Saturday, October 30, 2010

Like a Schedule with No Script

(written earlier this week...)

I think when I start my day circling my family room and kitchen with a coffee cup and prayer, somewhere in me I think it guarantees a perfect day. Because 4:00 p.m. comes around every single day and somehow either I have dementia or else I am in denial, because when my kids have their 19th tantrum, I am somehow shocked that all of this was possible. I mean I got UP and had my quiet time!

Yesterday was actually horrid. Have those horrid days? It’s actually worse when you wake up all Snow White like, as I did yesterday, waltzing around with your coffee, convinced today is going to glisten and glow. It has more potential to send you straight into the forest, like she did, terrified of all the evil in the world that she had no idea existed. That’s probably why it ended so badly. Yesterday I kind of forgot that evil existed. I kind of forgot that that included the evil that lurks in my kids and me. And that even if you have yourself ready before they wake up and a nicely gift wrapped schedule for the day, the script is not yet written for the emotions, the interactions, the fights, the words, and generally for all of the capacities of sin that flow from the heart. There is no script yet. The Director hands you that as you go, which is just not fair.

I hate improv. And that’s kind of what we are doing everyday here, know what I mean? My kids throw me a new manipulative request and the spotlight is on me – act! Respond! Say something! And it better be good! Life is more than unjust in this department for introverts. Come on! We were made to stare at life and respond later. But if I did that I would literally have no friends and my kids would run the house like little bandits, tying me up in chairs and stuff. It would be cool in heaven if conversations were kind of floating or paused, like in that teen witch show, and I can just ponder every response for a long, delayed while, while you...I don’t know, drift somewhere in a waiting room.

Having hope in your schedule with no script is just like what happens sometimes when my husband and I have our date night. It doesn’t matter what you plan, how good the ideas are or how fancy the food – if I don’t prepare my heart before we go – it ain’t gonna be pretty. I am going to have skyscraper expectations, dump all my junk on him, get my feelings hurt if he even waits two seconds to ask me how I am doing, and the date will be over before we leave the neighborhood. It’s just that crazy of a season, so it takes a little more of a fight with my inner wild woman to appear…well, a little normal ;). (Incidentally, the name Kelly actually means “warrior woman”, so you know I was probably born with more fierce issues than most). Maybe one day normal will not feel so unattainable, but these days, it’s quite a feat! So it’s much better if I focus a little on my side of our date script ahead of time J.

So back to yesterday’s script. On the paper of my mind, the day read:

Bible verse/signs with kids at breakfast

Playdate with friends at our house

Kids help “serve” our community group with little chores (oddly and thankfully they think it’s like a game)


Playdoh and beads while I cook


Community group

What happened looked more like:

Kids not eating

Tantrum followed by a bigger tantrum

Salem stealing backpacks, Gracie throwing wild uncontrollable fits, Kanah screaming

Playdate – (actually good and should have had her stay all day)

Only one of my kids serving, the other rebelling in timeout – again

Short nap for one and no naps for other two

Needed six hands to help them with a terribly needy, envious round of playdoh

Salem fussing (infinitely til bedtime)

Sheer miracle to get simple tacos on plates for last minute dinner.

20 people show up for community group (kicker: I do the childcare with friend – great humorous ending of script for the day)

I don’t even know how to write this one into the list, but somewhere later in the day I noticed an odd feeling an pulled my shirt forward to find the shelf of my camisole full of crushed cookies. The worst, most confusingly laughable part is that I do not remember any incidents that would land me swimming in cookie crumbs, nor do I even recall giving them cookies that day…hm. That’s kind of a good word picture for the whole entire day.

So when I woke up the next morning I instantly faced a sinking feeling that today would be exactly the same. There was no chance it would be good. I was going to fail miserably, my kids would drive me crazy, and I was not sure why starting my day the same way with a quiet time would even matter at all. I mean, look at my day yesterday!!! So I snoozed til 6:30 and finally felt motivated enough to crawl out of bed and get the coffee going.

I started reading Proverbs, like usual, and Jason came down to say goodbye and pray for me before he headed off before work to his accountability group. I got up from my quiet time, prayed with him and mumbled two or three grumbling comments about the day ahead and gruffily went back to my reading with a stubborn attitude of who cares. So instead of reading on, I got up to start circling my kitchen and family room, praying outloud with urgency and near anger. I just decided to be honest, because that’s all I had and it went something like:

“Lord I do not understand! I really am struggling to see how this matters! My day was horrible yesterday. It was nothing like I wanted to be. I am getting early in the morning. I am reading. I am praying. What else am I supposed to do? Lord I want to trust you but all I feel is oozing cynicism. I am overwhelmed by it. This isn’t working.”

That sort of helped. Sometimes if I am feeling cynical I stop reading or I just don’t even get to prayer, with a rolled eye sort of mentality and move along to getting ready or breakfast. But this is what the whole “crying out to the Lord” thing in Psalms and Proverbs is about. So I am circling, crying out, and then: He speaks. He spoke so quickly, before I could make another lap, that it surprised me.

I do a verse a week with my kids when I am on track with them. I have the ones we did the first half of the year listed on Word and now, so as to help them hide it in their heart even more deeply, instead of doing new ones we are just randomly going back over the old ones. So I literally just picked a verse and wrote it up on our board a few days ago.

So I’m walking, panting my prayers, and I look up and see:

“Jesus helps those who are being tempted.” It’s Hebrews 2:18 and the whole verse in the exact wording reads “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” And I can’t explain to you the influence, other than the Holy Spirit is powerful, why sometimes we read the Bible and it’s like skimming a book and other times it’s like you get knocked down by an evangelist on a stage. But I stopped dead in my tracks and I promise you I felt something a lot stronger than my cynicism at that moment. I felt BELIEF and GRATITUDE fill my heart in that exact moment I read that verse. His power flooded the words on my board and he gifted me with FAITH in them and the cynical chains from that morning were broken.

I heard him in my head say: This is true. Believe it for yourself.

With an unrecognizable heart to who I was moments before, I hurried back to sit down and look up the Scripture which immediately struck a cord with another Scripture that, for a second time, rebuked me and poured life into me all at once:

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

I have read this chapter soooo many times. I have rarely memorized chapters but this one I actually have. And it doesn’t matter because God makes things come alive that seem old sometimes. He is powerful like that. And all I could hear, as if I had never heard it in my whole life was, “Kelly you MUST believe and NOT doubt. You MUST BELIEVE.” The wisdom he desired to impart to me about my circumstance was that I was allowing the “faith,” if you will, of doubt to consume my belief system. Otherwise you will be like a woman who is unstable, which is exactly how I felt that morning without my belief securely written on my heart. I felt floundering and lost and bitter and frustrated and mad. And certainly: unstable. I think the wording is so interesting, so compelling, so commanding: You MUST believe.

I suffer in my own forms of temptation. I live sacrificially as a mom daily, sometimes laying my life down willingly and other days by force because I don’t want to do anything except love myself. But this is my road of sanctification. This is how Jesus is making me mature and complete. And on this road I suffer very particular kinds of temptation: unrighteous anger, impatience, selfishness, comparison, self-pity, despair, depression, isolation, and bitterness. I feel these evils lurk around me on their own schedule, using our family’s scenarios, dialogues and scripts to tempt my own heart.

And the reason these verse so touched me was not because it promised me we were going to have a great day. Not because it promised me my kids would behave a certain way. But because my deepest need in that day of chaos was that I would be able to be strong and this verse declared to me: in your every moment battle of your heart, I am more than able to help you in your temptation and you must thrust all of your belief on that and choose with all of your strength to overcome doubt.

Nothing else is promised. But what is promised is that I will be given the strength and the way out of my temptations and even the lines to say. And in the unscripted improv of my life, that is enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Friend of the Earth?

When I was like ten I subscribed to Friends of the Earth magazine. I think it was cool at the time with my other little friends to read about endangered species. Those were maybe some of my first conversations that actually had a hint of seriousness about them and a small sense of justice rose up in me. I liked to look at the animals, I felt sorry for the ones that suffered and began to notice people’s bummer stickers, particularly the “save the manatee” ones.

I didn’t like my own dog though. Poppy (well maybe I liked Poppy because I was very young and much nicer to animals then), then Molly and then (and still) Pepper. If my dog even licked me once or jumped up on the couch with me, I’d push her off of me, make a wretched face even I wouldn’t want to see, and whinily call for mom to get that gross animal away from me. I still kind of feel the same way to be honest. Smelly, yucky, needy – no thanks. I also hated and despised every single insect that ruins my idealistic thoughts of living in the south. Those dreaded, crunchy, quick moving grasshoppers, cockroaches and beetles make me cringe and hug my nearly bug-free existence tighter here in the northwest. Even in my Friends of the Earth days I was all about extinction of the humidity-loving creepy crawling things. Ew.

My family recycled in three different containers. But we also threw away about half of our house every single week. Let’s just say my step-dad likes paper towels. A lot. If you asked him that deserted island question, I could answer for him right this second. Paper towels. No need to think about it. I can see him creating a paper towel bed right now on which he would sleep in a tightly spun paper towel cocoon, under a large palm tree and then napping happily. (Wait, he is the least resting person I know – so no nap, but he could make paper towel walking shoes as he scurries around collecting coconuts. That’s a more truthful image.) Growing up, he would spread out a paper towel under each of our place settings and fold up one under our forks and if I spilled my milk (quite the common occurance – such a clutz), he’d spin those suckers off the stand til he had twenty little clean up crew members to take care of my half cup mess. It’s a miracle we haven’t been held responsible for any landfill issues our city might have had. We certainly contributed more than the share of our block. :)

Sometime after those shallow rooted days of flipping through a kids environmental magazine, I not only didn’t care but got kind of bitter about it. I still recycled, but who didn’t. It was a habit, not a conviction. A behavior, not a heart issue. People annoyed me who talked about it. It felt more like a club they belonged to and felt like talking about it merited them respect and a higher standing. Maybe it was just the people I encountered so I’m not spreading a big blanket here, but pride kind of oozed out of these conversations. It wasn’t humble, it wasn’t pure-hearted – it just felt plain annoying and like they’d found an elite membership. You might as well have put a gold bricked club house around them and given them a martini to take on their walk out to the putting green. It felt just that snobby.

I also happen to have some other family members who are uber-opinionated about politics in general and who end up falling in the “I don’t believe any one or any party” category. So of course this influenced me as well. There were even little classes held in a relative’s house about why all the environmental push was a scam and a lie. So how can I escape that influence as well? No use going into the details and how I stand on everything discussed. I was young so all I can conclude at this point is the simple statement: Don’t believe the exaggerated propaganda. I still have a bit of that in me for certain. The skeptic was born, with a rushing and eager delivery.

So I stopped reading, stopped caring. Questioned most everything on the news or on posters, besides Jesus. Just recycled. And sometimes didn’t. And didn’t notice. Once you become a skeptic, even if you want to believe someone, you just can’t find it in yourself. Humanity isn’t truthful to you anymore. It’s hard to throw yourself on that identity of mankind.

So this also correlated with a time in my life around my late teens and early to mid twenties where I had strong convictions about certain other things. Things like wanting to read books by men and women I trusted in the faith. Things like learning how to be a part of a community of believers and how to love our neighbors. Things like how to not be defensive and judgmental as a Christian, but to learn how to love and be like Jesus even with people who completely disagree. Things like how to love a city that feels really dark and lost and lonely (Boone, NC and then Berkeley, CA). Things like seeing, really seeing, people who are all alone – some of them all alone from an obvious perspective and others all alone though they stand in those circles of people at all times. It was a time of faith. A time of letting my heart get burdened by a great God who loves people, his very creations made in his image. A time of learning a pinch of what it means to lose your life so that you can gain it. It was a season that had to come first. A season that got to the heart of the matter. And I certainly changed.

And graciously, God let me begin there. With the heart. With seeing Him. With seeing myself with both the light and the mirror he gave me for a gift those years. And with seeing other people, as Jesus did as he looked out on the crowds. It says in the gospel that he looked out on them with compassion. I feel like it took me about six years to look out on the crowds to even begin to form that compassion and burdened, shepherd heart. With lots of other immaturities and imperfections still permeating my lifestyle and behaviors and day to day choices, he graciously started there. At the heart of me and the heart of what he is most concerned about – his people of his very own, his most treasured of creations on earth…his children.

Then he slowly began to work on my weaker convictions. I don’t know how else to describe them. So though my heart was growing in the spirit and in my mindset and in my world view of people and community and life…there were very intangling roots in my physical life. I don’t mean my physical body, though I am not excluding that. I am talking about my good friends named laziness, selfishness, and ignorance in my day to day life.

It’s kind of like those people who give their whole lives to a big important world-shifting type job but then go home to an unkept, unsanitary house and eat out of take out containers. Something just doesn’t add up there in the healthy department. I wanted people to wake up each day to know God the way I was getting to known him, but somehow I could not get myself out of bed in the mornings and my snooze button was getting worn. I prayed for people to come to church with me, just to experience the Lord as I had, but I misused my own free time with distractions and selfish ambitions. I didn’t want people to waste their years on meaningless pursuits and empty idols of success and wealth, yet I had my own versions of waste with things like stewardship and money.

(I guess to some degree no matter how much we’ve grown or believe something, we are always hypocrites. And it’s just good to admit it upfront, that you’re not out to sell something because you’re the super star who got cured. But Jesus is all about making me like him and I just have to keep admitting that any change for the good in me isn’t my own righteousness or hard work – it’s been bought with a price and is a gracious gift. A gift that keeps springing up in me, so that I can’t even come full circle with this blog b/c it’s still coming round.)

So the Lord continued his work in my spirit, but began to connect my meaning of “spirituality” to my physical world. He wanted my head on the pillow to understand it was connected to my heart, to my devotion to him. He wanted my hands that commited themselves to distracted interests to understand that they were not my own, they were created for glory in how I served others. He wanted my feet that were set in a spacious place with lots of freedom to choose what to do, to understand that the Lord made me as an instrument of his righteousness, created to do good works. And lately he’s even showing me that the very ground I walk on is not just randomly existent under my feet - it is his land and he made it for us to live and move and have our being.

Do you remember doing those brainstorming webs for English class and you draw a circle with three main lines coming off of it and then off each main point you can draw a bunch of sub point ideas that connect or support? Well, off of this time in my life (the past five years of pregnancy and motherhood) I feel like you could draw like a trillion of those little shoots with things that the Lord has shown me about myself, what he has a heart for, what he’s growing in me, who He is, what he loves, etc. And one of those little lines is actually what I am getting at in this blog. But I could write a ton of shoots off this one, or maybe that’s what I have been doing all along (hmm…).

I mean to say in all of this that one tiny area of conviction, like how we feel about this place called home, called Earth, called our environment, called whatever you call it, can take years and years of building of conviction and belief around it. And I think that as someone who began at having no interest in such a topic so many years ago, finds it interesting that the Lord would make that area one of many such death-to-life building blocks. It’s one area for certain, that has surprised me, that he has said – Kelly, I care about this. You are my daughter and I have set you and my other children over all of what I have made. It is your home, it is your creation to enjoy and have dominion over and to protect. It is in your hands. Treasure it with your actions, enjoy it with your life, and use it to point to who I am.

(More to come on this topic…)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Compassion for the Struggle

Thoughts from Sacred Marriage chapter 4

Well summer hit Seattle for six weeks or so J and I guess my blog got the boot. That’s fine. I think watching ponytails fly in the sun and my kids actually put on bathing suits and my own skin feeling warm is much more valuable than a bunch of introspection anyway J. But now it’s winter again (another J) and I’m back.

I don’t think I hit chapter three from Sacred Marriage yet but all I can think about is what happened to me recently when I re-read for the third time chapter four, so here goes.

Can you think of a moment when your heart has been significantly softened for your spouse? When the walls on the room you used to leave for grace for him just got pushed back? That is what it felt like when I read the end of this chapter again. I had actually underlined a ton of great stuff in the beginning of the chapter about dealing with contempt for your spouse – very convicting truths actually. And as I re-read the chapter my heart turned to mush for my husband on a totally different segment.

Gary Thomas had a portion of the chapter entitled “Remember the effects of the Fall.” Allow me to quote a bit of it for you on p.67-8…

“We need to understand how profoundly broken this world is. Sin has radically scarred our existence. As a result of the Fall, I will labor with difficulty and angst (Gen 3:17-19). Lisa will mother our children and enter into relationships with mixed motives and frustrated aims (Gen 3:16). Even an unusually good marriage is not able to erase the effects of sin’s curse on individuals and society…

“The problem is that even though we can’t go back to the idyllic existence prior to the Fall, we were created with an understanding of what pre-Fall days were like – in other words, we know what relationships should be like, but we are incapable of making them perfectly in tune with that ideal: ‘Our souls are wired for what we will never enjoy until Eden is restored in the new heaven and earth. We are built with a distant memory of Eden.’

“This calls me to extend a gentleness and tolerance toward my wife. I want her to become all that Jesus calls her to become, and I hope with all my heart that I will be a positive factor in her pursuit of that aim. But she will never fully get there this side of heaven, so I must love and accept her in the reality of our lives in a sin-stained world.

“Accepting the fallenness of this world – with its bitter disappointments, physical limitations, and myriad demands – helps me to understand how difficult life is for Lisa, which helps me in turn to have contempt for contempt.”

It’s so important for me to understand as my husband’s wife that there’s a whole backdrop to what is going on in our relationship. It’s not like his life is roses and then we have a disagreement and it’s a complete surprise. The backdrop for my husband is first the fallen world around him, filled with sinners who sin continually, so he struggles in the world. He navigates broken conversations, filled with selfish gain. He works in an environment focused on pleasing man and performance, while internally struggling in the spirit towards being a man who only strives to please God. And then backdrop of his heart personally is that he lives his whole life with a sin nature, with which he struggles and fights in the spiritual realm to be transformed by Jesus from now until he leaves this earth. On the outside it may look like day to day work and mowing the grass and vacations and “what do you want to do today’s” but deeper and weaved into every interaction is a life-long struggle in the spirit.

So without me even evaluating who is at fault or who should apologize first or before I start building up contempt for this person who I feel has burst my beneficial relationship bubble…I really feel compelled and convicted to see his struggle.

Jesus himself tells us that “In this world you will have trouble.” He is talking to his disciples about how he will be leaving the world soon and that they will be scattered, but there will be a day when they will be able to be with him again, and no one will take away their joy at that time. If I read that as Jesus speaking that personally to my husband, I can hear him telling Jason, my husband, “Jason in this world you will have trouble…” and a great compassion falls over me.

I think in the moments I feel misunderstood or sinned against or wronged, I am completely walled off to this difficult state of struggle that we are in as human beings, and more specifically the life of struggle that my husband will have, until he goes to that joy everlasting with the Lord. But when I let those hard words sink in, that my dearest companion lives in a fallen world, in fallen relationships, and lives in a battle with a fallen nature, that breaks my hard heartedness and self-absorbtion towards him in our more difficult moments.

In just the next chapter, John 17:15-19, as Jesus prays to the Father, he ministers to me concerning this struggle he has allowed us to remain in.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

It is the Lord’s will that for now we remain here, in a fallen world. But the remaining is for a purpose. That he might sanctify us by the truth. This is the HOPE that I must, must, must couple with my deeply compassionate seeing of my husband’s struggle. I must couple his struggle with the hope that Jesus has left us here for a time to transform us. He finishes his statement from earlier, “In this world you will have trouble…” with “but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the struggle! He has overcome this fallen world. He has overcome the fall of sin.

And he has overcome our fallen hearts.

I used to think that the word “praise” was old and kind of silly to say outloud here in 2010. It’s still sometimes an prideful, awkward struggle for me to respond to a friend’s answer to prayer with a heartfelt “Praise God!” But all I can say to the truth that I am to take heart, because Jesus has overcome all of this fallenness is, I PRAISE HIM!

I am so thankful that he has not only given me the difficult, yet Christlike, compassion to see clearly and deeply my husband’s struggle, but also he has encouraged me towards the rest of the story: that he has overcome this world and its fallenness.

Jesus is so gracious. I have to include his final words of that prayer. These are the words of God himself, before he left us here on earth in this struggle with fallenness. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Our struggle is not ours alone. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)

JJ Heller’s – Your hands

I have unanswered prayers

I have trouble I wish wasn’t there

And I have asked a thousand ways

That you would take my pain away

I am trying to understand

How to walk this weary land

Make straight the path that crooked lie

Oh Lord before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth

You healed the broken, lost and hurt

I know you hate to see me cry

One day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave your hands

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't Exasperate: In Practice

The little couch in the front living room is starting to get a lot of wear. It used to be so empty and deserted in that part of the house. And then it became our spot for timeouts. Now we spend a good part of the day there.

The other day I was not in a terrific place. The kids were being wild and taking turns being disobedient. And I was getting annoyed. Very annoyed. To the point of just not making clear decisions about discipline. I wish I could remember the details of the incident, but generally the three kids started to look like a mob making protest in all kinds of obnoxious ways and Grace got blamed. She was a target in the midst of a chaotic moment. I think it was true, she was whining or something, but my behavior in response was so out of place that it was extremely inappropriate to scold her and discipline her so sharply when my sin in the moment trumped hers by tenfold. I did not use wisdom to "use words with restraint" or to be "even-tempered" (prov 17:27) but instead proceeded to exasperate my daughter in an ungodly reaction.

I sent her off, crying, into the front living room. And three minutes later, in the twenty steps it took to get to her, I felt a sharp rebuke in the pit of my stomache from the Lord.

You need to repent to your daughter.

An enormous amount of compassion swept over me for her as I approached her. In my place of authority I had misused my role and had missed the mark of justice by a mile. Although I was still terribly frustrated with the general behavior of my children and downcast about our snowball of sinful behavior, this particular act of discipline was not for her, but for me. I sat down by her and she gazed up at me all teary and when she saw my soft face towards her, she sat up by me.

Gracie, do you know what? God is my authority just like I am your authority and he just told me that I need to tell you I am sorry for being harsh with you. And that I need to obey him by repenting to you and asking for your forgiveness. I am so sorry sweet girl, and I would like for you to forgive me. She smiled sweetly at me and told me she forgave me and I gave her a huge bear hug, so delighted in that moment of my obedience and the softness it created in me.

There is something incredibly beautiful and joyful about the humble act of repenting of your own misbehavior to a little child. And then to have them speak forgiveness over you. I just so badly want to be that parent that instructs their child faithfully in teachable moments, disciplines faithfully in moments of correction, and confesses faithfully when I am the one who’s got it all wrong. It’s just kind of an unheard of part of parenting to take a knee, repent of your own faults with a sincere apology on your lips, and genuinely seek the forgiveness of a small child. I so badly want my daughter to not remember me as perfect, but as faithful, and to know that I need the gospel of forgiveness and grace just like she does.

It’s something from God and I just pray that I will continue to see myself as God’s child, just as Grace is mine, and listen to his discipline for me, especially in moments like these when God asks me to be the one to take a seat on the couch for a few minutes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Don't exasperate them.

My girls are three and a half next month. I have had a very clear realization that this is going to be an incredibly important year at home with them. This is the last year I will have all three kids in my care every single day. Suddenly I feel like this is a mini version of their senior year of high school and everything I encounter feels like I am about to say goodbye.

I flipped through a magazine the other day looking for luggage for the kids and saw preschool backpacks looking all grown up on the page next to the elementary kid ones. Then there’s the buses. We rode the bus up in Whistler last week to get down to the village from the condo and the girls thought they were on cloud nine. They marched down to the bus stop, and once they got on they were all wide-eyed and gitty excited about their adventure. Grace thought it was cool to sit in the back of the bus, while Daddy taught Kanah how to pull the wire to request a stop. They are learning the difference between spotting a city bus and a school bus. Then another reminder is our library time. I keep finding little books like Maisy Goes to Preschool etc about what classes are like and what it’s like to have a teacher. And encountering pictures of backpacks, driving by city buses and looking at library books (among other things) are sparking little senior year mom missings in me. (I don’t think that’s a word, but I like it, so now it is!). Missings that make me feel excited to have them close in my care this year, excited to be doing this little preschool co-op at home with two other mommy friends.

In thinking about where my girls are at, it has suddenly occurred to me lately that they are in a very sweetly packaged and protected season of childhood and that I do not know for certain how much longer this exact stage of innocence may last. I know that it is not promised that nothing will go wrong or that a circumstance or trial may arise that would be difficult for them, but generally speaking – acknowledging that we live in a fallen world – this is a precious window of childhood.

I was thinking recently through my own struggle with anxiety, fears and control in the last few months and how hard that has been on me mentally. And what a literal battle it is for my mind and heart, so that I can even get to enjoyment of life and time with family and conversations over coffee, etc. And I thought back over my span of 32 years of life, seeing that my struggle internally has seemed to increase over time. And I see it happening with others around me. Around age 28 and up I have struggled through anxieties around children, how to parent, how enjoying marriage while dealing with increased responsibilities, and how to battle some of my own personality and ways I think about things. The five or so years before that introduced struggles of missing my family from long distance, living in a new city, figuring out how to do life without close friendships, and learning how to navigate the work world. Before that, how to handle the college burden of thinking about your future and understanding what you were made to do with your life, while struggling in comparing myself to others. In junior high and high school my stresses revolved around performance in school, people pleasing, rejection in friendships, acceptance of how God made my body and navigating relationships with peers. Even in elementary school I remember little stresses and struggles around friendships and disappointing teachers/parents, and certain social interactions.

All this to say, I am not sure when it begins, but over the course of life, we struggle. And I would say too that we struggle increasingly. That even with Christ and his bounty of blessings in my lap, he is helping me, counseling me through the struggle of life as it comes in waves. Peter would say (in 1 Peter 4:12) to not be surprised at the painful trials I am suffering as though something strange were happening to me. Struggles are not strange – they are familiar and frequent.

Yet my children now at age 3 and a half (and Salem at one and a half) are enjoying something completely unique and wonderful for them. And it’s not that I was totally clueless to their childlike happiness or to the fact that children generally don’t have much stress. (I feel like I learn that everyday when we’re trying to get out the door and they are bouncing on pillows and taking their time eating their cereal!) But for me personally, as their mom, and looking specifically at their time and stage of life, the Lord seemed to reveal to me in a more illuminating, and in some senses heart-breaking, way that they are in a special season of ENJOYMENT of life.

He revealed this precious truth to me alongside of a growing conviction for me as a mother around Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

If any of you have read Shepherding a Child’s Heart of Instructing a Child’s Heart, you immediately recognize this verse. Parenting is about instruction, which is teaching my children about godly truths in both planned as well as (mostly) spontaneous times as we do life together. Parenting is also about training/disciplining as the “folly bound up in their hearts” is exposed in their disobedience and we need to take time to correct. That is not the focus of my point here, but worth noting first. So, we are after those two things as parents to our kids for certain. But right before that there is a clear opposing idea about parenting: exasperating our children. It is specifically written to fathers, perhaps because the Lord knows that men struggle more with anger tendencies generally, and also it is because he is first entrusting the instruction and discipline to the fathers since they lead the families. And he is pointing out that the opposite of that way is to just randomly and emotionally exasperate our kids. So though the Lord addressed the fathers with that, that also happens to be an issue I deal with inside. I mean, I exasperate myself for goodness sakes! . When I am not carefully, wisely leading my children with my words, I easily think my impatience, anger, carelessness, raised voice etc. could all fall under the overarching category of “exasperating.”

Exasperate: to irritate or provoke to a high degree, annoy extremely, increase intensity. (Synonyms: incense, anger, inflame, irritate). The origin has roots in the words “rough” and “harsh.”


The Lord has very appropriately put this verse and specifically that one word on my heart: Kelly, do not exasperate your little children. Instead grow them up in my ways.

We have a chalk board in our kitchen just for bible verses and usually I put a new one every week but recently when it came time to change the weekly verse, I realized I needed to keep one at the bottom permanently for me and then to keep giving the children new ones.

Mine is from Proverbs 17:27 “A man of knowledge uses word with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”

This is what I sense him pairing with his encouragement from Ephesians 6:4. But alllll of this good instruction and encouragement from the Lord is not just a big DON’T. The Lord has also graciously, because of his Fatherly love for the children he has entrusted to my care, shown me that precious innocence that they dance in right now. He has shown me the length of my years alongside of the increasing closeness between he and I as I have experienced more and more life of struggles. And with that he has also shown me the care-free joy my little creations are gifted to experience for such a short time. Such a short season!

And finally he has whispered to me…

Don’t steal that from them by exasperating them! Be faithful to grow them in my instruction and discipline because you love them, but never provoke them. As far as it is up to you, let them dance in this sweetness of life without leaving them frustrated. I will enable you to hold all of the cares in their world, so that they may be without regard for the tangles of life. Rejoice with them, for this is what it will be like to be in the Kingdom.