Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Day I Hit My Kids

I hit my kids today.

Before you judge me, you need to know how bad my circumstances were.  I was up all night.  Sleep deprivation is never really good for me.  I couldn’t get going.   With the kids being sick, the house got messy really quickly.  Laundry is behind, dishes weren’t getting done.  Nothing was going right.

I know how a good day ought to go.  There are days where I am in the zone.  But today, I couldn’t get my will up to speed, and then I felt guilty for being such a bad mother.

One of my kids came to me in tears.  There has been a lack of joy in her for months now.  She recalled some instances where she lied a couple of times (um, like three years ago.) We’ve talked about it, and she has asked forgiveness and sought restitution where she needed too.  But the fact that she could do such a terrible thing keeps nagging her.  She won’t stop thinking about it.

Is this the time when a parent should yell at her kid?  Does a parent tell the kids how awful they are for sinning when they feel bad for sinning?  No…I knew what was going on.  It was the same problem I was having for the day.

So I gathered some stuffed animals and threw them at all the kids.  I tried to find the most evil-looking ones I could.  There were a few flying rabbits that the kids were able to dodge, but I managed to find their weak spots and hit them from behind when they weren’t looking.  Then I took my son’s Hulk Hogan punching glove, and pinned the sad little girl down, punching and coaching her until she finally figured out what to do.

“What do you do kids, when Satan throws accusations and insults at you?  Are you going to stand there and let him condemn you?”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast your burdens on Jesus, for He cares for you.”  We didn’t stop the “game” until the kids threw the weapons back and I showed them how Jesus nailed their sins on the cross to stay.

So parents, if you feel like you are going to beat your children, take your best shots with a Gospel-driven soft and squishy toy that does no harm.  Now that our household remembers “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and we have gotten plenty of physical exercise, we can resume our day with happiness and productivity.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Single Girl's Scenario

It's no secret that single women are frustrated when it comes to dating relationships.  It is common for a girl to ask me how aggressive or passive she should be when it comes to the guy she likes.  She wants to do things in a godly manner, so does that mean she just sits around and waits for a man to make every move?

I just learned that Martin Luther rescued 12 nuns from a monestary who desperately wanted to leave the single life and become wives and mothers. Martin had found a home and a husband for 11 of them, but couldn't find a man for Katharina von Bora. The fiesty woman told Luther that if he couldn't find her a husband, he would have to man up and marry her himself (not in those exact words--that's a 2012 translation). Eventually the two got married in 1525.

It reminds me of a time when Chris and I were dating. After leaving a restaurant, I threw him some pocket change and told him he needed to be saving his money. He laughed and asked what in the world I could be talking about. But he knew what I was talking about. We both knew. I just didn't know that he had already bought the ring.

It's very easy for single women to complain about men not stepping up or taking initiative. I know it's frustrating. But you need to know that no man finds whining attractive. A woman will do better if she stops complaining about the state of men, and starts challenging them. A man worth his salt will rise to a challenge, but will run away from a complainer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Understanding = Less Commanding

I looked back over my 20's and saw that there was a fundamental flaw in the way I tried to teach people. Whether it was my own children, members of bible studies I taught, or students and singles in the ministries where I was on staff, I found it easy to give a command and tell people what they should do. I also found it easy to be frustrated at them for not meeting my expectations. It's harder to teach people how to carry out that command, but the process and results are way more peaceful.

For example, it's easy to yell at my kid, "Don't slam the door!" That command only leaves us both frustrated. If I want change and a calmer house, I need to get off my bumpkin and show my kid how to turn a door knob and close the door gently.

When I was on church staff, I came in eager to encourage young men and women to live missional lives. Then it dawned on me that I didn't even know if half of them were saved. I had to stop saying "Be missional!", take a step back, and teach the Gospel first. Once people understand the Gospel at work in their own lives, it becomes very easy to teach them how to live a missional life. Once students learn the how, I rarely have to preach "Be Missional".

Today, I spent some time exercising with my kids. To give my kids ownership, I told them we would have "P.E." class and each of them had to lead the rest of us in some type of stretch or exercise. My youngest kid screamed, "I WANNA DO JUMPING JACKS." This is what happened:

Cute. I laughed because those are not jumping jacks. I can't just assume that because I know how to do a jumping jack, can model jumping jacks, and tell my kids to do jumping jacks that they will be able to correctly perform a jumping jack. My oldest kid came to the rescue. "Okay everybody, put your body like an 'X'. Now a pencil. X. Pencil." And then......

Notice what the little one said: "I know how to do a jumping jack." She 's seen them done before and she thinks she knows how to pull them off, but she doesn't. It's still cute. If I want my kid to just entertain people for a few years, I will keep videoing her. But if I want her to be an adult that doesn't make a fool of herself, I'm going to lovingly teach her some skill.

When it comes to the Bible, I can't forget the basics.  Most people don't know how to read the Bible and understand it the way God intended.  We (the Church) may teach, preach, and model well, but have created young people who are full of energy, passion, and capability, but no skill when it comes to navigating the Old and New Testament.  Christians think they know how to read it because they can name the 66 books in order, but until God or someone shows them the simple "how-to's", they will not handle the Word correctly.  If we encourage others to read the Bible through in a year, we need to be able to help them navigate the freaky parts.  I need to explain that men of faith having a bunch of wives is not the model of godly marriage(s) or why Hosea 1:2 should not be men's life-verse "Go get yourself a wife of harlotry."

My new goal as I teach my kids or bible study group is to teach them how to "X....pencil" their way through the Bible before I challenge them to exercise their faith.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Love, Grace and Pain: all in one shot

Within four hours of each other, my oldest daughter got her ears pierced and my youngest daughter had to get shots.  Both kids had needles poked in them, both experienced some type of anxiety leading up to the event, and both had completely different reactions.

My oldest got to choose her suffering.  She knew long before-hand what she was getting into. She was coached by her mother about how it would hurt upon the initial point of needle contact, and that there would be 6 weeks of tedious care to be done afterwards.  She handled the episode with such grace and courage.  She knew what she wanted, and was willing to pay the price of pain to get it.  So this 9 year old daughter of mine, held her breath and puffed out her cheeks.  As the earrings went in, her eyes got 3 times their original size, but she handled it quietly and with dignity.

My girls and I made our way out of the mall and to the health department.  I did not warn my five year old.  While in the waiting room, I numbed her attention by letting her watch you-tube videos on my phone.  She had no clue what was going on until she was sitting in a chair and saw the needle coming toward her arm.  Then, the terror began.  Panic.  Screaming.  Shrieking.  “MOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!!”  She had to be held down by two people as the needle went in.  She was still crying when it was all over.  She cried all the way to the car.  She cried as I put her in the car, she cried while she ate her ice cream.  She cried 4 hours later when her dad asked about her day even though the pain was gone.

You might wonder why as a parent, I made the choices that I did.  Because I am a gracious, loving mom, my children get the benefit of having their needs met.  They also get to make many of their own choices in life simply based on their preferences.  Sometimes they do not get a choice, because I know what’s better for them.  They don’t always know that they are the recipients of my grace, and they don’t always know my reasoning.  But they receive my grace, whether they want it or not, simply because they are mine.

I have always prepared my oldest two kids when they were going to the doctor’s, getting a shot, or having surgery.    But my youngest is different and she got no choice and no warning.   I know her and how she reacts to things.  Fore-warning would have led to:
1) me forcing her in the car-seat
2) her trying to break free from the car
3) her screaming in the waiting room, and scaring all the other little kids
4)  making a crowd wonder if I was an abusive parent, or some stranger trying to steal this little kid
So in my grace, I spared her from the anxiety and protected both of our reputations.  Why did I force her to undergo such a frightening experience?  Because I love her, and the alternative (contracting a future disease) was far worse. 

I see myself as God’s child in both of these situations.  I have been given so many choices by God, and by His grace, I get to choose often what pains or trials I’d like to bear.  I have reacted many times like my oldest daughter—grinning and bearing it, because I want the future glory.  I want the end result.

Lately, the Lord has been afflicting me.  I know it’s Him and not the enemy because the circumstances are training, not torture.  In my flesh I confuse the two; in my spirit, I can tell the difference.  I can see how God has spared me of certain things, but there is so much I don’t understand, and He didn’t include my opinions in His planning.  I have become very frustrated with myself, because I want to trust Him.  The alternative can’t be better, but I’ve been resisting the pain like my youngest getting shots.   I have not experienced tragedy, only hard or challenging times.  This makes me more angry with myself, because I know life circumstances could be much worse.  I can detail event after event of the Lord’s protection of me in crazy situations. I find myself torn, knowing intellectually that God is good, but not feeling it and way too focused on the frustrations in front of me.  I don’t really know what to do with myself when I get like this: when my emotions and my logic do not match up to the standard God has of me in the Bible.  That makes me depressed because I can not get “faith” right in even the simplest of things.

Most people say I’m too hard on myself.  I have heard that statement all of my life.  It’s really self-focus.  It’s really pride.  I want to “self-effort” my way through life, and get irritated when I can’t pull it off.  Knowing the problem, however, does not fix it.  Knowledge of the problem only makes me spiral down farther.  Only the love of the Father can draw me out of the dark hole.  (Paul talks about this in Romans 7 & 8.)

My adult mind overanalyzes and forgets to be like the child.  If one wants to know how to have child-like faith, she needs to watch children:  What did my youngest do when she was scared?  What did she do when she questioned my goodness?  When the needle came at her arm, she immediately turned her head away from it, and put her arms towards me.  She screamed for Mom.  When the shot was over, and the pain long-gone, she wanted me to hold her.  She wanted me to dry the tears.  She wanted my presence, even though she didn’t understand what I was doing.  There was no self-analyzing.  There was no depression.  No she wasn’t perfect.  She could not and did not react in a dignified way.  She cried a lot and in some ways blamed me. But eventually, the fear and anxiety was forgotten because of who she turned to.  She is my child and I can prove it by the way she runs to me, even when she thinks I am somewhat responsible for her pain.

Later that night, that young kid asked me to sing “Amazing Grace” to her at bedtime.  Let me leave you with the lines that erased my fits, fears and frustrations and put me back with Who I belong.  The love of God met me in the third verse of a song I’ve hummed thousands of times:
“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.
Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”