Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Growing Pains and Taming the Tongue

We had just completed the second week of school, and the second week of a whole new kind of personal stretching for everyone in our family.
Two mornings a week, we wake up at 6:00 (an hour earlier than we are used to) and begin the day by interrupting my husband's morning routine. Like clockwork for over seventeen years, Rich has gotten up, showered, and prepared for the day without interruption. This year everyone else needs hot water and bathroom time at that hour. And so begins the early morning dance of sharing, and caring, and working together to get seven people cleaned, dressed, fed,  lunches and books bags packed up, and the whole crew out the door.
Besides the seven people who need to prepare for the day, we have a litter of eleven puppies, two grown Golden Retrievers, a toy Poodle, and three cats that must have care first thing each morning, and that care has to fit into the routine of getting everyone ready and out the door by seven thirty a.m.
Lunches have to be prepared the day before. Breakfast plans have to be made and set up to ensure a quick morning escape from the house.  Book bags need to be organized, and each day someone has to remember to bring piano bags to practice during study hours, and/or take to piano lessons in the afternoon.
The tentacles of personal growth reach each of us in a variety of ways. 
Each day we are learning a new stretching exercise of some sort and the other day I experienced one of the most effective personal challenges I have faced in a while.  It was one of the few precious mornings we have at home, and I had a plan for my younger boys.  Armed with a list of things we needed to accomplish, I rolled out of bed, showered, made breakfast and sounded the wake up call for the troops.  I was motivated and excited to spend time with my little men, and had visions of quality time with them dancing in my head. We were going to snuggle up, coffee in hand, and have our Bible and scripture memory time. After that I planned to help them with puppy chores and then assist them with completing the assignments from their first piano lesson, check their math home work, and do some history with them as we cuddled up to read another chapter of "Little House on The Prairie" We were going to laugh and talk, as we prepared lunch together, and after lunch, I had more cozy, sweet, moments planned to spend with my boys doing a reading and English assignment before we left for choir practices.
I had the best laid plans, and yet...God's design for our day trumped my rosy idea of how things should go.  The plans I made weren't bad, but the lessons He had for us all, were more important than academics or cozy cuddle time.
James 4:14-15 says
"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."
 The first wrench thrown in the works was a bad attitude on the part of one of my boys. It hit me hard between the eyes with a resounding THUNK!  As I stood there blinking, my awareness of the clock ticking away the time I so valued was illuminated.
One and a half hours later, my plan was finally incorporated. At that point it seemed secondary and minor in comparison to the discipleship time that took place with my son for a full ninety minutes.

The attitude that exalted itself above my plans that morning was an attack on my authority as he directly opposed my instructions, refusing to do them. It was strong, powerful, mouthy, and personally very challenging to me.
Our pastor has been going through the book of James for the past year, and he had just given a challenging message on James chapter 3, three days before my little mommy/son power challenge. I had been praying about and meditating on it, heavily under conviction about my reactions to stress, and the words I apply to difficult situations.  As my boy dug his heals in, refusing to work with me on even the lowest level, I stood there biting my lip, silently praying, as the realization hit me that this was application "go time." It was time to put feet to my convictions and it was tough.  I was amazed at the calm tone to my voice, as I asked him a few heart probing questions and then left him to think  alone, while his mama did a little battle on her knees.
James 1:5 says "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." 
On that morning I was physically drained, mentally "done" and just craving some positive time with my kiddos. I don't know about you, but it seems like each time God has a lesson for me, He allows me to be in this exact mental and physical state. When all of my own strength is stripped away, He fills the scene with His presence and reminds me just how much I need him. I can do nothing in my own strength and wisdom. I am one hundred percent dependent upon him. Any illusion I have of my own capability and autonomy is just that.....a fabrication of my imagination. When I am feeling my best, it's easy to just "do" whatever needs to be done in the moment, but when my physical well runs dry, it becomes crystal clear just how weak I really am. As I prayed, I relaxed. There's something about going to the foot of the cross and laying your burdens there, that is just amazing. The more I poured my heart out to God, praying for my son, asking God for strength, seeking him for wisdom, the more my thoughts began to flow in a clear, concise, trickle, and it wasn't long before there was complete clarity regarding the problem. Fellowship with my son is important, and that includes discipleship training. Especially when attitudes are heavy with anger and confrontation. I found comfort at the throne of grace that morning, and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to lay down my own agenda, and do what was best for my son. We needed time together to talk and work through the problem. We read James 3 together and went through the scripture carefully, slowly, breaking it down. We talked about the power of the tongue. We talked about how we all hurt others with our tongues, and we talked about how easy it is to hurt others when we are hurting, or scared, or insecure. We also discussed responsibility for our actions in spite of circumstances. If whatever is in front of us to do seems overwhelming, our response is very important. We have a responsibility to God and others for the way we speak to them and respond to challenges. Earlier, when my little man  first became obstinate, I alerted his Dad to the struggle. Now I shared with our son, that Daddy would also be talking with him when he came home from work because we both love him very much. I prayed for him, and after that he was ready for his mother's "rosy, cozy, agenda" and his attitude was solidly improved. Interestingly enough, when Rich came home that afternoon and checked in with our boy, he also pulled out James 3, unaware that we had studied that together earlier. It was awesome! Watching them talk and read that together solidified my trust in God's faithfulness more than ever. It was powerful. The effect on our son was amazing.
I shared this experience with a close friend the next day, and I loved what she said. She told me that if she didn't plan time for discipline into her day, she became frustrated when teaching moments came up, but if she remembered to allow for extra time to work through attitudes, seeing them as opportunity for teaching, then that was just part of her agenda rather than in the way of her agenda.
Teaching our kids actually IS the agenda and that includes necessary character lessons.
Those character lessons aren't just for the kids, though. They are tools God uses to refine me, as well. They remind me daily of how much my character needs to be molded, and shaped to be more like Christ. The temptation to buckle under the pressure and say things out of anger and frustration is intense, and each time I don't give into that temptation, there is proof that God is faithfully at work here.


  1. Ah yes - I know all too well about those days when we have something that seems really wonderful planned for homeschool and then we are met with a rotten reaction by the child or children that we thought would love it! It's so hard not to take it personally and be crushed.
    I have a little sign up that I made, with a quote from Winnie-the-Pooh (and embellished with pictures of course!): Gopher: "First thing to be done is to get rid of that bear. He's gumming up the whole project." Owl: "Dash it all, he IS the project!"
    That sums up our mommyhood pretty well, in my opinion. It's so much easier at times to be more focused on our plans than on those wonderful difficult creatures we call children!
    Thank you so much for sharing this post with us. It really helps/encourages me. BTW - we just finished up going through the book of James at church and I'm reading through Little House on the Prairie to my boys too. :)

    1. Haha, I love that Winnie The Pooh quote! It's perfect! :) How cool that you are going through the Little House books at the same time as us, and the book of James at your church. :) I love it!