The apostle Paul had it all: pedigree, position, and power. Possessions often accompany such a person as well. Yet, Paul knew better. He sought to destroy the very movement (Christianity) that offered what his soul longed for: contentment. He devoted his life to the pursuit and destruction of those who followed Jesus.
However, a dramatic confrontation on the Damascus Road caused a major conversion causing Paul to finally find his contentment. After years of an anger that literally drove him, he finally found a contented rest for his soul. The good news of Jesus Christ completely changed Paul from a bitter and discontented man into a loving and gracious man.
In Philippians he wrote,
“I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
Putting it another way, he’s saying that contentment has nothing to do with our situation but with what we are trusting in.
He found peace—the ultimate contentment—in Christ. These words, written by a man who had been imprisoned, severely beaten, stoned, flogged, shipwrecked, and pursued by his enemies. Despite all of that, one of the major themes throughout Paul’s letters is joy. How it that possible? He did not look around at the world, or its standards, for his happiness. Rather, he looked to Christ and found deep and abiding joy, which surpassed any circumstances. His discontentment is resolved by the One who brings a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Our contentment can only be found in the Lord. Not Christ ‘and’, just Christ. He is enough. Paul tells us that Jesus is the One who gives us strength in all circumstances. When we look to Him, the temptations of the world, the draw of more stuff, loses its appeal. Nothing compares.
There is an old hymn that isn’t sung much anymore that I just love, it goes like this:
He is my everything,
He is my all,
He is my everything,
Both great and small.
He gave His life for me.
Made everything new.
He is my everything.
Now how about you?
Let’s practice teaching our children to pursue Him before seeking more stuff. I pray our children would know the gift of contentment this Christmas season—not because they receive everything on their list, but because He gave His life on the cross and rose to live again. May our discontentment be healed as we allow Him to be enough.
There is our way and then there is His way. Only one can be right. And it is not ours.
In order to go forward and listen to Him instead of insisting on Him blessing our plan, we need to follow His way, embrace His purpose. Take some time now to ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence.’
Go as a daughter of the King of kings, not as a pauper, or out cast, but as an heir. Consider, what it is that your heart desires most? What has He placed there for His glorious purpose? What are the dreams that you have suppressed and hidden away as the enemy has convinced you that they were too big and you were inadequate. Those desires, those dreams, that purpose…they’re all placed there by your heavenly Father.
Now, what do you want to ask Him about them? His favor? His timing? His direction? His strength? His peace?
He already knows. He is your heavenly Father. He wants to hear from you. Too often we think asking is akin to selfish desires, but that does not have to be the case. What about asking Him for a vision of His plan for your life? The life of your husband? The lives of your children? What about asking Him what He sees that you need to deal with? Improve on? Or move past? Are you willing to ask Him to move in and through you, to instill His purpose in your heart, as He deems necessary for the kingdom?
Secondly, where are you seeking Him? Are you seeking Him in His Word or in the world? What are the scriptures that speak to the issue? How can you study them for insight and direction?
Who would be wise counsel for you to share and pray with about the issue? Do you have a teachable spirit? Are you seeking His will through your friends or through His Holy Spirit? Do your friends encourage you to obey your heavenly Father or do they encourage you to question Him? Is your faith at the foundation of your search? Is His purpose your true desire? Or are you trying to make sense of it all to the point that your search is even a sidetrack to your faith? Have you let your lack of understanding sidetrack your belief?
When you have asked, and have searched the scriptures and the time has come to Knock, are you listening? Are you beating down the door impatiently? Or gently knocking and waiting? Are you grumbling in the meantime? How are you spending the ‘wait time’? How could you use it to prepare for the door to open? Are you willing to share your burden with others? Have you rushed off to another door before He has had time to answer? What time limits have you set on His response? How could you praise Him while you wait? How could you be a testimony while you are waiting?
When the door is opened, now what? Are you ready to obey? Maybe you have been standing in front of an open door for quite sometime, afraid or refusing to enter. What is next? What are you afraid of? Your sacrifices? Your reputation? Your plans? Why are you refusing to enter His ‘rest’? Is it different from your expectations? Does it mean you will have to make some changes? What would those be? Where is your faith? Have you asked Him for some more?
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Why do we put our hope in the Lord? I propose it has to do with two important words. The phrase ‘but God’ occurs in Scripture 41 times in the NASB. It is a power-packed representing of a pivotal point, God’s interjecting Himself into time, though He exists outside of time. Those words are a reminder that our hope is in the One who orders and ordains not only our steps but all of creation.
In the life of Noah, “but God”. In the life of Sarah, Abimelech, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph, “but God” made all the difference.
Judges 15.19 “But God split the hollow….”
I Samuel 23.14 “…but God did not deliver him into his hand.”
Psalm 49.15 “But God will redeem my soul….”
Psalm 73.26 “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Acts 2.24 “But God raised Him up again….”
Romans 5.8 “But God demonstrates His own love towards us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
I Corinthians 1.27 “…but God has chosen the foolish things of this world….”
I Corinthians 7.15 “…but God has called us to peace.”
Philippians 2.27 “…but God had mercy on him…”
The power of God, His radical, personal, challenging, confronting presence in the lives of men and women, in our lives. He is not a passive God, but an active, living God, a God who pursues us, stirs our hearts and demands our attention. What a beautiful thing it is to place our hope in the only One who comes after us as the gentle Shepherd looks for his lost lamb.
Often we forget the ‘but God’ moments in our own lives, the times when but by His own hand He sustained, provided, protected, enabled, encouraged, clarified and otherwise made our path straight. Sadly we chalk our circumstances up to ‘living right’, ‘luck’, ‘being at the right place at the right time’, or some other less worthy explanation. Let’s make sure we’re putting our hope and faith in the right place, friends.
Does your hope need a booster today? Take a moment to reflect on the times when God Himself has intervened. Interrupted. Inspired. Interjected. Pray and ask God to show you how He has guided your path, how He has made the rough places smooth, how He has made a way in the wilderness.
Here is a starting point as you begin to contemplate His guiding hand:
I thought I needed
I thought I wanted
I thought it was time for
I thought I was ready for
I thought my kids
You are holy. All Your ways are perfect: Your timing, Your will, Your plan, Your purposes. You alone sit on the throne, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” You are the Creator God, the Sovereign of the universe, He who spoke light into existence, Who placed the stars and limited the oceans. At Your word the whale lept from the sea, the eagle took flight and the lion roared.
Forgive me Lord when my hope in you is weak and I race ahead of You, when I doubt You, when I wrestle You. Forgive me Lord when I want my way more than Yours, when I don’t consider Your plan, when I leave You out. Forgive me Lord when my anger flares, when my pride blinds me and my selfishness becomes my shade. Forgive my weak hope, my unbelief, my lack of trust, my ‘little faith’ Lord!
I want to live like You’re on the throne. I want to walk in the light of Your presence. I want to trust You no matter what — no matter how dark, no matter how stormy, no matter how impossible. In all of these, You are God, The one and only true God, my God. I choose to live in submission to Your timing, Your will and Your plan. I choose to worship You when life and circumstances don’t make sense.
Father, I pray that You will glorify Yourself in my life, through me. I pray that others will see evidence of Your love in me. I pray that You will increase and I will decrease, that Your name will be high and lifted up, not because of anything I do, but because of all You do. I pray that my boasting will be in my weakness because You are my strength.
None of us really want to think about it but it has been brewing for quite some time. The issues are real, the people are real. This is serious. Now everyone has to choose sides, and not just with their words but also with their actions. Some believe that the whole situation is being blown out of proportion, that nothing drastic like war needs to be done. And others believe that dealing with the situation is past due.
A few months ago we thought that we knew who we could count on for support, but it seems now that we must have been wrong. And it has been disheartening and more than a little disappointing to find ourselves standing up for what is right without the “cover” we had counted on.
The topic dominates conversations and news broadcasts. Everyone is consumed with the chess game, watching and predicting and commenting on each move. People are coming up with strategies of their own, trying to out smart the enemy. Some think that time and talking is the answer, some think duct tape and plastic sheeting is the answer, and some think the “big one” with its little red button is the answer.
You may have already figured it out but I am not talking about the pending war in the Middle East or even North Korea for that matter. I’m talking about the very real spiritual war that is besieging daily. The war that is far more serious than anything Sadamm or the Korean president could hurl at us. The war that involves our soul, our eternal destiny.
The war is not pending, but raging. It is not a possibility, but a reality. And the lines have been drawn, sides have been taken, trenches have been dug. The time for action has come. In this war we need to be able to count on each other for cover. Cover that we sometimes take for granted. That cover comes in the form of hope and prayer.
When your brother or sister in Christ is battle-weary, they need you to step in with your hope to fortify where theirs has faltered, with your prayers to cover them while they rest up for another round. They. Need. You!
We throw around the phrase, “I’ll be praying for you.” Sometimes we are serious at the moment that we utter the words, but quickly forget to follow through. We have so much going on, our own battlefields to take and war plans to implement. But then the person we promised to cover in prayer gets caught in the crossfire or worse, gets pinned down by the enemy because of our casual pledge. They were counting on us. This is war. Souls hang in the balance.
In this war we have only one hope and it is the person of Jesus Christ. Our victory is sealed but the war rages on. We have got to stop being so casual about fighting this battle. Start by reading and memorizing Ephesians 6:10-19. It’s time we got suited up. In this passage, you get suited up first, then you pray. That is huge!
Why? Because this is war! When you have on your belt of truth, your breastplate of righteousness, your shoes of readiness and peace, your helmet of salvation, and your shield of faith, you are finally ready to pray. All of your vitals are protected, you are able to focus, you are in the battle, you have chosen your team, you are ready to fight victoriously.
So, have you chosen a side? Are you suited up? Are you ready to “cover” sisters who are also engaged and fighting to take back the mountain? Are you willing to commit to do whatever He tells you? Are you ready to get into the war? God needs each one of us to fight and pray although the victory is won.
Let us bolster hope for each other and pray for one another without ceasing.
It was my fault. I deserved it. After all, I’d behaved just like he was behaving. I’d thrown the fits, hurled myself on the floor, yelled and screamed. My mother didn’t know what to do with me. I wore her out and consistently reduced her to tears.
When I was older, I disobeyed and argued with my parents. I knew how to wear them down. But if that didn’t work, I would just lie. Lying was my native language. I wanted what I wanted, and I was willing to do what it took to achieve my goal.
In short, this son of mine was the answer to my mother’s prayer, “I hope you have one just like you one day.” Looking at him, I saw my own reflection.
Yep, this was pay back.
Mom, have you ever had those thoughts? Have you ever thought your child’s misbehavior is your fault? Ever beat yourself up because your child, “That” child, won’t cooperate or obey? Ever felt like parenting is penance? A penalty? A punishment?
I have. I’ve listened to the enemy’s whispers. I’ve bought the lie. I’ve hung my weary head in despair. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve chosen to wallow in the reality of my own sin and rebellion, reducing God to a cruel “Gotcha God” — a God who laughs at my discouragement, a cosmic overlord who takes aim at me for fun, who delights in my suffering.
But that’s not the biblical God. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Allow me to digress for a moment and then connect some dots. Do you remember the parable Jesus told in the New Testament about the servant who was forgiven? In Matthew 18:21-35 in response to Peter’s question, Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master a debt. Now this was no small IOU. Apparently it was a huge sum, so much so that the servant fell prostrate begging for extra time to pay the debt. This action touched the heart of the master who forgave the servant’s debt.
Now hang on, I know you probably know this story, but try to listen with new ears. So this servant who has just been forgiven a huge debt leaves his master. As he is going away, he runs into a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars. A few, as in, not many. Although having just been completely released from a large debt, the servant grabs his fellow servant and demands payment.
When I read this story, I generally want to just throttle the first servant. After his own debt is forgiven, his friend begs and begs to be given more time, he pleads, but the greedy man throws him in prison. Eye witnesses report back to the master who calls the man out on his ruthless behavior and throws him in prison until his original debt is paid in full.
Hang with me a moment longer. What claims does Jesus make in John 8:12? You remember, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And then in I John, the same author admonishes us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” So, according to these passages, Jesus is the Light who illuminates our life’s path.
Now, what about those dots? Are you seeing a connection?
Being a mom is one of the most important jobs on the planet—maybe the most important. Every day we are shaping the future, every day we are defining culture, every day we are making a difference. Obviously these daily opportunities can be used negatively and we see that evidence every time we go to the grocery store. Clearly there are moms who are not taking advantage of their “every day” to nurture the world-changers (aka children) God has sent to them.
Being a mom is also not for wimps. If you are determined to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord, you know what I mean. If this mothering thing were only about food, clothes, and shelter that would be easy. But it’s not. No, this mothering thing is about holding up before our children a God worthy of their praise and service, worthy of their lives.
Being a mom means being strong and being vulnerable. It means living out loud in front of our kids every day. It means requiring obedience and respect. It means explaining one more time. It means dealing with conflict. It means persevering and not giving up.
Being a mom means we must walk in the Light — the light of His love, the light of His grace, the light of His forgiveness. Walking in His Light means that we extend what we’ve been so abundantly given, what’s been lavished upon us, shaken, pressed down, beyond what we can ask or imagine, to our kids day after day after day. It means praying without ceasing.
And Mom, here’s the truth, which trumps the lie: having “That child” isn’t payback. It isn’t punishment, or a penalty, or even penance. Having “That child” is a privilege.
Our being able to parent “That child” begins with our acceptance and embrace of our Father’s forgiveness.
A recent reading of Augustine’s Confessions has been a sobering reminder of just how sinful I was in my childhood. Many would chalk up the sins of youth as trivial or thoughtless. Many would say that the wrongs done during a time of immaturity should be overlooked as a right of passage, just foolishness to be endured as we travel through our younger years, having no real consequence. But that isn’t true.
The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If a father loves his son, he should discipline him. “That child” should be taught diligently. So evidently, childhood’s behaviors can reflect deeper issues of the heart, issues which need to be dealt with through the discipline of a loving parent.
When you get down to the fundamentals, it’s simple truth. Yet all too often we don’t acknowledge it. You cannot give what you do not have. For example, I cannot give you a horse, or the moon, or one million dollars. I might want to give you one of those things, or maybe even all three of them, but I can’t. My wanting to and your desire for me to give them to you cannot override the fact that I don’t have those things to give. No matter how much I want to. No matter how much you want them. Neither of us can change the fact that since I don’t have them, I cannot give them.
What you Have Not Received
The physical example of things is easy enough to understand, but it works the same with intangibles, like love and forgiveness and grace. You see, I cannot give you what I have not received, what I have not embraced. This is not to say that love, forgiveness, and grace are not available to me. No, they are readily available to everyone through the person of Jesus Christ from God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. These three, and others like them, are available, pressed down and running over. In fact, many of us would say that we have accepted and received these from the Father, but if that is so, then why aren’t we walking in them?
Mom, if you’ve accepted and received forgiveness from the Father, extend it to your children. If you’ve received love, give it. If you have experienced forgiveness, extended it to your “That child.” Why do we withhold from them what we’ve been so generously given? Why do we resist sharing what we have in abundance? Why are we stingy with the blessings of God?
I’m going to venture a guess as to why we do this. And my hunch is based on my own experience. I know that I was once an unforgiving and angry mom because I was like the servant. I had a debt of sin that I couldn’t repay. I’d been forgiven, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the enormity of my debt, it’s hideousness in contrast to His holiness, and I didn’t get the power of His forgiveness, the completeness of it, His delight in granting it.
I’d been forgiven, but I hadn’t really received that forgiveness, allowed it to wash over me, to contemplate it’s value or it’s power.
So, when one of my kids did something, when “That child” misbehaved or rebelled, well, I got angry and incensed. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I considered it my right to be offended, to hold the offense against them. I didn’t get what I’d been given. Look, if you are finding it hard or maybe even impossible to forgive your children (or anyone else), then I’d suggest that it’s because you aren’t realizing the forgiveness you’ve been given. You can’t give it because you don’t have it. You’re not walking in the Light of His life. If you were, it wouldn’t be so difficult.
Look, when you get what you’ve been forgiven, you cannot help but look for opportunities to forgive. When you get the grace, the gift of salvation given which you neither deserve nor earned, then you cannot help but graciously respond to others. When you glimpse the love that chose to die on Calvary to pay your sin debt, the perfect sacrifice for your ugly, small, secret, overt, denied and deliberate sin, then you look for others to love unconditionally, extravagantly, and persistently. When you get what you’ve been given, you are driven to give it to others. You’re not driven by compulsion. You won’t have an I’ve-got-to-do-this obligation. Instead, you will have an inner desire to share out of the overflow of unearned abundance, abounding blessings, and bountiful gifts. Salvation is yours, but now you want to share it with others.
Mom, do you know this kind of forgiveness, this kind of love, this kind of grace? When did you last consider all that you have been forgiven?
Rage. It’s very intense, and it’s embarrassing when it’s happening to you, you can’t believe it. I know as a young mother, I was like “I didn’t sign up for this, this isn’t what I wanted”. I couldn’t believe that it was happening, and I always wanted to go “Shh! Shh shh!” when it was happening. And I’ll be honest, it happened a lot. My oldest son was my original “that” child, I had that one first, and I learned so much for which I am retrospectively grateful, but at the time I was just mortified at the way he’d rage.
If you have a ‘that’ child that’s doing this raging, I want you to know this: you’re not alone. Say it with me: NOT ALONE. There are others of us that have these kids that just rage, and we don’t understand it, and it’s kinda terrifying. But I want to tell you this: they’re not broken…
What I know now, and I didn’t know then, is that often they’ve just got so much bottled up inside of them. So many ideas, so much they want to say, so much they want to do, so much frustration, so much creativity. It can all just bottle up in their little body and they don’t know how to navigate all that.
I would actually describe Charles, when he was younger, as the proverbial volcano. And he would blow all the time, it was completely unpredictable. And yes, it had seismic consequences for the rest of us when he’d do it. But it was not unusual for him to rage not just once a day, but multiple times a day.
I remember one day in particular, he was two and a half and his next sibling, younger brother Anderson, was just a baby. I had just changed Anderson on the floor in our bedroom where I had this little changing station. Charles went into a rage and actually ran into the bedroom where that baby was on the floor and locked the door. I was terrified, because I didn’t know what he might to do the baby on the floor. I was shaking trying to get the latch to unlock the door to get in there. I’m so grateful he didn’t even try to do anything to the baby but he was running around the room just screaming…
Mom, you have to know that you’re not alone if that’s happening to you. Not even close to being alone. At the time when he would go into these rages, he would yell and scream these things that didn’t make any sense. Like something had gone off inside him and he couldn’t stop. I felt very compassionate towards him, I felt like I needed to do something in that moment to help him, I didn’t think it would be healthy for him to just continue to run around in circles. So what I did, and what seemed to be very effective with him at the time, is I’d take him into my arms to restrain him even in the midst of his yelling and screaming. I would sit on the floor with him, and put my hands between one of his legs, and I’d put my arm down to hold my leg, and I’d just rock him back and forward and he would just yell and scream and yell and scream and all I knew to do was to sing to him.
There we would sit, Charles in a rage, and I would sing “Peace perfect peace”, I would sing “holy holy holy”, I would sing “Jesus loves me” and just rock him. Sometimes it took every verse of every hymn I could think of in that moment… it did work though and he would finally let go. I’m guessing you know what that’s like mom, if you have one of these kids. You know that’s what they do.
He just had to let it run its course and completely wear himself out. And on the other side of it he was just physically… done and just completely drained. We would both be crying by the time it was done because it’s just so intense for both of us. I know that if this is happening at your house its intense for you too. I wish I could just give you a hug, mama, I wish I could just somehow assure you with more than just my words through a screen. But I want to tell you this: you’re not alone and its not your imagination.
What you need to make sure that you’re communicating in those moments with ‘that’ kid is that you love them, and that you’re on their team. You want to be as much of a calming effect as you can possibly be. Yelling? Screaming at them? Thats only going to make it worse. That’s not blessing them, that’s not helping them, that’s not meeting them where they are.
One of the wonderful things I love about scripture and Jesus in the New Testament throughout the gospels is He always met the people where they were. I mean that’s glorious! Obviously, there were occasions like the sermon on the mount where the people came to Him, but there were so many other examples where He actually met the another person right where they were.
I think when our kids are raging, we should step back and imagine what its like to be them. Haven’t you ever wanted to throw a fit? Haven’t you ever wanted to throw yourself in the middle of the floor and just yell and scream because things aren’t going your way? Of course you have, just like I have! What we need to give to them in that moment is a whole lot of compassion, and a whole lot of grace. Just like our Father gives us in our ugly moments. Just be there with your precious child, in that moment.
Hold them, calm them. Don’t contribute to it! Because you know what? They can’t, they just cant…
I don’t know if this will terrify you or encourage you, but I want to tell you that, generally with “that” child, it doesn’t necessarily go away with age. It might morph become a more sophisticated rage. As they age it’s probably not so much the yelling and screaming and running around in circles. Often it becomes this emotional pit that you just can’t believe you’re in the middle of. I mean surely I’m speaking to somebody out there when I say that nobody prepared me for a twelve year old boy. They can be so incredibly challenging. They’ve still got all those ideas, They’ve still got all those frustrations. They’ve still got all of this energy, and now they’ve got all the hormones too. God has wired them this way, and one of the primary things they need from us is our acceptance. They need to know that we get them. If we’re continually fighting with them about the way God made them, what does that say about God? What does that say about them? What does that say about us?
I think the most powerful thing we can do for them is to really be for them and with them in that moment.
My current “that” child and I had a moment earlier this summer where he just took a left turn and started spinning out of control. Everyone was against him and everyone was mad at him, and nobody understood him. (Side note: I think that language is a cue to us moms, the “Everybody”, “always”, ”never”, “nobody”, “all the time”, “every time”, and it just keeps going on and on. You and I know it’s not true, but they can’t think it through.) So in this moment, he couldn’t think clearly and he couldn’t stay on topic. He kept coming back to something that didn’t matter over and over and over.
It was well past my bedtime when it started, I was literally in my pajamas. He had had a conflict with his brother in another room, and he comes into my room angry. At this point I’m halfway to sleep, eight o’clock is my bed time so I was out. But Davis and I got up so we could engage. You can’t really engage when you’re horizontal. So we’re up, and we’re just keep cycling and going through the same thing over and over. And Davis was speaking at a conference first thing in the morning so I said, “Look, you need to go to bed. I’m here”
I literally sat on the floor with my child for two and a half hours. I was telling him how much I love him, going through that same conversation over, and over, and over and over. I sat there, in my pajamas, into the night because that’s what we get to do. Did you catch that? Thats what we get to do. We get to be with them in that moment of total and utter frustration. We get to be with them and show them love and compassion.
We get to experience the holy sovereign God’s mighty patience with us, that we know we don’t have in that moment.
Trust me, when this starts happening, I want to yell and scream myself. I really do. I want to get all frustrated, and say things that should never be said. But when I don’t do those things, I get to experience the holy spirit coming, and giving me strength I don’t have in and of myself. You know what I’m doing the whole time? I’m praying “God give me discernment, God give me grace, give me eyes to see what I cant see, open my ears to what I can’t hear.”
When we do that with that kid, we’re communicating a level of love to them that is just immeasurable and invaluable. So I want to invite you to reframe this. I get that it’s frustrating. Lets just all admit it and give that one a big hug. But the God of the universe has a plan to shape you through this, and to shape that child through this.
I have been so shaped through this, I am sooo grateful. I am so grateful, if I had never had “that” child, I would’ve thought I was a fabulous mom. If I had only ever had my other kids that are compliant, and obedient, I would’ve thought I was amazing! I would’ve had more judgement than anybody should ever have for anybody else because I would’ve thought it was all about me and my skills as the world’s greatest mom. It has been through having “that” child, that God has taught me and He’s broken me.
I now know all I have is Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Heavenly Father to help me do what I knew I couldn’t do.
Look, along the way I learned some things I didn’t know so I want to go over a few of the potential reasons behind the rage.
- It’s chemistry
They’re a chemical project. They have chemicals in their body that are simply not balanced. We found out that with Charles by keeping a journal. Red food coloring and cinnamon would actually trigger Charles rages.
One morning we were having cinnamon rolls for breakfast on a Sunday, and he actually threw a plate at me! It was pretty evident that there was something chemically inside of him, that didn’t know how to process red food coloring and cinnamon.
I don’t know what that is for your “that” child but it’s worth keeping a journal to see if you find any trend or pattern..
Another thing is that affects “that child” is stress. They have stress that they can’t always process. What complicates this is they don’t have the communication skills that you and I have, to say “I’m stressed” and “I can’t handle anymore” So the combination of the stress, and the lack of communication skills, makes for a messy cocktail when they’ve got both of those going on at the same time. And so again our compassion, and our ability to be the mature one and not reduce ourselves, and not give into our stress like they are. We just need to keep breathing in the midst of it.
The hormone thing is not something to be underestimated. When all those hormones coursing through their veins, and all those changes are going on and they’ve got all this going on in their head, it’s just a very intense time for them.
The first book I read in high school was “to kill a mockingbird”, and it just became my favorite book of all time. In it, Atticus Finch talks about the value of walking around in someone else’s shoes. Mom, I want to invite you to consider what it’s like to be “that” kid. I promise you, it’s not easy. They feel all the stress, they feel this need to communicate something. They know they can’t, and they don’t like it. But, they don’t know what else to do.
When I first started with my “that child”, it was all about me and I was so embarrassed and I felt ashamed and I was sure I was a failure. But I’ve learned so much since then. Please, please put yourself in your child’s shoes. What are they going through? How did we get here? What have they eaten? What stressors are going on with them? Because what I’ve found “that” child needs consistency like nobody’s business. And that’s hard. It’s hard with one, it’s hard with two, three, four, five, six or seven.
I know you’re wondering, “What does an Oreo cookie have to do with ‘that’ child?” Well, let me tell you. And before any of you email me or comment saying I should not eat these, I want to assure you that I cannot possibly keep these at my home because I would become an Oreo cookie. I do love them but I don’t eat them often at all, probably biannually.
I want you to think about an Oreo cookie: you’ve got two chocolates, and the creamy stuff in the middle. It’s actually the original sandwich cookie right? So that’s what you’ve got here, and now I want to give you some tools to deal with the raging, whether it’s young or old, and to deal with your exhaustion.
First of all, I want to challenge you to surrender to the Lord. That’s right. It may sound trite, you may say “Rachael, I’ve already done that”. Well, I’m saying do it again. Surrender to God, and start every day praying and saying “This is your day, have it your way. This is your kid, teach me who they are for your kingdom. Equip me to be the mom, that that kid needs me to be.”
Surrender to God every day.
Next, if this raging thing is pretty basic and on going in your home, I want to challenge you to plan a conversation. Yes, there’s no point in going through this cycle over and over again. I want you to plan to have a conversation with “that” kid about the raging. Now, it’s very important that you make sure they know this isn’t about punishment. This is not you intimidating, this is not about “hey, you’re in trouble”. This is you saying “Hey, I want to have a conversation with you. Do you have some time this afternoon?” Or, if they’re younger than than go “Hey, let’s make some cookies” or “Lets cut up an apple” or “Lets sit on the porch. I’d like to talk to you about something.” And frame it as positively as you possibly can. Build anticipation! If it’s an older child say something like “Lets go for a drive” and they’ll say “Oh cool what are we gonna talk about?” And you can reply “That’ll be a surprise! I’ve been really wanting to spend some time with you and I’m really looking forward to it!”
So you’re planning this conversation; they’re excited and looking forward to it. I want you to plan to discuss four things:
- Bless your child
I want you to tell them you’re so grateful that God sent them to live at your house and in your family. Tell them you’re so excited about the young man or young woman they’re turning out to be.
- Praise your child
“So what do you think are a few things that are going really well right now?” and then give an idea or two that you can see. Find some positives and really talk about how your child is doing well! I promise, you can find them. And if and you can’t, ask God and He’ll show you something. Find SOMETHING that they’re doing real well.
- Ask your child
“Can you think of some things you need to work on? Some areas that need some improvement?” Look, that kid knows they’re raging. They’re not going to be surprised, and they’re probably going to be the one to bring it up; you probably won’t even have to!
- Ask your child
“How do you think I can help?” Don’t jump in immediately with a solution. Be quiet and listen. That’s right, just listen to what they have to say. They might say “I have no idea what you could do to help” or you know what, they might say “When I’m doing that, I’d really appreciate it if you’d stop asking me questions. Or if I could just go to my room for a few minutes. Or maybe I could just walk around the house for a few minutes” They probably have some ideas on what you could do to help them! And some of the things they might suggest, might hurt a little bit. But I want to dare you, listen. And listen. And see what you can learn about that kid. Ask how it makes them feel, or maybe even ask how you think you’re contributing to the problem (if you dare). And I promise you they’re gonna tell you, and it’s going to be an amazing time.
I found that with my oldest son, when I dared to have this conversation when he was fairly young, he totally got it! He knew that he was raging, he knew that he was out of control, but he didn’t know what to do to stop it. Giving him a setting in which he could have that conversation, was powerful for him.
Affirm for them how difficult it is to deal with stress, how difficult it is to deal with frustrations. How difficult it is to deal with change or when things don’t go as planned. Affirm that you too get frustrated, and exhausted. That you too get frustrated when things don’t work out. Remind them that you’re in this together, that’s the number one thing you wanna communicate. You’re on their team against this problem of rage. It’s not you, against them, against the rage. It’s you and them against the rage, shoulder to shoulder. I told my that child, and they one I’ve got going now, “You’re stuck with me, you can’t lose me in a crowd. I’m determined, we’re gonna fight this out together.” Make sure you communicate, that you are on their team.
Next, strategize how you can work this out. When “that” kid is starting to feel those feelings coming up inside and let me tell you, they can feel it coming on. Strategize some terminology so they can come to you and say “I’m feeling off, it’s coming on” just pick a phrase or a word they can say to you or you can say to them when you see it beginning. The phrase I used with my oldest son was “You’re getting close to the edge” And often time when I would say that to him, not always but often times, it was like a wakeup call for him. And sometimes he would just come to me and say “I’m off”
Your “that” kid needs to have permission to come to you and have a timeout of their own. A self-initiated timeout. They don’t want to rage so give them permission to come to you, or to go to their room, or go for a walk, or even just take a rest. Something positive or constructive they can do to avoid going into that rage.
And the last thing, you need to pray together. Make sure the first time you’re praying, that you’re surrendering to God. This isn’t just you and God in this last step, this is you praying WITH that child. If they need anything from you, aside from their compassion, they need you to pray with them.
So back to our Oreo cookie. You’re going to pray, you’re going to do the conversation in between, and you’re going to pray on the other side too, just like this Oreo. I cannot guarantee this will be a one-time conversation. In fact, I can promise you’re going to have this conversation over and over and over and it’s worth it. So just resolve to dig in, resolve to have compassion, and resolve to persevere as you raise your world changer.
What do you do regularly? What are your habits? Sometimes we joke about them and give each other a hard time about them. For instance, I make my bed every morning, even at a hotel. Yeah, I know.
Often we underestimate habits. The good ones we call mundane: brushing teeth and hair, sweeping, cooking, laundry. We forget their value and significance. The bad ones we either hide or deny or try to overcome, but even those we tend to minimize in an effort to alleviate the guilt we feel about them.
Habits make all the difference.
Habits communicate our principles, reveal our character and establish our integrity. Habits are those activities we do no matter what, when your back is up against the wall, when no one is watching, when you’re desperate and alone, when you’re confused or lost. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining or the rain is falling, your habits get done.
Habits give comfort to us when storms rage and tragedy smacks and the lights go out. See when someone dies there are still towels to be folded, dishes to wash a child read to and a dog to walk. The more drastic the change, the more desperate we become to establish to some kind of normality, some order, some routine. Thank goodness for habits.
Habits, good or bad become our best friends. They define us. We depend on them whether we want to or not. That is why it is so difficult to break a bad habit and so imperative that we establish good ones. And the best news-it’s always a good time to start a good habit!
Spending time with God on your knees, in His word and with hands uplifted in prayer are three important habits worth practicing. All three of them take time, but the investment has an eternal return.
Spending time on your knees.
Over and over in Scripture we admonished to pray. Pray without ceasing, on all occasions, giving thanks and praising God. In Hebrews we are encouraged to ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’. Peter encourages us to ‘cast all our cares on Him for He cares for us.’ The Psalmist writes over and over about how he cries out and how God hears and answers. Praying is our opportunity to lay it all down and out. To humbly acknowledge we can’t and our need for Him. We have so many worries and concerns. Jesus said, “Come to me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” We need only go to Him in prayer and lay it at His feet in prayer. He invites us to tell Him all about it, not because He doesn’t know, but because it is good for us to tell Him. In doing so we are reminded of His goodness and faithfulness.
Time in the Word.
God speaks to us through His word. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,’ Psalms says. Taking the time to read His word and study its truths actually transforms our minds. Through it we learn how to think. Paul writes in Philippians, ‘think on these things.’ He also tells us how to live when he writes, ‘be imitators of God’. We come to know who Christ is as we study his life here through the gospel accounts. The message of God’s love for us is clear from Genesis to Revelation. God’s word is unchanging, but through it He molds us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Studying His word changes us, who we are as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, friends, and neighbors. It changes us from the inside out.
Hands raised in Worship.
Acknowledging God as Master of the universe, as Creator of all things, as the King of kings and the Lord of lords puts all of life in its proper perspective. As we praise Him, recognizing Him as the Great I Am, the Great Redeemer, the Great Physician, reminds us that He is in control. We have no reason to worry or stress or even panic. He is sovereign. He has a plan for His glory and our good. We were made by Him to worship.
Worshiping Him, keeping Him squarely on the throne of our hearts safeguards us from idolatry. Further when we lift our hands in worship our open hands represent that we come with nothing, we hold nothing, we lift our hands in submission to His perfect will, in surrender. It is a beautiful posture.
What if we were known to spend time in the word, on our knees and in open-handed worship?
What if no matter what, we spent time with Him acknowledging Who He is and our need for Him, His wisdom, direction and strength?
What would it change?
The way we respect our husbands?
The way we serve our families?
The way we talk to our friends?
The way we minister?
“The heart is the wellspring of life.”
I bet these habits would change us from the inside out. I bet it would strengthen our marriages and our families and our friendships. I’m betting these 3 habits could change the world?
How about we start a revolution?
Prayer. The Master of the universe invites us to come into His presence, to bring our worries and concerns, to bring our longings, to bring our brokenness, to bring our questions, our frustrations, our hopes and dreams.
He welcomes us to approach the foot of the throne, the throne where He sits on high, the Sovereign of all creation, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He welcomes us to come boldly as His children, knowing He listens and cares and loves and acts.
Many have twisted prayer into a kind of cosmic, mystical, God-on-demand, ask-what-you-want, He’s-obliged-to-deliver, call-in-process. Some say (and even go so far as to teach) that God can be manipulated through prayer—what we say, how we say it, and how often we say it. Follow that theology and He’s no ‘God’ at all. With this thinking, their god is only one of their own construction without any power and really only part of their imagination.
No. That’s not prayer. And that’s not God. Prayer is a conversation, an ongoing conversation. It’s between the Creator and His created ones, His people, the sheep of His pasture, His beloved. Prayer is our fellowship with Him. It’s where we tell Him all He already knows. Prayer is about bowing our knees and laying it down and out.
What is Prayer?
Through prayer God offers us a place to lay our burdens, those things that weigh us down, those things that distract us, those things that overwhelm us, those things that confuse us. It’s a place where we can lay it all out—our plans and strategies, our hopes and dreams, our fears and challenges. At the foot of the throne we can lay it all down, lay it all out. Humbly kneel at His feet and ask Him for His wisdom, His discernment, His strength, His will.
Prayer is not magical or mystical. It’s not a formula or a fancy. Prayer is not a waste of time or a mere ritual. It is humble communication with God. It means we realize His authority, His position, His power, His glory. It is an acknowledgment of our need for Him, our realization that we can’t and it’s okay. It’s the place where we trade in our wants for His will, our pursuits for His praise, our goals for His glory.
We don’t come merely to ask His blessing for what we want to do, but for His direction regarding all that He wants us to do. We come seeking Him.
The one true God, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of David, the God of the prophets, He is able. He is big enough to allow us to wrestle through it. He knows our understanding is limited, He knows we cannot fully comprehend. He realizes our perspectives are obstructed. He can handle our questions, our doubting, out pain.
It’s how we come to Him that matters. Coming to Him in humility is key. He knows our hearts. He knows if we are coming with a broken and contrite heart. We cannot fool Him. Prayer is an avenue He offers us to come and know Him.
Here are six ways to engage in prayer:
1. The ACTS method.
Using an acrostic to order your prayers is a tried and true way to pray. One of my favorites employs the word ACTS, where each letter stands for a different aspect of prayer:
C-Confession=admitting my sin
T-Thankfulness=expressing gratitude to Him
S-Supplication=laying it all out before Him
This method of prayer helps to keep first things first and helps set the proper context for prayer. It is a simple and memorable way to organize your prayer time. It is a great way to help children develop their prayer time because even though it is simple, it is powerful. Beginning our time of prayer praising and confessing, then moving to thankfulness and requests helps our hearts to stay focused on the right object in prayer: God.
2. Be still and know.
David wrote about this discipline in Psalm 46:10. This is not an easy habit to practice in our busy, rushing culture, but it is a necessary one. Being still and knowing means we stop and sit in silence before Him. It means that we unplug and unwind and unload.
3. Prayers in the Bible.
Depending on your definition, there are over 600 prayers in the Bible. Some of them are only a single verse. Others are an entire chapter. Throughout Scripture, the prayers of God’s people have been recorded for our encouragement. Noah, Abraham, David, Hannah, Elijah, Anna, Mary, and Paul prayed. When the disciples asked, Jesus Himself taught them saying: “Pray then in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
4. Written prayers.
There are several denominational traditions regarding prayer. Some do not practice reading prayers, but others recognize the depth and power in written and recited prayers. There are several books filled with such prayers for our encouragement. One of my favorites is Valley of Vision. It is a collection of Puritan prayers, which were written in worship of the King and are meant to bring the worshiper into close, focused communion with God. Here is an example:
Longings after God
“My dear Lord, I can but tell You that You know I long for nothing but Yourself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with Your will.
You have given me these desires, and You alone canst give me the thing desired. My soul longs for communion with You, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride.
How precious it is to have a tender sense and clear apprehension of the mystery of godliness, of true holiness! What a blessedness to be like You as much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator! Lord, give me more of Your likeness; enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness; engage me to live more for You.
Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and when I feel at ease after sweet communings, teach me it is far too little I know and do.
Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to You, and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with You, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its beloved.
Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring You, always humble and resigned to Your will, more fixed on Yourself, that I may be more fitted for doing and-suffering.”
Other prayer books for your edification include: The Prayer that Changes Everything, Prayers that Avail Much, and The Book of Common Prayer. As you read these prayers allow them to wash over your heart, soul, and mind. Allow them to penetrate your thoughts. Meditate on their truths. Allow them to sink down into your bones, to change you from the inside out. These prayers will grant you peace and comfort. They will challenge you and affirm you.
5. Prayer cards.
This is something I have done for years. I posted about them a while back. Prayer cards are a way to help you organize your prayers for each day. It is hard to get everything prayed for in a day. Although we must continue to remember that prayer isn’t a formula, it is an ongoing conversation. Sometimes we allow little issues to rattle around in our minds, which just continually distract or discourage us. Sometimes it’s bigger issues, things like jobs, or relationships, or money, or disease.
We carry things around that God invites us to set at His feet and prayer cards give us a way to organize our prayers each day so that we can pray it all through. They are handy to keep with you in your Bible, on a cork board, on a counter tip, or in your purse. They are an excellent way to ‘set your mind on things above.’
This is a tool which can be incorporated no matter what other resources or approaches you might use. Whether you prefer the written prayers, the prayer cards, the ACTS method, or something else, make sure you record what God is doing by keeping a prayer journal.
This doesn’t have to be fancy or neat or artsy, it’s just for you! A prayer journal is where you record His goodness to you, His answered prayers, His praises. In your prayer journal you can write about how He wows and amazes you, how He does ‘beyond what we can ask or imagine’, how His ways are ‘higher than our ways.’
Your prayer journal is intensely personal. It’s like a secret diary full of both tear-stained pages and praise pages. When you start one, write in it often. No one checks grammar, spelling, or the frequency. It’s all for your personal encouragement. Make it yours—plain, colorful, chronological, or random, big, small, ruled, or not.
Pray for Him to show off and glorify Himself. That is what He is always doing—glorifying Himself. Ask Him to open your eyes so you can see what He is doing all around you. Then take it all in, write it down, and marvel at Him who alone is Worthy!
Is there anyone out there?
Anyone? Anyone at all?
Ever think that you’re all alone?
Shhh? Do you hear it?
The breeze in the leaves. The buzzing of the bee? The croaking of the frogs?
Shhh. Bend an ear, concentrate, listen.
Now do you hear it? The babble of the brook. The flapping wings of the geese overhead. The sigh of a child.
Shhh. Your tears falling on your shirt. The deep sobs of your soul. The breaking of your heart.
There are sounds going on around you everyday. The alarm clock, the shower, the tea kettle, the fireplace wood crackling, the hairdryer, the washer and dryer. The microwave, the toaster, the dishes, the silverware. The early morning yawns and stretches. And a whispered “I love you.”
What is the cry of your heart?
What would you love to say to God if you knew He would hear and pay attention?
What would you like to hear back from Him?
What are some things that you have heard from Him in the past?
What would you like to hear again?
What is the question, life situation, problem on which you would like His advice?
With whom would you like to reconcile?
Let us dare to persist in prayer. Let us pray throughout the day, crying out to Him who alone is Able. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found. Let us approach the throne of Grace with confidence. Let us pray without ceasing. Let us not grow weary.
Let us pray for each other. Let us hold each other up, have each other’s back, and stand in the gap. Let us intercede with the Father on behalf of each other. Let us pray for each other’s marriages that they will be strong, that we will respect our husbands. Let us pray for each other as mothers, that we will raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Let us be attentive to His voice alone. Let us ignore the whispers of the enemy. Let us worship Him alone. Let us spend time in His word, reading and meditating on its truth. Let us practice being still and knowing. Let us be quiet and just listen.
Know this: He is listening. He knows. He cares. He is acting on your behalf.
Assuming you have done some prayerful preparation and planning for the upcoming school year, now you are ready to discuss your plan with your husband. As you seek to go forward, united in training up your children, make this a high priority.
I realize that some husbands merely tolerate their wife’s desire to homeschool. These fathers choose against being genuinely engaged and settle for the sideline. If this describes your home, I want to encourage you to invite him to be a part. Inviting is different from guilting or badgering or manipulating or belittling. Don’t assume he doesn’t want to be a part of the homeschool adventure this year. Invite him to join you and the kids.
Ask your husband to set aside a specific time and date to discuss the coming school year with you. Tell him you want to let him know what you are planning and you want his support and insight. He will probably see some things in your planning that you missed. It is also important to review the objectives of your homeschool and remember that you are working together to bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Suggested course of action:
- Pray. Whether your husband is supportive or merely tolerant, pray that God would bless your meeting. Here are several things to bring before the throne:
- Thank God for having a plan for your homeschool, for going before, walking with you and coming behind you.
- Pray that He would grant you and your husband wisdom and understanding.
- Pray that God would glorify Himself through your homeschool.
- Ask the Lord that you and your husband would be united, that He would grant your husband a vision for his family and that you would joyfully support him as his wife.
- Ask that God would grant you the time to meet with your husband and that he would engage in the discipleship of the children.
- Praise His name for all He is going to do!
- Set the date. Look at your calendars and choose a day you can sit down together to focus and discuss the coming home school year. Be considerate of his time and schedule. Many husbands are used to attending meetings with a clear agenda. Let him know what you want to discuss so he does not feel like he is put on the spot or unprepared for the discussion.
A few items you might discuss:
- Guiding Bible verse for the school year
- Review of roles
- Responsibilities for the individual children
- Proposed routine
- The subjects to be studied
- Prayer requests
- Set the stage. Plan the meeting to be just the two of you without the kids, if possible. You might trade off watching the kids with another homeschool mom. Try and make sure you won’t have any interruptions so that you can have a productive meeting. If you go somewhere, make sure it’s somewhere you can talk. If you stay in, make the setting as peaceful as possible. Most men enjoy a good dinner, consider making one of his favorite meals. Take a cue from Esther!
- Go Forward with Confidence. Now, make it happen. Talk with your husband, plan the evening, gather your visual aids such as your planner and various books from the curriculum you want to show him and have a great meeting.
It’s important to note that some husbands want to engage but they don’t know how. You might want to have some activities that your husband can take full ownership of – here’s a few ideas:
- Choose the year’s Bible verse
- Read aloud to the children each day
- Go over a particular subject with a child
- Plan and carry out specific outings or field trips
- Give you some time each week to plan by doing an activity with the kids
- Direct family worship
- Pray for specific challenges/opportunities
Again, it is important that we do not nag our husbands into helping, but rather invite them to be involved as they are able. We need to make sure that we don’t exclude them or make them feel that there is no place for them because we dominate and reject their help and input. As you’re planning, search diligently for a way to engage your husband’s talents and interests and encourage him to play an active role in your homeschool.