As I have reflected over the last week or so, I am encouraged to be seeing a change in my heart towards my children in regard to my tendency to be harsh in my speech and attitude towards them. I'm also seeing how He, himself, is showing me the way He wants me to build relationships with my children...an issue I have felt an increasing urgency to address. What's even more encouraging is that I didn't realize it was happening. He has brought this awareness by way of the Spirit and I am so encouraged to know that it is HIM who is changing me...NOT myself.
For a little while now I have been increasingly convicted by my harshness towards my children in speech and attitude, the tendency to make them out to be burdens just with the tone I speak to them with, and the lack of having relationships with them. I felt the need to begin making some changes...the LORD brought different convictions to me regarding the use of my time and prompted me to make different choices in a few areas. I'm certain more changes are to come as I continue to seek Him, but I am finding great encouragement so far in what He has done within my heart and therefore my actions are changing.
It started with a conviction of the way I spend my time in the afternoons. The kids have "quiet time" each afternoon during Oliver's nap and I would use this time to either catch up on Facebook or watch some mind-numbing show on Hulu. Are these things bad? No, they're just not the BEST. I also began to see how I was treating my children during this "quiet time". If they came out and interrupted me I would speak harshly as if they are burdens and as if I'm entitled to have MY quiet time without interruption. Most days they didn't know how long "quiet time" would last...it just depended on my selfish desires to please my flesh and of course this results in exasperating them by them not knowing what to expect. As the Lord revealed this to me, He also gently showed me what needed to be changed. I decided to forsake computer time in the afternoons during this designated "quiet time" and use that time to sit at HIS feet in prayer, reading, or writing. I sat the children down and confessed my sin to them in this area, shared with them the new plan for our "quiet time" in the afternoon...giving them a time frame of 90 minutes (we even set the timer) and what was expected of them during this time and the consequences if they did not obey. So, now they know I use "quiet time" to seek the LORD, it will last 90 minutes, they are not allowed to play together, but do something quietly in their beds and no getting out of their beds unless to use the restroom. They have done fantastic! It is amazing what setting known boundaries can do for children's obedience! I am so proud of them.
The other area that came to mind was that of mealtimes. My usual pattern during these times, breakfast and lunch that is, I would make their meal, serve them, then get my food prepared and sit at the computer on Facebook or Hulu (can you see an idol here?) I would also allow the computer to delay the beginning of my day and the getting back into the day after mealtimes. This change has been more supernatural than the other. I don't recall making a conscience choice to not sit at the computer other than the thought "If I sat at the table with my children during mealtimes I would probably have opportunities for the building of relationships with them by means of conversations". Then without realizing it, I am no longer sitting at the computer during these times. I am here rarely and for less time when I am. I sit with my children during meals and no longer allow the computer to distract me at the start of my day. These changes have been an amazing work of the Spirit and God's grace.
Another opportune time the LORD has shown me to cultivate relationships with my children by means of bringing them into my activities is by praying in the car. It hit me the other day as Avrie and I were on our way to my appointment with my midwife. He was not accompanying me by choice, it was a consequence from complaining and arguing earlier in the day and therefore the consequence of hanging with our friends, The Millers, was taken away from him. Anyway, the commute to the Birthing Center to see my midwife is 25 minutes and my appointment was at 2:30 so I would not be having my usual afternoon quiet time with the LORD, so the thought came to me to invite Avrie to pray with me on our way home. I of course gave him the option to pray himself or just follow with me as I prayed. So we did it...now, do I see relationship changes instantly? Of course not, but I do trust God to use it knowing that it is something pleasing to Him. All the kids and I had another prompting to pray while commuting the following day...they each (with the exception of Oliver) prayed aloud. It was a sweet moment and I am so thankful the LORD is moving in us to pray more. Praying together in the car is something we are beginning to make a regular thing.
Now, as I have shared before, I have a tendency to speak harshly to my children by my tone and the choice of words. I can probably say that before salvation "cursing" was my first language and "English" was my second. Therefore with that said, when I get angry or annoyed, I resort to cursing. Then there are the two words that roll off my tongue quite easily... shut up ... I have been praying, and so have the children...their prayer is usually "God, please help Mommy catch herself"...that the LORD would change my heart and help me to be gentle, soft spoken and more tenderhearted in my communication. Now this area of sin in my life is one that I have questioned whether or not I could change or not. It just seems like it would be impossible because it is a sin that so easily entangles me. Well, God's Word is true..."with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matt. 19:26 !!! As I was putting the children to bed the other night, they were not calming down and I responded quickly with "shut up" and instantly I was convicted, but at the same time God also spoke to me with the encouragement that I had not said "shut up" to my children in a least a week and immediately following that He sweetly encouraged me again with pointing out that I haven't been cursing either! I was awe struck. I can't even put into words how amazed and over whelmed I am by His grace. Now that's God changing my heart because His Word says in Matt 12: 34 "...for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" so this assures me the change is in my heart and that it has been done in His strength not my own. Oh praise Him for His faithfulness and His grace that is poured out on me daily in abundance!
To close, I would like to share a Scripture that I heard in some teaching a couple weeks ago by CJ Mahaney titled "What a Mother Can't Do Without". It was again spoke by a lady at my Uncommon Vessels group last night on a whole other topic, but nonetheless, it was brought up again. When she said it, I thought hmmm...that's what I'm experiencing with regard to the changes in my heart and activities recently. So I asked her what the reference was and she took my Bible and looked for it...well, it was already underlined in my Bible, but I didn't have any recollection of why and when I underlined it. Then as I looked it up to type it here, I read it and thought I've heard that before recently...well duh! I heard is a couple weeks ago during that teaching and underlined it then. Now, I'm sitting here amazed at how God brought full circle something He was wanting me to learn and the Truth to His Word. Here's the verse
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
Don't you see? I have been praying, believing He can change me, asking for increased faith, drawing near to Him, forsaking activities to seek Him and He is rewarding me by tenderly transforming my heart. May He receive ALL glory!