Saturday, April 17, 2010

Root Cause

Yesterday morning I was scrambling to get everyone out the door. The big kids had school. The little girls and I were heading out on a long-awaited, much anticipated pre-school field trip to the nature center. I was packing lunches and gathering mud boots, hats and mittens when Annie started to flip out.

It's kind of shocking when that happens. Maren flips out all the time so I pretty much expect that. But Annie is usually happy-go-lucky and goes with the flow. She didn't want to wear the pants she had on. They were apparently baby pants. She didn't want to put her shoes on. She didn't want to go. She hates it. Her tummy hurts. She wants to go with Daddy. She was mad: stomping her foot and crossing her arms. A little like this.

I didn't respond very gracefully. I stomped my feet and declared how much I hate my job. It was frustrating and we were going to miss the bus if we didn't hurry. I thought we could just skip it, but that didn't seem fair to Maren. Plus I knew she would have fun. I finally got her in the van and halfway down the driveway flipped a U-turn. You can do that when you live in the middle of a big field. She got in Mike's car. I threw my key down in the van and then couldn't find it. While I was looking for it, I regrouped.

I went over to her and told her how much I wanted her to come. She jumped into my arms and cried, "I'm scared!" At that moment my heart melted.

She was scared. She didn't want to fall into the pond like one of Jenna's friends did in Kindergarten. I don't know why we found it wise to tell her that story. I wanted to beat myself over the head. How could I be so oblivious?

I can't even tell you how many times I have been frustrated about something and taken it out on Mike. If I've had a bad day with the kids, I want to make him suffer. That happened for along time before I figured out, to his great relief, that my lashing out had nothing to do with him.

There have been lots of times that the kids have acted out and we figured out along the way that there was a reason. I just get so focused on what needs to be done that I don't take the time to talk to them about it. They may not realize it, but I should. No matter what, her behavior wasn't ok. But neither was mine. I'm the mom. I'm the grown up. It's my job to take the time and energy to get to the heart of the matter.

It's not my job to keep making sandwiches. It's not my job to get the van packed. It's not my job to get us to school on time. It's certainly not my job to throw my key down in anger.

It's my job to talk and encourage them to tell me what's going on in their minds and heart. It's my job to get to the root cause of what they're feeling. That is more important than field trips, mud boots, and beaver teeth because THEY are my job. Training, loving, teaching and helping them become the people God wants them to be.

I love my job and I don't want to get fired even though I probably deserve it at times. I have a good job.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Hate Birds

I am not really a nature loving girl. I grew up in suburban Saint Paul. My idea of roughing it was a hotel without a pool. I spent most of my free time at malls. Then I moved to the Northland and had kids. Now I do enjoy being outside more than I used to. I like hiking and going on bike rides. It's even rumored that I enjoy camping however I cannot confirm that in public.

One of the parts of nature that I dislike the most is birds. My mom is deathly afraid of them and she's passed that on to me. I'm not deathly afraid, I guess I just hate them. And here I am today totally excited about birds. I am totally pumped about a bird banding class.

When I used to work at my home church, my friend Heather and I ran kids day camps all summer. Our least favorite day was nature center day. Taking a bunch of kids knee deep in a pond to look for critters was not our idea of fun. But at least we were getting paid for it. On a side note the best day was going to the PlayZone. It was an indoor playground, air-conditioned with Diet Coke in the snack shop!

Anyway, I spent this morning walking around a nature center with Maren and Annie's class. It was freezing cold and windy. We were looking for beaver teeth marks in trees. In the cold. Did I mention how much I love nature? I couldn't care less which tree a beaver chewed. Then we looked at the snakes and turtles in the building. Gross. The good news is that I had a can of Diet Coke in our lunch bag. The thought of that helped me fight on.

I can think of about 501 other things I would have wanted to do this morning. Number 500: a root canal. Okay, it wasn't quite that bad. But you get the picture. We do things for our kids that we have no interest in. It's not that hard to do things I don't like for the sake of my kids.

As they get older, I'm finding out how important to recognize each of my kids' gifts, talents and personalities and find ways to encourage them. It's not about what I want them to do or what's fun for me. It's easier with some kids than others. Jenna and I are a lot alike. We like a fast bike ride or a walk with friends. We had a great basketball season.

Then there's Grant. Grant has become passionate about ornithology. Huh, come again? Yeah, that's the term science and nature people use to talk about the study of birds. Yep, birds. He's bringing home large books on birds and talking about having a pet bird. I shudder at the thought. How am I supposed to connect with my son who is passionate about something I loathe?

Today at the nature center I noticed a bird watching center with charts and binoculars. I asked the naturalist about it. She told me they are having a bird banding class in May that we could go to. They have camps about birds for kids. And all of a sudden I was super excited about birds. What a great opportunity for Grant. I had to hold myself back from running right up to his classroom when we got back to tell him. He can learn about birds. We can connect through the love and interest of a naturalist that does not shudder at the thought of touching a bird.

I don't love birds. But I love my son. I want to encourage his unique personality and interests. So ornithology here we come. Even if I never learn to enjoy it, I'll certainly enjoy the time with him. And as long as I can watch through the window with a Diet Coke in hand, we'll be good.

How do you connect with your kids? What are the gifts and passions you are seeing in them that need to be encouraged?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not Good at Love

Mike told me about a lively discussion at a prayer service planning meeting. One man suggested that they should be thankful for certain leaders of our country because the Bible tells us to. Some of the people in the room looked like they were about to fall off their chairs or go into cardiac arrest. Thankful for our non-republican leaders? How could good Christians do a thing like that? If we are opposed to that then we may want to rethink basing prayer meetings on a verse like 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."

The guy was right, it does say to be thankful for everyone. A verse God brought to Mike's mind was from the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I know, blah, blah. I have heard that chapter read at about 100 million weddings. But when I studied Corinthians a few years ago I learned something. The placement of that chapter is encouraging the people in Corinth to love each because they are spending all their time and energy fighting over which spiritual gifts are better. Seriously. Why does this happen in the church. We keep fighting over things that allow us to lose focus on the message of Christ.

Who am I not loving? I've been thinking about that this morning. The answer is stunning. I should be good at love. I am a Christian, a wife, a mother and a friend. But trust me I am not good at love. I have been keeping records of wrong. I have been easily angered. I have been rude and selfish.

So let me ask, who are you unable to love? Are you keeping score?

Political leaders that make decisions you don't agree with?
Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Family members, mother in laws, who are strange, overbearing or don't care?
Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Husbands who leave their clothes on the floor or worse?
Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Kids that have a strong will or make bad choices or are constantly demanding our time?
Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Church leadership that does things differently that you would?
Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Christians should be the best at love. We follow the God who is love. Do you think that's what the world sees when they look at Christians? Is is what others see when they look at you?

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:15-16

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In My Future

Five or six years ago I was shopping with my sister in a big mall by her house. This was before our discovery and love affair with thrift stores. We were floating from section to section in a department store when all of a sudden to my horror, I found myself holding an Alfred Dunner shirt. I had recently learned that Alfred was my Grandmother's favorite brand. It's all nice and classy for someone in their 80's but I wasn't even 30 yet!

I made a beeline for a trendier store with talking mannequins in their commercials. You can't go wrong, everything there is trendy. No accidentally walking into the old lady section. I have bought things there over the years or that brand at the thrift store. The other day, I tried on some capri pants there. I couldn't figure out what the problem was. They were cute and on sale but they were too low. My whole "I've had five babies" belly tumbled right over the top. I got a shirt but quickly ran away from the pants.

Earlier this year I discovered another store. They have jeans that are cut for someone over the age of 21. Their extra larges are not too small. I found some capri pants there. They are black! And they have these tummy panels that hold in said belly. I love them. I really, really love them.

But it got me thinking, I'm on a slippery slope. Alfred Dunner is in my future.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Do I Trust You?

We just spent a few days at a water park with our kids. My husband generally hates those places. They are loud and crowded and wet. But when we were on our trip in February, I could tell he desperately missed the kids when he suggested taking them to exactly the place he loathes!

You know, it is getting easier to be away with the kids. Most of them know how to swim, sleep in a bed and use the toilet. We didn't bring a stroller or pack-n-play. I didn't have to wear a maternity or nursing swim suit. So a good time was had by all.

I'm not really the kind of girl who spends a lot of time hating how I look. I really don't. While there are certainly plenty of things that could be better, there are a lot of things that could be worse too. But after having kids, getting older and having no time to care for yourself, even the hardiest of us can start to feel a little less than enthusiastic about spending large amounts of time in a swimsuit.

I realized all this while in the hotel one night. The kids were all tucked in beds and couches and couch cushions. My husband told me he thinks I'm beautiful. When I was in the bathroom I started to doubt him. Could he really think that? He's either lying or he's an idiot. I'm not beautiful. There are plenty of women that wear a swimsuit or jeans better than I do.

So I found myself not trusting my husband. And that is not right. Maybe he does love me and find me attractive. He chose to marry me. That doubt does not come from his words or intentions, but from my heart.

When I was a little girl, I never doubted that I was pretty or loved. But as I grew up the assault began. Did you feel it? You noticed other girls that were cuter and made sure you knew it and magazines with picture perfect models. There are those days and times that I feel absolutely hideous. Fat. Ugly. Gross. And our minds instantly wonder could anyone really love this?

Those thoughts nudged my heart toward my trust in Christ. There is no need to doubt God's love. He sent His son to die for me. Jesus says He loves me and chooses me. He made me perfect.

"For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance - now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Hebrews 9:15

Yet I doubt Him all the time. When I go through those times of self hate, I am doubting Him and His creativity (Psalm 139:13-14). It's really quite selfish of me. When I think I am a no good failure, I am doubting His promise that he created me for a purpose. (Jeremiah 29:11) If I can't trust His love what else do I doubt? Do I doubt he forgives me? Do I believe that He is coming again?

How could I not trust the love of my creator? Maybe it's because I can't see him or feel him. But I don't think that's it because I can see and feel my husband. I think it's a deep hole in my heart. It's a hole that can only be filled in heaven. On this earth there will be pain and imperfection as a result of living in a sinful, fallen world. But in heaven, we'll be exactly the perfect creation God intended us to be. We'll be with Jesus and hear His voice. The hole will be filled.

I want my girls to be able to grow up unscathed by the doubt and self-hate but I don't know if that is possible in this world. I'm encouraged by the thought of taking those feelings and filling up the hole in our hearts with God's perfect love for us. Then we'll trust Him in a new way, on a deeper level. And that's what it's all about.

Do I Trust You, Lord?
by Twila Paris

Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart
You can read my mind
And You've got to know I would rather die
Than to lose my faith in the One I love
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

I will trust You, Lord
When I don't know why
I will trust You, Lord
Till the day I die
I will trust You, Lord
When I'm blind with pain
You were God before, and You'll never change