When I feel defeated in my parenting…

I recently went on a band field trip with my 7th grade daughter. I was looking forward to supporting her and spending the day with her. Middle school girls, however, are complex creatures. There’s a whole lot going on in that 12-year old body, with thoughts and feelings that she doesn’t understand. I knew my daughter wasn’t thrilled that I was going with her, but it wasn’t until I was stuck on the bus with her that I realized how much she really didn’t want me there. Her actions clearly said that she was not comfortable with my presence. She just wasn’t herself. She was distant and impolite, not just to me, but to another mother and daughter as well. My child was a stranger, and as a parent I just felt defeated.

I felt like everything she had been taught was gone. The child that I generally have a great relationship with was gone. She had been replaced by this person who didn’t act the way she’d been taught to act. She had been replaced by someone who didn’t want anything to do with me.

After the trip I cried and prayed, and by the time my daughter came home from school I was almost ready to talk to her. She walked in the door and started chatting just like her usual self. And just like that she was back – the child that I know. She didn’t understand why I was crying. “What’s wrong, Mom?” she asked.

What’s wrong is that I feel like a failure. I don’t understand how my daughter could push me away all day and then think everything is fine. I just want our usual relationship back. I’m tired and overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do, and I feel defeated.

Choosing to Love

And then I remember how much I love this child.

I look at her and remember how God has loved me through my own growing and changing. He loved me even when I didn’t understand what I was doing. He showed me grace even when my actions said  “I don’t want You here.”

I choose to love my daughter the way that God has loved me. I put aside my hurt and disappointment…and I forgive.

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15

I remind my daughter of who God created her to be. I remind her of what her actions should be. Settling for less is not an option, and I will not give up on her. I love her too much.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I let her know that while her actions disappointed me, I still love her and always will. For that is exactly what God has done for me. He has shown His love to me again and again, even when I ignored Him and pushed Him away.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 The Perfect Example

My children will never be perfect, and I will never be a perfect parent. It’s not my job to be perfect. It’s my job to love and guide my children even when they don’t want my presence and guidance. My job is to constantly remind them of who God created them to be – with the same grace and patience that’s been shown to me.

When I feel defeated as a parent, I will not give up. I will follow the perfect example set by my heavenly Father.

I will love my children anyway.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

Be a Leader

ae_3 I had managed to avoid politics all year, but that changed last week when my oldest daughter had to watch the first Presidential debate for a school assignment. I couldn’t let her suffer alone, so we settled down to watch the debate together. Meanwhile my younger daughter, Autumn, was making cards in the kitchen. From there she could still hear the debate. After about 30 minutes Autumn said “Mom, they’re not being a leader.”

When I asked her what she meant, she said “They’re talking bad about the other one.” This did not meet Autumn’s expectations of a leader. She has been learning about being a leader the past two years at school through a program called The Leader in Me. The program encourages each child to learn to be a leader by choosing to listen to others, work together, and be respectful – the complete opposite of what she was seeing from the two people trying to be our nation’s next leader. debate

Children have a way of seeing things just as they are, don’t they? We can teach concepts all day long, but they notice if what they see lived out doesn’t match up to what’s being taught. Thankfully, Autumn is in a great school, and she does see those leadership qualities lived out each day. She also notices when she doesn’t see those leadership principles practiced other places, such as in that Presidential debate.

It is so important that children see a consistency between the words and actions of adults in their lives. When they don’t, it leads to confusion at best, and cynicism and complete rebellion at worst.

I can’t control how those candidates behave, but I can control my own influence. I need to make sure that my actions are consistent with what I teach. I need to lead by example.

If I teach my children that their lives should be full of the fruits of the Spirit, then I myself need to be patient, joyful, gentle, and kind.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

If I teach them to find their joy in the Lord, then I need to exhibit that joyfulness myself. If my joy comes from another source, they will surely notice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

If I teach my children to control their anger and their words, then I must also control my temper. I can not talk in a hurtful way about other people or to other people. If I do, then I can not expect that my children will behave any differently.

 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

If I teach my children not to complain, but instead to make the best of a situation, then I need to do the same. (This is the hardest one for me. I have to confess I was the one heard saying “Having to watch this debate is ruining my night!”)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; Philippians 2:14

If I teach my children that they are blessed and they should be thankful for all they have, then I shouldn’t spend my time wishing for what I don’t have. I need to constantly express my thankfulness to God for all that I do have.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

If I teach them that the things on this earth don’t last, and then focus all of my energy on earthly pursuits, it won’t make sense to them. Instead, I need to focus on eternal pursuits. My actions will reveal what I truly believe.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

If I tell my children that God should come first in their lives, then I can not let other things come before Him in my own life. Allowing other interests, ideas, and thoughts to pull my heart away from God will speak louder than any words.


ae_1Do I want my children to follow Jesus? Then I need to lead them there – not just with my words, but with my life. When it comes to being a Christian, I don’t want the reality of what they see to not meet the expectations of what I’ve taught them. There’s no fooling them. Even when we think they’re not paying attention, those children are listening and watching.

Do we want our children to follow Jesus?

Then let’s not just tell them what a follower of Jesus looks like.

Let’s show them.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

Splenda, Hardee’s commercials, and things that sneak in…

I don’t trust artificial sweeteners. I know people think sugar is the bad guy, but I would rather have something in my body that is pure than something brought about by a chemical process, no matter how many calories come with it. That said, I was shocked to realize that in spite of my good intentions, artificial sweeteners had managed to sneak their way into my house.

My realization came when I noticed sucralose in the ingredient list on a box of granola bars in my house. (Sucralose is the artificial sweetener most commonly known as Splenda.) I had been buying these granola bars for months. Sure, I knew they advertised containing 25% less sugar. I just didn’t stop to think about what that meant. I felt horrible. I should have looked into it more closely when I began buying them. Instead I saw that these granola bars had three times as much fiber as the other bars, and that sounded good and healthy to me. I didn’t bother to look more closely. You see, I somewhat investigated what I was giving my children, but that wasn’t good enough. The artificial sweetener was able to sneak in.

I know many people like artificial sweeteners, and that’s fine, but there is something else that was able to sneak its way into my house last week that’s not fine. Not for anyone trying to live a holy life. It was the latest Hardee’s commercial.

If you know my family, then you know that we don’t really watch television. We watch some movies here and there, and some sports for my youngest child and her father, but that’s about it. Television is not what we want our family feeding their souls on daily. I made an exception last week. I decided that I would watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Do you see that? decided. I wanted to see the Olympics, so I brought it into my house and fed it to my children.

The Olympics in general aren’t the problem. The problem was the latest Hardee’s commercial that appeared right in the middle of the opening ceremony. Now I haven’t stepped foot in a Hardee’s since they began using sexually explicit commercials in their advertising. I can’t support anything that so openly promotes ideas that God hates. When that commercial came on, I sat frozen for a few seconds. When you don’t watch television, you are shocked when you are reminded of what has become accepted in our culture. (If you haven’t seen it, please don’t go watch it. It’s just Hardee’s usual motif of using sex to sell hamburgers.) After the initial shock, I grabbed the remote and turned it off. It disgusted me, and I wanted it out of my house.

After that night, we put the NBC app on my computer, and we’ve been watching the Olympics that way ever since. No commercials. My youngest daughter can watch all the Olympics she wants without us having to worry about that commercial trying to sneak in.

Guess what, though? I hadn’t learned my lesson. Just two nights ago, my oldest daughter wanted to borrow my computer so that she could work on a story she’s writing. I really wanted to watch the Olympic swimming that night. No problem. I’ll just watch it on television, and she can have the computer. I told myself it would be fine. Surely that commercial won’t sneak in again.

Wrong. The commercial appeared again. I wasn’t even being diligent to watch for it. I had my head down working on a jigsaw puzzle. It was my husband who saw it and turned it off this time. (I’m so thankful for him and his willingness to do that!)

Being diligent in keeping our children’s hearts pure (and our own!) can be tiresome. Sometimes we just want to rest, work a puzzle, and watch swimming. That’s when Satan will sneak in. When we choose to see the fiber in the granola bars instead of the Splenda, when we tell ourselves It will be fine when we know a threat exists, that’s when the unholy will sneak into our lives.

My goal is to be as David writes in Psalm 101:3-4:

I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.

I know that my children will be faced with ungodly images in their lives. When you live in the world, there is just no avoiding it altogether. But it won’t be in my house. I will set no worthless, ungodly thing before my eyes or my family’s – just like I won’t intentionally feed them artificial sweeteners. I want to grow my family on what is pure. They’ll consume foods with artificial sweeteners, and they will see things that are unholy, but they won’t come from me. I will not feed my children’s souls, or mine, on thoughts and images that are impure and unholy. That is not who we are called to be.

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

We’ve all heard the saying You are what you eat. How true this is especially when it comes to what we feed our souls! Let us be diligent to clean the worthless, ungodly things from our homes. Let us closely examine what we feed our children. Their souls depend on it.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8