When all else fails and you don’t know what else to do…

…there remains one simple thing.

When the child strays and spews lava and fights for control.

When the husband doesn’t have anything left to give.

When you’re isolated and lonely and can’t carry on.

When you don’t know what else to do, there remains one thing: Pull someone close for a hug.

Take that red hot child into your arms and head for the recliner. {It doesn’t matter that they are 15.}

Wrap your arms around that exhausted husband and hold on for awhile.

Find a friend who will use their arms to fill some empty places in your heart…and be that kind of friend.

Hugs break down barriers, melt ice, cool lava, infuse hope, give back life. Hugs communicate that you’re committed, even though you may not have any answers. Hugs are easy (once you get past your pride), free, and powerful.

Who can you hug today?


Are You A Mirror Kind Of Mom?

A RECENT CHILD CORRECTION SESSION in our home went something like this:

Mom: “Please don’t talk to your sister like that.”

Child: “Okay.”

A few minutes later:

Child: “That puzzle piece doesn’t go there! DUH!”

Mom: “I asked you not to speak to your sister like that. Please stop.”

Child: “Okay.”

A few minutes later:

Child: “You never get it right! You’re no good at puzzles.”

Mom, growing frustrated, in the middle of something and not wanting to stop: “Step away from the puzzle and go play with something else. I’ve told you and told you to stop speaking to her in that way.”

A mirror kind of mom does what I did: She brings the child’s attention to his waywardness.

{This is like holding a mirror to the child’s face and letting him see that he’s got lettuce between his teeth.}

I haven’t had much success with “mirror mom” parenting. It produces much frustration in me (and problaby in my kids too) and breeds escalated emotions. 

So I prayed for help. I needed some divine help in getting back to some basics of effective parenting.

God brought James 1:23-25 to mind. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”

I thought, “BINGO! That is how I’m parenting! I am holding the mirror to my children to show them what their “natural man” looks like.”

{Turns out, I am very good at showing my children their moral failures. The child, in turn, acknowledges their error and then goes right back to it.}

But as James points out, it is not “hearing” that causes us to be “blessed in all we do.” (see vs 25)

The word of God acts like a mirror. It tells us what is right and what is wrong, and when we train our children to see themselves according to Scripture, they are able to see themselves as sinners and separated from God.

This is necessary… but incomplete. James teaches that we can train ourselves and our children to move beyond fault finding, navel gazing and introspection to laying hold of the freedom found in the pages of scripture…because looking at ourselves in a mirror can never change us, whether we are 5 or 55!

We must actually do it…we must pick the lettuce out from between our teeth. We must guide our children to look at the Word in such a way that they are motivated to abide by and be transformed by it…and James tells us step by step how:

“But the one who looks intently”

 The word for “looks intently” (parakupto) means “to bend over and carefully examine something from the clearest possible vantage point.” This indicates a deliberate and conscious choice to get down and dirty if necessary in order to learn.

A parent who corrects her children this way stops what she’s doing instead of just throwing out commands. She makes a choice to stoop down, look carefully at the core issues, and deal with them according to…

“…the perfect law, the law of liberty”

The word here translated “liberty” is elsewhere always translated as “freedom.” It is essential that we see the laws and the precepts of God not as a task master but as our very freedom! {See Psalm 19:7-11}

A mirror only kind of mom exposes the error in her children but never moves to the freedom part.

One commentator says, “The law that gives freedom seems like a paradox. Law seems to imply restraint and therefore a lack of freedom. Not so with God’s law. His perfect law provides tree freedom. ‘Hold to My teaching’, Christ said, ‘then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32

Are you a mom who portrays God’s law as positive and beneficial or as negative and punitive? Use God’s law to bring liberating life.

“And abides by it…becoming an effectual doer”

The last phrase indicates process. It is a long term commitment to incorporating any given principle into one’s life and character.

We are not talking about perfection here but about perseverance.  The mom who parents this way uses the tool of “re-do,” where the “crime scene” is re-inacted. But this time, with Mom’s coaching using the law of liberty, the child does the right thing; he makes a good choice; he speaks kind and edifying words.

Putting it all together, it looked like this for me: I made a commitment to STOP, LOOK, and ABIDE, in accordance with James 1:23-25.

I committed to STOP what I was doing when I heard my child speaking unkind words.

I then directed my child to LOOK at I Thessalonians 5:11. Together we discussed the Bible taught they had the power to encourage and build up their sister! Wow! And they did such a great job of doing this when they tried. This is the perfect law of liberty at work. It nourishes the soul.

Then I committed to ABIDE, to keep doing this each time it was needed, re-inacting the crime scene, only this time with good coaching and support from Mom for a better outcome.

We can be mothers who train our children to build lifestyles of transformation around the perfecting precepts of God.

James says this mother, and her children, “will be blessed in all she does.”

So…STOP, LOOK, ABIDE


During Holy Week, When Children are Anything but “Holy”…

I go get her up from nap.

I’m all smiles, she is not.

I ask her to go use the bathroom before coming to kitchen and she does… she goes into the bathroom and urinates in her pants.

When I find her in there, standing in front of the toilet… wet… insolent… I am immediately irritated.

She’s done it to spite me, this child resistant to grace.

“Why did you do that?” I ask her, running on my irritation, leaving the Spirit behind.

She stares at me dark, hard, hostile. Silent.

I step out, overwhelmed by a sudden sense of my own foundations. I grew up in a home where religious parents were never pleased. I believed God was like that too. And I’m suddenly aware of the false god I just might be representing to her.

Of late, my prayer has increasingly become, “Lord, show me how to parent this in a manner in keeping with Your character.”

All my life I reckon I’ve struggled with understanding God. Perhaps I always will… at least now I’m aware of the struggle. In a world of jarred chords and evil strains, I’m letting the CROSS be my middle C.

I leave her in the bathroom to finish while I go outside, pick up toys before I mow. I hear from my Father. “Do you understand Me now?” He asks. “Do you know why I’ve forgiven, not according to your acts of righteousness? Do you understand it’s because of My name’s sake?”

There it is, a beam, and I follow it. Harsh judgment is deserved…but judgment never reflects the true nature and disposition of our God.

Words of displeasure, shame, condemnation, punishment…all of these we deserve for sinning against a Holy God. And He can and should dish them out, teach us a lesson we won’t forget….

Except that those things don’t reflect who He is at His core…gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness.

These things are His glory.

And He is pleased to reveal it to us.

It is in such stark contrast to the punitive version of God I was raised with. Yet for all His right and reason, He desired not to act in a way that our insolent rebellion begged for…but in a way that makes known His glory. So He “demonstrated His own love for us” and acted in a manner in keeping with His own character.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

And in so doing, the true nature and character of God was revealed.

Could this be the root of our parenting questions, our consumption of resource after resource, our apathy for the lost, our search for “the something that’s missing?” This deep confusion regarding the true nature of God?

He is good. He is grace. He is love.

He invites me to bask in it, believe it, drink it, take it and live. Live!

And then He tells me something strong and clear. He tells me to reflect it.

“I’ve chosen you for this purpose,” He says, “and you are to honor Me as I am, as I reveal Myself to you.”

I cannot live the way I always have. With each flash of divine revelation into His true nature and character, I am to make lifestyle changes that are in keeping with His revealed nature. This is what it means to “hallow” His name.

I bend the knees to such a high and noble calling in life. To sanctify His name? To reflect His glory? To be His witness? Me??

I go back in to little girl sitting on toilet.

I hug her close. I look deep into her eyes, I stroke damp hair away from her face. I ignore the odor of urine.

With a heart full of the Glory, I show her God.

 

 

“Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”

“And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you…

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.” Exodus 33:18-19, 34:6

 

 

**I am working on a study of sorts to take my children through over the summer. It is learning and discussing the names of God and how we can allow a deepened understanding of Him to change our actions and behaviors.

Although I became a believer at a young age, I had to “start from scratch” as an adult in my understanding of God and I began by studying His names. After several years of study, and seeing it  affect my life profoundly, I deeply desire for my children to “hallow” His name, not just know a bunch of facts about God. This study will take my children through 10 major names, includes daily activities centered around the Name’s meaning, and practical application of the Name to our daily lives.

{Example: The name Elohim, Creator God, meets our deep need for significance, purpose, value, and intrinsic worth.}

I *hope* to share it here on the blog as we go. Please pray if you think of us? I sense the Spirit of God moving in this… You can join in by subscribing to this blog here.


When Children are Beyond our Reach

{Someone needs this post today}

I have four children, the oldest is nine. I’m not a seasoned mother. I’m very much in the trenches, doing and messing up and learning.

Yet already I feel my oldest withdrawing, questioning, pulling back, thinking he knows everything already. At nine.

I’m concerned. I’m a mom.

The questions start: “Is this normal? What does this mean? Is it serious? What can I do?”

Then I’m in the kitchen one day cooking, listening to Luke online, chapter by chapter. Above the din of bickering children and spilled legos and general chaos, I hear this:

“Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow… when the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her…“Young man, I say to you, arise!”And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” {Luke 7:12-15}

And it strikes me that ours is a God who returns children, even grown ones, to their mothers.

Again in Luke 8:49f, Jesus gives a daughter back to her parents and in Luke 9:42 it says, “But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father.

Sons and daughters, daughters and sons, dead, possessed with evil, unable to save themselves, Jesus redeems the lives of our children and “gives them back” to us again.

I am reminded of the greatest, most significant thing a parent can ever do: Get our children to Jesus.

Just like the father who searched Jesus out with a plea for his son, so we can “with prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Because we serve an awesome God who demonstrated to us His willing delight in returning children to their mommas and their daddies.


Egypt’s Whip and the Shepherd’s Staff

“Just Stop It!” I nearly bellowed the words, mad woman swinging crazy.

The bickering, the whining, the children who demand and wear and exhaust.The chaos starts and an inner valve is opened and out drains all my inner resources. I’m limp. To fight the draining away, I turn on my kids.

The children I love dearly. The children who need guidance and training, who need a healthy alternative to their inborn sinful habits. The children who need a parent.

Maybe I’m the most childish of all.

Childish or not, it’s still my job to shepherd these little ones, and I ask Him once again, “How, Lord?”

The truth is that all I’ve ever known is Egypt’s whip, the driving slash of expectation without mercy. It’s the way I was parented: the task-mastering, the demanding, the condemnation.

It became the way I parented myself, the berating self that kept a body broken pushing forward.

I didn’t realize that until I was faced with the deep issues of parenting. That is when I kept reaching for a tool to deal with hard issues and Egypt’s whip was the one I kept coming up with.

How does one parent a different way than one has led herself?

It was all I knew.

I wanted change. I wanted something else. I hated the strong words, the high emotions, the use of force. I looked and grasped and tried for something different, but there was just nothing else there when the moment came and I fumbled for a response.

Yet what parent hasn’t tasted the effectiveness of condemnation? Shame? Guilt? Anger? Strong words? A Biting tongue? What parent hasn’t learned that control holds a degree of power? After all, Egypt was built on the backs of slaves.

It’s the taste of blood, the sting of tearing flesh that says there has to be a better way.

How does one become untrained in Egypt’s whip? How does one become un-duped…after she has fully believed that more stringent demands and less provisions of grace will result in harder work and double the outcome?

And then came the day when I saw it, right there in scripture, clear as day, the instruction for all those who like me, have been tutored under taskmasters.

I’m reading Exodus when I see it, how Egypt finds its strength and power in the crack and slash of the whip. The Israelites had only known control through force.

So God sent a shepherd.

A shepherd who beheld God in holy bush, who heard sacred truth, who was given one tool to lead the people out, handed one key to single-handedly bring freedom to a nation: “Take up this staff, for with it you shall… do… My…wonders.” Exodus 4:17

When God sent deliverance, He started by giving a completely different model of leadership.

The whip is replaced with a Shepherd’s staff. The rod and staff of the Shepherd bring comfort, not pain. (Psalm 23:4)

The driving from behind is replaced with a Shepherd who leads from the front. Follow, not force. (John 10:4)

And the Shepherd? He leads with His voice. (John 10:27)

How precious a truth!

Understanding these truths about God changed the way I led myself. The self-condemnation, shame, brow beating, they all ebbed away.

My parenting style began to change as well.

Once I understood the temptation to believe in the power of the whip, I knew how to fight back. I began rejecting the lie of the whip and the strong emotions it evoked and began to embrace the power of the staff instead.

What power? you ask. Indeed, a Shepherd’s staff looks impotent. But in Exodus 14:16 God told Moses, “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry ground.”

The staff is the tool God has blessed to part the waters.

A revolutionary truth in my life, that one.

The simple, unpretentious and humble is the blessed of God to part the waters in our lives, our homes, our world.

So today, I will set down the whip and take up the staff, the instrument with which we do God’s wonders.


Like A Bird

3:22am. The darkness seeps into bedrooms and hallways and enters a little boy’s sleep.

Since the time he was a babe, he has struggled with the darkness. Now at eight, it visits him again while he sleeps.

I hear him crying and Husband is the first to jerk blankets back and rush to his firstborn.

I wonder at this, after things are quiet again. What grand plan does God have for his little life for him to be so troubled in his vulnerable moments?

I have a hard time sleeping after that and as I toss, I sense His Spirit awakening me to words He wishes to disciple me with. “A sense of powerlessness…” He whispers to me again and again.

I become aware of Him identifying in me just that… ways I feel powerless. Ways I don’t try things for Him because I’m not sure He is for me in the trying.  Ways I fail my kids because I don’t really think I can make a difference, I’m not up for the monumental task.

The root of my powerlessness is exposed. Stinking unbelief.

I see the way powerlessness washes over me when the bickering starts and the needs and the demands and life are all coming hard and fast. I fall back on what I’ve always known: task mastering. And I’m sick with it and my stomach revolts.

Because I know Egypt’s whip is not as powerful as the Shepherd’s staff. Sure, Egypt’s whip drove and cracked and built bricks with its oppression. But Moses’ staff? Well IT PARTED WATERS.

I see that task- mastering my kids is rooted in a sense of powerlessness, and that powerlessness is rooted in unbelief. The kind of unbelief that task-masters self instead of being shepherded by the Good Shepherd.

Egypt’s whip is for the powerless and it is the truly powerful who take up the shepherd’s staff.

Words from Job wash over me and show me the path of life. “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” Job 38:41

I remember those baby birds. They cry for food to a God who cares and He shows their mommies where to find it for them.

Day after day.

And if God does that for the birds of the field, how much more will He do that for me and my precious babies? My babies who cry for understanding and love and guidance and nourishment and LIFE?

God has chosen me…has given me the Shepherd’s staff to give them comfort. Just like He shows the momma birds where the food hides, He will show me how to impart life to these little ones.

I’m not powerless. I am a Shepherdess who holds the power of the staff in her hands.

“God help me. Help me to lay down the task-master’s whip and take up this staff and do Your wonders.”

Littlest one cries and I go ready to shepherd…