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Are you Best Friend Material?

A need for a best friend is written on our hearts by our Heavenly Father, and He convicts me to focus on the kind of friend I am. Am I best friend material?

Am I best friend material? I’m a good person. I’m loyal and kind. I would have said yes to this question a few years ago.

And I would have been wrong.

God has been walking me through a deeper understanding of friendships and relationships because part of ministering to women is knowing how to love them. I knew how to teach them, how to speak to them, but I needed to learn to just love them.

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Do you have a best friend or two?

Friendship and acceptance are basic human needs written into our hearts by a loving Heavenly Father, so why does it seem like making friends so challenging?

For me, I had to stop worrying about what kinds of friends I wanted to have, and start thinking about what kind of friend I wanted to BE.

I had to stop worrying about the friends I have, and think about the friend I want to BE. #NationalGirlfriendDay Click To Tweet

When everyone on Twitter is trending #BestFriendDay, do you instantly know the friend you will tag in a glowing social media post? She will be awed by your eloquent words and laugh because she was going to post the same picture of the two of you?

Yeah, that won’t be me today. I wasn’t one of those girls who made a best friend in kindergarten who is still my best friend today.

In fact, I’ve struggled to build deep friendships since leaving my last job. Maybe, the challenge is partially this transient military life, partially my introverted nature. Also, this season of young motherhood and deep parenting limits my time and energy for others.

But I long for those kinds of friends.

I’ve also become convicted that God didn’t give me just one friend, but many if I take the time to really look around my life. And some of the silly social media games we play, end up hurting those who we exclude, even if that was not our intention.

And I’ve realized I have different best friends for different areas of my life.

I have friends who need my wisdom more right now. I have friends who make me laugh more right now. Some friends are super encouraging cheerleaders! Some friends convict and push me deeper in my walk with Christ. Some are just slugging through the trenches of marriage and motherhood with me.

God has planted several women in my life who are not my one and only best friend, but are the best kind of friends, the ones who will drop everything and pray for me with just a text message.

A best friend will stop and pray with you. Are you best friend material?

Over the past couple of years I had to examine my friendships, especially those real heart sisters, and ask myself . . .

Why is she my best friend?

  • I can always call her, no matter the time of day.
  • She is supportive, cheering me on when I am full of self-doubt.
  • I can count on her to take time for me, even when her own life is boiling over.
  • We don’t let trivial stuff interfere with our love for each other.
  • She encourages my walk with Christ.
  • When my life is falling apart, I know she’ll listen, offer to punch someone 😉 , and give me gentle advice after validating how I feel.
  • She genuinely celebrates my joys and successes.
  • No matter what is happening with her, she always leaves room to talk about my stuff.
  • She will drop everything and pray with me or for me. She prays for my children.
  • Grace comes first in all our interactions. She is honest with me when I hurt her feelings, and we work through the issues to untangle our conversations.

A need for a best friend is written on our hearts by our Heavenly Father, and He convicts me to focus on the kind of friend I am. Am I best friend material?

Proverbs 18:24 ESV “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

The number of friends I have that meet all these criteria is tiny, one hand kind of small, but they are my tribe.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that not everyone has TV-sitcom friendships. Women come in and out of our lives for a season. But knowing what I’ve learned about friendship recently, I am convicted that I have missed the chance to build deep friendships with some women around me.

I was too busy looking for a best friend. I missed chances to be one.

Being consumed with being a wife or mother, I’ve overlooked someone who needed a friend. Or I let small hurts or slights be a barrier instead of seeking unity and peace within the body of Christ.

Today, instead of feeling rejected, I want to feel convicted.

#BestFriendDay Instead of rejected, I want to feel convicted! Am I best friend material? Click To Tweet

Am I best friend material?

I want to stop worrying about how many friends I have and focus what kind of friend I am.

Proverbs 17:17 ESV “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

  • Am I a friend people know they can call?
  • Have I learned to let grace season all my interactions?
  • Do I forgive small hurts and continue to seek out friendship?
  • Am I encouraging and supportive?
  • Have I learned to listen as much as I speak?
  • Am I willing to love someone who can’t love me back right now?
  • Do I draw people to Christ because they see Him in me?
  • Do I love them as much as I lean on them?

Deep friendships take cultivating to produce fruit, lots of grace and forgiveness, and devotion to Christ first, then the relationship.

Cultivating Friendships takes hard work to produce fruit. Are you best friend material?

I thank God for the friends I have, because that small handful of ladies make me a better friend, better woman, and better Christian.

And I’m going to continue to seek women who need a friend, whether they can be one or not, and work on being the kind of friend God asks of us as part of His family, whether the relationship is for a season or a lifetime.

Being used by God to love & reach people is always right where I’m called to be.

I think I might just be best friend material, yet.

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Sorry, Not Sorry

What does sorry mean? What does repentance and contrition look like? Are you Sorry, Not Sorry?

She came in from playing outside, her cheeks flushed from the southern sunshine. “Please go pick up your room before dinner,” I asked. My four-year-old turned, made an angry face, with fists at her sides, “I don’t want to!” Giving her the ‘mom’ look, I started towards her. She quickly ran to her room,  continuing to shout and whine.

I followed her, trying to maintain my patience while I explained that she will not speak to me like this and that picking up her toys is her responsibility.

She yelled, “SORRY! But I . . .”

And I listened to her little rant, gently corrected her attitude, and modeled an appropriate response. But I couldn’t get over how ridiculously obvious it was when she yelled SORRY at me, her tiny hands balled into fists, that she wasn’t sorry at all. What does sorry mean? What does repentance and contrition look like? Are you Sorry, Not Sorry?

A true apology doesn’t involve screaming, anger, and definitely not a but. I know I’ve been guilty of using that but to justify my behavior with my husband, my kids, and even God.

Justifying my behavior might explain my reactions, but it doesn’t excuse crummy choices. It just makes my apology meaningless.

Because if I meant it, I would take responsibility. Someone else may have done something that was infuriating, but I had a choice. When we say sorry, but . . , we’re giving away our responsibility, like our actions were beyond our control. We’re really saying, “Sorry, but I’m Not Sorry.” Horse puckey. Lots of crappy stuff can happen that can push my emotional buttons and stress me out; I still can choose to control my response.

Watching my daughter scream sorry, but . . ., I could see her complete lack of contrition. Her tears were about the potential discipline, not sorrow. And I wondered how many times I’ve looked like that to God, praying for forgiveness, but full of excuses, with a hardened heart knowing I would probably do it again.

True repentance is a heart thing.

The word for repent in the Bible actually means to change your mind, and specifically in context, to change your mind about Jesus. When we change our mind about who Jesus is, when we BELIEVE He is Lord, our perspective changes. Suddenly, sin isn’t the exciting thing we have to do without; it’s the disgusting slime we want to wash away.

True repentance is a humble confession that Christ is Lord of my life.

Repentance then is a gift granted from God. He gives us the change of mind. We have to seek repentance, ask God to grant it to us, ask Him to change our minds about whatever we’re facing.

No wonder I struggled for years with feeling forgiven, because I wasn’t really repenting. True repentance is a humble confession that Christ is Lord of my life and asking for a change of heart which leads to different behavior. I started noticing that when I prayed for forgiveness and really meant it, I would ask for a new perspective, to change my heart, help me change my actions.

And it did. I spent years struggling with various sins and couldn’t seem to ever change. But, God changed my mind when I opened my heart. While I have a long way to go, I see the sins falling away. If Jesus is really God, and God is really real – then a lot of my perceptions and values were completely misguided.

Are you sorry? or not sorry? Are you asking for a change of mind and heart?

Jeremiah 24:7 ESV “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

Guess what? Having a change of heart attitude works in my earthly relationships as well. My husband responds so much better when I apologize and ask him how I could have handled that better. Plus, I get a better idea of what he was thinking and feeling, changing my perspective.

And when we see with a right perspective, it is so much easier to truly change. Which comes in really handy when I have a four-year-old tempting my temper.

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Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which, in turn, saved our marriage.

We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team.

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By the time we tried to communicate, we were boilers ready to explode, harboring so many hurts and slights.

My marriage was failing!

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying so hard to be a “good” wife while he was such a selfish jerk.

He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. He used the last of the milk, broke my favorite dishes with his carelessness, and left me home with the stomach flu and toddler to go hunting. If I ever dared to complain, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

The train wreck of our marriage was hiding so many broken pieces, I didn’t know where to begin.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I could live the rest of my life with this awful person who hurt me at every turn. Guarding my heart from him, I walked on eggshells whenever we were together. Often, I went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would start being what I needed.

What a selfish creep .  .

I was.

Wait, what?

Yep, I’d been angry and bitter because I’d been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the places God should be. I was bitter from my selfish, unmet desires.

I began seeking God’s answers for my life. At first, when I read about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept reading my bible and praying about it.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Over time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for grace, and understanding God’s love for me. It unlocked my heart. A veil lifted.

I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and hurts.

I stopped seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function.

Then, I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall between us.

Can Secret Service tear down the brick wall of bitterness?

Even when I had been doing the right things, I’d had the wrong heart. I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful chores I had done for him during the day and wait for his gratitude. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing things to serve or to get something from him?”

Even when I did the right things, I had the wrong heart. I wasn't serving. I was showing off. Click To Tweet

My motives weren’t pure. I wanted his love, recognition, respect.

A lesson from my Bible reading came to mind, about how we are to serve those in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Was my husband needy?

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but what if his poor attitude was because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs?

Through the lens of God’s grace, I suddenly saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion.

As God’s word poured grace and forgiveness into my heart, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine. Click To Tweet

I began my secret service.

I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to. Our Father sees what we do in secret.

Quietly, I began doing things without his asking, like noticing his toiletries need replacing, making his lunch, preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been frustrating.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret service for him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

One job I would never have considered before surrendering to Christ was picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the bathroom floor.

Every morning – He walks past his closet (where his hamper is) to leave the house, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor under the edge of the vanity. Previously, I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

But God was working on me. Before, I would have nagged him about being so lazy for leaving them there. My nagging would have become an infection between us.

Even several years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Then three years ago, I began to pick them up with a grateful attitude. “Thank you, Lord, my husband is not in Iraq.”

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that all my service is for You ultimately, and is about humility and serving without drawing attention to myself.”

One secret of my service is remembering that my service is ultimately in HIS service. Click To Tweet

I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. Mostly, I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. And I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When service filled my heart, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. My focus shifted. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. When his work day had been awful, I gave him some grace to find his peace so he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

It’s humbling and real. And every time I have shared this story with women whether 2 or 100, I’ve seen tears and nods. We all have our own dirty underwear mountain that we need to surrender.

So, I share in case another wife needs to hear my story. Nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return.

and Secret service is counter-cultural . . .

Our culture asks what’s in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude.

I’ve never been more joyful than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity underwear because I see how God has moved in our marriage and in his heart through my tiny acts of obedience.

And sometimes we need reminding that we’re not supposed to blend in.

Besides, the underwear was just a start. Once joining the Secret Service, I found so many ways to quietly serve people. Those services are treasures I hold like sweet pearls, knowing I’m seen by my Heavenly Father from whom nothing is secret.

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Summer’s Over

For the past couple of weeks, the ads have started popping up on television. Back to school fliers seem to be everywhere, and school supplies began taking over the shelves at Target and Wal-Mart. As a high school teacher for 17 years those were rarely welcome signs; I enjoyed my quiet summer vacations, reading by the pool or lake. Of course, once I became a parent, quiet summers became ancient history, but there is something special to love in the noisy chaos of kids.

Then this morning, I was greeted on Facebook by this image. celebrateschool

But this isn’t how I feel about the end of summer. In fact, this isn’t how a lot of my friends feel about it either. The end of summer means part of our hearts gets ripped out and flown across the country.

For most of ten months of the year, my family is just the three of us, Mommy, Daddy, and Snicklefritz. Then for two glorious months, we are five. My husband’s sons stay with us for the entire summer. It is wonderful. While parenting two additional children part-time comes with a bucketful of challenges, those boys are truly loved here.

They aren’t a burden or a difficulty. They are our family. They roll their eyes at chores, wrestle too hard with their sister, break things, spill stuff, laugh loudly, play endless fetch with the dogs; they are bottomless pits of hunger. They make messes and share cleaning up. They hunt and fish with their dad and learn to cook with both of us. They can spend an entire day playing with Legos or finding toads and frogs in the yard. They watch dorky tv with me way past bedtime. We share private jokes and quiet times. Kids 2014

Sending them home is always hard. It is especially so after the two months of summer when we get used to each other, create routines, and gradually rebuild a comfortable rapport. Since adopting our youngest, an additional dynamic has made an appearance. I thought dealing my own grief over their leaving was hard enough, but watching her reach the understanding that her brothers are gone for most of the year is additionally difficult. She doesn’t understand the complicated dynamics of divorce and custody agreements. She just knows the boys go home. Last year, she stood at the bottom of the stairs yelling for them to come down every morning for a week; the year before, she just sobbed sitting on the bottom step off and on for days.

So far, she has done better this time, but for me it has been especially hard. This summer was the best we’ve ever had as a family. We didn’t have funds for a fancy vacation or lots of trips to the movies or even eating out. We just tried to sit at the table together every night. We played games and talked. We sat outside watching the hummingbirds. We swam in the pool, having massive water fights with floating fortresses of floatation devices. We laughed. We talked. We were a family.

Learning to be a better Christian has led me to being a better parent to all of my children. Becoming closer to God and Christ has helped me understand what a gift God’s grace truly is. Grace is being forgiven because I accepted it, not because I deserve it.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Before I truly acknowledged God’s grace and forgiveness, I couldn’t share it with anyone. I held everyone to the ridiculous standards to which I held myself. When I really accepted God’s grace for me, I was able to extend it to others, especially my husband and family. The gift of being able to give away grace, to see beyond someone’s sin, is almost as much of a gift as God’s grace itself.  My relationship with both boys has blossomed because I am more able to see them from God’s perspective. I see them wanting to be respected as young men. With God, it was a simple decision to respect them and their emotions, time, and personalities even when their momentary decisions were wrong.

I was able to find humility which asked for respect for my position as a parent instead of demanding it as deserved, humility in being able to admit when I make a mistake or didn’t communicate as clearly as I thought I had. I even learned to have humility in being right. I didn’t have to prove I was right to end an argument. I took the time to teach and instruct so they could be right next time.

James 4:6 ESV “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Being able to extend grace to them made our summer a million times better, which is why I wanted to make the last week so much fun. We had a movie day in pj’s with popcorn for lunch. We celebrated as many food holidays (our family summer fun activity) as we could, trying to fit in the rest of the month of August before they headed home. We stayed up late, ate brownies for brunch (after scrambled eggs and orange slices). We played gross teenage board games at dinner, indulged in turtle ice cream pie and s’mores, watched marathons of our favorite dvr’d shows.

But before we knew it, the day was here. They were getting on a plane. Before their father took them to the airport, I hugged them both fiercely and said good-bye calmly, but they hadn’t seen me sobbing over the dishes the night before or teary-eyed after game night. Yet, even in my tears, I searched my faith instead of trusting my fallible emotions. Sometimes, I’m tempted to ask why God doesn’t prevent sad, awful, miserable, or tough things from happening. But if I believe He has a plan for me, the strength or patience I learn through suffering is part of that plan.

Romans 8:18 ESV  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Yes, letting them go is hard. My heart is sad. I’ll cry. But I can choose to be stuck in the sadness or claim the promise that 1) this is temporary 2) God has a plan for His glory that He will show us, all of us.

Part of parenting that all of us have to understand is that our children are first and foremost God’s. They don’t belong to us. God puts them in our lives for a time. Sometimes, that time is all too brief, while sometimes we get lucky and have them for a lifetime. But knowing this in our heads is so far from knowing this in our hearts. We still will grieve the letting go and struggle with missing them. And honestly, it goes too fast no matter what.

We would love to have the boys all the time. But so would their mother. Aye, there’s the rub, they cannot be in two places at once. They are forever torn between two families. They have two brothers in one home and a sister in the other. I would imagine they feel forever split in half. For years, my emotions led me to make things harder because it was hard for me. I wanted them to stay. God gradually had to teach me my role in their life was what He chose, not my choosing. He helped me better understand how to love them because it was far harder on them.

John 14:26 ESV  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The Holy Spirit finally showed me that letting my emotions control me was creating tension within my marriage and between the children and me. Accepting that my role is more temporary than most mothers and is simply part-time is hard, but the Holy Spirit helped me truly find freedom in accepting that I need to just be the best mom I can be while they are here. I need to be a witness to my faith so they can see God in me. To recognize that, in the grand scheme of eternity, pointing them toward heaven is much more important than where they live or go to school. This summer, I truly spent it pointing them toward Heaven, as best as I know how to do today, with love and honesty of who I was before and who I am in Christ.

John 17:8 ESV “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”

I spent the summer sharing what I was learning from God. Showing them how he is changing me. And feel like that was the best choice I could have made.

I am still sad they are gone. I wish that we could be there for dances and baseball games, award ceremonies and meet the teacher nights. I will always wish for that. As a teacher, I hate that I’m not there to help with English and history homework. But I spent everyday this summer loving them as closely as I could to how I believe God wants me to.  I tried to pass on the love and wisdom God is showing me. I lived my faith in front of them through discussions about why we chose this show to watch or why I didn’t behave in certain ways, by apologizing with humility. We opened the Bible and learned that God’s love is the only thing that fills the emptiness inside.

God promises that He will harvest the seeds that grow on rich soil. My job is just to sow the seeds and hopefully help enrich the soil. I would rather do more, but that isn’t my job. As they grow, my role will assuredly change again, but I can know that God is their God too. He desires them to know Him. He is calling them to Him.

2 Peter 3:9 ESV “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

If I trust that every experience and struggle I’ve had will work together for my good, then I need to trust that He is working all of their experiences to their good as well. I have to trust in His infinite wisdom that they belong to Him first.

Romans 8:28 ESV  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

And I cry with missing them from time to time, but can do so knowing that God literally understands what I’m feeling.

John 3:16 ESV  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God sent His son to die for sinners, murderers, liars, cheats, hypocrites, and the worst of the worst. He let His son go to fulfill his plan for mankind. I can let my stepsons go gracefully to be obedient to His plan.

Colossians 4:2-5 ESV  “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”

This summer God opened so many doors for His word and my witness with the boys. He helped me ‘unguard’ my heart and truly love them fully, even though letting them go is painful. He helped me make best use of our time, balancing fun and learning, and family time with quality time with each child.

So tonight, with tears in my eyes, I pray with thanksgiving for the wisdom and opportunities I had to love the boys this summer, for giving me understanding about how to make best use of our summer time.

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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.