Calling Out The Best

As a young mom, I thought perfecting my children’s behavior – especially in public – was one of the number one things I should do. This lead me to often be a less than pleasant mom, who was strict, and made no room for children’s play. I heard more than once how I was a mean momma, but I didn’t care, my kids would be perfect in public. Period.

I’ve undergone a shift in my thinking over the years. No doubt, I still value obedience, and I am still trying to teach character and as I teach character, I think good behavior often follows suit. But I’ve come to see it as a teaching endeavor far more than a demanding or commanding endeavor.

In fact, I found myself recently telling someone (who thought disrespectful teens should be dealt with more fiercely than I am dealing with mine) that in an effort to pull out the best of him, I was going with do overs. Because I figure even if we have to do it over 100 times this week, at some point, he will learn it’s easier to give a kind reply than to have to repeat his reply. Sometimes I see it work in one day. Not always, but sometimes.

We’ve had days/mornings that started out with what I’m coming to accept as the bad attitude of 7th grade, that by afternoon, he was responding with some kindness and respect. And not because I let my frazzled self heap punishment on him, or lecture him. Because every time he opened that snappy, huffing mouth of his, and rolled his beautiful blue eyes in the back of his head because I said something simple (you know, like move your shoes, or excuse me, or it’s your turn to unload the dishwasher) I just stopped, and said “Don’t talk to me like that, try again.”

TRY AGAIN is the key, in my opinion. See, he’s tried to just shrug me off, or one time he said “I’ll be nicer next time,” but it delays the practice part of this. We are practicing kindness, we are practicing behavior, we are practicing respect, and we are practicing responses. So we must try again.

And when I say we, God as my witness, I mean we. When I don’t get it right and that yelling mom surfaces, and I’m sitting there with regret a moment later, I don’t shrug it off and say, “Next time, I’ll get it right.” Nope. I call for whichever beautiful child of mine got the brunt of it, and with a deep breath, I apologize for my outburst. Then I tell them, “I should have said it like this…” and I tell them with kindness what I meant to say, how I meant to say it.

I find myself writing this and thinking, sort of praying, “Jesus help me get this right.” Not this, as in this blog, this as in parenting. (I mean, I want to write it right, too.) I want to point them to Jesus and I want to raise people of strong character, who are connected and relational, who aren’t trying to recover from their childhood.

Like I told my friend, I’ve realized I wasn’t called to control them (parents hear it all the time, “won’t you just get your kids under control”). No doubt, there are times parents have to take control of a situation, because of our experience, our view on the world, and our ability to navigate safely, but our day-to-day is more about calling out the best of our kids. Calling out the good things we see in them and about them, and holding space for them to grow into who God made them to be.

Control suffocates them. Control closes the space around them, is squashes creativity and it squashes personality. Control does not impart character. Control is temporary and it is based on whether or not the person being controlled is fearful enough of perceived consequences to do certain things. Control affects our kids spiritually, because they begin to see God as controlling, too. Control is not a relationship.

Parenting through relationship gives us a unique place to explain why, and let our kids figure out how. It teaches them we are safe to talk to, can be trusted, and we can help them navigate. Parenting through relationship sometimes means we know a better way to do something, but we hold space for our kids to figure it out because learning through doing produces people who continue learning long after they go out into the world. The experience gained by doing something a different way is part of the process of them becoming who they are created to be.

I know I won’t always see the fruits of this labor on the same day. Some days it is nothing but do-overs and I wonder if they are learning anything from me at all. But there are tender moments they share with each other, with friends, moments when they don’t know I’m looking, but they are holding a door, helping a stranger, or otherwise showing good character that I know it’s working. It’s not easy, it’s not immediately rewarding. But these little people are growing and blossoming and God picked me to sit on the front row and watch all of it. How cool is that?

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

God, help me get this right. I want a strong bond with my kids. I want to call out the best in them. I want to highlight how they are growing and honoring You. I want them to know that they can do things their own way, and that they are capable. I want them to know that different isn’t always wrong, and that I don’t always know the right way, and I rarely know the only way. Help me honor You in the way I speak to them, train them, teach them. Help me see the best in them. Convict me to correct where necessary. Show me how to build a lasting relationship with each of them individually.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

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What Marriage Really Is

I love to read marriage stuff when I’m scrolling online – all of it. The fairy tale, marriage is bliss stuff, the marriage is 50/50, marriage is 100/100, it’s tough, it takes patience, when it’s right you know… I just love to read it. Some of it I resonate with, some I shrug at the ridiculousness of. A lot of it, I see how much our culture has gotten away from the biblical perspective of marriage and how people have stopped inviting God into their lives, which inevitably makes me sad.

My favorites to read are the “real” posts about how marriage isn’t about waking up next to Prince charming aka your best friend every day. It’s grittier than that.

For me, marriage is waking up next to the person I’ve built the most with. We’re building children. We built a business. We are building a life.

Marriage is going to bed next to the person I’ve lost the most with. Jobs, a business we built, kids getting sick, even walking through a suicide attempt by one of our sons.

It’s sitting in the hospital together when one of us is ill, or when one of the kids is ill. It’s staring at test results and listening to doctors speak and trying to piece together what it all means exactly. It’s going in for an MRI, only to learn that something is different about my brain, and that it comes with complications, and knowing that I don’t face it alone. That God gave me a companion to endure the hard things with. coffee for two

Sometimes it’s the comfort of knowing that whatever life throws my way, I’m not alone. But sometimes it’s not that rosy, it’s arguing because we don’t agree how to do something major (parenting, finances, farming) and sometimes it’s wondering if he has the grit to stay. Sometimes it’s wondering if I have the grit to stay. Because it is hard to do life with someone so different from myself, but I wouldn’t really want someone the same as me. Someone different than me challenges me to think differently, to see differently, to accept that I don’t know the ONLY right way to do just about anything. There are a lot of ways to arrive at the desired result.

It’s praying, on repeat, for someone else to see something, change something, or grow. Then finally humbling myself to the voice of God and focusing on who I am becoming and letting Him focus on who my husband is becoming…and experiencing more growth together in the season that followed that moment than I even knew possible.

Marriage is seeing someone else’s sin and shame and deciding that I’ve been forgiven for too much to hold unforgiveness in my heart. It’s deciding to let go in the middle of being hurt so that we don’t heap offenses on offenses and dig wounds too deep to heal.

Marriage is sitting in a counselor’s office to ask someone else to show you how to communicate in the middle of a mess and brokenness. It’s walking in thinking your spouse sure has a thing or two to learn and walking out schooled. It’s learning to not act like a fool and put your foot in your mouth on the rare occasion that your spouse is the one schooled.

Marriage is reaching over to hold his hand because everything in life just got dumped on its head again and we have to find our new normal once more. But we don’t have to do it alone.love

Marriage is learning, sometimes gracefully, sometimes through wrestling, sometimes after stubborn refusal to yield, that we both have grit, we both have each other in mind, and we are going to face this life together. It’s learning that muddy shoes, or pants on the floor, or funny squeezed toothpaste tubes are not the end of the world. That preferences are like opinions and we all have them, and sometimes it’s my preference and sometimes it’s his preference.

Marriage is having someone to celebrate each victory with – because no one else truly sees or knows how hard that victory was fought for. Sure, our friends know, our parents or siblings know. But no one sees the in and out, day-to-day, like our spouse does. Maybe the kids, but after they’ve grown up and gone on to their own lives, it will be just us. And whiles kids see so much, they also miss so much. Marriage is about seeing past the nights we share our bed with a toddler, or hardly see each other for a second because all the kids have somewhere different to be, and seeing that when it all quiets, we’ll have each other. It’s about knowing that I don’t want to be in a house with a stranger when that all happens, so I better ask questions now, put forth effort now, no matter how tired I might feel like I am.

It’s permission to be too tired, too. It’s a peck on the cheek and an embrace and collapsing onto the pillow to sleep, with no hard feelings. It’s watching him undress after work and collapse in a heap and knowing that tomorrow there will be a shared moment in the morning, but for tonight, I will let him rest. It’s looking out for what is best for him, but not being forgotten in the mix.

Marriage is complex, sometimes complicated, and certainly worth it. My husband is my best friend, my sincerest companion. He is tender with me, but not afraid to tell it to me straight when I need a dose of truth. He is fun and he is funny and he makes me laugh. He makes sure I don’t take myself, my condition, or this life too seriously.

My husband is a gift from God himself, and I thank God for uniting us. For crossing our paths, and for connecting us. (And sometimes I ask God why on earth, too.) It’s not all good. And it’s not all bad. But there is a sweetness to walking through good and bad, thick and thin, sickness and health, with the same person, developing trust and relationship and confidence to withstand the next storm, to exclaim victory from the mountaintop, and to survive the sometimes mundane days of our lives.

Until next time,
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Admire and Aspire

Dear Fellow Writers,

When I read your words I admire and aspire. I don’t cut down, tear apart, pick apart, or find fault. When I read your words, I pick out the best parts, the parts I like the most, and I let them call out the best parts in me.

When I find the rhythm to your work, I let it lull me, sing to me, draw me in. I admire the voice you’ve developed, I know that didn’t happen the first time your pen met the page. I aspire to practice as much and as hard as you do, so that my own narrative voice will be strong, independent, and yet connected to this community of folks. Folks who string word after word together to make a symphony of thoughts, ideas, imaginations, instructions.

Fellow Writer, I love what you do. I know what you do has helped me do what I do. I know your words have inspired me to put my words on paper. I don’t want to copy you, but I want to be just like you. I want to be brave enough to put my story out there for others to read and enjoy and learn from. I want to write novels that people can live in, if even for short time. I want to write books about how God moves in my life and the hope we have in Jesus.

Thank you for paving the way with your courage. Thank you for giving me something to read. I know you opened yourself up, poured yourself out, and wrote from your heart. I know it wasn’t easy. I know you’ve had doubters, complainers, naysayers, and critics. Thank you for pushing yourself forward anyway.

Until next time,
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