On the Dreaded Back Seat.

vector-art-screaming-woman-lineart-isolated-eps-76971208I’d like to think that I’ve matured as a woman.  That over the years of marriage, family, joys and trials, that I’ve gained perspective. I’ve “grown up.”

And then some days, I lose my cool.  And when I say “cool,” what I really mean is my “ever lovin’ mind.”  Suddenly, I’m a toddler again throwing a tantrum.  Kind of like my six year old the other day when she didn’t want to ride in the back seat.

You see, when you have as many people in a family as we do, and you must drive an eight-passenger vehicle to accommodate said people, at least two have to sit in the back.  To hear them describe the DREADED back, you’d believe they’ve entered the seventh circle of hell.  Logically, because of less leg room and space, the smallest people get that honor (except for the baby in his car seat because Lord knows I am NOT climbing my 6-ft frame into that space to buckle him in all the time).   And even though this is the arrangement EVERY TIME we go anywhere, somehow the negotiations manage to begin as we are rapidly trying to get out the door for school.  Cue: all the complaining and tears.

Well, this particular morning it was such that I only had 4 of the 5 children going with me which meant only one person needed to be in purgatory for this ride.  Y’all, I was not prepared. I should have KNOWN this scenario was setting up and had a plan in place ahead of time.  Of course, none were willing to take a back seat for another (pun intended), so I had to make the decision.  And I really tried to be fair, as I am speedily buckling in baby, suggesting a compromise of Princess Ariel riding there on the way TO school, and Merida on the way back.  But before I could even finish the sentence, the screaming began…tears, red face, feigning sickness, refusal to comply.  Oh fun!  One of those days!  Did I mention we were in a hurry?

Ariel (the Kindergartner) was obviously tired from being out the night before, and IF she been the only school child, I probably would have called an audible and played hooky for the day.  However, two older sisters, desperately not wanting to miss school so they don’t fall behind, were counting on the ride.  They shouldn’t be punished with a tardy when they were ready to go, nor should Ariel be allowed to punish the family with her tantrum.  My patience was a bit thin already as I was also tired, had not eaten and definitely had not had any coffee happy magic sauce yet.  I tried quickly reasoning with the six year old (DON’T LAUGH), as if my voice could be heard above the wailing.  So my voice got a little louder, just hoping she would quiet enough to hear SOMETHING.  No dice.  The older girls couldn’t get in the car until she did so the seat can be flipped back down.

Then it happened.

“GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW BEFORE I BEAT YOUR BUTT!”

The yelling AND the threatening.  Such a parenting win, right?  *Eyeroll*  This was also followed by door slamming and screaming for seat belts to be put on, along with a few words (read: guilt trip) about someone always making us late.  It was the picture of maturity, I tell ya.

So Princess Ariel reluctantly complied and we made to school on time, hearing her sobs the whole way.  I tried to say a few things as we pulled in the parking lot to reassure her I loved her. “Don’t let this wreck your day!” I chirped.  As if.  Once in the drop-off lane, there was no time to really address the issue appropriately.  Also, I had to go to the grocery store and get home before the baby’s nap.  But the whole time I was shopping, I was thinking about the little six-year old heart that I just bruised.  It did not make her actions excusable, but I was without excuse as well. I don’t want to be that explosive parent who angrily tries to control her kids.  I’ll never forget a metaphor I read in the book Loving  Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk that compares relational power struggles to big yellow trucks that crush the little red trucks, basically operating out of fear of loss of control.  The result is broken connection, not love and trust.  And even though I definitely needed to address her behavior with discipline, none of that would happen with our connection broken.

(Watch this short youtube clip for more on Danny’s thoughts of Keeping Your Love On, one of the main premises in the parenting book.)

So, on the way back home from the grocery store, I stopped by the school, hauled the baby inside, and pulled my daughter out of class so that the brokenness would not cloud both of our days.  I told her I was sorry for my sin of being angry and yelling and threatening her.  I told her what she did was not right either and her choices do affect other people.  I asked if she wanted to say anything and she sincerely repented and threw her arms around my neck.  Then we talked about how to prevent the situation from happening again and agreed upon a consequence if it did.   Our connection was restored.  The next day she apologized to the rest of the family as well.

That day, I found myself facing a dreaded back seat.  Except my seat was Humility In Parenting.  I could have fought what God was trying to show me, drowning him out and rationalizing how it was not my fault.  I could have continued to yell and scream.  I could have ignored that voice of the Holy Spirit trying to draw me to realize my sin.  I needed to recognize my own failings and do what needed to be done to make it right.  And in the process, I needed to model and display to my precious six-year old that God the Father is not an angry, threatening person.  He is forgiving. He desires closeness with us and hates when it is broken.  I was reminded, once again in this life, of one of my favorite scriptures on God’s kindness:

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 NLT
Perspective…..maybe I’m growing up after all? 🙂
(Side note: the sorrowful face of Princess Ariel really is sad.  I mean, how can you not be moved by this?  How much more does God as a perfect father hate to see His kids suffer, even if it is at their own hands.)
number-4-crying

On Flumageddon, Family Fruit, and Fasting.

Pardon my absence, friends.  Just before Thanksgiving our family was hit with a string of illness where each and every member proceeded to contract Influenza B over a couple weeks.  At least one person held down a fever every day for three weeks.  And let me tell ya, it was nasty.  No essential oil could stop the freight train of contagiousness.  I’ll spare you the details, but when Mom has a fever for eight days straight and is in a fog for several weeks, it’s bad.  It’s how “things happen.”  Like when King James and I both were down, the children got themselves ready, breakfast prepared, lunches made and packed and were out the door to carpool for school unbeknownst to us sleeping parents–three mornings in a row!  Or like when I was ordering a cute picture of Prince Charming and meant to get six copies for each of all the grandparents’ Christmas gifts, I accidentally didn’t delete the original 1 from the ordering box and lo and behold, received SIXTY ONE copies of the same picture.  So if anyone who knows little buddy would like a copy, send me your address and I’ll mail you one. Lord knows I have enough. Haha!prince-charming

After Flumageddon was over, we were also hit with a lovely 48 hour stomach bug which wrapped up just in time for us to mad-dash cleaning, shopping, decorating and prepping for Christmas. WHEW! It was just a wee crazy.  However, we did have a love-filled Christmas with family, as well as some good down-time.

One of the things we did just before New Year’s as a family was to set aside a devotion night for worship and seeking God together.  I thought I would share about this experience because it has significant meaning and “fruit” for or family.  At the end of 2015, we did the same thing, taking time to praise God through music and singing and to also ask Him what He might want to tell us about 2016 (both for our family and as individuals).  We wanted to hear from Him any scriptures, words, pictures, etc that would specifically help guide us in our decisions, give us strength throughout the year, and also to allow the kids to experience listening to His voice (and the many ways He speaks).  Oh, how SWEET this time was–the older girls closing their eyes to listen, thumbing through their bibles, and writing down what they were feeling.  The younger girls drew pictures or jotted down a few words.  After about 30 minutes, each person shared what they experienced so we could encourage one another, be a witness or confirmation to what God was doing in the room, and be united in what He spoke.  Beautiful things were shared and prophetic pictures given.  Little did we know how clear God would be.

Ya’ll. Those words and prophetic pictures CAME TO PASS!  Here is a bit of back story just to help you understand.  Towards the end of 2015, for many reasons, Jim and I were assessing our school situation/plan for the kids (I had been homeschooling) as well as a seemingly growing opportunity for my attention/focus to be elsewhere part-time, and we were considering sending a few girls to a nearby school for the fall 2016 year.  We had NOT discussed the idea with the kids at all.  It was still sort of a “what if, maybe, let’s pray about it” type deal.  Well, one of the pictures Princess Rapunzel received was of her sitting in a classroom full of desks and students with a teacher at a chalkboard.  When she shared it with us, she was saying it with a confused tone because, obviously this was not the current reality and also because she didn’t necessarily want to go to a school.  Jim and I glanced at each other with eyebrows raised and said, “Wow, sweetie!  We should pray about what that might mean.  We believe God is speaking to you!”  Later, when some more things became clear about the school decision, we were able to refer back to that night and say, “See, God knew what the right thing for this year would be and he spoke through YOU to help confirm it to us all.”  This was a huge moment for Rapunzel.  She experienced God in a tangible way that led to tangible results.  Another picture she had that night was of three plane tickets to Tulsa being laid on a table.  This did not immediately mean anything to any of us.  Jim’s folks live in Tulsa and we sometimes drive down there, but we would need to keep that picture on the shelf until God decided to tell us more about it.  Well, a couple weeks later, Jim received a phone call from his dad presenting an opportunity to acquire a Smoothie King in Tulsa with part ownership for us.  One thing led to another and we moved forward with the deal.  Fast-forward to the end of 2016 and as we looked back, we realized that the endeavor required Jim to make three trips down there before the launch of the new store, and that the co-owners found two other locations that would be amazing for two more stores.  Again, we were blown away at God giving us direction and confirming that He has ordered our steps.  We had great discussions about hearing from God with the kids through it all.

There were other scriptures and things shared at our devotion night that we clung to last year as well.  So when we talked about doing the devotion night for 2017, the kids were all excited!  What would God do this time?  I decided to record a portion of the music/worship time we had where the girls are also learning to sing the word.  I highly encourage people to try this, even if you aren’t musical or don’t play instruments.  You can find/buy/download instrumental music (like this) and play it, pick a scripture passage and explore singing it.  Not only does it help you to remember it, but God begins to do things in your heart, mind, and soul as you meditate on it.

Now, just in case anyone thinks we do this devotion night every night of the week and they always go perfectly, think again.  We are a busy family of 7 with varying schedules, occasional illnesses, things that come up, and days where we’re just exhausted.  There are times when two kids get in a fight about who is going to sit next to who during the worship time and we begin the meeting frustrated.  But I encourage believers to shoot for at least once a month.  Work your way up to more frequently.  You will see good fruit in your family–even if it’s just that those two kids let go of their anger and are being kind again. LOL!

Speaking of fruit, I thought I would also offer some encouragements on fasting.  I do not boast in fasting or try to make big public displays when doing so, however our church is doing a 3-week season of prayer and fasting in January as a body.  It’s called Meals/Mouth/Media (one week each of food, watch what we say, and media/entertainment).  We participate, with the kids doing varying degrees of it.  Since Jim has been doing fasts since he was a teenager, he can do several weeks of no food.  The kids and I, on the other hand, not so much (especially if you’re like me and have spent many years pregnant or nursing).  You have to work your way up to longer and more intense fasts.  But the value we see in having our kids participate is rooted in a couple of ideas:

  • The Bible instructs us to do so.  And in some cases, we can ONLY see breakthrough by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).  We want our family to know how to seek God and pray, especially in times of crisis, shaking, or uncertainty.
  • We want our spirit to lead, not our flesh.  Practicing saying no to the flesh results in our spirit growing stronger.  We tell our flesh it will not have power over us because our body is a temple of the Lord.  Children fasting sugar or video games for three weeks feel the sting of the flesh, and there will most likely be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But in a culture that says to FEED the flesh, MORE is better, if it FEELS good do it…we could stand to tell our flesh “no” more  often so that our spirit be more in tune with The Creator and the Holy Spirit.
  • Fasting can “reset” things.  Whether it’s our body cleansing, or a person/family remembering priorities, breaking bad habits, and making better choices–fasting is revealing.  It reveals our weaknesses, behaviors, attitudes, etc.  And even children notice this when fasting.  This leads to incredible opportunities for discussions with kids or as a family.

Sometimes it’s helpful to know how others incorporate fasting and prayer in their life so families to get ideas on being successful.  So here are some things we have done or learned:

  • Ask your kids what they think they need to fast.  Get them involved.  They may surprise you! Start with a couple days, then a  week, then try several.
  • Water only food fast:  adults (and older teens) can do this.  I usually do 3-5 days.  Older kids could do one day.  Moms/caregivers that have to prep and be around food while serving it to others will find this very difficult to do long term.  Don’t set too lofty a goal and feel bad when you “fail.”
  • Partial food fast: This is often times more doable for families.  Remove one or more things from your diet that your flesh will feel and that you hate to give up…coffee/soda, sugar/dessert, bread/carbs, meat, etc.
  • Liquid/Juice fast: Give up chewing…no meats, breads, or food of real sustenance. Drink only water, some juices, bone broths.
  • As a family do a media fast:  either give it up completely or set “no media” zones/times.  Turn off the news, social media, TV/Movies, etc.  Only cell phone usage would be for calls, work, important messaging.  Have everyone charge their devices in kitchen (or non-bedrooms).
  • Use the time normally spent on media to worship, pray, read the bible or related books.
  • During our church’s “Mouth” fast, we become accountable to each other about what comes out of our mouths.  Jim and I give the kids permission to (in love) tell us when we are slipping up.  Maybe you need to stop cussing or constantly speaking negatively. Maybe you should give up talking about politics/sports/religion and see how it affects your soul.  Maybe you need to purposefully stop road rage and talking to other drivers.  Maybe the kids should watch their whining, or how they talk to siblings.  Possibly, you may need to actually open your mouth to proactively encourage others because normally you don’t ever share good things.  Whatever it is, make a pact to humbly and in love correct one another in spirit of Jesus.
  • For families with young kids, plan a celebratory night for when the fast is over.  This can help motivate everyone to persevere!  Sometime they like to do a countdown to the day (on the refrigerator or calendar).
  • Also for moms/caregivers…we often can not take the time normally spend eating and go spend it alone with God because we are serving others during that time.  So just be conscious of the Lord throughout your day, make mention of him often, be thankful during the serving, set alarms/calendar alerts to gather the kids together to thank God for something or pray, pull up a scripture passage on your phone/computer and briefly look at it several times a day or repeat/memorize it.  Even in the little acknowledgements of God, we draw closer to Him and He is well-pleased.

Till next time!

-Jess