Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What We Whisper To Each Other When We're Struggling

Several years ago I heard a woman speak about scripture and mothering. She told of how she often used the Word to encourage, correct, and speak life into her kids. At the time, I had two tiny tots and I had no idea how on earth I was ever going to be able to use the Word in such a way with my own kids. This dear woman kindly tried to encourage me that over time, certain scriptures would come naturally to me, that our issues would be unique to our family and that the Lord would be faithful to give me all that I needed to raise them up with the sweet truth of His Word. At the time, I didn't believe her. I left that seminar feeling completely incapable of ever being able to pour the Word into my kids the way that I was longing to do so.

But the woman was right. As issues have come up with my treasures over the years we have ALL found ourselves clinging to certain scriptures that give us life. Scriptures that yank us right out of self pity and into the glorious gifts of God. Scriptures that remind us of what we are longing for and of the power of Christ to complete in us what we cannot complete in ourselves.

He has done this in our home.
He has been faithful to lead us to the words we need repeatedly whispered in our ears.
It's Him.
All Him.

I write these words all over the farmhouse. Why? Because I forget everything.
I have to see the words constantly for them to sink down into my soul. And my treasures need the same reminders... So we plaster the truth EVERYWHERE.

Each home has it's own stuff.
Each family has it's own issues.
For us, I have found that we tend to struggle with the same things over and over and over again.

The words that follow are ones that we have been speaking for years and will probably continue to speak for many more years.

So here it goes... the words we whisper when we're struggling...

When we want to honor each other but we are just so caught up in our flesh and we keep on struggling to be anything at all like Christ...Hebrews 4:16... "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Sometimes I literally just whisper this verse in their ears. Or, sometimes I'll say something like, "Son, we can ask God for anything, as many times as we need to. He's not surprised that we need help, again. So let's go boldly, and ask Him to help us stop (yelling or being nasty to our sister, or whatever it is that we are struggling with, again.)" 

When we feel like failures... when you live in a farmhouse with six other sinners besides yourself, the days are full of constant interaction and sometimes it gets overwhelming and sometimes it feels like we're never really gonna live Christ-like, cuz it's just plain hard... And so I whisper to myself and to them..."The Lord is patient with you..." (2 Peter 3:9)
"But you Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 86:15)  I Repeat, Repeat, Repeat... "The Lord is patient with you, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is patient with you, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." Who on God's green earth doesn't need these words whispered constantly into their bones??? I mean seriously.

When we've begged the Lord to do a work in us and we just keep on messing up... "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) The Lord is INDEED at work in this home, even on the muddling days. And so I whisper it over and over again... "The Lord is at work in you. His Word is trustworthy and you can believe what He says. He is at work in you. He is at work in you. He is faithful to draw you into Himself."

When we find ourselves facing a task that we feel we cannot do, we repeat these words over and over and over again... "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) I know that this is one of those verses that everyone knows, but I have found that it is not to be underestimated. The truth is, there is nothing that we can not overcome when we have Christ in our hearts... nothing... from math problems to deep-seeded heart issues, NOTHING is impossible with God. So we will speak this simple sentence out loud our whole lives long and watch the Lord help us through it all. 

When we've forgotten who we really are... "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."( Colossians 3:12)
"For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you..." (1 Thessalonians 1:4) 
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1Peter 2:9)
When my kids are feeling discouraged, left out, down, I am quick to ask them, "Who are you?" To which they know to respond, "The crown and glory of all creation."  And then I say, "You are his most precious creation. You are loved and adored by the most high God." And I say it several times until I see their frown turn upside down.

When we are spouting out harsh words because we feel out of control and our pride is rearing it's ugly head, again... "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (James 1:19-20) & "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29) Basically, speak only words that make souls stronger. And so I ask the kids (and myself), "Are you building up your brother, your sister? Are speaking life or death into the one that you love? Are you making their soul stronger?"

{The boys went "hunting" in the yard today at recess...}

{From my Hal...}

When we're ticked and we can't think of anything else to do except hold a grudge... when need to learn how to give others the same kind of forgiveness and grace that the Lord has given us.... "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:13) And how does the Lord forgive us? "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) He forgave us in the absolute center of all of our crap. "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." (Mathew 18:21) And how the Father welcomes the wayward son... even before that son mutters a single word to his Father... "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." (Luke 15:20) That is how our heavenly Father sees us, welcomes us, forgives us and loves us even after we've really messed up. He is moved with compassion and welcomes us with open arms. And this one..."In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace..." (Ephesians 1:7)
We have some grudge holders under this roof. So what do I say when they don't want to forgive? I get down at their level and I look into their eyes and I remind them in the kindest tone, "The Lord has forgiven you, everything. E_V_E_R_Y_T_H_I_N_G.  And He has asked us to do the same."  Then I ask them to "make it right" with the person they have wronged. And then I let the Spirit do what only He can do to soften our hearts and teach us to forgive others the way that Jesus has forgiven us. I have learned over the years that there are several areas in parenting that only the Spirit can truly handle. I can speak life-giving words, but the Spirit has to do the soul work that no Mama can do. Forgiveness is something that the Spirit has to root in them.I plant the seeds, he harnesses the roots. 

When we're pitching fits... Fits are evidence of a lack of self control. They are rooted in pride and can only be broken down by the exemplifying of the opposite of pride, which is complete and utter selflessness, the practice of being others-minded. With the little ones, fits are a training issue and they are dealt with kind words, discipline, example and consistency. But the honest truth is that there are some not so young folks in this house that still pitch fits, myself included. 

Embarrassing and lame, but true. 

Sometimes when trying to "control" five little ones, I can feel so out of control and I'll find myself doing something childish like crossing my arms and making a pouting-angry face or raising my voice simply because I can't think of anything better to do in the moment. And so, with us older ones still struggling in this area of self control, I've needed a place to go in my mind when I feel the tension rising up in me, or in one of my children. The issue is the same for the older ones, just as it is for the younger ones. And the answer is the same too. Us older ones need to discipline ourselves and be consistent and speak kind, life-giving words into out raging souls in order to calm them. 

I've come to the conclusion that the reason that I am often so upset is because I can't control everything that goes on in this place with all these people. 

And there is a verse that I have already mentioned above that fits the bill, and reminds me to put myself aside. It reminds me that this life is not about always being in control, but rather about asking and trusting the Lord to put the fruits of the Spirit in me as I learn to live with other sinners like myself day in and day out... 

So when I am on the verge of exploding I repeat these words to myself or to the child who is ranting, "The Lord is patient with you, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is patient with you, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." 

Because isn't that it? Isn't that what the Lord does with us our whole lives through. He walks with us. He's patient. He repeats Himself over and over and over again, because quite frankly it's hard for our self-centered brains to understand why He's so incredibly selfless... or maybe more accurately, HOW He's so incredibly selfless. 

I find it kind of funny when I tell people that I'm struggling with my kids and they tell me that I just need to go do something for myself. I find it funny because feeding myself is what got me into the mess I'm in in the first place. (Breaks are needed and good, they simply are not always the solution to my sin.)

I'm starting to realize that I don't really need more of myself, I need more of Christ. And when I'm struggling, I don't need to run away to Ross or TJ Max and buy myself another shirt that I don't need. I need to press in. I need to face my self centered responses and practice the fruits of the Spirit towards the ones I love. And that takes practice... lots and lots of practice. It's not going to come to me the first time, the tenth time or even the thousandth time. 

I need to stay right where I am and speak those words out loud to them and me, "The Lord is patient with me, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is patient with you, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." And then I need to take it one step further and put my desire for control aside and instead take the time to do whatever it is that needs doing in the moment and do it in kindness and love... I need to live towards these kids the way the Lord lives towards me... "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." These qualities are not going to be grown in me if I keep choosing to run away rather than run toward what the Lord has placed in my life. 

My reality is that I have  five children, that we home school, that we all sin, that there are a million meals to be made and good amount of toilets to be wiped down. I live with a hot Cowboy, who does things differently than I do, who adds hot sauce to everything I make for dinner, who insists on wearing his nice jeans when he's working on his greasy car and leaving this Mama in a constant state of trying to remove grease stains from his pants. This is my reality. It's what God has chosen for me. And it's a gift. Even when it doesn't feel like it's a gift. Because what He's given me in my reality is the opportunity to become more and more like Christ in each of my moments. And I can't become more like Him if I don't have the opportunity to chose Him.

All of our realities are different. But our desires to be like our Savior are what link us together. 

I started out doing this mothering thing with very little of His Word under my belt. 

And over the years He's taken me deep into His Word in a way that I never thought imaginable. 

If He can pour His sweet Word into this Mama, He can pour it into anyone. :)

That's what we whisper to each other when we struggle under this roof... His sweet Word. 

And we whisper a lot, because it's the whispering that calms the crazy. :)