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Swimming Lessons

“Mommy is right here. You know I won’t let you get hurt, right?”

“Right . . .” Tiny arm wraps around my neck, clutching me in a death grip.

“You know that I will be here the whole time, right?”

“Right . . .” Little fingers clutch at my hair.

“You’re going to have to trust me.”

“But I don’t trust you!” she wailed at a paint peeling decibel. I’m sure the neighbors were quite certain I was committing various acts of torture instead of just trying to get my child to float in the pool with her life jacket on.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

I am asking her to trust me, not her own perceptions, but she can’t see that from just a few weeks old, I’ve been teaching her to swim. First we got her used to water, got used to getting her face wet, pouring water over her head, then we worked on blowing bubbles, then floating in various inflatables and life jackets, learning to kick and paddle even in the tub, then learning to lay flat in the water, kick with straight legs, pull with her arms. It was step by step, inch by inch, but she can’t see that. All she sees is “deep” water and I’m asking her to jump in with nothing to hold her up, promising her that I’ve given her the tools to swim, and that I’ll be there when she falters. But she is struggling to trust what she cannot see or understand.

So how will she ever trust me in the future when I try to stop her from making a huge poor decision, when she needs to respect and believe my wisdom? I am sure I will get many chances to answer this question in far fewer years than I would like, but for today the answer is swimming lessons that are really ‘trust me’ lessons.

I immediately switched my plan from trying to teach her to swim to teaching her that she can trust me. Someone might ask, “Shouldn’t she just trust you, you’ve been there her whole life?”Of course, but what will it hurt to show her again? Why not let her see that in everything, she can trust and believe me?

At some point, she will have to make a choice to look at who I’ve been to her and decide to trust me or not, but at 4, showing her that she can trust me gives her more evidence to trust me in the future. When I think about trusting God, we can look at the Bible and our lives and see He has forever been faithful and trustworthy. He proved it, over and over. I need to demonstrate that kind of steadfastness for her.

“I won’t let go until you say I can.” was my new mantra for the day. We still had quite a bit of screaming, but I just got quieter and closer every time she was scared. I’m just like most of you, winging this whole parenting gig, but I’m trying to understand who God wants me to be for her. Somehow, I just knew that she needed me to be close and comforting, and start small.

I put her chin on my shoulder, my hands under her tummy, my cheek against her cheek as she practiced kicking and paddling. When she got scared or nervous about falling, I whispered to her, like I picture God whispering to my heart when I need to hear Him, when I’m afraid, when trusting Him seems impossible even though I know He loves me, created me, knows me inside and out (better than I know myself, better than I know my daughter).

Psalm 56:3 ESV “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

It is easy to panic when we’re afraid. It is easy to be scared. When non-Christians see a believer meet a tough situation with strength and peace, they are often surprised to see such calm. We aren’t calm because everything is easy, but because we know God is trustworthy. He has us in the palm of His hand. God doesn’t promise us an easy life, but he promises us help to live it. He promises to be present for us in the darkest times, to hold us up when the world is trying to drag us down.

It took a long time, but she started to quiet down, to know I was with her. To be able to know I wasn’t letting go and would pick her up if she fell. That first day, we spent most of the time just working on trust. It was really hard for me not to push her to swim on her own, but just to let her get comfortable in my hands. We just did everything slowly, I held her tightly. I let her decide when she was brave enough to let go of me.

From a swimming lesson viewpoint, that day probably looked counterproductive. She did less than she had ever done in the past, but we were quiet, no screaming. We spent three or four afternoons in the pool like that, just gradually building trust, less crying and being afraid. We worked on taking off the life jacket and being more and more confident in the water. She is going to learn to swim, eventually. I would rather it take an extra summer and be a lesson in love and patience, rather than fear.

1 John 4:18 ESV  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

What is perfect love? I want that! I want to have it, to be it.

Romans 5:8 ESV

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God demonstrates perfect love for us in that while we were yet sinners, He sent His son to die for us. He loved us first because He did, not because we were worthy. He loved our children before our grandparents were born. God instructs us, but doesn’t want to hurt us. His instruction is to teach us, to draw us closer, to obey Him, to fear Him in the sense of awe and respect, not terror.

I could have thrown her into the pool. She would have been able to swim enough to pull herself up and get to the ladder. I knew this; she did not. Terrorizing her wouldn’t have made her a better swimmer. It would have broken a trust between us. She would have learned in fear, not confidence. In striving to be more like Christ, more like God, I chose to demonstrate the best understanding of love I have for today and to be patient and gentle, teaching her to trust me.

Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

As believers, we do not live in fear because we know we can trust God, even when life is hard and painful. He is steadfast. Obeying and loving God has given me a peace I never could have anticipated. A strength that I never would have understood with just human understanding. I was a swimmer tossed about by every wave, changing direction, getting pulled under time and time again. Focusing on God’s plan for my life, His purpose for me, gives me strength and peace about my future. I know I’m going to heaven, what else should I be concerned about? Making sure everyone I meet has the same peace and future to the best of my ability and purpose.

She will have to choose her own faith someday. She will have to decide if she loves God for herself, if the Bible is true. Today, I am the person she spends the most time with, the person who is a living demonstration of God for her. I am going to fail at this often, but am growing in my faith daily, which is helping me grow as a parent. I am actively working on reflecting God in all my interactions with her and the rest of my family and friends. Being steadfast and trustworthy in this little way will hopefully be an accurate reflection of our Heavenly Father, holding us, whispering, “I’ve got you” into our hearts when we’re afraid.

I pray that learning to trust me will not only teach her to swim, but to trust God because she could trust me and because I trust Him.

And little by little, she did learn to trust me and to have confidence in herself. Then, just two weeks of swimming (trust) lessons every couple of days, she did what I knew she could all along. She was confident and capable.

We’re still working on floating, but I hold her, and whisper to her, waiting for her to say, “Let go.” But today she swam the diameter of our pool twice without floaties and without my hand touching her. I simply swam beside her and encouraged her to kick harder.

She knows now that I’m trustworthy in this little thing, which will hopefully lead her to trust me in more than just swimming lessons, and lead to a growing trust in God as well.


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Be careful little tongue * Part 2

We all know children imitate what they see. From very early days, my daughter would imitate me talking on the phone. Because her daddy deployed when she was three months old, I spent a lot of time on the phone as a new mom with her husband in a war zone. She imitated me by pacing with the phone in her hand, gesturing while she talked, even laughing periodically as if the other person in her imaginary conversation had just made a joke. I was amazed at the depth of the details she picked up about talking on the phone from watching me, before she could even speak.

It was hilarious when we were in the car and someone cut us off, and from the backseat I heard, “Mom, you just drive. I’ll yell ‘DUDE!'” At that moment I was very glad my road rage vocabulary consists primarily of one word with many intonations.

It is not always hilarious when she imitates my less than stellar moments or heaven forbid repeats things that were not meant for little ears or were private moments about private parts. Yes, I did have that Kindergarten KcopCop moment. At speech therapy, she was explaining very matter-of-factly the difference between Mrs. Potato Head and Mr. Potato Head.  Yes, hand slap to forehead after slow motion “NOooOOOoooo” from behind the glass as I listened over the monitor to her speech teacher ask her how she could tell the difference between the potatoes. So much for my dignity. At least her speech therapist had a sense of humor.

I wrote previously about being careful about how we talk to our children, that the words we use will color their views of themselves and the world, that we need to guard our mouths, especially when we’re angry. I wrote that we need to protect our most important audience from the words we use towards them, but the more I studied what the Bible has to say about how we should talk, the more I realized that how I talk to my daughter is really important, but how I talk in front of her and others may be even more important.

Ecclesiastes 10:20 “Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.”

My little “bird” doesn’t miss much, doesn’t forget anything, and repeats it all. The Bible says, as Christians, we are the representatives of God. My daughter imitates my words and tone, so how I speak in front of her will be how she demonstrates our family’s faith to the world. If my words are loving and kind, even toward people who are not, she will learn to love with God’s love, to empathize with a person’s struggle with sin rather than to judge, to invite people to accept God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

If God is making Jesus-fish-2His appeal to the world through us, our witness has to be something we do consciously all the time. One of the ways people will know us is by how we talk.

Have you ever seen someone with an Ichthys fish bumper sticker and then watched them cut-off someone in traffic and vulgarly let the other driver know “You’re #1!” or some other insanely improper behavior and thought, “What a hypocrite.”

I have. In fact, I sometimes am not the most focused driver in the world and am afraid to represent Christ with my driving. My husband teases that my driving is more apt to help people meet God, than invite them to do so. All joking aside, if I’m going to have a bumper sticker, cross necklace, or church t-shirt, I’m going to take extra special care of my witness in those moments. But also, in every situation I could possibly face, I’m someone’s witness, even if just my husband or daughter. I want to guard that witness fiercely. I can’t protect my family from all the garbage the world spews at them, but I can make sure they see Christ’s alternative in me.

Sometimes it is hard to know what exactly our witness should be, what the rules are.

Romans 14:21 “It is good not to . . . do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”

Our threshold for Godly choices isn’t necessarily even what is the “law” of God’s word. Our threshold is literally what might cause another Christian to stumble. If my words are not as pure as possible, I could be leading someone into sin or pushing them away from Christ. I view my witness in public situations as kind of a Hippocratic oath – first, do no harm, then if I can, draw them into wanting to know Jesus.

Titus 3:2 “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

No one looks at someone arguing his/her point in a quarrelsome, discourteous manner and thinks, I want to act like that, or I should totally change my point of view now. It looks ugly and hostile. Jesus very rarely even got loud with people. He just gently presented the truth in perfect love. People either followed or they didn’t.

Spend five minutes on Facebook. You will know that the world does not follow Titus 3:2, and that a lot of people who would claim to be Christians do not act as if they know Him. “Speak evil of no one” is a pretty high threshold, especially when it comes to politics, but if we are known by our fruit, then I want to make sure people see the fruit of my life and are pointed to God.

As the mother of a preschooler, teaching my daughter to use her words and her kind voice with friends or playmates is an exercise in modeling, giving her the appropriate dialogue to express her needs and feelings until she can find them herself. “I am frustrated you won’t share that toy. Please, may I have a turn.” Then, “OK, I will find something else to play with, but I would like a turn soon.” Perfect courtesy is our side of the equation. We cannot control anyone else. We live and demonstrate gentle kindness to demonstrate Christ in every aspect of our lives.

Ephesians 5:1 ESV “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

I’ve realized that I teach my children so much more through what they see me do than what they hear me lecture. If I want them to learn to be Christ-like, I have to be Christ-like.

1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

I am a flesh and blood person who is still struggling with my old nature. I can stop most foul language from coming out of my mouth, but sometimes the first words to come to mind betray the condition of my heart. I also am actively working on being gentle in all aspects of my speech and attitude.

Proverbs 15:4 ESV “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

I think about this verse in regards to my discipline of my children. Can just being gentle in my attitude towards them, without changing the consequences, actually affect change in their hearts? I hope so. I want them to see I love them without loving their sin.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I want people to notice I don’t fit in. I no longer belong to this world. I’m chosen; I’m being transformed. I especially want my children to notice the transformation the Holy Spirit is working in me. The best way I can think of is the way I talk, letting God tame my tongue. The words I use, the tone I use, or whether I use any at all will speak volumes to my children.

So this is my prayer today . . .

Psalm 141:3 ESV “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”

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It isn’t the rule that matters

Today, my daughter needed to tell me something while I was in the bathroom. We’ve instituted a rule that if the door to the bathroom is closed, she is to knock before entering and/or wait, unless she has an emergency or something is really important. She’s four, so we give her some latitude with what she considers important (i.e. her brother holding a toad in the living room), but today she by-passed three closed doors to get to me. Opening all of them without knocking. So far she has only done this with me, but the rule is partially in place to avoid her walking in on her father or nearly adult brothers, or heaven forbid, a guest.

She stood at the bathroom door, peeking in at me. “I need to tell you sunthing.” I sat there, trying to decide what to do. Her little voice  was so quiet and sweet.

Was it life or death to make her follow this rule? Part of me said, just listen to her, what will it hurt? It will be faster just to hear her out.

But then I realized, that it wasn’t important to make her follow this specific rule because it was that important of a rule, but because if she doesn’t learn to follow the little rules, she won’t learn to follow any of them.

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Despite being a rule follower myself, I realized I’ve been letting a lot of little ones slip around here. Instead of holding her to the rules, I try to be nice, taking circumstances into consideration. However, she doesn’t understand the complicated mental processes I’m going through when I decide to let a rule slide for a single circumstance, all she sees is that she can’t count on the rules, that I’m not consistent.

Instead of being nice, I’m really being incredibly unfair. She doesn’t know how to behave because there is no consistency. The result is a lot of discord and disobedience, frustration and anger. I decided that making her follow every single rule every single time might not be right, but I need to be way more consistent. Teaching her what to expect from me every time will help her feel safe and secure in a home that has structure with logical consequences. If we are our children’s first Bibles, first glimpses of God in how we reflect Him, I need to be as Christlike as I know how to be each day, and part of learning to be Christlike is to be consistent.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

He never changes. His ways are all the time, for everyone, even when, in His mercy, He created exceptions to the rules and sent His son to redeem us from the penalty for our sin. All we have to do to know what He expects is to read the instructions ( i.e. the BIBLE). When I finally came out of the bathroom, after ascertaining that her “sunthing” was neither emergent nor important, she happily told me some little adorable animal fact she had seen on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I didn’t have to get upset or raise my voice. I just had to be consistent. This is the rule. This is the expectation. I will happily hear you in a moment, please be patient. She walked away knowing I cared, I want to listen to her, and knowing what I wanted her to do. Wow.

Later today, she tried to act up while a friend was over, throwing a fit over the guest child’s toy. I was focused on our conversation, but took the time to put her into time out, to make sure she was sitting quietly, not shouting at me from the step, then to send her to her room when she couldn’t control herself. She started to throw a fit, but when I counted to three, she ran to her room, sat in her rocker and waited for me to come get her. Being consistent, gently firm, and unwavering helped her understand what I expected and how she should behave. Considering that she went from laying on the floor in front of the stairs yelling that she had no toys to play with to sitting quietly in her chair waiting for me to tell her she could come out, I call that a parenting win. I didn’t have to get angry. Her failure to comply was her problem. I just had to be consistent.

Most parenting experts can tell you, all it takes is ONE exception to an expectation, and children understand all bets are off, whether that expectation is giving up a pacifier or sleeping in his/her own bed. If a parent caves once, children know to exploit that weakness. I’m fallible, I’m weak, but I have to be more consistent because I love her, and want her to know what that means. As an educator, I know I know better, but I didn’t realize how much I had been letting slip in the name of “kindness.” How hard would it be to worship and follow a god like I’ve been acting? I’ve been holding her accountable to a rule, except when I don’t feel like it, then getting angry when the rule isn’t followed the next time.

Thank God for GOD. His law is forever. We can understand who God is and who he calls us to be.

Luke 16:17 ESV “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

I’ve read most of the Bible at least once, some bits way more times, and some parts, I’m working my way through. But when you put it all together in context, with understanding of the WHOLE scripture and the Holy Spirit, God becomes very clear. He is who He is, all the time. If he calls us to be transformed from the ways of this world into His ways, isn’t being consistent and faithful part of becoming more Christlike?

Hebrews 10:23 ESV “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

God is faithful, always. We can know if we confess our sins and believe, that we are forgiven. We are called His sons and daughters. He gives us that to KNOW, not to hope in or assume, but to know because He is faithful. We understand our responsibility and the infinite grace God shares because of who He is.

1 John 5:13 ESV

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

So that we may KNOW that when we believe, when we act in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, that we have been redeemed and saved. Shouldn’t my daughter be able to know who I am, what I expect from her, all the time, or at least as much as humanly possible? and to know thy my discipline is guidance and love just as we know to accept God’s discipline (see Hebrews 12) as it brings us closer to sanctification. 

1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV “God is faithful, by Whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

God is our Faithful Father, calling us, guiding us, disciplining us, restoring us in gentleness, being hard when our hearts are hard, but always holding to the same standard, ‘do not sin.’ I have a hard enough time not sinning when I know what the rules are, when the expectations are clear. I feel a bit ridiculous for expecting my daughter to follow fluid guidelines as if she could read my mind, knowing which time I “really meant it.”

Turns out, it isn’t the rule that really matters. It is choosing to have a few fair rules and enforcing them consistently with love, mercy, and compassion hopefully developing a child who knows how to love others as Christ has called us, and yet knows when to question an unrighteous rule because she truly believes something is wrong, not just questioning and rebelling against everything because she doesn’t have a firm foundation.

Matthew 7:24 ESV

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Another day of making sure my actions, my prayers, and my words reflect the words of Christ to teach her to build her life on the Rock because He is always faithful.

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; – See more at:,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf
Lamentations 3:22-23

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

– See more at:,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf

Lamentations 3:22-23

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

– See more at:,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf

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Watch Me, Daddy!

This entry will post a day after Father’s Day because having just posted a long entry on Saturday, I hadn’t prepared an entry about Father’s Day. I only write posts when God prods my heart, and despite not planning on writing today, I spent quite a bit of the day being 37267_1303984119761_1756658_nemotional. I prayed a lot for comfort today. My father-in-law passed away a few years ago and the last time we saw him was Father’s Day when my daughter was just born, so Father’s Day is hard for my husband in a way that I can only imagine even though I grieve for him as well. We knew he wasn’t doing well, but had no idea that would be the last time we’d see him. He was hospitalized but it wasn’t tremendously serious. We didn’t know that he wouldn’t ever truly recover from the procedure and wouldn’t live to see his son home from Iraq the following February. And there is no do-over button for the things that didn’t get said, the efforts that didn’t get made. We can only pray that he is waiting for us in Heaven.

My father is still alive, but struggling with several health issues, so I know I only have so many Father’s Days and just too few days left of our earthly relationship. As I thought about losing our dads and how powerful a presence our fathers were in both our lives, I realized more than ever the importance of my husband’s role in the lives of his daughter and sons.

This morning after church, I watched her excitedly scrawling her name on his card, her tongue poking out in concentration. She got three letters in and stopped to admir10376316_10201968494594035_6232659207205620304_ne her work. “I think I’m doing a pretty good job,” she said, smiling with pride. In her tiny eyes, this simple card was a huge outpouring of her heart. She offers us wild flowers (read weeds) as if they were giant bouquets of prized roses, really offering us her heart with the weed or rock she’s presenting. What care we should take with her precious gift!

I know my dad was important to me. I remember being the little girl who just wanted her daddy. I still feel that way, the little girl who wants her superman daddy to fly her through the air, tickle her with his scratchy beard, loves the smell of chlorine and Old Spice because they remind me of going to the Y with Daddy.

Throughout most of my life, I based my every success and failure on his responses. I may just be a typical daddy’s girl, but in the deepest places of my heart and life, who my dad was and is has affected most of what I’ve done with my life both in positive ways and negative. I made decisions to make him proud, to spite him, to hear his laugh, to make him angry, and to win his approval. My dad was the voice in my head when I thought about who God is, when I thought about who I am. Watching my daughter with her father, I suspect, she will be the same. All the more reason for me to love her father with all that I am, to help him demonstrate his tenderness and compassion, to create opportunities for him to share his love of the outdoors with her, for him to share his love with her.

Psalm 103:13 ESV “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”

God wants us to equate His love and gentleness with how a father should treat his children. This verse gives us two answers, one how compassionate a Lord we serve and what an earthly father should strive to be.

And I know my daughter loves me, seeks me out, plays with me, wants my attention, but when Daddy walks through the door, she is all about him. She must say, “Watch Me, Daddy!” ten times a day. “Watch me spin, Daddy.” “Watch me dance.” “Watch me swim, Daddy.”

And she performs her little trick, which is sometimes no trick at all, sometimes doesn’t go right, or sometimes comes when he is distracted with a pressing task. But her face is full of light and joy waiting for him to celebrate her achievement, celebrate her. He gets it right most of the time, but sometimes, he’s busy, tired, or just doing something else, and she gets less than his full attention or best words of encouragement or praise.

In that moment, when her face falls, I feel devastated for her. I understand that she tries to be the center of attention at inopportune moments, but she doesn’t yet have that capacity. I understand that part of good parenting isn’t letting her be the center of our world all the time. She needs to learn patience and to put others first. But her tiny face is a window into her heart like few others I’ve seen, and when she is hurt, I can read it all over every nuance of her expression.

Luke 11:11-12 ESV “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

Most parents want to give their children good things, want to love them. We do our earthly best, but the world is a tough place. We have a myriad of challenges and responsibilities. Even our families hurt us, sometimes our families hurt us the most.

She needs to know he sees her. She longs to know he hears her. She crawls on him and begs him to hold her. She desperately loves him and wants to be loved by him.

And he fails her. I fail her. Her brothers push her away, won’t share their toys; they ride their bikes faster than she can keep up, and she feels the hurt. My husband and I fail the boys. We all fall down. Man, I hate feeling like that. Just thinking about how much we hurt them because we’re human makes me want to cry. We need to remember that being a parent is a gift from God, a blessing.

Psalm 127:3-5 ESV “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord . . . “

A heritage from the Lord, meaning an inheritance, a gift from Him. What an incredible responsibility to care for a gift from God, I feel utterly under-equipped for the job, and I have a degree in teaching children. My soldier husband whose heart is so buried under layers of the army, struggles with finding that gentle, compassionate place sometimes. We both struggle with the guilt of making mistakes and sinning in our parenting.

My dad said something pretty profound once. I’m sure more than once, Dad (who is probably reading this), but this one I carry around in my heart a lot these days. He told me once, “God gave us parents so we would need Him.” I didn’t really understand what he meant until I realized how the human frailty of my parents unintentionally hurt me and I needed God’s healing and love, and how my sin and frailty will wound my kids, and they will need God’s healing and love. We brought sin into the world, but God can use it to point us to Him, forever drawing us. That is why the most important job a daddy has on earth is to point toward our perfect heavenly father.

Proverbs 22:6 ESV “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

We need to point them toward God because when we turn out not to be enough, they need to know where to look. Both my husband and myself have looked for the “answer” to happiness in life in many ways. I only found it when I started looking toward God. My parents taught me where to look when I realized that I couldn’t fill the hole in my heart. Not even my daddy could fill the hole that only a Godly Father could. Hers won’t either, no matter how hard he tries.

I hope to teach her where to look, even though I am still learning how to stand in front of God, arms out, offering my weeds, saying “Watch me, Daddy.”

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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.