Redeeming the Cold

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*Dec 19 - 00:05*I wake to another chilled day with snow gathering menacingly on the driveway.  “Ugh…will this cold ever end?” I sigh with exasperation.  Dread fill me at the thoughts of even getting out of bed, let alone having to take my daughter to school. The looming days of winter ahead bring nothing but overwhelming frustration and hopelessness.  Joy seems to be hibernating, waiting for the first warm day of spring.  But I know, the bible doesn’t tell us that joy is circumstantial…in fact joy is supposed to be sought in struggles and hardship as well as prosperity and comfort.  So what am I to do with the cold?…wish it away until the weather the changed, or redeem it by finding a way to cultivate joy not in spite of it, but because of it?

Be thankful…speak thankful.  The weather is what it is.  I can’t change it by speaking harshly about it or grumbling because of its existence.  It is winter, it’s going to be cold but I don’t have to harbor bitterness against it in my heart.  On the days the sun is shining I can be thankful to see the bright rays, when its cloudy and freezing I can be grateful for a warm house.  And I’m convinced, it’s not enough just to be thankful in my heart…thankfulness is meant to be shared.  If I feel thankful, I should speak thankful and not waste words by complaining about something I can’t change anyway.

Remember that God made everything good.  God did not make winter just to make me suffer.  He created seasons and saw that they were good. He has a purpose for all things that He made. Though I can’t claim to know the mind of God, I think there are plenty of redeeming qualities to the cold weather.  Whether I take it as a time to contemplate more deeply, slow down and spend more time in prayer because of being stuck inside or I see it as another decorative display of God’s creative design…I cannot look at this season as an inevitable depression but as a time to depend more desperately on Him to provide me with the joy and strength I need.  Because if it weren’t for these seasonal moments of melancholy I would go on not knowing of my great need for the One who IS joy.

Think about someone else. Winter can be a much more difficult time for those who are homeless or who have little resources to stay warm.  Imagining the homeless man who my husband has befriended, walking the cold streets and sleeping in his car gives me a much better appreciation for what I have and makes my trek from my car to the door at the grocery store a lot less tedious.  But a step beyond that…providing him food, blankets or clothing or helping him find a warm place to stay…could take my perspective to a level of sympathy that would erase the winter blues for a while.  I could also spend the time I am stuck inside writing letters or sending e-mails of encouragement.  In the past, our family has taken the time to visit friends in the hospital, donate household items and clothing to those  in need and make treats for our neighbors in order to beat the “me-focused” thoughts that seem to be so much more prevalent when we are stuck inside.

Enjoy the pleasure only winter brings. No matter what the weather has been like through the winter, once January comes to a close I am completely disenchanted by the magic of winter.  Dirty wet footprints have been wiped up for the millionth time, runny noses seem like an endless faucet and freezing temperatures have chilled my bones to the point I feel like I may never get warm again and because I let these nuisances overtake my pattern of thought, I am left wishing the winter away leaving behind all the pleasures that I have forgotten about.  Sledding can be a thrill as long as I can do it without convincing myself not to because of the hassle of clean-up.  Hot chocolate is not the same in Spring.  Building snowmen, smashing snowballs, breaking icicles, ice skating, …and for me, layering clothing and wearing warm scarves…can all be praiseworthy events of the chilly season. If I only focus on the bad of winter, bad is how I will feel. But if I seize the opportunities I have before me, I can look forward to the weather because of its unique provisions.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lesson 3: Lead By Example

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Driving down the road I could see the sweet faces of my two small children in the back seat. The music played softly over the radio as the kids sang along.  But the tone of the trip took a quick twist when I was forced to stop at the flashing lights of a railroad crossing. “What are they doing?” My 5-year-old daughter yelled harshly. “Those crazy people!! They need to go!!” At first my response was going to be to reprimand her.  There was no reason for her to get so upset about getting stopped by a train. But as the scolding started to leave my lips I realized where she got it from.  Yikes, I thought, is that what I sound like?!

There are many days that I wished the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy actually worked.  I lack confidence but I want my daughter to be fearless so I give her endless pep talks about being brave.  I’m a poor communicator but I desire for my son to express his feelings better so I ask him a million questions.  I can be lazy and absent-minded at times but I want my children to be hard-working and organized so I threaten them when they don’t do their chores.  But the truth is, if I’m not willing to work on these areas of my life, chances are my children are going to follow my lead and fall where I have stumbled many times.

3. Joshua lead by example. Joshua was an exemplary leader because he didn’t ask of his followers what he wasn’t willing to do himself.  He had the respect and undivided attention of a whole nation and he wasn’t about to squander it. From the time he stepped into his position, he followed hard after God.  God said to go and he went. Whatever God told him to do, he did. And the people responded to this in loving obedience.

A weak, indecisive leader could not have convinced his followers to cross between two massive walls of water.  An unfaithful, disobedient leader never would have been capable of leading a massive, miraculous defeat like the battle at Jericho.  God had favor on Joshua for his obedience and the people trusted him.  Because Joshua remained fixed on the word of God and stayed strong and courageous, the people were inspired to do the same.

Leaders in the church (whether official or unofficial) cannot expect those under them to evangelize and bring others to church if they are not willing to do the same.  Leaders cannot expect people to pray and read their bibles if they can’t find time to do it.  Leaders cannot get frustrated when those younger in the faith seem to continually fall into the same sin if they are not willing to address their own sins.  And honestly we should all be looking at ourselves as leaders because there is nearly always someone looking up to us.  Joshua took his leadership seriously and so should we.

How To Love an Obnoxious Child

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KidRushing through the door, out of breath and out of patience, I slipped quietly into my seat and tried to push down the feelings of frustration and guilt. The choir sang boisterously around me, but my heart wasn’t ready to sing. I tried to gain my composure, as it seemed I had entered this room in the same manner far too many times. Getting to church on time is hard enough, why does she have to be so difficult?…I thought to myself. 

“Your daughter had a lot of snow days,” a friend commented. “How did that go? Was she ready to go back?”

“I was ready for her to go back! Sometimes she is just so….obnoxious.” I blurted out. Ahh…did I really just say that? In the moment I felt like a horrible mother. How could I use such a negative word to describe my daughter…with her caring and loving heart, generous spirit, and encouraging demeanor.  But regret soon slipped away as I saw the expression on my friend’s face illuminate.

“Oh I know what you mean.  I have called my mom in tears many times saying, ‘I just can’t even be his mom anymore. He is driving me crazy.’ I love him, I really do….but I just get so frustrated with him sometimes.” She went on to lament about her son’s need to always be right and to always have a solution to grown-up problems that he knows nothing about.  And then I felt free to share about my daughter’s marathon ramblings…and her bad habit of staying right on my heels so I crash into her every time I turn around…and her baby voice that never goes away…and her talking right in my face. I began to ponder…How can I love my child even when she is being obnoxious? How can I stop feeling like I’m going to lose my mind? In my own soul searching I came up with a few solutions for myself.

1. Know when to punish and when to practice patience. Mia needs to learn life skills…as her parent it is my job to teach her. I don’t have to let her turn into the kid that no one wants to be around just because I feel bad or because I feel like I have to just tolerate her annoying behavior. If it is frustrating to me, it is probably frustrating to other people and it’s a good opportunity to teach Mia about respecting other people and putting others before herself.  Just because she wants to hug doesn’t mean that someone else wants to. But I also need to know how to pick my battles…interrupting and a know-it-all attitude are rude and disrespectful while weird noises, silly voices and odd interests are just phases.

2. Get to the root of the behavior. I’ve come to learn that my daughter requires a lot more attention than my son.  She needs more cuddles, she needs a listening ear that lingers a little longer…and in my impatience, I often fail to give her the time she really needs. There seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend with her and her frustrating behavior. But extra attention should never be given as an immediate response to the behavior but more as a preventative measure because a lot of times the actual behavior needs to be punished or ignored because it is an undesirable or ineffective way to seek more attention.  Giving attention in the moment can actually perpetuate the behavior.  So, I need to help Mia develop a proper response to needing more attention by giving her words and actions to express that. “Instead of talking right in my face when you would like me to listen, try gently touching my hand or waiting until I am ready to hear you.” And then stick with it. Don’t listen until she has sought attention in the proper way.

3. Use the biblical principle of put off, put on. My daughter can be a bit overwhelming at times.  She loves to hug and she loves to talk but some more reserved children just cannot handle large doses of that. So instead of just saying, “Stop hugging your friend so much. It gets on her nerves.” I could say, “Instead of hugging your friend as soon as you see her, let’s try asking her a question about her week and wait for her to answer you all the way.” So then, I am not just trying to get rid of a negative action, I am replacing it with a good and thoughtful action.

4. Be a good example. Don’t be obnoxious in response to her obnoxious behavior…don’t yell or degrade her…don’t even sigh or huff in exasperation. Kids pick up so easily on these behaviors and it becomes and vicious cycle of “obnoxiousness”. Also it is helpful to model good communication skills when talking to other adults. Let Mia see me speaking politely to her teacher. Let her hear me answering the phone in a respectful way. And if I don’t want her to be a know-it-all or to interrupt then I should be cautious of my behavior in those areas as well.

5. Pray. I’m beginning to notice that her obnoxious behavior keeps Mia on my mind. It’s hard to stop thinking about her when I consistently remain somewhat frustrated with her. And what better to do with that time then to pray for her. But I’m learning not to just pray about her actions, but to mostly pray for her heart (and mine).  A relationship with Jesus is so much more about heart than actions and I want my daughter to know that. I don’t want to focus so much on her behavior that  I forget about her heart.

That night after church, we all piled back in the car to head home.  It was late and we were all exhausted. In the dark quietness Mia piped up from the backseat, “Mommy, I wish I didn’t talk all the time. Then I wouldn’t get in trouble so much.”

And then I knew, she doesn’t want to act the way she does either, but she doesn’t know how to stop. It’s not her fault, it’s mine. “It’s not so bad that you like to talk. You are good at making people feel welcome because you always have something to say. I will help you from now on to learn when it’s okay to talk so that you don’t get in trouble so much.”