through them.

2) Which leads me to my second - I need to be very very careful about my words.  I have the power with my words to tear down her spirit, make her self-conscious about herself and her behavior, or to lift her up, encourage her, and teach her.  In my own weakness and frustration, it is easy to get focused on the many challenges and share them with others more than I should.  Imagine what this does to her to hear.

3) Keep myself in check.  When I start to get frustrated and impatient, you can hear it in my words and voice.  When Kate hears it, she comes back at me with the same intensity and is less likely to obey, just like Dandy.  She makes me better.  She makes me do it right.  Of course this doesn't mean that she always does obey or behave, but at least I can walk away from the situation knowing that I demonstrated and modeled the type of attitude and behavior I am expecting of her.  And when I blow it, I apologize.

4) Don't give up or get discouraged.  I have noticed from a very young age that Kate has cycles of behavior.  She will have a couple weeks where we have lots of fits, crying, disobeying, etc. Then all of a sudden you wake up one day, take a deep breath and ask her to put on a pair of pants under her dress and she says, "Ok Mom."  After you've recovered from the shock, you realize that the lessons you are teaching during those difficult weeks are sinking in, and when whatever causes those cycles to pass, they are there and the fruit is evident.  It is tempting during those weeks to feel like you are doing nothing more than beating your head against a wall, but I must continue to be dedicated to the practices that I believe in, to teach appropriate behavior, and to discipline inappropriate behavior - no matter how much backlash I receive.

Much like Babysitter Bingo and Dangerous Dandy made me a better horseman, Kate makes me a better person, mom, and follower of Christ.  For that I am grateful.

(Side Note - I am sitting here, unwilling to pus the Publish button because I am so uncomfortable with throwing out what feels to me like a very negative post towards my beloved daughter.  So, lest anyone walk away thinking that the only thing about her worth noting is her strong-will, let me enlighten you with the many things of Kate that are just plain awesome.

She is kind and compassionate, quick to stick by someone who is hurt.  She thinks about others and their needs.  She has an imagination that could take her to the moon and back.  She can play for hours all by herself - and never stop talking during that time once! She is smart, observant, intuitive, and so so curious.

She loves helping and she is a leader.  She is cautious, but also willing to try something new and is so proud of herself when she has overcome a fear. She brings delight to those around her with her grown up antics. She knows how to behave and is polite to others.  She is amazing.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

He Lets Me

Recently Kate has taken an interest in helping with housework.  If I am folding clothes she will come and help me fold washcloths and socks.  If am doing dishes, she will rinse.  She has become my regular mud room cleaner and surprises me with how neurotic she is about lining up the shoes with their pairs in exactly the right spots (wonder where she gets that from?).

Today, she wanted to wash windows.  From the other room I cringed and thought well this will surely not end well,  But despite myself I gave very specific instruction about only spraying 3 times on each window and set her free as I continued to sweep.  They can't look worse than the finger, nose and lip prints that adorn them currently I thought!  Thank you AJ.

As I was sweeping I was pondering how many puddles of window cleaner I was going to have to clean up, how streaky they might be when she was done, and just in general how it would be so much easier to just say no and go do it myself.  But what would she learn if I did that.  Nothing good.

And as God does, he showed me that He as our Father has a plan and things that need to be done in this world, specifically people that need to be shown love and compassion, taught about the Gospel and the Truth of Salvation, practical needs that need to be met, and hearts that need to be healed.

It would be so much easier for God to just do all of his work on His own.  I mean He's God,, so it is not like he can't.  But then, what would we learn?

It is not good for my development and for my growth to only reap the benefits of salvation and not be given the opportunity to take part in the work and sacrifice of sharing it with others.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea - salvation is through Christ alone; only He can save - but God Lets Us be part of His plan and His work here on earth.

He lets me share hugs, laughter, and coffee with someone who is hurting and needs a friend.
He lets me sacrifice a little to provide some needed items for a struggling young mom.
He lets me tell others about Him and show them the way to salvation in eternity in Christ.
He lets me teach my kids about responsibility and hard work by washing windows.

The question is, Am I?

Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:7-8 (The Message) This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise. God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.

I am convicted, challenged, and excited by these words.

Is my life work all about me, or is it about God?
Do I trust God enough to handle all of the details?
I have a purpose, a mission, a reason to live, and the blessing of a living a life Alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5).  That makes me excited.

PS - Fast forward in the story above and Kate is washing windows in the mudroom - a lost cause by the way - and locks herself out of the house.  I go to let her in and find that over half of the bottle of window spray is now gone and her rag is soaked.  Clearly my great training about 3 sprays per window was not effective, but I can see out the windows better now!

God Lets Us, Has given us clear instructions, and teaches us and gives us grace when we screw it up thinking we can do it our own way.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Knows it All; Questions it All

It was Halloween evening...a magical time for children.  What is better than playing dress up and being given candy?

Unfortunately our magical evening was plagued by tired, grumpy kids, one kid down with an eye infection, parental miscommunication, freezing cold weather, and a vehicle making strange noises.

We had left our first "magical" stop for the evening - create your own spooky face pancakes at IHOP and were headed to our second...indoor trick or treating.

We stopped at a gas station to identify and correct said strange car noise referenced above.  As we parked, the questions started.

"Why are we here? Why is daddy getting out? Why is that open? What is he getting out of the trunk? Why is daddy going inside? Why are you moving the car?"  It didn't stop.  Kate questioned on and on.  I did my best to answer the questions (or most of them) with as much patience as I could muster.  After all, this 3 and a half year old was concerned that we had been indefinitely thrown off the trick or treating track for the evening.

Having corrected the strange noise problem, we were back on the road only to be informed within seconds that "this is not the way to trick or treating."  We tried to argue, however Kate insisted that we were going the wrong way.  Eventually we just had to give up and tell her to wait and see.

During this small window I marveled at how someone could at the same time so confidently KNOW EVERYTHING, and also feel the need to ask THOUSANDS OF QUESTIONS every day.

And then it hit me, that feeling that I get when I know God is teaching me something and that it isn't just for me.  When it comes to our relationship with God, we are exactly the same as my little three year old conundrum.

We spend our days asking God why?  Why did you let this happen? Why didn't that happen? Why did he get that and I didn't?  Why me? Why not me? When? What is going to happen next?

And then in our next breath, we dare to tell God that we know better than he does.  "No really, we're going the wrong way.  This surely isn't what you had planned for me."

In those moments when Kate is asking my ear off, or trying to tell me I have it perfectly wrong, I just want to beg her to please trust me.  I want to help her understand that she can trust me, that she doesn't need to know everything, she doesn't need to control everything, and that she doesn't already KNOW everything.

I can hear God saying the same thing to you and to me.  Trust me, he says.  It doesn't make sense to you right now, but I've got this.  You don't have to control it, I do.  You think you know better, but you don't.  I can see the big picture, you cannot.

My friends, let go and simply trust God.  Simple words to write and extremely difficult words to put into practice.  Next time you feel yourself starting to worry, or doubt, question, or act like you know better than God, remember little Kate and how silly she sounds insisting she knows the way.