I am an idea girl.
Given any problem, any situation, any endeavor, my brain can spit out ideas faster than I can write. When I was working as a programmer at a national cabinet company my ingenuity served me well. I loved to come up with ideas and processes that increased efficiency across multiple departments to minimize loss and improve business. I was super nerdy like that.
When I became a mom I found a new and unexpected application for my process improvement mentality and my idea factory of a brain. I had an endless supply of meal planning approaches, housework organization schemes, and schedules for baby. As my toddlers grew it was a natural and extremely exciting transition to begin homeschooling them. My nerdy side leaped at the opportunity to research what my kids should be learning, organize their curriculum and create a plan to execute for their education. I was in nerd heaven.
While I’ve always been an idea girl, I’ve fallen terribly short on execution and consistency. If I search my computer right now I’ll find near 20 different meal planning spreadsheets and databases. I’ve been through stacks of various housecleaning schedules. After 4 years of homeschooling my kids have been on a wild ride of homeschool schedules and varying curriculum. Each year they’ve enjoyed only the scraps of summer as we’ve finished the calendar year hopelessly behind on their key subjects. I’m a visionary, a planner, an idea girl. I always start strong – full of hope and excitement – and rarely finish well.
I’ve slowly and reluctantly come to accept that my own brain – my idea factory – has become an idol in my life. Oh golly, I think I’m so smart! Since I never lack an idea to fix a problem I hardly turn to God first for answers and help. And whenever we turn to something in place of turning to God it’s a clear sign of an idol in our lives.
It’s not even just about my brain. It’s about my SELF. I turn to ME for answers first. And lately God has gently revealed to me that this trend is destroying my parenting.
I am desperate for His help.
Despite all my natural wisdom, creativity, opinions and ideas, I am not the parent I have dreamed of becoming. I dream of being “Christy Full Of Grace.” When I imagine the mom my heart longs to be, I see myself full of God’s grace – slow and patient with my little ones. I imagine praying with them and over them at their every struggle. I imagine teaching them how to turn to God for each hardship – modeling for them godly character. I imagine a home full of His peace. We pray and give encouraging words to each other. We study the Bible and share insightful revelations. I model and teach hard work, responsibility and consistency. And we reach out to others by becoming missionaries of love in our home towns.
I have been a mom now for almost 9 years. 9 years to become the type of mom I desire to be and I am nothing like her. If we had a nanny cam I would be horrified for my husband to see my worst monster mom fits. My own lack of self control in my reaction to frustration is a blatant undeniable image of a life dripping with sin. For all my good moments – my new ideas that fuel better approaches, my Sunday evening spiritual parenting, my tiny victories that show me the possibilities – I am an out of control, sinful, desperate momma.
About 7 months ago my husband and I made the shocking discovery that we were pregnant a 4th time. As I write this my belly is spilling out onto my lap with a miracle baby boy snuggling up inside it (we have 3 girls.) I can’t help wonder lately if there is enough life inside of me to parent FOUR children well.
I am at the end of myself. For all my visions of the mom I desire to be, my own sinful nature keeps it hopelessly out of reach. I have stopped and started countless times. I have picked myself up and tried again more times than I could ever remember. Parenting is just hard. I am out of ideas.
I had a tiny victory yesterday. I have been desperately praying to God for help parenting my 3 sweet girls. In a slightly sarcastic dialogue with myself I thought “what if, instead of yelling at them for every little thing they do wrong, I went over and prayed for them? It can’t hurt. So what if I lose an opportunity to correct them? Prayer is always a good thing.”
Minutes later my 8 year old displayed some ugly attitude and ran to her room and slammed the door. I gently opened it and sat on the floor next to my sobbing girl. I rubbed her back and began to pray. The first few moments were just words from my brain, but as I prayed my faith arose and I began to pray with more fervor and the Holy Spirit edged His way into the prayer. I prayed and prayed. Then we talked.
I taught her spiritual truths for what she was going through. I told her that when we are having days when we are getting frustrated easily over and over, we need to stop and take care of ourselves. We need to take care of our bodies – are we thirsty, tired, hungry? We need to take care of our emotions – has it been awhile since we’ve had hugs from mom, one-on-one time with parents, or is something bothering us that we haven’t addressed? And we need to take care of ourselves spiritually – have we spent time praying, worshipping, giving to others? I taught her about allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell with and in us and how He helps us with the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. We can try to get these things on our own and have some success, but allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell within us is a much better way to walk in all these gifts.
It was a great conversation. I felt I had finally done the right thing. She seemed like she had absorbed a lot of it. We snuggled, smiled, and moved on.
The next half hour went well, but was followed by the same struggles. Over the rest of the day, my patience failed, the chaos pressed me down, the busyness rushed me and by the end of the night my sweet girl was fully enveloped in the usual struggle. As I put her to bed, my unholy self scolded her. I told her that the next day I expected her to be kinder to her sisters and to just be a nicer person. She looked up at me and made a profound statement that represents all of us – “Mom, I just don’t know how to change myself.”
Her statement sank deep into my heart. It hung out in my spirit while I slept. God is so kind. So many mornings I awake with a song stuck in my head. If I stop and listen it is more often than not His Spirit speaking to me. This morning I awoke with the song lyrics to “Tonight” by TobyMac & Skillet rolling around in my brain:
We wanna rise
We wanna touch the other side
(It starts tonight)
We wanna soar
We wanna reach right out for more
(‘Cause it starts tonight)
I want to reach right out for more.
We are all born with a sin problem. We do the wrong things and we don’t know how to change our selves. Some of us find humanly ways to change our habits and better our behavior. I have had great success focusing on a problem I’m having, coming up with an idea to fix it, and executing a plan to change. But these changes are often short lived and miss the mark. For all my ideas, how smart I think my brain is, I simply cannot change myself the way that God can change me.
As parents we cannot give what we have not received. I need God to change me in the core of my being into the parent He longs to unleash in me. Only by allowing Him full access to my heart – and my every moment – can I possibly model the supernatural cure for sin so that my kids can learn to walk in freedom.
What a powerful, mighty, profound and momentous opportunity we have to teach our children how to walk in God’s freedom every day. Think of all the times we can teach them repeatedly over the course of their entire childhoods. If we could walk them through their difficulties in a godly way at every single opportunity, by the time they are adults they would have years upon years of experience and true relationship with the Creator upon which to build the rest of their lives.
What a holy calling we have.
I am praying for God’s help at every moment. I want to learn to turn to Him for every single moment of my day. I need His wisdom, direction, and help to advance through each minute of every hour. He is the only one who knows not only our own hearts but also the hearts of our children. Only He can design the perfect correction to each misstep. Only He can reveal the absolute best parenting approaches.
Only He can truly change us.