A Day in the Life of Us

Confession…when someone hurts my kids…I get pretty intense REALLY fast. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising and an urge to hurt something wells up deep inside of me. I believe some people call this a mother’s instinct…I call it scary. It’s hard to stay focused on being Godly during such moments, but if I keep saying I want to be the gospel to those around me this is THE most important moment for me to plug into God and keep my focus.

Yesterday, my sweet girl had a really hard day. She was hurt deep and I got a front row seat to the whole thing. Everything in me wanted to make it stop, but that was not in her best interest. My heart was enraged on her behalf and I forced myself to pray the kind of prayer that only a mother who is aching for her child can pray. “Make it stop! Give me wisdom! Help me not to maim anyone right now! God help!”

After all was said and done, she came to me, pleading for an explanation. Her sweet little eyes were overflowing with tears that I could not take away. She asked me to please take her home. She was ready to be done with her day and she wanted to be home. I know the feeling all too well. You all have been listening to me whine about how I wish I could run away and hide from the meanness the world too often offers. You also realize, I couldn’t take her home. I couldn’t let her leave. She wasn’t finished with her tasks for the day. She had to keep moving forward. She had to move on despite the lies she was now hearing within herself.

I held her for a good while and allowed her the tears she needed to release. I didn’t want to let her go, but I knew I had to. I then reminded her that she was God’s kid. I reminded her that she was our kid. I reminded her that she had a big God who was going to get her through the rest of the day. I reminded her that God loved her and created her and knew who she was. I reminded that her daddy and I loved her and knew who she was. I explained to her that if we went home now, the hurt would win. We had to stay. I reminded her how much we loved her again and how proud we were of her. Then I made her go back to class.

She went back to class and she came to see me a couple of times for another hug, but then went back to her day. She then went to her soccer game and played the best defensive game I’ve seen her play in a while. She’s going to be okay. Mommy on the other hand, needs to do more praying.

Now, the hurt will pass and there is no permanent damage done. She will see things through a different lens regarding that person. She has learned that sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be good and do the right thing, you have bad days. My ultimate prayer is that she learned that God loves her and won’t let her down even when life gets hard.

Until another confession…

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I Am Not A Normal Mother

Confession: I am not a normal mother. I work with middle schoolers and their parents, I get asked many times in a week “What do normal moms do?” I am the wrong person to ask, I am not a normal mother. I tell them what I would do, but I then remind them that I am NOT a normal mother.

I was asked this question recently, by a mother who was completely unsure of her next step. I felt such compassion for her. I knew her state of mind. I have been there many times. She was filled with confusion, frustration, panic, exasperation, and ultimately LOVE as a result of her child’s behavior. Many times, as parents, we are filled with such emotion as our children push us to limits we never knew possible. We watch in disbelief, some days, as they chart a course for themselves outside of what we desire for them and ultimately what we know God desires for them. I often fight the urge to push them into the direction I believe they should be pursuing. I fight the urge to threaten, bribe, manipulate, or shame them into a productive and hopefully successful direction.

I’m learning from my Heavenly Father, that often when I am in sin, I need to hear words of love and courage rather than words of shame and fear. I am already fearful that I am not good enough, strong enough, or just ENOUGH. That fear leads me to do some pretty stupid things. Romans 2:4 reminds me that HIS LOVE is meant to woo me to repentance. My heart is often hard and set on sin and God’s response is LOVE.

Too often, I forget that my children are no different. When they are in sin, they do not need yet another voice speaking words of guilt and shame. They do not need my voice creating fear in their hearts. It could possibly be that they are already fearful and that fear has created a perfect incubation room for sin. Should I not respond to them with love? If I am to reflect God’s love to them, should I not strive to respond as He does? These are the things I think about when I’m ready to throw in the towel and call it quits on the parenting gig. My goal response is prayer and love. I don’t always reach my goal, but it’s a goal I am learning to reach for more often.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I will spare you. If you have questions about how we deal with things, please ask us. We don’t have this parenting thing all sorted but we are finding some victories as a family and we would love to share our stories in the hopes that you gain some nuggets of usefulness from our lives.

Until the next confession…

Mistakes Will Be Made…Perfection Is Unrealistic

MISTAKES WILL BE MADE, PERFECTION IS UNREALISTIC

The next thing we strive to remember as we parent, is that God is the ultimate parent. He parents us. He is the perfect parent with imperfect children. How is it then that we expect to have perfect children as imperfect parents?!

The Bible says that all have sinned…all fall short of the glory of God. WE ALL DO IT! Young and old alike. Why are we so surprised when our kids sin? We, as adults, have a hard time saying no to sin in our lives. We, as adults, have a difficult time rejecting sin and embracing God. So why, please tell me why, do we expect our kids to be perfect and without sin. Are they not modeling what we are demonstrating with our lives? They are kids, taking their cues from us. If we are stubborn and rebellious towards God why are we so surprised when they are stubborn and rebellious towards us?

I am speaking from experience here. I remember a few years back. E-girl must have been 5 or 6. God had been dealing with me about sin in my life and I was actively being disobedient. I didn’t want to hear what He was telling me and I was being quite defiant.  It was during that time, that E-girl was prone to fits and tantrums. One day, she was in the middle of a full flown tantrum. You know the ones, with the kicking and screaming…throwing themselves on the floor…immovable, unreasonable. I was just about done with the behavior and called out to God to do something about it. I remember hearing deep inside of me these words

What would you have me do? She is responding to your leadership they way you have been responding to mine. She’s throwing a physical tantrum and you’ve been throwing a spiritual tantrum. Tell me what would you have me do?

Not cool, God. Not cool. I knew what I was hoping God would do with me. I responded how I prayed He would respond to my disobedience. At that moment, I sat down on the floor next to her, picked her up, tantrum and all, and held her. I remember crying with her as I repented and prayed.

Even today, we are in the middle of a full on war of the wills with my sweet sweet boy. He is pushing and we are working hard to stand strong in our love for him. I’m not gonna lie, I want to demand perfection from him. I want him to bend to my will. It is taking everything within me not to yell, threaten, and intimidate. It is taking all the patience I have to remember that I am not the Holy Spirit for him. I can’t bring about true heart change. I can only pray and obey. I pray that God would soften his heart and show him how much he is loved by us and most of all God. I obey by not yelling or threatening or using my words to hurt him. It’s hard! I love him but my fear gets the better of me and that’s when I start to sin. Fear must have the light of God’s truth applied to it if I am to remain focused on our goal: Raising people who fall in love with God.

Our kids will make mistakes, and the mistakes now are a little more serious. Our goal during this season isn’t to shame, belittle, alienate, or reject our kids when they make mistakes. Our goal is to love them as God loves us. God loves us sin and all. He doesn’t ask us to get our act together before He lavishes love on us. Quite the contrary, often He loves us in the midst of our filth and rebellion. His love is what brings us to our senses. Our prayer is that we remember that our kids are sinners in need of a big God…just as we are sinners in need of a big God.

The Guy/Girl Teenage Thing pt. 1

Confession: I find it incredibly difficult to write this post. The guy/girl teenage thing is coming to our house. We see it on the horizon. We have been prepping for this season and now it is about to happen.

My goal with the next few posts is to share ideology and hopes and dreams we have for this season of our life. We haven’t tested these methods. We can’t even claim we have had success. There isn’t anything to back up our ideas, but we will share them and you can do what you wish with them. Maybe, someday, people will look back on these posts and laugh at our wide eyed optimism. Or maybe, just maybe, we will have done something worth repeating. Enough with my procrastinating, let’s do this thing.

John and I grew up with the six inch rule, leave room for the holy ghost, true love waits, and purity drives. The idea behind those things was “Abstinence until marriage” unfortunately what seemed to get translated was “sex will get you sent to hell”. Truth be told, I don’t think that is what our parents or church leaders were trying to tell us. I really don’t. However, I do think it is easy for kids to get messages we don’t send, especially when it is an incredibly difficult and sensitive topic. John and I spent too much time not talking to our parents about some of the hardest topics we will face.  We don’t want this to happen with our kids.  So we’ve come up with some goals for this season of life.

PLAN AHEAD FOR THE HARD CONVERSATIONS, FLY BY CONVERSATIONS ARE DANGEROUS.

One thing we have learned in our parenting is that hard topics are easier to talk about when you’ve put some thought to them.  “Mommy what happens to me when you die?” “Mommy, are the dogs playing leap frog?” “Mommy, why doesn’t Susie have a daddy?” These conversations need thought, because kids will put things together in random wrong ways if you give them answers that don’t make sense. We have found that talking through these issues give us some clarity and perspective. It gives us time to talk through our thoughts on the matter, discuss our differences, and hopefully come to an agreement on how we BOTH want to face the issue. As we talk topics through, we ask the following questions:

How will we reflect God’s love for our child in this situation?

How will we point the kids back to God?

What truth about God can we teach the kids with this situation?

When we don’t ask those kinds of questions ahead of time, chaos just seems to happen. We go to default responses we saw modeled as children. We say and do things we don’t mean. We hurt our kids with our responses because we didn’t think them through.

I typically respond out of fear. Fear of what my kids will do, fear of how I will wreck their lives, fear of what others will think or say, fear of the damage that will be done….FEAR that God will not be faithful to me or my kids. Never a good response. Someone once told me that the only way I could remove the power fear had over me was to turn the lights on, stare fear in the face, and examine it. What I learned was fear becomes smaller in the light of God’s truth.  It is still there, but I face it more readily knowing that God will be faithful to me.

We then pray. We pray like crazy! Pray for the words to say. Pray that we would give only the information God would have us give (sometimes in our effort to inform we go way too far and create more questions for our kids). Pray that we would trust Him to be the hero in our kids story.

To Sin or Not To Sin…Is God More Attractive Than Sin To My Kids?

PARENTING IS HARD! It’s hard enough to parent kids with the world pressing in on them from every side, but throw in a focus on faith to the mix and it often feels like we are like the proverbial salmon swimming upstream.

My parenting partner in crime and I have decided to pursue a gospel centered idea of parenting and sometimes we feel we have bitten off more than we can chew. When the kids were younger it was easy to default to what we learned from our parents, but as the kids face more complicated challenges we find ourselves in deep water holding on to our God with unimaginable ferociousness. They are growing up and it is our responsibility to teach them how to identify and discern between God and sin. We want them to be well-equipped.

This week, we find ourselves in the throes of back to school chaos. Homework, school work, new teachers, new students, old friends, new friends, having friends over, not having friends over, good grades, bad grades, clubs, sports…the list can get pretty daunting. As we move deeper into the middle school life, we find the questions don’t get harder, they get more complicated to answer. I know that sounds strange, but really the question for our whole lives stays the same. To sin or not to sin, that is the question. When they are 1, do I touch that or do I not touch it? Mommy says no, but will I listen? When they are 5, do I stay by Mommy’s side or do I run away? Today, do I watch that movie, or don’t I? Do I listen to that music or don’t I? Do I have those friends or don’t I? The question is ultimately the same, do I make a choice that leads me closer to God or closer to sin? Our prayer is that they are moving from the desire to be obedient to Dad and Mom, towards the desire to be obedient to God.

As parents, it is easy to take the focus off of the primary question our kids face, to sin or not to sin. We get caught up in the rating of movies, the genre of music, the actors or musicians and their lifestyle and we make judgements on those things and people. We deem them good or bad. We make judgements on what we see. We restrict our kids from certain things, with good intentions, but do we take the opportunity to teach them why? Do we use the opportunity to teach them how to distinguish between God and sin? Do we teach them how to see the world around them through the lens of the gospel? Or are we just making judgements?

That’s what we’ve been facing lately. It’s a part of life. Our kids are human beings who face sin daily. Their hearts threaten to harden to God’s love often times. We fight to help them keep those hearts soft to God. Our prayer is that we teach them to look at the world and see it through a gospel lens. How does God feel about this? What does God say about this? How does God desire me, as a man or woman of faith the address this? and Do I sin, or do I not sin?

John and I believe that we are ambassadors of God’s love in our children’s lives. We take that seriously. They will make judgements about God based on what they see from us. We claim faith, we state that we are people of faith, we talk about God quite a bit. We are representatives of God to them. We ask ourselves quite often, how are we representing? Do they know they are loved by God? Do they know the intensity of that love? Do they know the life changing power of that love? Do they see that love modeled in our love for them? We can’t be God to them. We can’t be perfect. We will make mistakes. We will sin. BUT how will they see us handle that sin? How will we respond when we realize we have sinned? Will we make excuses? Will we blame others? or Will we take responsibility? Will we repent? Will we ask forgiveness when necessary? We hope to answer yes to the last three questions.

Our prayer is that they see God move in our lives and know that God is real because of God’s power in our life. Our prayer is this: as they see us respond to God in our lives, as they see us repent when we sin, they learn the reality of God and the love of God. Our prayer is that God is more attractive than sin. Our prayer is that they see God is better than sin. This is hard! It means we choose not to yell when we wish we could. It means we choose to love when we wish we could shame and guilt. It means we embrace a child who is trying desperately to push us away. It means we love with patience when we wish we could just throw our hands up in the air and walk away. THIS IS HARD! BUT their hearts are on the line. Aren’t their hearts worth doing the hard work? Our answer…YES!

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone out there, but I felt compelled to share what has been going on in our house.

Until the next confession…

The Silent Treatment

Confession…I have given and received some wicked silent treatments. They’re empowering in the worst way imaginable. They give an unholy sense of revenge and the sad truth is…I am guilty of indulging in a good silent treatment.

I was talking with a young woman a while back and she told me how she planned to get back at her boyfriend by not talking to him for a week. In her opinion, this “silent treatment” would show him how much he loved her and missed the sound of her voice. I don’t know about you, but everything I know about relationships tells me her boyfriend will not come to this conclusion. If anything, he’s going to be more angry that she shut him out of her life for a week and didn’t tell him why. What’s my point? Silent treatments don’t work in any relationship.

Now I use the conversation with the young lady merely as a reference. The silent treatments God has been talking to me about lately are the ones I unleash on my children. As John and I pursue the idea of gospel centered parenting, we find that nearly everything we do has to be reexamined through the gospel lens.

What am I talking about?! You’ve never done this, right? You’ve never wanted to slap your child with silence in order to demonstrate how seriously you feel about the crime committed. You’ve never wanted to isolate yourself and shut the world out because you’re hurt and can’t figure what to do next. I’m alone on this one, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So, let’s talk about it and look at this through the lens of the gospel.

The gospel is all about God’s intense love for us. It’s a story of our sin and how it’s separated us from God. It’s a story about how God couldn’t stand the separation and so HE sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself. He could have shunned us because of our sin. He could have withdrawn His presence. He could have stayed silent. He didn’t! He crossed the line and spoke words of correction and love to us. He kept talking amid our sin. He pursues us with a love that we can’t even fathom. He continues to love and speak and pursue.

The questions is then, how can I, as a parent, model that love to my children? How do I deal with them when they sin? What should my response be as a gospel parent? When they sin, I choose to continue to love and speak correction to them. Does it mean I am not angry? No. Does it mean I yell and scream and shame? No. Does it mean I gloss over what they have done?  No, but it does mean that I don’t withdraw from them to prove my point. It means I pursue them in love.  Speaking correction, in love, in a skill developed over time. It’s time for us to start learning that skill. We avoid correction because we don’t want to offend. Or we remain silent to avoid saying things we don’t mean. We keep our mouths shut because we are angry,  but we cheat our children out of valuable lessons when we remain silent. I won’t be perfect at this, and I have in no way mastered this, but it is something God has been showing me. It is something I wanted to share with you all. And so I choose not to remain silent.

Until another confession…