He is Risen! – Claiming Christ’s Victory Over Fear

John 1633

This Easter, the best way to celebrate the gift of Jesus is to share what God has been doing in my life this past year. Last year, Easter exposed a void in my faith that I ddin’t even know was there. Deeply painful at the time and very personal even today, I wasn’t sure I would ever share this here – but the work of God and His victories in our lives is always worth sharing, even when it is beyond our comfort level. Sorry, this is going to be a long one…Here goes…

Last spring, the women’s bible study studied the book ‘Fearless” by Max Lucado. After the first session, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) told my husband, “The book seems good, but I really don’t struggle with fear”.

Somehow, I thought that learning what God’s word has to say about fear didn’t apply to me –  a grievous mistake. We completed one chapter of the book before Easter.

You know how some years Easter seems to creep up on you? I’ve had plenty of years when I’ve neglected time with the Lord and haven’t been in His Word as much as I should have been. But, last year, I had been studying the book of Matthew in BSF. For months, I studied Jesus’ life and ministry. Last year I felt ready for Easter with the study of Jesus’ life and death fresh in my mind. I anticipated an Easter with family, filled with gratitude, joy and peace.

I entered the weekend on a perceived spiritual high, having no idea what was about to hit me. I was woefully unprepared.

With family visiting, we were invited to join the rest of my husband’s family at his mom’s church on Easter morning. The idea of those we love, standing together and worshipping the Lord is a joyful one.

What could go wrong?

We walked into the church (which is not our home church), and joined our family. As we took our kids to children’s programming, I noticed tables with donuts and pastries, a treat for the special day.

It took just one child running by me, carrying a pastry, dropping bits of almond on the floor for paralyzing fear to seize me. Our son has a nut allergy, and I had forgotten the Epi-Pens and Benedryl at home – an hour away. It isn’t that an Epi-Pen means safety. It does not! But not having it with me was negligent. It showed my lack of preparation and foresight that I usually have before walking into any unknown environment with our son.

I was as unequipped with his medications and planning, as I was in my own faith on a spiritual level.

I dropped him off in his room and had a sigh of relief as the staff asked me if he had allergies before I could tell them – even with it on the tip of my tongue in my now hyper-aware state. Initially they weren’t planning to provide a snack, so I felt comfortable that the room would be safe, even if the hallways were littered with nut-contaminated (albeit TINY) crumbs. I joined our family in the sanctuary and waited for the service to begin.

I tried to keep it together, but felt rattled. Unsettled.

A woman from the childcare came by and showed me a dixie cup of cookies and asked if my son could eat them. I told her without a label to read the answer was no. They came back later and asked about graham crackers, but again, no label. My anxiety climbed in the very room designated for the worship of the all-powerful God.

As the service began, I sang but the words came out hollow. I prayed for peace and protection. But I was preoccupied, fearful and frustrated with my own poor planning the entire service. My prayers pleaded but were powerless as fear exposed my unbelief.

It felt like both the longest and shortest Easter service I’ve ever been in. I longed for it to be done so I could hold our son, but I longed for it to continue so I could find peace and worship Him fully.

When it ended, people all around me were joyful. I felt defeated.

And still very afraid. I could not shake it. I was so ashamed that my faith was so weak. I was discouraged that it took so little to leave me feeling exposed and that I could not find peace. This was beyond anything I had ever felt or encountered before. It hurt.

I ran to our son and found him safe and sound. He had a wonderful time and told me all about how Jesus had risen. We met our family in the hallway. Many of them had donuts. I kept him close to me. As my son looked around, he asked for a donut. Squatting down, I told him that we were going to grandma’s to eat and had plenty of treats. I showed him how his mom, dad and sister didn’t have a donut either.  But as one might expect, he got upset. Tears welled up in his big brown eyes.

He lashed out, pushing me back and crying out in frustration. He was right. This wasn’t fair at all.

Now choking back my own tears, I signaled my husband we were leaving and scooped our son up as he wailed and ran to the parking lot. By the time I reached the car, we were both in tears. And now the poor child thought he was in trouble for pushing me. We were a mess. There was no way I was going to discipline him for being frustrated because yet again, he could not eat what everyone else was having. I was frustrated too, but grateful we were in the car, away from the crumbs.

I told him I was sorry he couldn’t have the donut and just hugged him until everyone else came out. I was afraid to say anything more because I didn’t want him to sense my fear. As we drove to my mother-in-law’s house, I tried to shake it off. I didn’t want to talk about being afraid in front of our son, so I didn’t talk to my husband about it.

The fear and startling lack of peace remained.  All day. As our children delighted in their lovingly and carefully prepared nut-free Easter eggs and baskets, as we laughed and talked, and as we celebrated the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the sacrifice He made to save us from our sins.

Who would expect something as simple as a donut could bring me to my knees, shaking in fear on Easter Sunday? Certainly not me – I was on a spiritual high, remember?

Easter. The day that highlights the POWER of God and the sacrifice, love, grace and mercy of a willing savior. I was there to worship Jesus, who chose to come to earth, humbled in a human body, choosing to serve and forgive His own creation, even as they rejected Him – A creation that should have known He was their savior – A creation that scorned Him, plotted against Him, and ultimately killed Him although He had never sinned. Not once.

He chose to do it, and in doing so, He took upon Himself, not only my sins and but your sins if you believe, confess and call on His name. He died, willingly, not using His power to stop the pain, suffering, and injustice. Instead, He cried out asking the Father to forgive the very men who were crucifying Him. Then, of His own power, He died, and rose again 3 days later, conquering death and sin. He saved me. He chose me. Jesus is now in heaven, alive, mediating on my behalf, and God the Father now sees me through the lens of Jesus’ blood. Forgiven. Sinless. Holy.

If Jesus Christ is all this…how could I not believe that He could protect our son, whom HE created and loves, from a peanut?

As I wallowed in fear and sadness, Satan was momentarily victorious in my life on a day when I should have been joyously celebrating the victory of Jesus Christ. What more could Satan want than to steal the praise of God as I surrendered to fear? In doing so, I made the day about my own fear and lack of trust. A starling defeat in a season when I had been growing spiritually.

In the days that followed I felt shell-shocked. I downplayed my fear when I mentioned it my husband before bed that night, and then he left on a business trip in the morning. I couldn’t figure out why the fear remained and was so powerful. I decided not talking about it would make it go away.

I was wrong. Once you’ve experienced paralyzing fear, it is far too easy to let your mind wander to what could have happened. It is far too easy to let your mind dwell in dark places that only heighten the intensity of fear and fuel it with more power. I tried to ignore it, but instead it consumed my thoughts, running rampant.

Looking back, the entire situation caught me off guard for a few reasons. First, I had not yet experienced seizing fear about our son’s peanut allergy, even when he was diagnosed two years before. Why? I controlled his environment and food. I had never really had to trust Him because I was trusting myself. Second, my lack of preparation forced me to see my lack of control over our son’s safety. I never forget the Epi-Pen! Third, I tried to pretend I wasn’t afraid because I knew in my head I should trust God, but lacked the perspective and trust to surrender my son’s life.

While doing all I can to keep him safe is absolutely my job, there is simply no way I can control everything. Practically, I should have simply had him sit with us in church, because that would have been the safe and wise choice. And my lack of preparation was a problem I do not plan to repeat. But this was much more than just forgetting the Epi-Pen and being surprised by a donut. There was a much deeper heart issue. I had been so prepared up until that point that I had a false sense of security. By feeling like I had everything under my control, I didn’t have to face reality. I had never surrendered to or even considered the fact that I don’t have this all buttoned up. I never asked myself if I trusted God in this area.

Not having control and ability to keep our son safe was a new feeling – one I still don’t like. But it is the reality all parents face. We will all face fears; of allergies, strangers, accidents, bullies, and choices they will make. We will face the reality that we cannot possibly control everything in our children’s lives as they grow up. Whether we want to or not.

In the middle of the night, my husband out of town, I found myself seized by fear, and crying. Not just weeping, but I think I’ve heard it termed –ugly crying. That following Tuesday, still struggling, I shared with our bible study what had happened. In a rare show of public emotion, I not only teared up, but I sobbed. I choked on my words.  Women dug in their purses and handed me tissues, squeezed my shoulders and gave hugs. They offering wise and Godly advice. They prayed for me. I left encouraged instead of embarassed. They blessed my socks off

They changed my thinking by pointing me to a powerful God who can conquer all of my fears for me if I give surrender to Him and trust that He has them under control. This time, with the truth spilled and prayers of wise Godly women spoken on my behalf, when I then asked God to give me peace, I felt it. Tangible. Powerful. Real.

It wasn’t that the peace wasn’t available on Easter Sunday. It was. But I trusted what my eyes saw – nut covered pastry crumbs – and not what my faith and the Holy Spirit were shouting within me. I learned a very powerful lesson. Fear is a not to be underestimated. It cannot be ignored. It has to be addressed. It cannot be stuffed, or we will give it reign in our life. Delaying the admission of my fear was wrong, and at my detriment.

Fear must be named and brought into the light.

I know now that despite being deep in the study of God’s word, I had neglected to ask God what I was holding back. Self-reliance and thinking we are in control of anything is nothing but pride in disguise. It is dangerous. God was gracious to me by letting me experience the fear 2 years before I have to send our son to Kindergarten. Now I have time to learn to trust God all-the-more before that day. And as I gradually have to surrender my control of our son’s life as he grows up, I need to trust MORE and MORE in God’s control and sovereignty.

I still struggle with fear. As I’ve shared before, it rises often, and has surprised me time and time again this past year. In fact, I have struggled with fear this past year more than ever in my life. The situations I cannot control are not going anywhere and are increasing in frequency. They will continue without ceasing, until both of our children are adults and on their own.

But I refuse to give fear victory in my life. With every test of fear, with every prayer for peace and with every moment I surrender fear to God, the more powerful the light of Jesus shines and the less I dwell in the stifling darkness and oppression of fear. I am learning to turn to God rather than to allow rabbit trails of fearful daydreams. The greatest thing I have to report today is that I have consistently seen victory in the area of fear on a daily basis. It is not easy. Fear for me is an ongoing struggle but with daily struggle comes the opportunity for daily victory. And let me be clear – without the power of Jesus in my life, I am helpless against this fear. There is no victory without Him for me.

As I prepare for Easter this year, I look at Jesus’ victory over sin and death a little differently. Same Jesus. Same sacrifice. But I feel more victory in my life. I see how He has worked in me this past year to deepen my faith, to rely less on my own strength, and to strengthen and prepare me for new challenges. I have felt the peace and comfort that can only come from surrendering to His will and trusting that He will be with us. I know to my bones that no matter what I cannot control, He will still be God, He will still be good, and He IS faithful. I cannot hold onto anything too tight – even our children. I cling to the truth that they were HIS even before they were mine.  He loves them even more than I do.

This past year I have been given tangible evidence that He longs to carry our burdens, knowing I am ill-equipped to carry my own. He has shown me how thinking I don’t struggle with fear is an open door to let it consume me. I must be prepared and be willing to ask myself where I have not surrendered to God because I am controlling things and trusting myself instead of HIM. I find myself grateful for the struggle because the victory is so sweet. This fear is no joke. It rises up and it when it was exposed it felt like a wound ripped open that might never heal. But slowly, I’ve been equipped and althogh it rises up, the fear loses it’s power as I claim Jesus’ victory and promises in my life. I am grateful that instead of letting me dwell in fear, He redeems it and makes me stronger for the next time. At the cross, we become heirs to peace, and heirs to His victory.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV)

He is risen! But we must walk in faith to share in His victory and we must let Him be God.

May He bless you richly as you consider His sacrifice this holy week.

Happy Easter.

Claiming Christ's Victory Over Fear | thisgratefulmama.com

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6 Truths For A Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed

Some jobs are never done. The laundry never ceases, meals do not make themselves and dishes, beds, and bathrooms will be used and require cleaning. And the toys…here is one of the rooms I cleaned and organized this morning. Don’ think it looks bad? This is only 10 minutes later and they’re off in another freshly cleaned room wreaking havoc in there.

6 Truths For A  Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed | thisgratefulmama.com

My attitude varies. Many days, I enjoy the work and feel productive and fulfilled, even when my husband returns from work and the house is again in disarray, and the sink is again full of dishes.

Just what did we do today?

But more often than I’d like to admit, I feel self-pity; as if I were singled-out and sentenced to picking up toys and scrubbing toilets, again. Waking up to a pile of laundry to fold and more to be wash can be disheartening. Sometimes I desire recognition for the work that was done and unseen before the kids scattered every toy from the toy box, again. And some days, I feel the work is not worthwhile or of any lasting value.

But entertaining and dwelling in these selfish thoughts is both toxic, infectious and habit-forming. I no longer feel blessed, I feel controlled. When I could demonstrate good stewardship and a servant heart, I instead demonstrate how to sigh and be resentful while doing chores (no wonder our children struggle with this too!). Now, instead of serving my family and loving them, I’m looking at their dirty laundry, bed sheets and dishes as a burden. So wrong! These people I love (and their things) are not a burden!

This attitude is ungrateful…for our children and their playful hearts…for the blessing to stay home while my husband works equally as hard as I am (or harder)…for the washing machine and dryer and clean water available to me…for the carpet to vacuum, the floors to mop and the bathrooms to clean…for the abundant provision and blessing of God to our family.

Do you sometimes think your children need an attitude adjustment when they are begrudgingly doing chores, or complaining? I have told our kids to change their attitude many times. But we parents know all-too-well that this is no easy task. Once self-centered, negative, grumbling thoughts creep in…they are difficult to banish. When we have much to care for, we are blessed far more than we realize. But the mundane, repetitive nature of these daily tasks often leaves me short-sighted and unrateful.

I can admit that sometimes, this un-grateful mama needs a serious attitude adjustment.

I need to consider the truth of who we do this for, what it is we are doing, and why we are doing it. Then how we do it (our attitude) will follow suit. There is much to be grateful for today. This is the time to enjoy all of this. 

6 Truths For A Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed | thisgratefulmama.com

6 Truths For A  Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed

1. You Aren’t Singled Out

No matter what your job is, much of what is earnestly completed may go unnoticed. Unseen. Or must be repeated again and again. When I worked in the lab, the biohazard bins were filled, right after taking it out, and the samples for tomorrow came in even before we reported results from today. The same is true in corporate jobs; as one issue is resolved, two or three more come up. It may sometimes seem daunting, but in reality, is job-security.

As a mama at home, my children begin enjoying the room just cleaned, or drop crumbs on the floor before I’ve finished mopping the other end. Like everyone else, much of our work is behind-the-scenes, maintaining, cleaning, fixing, and living. In truth, I am no different than you, and we are no different than anyone else. Our work is no less recognized or unrecognized, even if it sometimes feels that way.

2. ‘Tis The Season

The chores of today will not always be. Welcome the season of life you’re in, and live IN it. Here and now.

Ask any mother of grown children – they know the truth and value of these busy days. They experienced children growing up and all the dishes, laundry, noise and chaos that came with it. They miss it. Caring for and raising children is a privilege. A time will come, with less mess, but also with fewer feet making noise and fewer mouths to feed. I, for one, am not ready for that. I like today. The future can’t be sped up or put off. Longing for a time with less mess is not just silly, it is a waste of the blessings I have now.

3. Gratitude Requires Practice

It is not easy to be grateful when scrubbing toilets after a potty-training toddler has left their mark. No, it’s downright hard. But, take time to practice. The more you do, the easier it will be to see things with eyes of gratitude instead of eyes of self-pity. Instead of seeing an unending pile of clothes, thank God for the people who wear them, and that your family is blessed to own such a large pile of laundry. When overwhelmed by the mountain of dishes, be grateful your family has food to eat, are healthy, and for the ability to prepare food in a clean kitchen. So what if you have to clean it? Instead of feeling resentment towards your spouse when they return from work not seeing what you did all day – recognize that you have no idea what mundane details and tasks they did all day either. Thank them for their hard work.

Wondering if I’m going to give thanks for those toilets? Sure am. It may be hard to see the rainbow here, but here goes – when tired of cleaning toilets that smell like the zoo, be glad you’re not cleaning an outhouse and have indoor plumbing. Furthermore, a toilet to clean and a toddler who is learning (and not wearing a diaper) are BOTH blessings worth my gratitude. Also recognize bleach for what it is – a priceless gift.

4. Our Work Is Not Unnoticed

While the love of family can get us through many mundane tasks with a joyful attitude, we also need the hope of an eternal perspective. The Bible tells us that no matter what work we are doing, we do it for the Lord:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23 – 24 (NIV)

And, as Philippians 2:4 points out, sometimes I just need to and obey and do whatever it is without complaining or arguing. When the tasks seem daunting or we are tempted to complain or feel neglected, we must remember that God sees everything. He knows every single thing we do. And (gulp) He knows our attitude while we do it. Your work may feel unrecognized, unnoticed, or unimportant, but the God who created you and loves you, sees you. Do you get that? He. Sees. YouThis is no small thing.

5. Our Attitudes Have Long-Term Consequences

Be forward-thinking as you consider your long-term desire for your children, and your spouse. How do you want to be remembered?

I won’t care in 20 years if my children remember that I cleaned their toilets, or if my husband knows just how many times I picked up Legos today, even though they are now on the floor. What I don’t want them to remember is how I begrudgingly cooked, cleaned, and complained. It won’t matter how good the meal was if they felt I was irritated making it for them. When I complain, it is memorable and infectious. They will learn that these tasks are worth complaining about, and they will not enjoy doing them either because I will have taught them not to. These things are not what I want to impart to them.

No, I am actually OK if they don’t remember me doing any of these things if they remember I served them willingly and lovingly. I will know that I served them regardless of their response. Instead, I will cling to hope that when I see the Lord, I will be recognized for service and obedience to HIM that perhaps no one else on earth will ever know about. Good enough for me.

6. The Work Is Important

Mundane tasks have to be done. We have to eat. We cannot (well, should not) live in filth. Good stewardship is a life-lesson that must be taught. Cleaning and cooking are hygiene and health issues with lasting value and consequences. I can degrade the thought of these things by telling myself it is unimportant work, but it is simply not true. It may not feel like it, but I am imparting life lessons to our children and this is a serious, and important job.

Finally, I am responsible for my own attitude, and I choose my words and actions. It’s time to own them. I decide whether I will approach my work with gratitude and joy or self-pity and disgust. If I didn’t have this work to do…it would mean I didn’t have a family to care for, a house to live in, a job to go to, or a Lord to serve. I would desire and long for these jobs if I no longer had them.

Today as I scrub toilets, mop, cook, and fold laundry, again, I will take time to thank the Lord for the little and big feet who wear these socks, for the country we live in and the clean water, appliances and electricity we enjoy, and for the food that makes the crumbs on my floor and dirties our dishes.

And I will relish the thought that as I choose to do these things joyfully, in service to my family, that the God I love sees me and my work, even if no one else does.

When Our Work Feels Unnoticed | thisgratefulmama.com

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‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – DIY ‘You Are My Sunshine’ Photo Birthday Banner

DIY You Are My Sunshine Photo Birthday Banner

Our daughter turned TWO on Sunday. She is fun, sweet and joyful – full of curiosity, and quirky humor. She is a delight to be around and we are blessed by her every single day.

Before she was born, I bought her a sign for her wall that said “You Are My Sunshine” for her bedroom wall. And it is so true! She brightens up every room, and every face in it.

Even though she’s only two, I wanted to honor her by creating a few decorations. If you know her, you’ll agree that ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is a fitting theme for the girl who truly is…our sunshine.

I am convinced that every child (and adult) needs is a birthday banner in their honor. It is a simple and inexpensive, yet personal touch for their special day. The couple’s shower banner, simple birthday banner and dinosaur party banners I’ve shared in the past have been created using patterned paper and stenciled letters.

But this time I wanted to do something a little different.

I am one of those annoying moms who is always chasing their children with the camera…so with the hundreds (no, let’s be honest, thousands) of photos from the past year, I had plenty to choose from to make a photo banner. I wanted to pick one picture for each month of the past year. This way we can display some of our favorite memories of Adelyn and highlight how she has changed as she grew from one to two.

The biggest problem? Picking just one photo per month!

Pictures were selected that captured various facial expressions, and could be printed in black and white. Photos were printed on white cardstock using our home printer (P.S. remember to select grayscale printing if you don’t want to drain every ink cartridge on your printer), then cut to 8×8″.

The words to “You Are My Sunshine” were typed out using PicMonkey online photo editor (easy to use and free) using ‘Animatic Small Caps’ font (one of my favorites). I took some liberty modifying the rhyme to suit a birthday theme (just imagine singing it to the melody of the song):

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy…when skies are gray. You’ll never know, child, how much we love you. Happy Birthday, to you, today.

You Are My Sunshine Banner Flags

The text was divided between 8 flags to hang between the photos and was also printed on white cardstock.

At first, the white flags and black and white photos were hung using plain clothes pins. Excited to see it, I was disappointed by it’s lackluster and drab appearance…not exactly what I was going for with a sunshine theme.

So, I decided to use some patterned scrapbook paper to brighten things up. First, I made patterned paper covered clothes pins. Since I was short on time, my helpful mom cut the flags and lined them wtih patterned paper. We used Scotch tape for a quick application. She then labeled each photo with the month the photo was taken in. The labels were printed on scrapbook paper and glued onto the photos using a glue stick.

Pretty soon, the once coloress banner looked bright and sunshine-worthy.

Labels

The labeled photos and modified flags were re-hung on twine using the newly decorated clothes pins. 3M Command hooks were used to suspend the banner across our kitchen.

There were two very excited children when they came down for breakfast on Wednesday. They noticed it immediately.

Giggles, and a half jumping, half running-in-place ‘happy dance‘ ensued (hysterical, and has been repeated several times now).

Many of our friends have said there is no need to decorate for a 2-year-old’s birthday. And, they’re right…she wouldn’t miss the decorations…But the joy on both our son’s and daughter’s faces was worth every effort and would have been missed by me.

Completed banner

Happy Birthday Adelyn Joy. We love you!

‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – DIY Quick and Easy Patterned Paper Covered Clothes Pins

Sunshine Birthday DIY Quick and Easy Patterned Paper Covered Clothes Pins

I recently made a photo banner for our daughter’s ‘You Are My Sunshine’ birthday party. I wanted to hang the photos using clothes pins, but after hanging them up, I found the black and white photos and tan clothes pins looked a little drab.

I decided to use some of the bright-colored paper used on the banner to decorate the clothes pins.

This was a quick, inexpensive project using materials I already had on hand. The finished clothes pins provide a much-needed pop of color and can be used long after the banner is taken down. With a little focus, I made 21 of these in under 15 minutes.

Materials:

Steps:

  1. Trace a clothes pin onto the back of the patterned paper
  2. Measure theLxW and draw the pattern on the back of the patterned paper(s) for as many clothes pins as you have
    • I decorated only one side. If choosing to decorate both sides of the clothes pins, make twice as many strips
  3. Cut the strips and set aside
  4. Working quickly, use a paint brush to coat the flat side of a clothes pin withModgePodge, and apply the paper strip
    • Apply liberally since the wood is porous and will soak up some of the Modge Podge
    • Align the paper before applying, as it does not slide easily once applied
  5. Press firmly to
    1. If any glue squished out, simply wipe off with your finger or a rag
  6. Continue, coating and applying paper. I did 2 or 3 pins at a time without the Modge Podge drying
  7. Allow to dry 1 hour
  8. Use a paint brush to apply a thin layer ofModgePodge on the top of the paper (dries clear)
    • Use the brush to smooth out any wrinkles
  9. Allow to dry 1 hour

Expecting A Convenient Child Is Like Forcing A Square Peg To Go Through A Round Hole

Expecting A Convenient Child Is Like Forcing A Square Peg To Go Through A Round Hole | thisgratefulmama.com

Gone are the days when children are seen and not heard. And good riddance! That is not what I want for them. I love their playful silly giggles and how they break out into song, intermixed with their own ad-hoc lyrics. They approach the world with curiosity, surprise and awe, expecting joy and delight.

A child seen and not heard is a stifled child.

Yet…there are times I expect it from them, as if they are adult brains in tiny bodies, able to control their emotions, curiosity, and bodies. I don’t mean that we should not expect that they obey simple requests, follow well known family rules, or that we shouldn’t expect good, learned behaviors. These are necessary and realistic expectations of skills and behaviors that will help them develop into functioning adults. Someday.

No, what I mean are those unreasonable moments when we expect a child to behave as an adult.  When we expect them to be something they are not (or cannot be), it is done at their, and our detriment.

It usually happens during a weak moment. Maybe I have a headache, a worry or a busy schedule. Maybe I’m just hormonal (or just in a funk, blaming hormones), or just plain-old worn out. Suddenly parenting seems messy. I’m overwhelmed by their joy, noise, and unbridled energy instead of embracing it.

So I try to stifle it. But I excuse it by telling myself I’m challenging them to grow up.

Suddenly I am more concerned with making them into what they simply are not. Maybe I want them to be sit still, for longer than is appropriate or even normal for their age. Or, maybe I want to wrangle them into enjoying a quiet activity because I have a headache, but they’ve been obediently quiet all day and now they need to PLAY. Or, worse, maybe I want them to stop crying when they are over-tired and their feelings get hurt because we’re in a hurry. It’s whatever behavior I’d prefer or would be most convenient for me. Sigh.

Trying to make our children more convenient, is not exactly what I’d like to be confessing today.

When not at my best, somehow I expect them to be at their best. And even better – beyond their capacity.

It is not fair to expect adult-like self control from a 2 or 4 year old. They have not developed those skills yet. They will come, but with time – with careful reinforcement and in small steps. Expecting too much, too soon, will likely unravel whatever progress we have made. Instead of the desired outcome I tried to force, they will fail. They will know they can’t or didn’t measure up and feel hurt, angry, sad, or indignant. Instead of a quiet, calm, or convenient child, I will get a child in full-meltdown.

I deserve the backlash. But they don’t.

Instead of making something easier (for me), my unrealistic expectation leaves us all frustrated, and emotionally raw. If we were out in public, we probably made a scene. We were that family. I was that mama, frustrated with kids being kids, who lost sight of the big picture.

The damage from what seemed the easiest for me…is profound. The unrealistic demands set them up for failure. And they feel it. If I keep inflicting expectations they cannot live up to, they will learn a pattern of failure. Their self-esteem will deflate. They will be discouraged. Bitter. And it will be my doing.

 Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits – Colossians 3:21 (the Holy Bible, The Message)

The notion that I could crush their sweet spirits…wrecks me. A clear and serious warning. To me.

In reality, I don’t want them to be adults. I don’t want them to lose their free spirits. I don’t want to break them or make them into someone else than who they were created to be. I want to embrace who they are now, and let them be kids. I love who they are, even when life is messy. I don’t ever want to make them feel they aren’t good enough

Children need expectations that take into account realistic developmental limitations. They need to be allowed to be children, even if it means we parents need to be flexible when we don’t feel like it. We are the adults! It is our responsibility to adapt.

We need to understand and embrace that they are not at their strongest when we are weak – and we should’t expect them to be. What they really need is grace. And an extra measure of gentle love, regardless of our circumstance. In those moments if I worried less about their behavior and more about their souls, and modeling the love, grace, and patience of Christ – things would be very different. Productive. Worthwhile. Of eternal value and impact. Instead of giving them the baggage of failure, I’d be demonstrating what it looks like to lay down my own desires for their benefit.

While our children are commanded to obey their parents…they cannot obey what is beyond their ability. We need to embrace their age and all that comes with it. Step back and be grateful for the way they are. Un-stifled. Un-adult. As they are supposed to be!

If it seems like trying to force a square peg through a round hole, perhaps the expectation isn’t a good fit for the child. Perhaps the square peg needs to be modified into expectations a child can actually meet.

We need to honestly ask ourselves if our expectation is setting our child up to fail. And to be gracious enough to stop when the answer is yes.

When their behavior isn’t convenient, we need to determine if what we want them to do is necessary. Do we need to attend an event that requires them to sit still too long? Perhaps we need to wait a few years. Does the child really need to be quiet? Or do we need a change of scenery. Or perhaps I should stop what I’m doing and invest time reading to them instead.

The next time our child isn’t doing what I would prefer, I will take a step back to gain perspective. Perhaps what I need to do is be grateful for their quirks, giggles, wiggles and silliness. And let my expectations yield to seeking their benefit, not my own.

Perhaps the shape they are in now, is exactly as they should be.