Taking Steps Toward Change

blonde-1031534_1920It really stinks when we blow it. It stinks even more when we blow it repeatedly, and yet, if you’re like me, you keep fighting the same battles again and again. But Scripture says we’re made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live godly, Spirit-led lives (2 Peter 1:3).

So where’s the disconnect? Why do I still lose patience? Say things I wish I hadn’t? Fight for my way and allow my fears, worries, concerns, and selfish ambitions to lead me rather than the will of Christ? 

When our daughter was ten, after five years of educating her at home, we felt led to enroll her in school. We knew it’d be a bit of a transition for her, but we had no idea just how difficult that transition would be. First, I hadn’t emphasized cursive (I focused more on keyboarding and computer skills), and at her new school, cursive was required for everything, from spelling words and in class assignments to homework. Then there was the whole matter of homework period, getting up and out the door in the morning, adapting to teachers other than Mom, she was young for her grade …

Suffice it to say, there were times when her little brain felt ready to explode.

And like she’d always feel behind, ill-equipped, and unable to master her new role.

One night, as I was tucking her in, tears streamed her face, and she shared her fears with me. “I’m trying, but it seems like I’ll never get better.”

Have you ever felt like that? When you look at certain behaviors, maybe how you react while in rush hour ache-19005_1920traffic, or when your child throws a fit while you’re rushing out the door, and you think, “Man! Am I doing this again? I should be past this, much more spiritual mature, by now!”

My response to you is the same as it was to my daughter, eight years ago. “You’ll get this. I promise. Just keep stepping, and give it time.”

And develop an action plan, because as the cliché goes, wanting doesn’t make it so.

The first step in anything is prayer, asking for God’s help, wisdom, perseverance, and grace. And this isn’t just a one time, “Lord, help me out here,” but rather, a practice of remaining in communication with Christ throughout the day (1 Thes. 5:17)–in an attitude of surrender. (Because what good is it to know God’s will if we don’t live it out?)

The next step is, through prayer and self-evaluation, to get at the root cause of your behavior. If you’re reacting with impatience, ask God to show you why. What are you afraid of? That you’ll be late for work and then lose your job? That your child will be late for school and fall behind? That others will be disappointed in you?

Whenever we react negatively, if we dig deep enough, we’ll find there’s a reason, and unless we address that reason, we’ll remain stuck in managing symptoms (reactions) without ever truly moving forward.

Once you’ve uncovered the reason for your reaction, replace whatever that is with truth. For example, right now I’m feeling squeezed. It’s an incredibly busy season where I feel I have more to manage than I have time or energy to do so. My fear is that I’m going to drop the ball, but more than that, as my time grows shorter, those things on my to-do list that are selfishly motivated become more apparent.

The solution, then, is surrender. To help with this, I’m focusing on (reading, meditating on, praying over, and memorizing) key passages of Scripture that are helping me to zero in on God’s will and leading in this crazy time.

My verses are 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 5:1, 16-24. I’m camped out here, reading the same Scriptures LivebytheSpiritpassagedaily, because I know God’s Word will change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, but this won’t happen overnight.

At this point, I must ask, do you memorize Scripture? If not, I strongly encourage you to start. It is incredibly powerful to be able to pause in the middle of a tense or difficult situation to pray God’s Word. The peace that follows is amazing.

Next, I’m practicing doing better. Notice I didn’t say “trying.” I suppose I could, but practice reminds me that I’m retraining myself, and the more I behave and react in line with Christ’s will, the more it becomes a habit to do so.

Finally, I’m persevering. I’ve mentioned this a few times in this post, but behavioral change, whether it’s changing the way one eats or learning how to handle conflict in a biblical manner, takes time. Often, progress comes slowly, but with God’s grace and power at work within us, it does come, until one day we’ve mastered that thing.

Then God reveals another area within us in need of growth. Ah, Christian maturity. Isn’t it fun? 😉

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Is there one area in your life, one challenge, temptation or character weakness/flaw you believe God may want to change? What are some ways you intentionally grow? Why do you think it might be beneficial to focus on one behavior or attitude and correlating verse for an extended period of time rather than trying to change numerous areas of weakness at once? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

And join me on Christians Read on June 20th to read about a slice in a very busy day when God granted me incredible peace and clarity amidst the rushed chaos.

Team-Mentality Parenting

Photo by donwhite84 tkaen from pixabay.com

Photo by donwhite84 tkaen from pixabay.com

Does your child know you’re on her side? That every time you ground them, take away their iPad, and ask them to clean their room, you truly do have their best in mind? Or have they begun to see you as the enemy?

When our daughter was young, I felt like I was in constant correction mode and many times our home felt more like a battle ground than the sanctuary I so wanted to create. But even in the gunk and frustration, my daughter knew I was on her team. She knew I did everything with her longterm good in mind. Well, almost everything, but I’ll get to that.

This team-mentality parenting, the kind that says, “I’m for you,” didn’t just happen. It was the result of intentional and consistent communication, a continual evaluation of my parenting choices, an ever-present awareness of my failings, and a commitment to let God use even my biggest blunders for my daughter’s benefit.

 With every parenting decision, I made sure to communicate the why.

Some may argue this point, saying it’s important our children learn to obey for obedient’s sake. While this is true, even that has a why. Or should I say, in obeying, your child has a why. Perhaps it’s to please you, or maybe it’s because they fear punishment. Or maybe it’s because they know obeying you honors God. But regardless the reason, if we don’t connect the dots for them, they’ll come up with their own reasons, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust a five, six, ten, twelve-year old’s reasoning skills.

More than that, they won’t know our heart behind our actions. They certainly won’t think longterm about how that behavior, action, or habit can affect their adulthood. Not unless we tell them. ID-10075948

I wanted to make sure my daughter knew, because my goal wasn’t behavior modification, which is often short-lived, but rather, heart change.

Here’s what it looked like:

When we were in a conflict and she lost her temper, I’d set a clear boundary: “That behavior is unacceptable. Please go to your room until we can discuss this calmly.” Then, once she had time to calm down, I’d discuss with her how that behavior might look in a marriage, at work, or with her friends. I helped her see how her behavior, if left unchecked, would ultimately hurt her. Then I always ended our conversation with, “I want more for you. I want you to grow up to be a well-adapted, successful adult.”

And every time–every. Single. Time.–her anger diffused. Because she knew I was for her, and that turned me from her enemy to her greatest ally. 

I continually evaluated my parenting decisions. 

This of course implies that my parenting choices truly are for her benefit–and not my comfort or preference. When I viewed our home life through that lens, I discovered many battles I felt tempted to fight needed to be let go. 

What she wore on Sunday morning was one of them. I loved dressing her up, and for some strange reason, carrying a well-attired child into Sunday school with her hair done nice made me feel like a better mom. Or at least, made me think I looked like a better mom … even if it took an insane amount of tears, cajoling, foot-stomping, and screaming to create that image.

What, or perhaps who, would it hurt if I allowed her to pick out her own clothes? Would wearing a pink and green polka dot skirt with her yellow rubber boots and red Elmo shirt derail her life?

I decided no, and as a result, I had the most originally dressed preschooler in church. Our Sunday mornings were also relatively stress free.

I recognized my failings and weaknesses and apologized for them.

Most of us operate on a heap of baggage that influences our perceptions and behavior. Add in our normal selfishness, impatience, and sinfulness, and we can pretty much guarantee making major mistakes.

I did. I do, A LOT. The issue is not will we fail our children but rather how will we respond once we do?

I determined to respond with humility. I refused to sugar coat my sin, justify my behavior, or make excuses. Instead, I called it what it was, apologized for hurting her, and let her know that I God was actively working on changing that part of me. In so doing, I showed her what it looked like to live in grace.

MamaMondaysjpgLet’s talk about this! Does your child know-know-know you’re for her? Does he tend to see you as his enemy or greatest ally? How have you created a team-mentality in your home? What are some things you can do, today, to further that? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!