The Self Control Button

I got a text from my daughter recently detailing a conversation she had with my four-year old grandson, Isaiah. Evidently he was having trouble being patient while she was completing a task.

Par for the course when you’re four.

Or thirty-four.

Or maybe forty-four.

Definitely at fifty-four.

Let’s be honest. There are those among us who have never mastered the art of patience.

But especially at the tender age of single digit four, waiting is excruciating. So to pass the time he was acting like a robot.

Ever trying to foster desirable qualities in a whimsical way, my daughter asked this robotic wonder if he had a self-control button that he could push.

Oh wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing! A self-control button.

If I could, I would pass one out to every student in my classroom the first day of school saving me hours and hours of behavior management and intervention time.

Of course, I would keep the largest and most obvious one for myself.

Don’t judge. At this time of year it’s every girl for herself.

But I digress.

After thoughtfully considering his mother’s self-control button question, he replied. Yes indeed, he did have such a button.

“But,” he added, ” The sin button is right by the self-control button.”

Truer words were never said.

Why is it that when temptation comes that sin button seems to glow in the dark? It’s always the easy thing to reach, while exercising my self-control feels like fumbling around in the bottom of my purse trying to find my car keys.

I guess the real answer is this.

I’m an imperfect woman in need of a Savior.

A Savior who was willing to go to the cross for my sins, be buried and after three days rise again.

Even when my daily goal is to try to do the right thing, I’m going to think things, say things, do things that in a weak moment translate into sin. As I’m stretching for the self-control button I slip and hit the one labeled sin.

Not every time.

But certainly every day.

Fortunately for me, all is not lost. Even when I hit the wrong button, Jesus forgives and forgets. I get another chance.

And there’s even more good news! Because Jesus paid the price, my sin debt is paid. It’s erased. It’s like I never hit the button at all.

But wanna know the best news ever?

The best news ever is that no matter how imperfect my aim may be, the reality is that Jesus knows me and loves me just the way I am.

I don’t have to be perfect.

I know, right?

That doesn’t mean I won’t keep striving for better self-control. Even a non-robot such as myself has a lot of room for improvement.

It’s just really nice to know that I don’t have to be perfect, because after all…

I already have a Savior who is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessing in the Journey

Stopped at a traffic light behind a car equipped with a drop-down DVD screen I could see Disney’s Frozen playing. It was 7:30 a.m. so I suspected that Mom or Dad was on the way to childcare to drop off their little ones before work. Two thoughts came to mind:

1. That movie-playing-ability-at-a-finger’s-touch would have certainly come in handy when my children were small.

2. That movie-playing-ability-at-a-finger’s-touch was robbing that parent of potential quality time.

I am no stranger to chaotic car rides. Traveling with three children under the age of five nearly necessitated the supernatural growth of third arm to pick up dropped pacifiers, separate dueling toddlers and calm a crying preschooler all while keeping one hand on the steering wheel. Later, traveling with three teenagers under the age of eighteen offered special opportunities designed for my personal and spiritual character development such as enduring three simultaneous eye rolls without bursting into anger and careening into an oncoming car.

Still, there is something to be said for being conversationally engaged on the way to and from wherever you might be going. When my children were little we didn’t just talk, we sang just about everywhere we went. Sometimes they were just silly songs to release energy. Other times there were songs to imprint God’s word on their hearts.

When we talked, we talked about where we were going. “Yes, Mommy is lost again, but don’t worry. We’ll get there eventually.”

What was expected of them once we got there. “Do not ask me to buy you gum when we get to the check out. It’s not going to happen.”

And of course, encouragement and praise. “You did such a great job today. I am so proud of you.”

As my kids grew into teenagers they would often feel free to open up about things when my eyes were on the road and not on them. I remember a conversation I had when both of my girls were in the car and the oldest told me that one of her classmates was pregnant. The conversation that followed was heartfelt and honest in a way that we all felt comfortable without the potential of embarrassing eye-contact.

Allowing your child to zone out while watching a movie for the umpteenth time is a tantalizing temptation for tired parents. If I’d had the option when my kids were growing up I am sure I would have had the occasion to use it.

However, as the mother of three amazing grown children I know that the time sphere of influence you have as a parent is precious and limited. When we are over-scheduled with before and after school responsibilities, community functions and church activities, driving in the car can offer some bonus one-on-one interaction if we choose it to be.

I know there will be times when we are rushed and irritated that conversations will be limited to “Stop touching your brother.” or “Don’t make me pull this car over!” But if we always allow our children to be anesthetized by the power of a singing snow queen we miss a unique opportunity.

The opportunity that uninterrupted time offers us to get to know our children better, share ourselves with them and truly train up our children in the way they should go.

And that can be the real blessing along the journey.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

The Meltdown

With three kids under the age of five, a trip to the grocery store used to pose a special challenge for me. In those days we were on an especially tight budget so sticking to my list was a necessity. It used to drive me crazy that the checkout line shelves were always filled with candy, gum, and other eye-catching treats that any child would beg to have.

In an effort to counteract this marketing technique, before entering the store each time I would remind my children that we would not be buying any candy or gum at the cash register line. For the most part it was a strategy that worked.

Until one day it happened.

Total And Utter Meltdown.

If you are a parent you know what I’m talking about.

That dramatic, uncontrollable volcano of emotion that suddenly spews out of your child.

All possibility of holding it together for one more moment has been exhausted and kicking and screaming ensues.

And there you are in the middle of the IGA with two other children who look as if they’re considering following suit depending on your reaction to the offender.

Oh, and absolutely everyone and their brother is watching you.

It’s as if there’s a spotlight suspended over your head and at any moment you’re going to hear broadcasted over the intercom, “Meltdown in aisle two. Parental incompetence suspected.”

Incidentally on this particular day my daughter was wearing the cutest white rabbit fur coat. It was a hand-me-down from a friend and was by far the fanciest and most expensive coat she had ever owned.

Walking in she’d looked like a perfect little princess. Sprawled on the grocery floor throwing a category 10 fit over a pack of gum she looked like an overindulged brat.

I take comfort in the fact that in one way or another most parents have endured a similar scene. And we all get through it.

Although sometimes parenthood can make you feel that you’re just one pack of gum away from throwing your own self to the floor in a hissy fit.

That day I had to make a decision and fast. Taking a deep breath and praying silently, I gingerly stepped over her and proceeded toward the door. In my head I was thinking, “What am I going to do if she doesn’t follow me?”

I needn’t have worried. I wasn’t two steps away from her before she popped up off the floor and hurried after me.

Crisis averted.

You know, there have been times in my life when I’ve been that little girl in the rabbit coat thrashing around on the floor. Instead of trusting in God’s plan for my life I’ve acted as if I’ve known better and then become frustrated when things haven’t turned out the way I thought that they should.

Instead of appreciating all the good that is in my life, I begin to focus on what is wrong. I’ve complained and protested.

Honestly, I’ve been sort of a brat. And if I’m not careful I could begin to think that God has left me alone to my own misery and simply stepped over me.

Not true.

It’s really me who has stepped away in disobedience.

I am so glad that God never thinks, “What am I going to do if she doesn’t follow me?” What a blessing to know that He has a plan and He’s sticking to it. No matter what, He is always patiently pursuing my heart.

And when I finally get over my melodramatic meltdown I realize that I was never really alone. He was just one step ahead waiting for my return.

 

 

 

 

Can I hear You now?

After a fun-filled extended visit I flew 900 miles roundtrip to deliver my three-year old grandson into his parents’ waiting arms. Knowing it was a distinct possibility that he might have a run-in with reality once he returned home I called my daughter the following day to see how he was getting along. After all, for six days at Gigi’s house he had happily sat on the throne. There was bound to be a bit of an adjustment once he stepped back into a home where rules existed that actually applied to him.

Before you judge me, I want the record to show that I did not raise my three children in a house without rules. On the contrary, our children were raised with daily chores, enforced bedtimes and a routine that included very little TV or refined sugar. Always on a shoe-string budget in those early days, trips to restaurants, zoos and museums were limited unless someone else was paying. And in a household of five, rules were not only necessary, they were the key to our collective sanity.

However, that was then and this is now.

Being a Mommy and being a Gigi are two completely different roles and let me tell you that the latter is the much better gig. Being Gigi means being able to “yes” ninety-nine percent of the time. “Yes, I can make you a fruit smoothie before your nap.” “Yes, we can watch another Curious George episode while we sit in Gigi’s big bed.” “Yes, PopPop can take you on a tractor ride.” “Yes, you can play with Playdough in PopPop’s workshop.” I’m not going to say he is spoiled at our house, but he is “well-loved”.

Which brings me back to the phone call I placed to my daughter. When I asked her how he was getting along, she laughed. “He’s actually doing very well, other than the fact that he’s developed a hearing problem. He just doesn’t seem to hear me when I ask him to do something.”

Uh oh… a “well-loved” week with Gigi may have contributed to his temporary deafness to listen and obey.

I wonder if God ever thinks that about me after I’ve spent a “well-loved” week in the world. Having been caught up in the amusing trivialities of my life, I already know the answer is yes. On more than one occasion I have chased after the “shiny objects” – the indulgent things of lesser importance. Until little by little I found myself at a distance from God, unable to hear what He had to say to me because I had tuned him out.

John 10:27 says, “My sheep know my voice and I know them and they follow me.” Hearing His voice involves active listening. Active listening implies an ongoing effort on my part to set aside time to study the Word, pray and to inquire of God what it is that He wants me to do. I cannot follow if I’m not waiting and listening for instruction.

Romans 10:17 says “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” The word is not going to get into my mind and soul by osmosis. I have to actually open my Bible. I have to read it and pray over what is written on its pages and listen for His voice. Then the promise of Psalm 32:8-9 will come to pass. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way that thou shalt go. I will guide thee with my loving eyes.”

I never want to be so far away from God that my own spiritual deafness inhibits my response to His call. Instead, let it mirror the prophet Isaiah when God asked him whom should He send as a messenger to the people. Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me!”

LORD, let me tune into Your frequency and hear Your voice. Guide me with Your loving eyes so that I can accomplish the work You have established for me on this earth. Let me hear You so that I, too, can respond “Here am I. Send me!”