The Small Heart of a Big Sinner

Image

My toddler’s defiance is not about me. This is some of the best parenting advice I have ever received.

20180817_063923It is so difficult to avoid viewing my son’s misbehavior as an attack against me. When a child rebels, it is natural for a parent to feel offended, hurt, angry–and dare I say, inconvenienced. However, a child does not rebel to hurt his parents, he rebels because of his sinful nature. When I remember my son’s misbehavior is a product of his human sinfulness, instead of a personal attack on me, it is so much easier to keep my cool and discipline him appropriately.

This was something I had to remind myself of repeatedly yesterday. My three-year-old woke up with one goal in mind: do not listen to a single word mom says for the entire day.

He succeeded.20180817_064021

At 39 weeks pregnant, I did not want to spend my day punishing, disciplining, detaining, and bargaining with my son, but this is what he needed from me. He needs me to mold his heart and his character into the heart and character of a man of God– a man who recognizes and repents of his sinfulness, and rests comfortably in the forgiveness of his Savior.

Teaching him to respect our home is the beginning of how we will teach him to respect others, himself, and someday, his wife.

Making him clean up his mess is the beginning of how we will teach him to correct bigger wrongs in his life, to own up to his more destructive mistakes.

Setting him in timeout while he thinks about what he has done will prepare his heart for when he must sit before the Lord and repent.

20180810_143041Parenting is not about me. My son did not draw on the wall yesterday to make me mad. He did not throw rocks at his brother to emphasize my bad parenting skills. He did not destroy his bedroom to give me even more to do.

My son is a sinner. He did these things because he is a victim of the evils in this world, just as I am. Christ died for for my son’s defiance and refusal to stop arguing with his parents, just as He died for my quick anger, harsh tongue, and love of the world.

For a little while, God has entrusted me with his small heart, and I will not let my selfishness get in the way of this profoundly important task.

Advertisements

More than Failure

Image

I wasn’t a very good mom yesterday.

I lost patience. I yelled. I bribed. I begged.

I wasn’t a very good mom.

Years ago, my vision for my life as a stay-at-home mom did not involve losing patience and yelling. When I dreamed of my years at home with my kids, I unrealistically imagined a woman who effortlessly poured life into her family each day, floating around the house with an angelic glow, as I spread Christ’s love like glitter. I never lost my patience, and I most certainly never yelled.

20180730_120402My visions of my future often display a more perfect, more put-together, more Christ-like woman than the authentic me–the me who feels like at least one wheel is always falling off, the me who is often scrambling, often frazzled, and literally never has any clue what she is going to feed her family at suppertime.

When I sat down with my Bible today, I read about Jephthah, the son of a harlot who was cast out of Israel. Years later, after living as an outcast, he was used in unimaginable ways by the Lord. God has a way of doing that–using the most imperfect people for His perfect plan.

As I read about Jephthah, I realized that like him, I am only human. I do not have an endless supply of patience, nor do I have an endless supply of flawless parenting strategies. Sometimes I just run out of ideas for how to make my toddler behave, and the irony is that my toddler never runs out of ideas for how to pick at my patience.

What bothered me about the way I behaved toward my children yesterday was that I was far from displaying to them the love of Christ. I was short with them. I ignored their requests to play. I begged them to be quiet so I could rest. Christ was no more in me yesterday than was Santa Claus.

I just simply failed. I failed my children, therefore failing my husband–but most of all– I failed God.

Wrong.

It is this guilt that Satan would like me to grab hold of and believe. It is this kind of guilt that I believe the mainstream media refers to as “mom guilt.”20180724_161607

God does not expect me to be a perfect mom, nor does my husband, nor do my kids. As I fought to maintain some level of humanness on a particularly long and tiresome day yesterday, God saw me. He saw me fight to remain calm while my toddler refused to nap. He saw me sigh in desperation as I pulled out nearly every snack from the pantry, just trying to find one that might appease my 18-month old. He saw me throw up my hands and walk away from two little boys who may as well have had their ears removed, due to their complete lack of listening skills.

God always sees me. He saw my desperation yesterday, my frustration, and my sin.

On these days, when I crawl into bed at night feeling like an utter failure, one word is on my heart: grace.

God extended an abundant amount of grace to me yesterday. He showered me with His love, despite my failures. It is this grace that allowed me to begin a new day today, with yesterday far from my mind. It is this grace that allows me to shower my children with love, despite their failures.

As a mom who strives to invite Christ into her home on a daily basis, I know that I can trust God to find a way in, even when I don’t feel like I “impressed” Him. Even on the most difficult days, I can trust that Jesus is still very much present within me. It may not have been quite as obvious to me yesterday, but Jesus has a way of getting around our guilt and our sin and shining out of us anyway.

20180629_142702It is an unbelievable weight off my shoulders when I realize the love of Christ undoes all my sin. In the many areas that I fall short as a mother, He fills the void. On the days I feel more like a tyrant than a mother, He offers me grace so that I may begin another day, and displays His love to my children anyway.

Yesterday I was tired, but Jesus was still my Savior, and His forgiveness is still mine to take. What an relief!

God does not command us to be Christ-like so we can feel guilty when we fail. Even on my best and brightest days, when I feel like my best self, when I feel like I conquered motherhood perfectly, I am still light years away from reflecting the perfection that is Jesus. And so I will view my failures yesterday as a blessing, for they humbled me and again reminded me of my inescapable need for the love and grace of my Savior.  

20180809_123103_0001

God Shaped Priorities

Image

Every now and then something happens that makes you realize everything that has seemed so important to you– getting your child to sleep through the night, affording that unexpected car repair payment, going on one last vacation before school starts– really amounts to nothing at all.

20180730_174210Today when I heard of an 18-month old on life support, for an accident that could have easily taken place in my own home, all of my weak attempts at maintaining my priorities crumbled beneath me.

Heading into my last month of pregnancy, I have been rushing about the house day after day organizing and cleaning and preparing. My boys have played together well and have allowed me to complete most of my daily tasks with minimal whining. In fact, I have been organizing so much that last week my 3-year-old was quite proud of his own organizing skills when he rearranged his dinosaurs in the living room (I’m creating a monster).

I would not say that I have neglected my children, but I certainly have not put spending time with them at the top of my list. When you stay home with your kids day after day, it can be difficult to remember that your physical presence is not always enough. They need me to be engaged and emotionally present in their lives each day, not just spending time in the same house as them. Quality time is essential for a stay-at-home mom and it is easy to fall into a habit of viewing quantity time and quality time as the same thing.

However, today my priorities were once again set right when I listened to my 18-month-old squeal and giggle from the basement as he played “capsized boat” with his dad. My overwhelming gratefulness that my son was healthy when another mother, just like me, was simply begging the Lord that her’s might live, caused me to immediately put down my Windex, leaving a bathroom only half cleaned, and go hop on the imaginary sinking boat in my basement.20180615_150207

With life being so hectic and so demanding, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is those that matter to us. When God has granted us little ones to enjoy and shape into fully grown Christians, I imagine He anticipates that we will cherish every single second He allows us to raise them.

So tonight, put down the remote or your intense desire for some peace and quiet and go cuddle with your kids; let them stay up past their bedtime as they lie next to you; let them tell you their dreams as you both drift off to sleep.

All I Want

As I rush out the door, I don’t even notice the scowl that has formed harshly on my face. My diaper bag hangs haphazardly over my shoulder and my two boys are more interested in the ant hill by the car than actually getting into the car. Once again, the house I leave behind is in absolute chaos.

20180716_143811The day has not gone exactly as planned. My husband is late. Again. The lunch dishes are still piled in the sink, even though lunch was over hours ago; the living room looks like I run a daycare of fifty children; and my bed is still unmade: the knowledge of this is reason enough to crawl back into it and try again tomorrow.

The really shocking part about this particular day is that all I wanted when I woke up this morning was to get my house clean. That’s it. That’s the only real plan I had. Now, rushing out the door for the third time, I am painfully aware that I have failed, and I am fuming.

With my kids finally strapped in the back, I cry out to God as I head down the street, “God, all I wanted today was to get my house clean. Is that too much to ask? That’s all I wanted.”

20180622_140112As soon as these words are out, I remember the last moment I spoke like this. It was the night before and they were directed at my husband. As I stood in front of my closet, frustration building, I was trying desperately to find something to wear at a church picnic. Being eight months pregnant in the heat of the summer doesn’t exactly make a girl feel glamorous.

“All I want is to feel human again. I want to wear something that will make me feel more human and less whale. That’s all I want,” I whined to my husband.

Now, as I hit every red light and shuffle through these frustrations, I am completely overlooking what is happening in my backseat. Hair ruffled by the open windows, oblivious to their mom’s bad mood, my boys are wildly singing along to a country song: my son calls it “jamming.” If you have never witnessed two toddlers “jam”, it can melt away a bad mood quicker than a bowl of ice cream.

In that small, seemingly unimportant moment, God let me see my unmanageable day through His eyes instead of my own. His grace seamlessly found its way into my hardened perspective, and with that, I hear Him whisper, “My child, you have all you ever wanted.”

I have no clothes that make me look good this summer because I have been wildly blessed by the Father to carry another one of His children.20180702_164129

My husband often misjudges when he will get home because he is busy blessing others with the business God led us to start, a business that has been an answer to many of our prayers.

My house is never clean because I have two boys whose zest for life has renewed my own.

Stopping at yet another red light, barely able to think because my oldest has asked me to crank up the radio for a third time, I smile at all this chaos. For because of the Lord’s guidance, this maddening life is all I ever wanted.

Jesus and my Toddler

My suburban is always parked in my driveway. It usually has too many bug guts splattered on the windshield and too little gas in the tank. The #momlife sticker on the back window suggests to all other drivers how I spend most of my time and where my priorities lie. It also may explain why I am so distracted when I’m on the road, often driving with one hand reached in the backseat doesn’t make for a lot of awareness.

20180624_132711I am not a great car owner. Whenever my husband mentions that we should take it to the shop, my first reaction is to question whether that’s necessary and then procrastinate on making the appointment. I depend upon my car everyday, multiple times a day, but I don’t like to fill it with gas, spend money on it, or care for it in any way. In fact, I really only recognize my immense need for my car when it breaks down, usually due to my own procrastination to take care of it in the first place.

God commands us to have childlike faith, and since I have been a Christian all my life, this can be hard to achieve. My dependence on God often looks more like the way I depend upon my car, only appreciating His constant presence in my life when something breaks down.

After my car spends time in the shop, I usually go through a period of gratefulness that it is still in my driveway and hyper-sensitivity to all of its needs. But a few months down the road, I go back to taking it for granted and neglecting the blinking light by my speedometer. My walk with God often looks a lot like this. Whenever He sees me through a major change in my life, I praise Him and pray to Him constantly, fervently living to serve Him. When a few months have passed, I go back to weak prayers, obligatory Bible reading, and overlooking His many blessings.

Since entering motherhood, my inconsistent and noncommittal walk with God has changed. Someday, when my hair is gray and my son is grown, I am going to thank him for the many ways he taught me about authentic faith in Christ.20180611_191035

At three-years-old, his honest love for Jesus convicts me nearly every day, and motivates me to grow still closer to Him. His fascination with the most simplistic aspects of God’s creation convicts me that no matter how many times I see a bird in flight, it should still cause me to recognize God’s true character–a God of abundant love, sovereign over every detail.

His innocent questions about where Jesus lives convict me that perhaps my knowledge of the Lord has grown weary, and I no longer see Him as a constant companion. His profound connection and concern for a hurting acquaintance convicts me that I too should have compassion for all God’s people, following Jesus’ own example. 

His childlike faith has allowed me to see God through the eyes of a child–the way I used to see Him when I slept on princess sheets under a white-lace canopy.

My son weakly walked up to me last week and said, “Mommy, my tummy hurts.”

Since I’ve learned not to put a lot of stock into my toddler’s complaints, I aloofly said, “What do you want to do about that, bud?”

Completely unaware that I was about to experience one of those lasting moments, a moment I will look back on when he is well grown, he surprised me when he whispered, “I want to ask Jesus to come help me.”

And with that, he began to pray.

“Do you feel better now, bud?” I asked after he’d said amen.

With a grin, he looked at me and shouted, “I feel great!” and ran off to play with his brother.

20180701_131620It occurred to me in this intimate moment with my son that as an adult, my knowledge that the very presence of Jesus will not only diminish my pain but completely cancel it out has grown weak. I often find myself praying fervently to Him, yet feeling no change whatsoever after I say amen. This absence of answered prayer is not from a lack of God’s presence, but from a lack of childlike faith.

When I bow my head to pray, I must believe with as much passion as my toddler, that Jesus is ready, willing, and waiting to give me all that I desire.

This is authentic faith.

Satan can Bite Me

My first thought when my feet reluctantly hit the floor is that my youngest child is up particularly early; on my way to his room I pass a heaping pile of dirty laundry sitting in the middle of my floor, the very laundry I had intended to get washed, dried, and folded the night before. Minutes later as my husband rushes out the door leaving me holding two crabby and exhausted toddlers, he yells, “By the way, I might be home late tonight.” I turn my attention to the pile of dishes in the sink that did not make it to the dishwasher. When I head to the pantry, my toddler is out of dinosaur oatmeal, the only breakfast he will humble himself to eat. A tantrum ensues while I get my youngest a banana.

When I consider the morning before me, it occurs to me that I may not have the energy to drag these two to the grocery store, and worse yet, I may not have any money once I get there. I receive a text from a friend, my intended lifeline for the afternoon; she is cancelling our scheduled playdate because of a sick kid. I attempt to think positively and thank God that my kids are healthy today, but I am interrupted by my 3-year old’s disastrous attempt to dress himself, realizing hours later that I never completed that essential moment of gratitude.IMG_20180419_081802_914

As I lean back on my toddler’s floor, listening to him wail as he makes a second attempt to get his pants on, I realize the powerful hold Satan already has on my day. By welcoming each negative thought, and ignoring the immense blessings involved in each of these moments, I have given Satan a foothold nearly before the real Creator I worship even crosses my mind.

Each morning when I wake, I have two options. I can allow these seemingly negative and sometimes impossible moments to take control and destroy the day before me, or I can wake with my Father, expectantly absorbing the day He has created for me. When my smallest startles me awake, earlier than I would have liked, I should first take notice of the gorgeous sunrise I would have otherwise missed. As my small miracles lose their patience waiting for their breakfasts, I can thank my Lord that we have food to eat. When my toddler has a tantrum trying to dress himself, I can thank my Lord that He is able to dress himself, and I have been given the opportunity to mold him into an independent young man. When my dread of the grocery store reveals itself, I can thank God my children love the grocery store and are thrilled each time they get a sucker for the ride home.

I am reminded of a quote from Charles Spurgeon taped to my fridge, “You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.”

IMG_20180314_164406_616Despite the countless moments on this particular morning that I have forgotten God, He still found a way to remind me, in the middle of my toddler’s floor, that my purpose is to do His work by molding his disciples. No matter where the day takes me, I am to be a woman who fears the Lord, and convey that to my children, even in the midst of an ill-fated morning. Because I am a woman who fears the Lord, Satan will fight to infiltrate my thoughts and prevent me from achieving any of God’s purposes each and every morning.

Satan did not win today, because today God gave me a second chance. So, I smile, quietly thank my Savior, help my toddler put his pants on, and begin again.

A Lesson in the Leaves

My son and I went on a Fall walk today and tried to find as many of God’s colors in the leaves as we could.

Leaves2Every leaf a different shape, a different color. Some turn from the outside in and some from the inside out. Some trees consist of one Fall color and some seem to incorporate every shade into its foliage. Some leaves are already brown and shriveled being taken by the wind, while others hang on to their dark green pigment well into November.

The beauties and intricacies of Fall are all the evidence this world needs that we are indeed made by a mighty, omniscient Creator. The love and devotion with which He turns each leaf are just mere traces of the immense love and devotion with which He approaches us.

When this world is being shaken by the hatred and suppression of God that runs rampant through humanity, I am reminded of God’s eternal power and incorruptible love. In the same way the leaves obey Him, we too are created to obey Him. Disobedience only breeds disorder and horror.20171002_172735

My two-year old is left breathless by God’s exquisiteness all around him. This leaves no excuse for the rest of us who have gone on without the Artist of an idyllic October day and the Giver of each of our breaths.

May God continue to pursue our hearts the way He so lovingly chases after my son’s until every man recognizes whom it is we should be worshiping.