"Do, or do not... there is no try"
Every time I hear Yoda speak the above words, whether I'm sitting with the boys over a bowl of popcorn or washing dishes in the kitchen behind the couch, this simple charge always grabs me. For how often have I said, or heard another Mama say, "I'm trying to be more patient... I need to try to stay calm and not get so angry with my kids... I try and I try to be more respectful of my husband... I'm trying to not talk on the cell phone when I'm at the park with my children... Trying... Trying... Trying..."
After a certain amount of failed attempts, I think it's time we finally say "ENOUGH!"? But then what? What do we do when all the trying has left us tried out? And the angry words, crying eyes, and selfish ways remain? Remember now, I'm talking about us, not the children. So, what now?
There are two verses I think of and two applications that do not require intense Jedi training. The first charges us to take off the sin we see entangling us as we parent. And the second exhorts us to replace the sin with Godly character. While these are spiritual truths, the action required can be most physical.
!) Take off...
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1b)
2) Put on...
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
Ladies, we have talked to God and cried over our "trying" issues long enough. it's time to flex a little Holy muscle.
I am not suggesting that we can be saved by our own efforts in the darkest areas of our character and our parenting problems. I am, however, saying, that Christ in us gives us the strength, self-discipline, and grace we need to stop trying and actually do something about it. We are promised in His Word that we "can do all things through Christ who strengthens (us)" (Philippians 4:13) "That His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness" (1 Peter 1:3) And that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness." (Romans 8:26)
So how do we commit to this redressing, as we set our minds and hearts and muscles with the sole purpose of clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience?
1) Confess -- Admit where you're off and doing wrong. Tell God that you know about it and can't "try" your way out of your bad behavior.
2) Ask -- That God would take our surrendered "Try" and add His mighty "Umph!" That by His Power we might Triumph in these areas of our lives.
3) Make a plan -- How can you logistically clothe yourself with a different response when your triggers are detonated by your children or your husband.
- If you're a yeller, then respond to all stressful situations with a gentle whisper. Or try time-outs (for yourself) when you are ready to blow. If the children are very young, let them know that "Mommy needs a time out because I'm so upset that I can't be kind with my words." Demonstrate what you are doing, so that they can learn how to deal with their own sin-tendencies in a positive way.
- If you're a door slammer... put a stuffed animal in every door frame so that all the doors are slightly ajar. When you're ready to slam 'em shut not only will they be in the way, but let them remind you that you cherish the children who cherish those little toys.
- If you're tendency is to detach yourself from the family in lieu of facebook or email, set boundaries for yourself. Just like your older children have to do their 15 minutes of reading before they get your phone to play "angry birds," do your own reading in God's Word for 15 minutes, and then get down on the floor for puzzle play and legos with the kids before you retreat for a little personal time at the keyboard.
- If all you want every day at 2pm, when the children start to whine, is a handful of chocolate... replace it with some other ritual. Even if the kids are to old to take consistent naps, 2pm (or whenever) can be their quiet playtime in their rooms, or their reading time with Mama in the old rocking chair, or the time of day to take a family walk with a great big water bottle to fill your grumbly tummy that longs for chocolate.
4) Press on.
Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12)
The examples above may be silly compared to your own circumstances, but what I'm suggesting is that we DO something, rather than trying and trying and trying to make the evil go away without a plan.
We have The force on our side, Mamas. We do. And with Him... all things are possible for us to DO when He is our Master.
And to Him be the Glory! For we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
Welcome to those visiting me from Women Living Well!
I'm a natural submitter, if that's a word. I mean I submit rather easily. And the fact that my husband is a natural leader makes for a perfectly symbiotic relationship. At least it did for the first few, child-free years of our lives together. Then came the stressors that children bring; the house, the kids, the sleepless nights and unending days full of messes to be cleaned and behavior to be corrected. And what little remained of me after pouring out to little ones all day long, I started holding covetously to.
But my role as his wife hadn't changed, my circumstances had. He still needed me to help him and support him, to give him physical love and tenderness, as well as emotional stability and peace within the home. Goodness gracious, even as I write those words, I can hear the disgusted grunts from some of the ladies reading this. And given the culture we live in, I know my ideals sound antiquated if not archaic.
We live today in a world that teaches us we deserve great gobs of help around the house from our husbands, we deserve waxed legs and weekend getaways and more money to spend, in the midst of these intense child-rearing years. I think of the verse, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)
When I begin feeling bitter that he's not meeting all my needs, more hands on with the children, or loving me well enough, I have to literally and physically turn off the world's speakers and plug into the truth that can be found in God's Word. I need to be transformed when I am tired, not conformed to the bitterness and entitled tendencies of the world around me.
And these are the verses to which I go:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy... In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Yes, I know there's a lot there about what our husbands are supposed to be doing for us. But it is not our job to teach them. It is our job to to do our job, in the many seasons of our lives together. Some seasons will be easier to submit and love and respect them than others. This is a harder season for most of us, for, like I said before, we have so little left over to submit and pour out at the end of our weary days. But I love that God wrote our job description down before he penned our husband's. I think he did it so that we might not wait for our husbands to "love us" (in all the ways we think they ought to when we are raising their children,) before we are willing to give them what they so desperately need. They need us to submit to their lead and to respect them, if they love us well of not.
Just as I need love and a relative amount of sleep to survive in our home, my husband needs the respect I had showed him in the early days of our marriage. Slowly I began to hear the dwindling strains of respect in my voice and sensed it's absence in my heart... something had gone array in our marriage. Not enough for others to see, possibly not even enough for my dear husband to notice, but I was becoming aware of the change... in me.
I'm writing this post today because I see that I have been off in this regard. I didn't know where to turn for direction until I came across the book "The Respect Dare," by Nina Roesner. It's a 40 day challenge that takes women through their own lives, where their concepts of respect first took root. It gives examples, prayers, and challenges for us to apply in our own lives. It is allowing me to see (for I am still working through it as I write this) that respect is much broader than the words I speak. For each woman and her individual husband, I think, it will look slightly different. But the heart, from which respect flows out, is where the work begins in us all.
When I started upon this journey I texted one of my friends, asking if she'd like to work through the book at the same time so that we can encourage one another and compare notes. She wrote back, "Respect? Them's fightin' words!" Respect is almost as dangerous a word as submission. They smack of weakness and servitude. But I challenge you, to think of respect as a gift to be given away.
That said: Many woman don't have a respectable husband to give this gift to... oh how hard these words must be for you. But the charge is the same for us all. The introduction in "The Respect Dare" reminds us that Jesus called Silas, "Peter", which literally means the rock, before Peter was rock solid. But Jesus spoke these strong words into his oft times weak follower, and Peter in turn lived up to the challenge.
If your husband is not loving you well, and you have withdrawn your intimacy and friendship from him; if he is disrespect-able, causing you to remove your respectful heart far from his own; if he has shown himself not trustworthy, and you've made your lack of trust in him clear time and time again... I challenge you to stop. Making a U-turn when the road has been so treacherous may seem impossible... but your calling remains the same.
It's easy to think we're perfect when married to a flawed man. Can I get an Amen? But the only perfection we bring to the marriage is another perfectly flawed human in need to grace. Let's be the first to extend such grace to our spouse and begin the healthy love and respect cycle in our homes.
Read through the dare with me, if you dare, and tell me what you are learning along the way.
I know that many of you are blessed to have a group of Ladies you meet with on a consistent basis to study God's Word. They are like Sisters in this Blessed season of life. You share your joys and your struggles, you pray faithfully for one another, and you seek God for direction, comfort, and His divine answers in the myriad aspects of your lives.
Oft times you have a leader or a teacher who takes you through a particular study, such as the book of Esther or Ephesians, or the Psalms; sometimes your leader will choose a topic of study such as The Armor of God, or Overcoming Depression. I have known great joy and grown tremendously in such groups.
One year, however, I had the best Bible Study Leader EVER... It was only six months into my marriage that a group of ladies from our Sunday School class (who had been reading through good books together and meeting on a weekly basis) decided to read through the best book of all. They planned to read through the Bible in it's entirety, over the course of the year. While there was an older women who had been leading them through their other topics, she encouraged us to see what God had to teach us in His Word with the help of the Holy Spirit. Each Tuesday morning we gathered together to share what we had gleaned.
While there were many lessons we all learned over the course of the year, one of the main take-aways for me was that The Holy Spirit is real, He's available, and He longs to guide us through God's Word as we Seek Him there.
In 2002 the Word of God came to life as it never had before. While I had read most of the Bible before, I'd never read it in order and been privy to the overall story of God's chosen people Israel. Every story, every promise, every sacrifice, every prophet... all pointed to Jesus. The answer!
It was so impacting, in fact, that I purposed to read through the Bible "every other year". The plan was that I'd have a year in between to read enjoyable books by others, often times about God's word, or an enjoyable fictional work, or thoughtful books about mothering, and wife-ing... Followed by another journey through the Bible the next year.
Now I confess it hasn't happened the way I intended. I began my second journey through the Bible on December, 19th, 2003. It was the day we brought Caleb home from the hospital. We sat before the Christmas Tree in a big comfy chair. Candles danced, Christmas tree lights twinkled, and soft music played. And thus I began the story of Genesis with my first born boy wrapped up in his baby blue blanket, all snug in my lap.
It was magical.
And exactly four years later I finished that second trip through the Bible. Yes, four years and two more children later I finally finished Revelation!
it's true that I didn't have the accountability of a formal group to keep me reading at a rapid pace, but more than that... I was simply overwhelmed. But still, during that time, the Holy Spirit kept teaching me in new and exciting ways. All of the Scriptures I had hidden in my heart since my youth became manna for me. Children's songs that were entirely Scripture (Hide em in your heart Vol. 1 and 2 by Steve Green) were the verses that became most applicable in my daily life. My Bible Study this time around was technically very slow, but personally very profound because my life was the stage upon which God's Word came to life. When I was exhausted and sleep deprived, I didn't simply read " But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) This time I lived it. When my patience was all spent I didn't just read God's Word, it came straight from it's hiding place in my heart as I sang throughout the day, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control... Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit."(Galatians 5:22-23)
But it's time I reach for new fodder and not grow dependent on what I have already learned. And so in June I began a third journey through the Bible, beginning again in Genesis. I am currently halfway through Numbers and I have to tell you Leviticus was as difficult as ever to get through, but my faithful Bible Study guide was as diligent and loving as ever as He takes each time we have together to challenge and apply the Word to my life.
This morning as I read Numbers Chapters 10 through 14, many nuggets of gold filled my heart and challenged the way I'm living. One of the biggest lessons for me this morning was in Chapter 13 when Moses sends out spies to assess the land God has promised to give them. Only Caleb comes back reporting to Moses and the Israelites, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it." Caleb remembered that God had promised the land to His Beloved nation, and so Caleb believed that God would accomplish His plan even in the face of adversity.
In chapter 14, after God declares that those people who have seen His power displayed in miracles but have chosen not to believe Him in this, will not live to see the Promised Land. "But my servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it." (Numbers 14:24)
My two main take-aways this morning were:
1) I cannot stop praying for my own, dear Caleb, who is not naturally courageous, that He would take hold of God's promises in Scripture and trust them fully, even in the face of adversity.
2) That our family would not look at the world as those spies without faith had, in their own strength. When they saw the enormous people who already inhabited the land God had promised them, they reported, "we became like grasshoppers in own sight, and so we were in their sight." (Numbers 13:33) When we walk by faith and not by sight, trusting what the Lord has promised through His Word, than we are the giants. But when we instead look to the giants in our lives, the issues in our marriage or our parenting, learning disabilities, playground strife, our weight or self-image..." than we forget God's promises of hope and a future and eternity.
And so today I will pray for increased faith, for my Caleb and for us all, that we will live victoriously and not as grasshoppers. For when we see ourselves as grasshoppers, others will perceive us thusly. And then were will be no impact for the Kingdom flowing for our little, faithless, fearful lives.
Thanks be to the Greatest Bible Study Leader of All time! The Holy Spirit.
I remember playing Tetris so much one Summer in HIgh School that every time I closed my eyes I saw the gameboy screen with little shapes falling into place, as the theme song beat away at my brain. When I began facebooking it was similar; every cute thing my children said became a possible status update, every foiled plan a snide remark that would most assuredly bring a long line of witty comments in return.
Now my mind jumps on possible blog ideas all day every day. I have a list of titles a mile long, since I have more ideas than I have time to write - more inspiration than childless hours. But this morning the blog jumped out at me with such sweet clarity I had to work some computer time into my day.
Our seven year old has spent many such sweet moments at his Father's side, and our five year old as well, but this was the first time I caught our littlest man soaking up the sound of His Father's Voice all by himself. Of course I'd love to say the boys are soaking up the Living Water that is the very Word of God, but I know that at this age what they are lapping up is the joy of their Earthly Father's Nearness and the familiar sound of His Voice.
Ironically what Matt was reading, even before his Son crawled up into his lap, was the parable of the seeds and the sower (Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23). It is my belief that the greatest part of our job as parents is to sow seeds into their young lives that will grow up to yield a harvest of eternal life: Faith which leads to Salvation. We read the Word aloud to our three guys, ever prayerful that the seeds go down deep into the soil of their lives.
But imparting Faith is so much more than simply reading the Bible together. We impart faith by loving them as Christ has loved them, forgiving them as Christ has forgiven them, and showing them what a life following Jesus looks like. Part of following Him, they are learning, is seeking him in the World.
One of my main take-aways from Christ's parable of the seeds, is to be praying for their soil as well. Some soil is rocky, choking out the young plants before they can bare fruit, and other soil is too sandy or shallow for seeds to take root at all, and so I pray for the soil of my children's hearts. I pray it is soft, responsive, and healthy soil that takes in the seeds we plant and water. But I know, beyond any doubt, that it is always the job of the sun to make plants grow, and always the job of the Son to yeild the harvest in the lives of our children.
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23)
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”