Friday, August 28, 2009

Pharisaical Parenting: Punishment and Reward

pharisaical (adj.)--practicing or advocating strict observance of external forms and ceremonies of religion or conduct without regard to the spirit; self-righteous; hypocritical.

I was blown away by the response to my last post, both here in Blogger-land and on Facebook. I'm so glad it was a blessing to so many. The nice thing is that Jesus was the One who was doing everything; I just got to be a part! I'm such a novice in the arena of grace-based parenting. I welcome further reading materials and ideas to round out my experience as a parent. The book I read, Loving our Kids on Purpose, is primarily targeted for children from elementary school age to high-school age. None of my children are in school yet, so I did find it a bit challenging to have ideas for toddler/pre-k children. There were some great principles, though, and I was thrilled to see them succeed when I applied them.

Being creative is the hard part.

It's so hard, in fact, that it is much easier to resort to the punishment/reward system. If you do this bad thing, you receive this punishment. If you do this good thing, Mommy will give you a present. Which, in turn, communicates, "When you're bad, bad things happen to you. When you're good, good things happen to you."

Is this a true idea?

The Pharisees thought so. They lived their lives so perfectly (on the outside) because they really believed they could appease God. They thought that God expected men to fulfill the law and obey Him. What we know about God is that He knew that would never happen. He knows us inside-out, and He knows that His creation is completely incapable of fulfilling any righteous law on their own. So, His plan was for Jesus to come, become sin (think about that until your head explodes) for us, so that we would become righteous in Him. Let's break it down:

  • Mankind chose to give up their relationship with God in the Garden in exchange for the knowledge God was holding out on (in their minds).
  • God, in His mercy and grace, deemed that death was the penalty for sin. In this way, mankind would not be eternally sinful, and there would be an opportunity to redeem mankind out of his sin if mankind would choose a relationship with Him.
  • God gave a Law--a law so perfect that none could keep it. In this way, the Law became a teacher, to show mankind that they needed a Savior; they were powerless on their own to become righteous and have a relationship with God.
  • Jesus was the answer. He has a perfect relationship with His Father. Their desire was to reunite mankind with the Father. Jesus gave up His life, became our sin, suffered our punishment, and reconciled us to God.
  • When we enter into relationship with the Father, we often believe He still wants us to keep that perfect Law. But, that is the sort of thing that couldn't be further from His mind. He just wants us to experience His love and live in relationship with Him. He accepts us and loves us and thinks precious thoughts over us, His children.

Now, I often become the Pharisee when it comes to disciplining my children. I say, "Walk this straight line or suffer my wrath!!!" I, to my own sorrow, have often resorted to yelling, shaming, and spanking in anger that my children would dare to disobey ME. This is not the heart of the God of the Universe. This is the heart of the god of this world. This is the god that numerous peoples have sacrificed their children to on altars, hoping to gain favor with the scary volcano god. This is not our Father.

Therefore, this is NOT how we should parent.

There is NO fear in LOVE.

Perfect love casts out ALL fear.

Let's go back to the idea "When you're bad, bad things happen to you. When you're good, good things happen to you." This is how our world works. You see this in employment, in school, in traffic, in crime. This is how the world operates.

But we are not of this world. We are citizens of a heavenly country!

We are to be like Him in all things. This includes parenting.

Parenting without fear. Parenting without punishment. Parenting with Him.

Your kids are participants in their discipline. You are the loving one, the one leading them to Him. And if we're on the same page, you don't want them to think that He is like those gods demanding they adhere to external list of rules without regard to the spirit.

Now, I'm far from an expert on this topic. I'm a novice. I've only been parenting this way for two weeks. I will say this: it is much harder to parent in this way. It is not easy. It requires more thought, more creativity, and more prayer. It requires more discernment and more time asking the Holy Spirit what in the world to do. But, I truly want my children to trust me as their parent, and to learn to protect our relationship. I don't want them to live in fear of me and my punishments for their sin. I want them to feel safe with me, even when they mess up.

A few things to consider:

  • How do I relate to the Father?
  • What do I think He expects of me?
  • Am I afraid of Him?
  • Do I believe when bad things happen that I did something wrong?
  • How do I relate to my kids?
  • What do I expect of them?
  • Are they afraid of me?
  • Do they feel they have to earn my approval?

I pray this is a blessing and not a burden. It has brought me great joy and freedom both as a child of God and as a parent. I pray it does the same for you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Lesson in Redemption

I have been hearing the Father in the neatest ways this past week. I wanted to share a beautiful little lesson I learned this week in a time of discipline with Maryn.

We are employing some new-to-us tactics in our discipline. One of them is getting creative and helping the kids have consequences that are memorable but that also allow them free will--they can make a choice and experience the consequences, positive or negative. (All this and more can be found in Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk)

(Photo courtesy of I purchased the book)

Well, helping Maryn manage her freedom has been very interesting. And hard. And crazy, at times. This week, we had a teachable moment in cleaning up after ourselves. I asked the kids to put their stuff (toys, shoes, pillows, blankies, all belongings) away. Nothing happened. Surprise. (Catch the sarcasm.)

The next time, I followed Danny Silk's lead, and I told them they could either pick up their stuff, or I would put their stuff in a trash bag to give to other kids. Both Sam and Maryn did not believe me, and they didn't pick up their toys. They made a choice not to. So, I grabbed a trash bag, and picked everything up. Then, in my mercy and grace (trying to mimic the Father, here!), I gave them another opportunity. I called them upstairs. I showed them all their stuff in the bag (this is new for them, so I am cutting them some slack), and then explained that they could save their stuff. I dumped it all on the floor of their room.

I said, "You get one more chance. I am going to set the timer for 15 minutes. You can either pick up your stuff and put it away nicely, or I am going to pick it all back up and give it to other kids. Anything that is left on the floor when the timer goes off will go into the trash bag. Sam, you pick up your stuff, and Maryn, you pick up yours."

I set the timer, and I walked away. Samuel got it. He cleaned up his stuff very quickly and was finished in no time. I went up there, checked it out. He was off the hook. Maryn, however, was playing. She had not a care in the world. Sigh.

Sam explained it to her, "Maryn, you better clean up your stuff, or Mom is gonna throw it in the trash!"

I pleaded with her to make the right choice. I explained how it hurt my heart. She had left her blankies on the floor, and I BEGGED HER to pick them up. She just looked at me and said in her sing-song voice, "I don't want to." Maryn's blankies are so important to her. She's had them since she was a baby, and she chews on them. Disgusting, I know. I knew how devastated she would be when she realized they were gone. At that moment, the Lord gave me understanding into His heart,

"This is how desperately I want my children to choose Me over their selfish pleasures. I plead, I beg, I offer multiple chances. I don't force their wills. It hurts my heart when they don't choose Me, but I must let them make their choice. They must choose to love Me, or it isn't love."

I, then, went downstairs to check the timer. It began to beep, and my heart sank--like the Titanic in quicksand. I went back upstairs with the trashbag and began picking up all her stuff. I explained once again what I was doing. She really didn't seem to mind too much, but I was smarter than that. I knew it would sink in at bedtime when she wanted blankie the most.

The Lord spoke again to my heart, "She was willing to sacrifice her most important possession in order to do what she wanted to do. How often my children do the same!"

I went downstairs and cried a little. My heart was broken for my little girl and her poor choice. This is new for me. Normally, I just get mad because the kids won't obey me. This time, I was grieved for her. I knew she didn't realize the gravity of her choice. I began immediately trying to think of a way to redeem it.

The Spirit said, "This is how I feel. This is why I MUST redeem you. I can't leave this undone. I will go at all lengths to restore you to me in our relationship."

I knew at that moment that I had to show the Father's heart and redeem blankie.

Bedtime that night was rough. She cried and cried. I held her, snuggled with her, sang to her, and she finally calmed. The next morning, after she'd been up for an hour or so, she began to wail (yes, "wail" is the proper term for our Maryn) for blankie. I really sensed the Lord wanted me to just spend some time comforting her and being with her in her loss. So, I did. I stroked her hair and told her stories about when she was born and how we wrapped her up in blankie. She listened quietly minus the wailing. As I sat with her, I once again sensed I was acting out His heart for us--He is with us even when we have wasted what was most precious. He is forever present with us in our dark places.

I began to pray, "Father, what would you have me do to show her your redemption? How can I redeem blankie for her?"

The word "books" came to mind instantly. I began scanning through my mental list of titles that I owned. Obviously, there were some books I couldn't part with, but I knew whatever book I chose to part with would have to be important to me. I went downstairs and scanned the bookshelves, and then I saw it. The Magic Christmas, a Sweet Valley Twins book that I read a dozen times in the 5th or 6th grade with my best friend, Abigail. This book was very important to me. It's one of those things I've hung onto from my friendship with Abby, and though I gave away all of my other Sweet Valley books, I always kept this one for sentimental reasons. (Forgive me, Abby!)

I knew I had to do it. Whatever I gave up had to be worth something to me. So, I took Maryn, Sam, and the book into the kitchen where the trashbag full of her stuff was. I explained how important the book was to me. I explained how I was going to exchange the book for Maryn's blankies. I was going to sacrifice my book so that Maryn could have her blankies. She was thrilled. I'm not so sure she got it.

But Sam did.

"Lord, this is a lesson for Sam?" I wondered.

Later that afternoon, Sam and I were reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (yes, we're STILL reading...his attention span is short!). We reached the chapter where Aslan exchanges his life for Edmund's. Sam and I had a long talk about Maryn's blankies, Aslan and Edmund, and finally, Jesus and us. It was so beautiful. It was an answer to prayer as well; I have been praying for these teachable moments for Samuel and asking for him to have lots of spiritual questions.

Though it was hard, I am pleased with how the discipline worked out. Justice and mercy both played a part. Maryn does believe Mommy now. Samuel came to a greater understanding of God's desire to know him. I became more like Jesus. I'm so thankful that our good, kind Papa redeemed this situation for all of us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nieces, A Nephew, and This and That

I did clean up the house. It looked great. I didn't take pictures. Now it is a bit of a mess again. We went to see our extended family this weekend. It was nice to see everyone, but I must admit seeing my nieces and nephew was the highlight. :)

I got to see Britany, who is so much of a woman now, it freaks me out a little bit. It's hard to believe she was our flower girl and so little and now so tall and beautiful. I got to see her little sister, Jadlynne, who just turned one! I can't believe she's one. I am getting older moment by moment. Jadlynne had a birthday party, and it was fun to watch her stuff her mouth with cake and open her presents like a pro.

I got to see Case too. This kid is a bundle of energy and fun, but he is also genuine and sweet. I'm so thankful he and my kids are close in age; they have so much fun together. I did get to see 3 week old, Addison Mae, for the first time. She is a DOLL. She looks a lot like my brother, and that is a little strange to look at her and see so much of him there. (I could see Miranda there too, but I do think Chris' genes were a little dominant!) I think my brother is a grown-up man now--he has fathered a child and is dedicated to his family. I'm very proud of him. I was telling him that if I didn't know better, I'd think Case was his biological son because he acts so much like Chris did as a little boy! :) Addison better look out!

We went to hear William Paul Young speak last night. He wrote The Shack, in case you didn't know. There has been a lot of controversy over this book, and I understand it. I just don't agree with it (the controversy). I think the book is amazing and beautiful. It touched some deep places in me and awakened me to the truth of God's love for me. That can never be bad. :) I think the people who get up-in-arms over it need to be shaken--they need to know that the box they've put God in is of their own making, and He is not under their thumb. I found the book refreshing and eye-opening. It truly is a message of grace and freedom, which is what Jesus came to give us. Paul's talk last night was his story--where he came from, what happened along the way, and how Jesus healed him. It was beautiful, just like his book.

I finished He Loves Me by Jacobsen as well as Loving our Kids on Purpose by Silk (see earlier post of my book list). Both are fantastic. Jacobsen's book built on the truth of grace and freedom, and Silk's book applied those truths to parenting. I am excited about the place God is bringing me in these truths. Both are wonderful, refreshing reads, so check them out. I'm going to read a little fiction for now before I pick up any more of the books on my book list. I just picked up Adam by Dekker at the library. We'll see. He's a good writer, for the most part. Sometimes I don't like his word choices, but that's just me being a nerd and being irritated by Christian artists.

Okay, well, that's my update for the day. I must move on to menu planning and grocery list making. XoxoXO!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Motivation, Accountability, Whatever You Call It

I'm struggling with the mess around here.

I am unmotivated to clean it up.

There's too much to do.

Cleaning is boring.

But, it must be done.

So, here is the ugly truth.

I'm hoping the promise of "after" pictures will get me into gear.

I know I'm not alone.

I'm letting this ugly out in the open so it can be exposed for what it is.

Then, perhaps, I can take some pretty pictures of our new house with its fresh paint.

Without further adieu, I present my mess.

The sunroom was attacked by a sewing monster.

The kitchen counter is full of dishes.

Bills, paper clutter, ugh.
And, to comfort your seared eyes, here is the rag rug that I made. I really like it. If you can do a simple single crochet, you can make one of these.

I didn't use vintage sheets or anything, just fabric scraps I had lying around.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sam's Dictionary

Sam's vocabulary is blossoming more and more as he grows. Now, at four-and-a-half, he can tell you what words mean. He's been doing this a lot lately. One of you speech-path people tell me if this is a milestone. I assume so because it has been fairly sudden.

What's so great about this is that Sam's definitions aren't quite what Noah Webster had in mind when he wrote his great dictionary. Sam's definitions are all based on context--which is legitimate (remember this, my dear English students?). However, they aren't usually correct, and most of them are adjectives. This makes for fun blogging material, in my opinion.

Here are a few:
  • Strong: "means you pick up stuff and you're strong"
  • Cute: "means you smile all the time"
  • Handsome: "means you're so nice and brave"
  • Fat: "means you have hair all over your body"

I asked him these this morning to make the list longer.
  • Smart: "you're a good finder of cars at Conway"
  • Nice: "means whenever you are good"
  • Silly: "means you are funny"
  • Funny: "means you are making silly faces"
  • Kind: "you take care of your sister and your brother"
  • Mean: "means you have to tell your mom and dad"
  • Truth: "means you can have sweets"
  • Lie: "it's a bad thing"
He's so precious!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Leopard Print and a Lexus

This may be the scariest title I've ever posted. For reals.

I've mentioned in the past that this is the kind of doctor's wife I don't wanna be. So far, I'm pretty safe and far from that image.

I'm NOT a big deal.

I don't wanna be a big deal.

Yet, here in this little town, I can't help but feel like people look at me differently when they know who my husband is.

It makes me thankful for a '91 Acura, three kids in the backseat, me in my old thrift-store t-shirt with my flops and tiny ponytails. Everything in me resists the fancy.

Yet, when I've gone to Walmart nearly every day for a month, I am that person. Part of the reason I've gone is because I keep forgetting stuff, but the other reason is the whole getting-settled-again state. If I'm really honest, then it's also the I've-got-to-get-out-of-the-woods-and-see-other-humans state of being. I know (to the door-greeters) I must seem like a frivolous spend-thrift. I am, a little bit.

Yesterday, I mixed it up. I went to Thriftway and spent $70 on groceries. I felt pretty good about myself. I didn't use any coupons. I want to get back into that as well. The Total Money Makeover is about to dawn. Look out, money! You're about to get used on stuff that matters!

Back to the leopard print...

I feel like finding community here might be hard if people can't see beyond the whole status thing. It means I get to be more authentic, I think. I'm not talking about airing all my dirty laundry to any person I meet. I just mean learning to be real with people and really connecting on a human level, without pretense. It's my desire to find real community here with people who aren't like me--people who work in garages, people who work at the Super 8, people who are divorced, people who live on the lake with boats, people who drink too much, people who have never had a drink.

I so want to be like Jesus. I want to pour out my life and live in such a way that people don't know what kind of resources I have at my disposal, but at the same time, be willing to use my resources to heal, to touch, to serve.

You can take that leopard print and sell it. You can crash that Lexus.

I want something eternal and real.

I want to be little so He can be big.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Curses and Reading Lists

I was casting some spells on blogger last night. You'd think putting ads in would be a cinch. Not so, dear friends. I ended up putting them in as you see them now. I promise I will make it more appealing. Later. I am too irritated to try again. But, they're functional for the time being, so let it ride.

Since we don't have TV (this is only temporary--the Fall season will start in a month!), I've found some books for reading. Here's my list (some have yet to arrive from Amazon):
  • He Loves Me : Learning to Live in the Father's Affection--Wayne Jacobsen (mentioned this one in my last post)
  • The Total Money Makeover--Dave Ramsey
  • Christianish--Mark Steele (friend from Tulsa; has two other great books, Flashbang and Half-Life, Die Already)
  • Loving our Kids on Purpose--Danny Silk (on grace-based parenting--very excited about this one)
  • Understanding Prophetic People: Blessings and Problems with the Prophetic Gift--R. Loren Sanford (I so need to read this to better understand myself...Dave is going to have to read it too!)

What are you reading? I need a good fiction...probably should take a look at our book club list.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Living Less Loved"

Before we left Oklahoma, we had the privilege of hearing Wayne Jacobsen speak at our church. Some of you may recognize his name--he helped publish The Shack with William Paul Young. Since moving to Arkansas, I have thought about his message many times, and I happened upon one of his books (at Wal-Mart, of all places!!!).

The book is He Loves Me! Learning to Live in the Father's Affection. I am not quite halfway through it, and it has blessed me tremendously. I am highly recommending it.

One of the key ideas in the book is something I have struggled with my entire life, and I suspect you have struggled with it too--"Living Less Loved." What does that mean?

Wayne says this,

"When we worry that God will ask us for some horrible sacrifice, we live less loved.

When we indulge ourselves in sin, we live less loved.

When we give in to anxiety in the crush of our circumstances, we live less loved.

When we try to earn God's favor by our own efforts, we live less loved.

Even when we get caught up in religious obligations to make ourselves acceptable to him, we live less loved."

We tend to believe that when good things are happening to us, God is happy with us and is pleased. However, when bad things are happening to us, we believe that God must be angry with us and is punishing us for something we did or didn't do. We play a game of "He loves me. He loves me not." We spend all our time trying to figure out if He really loves us or not.

This is hard because EVERYTHING else in our lives uses that system of reward. When you obey your parents, you're a good boy/girl. When you get bad grades in school, everyone is disappointed with you. This system is a human system, but we mistakenly attribute it to our Father in heaven. There are a lot of rules in the Bible, but God honestly doesn't think you're going to keep them all! He knows, in fact, that it is impossible for you to do so! This is precisely why He sent Jesus--so that in His grace, He could have a relationship with you apart from works!

I mentioned that this is something I have struggled with in life. I truly believed (and still struggle with the belief) that God was often displeased with me because I wasn't doing enough. This may sound silly to you, but let me share it in hopes of others finding freedom. I used to keep a prayer journal. After a summer camp, I was told that the proper way to pray was to use the ACTS method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). So, I began to take this method and apply it to my prayer journal. I truly believed that it would please God if I didn't forget to do all four sections. My legalism flourished as I followed the formula to a "T". It became obsessive and consuming as I realized that I had a lot more supplication than adoration and my confession list could never be long enough, and my thanksgiving list was way too short!

Before I realized it (which wasn't until college, actually!), I was in bondage to my prayer journal! I was living less loved--I was "caught up in religious obligations to make (my)self acceptable to Him". I wasn't walking in freedom or in His love. I have many of these broken places in me. He is slowly healing each one and revealing new places He wants to touch.

I'm certain you have experienced this. Ask Him to show you these broken places, and let Him heal you.

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:17-19

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ads, Reviews, and the Like

Well, fellow community of bloggers, I am biting the bullet. No, I'm not going to quit blogging. I couldn't possibly do that at this stage of the game. Instead, I have joined Blogher! That's right. I was asked to apply (I put my name on a wait list about 6 months ago) today to be a part of their advertising--Blogher Ads. What will happen is there will suddenly be a lot of ads on my blog. Don't let this alarm you. :) Really. That's pretty much it.

I was able to select what kinds of ads I did NOT want to allow on my blog, and you'll be glad to know that your eyes will love me for protecting them from lots of dieting ads, pharmaceutical ads, lingerie ads, and infant formula ads. Now, don't get your panties in a wad. I'm not against infant formula--I have used it in the past, and I have friends who have had to use it as well. I'm just anti-advertising the stuff because it robs a lot of women from the blessing of breastfeeding b/c they are not educated on breastfeeding--all they see are ads for infant formula. So, don't take offense.

I will be able to make a little pocket change this way. Another way I will be making some pocket change is by doing product reviews on a separate non-advertising blog. That blog is called Geidlbots Product Reviews. No-brainer, huh?

Aside from making sweet moolah to spend on Starbucks and books (or student loans...), I think this will be a great opportunity to get a lot of traffic on my blog. One thing I have loved about blogging is that I have been able to minister to a lot of people through what I write. I've been able to be myself and share my struggles and successes and be an encouragement to others. I've also been pretty good about riling people up! :) I never intend to do that. Really!!! I hope that as people visit my blog through BlogHer, they will see Jesus here and find life.

Sorry for the clutter of ads...hope you don't mind too much. Much love to you all.