ME, ME, ME FIRST!

ME, ME, ME FIRST!

We had a situation when the twins were four years old down at the park – they both wanted to go up the ladder first and stood there arguing about it. Finally, I explained that someone had to give in and let the other person go. Every time they went down the slide, they would come back and repeat their argument. Finally, I declared “park over,” and we came home. I sat them down and had an intentional teaching time. Jesus says those who are last are first in the Kingdom. We practiced someone being first and someone being last. We instilled a phrase in them: “Ah, no, YOU go first!” It works because they see the heart of being last, which means you are blessed, and there is no lack. Years later, we are still using that phrase as a reminder. 

**My twins are now adults, and they often talk about this day. It has reaped so much good fruit in them. If you need to teach your children about character, check out our Character Counts digital resource: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

TRAINING A CHILD TO HEAR YOU

It is important to teach a child’s brain to learn how to engage, not just to listen. If he is watching TV and you shout out from the other room to do something, chances are his ears heard you, but his mind didn’t. Especially when they are younger, this requires intentional effort on your part, but you will reap the fruit for years to come. Stop what YOU are doing, go to them, get down on their level, hold out your hands, and tell him to put his hands in yours. You aren’t controlling him, forcing, or using anger to make him obey. If it takes 5 minutes for him to put his hands in your hands, that is okay. He is learning. Once his hands are in your hands (and you don’t hold on to control – he has free will), tell him to look at your eyes and then state what you need/want. When you start this, it can feel like you are spending so much time just getting his attention to say one sentence, but really you are sowing into teaching him about self-control, respect, honor, and engagement. If at any time he pulls his hands away or stops looking at you, cease talking and be silent until he returns his eyes to you, then instruct he puts his hands back, and the moment he does begin speaking again. It is okay if this takes time and practice. The other thing is that when kids are required to respond with a “Yes, Mom/Dad,” they are much more engaged in completing the instruction than when they do not respond. I worked really hard on this when they were younger, but it soon became the norm.

SHE IS DIFFERENT

I took my twins on a day trip to go shopping. I had an allotted amount in my mind that I wanted to lavish on them. I envisioned spending the whole time focusing on them and making them feel seen and special. The first two stores were on my list, and I zoomed in and out at record speed, knowing we had a lot of ground to cover. We went to Forever 21, and two hours later, Emma was ready for the dressing room. There was no place to sit, so I camped out on the dirty floor as the girls giggled, tried on their clothes, and came out to show me. An hour later, Emma is still putting on her fashion show, and I am growing agitated. I rebuked my inner attitude and told it to be joyful (it didn’t work, but I tried). I have never been so excited to leave a store. We entered the next one, and the same thing happened. The first 30 minutes were fun exploring the store, but an hour later, Lauren and I sat there with her pile of selected items waiting for Emma to come out with outfit #88. I released my frustration by commenting, “Are you almost done?” with a tone that communicated I wasn’t enjoying this as much as she was. I felt like I was going to lose it and heard the Lord say, “Go ahead, but you will have to clean up your mess.” As I sat there processing the mess I was about to make (and weighing if it was worth it), I suddenly saw clearly that this wasn’t a case of Emma doing something wrong but about us having utterly different shopping styles. God showed me a picture of releasing my frustration in a way that communicated to my daughter that there was something wrong with her and that she needed to conform to make me comfortable. I realized this is how young girls shut down and turn from their true selves. They are raised to keep mama happy and deny their true selves to keep connection and peace. This is never a child’s job description, and we need to be super careful we are managing our hearts so that we don’t unintentionally shut down our true selves. Suddenly, I noticed that Emma came out of the room with her original clothes on but still had a pile to try on. Her entire demeanor was different, and the joy was gone from her eyes. I asked her why and she said, “It’s okay. I realize I took too long,” but her real heart was sad and disappointed. I wrestled with managing my own frustrations and caring for her heart. We sat on the bench outside the store, and I began to tell her what God had shown me. It was uber important for her to see that her style of shopping stretches me to the core, but that didn’t mean her way was wrong. She was NOT in sin or disobedience, nor was anything wrong with her. She would have giggled the entire time if she had been with peers. However, I explained to her that shopping with me meant she might need to tone it down a bit, not because it was wrong, but to honor those around her. I checked in with her a couple of times to ensure she wasn’t partnering with lies or feeling like something was wrong with her just because I am wired differently from her. I gave her examples of times I have stretched others and had to learn when to tone it down to honor them while still being true to how I was created. It is a dance of learning how to manage our hearts and parenting our child’s hearts.

SYSTEM UPGRADES

As a mom of four, I had my grocery trips down to a science. I had my toddler in the front, my baby in the carrier of the cart, and my four-year-old twins holding onto each side of the cart. There was peace and joy when we went to the store. Until the day they all outgrew their places, and they were running around playing tag while I attempted to shop. I rationalized that they were fine because they were being joyful, but the joy broke out into the next aisle, where they zoomed up and down the rows of food. Finally, they rounded the corner and nearly plowed over an elderly lady with a walker! I realized my previous system was no longer effective. I had to go home and call another family meeting where I taught them what going to the store looked like in this new stage. This is the process of building them with age-appropriate character throughout their childhood years.

PLAYING IN THE KINGDOM

When my kids were little, I would drive 45 minutes south to attend a church in Denver that believed children could play in the Kingdom. I was so undone by the power they carried. They needed some coaching in the ‘how,’ but when it mixed with their childlike faith, INCREDIBLE things began to happen. I never wanted my children to feel like God was a religious burden or that walking out our faith meant putting them in uncomfortable situations. I wanted to teach them that it was a JOY to love those around us and that the Kingdom truly is FUN. I called it ‘Playing in the Kingdom,’ and they came to life. They are older now, and we all still look for ways to play in the Kingdom and love those around us in everyday situations.

HEAL THE SICK

Matthew 10:8 – “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” I love how God allows you to hear an answer to an issue you haven’t had yet. Years ago, I heard Chris Gore share the story of driving down the road with his daughter, who asked from the back seat, “Dad, if you could have one wish from Jesus, what would it be?” She then interrupted to say, “Oh, I know. You would want Charlotte (sister) to be healed (she is in a wheelchair).” Chris said, “No. If I could have one wish, I would want to have the revelation of who Jesus is so that Charlotte would be healed when I prayed.” He was acknowledging that if Jesus was here in the flesh, she would be healed, and he longed to have the greater revelation of the Healer, not just the healing. I have never been able to shake or forget this testimony. One of the things I value the most about this community is that they anchor their feet on the Word of God and camp out there until it becomes a reality. Our thoughts, opinions, and experiences do not lead our lives – the Word and example of Jesus do. If God says, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons,” then that is the bar in which we live regardless of our sight, emotions, or thoughts. If we are not seeing or experiencing what is written or modeled by Jesus, we aren’t afraid to stand and stand again until it becomes our reality. We press into His standard, not ours. We worship until we become so like Him in our minds. We cry out for breakthrough, not just in healing and raising the dead, but so that our hearts are aligned with His. Either He is, or He is not who He says He is – we get to choose which camp we will live our lives from. At the end of our days, may we be found to say, “I believe.”

HOUSEHOLD RULES

I want you to ponder your children and the way they interact and speak to each other. What does it look like? What do you tolerate? What don’t you tolerate? What are the stated household rules for getting along? What consequences can be expected when they don’t? I am not asking for what you hope for; I am asking what the current reality of your household is. Are your children allowed to hit their siblings? Are they allowed to slam doors? Say, “I hate you”? Are they allowed to pick their friends over their family? Every family has its own rhythm, and no two families will flow alike. Every family will have a different set of core values and different standards which they are governed by. As parents, it is important to be able to see the vision you have for your family. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will parent inconsistently, which will produce inconsistent and frustrating results for the whole family.

For me, growing up, there was freedom to hurt and hate each other, which affected me greatly. When I started having my own children, I drew a line in the sand and was determined to teach them that we would be a family that communicated belonging and acceptance. True change doesn’t come from just outward performance; it comes from within. Instead of giving you a list of tools to use to whip your children into shape and force them to love each other (which, by the way, never works), I want to help you come into alignment in your heart first. It is out of that place where real change happens. Spend time pondering and processing this with the Lord. Ask Him to shine His flashlight into your heart (Psalms 139:23) and show you how He sees and feels about the way the siblings treat each other. Oftentimes there is a pang of great guilt for parents because they WANT their children to get along more but simply don’t know how. Confess that to the Lord – that perhaps you have allowed (for whatever reason) your children to be unkind to each. Allow Him to speak to your heart. I am going to provide you with some questions to ponder with Him. I encourage you to get a journal and write down whatever you heard or see Him saying to you. If He is really the head of your household, then give Him room to speak into this situation.

“Father God, would You please show me what makes You happy when you see family?”

“Jesus, would You be willing to reveal to me what in our family needs to come into alignment?”

“Holy Spirit, what does my child really need from me when there is conflict?”

“Father, what area do You want me to focus on with my children?”

“Jesus, if You were here today in the flesh, how would You handle my children?” (You may be surprised by the answer).

God is a perfect Father and knows how to lead your family into greater peace. Holy Spirit is your Helper, and there is nothing but hope ahead to have the family you have dreamed about. Let the Children Fly!

DANCE, EMMA, DANCE!

Emma, my second twin, wiggled in my womb so much it could easily take the nurses 45 minutes just to get an ultrasound of her. She hasn’t stopped moving since. Not in a hyper way (she is actually very mellow), but she is always dancing. I was never allowed to be carefree as a child, and the creative arts aren’t my natural bent, so it somewhat agitated me that she couldn’t just walk through the grocery store but always had to be leaping and twirling. I used to try to teach her to control herself and walk like a lady. It caused tension between us at times. Finally, God began to show me that her dancing is a gift from Him. It is almost warfare in nature. Something shifts in the atmosphere when she dances, which is so powerful.

I sensed Holy Spirit calling me to worship Him despite the heaviness of my heart. I found myself calling my daughter from the other room, “Dance, Emma, DANCE!” Within a few moments, something broke in the atmosphere. Interestingly, I endured a lot of grief while pregnant with her, and I sincerely believe all of the ‘movement’ was her dancing in the womb. I don’t always understand what is going on, but I DO know this – children are powerful carriers of the Kingdom, and when we as parents learn to steward their gifts vs. trying to control them, WE are the ones who are blessed.

PEACE IS AN INSIDE JOB

A sweet friend who I have known and loved for over 20 years sent me a private message telling me that one of my posts did not bring her peace. My first thought was that I should remove the post out of love for her, as I would never want to be responsible for increasing someone’s fear. But it didn’t sit right with me. I held onto it for a few hours waiting for direction from the Lord. Finally, I heard Him say, “Peace is an inside job,” and I marinated in that truth all day. While we are to test all things according to His Word, the truth is someone’s post, the news, circumstances, and hard trials do not have to rob us of our peace. This is a spiritual muscle that many have been tested in lately. Are you keeping your peace, guarding it at all costs? Flex your muscle that says, “I am unmoved by anything other than the hand of God and remain anchored to His perfect peace!”

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO TEACH THEM?

When a child misbehaves, you first have to ask yourself this question. “What have I done as the parent to teach them?” If you have never talked to them about lying, stealing, hitting, disobeying, etc., and discipline them for their choice, it is nothing more than punishment. When you see a behavior you do not desire, you can correct it, but that is your clue you need to be proactive and teach them on their level right and wrong. Take a recent issue that came up. Ask yourself, “What have I done to proactively teach them in the time of peace how to respond? How have I taught them how to succeed in that situation?” There is a difference between the child who is being foolish and has never been taught how to respond appropriately and the child who has been taught and willfully chooses to disobey. Sometimes a child’s behavior is a reflection of where we need to do our part to teach, empower and equip them.

WE PRAYED!

This is from 2016, and we still run into this waitress.

We went to our favorite restaurant last night, and a waitress came running over to us, asking if we remembered another waitress the kids prayed for over a year ago. I remembered her well. She looked like she had back pain and the kids asked about it. She began to tell us that her fiancée was in a bad motorcycle accident and in ICU, not expected to live. She told us that no one would take her shift and that she had to come in if she wanted to keep her job. She had a raging headache, and her back was hurting her. When we were leaving, the kids asked if they could pray for her; she was so emotionally thankful. They prayed for healing for her and her fiancée. The waitress yesterday told me that after the kids prayed, the man took a sudden turn and ended up having ‘miraculous’ healing and fully recovered. It is easy to ask simple questions of care and concern over others, and often, God opens up an opportunity to release Heaven over them!