Saturday, July 19, 2014

Standing Guard

Ever watched anyone recover from a sinful decision? Maybe the sin wasn't a personal decision. Perhaps it was inflicted upon the person by another- a wayward child, a deceptive boss, an unfaithful spouse. It's a painful process to watch, but one that can certainly result in beauty for ashes. But sometimes the ashes make for more juicy conversations that are all-too enticing. What a grievous thing to hear or witness a Christian relishing in the sin of another or dredging up what the Lord has already forgiven and covered. Perhaps it is our pride that entices us to participate in this type of conversation. As long as I'm pointing to another, no one will notice me and since I've never done {insert sin here}, I'll look really good!

I recently had the privilege of attending The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference with some dear women from my church. Because we knew the speakers would be teaching through Nehemiah, a couple of us studied through the book in the weeks prior to the conference. God reveals so much about His character through this book. I'll freely admit that I had never read through Nehemiah until now. What a loss! In this oft overlooked book, God is working to rebuild His people through rebuilding the physical city of Jerusalem and through gathering the dispersed. Gross sin among the nation of Israel is what led to the dispersion and the destruction of Jerusalem. So now God is working to rebuild the nation in preparation for the eventual birth of Jesus. I want to be very careful to avoid making personal application where none should be made, but it does seem fair to draw an important lesson from the situation described in chapter 4. Because of the very real danger posed by those who did not want to see the nation of Israel rebuilt, many of the Israelites were charged with the task of standing guard over those who were rebuilding.

With all of the background given, let's get to the point. When a brother or sister is doing the hard work of rebuilding his or her life, you stand guard. You guard the work, you help with the work when called and you keep out the enemies.

Now...go read Nehemiah.

Friday, January 17, 2014

In Their Undies

"How do I get over my nerves, Mrs. Olson?  Some people say I should just imagine the audience in their underwear."

It is one of my great honors to be asked to sing for various life events- weddings, funerals, retirement ceremonies, etc. Funerals are certainly the hardest. From a practical standpoint, there is generally only a very short time to practice. From an emotional standpoint, you, as the singer, must be the one to hold it together. Of the many funerals I have been privileged to sing for, 2 stand out as the most difficult. The first was for a young woman at my church who, at 28, succumbed after a very difficult battle with cancer. The second was for a dear friend's infant son. After each of those funerals people asked me how I managed. Quite simply, God is gracious and He supplies strength to us when we are weak. It is also in moments like those that a singer must realize that your ability, your gift, is not for you. Your gift is for other people. In moments like those, your gift can provide comfort, it can even provide joy. You, the giver, must be selfless and so you learn how to control your emotions because it isn't about you.

Music is a gift. Research has repeatedly supported the cognitive importance of music on the brain. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who could honestly say that music didn't also elicit an emotional response. Armies have known this for eons. Mothers have known this from the dawn of motherhood. Brides know this. Advertising execs definitely know this. But sometimes singers can forget this when we are busy thinking about breathing, diction, notes, phrasing, placement, posture, lyrics and shaping. In the throws of concentrating on the mechanics, it is easy to forget that we are charged with giving something to our listeners. (This is also why practice and preparation are so imperative. Would you give a person a half-finished gift?) It seems that when we shift our thinking to giving to our listeners, the performance becomes an offering, it becomes something that is gracious rather than something that is self-indulgent.

I once saw an interview with the great American soprano, Renee Fleming. In the course of the interview, she addressed the issue of nerves. She was asked to tell of the point in her career that she stopped becoming nervous. Her response was laughter followed by the statement, 'I've never stopped getting nervous. The moment you stop getting nervous is the moment you stop caring.' (paraphrase) And so I say to my students, no, do not imagine them in their underwear. Offer them a gift. Offer them a well prepared,  well cared for, and well crafted gift. Offer a moment of reprieve from the cares of today. Offer your very best. Know that it is okay to be nervous, because that means you care.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God as long as I have being.
Psalm 104:33

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How Can I Keep From Singing?

For 26 months I had the joy and privilege of serving as the interim choir director at my beloved church. Not only did this season of life bring a new challenge to my life, but it also taught me much.  One of the lessons I learned caught me by surprise.  It wasn't so much the lesson itself, it was the passion the Lord birthed in me regarding the lesson.  Curious?

Before I can share the lesson with you, we've got to get something settled.  If you are a Christian, and I hope you are, attending church and becoming a committed member of a church is not optional.  This isn't my opinion, this is God's standard.  He commands us to be united with other believers.

And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  Hebrews 10:24-25

A quick word search with my Strong's Concordance revealed that the original wording means "to abandon or desert" not just stay away from corporate worship.  That's pretty direct.  I'd love to go into the importance of belonging to a church and will do just that in a blog yet to come.  For now, let's understand that what is to come is directed at those who agree with God's Word in this area.

Music is a very emotional thing for most people.  People have likes and dislikes and sometimes folks aren't too shy in letting you know if you made them happy with your song choices or song arrangements.  I will admit that I fell into that camp.  In fact I remember a time when I, in the hubris of youth, told my minister of music how I felt about a particular song.  What did I hope to accomplish with that?  I don't know.  But his response was great.  He asked me if there was a theological problem with the text. There wasn't. So, it boiled down to the fact that I just didn't like the song.  He very bluntly told me that corporate worship wasn't about my preferences.  It wasn't even about me.  There are 6 other days of the week to scratch the musical itch.  How very true.  I could probably end this blog with those statements alone, but I won't.

As a trained classical musician I will be the first to admit that there are many legitimate musical reasons to dislike a song.  It seems the vast majority of pop music today (to include much P&W music) is insipid, poorly written and requires little to no skill to play or sing.  Yes, this bothers me.  The Lord calls us to come before Him with acceptable offerings, not whatever we could slap together in a pinch.  He also praises the skilled musician.  (Translation- someone who practices!) A quick survey of the history of Church Music reveals composers like Bach, Palestrina, Mendelssohn and Watts among other musical giants.  I don't exactly picture Bach sitting down and composing a 7-11 P&W chorus.  Can those choruses be worshipful? Absolutely.  But I think the danger with those repetitive songs is that they can also encourage the singer to mentally check out and mindlessly chant.  This isn't what God requires of us.

So, with that said, I will also say that if you are a member of a church and you don't care for the music, you are well within your rights to respectfully and lovingly approach the leadership and voice your concerns.  But I would encourage you to ask yourself a few questions first.
1.  Am I just unhappy because I don't like the style of the second song we sang yesterday?
2. Am I unhappy because we sang a new song and I had a hard time learning it?
3. Am I unhappy because we're not singing my favorite songs the way I want them?
4. Am I unhappy because the theological content of the song is not Biblical?

Clearly if your concern is #4, you must approach the leadership.  Aside from that, I would strongly urge you fellow believers to start to view corporate worship as something that is meant to encourage the church as a whole and be a blessing to the Lord rather than something that is meant to satisfy musical hungers. When we are looking to worship to satisfy a musical hunger, we are worshiping worship, not God. Believers must have personal worship time every single day, not just Sundays.  This is where you have the opportunity to sing all of your favorites in the style and key that you prefer. Corporate worship, and really all worship, is about blessing God. When we keep that fact present in our hearts and minds, suddenly we find ourselves less concerned and/or irritated with song choices because we don't care for the outer trappings of the song.

I love the text of Colossians 3:16-
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Do you see what I see? I must confess that I didn't see it until recently.  Worship should teach and admonish. We don't use that word very much, do we?  Admonish.  A warning. And so we can glean that singing is both a method of blessing the Lord, but it is also a tool for relating rightly with each other, and for that gift, we should be thankful. And really, our God is so great and mighty, how can we keep from singing His praise?
Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

No Desperation

Confession time. Confession #1: I used to watch Desperate Housewives.  I know, I know.  Not really a show that is worth the time or thought and, more likely than not, a few brain cells atrophied during the watching of the insipid show. But you know what I noticed?  Those women were all desperate because they were not content.   But contented people don't make for very interesting story lines, do they?  Confession #2: I really like being a housewife.  I prefer the word homemaker, but whatever you call it, I like it.  A lot.  As with any profession, we'll talk about the use of this term in a different entry, there are days that I don't like the circumstances of that particular day and can be tempted to look to the other side of the fence, but I am so thankful for this job.  What a joy and privilege!

When I left my teaching job to become a SAHM, many people questioned my decision and many people thought my husband and I were absolutely nuts to choose to live on one income.  More than one person questioned why I, as a college educated professional, would choose to do a job that clearly did not require an education.  Those were valid concerns and I think most of the people who brought those points to our attention were simply trying to be helpful and provide counsel to us.  But the bottom line is that we were extremely convinced that the Lord called us to this lifestyle.  And how very kind He has been to us in allowing us to have this call upon our lives.

While following this call meant that I would lay down a job I absolutely loved, it also meant my husband would have to make some sacrifices. This choice means that my husband carries the entire burden of financially providing for our family.  But isn't it a beautiful thing when the Lord provides for both spouses to share in the sacrifice of a call?  The financial sacrifice of this call means that we must plan ahead for many things, we shop consignment stores and we sometimes turn down various invitations that are out of the budget. But it also means that we have learned how to communicate about finances and view our finances as a team effort.  Again, what a kind provision!

There have certainly been days when I do not find much excitement in cleaning toilets, folding laundry and clipping coupons. Being a SAHM is not glamorous.  It is not lucrative and sometimes it really isn't fun.  There are no sick days and there is no retirement plan.  But praise the Lord that His word does not say, "If you are famous, if your job makes lots of money, if your job reaches hundreds of people, if your job is viewed by the world as noble or important, then do it as unto the Lord."  Nope.  He tells us to do everything as unto Him.  Everything.  Cleaning toilets.  Changing bed sheets.  Changing diapers.  All of those things are to be done as unto Him too.  Certainly that will look different for each of us, but for me that means that my attitude about these chores must be one of joy. Joy because my children are watching.  Joy because the Lord has provided earthly items that make our life on earth more comfortable and those things must be cared for.  Joy because I have the physical and financial ability to care for those things.  Joy because Jesus calls us to joy.

We are now 6 years into this call and the Lord has made the puzzle pieces of our lives- the odd and uneven edges of our desires, schedules and needs- fit very perfectly together.  He has been gracious to show us where we each need to shave a little bit off of our own pieces so that we can fit our collective pieces together more effectively and more securely.  Because I am able to pursue the dream of full-time mom and wife, my husband is able to pursue a dream he has that would be completely impossible for him to pursue if I were still teaching high school.  At the beginning of this journey we had no idea that this call would actually open doors for new opportunities.  But even in the midst of that, we still must lay down certain personal desires so we can each serve each other's call.

So now we get to another confession.  Confession #3:  Sometimes I buy into the lie that being a SAHM is a waste of intellect and is really not all that important.  But the truth of the matter is that those thoughts are lies.  No kid ever grows up and bemoans the times Mommy sat and colored with him or played pretend with her or just cuddled up when the thunder was scary.  No Mommy ever looks back and resents having been the one to encourage the first steps or first words or having a temporarily messy kitchen because a 4 year old wanted to try measuring the flour.  So to you, fellow SAHM, be encouraged.  What you do is important eternally.  It is.  Jesus sees every diaper change that is done with joy and gentleness.  He sees every shirt of your husband's that is diligently ironed because you know that is important your man and your doing so will be a blessing.  And He says, "Whatever you do, do it as unto Me."  Because it is that important.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Little Men

Having spent my entire adult life working primarily with teenagers, I have seen the tumultuous and often tragic results of making poor choices with regards to relationships with the opposite gender.  One poor choice, one misjudgment about character, one moment of dismissing parental wisdom and your life can, and generally will be, drastically altered.  How I pray that my sons will be greatly discerning.  How I pray that Kyle and I will be brave for their good.  How I pray that, if necessary, we will be willing to be unpopular with our boys.

A well-known Bible teacher said in one of her teachings, "While they are young, and think you know everything, teach them all you know!" Well, my sweet sons, here is what I know:

1. Any woman who dares to pursue you is not the woman for you.  Yes, I know this flies in the face of current culture.  I know this flies in the face of most Rom-Coms too.  Well, your life does not have a script writer out of Hollywood who is only interested in box office sales.  Your life is real life.  From a Biblical perspective, it is not for a woman to pursue a man.  This is for good reason.  When the relationship begins with an improper balance, it likely will not end well.  I've seen enough of these relationships to have made 2 general observations- 1. A man who is willing to allow a woman to pursue him is a very likely a push-over.  -or- 2. A man who is willing to allow a woman to pursue him is looking for a woman he can control and manipulate.  He knows that if she pursued him, she felt an unhealthy and desperate need to have a man in her life.  This type of man is the type of man who will not compliment, encourage or truly respect a woman.  Don't be either of those men.

2. Set a standard, set it early and set it in stone.  My Jackson likes girls.  He likes them a lot.  He likes 5 year olds, he likes 14 year olds, he likes 24 year olds.  He really, really likes girls.  As we were driving home from VPK one day he confessed his adoration for a little girl in his class.  I asked him why he was so enamored with this little girl.  He told me that he liked her hair, how she dressed and that she was so pretty. And, by the way, she's nice too.  This conversation was a huge moment for me.  Huge.  This conversation showed me the imperative need to teach my son the importance of recognizing beauty as the Lord recognizes beauty.  The Lord defines a beautiful woman in ways the world does not.

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. - 1 Peter 3:4

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. - Proverbs 31:30

Many a man has been ruined by a physically beautiful woman.  Oh how my prayer for you boys is that you will make character your first priority.  Does she love the Lord?  Is she generous, kind, teachable?  Is she smart?  Is she capable and trustworthy?  Do not compromise.  Do not lower your standard.  Do not settle. 

3. If a woman rejects your pursuit of her, be gracious.  If you ask a girl out and she refuses your request, do not make the situation awkward for her.  Be a gentleman, not a jerk.  Don't speak poorly of her, don't gossip about her, don't try to make her "regret it" by pursuing her best friend.  Man up and deal with it in a way that reflects well upon your character. 

4. Flee from the provocative.  It is nothing new for a woman to try to attract a man through her manner of dress.  Maybe I should say her lack of dress.  Flee from these women.  If a woman's primary method of attracting your attention is her physical appearance, you need to run and you need to run fast.  This woman has things that need to be worked out before she can enter into a healthy relationship.  

5. Always, always be a gentleman.  Go to the door to meet her.  Hold doors open.  Open the car doors.  Pay for the date.  If you say you are going to call, call.  Do not make "boy sounds" around her, she is not one of your locker-room buddies.  Treat her as a lady.  Respect her as a child of God.  

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves... Phil 2:3

6. Don't date.  Yet another counter-cultural idea.  I've heard this thought with regard to dating-

Dating is like going to the grocery store with no money.  You will either leave hungry and frustrated or you will take something that does not belong to you.

Yes, I am well aware that society tells us a different tale.  But dating "for fun" is dangerous and I'm going to say it- it is not Biblical.  You will end up with a broken heart or you will break someone else's heart.  You will regret the time spent in this pursuit.  When you are old enough and could theoretically get married, you start looking for a wife.  Pursuing a woman with this intention will both sift the women who you are not suited for out very quickly and it will refine you as a man. 

7. Guard her heart.  Guard a woman's heart very, very carefully.  You do not lead her on in the belief that the relationship is leading to marriage if it clearly is not. That is deceptive and selfish.  If you do this, I will find you and I will spank you.  I don't care if you are bigger than me.  I am your mother.  Do not make promises you cannot possibly keep.  Do not say things you do not mean simply to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Do not ever put her or yourself in a position that could cause shame, embarrassment or humiliation.  Protect her reputation. If she sees the need to break up with you, you handle this as a gentleman and you treat her with dignity and respect.  If you need to break up with her, you handle her heart with great care and compassion.  

Above all, remember that no one on this earth loves you more than your parents.  We desperately love you boys.  Your good and your joy are so incredibly important to us.  Because of that, we will create boundaries for your good.  We will make decisions that you do not like for the present moment.  We will always love you.

Monday, March 25, 2013

To Be Protectors

As with many, I have watched the events of the Steubenville rape case unfold.  Horrible doesn't begin to describe this crime.  Equally horrible is the fact that this is not an isolated incident.  Just this morning I saw another headline about a 13 year old girl who was sexually assaulted by older teenage boys, an 89 year old woman who was shoved into the trunk of her car and held there for 2 days by a group of teenagers (girls and boys), China's admission of the forced abortions of approximately 336 million babies and the story a teenage boy who shot and killed a baby while the baby and mom were out for a stroll.  At first these all seem to be unrelated crimes, but there is a unifying thread among them- the bigger and more powerful taking grotesque advantage of the weaker. It's a terrifying commentary on the sinful state of man.

 In America we sure do pat ourselves on the back and make great claims about how advanced we are and how we have liberated women.  What a joke.  Yes, things are much better for women in America than in most of the world, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking we're so much more sophisticated than everyone else.  More on this later.  What must we tell our sons?  As I watch my pre-school aged sons play with their super heroes I can't help but ponder how to raise them to actually be super heroes.  I'm quite certain that when the Steubenville rapists were young their mothers did not imagine they would perpetrate such a crime.  So how do we respond?

We must teach our sons that women are not objects.
The hard part about this is that many women are willing to believe that they are objects.  The signs are all around us.  Victoria's Secret is about to launch a line of lingerie for pre-teens!  Really.  Undies with statements like "Call Me" and "Wild" written on them. I don't have daughters.  If I did, I can guarantee you that I would not allow my daughters to believe this type of "fashion" is acceptable.  Shame on the moms who allow their daughters to think this type of clothing defines femininity. Grown women are buying books like Fifty Shades of Gray in mass quantities.  I'll freely admit, I have not read the book nor will I read it, but I've read enough reviews and plot summaries to know what the gist of the book happens to be.  I'm absolutely mystified as to why women are willing to entertain such filth.  Not just because it is filth, but because it reduces a woman to a mere play thing for a man's lustful and selfish desires.  Why on earth are we not speaking loudly against this?  We have got to teach our sons that women are not objects with our actions, not empty words.  We teach them through making choices that command respect.

We must teach our sons that sex is sacred.
There is a lie that has infected our society like an aggressive cancer.  The lie is believing that "casual sex" exists.  What a horrid, horrid lie.  Yet we support the movies and t.v. shows that perpetuate this lie and we laugh at crude jokes...all in front of our sons.  Is it any wonder they have reduced this sacred act to just recreational fun?  We've got to get brave, move past our own personal discomfort and have very frank discussions with our sons.  And we must start when they are young.  There is a way to be very age appropriate and yet very straightforward.  One of my favorite preachers, Matt Chandler, made a statement in one of his sermons that was delivered in levity and yet it had a huge impact.  He was speaking about true and Biblical masculinity.  He made the statement, "Son, there is an unrighteous and a righteous way to play with a naked woman (His young son was playing with his sister's naked Barbie doll at the time.) and right now, you are unrighteous in your motives and your actions."  He then took the opportunity to discuss this with his son.  I applaud him for seizing this opportunity to impart truth instead of taking the doll away and offering a simple, "No."  We have got to teach our sons Biblical truth about the correct context and God-ordained circumstances for this very life altering act.

We must teach our sons to preserve dignity.
One of my favorite stories about Jesus is found in John 8.  The Pharisees have brought an adulterous woman to Jesus in an attempt to trick Jesus.  But, in their attempt to trick Jesus, they prove their willingness to use another person's failings (the act of adultery) and weakness (in that day and age, being female made her quite vulnerable) for their own purposes.  We must teach our sons that it is never acceptable to use another person's failings and/or weaknesses to further their own position in life.  One of the other remarkable aspects of this story is the fact that Jesus was willing to protect and defend another in spite of the "accepted" cultural norms around him.  He protected her dignity.  This did not mean he had to agree with or condone her sinful actions.  He clearly told her to go and sin no more.  But he still defended her dignity.  What a wonderful skill for our sons to learn- that we must defend those in need of defense, but if sin in involved we need not condone sin in the process.

We must teach our sons that showing sensitivity is masculine.
I'm just going to say it...we have a messed up view of masculinity in our society.  For reasons unknown to me, masculinity has become defined by marks of aggressive behavior and not by marks of character.  We've all heard it.  We've heard the "he's a man's man" description.  This description usually describes a man who plays some contact sport, hunts, drives a large truck and is roughly the size of a barge.  (Like that reference?)  Those things are not bad things, but they don't define masculinity either.  So what is masculinity?  In my estimation, true masculinity is defined by things like a man's integrity, his work ethic, his honesty, his faithfulness, his generosity, how he treats and cares for those around him and his devotion.  The word meek does not seem to be part of the modern lexicon.  It is an oft misunderstood word.  In a Biblical sense, meekness is not cowardice or a willingness to be bullied about but instead it is restraint, it is strength under the control of the Spirit.  It is a producer of peace. Let's be careful how we define masculinity to our sons.

We must teach our sons that being a gentleman is not optional or conditional.  
 Acting as a gentleman is more than opening doors, allowing a lady to go first and standing when a lady enters the room.  Acting as a gentleman is making the statement that the needs and feelings of another are valid and important.  Acting as a gentleman teaches our sons that manners and actions are a lifestyle, not just something to mind on certain occasions.  It seems manners are often chided as being archaic and too "buttoned up."  But we teach our sons things like saying "yes ma'am" and not replicating body noises because in this process they become aware of the feelings of other people and the importance of recognizing the feelings of others as important. Perhaps just as importantly, we must teach our sons that being a gentleman applies to everyone- the young lady dressed up for prom, the elderly lady/gentelman who needs help with her groceries, the homeless person who needs to feel human and recognized. This simple thing also teaches our sons to view everyone as valuable and deserving of being treated well.  May we not allow acting as a gentleman to be a lost art!

We must teach our sons about humor.
In reading the details surrounding the Steubenville rape case I was horrified to learn of how the many on-lookers just chuckled at what was happening.  The boys who committed this horrible crime continued to laugh about their crime for days.  Let's start standing up to what has become a cultural norm of laughing at the plight of the vulnerable.  Several weeks ago I read about a man in India who attends to the poorest of society.  He washes these people, he rubs sore muscles, he provides a clean shave as well as food for these people.  He not only restores dignity to these people, he does not make there plight the punchline of a self-gratifying joke.  Be careful what you choose to respond to with laughter.  Be very, very careful.

We must teach our sons to be brave.
Bravery seems to have taken a strange turn.  Why is it that stellar athletic performance is often describe as bravery?  Oh how me must redefine bravery!  What a brave thing it is for a person to risk their own social status to stand up for another.  What a brave act to say "no" when others are saying "yes."  What a brave thing to decide it is better to stay away from certain social circles and risk being labeled as "uncool" because you have courage of conviction and the integrity that goes along with it.  Bravery is putting the needs of others above your own.  (Phil 2:3-5)

It has been greatly impressed on me that it is the mothers of young children who will greatly affect the future. It is our action, or inaction, that will shape the years to come.  Believing that God Himself has entrusted the lives of my children to me is humbling, daunting and also very empowering.  As mothers, let's all agree to build one another up, encourage one another and stand against the onslaught of violence and lies that are working to entice our sons away from what is good, pure and right.

For the moms of daughters- the following blog is a must-read for you!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Terrible Twos

I hate that phrase.  Terrible twos.  It is a practice in tongue-holding when people find out my younger son is about to turn two.  I'm still formulating a kind and Christ-centered response to the comment, "Uh-oh!  Terrible twos!"  Do we really think our little ones discuss how they can drive their parents nuts when they are together?  Considering my child's vocabulary is limited to two word phrases that usually describe who he wants, what toy he wants or what food he wants, I highly doubt he discusses behavioral issues with his little friends. It is mothers and fathers who do have such discussions with each other.  Those conversations usually go something like this:

Frustrated Mom- "Ugh.  He's in the terrible twos stage."
Irritated Mom- "Yeah, but just wait until he's three.  That's even worse."
Frustrated Mom- "Seriously? That's not what I want to hear.  I mean, I can't get anything done ever and he's just a tiny terror!  So frustrating."
Irritated Mom-"Yeah it's not fun at all.  I can't wait until mine goes to school and someone else can deal with it."

Nowhere in the conversation does either mom encourage or exhort.  I am extremely fortunate that I am surrounded by other young moms who do not fall into the complaining mom trap.  I am also extremely blessed to be surrounded by other well-seasoned moms who have been-there-done-that and can be an experienced voice of wisdom.

The twos are challenging, but they sure don't have to be terrible.  It has been my experience that kids will often reflect the attitude of the parents.  If they know Mom is frustrated and irritable, their attitude will reflect those attitudes.  In my estimation, it is up to us as parents to rid our minds of the "terrible twos" mentality and replace it with a new thoughts.

Being two is tough. Have you ever looked at the world from your child's vantage point?  A couple of weeks ago my back was really giving me fits and I spent much of the week on the floor.  I did a lot of crawling.  I was eye-to-eye with my younger son for most of the week.  It's hard to be that short!  Everything is out of reach, you are dependent on someone else to get everything for you and you are constantly looking up at everything.  It's dizzying!  Furthermore, your vocabulary is quite limited and although you might clearly know what you want, you do not yet have the ability to form the words you have in your mind.  How frustrating!  You are developing ideas and some independence and yet that is limited as well.  As parents we've got to keep these things in mind and help our little ones through this phase with kindness, understanding and patience. We must recognize and remember that our children are a gift from God and He has created all things for His glory- even 2 year olds!

Being two requires consistency.  As our little ones are trying to figure out life, we've got to make the "figuring out process" safe and somewhat predictable for them.  If we want them to not get peanut buttery fingers all over the couch, we need to consistently keep their food at the table.  They can't yet make up their own rules and follow them.  Determine the boundaries and procedures and stick with them.  How terribly confusing for a little one to have continually changing rules or no rules at all.  This phase of life is our opportunity to show our children the fruitfulness of formative discipline.  There is much comfort found in knowing the boundaries.  Years ago, someone taught me to tell me children this, "Your safety is dependent upon your obedience to Mommy and Daddy.  We have rules because we love you."  Just as our Heavenly Father has created boundaries for our good, we must create boundaries for the good of our children.

Being two is interesting!  As our little ones become more aware of their surroundings, they are curious.  This is a God-given quality.  We should want our children to be curious.  A sense of curiosity shows us that the brain is active and original thoughts are forming.  As adults, it is difficult to think about how new and exciting the world is to a young one.  I'm pretty certain that my little guy didn't put the leaf into his mouth to frustrate me.  He's just curious.

Being two means mistakes will be made.  Bearing with one another in love must be the mantra here.  I like the NLT wording of Colossians 3:13 for this- "make allowances for each other's faults."  We'll both make mistakes.  He'll make mistakes because he's two and I'll make mistakes because I'm human.

Being two means frustrations will occur.  Just this morning my little guy threw a huge fit because he wanted to wear big brother's shoes to go run errands.  He couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him wear big brother's shoes.  I'm embarrassed to admit that my sweet 5 year old handled the situation better than I did.  We were running a little late and my thought was to just get the shoes on him, give him a little hug and put him in the car to settle down in his own time.  However, Jackson did exactly as James 1:19-20 commands.  He was quick to listen and slow to anger.  He calmly came into his brother's room, took Bryant's hand and said, "I know how you feel, Buddy.  You want brother's shoes.  But if you wear my shoes outside, they might get lost and you won't have them anymore.  It's okay though, Buddy.  You'll be fine."  Let us not get angry with the frustrations of our little ones.  Let us show great love for our children through understanding and patience.  James tells us that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  (James 1:20)  If we get angry with our little ones, how can we possibly point them to the cross?

Parenting is hard.  A mom I greatly respect once said that she was being sanctified by way of her children.  I think I now understand this sentiment.  It's so easy to second guess every decision and fall into bed wondering if we've done a good job that day.  The Lord is so kind to tell us that His mercies are new every morning.  We do not have to let past parenting mistakes define how we parent from this point forward.  As I conclude, allow me to quote from one of my favorite parenting books:

"The parent is the child's guide.  This shepherding process helps a child to understand himself and the world in which he lives.  The parent shepherds the child to assess himself and his responses.  He shepherds the child to understand not just the "what" of the child's actions, but also the "why." As the shepherd, you want to help your child understand himself as a creature made by and for God.  You cannot show these things merely by instruction; you must lead him on a path of discovery.  You must shepherd his thoughts, helping him to learn discernment and wisdom."  
Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child's Heart