Parenting With Grace (For Yourself)

Parenting With Grace For Yourself

When I got married at the age of 27, Stephen and I knew it wouldn’t be terribly long before we would start our family. We knew we wanted two or three kids and we had no idea if getting pregnant would be easy or difficult for us. So with only about five or six months of marriage under our belts, we started trying. By God’s grace, after only a few months we found out we were expecting our first baby, and the following May our Bishop Anthony arrived. A perfect 7 lb. 11oz. bundle of pure joy. I remember just sitting and watching him sleep. At different times, Stephen and I would look at each other and say, “What did we ever do before he was here?”

Well fast forward nine and a half years and two little brothers later, and I can list for you about 364 things we used to do before he was here. Things like . . . go see a movie after church every Sunday, eat at a restaurant for under $25 and with almost no meltdowns, drive little cars with 2 doors and tiny gas tanks, and sleep uninterrupted ‘til 10:00am every Saturday. I wish I could say that there’s never a single moment that I wouldn’t give anything to go back to those days, but I’d be a liar. Because the bare-naked, raw, honest truth is that over the years we’ve moved from “What did we ever do before they were here?” to “Why did we have children again?” We are just in a really hard and trying season of parenting. I realize that every season of parenting has it’s own struggles, but for us right now, with energetic boys who are 9, 7, and 4, even the thought of going out in public with all 3 of them sends me into the fetal position. Just about every night I go to bed disappointed that I let another day go by without managing to control myself and my responses to the boys. And just about every morning I wake up praying that maybe this would be the day I don’t let them push me over the edge.

Right now we are wrapping up a three-week stretch of winter break from school. Their old school in Texas got out a week earlier than their new school here in Tennessee, which means their new school starts a week later than their old school. So for 21 solid days we have had zero structure and to make life crazier, we made the biggest move we’ve ever made in the middle of it. And I don’t know about you, but we are a family who thrives in structure and without it we sort of fall apart at the seams. Needless to say, Monday morning could not come fast enough for me . . . I mean, us.

Lately I’ve been going to the Lord and pleading for Him to show me how to be a better mother to these boys; to give me more patience as I deal with their defiance, more understanding as I mediate their arguments with one another, and more of a desire to enjoy them during this season. Something I felt Him say to my spirit is that I’m way too hard on myself. I’ve set my expectations for myself, and for the boys, way too high. I compare our family too often to other families. Then it hit me . . . I give myself zero grace so why on earth would I have any grace left to extend to our children? I strive every day to parent on my own strength, by my own standards, with my own expectations. Until I can get to a place where I’m willing to lay that down, nothing will change.

Biblical Pouting

Biblical Pouting

Let’s talk for a minute about disappointment. We all experience it. It may look different in frequency and intensity for each of us, but it’s certainly a universal experience nonetheless. It’s a very personal thing too, so trying to compare circumstances as some kind of gauge for how disappointed one should feel about a given situation isn’t fair. At the end of the day, there was an expectation that didn’t get met and oftentimes it creates a series of inconveniences, frustrations, and extra work – hence the disappointment.

The journey my family has been on for the last 3½ months has been nothing short of chalk full when it comes to disappointing moments. And each time I’m met with a choice – to wallow or not to wallow. I would love to be able to say that as each moment came, I received it with grace and patience. But it was quite the contrary. Sometimes it was as simple as a hefty grunt of irritation. Other times it took a good venting session with a friend or family member to be able to move on. And then there has been a time or two where I went full throttle into pout-mode and had to dig my way out to see reason.

So how does this God-given emotion fit into the Christian walk and testimony? One of the best pouters in the Bible has got to be David. He did not hold back in his feelings of disappointment, fear, anger, and hurt. Yet he did it in a way that challenges us today to feel what we’re feeling, but keep our eyes fixed on the Lord whilst doing so (don’t you love a good “whilst”?). That second component is so important because it is what dictates the outcome of our disappointment. Let’s look at a few examples of how David handled himself in disappointing situations.

95 Days (And Then Some)

95 Days (And Then Some)

On the evening of August 30, 2016, Stephen and I took what we thought was the last big step to launch our family’s transition from Texas to Tennessee. Our house was officially on the market. We braced for a quick sell and looked forward to making plans for our move. The only other time we’d sold a house, we had 4 offers by day 12, and everyone we knew kept telling us that this house would probably sell even faster. We had no reason to think this step would drag out for over 3 months. Nevertheless, day 12 came and went, then month 1, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving. Then, it happened. After 95 . . . NINETY-FIVE . . . days, 4 price drops, and almost 40 showings, WE GOT AN OFFER!

As you know from my previous posts, by this point my brain, heart, and even body are completely exhausted from the toll this one step has taken. It also wasn’t the most cut and dry process to finalize all the contract details. So celebrating didn’t come quite as easily as I thought it would. But still we gave thanks to a great God. We slept a little harder. We recognized that this was the release we had been waiting for, whether it looked the way we thought it would or not. So it should only get easier from here, right? Not so much.

Proverbs 16:9 says, In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Boy, are we learning this lesson in a real way. And yet, I’m proving to still be that stubborn, hardheaded, pouty child I revert back to when things don’t go my way. Every morning for 95 days I prayed for that to be the day we got an offer. We finally get an offer and at the first sign of struggle, I start whining and complaining. “Well that’s just great, all the houses we liked are now gone . . . but we need to be up there before our Texas closing date because Stephen has to start back to work on January 3rd no matter where we are  . .  . blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Nevertheless, we came up with what we thought was a good plan, then the bottom fell out when on day 99 we got the call that every seller dreads. Our buyer’s financing had fallen through so she had to back out of our contract. Well, super!

You can imagine the flood of doubt and questions that came rushing in almost immediately. At this point, any confidence I had developed in our ability to tell the difference between God’s voice and that of our flesh is shot. Is this the enemy trying to wear us down, or is the Lord continuing to build our faith? Is Satan pulling out all the stops to break us, or could this be God trying to tell us that we’ve been mistaken this entire time?

The Struggle Is Real

The Struggle Is Real

There’s this wood art piece (art may be stretching it) I made years ago, hanging over our front door that was inspired by a song penned by a man named David Parker. David was my boss at 121 Community Church for 12 years, but will forever be one of my dearest friends and inspirations. He wrote this song called You Are God, You Are Good back in September of 2010. I remember the time so clearly because the second verse of that song, he told me, was greatly influenced by a situation going on in our family at the time. The words to that verse are:

There’s a mountain here,

And I know this mountain must be climbed,

What awaits brings fear,

But I know You will provide,

I know You will provide

David and his wife, Diana (along with other friends and family) were walking with us through a series of evaluations we were having done on Bishop, our oldest son who was 3 years old at the time, to determine if some concerns we had been having were valid. The day had come for Bishop’s screening at the Early Learning Center where the entire trajectory of our family’s life was altered. See, for about a year up to that point, we had been noticing some things that were red flags, but I was trying to find the balance between living in denial and being that alarmist mom who assumes the worst all the time. Nevertheless, here we were at his initial screening for a developmental delay. They took him off to another room to do his screening while I paced the lobby. After about 20 minutes, they brought him back to me, smiling his chubby little head off, completely unaware that the words that were about to come out of his new friend’s mouth would be like a knife to the gut. She proceeded to explain that they did notice a pretty severe language delay (okay, no surprise there, moving on) and that they think he would benefit from their services called P.P.C.D. (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities). Then she said with her sweet, nurturing voice “… and just so you know, we did notice a number of indicators of Autism.” Now what she said immediately after that is a complete blur because the room began to go dark and my head started spinning. My fears had been confirmed. That’s not what was supposed to happen today.

Radical Holiness

Radical Holiness

Several years ago, Stephen and I had finally reached a place financially where we could afford to use our tax return to do something we wanted, rather than sending it to pay off debt. The first thing on our list was to get rid of our old carpet that was covered in sippy-cup spots (can I get a witness?), vomit stains (thank you stomach flu), and just everyday grossness. I was finally getting new flooring! It was like 10 Christmas mornings put together!

The night before the crew was scheduled to come, we started moving all the furniture out of the living room. The last thing to go was the rug that had been lying in the same place for about 4 ½ years. We rolled that thing up and I was stunned. The carpet it had been covering up for all that time was at least 5 shades lighter than the surrounding carpet. It didn’t even look like the same flooring. It was so clean, while the rest of the carpet was worn, dingy, and disgusting. Why? This 5’x8’ rectangle was stainless and like new because, for the duration of most of its time in our house, it was covered and protected. It wasn’t exposed to the same level of wear and tear that the rest of the room was. It was shielded from the spills, muddy shoes, toddler brawls, and settled in grime. But as we were going about our days, we were oblivious to just how much damage was being done to the surrounding carpet until we saw the difference side by side.

Insert cheesy spiritual analogy . . .

Isn’t it so true though?

If you study the Bible from cover to cover, one of the most consistent themes you will find is the command and reminder to pursue holiness, to be set apart from the rest of the world.

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

Wolves In Sheep's Clothing

In light of my most recent post regarding the days of Noah, I’d love to take a break from all the heaviness and explore a topic a little less heady . . . . . false teachers. If you haven’t had your coffee yet, you might want to go ahead and get that over with before continuing.

I have felt so weighed down by this issue for some time now because we are walking around in a day and age where new false teachers are popping up every day and they are getting more and more clever yet brazen. The main reason being that it’s so easy for anyone to have a platform, thanks to the wonder of blogging and social media. Trust me, the irony of that statement is not lost on me.

But that is the reality we are living in. Anyone who thinks they have something to say can click a few buttons, type a few words, click submit, and bam! They’ve now put their thoughts out there for anyone with internet access to read.

The vast majority of these posts are about completely innocent topics such as the latest fashion trends on a budget, recipes for the best pot roast on the planet, and current movie reviews. To all of you, keep up the good work. You’ve saved many a buck for my family and plenty of meals at my house. But this is not who I’m talking about. The ones that we are to be wary of are those who dive into topics of the spiritual realm. Too many times now, this same scenario has played out in front of us . . .