Category Archives: Parenting

Swimming in it until I’m pruny!

splash waterHow are you with waiting?  Lately the topic of patience has come up a lot with my kids.  When talking to them about what I expect from them when they’re asked to be patient, I realized I needed to define what patience was.  What I came up with was “waiting with a good attitude” and every time I describe it that way, part of me feels like I’m reminding myself that I too need to “wait with a good attitude.”

I’ve never been good at waiting and right now I feel like that’s what I’m being asked to do.  Again.  Ever feel done with a season of your life but cannot clearly see what is around the corner and when the next season will begin?  That’s where I find myself.  Part of me feels like my season of being a SAHM will be coming to an end soon.  But without clear direction, I’m waiting, because maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’ve got more months or more years as a SAHM.  I feel like the past three years have been so beautiful, so purposeful, but now it’s time to move on.  I look at my daughter and can’t believe she’s three and that I’ve been home with her every day of those three years.  I look at my son and am in awe of how well he is thriving. That he’s now in the 27th percentile for height and 10th or 11th overall.  After four years of fighting to get weight on him and struggling to help him eat, he’s getting there!  Today he ate more solid food than purees and considering how little solid food he was eating efficiently when feeding therapy ended last fall, it is absolutely amazing!  His meals are looking more and more “normal,” meaning they are either all solids or if there’s a combination of textures (soup, sandwich, and some fruit). It could be any five year olds plate!!!  Incredible!

All that to say, it has been amazing.  They’ve grown.  I’ve grown.  But right now, I’m restless.  I don’t feel like this is a role I’ll play forever and I feel passionate and called back to working with high-risk teenagers and the system they’re in.  And since I have a personality that is all about trying to plan and create my future how I want it and because I don’t have a lot on my plate right now, I’m restless.  The question is, what does God want for me right now? How can I wait well?

Because I daydream about the next season of my life, I get caught up in details, planning, and what-ifs.  None of this is inherently wrong, but for me, it pulls me away from the here and now and can create a lack of contentedness if I’m not careful.  A friend, who is also in a waiting and wondering season of her life, reflected that she feels torn between praying for what she hopes for specifically (citing John 14:14 and John 15:16) and surrendering and praying for God’s will in her life because that is what will truly be the best thing for her–even if it looks nothing like her current hopes.  I feel the same way.  Am I to pray for what I hope and dream to happen (in technicolor and 3D) or am I to take an emotional and cognitive step back and say “Your Will, Lord, whatever details will be, will be…”  How do I wait well in this and seek Him?  Boy, did it make me feel normal that another friend was wrestling with the same internal dynamics as me!  Can you relate?

splash water 2I am excited about what the next season in my life is going to look like, even though there are a lot of unknowns.  That being said, I believe that God is teaching me to delight and live in the now.  The present.  Another friend and I were talking earlier in the week about God giving us a word or a phrase for the year.  The phrase that God gave me for this year was “Love well those I have given you.”  I’ve kept these words in front of me this year.  It has caused me to make better choices, to pray more intently, and to really ask myself, how do my kids and my husband best feel loved by me.  I can’t think of a better way to love my kids and husband and others God has put in my life than being fully present and content now.  Each moment, each day.  That’s hard for my personality but I’m learning.  And maybe because it’s summer, I picture myself being fully present like relaxing, floating, meandering in a pool or the ocean, savoring each aspect of the experience–the sun, the smells, the sounds, the water…being truly present and loving it.

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So I want to swim, soak, and truly be in the present until my fingers and toes get all pruny!  What does that look like for me right now?  How can I be purposeful and get every drop of goodness and joy in the present?  How can I fully delight in this season, right now?

BE TRULY PRESENT with my kids

  • I need to unplug from the technology—off the computer, off my phone, turn the TV off and just BE with THEM.  Getting rid of cable this summer has been a great start towards doing this!
  • We need to do bigger things (like going to the Springs, camping, going on vacation) but also savor hanging out at home or going to the park together. Creating a summer bucket list has helped me focus on what I’d like to accomplish together this summer
  • Studying, observing, and truly knowing my children inside and out.  Becoming a student of them so I can highlight their strengths, understand and empathize with their weaknesses, and help them become who God has made them to be.  I desire to draw them out and encourage their individuality, not create two little clones of Ryan and myself.

And, oh, how I love the little moments I get to have with my children.  This past weekend I got to watch them discover and catch fireflies for the first time.  Is there anything better than lightning-bug-jar1watching children delight in new things or delighting in what they’re discovering they are capable of doing?  And how many of those moments would I miss if I weren’t here right now or if my eyes were glued to a screen, zoning out…

READ, READ, READ… I love to learn.  I love to read.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to read often as a mom of two but this season of life has allowed me to do a lot more reading than the first few years of motherhood.  Listening to books on CD has really helped too!  As I reflect on my reading habit, I’ve found when I’m busy and/or stressed out, I gravitate toward legal/suspense novels or other fiction.  During those times, I tend to read to escape or be entertained rather than to be inspired, to learn, or to grow.  This past six months, while I haven’t had to juggle a ton of things, I’ve been taking advantage of the time I’ve had and am reading, reading, reading!!!!  And because I’ve felt relaxed and rejuvenated, I’ve been plunging into books that have challenged me to grow and to go deeper.  Not just reading for entertainment’s sake.

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I love hearing from friends, family, and fellow bloggers what they’re reading currently.  I love it when people share their list of what they’ve been reading or want to read.  It’s like opening a treasure chest!  So I thought I’d throw together a list of books I’ve loved reading lately too.  Here’s the books I’ve read this past year that I highly recommend:

Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, & Lead & Men, Women, & Worthiness: The Experience of Shame & The Power of Being Enough

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James & David Thomas

Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted:—An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith & Seven—An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Two books by Mary DeMuth (I discovered this author through Jen Hatmaker referencing her works in Interrupted book): Beautiful Battle: A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare (one of the best books I’ve read this year) and Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture–Practical Help for Shaping Your Children’s Hearts, Minds, & Souls

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best….And Learn from the Worst by Robert Sutton

Lean In:Women, Work, & the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Carry On, Warrior–The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton

Forgotten God–Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

The Nesting Place–It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith

I also picked up and re-read some oldies but goodies: Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy and Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning

Here’s some books I’m looking forward to cracking open next:

The Connected Child: Bringing Hope & Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn Purvis (supposed to be great about early childhood development, attachment, bonding, and trauma issues)

Restoring the Shattered Self–A Christian Counselor’s Guide to Complex Trauma by Heather Daveduik Gingrich

Bread & Wine–A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and Bittersweet- Thoughts on Change, Grace, & Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham

I’d love to hear from you the books you’d recommend I add to my To-Read list.  I can never have too many options when it comes to books!

GROW…In addition to the stacks of books I’ve been devouring, I’ve enjoyed reading blogs, articles, and getting involved in small groups and large groups focused on faith, parenting, and relationships.  This past spring Ryan and I took part in a Love and Logic parenting course that was phenomenal and currently I’m part of my first Beth Moore Bible Study20140530_161559 (James—Mercy Triumphs).  And I’ll be seeing Beth Moore speak here in Denver in a few weeks.  It’ll be the first mostly woman conference I’ve gone to—I’m soooo not into the women’s ministry thing but am looking forward to this gathering.  All this to say that I feel like I’m doing a better job being intentional about challenging myself, learning, and reaching out to others to go deeper in friendships.  I’ve been learning a lot, laughing a lot, and feel like I’ve grown so much.

CREATE…besides being more creative with what I cook, I’ve enjoyed painting again (thanks to Ryan’s encouragement) and after being inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s verison of a “feature wall,” I’m in the process of creating our own “feature wall.”  Anyone else absolutely LOVE Myquillin Smith’s “The Nesting  Place”?  Her ideas about cost effective ways to make your home beautiful have changed my life.  And her philosophy on doing so, including shaking off the fear of messing it up or not getting 20140530_161611your creativity “perfect” has so freed me!  Diving into creating feels like I’ve been reunited with an old friend.  I had found other ways to be creative than art, but my soul sings when I’m doing something artistic.  I’m proud of this painting and I can’t wait to see more original creations hanging up in our house.  Before I used to feel like I had to do a whole room to completion, but I’m learning to do one thing at a time and watch it evolve.  I just started a project with old window frames and I can’t wait to refurbish some wooden chairs I got for super cheap.  I have several uber-talented friends who can school me in the basics.  And I’m super excited because a friend and I are hosting a girl’s creativity night this coming week.  We’ve asked women we know who live and breathe creativity to come hang out for an evening, each of us bringing something we’re working on. I hope to be productive and inspired. I’m super excited!!!!

So, here I go.

Living it up in the Present.

Swimming in it until I’m all pruny and relaxed.  Loving those He’s given me, well.

How about you?  How do you handle waiting?  Do you tend to live most in the past, the present, or like me, the future?  Has God given you a word for this year or this season?  How do you manage the tension between praying about your hopes and dreams and asking that His will be done?

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If you liked this post, check out: Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Pray Big” by Will Davis, Jr.

Our local MOPs sends out different resources to the moms occasionally via email.  The other day I received a moving prayer that I decided to share here.  It’s from “Pray Big” by Will Davis, Jr.20140408_171610

Holy Father, we ask you to pour out your favor on our sweet children.  Jesus, we bring them to you through holy intercession, asking you to place your hands on them and intercede for them.

We pray for their hands.  Let them be engaged in acts of giving, ministry, and service.  Keep them free from acts of sin.  Teach them to raise their hands to you in worship and surrender.  More importantly, teach them to live in a posture of worship and surrender.

We pray for our children’s feet.  O Lord, keep them clean and pure.  May our children be quick to run toward ministry and opportunities to serve others.  May they also be quick to flee from temptation.  May their feet be accustomed to traveling the high road.  Teach them to walk firmly in your ways.  Make them surefooted; let them not be tripped up by sin.  

Father, we pray for their mouths. Let them speak only what is true. Keep our children free from all forms of spoken sin–exaggeration, boasting, lying, gossip, slander, cursing, overpromising, criticism, and inauthenticity. May they be fully committed to the truth. Train them by your Spirit to always speak truth in love. We pray also that our kids would be hungry and thirsty for your Word. Let them pant and long for the promises of your holy Scriptures.

O Father, protect their eyes. Protect them from the many vile and worthless images that assault them every day. Teach them to turn away from looking at wickedness. Please protect them from seeing violence and carnality that would wound their souls. Bombard their eyes with that which is true, holy, pure, and worthy of praise.

And finally, Father, we pray for our children’s hearts. Expand their hearts. Make them soft soil. Please use your Word to grow and strengthen them. Teach our children to run the way of your holy commands. Help them see that life and freedom are found in the blessed commands of you Word. O Father, let them run in freedom and joy because they are committed to your teachings.

We pray all this for our sweet kids. Please cover them from head to toe.

In Jesus’s awesome name.

Amen.

Praying for Your Children #21—Praying for Dad

100_3105Praying for yourself not only helps you but also helps your children and your husband.  Praying for your husband will impact everyone in the family too!  Your children’s dad is one of the most important people in their lives.  As I’ve sat and pondered this, I’ve wondered, why have I not devoted more time and energy to praying for my husband?  Praying for him is a much better skill to cultivate than nagging or arguing and what a better way to truly love someone, by praying blessings for them.

Our little family had a big decision to make in July.  I had to decide whether to accept an offer to go back to a job I loved on a part-time basis.  When deciding whether to go back to work, I had a hard time assessing the possible impact on my husband and kids.  I mostly thought about it being a negative impact.

Would my children feel like I cared more about work than them? 

What about my husband?

Would our household run as smoothly if my focus was divided between work and home?

How we had thought about setting up, my sister would take care of the kids one morning a week but the other two times I was at work, my husband would be watching our kids so we could avoid childcare expenses.  That would be a big commitment on his part.  Especially because one would be a work night so he’d have the responsibility of caring for the kids after he had already finished a long day at his own job and the other would be watching the kids on the weekend for a few hours.  That would mean sacrifice on his part.

Would he get stressed out watching the kids? 

Would he feel comfortable doing it as there were times he grew easily frustrated with the kids? 

Was it selfish of me that I wanted to go back to work?

Ryan has always been great with kids.  I had the opportunity to watch him interact with a friend’s little boy before we started dating and seeing how he amazing he was with kids was one of the things that initially attracted me to him.  Later, I found out that he had never even babysat and that blew my mind!   And my assessment of how he’d be as a father has paled in comparison to the father that he actually is.  He is one amazing, feisty, invested father.  From the beginning, he rolled up his sleeves and jumped right into being a complete partner in parenting.  Back then, if he hadn’t, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown.  Evan cried a lot as a newborn and was really difficult to soothe.  If I hadn’t had someone in our house to help out with his care, it would not have been good.  Many times, Ryan could soothe Evan better than I could.  And don’t even get me started on his amazing swaddling skills!  Ryan also became the primary caregiver for Evan during part of his layoff from work.  Back then, we didn’t have a choice.  I had to work and we couldn’t afford ongoing out-of-home daycare.  I think because of the particulars of our early journey in parenthood, we have a much more egalitarian, more non-traditional relationship than my parents did.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a traditional gender-roled relationship, ours just looks different.

So what did we decide about me going back to work?  My husband and I agreed that I should do it.  I was honestly surprised at how definite, decisive, and optimistic Ryan was about the opportunity for me.  So, we agreed, there were clear benefits to our family financially and clear intellectual and emotional benefits to me personally.  And I was lucky, there I go again, blessed.  Since Ryan had been at home providing the child care for Evan in the past, he knew firsthand how important it was to get out of the house and feel invested in something else.

2-3093996D-135650-800As we’ve gone down this road, there have been freeing nights for me but exhausting nights for Ryan.  Having to figure out how to manage two active little ones without their mom was tiring.  But you know what happened?  He started to figure out ways to make it easier on himself and more enjoyable for the kids. Before, when we were both home at night, I was still the one mainly in charge of taking care of the kids and disciplining them as needed.  Because I did it all the time during the work week, it was just easier for me to do.  And at times, my husband would attempt to do it, but if I didn’t like how he was handling it I’d take over or we’d argue about it afterward, me thinking my way was better.  Not the best thing for our marriage and definitely not a good strategy with the kids.  If it continued, our kids would take advantage of their parents not presenting as a united front.  And how arrogant of me!  Thinking my way was “the right way.”  Maybe my husband’s style of interacting with the kids could not just work with them, but even work better if just given the chance!

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So, now, instead of continuing to worry about all the ways I could be harming my family by working again, I’ve seen benefits not only to our family financially and me personally, but have also seen the benefit for my children and my husband.

Has Evan been testing his Dad? 

Absolutely.

Have I come home to a completely exhausted husband? 

Frequently.

But I also believe that as I get out of the way, relationships will be strengthened and confidence in managing the kids’ behavior will be heightened.  It might take a little while for my husband and kids to find their groove without me, but I know it will happen and our little family will be the better for it.  And in the midst of the growing pains and the chaos, there have been so many sweet moments.  Whether it’s receiving a picture on my phone from Ryan of Makenna delighting in her chalk drawings or seeing the pride on my husband’s face after a long night with the kids because he felt like he not only survived but thrived, there are so many moments that are beautiful.  Messy but beautiful.  Ryan is feeling more and more skilled at caring for and loving our kids in his own way.  I just needed to get out of the way.Mak and Daddy

I’m reading a book right now called LEAN IN: Women, Work, And The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.  Its all about how women hold themselves back at times from leadership opportunities in their careers and how to better manage having a family and a thriving career.  She quickly admits that women cannot have it all.  Something will have to give if a woman is focused on having a career and a family, but she does not agree that the kids have to be the thing sacrificed.  For women who want to have a family and work outside of the home, she challenges women to work with their partner to have an equitable relationship when it comes to home life.  That the men help out more with household duties and childcare.  Not only does this help the woman, but there’s a huge positive impact on the kids in the situation.

Studies have found that children “benefit greatly from paternal involvement.  Research over the last forty years has consistently found that in comparison to children with less-involved fathers, children with involved and loving fathers have higher levels of psychological well-being and better cognitive abilities.  When fathers provide even just routine child care, children have higher levels of educational and economic achievement and lower delinquency rates.  Their children even tend to be more empathetic and socially competent” (Sandberg, 113).

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These results were found regardless of whether the mother was highly involved.  Dads have a HUGE impact!  Every day when I’m at work, I see how the lack of a father’s involvement has played out in kids’ lives.  It makes me thank God over and over for Ryan being my children’s daddy specifically!  That said, I need to be praying for him more.

So, here are some ways to pray for your husband.  This is a way I can put into action my desire to pray for my husband.  This is the third part of a weekly-formatted prayer handout my mom gave me that has really challenged me in a good way.  (Curious about the first two sections from this handout?  Check out Praying for Your Children–Day by Day and Praying for Yourself).

Praying for Your Husband

Sunday

1.)    That he might become a holy man, a man of prayer, mature in the Lord, growing in His knowledge of God (I Thess 5:23, Col. 4:12, Eph. 1:18-19, 3:16-19, 6:8).

2.)    That he might daily seek God with all his heart, walking in the Spirit moment by moment, growing in his dependence on Him (Ps 27:4, 119:1-2, Prov. 3:5-6, John 15:5).

Monday

3.)    That he might learn to take every thought captive, to not be conformed to the world’s thinking and to think Scripturally (Rom. 12:2, II Corin. 10:5).

4.)    That he would learn to not depend on his circumstances for happiness, but on God alone (Hab. 3:17-19).

Tuesday

5.)    That he might have new strength in the midst of his busy schedule and that the Lord might infuse him with His strength (Is. 40:31, Eh. 3:14-19).

6.)    That his self image might be a reflection of the Lord’s thoughts toward Him (Eph. 1:17-18, Rom. 12:3, Ps. 139).

Wednesday

7.)    That he might become a called man, not driven, with well-thought-through and prayed-through goals in life (I Corin. 9:24-27).

8.)    That the Lord might give him wisdom to lead his family physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually (Eph. 1:17-19, James 1:5-7).

Thursday

9.)    That he might stand firm against the schemes of the devil and resist Satan in all circumstances (Eph 6:10-18, James 4:7).

10.)  That he might not be deceived into unbelief or sin (Matt 13:58, Gal. 6:7).

Friday

11.)  That the fruit of the Spirit might be exhibited more and more in his life (Gal. 5:22-23).

12.)  That he might learn to love as God has commanded (I Corin. 13:4-7, Rom. 12:8-10).

Saturday

13.)  That the Lord might protect him, guarding his course (Prov. 2:8).

14.)  That he might learn to manage his time well (Eph. 5:15).

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How about you?  What do you pray about for your husband?  Have you thanked God and your husband lately for the amazing father he is to your children?  Count your blessings. There are many fatherless, whether physically or emotional, children in the world.  If your husband is present and invested, your children are blessed to have him in their lives.

Back to School Prayer (Prayer #20)

Okay, so I promised to post “Ways to Pray for Your Husband” but didn’t.  Don’t worry, I will next week.  This post seemed more appropriate for this week.

100_3391School has started again.  I was really emotional the first two times Evan went to preschool, but wasn’t this time around.  I am super thankful that his preschool class size is significantly smaller than last year.  Not as excited that the classroom is also smaller, but hey, focus on the positive, right?

As the school year resumes, here are two posts from bloggers I follow that I love.  The first one is a prayer for children as they return to school.  The second one is a talk to have with your children about having the right perspective about their peers and teachers.  About having compassion.  Compassion is one of the biggest things I hope Evan learns.  If he is the valedictorian but is unkind, ruthless, and heartless, I will have failed as a mom.  Hope you guys enjoy these as much as I have:

We Are That Family–A Prayer As My Children Return to School

“The Talk” by Glennon Melton–Instilling Compassion in Our Children

“Leggo My Eggo” (Prayer #13)

…well, what I really mean is “Let Go My Ego” but the other way sounded more catchy.   I apologize to anyone who thought this posting may be about waffles.  Moving on…

Like many, there are times when I take constructive feedback well and other times when I get defensive.  Both my ego and my insecurities play into the moments when I don’t take feedback well.  Its caused me to think about how my ego and my insecurities can negatively impact my parenting.
This past week I finished Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.  It’s a book that I’d highly recommend, not only for people who are currently parents, but also for those who hope to be parents someday or for those who want to take a deeper look at what grace really looks like in relationship. 
I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning and middle of the book, but for some reason, the topics discussed towards the end of the book really impacted me—especially the portions about candor.  While those chapters aren’t focused on ego and insecurities in parents, they do indirectly address them by what is discussed. 
Where can my ego and insecurities get dinged as a parent?  All over the place.  Feeling pretty good about yourself?  Think you do a pretty good job of being selfless?  Get married and have kids.  Both will put you to the test.  Marriage and parenthood have revealed so much in me that I need to address to be a better person and follower of Christ. When it comes to ego, insecurity, and parenting, here’s just a few questions that have come up….
·         Am I willing to admit when I’m wrong—both to my husband and my children?
·         Am I able to acknowledge when I react vs. when I respond?  Many times when I react, my ego is involved—I feel disrespected, slighted, or not appreciated in the way I feel I should be. Ugly!
·         Can I accept feedback from my children when I’ve hurt them by my actions or words?
·         Am I able to look at my blindspots or weaknesses as a mother and a wife and work on them? 
·         Will I be open-minded and apply wisdom about parenting that I receive from friends, family, and resources?
·         Am I able to step back and let others love my kids and take care of my kids in their way instead of trying to prescribe how I want everything done?  Different doesn’t mean wrong.
·         Will I give my children the freedom to be themselves, even if some of their choices may embarrass me?
·         Can I keep my mouth shut and let my husband and my children learn from their experiences or learn from someone else instead of feeling like I have to be the one to point things out?  In counseling, I called this “stealing the light bulb moment” from someone.  So often we want to speak truth into others’ lives because we want the credit or want to change them for our own benefit.  Many times we need to 1.) let them figure it out themselves or 2.) let the Holy Spirit work in their lives.  We need to trust that God can bring change or growth in others, even when it’s not through us.  Don’t try to force change in others yourself.  It won’t last and it strains relationships.
·         Will I trust God for my reputation and care more about what He thinks than what others think about our family and our parenting decisions?
·         Can I distinguish between a power struggle that needs to be fought for the good of our children or family vs. wanting my way?
·         As the parent in the parent-child relationship, I have more power in the relationship with my kids.  We are not equals.  Do I use that power in loving ways or do I misuse my size, the volume of my voice, speed, use of words, etc. to overpower them and get what I want? Do I consider us equals when it comes to respect, dignity, and the value of their opinion (even if I don’t agree with their opinion)? 
·         Do I put my childrens’ and husband’s preferences before my own or do I want things to be all about me? 
·         As they get older, will I encourage interdependence and then independence instead of making all of their decisions or making them do it my way?
·         Am I willing to sacrifice for them and not resent it or hold it against them?
Here are a few excerpts from Kimmel’s book that really challenged me (this section is kinda long, but oh so good.  If you don’t feel like reading it all, just jump down to the prayer at the end):
Kimmel defines love as “Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost (52).”  Ego has no place in loving this way.  LOVE IT!  He expands:
1.)    Love is the commitment of my will…in other words, doing the loving thing may not always come naturally to you. You may have to muster courage, say no to your fears, and place your feelings in check.  Love is about making decisions based on the covenant we have with that person.
2.)    To your needs & best interests…not to “MY needs & best interests.”  Love sees our needs as a “B” priority compared to the best interests of the person we are called to love.  It is not in our children’s best interest to give them everything they want, to make life easy for them, to side with them when they are clearly wrong, or to circumvent consequences for their sins.  It is not in their best interests to facilitate false fears holding them hostage, to fight all their battles, or to rescue them from all their wrong choices.  Love is about meeting their ACTUAL needs, not their selfish needs.
3.)    Regardless of the cost…Secure love understands that loving someone is often inconvenient and sometimes painful.  Loving your kids costs money, time, and sleep.  It might cost a mom decades of time originally planned to be spent on her career.  It might cost her her figure.  It might cost a dad a promotion.  It might mean that there are some amenities or lavish vacations you must do without.  It definitely means eating crow, swallowing your pride, & asking for forgiveness a lot (52-53).


Grace can’t be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home.  It has to be a real-time action that ultimately imprints itself on your children’s hearts…The primary way to give our children grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences.  They receive grace when we choose not to commit sins against their hearts when our human nature would suggest that it would be okay to do so.  In fact, the greater grace that children receive is when we can even see the sins we are inclined to commit against their hearts followed by our willingness to go against our selfish urges.  Kids want things, need things, say things, or do things that either bother us, embarrass us, or hurt us.  But sometimes we are hurt because we might be exercising immaturity, insecurity, or indifference.  We take things that are huge to children and trivialize them, or we take small issues and magnify them out of proportion (141).  

The third characteristic of grace-based homes is this: they are homes that give children the freedom to be candid.  These are homes where what is on the child’s mind can end up as dinner dialogue without fear of payback.  That’s because homes of candor create give-and-take between parent and children that promotes honesty dipped in honor.  Grace makes the difference because it keeps honesty from getting ugly.  It ratchets up the free exchange of heartfelt things to a much higher level of forthrightness—a careful forthrightness that guards the other person’s dignity (185).  

We need to create homes where we talk about the deep and sometimes troubling issues concerning our children in a way that builds them up and makes them better people.We also need to create environments where our children have the freedom to do the same with us, and this applies to their disappointments in us as well.  Kids have questions about their sexuality as they get older.  They need to feel free to discuss anything with us that might be troubling without embarrassing them or sensing that it will cost more than it’s worth.  In our weak moments, we might do something that angers or humiliates them or crushes their spirit. Grace-based homes provide an outlet where the children can respectfully voice their disappointment without fear of reprisals (186).

The most significant benefit of candor for our children can be the most painful to us.  This happens when we allow our children to be forthright regarding how they feel about us. Most parents don’t even give their children this option.  Children in these types of homes are quick to figure out that their mother and father aren’t interested in hearing their feelings about them.  They aren’t looking for an authentic relationship at the heart level with their children.  It’s common for these children to tell their parents what they want to hear rather than what is on their minds.  This isn’t the pursuit of truth but rather the careful airbrushing of an illusion…The unwillingness to give a voice to the hurts we have placed in our children’s hearts is the epitome of high control…In contrast, it is our openness to “openness” that draws us closer to our children’s hearts and to God (198).

Kimmel later points out how much God values candor in His relationship with us (200).  He wants honesty from us as we talk to Him in prayer.  He wants us to share our struggles, hurts, and questions with Him and doesn’t hold it against us if it doesn’t come out perfectly.  He doesn’t punish us if we express anger or disappointment towards Him (the Psalms anyone?).  He accepts us as we are.  If God wants us to be this honest in our relationship with Him, can we do the same for our children? 

What about you, can you “leggo your eggo?”  Do you know your insecurities and weaknesses? If so, how can you keep them from having a negative impact in how you parent your children?  What buttons do your kids push that you need to respond to instead of react at?  How quick are you to apologize to your kids?

Dear Lord,

Forgive my ego.  Forgive my pride.  Forgive how sensitive I am about my insecurities and failures.  Give me a teachable heart.  Help me to let go of my defenses.  Replace my defensiveness with openness.  Help me to approach my relationships with humility and Your wisdom. May there be less of me and more of You.
As we raise these children, may we be quick to admit when we’re wrong, be open to constructive feedback, and be willing on a daily basis to put others first.  May our children see that it is normal to have weaknesses and how to deal with them in a way that brings You glory.  May we lean on you in our areas of weakness.  May your power and strength shine through us, especially in those areas. 
Help us know how to speak to each child’s heart in a sensitive way.  When we accidentally or intentionally hurt our children, may we be quick to admit it and work to undo the damage done.  May our hearts be broken over how we have wounded those most close to us.  Give us the strength and the courage to face our selfishness, our sins, the ugly in us that you need to change.
Lord, you do not have a “seen but not heard” relationship with your children.  Help us to follow your lead and create an environment in our home where our children feel free to express their thoughts and feelings.  May they know that we want to hear from them, even if it means having to face some ugly truths about ourselves.  Help us to not take our childrens’ words or actions personally.  And may we care more about what You think of us as parents than what others do. 
As Proverbs 2 says, may you turn our childrens’ ears toward wisdom and their hearts toward understanding.  Give them teachable hearts, ones that call out for insight and search for it as for hidden treasure (Berndt).  May they come to value feedback as a way to grow and become more like You.  May they be secure in who You’ve made them to be…strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and foibles. 
We love you,

 In Jesus’ Name, Amen
 

Does Hope Really Float? (Prayer #12)

Anything minus hope equals nothing.  Hope is the human equivalent of oxygen when it comes to a person’s ability to live effectively.  ~Tim Kimmel

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope this week.  The dictionary says hope is: 1.) to cherish a desire with anticipation and 2.) to expect with confidence.  I think I’m a pretty hopeful person overall and I think that comes from my faith.  In the past, I’ve called myself a “realistic optimist”, meaning, I tend to believe that with God, no situation is unredeemable, no obstacle insurmountable, but at the same time, I have seen what reality is without God.  A.W. Tozer says it best: “The cross-carrying Christian, furthermore, is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist the like of which is to be found nowhere else on earth.”  I think my sense of hope is one of the biggest gifts my parents gave me.  They have always put their hope in God and their actions and decisions demonstrated this belief.  Their hope was (and is) contagious and God has never failed them. 

When our little family went through our hard times the past few years, my hope was really put to the test.  And I’ll admit, there were moments where I felt things were pretty hopeless.  But those moments didn’t turn into months or years.  As friends and family reminded me to focus on God, His character, and His sacrificial love for us instead of getting overwhelmed by the circumstances we were in, hope returned.

I want my children to have hopeful hearts.  I want their outlook to be colored by hope, not by circumstances.  I think that’s a supernatural request.  To me it seems very human and really normal to get caught up in our current storm or difficulty and to allow it to color everything…our relationships, our attitudes, our faith, our perspective…

And I don’t just want my kids to weather and overcome difficulties in general, but I also want them to have a sense of hope when faced with their own weaknesses (II Corin 12:9), really difficult people (Genesis 50:20), and seasons of time where doing the right thing not only is not paying off, but seems to be making life worse (Galatians 6:9).  Here’s what Kimmel writes about how parents can instill hope in their children:

Kids groomed in a grace-based environment find it easier to be visionaries, to trust in a better future, and to long for a greater good (96).  

Ultimately, we want our children to place their hope in the only true God.  We have a far greater chance of seeing that happen if two things occur first.  One, they need to watch parents who place their full confidence in the only true God, Jesus Christ.  When we say that we’re deriving our hope from Christ, but they see a lack of joy, a lot of fear, and a lack of patience and kindness towards those who don’t know Christ, we send out a mixed message that contradicts the gospel we hope they’ll embrace.  The second thing our children need is to be raised by parents who treat them the way Christ treats us as parents….Grace-based parents have an uncanny way of producing children with a strong hope (97).  

Children must understand that they will run into challenges bigger than their ability to handle them.  That’s where they need to be encouraged by our example to put their hope in God.  They need to see us turning to God with confidence when we are afraid, out of energy, out of ideas, or out of money.  They need to see how we have trusted Him to overcome our helplessness in every situation (107).  

Now, there’s one more area where God wants to use us to build their hope, and that’s when God chooses to solve their problems in ways that wouldn’t be of their own choosing.  The God we trust in doesn’t always deal with (these) problems in ways we expect or hope for.  Sometimes He answers our pleas with answers like “No” or “Wait” or “Later.”  When He does, it’s because He is working to make us better and stronger and to draw us closer to Him.  He has a bigger plan that this setback fits into.  Children need to have a hope in His love that enables them to trust in His character while walking down these painful corridors of their lives (108).

He built great gifts into them as well as weaknesses that require them to lean heavily on Him for power and help.  Children need to see parents who approach their shortcomings without venom or condescension.  As they find parents who take delight in building into them life skills that compensate for their shortcomings, they develop a strong sense of hope for the future (112-113).  

Dear Lord,

Thank you for being the God of hope.  Thank you that you can be trusted to take anything that happens in our lives and bring good from it.  Thank you for giving me parents who demonstrated faith and hope in You in a way that made it contagious.  May our faith and hope be contagious to our children, too! 

As I think about my children, I am so thankful for their joyful spirits, their cheerful personalities, their laughs and their smiles.  Please instill in them a deep, unswerving hope grounded in the reality of You.  Help them to look at the world from Your perspective and to not get focused solely on what is seen and temporary.  May they know not just with their heads but also in their hearts that You are intimately involved in their lives.  That You ordain their journeys…the good, the difficult, all of it.  

Jesus, I don’t necessarily expect an easy journey for them as life isn’t always easy, but I do pray that they have hearts that trust You easier than I have.  I think of believers who have gone through so much worse than I ever have who have trusted You with abandon.  I want that for my children.  I want them to know with every fiber in them that You are good, that You care, and that You can be trusted, with the big and the small.

When they struggle with their unique weaknesses, may they turn to You for strength and may they experience it.  When others pick on them, exclude them, or mistreat them, may they respond with grace and may You use what was intended to harm them for exponential good.  When having integrity and working hard does not seem to be paying off, may You remind them that it matters to You and that they will reap a harvest if they don’t give up.  When they are overwhelmed, may they cry out to You.  When tested, may their hope prove lasting and genuine.  And may it be contagious too! 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

I love books that draw me into a story of suspense and intrigue.  I also love books that challenge me to think and grow.  But the past few years, I’ve shied away from the books that cause me to really evaluate things because, honestly, I had no extra emotional, intellectual, or spiritual energy to give.  So, it felt really good this past week when I finally felt at the place where I could pick some of those books  up again.  I’m re-reading Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning and reading Grace-Based Parenting—Set Your Family Free by Dr. Tim Kimmel for the first time.  Am thoroughly enjoying both books. 

I wanted to share from the Kimmel book today as it has been speaking my language when it comes to how I want to parent my children.  It’s putting words to my hopes for our family.  Kimmel’s voice in this book is down to earth, inspiring, and in the world full of all sorts of parenting advice, it’s a breath of fresh air…

“One of the primary roles that God gave Christian parents is to create adults who reflect His heart.  A family is, without doubt, the most effective vehicle to produce the kind of people who can move confidently into the adult world and have a redemptive impact on their culture—that’s what we are supposed to be doing” (11-12).  

“Grace-based parents spend their time entrusting themselves to Christ.  They live to know God more.  Their children are the daily recipients of the grace these parents are enjoying from the Lord.  If you watch them in action, they appear to be peaceful and very much in love with God.  They are especially graceful when their children are the hardest to love. 

(Attitudes or messages towards your children from this stance are): 

    • “You are a gift from God, go make a difference,” 
    • “You may struggle doing the right thing sometimes, but you’re forgiven,”
  • “If it feels good, examine it” (19). 

When it comes to God, they feel the need to seek Him more every day.  Most of the time, they’re grateful people. Grace-based families are a breath of fresh air.They process their day-to-day life with an air of confidence that comes from knowing God profoundly loves them.  The key characteristic of grace-based families is that they aren’t afraid.  They are especially unafraid of all the evil around them. 

This changes the way children view their parents and the choices they make on their behalf.  It also gives children a much more attractive view of their parents’ faith.  Parents who operate by grace instead of by a checklist or popular opinion are a lot easier for their children to trust.  And when a child’s world is falling apart, he is more inclined to turn to parents whose primary description is “grace”.   

Grace-based parents have a keen awareness of their feet of clay. They understand their own propensity toward sin.  This makes the grace and forgiveness they received from Christ much more appreciated. It stirs them to love and good deeds for the right reasons. They aren’t driven by guilt and a need to do penance. The last thing they want to do is stand in judgment of struggling people. They see themselves in these people and understand just how much of God’s love they have received.  They are more inclined to want to love these people and care for the genuine needs of their life.

I’m urging you to raise your children the way God raises His.  The primary word that defines how God deals with His children is grace.  Grace does not exclude obedience, respect, boundaries, or discipline, but it does determine the climate in which these important parts of parenting are carried out. 

You may be weird and quirky, but God loves you through His grace with all of your weirdness and quirkiness.  You may feel extremely inadequate and fragile in key areas of your life, but God comes alongside you in those very areas of weakness and carries you through with His grace. You may be frustrated, hurt, and even angry with God, but His grace allows you to candidly, confidently, and boldly approach His “throne of grace.”  His grace is there for you when you fail, when you fall, and when you make huge mistakes.

This kind of grace makes all the difference in the world when it’s coming from God, through you, to your children. 

Children brought up in homes where they are free to be different, vulnerable, candid, and to make mistakes learn firsthand what the genuine love of God looks like.  Grace frees you to take cues from God on all the big decisions you face in raising your kids. One of the characteristics of God’s grace is how much latitude He grants within His clear moral boundaries to make choices. Grace allows you to tailor your parenting style and decisions to the unique bent of your child. God is a God of variety and He deals with us accordingly (Kimmel, 19-21).

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I want to be a grace-filled parent.  I want our kids to know that they don’t have to be perfect, that I’m a sinner just like they are and are forgiven daily, that they can make mistakes.  And sometimes I wonder if me saying those things (and having a decorative sign on the family room wall saying those things) gets drowned out by my strong personality that wants to “get it right”! 

 

IN THIS HOUSE, WE DO SECOND CHANCES,
WE DO MISTAKES, WE DO GRACE, WE DO REAL

 

WE DO I’M SORRY’S, WE DO LOUD REALLY WELL,
WE DO HUGS, WE DO LOVE, WE DO FAMILY!

So, all that to say, I’m excited to continue reading this book because I think it will help flesh out how to do that in practical ways.  My guess is that it will also help me identify beliefs and attitudes that I need to challenge or change in order to be a grace-based parent.  We’ll see!

Speaking of which, I really liked this blog post tonight We are THAT Family–What I Want My Kids to Know About Sex.  I loved the honesty and grace in the words.  I hope that someday, when we’re having these conversations with our kids, our children will sense the same spirit in our words.

It’s Monday, so we’ll end with a prayer:
Lord,
Help us to have an attitude of grace in our house.  Show me how to accept your grace fully, in a
way that allows me to let go of my failures, my regrets, my insecurities.  Thank you for loving me
with my quirks, my doubts, and my anger!  Thank you for working in my weaknesses and
failures.  Help us as a family to cultivate a love for others and a passion to make a difference in
this world.  And may we be motivated by your grace to us, not because of guilt or trying to
accrue spiritual “brownie points.” 
Lord, may our house be a house of forgiveness, true forgiveness, where resentment and hurt do
not linger.  May each of us be quick to say “I’m Sorry” and “I forgive you.” Help me to not get so
focused on my children’s behavior and wanting to get this parenting thing right that I miss giving
grace.  Thank you that true grace flows from You to me to them.  Help me live out grace in my
marriage too.  May grace overflow!  May we be a breath of fresh air in this world!    
Thank you for being a God of variety….that we all don’t have to parent or raise our kids the
same way.  Help us remember this as we raise our children, that they may experience you in
different ways, that You may speak to them uniquely, and you may call them to something
totally different than us.  Help us to delight in the variety and differences and not be threatened
by them. 
In Jesus’ Name, Amen

The Sacred Mundane–(Prayer #9)

This is my fourth Mother’s Day, but if feels more like my third because the first one was a blur.  And this Mother’s Day was an interesting one.  I got a really sweet text from one of my brothers sharing his thoughts and feelings about me as a mom.  It was totally unexpected and it brought tears to my eyes.  And my husband, knowing that one of my love languages is words of appreciation, got me the perfect card and personalized it by adding his own meaningful words.  Then I had moments enjoying my two children yesterday, nothing huge, just doing life, but savoring them! 

It was also heavy.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how others experience Mother’s Day, both in good ways, but also in hard ways. Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, two children lost their mom to cancer.  Their father said goodbye to his wife until they will meet again in eternity.  I’m speaking about the Thibado family.  Their Mother’s Days will never be the same again. 

I had a hard time experiencing yesterday without thinking about them.  And I had a lot of time to think because a stomach bug landed me in bed for a good portion of the day.  I prayed a lot, but I often felt like I was struggling with what words to pray because the situation was so sad. 

It also brought me back to how valuable my time is with my children because life is short and we don’t know what tomorrow holds.  And as everyone tells us, their childhood will fly by so fast!  That being said, I really want to value and savor every moment I’m a mother because it is a gift.  And yet, I often struggle with the monotony of keeping house and caring for two kids 24/7.  Its ordinary, its repetitive, its mundane.

This weekend, Glennon Melton (she writes the Momastery blog) shared a post called “The Sacred Order of Motherhood” and it really spoke to me.  To me it felt like an adapted-for-Mom version of Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” if you’ve ever read that.  Here’s a quick excerpt:

“It’s a monk’s work. Mothers are like monks. We do manual labor. We serve others. We nurse the sick. We feed the hungry and comfort the sad. We sing. We teach. We pray and practice, practice, practice patience. The work of a mother is repetitive. We fold the clothes, we wash the bowls, and we sing the same song and read the same bedtime story night after night.

But that work is our prayer. We express our love through service, so that service becomes a spiritual discipline. As mothers, we devote our lives to love and ask for nothing in return but peace and joy for our children.

So, mothers, the next time someone asks, “What did you do today?” Please take the time to answer accurately. You did not “clean the bathroom.” This response would be like Annie Leibovitz saying, “Oh, I stood around and pushed some buttons.” No. Today you did the holy work of raising human beings. With each word spoken or unspoken, with each offering of forgiveness, you show your children what it means to be brave and kind. The mundane becomes holy, the ordinary extraordinary.”

Check out her entire article here.

I loved what she wrote.  It didn’t ignore the mundane, it revealed it’s true value.  So, today, I’m going to pray a simple prayer about the basic ins and outs of being a mom.  My prayer is based on some thoughts from Jodie Berndt in her book Praying the Scriptures for Your Children (I think on page 195).  She shared that she prayed the following things about being a mom: “I ask God to give me time with my kids, as well as an eagerness on the part of all of us to spend time together.  I ask God to help me see discipline as a gift rather than as a necessary evil.  I ask God to show me how to point my kids toward Jesus Christ.”  These are simple but profound.  They remind me of the value and importance in the-day-in-and-day-out of being a parent.  The sacred mundane.  Let’s pray.

________________________________________________________________
Lord,

Help me to prioritize time with my kids.  Help me to put aside the to-do list, the computer, the TV, all other distractions, and to truly enjoy them.  Empower me to get done what I need to get done and not guilt myself when I don’t juggle everything perfectly.  Lord, give all of us an eagerness to spend time together and bring peace and joy to our times together.  May our children feel cherished by us and may we each appreciate the strengths and quirks each bring to the table. 
Father, give us the wisdom to know that discipline is a gift, not a necessary evil.  Instill in us the strength to discipline our children for their own good.  Give us your perspective on discipline and help us be creative in figuring out what consequences work best for each personality.  Help us work together as partners in disciplining our children.  Remind us to present an united front for our children and to address disagreements about discipline and consequences behind closed doors. 
Jesus, show us how to point our children to you.  Not just with our words, but mostly with our actions and love. Highlight opportunities for us to talk to our kids about You and Your sacrificial love.  Thank you that our church, our families, and many of our friends will also point them to You. 
In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Praying for My Children #3 (Discipline)

“At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”  –Hebrews 12:11 (MSG)

“Self-control, diligence, and self-discipline may open the door to happiness, but they don’t always come easily.  Learning these traits can be tough—on children and parents” (Berndt, 98).

 
The desire to pray more for my children arose out of realizing how little I truly know about loving and parenting my children well.  I’ve never been a parent before.  This is all new to me.  And I want to be a good and effective parent, I want to get it right.  Not just because I have high expectations of myself, but also because I want so much for my children.  I want my children to know how much I delight in them, but I also want them to learn responsibility and to be accountable for their actions.  I want to give grace and unconditional love, while also teaching them that there are limits and that their behaviors impact others.  Knowing what I want for my family while acknowledging my shortcomings as a mom, I needed God’s help in cultivating integrity and character in my children!
One thing that we have in our family that I know is a blessing, but at times it doesn’t feel it, is having a child with a strong will.  While I wholeheartedly believe that strong wills aren’t a bad thing (heck, I have one), when I’m encountering one, moment by moment, day by day…as a parent, sometimes I don’t see it as the strength it is.  I’m just exhausted!  
We have such an uphill battle getting Evan to eat.  He has gained a lot of weight but still has a hard time eating solid food.  Meals have been the frontline in the strong will battle and when that battle wanes for a bit, the bedtime battle flares up.  Luckily potty training has not been an issue for our son. J  We’re also experiencing the “blaming-others-including-inanimate-objects-for-our-poor- choices” strategy currently and working on the difference between being honest and not telling the truth.  My heart’s desire is for our children to do what is good for them (like eating), even at times when they don’t want to and for our children to admit when they’re wrong and repair the harm done.  Many times Evan has to eat, not because he wants to or is hungry, but because it’s the expectation by a parent.  He’s getting better at it, but it still has been a drawn out process.  And how do parents teach their kids to want to take responsibility for their actions?  Especially when doing so doesn’t feel good and doing so will likely result in receiving a consequence.  I’m an adult and I don’t like discipline and consequences…how should I expect a four year old to be mature enough to say “I messed up, consequence me!”  It goes against human nature!
And sweet little Makenna….with her we’re embarking on a trip to the wonderful world of the “terrible twos.”  Thus far, she has proven to be a bit more directable than Evan at this age, she doesn’t test limits as much, but we’ll see.  I am hoping and praying that Makenna, as a girl and then a woman, has a strong sense of self.  We’ve already gotten feedback that Makenna can definitely hold her own when boys her age try to push her around!  I liked hearing that because I had wondered if she’d get pushed around as she has a gentleness to her.  There are definitely benefits to having a brother!
So with both of my children, I want to get this right.  Not only do I want Evan to be a successful eater, but I also want him to be a respectful, self-controlled leader eventually.  Both involve use of a strong will in a good way.  And I want Makenna to express herself and stand up for herself.  That will also require some inner strength.  I don’t want to see either of my children having school troubles or legal troubles because they insisted on bucking authority and doing things their own way.  I want both of our kids to have the character and strength of will to do what is right, even when it does not feel good or bring them satisfaction or results immediately. 
I feel like old-school parenting philosophy was to “break that strong will” and while I believe that a strong will needs to know its limits and needs to be able to submit, I don’t entirely agree with that philosophy.  And is there truly a “one and done” option?  If we did some “will breaking” technique with Evan, would we never have eating or bedtime issues?  If there is, I wonder it would be loving or harmful.  But I also don’t believe that a strong will should run wild in the name of “freedom of expression”…that it trumps everything else, including authority, especially when that strong will resides in a child. 
I want our children to be confident, to be positive influences, to be able to express themselves well, and to stand up for what they believe in (and for others that can’t stand up for themselves), even if that means standing alone.  How would “breaking the will” accomplish that?  Don’t they need a strong will, not a broken one, to do those things?  But if strong wills aren’t guided, molded, and encouraged to flourish in a good way, my kids will be out-of-control, disrespectful, hurt others, and end up experiencing little and big consequences that could last a lifetime.  I feel like it’s a difficult balance.  Rather than it being black and white (break the will vs. letting the will do whatever it wants), somewhere in the grey is where I’m landing when it comes to parenting a strong willed child, but the grey is so much more difficult than the black and white.  The greyness means I need discernment, wisdom, and God’s guidance even more. 
Some parents pray that their children be caught when they do wrong.  What do you think about that?  I’ve seen families involved in the legal system handle their children’s legal infractions in a myriad of ways.  Some encourage their children to take responsibility and to accept the consequences, others make up excuses and deny that their angel could have done any of the charges brought against them.  Some tell their kids it is alright to do what they want, they just need to do a better job not getting caught!  And others hired expensive lawyers to get their teenagers off.  I’m not opposed to sound legal advice, but when is it wise to bring in legal help and when is it the right thing to do to just have your child take responsibility for their actions? 
Sometimes you may win the court case on a technicality, but ultimately lose the battle.  I’d rather have a child with a juvenile record who takes responsibility than an adult child who continues to make the same mistakes and ends up in prison or leaving a trail of heartbreak behind them.  Again, I need wisdom with my young children and all the more help from God when they become teenagers! 
“Praying for God to give your children things like diligence, self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility often demands a willingness to allow them to learn from their mistakes and be taught by pain and difficulty” (100, Berndt).
What are your thoughts about parenting a strong willed child?  Do you believe there’s a one-and-done-break-the-will thing?  Are you “old school” or “new school” or somewhere in the middle?  Can you defend your philosophy with Scripture?
*Both quotes used today are from Jodie Berndt’s book “Praying the Scriptures for your Children.”
*And a great book about having and using a strong will for God is: “Redefining the Strong-Willed Woman: How to Effectively Use Your Strong Will for God” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.  Check it out on Amazon: This Book On Amazon–as cheap as one cent! 

____________________________________________________________________________

Dear Lord,

Hey, it’s me again, Strong-Willed Woman, married to a Strong Willed Man, who has at least one
strong willed child…Boy, Lord, is it ever hard to parent a strong willed child!  It gives me even
more admiration for the grace and love you have shown me and thankfulness for my parents
loving and putting up with me, especially as a mouthy teenager!  I’m sure I’m as stubborn if not
more stubborn than my child, right? 
Please give us wisdom as we figure out how to teach our children to respect authority, obey
their parents, and internalize self-control without constant power struggles.  Help us remember
that strong wills are blessings and a strength that will take them far in life.  We pray that their
strong wills will help them stand up to peer pressure as they get older.  May both Makenna and
Evan be positive leaders among their peers and not strong personalities that draw others into
negativity. 

Lord, I pray that both Evan and Makenna would feel guilty when they make a bad choice,

whether or not they are caught.  Use that sense of guilt to help them to confess their mistake
and right the wrong.  May they be willing to repair the harm they have done, whether intentional
or accidental.  Help them to be quick to say “I’m sorry” and to forgive.   
Help us choose our battles wisely with both children and give us strength to endure the battles
that we need to fight.  Lord, please help Evan learn that sometimes doing things the right way is
not only easier but also has its own rewards and that he doesn’t always need to “learn the hard
way.”  Give both of my children the wisdom to delay gratification and a desire to work hard for
what they want.  Lord, as Evan grows from little boy into big boy, and then a teenager to a man,
may he be known for his self-control and respect for others.  Father, as Makenna continues to
grow up, show us how best to raise a strong yet tender-hearted woman.  Help us teach both of
them how to control their temper and their tongue.  
Please help me be an example of submitting my strong will to you and to my husband in a way
that demonstrates strength, individuality, and respect.  May I not get resentful or upset when I
don’t get my way.   Remind me to apologize to my children when I mess up.  Thank you for
giving me at least one strong willed child.  May both of my kids bring you much glory.  
In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Magic Number Four

Why is it so easy to give grace and encouragement to other moms but not give it to myself?  These last few weeks have been really difficult ones re: parenting/discipline.  And I’ve felt like left and right, I’m failing at least one of my children.  What’s been going on?  Well, we’ve been having some Bedtime Battles with our now four year old son.  And boy, the bath anxiety issue with number two child now seems like nothing compared to our current issue!  The Battle has been exhausting.  It has been challenging.  It has caused conflict in our home.  I’m honestly amazed at how such a small person can so upset the peace and calm of an evening. 

My son was blessed with both a strong will  and a creative mind.  That means when he gets it in his head that he wants to accomplish a certain goal (i.e. not going to bed easily), he won’t give up until he’s done it and he will use a variety of means to keep it “fun” in his opinion.  The Bedtime Battle is way more than asking for a drink of water or saying he’s not tired.  He got creative (and honestly, a bit obnoxious) and made us work.  And work we have!  We have brainstormed, commiserated, tag-teamed, and sat on our couch and vented to each other.  We have tried this incentive and that consequence.  Consistency.  Patience.  Setting Limits and Reinforcing Them.  Calm Voice. Yelling.  Ignoring.  

So, on another note,  I heard a parenting coach give parenting tips about a month and a half ago.  In the midst of her tips, one thing she shared was that, in her opinion, if you’re doing what you need to do to mold and guide your children’s behavior in the early years, by the age of four, most of their significant behavior issues should be resolved.  And that this will set your child up well for school and life in general.  Of course I had this information pop back into my mind when we were in the midst of our Bedtime Battles.  I started to worry not only about elementary school but also the teenage years, because, hey, our behavior issues are definitely not resolved and he’s now the magic age: FOUR.  So, worry much Elyse?  Yep.  Feel guilty much? Definitely.  But after a few weeks of worrying and guilt, I finally stopped, took a step back and realized, why am I being so short-sighted?  Why do I so often fail to remember that there’s a bigger picture than just our little family.  God is so much bigger than all of this.  I’m praying for my child.  And I’m praying for me as a mom and Ryan as a dad.  And prayer can do so much more for Evan’s future than my worrying.  And prayer can do so much more for me than guilt-tripping myself.  I need some supernatural wisdom and patience now.  Taking a deep, cleansing breath and letting my expectations and tendencies go…   

So, anyone curious about what finally started to work in our Bedtime Battles?  Well, with Evan, there’s never a simple, easy answer.  He’s a complex kid.  Even when he was a baby, we never knew what soothing technique would work at a particular moment because nothing worked for him every time.  What worked in one moment, didn’t work even just an hour or two later.  Usually when someone else watched him, we’d have a list of about six things to try because we never knew what would do the trick.  So, while it may not work for others, we’ve set his bedtime to a later time so he’ll be more tired, and then are using a hybrid of a token economy (a sticker chart that leads to him earning something he wants) and him sleeping in a pack-n-play if he is making poor choices at bedtime.  Luckily for us, Evan has not figured out how to climb out of our pack-n-play on a consistent basis and it has proven to be a very tangible, concrete limit for him.  It also sends the natural consequence message of “if you aren’t making good choices with your freedom in your big boy bed, you will have less freedom”…I hope that this is our last major Bedtime Battle marathon with Evan because I’m sure using the pack-n-play won’t be effective much longer.  But honestly, I think bedtime has gotten better for us less because of what we’ve done and more because of Evan.  I think he’s getting tired of testing the limits and he’s just decided for himself to go to bed…that the drama is no longer worth it to him and that makes all the difference in the world.  

So, I’ve heard what a parenting coach had to say about four year olds and behavior.  For me, it wasn’t encouraging because I doubt we’re all done with the his-will-versus-our-will issues.  I hope we’re setting a good foundation though.  I’ve also heard about this age from some friends.  They’ve shared that for their kids, three and a half was really hard with testing limits and attitude, but once their kids hit four, things seemed to calm down overall.  While this gives me hope, I also realize that different kids have different seasons and their experience may not be ours.  And if there are some more big bumps in our road, I need to remember that not all child attitudes and behaviors are predictors of teenage delinquency!  And why worry, they make teenage sized pack-n-plays, right?  Ha.