Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Breaking the Cycle of Discontentment

I've written about this before but I feel it is such a prevalent heart struggle that it's worth repeating.


Do your kids harbor discontentment?


I watch Grayden look at other kids...

what they have,
what they are allowed to do,
what they are capable of doing

and I begin to sense a spirit of discontentment in him.

Without him even saying so, I am well aware he is comparing and contrasting what he has or doesn't have & what he can and cannot do with those around him.  A very natural and normal thing to do. 

The real concern lies with what he does with his observations and thoughts.

Does he dwell upon them igniting feelings of discontentment and entitlement?

OR

Does he simply observe the possessions, abilities, and opportunities of others while still maintaining a grateful heart for his own?

I know full well the struggle to resist the temptation to allow discontentment and entitlement to cloud my own blessings.

If only I had this, then I'd be happy.
If only I could do this, then I'd be happy.

And it doesn't stop at "if only."

The If Only game driven by discontentment leads to a spirit of entitlement.  We feel we deserve or have a right to something and when we don't get it we become bitter and angry.

This bitterness and anger then leads to an apathetic heart toward sin.   We begin to live life with this attitude:

"If I don't get what I want and deserve, then I should be able to do whatever I want."

With apathetic hearts we excuse away unhealthy and sinful behaviors. 

And so the cycle continues...

Discontentment 
"I want."
 
leads to
 
Dependent Happiness 
"If only"
 
leads to
 
Entitlement 
"I deserve"
 
leads to
 
Apathetic Heart 
"If I don't get what I want and deserve,
then I deserve to do whatever I want."

leads to

Discontentment

No person is free from this struggle.  Doesn't matter how rich, beautiful, or talented you are or aren't.  We all want what others have and if we don't address our feelings in a biblical way, we get stuck in this vicious cycle of discontentment.

Just yesterday I was discontent with the amount of child-free time I got.  Allie didn't nap and I had a grumbling spirit about all the driving around I did all day for my kids (school, preschool, errand, swim lessons, etc).  I just wanted a little Renee time to accomplish some things (bills, Bible Study preparation, exercise...things like that). 

I began to dwell on the old me (the one before kids) who got time to herself.  I began to want what I used to have, totally oblivious to the many blessings and advantages I currently have with 3 precious children in my life.  And so my heart grew discontent. 

And then I started the "If only" game.  If only I had an hour or two away, then I'd be a more patient parent.  If only I had an hour or two away, then I'd be a more attentive parent.  If only I had an hour or two away, then I'd be happy and content. 

This dependent happiness mindset led me to feel entitled. I had thoughts like, "I work so hard.  I'm faithful to my kids every day.  I don't complain about the fact that I can't even go to the restroom without being interrupted by a child who needs something.  I deserve a break."  And so I took on a spirit of entitlement. 

This spirit of entitlement sparked anger in my heart which turned to apathy.  Immaturely, I began to take on the attitude that if I wasn't going to get what I wanted, then I would just do what I wanted. And what I wanted to do involved a lot of whining and complaining---obnoxious behaviors for a woman blessed with such a precious family and privileged to be home with them.

And in the end, I grew even more discontent. 

Friends, I know that many of you understand this cycle.  And I know that many of you see this cycle in your children as well.

So how do we break the cycle?  And how do we help our children break the cycle?

First we take a step back, away from the cloud of discontentment, and we look with a different perspective...a grateful one. 

We remember what we do have.  We remember what we can do.  And we choose to play the Glad Game.  We choose to be grateful for our blessings rather than dwelling on what we don't have and what we can't do. 

Like an athlete trains to perfect her sport, so we must train our eyes, minds, and hearts to be grateful.  We are only as discontent as we allow ourselves to be.

Second, we lead our children by example.  We show them what it looks like to live a life of gratefulness.

This act of grateful living is a biblical virtue.  It's also clear evidence of having Christ in us.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  Colossians 2:6-7

Grateful living is overflowing with thankfulness for Christ and all of His blessings and provisions.  

This is my prayer for my children.  That they wouldn't conform and be controlled by the cycle of discontentment. But rather that they would strive to live a life of gratefulness; a life overflowing with thankfulness NO MATTER what kind-of life others around them are having.

Jesus,
I pray my kids would break free from the cycle of discontentment that so many people are stuck in.  Would you protect them from a discontented and entitled heart which can only lead to apathetic hearts.  As they begin and continue to live in You may they be rooted and built up in You.  May they be strengthened in the faith as they trust Your provisions for their life.  And may they live a life of gratefulness; a life overflowing with thankfulness for all the big and little things you have done and continue to do for them each and every day.  When they are tempted to embrace a cloud of discontentment, may they have the strength and wisdom to see their circumstances through a grateful lens. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Confessions of The Forgetful Tooth Fairy

So it's official,


I'm the worst tooth fairy a kid could ever have.

I'm not necessarily cheap.
But I'm always late.
Really late.

Grayden has lost 4 teeth thus far.  And every time he stuck one of those little guys under his pillow, it's taken me days (sometimes longer than a week) to remember my tooth fairy duties.

The trouble is that he is well aware that I am the tooth fairy.  So every time he wakes up, checks under his pillow, and sees his tooth still sitting there he knows I forgot.

Bless his heart, he is really quite gracious about it all.  Some days he will patiently question why the tooth fairy hasn't come yet but most days he says nothing even though I know he checks with anticipation each morning. 

Just last week he lost another tooth and it took me 6 days to remember.  I don't have a good excuse.  I guess I have too much other stuff on my mind.  And by the time the kids go to bed my brain shuts down.  I'm tired and drained from the days work and tooth fairy duties slip my mind. 

Every morning last week I woke up and realized I had forgotten.  And I felt awful

You'd think I would have written myself a reminder note or programmed my phone to buzz at me.  But for some unknown reason I never did.  So this last time I eventually came as a daytime fairy (when Grayden wasn't looking, of course).  That evening before bed I heard him exclaim to his brother,

"Cole, the tooth fairy came during the day!" 

He then followed up with a,

"That's weird."

Yeah kiddo...Weird and pathetic.

This tooth fairy business is like a staple experience for a kid growing up and I'm screwing it up royally.  Instead of remembering it as a fun little game, Grayden will likely remember I always forgot.  Will this ruin him for life?  No.  But if I can help it I'd like that he didn't remember me in this way.

So, I've sworn an oath to myself that the next tooth he loses will be retrieved by the tooth fairy the first night.  I just can't bear to let myself forget again.

As I've created a plan in my head for the next tooth that falls out, I've thought about how thankful I am that my heavenly Father is never late and doesn't ever forget me.

He's never too tired to keep His promises.  He doesn't have too many other things on His mind.

And even in those deserts when I'm wondering where He is, He hasn't forgotten me.  I know because He always finds a way to show me.

"But Zion said, 'The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me.'  Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."  Isaiah 49:14-16

This is a truth and promise I want my children to hold close to their hearts.  Even when mom's late or forgets altogether, their God will never forget them.  Because of Jesus, they are engraved on the palms of His hands.  They are ever before Him.  He remembers them and shows compassion always and forever.  His is a love they can trust entirely.  A love that is perfectly on time.

Let's spend some time talking with our kids about God's promise to never forget them.  Perhaps you can share how God has fulfilled this promise in your own life or in the life of someone close to you.  Contrary to what the world is trying to teach our kids, God does exist and He will never forget them.  So let's teach them this truth.

And as always, let's couple our teaching with prayer!

Father God,

Even when their mother forgets them, I pray my kids would find great comfort and peace in knowing that You will never forget them.  Even when the world wants them to question where You are, may they trust in You.  Even when the enemy lies and tells them You've forsaken them in their greatest need, I pray You would, like You've always done with me, show up in a perfect, timely way.  Father, may my kids find refuge and strength in the palm of Your hands.  May they count on You through thick and thin.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Secret Service

The other day, while packing up to leave the house, I asked my six year old Grayden to do a small favor for me. 

Here was his response: 

"Why can't you do it?"

Even as I type his words I find myself needing to breathe and count to ten.

Grayden is normally very willing to help.  This was the first time he ever responded to a request for help in such a defiant way. 

His defiance in that moment sparked a battle in my flesh.  I would have liked to have responded in the Spirit by calmly, yet firmly, repeating my request.  Followed up by a firm reminder that our family is a team and that it takes all five of us to succeed.

Unfortunately, I responded in the flesh.  In anger, I threw a lot of flaming arrows right at him.  I'm pretty sure I started off with a very loud and sarcastic, "Excuse me?" 

And then followed that up with a long list of all the things I had done for him that day and how dare he act as though I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs. 

And then I might have told him the world didn't revolve around him and that if he responded defiantly to my request again that he would be doing much more than what the measly request I had just asked of him required.

Friends, I'm really not ok with how I responded to him and I've thought about it a lot since.  Granted, he was wrong to respond with such defiance.  But my pathetic need to throw at him all my acts of servitude revealed to me how much I crave credit and recognition in motherhood.

He lit a fuse that had been sparking for months in my mind and heart.  Day in and day out I sacrifice my own needs for the needs of my children.  As their mother, I go from one task to the next where I serve, serve, and serve. 

Yet this isn't the problem for me.  The problem is that I do all this essentially in hiding or in secret.  No one sees the acts of service I do.  For a long time I've wanted to start of a list of all that I do in a given day.  Just so that I can show it to someone, anyone, and get some praise or recognition.  The truth is that I don't mind the serving, I just don't like doing it in secret.

So is it okay for me to crave a little recognition for those acts of mom-service done behind the scenes?

As hard as this is to say, the answer is No.

Matthew 6:1-4 solidifies this No.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Sacrificing my own needs, desires, and agenda in order to serve my children is a form of giving.  And this teaching taught by Jesus reminds me that God rebukes the haughty giver who wants recognition from others.  But He rewards the one who gives in secret.

In motherhood, we are often called to serve in secret without craving recognition.   For when we serve our children to be recognized, we aren't serving them at all.  We are in fact serving ourselves and feeding our pride.

I ran across a powerful quote that speaks directly to this issue:

“Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness.
 
The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition.  It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered.
 
If we stoutly refuse to give in to this lust of the flesh, we crucify it. Every time we crucify the flesh, we crucify our pride and arrogance.”   Richard Foster
 
Friends (Moms), when we find ourselves desperate to dictate or pen a list of all that we do, we must crucify the flesh and serve in hiddenness.  And as Jesus promised, when our Father sees what we've done in secret, He will reward us.  A reward that begins with a grand transformation of our own fleshly desires into Spirit desires and ends with a solid filling of His divine peace, joy, and genuine fulfillment.

Isn't it ironic how a defiant response from my son has sifted and refined me.  God is using motherhood to make me holy.  And I trust He is doing the same for you.

As I think about how I'd like to pray for my (and your) children today, I am compelled to pray that they would give of their possessions, their time, and themselves in secret without ringing a bell and letting the world around them know how generous they are.  I hope they will seek the Father's reward for secret and humble giving rather than settle for the generic praise the world might offer them.

Join me and let's pray!

Jesus,
You gave and gave of Yourself on this earth without ever craving the recognition you deserved.  I pray my children would have Your same attitude about giving.  I pray they would lay their possessions, their time, and themselves down in service to others with a humble heart.  And I also pray they wouldn't give in such a way that seeks attention and recognition.  Rather, I pray they would give in secret and eagerly wait for the Father's reward.  May they resist the cravings of the flesh to call attention to their services rendered.  May they draw strength from Your Spirit and crucify the flesh and its desire for honor.  May they make it their goal as they give (and serve) to please You and You alone.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Diligence versus Laziness


Where I live, the cold and snowy days seem endless.  And the result is that our household is a bit weary of being cooped up inside.  Our weariness has birthed an attitude of restless boredom which is currently the main culprit for troublesome attitudes and behaviors in our house.

For me, all creativity as a mom has been depleted.  I'm weary of the same indoor activities, the same mundane tasks.  And so restless boredom has set in.  Unfortunately instead of motivating me to come up with creative fun indoor activities with my kids, this restless boredom seems to have stifled my creativity completely.  It has depleted so much of my motivation and left me lazy.  And for me, laziness leads to trouble.  It is the perfect excuse in my mind to revert back to old sinful habits, ones that occupy my time (and mind).  Instead of striving to please the Lord in my parenting, my laziness leads to a consuming self-centered spirit aimed at pleasing me, and me alone.

For the kids, they are also weary of the same indoor activities and mundane tasks.  Their mother's sluggishness and lack of creativity, as well as their own, has led to a restless boredom resulting in a heightened amount of whining & complaining, sibling bickering, and foolish behavior. 

As much as the kids and I have tried to snap out of this troubling state, the boredom often overpowers and consumes our thinking and actions.  I keep thinking that if only we could get a few days of dry, warmer weather where we were able to play outside or go to a park without freezing our limbs off, then perhaps we could refuel and reset our thinking & behaviors.  But with mother nature there are no guarantees and so I simply cannot keep waiting for what I'm not certain will happen for at least another month. 

In the meantime, as winter presses on, what can we do to strengthen our weary, bored, and troublesome selves?

After a day FULL of trouble, yesterday I asked God this exact question.  As I sought His Word for answers I kept coming back to the following verse:

Proverbs 13:4
"The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied."  NIV

The Message version translates it this way,

"Indolence wants it all and gets nothing, the energetic have something to show for their lives."
(Indolence is simply another word for laziness)

As I meditated on this verse, I felt the Lord giving me a locker room pep talk.

"Quit grumbling Renee.  Quit moping about lazily.  Quit filling your time with foolish behaviors.  Get up and be diligent in playing with your kids, even if its with the same matchbox cars or train set.  If you crave something new and exciting, then diligently pursue it.  If you want less trouble throughout the day, then be energetic about each day and creatively plan.  This last wintry month is no excuse for lazy and sluggish parenting.  I promise that if you pursue diligent desires, I will satisfy them fully."

Alright coach, I hear ya!

I plan to confess to my children today and ask for forgiveness for my recent sluggish behavior in parenting.  I also plan to talk with them about their own restless boredom that has led to lazy, troublesome behaviors of their own.

Then together we will PRAY and ask the Lord for wisdom concerning what plan we can set in place to get through the rest of the winter indoors.  With the Lord's wisdom, I hope to make a list of creative activities we can do so as to avoid foolish and troublesome attitudes and behaviors. I also hope to make a list of all the mundane tasks we need to accomplish daily and weekly together, set realistic goals, and discuss how we can work together as a team to accomplish them. 

I imagine that some of you reading can relate to what I've written about today.  You know what it's like to be stuck in a sluggish parenting rut.   You understand the frustration with wanting to work unto the Lord in whatever job the Lord has for you today, but feelings of restless boredom cripple your efforts.  And many of you see it in your own children as well.  Their sluggish behaviors are getting them into trouble. 

Would you join me in prayer and let's ask the Lord to give our children, as well as ourselves, the strength to be diligent in parenting no matter how bored or mundane life gets.  And let's ask Him to protect us from restless boredom that always leads to a grumbling attitude and troublesome behaviors.

Lord God,
Thanks for the pep talk.  I do pray today Lord for my kids and for myself, would You help us to resist sluggish and troublesome attitudes and behaviors during the remaining winter months.  Would You help us to be diligent no matter how weary we are of the mundane play and tasks day after day.  I pray for creativity in our play.  I ask for wisdom in planning activities and in setting team goals for accomplishing mundane family tasks.  I pray Lord You would satisfy our diligent desires and I pray You would bless our efforts to be energetic and creative.