Welcome to the Club

It finally happened. I've officially joined the club of "mmm, she's awfully quiet in there . . . WHAT DID YOU DO?" moms. Now I had to decide how to discipline.

It finally happened. I’ve officially joined the club of “mmm, she’s awfully quiet in there . . . WHAT DID YOU DO?” moms. Now I had to decide how to discipline.

My mom joined the club when I was two and covered my crying sister with talcum powder, then made tiny powder clouds all over the upstairs of our house. My parents never got all the powder out of the deeply grooved tile floor and still blame me for my sister’s asthma.

It is my earliest memory.

I’ve actively avoided joining this club. We read Olivia as a cautionary tale. I hide ALL the Sharpies. All to no avail. I’m a card-carrying member now.

It finally happened. I've officially joined the club of "mmm, she's awfully quiet in there . . . WHAT DID YOU DO?" moms. Now I had to decide how to discipline.

A couple of days ago, she made her bed all by herself. I went in to praise her for doing such a good job independently, and then I saw it.

Up and down the top and side of both her headboard and footboard, were bright gashes everywhere, all over her espresso stained bed. Pairs of gashes .  .  . wait, those are TEETH marks?!?! Oh my child, what did you do?

I was instantly furious. I froze in sheer horror at the damage she just did to a very expensive bed. And I prayed for guidance because I felt all sorts of crazy, but I knew that this was a defining moment. I could parent her or punish her.

Despite my anger, I prayed for guidance, knowing I could punish or parent. Click To Tweet
Ephesians 4:26  NIV “In your anger do not sin”

The Bible doesn’t tell us not to be angry, but not to sin in our anger.

In fact, losing my temper would be more serious than her behavior because I know better: Because I’m the adult, and I’m the one calling myself a disciple of Christ, Because my actions could be a witness of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life.

2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I am actively working on self-control, assessing and changing my default reaction when my emotions are overwhelmed.

The true test of faith is demonstrating it when life doesn't go according to our plan. Click To Tweet

It is easy to behave like a Christian when everything goes correctly. The true test of faith is living it when life doesn’t go according to plan. Being able to parent her kindly in this moment would be a huge testament to the change God is working in my heart.

Proverbs 13:24 ESV “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Most people, Christian or not, are familiar with this verse. Some people use it to justify abusive punishments.  I do not. As a parent, I try to use the least amount of discipline/force necessary to correct my child because I want her to focus on the instruction, not the angry mom.

Make the discipline instructive, designed to correct the behavior, not to alleviate your anger.

Make the discipline instructive, designed to correct behavior, not to alleviate your anger. Click To Tweet

Ephesians 6:4 ESV “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Sometimes adults forget how their little minds work. We forget the logic of being four. We treat them like little adults, which frustrates and hurts, instead of leading them with age appropriate discipline and guidance.

When I was five, I actively believed that people learned to fly as adults, despite never having seen anyone fly in real life, and was determined to make my parents so proud by learning early. I would run and jump down the 14 step wooden staircase, crashing into the wall at the bottom, convinced that once I could just navigate the turn, I would swoop out to the impressed cheers of my mom and dad.

But it was also supposed to be a surprise, so every time I crashed, I just told them I fell. It was only during an adult conversation about this memory, my dad confessed that he thought, perhaps, I had special needs and considered carpeting the stairs to avoid head injuries from all of my falling. I think he was more convinced I had issues after I told him what I’d really been doing.

So my child definitely has the right mother, and I certainly needed reminding before deciding how to discipline her that she might have been ‘trying to fly’.

So in that moment, I prayed, just the act of asking for guidance, really helped me step outside the emotion. And I marched her tiny hiney to time out, which is also our bottom step.fleming_timeout-225x300

I was upset, I cried a little, told her I was very upset about the damage to her bed, and she needed to sit in time out until Daddy could come talk with her.

And I walked away. I prayed to use this as a teaching opportunity because the damage was already done. No yelling or fussing was going to undo her chewing (?!) all over her bed.

Deuteronomy 6:7-8 ESV “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise . . .”

Teaching our children God’s ways should be in everything we do, should be as intertwined with our lives as our breath.

I contemplated what lesson was important here. Was the lesson to not chew on our furniture? Or to respect our belongings? Or to obey her parents?

I could easily have made sure she never chewed on furniture again, but what I really wanted to teach her is how to make a mistake and learn from it and how to ask for guidance when she is tempted to do something she thinks is naughty.

I let her sit in time out for a few minutes while Daddy finished his chore outside. I briefed him on what happened then followed as he walked her into her room and talked with her.

“What did you do?” He said, exaggerating his dismay.

“I scraped my teeth all over my bed.” she answered solemnly, a tiny quiver to her voice, her big brown eyes and pouty lip daring him to be angry with her cute little self.

“Why did you do that?” daddy asked, incredulously.

Then quite matter-of-factly, she answered, “I was sharpening my teeth.”

I had to cover my face and turn away because I was laughing. I’m not sure which was funnier her beaver explanation or listening to my husband’s science lecture carefully explaining why humans don’t need to sharpen their teeth.

So now what? We needed to make the punishment appropriate and instructive instead of merely punitive.

As daddy dabbed stained the spots to make them less noticeable, we talked about taking care of our things to enjoy them longer. Maybe going without some of her favorite things would help her understand. I got a small bag and asked her to select her favorite toys to go into time out. She carefully filled the bag, explaining to me why each one was treasured.

I made sure she knew the toys would come back in a few days, but that it was a lesson in why we take care of our things and that she needed to remember that we don’t destroy things on purpose.

Something about my first memory is that it was my first spanking. I had been trying to help my sister stop crying when I discovered the fun powder clouds. I didn’t understand I had coated the entire upstairs of our house. I couldn’t see that.

All I could see was that my dad was angry, and I didn’t understand why. I got a spanking and stood in a corner. I remember staring at that yellow wall, crying, angry, wondering what I did. I was only two.

I don’t want her to remember our anger. I want her to remember a conversation and fair punishment. She was sad. She asked me in her tiny voice, “Are you dista-pointed in me?” breaking my heart into a million pieces. She said sorry, and I forgave her. She rushed into me, begging for an embrace, knowing that no matter what she does, I still love her and will wipe away her tears.

Galatians 6:1 ESV “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

We needed to restore her in a spirit of gentleness. The bible has lots of verses about discipline, but this one feels like it is just for me, reminding me to be gentle, not to be tempted to allow my anger and indignation to spiral out of control.

Hebrews 12:11 ESV “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

God disciplines us. If you read the rest of Hebrews 12, the passage basically says to rejoice in God’s discipline because it means we are truly His, that He is treating us as his children. The fruit of Biblical discipline and a Godly reaction is redemption, salvation, and righteousness.

She needs to learn discipline and instruction in many areas to grow into a Godly woman. That is our job. Her beaver antics were an opportunity for me to teach her, and for me to remember what the world looked like through four-year-old eyes.

If I punish because I am angry, she won’t learn the right lesson. She’ll learn to not get caught, instead of how much we learn from failing. I really want her to learn that everyone makes mistakes and how to make better choices in the future. I need her to know the joy and freedom of forgiveness.

When we got her toys out of time out this morning, we talked about what she learned. She asked me if I was still mad. I pulled her gently in my lap, kissing her cheek as we talked. I said that I was still sad about the damage to the bed, but that I stopped being angry when I forgave her. Her smile was priceless. I asked her what she learned. She told me that she learned not to chew on things, not to be naughty, and to listen to God’s voice in her heart.

I feel like I learned just as much about God’s love, redemption, and forgiveness as she did. What a wondrous Lord we have, how miraculously He works all things together for our good, even a child sharpening her teeth on her bed was a great lesson in love for all of us.

Let’s get intentional, intentional!

“Intentional, intentional. I want to be intentional about my love for you, Lord. Intentional, intentional, I wanna get intentional in my home for you, Lord. Let me show you my Godly walk, let me show you my Godly talk. Intentional, I wanna get intentional.”Olivia_Newton-John_Physical

If you didn’t just have a horrible 80’s flashback of Olivia Newton John’s ‘Physical’, I am sorry. Your life must have taken some horrible turn or you are simply too young to appreciate the power of 80’s music. You may also have missed the memo about my super power – taking random songs and making up words to fit any scenario. I am the Weird Al for the juice box set. Never underestimate the power of a silly song belted at an alarming volume for calming children.

This post started forming in my mind a few weeks ago (before my hard drive went to Geek Squad heaven). I read a great blog post about how to home-school without homeschooling. Author Jamie Martin writes that it isn’t about creating a structure for learning as it is about cultivating a love of learning within your home intentionally.

This isn’t about implementing a structure for home learning; this is about cultivating a love of learning. It’s about filling your home with learning tools based around your child’s interests and passions. Books, good food, good conversation, well-chosen media–they can all work toward this goal.

Ask yourself this question about each activity and item filling your home and your days: Does this point my family toward or away from a love of learning?

– See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/afterschool/#sthash.TIklGoqs.dpuf

This isn’t about implementing a structure for home learning; this is about cultivating a love of learning. It’s about filling your home with learning tools based around your child’s interests and passions. Books, good food, good conversation, well-chosen media–they can all work toward this goal.

Ask yourself this question about each activity and item filling your home and your days: Does this point my family toward or away from a love of learning?

– See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/afterschool/#sthash.TIklGoqs.dpuf

This isn’t about implementing a structure for home learning; this is about cultivating a love of learning. It’s about filling your home with learning tools based around your child’s interests and passions. Books, good food, good conversation, well-chosen media–they can all work toward this goal.

Ask yourself this question about each activity and item filling your home and your days: Does this point my family toward or away from a love of learning?

– See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/afterschool/#sthash.TIklGoqs.dpuf

There were maps, globes, number lines, books, etc. as the decor and art around the house. Everything pointed toward asking questions, prompting discussions as designed intentionally to point children toward wanting to learn.

My immediate thought was, what if we parented for Christ with this level of intentionality? or lived for Christ this intentionally?

Somehow, in the past, I got the idea of planning to be Christ-like in my life wasn’t right, that if I truly wanted to follow Christ I just would, and wouldn’t have to plan it into my day. You know how that turns out? Yeah, I’ll get to it, I’ll do it in a minute, after I check this one last Facebook post . . . and doesn’t get done, or is half-hearted once I’m already swamped with my day.

Intentional is defined as deliberate, conscious, calculated, planned, meant, studied, purposeful.

When I think about being deliberate and conscious in my walk with God, that doesn’t sound forced or false. It sounds exactly right. Taking care that my each and every step and attitude is of Christ isn’t just a good idea, it’s biblical.

Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV) 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

When I plan to start my day with prayer, my day starts with a God-centered focus. When I plan to spend specific times of my day focused on Godly interactions with my child and husband, my love for them flows from God’s heart, not mine. When I plan to spend specific times focused on Bible study, those times are blessed with His Spirit. When I leave it to my emotions, physical feelings, I end up letting sin creep into my life and rob me of great opportunities to grow as a Christian myself and to witness to people around me.

Being intentional starts with making choices based on the desired outcome. We want our children to know a loving heavenly father and go to Heaven. Do the things and attitudes I’ve chosen to have in my home point my children toward God or draw them away? Are the activities and priorities of my home directed toward serving and loving God?

Joshua 24:15 (ESV) 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

– See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Intentions#sthash.tkgQVQKR.dpuf

Our ‘gods’ today might be different, but we have to choose God, not the ‘gods’  (television, books, selves, etc.) of our parents, friends, or the world in which we dwell.as-for-me

Being intentional as a parent means making sure that what I feed, give, teach my daughter is the best I can offer, not just what’s easiest. Or making sure what is easiest is something good.

Like snacking. I will snack on whatever is easiest to eat. If a bag of M&Ms is the handiest thing in the pantry, that is what I eat. So my intentionality has to start with grocery shopping, with choosing the right things to keep handy. Sometimes that means a bag of M&Ms, not gonna lie.

Like what books are within arms’ reach at bedtime? While we might forage in the living room cabinet or check the bookshelf across the room, many times when bedtime is late or rushed, we just grab what is easiest. I keep her children’s bibles next to our reading chair. Additionally, she has the story of Noah or the Christmas story or God Gave Us Easter, etc.

If we’ve been intentional about leaving Christ centered books handy, then that is what she’ll flip through when she “reads” to herself or when I read one last story before bed, giving me opportunities to share God with her very casually, just as a natural part of our day. Because God should be part of all the parts of our day.

I’m pretty intentional when it comes to what my daughter watches on television. I can set the dial on PBS or Veggie Tales or YouTube “Beginner’s Bible” episodes (we’ve watched David and ‘Giant the Goliath‘ 100 times at least) and leave it there for her allotted viewing time. I keep a stash of appropriate movies and shows in the entertainment center and recorded on the DVR. I’ve got stuff recorded from a year ago. In the moment she is melting down about watching something, and I’m on the phone with Geek Squad :(, I can quickly turn on something that has already passed mommy muster.

I read the books I buy before they come into our home. Even the most recent purchase, a Jesus Storybook Bible, was read before I purchased one. If I can’t read it because I’m ordering online, I read it alone before she sees it, which is good because God Gave Us Easter is so wonderfully written that I cried reading it in my closet before it was going in her Easter basket.

But what about everything else? Have I created a home that points toward our Heavenly Father first and foremost in everything?

I don’t think the decor is the most important part of creating an intentional home, but if God is truly central to our lives, I don’t think he should be relegated to a dusty corner in our houses. Is there evidence of a faith centered life? Kids’ church art on the fridge, memory verses posted for practice? Where is the Bible? I know when I wasn’t listening to God, when I was rebelling, it sat dusty and unused on my bookshelf. Doesn’t do anyone any good there. It is supposed to be directing our every action.

Psalm 119:105 ESV Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

If I want her to see that reading the Bible is something everyone should do, she has to see me do it, like praying. When she sees me behind a computer screen, she doesn’t understand that I can be doing Bible study on Bible Gateway and using parallel text to understand Ephesians 4. It looks the same as posting to Facebook from her perspective.

I have my Bible out all the time. I don’t know that I’m always reading it in front of her, and need to make that a priority to be more aware and intentional about. I have Godly books and Bible studies and my memory verse notebook lying around the living room. You could say that I’m just lazy and don’t pick up, but I prefer to think of it as letting my living room have that Holy Spirit lived in look.

Creating a home that just points to God in everything is about our attitudes, our service toward others, our choices, our prayers, even what we do when we get angry or frustrated can point toward God. Some of the most real moments have been when I shouted awfully at her and demonstrated true remorse, asking her forgiveness. When she smiles, stroking my hair, saying “Of course I forgive you, God forgives you too if you ask.” I know that with all my failings, all the GMO’s and BPA I have fed her, the days I forgot sunblock, the temper tantrums (mine), the days she watched television all day while I slept through the flu on the couch, despite all that – she sees God in me; she is starting to understand who He is.

I love seeing how the little moments of being intentional about reading the bible with her over lunch, or praying in the car when we see an ambulance, or talking through some tough emotions with a Godly perspective are starting to sprout wings in my little one’s heart.

Although tonight while we were reading and discussing God Gave Us Easter, when I asked her if she could hear God’s voice in her heart, she told me, “No, but if I get my stethoscope I could.” Love her little mind and her sweet heart.

With all the world banging at our children’s mind and hearts, creating an environment of praise and worship in our home, intentionally pointing our children toward eternity could be what protects and directs them.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) Start children off on the way they should go,and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

 

Holding Grudges

Are you holding grudges? Is there a hurt you can't let go? What does the Bible say about moving past those rejections to forgiveness?

Holding grudges comes way too naturally. I think I’m above that kind of petty nonsense until I’m faced with someone who has caused me or someone I love deep hurts. Then I realize how angry I still am.

Holding grudges is our feeble attempt to balance the scales, hold them accountable, but I’ve found, the only person paying for this anger is the one holding onto it.

When I think about holding grudges, I think about a woman who has destructively sought to ruin my reputation as a Godly woman. She decided to do her best to hurt me and any witness I might have without any obvious reason.

I have prayed for her for years. I have prayed that my actions regarding her be absolutely the best witness I can demonstrate, that I never stoop to gossiping about her to make myself look better, but it is hard. Are you holding grudges? Is there a hurt you can't let go? What does the Bible say about moving past those rejections to forgiveness?

The completely unwarranted lies she has told about me (using words so dirty they hurt my heart) has cost me friends, made me cry, and literally made me sick to my stomach to walk out my front door. I still have several damaged relationships three years later.

I could tell the truth about her and discredit her, but I don’t.

Titus 2:7-8 ESV  “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

I have tried to live this, and it made a difference. She quit her slander campaign, for the most part, and most people can clearly see my growing heart for Christ.

Yet, it’s hard to truly let it go. I know that she must be hurting inside and need Jesus if this is the way she behaves toward someone trying to be a Godly friend to her. But it still hurts. I still feel anxious when I see her, out of discomfort and fear of confrontation.

And it would be really easy for me to stand all self-righteous on my side of the street, but I am not without my own sins.

John 8:7 “. . He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus convicted the Pharisees and people who were just waiting to stone an adulteress, the typical punishment of the day, of their hypocrisy telling them if they were sinless, they could cast a stone.

I’m still not sinless today, and if you had met me before I came back to Christ, you wouldn’t have seen Him in me.

Thank God, I’ve been forgiven and redeemed.

Matthew 6:14 “if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

That is easier said than done. Every time I see or hear about her, I still feel hurt and angry. I hear God telling me to forgive her, not because she deserves it, but because she doesn’t have Jesus and is drowning in sin, and because He doesn’t want me living captive to it anymore.

Inside I feel like crying, “But God, you don’t know what she did, ” in my whiniest voice. “She was so mean!”

God convicts me to remember who the real enemy is.

Forgive by focusing on the real enemy between us. We are on the same side against him. Click To Tweet

Then today, I listen to Paul speaking to Timothy from prison.

2 Timothy 4:16 Paul says no one stood with him at his first trial, everyone deserted him, but “. . . May it not be charged against them!”

Other believers left him alone on trial for his life, for his life! And he prayed that it not be held against them!?!?

He prayed for their forgiveness in the midst of suffering.

I still don’t have complete peace about it, but God has been bringing me through this for years. He will continue to use even this for my good (Rom. 8:28): to teach me humility, forgiveness, how to live a Godly example, and to share with others walking this painful journey.

If Paul can forgive his friends deserting him in the fight for his life, why am I holding grudges?

I know I need a savior. I know how I lived without one. I can’t have any pride in my own salvation.

She is just as worthy as saving as I am.

Hard to stay angry if I let myself be truly humbled by this truth. If I didn’t have to deserve or earn it, neither does she.

She is as worthy of God's grace & forgiveness as I am. Letting go of grudges starts with humility. Click To Tweet

I’ve got many hurts stored up in my heart that I need to learn to let go, because it’s about grace, not holding grudges.

And holding grudges prevents me from healing from my past, from being an encouragement and blessing to those around me, and from giving all the glory to God for who I am today.

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The “No Thank You” Day

I think my mother-in-law uses this term, a “No Thank You” day, to refer to one of those days that for whatever reason, someone just isn’t happy. Someone else might describe it as waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but you get the idea. Today was that kind of day around my house.

I woke up before my preschooler. I got out of bed, was brushing my teeth in a pretty good mood. Then she woke up. And that was pretty much the end of that. After a “good morning, Mommy” full of the promise of sunshine, she pretty much rained on my parade the rest of the day.

She didn’t want to eat her yogurt. It was apparently gross, and by gross I mean absolutely nothing wrong with it, but she wasn’t allowed to watch Sesame Street until it was gone, so it became a battle.

Then she wanted a drink, but not any of the actual choices we had available, including water. Then she couldn’t remember how to make her bed. I know she is only four, but every day for the past couple of weeks, I walk her through how to do it, tell her just to do her best, and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Today she refused to make the bed, like sat down in a huff and full on pitched a fit, a screaming crying jag because she didn’t know how to make her bed. I sat with her, talked her, and walked her through it again, but literally every second was a total battle. I was so tempted to do it for her.

But I knew if I let it go this one day for the sake of ease, she’d be ten before she ever made her bed again. Absolute consistency is key for my child. One moment of weakness and she’s on that like the lion on the weak gazelle, so I pressed onward, determined to hug her, smile and move past this momentary blip in our day. Ha ha, we call this irony ’round here, folks, because that was nothing compared to the rest of the day.

Then I asked her to get dressed. She is four. She’s been dressing herself for over a year (mostly). She still doesn’t do buttons, but she can put on her pants, shirts, and shoes (even if they’re on the wrong feet). She sat, in her panties, not the clean ones, screaming that she didn’t know how to put on her shirt.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

I stood staring at her in complete shock and frustration several times today. And I had to choose to handle her in the Godly way I am modeling. She deserved my anger, but not my sin. Her meltdowns were not my fault. She was making her own poor choices. My reactions to her were my responsibility. I had done all I knew how to do.

I fed her, got her something to drink, gave her a hug, checked her forehead. When there was nothing obviously wrong that I could correct, I had to let her suffer the consequences of her choices. She got harsh words and time outs, toys put up, and spent a lot of time being talked to today.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

I was waging war against Satan today, in my home, in my child, and in my heart. I had to choose to take control of my anger (even though justified) because in my anger I didn’t want to sin. A few times, I needed to apologize and ask her forgiveness for getting too loud, but I was able to mostly just let the day go. It wasn’t going well, but if all I could do was fix my reaction to it, then that is what I was going to do. I had the armor of God to take every thought captive.

The older of the children we babysat is very much like my child, so much so that they are either best friends or tattling and bossing each other around. The one time they did play nicely for an extended period of time, turns out they were dumping sand from the sandbox around the yard and throwing it at the dogs. And as I snagged my child, running with her alligator scooper full of sand toward our yellow lab, who was pretty sure this was the most amazing game ever, I noticed she had sand all over her face.

“What did you do?”

“I ate some, Mommy,” she beamed proudly.

“Why?”I asked incredulously.

“To try it.”

“And was it tasty?”

“Nope.”

I’m in hysterics now thinking about this. We watch a lot of cooking shows, and we encourage her to always try new things, so I guess I shouldn’t assume that she knows sand is gross, but we had another talk about how food is the only thing that goes into her mouth. Which we had again after she put Epsom salt crystals from a science experiment into her mouth. I think they are edible, but they are a laxative, so not recommended snacking.

I was trying to balance our checking account, watch a climbing one year old, supervise two energetic four-year-olds, and was dealing with all the intensity of their tattling, squabbling, or colluding against me, with the stress of a broken computer, shattered iPhone screen, a credit card bill that is higher than I’d hoped. I wanted to text my husband and complain. I wanted to be angry all over someone, darn it. I chose not to. I have no idea what kind of day he’d had, what mood he was in, and had a choice to suck it up and deal or make his whole drive home full of stress about what he was going to find when he got home, make him angry before he even walked in the door. That wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for our evening.

I was nearly in tears by the time her father got home. I spent some quiet time, just in thought and prayer to handle this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. All I could think was that I was just giving a friend advice about this kind of day last night. I need to practice what I preach. My daughter’s struggles were frustrating, and continued through dinner and bath time, but were not about me. My job was to maintain consistent rules and consequences and not bash my head against a wall.

Romans 5:3-5More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Ask most moms about praying for patience and they will look at you horrified – NEVER, I mean, never pray for patience. God doesn’t give you patience. He gives you the opportunity to practice it. Praying to be a good parent is kind of the same thing. Better be prepared to learn quickly.

My daughter is only 4. This day will be far from the last tough day or far from the worst day we will ever face. Today was part of giving us endurance, producing character, and giving us hope in that He will always provide the strength to avoid temptation and to persevere through the most difficult challenges using His divine armor, not our own strength.

At the end of this “No Thank You” day, she refused to pick up her toys in her bathtub because she was too tired. I said that was unfortunate, and she could just throw them in the trash so she would never have to pick them up again. When she saw I was holding a trash can next to the tub, she picked them up. Then she started dancing in the tub, and I reminded her that we don’t play in the tub because she could slip and fall. Then it was another round of I forgot how to brush my teeth, then her Fancy Nancy nightgown and stories. She picked a story about two best friends who don’t get along all the time because they have to share and are both bossy – PERFECT, used it as a teachable moment. Then we said her prayers and asked forgiveness for being naughty and thank you for friends coming to play, and for healing for a sick friend, and for the cat to close her eyes because we are praying, Amen.

A kiss, a hug, a goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite and today was over. I didn’t get it all right, but with God’s strength, nudges, and love, I got it a whole lot more right than I ever could have imagined a few years ago. Phew, gonna pray for coffee tomorrow, with a chance of grace – that couldn’t backfire, could it?

Be careful little tongue

Washing the dishes this morning, I accidentally sliced my finger on a rough edge of a pitcher lid. I groaned. Speaking from experience, a deep, bleeding gash on my fingers or hands is about the worst for a mom. For the next few days, I am going to have to think about every time I go to wash something or wash my hands. As a mom, this means pretty much every chore is going to require planning so I don’t use my weight in band-aids.

‘I am going to have to be intentional about how I use my hands,’ I thought. Then I felt that God-nudge, the way He usually puts a thought in my head. What if you had to be that intentional with your tongue? What if there were a cut on your tongue and every word had to be planned carefully? How would that change the way you talk all day long? Would it change the way you speak?

Does God ever convict you so hard you cringe?

If you’re like me, I can usually get a hold of myself before I DO something I’ll regret, but too often my mouth just keeps on trucking. Because we can’t see words, we sometimes mistakenly believe they do not have the power that they really do. I don’t know how I ever convinced myself to be less than perfectly careful with my words. I have lived most of my life with the scars of cruel and careless words.

I thought I was a smart, funny,  and basically valuable person until I started kindergarten. I distinctly remember not fitting in, kids teasing me, and calling me names. It was the first time I felt like there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but not the last. A devastating level of teasing continued until I was in high school, which was better because I could choose with whom to associate, but I still heard plenty of judgmental words defining me. I searched the truth of those definitions. I questioned who I thought I was. I rebelled against who they said I was. But I rarely just flat out ignored those words.

I should be the first person to know how powerful words can be, how especially the cruel ones can cut a heart to pieces, but I’ve lived in some sort of denial bubble about the way my words can affect my child, even though I’ve grown much more conscious of how my words and tone can affect my husband and friends.

I don’t think I’m overly cavalier about my words. I don’t run around swearing or insulting people, but if one negative comment can haunt me nearly 40 years later, am I being as cautious about my mouth as the rest of my home? I’ve got plastic covers on my plugs, safety door knobs, medicines put up, but certainly haven’t given as much thought to filtering my mouth as I should, as God calls us to do.

Proverbs 13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

Proverbs always does such a good job of getting right to the point. We are to guard our mouths. Guard means to watch over to protect or control. Instead when we say the wrong things, we say it ‘slipped’ out, as if by some magical accident. The reality is we got so caught up in our own emotions, usually anger, that we didn’t choose to censor ourselves.

James 1:19“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”

James makes our responsibilities pretty clear. We are to listen first. What we are feeling and what we have to say are deliberately supposed to follow listening to others. If nothing else, when I stop myself from saying something when frustrated or angry, I often decide that nothing needed to be said. Sometimes, it is my own issue, not the other person’s; sometimes I decide I didn’t have anything uplifting to offer; sometimes I decide the other person isn’t in a place to hear me in love.

Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

My husband and I were about to have an argument, in the car, in front of our daughter. We were ten minutes from home and ticked off. How we talk to each other in front of her will have long reaching consequences into her life. How I respond to my husband will affect our marriage. He was angry. I was angry. He told me to drop it. I didn’t want to drop it. I wanted to let him know how I felt; I wanted to solve it right that second. The unhappy feelings inside me begged for an instant solution. I prayed for God to give me strength to control myself, to know that it didn’t have to get resolved this second, to wait until I could choose the moment and my words carefully. I quickly felt peaceful about it. Once we were home and had both taken a breath, I was able to choose words that respected him and loved him and explained my feelings without criticizing him. No more argument.

Learning this lesson with our little ones is all the more crucial because they cannot stand up for themselves, won’t call us out on our destructive behavior. They will assume it is their fault. They will ingest our poison as a statement about them, not us.

Old school parenting tells us to count to ten when we get angry. Sounds like pretty good advice to me although I find that praying during that ten seconds is more productive. Even if you feel so upset or angry that you feel out of control, if someone important called or came by at that exact moment, most of us could summon enough self-control to speak kindly to that person. If we could summon the patience and control to speak kindly to our boss, pastor, or neighbor, shouldn’t we even more so find the energy to filter our mouths for our most important audience?

Our children are going to make us angry. We need to search our hearts for the source of that anger, if it is selfishness or righteous, but even in righteous anger, we should be mindful of our choices.

Ephesians 4:26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”

We quote this verse often as marriage advice, but in context is instructions for Christian living in general. If our closest neighbors are our family, our closest examples of Christian community are in our home.

We all fall down from time to time. We all need to seek forgiveness daily. But where we put our focus and heart is a big factor in determining where we let the rest of us go. The Bible even tells us that our mouth is a good gauge of our hearts.

Proverbs 15:28 “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

James 1:26If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

As one of the ladies in my Bible study group likes to say, BAM, in your face, convicted! If you’re really struggling with being careful with your tongue, words, tone, are you seeking the Lord with all your might? I find the more time I spend reading the Bible, praying, meditating on what is good and wholesome, the less I lose control of myself. If I spend a few days thinking, I’m good, I’ve got this . . . well, let’s just say, we all know pride goeth before the fall.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

God’s word has a lot to say about what we say. I can’t even do this subject justice, but the verse from Ephesians sums up the main ideas nicely. Depending on the translation, the verse instructs us not to use corrupting, foul, unwholesome, hateful, filthy, or hurtful words. We are to use words that build up others, perhaps this includes Godly conviction of sin, but only when as an extension of God’s grace, his loving, unwarranted forgiveness, so that we are ministering to those around us.

Have you tried and tried to control your mouth, to seemingly no avail?

James 3:8-10 “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From IMG_3328 - Version 2the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

When James teaches that no one can tame the tongue, he is saying that we need to give it to God. We need to bring our entire selves to the feet of Christ and ask for the sinful parts of us to be buried with our sins. We need to ask God to give us the conviction and tools to be Godly.

Words like, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” have power too, but they don’t erase what came before. Having the humility to apologize and ask forgiveness is important modeling for our children. It teaches them we’re human, how to be real about being flawed, but it doesn’t necessarily erase the harsh words that came before.

Do you remember the children’s song “be careful little tongue what you say, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.” Right now, I’m hearing it in a child’s voice in my mind, conjuring the image of my daughter standing next to Jesus watching me.

Matthew 12:37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

God’s condemnation of me is scary enough by itself, but my witness will be a large factor in drawing my daughter to Christ or pushing her away. If we believe that Christ is truly our salvation from hell, our salvation from a Godless world, then I want that salvation for her. It is a pretty frightening image, but with all I know of psychology, sociology, and Christianity, my words may not only condemn me, but also my sweet daughter, if I do not make sure they are full of grace, so be careful little tongue what you say . . .

Be Careful Little Tongue Part 2