And even when they're trained they still need that daily reminding.
But I often times find myself forgetting that I too am a forgetter.
We're learning trust around here. We're also learning to "accept Mama's 'no' with joy."
When I write it down it seems almost funny to me... How easy is it to accept the Lord's "no's" joyfully? How easy is it to try and convince a three-year-old to smile and say 'okay Mommy', when they're devastated over the fact that you just told them they couldn't have ice cream for breakfast? Neither flow without effort.
But like most of the best things in this life, although it's rather difficult, in our home we find it worth the fight, worth the time, worth the effort, to, by His grace, find acceptance with joy as we make our way through these days, under this farmhouse roof together.
What it boils down to is, if we want His best, then we need to learn to accept what He gives with joy. And if I know the heart behind the request, then acceptance with joy can come to pass without much of a fight. The thing is, I know that My Jesus has my absolute best interests in mind. He wants nothing less than His God-size best for me in all areas of my life. Knowing that one simple truth enables me to accept what He gives with an often times unexplainable joy.
It's not to say that what He gives isn't sometimes painful. And it's not to say that when I call my kids to accept my 'no' with joy that I am hoping that they will have a smile on their face but be a raging mess in their hearts. Acceptance with joy means that every part of us can rest in the knowing that He is always looking out for our hearts. And even more so He is wanting to make my heart more like His.
I've been thinking about some of the most beautiful things on earth and how most of them have to go through this intense refining process to shine in the glorious beauty that God has intended for them. Take gold for example. Gold gets beautiful in fire. There is little sustenance in this life without first the refining.
I'm finding as I muddle my way through these mothering years that so much of His Word has everything to do with parenting. So much of our relationship with Him is a reflection on how we might live out our lives with our own children.
Acceptance with joy is a difficult one to pass on to our treasures. It's been a process over the past weeks, months, even years. But daily we speak of it around here. Daily we talk about the authority that Christ has given this Mama in the lives of these many small children. Daily we talk about the knowing that this Mama has her kiddos best interests in mind. Daily this Mama speaks acceptance with joy into these kids hearts because I am confident that if they learn this lesson while they are still young, it will benefit them beyond words as they face the whirls of this sin-struck, sometimes painful world. If we learn to accept His 'no' with joy, then the trials might even be seen as gifts, the way Paul came to see the thorn in his own side. (2Cor. 12 MSG)
I'm finding that the best ways to train up children are rather simple. I am the one who finds a way to somehow make them more complicated than they ought to be.
As for acceptance with joy, the way we train our children is through a simple conversation, one that we vow to never tire of repeating. The older two are catching on, but the third is in the thick of her learning. When I tell her that she can't have ice cream for breakfast she pulls out her most adorable pouty face. She hangs her head low. Sometimes for added flare she'll bury her eyes in her chubby little hands and shake her head back and forth, saying "no, no, no," in her obvious-fake cry.
And the way I handle it...
Well, first I try and hold back my laughter, who can resist a smile when you see that pouty little face? But then I get down on my knee so that my eyes can see her eyes. And I lift up her chin in the palm of my hand and I look gently straight into her and I remind her,
"Reesie-piece... I need you to accept Mama's 'no' with joy. I love you and want only to do what's best for you. So I need to see some joy in that heart, so much so that it shows up on your face."
At this point she usually crosses her arms and gets a mad face. So I smile and say something silly like, "don't you dare smile." Then of course, she grins from ear to ear and I pull her in close. We've been doing this for months now. Initially she might have gotten her smile simply from my light-hearted silly talk. But I can see a shift now in her heart. And more often than not, once she has her grin back, she'll say, "Mama, I find my joy." And that makes me think that there is something deeper growing in her heart. Something that will hopefully carry her through a lifetime of running into opportunities for acceptance with great joy.
Who knows, she might even be like the nine-year-old girl that spoke deep into me one recent Sunday in church. She spent her days cleaning the wounds of lepers with her Mom, Dad, and two brothers. One night her dad and brothers slept in their van after staying late at a leper colony. Because they were Christians and some of the authorities in the area did not like them being around, they burned them alive in their van.
When asked about the horrific event later, the little girl said of her dad and brothers, "I feel honored that the Lord would deem them worthy of dying for Him and His glory."
Acceptance with great, GREAT joy.
I can only pray with my whole heart that under this farmhouse roof, we would have the privilege of grasping acceptance with joy with such profound depth as this nine-year-old girl who found unfathomable joy, in one of humanity's greatest fears.
Mama's don't have the power to convince small hearts of this deep need for acceptance with joy... that's merely a work of the Holy Spirit. He alone can convince a soul.
But what we can do... we can exemplify. We can live a life that shows our passion for the things of GOd. And what could be more attractive to a young soul than witnessing the miracles of God come to pass in the life of their own Mama.
Lord, may I learn to accept all that you give, with great joy. May I never tire of gently repeating to my children their need to accept my 'no' with joy. And may I never cease to accept your 'no's' with joy, knowing that the trials are often times the greatest of all the gifts that you give.