May You Soar, My Child

My sweet 4-year-old daughter, Miss R, climbed out of an afternoon bath and started drying off. I was about to leave the bathroom, as her clothes were already on the counter, when she said, “No Mommy. I can’t do it.”

Now, this puzzled me. Miss R is fierce and independent. She can do anything, by herself, without me. Her 4th birthday declaration was that she was a big enough girl to do barn chores alone. She dresses herself every day. So why, all of a sudden, couldn’t she do it?

I sat down on the edge of the tub, ready to help her get dressed. I did protest once that no, she could dress herself, and she said she couldn’t. As soon as I sat down, she turned her back to me and dressed herself, with ease. She didn’t ask which way the panties go, or which way to put the dress on. She didn’t ask me to fix her socks (and goodness she is picky about how she wears them). She just dressed herself.

I watched in silence. I’m always evaluating my parenting choices, the direction I thought past choices were taking me vs. where I am, and what choices I can make better. In this little afternoon moment, my heart swelled. I hope my kids always know they are capable. I hope and pray they embrace adulthood, take it head on, and tackle the road ahead. I pray they hear the Spirit’s prompting and are fully dependent on God. But I don’t ever hope they rely on me, maybe because I’m afraid I’ll let them down (which, fact of life or not, makes me sad).

In this little afternoon moment, I was humbled. She felt more able just because I was there. She didn’t need me to do anything for her. She just needed me to be with her. I have a new prayer. I pray my kids always feel more sure of themselves and more capable for having been in my presence. Not because I did anything, or even because I had any advice or answers, just simply because as their mom I am a comfort and a calm and I am empowering to them. I pray that God renews my strength for these small moments, that He keeps me patient, helps me be available, and helps me show, through many small actions, that I will always be there to support, love, and pick my kids up when they need it. But by the grace of God Himself, I pray I am always wise enough to hang back, to let them do it, to give them room to try, to make a mistake, to succeed, to soar. (Another post for another day, I also pray that I don’t lose my identity in wanting them to need me, either.)

It’s funny how writing these things down and putting my thoughts on paper (screen?) broadens my perspective. Instead of fear that I’ll let them down, I’ll add to that prayer that God equips them to overcome disappointments and let downs that come from something I’ve done or said (or not done, or not said). I pray that God will overcome my fear with His perfect love, and I praise Him over and over for picking me to be their mom. I don’t deserve this life He’s given me, or these people He’s loaned to me, but I am grateful to have each of them. Our God gives good, good gifts.

Posted in faith, family, life, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Criticism

Noun.

the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.

Criticism, have you experienced it? Most of us have, or will, at some point in our lives. Maybe some of us even deal closely with a critic. Their words are cutting, often stinging the soul like poison does the body. The dread and anticipation that swells up within a person before an encounter with a critic can make a sane person feel crazy.

You know the type, don’t you? They are always pointing out the flaws of others – making certain that all around know and hear of the flaws they are picking out. Often on the heels of criticizing another person, the critic flaunts their own perfection in that area or skill. No one does more, better, faster, or quicker than the critic themself. There is no way other than the critic’s way that can possibly be right or achieve desirable results.

Put down, after put down, after put down. A critic makes the people around them feel as though they are incapable of doing the right thing, doing a good thing, or even attaining a small measure of success.

Where a critic could use their influence to lead up and build up, they instead tear down and shove away. They make those around them feel smaller and less significant than they did before the encounter with the critic.

If you bite and devour each other, watch out for you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:15 NIV

How easy it is to bite back at the critic, isn’t it? Their sharp words often bring out the sharpness in our own tongues. But the Bible tells us that a gentle answer turns away wrath.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Proverbs 15:1-2

In fact, reading through the book of Proverbs, it is clear that our words have power. So why would a person choose the be a critic? I’ve started wondering if it is second nature to some. If it comes naturally because of the criticism they’ve endured. The root of criticism is often pride.

Aside from urging you to pray, pray, pray, I haven’t a word of advice for how to help the critic in your life be less critical. Whether they are aware of the effect they are having on the people around them, or are oblivious to it, they have to come to a place where they want to soften their heart and give up pointing out the flaws of others. Until they do, people will often react defensively, walk on eggshells around them, and keep them at a distance to avoid being poisoned by their shaming words.

Here are a few steps you can take to protect your heart and mind from criticism – whether from a loved one, a stranger, or a bully on the internet. First and foremost, know who you are in Christ, know your worth. You are worth dying for, according to our Creator.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16

Keep a clear conscience. Don’t allow the critics words to become your own. Set the right example in how you speak to others. Build others up in Christ. Work on the board in your own eye and most importantly, pray like crazy. A critic’s heart can be won over by the grace and love of Jesus shining through you. It may take a long time and a lot of prayers and a lot of tears, but it is possible.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, that while you may need to enforce healthy boundaries to give yourself times of rest from the criticism, don’t give up on the critics. I am convinced that their outlook on the world, from that stuffy, prideful place, is actually quite bleak and their hope is naught. Show them real hope, show them real love, and let God do the work of growing the seeds He has trusted you to plant.

Remember, you choose to pick apart the faults, failures, and fears of the people around you, or you take the opportunity to notice the good, point out the success, speak life, and build others up.

Don’t grow weary in doing good.

Posted in communication, faith, life, marriage | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Right Who

This post is inspired by the recent message series at Life.ChurchDivine Direction.

Pastor Craig really packed a lot of truth and guidance into this 4 part series. We’ve been going to Life.Church for 4.5 years and this is my favorite series so far. No doubt, I’ve been deeply moved by many of his messages, but this one really motivated me to examine my heart and my direction.

I’ve been wrestling with a big decision, that would add to my workload and eventually change my career. I thought after the first three messages that I was prepared to make the decision – although I was still wrestling a little bit. Then, as we made our way into service, I declared my (almost decided) decision to Mr. W. He told me that as long as I was deciding to put the idea to rest, that was fine. But if my decision was based on external factors – specifically our business and kids – then I needed to pursue the idea.

Those words didn’t help – kids and business were the top two things that swayed me away from the idea. But Pastor Craig’s messages pointed out that I needed to focus on doing the things I’m already doing, and to do them well. I don’t always do things well, I tend to go for quantity over quality, and I don’t think that honors God.

I’m diving back in to my talk notes from week 1 – Power to Become. Pastor Craig used this message to drive home the point that God cares more about who we are than about what we do. I’ve said before in my posts that God cares more about our character than our comfort. Whether we flip burgers, clean bathrooms, or are some high level executive, God is deeply concerned with our heart and our motives.

God wants to develop our character before He is concerned with our calling. Even the disciples went through a long process of becoming who before Jesus sent them to do. We can have the right career and the wrong heart, and therefore do the wrong things in that career. We can have what seems like the wrong career, but the right heart about it, and the way we are honoring God and the example we are setting makes it the right place for us to be – even if only for a season.

If we aren’t doing the seemingly small and insignificant jobs well, then we don’t deserve bigger jobs. We have to be faithful with where we are before God is going to move us up and on.

Translating all of this to my own life, and where I am in my life, I’ve been asking myself if I am doing my jobs well? I tend to take on a lot of jobs, so many that I can only do them partially because then I have to run to the next job – that, to me, doesn’t seem like a job well done. I guess somewhere in my mind, me doing part of the job is better than the thought that none of it will get done. This is flawed thinking, as I’m not the only one doing jobs.

So, in the several weeks since this first message, I’ve been trying to be more diligent with my jobs. I’ve been trying to get up earlier, and I’ve been trying to slow down enough to see jobs through to completion. I’ve also been trying to get more organized and to pick up after myself regularly. (I tend to make messes with the intention of going back to fix them later, but I rarely make it back to do the cleaning up part.)

I am going to work on becoming the right who, so God can direct my steps toward the right do.

Can you see how God is working on who you are in your current season?

Posted in faith, life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment