It's been awhile since I've added to our on-going series, You Are Not a Victim, You're a Mom. I thought I'd do that today, simply because I woke up overwhelmed with gratitude that I'm not languishing in turbulent darkness anymore. Overwhelmed by joy is much more wonderful than being overwhelmed by all the people and all the discipline and all the feelings...I've come so far in my own personal journey as a mom. For years I was bound by overwhelming emotions. It was dark and I stumbled with my thinking and my speaking, in my heart and in my home. Feeling angry and hurt and hurt and angry and overwhelmed and helpless and hurt and angry and powerless...Read More
I've been overwhelmed these past 30 days by all of the passionate Jesus-following women who have joined me in this 40 Day Sugar-Fast. Katie Reid is just one of the gals who has kept me accountable by sharing with me how The Lord is teaching her as she cuts out sweets, that she might fully grab hold the sweetness of life in Christ!
Many of our conversations, this past sugar-free month, have surprisingly had more to do with other addictions than sugar. Together we've realized that God has gently grieved both our hearts over similar things - unhealthy relationships with social media and perfectionism.
Katie recently confessed to me how The Lord has helped her to understand that perfectionism can lead to anger. And so today, Katie graciously accepted my invitation to join me on the orange couch, and share with us all what the Lord is speaking to her regarding a woman's anger and God's Kindness.
In the last few weeks 2 drinking glasses, 1 salad plate and two bowls have either been cracked or broken, unintentionally. The kids have been a little rough and careless with their chores.
I love my colorful Fiesta dishes and it makes me angry when they get broken, even when it’s an accident.
However, if I'm honest, on a handful of occasions I’ve been intentionally rough with these dishes—slamming them down hard in the sink—because of circumstances or people that I could not control.
I have broken things in my anger—and not just dishes. I have cut hearts and dashed spirits with my careless words and sharp responses. My anger has caused me to sink down in a jagged display of broken pieces.
I sink down low
Maybe you don’t lash out in your anger, maybe it festers down deep, like hot lava bubbling within as the pressure builds? You may not erupt outwardly but the sulfuric steam coats your mind in stinky thick resentment.
Your fury burns low but lethal. You withhold, you shut down, you put up the “I’m fine” sign around the edges of your heart—but you might implode at any given moment. You're dangerous. But you temper your fury by trying to hold it together. Unfortunately, just as the anger sinks in, sin seeps out. It’s only a matter of time until you lose it all in an explosion of emotion.
What sinks in eventually shoots out
“Anger. I had buried it in order to cope and move on. But deep in the heart soil it had sent out roots of something a little too close to hatred”(Dragons and Dirt, by Dalene Reyburn, pg. 70).
Sinking deep in the heart soil
Remember Cain; he was a tiller of the ground. His job was to cultivate things that grow (much like the job description of moms). Just like us he had to contend with heart soil too. Do you recall how he offered a gift to God, the fruit of the ground, but it was not regarded by the LORD like his brother’s fatty offering was? And Cain became angry.
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:6-8).
Maybe he felt overlooked, misunderstood or unappreciated? So he retaliated. Cain’s anger did more than sink down deep, it did more than break things...it killed.
Are your angry looks, poisonous words and quick temper killing the spirit of those around you?
Let that sink in
As I find myself slamming into this issue, more times than I’d care to admit, and encountering the sharp stench of my sin, I realize that it really comes down to the heart, doesn’t it?
I can try to modify my outward behavior but I need the Master Gardner to come and cultivate the fertile soil of my soul, where the seeds of bitterness sink in and sprout roots.
What can we do within the weight and pull of sinful roots that have gone too long and wrap us up in bondage? Oh, dear sister, let us remember the heaviness, the weight of bondage and bitter pain that took place when our short-tempered sin—past, present and future—was laid upon Jesus.
He took on all our sin, all the dirt, so that we could live forgiven and free. He absorbed the wrath of God’s righteous holy anger so that we didn’t have to. The cost for our sin was death and He came and stood in our place (see Romans 6:23).
Back to the sink we go
This time I'm not standing at the kitchen basin with anger coursing through my veins. I'm not throwing anything now but my sin down, my angry woman down at the foot of the cross. I'm here at this metaphorical sink full of hot soapy water, ready to roll up my sleeves and let His kind and shame-free cleansing leave me white as snow.
Yes, because of His Kindness, this cleansing and changing is possible. Because He was an acceptable sacrifice offered on behalf of this tightly wound woman, I can be wiped clean. And if I can be cleaned up here at the sink of His kind sacrifice then any woman can.
“His kindness is intended to lead (us) to repentance.” (Romans 2:4b)
Tears of gratitude that can fill a sink
When we repent, He relents. Like He did with the people of Nineveh. When they were faced with their pending destruction, they called a fast (Jonah 3:5) and called on God earnestly, turning from their wicked ways and the violence which was in their hands. God withdrew His burning anger so they would not perish (Jonah 3:9-10).
This is good news! Jonah 4:2b says, “...You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
There is hope—beyond our hangups, hurts and hatred. Hope beyond our broken dishes and broken hearts. We find salvation, restoration and healing as we reflect on what Jesus has done on our behalf.
Let's sink down to our knees and pray:
Dear Jesus, Thank You for what You did for us on the Cross. Thank You for Your salvation, forgiveness and deliverance. We need You desperately. We have tried to justify and pretty up our sin, please forgive us. Would you remove the root of sin and teach us how to live differently? We cannot do this on our strength and know-how. Please show us a more excellent way—the way of Love—Your way. Thank You for loving us no matter what and for dying and rising again so that we can truly live; whole and free. Amen.
Katie M. Reid is the Tightly Wound Woman, a recovering perfectionist who fumbles to receive and extend grace in everyday moments. She delights in her hubby and four children and their life in ministry. Studying God’s Word, singing/songwriting, speaking, writing, photography and cut-to-the-chase conversations are a few of her favorite things.
We've talked a lot about anger this week. Anger toward our children. Anger in our hearts. Prayer requests from women overwhelm me on weeks like this. And the ones that break me to the core are the notes from moms who can't get a handle on their emotions and their tongues. Women like you and me who love deeply, but get all out of sorts amidst the unending stream of training. This post is for them.
Dear Angry Mom,
I just read your letter. Had it been hand-written the ink would have been smudged by your tears. I imagine you there, moaning over the keypad, feeling ashamed... but mostly you feel angry. You're angry with your children and angry with yourself, and angry with your children for making you so blasted angry at yourself, which makes you only angrier... and sadder, always sadder.
I link over sometimes to your Facebook page, and see the smiling faces of your children, and I lay hands on my computer monitor. Praying. Praying for your heart, praying for their hearts, praying for the hearts here in my home too. Because I get the pit you're stuck in, but more than that, I get the blessed hand that is powerful enough to pull us out.
I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.… (Psalm 40:1-3)
But you're not there yet. You're just hurting.
"Anger, discontentment, lack of patience, a hardened heart..." Your words and wounds astound me as you ask for prayer. You're so aware of your sin-stained angry tendencies. You recognize your problem, you recognize your need of saving, you cry out and ask for prayer... That's powerful, POWERFUL stuff! Acknowledging the problem stirs in us a desperate need for a miracle-working GOD to do the heavy lifting in our transformation. But it's just the first step.
The First Step -
Crying out to God is just the first step up and out of the pit.
But there is more to be done! More steps to take in this treacherous "CHANGE ME JESUS" journey.
For years I made that first step regularly... daily... nightly... over and over, crying "Lord, change me, help me, make me more like you." But the recognition never made its way from tears to transformation until I started taking more steps in the Spirit.
We are absolutely right to ask God to change us, but we also need to take more faith-filled steps. Simple daily steps that say to Him, "I know You are faithful to do the transforming work, so I'm going to do a bit of work too... I'm going to whisper today instead of shout - I'm going to give gentle tuck-ins tonight instead of hurried exasperated ones - I'm going to get into a relationship with a Godly woman who can model right behavior for me - I'm going to set my alarm clock 30 minutes before my family gets up so that I can read my devotional on the treadmill - I'm going to partner with a friend who struggles with the same heart challenges so that we can pray for one another, serve one another, care for one another in the messiest places of life."
When sin overwhelms, recognition must give way to repentance. Take the first step of repentance. Don't just feel bad and cry out for help... take His hand and let Him lift you. Keep the steps moving forward, then make a U-turn, putting one righteous foot in front of the faithful other! Walk yourself, in the power of God's Holy Spirit, out of bondage and into deliverance. It is possible. Step by step, by faithful, gentle, step.
You may have heard it said,
"To triumph you need only to try... God provides the Umph!"
Try... little steps, every day. Every day, little steps.
You've already called out to Him, that was the first step.
You felt conviction and you repented. Two more mighty steps.
Abide, gather tools, and practice self-control...
Little steps to practice each faithful day
Step one - Get in God's Word. God tells us clearly that the fruit of His Spirit in our lives is love, but we can only bear fruit when we're securely attached to the vine. He is the vine, we are the branches... apart from Him we can do nothing. Abide in His Word. Abide in His love.
Step two - Get practical. Take a simple sheet of lined paper, or the notepad app on your iphone, or the front page in a brand new journal. Write down the triggers that make you feel overwhelmed or frustrated, and come up with a game plan of how you will train your children without explosive anger. How will you respond when they... what will you say when they say... what will you do when they... Come up with a game plan and don't let yourself be swept away by unprepared emotional responses any more.
Step three - Let go of the monitor "Angry Mom". I addressed you as such only to get your attention (search engines really do work!) But now that you're here and we're talking, let me say that you are simply "Mom". Mom. Renounce the anger and remember what's true. You do not hate them, and you do not hate yourself. You are simply Mom, and it's hard, but there's love and the promise of God making all things new. Renounce the anger and remember the love.
One little step at a time.
Moms all over the internet are crying out, "I want to stop yelling at my kids." They're up to their throats in shame, grabbing hold of the promise that change is possible. And it is. But where do we go to talk about this stuff? Where do we go to ask one another for prayer and the tools we need to change unhealthy, possibly generational, patterns. Well, as strange as it may seem, there's a community at your fingertips, heaven-bent on encouraging you in your transformation. There is a private Facebook group sponsored by The MOB Society (MOB - Mothers of Boys), called "No More Angry MOB". A couple of times a day author Amber Lia and I post scripture promises, quotes about patience, prayers of confession and prayers of hope, and we tell stories and share testimonies of how whole families can be radically changed when parents learn to control their anger. We talk together about how we got here, and how to get out of the ugly cycle of anger and hopelessness. We talk about the sulfuric lies we tend to believe, (I can never change,) and rally together to believe what is true, (With God all things are possible!) It's a hopeful yet hurting motley group, and I've grown to love them deeply.
Maybe you would find yourself at home in their ranks. Possibly you were raised by angry, yelling moms and dads. Others of you may be naturally calm men and women who were raised in a laid back home, but suddenly, under the new and unexpected stresses of parenthood, you've found yourself short on patience and long on anger. It can be an out of body experience, "How did I get here?" But no matter how you got to this point, it can be shameful and surprising. And you know, regardless of the path that lead you here, it must stop. You know it, and I know it, but what can we do?
We can start by reaching out and joining a conversation like this, reaching out and confessing the ugly. And bit by bit, voice by voice, baby steps at a time we start pointing out the promises and the hope and cheering one another on. And then, out of nowhere, testimonies of how God transforms a sinner's heart start pouring down. Here's how it goes:
Yesterday I asked a question on our No More Angry MOB Facebook page, and a conversation caught like wildfire. I thought I'd share some of the highlights here, so that we can fan the flames and keep the dialogue going.
A woman replied to my simple question with one of her own: "How do you get your kids to listen without screaming at them? Right now my children are four and five and they won't listen to me or pay attention to me unless I raise my voice and threaten them. I have to scream at them to get them to listen. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong or how can I change this. I don't want to be a bad mom." (Erin)
I nodded, over the internet, then wrote these words:
"First off, I think many of us have taught our children that it's all right to ignore us. Over the years we've called them to the table, asked them to get their shoes on, reminded them to clean their rooms... and when they didn't do what we asked, we raised our voices to get their attention. Other times we did nothing about it at all (telling ourselves that we were just "picking our battles.") The next day we thought we'd try giving more choices and speaking in a calm manner... only to get frustrated that it didn't work. So we yelled again.
But WHY don't our calm voices work?
I believe that when we are inconsistent we really only teach our children one thing... they don't have to honor us, UNLESS WE YELL!!!! They don't have to answer us, UNLESS WE YELL!!!! They don't need to turn off their lights and go to sleep, UNLESS WE YELL!!!!
But the thing is, what appears to give you control in the moment is really just you being out of control. And while it may get the result you were looking for short term, it doesn't reach their hearts of your little people... or refine long-term behavior.
But you asked "what should I do," not "how did I get here."
Here's what I suggest we do from here on out, every time. Let's commit to consistency. Like working out a muscle that is weak, you commit to speaking gently. Every. Time. Yes, it is difficult. Yes, they will ignore you. (Remember that they've gotten away with it before.) But from here on out you will stop, though you are inconvenienced, if you are tired, even when you are upset.... And you will go to them with a soft voice. "John, I just asked you to pick up your train set. Our friends are coming for dinner. Please stop what you're doing and pick it up now."
When he doesn't, (because he won't,) come in with a paper bag and put it all away for him - on the top shelf of your closet. Then take him in your arms and tell him. "I am not going to yell anymore, I love you too much to yell. So I will simply take this toy away for one week."
Or maybe your style is to clean it up with him, making it a game, that's fine too. It's not how you do this, it's that you do it calm. "John, I'll get the track and you get the trains. We're a team. Our family is a team. All aboard!" Then praise him when he does it, even if it took more effort than you thought you had to give.
[Tweet "Flex your calm muscle, consistently, and they will eventually grow the muscle of obedience."]
Another woman chimed into this online conversation:
"I completely agree, but haven't for the life of me been able to think of any appropriate consequences for the following scenarios: 1) The child who ignores me when I ask him to get dressed or wash his hands after going to the bathroom. And 2) The same child who constantly aggravates his little brother by getting in his face and growling at him (which scares him) and then he ignores me when I calmly ask him to leave his brother alone. Anybody had similar behaviors with some success in changing them? He's almost four. Thanks so much!" (Heather)
Again I nodded and again I typed:
"Sally Clarkson often reminds women that this is a marathon not a sprint, and that expecting immediate obedience is harmful to them and to us as the race stretches long and we need patience and endurance.
Heather, I have a child that does what yours does (and he is nine and should be through this challenging stage, right? Wrong! It's a marathon.) So I go to him, when he should already be dressed and should have remembered to wash his hands, and I simply say, "You are ignoring me, so I will help you put down those toys and walk back into the bathroom. Now please wash your hands and get dressed." And I go to him when he purposefully aggravates his little brother. I get down on his eye level, and say with calm resolve, "Our home is safe and our home is loving. That wasn't safe or loving and so we can't have you around us right now. Go ahead and grab a book or a puzzle and go to your room. I will come get you in 30 minutes. When you come out I know you'll do a great job being gentle and kind with us."
The key is calm... He needs you calm. And you need you calm. So get in close, because it's hard to yell when you're right up close. Go to him. You are going to do great! Some times we just need some tools."
[Tweet "It's hard to yell when you're right up close."]
In this thread of conversation testimonies started flooding in. I'd worked myself out of a counseling position because others had so much grace to add to the party:
"I have 3 boys...15, 13, 11. I was a yeller. I would cry in the shower because I was a yeller. I didn't want to yell. I wanted the circumstances to change so I didn't "have to" yell. What I found was that anxiety triggered my yelling. Pride triggered my yelling. Fear of my husband's yelling triggered my own. So...I faced my fears, anxieties, and pride. The flesh had to be crucified. I don't want my boys learning that yelling is the way to solve their problems or to use it to "motivate " anyone. It is crushing and painful. So now we do differently. My prayer...Lord, change ME. A beautiful thing is happening here. All glory to God. Push past the pain, moms. God is with you, He is for you." (Francea) "Walking this thru too. Love this quote: "Recognize yelling as a sign of weakness... Yelling tends to be a learned response to anger, stress and frustration... 'I have to yell just to be heard.' These parents are trying to direct my attention to the negative behavior of thier children but all I hear is that they are losing or have already lost control of their home. If you have to yell to be heard, something is wrong. Authority figures like policemen or judges don't have to yell to get their point across. Why? Because they hold the ultimate power. They are in control and don't have to prove a thing. Yelling sends a message to your child that his/her behavior has the power to unnerve you to the point of provoking an outburst.... Your lack of restraint reveals that your child holds the reins." fr "Toe to Toe with Your Teen by Dr Jim Myers. Great book, great encouragement for parenting defiant teens. In the chapter just before this, he reviews the amazing characteristics of God and gives specific ideas how to model these to our kids. I'm a work in progress - but it is possible! Push thru my friends! Victory awaits." (Jo-Ann)
...let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
This is just a taste from the banqueting table that we feast around together. The nuggets are transformative and hopeful, and we leave our times together built up and courageous. You are welcome to join us as we spur one another on to abide, that we might bear the fruit of God's Spirit in each of our lives and there in our homes.
Come abide with us!