The 5 Fights Before 9.

Fight the fall into fear, failure, and doubt by giving up guilt in exchange for grace; fetching forgiveness for faults.

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I have kids. If I want to entertain the notion of a “quiet” time before the chaos erupts, my alarm can only beep a maximum number of three times. In the dark of dawn, I silence the beep and gently shut my bedroom door so that my teeny tiny sleepyheads aren’t awoken by the tap of my toothbrush. Like 007, I swiftly breeze back out the door, shutting it to mute the snores echoing off the walls. I pad lightly down the stairs in my slippers, begging my bones not to crack until I reach the kitchen. My quiet little Keurig whirs on and steams my morning coffee, and I carefully stir the swirl of my fancy dark chocolate syrup and coconut milk with a plastic spoon to avoid cup clinks. Then, I meander to my place of morning bliss, steaming warmth hugging my hands.

I really do feel like I’ve accomplished a mission when I sit down at my desk…and crack open the Word for an instructional day-prep. Ah…the five minutes before the five fights before nine…are so glorious.

imageOnce the first piece of light cracks the dark open, little feet make passes down the stairs in competition for my lap. This particular morning, my daughters came down convinced that I did not have enough love to cuddle them both at the same time, and the jabbing began. Fight one…mom’s attention.
Morning cuddles met, they trudged back up the stairs to get dressed, and fight number two ensued…the headband.

“No, Lauren!” Her sister snapped.

“That’s my headband and your not wearing it today!!!”

“But it matches perfect…” Lauren wailed, and I could hear the snap back of the headband as it was forcefully removed from her head.

Making time back down the stairs to tattle, I pointed her directly back up, “I’m sorry, Lauren, it’s Brianne’s headband.” I hollered up the stairs over little sister’s stomping, “Brianne, you could have handled that a little nicer…”

Instead of tagging in to engage in the morning, I let my eyes remain glued to my screen, and ears peeled in awareness of the sharp murmured tones coming from the bathroom again. Even though I couldn’t make out he words, I knew Brianne was giving her sister an unnecessary lesson in sass, and taking a few elbow jabs in return.  image

“Lauren, I’m getting ready for work, you can’t come in here,” I heard my husband holler from our bathroom.

Toothbrush and hijacked toothpaste in hand, Lauren’s brisk steps flew across my desk and into the downstairs bathroom, peering over her shoulder and whipping the door closed before her older sister could catch her. Fight number three…tooth-brushing. “LAUREN…BRIANNE…” I commanded them both to my desk and then back upstairs to brush their teeth in their own toothpaste-globbed sink.

I drifted up and out of my sacred morning space of serenity to feed children breakfast and pack lunches. To buy me five minutes to get dressed without curiosity imploding in the kitchen, I dished out a practice math quiz and some sight words. Two minutes in, a math quiz emergency busted into my bathroom. Fight number four…even if dad did print out the answers to the math quiz by mistake…don’t bust in on mom in the bathroom to unveil the tragedy.

By the time it was time to leave for school, I mechanically shut down fight number five and all of its “my-winter-coat-is-too-hot-it-makes-me-too-sweaty-on-recess” grandeur before it could even grow legs.

“Brianne, here’s a tip,” I started, “anytime you ever ask me anything with that facial expression and that tone…it’s an automatic no…I don’t even know where you’re head’s at…”

I can see the look on her face still, the utter shock that she had been de-worded and denied before the first syllable passed her lips. Down went fight number five…I don’t want to wear my winter coat.

Seat-belts buckled to sound the final lap of the morning mile, with spelling word drills and hugs and smooches and cuddles and car dance parties, while they wait for their turn to hop out of my car and into the school hallway full of friends. My early morning prayers for their safety at school rushed to the top of my mind as I drove off, welled up, and wallowed in a sea of guilt for nagging them through the morning.

imageIt’s frustrating to lose fights with my feelings while the Bible is still sitting open on my desk. I’ve been making myself feel gullibly guilty for that lately…and for the general lack of measuring up to the state of “holy” that I feel I should be maturing to at this point in my life.

As I walked back into the quiet house, I noticed Brianne’s blanket lying on the floor underneath my desk. She’s had “Fuzzy Wuzzy” since the day she was born. Although she’s growing up and out of the blankly stage now, she still sleeps with it every night and drags it with her to snuggle in my lap each morning. This particular morning, she brought her little pink and purple princess Bible along with it…and a highlighter…and sticky notes. We both had so much fun as she asked me for verses and felt so accomplished as she found and highlighted them. In the chaos of fight number one, no one noticed “Fuzzy Wuzzy” had fallen to the floor.

She really is growing up…and picking up, His Word. Wow. Here I was putting myself imagethrough the guillotine of guilt, over things I can’t change about how we all are in the morning…and overlooking the grace of God to take my one small act of obedience and answer my own prayer with it.

“Please, let my daughters hear your call early in life.”

Seven years old, and her search has begun.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the Saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19

“The eyes of your heart…” I looked up the verse at BibleGateway and clicked “Study This,” to discover through The Dictionary of Bible Themes that “eyes” are a much bigger anomaly than I had ever pondered before.

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Falling at the feet of Jesus with my faults is healthy, but getting up with the guilt and imagewalking off with it is not. From now on, I want to see the blanket dropped in the corner instead of the gasket I blew over fight number five. Through prayer and persistence, I choose to see a more positive perspective. Perhaps you’ll want to join me…and pass some peace around.

1. See what you want to see. Fight for the light. It’s everywhere. The sun comes up everyday, and streetlights dim-out even in overcast skies. Gaze at God’s creation. Glance at His Word. Start your day there. There’s something in this world that you would mourn over if lost…if your at a loss…start by saying, “Thank you” for whatever or whoever that is. Start to see…

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:7-8

2. Look for the Lesson. Watch for what God’s showing you.

“For it is by grace that you are saved through faith; it came not through your own striving but it is the gift of God. Not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

This is where a lot of people confuse religion and holiness. Holiness is pursing a change of heart inspired by a relationship with Jesus through God’s free gift of grace. The lessons are laced in His Word and our prayers. No one person can know your heart like you do and God does. You have to work holiness out with Him. Come to Him in authenticity, and look for Him to guide you personally. As you see Him, you’ll seek more.

3. Lift your eyes. Tilt your head back. Pray. Ask. Seek. God is faithful and good.

“The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.” Psalm 34:15

He hears you, He’s with you… so talk to Him. Jesus is our lifeline to the Father, our gift of grace and forgiveness. I am learning that to pursue a life of holiness I also need to receive the gift of grace that was so freely shed in blood for me on the cross, and fetch the forgiveness that has been thrown up for me to grab.

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imageGive up the guilt. Replace it with grace. Take off your pretty shoes and wiggle your dirty toes. Be you and follow Him. He is faithful. Fight for Him.

Happy Fighting,

Megs

 

Stay encouraged!

Pushed.

The circle of guilt will push you around unless it’s kept in check with truth.

“Stop pushing me!”

If you have more than one kid, this is a phrase you are no doubt familiar with.

“MOM!” my little one exclaims, getting ready to launch into a string of tattles, “Bri Bri is being so mean!!!!”

Once again, my daughters decided to break out all of the behavioral stops.  In a giant crowd of people, they decided to stoop to the ground to draw in the dirt with rocks.  Soon after, they began arguing about which space was who’s…which then escalated into throwing the rocks at each other…one missing and hitting someone else in the leg.  Then, they stood up to push each other with their full strength.  After I ignored the little ones cries, she decided to take matters into her own hands…

“MOM!” my older daughter wailed, “Lo Lo just punched me in the stomach!!!”

I said my good-byes to adult conversation, and went about my way chasing my little monsters back to the van.

These situations used to happen to me a lot.  I never could figure out how to handle the embarrassment, and the watching eyes, when my little girls misbehaved in public.  When rocks started flying, that circle of guilt came rushing back in an instant, reminding me why I try to avoid exposing this kind of life strife in the first place.

“I’m a horrible mom.”IMG_8585

“Why don’t my kids listen to me?”

“I teach them manners…they get along at home…”

“What am I doing here in the first place, when I should be at home doing things with my kids?”

“They’re all going to talk about me when I turn around and leave.”

“Why am I so insecure as a person as a mother?”

“What’s wrong with the way I am that is bleeding down into a problem that my kids now have?”

“#fail.”

“I can’t do this.”

The swift walk to the car, whilst gripping bother daughter’s pinch points, would usually end with this mom taking away every privilege under the sun.  I always felt like I was losing my mind as I switched from smiling goodbyes to “most disappointed I’ve ever been in you face” so quickly my kids would laugh at first.  Which just made me even more upset and feeling disrespected.  Then another circle would begin to whir…

“How can you pray so much…read the Bible so much…go to church…listen to praise music and sermons all the time….and possess no patience to discipline your daughters with compassion?”

From one circle to the next.

That’s how life can be sometimes.  Actually, if I’m being honest, that’s how many of my days can be consumed and wasted if I allow that particular thought progression to keep gaining ground.  Over every failure, opportunity I’ve walked away from, friendship that has ended, time of life that has passed…I circle…

and circle…

and circle…

…until I’m so dizzy that I have trouble focusing on the direction God is leading me.

Life has a way of replaying the highlight real after a corner you’ve decided to turn starts to fade into the distance….shut it down.  Remain in God’s Word daily, and run to it in refuge when the outtakes feel humiliating all over again.

Circles will push you around, and there are plenty of people who will to jump on board the ship of thoughts until it’s over capacity and sinking fast.

Do not let these thoughts push you around, and don’t blame them on other people.

  1.  Running to others in doubt to find direction in their words.
  2. Letting emotions lead.
  3. Expecting others to build my confidence.
  4. Waiting to be asked.
  5. Ignoring opportunities to grow.

“Do you!” preached Pastor Steven from Elevation Church.

Do you.

IMG_8574Not what other people think you should do, or what you think another person wants you to do.  Spend the time with God and do what He wants you do to.  Listen for the few voices that encourage you…and turn up their volume.  I wish I had.

I wish I could take back a ton of decisions I made in lack of patience to wait on a sure word from God first.

A ton.

So, what to do with that circle?

Drown in the guilt?  Regret? Shame?  Keep replaying criticism until the track starts to skip?

Or, run to God.  Run it by God.  Give Him a chance to talk without interrupting.

“That’s it,” I said to my girls after the rock throwing incident ended in a stomach punched, “you’d better run!”

I took off chasing my two beautiful daughters, for-going that they just embarrassed me in a crowd of people yet again.

“I’m going to tickle torture you!!!!” I yelled and took off running after my two screeching daughters…one who dropped to the ground before I could even get to her, and the other ran just out of reach and the put up her dukes on defense.

In that moment on that day I choose not to be the crazy mom pinching my daughters all the way to the car and grounding them for the rest of their lives.  I choose instead to have compassion on them.  My daughters do so many things right every day.  They get along really well 95% of their lives.  Once in a while, the headache we all get from discipline just isn’t necessary.

And I have heard God say to me,

“Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children, or you’ll crush their spirits.” Colossians 3:21

IMG_8586God clearly stresses the importance of discipline, as well.   Proverbs 22:6 states,

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

But I’ve been crushed in spirit.

I’ve walked away crushed in spirit.

I’ve quit, because I just don’t feel like there’s anything left to be crushed.

God has never answered me in crushing moments with a voice of condemnation.  Never led me to a verse that said, “I told you so” even though he probably did, over and over.  In time, He’ll always show me the err of my ways and help me grow out of that stage of my life.  Help me apologize if I need to…humbly go back and finish what I quit if it’s His will.   But never, no never, in times of crisis of heart, is He a Father lacking compassion for the child He loves so immensely.

I’m that child.  You’re that child.

Turn that voice up.

Let those thoughts  push you around.

Live in that circle.

Happy Tickle-Torturing,

Megs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay encouraged!