Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from Jonah (and the rest of us)!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Moms are Amazing.

I know there are people who talk about Mommy Wars, competition among moms, etc., but that hasn't been my experience at all since becoming a mother. The women I've been blessed to be in company with (either physically or through the internet) are incredible women who love to help each other out on this beautiful, strange journey of motherhood. I see moms who jump to other moms' rescue when they see they are struggling, providing emotional support when needed, as well as providing perspective, empathy, escape, practical advice, prayer, or whatever is needed in that moment. Mom friends are so great. Everyone should have them.

So many of y'all have been so sweet to me this week with comments, email, and phone calls. I am appreciative. I have such a hard time admitting when things get so rough, but God knew I needed encouragement to press on (and to learn some new things) so I have no doubt that he sent you to be that for me. And it has helped! Tremendously! I feel reenergized! So thank you for your kindness.

One particular conversation I had this week was with my friend Kelli, and it was one of those where we were both talking to each other but really God was talking to both of us. It was an incredible moment. Those are the moments when I am overwhelmed with thanks for "heart friends" which I believe are one of the most precious gifts from God. During this phone conversation, I just came face to face with a couple things in my heart that need to be dealt with before I will ever see any kind of progress with how to handle this struggle of rage that Jonah has. I realized it is very hard for me to show mercy. I'm talking about letting a consequence go every once in a while. It's hard for me. See, consistency in disciplining my child hasn't been my problem. What has, however, been a problem is my tendency to overparent. And I think that's been fueling the battles of the will that I seem to be in with my son. Rather, I need to be showing him that we are on the same team! It's not about me versus him. It's all of us fighting a sin nature. And what I say to him and how much I say to him in response to his sin will contribute either to him feeling isolated from me in his sin or it will bring us into easier, more comfortable communication about it. I've been reading in Proverbs and taking note of truths that I believe can really help my response to this particular parenting struggle, and one recurring theme I've been seeing is how wise it is to use less words. I think I try too explain too much about it to Jonah. I overexplain it. I overemphasize it. He needs to be taught truth. Just maybe in smaller doses than what I've been doing. It's just been a little much for him. I can see that now. And as far as the whole mercy thing goes, I've watched some parents of older children put mercy into practice well. I know parents who will, from time to time, tell their children, "What you did was wrong, but you are getting mercy this time instead of a consequence from me." The truth is that God is intentional with his mercy. I believe He withholds what we deserve periodically so as to motivate us to do better. And probably for a whole lot of other reasons too. But mercy is there to correct us, for sure. I've seen this in play in my own life a bazillion times. And most times, I was incredibly slow to learn. I can't believe God kept showing me mercy. (One of those examples has been on my heart for a while to share through this blog, but it will have to be on a different post.) But the point is, God kept showing me mercy. The reason I think I've struggled in implementing the "mercy tactic" in my response to the times Jonah shows his difficult behavior is that I don't see him learning from it. It hasn't yet motivated him to do better. I haven't seen it work yet in his life. And if that doesn't sound like a control freak mommy, then I don't know what does!

Why can't I leave those results up to the Lord? I often tell Jonah that God's Word tells us that our sins will find us out, so that even if mommy or daddy doesn't see something you did wrong, God does and no sin will go without consequence. BUT... my actions give no room for that to happen. I don't leave any room for letting God deal with it. Even if it takes a long time for mercy to teach him and draw him towards the Lord, that's God's job to work out. I just need to be obedient to the times He puts it on my heart to just let it go and choose mercy instead of administering a consequence. And then I need to trust Him with the rest.

Those are a couple of my new revelations this week. Isn't it just like God to reveal stuff about the ugliness in our own hearts before revealing insight into the heart issues in our children?? It's never what I have planned. But it's so good. And needed. I want to open up my heart to His mercy and be enthralled by it more and more so that it's my heart's first inclination to show it to others, especially to my children. I want to grow to where administering the consequence gets to be the harder of the two, where I have to step way out of my nature of mercy to be obedient in disciplining my child. Wouldn't that be nice. These are the things I'm pondering and praying towards this week. Only God can undo some of this overparenting, and I expect Him to do it. I want Him to create in me an attitude and response to Jonah's sins that is not so overbearing that all it does is push Jonah towards the desire to get away with things and be sneaky. Instead, I want to create an environment in my home that facilitates open communication and easier confession.

I marvel at what God does through the friendships of moms. Celebrate it! Have you been blessed by those kinds of mutually-encouraging girlfriendships? Feel free to share what characteristic of those friendships (mom or not), has impacted and blessed you the most!

Oh, and speaking of friends, you can go to Ame's blog to see pictures from last week's cookie exchange.

Monday, December 15, 2008

One of Those Days...

I have to admit, I'm pretty down today. These are the days I don't like to blog about. I resist it as much as possible because I don't want to be all negative. And much of the time, blogging is a tool I use to intentionally turn my focus to the positive. But that's not where I am today. And I know realness is good. So....this afternoon, my son had one of his loss-of-self-control episodes that may have been the worst one yet. His main character issue has to do with anger and losing control. He has an extremely strong will. I think most people don't believe that because the truth is that he doesn't exert it most of the time. But when he does choose to let it out, it's horrendous. Tantrum isn't the right word. It's way too soft. I can't explain to you the intensity of his screaming fits. This one today has made my head pound. It's rare for me to get a headache, but I have a bad one right now. Parker had just awoken at my mom's house and we had to leave right then to pick her up, so when this episode of Jonah's began, there was no way around having to leave the house. But in order to get him calm enough to get in the car to leave, I had to physically restrain him. And it was difficult. When he loses control, it's amazing how strong he can get. He's calm now and he's spending a considerable amount of time alone in his room this afternoon, but not a sign yet of real repentance. Not the teeniest bit of even regret.

And here's the deal: I know parenting is a process. I realize that with some children, seeing prayers answered will take longer than others and actually getting to repentance can take time. I get that my identity isn't found in whether we see evidences of our prayers and discipline sooner or later. I understand that he's three and I can't expect him to be a spiritual giant. I realize I'm not a failure as a mommy because we've been dealing with this for a long time now and haven't really seen improvement. (We definitely go through a few months at a time when it just doesn't happen as often, but then we seem to cycle back through it, and the episodes are just as bad.) I don't feel that life is all messed up now that we are back in a season of this again. And I don't plan on changing my tactics, which happen to be: staying consistent and staying on my knees. I know this is all part of it. This is my job. It's a full-time one. This is what God created me to do right now. And I am so grateful that shepherding this little boy's heart - even though it is an angry one today - is how I get to spend my days. I really am.

But am I discouraged too sometimes? Yes. Do I struggle with comparing myself to others whose children don't appear to have this struggle and am I then tempted to harbor thoughts about my identity that are not based in truth? Yes. Am I tired of doing the same things over and over in trying to reach my child's heart, thinking they are right, but then not seeing any results in his behavior? Yes. Tired would be a good word for it. Parenting can just be burdensome sometimes. And I'm feeling burdened by it right now. It's making me sad today. But it's also stripping me of pride and self-reliance and throwing me right into the position of brokenness, realizing again my need for the Lord's help every second. One thing I know at this point in my walk is to welcome that brokenness. And I do. I'm praying my heart out for this little boy and how we are to lead him. And his sister. Yeah, I'm really scared of what she'll bring into the mix one day. =)

I'm still clinging to this beautiful piece of truth that God so encouraged me with during the time I was pregnant with Jonah:

Isaiah 40:11 -
"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Life As We Know It....

is about to change!

Parker Jane is up on all fours, rocking. I am soooo not ready for this. I don't feel prepared to fight battles over Christmas decorations, so she better not start moving around before the season ends. And she's pretty fiesty, y'all. Oh, she's sweet. But I think she knows what she wants all the time, and once she can move to get it, well, she'll move to get it and little will stop her. Changing her diaper has become a struggle thanks to this new fiestiness. I think she'll be the kid that is into everything. Jonah wasn't that kid. So this will be...different. But oh goodness, she is pretty cute these days. She's been changing too much lately though. Her first year is flying by, and I don't think I'm ok with it. I will be leaving the baby stage kicking and screaming, just so you know.

Has this Christmas season felt a little weird and different to y'all? Fewer houses have outside lights here this year. I have received five Christmas cards total. Usually, at this point in December my fridge is covered with Christmas cards and faces of people I love. What is up this year? I think it's the economy. And I really hate hearing people say "It's the economy" about everything right now. But either people are saving money this year on cards and postage, or the number of people who like me enough to send me a card dropped this year by about 98%. I hope it's the economy.

Tomorrow night is the annual girly Christmas party that Ame and I host for our girlfriends and new friends we want to get to know better. It's a cookie exchange this year, and I have yet to decide on what cookie I will bake. But I am so excited for tomorrow to come! It's such a fun time! For us, the hostesses. And for the cool, hip people who are coming. Probably not so much for all of the people who have declined the invitation. They must not know that THIS is the party of the year! Not one to miss! Highly anticipated! Better than all the rest! Someone needs to tell them.

Jonah has been playing all morning with his zoo animals (his all-time favorite thing to do), but now the stable and manger and animals from his nativity scene are making it into his animal fun. Every once in a while, baby Jesus makes an appearance. To feed the animals or something. It's all very interesting to watch. He's drawn to the nativity story more this year than anything else, and I'm grateful for that. But I know it's all because of his interest in the animals that were present at Jesus' birth. But maybe that's how God starts drawing in a three year old. I'm ok with it. (Some people might have a problem with it though...I mean, right at this very second, there is an elephant, moose, kangaroo, and zebra inside the stable.) We're celebrating this interest of his though, and tonight we are going to a drive-through live reenactment of events in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. A local church offers this to the public, it's open tonight through Saturday, and it's great! We've been the last two years, but this year will be so much more exciting for Jonah. They have live animals. Like camels and donkeys. And they're right by your car. HEAVEN for Jonah.

I love the holidays. Even if they are a little bit weirder this year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thoughts About Things

Remember last year when I told y'all about the Bethlehem Star presentation that you just have to see? I struggled to find the words then to describe how magnificent it was. Never found them. But I watched it tonight on dvd with my community group, and it blessed me so much all over again. I'm standing by my strong recommendation of this. You can find out more and order it here. It has great Christmas gift possibilities too.

Also, I got my bow tutorial today!! My sweet aunt Joy dropped by after work to show me the ropes. (I actually first wrote "teach me the ropes" and read and re-read it until I figured out why that sounded weird. I finally got it.) My packages have pretty bows on them this year! And I even made a few of them myself! Score.

Oh hey, there's a reason why my Folgers Gourmet Vanilla Biscotti coffee tasted like soap. Turns out it expired months ago. And I just bought it a few weeks ago. Oops. Still not going to try that brand ever again. I'm looking for just the right coffee. Any suggestions? Remember: I'm cheap.

Several weeks ago, I read the best thing I've ever read about worship. Some of you are what I call "worship experts", so this won't seem so insightful. But I struggle with worship sometimes; it doesn't come so naturally for me. Reading this quote has completely changed the way I am thinking when I enter into corporate worship on Sunday mornings. It's actually a quote and then a quote within a quote. Gary Thomas, in his book The Beautiful Fight, writes this:

"Thankfully, we are doubly blessed in that God empowers us to worship him. The risen Christ who lives in us glorifies and worships the Father through us. Here's the marvelous way that Gerrit Scott Dawson describes it:

This means that in the midst of every sanctuary, Jesus is leading our praise. In the tiniest church in the remotest region to the grandest cathedral in the heart of the city, Jesus is worshiping his Father, bringing his brothers and sisters with him into the presence of God. For the Son of God who became man is still fully human, still in the flesh, still incarnate. As a man he worships God. He has blazed the way before us. He has pioneered the path in his own flesh. And he collects us up, gathers us in his arms, and presents us in praise to God the Father as those whom he has cleansed and redeemed and sanctified. All of that is going on in the midst of our sanctuary when we are there, sitting some mornings like bumps on a log, sleepy, distracted, bored, confused, and waiting for lunch. We may call the people to worship with the astounding news that Jesus is here with outstretched arms declaring to us the name of God."

Wow. Try to go into worship with the mindset that Jesus is actually the One worshiping God in that moment, offering your life as testimony to God's goodness. Try to do it and NOT get your life changed in some way! I dare you.