Connecting Emotionally

support-group-pic

This last week has been an extremely challenging week. My son and I tend to have good days and bad days, but for some reason we have been having several bad days in a row. If you want in on the secret of why, I’m glad to tell you. Someone had sent me some links for a seminar done by Cinda Osterman. I have been struggling for quite some time trying to figure out how to be a parent that truly reflects Christ to my children, while at the same time being a firm and loving mom, and being in charge of my home. My son really struggles with needing to be in control of my home. Even though he is five, he is very determined to control the house and to parent us.

A few weeks ago after watching Cinda’s series on Vimeo, my husband and I decided to rededicate our lives and family to Christ. I decided to start getting up at 5 a.m. and doing my worship in spite of the obstacles to do so. Of course, the devil didn’t want to lose us so easily, so he is fighting us in any way that he can. My son and I are the biggest area he can attack in my life. At first he tried the kids waking up at 5 a.m. Seeing me persisting in my worship, he wasn’t happy with that and stepped it up a notch. The following Sabbath there was an announcement at church that the pastor was holding a class that was meant to improve your intimacy with God. I was not prepared to stay, but I decided to stay anyway, as I needed to take the class.

During the class I tried hard to listen and keep under control my two very energetic kids. But, I ended up leaving halfway through as it just wasn’t working. (Of course the devil wanted me to be discouraged.) I asked God what He wanted me to do, and after talking to Pastor, he said that he would find a way to make it work because he knows how much I not only want the class but need the class. (Of course the devil wasn’t happy once again.) I was learning to persist… The following Thursday my daughter got “the runs.” Not only did she get them, but it was dripping out of the side of the diaper and going through three pairs of pants from diaper leaks in two hours! I cancelled everything on my plate and gave lots of baths that day. Friday, it was just as bad. To be honest, I have no idea where it all kept coming from as she wasn’t really eating.

Sabbath morning I woke up and was planning on not going to church. As I was doing my worship (the kids were finally sleeping through my morning worship), the Cradle Roll teacher texted and asked if I was going to be there. I texted her back and said that I was thinking I didn’t want to go because of the issues with Abby for the two days before. As I wrote the text, I don’t know how to describe it — God spoke to me.

“Bitsy, You believe that I am God, right?” I was kind of surprised by the question.

“Uh, yes, Lord!”

He replied, “So you believe that I can do anything, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well you say you believe it, but you won’t act on your faith.”

I was a little confused for a minute. “But Lord, I can’t go to church; there is no shower there, and what if it’s contagious?” (Half of our congregation is older; they don’t recover so well from things like this.) “And, how am I going to sanitize a mess that is dripping down her legs and running onto the carpet, especially in the middle of church.”

So he responds. “Bitsy, you need to make a decision. You either believe I am God, and I can handle this, not to mention do anything you need — and you go to church; or, you don’t believe Me, and you sit there all day and miss out on Me showing you my power. Not to mention not allowing Me to build your faith in Me, which you are always asking me to do. So, what are you going to do?”

Talk about a slap in my face! But, He made it clear the way that I have always wanted Him to. So, I decided to go. When I did, Abby woke up and came out. “Mommy, I’m poopy!” I, in my still lacking faith, looked in her diaper. He had already answered my request! So, we went to church.

It’s hard to be like a little child, but each day I am reminded of the trust that we are supposed to have in our relationships with Christ. The trust that my children model to me helps me to understand more of what I am supposed to be like toward Christ. The issue I see is that I need to be emotionally connected to Christ in order for my children to be emotionally connected to me. How do we achieve that? I am still learning that myself. However, here are a few tips that I have found, both for becoming emotionally connected to my children and to my Heavenly Father.

1. Take time… Take time to pray, even if it doesn’t feel like it works. Believe it will. Take time to have devotions and to have quiet time focusing on God. This is totally exhausting to do as a mom of little ones, but it is a huge blessing in dealing not only with life but with marriage and parenting as well. Try to cut out the nonessentials. Make your number one priority your children. Then, pray for the strength to keep it that way. God has really impressed upon me that their relationship with us and theirs with Christ are the only things we get to take to Heaven with us. We have a huge role to play in the bringing up of our children, and if we ask, He will provide the strength to fulfill that promise.

It is so hard to reprioritize, but over the last several months God has helped me to see the most important priority is my children, and to be quite honest, I have had to pray that He will change my heart and help me to enjoy being with my children. (They have been so challenging that I am ashamed to admit I have wanted to be done with parenting.) As I have prayed daily for the last three weeks, and have been focusing on Him, He is giving me His grace to change; and I, in spite of our challenges, am starting to enjoy the precious moments with my kids. In fact I am taking time daily to spend time with them and emotionally connect. As I spend this time emotionally connecting with them, I am also finding that the problems we are having are getting easier. He truly fixes all things if we are patient and willing to submit to Him.

2. Pray over each of your children… If Daddy can also do this, it is a special blessing. Pray to claim promises for them. Every night before they go to sleep, I go in to tuck the kids into bed. I am so tired when it comes to bedtime, that we do worship and they get into bed. I put my hand on my child, and I pray individually with them. I claim Jer. 29:11, and if there is something they are particularly strugging with, I claim promises that help with that. Since I started that three weeks ago, the kids will not go to sleep without it, and they both have a hard time being patient and waiting their turn. There is comfort in knowing someone is praying for you.

3. Focus on little things… Focus on the little things that are done right, that the kids need encouragement in, or that they might need a little extra help in. There is a reason that God says the little things are important. This is because the big things are built up of little things. Notice the little things that your kids do to try to please you. Take the time to teach them the little things that are so often overlooked. When they see that you are happy with the little things they do, then they will realize that in their work and their play, their desire will be to help us and please us.

4. Be thankful... We have started a blessing book, and each morning and evening with worship we all say three things we’re thankful for. It’s amazing the happiness that it has brought into our house. I read a quote and I wish I had written it down, but I didn’t. Anyway, it says by counting the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us, we are building faith in Him. I want my children to have a firm foundation of faith in the Lord.

5. Take His word at face value and believe what He says… Sometimes it seems so challenging yet way too simple. Being children of God is a real challenge. Each day we have to wake up and truly believe that He has our back. Because of how things may look or how badly things go that day, it’s often hard to understand how He has our back. However, He promises that He does, and we must trust Him in spite of our feelings. If we ask He will show us what we need to learn from each situation, and sometimes He even tells us about the prevention of things we may not have been aware of.

6. Be vulnerable… This is the hardest part for us as humans, each day struggling to go through without having to be vulnerable…without having to reveal the challenges, struggles, and pain we are experiencing…without showing our children what our hearts are actually dealing with and the fact that most of the time we are feeling the same way they are, but we just won’t admit it. As I have started to show them how I handle the struggles I am dealing with, they are learning and open and asking about the struggles they are having. They are asking me how to handle things, and are interested in being led by me. They are beginning to understand that on the outside we look like adults, but sometimes on the inside we really feel the same way we did as little kids. It helps them to see we really do care. Remembering that we are all in this battle together helps a lot. And, I am starting to allow my children to respectfully say, “Mommy, do you need to have some time with Jesus?” That helps me to know that I am not being Christlike and I need to surrender to Him.

As we press forward this next few weeks, my prayer is that God will open our eyes and help us to see the things we need to cut out and the things we need to add, and help us to see things we can implement in faith to connect more emotionally to our Lord and Savior and to our families and all of our relationships.

Ten Tips for Reprioritizing Life

busymom

As I start this week, I am a little baffled as to how to make it through, but I know that I have a Savior who can work all things out for good. In this next week, I will be completely rearranging my life. You see, I am a get-things-done, have-to-have-things-in-order, and put-too-much-on-my-plate type of woman. I go crazy — when I don’t have things to do, I create them. I work hard, don’t take time to rest or relax, and most of all, as much as I want to have my kids be top priority in my life, the things  that “have to be done” crowd my kids out. So, why is it in normal everyday life it’s so easy to leave our kids behind, when they should really be top priority?

Each day that goes by, I am realizing what a precious gift I have been given with my extended family, husband, and kids. It’s becoming more and more ingrained in my mind that the only thing we will be able to bring to Heaven with us is our relationships. So, let’s stop a minute and look at why Christ died for us.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” “The joy” is the chance of having that relationship with us. Wow! What a powerful thought. Jesus died for me, just to have the chance of having a relationship with me. That puts a huge emphasis on relationships. With that said, how much emphasis do I put on relationships? Am I really making my relationships the main focus in my life? I don’t spend much time investing in my relationships, and I really want to make that a priority in my life.

As I have been pondering this for the last couple of weeks, I have been learning and thinking about ways to build my relationships, not only with everyone I normally interact with, but with the ones that matter most — my kids. You see, parents have a huge impact on their kids. The kids learn how to have relationships, how to focus on what matters in life, and how to organize themselves by watching their parents. They also get their self-worth, their courage, and their willingness to serve from us. Out of all of that, I want to be sure to pass on to my children that relationships are the most important thing that can be focused on.

Growing up, my mom was really busy. I don’t remember a lot about my early childhood. Most of my memories at that age are more of my dad. I know my mom was pretty young when she had me. My dad and mom got married when my mom was exactly one month from turning 18. They had known each other from ages four and seven. Dad was best friends with my mom’s older brother, and mom was good friends with dad’s younger sister. She had me when she was 20. Dad was laid off quite often, due to the young industry of stainless steel, and Mom ended up going to work in order to help all of us financially. When I was four she was going to school full time (in nursing), working as a CNA, and studying and cleaning when she was at home. I remember that she used to get sick, and I would help with the house work while she sat down and told me how to do the job. What I learned from her example is to focus on the tasks at hand. My parents did the best that they could in every way in order to raise us, but while kids are good at perception, they are really bad at interpreting the perceptions that they get, and I mistakenly interpreted the instruction I had received. I unknowingly took on the mindset that tasks need to be done before play can begin.

The first thing I learned about relationships is they are either growing or dying; there is no in-between. So, how do we keep them growing? We keep them growing by using a “love” banking system. In this system there are positive and negative deposits. If you are making more positive deposits than negative deposits, your relationships will be growing. If you make more negative deposits than positive ones, your relationship will start dying. Start keeping track of how many positive and negative experiences you have with each other. My goal is to have double the positive experiences as negative experiences. It is a goal we are working toward in our family.

Second, put more encouragement into life. This life on earth is really hard. It is challenging not only to be adults in the world as it is today, but to be children. It is so hard these days to truly see the path to walk in being a Christian. The devil has become so sneaky with how he deceives, tempts, etc., us, and it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can see his temptations in our lives. As each day goes by, we need to encourage each other in our walk. The more I have been applying encouragement to interactions with my kids, the more I find them encouraging me.

My favorite author once penned this quote, and it is one of my favorites: “Give the young and struggling a word of encouragement when you can. You would not leave those plants in your window boxes without water, nor refuse to open the shutters that the sunlight might fall upon them; but you would leave some human flower to suffer from want of appreciation or the sunlight of encouragement. There are a few hardy souls that can struggle along on stony soil, shrubs that can wait for the dews and sunbeams, vines that climb without kindly training; but only a few. Utter the kind word when you can see that it is deserved. The thought that ‘no one cares and no one knows’ blights many a bud of promise. Be it the young artist at his easel, the young preacher at his pulpit, the workman at his bench, the boy at his mathematical problems, or your little girl at the piano, give what praise you can,” Signs magazine, Sept. 14, 1882.

Praise is different than encouragement, and I think that we need to be sure to clarify the meaning of each. Praise builds ego, and encouragement builds behavior. I want my kids to have self-worth by knowing they have skills to do what they need to do, but I don’t want to have my kids puffed up or prideful. I want them to be humble, loving, and kind. Praise is focused on the person. “You’re so smart” or “You this, you that…” Encouragement focuses on an action. “I like the way that you are ____________.” “I appreciate the hard work you are doing ____________.” “Please keep up the good work doing ___________.” With that said, we also need to be sure that our kids know that they in themselves are important, and are special for just being them. They need to know that God made them special.

Third, practice “The Pause.” Before responding always pause a few seconds to let your brain catch up with the conversation. It gives you an advantage by assessing and being able to give a reasonable answer. It also allows us to calm ourselves down if we are having a frustrating interaction with someone we love. James says to control our tongue, and using the pause makes that much easier.

Fourth, “live in the moment.” When I’m busy around the house and I am doing chores or whatever I have to do that day, I am learning to put things down when my kids come running to me excited about something. I am learning to take that moment and spend it with them — get excited about what they are doing. Often I have found that a quick stop in the chores sends a little ray of sunshine through the rest of their day. It’s not about getting things done as much as it’s about sharing most of the little moments with them and being excited about what they are learning and playing. They want more then anything to get our approval. I am learning this even with my hard-to-handle, hyper, five-year-old son. He does so much better with me encouraging what is right versus me correcting what is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to correct the incorrect, but we need to do it in a loving way.

Fifth, we need to be gentle not only with our children, but with ourselves as well. The more gentleness we possess, the easier it is for people around us to listen to what we have to say, and the easier it is to correct each other. Gentleness makes it easier for our children to come to us when they have made mistakes or have sinned. There are always things that need to be corrected in us. We are all human and we all fall. The base word to discipline is to disciple. We are not to discipline (in harsh training or in roughness), but to disciple them, to train them and teach them how to grow up into Christ. “Love wins love.” It is our gentleness with mistakes, with each other, and with ourselves that reaches people. (I really need help with this as it requires an empathy and patience that I don’t have.)

Sixth, work on communication. Communication is the biggest key to relationships. Without it there is no relationship. Some friends can go years without talking to each other and then pick right back up when bumping into each other, but does that mean that they had a good quality of relationship the years they didn’t talk? No, most of the time they got along really well when they had a friendship, and it just took off again when they saw each other.

I sure have had instances where I have wanted to ring my hands and say, “I give up on you son. What are you thinking? What is wrong with you?” But, in those times I practice James’ advice and hold my tongue. Just a slight pause, and then I calmly ask, “Son, I’m not understanding why you would do that. Do you mind explaining that to me, because its not making sense as to why you would think that is okay to do.” Most of the times when he explains it, I am shocked as to his conclusions, but they actually make some sense. As he explains it I don’t feel quite so upset about it because I can find the flaws, and then I can correct the flaws in his thinking, which then corrects the behavior.

Seventh, teach our children to identify the issues in their hearts. Teach them to identify the cause behind their behavior. What is the heart issue that is causing them to behave the way they are, as behavior is a heart issue? And, the more we identify the real issue and we bring our children to Christ and teach them to submit and to repent, the more we will see their behavior change.

Eighth, take play time with each other. We need to take the time to teach our children the ways that we want them to act, to speak, to work, and most of all to witness. But, we should also take time to play. We all need some time to play and be able to relax and rest. It is often in these times that most kids really learn to connect to others. Play is so important for kids. They often learn their life lessons through their play, and as they play it allows them to process what they are being taught. It also allows us to see the issues in their hearts that we need to work on. My son gets angry, and when he plays, as much as we have tried hard to prevent it, he is fascinated by guns. I guess it’s just a boy thing, but it just doesn’t go away. If he doesn’t know how to deal with a certain situation, he starts “shooting.” As I have been changing my parenting skills and giving the kids more respect and love, I see in my son’s play more love and respect toward not only his playmates but also us. I am also seeing a dramatic decrease in his shooting. Praise the Lord!!! It’s been a burden in my heart I have been praying about. Our children look up to us (even though they may speak the opposite), and they really do want to please us in spite of their protests. Also, often when we take breaks with our children, we actually find that they are picking up on the lessons we are teaching them and applying them in their lives. And then, as we see them practicing, we can encourage them in those skills. If you are like me, I get so busy with life that I really don’t even see anything that they are learning.

Ninth, find hobbies that you can do as a family. It is very important to have individual hobbies, but it is also very important to have family hobbies. Our God is a God who delights in our individuality. He is not a God who demands that we are consumed by only Him. He gave us a job in the Garden of Eden, and that was to garden. He didn’t demand that everything is “Him and Him only.” Yes, He desires our worship, and because we have an “enemy that is walking around like a roaring lion, seeking those who he may destroy,” we are forced to have Christ as our constant companion and to constantly be in prayer and communion with Christ, but that was not in His perfect plan for our lives. He came to visit Adam and Eve, and left them to do their job. In this world our job is to witness to others, but He still wants us to grow our talents, and that is something that takes time.

Tenth, sacrifice. There is a saying “You only love as much as you are willing to sacrifice.” In every relationship there is sacrifice involved. Often times it is very hard but it is a necessary part of our christian experience. It is a real challenge as I tend to always sacrifice and no one seems to notice or appreciate my sacrificing. Be encouraged, even if no one on this earth sees the sacrifice, God does, and that is what matters. One day your children, husband and others will appreciate all of the sacrifice you did and then you will be glad that you could do it.

So many blessings in this upcoming week, as we all learn to apply these principles into our lives!

 

Stepping Back and Assessing

sisters-931131_1920

“Love suffers long (is patient), love is kind, love does not envy, love wants not its own, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh not evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails,” 1 Corinthians 14.

Boy, some days it’s really hard to act like Christ. I will admit that I tend to do fine in public. Trying to keep a good appearance and being a fit representation of our Savior is always on my mind while I am out (especially when my son will not listen to me and I really want to paddle his behind — or wonder why I ever decided to bring him into this world). But, for some strange reason, when I walk through my front door everything seems to change.

Getting frustrated, angry, pouting, yelling, and sometimes out of control, I hate to admit, is not just a kid problem in my home, but it’s a Mommy problem too. I do so well until I’m pushed to my limit, and then I lose it and yell or get frustrated. The problem with that is we are to be an example in behavior to our children, as we are what they see. Whether inside our house or outside our house, we are called to show the principle of love, no matter the situation. Lord, help me as I really struggle with this on a daily basis. I am seeing some changing as time goes by, but, being a perfectionist, it’s not as fast as I want to see!

At ages five and two, my two kids are always copying everything they see — especially in Mommy’s and Daddy’s behavior. My son’s favorite saying right now is, “But, you get to, so why can’t I?” We get so sick of this question all day long…all evening and often after the kids are already in bed. “But, you get to stay up, so why can’t I?” How many times do you find yourself asking these questions to God? I think if you really analyze your life, you will find you ask questions like this more then you realize you do.

Having children is teaching me to see myself in a whole new light. I now understand why Christ says, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 18:3.

A lesson in Child Rearing 101 for Bitsy: The questions I get annoyed with by my kids asking over and over again are the ones I tend to ask God. Each day I find myself asking one of those questions in an adult way. “Father, we’re having a huge financial issue. Why can’t you just send us a check in the mail?” Or, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?” Or, “Why did you give me kids? I feel so out of control right now.” But, no matter our circumstances God asks us to be like little children, to have the grace to be corrected, the ability to apologize, the quick forgiveness I see in my children when I have made mistakes, the simple trust and appreciation our kids so often have for us.

The Lord of all Wisdom understands our needs. He understands our children and our child-like questioning. He has broad shoulders to allow us to question and vent and help us with our frustration. Having little people copy exactly what we do in our daily lives challenges us to be able to change the way we handle situations and ourselves. You see, I believe children were given to us, not to change them into what they need to be, although that is a part of what our job as parents are, but to change US into what WE need to be — to challenge our daily lives and bring us back over and over again to the areas we need to work on, each time learning to surrender that issue to Him more and more. No, the training of my children is not so much intended for them but for me. It doesn’t help that God places a heavy responsibility on us to be parents, as our children are on loan to be raised for Him.

I really struggle as a parent because I take the responsibility very seriously, and I am sure that you do as well, as it is a huge responsibility and one that even the angels would give anything to have as well. Not only do we have the responsibility of helping our husband, keeping the house running smoothly, keeping meals on the table and laundry done and all of the other responsibilities of running a home, but we have the 24/7 jobs of wiping noses, missing sleep in the night, being tugged in more then one direction if we have more then one child, and somehow, among all of this, we are trying to look good for our husbands as well. I want to challenge you today. When we are struggling with the responsibility of parenting, are we really trusting that the Lord will work everything out for good? When we rely on Him, our strength is renewed and He will show us what to make as a priority for each day.

God has recently brought to my attention that a lot of my overwhelming issue with being a mom is that I am not truly trusting the Lord. I don’t take a few minutes each day to really spend time asking the Lord how I did for the day, assessing things I need to change, and surrendering those to the Lord for a clean start in the morning. The problem is fitting it in with all of the craziness going on in life with two totally crazy little ones who beg to have Mommy’s attention all the time.

With all of this I want you to be encouraged. Change is a slow process. My favorite author once penned, “Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” Sometimes, to be honest, I wonder if my lifetime is going to be long enough as I have so many faults that need corrected, and the more I try to fix them it seems the stronger and more frequent they become. Why? Because when I am looking at my problem, I am forgetting to look at Christ, the one who overcomes all of my problems.

Each day as life gets busy and time seems short, let’s choose to take one day at a time, living in the moment and enjoying each and every second we have with our precious little ones. It takes three weeks to form a habit, so just hang in there and keep going. If you fall, get back up and keep going. When you finish the three weeks, add another task and work on that for three weeks. Our children are very forgiving, and I’m so grateful that God put such forgiveness into our little ones, as He knew they would need it with me.

So, in closing, let’s determine to take five minutes at the end of each day to step back and assess ourselves, our family, and our children. We will be walking on the road next to our Master.

Blessings as we start this new habit together!

Showing His Character: My Personal Journey

IMG_0410

As I sit here tonight, I am amazed and taken aback at the place that God has led me to. Three weeks ago I was signing up to do something I have never thought I would do, and that was to blog to you.

Two weeks ago, my daughter decided to submerge our laptop (our only computer) in the pool. I figured that was the end of the blogging idea. I prayed that God would grant me mercy in having the computer work again, but to be honest it was mostly because I was scared to tell my husband — who, by the way, took the news extremely well. And, being on a trip when I dropped the bombshell, he still had a huge smile and hug for me when I came in the door. Well, God chose to grant my request.

IMG_0110

So here I sit. The only conclusion I can draw from God’s leading is that God is going to give me something to say that will encourage, grow, and maybe even challenge you over these next few months. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I have to admit I am a little overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, and, to be honest, exhausted. It has not been the easiest day with my two kiddos (ages five and two), and I am baffled at what I am writing about this year: character development and child rearing. I feel this is the last subject I should be writing on, and I am certainly the most unqualified writer for this topic. I cling to the promise that God qualifies the called; He doesn’t call the qualified.

I guess the best thing to do is simply share my testimony. We are told we can never go wrong with telling our personal experience with our Creator. So, here it goes…

I was raised in a conservative Adventist home. Growing up, I thought our home was the best ever and never dreamed that we had any issues. Of course as I grew and saw some of the issues our family had, I didn’t want to repeat them. My parents were the best parents they could possibly be and I love them very much, but like all parents they fell short.

Some of this left me with several things I struggle with: I constantly doubt myself, I am really hard on myself and my kids, I struggle with how to learn to submit to my husband and still maintain respect and control of my kids, I tend to react instead of thinking things through and it takes me a long time to recover from arguments, I am not consistent at all in my parenting, I don’t adjust to change, keeping a schedule is a real challenge, and most of all I have a trust issue. I trust friends and acquaintances, but I struggle to trust the people closest to me. All summed up, I struggle to understand what love is, let alone live in a way that reflects that love to my children. To be honest, in this sinful world I think we all struggle with what love is and what it looks like.

As I was pouring my heart out to the Lord one morning. (It was one of those early mornings after an extremely hard day interacting with my loved ones. I am sure you have had those too. I had woken up at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep because of the despair that I was feeling about the struggles with my children. The Devil was throwing up how they would lose their salvation because my son does this and that and my daughter does this and that…) So for once I did what we all should do, I went to our life source first I opened up my bible. I remember being upset because I could not parent the way my heart wants to parent. I totally related to Paul when he says in Romans 7:15 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; But what I hate, that do I.” My heart wants to parent like Christ, My heart wants to be loving, and patient and kind, and all of the “Love traits” talked about in 1 Corinthians 13.

My brain however just wasn’t wrapping around it. I was finding myself parenting the way that my parents parented. “It’s my way or the highway” type attitude. Although they meant well and I usually did what they asked, I remembered muttering under my breath and not happily obeying the whole time. (I want heart obedience from my children not “because I say so” obedience.)

When I was in my early twenties is the first time I really felt like I had seen a small glimps of my family’s flaws. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I went with my friend who had just gotten her license. We were driving her big family van (One of those 9 passenger rigs) and were going to the store for something. When we had finished shopping she accidently backed into another vehicle. We couldn’t tell if we had done any damage as the car already had a fair bit of damage in that area. We waited for a few minutes but no one came out so I wrote a note with our phone number to call and get things worked out later if we had done damage, as we had a timeframe and couldn’t wait around. We stuck the note under the windshield wiper and left.

When we got to our second store, we happened to bump into her parents. I was totally embarrassed to be there as her parents were, as you can imagine, a little bit upset. However, it wasn’t a scene like at home. She actually reasoned with her parents and talked things through, she told them how she was feeling and they said how they were feeling. They all worked it out in about ten minutes and I remember thinking, “Man, if I ever talked to my parents that way, I would be in big trouble.” Not that my parents would go off on me, but I just never felt like I could be open and express my feelings like she was able to do. Yet that experience stuck with me. Although I didn’t realize the full implications of “our faults” at the time I remembered that I wanted to have that kind of relationship with my children someday. A relationship that they could tell me anything and we could talk about everything.

As I contemplated this in my mind that morning the Lord spoke to me. He revealed a glimps of His love in my life and how He handles me. He showed me that He allows me to make choices and guides me instead of punishes me, He patiently works through circumstances to grow my character and He works at the speed I respond to. I understand the frustration some of the Bible writers had, it’s just hard to put some things into words. But I will try to sum it up.

God loves each one of us so much that He gives us free will. We have a choice. He lets us learn through our natural consequences. He lets us know ahead of time what the consequences are going to be. There is no condemnation, irritation or frustration from Him toward us. Instead He has sympathy, tenderness, understanding and patience toward us. He is eager for us to understand and reason with us. He wants us to tell Him how we are feeling, our little struggles and our successes.

I sat there trying to sort all of this out as I told Him, “I can’t do this Lord. If I did that my children would be even more unruly and very frustrating and I already have friends and family who struggle to be around me because of my children’s demanding, high energy behavior. I ate raw when I was pregnant with Elijah, I spent tons of time reading and praying and living a balanced life. My husband and I were in the newlywed stage so we had an awesome relationship. Why am I struggling with hyperactivity and defiance? Why Lord? How am I supposed to be like you? What you have showed me is something I can’t even comprehend myself, how am I supposed to live it? How am I supposed to teach it to my children?”

We are a representation to our children of Christ, They get their idea of what God is like from us and how we parent them. This is a hard thought to think on, but one that I think is important for us to assess. We can’t be like Christ in our selves, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murderers, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23) The devil will throw this up in our face and make us feel hopeless, but don’t be discouraged be encouraged, “And He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9) It is only when we feel like this that we truly surrender to Christ and when we can’t do anything to fix the problem ourselves, then we allow Him to work and to do through us what we ourselves cannot do. I am so grateful for the way God created kids. With their quick to forgive, constant love and confidence and their desire to be close to us. Sometimes the greatest struggles I have with them are really the biggest blessing. I just have to realize that at the time.

So, as we meet each month to follow the growth, learn new tricks and evaluate where we are at, I pray that God will lead us in how to be more like Him and to see the true character of Love, as our minds will forever be struggling to contemplate what Love truly looks like.