Helping children fight fear


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This spring has been cold and snowy, just like our winter.  Just this morning there was frost covering the car, and now I have a child with a cold napping on my lap as I write.  It definitely doesn’t feel like spring.  Just a few months ago I took this little sick girl in for a doctor visit (a well-child visit, ironically), and she was so afraid that she had a hard time getting out of the car.  It can be difficult to help a child with fear because even if you can get them to obey, there are many emotions still lingering.  I decided I needed a system to help my kids gain courage.

First, we obey.  I tell them not to think about how they feel, but just to obey.  It doesn’t matter if they feel like it will be scary in the doctor’s office, they need to obey me and walk in.  It doesn’t matter if they have butterflies in their tummy, they need to obey my instructions.  That is the first step.  Obedience even when the emotions are not there.  I have to explain to them that sometimes we should not listen to ourselves.  Sometimes our emotions are wrong and when they are telling us to disobey, we have to act against them.

Second, we remember.
  We remember all the times we have been to the doctor and come out alive.  We remember all the ways that doctors have helped us.  We talk about times we have done scary things and everything turned out well.  We remember when we went to the dentist and it didn’t hurt one bit.  They may be too young to remember some of these times, so I tell them stories.  I tell them about how they were sick as an infant and God protected them and brought them healing.  Or if they are afraid of something else, like the dark, we talk about all the times God has protected us in the dark.  We remember that He watched over us through thousands of nights.  I have to show my child how to talk truth to themselves.  The truth is that God cares about us and is constantly watching over us with care.  I need to help them remember that so they can fight their fear.

Third, we give thanks
.  We give thanks for all the kind mercies along the way, even if the experience is hard.  We look at reality, which is often less scary than our imaginations and worries.  We give thanks for the stickers and the prize box at the pediatrician’s office.  We give thanks for the free ice cream coupons after shots.  We give thanks for the funny looking hospital gown we have to wear and we take silly pictures in it.  I remind my child that God does not give us hard things without giving us gifts in the middle of the hard.  We look around for the gifts and give thanks for them.  On scary dark nights, we give thanks for nightlights and flashlights and CDs with our favorite stories and fuzzy pajamas.  I can’t just tell my child to stop being afraid and obey.  That is only the first step.  I have to help them replace their fear with gratitude.  I have to show them what courage looks like.  If they are going to gain victory over their emotion of fear, they need to know what other path to take.

8 years married

It was cold and crisp that morning, but the sun shone beautifully on the New Year.  The snow stuck to the branches and sparkled on the ground.  After a night of fitful sleep, I left my apartment early.  It was my wedding day.


I grabbed my fathers arm and we walked around the corner, a sea of familiar faces smiling at me and every one stood.  I looked at my father, he swallowed hard and I had to look away so that I wouldn’t cry.  From the balcony, crisp and beautiful, the choir sang…

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor
Exultamus et in ipso jucundemure
Timeamus et ameamus Deum vivum
Et excorde diligamus nos sincero

(Translation: Where there is charity and love, God is there
The love of Christ has gathered us into one
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad
Let us fear and let us love the living God
And from a sincere heart let us love one another).

The rest of my wedding was a blur, every bride will tell you.  I remember beautiful words from my father and father-in-law, songs and toasts, so much food and wine.  I remember dozens and dozens of friends volunteering their time (some last minute) so that everything would come together.  Friends were cooking and setting up the reception and assembling centerpieces and vacuuming the church.  I remember sisters, new sisters, little sisters, and sisters in Christ, surrounding me as I prepared for my wedding that morning with gifts and words and hugs.  But the thing I remember the most was the choir as I walked with my father, singing Latin words about Christ and His love and how His love gathers us together, and then seeing so many friends pour out kindness and love without any recognition or return.  It’s like the words took shape right before my eyes, teaching me what is really means to love.

Where there is love, God is there.   Love is learning to see something from someone else’s perspective and anticipate their needs.  Jesus says it: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Jesus did it; He took on flesh to see from our perspective.

Love is the same in marriage.  It is like putting on someone else’s prescription glasses.  At first it can be awkward and fuzzy, especially if you have different perspectives on a lot of things.  But as you let yourself be influenced by each other your eye site changes and you start to see more clearly than you saw before.  My memories from before I was married are fuzzy, as if I didn’t really know how to see the world.  I have had to adjust, to see a new perspective, and I can say for certain that I love Jon’s glasses much better than my own.  His perspective has changed the way I see everything, and his perspective has taught me so much about love.

(Photos by Peter Roise)


Faith and Authority

the only other picture

When Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, saying, “Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.”

Jesus saith unto him, “I will come and heal him.”  

The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”

When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

And Jesus said unto the centurion, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the same hour.” (Matthew 8)

I often hear faith equivocated with being bold, with putting everything on the line and not being afraid to take risks.  I hear people talking about faith as a lack of worry when things aren’t looking so great.  I hear of faith as a reassurance in your heart and soul that you have been bought with His blood.  Faith has many facets, and faith manifests itself in our stories in many different ways.  In His interaction with the centurion, Christ gives us another angle on faith that many of us miss.  The centurion tells Christ if He will just say the words then his servant will be healed.  How does he know this?  Because he understands authority and submission and obedience, and he believes that Jesus is God the Creator, which means that Jesus has authority over words and bodies and “the palsy”.  Jesus says this is the greatest faith he has seen in all of Israel!  It is so easy to skip over the centurion’s explanation of his own ranking in the military line of authority and think that his faith is praised because he believes Christ is a healer.  But that is not what is happening here.  Jesus praises the centurion’s faith because the centurion understands authority, and he understands that if Christ is in authority of heaven and earth then His words cannot return void.  He merely has to speak the word and the servant will be healed.

We are drowning in a culture that has no idea how authority should function.  We are a people who dishonors parents, who disrespects teachers, who humiliates pastors, who pokes fun at political leaders, who complains about bosses, who tears down husbands.  We think we have a right to disrespect men or women in authority because we disagree with them.  It is possible that the only place where we even begin to properly recognize authority is within sports, on the ball-field, with coaches and umpires and referees, but even then we feel it is our right to scream and yell if we do not get our way.  Perhaps the military has a small grasp on how to respect an authority, which was the case with the centurion.  Of all the men in Israel, Jesus had found no one else whose faith was as strong as the centurion’s.  His understanding and respect of Jesus’ authority was attributed to him as faith.

How can we even begin to understand faith when we are so confused on what it means to respect authority?  Christ is our King!  I think we spend more time meditating Christ as a servant than meditating on being obedient to His marching orders.  We focus so much on the cross (which is wonderful!!), but we forget that our faith is not only believing in that event.  What happens next?  Christ says that if we love Him we will obey His commands.  Our faith is manifested in following His lead, in obeying Him, in recognizing His authority over all words and events.  Our faith is manifested in joyful submission to whatever He is doing in our lives and however He has chosen to tell our stories.

And what has He done in your life?  Has he given you parents? Honor them, speak kind words about them.  Has He given you a husband? Praise him, defer to him, obey him.  Has He given you a pastor? Treat him with respect, listen to him, trust him.  Has He given you a boss?  Obey them, work hard for them, speak kindly of them.

We are quick to think of exceptions, aren’t we?  We are quick to say “yes, but what about when an authority is mistreating you?  When an authority is not acting wisely? When your boss really does overwork you and underpay you?  When your parents act selfishly?”  We are quick to think we are all Abigails and it would be Godly to call our husbands fools.  We are quick to compare our authority figures to Sisera and think of ourselves as Jael. We are quick to think that because an authority figure has made a mistake or has a weakness it gives us the right to speak out against them and demand an apology.  We are quick to say that because it is possible to abuse authority, therefore no one should have authority, and we mock and start name calling so everyone knows that NO AUTHORITY IS ABSOLUTE.  It is very possible that we are focusing on the wrong end of the spectrum.  Christ equivocates the centurion’s faith with his understanding of obedience under authority.  Maybe we should spend more time looking for ways to respect authority than looking for exceptions, and maybe this would be accounted to us as faith.  Maybe the faith that Christ is asking us to show is faith in the ones He has placed in authority in your story, faith that He wants you to honor and respect them, faith that He knows all their faults and shortcomings and He knows how obedience to them will work in your story for your good.

There will be situations where authority is abused, where husbands are lazy and ask too much of their wives, where parents are selfish and put ridiculously restraining rules on their children, where governments tax too much.  Remember David?  When his King and father-in-law was chasing him through the Desert of En Gedi trying to kill him and Saul fell asleep in the cave?  David’s men were urging him to kill Saul, but instead David just cut off a corner of his robe.  And afterward “David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul.”(1 Samuel 24)  David was on the run.  He fled from Saul multiple times.  He did not put his own life in danger or the lives of the men with him, but He refused to harm the one that God had chosen to put in authority over Israel.  That was the Lord’s decision, and David’s faith was manifested in recognizing that he had no right to harm one whom the Lord put in authority over him.  There is obviously a time when fleeing from an authority is right, when disagreeing with an authority is wise, and turning an authority over to a greater authority is prudent, but we often think that this is a free pass for disrespect.  We are often more interested in making sure everyone else knows about how we were wronged than about forgiveness and having faith that the Lord is the judge and He will not let our righteousness be overlooked.

For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.

The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.

The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.

Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.

Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.

But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him. (Psalm 37)

Confessing Their Sins


Sin is contagious.  I’m sure you have heard the saying, “bad company corrupts good morals”.  Sometimes we think we are strong enough to be salt and light, to be the good example, and a witness to those in sin.  Many times the Lord uses our faithfulness to lead others to himself.  But if we are dragging sin around with us, our saltiness can lose its flavor.  Remember the first time a woman sinned and how easily, how quickly, her husband jumped in after her.   It isn’t just the visible sin that is contagious, it is also the secret sin.  Sin clouds and confuses and creates all sorts of blindness, not only for us but for those around us.

We have had a seriously rainy season here in Louisville.  I can only remember five or six sunny days since February.  Maybe there have been more, but my point is that we have had days upon days of rain.  In this area of the country we also have thunder and lightning with our rain.  Being a Georgia born girl, I love a good, loud thunderstorm.  I love the smell of the rain, the rumbling thunder through the clouds, the sudden black cloud cover as the storm rolls in, and the freshness in the air as it rolls out.  My daughter does not feel the same way.  She is terrified.  It started with a fear of the being struck by lightning.  We never ventured out in storms.  Her fear escalated over the months to the point where she would close the curtains if she saw a cloud, or refuse to go to the park if she saw a thunderstorm warning on my weather app.  We prayed, we talked about being brave, we read books about weather, and researched how to stay safe.  But still, if a cloud appeared the poor girl was curled up in the corner of the house afraid to move too close to a window.

It became apparent to me that things were getting a little ridiculous, and the issue was far beyond thunderstorms.  Her fear was very real to her and she was fighting with learning to trust in the midst of fear.

I pray for my children often, for their futures and for their present struggles.  I prayed for my daughter to have courage and to learn trust.  But what I kept realizing was that I was making the same request for myself.  My own struggle with worry and fear and forgetting to trust a God who has always cared for me is constant.  My sin, although silent, was contagious and contaminating my daughter.  Instead of praying that she would have courage, I began confessing my own lack of courage.  Instead of praying that she would learn not to be afraid, I began confessing my own fear.  I cringe when I realize how many thoughts I have wasted in being afraid of things that are not happening, of being worried about possibilities.  If I do not confess my own fears and worries, my children will not be able to conquer their own.  I will keep infecting them.

We opened the front door to watch the lightning last week. She sat next to me on the stair, squeezing my hand, but she did not cry.   She hasn’t checked the weather app in days.  Her courage is growing.  The root of the struggle is being uprooted, beginning with the uprooting of my struggle.  The speck in her eye is coming out, beginning with the plank in mine. In the spiral of confusion as I tried to lead through this struggle, I found my foothold in confession.  People say that children are like mirrors, and people are right.  They do not just mimic our outward personality traits and our open struggles, they also mirror our inward sins, our fear, our discontent, our silent disobedience, our dishonesty, our worry, our disrespect, our ingratitude, our envy, our bitterness.  Sin is contagious even in silence.

We have been talking a lot about the Israelites on their first visit to Canaan.  They peared over the wall and were afraid of what they saw.  Their fear was legitimate.  The Canaanites were strong, they were many, and they were powerful.  In comparison the Israelites were like tiny grasshoppers.  From a practical standpoint, the odds were against them.  But they forgot how full of power their God is, and that He can make a city fall with only the sound of a trumpet.  THe Lord was not happy with their fear and He sent them back into the wilderness to live the rest of their days.

“Do not be afraid” I tell my daughter every day.  “Do not be afraid.” I tell myself.  I could spend a long time explaining that the fear of a thunderstorm is unfounded, but that is not the point.  She will eventually find something to fear that is real, something that can actually hurt her.  So I tell her not to let fear control her actions, to have courage, and to believe that the God who has crushed enemies with their own city walls holds her in His hand and we are very safe.

Grandma Leithart


She would have turned 96 on Monday, but she has been with the Lord for almost eight years. Although we never lived close, our annual visits engraved their way on my childhood. She always told me that she wished she was a boy, and that when I grew up she hoped I only had boys. I told her that was crazy and asked to paint her nails, and she always let me. She would never allow the bright colors, usually it was clear polish, and always something muted and sensible. She would let me “style” her fuzzy gray hair, and I loved standing in front of her vanity in her maroon tiled bathroom. It was like stepping back in time. She never threw anything away.  People always told me I looked like her, and I hated it. She had a big German nose and very long arms and kind of a crooked smile. They were right though- I look just like her.

I can’t shake the memory of her old hands and exactly the way it felt to hold them as I sat on her bed while she gave me things. She was always trying to give me her jewelry from around the world (what was left of it) and old funny things, because she said she was going to die soon. I never remember a visit where she didn’t say she was about to die, and I remember 18 years of visits. The Lord kept giving her more years and she kept playing organ at her church and making spaghetti when we visited and serving breakfast on the screen porch and refusing to buy new clothes and giving away anything fancy and clapping for our silly plays and faithfully walking through life when she knew she was ready to be finished. She always told me to stay close to the Lord, and that you can’t serve God and money, and that being a wife and mother is a full time job and I should treat it like one when the time comes.

On my last visit before she died she sang for me, as she always did before we left, “God be with you ’til we meet again, ’til we meet at Jesus’ feet“. But that time I knew it was really true, it was really the last time we would see each other until we are both with Jesus. When I visited again a few months later, I cried when I saw her hands. Those were not the hands that I loved and the hands that I remembered- those hands had no life and were not serving. But my grief was short and the sadness overshadowed by the hope in her words to me. When she passed on I felt more pride than sadness, pride that she had lived a faithful life, relief for her that she was finished with her race, proud of what she left behind and proud to hold the memories, proud of the boy she raised into my father, and most of all I felt privileged to live a life in the shadow of her faith.

Planning Ahead


This might seem silly, and it’s okay if you laugh at me, but I actually rehearse conversations with my kids before they happen.  When the house is quiet in the late evening, and I’m standing in front of a pile of soapy dishes, I think about what I am going to say to them in certain situations.  When I am driving in the car, and it is the rare moment that everyone has fallen asleep, I rehearse what I will do when they fall into certain sins.  When I am reading the Word in the early morning, I jot down verses that I want to bring up with them later.  If I am going to be a good trainer of these little troops, I have to have a plan.  If I am going to be able to withstand the surprising stressful moments with patience and kindness, I have to think ahead.  Because when you have any children under the age of six, nothing should surprise you.  I love little ones.  Their behavior is sweet and cute and funny, but they have only been in the world a few years.  Should I really be surprised when they are overtaken with jealousy or when they can’t control their tiredness?  I’m called to train them, which means they are going to need training!  I can’t expect them to know how to live without years of correction and practice and training

If you have spent any time with your children, you probably know what kinds of sins they are easily ensnared by.  Generally speaking little boys struggle with controlling themselves physically, and they are prone to hit, punch, wrestle or run where they shouldn’t.  Little girls seem to struggle more with controlling their emotions.  They tend to cry when they shouldn’t, whine, sulk, and envy.  I find it extremely helpful to watch for and notice what sins my particular children are more prone to, and to make a plan for how I am going to handle the situation when they start to slip.

I have put together a list of verses that I memorize with my girls.  These have helped me in many situations.  Have you ever seen your child in sin, and in the moment you can’t think of anything to say other than “Stop it!  Just stop whatever it is that you are doing!”?  The frustrating thing for them is that most of the time they don’t even understand what is wrong with whatever they are doing.  Instead I find it so much more effective to say something like “I can see that you are grumpy right now.  What does the Bible say about being grumpy?  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.  Can we pray together for a joyful heart. Now you need to stop being grumpy.”  Or “I just told you not to jump on the couch.  What does the Bible say about obeying my words? Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  You need to listen to my words and obey them.”

I know there are many, many more verses that can be used for training children, but these are some of the ones that I seem to use the most frequently.  I try to use the same ones over and over again in my correction so that they remember it.  I hope these can be helpful to you, and that you can add your own verses for whatever your children need

For when they need to be reminded to obey:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1

For when they need to remember to speak respectfully:
“Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God if giving you.” Ex. 20:12

For when they are throwing fits:
“A man without self control is like city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28 I explain this one by telling them that that if they throw a fit, their heart has no walls and it makes it very easy for sin to get in and control them, but if they control themselves, then their heart is strong like a city with tall walls.

For when they are afraid:
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust” Psalm 56:3

For when they need to forgive or be kind to others:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

For when others are unkind to them:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

For when they need to be reminded to be cheerful:
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

For when they notice how beautiful they are:
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 30:30

For when they make crass jokes:
“Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which is out of place, instead let there be thanksgiving.” Eph. 5:4

For when they are complaining:
“Do all things without complaining or arguing, so that you may become children of God, blameless and pure.” Philippians 2:14

For when they forget the rules:
“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:11

For when they are feeling shy:
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

For when they are jealous or envious:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with the things that you have, for God has said, ‘I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5

For when they need to be reminded of God’s forgiveness:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Forgive Us


To my daughters, when you are correcting your small ones,

We have our little routine down, don’t we?  You know it well: infraction, discipline, forgiveness.  You know that I never discipline you, not even with the tiniest flick on the hand, without praying with you afterwards.  Our prayer is usually very short and simple.

You say, often through sobs and tears, “Father in Heaven, please forgive me for disobeying my mom” or “Father in Heaven, please forgive me for not being joyful” or “Father in Heaven, please forgive me for not loving my sister as You commanded”.

And then it is my turn to remind you that He is faithful and just, that He forgives us of all of our sins.  I hold you and say “Now, repeat after me, ‘all forgiven’!”  More often than not, those two words clear the tears and I can see the relief in your eyes.  On a good day, I even get an extra hug, and you are off again to play.

When you are playing my role, when God has given you your own children to train, do not ever miss that last step, no matter how busy or distracted you are, no matter what  else is happening in the background.  Hold up your child’s chin and say to them “You are all forgiven!”

And now here is the hardest part: you actually have to mean that!  You have to forgive them!  Forgive them for embarrassing you, forgive them for forgetting, forgive them for offending our Heavenly Father.  If He has put their sins as far as the East is from the West, then so must you.  You may not hold on to the tiniest bit of bitterness or anger.  You say they are forgiven, you have to forgive them.

You have to forgive them because it is highly likely that they will leave the room and hit their sister again…within 10 minutes!  You have to forgive them because they will probably throw another big fit…that same afternoon!  And when you gently take their hand and lead them back to your room for more correction, you are the one who has  to have a clean heart.  Their past sin (from 30 seconds ago) is forgiven, and that means mom doesn’t remember it.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Their sin is gone, washed away.  If Christ’s blood is sufficient for the Father then it must be sufficient for you.

What do you think will happen if you are not forgiving your children all day, every day? If you are counting the times they have needed correction for the same offense? If you are keeping tabs on their infractions?  You will pile their sin up, where Christ has already washed it clean.  Your voice will get louder, your grip tighter, your tone shorter.  Your patience will be chiseled away.  Your long-suffering will not be long, only suffering.  And worst of all, they will not believe that they are forgiven.

“You are all forgiven!” Say it for them, and say it for yourself.  Say it to yourself if that helps, “they are all forgiven”!  And when you are talking to them for the fourteenth time about jumping on the couch, you will be able to speak to them as if it were the first time.  Practice memory loss when it comes to their sins.  Forgive.  Forget.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”

The Compassion Of Christ


I love Holy Week.  Ever since my oldest was two, I have read the resurrection story to my children every day of holy week, and every year I learn more than they do.  The student teaches the teacher, again. This year as we were reading about the Garden of Gethsemane, Darcy asked me why Jesus was so scared.  Why was he sweating drops of blood and asking God to find another way?  He knew he would be alive again soon.  He knew that His job had a definite end, and it was only going to be a few days.  Even though there was joy set before Him, and He knew He would make all things new through this death, He was still afraid.

I have had a similar conundrum when reading the story of Lazarus.  When Jesus arrived at his house, Lazarus had already been dead for days.  Jesus knew He could raise him from the dead.  But still, he wept.  He knew resurrection was in his power, but He still felt the sting of the death of His dear friend.  He could have come to Lazarus sooner and healed him while he was sick, but Jesus chose to wait.  He chose to subject himself to the pain of loosing a loved one.  He says it is the best way for God’s glory to be shown in that circumstance.

I don’t want to pretend like I know why Jesus did everything the way he did, but I do know that it shows us something about Himself.  Our Lord is compassionate.  He subjected himself to feel what we do when confronted with strong temptation, with terrifying situations, and even with death.  He did not just rush through these experiences, knowing that He was an omnipotent God.  He knew that he could heal and reverse death and call a legion of angels to His side at any moment.  But He chose not to.  He chose to feel what we are feeling, to withstand temptation, to endure his own death, to weep at the side of his friend’s grave.  His power is made perfect in weakness.  This is a mystery.  His love is compassion.  His love is allowing himself to be in the same kinds of situations that we face all through this life.  His love is kindness.  His love is reversing our deaths by subjecting himself to death.

On a much (much!) smaller scale, this kindness and compassion can teach me about how I lead my own children in their small, daily struggles. How many times have I been in a situation where I know everything is going to be fine but my children don’t?  They are worried, they are freaking out, and it is probably over something that I know I can fix.  How many times do children just cry because they are hungry, as if they will never get another meal?  How many times do children fall limp on the floor because my command to clean up the toys seems impossible?  Can I be like Jesus when He gently told Martha and Mary that their brother was only asleep?  Can I have the compassion of Jesus and understand what they are feeling?  Jesus cries along side them, and then comforts them with his words that Lazarus will rise.  Jesus doesn’t tell us not to worry as someone who has never faced worry. He sweats blood in a garden and pleads with the Father over his situation.  He knows the temptation to worry, and He tells us to cast it off.  He knows the weight of hunger, and He feeds 5000 people.  Can I be a compassionate mother like that?  Can I look into my child’s eyes and tell her not to fuss about dinner, but with the same compassion of one who knows how hard it is to wait? Can I hold them when they have a bad dream, and tell them none of it is real, but with the kindness of someone who knows what it feels like to be afraid?  Or do I dismiss their fears and their worries and their struggles because I know they won’t last long?  Can I find a more compassionate way to exercise my authority and abandon the answer “because I told you so”?  Am I the kind of mother who tells my children to “get over it” because I know that a scratch on their knee isn’t going to kill them?  Or am I the kind of mother who can, like Jesus, compassionately kiss their hurts, understanding that their fears are real to them, and kindly tell them that they will heal?  Can I be kind like Jesus on the stormy waters when He asked His disciples be calm while He gently calmed the waves?  Can I be kind when nobody in the house is being calm?  Can I bring the calm?

Jesus knows the end of the Easter story when He rides into Jerusalem.  He knows that He will soon be with His Father again, and He will soon conquer death.  But it does not stop Him from being afraid.  It does not stop the pain from being very real.  Knowing the end will be good, doesn’t mean the story won’t be hard.  I want to understand this in the most minuscule circumstances, in the smallest little stories that happen in our little daily lives.  Just because I know that everything will be fine, doesn’t mean I should treat my children’s experiences and fears like they don’t matter.  As they grow, their troubles will get bigger.  Can I be like Jesus?  Can they come to me with any hurts, no matter how small or how big, and find compassion even when I know they will be fine in the end?  I don’t want to raise children who are tough and independent, I want to raise children who are strong in Christ and rely completely on Him to heal their troubles.

Jesus turned to the criminal who hung beside him and said “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  This is not a comfort coming from someone who doesn’t understand the pain that is currently happening.  This is a comfort coming from a man who is hanging, dying for the sins of the world.  A man in the midst of pain, understanding the pain of the man beside him, becomes the comforter.  He gives hope, but He also gives great compassion.  He know this hurts. He knows it will be over soon.  He knows what it feels like.  And he knows everything will soon be healed.



I have very limited experience as a parent.  My oldest child is only five, and I have yet to deal with disciplining a boy.  So far my boy is practically perfect.  I am quite sure that all of the seasoned parents reading this will chuckle at my naivety and inexperience.  But if this is helpful to even one floundering mom, then I have accomplished my goal.

When people say that three children is hard, they are not joking.  Suddenly I went from being just busy to being stretched way too thin.  And the thinner mom is stretched, the more each child needs.    The less I felt I could give, the more they wanted.  I really began noticing this about a month ago, when some strange behavior started showing up.  Most of the time, the sin around here is pretty cut and dry and can easily be turned from with some firm correction and redirection.  But I was hitting a point where I felt like nothing was working. The bad attitudes and mean spirits were popping up all over the place at weird times and I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole parenting.  I needed to redirect myself.

When my children are sick, I cancel our plans and set aside some time to specially focus on them.  Most of the time during these seasons, many things (like the laundry and the dishes and play-dates) take the back burner and I am 100% focused on what that child needs.  So why wasn’t I doing this with our attitude sickness that kept showing itself?

I decided to set aside an entire week for attitude re-training.  I canceled all our plans, even moved appointments, and made a plan of attack.  I did all my errands over weekend and stocked up on plenty of crafting supplies.  I made sure I was dressed and coffeed by the time the children were up every morning.  I turned off my phone.  I set aside my to-do lists.  I planned very simple meals that the kids could help me prepare.  And I did everything with the kids that week.  No alone time!  My full attention was on them.  When they were playing with blocks, I got on the floor and built with them without texting friends while we played.  When we worked on letters and numbers, I refrained from folding the laundry and gave them my full attention.  When they were going to bed, I got in the bed and snuggled and told stories.  When we sat down to work on crafts, I did crafts too instead of using the time to place Amazon orders.  I saved all my chores for the evening after the kids were asleep.  When we were outside I threw the ball with them.  When we went to the park, I raced them down the slide and went on the swings with them.  When I was nursing the baby, I read stories out loud instead of reading my own books.  When we ate lunch together, i had joke competitions with them instead of menu planning.

And do you know what happened?  Within two days the girls were playing sweeter, obeying quicker, sharing better, whining less, and staying focused on a task longer.  Obviously this intensity can’t be constant.  The laundry does need to be folded and errands need to be accomplished.  It is good for children to learn to wait and not have the world centered around them constantly.  But that week was the perfect dosage of vitamin C that they needed for the soul-colds.  They just needed an intense reminder that they are my top priority and I am always willing to set aside everything else if they are struggling.

Things are getting back to a normal pace now, but I am so thankful for this experience.  I certainly plan to do this again if I see their love-tanks starting to run low.  Cut back on multi-tasking and pour out a joyful heart, which is the best medicine.

Five Year Old Stuff


As it turns out, having a five year old around is pretty fun.  She is always saying the funniest, cutest things, and I’m really enjoying these days with her.  She is learning so much about the world and doesn’t ever stop asking questions.  Here are some cute moments from this last week…

I was getting ready to take Miles to his doctor appointment and I hear overhear Darcy telling him, “Now Miles, if they have to give you a shot don’t be afraid!  I will be right there and I will count to 10.  When I am done counting, the shot will be over and you will be okay!”

Darcy was pretending to be a neighbor who came over for a tea party and she told me this: “I got married a very long time ago.  But my wedding dress got eaten by those moth bugs!!  I knew I should get it boxed up after the wedding, but I kept having all these babies and they kept crying and crying and I just never had the time.”

After preschool lessons ones day – Me:”Darcy, your letters look amazing!!”  Darcy: “Aw, shucks! Is my face turning pink?”

As we were packing up to leave our hotel last Sunday, Darcy kept asking me how to spell “machine”.  Absentmindedly I spelled it out for her from the next room.  When I walked past the desk on my way to check out I saw in huge capital letters on the hotel information booklet “JUNE TOLLEFSON TOOT MACHINE”

In a conversation about how hard it is to live far away from friends, Darcy’s suggestion was this: “What if we put Idaho right there and Kentucky right next to it and California in the middle!  Then we could live in California and be warm and be close to all our friends.”

During my cousin’s wedding last Saturday, Darcy saw all the groomsmen file out and line up at the front of the church.  When my cousin started walking down the aisle, Darcy leaned over to me and whispered “I wonder which man she will choose!”