Stir-Crazy February

Last night, my doula partner Amy and I grabbed a bite to eat after meeting with our clients. While our personalities are different, we have enough similarities (Christians, five children, second generation homeschoolers, etc.) that we never have to explain ourselves much in conversation… not to mention, we’ve known each other for about 20 years.

We both agreed that our respective walls have most definitely been inching inward this February, and she posted about this feeling this morning (with pictures!) in a very thoughtful way.

Take a moment to read The Fever That is February and note how her husband built her up and encouraged her to be a loving leader in her home, after she sent him a photo of a recently cleaned bedroom that was absolutely destroyed.

In a few short words, he helped her to see the big picture, offered some practical leadership advice for life in the trenches, and assured her of his love for her:

“In order to manage well you can’t get sucked in too much emotionally.  Love them, lead them.  Don’t get bogged down.  That’s a small problem.  I love you SO much!” – Matt Weldon

When a husband nourishes the heart of his wife (Ephesians 5:29), it fills up her empty tank (because even moms who love and trust in the Lord can feel pretty low sometimes…especially during wintry days like these, when there is no relief from repetitive noises, children with more energy that can be spent indoors, and a to-do list that resembles a trick candle), and it’s like finding an extra life in a video game, just when you think you’re going to die. Suddenly fighting “the boss”is feasible again. You can be more offensive (problem solving) than defensive (trying to address the problem despite being emotionally bogged down). You’re able to tackle the problem at hand, and to earn your achievement points.

The Bible says that, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Luke 6:43-45)  When mother’s heart is boosted up and overflowing and nourished with love, it makes it a lot easier to show love towards others, including her children.

Yes, it’s true that God is our portion and all we need (Ps. 73:25-26)  husbands and girlfriends can’t even touch the fullness of the Lord. (I wrote more about that here.) Therefore, we can’t expect for husbands and girlfriends to fulfill a need that only God can. However, if God is a feast, words of love and encouragement from those who love us are like the sweet dessert that stuff us so full that we can’t eat anther bite… which is why I usually ask for two forks with my cake: so I may share. 

Good on ya, Matt.

 

How would you describe your relationship?

“Which One Describes Your Marriage?” (click to read) was a post I read yesterday on the health of marriages. I’m still thinking about it today, and I’d like for you to read it, too. (I think the principles can be applied to all kinds of relationships, don’t you?)

I think the observation of “transactional” is be spot on. I have been there before — subconsciously keeping score on a few things, and it’s miserable. As the post says, it’s subtle. To the untrained eye, it might even look like it’s in the “Thriving” category, especially if you can keep up with pleasantries. However, you really can’t give your whole heart when you are relating to your spouse like that in the slightest.

Getting some advice from my pastor last year about ways *I* needed to alter my thoughts and behavior was life-changing. It was not only refreshing to my marriage, but my outlook in general. Specifically, I was taking things way too personally (especially when Tom would come home from a trip.. I was feeling a bit empty after not seeing him and wouldn’t give him much breathing room) and attributing every little bit of friendly sarcasm, criticism or disagreement as, “He must not really love me…” (Which wasn’t the case at all!)

I also had to realize that my happiness couldn’t primarily hinge on how I related to Tom (What pressure on him! How ‘used’ he must have felt!) but in my relationship with the Lord.

I hope the linked post is helpful to you. Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

If you read it, and realize that you would not place your marriage in the “Thriving” category, please do give me a call or send me a message. I’m happy to listen and to pray with you!

Much love,
Sarah

PS: No matter what you think of the Bible, you’ve gotta admit.. this is a pertinent, truthful description of real love:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered , does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

And, of God’s perfect love for us.. so much that he even came to the earth to die horrifically on a cross (Jesus didn’t pass quietly and peacefully in his sleep!) and pay for our sins with his own life:

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Parenting: There are Worse Things Than Yelling

This week I read, Huffington Post’s well shared piece, 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids. I wholeheartedly agree that mothers need to keep their temper under control, and have written on this topic before:

“His words had really hurt me, and they were apparently still on his conscience. What if he hadn’t stepped on the thorn? Would he have had a chance to make things right? What if I had yelled at him and refused to help because of his negligence [disobedience] for not wearing shoes outside?” – Excerpt from Crying Over Spilled Oatmeal

However, it is important to remember that while lowering one’s voice may be like refraining from throwing gas on a fire, there is still a fire and it needs to be dealt with.

Face it — those of us who cringe when people yell (and are secretly freaked out at our own hypocrisy when we yell!) often avoid confrontation to begin with.

We’d rather escape.

Some of my personal favorite escapes are to mow the lawn or retreat to my peaceful comfort zone of weeding the garden outside…while all hell breaks loose in the house. I have also been known to spend an extra-long time in the shower, not just to get extra clean, but to drown out the sound of kids fighting over video games downstairs. It’s not as overt, but sometimes I “graciously” let my children play outside with friends while I stay inside (savoring the quiet as if it were a secret cigarette) cleaning up yet another my childrens’ ridiculous experimental cooking messes…when I should be doing the hard job of getting to the heart of why all five children refuse to follow through on their promise to clean up after themselves and are instead blaming their siblings for the mess.

Certainly, there is a time for peace and rest! As a parent, though escaping in the middle of a conflict with a child is like taking a nap on the job.

The Bible says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

True peace is not simply the absence of yelling, or even the absence of conflict, but it comes from a heart that is steadfastly trusting in the Lord and His everlasting promises; a peace that is not dependent on circumstances. Attempting to control circumstances and manufacturing peace through any other means besides trusting in Christ is a sin. It’s called idolatry.

In Paul Tripp’s Book, Age of Opportunity , one of the first few foundational chapters deals with parental idols. Tripp describes how the worship of such idols shapes our responses to our children. About the idol of peace and comfort, he writes,

The Idol of Comfort. Secretly in our hearts, many of us want life to be a resort… We reason that we have a right to quiet, harmony, peace, and respect, and we respond in anger when we do not get it. Scripture warns us that life is far from being a resort. Life is war…the tumult, chaos and unrest of the teen years are not only the result of significant biological changes taking place, but because of the dramatic spiritual war going on as well.

Parents who demand comfort, ease, regularity, peace, space, quiet, and harmony will be ill-equipped for war. They will begin to see their teenager as the enemy. They will begin to fight with him rather than for him, and, even worse, they will tend to forget that the true nature of battle and the identity of the real enemy. They will act out of frustrated desire, doing and saying regrettable things, and they will fail to be effective and productive in those strategic moments of ministry in which God has placed them.”

(How did this description of my unchecked idolatrous heart end up in this parenting book?)

Those times when I choose to walk away and conveniently find something else to do? I’m walking out on “strategic moments of ministry”. Under the guise of being “peaceful”, I’m missing the moments God is placing in my life that He is not only using to help my children to grow and mature, but to help ME grow and mature.

It takes faith in God to stand on the promises of His word. It takes faith to be brave enough to speak truth in love, and when we do, we grow in Christ… and so do our children.

Upon realizing the patterns of my idolatrous heart, I confessed that I lacked faith and that I was more afraid of yelling and conflict with mouthy, lawyer-like children, than I was of obeying God and training my children up in the Lord. I confessed that I was more interested in the appearance of peace than the peace of Christ. I asked the Lord to forgive me and asked Him to work in my life, no matter what it takes, and to let me to be shaped by His leading and not by my personal comfort.

Worse than yelling is the negligence of our children’s spiritual nourishment. As Tripp points out, life is spiritual warfare. Ignoring heart issues and merely telling kids to be quiet, or being silent ourselves, does not equip children for battle.

I confessed to my children that I had not being diligent in teaching them, and asked them to forgive me. I made it clear that I would no longer be “tolerating” or turning a blind eye to sinful behavior, and that, even if it was uncomfortable or inconvenient for me, that I would be doing a better job of helping the children work through conflicts. I also made it a point to read The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande again with them, to better equip all of us for the conflicts we have been facing in our home. I reminded them that we were in it together, and that we were on the same team.

After two weeks of reading The Young Peacemaker together, I have to say that there has been an improvement of attitudes in our home… both in me, and in my children.

I leave my readers with the wise words of Elisabeth Elliot, which were shared with me by mother in law back in 2008:

The job has been given to me to do.
Therefore it is a gift.
Therefore it is a privilege.
Therefore it is an offering I may make to God.
Therefore it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him.
Therefore it is the route to sanctity.

It’s Not About the Food: Children in the Kitchen

Vietnamese Spring Roll Assembly

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. – Ecclesiastes 4:9

I’ve observed that people who have bad relationships with their parents seem to have been kicked out of the kitchen as kids. “I never learned to cook” is a common thread with hurting adults. The more I thought about this, I realized that children who are kept out of the “heart of the home” miss out on a very integral aspect of personal growth.

Having my children in the kitchen with me is important. They’re often there, working alongside of me, in our little test-lab for life, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about the benefits of this.

Some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had with my children have happened while working together as a team. I’ve noticed that fidgety kids with occupied hands seem to be able to relax mentally, sort out their thoughts in a more coherent way, and share them more freely. Perhaps this is because the attention is focused on work, and not on them and if they are saying things “correctly”.

When families work together in the kitchen, they’re not merely in close proximity (like being in the same room and looking at different screens), they’re working toward a common goal. Participating in family life, especially the behind the scenes work, are opportunities for children to practice humility and selflessness (“I can’t wait until Dad tastes this!” “Make sure to check the ingredients so our friend Bryce doesn’t have an allergic reaction!”).. and also to feel a part of something bigger.. to be valued for their effort and work ethic.


I’ve observed that parents who do not allow their children cook with them are often perfectionists themselves… and produce perfectionist offspring.
They can’t fail in front of their children. They can’t let children make mistakes or messes. They are more concerned about clean and quiet than love and learning. When kids work alongside of their parents, however, children learn how to handle mistakes in stride, how to work under pressure (if you don’t stir the eggs while you make lemon curd, you have scrambled eggs with lemon!)… and to enjoy and appreciate their food, value the where it comes from, and the effort it takes to prepare it.

Of course, one of the best benefits of having children attending to meal preparation is that they actually learn how to cook!
My older children (now 12, 11 and 10) can be trusted to follow directions and create an entire meal on their own. My 10 year old is also quite the grill-master.

That’s not to say that parents always have to cook with children in the kitchen. (I certainly do kick my kids out every now and then, especially when they need a good run in the back yard!) However, more often than not, they’re right next to me boiling water for pasta, breading cutlets, stirring oatmeal, and sharing their hearts with me.

Confession

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

– – –

This is part of my note to a friend who admitted they’d been hateful toward others. They are going through a horrible rough patch in life. I urged them to repent, noting my own sins.

Posting this excerpt here so I can eat my words later :)

FWIW, God doesn’t call us to be kind and loving only when things are going well. It takes *faith* to be strong and trust in God when things are NOT going well. I have noticed, speaking freely here, that God sometimes withholds blessings when we do not suffer well. (God has kicked my butt over this multiple times!!)

When I have sinfully focused on life’s problems and not on Christ, and have let the love Christ in my heart be taken over by bitterness and anger, it feels like my arm is being painfully twisted high above my back. Can’t sleep. Zero appetite, and I feel a horrible unrest in my heart. Anxiety attacks, etc. Life is grueling and all up hill.

When it finally gets through my thick skull, I confess, not just to others, but to God, that I have not been trusting in Him and that I’ve been leaning on my own strength and not His, I begin to feel His grace and mercy. God can’t use us when our hearts are hard. I’ve had to humbly confess to my Maker that I’ve been essentially giving Christ the finger with my actions.. He died for me, purchased my soul with His blood, and I’m basically being an unusable asshole.. not the conduit of Christ’s love that He wants for me to be. Instead, I need to be like Christ’s mother who said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Circumstances don’t always change, but they are much more manageable with a humble heart that is trusting in God… and certainly a lot less stressful.

I’m not saying these things to point a finger at you in any way. In fact, I respect you even more because of your apology and you are forgiven. Please know that *I* am guilty of saying equally hateful things… and much more. I am your friend and, as a pastor once put it simply, “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”