God’s Grace is Enough

We had been chatting about God for about thirty minutes – this stranger and I – when he realized the time and had to leave. As he packed his laptop and books away in his worn leather shoulder bag, he paused.

Looking at me, he said, “You know something? I knew there was something different about you when I saw you before. I knew because you smiled at me, and nobody smiles like that any more.”

I tried to appear casual as I thanked him – genuinely appreciative of his compliment but not emotionally so – even though my heart felt in that moment as though someone had reached into my chest and squeezed it. Because this stranger – this man I had known less than an hour – was telling me he had seen God in me. That would normally have been good news, but on that particular day his kind words struck me as ironic and sad.

You see, just the night before I had been anything but “different” as I fell into the trap of anger. The reason for my anger was trivial but, caught in a weak and tired moment, it was more than enough. My rage came with the fury of a thousand wildfires and would not be tamed by a few deep breaths and positive thoughts. It burned through my body as I flounced through my neighborhood in the gray twilight. My feet pounded the pavement and my chest heaved as my racing mind and stomping feet tried to keep pace with one another.

I was angry and I didn’t really care who knew it. The thought occurred to me as I walked, my silver cross necklace glinting in the fading sunlight as it bounced on my chest, that if anyone saw me walking like that – storming my way down the street by myself – Christ would not be what they saw. In my anger, though, I didn’t care. I was possessed by my own fury that was all that mattered. I wanted someone to know how angry I was.

I returned home and had one of those embarrassing, repentant conversations with my husband and daughter – I like a child after a temper tantrum, they the bewildered bystanders wondering what had just happened. Thankfully, I was forgiven.

But the humiliation of my behavior was almost as bad as the anger that had driven it. A grown woman shouldn’t act that way, right? Adults should be able to control themselves better. CHRISTIANS should be able to control themselves better. What had I taught my daughter through my actions? What had I conveyed to her in my rage? How had I failed her? And how could I ever begin to fix it? And my husband…my poor husband. Why did he have to see such ugliness in his wife?

I fell asleep with those thoughts weighing on my mind and they lingered there throughout the next morning.

But early the next afternoon, in that corner of the coffee shop, a stranger had somehow seen Jesus when by all accounts, I was the last person qualified to represent Christ. He had seen the light of God even though my behavior should have covered it with a bushel.

I felt terrible as I realized that once again, the most important people in my life had fallen victim to the worst parts of me. I felt awful that I show light and life to the rest of the world when my husband and daughter catch the brunt of all that is dark inside me. I chastised myself, beating myself up over and over in my thoughts for being such a horrible help mate to my spouse and terrible example to my daughter.

But at some point, I realized something more powerful at work than my own regret. I realized that what God was trying to tell me that day was that His grace is enough for the big, ugly sins of my past, but is equally sufficient for the day-to-day struggles of my heart. He chose me – yes, a person like me – for the position He has given me in His plan. Me – despite my past failings and present inadequacies. Me – regardless of my daily failures and constant wandering.

God’s grace chose me – even me – and will not un-choose me based on anything I do. Even when I mess up – even when my thoughts and my words and my actions are toxic to myself and everyone around me – even when I allow the light to be hidden – even when I do all the things I vow never to do – God is not through with me. He can still use me. He is still within me, and I am still His.

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8 Thoughts About Discipline Every Parent Should Consider

By now, you’ve probably heard the news about NFL running back Adrian Peterson facing felony charges for child abuse. As I looked at the graphic images of the bruised and marked legs of the four-year old he spanked with a switch, it got me to thinking about my views on discipline and why I believe the way I do. I don’t doubt my views about discipline might evolve over time; but as of now, here are some thoughts about discipline I feel are timeless that every parent should consider.

Discipline

1. How we discipline doesn’t have to be nor should it be etched in stone.

It’s ok for the way we discipline our kids to change over time–whether it’s because our children age and mature or because of the varying severity of offenses. For instance, it’s ok for our views about discipline to change in between the oldest child and youngest child. We also shouldn’t be afraid or hesitant to vary our method of discipline if we find something isn’t working.

2. Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all formula.

Just because we were disciplined a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way to discipline our kids. It could be the right way, but it might not. Likewise, we shouldn’t feel compelled to discipline each one of our kids the same way. It could work out, but it might not. Think about yourself compared to a friend, relative or coworker. I’m guessing you all are pretty different and motivated in different ways. It’s no different with our kids. The way we discipline a child should be based on that particular child’s personality, interests, likes and everything else that makes them unique. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers are good resources to help determine how your child is wired.

3. Discipline should never be doled out when we’re angry.

It is not the time to discipline our children when we’re heated or upset. I don’t know about you, but I rarely carry out rational actions when I’m angry. If our kids do something to get our temperature boiling or we find ourselves doing a lot of yelling and screaming, we should take a few minutes to gather ourselves before moving on to discipline our children.

4. Discipline should always include correction or teaching.

Punishing bad behavior is good, but explaining to a child why a behavior is not good or showing them a better way to act is even better. The goal of discipline should always be to shape and mold godly behavior for the long-term.

5. Discipline should not be taken lightly.

Rather than defaulting to what we’ve grown up knowing or what everyone else is doing, at some point, we need to really think about how we want to discipline our children and why. Whether it’s praying about the best way to discipline our children, seeking guidance from the Bible or reading books on discipline, we should take a very thoughtful and measured approach to how we discipline our children.

6. Discipline may need to involve spanking.

I don’t think every offense warrants a spanking, but there are some offenses that are so flagrant and egregious, that a spanking might be necessary. As much as society is heading away from physical discipline, I don’t feel parents should be stripped of our ability to spank our kids. I also don’t believe, however, that spankings should ever be so intense that they leave physical marks, cuts and bruises. Nor do I believe we should spank our kids in such a way that our children grow to fear us.

7. Discipline is best doled out in private.

Given the age gap between ourselves and our kids, we sometimes forget that our children also have feelings, egos, pride and dignity. I don’t know many adults that would appreciate their boss or other authority figure disciplining them in front of their peers or in a public place. It’s no different with our kids. They might be young, but we still must honor them. If we consistently discipline our kids in public, we could be doing great damage to their dignity and causing unhealthy emotional walls to grow around their heart. I know it’s not always convenient, but as much as possible, we must try to discipline our children in private.

8. Discipline works best when mom and dad (or other caregivers) are in agreement.

When disciplining our children, they must see a united front from mom and dad. If dad dishes out the punishment and mom discredits everything he does in front of the child (or vice versa), that child is going to learn real quick not to take the punishment or the one doing the punishing too seriously. You might think you’re currying favor with your child; but more than likely, it’s only giving them a distorted view of authority and how it works. I know presenting a united front might be hard, because what if you don’t agree with how your spouse is disciplining your children? If that’s the case, it’s best to voice your concerns to your spouse in private and work together to come up with a discipline plan that works for both of you.

I’m curious, what are some other thoughts you have about discipline? Have these views morphed over time?

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