A #parentingfail – Part 4

This is the last in a series of 4 posts where I explore one of my parenting fails – my inability to control my temper when my kids push my buttons.  If you’re just joining us, please go back and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The following list is a continuation of the tips I shared in Part 3 – helpful parenting tips I’ve learned so far.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Have structure – So much research supports the fact that children need structure (and even want it) by way of boundaries, rules, routines, and schedules.  You don’t have to be rigid, but it is good to set rules and expect that children behave accordingly.
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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Delegate/Accept Help – Children love to help, especially when they are little.  They may make more of a mess than you’d like or not do something exactly the way you want, but bite your tongue, be patient, and accept the assistance when they want to give it.  Also, accept help from others – your mother-in-law, best friend, neighbor, husband – especially when you have tiny babies. Give others the blessing of being able to assist you.
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Emery helping me wash the dishes – she was about 3. 

  • Plan Ahead – Things go so much better when I have done as much as I can to prep ahead of time.  Have the kids make school lunches and pack book bags the night before. Lay out clothes the night before.  Plan an entire week of dinners the weekend before. Many of the screaming fits I have thrown have been in the morning before school when someone couldn’t find his homework or her shoes because those things weren’t put where they should have been ahead of time.
  • Respect Your Children’s Father – I realize this is controversial, but it simply has to do with how God wired us as male and female.  Our children need to see that their mom respects their dad. I imagine this can be difficult if there is a separation or divorce.  However, some of the most amicable separations/divorces I have seen have been between people who are still nice and respectful toward each other.
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  • If It Isn’t Working, Change It – Some of this advice may not apply or may not work based on your family culture.  These aren’t written in blood. The best you can do is try them and then tweak them to fit best with the dynamics of your family.
  • Get to Know Your Kids – (a little long.  Bear with me…I promise I will make a relevant point).  In Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study, the author says, “In every situation God demands that you depend on Him rather than a method. The key is not a method but a relationship with God.“ He goes on to say, “ A formula is not the way to recognize God‘s voice either… If there was a formula… You would not have to seek God with all your heart. You could mindlessly use the formula and neglect your relationship with God.“ I think this applies to our children, (or anyone else in our lives for that matter). If there was a formula for interacting well with our kids, we would not have to seek genuine relationships with them; we wouldn’t have to spend time getting to know them. We could just rely on the formula – those five tips from that parenting article or that list of advice from that veteran mom. This isn’t to say that these things aren’t valuable or some methods aren’t worth your time; however, we shouldn’t completely rely on them. Get to know who your children are by spending time with them. For example, I learned early on that Ethan was an outdoor kid. He likes watching TV, but he LOVES being outside – digging in the dirt and rocks, exploring the woods, hunting for lizards and frogs, running in the yard having a Nerf gun war… That led me to notice that he and I also interact better when we are outside. Coop us up in the house all day, and tempers are likely to flare. Put us in the backyard, and we can jump on the trampoline, pull weeds and smell gardenia blossoms all day! I know this because I have spent time with him – watching him, talking to him, noticing what he likes to do, and so on. Now if we could just spend all our time outside, we’d be best buds!  But, this is honestly one of the hardest things for me. It takes energy that I would rather not expend. It takes listening to and talking about and doing some things that don’t interest me (hello, Nerf gun wars?!). It takes time away from the things I want to do. It takes creativity and imagination. But I have to do it, and you have to do it, as often as we possibly can. This is building the relationship, and this is what our children need most (and it will do us a world of good as well).
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My son isn’t a bad kid.  More than likely, neither is your kid.  Our kids are just being kids at their stage of development doing what kids do at that stage.  As parents, we have to learn how to work through that as best we can and get out on the other side with our sanity and our relationships with our children in tact.

Above all else, we have to fight every day to choose joy in parenthood, or Satan will steal it.  He’ll lull us into a cycle where we focus on all the things our children are doing wrong and miss all the wonderful things about them.  That’s how he steals the joy in families, especially from mothers.

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Oh man!  That opens up so much more to talk about when it comes to our children, and more I should tell you about my struggle with my mommy-temper, but I should probably move on for now.  I imagine there’ll be more opportunity for me to revisit this subject soon enough.

What situations are most difficult for you when it comes to your children’s behavior?  What makes you “lose it”? What tips and advice have you found to work when you’re in tough interactions with your children?

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Next week is a first on the Servant Girl Stories blog – we’ll have a guest post!  You’ll meet Leigh Anderson, founder of Be Still Mama, a women’s ministry at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.  Join me next week for her post about what happens when we have a critical spirit.

A #parentingfail – Part 3

Ethan was sitting in the backseat of the car listing his favorite songs that play on K-Love, the Christian radio station we play.  Then, Hillsong United’s “So Will I” came on, and he quickly added, “ Oh, I like this one, too.” Bill and I looked at each other and grinned, thankful that he is listening to, learning to sing, and appreciating music that glorifies God.

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It reminded me that he’s a good kid – he’s not perfect, no one is – but he’s got a good heart (and he loves the Lord, thank goodness).

Why is it so difficult, then, to be his mommy?  Why do I lose my temper with him so often?

In “A #parentingfail – Part 1”, I explained how I struggle with my temper when dealing with difficult situations with my children.  Then, in “A #parentingfail – Part 2”, I shared how God revealed that He wasn’t going to take away my temper problem.

Today, I want to explore what I have learned so far on my 9-year parenthood journey.  The lessons have come from trial-and-error, tears, arguments, seeking advice from other moms, reading parenting articles, and just good ol’ experience.

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Ethan, Emery, and I pose together on our vacation last summer (2017).

I’m not professing to be an expert…the last few posts have shown quite the contrary.  Despite this fact, I know I have learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I want to pass along some of these tidbits.

Granted, it is still difficult to act on what I know when I’m in the throws of dealing with disobedience or tantrums.  That being said, here’s what parenthood has taught me so far:

  • Stay Calm – I know, I know…start off with a difficult one, but if you can stay calm, you could keep the situation from escalating.
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    Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Walk Away – It’s ok to admit you need a minute when you feel yourself losing it.
  • Get on Their Level – Rather than towering over them and literally talking down to them, sit or kneel so you can look them in the eye.
  • Give Choices – When possible, allow them to choose or at least couch their responsibilities as a choice.  Ask, “Do you want to brush your teeth or make your bed first?” Sometimes I ask this during the “Get Ready for School” routine in the morning.  Ultimately, they’ll have to do both but making it seem like they have choices sometimes helps things go more smoothly.
  • Don’t Hover – My kids do better, whether on their own or playing with others, when I am not standing over them waiting to correct every mistake they make.
  • Relax Your Need for Control – Looking back, I can see that many of the blowups I’ve had with my kids were because I insisted on having something done the way I wanted it, when I wanted it. Now, I try to ask myself if I must have it done my way or if I can give them the chance to do it their way.
  • Shut-up – I’m pretty sure that God has said this to me a few times – almost audibly. I don’t have to have the last word. I may not even have to have a word at all. Sometimes I should just shut up.
  • Be specific, simple & direct with instructions – This is especially helpful when the kids are younger. Don’t give a long list of complicated steps and details. Give one step at a time, wait for that to be done, and then give the next step.
  • Be positive – Look for the things they are doing well, and give compliments.  Also, try to have a more positive mindset about your children overall.  Once you view them negatively (because of their behavior, for example) it is difficult to redirect yourself to have a positive outlook.  If you find yourself thinking more negative then positive thoughts, think of 3 good things about your child. Write them down if you want.  List more than 3 – as many as you can, in fact. This simple exercise will help refocus your mind on the wonderful things about your children. (And keeps Satan from stealing your joy…I’ll talk about that next week).
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  • Be present/Put down your phone – You could also say turn off the television, get away from the computer, or put down the tablet. We need to look at our children, talk to them, listen to them, play what they want to play, allow them to help when they want, and focus on them when they need our attention.
  • Be consistent – (Insert eye roll here, especially if you read Part 1 and feel my pain).  You may have to keep it up for five years before you see the fruits of your labor, but it is important to stick to your guns.  Ethan is 9, and over the past 4 years or so, we have started to notice him doing things, unprompted, that we had been trying to teach him for years!  HALLELUJAH!

For the sake of keeping my posts as brief as possible, I’ll stop there and finish sharing the list next week.  I’ve saved the most important one for last, so you’ll have to come back 😉 Also, I’m going to reveal my first guest blogger who’ll write for you the last week in April.  You don’t want to miss the announcement!!!

P.S. Here’s “So Will I” – one of Ethan’s favorite songs 🙂

 

A #parentingfail – Part 2

I could have sworn this post published last week…I even checked?!  I must be crazy.  Anyway, if this is a repeat, I apologize.

Author’s Note

Sharing things that I’ve failed at doesn’t exactly bring me joy.  However, when I began to realize that I was going to have to be obedient to God’s conviction and write a blog, God showed me that I would have to be honest, real, vulnerable. That I would have to be truthful and tell you things about being a wife, a mom, a believer, a woman that maybe weren’t so glamorous or flattering or honorable or joyful.  This was one reason I held off for so long. There are a lot of things I don’t want to tell you about myself. But, in the end, I realized that I am just God’s servant girl, and right now, He wants me to tell you some of the stories He’s given me so you can connect, so you can relate, so you can see God in my stories and in the stories that He’s given you.  Last week, in A #parentingfail – Part 1, I had to disclose what I see as one of my biggest failings as a mother. This week, I reveal the answer I got from God after years of pleading to Him to make me a better mom.

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After I scream at one of my kids or slam the door in frustration over something they’ve done, I feel the most horrid feeling.  It’s like my heart and soul are fighting to stay alive. I feel tight and hot and putrid in the center of my chest. Satan tells me I am not fit to be a mom.  He whispers that, if I continue yelling at my children, my son in particular, they will hate me when they grow up and will have nothing to do with me. Then, the tears come, hot down my cheeks, and I just want to curl into a dark corner and stay there.  It’s a disturbing feeling – the notion that your children might walk away from you one day and never look back.

I don’t want that.

Early on, I read all the articles I could find and talked to as many people as I dared to admit to that I frequently lost my temper with my children.

And, I cried.  Storehouses of tears.

And, I prayed.  Mountains of prayers.  For God to take away my temper and make me stop yelling at my children.  For them to still love me even after all my temper tantrums.

But then, I’d be right back in that place, that hot, angry place where I’d end up screaming again.  And, I’d think, “why aren’t my prayers working?! Why am I still yelling so much?”

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Truthfully, the years have worn off the sharpest edges.  I’ve learned better ways to interact or deal with disagreements or how to walk away.  So, there has been some improvement, but it has been minuscule compared to what I wanted – a total transformation, a 180 degree turn…June Cleaver, maybe?  😉

I didn’t think God was answering my prayers if He didn’t make me stop yelling altogether…after all, that was what I asked for, cried for, in my prayers.

Then, a few years ago, I was in a Be Still Mama Bible study, and we read Stuck by Jennie Allen.  In the study, Allen discusses 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 where Paul discloses the thorn in his flesh and how he has pleaded with God to take it away from him.

So, to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ ESV

In essence, God told Paul no.  God would not take away the thing that was tormenting Paul.

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Why not?  Why would God say no to a fervent prayer from one of His children?  Why wouldn’t He give relief when it was requested?

The answer was the same for Paul then as it is for me now: Without the thorn, Paul wouldn’t look to God as he should.  Without my thorn, I wouldn’t lean on God as I should.

Our weaknesses, just like our strengths, are God-given – and they are both ultimately for God’s glory.  We use our strengths to glorify Him, and we bring Him glory in our weaknesses as well.

How is that?  That doesn’t make sense!

When we are weak – when we lose our tempers and yell at our children, for example – we must acknowledge our need for God.

When we read every possible child psychology and parenting article, scouring for something that will work, and we still yell, we come face-to-face with our need for God.

And we throw ourselves down at His feet.  We beg forgiveness. We confess that we can’t do it alone.  We ask Him to help us.

In our weakness, He is strong.

I remember the moment I came to that conclusion after completing the section in the Stuck study where Allen talked about Paul.

I KNEW in that moment that God said no to me, that the temper and outbursts were a thorn in my flesh that wasn’t going anywhere.

And, you know what?  I was immediately at peace with it.  Immediately!  That was my confirmation that God was indeed saying no but that everything would be alright.  God always gives peace.

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Now, this isn’t to say that God will always say no to our requests. Surely He’s said yes to some of yours as He has said yes to some of mine.

And, it isn’t to say that He’ll say no to you specifically about your temper and your interactions with your children.  You may get a different answer.

What’s more, it isn’t to say that God won’t give me relief in some ways.  He has. He has let me see better ways of interacting with my children that don’t always lead to meltdowns.  There will probably be other breakthroughs and lessons to learn in the future as well.  We are called to pray no matter what.

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What I am saying is, It’s ok to ask.  It’s ok to plead and cry. However, if you pray and the answer is no, do not be discouraged.  Accept God’s peace when He says no. Find solace in the fact that He is leaving the weakness so that you’ll lean into Him and grow closer to Him.  He will get glory in some way, and that is in fact our ultimate purpose, to glorify God with our lives, even through parts we don’t like.

When has God told you no?  What were you asking for? How did it feel when you realized that the answer to your prayer was no?  I realize that these may be painful situations, but, if you are willing, please share as your stories can help others in similar situations.

*I’ll conclude A #parentingfail next week with Part 3.

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Afterword

I wanted to share some of the notes I took in the Stuck study after I realized God was telling me that He wasn’t going to take the thorn in my flesh.  It was a kind of prayer that I journaled. Maybe it will help you, too. 

It was written in response to the following instructions: Read about the apostle Paul’s stuck places.  As you read, think about these two questions – “Who are you, Lord?” and “What do you want from me?” and journal your thoughts…

My response – Who are you, Lord?  – a God full of grace – a God with enough grace for me and all the horrible things I have said, done, and thought.  A God whose power is most evident when I am weak. When I know and accept that I am weak, I cannot brag and take credit for the blessings and good things in my life.  I have to accept that these things have come from God.

What do you want from me?  God wants me to allow myself to be weak.  God wants me to lay the weaknesses on Him.  God wants me to give Him the glory when He sustains me despite my weaknesses.  The weaknesses allow me to see that I do need God. The weaknesses take the pressure off me – I don’t have to be perfect, strong…I can’t be those things.  The weaknesses allow me to make room for God – to let Him take over.

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A #parentingfail – Part 1

Author’s Note: Sharing things that I’ve failed at doesn’t exactly bring me joy.  However, when I began to realize that I was going to have to be obedient to God’s conviction and start a blog, God showed me that I would have to be honest…real…vulnerable. That I would have to be truthful and tell you things about being a wife, a mom, a believer, a woman that maybe weren’t so glamorous or flattering or honorable or joyful.  This was one reason I held off for so long. There are a lot of things I don’t want to tell you about myself. But, in the end, I realized that I am just God’s servant girl, and right now, He wants me to tell you some of the stories He’s given me so you can connect, so you can relate, and so you can see God in my stories and in the stories that He’s given you.  

I had one of those days that makes me feel like a failure as a parent. It was a Saturday so it should have been relaxed and fun and happy and sunshiny.  But I yelled and fussed and argued and complained and knit-picked.  And then I furrowed my brow and pinched my lips together and clenched my teeth so hard that I got a headache, and it was difficult to relax my face.

Why? I kept asking myself.  Why do I keep doing this?

Why can’t I get along with my son?  Why am I aggravated by everything he does?

This is one of the biggest sources of anxiety and frustration and shame in my life right now and has been for some time – my relationship with Ethan – and I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.

I just can’t figure out how to get better at being Ethan’s mom.

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Ethan and me in 2015 on a chairlift at Tweetsie Railroad.  Bless his heart – he looks just like me when he smiles!

I have cried about it.  I have prayed about it. I have journaled about it.  I have asked other people about it…but I haven’t figured it out yet.

Honestly, this is probably one of the things that pushed me closer to God.  Before Ethan was born, Bill and I were already in church together and I was feeling wooed by God, but it wasn’t until after Ethan was born that I started desperately seeking Him.

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I felt like a terrible mother, and I was begging Him to make me better.

The first 3 or 4 months after Ethan was born were challenging and stressful to say the least, but I was a first-time mom, so that was to be expected.  After about 6 months, things seemed to even out, and it became more enjoyable. Ethan was a smiley, happy, bouncy baby for the most part, and Bill and I kind of settled into the parenting thing.

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Ethan in 2010 – around 15 months old.

Then, God convicted me to leave my full time job and stay home with Ethan – another fairly smooth transition.  We had our routine. We ate. We read books or built with blocks.  We played outside. We strolled around the neighborhood. He napped.  Things were doable. I found joy.  The parenting thing wasn’t too bad after all.

He was easy to get along with, easy to redirect, easy to pacify.  He liked to be read to and to play with his toys and to be outside in the sun.

When he turned 2, I didn’t see any of the Terrible-Twos stuff many people bemoan, so I naively thought we’d missed that somehow.  Maybe Ethan wasn’t going to do that stuff?!

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Ethan and Bill in 2011 at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC.  Ethan would have been about 2 1/2 here.

Then, along came about 3 or so, and all of a sudden, my pleasant, smiling, easy-to-get-along with little fella started saying no to everything I asked him to do, refusing to nap, being difficult to redirect from one activity to another, and complaining about the food I got for him (which was exactly what he’s just requested not 2 minutes before).

Where the heck was my precious angel-baby?

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Posing for family pictures on the beach in 2012 – he was 3 1/2.  (He still looks like an angel-baby with those big, clear, blue eyes, doesn’t he?!)

I had no idea what to do!  I’d always heard that children would test you…”just be consistent” was the advice I replayed from my pre-child days.

So, I was consistent…I thought.  But a day turned to a week which turned to two months which turned to a year, and he was still disagreeable and stubborn and wouldn’t nap and complained about his food and didn’t like to stroll around the neighborhood anymore.

And I still didn’t know what to do.  “Be consistent” didn’t seem to be working.  So, instead, I decided I could be more stubborn than he could.  I was the parent, and he would do what I said.  (I know. I know.  I’m supposed to be the adult here.  I didn’t say this was the right decision or the most mature parenting move I could have made).

At some point, I don’t exactly know when, I started screaming and yelling and slamming whatever was in arm’s reach onto the table or the floor and making him sit in the corner and spanking probably more than I should and making the “mad face” as he called it.

I NEVER knew I had a bad temper until I had children 😦

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All this led to a TON of guilt.  I cried – correction, I blubbered.  By myself and to Bill mostly. But, I cried a lot.  I also started praying about my temper.  I know parents have to be in charge and to  discipline their children, but I knew I was taking it too far when I lost my temper the way I did.

I honestly believe this was what drew me so close to God during this season of my life.  I had to learn to lean on Him because nothing I could do was working.

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Summer 2017

Next week, in A #parentingfail – Part 2, I’ll share some things I have learned along the way about children and tempers and consistency.  I’ll also share some specific words from God that I’ve gotten in response to my petitions for Him to take away my temper so I wouldn’t scream at my kids anymore.  I think you’ll be surprised at some of the answers I’ve gotten.  I know I was.

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How about you?  What have you learned from going through the Terrible-Twos or Terrible-Threes or Terrible-Tweens or whatever difficult stages you’ve walked through as a parent?  Where did you go for help? What did you find that didn’t work? What did work? Where are you now in your parenting journey? Any advice from those with older children to those with younger ones?  Can we survive this thing called Parenthood?!

Coincidence or Christ?

What do you make of events in your life – of one thing causing another or of one thing happening at the “perfect time?”  Do occurrences happen merely by chance or is God’s sovereign hand putting together the pieces of the puzzle?

For the longest time I was a skeptic about such matters. I didn’t believe in Jesus for about 10 years so naturally I wouldn’t see His hand in things. I was more in the “coincidence camp”. Only recently have I started to see that God does have a sovereign hand, and He can orchestrate details and events days, weeks,  months, or even years before they actually happen and have them come out the way He wants them to come out for the purpose that He has in mind.

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I heard one such story this past Sunday morning. It’s the kind of story I would have brushed off as serendipity in the past. If I had heard someone share it 10 years ago, I would have rolled my eyes, especially if that person tried to say that God made it happen the way it did. But this past Sunday morning when I heard the story, I never doubted God’s involvement for a second.

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The FBCIT choir was practicing just before we went into the loft for the 9:30 service. Our director, Matthew Slemp, said he had a story to tell us – the story of a man who attended our church and who had a song request for the choir.  During the week, the man had gotten word to Matthew that he would really appreciate it if the choir could fill his request during the coming Sunday service.

Click here to read the blog post about how we started attending FBCIT.

Some representatives from the church went to visit him and ask his request. He explained that his daughter was not a believer but would be at church with the family on Sunday morning. The man asked if the choir could possibly sing a song that we have sung in the past called “Lord,You’re Holy.”. When the request got back to Matthew, he could hardly believe his ears. This was the song that was already on the schedule for Sunday morning! 12 weeks ago when the service and the music selections were being prayed over this song was chosen. So this past Sunday morning this is what our choir sang.

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This recording was not made this past Sunday but during another worship service in the past.  Mrs. Jessie Chavis is the soloist.

Click here to watch our choir sing “Lord, You’re Holy”

I haven’t heard whether the young lady actually came to church and heard the song.  I don’t know if it had the influence her father (and our choir) had prayed it would. Like I mentioned in last week’s post, little things/BIG THINGS, we may never know the outcome of the things we do – whether the young lady was influenced by the song or not – but we still do whatever we are called to do.

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Are you in the “coincidence camp” or the “Christ’s Sovereign Hand camp?  If you see God’s influence, what events have you known Him to orchestrate either in your life or someone else’s?  Please share those experiences here.

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little things/BIG THINGS

What are some “little things” people have done for you that ended up making a big impact in your life?  It could have been something your parents did when you were a child or a teacher did when you were in school.  It might be something a co-worker or a neighbor or a complete stranger did. It doesn’t matter who did it; it just matters that it was something relatively small: it didn’t cost much money or take up a lot of time or warrant a great deal of planning.  It was just something… little.

Have you ever done something fairly minuscule for someone else and found out in the end that it had become a significant occurrence in that person’s day, week, year, or entire life?!

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When we are the giver of the small thing, we don’t always get to see its influence; we may never know how or if it meant anything to that person at all…and that can be frustrating.

When my son Ethan started preschool, I began putting notes in his lunch box.  When he was too young to read, I drew pictures or wrote simple things he could figure out on his own.

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I might write “You are my” and draw a picture of a sunshine or write “I Love You”           Photo Credit: Pinterest

As he got older and learned to read, I would write messages to inspire him or remind him that he was loved.  I might write, “Ethan, remember that you are a child of the King,” or “Remember to smile at someone today,” or “You are my #1 boy.”

At some point, we realized he liked jokes, so I pinned a bunch of jokes onto a Pinterest board and would include one of those on occasion.  (Currently, about 95% of his notes are jokes).  Sometimes, I write the note to Ethan but prompt him to tell the joke to someone else – another kid in his class or even his teacher. On the front of the paper, I might write, “Ethan, ask Nathan if he knows how bees get to school?”  Then, on the back, I write the answer: On the school buzzzzz.

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Every once in a while, I’d ask him about the message or the joke on the note.  Many times, he’d say he didn’t remember.  Occasionally, he’d admit that he hadn’t even looked at it. 😦

I was getting fed up, honestly.  It wasn’t that it took a long time to write the note (and if I was smart, I would have written it the night before, but I’m not that smart), but it was another task to check off the list as I was ushering the kids toward the door each morning with book bags in tow.  To be met each afternoon with “I don’t know” or “I didn’t look at it” when I asked about the note was just too much.

After a while, I made up my mind that I was going to stop doing it.  If he didn’t care enough to read it, I certainly wasn’t going to waste the 5 minutes or less it took me to do it each morning.  I could devote that time to more yelling about putting on shoes and finding coats 🙂

Then I went to school and ate lunch with him one day.

I was NOT expecting what happened the moment he sat down and unzipped his lunch box.  Immediately, several hands shot across the table attempting to be the first to snatch the little blue Post-it note from the jumble of plastic food containers.

I watched in awe as first one friend and then another read the joke and passed it down. Kids all over the table were asking to read the joke! (I have found out since then that his 1st grade teacher will still stop by the table and ask to read the joke if she is in the cafeteria when his third grade class comes in)!

I was flabbergasted!  My eyes teared up! Here, I thought that he didn’t care about the note!  I was going to stop writing one! However, it seemed to be a big deal for his classmates and for him.  Plus, it put a HUGE grin on his face!  I looked over at him as the joke was being passed around; kids were reading it aloud, snickering, and passing it onto the next person asking to read it, and he was beaming!  His smile was so big that his cheeks had squished his eyes into slits (although it isn’t hard for his cheeks to squish his eyes when he smiles.  He has my smile, bless his heart, and even a very small smile renders our eyes almost nonexistent).

In that moment, I decided that I would write a joke for his lunch box every day if I accomplished nothing else.

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I was blessed to see the fruit of this small gesture – how it impacted my son and his classmates.  Now, there is no way I’ll stop doing it…well, that isn’t true.  He may ask me to stop when he gets older and becomes embarrassed about such things, and I guess then I’ll do what he wants, but until then, I am writing the note!

Every once in a while, I still slip in a little inspirational message.  I figure I’ll get one or two kids before they figure out it isn’t a joke.  And maybe that first kid who snatches the note and reads even something so simple as, “Jesus Loves YOU” will be affected by that – maybe not in that moment but someday, somehow.

What is something small someone has done for you? Have you told that person how much you appreciate the gesture, the gift, the kind words?  Do it! It will only take a moment, but it is so pleasant to know that what you’re doing matters.

What is something small you do for someone else?  Does it seem that your efforts don’t matter? Do you think about throwing up your hands in defeat?  Reconsider! You may never know the impact that small something is having on the recipient or even a bystander, but keep it up.

Most of the time the blessing of giving falls more on the giver anyway.

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When Your Feelings Are Hurt

My feelings were hurt the other day.  Yes, it was a petty thing that upset me, but I was momentarily wounded none-the-less.  Right away, Satan started in with the lies he likes to use with me in similar situations.

“See.  You don’t really have any friends.”

“No one really likes you.”

“It’s because you aren’t friendly.”

“You’re forgettable.”

“Why do you even bother?”

All these thoughts flooded my mind within about 2.5 seconds of the alleged offense.

Truth be told, Satan has been pulling this particular trick with me for so long, I don’t think he actually has to do anything anymore; I do it to myself. I start listing the lies for him.  I am doing Satan’s job.

And honestly, that isn’t something I want to do.

Do not give the devil a foothold

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So this time, before I wallowed in it and let it fester and infect my entire day, I stopped myself.  First, I told myself I was likely reading into the situation things that were not true. Nothing was done purposefully.

I remind my children of this constantly when they come to me bringing the latest complaint about who broke a beloved toy or who threw away a favorite drawing or who made a mean face at whom. I typically ask them not to assume the worst in others.

“Don’t immediately think your sister did that on purpose…”

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I bet I’ve said that to my son a trillion times if I’ve said it once.

If the lesson is good enough for them, and I truly believe it has merit, then it is good enough for me, as well.  So, I told myself that this time. “Don’t automatically assume this was meant to hurt you. More than likely it has nothing to do with you at all.”

Taking into account that there were likely no cruel intentions involved did slow my racing heart, but my flesh still wanted a pity party.

I wanted to text my husband or call my mom or my sister.  I needed someone to be outraged and demand, “How dare they!”  I just wanted someone on my side. That would make me feel better.

However, I thought back to a graphic I saw on Facebook not two weeks ago.  It explained the very situation I was facing at the moment. It showed two paths I could take in response to the supposed transgression against me: God’s way or the world’s way.  I knew I had to choose God’s way.

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I saw this graphic in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago.  I have no idea who created it originally, but I am not the author.

I didn’t want to.  I wanted to run, headlong, down the slippery slope of the left side.  I wanted to “tell people all about it.” That would be delicious! That would satisfy my flesh and give me the pity I wanted so badly.  But I knew, looking at that right column, that this was the way to go; it was God’s way, and it was the best way.

A better perspective was needed.  Peace was what my soul desired even more than pity.  I just needed to be with God for a little while.

Be at peace with everyone

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Instead of clutching my phone and feverishly blabbing how upset I was, I clung to my Bible.

“Lord, please show me what to do.  My feelings are hurt. I feel like I don’t have any friends.  What do I do?” I asked aloud.

This was part of my answer:

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 – Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

James 1:19 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

A gentle response

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Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks go God the Father through him.

There were other messages that I found, too.  There were plenty of verses about how much God loves me, that He created me in His image, that He has a purpose for my life, that He will fight for me and take care of me, that He will never leave me, and on and on.

When you feel unloved

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Interestingly enough, what this became was a snippet of time alone with God.  As I was reading through the different verses I found, I began to praise Him and worship Him.

When you read about how much He loves you, you can’t help but do so!  

Before I knew it, what had hurt my feelings just a few minutes prior was the furthest thought from my mind.  I wasn’t upset at the people involved. Satan was no longer telling me I was unlikable. God and I were having a peaceful praise party with Him as the focus.

Gone was my desire to blubber to my sister and hope she would jump on the sinking ship with me.  I was just thankful. My joy was back because I had chosen to reclaim it by focusing on God and what He would want me to do in the situation rather than what I felt like doing.

I have to stop here and say that I don’t choose this path every time.  I don’t always choose joy. Sometimes, I choose to flop right on down in that slimy, sticky self-pity filth hole and throw a little tantrum for a while.  Just get covered head-to-toe in that muck. Sometimes, I choose to let whatever happened ruin my whole day. Sometimes I tell someone what upset me. I relive the circumstances over and over, becoming more insulted each time I rehash the incident.

And it feels fabulously…horrible.  It just feels horrible. It feels like my heart is all covered in yellow pus, and I am suffocating.

It truly isn’t what God wants for me or for anyone in that situation – especially when the insult probably wasn’t legitimate at the outset (Legitimate offenses warrant a totally different blog post…for another day).

When to keep your mouth shut

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The next time someone steps on my toes, I challenge myself to talk to God about it.

The next time someone steps on your toes, I challenge you to talk to God about it.

First, remind yourself not to jump to conclusions; don’t immediately assume this was meant on purpose to hurt you.  Don’t immediately assume the worst.

Then, find your Bible.  Sit down and open it on your lap (or pull up your Bible app on your phone, but no texting or calling people to talk about what happened 🙂 )  Look up some of the verses listed above or find your own verses about dealing with hurt feelings or wrongs from others.

Next, ask God what to do.  Tell Him you’re hurting – that something happened that hurt your feelings – and ask Him what to do.

Sit quietly and wait to hear what He has to say.

I’ll try to do the same.

What do you typically do in response to someone hurting your feelings?  What is the outcome of the situation? Have you learned any positive or Christ-like ways to deal with such offenses?  Please share those here.