How Satan Used the Size of My Shirt to {Almost} Ruin My Weekend Retreat

It happened because I chose the wrong shirt size.  I probably shoulda gotten a medium, but I got a small.  It fit fine over my arms, shoulders, and chest, but I’m a pear shape, so it was a little snug over my rear end and my hips.

This was over the weekend at the Be Still Mama women’s retreat I attended at The Cove in Asheville.  (This was my second Be Still Mama retreat at The Cove.  If you’ve never been to The Cove, you absolutely HAVE to go).

When we arrived Friday, the 70 participants changed into our retreat t-shirts and took a group picture.

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Be Still Mama Women’s Retreat Winter 2019

“Mine is a little big,” one of the ladies commented after we put on our shirts.  The sleeves, meant to be three-quarter length and fitted, were longer and hung loosely.  The body of the shirt itself fell over her petite torso and covered her backside.  It looked comfortable but oversized.

“What size did you get?”  I inquired.

“Medium,” was her reply.

“Oh!” I said, a little surprised.  “You should have gotten a small.”

“No way,” she responded.  “It would have been way too tight and clingy all over my stomach.”

I was silent.  Here stood this lady clearly more petite than me saying she wouldn’t order a small shirt because it would be too clingy…while I stood there in a size small shirt that I repeatedly tugged over my rear end and hips.

All of a sudden, it hit me like a hot wave…those old, familiar feelings of inferiority and self-consciousness.

Before I knew it, my mind was racing…

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“You don’t really belong.”

“That shirt is too little!  What made you think you could fit into a small?!”

“Your face is breaking out, too,”

“Can’t you do anything with that crazy, curly hair!?”

And I just wanted to shut myself in my room for the rest of the weekend.

I didn’t want anyone to see the shirt stretched over my hips or the acne on my face or the frizz on my head.

I didn’t want to be there anymore.

But, I went to dinner and to our first session that evening.  I sang the praise and worship songs and turned to 1 Kings 17 in my Bible.  Afterward, I went back to my cabin and hid in my room for a little while – fiddling with the stuff in my suitcase and taking off my make-up and brushing my teeth and putting on my pajamas. Finally, I made myself go to the den to talk with my cabin-mates.

The whole time, the inferiority and self-consciousness was still there – feeding itself on my weakened spirit.

The next morning, I woke up after a sound night’s sleep and puzzled for a little while.

“What was that all about last night?”  I wondered.

After all, nobody had said anything directly to me.  The lady had only made a comment about her own shirt.

Then, I realized it!  That was Satan.  He did that.  He brought up all those negative thoughts and insecurities.

I could have done a forehead-slap!  Why didn’t I realize it was him as soon as it started?

And why in the world was he after me anyway?

Oh…duh!  (another forehead-slap moment) I was at a Christian women’s retreat!

Of course it was a plan to distract me.  If Satan could distract me by getting me all wrapped up in self-consciousness, I would miss the message God had for me.

And every.thing.made.sense!

I stood right there in the middle of the bathroom where I’d been washing my face when I had my epiphany, and I said, “that’s enough!  I’m not doing this today.  I came here to spend some quiet, relaxing time with Jesus, and that’s what I’m going to do!”

Any time I even thought those feelings might come back at any point over the weekend, I reminded myself:

Those thoughts are from Satan.  He wants to distract me this weekend, but he isn’t going to win.  Jesus is with me, and He has something to say to me that I want to hear.

And I went on with my day!

Honestly, that kind of thing has happened to me a lot in my life.  I’ve only recently been aware of what is really going on – a spiritual attack – and been able to combat it by praying and asking God to intervene for me.

I imagine this has happened to you before, too.  Hopefully, you realized what was going on and put a stop to it before you got sucked too far down in the muck.

The sooner we get a handle on what’s truly happening, the sooner we can stop it.

Recognize the attack and the attacker and immediately resist it with prayer, by calling on Jesus name, or by rebuking Satan and letting him know he has no place in your mind and in your heart.

Don’t let him ruin one more beautiful moment of your life.

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The infamous shirt 😉  

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Susan’s Story – Part 2

Author’s Note: All my sisters in Christ are Servant Girls, and we’ve all been given God’s stories to tell. I’m grateful to be able to write to you over the next few weeks about Susan Elder.  We sat at her home one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago and talked about how she met Jesus and some of the valleys He’s carried her through. It is my pleasure to continue Susan’s story…

“I have a habit of fasting at least one day a week,” Susan explained as we sat on the couch in the den of her home, continuing our conversation about her faith-journey.  “It’s a good thing for Christians to do. God’s voice is very clear when I fast. But, the Lord was silent that particular day,” she confessed. “Sometimes He is, so I wasn’t terribly concerned.”

It was early in 2007, and after 16 years working for the company that brought his family to Monroe from Tennessee, Susan’s husband Steve was laid off from his job.

Susan was on a water fast that day and began going to the Lord about Steve’s job.

She described to me a Friday morning.  Jenny, their middle daughter, was living at home at the time.

“I heard her throwing up about 6 that morning and asked her if she was ok.  She responded that she was very sick. We worried she might be getting the flu since it was flu season,” Susan recalled.  “Jenny taught at Hemby Bridge Elementary, and there’s always something going around a school. She’d suffered from a headache since she got home from school Wednesday of that week and stayed home on Thursday because she still felt bad.  By the end of the day Thursday, she didn’t feel any better, so she had already called the school to say she’d miss Friday as well.”

Jenny, 29 at the time, was working on her Masters of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Steve and Susan’s older daughter, Vickie, lived in Pennsylvania, and Stephanie, their youngest daughter and a registered nurse, was currently staying home with her infant son.

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Stephanie, Jenny, and Vickie – Susan and Steve’s daughters. Image used with permission from Susan Elder.

Leaving Jenny to rest at home, Steve and Susan went to the store to get some bland foods their daughter might be able to eat.  When they got back home, they found her in a worsened condition.

“Well, she lay on a couch that was sitting over there,” Susan said, and she pointed to the front of the room.  “There was something about the way she was lying there. It just wasn’t right,” Susan told me.

Susan and Steve got Jenny into the car and went to urgent care.

“The only thing I remember her saying while we were in the car was that her head hurt very badly,” Susan explained.  “The doctor that saw her at the urgent care told me to get her to the ER for more testing.”

Steve and Susan contacted Stephanie and her husband, TJ who were signing papers on a house that day.  Everyone planned to meet at the emergency room.

“Stephanie was grieved that she wasn’t there sooner,” Susan explained. “But later I understood that the Lord moved Stephanie and TJ, who was a PA, out of the way because it was Jenny’s time to be with Him.”

It took a long time for the ambulance to come even though it was across the street.  But, the urgent care doctor insisted that they wait, so they did. When Jenny finally got to the ER, she was immediately rushed to a room.

Then, there was more waiting.

Susan prayed, “Lord, you gave her to us.  She’s yours. I want you to heal her but your will be done.”

Finally, doctors offered an explanation.  Jenny suffered an aneurysm that was most likely congenital.

Around 7 o’clock that evening, Jenny was transported by helicopter from the local ER to CMC Main in Charlotte.  At the hospital, the family found that the attending nurse was a member of Jenny’s Sunday school class. The nurse immediately called the class to start a prayer chain.

“At 11 that night, the neurosurgeon told us, ‘we can’t do anything.’  But in my mind, I said, ‘God can.’ So, they put her on life support.” Susan paused for a moment and gathered herself.  Then, she gave me that smile that Susan has. If you know her, you know the one I mean. That calm, serene expression that can only be worn by someone who walks daily with God and has experienced the grace and mercy of Jesus.  It isn’t necessarily a ‘happy-happy’ smile, but it is a smile full of joy.

“I was optimistic the whole time,” Susan said.  “We prayed for complete healing all day and all night.  Everyone did. Our life group and our church family prayed.  People at Jenny’s school prayed. I said, ‘Lord, heal her completely,’ because I knew that He could.”

Susan paused a moment.  I stopped writing. The fan still whirred overhead.  The sun still filtered through the windows.

She went on to describe the next day and the people who came to the hospital to support and pray with them while they waited: members of theirs and Jenny’s Sunday school classes, Jenny’s coworkers, Jenny’s sisters.

“That evening, about 7:30, Jenny’s doctors gathered the family around and said they wanted to remove life support for about 15 minutes to check for brain function.  Stephanie asked if she could be the one to turn off the machine. She felt like she should do this for her sister rather than letting a stranger do it. Well, they agreed, and I left the room because I didn’t want to see it, but Vickie stayed, too.  Then, Stephanie turned off the machine. After a few moments, when they were sure there was no brain activity, she stopped breathing, and her heart stopped, and the doctors pronounced her dead at 8:00 pm. It was March 1, 2007.”

There was silence for a moment.  I didn’t write. I just held Susan’s gaze.

“What could I give Jenny here on earth?”  She asked after a moment and shrugged a little.  “God gave her heaven,” she said calmly. “Jenny always said she didn’t want to be 30 and not be married.  She wanted to get married and have kids. Well, God made her a teacher, so she had lots of kids. And, He took her before she turned 30, so she didn’t have to worry about not being married.”

Before Jenny’s funeral, the family’s pastor, Dr. Mike Whitson, spoke with Jenny’s Sunday school teachers to gather information about how Jenny served God through the church.  During the funeral, Preacher Mike used the stories to illustrate the great impact she had on the lives of others – an impact she never knew about. But, it helped the family greatly to hear these stories.

“It was encouraging,” Susan told me.  “But the most comforting thing to us was the 36 souls that were saved at her funeral.  Even in death she was used for God’s glory. Her funeral was a testimony that death comes to any age, though, and it could come without warning, like in her case.  My daily comfort is that the Lord promises that we will see her again and that she walks the streets of gold with our Savior, Jesus Christ!”

And there was that Susan-smile again.

“After a while, God showed me what a blessing it was that Steve was laid off from his job before this happened.  God put Steve where he could spend time with Jenny.”

Susan looked at me.  “I still tell people that I have 3 children because I do.  They’re just scattered to the four winds. One is in Pennsylvania, one is in South Carolina, and one is in heaven.”

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Jenny Elder – Image used with permission from Susan Elder

 

Please join me again next week for the conclusion of Portrait of a Servant Girl – Susan’s Story.

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Carol’s Story – Part 4

This week’s post is the conclusion of Carol’s story in the Portrait of a Servant Girl series.

“As I was reeling from the separation and divorce from my husband, I was also caring for my father who was suffering from dementia,” Carol said, continuing with her story. I sat in the upstairs office at her home along with her and my sister Tiffany who has been friends with Carol for 18 years.

The harsh irony of this part of Carol’s story was palpable. I certainly didn’t expect her to tell me that she’d cared for the man who was controlling and abusive to her, her mother, and her siblings.

I must have looked surprised because she went on. “Yes, after my mother died, I inherited my father. He couldn’t live alone, so I brought him home with me. Within a couple of months, his dementia became so bad that we had to put him in a memory care center.”

Carol talked about visiting him daily, early in the morning, when he was at his best. “He had ‘Sundowners Syndrome,’”she explained, “so he was more lucid and pleasant earlier in the day and confused and agitated in the evenings.“

This was yet another painful experience that involved her father. But, as she talked about those months, she actually smiled. “At the time, taking care of my father was very painful, but now those memories bring laughter. Daddy was always trying to get to the coal mine,” she said. “Most days I found him sitting by the door waiting for his ride to work. I would try to redirect his thoughts and tell him it was his day off.”

She stopped and smiled to herself, and I realized she called him ‘daddy’. Throughout the interview, she referred to him as ‘father’ but, in reliving the memories of caring for him during his illness, and recalling the humorous times, she called him ‘daddy’.

“He was always looking for his keys,” she continued, shaking her head but smiling a little. “And one morning we worked and worked for a long time trying to jump-start his wheelchair!”

She paused. Her eyes were far away, but she wore a pleasant expression, one of nostalgia and happiness.

“That day was the best!” She laughed.

She looked at me, and her thoughts came back to the room. To the present day and our interview.

“I had the opportunity to read the Bible to him,” she said, satisfaction in her voice. “We talked about his relationship with Jesus.”

Carol shared that the week before he died, he saw angels.

“I had to write his eulogy,” she told me. “The morning after he died, I got up, and the words just flowed from my pen. I wrote about how he had to raise himself, never had a father, lived in a boarding house, and went to work in the coal mine when he was 13.” Her voice was clear and strong as she described this. Her face was calm and resolute. “When I was writing the eulogy, God showed me that my father had learned to survive by controlling at a very young age. I realized that he did the best he could with what he had.”

Carol’s voice was calm and peaceful. I was amazed to see her reliving all those painful memories – abuse from her father, cancer, divorce, caring for her father in his old age and sickness – with… was it joy? Joy because of how those trials deepened and strengthened her relationship with God? Joy because of the redemption she experienced both for herself and for other broken relationships in her life?

“I thank God for the time I had with my father before he died,” she said after she had been quiet for a while. “ I thank Him for revealing all this to me and for helping me to love and to forgive my father. I have peace about that now.”

What a beautiful story of love, mercy, and grace! And isn’t this what God has done for us? We neglect Him. We abuse Him. We want Him to do things our way. Yet He patiently waits. He cares for us when we need Him. He redeems us when we come to our senses and allow Him to take His rightful place in our hearts. And, most amazing of all, He loves us the whole time.

Carol’s marriage ended in July 2001, and her father died in September 2001. For the next few years, she rarely went anywhere other than to church.

“Finally, my sister and my daughter told me I needed to get a life. They asked, ‘what do you want to do?’ Well, I always wanted to take Shag dance lessons,” she shrugged, “so I decided to do that.”

Carol signed up for lessons and showed up for class on the first day. She didn’t know one other soul in the room. However, a sweet lady saw her come in by herself and asked Carol to sit at her table.

“We talked a little while, and then she said, ‘I have a friend you just have to meet!’”

The lady told Carol about a man named Ed Jones, a widower who lost his wife to ALS.

“She talked about him for a while, and I said I would be willing to speak with him on the phone,” Carol explained. “He called me, and we spoke for a while, and I invited him to a party I was having at my house the next month, December 2003. He came to the party, and we had a nice time talking. He even stayed to help me clean up. Several busy months passed, and we connected again in February 2004 and were married that May.”

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Carol and Ed Jones

When Carol married Ed, she inherited a wonderful family: his children and grandchildren including his youngest granddaughter who was a toddler at the time. Carol was thrilled to have a grandchild who lived close.

“I got to see her every week,” Carol beamed.

We spoke a little about Ed’s family, and then, as if on cue, we heard a deeper voice from downstairs say, “Do I need to pull out the guest bed up there?”

Tiffany laughed, “That is Mr. Ed’s way of saying it’s time to go!”

I looked at my phone. It was after 10 PM. We had been talking for over two hours!

We spoke for another minute or two about some of Carol’s work in the church: she’s been on a mission trip to Guyana to help build a youth center. She’s planned church fundraisers and other ministry events. She serves in the kitchen in the summer youth camp. She’s been a delegate for her church at the annual conference. She volunteers in the church office.

“I’ve also been on an outstanding trip to the Holy Land and participated in the Methodist Church’s Emmaus walk. I experienced an enormous spiritual growth on Emmaus,” she explained.

I knew it was very late and that Tiffany and I need to go, but I wanted to wrap up with one final question.

“What would you like people to know about Jesus?” I asked her.

She listed many important things about Him that she’s learned in her life.

“He will never leave you or forsake you,” she began. “You can always trust Him. He will give you peace, and joy, and be the best friend you could ever want. You have to pray and study the Bible to grow this relationship though. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

As we were standing to leave, she said, “I’m not saying there won’t be any more valleys in my life, but I have the assurance that God will go through them with me.”

I know that she recently experienced another valley this past spring when she had hip replacement surgery.

“I also know that the Bible tells us that when we are weakest, He is strongest. I have certainly found that His strength is enough for me.“

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Photo Credit: Pinimg.com

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Carol’s Story Part 1

Hair still damp, she rushed through the door and ducked into a pew close to the back of the church.  Service had already started, and the congregation was standing, hymnals in hand. The lady standing next to the spot she’d taken offered to share her hymnal, so the girl nodded, thankful. At the end of the service, the lady introduced herself and handed the girl a piece of paper with her name, phone number, and address on it.

“If you need anything, please call me,” the lady said, a pleasant smile on her face.

Eighteen years later, they’re still friends.

“I can’t believe you gave me your address the first time you met me!”  Tiffany’s eyes were saucers, and her voice was raised. But she was grinning.  “I could’ve come to your house and killed you!”

Carol laughed and turned to me, her eyes genuine.  “Sometimes you just know what to do. I could tell she was young.  She introduced herself as a freshman at UNC Wilmington. I thought it was remarkable that she was at church…and by herself.  I knew it would be ok.”

She looked back at Tiffany, and they exchanged warm expressions.

I am privileged to have met Carol and gotten to know her through her relationship with my sister Tiffany.  Naturally, when the idea for Portrait of a Servant Girl came to me two years ago, Carol’s was a name I quickly scribbled onto the list of women I should feature.

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Carol and Tiffany in 2004 at my wedding.  (Image used courtesy of Carol Gandee-Jones)

The opportunity to meet her came when my family vacationed in Carolina Beach this summer.  One evening, Tiffany and I drove 20 minutes into Wilmington so I could interview her in her home.

She led us upstairs to sit on the sofa.  Then, she admitted that she’d been praying over our interview all day.

“When you emailed me about this, Heather, and you described me as a godly woman…” she broke off, looking back and forth between Tiffany and me.  “Well, I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes.”

We all have.  There’s no denying that.  Thankfully, we have the gift of grace, and God offers us salvation.  When we accept it, Jesus’ blood wipes away all our mistakes.

This saving grace is something Carol has gladly accepted and vividly experienced.  Now, it’s part of her life’s story, and she has graciously allowed me to share that story with you.

Carol was born and raised in West Virginia, spending the first 3 years of her life with her grandparents as her father served in the military.

Even after her father came home and found work in a coal mine, her grandparents’ home continued to be a refugee.

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Carol and her grandfather.  (Image used courtesy of Carol Gandee-Jones)

“My parents seldom attended church,” Carol told us.  “My father was an abusive alcoholic, so I stayed with my grandparents as much as possible, which gave me the opportunity to go to church with them.”

For Carol, both her grandparents’ home and their church were places that provided security.

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Carol (Image used courtesy of Carol Gandee-Jones)

“I felt safe there – at church with my grandmother.  It was so different from being at my home,” she said.  “I wanted to feel safe and to belong somewhere, and the church provided that.”

In their church, members believed that a child wasn’t able to accept salvation before the age of 12.

Carol waited desperately to turn 12 so she could ask Jesus to live in her heart.  Finally, her chance came at a revival after her 12th birthday in July.

“I can still remember going to the altar that night and asking Jesus into my heart,” she said, a faraway look in her eyes.  “I understood that Jesus wanted an intimate relationship with me, and I believed John 3:16.”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Despite the security she felt at the church and the joy she experienced with Jesus in her heart, there was still fear and pain in her life.

Fear because she was the oldest of 5 children and felt tremendous responsibility to protect her younger brothers and sister from their father.

Pain because it was difficult to make friends.  She was too ashamed for anyone to know what her family was like.

Even more fear because there were a great many “do’s and don’ts” in the church.  Don’t play cards. Don’t dance. It was difficult to keep up with everything.

“It felt like God was looking over my shoulder,” she confessed, “waiting for me to mess up.  Judging me. I wanted to be perfect and good so God would continue to love me.”

At the same time Carol felt pressure from her church to be perfect, she also felt from her father the need to strive for perfection.

“He was controlling, and he demanded perfection,” Carol explained.  “He never offered praise or encouragement. Mostly, he just looked for ways to punish.  So, I learned to work toward excellence. I thought if I could just reach this ideal, I could get some positive attention.”

Carol’s drive toward excellence did help her earn a scholarship for college.

“My dad wouldn’t let me go though,” Carol said as she settled back into the plush pillows of the couch, folding her hands into her lap.  “He said, ‘why waste the time when a woman’s just going to get married and have children’?”

Her pain was heavy in the room.  Tiffany and I were both quiet. It seemed disrespectful to that memory to hear the scratching of my pen, so I stopped writing.

Carol continued, shrugging.  “If I couldn’t get out by going to college, it seemed my only other choice was to get married.”

And that’s what she did.  Got married. She was 19.

Carol’s story will continue next week.  Please join me here again as I share with you what Carol described as the first real crisis in her life which she encountered at 32.

To subscribe to Servant Girl Stories and receive emails each week when I publish posts, please subscribe to the blog (in the right sidebar). 

What To Do If You Have a Critical Spirit

You’re in for a treat today – our first guest post on Servant Girl Stories. I am honored to introduce my friend, Leigh, founder of Be Still Mama ministries at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. Leigh and I met about 3 years ago when she and her husband, Brian, joined our life group at church. Since then, I have grown closer to her as a friend as our journeys as moms have merged. I also participate in Be Still Mama and enjoy working with her to encourage and love on the moms who also become involved in the ministry. She has such a heart for moms of young children and desires to pour into those moms and help lead them to the foot of the cross. Please welcome, Leigh Anderson!

By: Leigh Anderson

Growing up in the cul-de-sacs of a few big city suburbs, riding bikes and managing sticker collections, I didn’t have much to be critical about other than broken sidewalk chalk or a missing New Kids on the Block cassette tape. Or the fact that we got to pick out one “sugar cereal” per month and my brother would eat the entire box in one sitting as soon as we got home. Those were my critical moments, until my life changed one day in the formal sitting room in the front our house.

It was late afternoon, our friends were playing outside, and it was the first time I’d ever felt my chest tighten and my stomach go into a knot as the word “divorce” came out of my parents’ mouths to my brother and me. (Divorce is just as much a part of my parent’s story as it is of mine, so I share this milestone with the utmost respect for them but as a pivotal point of brokenness in my life).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

The onslaught of changes was not gradual; it was abrupt, and life as we knew it was completely different for all 4 of us mere hours after that conversation happened. I experienced brokenness beyond what I’d ever experienced. And being so young, it was difficult to name it or understand it or tell anyone how I was feeling because I simply didn’t know.

We moved out of state shortly after that, and our new reality was unlike any I’d ever experienced. It presented more challenges than successes. That wasn’t only true for our family but also true within the new community where we’d moved.

Naturally, if people have something in common, that will be the subject of conversations. Our common thread was struggle, and it was mostly what anyone talked about. There weren’t people in our community coaching people to have positive attitudes, to talk highly of each other, to stop gossiping, to lift each other up, or to spur one another on. It was just natural to share the crappy thing that happened that day and who did it. Those were just the everyday subjects of conversations.

Slowly but surely as we lived our lives and grew up, that mentality of complaining or criticizing, something I viewed as normal and right, stuck with me. And I didn’t even realize it was something bad.

I didn’t realize all of this until a friend recently had the courage to shed light on this aspect of my personality and challenged me to really work on it. After talking with her and thinking about it for a while, a light went off in my head. I’ve known for a long time that I struggle with a critical spirit during particularly stressful seasons of my life, but now I know why. And now that I know why – because it’s been a part of my life for 30+ years – it’s time to make some changes.

In Be Still Mama, the ministry I lead, I’m passionate that we all find the root to the challenges we face. If we don’t dig straight for the root, treating the symptoms is a waste of time. When we focus on the bad in others, our circumstances, or ourselves we focus our eyes on brokenness, not wholeness. God’s will for us is wholeness, and we can only have that in relationship with Him. When we focus so much on brokenness, it’s what we ultimately become – broken in our relationship with Him – because we took our eyes off of Him and started staring at everything that’s wrong.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

We form and feed critical spirits within ourselves when we continue to focus on the flaws of our spouses, our children, our friends, or the people we resent. The resentment comes after they fail to meet the expectations we’ve set for them – my husband hasn’t lifted a finger around the house, my friend didn’t respond to my text for 12 hours, my kids won’t listen or obey and they fight all the time. It’s easier to tear down these people in an effort to feel better about ourselves than it is to compliment them on something they’ve done well or a character trait we really admire. When in reality the latter is the key.

My pre-programmed reaction for brokenness is to criticize and wrestle with how that circumstance or that person made ME feel. I made every encounter with brokenness about me, and that’s the total OPPOSITE of what we’re called to do with it. Big no no.

When we encounter brokenness, specifically in people, we have several choices. We can talk about them to others, we can criticize/judge them within our own hearts, or we can make the choice to see them exactly how Jesus sees them.

The reason God doesn’t want us judging each other so harshly is because we simply don’t know what we’re talking about. We see a sin; God sees the heart. We see an annoying behavior; God sees a stronghold. We see poor choices; God sees pain that they won’t let Him heal. Many of these instances naturally become a lot less personal because I’m making them more about God and less about me.

Learning this lately has been so refreshing. It also shined light on how damaging it was to my own heart to operate in a critical and negative way. And as a mom, if my heart’s damaged and I operate out of that place, there’s a high probability that I’m causing damage to my family.

Encourage someone today. Double points if it’s someone who’s recently really let you down. We encourage and uplift people as an act of obedience to God’s commandment for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. You need encouragement; you need forgiveness; you need to know you matter, so give that to someone else today. May we not love in an effort to see what we can get from other people; may we love other people because we love God – as simple as that.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Meet the Author: Leigh Anderson is a follower of Jesus, wife to Brian, and mom to two toddlers. She graduated from Newberry College with a degree in Communications and Sociology and went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Film/Television/Media Theory from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Although her plan was to sell everything and move to New York City to take a producer position at CBS News New York, God had other plans. Instead, she spent the last 14 years in professional ministry roles in communications and marketing. Most recently, she was the Director of Marketing and Community Engagement for the Christian radio station New Life 91.9.

After being laid off from New Life in 2014, she became a stay at home mom and through the inspiration and leadership of another Charlotte ministry leader, launched the ministry of Be Still Mama at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.

You can find Leigh on Facebook at Leigh Baldwin Anderson and at the public group Be Still Mama.

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • 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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • 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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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?!

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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Photo Credit: Pinterest

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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