It is my heart’s passion to encourage you in raising that child. As the mother of at least two, probably more like two or three or four of “Those Children” myself, they really do have my heart. I know how challenging they can be but I also know what a joy and what a privilege it is to be their mom. I’m here to encourage you.
Today I want to look at something very near and dear to my heart. That is the issue of how to bend “That Child” without breaking “That Child”.
I know what it’s like to have a day with “That Child” where you just want to yell and scream. You just want to tie them in a knot. You’re just at the end of your rope. Whether it’s the incessant questions or it’s the confronting your authority, or the belligerence, or the inability to focus….I remember one time sending my “That Child” who is now much older to the mailbox to get the mail. I was distracted by all the other children in the house and didn’t realize how long he had been gone. When he came back in, about 30 minutes later (p.s. It’s only about a minute walk to and from our mailbox!) he had done everything but what? Get the mail!
Yes, I know about those long days when focus flies out the window.
Another time I sent him downstairs to get a roll of paper towels. He came back with…. A hammer! It can be very frustrating. I get it, my friend.
I get the frustration that can just build. I know that you do, too. I don’t know if it’s been that day at your house. I want to talk to you about how do we bend these kids and not break them? We are not called to break them.
My two youngest sons that are now 14 and 13 have recently gotten really kind of deep into entomology. That’s the study of bugs. They procured a beetle for this unit of study. This beetle was very, very, very stiff. There was no way that they could spread out the legs of this beetle, or his antennae. They couldn’t do anything. In fact, this beetle actually had wings underneath this hard shell; but there’s no way that they could expose those wings in order to see the beauty of this beetle. Enter the softening chamber. This is just a piece of Tupperware with an airtight seal, some damp paper towels, and a moth ball so that this little beetle becomes movable.
He had to sit in that in that airtight chamber for 3 or 4 days. The boys could just wait for this beetle to soften up and be malleable, to be movable, so that they can go in and manipulate the parts and study this beetle.
What does that process have to do with bending and not breaking “That Child”? I want to suggest to you, a whole lot! Very often our kids are a lot like that atrophied beetle…really hard and really stuck in a single position. We want to come in and just force this beetle to do what we want it to do. In fact, the boys have had an experience or two where they didn’t wait long enough. Apparently, the anticipation of studying this beetle really builds. They would get impatient! (Sound familiar?!)
They would just jump right in and start opening wings, moving a leg or antennae. And guess what…wings broke off, legs broke off, antenna broke off and the boys would end up really frustrated. Because it probably only needed another 24 hours.
I think this speaks directly to us as moms because all too often, just like my boys see in these little beetles, we can see in our children what they could be. We can see the beauty of what God’s created and the position that God has formed them for in this universe and we have a vision for what they could do in God’s kingdom.
But then we go and we don’t wait for them to grow into that position on their own. We want to cut to the chase instead of enjoying the journey. We end up, breaking that child, just like my boys would break a beetle that simply wasn’t ready to be handled yet. Now, I don’t think we mean to do this, but we are capable, of breaking “That Child”.
What I want you to know is this: they’re a lot more sensitive than you might think they are. I know with my original “That Child”, I was confident that he was behaving the way he was behaving just to get at me. I was confident that he knew exactly what he was doing. But all this time later I can tell you this, let me just tell you, young mom of a “That Child” who has driven you crazy today… they are not doing it on purpose. They really are unaware of what they are doing in most instances.
Look, I get that there are times when they push every one of our buttons at the same time. I know what that’s like. But I also know that there’s a lot of time when they are just wrestling through being them. They’re really not trying to push all your buttons. They really kind of accidentally rubbed up against them.
Three keys to raising that child
- Humility is key. In order for us to mold these children into the young men and women, the warriors for the Kingdom, that God intends for them to be, we ourselves must come to this task broken. Humble. We cannot come to this task of molding our children, and discipling our children, if we have not dealt with our own brokenness. If we have not yet come to terms with how desperate we are for a Savior, if we are not aware of how much forgiveness, and grace, and mercy has already been bestowed upon us, then we are not in a position to bend anyone.We must first bend our own knees before we can invite our children to bend their knees. Guess what? They know. We might be able to fool everyone else in our lives but we can not fool “That Child”. The key is for us to come humble, for us to come submitted. Look, your kids get to see how you live this every day of your life. If Mom is submitted to God, does she worship Him? Does she sing praise to Him? Does she point others to Him? Does she have the joy of the Lord and the confidence, and the hope of salvation every day?
Mom, before we can begin this task we must deal with our own hearts.
- Build that relationship. Next, I want to suggest to you that we need to focus on making our kids malleable and moldable. How do we that? We do it by loving them.
Remember in the Bible when Paul wrote, “Christ loved us while we were unlovable?” That’s true! God didn’t wait until you and I had it all together and all figured out. I’ve known people in my past who were waiting to get it all together before they came to Christ. But it says in the Bible that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved us!That love, as we start to embrace that love, and learn about that love, it makes our hearts malleable towards Him. It’s the same with our children.
We must first point our children, as we’re seeking to mold them, and to bend them, and not break them, we must first point them to God. The wonder of His creation, His majesty, all of His attributes… I’ve recommended to you before A. W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” and I commend it to you once again. Introduce your kids to the God of the universe after you’ve dealt with your own need for him.
Just love on your kids!
When my boys put this beetle into that chamber, the whole point is to make it moist so that it can move. The best way for our kids to want to respond to our bending is that they know how loved they are by God, how wonderfully he has planned a life for them, given them hope of salvation through the gift of His son, and placed him, this child, in your family, and how much you love them. It is the light of that love that we can bend them.
In the Bible we are commended not to exasperate our kids. That happens when we are just on them all the time without engaging in a conversation. It’s easier to exasperate because exasperation doesn’t take any time at all. It doesn’t take any self-control. It doesn’t take any patience. It doesn’t take any wisdom or insight. It’s just as responding in our frustration. It’s really easy to exasperate.
Engagement takes time. It means that right when we want to explode we exhale and we get a hold of ourselves. We do what we want them to do. We allow the spirit of the Holy, Mighty God to come and grant us patience, and wisdom, and insight. Let us not exasperate our children. Let’s engage, especially with “That kid”.
Rules without relationship lead to breaking. When you are just going to insist on them doing x, y, and z without having a relationship… Look, it’s just like that the key to our relationship with God. It’s not that we have to obey Him, it’s that we get to. We get to this place when we understand the love that He’s given in His son’s dying on the cross to pay a sin penalty that we can never pay. The more that we know this truth, the more than we accept that love, and embrace that love, the more love we have to give to others.
I have a policy that now that I have four out of the house anytime any of those four call, I’m answering the phone. I don’t care what time of night it is or what time of the morning it is.
- Demands without discipleship make for breaking. Let’s not just demand that our children do what we want them to do. I know that early on as a mom, the number one thing I wanted was for my kids to make me look good. I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who has had that as a priority.But I am so grateful to be liberated from that one. My priority for my children now is that they would be disciples of Jesus Christ. That in everything they do and say He will receive all of the glory. That they would grow their sanctification in him every single day. That takes discipleship!
Do you see the trend here? Exasperation, rules, and demands don’t take any time. They’re quick, and they are easy, and they are a result of our impatience and our frustration. But engagement, relationship, and discipleship are the three things, through love, that make our kids moldable and helps us not break their little hearts. Not break their little wills, but bend them.
Look, mom, if you have been given the trust of a “That Child” in your house, I want to tell you boldly and with great confidence today, your God does not need the will of “That Child” broken. This world needs more strong-willed women and men of God who will stand boldly on the truth of Jesus Christ. We just need to make sure that their will is not broken but bent to the things of God. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He knows that one of the strengths of your “That Child” is their strong will. He seeks to steal it, to destroy it, to kill it.
It is our job, it is our joy, it is our opportunity, it is our delight to bend their will towards the things of God so that can use that strong will that He gave them to glorify Him and point others to Him. My friends, raising that child is difficult. It’s frustrating. It is also an incredible journey. Embrace it, don’t fight it.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
There was a very dark, cloudy season in our family’s life many years ago.
I wish that I could forget details, but it hasn’t been easy.
We had a neighbor that my family had become pretty close with, but knowing certain things about them, I still kept my family a little at arms length.
My suspicions came to full light, but by that time, there was much damage done.
I had a choice to make.
Do I wish evil, demise, and hardship on the family; you know, an eye-for-an-eye?
I owe them everything that they’d done to us.
Or I could do what was the Christ-follower thing to do; love, forgive, humble myself and go with His plans.
I owe them forgiveness.
There were several soul and heart searching days that went by.
I wrestled with God for leeway and a pass, knowing all along that love is what I owed.
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6
I had to stand on God’s word in this because my heart was screaming something totally different.
I began to come around to humbling under God’s mighty hand. It was through Him that we’d be cared for. My way of doing things and potentially plotting would have backfired as soon as I put plans in motion.
With stepping back, I was able to see where the breakdown was.
First, I didn’t follow the Holy Spirit’s initial warnings. It’s so important to heed those “tuggings” and uneasy feelings.
I gave access to things that shouldn’t have been given access to.
Second, those friends needed prayer and mercy, not God’s wrath.
I believe that our not retaliating spoke volumes of our faith and Christian walk.
As my heart softened, Romans 12:9-21 became easier to pray over the situation.
Like verse 18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
We were able to live in peace with our neighbor.
Is there anything that you need to put into God’s hand; to do as 1 Peter 5:6 urges us to do? God is standing ready for us to come humbly to Him and to take the care.
Recently a flu-like virus was rampant in my home. It was horrendous. Starting on a typical Monday afternoon with a child slightly coughing and warm to the touch, it quickly turned into five of us down with high fevers, body aches, and all the other unpleasantries of flu.
I was simply amazed at how quickly it spread. This was obviously a very contagious virus. It took over the body of each person in its path, and it was unrelenting.
Oh, how I wish the same for the contagious joy of Jesus! Too often, we look at something that is contagious as a bad thing, but let’s refocus our lens for a bit and think about how we can be contagious in our joy! Because if I could have something spread through my family as quickly as that flu, let it be for Jesus!
The Bible says,
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. – Psalm 126:2-3 (NIV)
We are filled with joy as a response to who God is and what He has done. When we look to the cross, we have joy. When we look to our Father’s love, we have joy. When we look to our eternity, we have joy. No matter what our circumstances, there is always joy in Jesus.
“My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, you are blessed, because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you. – 1 Peter 4:12-14
In a world where sin and darkness and cynicism abound, and those things seem to spread like wildfire, let our joy be known among all. When those around us see our joy, they will naturally be attracted to it. Let that joy be spread to all those around us!
Joy is a result of the Spirit at work in us.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Dear heavenly Father, fill us with your Spirit that produces joy. Let our joy spread through our homes, our communities, and our world. Let the joy that comes from knowing you, be evident in our lives, so that others may come to know you and the joy that comes from Jesus.
There is a time in every relationship when it is easy to love someone else, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a spouse. Loving another gets put to the test, when it is no longer about relying on the feeling of loving someone but loving someone in spite of how they make us feel.
When, not if, you find yourself in this situation, remember a few things:
1. Believe that truth outweighs your feelings.
The devil loves to make us think our feelings are more valid than the truth. He will fan the flame of our hurts and try to get us thinking that we are justified in how we feel. Even if someone has deliberately hurt us and brought us to the brink of emotional turmoil, we should not let our feelings dictate our actions.
Christ says to pray for those who mistreat you, not to give them what they deserve. Oh, if we received what we deserved, salvation and redemption would not even be available to us!
When those feelings of hurt overtake us and all we can see is their wrong, stop and pray for them. Beg God to give you Jesus’ perspective and see that person through his eyes. Ask him to soften your heart so that God can be glorified.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
2. React and talk to that person like you are dealing with one of God’s children.
I love the analogy that Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, used in a video series I watched several years ago. It has forever stuck with me. If you are having a moment of intense fellowship with your spouse (or someone else), picture Jesus standing right behind them. Take a breath then continue talking to that person like you are talking to Jesus.
Well, the same should be true for the child of God standing in front of you. S/he is created in God’s image and is precious in his sight…even when you feel hurt by him or her. If we keep our focus on Jesus and act like we are speaking to him during these heated conversations, the end result will bring us closer to God and to each other.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right had, I will not be shaken.
3. Remember love is an action word that is not dependent on others actions.
Ouch! This is one of the hardest lessons for my kids…and myself to learn. What about you? How many times has this phrase (or something similar) flown out of our mouths:
“Just because someone treats you badly, doesn’t mean you should treat them badly.”
“Did you treat ___, like you would want to be treated?”
I, too, have to take that step back and remind myself that my love is dependent on God’s truth, which is everlasting and does not show favoritism.
Did you know we will show we are true children of God by showing our love to others, even when they mistreat us? Just as God does! Remembering this when our emotions are high is vital.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Being a visual person, 1 Corinthians 13 always helps me to see where my love needs more action and truth and less feeling.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Prayer to take Loving Action
Is there something in this list that runs counter to your feelings. If so, take some time to pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to help strengthen your heart in truth instead of these feelings.
Oh, how amazingly patient you are with us, Lord. Your love and grace are truly astounding. With humble hearts, knowing that we are not perfect,we ask that you show us where we can love more and rely on our feelings less. We thank you for being merciful with us as we mature in our relationship with you and seek your wisdom and truth above the wisdom of this age that tries to trigger our emotions into action. May we stand on your truth and share your love with all we come in contact with. In the One who is the living example of true love – Amen!
We hope this devotional series is blessing you in your motherhood and your walk with the Father. Please enjoy this printable coloring page, take a few minutes to slow down…breathe…remember God causes the sun to rise…and He loves you!
Reflecting on Kenya – Part 2
This post is the continuation of Reflecting on Kenya – Part 1. If you haven’t read it please begin there.
We had five and a half hours in Detroit before our overnight flight to Amsterdam. That’s a long time in the best of circumstances, longer in not-so-good ones. I continued to lap the walking sidewalk intermittently praying and singing through my favorite hymns. It was the only way I knew to keep my mind from spinning out of control. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling; I didn’t try too. Though surrounded by crowds of people hurrying to various destinations, I didn’t see them; they didn’t see me.
Finally it was time to board the plane that would take me across the pond, thousands of miles away from my daughter’s side. We were supposed to be together, experiencing this mission trip together, laughing, bonding. I thought about not continuing on the trip, of just going home. I really just wanted to go home.
The two men leading the group must have heard my thoughts. They encouraged me to stay with the group, to go with the team to Kenya. “God has a plan,” they said. So instead of booking a flight home, I gathered my carry-on luggage, stood in line, and took my seat. I was headed to Kenya without my daughter for reasons I didn’t understand. My mind, tempted to place blame, unable to make sense out of the days events, exhausted from it all, kept singing, “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go….”
I sat down on the plane and begin softly crying again. A stranger sat in Molly’s seat beside me. This is going to be a long flight, I thought, longer than I could have anticipated. Sleep didn’t visit me. Unable to read or journal or watch a movie, I continued to pray intermittently, trying to intentionally put my trust in God, setting my mind on things above.
Jumping ahead, we arrived safely in Kenya. The first two days without Molly were the hardest ones. A rush of emotion surprised me when we were walking into the main compound. I began to cry. I missed Molly being with me, being my roomie.
The hardest day was when we finally talked on the phone. I was in Kenya and she wasn’t coming. After getting an initial name spoken, I couldn’t say anything else, only sobs. Here, all of the pent-up emotion broke loose. I cried in Kenya. She cried at our house. Separately but together we cried. The main thing I wanted her to know I could only say slowly, “I never would have continued the trip if I hadn’t thought you were going to join me.”
“I know,” she whispered. “I miss you so much.”
In that conversation we encouraged each other. It was good to just hear her voice, to hear how God was growing her through this great disappointment. I reminded us both that God didn’t owe us an explanation and that we must not demand one, but rather that we had been given an opportunity to trust Him in our brokenness. I told her that I believe that our old enemy had been successful in stealing our time together, but that didn’t mean that we had to allow him to steal our joy or our determination to put our hope in God.
After my conversation with Molly, it was time for me to give myself permission to enjoy my time in Kenya. Before we talked I hadn’t allowed myself to enjoy anything because Molly wasn’t with me. Every time I caught myself relaxing or even smiling, I scolded myself for being insensitive to my daughter’s hurt.
Now it was time to lean into God, to enjoy and yes, even relax, to exhale. So I did. I took in the countryside, the scenery, the hospital, the patients, the smiles and waves, the songbirds, butterflies, and flowers. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I couldn’t expect to make it through the trip, to contribute, to learn, or grow until I choose to focus on the joy of the Lord and allowed Him to be my strength.
Molly and I were finally reunited at the airport in Charlotte. She courageously came to welcome the team home. There were more tears, but actually more smiles and laughter. The reunion was sweet. Together again, we compared notes about all that God did. I showed her all the pictures and we exchanged stories of God’s faithfulness. Stay tuned for a summary of those next week.
In the meantime, remember this:
He is on His throne.
He is in control.
He is never surprised.
He is working on our behalf.
He is Faithful.
He alone is Worthy.
He is the Great Redeemer.
Praise His name!
Reflecting on Kenya – Part 1
I have taken a few weeks to decompress from my trip to Kenya. I’m sure you can understand the importance of exhaling upon returning from a trip half-way around the world. Your patience with this follow-up post has been appreciated.
At one of the meetings in preparation for the mission, a leader encouraged us to ‘not have any expectations.’ It was actually the first thing he said after introducing himself as the new point man for our trip. Having done a fair amount of international travel, including several mission trips, I thought it was good advice. However, I didn’t really think about it much. Besides, the only expectation I had was that I was going to have time to bond with my daughter Molly.
You see, I hadn’t signed up for the trip. I had signed up to go with Molly. I hadn’t really cared where we went, just that we went together. I had gone with my oldest daughter, Anne, to China. Now it was time to go on a mission with Molly. She had originally wanted to go to India, and we tried to find a mission trip to that country, but our efforts had failed. So we were going together to Kenya.
We signed up, turned in our paperwork, got our shots and meds, attended meetings, planned, shopped, and packed. Oh and we prayed. I prayed for the other members of the group—none of whom I knew. Mainly I prayed for my time with Molly—that God would show off to her, that we would grow closer to each other and to God. Basically I prayed that this would be a bonding time for us as we approached her senior year.
Early on Thursday, July 30 Molly and I did our final pack and prepared ourselves for the 17 hours of travel we faced. We prepared snacks, sandwiches, and activities for the long plane rides. Once in the car, still in the driveway, Davis helped us think through everything we had packed to help us make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. Passports? Check. Medicines? Check. Journals? Check. And on down the list—it seemed we had everything.
We set out for the airport full of excitement and yes, expectations. We laughed and anticipated our time together in Kenya. Davis assured us that he would be praying for us and that he was already looking forward to our return and all the stories we would have to share. When we arrived at the airport, he prayed for us before helping us to unload our bags, saying final goodbyes, and heading back to the house to start his busy day.
Molly and I were the first to arrive at the airport. We sat and waited for the rest of the team giddy with excitement. We took pictures and posted them on Facebook: “Here we go!” As the team members arrived, introductions were made. I was so glad for Molly and the other six students to have this experience together. More laughter and anxious tears. And more prayers.
Finally we all got into the line to check in. Apparently the reservations were made at different times as the tickets were batched. It was a little crazy at first. Although Molly and I have traveled extensively, most of the students hadn’t. Molly and I weren’t in the same group, no problem. I checked in fine and printed out my boarding passes. Molly was having trouble with the check in and had to see an agent.
This is the part where the room started spinning: Molly was being told that she could not go to Kenya because her passport only had four months left on it. What? She had been issued a Visa for Kenya, this doesn’t make sense. One of the leaders was shaking his head, “He’s right. She needs at least 6 months on her passport.”
We spoke with an airline agent. He said that there wasn’t anything he could do. The airline had programed the ticket issuance based on the date on the passport and the country destination. There was no way to override it. Molly’s laughter fell silent, now tears were falling. She sat down in defeat with the other students who were holding their boarding passes.
The three leaders for the mission took me aside and offered a solution. Apparently there is an express passport office in Atlanta. One of the them volunteered to stay back with Molly suggesting that Davis take Molly that day or the next to Atlanta, get an express passport overnight and then the two of them would join us a couple of days later. I pulled Molly aside and asked her what she wanted to do. With tears dripping off her chin she said, “I want to go to Kenya.”
Okay, then. With that I called Davis who was almost home. I told him the problem and the possible solution. Additionally I communicated Molly’s desire to try and make this work. He agreed to the plan and headed back to the terminal. Unfortunately, the clock hadn’t stood still for all of this. Time was marching on and the team had to get through security and to our gate so we could board the plane for the first leg of our journey.
I had only a few moments to talk with Molly, say I was looking forward to seeing her in a couple of days, before I had to let her go and wait for Davis. I couldn’t wait to see his arrival. The other team leader waited for Davis with Molly after I left.
On the other side of security, I couldn’t talk. What had just happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? With my mind racing I sat at the gate trying to make sense of it all. We boarded the first leg of the trip to Detroit. No one knew what to say and I was speechless, but hopeful.
In Detroit the remaining two leaders let me know that things weren’t looking good. Even if Davis and Molly were successful in getting her an express passport, they were having problems finding flights. The earliest ones wouldn’t get them to Nairobi until Thursday with only 3 days left in the trip. A decision had to be made and we made it. Molly would not be joining me.
After making the decision, I walked and walked in a circle around a moving sidewalk at the airport. The same questions that had accosted me in the Charlotte airport were stalking me in Detroit. What had just happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen?
But it got worse. I started being overcome with tragic thoughts, dark thoughts. Plane crashes, terrorist attacks, illness, car accidents all went through my mind, I couldn’t breathe and I started to panic. I texted Davis and told him how my mind was under attack. He prayed for me, which didn’t immediately calm me, but it did begin to.
Join me next Monday for Part 2 of Reflecting on Kenya