Living a Whole, Healed, Put-Together Life {Parenting & More}

Romans 5:1-5 (MSG, emphasis mine) tells us:

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

As I wrote about a little over a week ago, God has really poured out His desire for me to parent more like Him. I outlined a lot of that here. But over the past week, He has not transformed my parenting. He has transformed ME. I have never FELT more loved, healed, put-together, peaceful and joyful. I have poured myself into everything He has placed before me, struggling to walk in blind faith and He has become my place of rest.

I am starting off with the Romans 5 verse because I actually came across it AFTER I had started walking this way. I had been praying fervently to be as much like Him in my parenting as possible. It came to me that I cannot bark, punish or fight them into obedience... because fear-based obedience is temporary and empty. I must LOVE them into a trusting relationship in which they seek to be obedient to my will (and the Father's) because they trust that I will help them do what's best. 

But HOW and what does that even look like? It sounds great on paper... but what do I DO when they argue, fight, talk back, don't obey? First, I realized that I must THANK Him for those opportunities. Through the almost clairvoyant and life-altering writings of Sally Clarkson in  The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity and once again, Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are , I came to two conclusions. First, I must be fully and whole-heartedly invested in this work of motherhood. I cannot straddle the fence, always fancying the other grass and waiting for a way out... to see if He might be calling me to do something bigger, better, shinier or easier. I have to be all in, all the time. It is my call and duty. PLEASE ready Sally's book as it has been a tremendous, tremendous heart changer for me. 

I also began reading One Thousand Gifts again, about halfway through, for the second time. The first time I read it I was inspired and moved. I started writing down all the stuff that seemed like stuff I was happy about. Oh... I should be thankful we're healthy and we have a house and a good marriage... blah blah blah. Things that were you're regular old, un-emotional checklist of "Good Stuff in Life." Nothing that set me apart in this world. This time, I was truly changed and actually felt the shift before I began re-reading her book... this heart change was an answer to fervent prayer and her book was fuel for my fire.

Rather than looking at the mundane in a mundane mood and mundanely writing them down, I began experiencing these things. My initial "Ah-Hah" moment came at the end of Proverbs 31 when it says in verse 31 (NLT)
"Reward her for all she has done, Let her deeds publicly declare her praise."

Initially, I took this as "let my great deeds declare to the outward world how I should be praised". OMG, that's embarrassingly wrong lol. Let my deeds be my praise to HIM. Everything I do with my hands is in praise of Him. I serve my family as a worship. As I sink my hands into those nasty dishes in the sink for the 190390332th time in a row, I am doing so because I am blessed. I have food to dirty the dishes. I have a nice electric dishwasher to sanitize all the germs away so we aren't sick. We have dishes to eat off of and forks to eat with. We have all the fresh, organic, healthy foods we could ever want. We ARE BLESSED.
And as I focus on those truths in the muck of the dishes, my heart sings, truly truly sings. I had to pray fervently that my actions would be my praise to Him. That he would change my heart more toward Him, and that He would be glorified in my service. I then began to look for ways to see the Joy in all that I do that is dull and repetitive.

Here's the parenting kicker...Then I started seeking the way that JOY lives in my children. My children are nothing but JOY... they are JOY incarnate. They are so frequently in JOY, and I am so frequently out of it that it's MY SIN that pushes them out. They're singing too loud and giggling too loud and don't they know I'm doing the dishes for the 190390293th time and quit acting like that, go do something! They walk away hurt and punished.

MY SIN has removed them from their perfect Joy. Rather than become agitated (which is so easy when you're living in sin), shouldn't I begin to sing and praise for the JOY that I get the opportunity to share in every day? If they SHOULD be doing something else that I have assigned to them, how much more of a testimony is it if I first acknowledge their joy then redirect them back to the task at hand... encouraging them to en-JOY that task. They so frequently bother me by being *silly* while doing things I've asked them to do because I want them done NOW, quietly. Why shouldn't they play dress up as they clean up? Isn't it more fun that way? Why shouldn't they scooter around the house to take clothes to the laundry room? Why wouldn't I want some of THAT kind of happiness rather than trying to pull them into my impatience and unhappiness with the boring-ness of my life? Shouldn't parenting be corrections and re-directions and examples SET IN THE JOY? Why would they ever choose right when my back is turned if the only consequence for choosing wrong right now is a scolding or grounding or angry lecture? 

Shouldn't I also be so delighted and excited about all the wonderfully mundane things that my father has blessed me with that people tell ME to shut up and go on that I'm getting on their nerves?  Shouldn't I be setting the example of JOY-seeking rather than sin pushing down? Away from their father that they sooo naturally seek out? Isn't he alone JOY? And when they are in the joy, it's only our sin that smothers HIM out of them and as they grow older they forget it and look at the ugly and forget the JOY-seeking?

Church and bible-talk and seeing me read my bible and pray does nothing for the souls in this home if I don't LIVE OUT THE PEACE THAT I FIND IN MY TIME WITH THE LORD! If I am so filled with His joy, peace and love while I sit in my chair with my coffee and bible in hand... why shouldn't that spread out through my life in every way? Why have I not been taking that gratitude for His love and word and actions in my life into every single possible moment of my life? Is that really that hard to do? I certainly THINK all the time... usually stressful or worry-based thoughts. When I thank him from the bottom of my heart for that 10th pile of laundry to fold, then I am bringing my bible study out of the chair and into my life where it 100% belongs! Ann Voskamp says that our souls become what we attend to... should we attend to the Joy in our lives or the worry and fears?

So as I came to realize this, my sin-stinking pressing down and pushing out their JOY, I came to realize that if I reside in a place of absolute gratitude for all the moments, even the ugly, then I would be praising HIM with my deeds... praising Him as I do those deeds and through those deeds. I also became aware that nothing is more of a testimony to those whom I share my home with than that I am constantly in a state of Joy because of His love. It is undeniable and unfathomable. It doesn't mean I'll never be down. This world is fallen and I am sinful. But as long as I am seeking to glorify Him and praise Him with my deeds and see HIS perfect will in each moment and each thing, then I cannot be undone. I cannot be angry, impatient, dissatisfied, irritated or desperate at the SAME TIME that I feel gratitude and joy. The dark cannot reside in me when I am residing in the light. 

Romans 6:22-23 (MSG) tells us:
But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Every moment that passes that I CHOOSE for laziness, irritation, impatience, selfishness, self-glorification or fear to rule my life, then I am allowing sin to run my life... I am choosing sin. What has that gotten me? Nothing. Death and sin-stink. However, when I allow THANKS-GIVING (and nothing is more worshipful that gratitude) to rule my days and all my moments, then a whole, healed, put-together life is on it's way. It's here!!! (For more information on how naming and recording our gratitude is biblically called for, please read the book :-)

If you've read One Thousand Gifts, you've *read* a lot of what I'm saying here. But I promise, I came to many of these conclusions completely without re-reading her book and as much as some of it grieved and moved me the first time, it did not change my heart. God's word changed my heart and it's like Ann Voskamp wrote it all down... word for word. For more on living a Joy-Full life, please get her book and visit her blog 

But back to Romans 5 that I started out with. So, I've been walking this walk, working hard to see God's joy and beauty in each moment, each situation. Looking for the JOY has allowed me to parent with so much more grace. I now feel separated from any ugly in the moment and wrapped up in the opportunity of it. It's like I'm finally saying YES to all He has been giving me this whole time.
Also, through Sally's book I've come to realize that each moment that was previously viewed as an interruption and irritation is all about teaching. When I am 100% first a mom, then hearing "MOMMMY!!!" for the 10,000th time in a day is no longer irritating. I feel incredibly blessed and precious to my children. I am now able to take a deep breath, look them in the eyes and take 20 seconds to ask my heavenly Father how to handle this situation. How would He teach ME in a similar situation? How has He in the past? How can I keep them in the Joy, earn their love and trust and guide them/lead them toward a closer relationship with Him? I most certainly have failed a few times and will continue to do so. However, the overall tone of our home, of my heart, is 100% more peaceful, fun loving and JOY-FULL that it has ever been before. 

After a few days of having the Lord lead me to these great books and smack me in the faces with these verses, He kept leading me back to Romans 5 that I started out with. And I realized, right there in black and white were literally the directions for how to do everything I just described.
Let's break it down shall we:

1. We first open the door to God... How? Through worship. Not "have I prayed today?" worship but "Have I prayed without ceasing today? Have I lifted up all my deeds to His glory? Did I focus on the blessings of my works as a gift from Him? Did I find the Joy in the little and big moments? Did I allow sin to tell me what to do?" OPEN the door to God (and don't let it shut!).

2. We find that once we open it, He was waiting right there and that incredibly blessed surprise causes us to shout our praises! Try giving thanks in your hardest, ugliest, meanest moments for a day or two, and you'll completely understand what this means. 

3. Then we begin to praise him during the trouble... during the ugly and hard we say Thank You. We look for and accept His perfect will on our lives and we say thank you. (For more on ugly beautiful, read One Thousand Gifts :-)

4. Once we begin to praise Him during our troubles, then we develop passionate patience. As I've noted before, a lack of patience is a lack of gratitude for the moment. If we en-Joy this moment, then we breath through it and cannot feel a lack of patience. If we bear down and fight the moment, thanking no one, then patience is fleeting. Once again, try finding the joy and your patience become infinite. The patience only disappears when you return your focus to yourself, to your sin.

5. This praise, this gratitude for the moment that develops passionate patience in us, develops in us the tempered steel of virtue... Virtue by definition is moral excellence or strength, courage and the capacity to act. When we are grate-ful and grace-ful then we are passionately patient which leads to strength, courage and the capacity to ACT on what our Father calls us to do.

6. This constant praise and virtue development leave us in a constantly alert state for what our God, our joy-ful grace-giving God, will do next.

7. When all life, the good-the bad-the ugly is filled with JOY, gratitude and virtue, then we never feel short changed. We are truly Joy-Full.

8. Then, as I can personally testify, we cannot begin to hold ALL that the holy spirit pours into our lives. Our cups runneth over. 

This type of God-seeking, constant worship that turns the ugly and ordinary into God glorifying service makes your life incredibly full, whole, healed and put-together. It is the act of walking away from the SIN and only focusing on HIM. And a parent who walks this way cannot lead their child down a fallen path. We will stumble, we will fall, but we are never forsaken. The enemy will seek us out and try to weigh us down, but we are whole, healed and put-together by the hands of God
I'm only a short way into my little Gratitude Walk. I know I have many more trials coming my way and much work to do. I am so uplifted by that thought because I know more trials bring me closer to Him and further from my sin.

 I know this was a long post, but I hope you didn't find it lacking. I am also updating the gratitude portion (on the 1000 Gifts page) if you'd like to check out what I've been Joy-Filled about lately.

TODAY, I am grateful for the every moment... for the gifts from the Moment-Giver. When things are exhausting, irritating, patience-draining and dirty... taking a moment to see, name and honor the beauty of those moments honors the GIVER of those moments and wipes clean the myre leaving ONLY HIS LOVE, mercies and perfection. It erases the impatience and fills the hole with merciful grace and love... cleansing the sin and the sinner.

If you have been encouraged or challenged in any way, please share with me in the comments section. I'd so much love to hear from you!