Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
If you have followed Jesus and studied his life you know he is the prime example of love and grace. When I read Jesus’ interactions with people in the Bible, I see that he forgave people and their hearts were forever changed.
But, he also upheld boundaries for those who were hard-hearted and not willing to receive the truth. Jesus instructed his disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” when not received by a town. Jesus set a boundary.
In my own parenting, I am seeking the balance, the dance, the perfect marriage between forgiveness and boundaries.
One way in which I am doing this is with “re-dos”. This is not a new concept, but it sure is effective.
Here is how I use the “re-do”.
Child walks right through an adult conversation, immediately jumps into what they want to say. I make eye contact with the child and then gesture to the adults around me, drawing the child’s attention to the others. Then I say, “Let’s try that again.” The child then goes around the group, comes back by my side, placing her hand on my arm while she waits her turn.
Or a child snaps at her sister in a loud, rude tone and I say, “Can we try that again?” She then has the chance to use the tone she would have liked to have used the first time around.
In these examples, I am setting the boundary of what behavior I am willing to accept and what behavior needs correcting. And, I am also able to see the child’s heart and grant forgiveness.
Another way I use “re-dos” is for myself! When I am having a mindful moment, I might hear myself say something in a tone I’d rather not use. So, I will say to my child, “Can I have a “re-do”? And, then I proceed to take a deep breath and try it again. This allows the child the chance to forgive me and our relationship can be restored.
These “re-dos” foster learning, repentance, and forgiveness. My impulsive response, lacking self-control, can be reframed in my mind, draw me closer to God for change, and give my child the chance to forgive me. And, my child’s impulsive interrupting can physically be changed by realizing what went wrong and how she can improve it. I, then, see how she intended to behave and I can forgive and move on.
These “re-dos” remind me of the Lord’s new mercies which are new every morning. Every morning I wake up, I have received a “re-do” from the Lord! What a gift! What a gift I can also give to my children.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
And, he looked around at them with anger, grieved by their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:5
This is the story of two hard hearts. In order for the one heart to soften, the first had to soften. As the one heart remained hard, so did the other.
The two hearts belonged to a mother and daughter duo.
The mother’s heart held expectations. Expectations in which she would perform in a certain prescribed way, and the daughter, in turn, would perform in the expected manner. The mother would lay out her high expectations. She would not give in or flex in any way. She would maintain a rigid schedule. And, the daughter would respond appropriately. Theirs would be a perfect dance. Perfect harmony. The perfect equation. Mom’s actions + daughter’s reactions = Harmony.
The daughter’s heart held needs. Needs which required being met in order to move on to later stages. Needs which held a high significance in her life and did not let up. The daughter carried these needs with her each and every day. Although she was not able to express her needs, they continued to haunt her as they went unmet.
Little by little, the mom in this story became disenchanted when her actions did not result in control or change in the daughter’s behavior. Thus a hard heart took root in the mother.
Also, little by little, the daughter found the mom unresponsive to her needs. And her inability to keep up with the demands left her sad. Thus a hard heart took root in the daughter.
Two hard hearts.
In Mark chapter 3, Jesus looked around at the Pharisees and was grieved by their hard hearts. At that same time, the man in need of healing received instruction from Jesus to stretch out his hand. Jesus restored him! Hallelujah!
With their hard hearts, the Pharisees were unable to see what Jesus was up to. But the man with the withered hand followed a different pattern. He came to Jesus in the synagogue with his need. Then he listened to Jesus’ instruction and he obeyed. This resulted in restoration and his need being met.
Back to the story of the two hard hearts. As the mom experienced more and more failure and heartbreak, she found herself at the end of her own resources. Finally, humbling herself, she cried out to God, “What must I do to teach this child? How will I ever get through to her?”
God in His great mercy began to shed His light on the whole situation. He began to show, the now humble mother, just what her daughter needed. The mother’s heart broke at how she had missed the mark. Her desperation for the Lord’s intervention and wisdom increased.
She listened to the Lord and she obeyed.
And little by little the relationship between the mother and daughter was restored.
Little by little, the once hard, wounded, selfish hearts were restored to soft, healed, connected hearts.
Yesterday I didn’t smile.
Yesterday I didn’t look my girls in the eye.
Yesterday I didn’t brush my teeth until the afternoon.
These confessions glare what kind of day I had yesterday.
Last night, when my youngest daughter asked if we could have our monthly breakfast date in the morning, I said, “No.” Don’t worry, I went on to explain why. I told her about how I had not had my quiet time in the morning and my whole day went downhill from there.
Now, truth be told, it wasn’t just the missing quiet time with the Lord that did me in. It was literally not taking a second to slow down and hear from the Lord all day. He is so good to me. When I slow down, and seek Him, He shows me what I need in each given moment. Maybe it’s fresh air, a nap, His word, a snack, a tough conversation, time with my husband. But when I just plow through the day, I am useless.
This morning, the Lord brought to my mind the image of the flight attendant reminding parents to first place the oxygen mask on themself and then tend to their children.
That is how today looks.
Placing the oxygen mask on myself first today looks like: taking time to study God’s word and be filled up through prayer, exercising with weights and sweat, making a green smoothie, listening to piano hymns, taking a shower AND brushing my teeth, and letting my girls sleep in so they get what they so needed.
Dear One, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. God loves you so much. He does not want you to neglect yourself. You are not able to serve Him if you are completely spent. Seek Him today!
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
Update: at 10:00 am when my youngest daughter finally surfaced and asked once again about our breakfast date, I could answer, “Yes!” Thank you, Oxygen Mask! You truly are my Savior!
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21
My encouraging friend, who lives out Proverbs 18:21, sent me that verse the other morning. Every morning I receive a nugget of wisdom from her. Because God has proven to me time and time again that nothing worth anything is ever by chance, I take what she sends me to heart.
For years, I have been aware of the power of my words. God began revealing this to me through Joyce Meyers TV broadcasts, where she openly shares her struggles with words and how through God’s Word and power, she has overcome.
I don’t know about you, but I have set backs in this area. I am not tempted to smoke cigarettes, overeat, or drink alcohol, but I am definitely tempted to criticize, especially those closest to me.
1 Peter 5: 8 tells us that the Devil is watching us, looking for what he can use to destroy us. For me, it tends to be my words. He feeds me the words to say, especially when I am tired, sick, discouraged, or just simply not alert.
But I am so tired of it. I am so tired of Satan having his way with my words. And, I am not powerless against him!
Some truths about taming the tongue (just in case you, too, struggle in this area):
- I cannot tame my tongue (control my words) in my own power. James 3:8
- My life will be happier if I obey God with my words. James 1:26
- My words can bring healing. Proverbs 12:18
- My words are powerful. James 3:5
- When my words are gentle, the can bring forth life. Proverbs 15:4
Practical ways in which I am obeying God with my words:
- Making sure my children are looking me in the eye when I give them a compliment. I don’t want my words to go unnoticed. I will say their name or something to get their attention, wait for their eyes, and then speak the words I want to say. I usually benefit by seeing their face light up in response.
- Keeping a list on my phone for both of my kids and my husband of compliments I want to give them. Often, I will think of good things about them when I am apart from them. I just make a little note on my phone and then I keep it there until I give them the compliment. Then I put a little check mark symbol after that particular compliment. Once, I am more fluent with my family, I want to add more people to this list.
- Making sure I am full of God’s truth about me, so that I am not running on empty and have nothing to give.
Dear One, how do you see the power of words at work in your life? I am praying we each see someone we can encourage today.
Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.
Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.
In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?
I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”. I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.
During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.
Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.
Here’s what I found:
- Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
- Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
- Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
- Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
- Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.
In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame. I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.
I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.
Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
When you are involved on any side of adoption there seems to be this complicated contradiction. The joy is unbelievable. Yet, the pain is unbearable at times. Each person involved experiences it. There can’t be adoption without loss. Yet, there can’t be adoption without gain. The biological family experiences it. The adoptive family expriences it. And the adopted child experiences it.
The contradiction between the loss and gain of adoption. The loss, the gain.
The bittersweet, the beautiful.
The loss. She lost her baby. My girl lost her connection of 9 months. I lost my chance to carry my child.
The gain. She gained the family she desired for her baby. My girls gained a family to grow in. I gained my purpose.
Both times we brought home our babies I felt caught. Caught between imagining the sorrow of their birth families and living the joy of having a precious baby in my arms to hold. Knowing my gain meant another woman’s loss. Knowing my loss meant a shattering in my child’s life. Knowing my child’s gain meant turmoil they couldn’t possibbly understand. Knowing my child’s loss leaves an emptiness I can do nothing about in my own strength.
Each time my baby cried, I wondered, I still wonder, are they crying fresh tears or are they lingering tears of the life they once knew. The first season of their life. The season their hearts remember, even though their minds do not.
The bitter with the sweet.
The trauma with the healing.
The loss with the gain.
The shattered with the reconciled.
What Satan meant for destruction, God used for His glory.
Dear One, I know Mother’s Day or any holiday for that matter can be painful. It’s supposed to be one way, yet you look at your life and it’s so far from what is “supposed to be”. Can you ask God to show you His glory? Right in the midst of messy? Right in the midst of the broken? Lord, show us your glory. Reveal to us Your sweet in our bitter. More of you, Lord, Less of me.