Thursday, November 4, 2010

Take a Hike...

photo by Pat Williams

After a busy week and a series of bumpy days, I've been getting lots of practice when it comes to training myself to stay calm. Remaining calm is exceedingly difficult sometimes--like when you discover your down comforter (a wedding gift) has been cut no less than three times by little hands and curious minds to see what's inside. Yet I don't think it's enough just to have a calm spirit. After all, one can be calm and yet very, very grouchy. We have to go further than that.

Beyond staying calm, we also have to work on maintaining a joyful spirit. And that's a whole 'nother ball game. On our own, it's next to impossible, but with the help of the Holy Spirit (who resides in everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior), we can do it. Developing a consistently calm spirit exercises the self-control listed in the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. There's also love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness. We're going to be busy for awhile!

Many of us have probably heard of the parenting strategy of developing a family mission statement, yet have we ever thought much about our family vision: what it looks like, and feels like, to be a part of our family? We don't want homes characterized by selfish, impatient, rude, lazy people. We really do want our homes to be marked with the fruit of the Spirit.

The question remains, though:

On bad days, how do we maintain a joyful, loving tone--in our own hearts, and in everyone else's?

While I don't profess (or even suggest) to have all the answers, one tip I arrived on this week through prayer is this: do whatever you have to do to enjoy your family more.

By no means am I suggesting tossing discipline out the window. What I am saying is, if you're having a real lousy day and the kids are misbehaving, and you're at your wit's end and getting angrier by the minute, stop. Find a way to turn it all around and enjoy your kids--and encourage them to enjoy you--more.

What does this theory look like in real life? Here's an example. This week, after spending an hour and a half trying to get my boys down for naps to no avail (and getting angry inside), and after my oldest spilled a 2 liter of 7-UP on the newly mopped kitchen floor, I knew we could either sink or swim.

While I hesitated to take the boys on a fun outing, lest it seem I am rewarding bad behavior, I knew it was the only way I could maintain any semblance of the fruit of the Spirit. So that day, we went to the park, then to the Burger King germplayland. Then today, after stitching up the two comforter cuts, and then discovering a third, and other whoppers of a day in the life with little boys, I knew the only way to possibly maintain a calm (and minutely joyful) spirit was to load up and take a very brisk walk. It truly is mercy for a bad day.

So the next time you feel like you're really, truly going to absolutely lose it, load everyone up and take a hike.
You'll be glad that you did, and the kids will appreciate the way it feels in their hearts to be part of your family. We can either stay angry, and have a rotten day, or find a way to enjoy our family more. I choose the latter.

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