“Watch out here it comes. Jump!” We all grab the rope and swing across the ravine that is quickly filling with lava, barely making it to the other side.
“Help! I’m falling!” I cry, as I lose my balance and start swinging away from our secure landing spot. The rope is caught and I get pulled back to safety.
“There’s a T-Rex coming!” Our scout exclaims, looking out from our look out spot.
“Oh no! Did it see us?”
“We have to get these doors closed!”
“Oomph! They won’t budge”
“We’re going to have to make a run for it!”
“To the tires!” All three of us jump down from the hay bales and run across the barn hiding behind a stack of tires.
We silently wait while the T-Rex tries to sniff us out and finally, not finding us, makes its way downstairs.
“Do you think it’s safe?”
“I don’t know. Let’s wait a little longer.”
“I hear it down below. I think, if we’re carefully, we can sneak out around it.”
We slowly start maneuvering our way across the floor and down the stairs. We just get to the bottom, when out of nowhere the T-Rex sticks its head out of a stall and we all scream.
“RUN!” We race as fast as we can out of the barn.
“This way!” Our leader exclaims, pointing the way to our hideout.
“Do you think we lost him?” We all look around determining where the beast could be.
“I think that’s him over there. Run!”
“No. We lost him. Let’s walk for a bit.” Our leader says, as we all try and catch our breath making our way to the log pile.
Once we arrive, the guys go and pick out the best looking guns they can find. I stay back and try and prepare our “home nest” for the night. As I rearrange sticks and bark, I hear our leader call out, “We’re going hunting. We’ll be back before nightfall, but don’t let anything in!”
After a while, the boys get back. Of course, our fearless leader, has a couple of rabbits with him, along with a deer, some pheasants and a few fish. We quickly put together a stew and sit down to eat. Once the food is devoured we lay down for the night.
A couple minutes later, our leader bolts upright. Looking out a window he exclaims, “There’s something coming!”
“What is it?”
“It’s a Pteranodon!” Our leader say’s pointing his gun through a hole in the sticks.
“There’s another one over there!” My brother shouts, pointing out another hole.
“Oh no! What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to have to move camps.” Our leader replies, still peering out through the logs.
“Over there,” he directs. “In that groove of trees right there. When I say go, you guys make a run for it and I’ll hold them off until you get there.”
We carefully make our way out of the hideout; crawling over one log and sliding under another until we’re almost in the clear and ready to run.
“Ready?! Go, go, go!” He yells.
We hear him start firing off shots, as we race as fast as our legs will carry us to the trees looming ahead. Making it safely, we turn around to see how our leader is doing. Stillness and silence emanates from the scene before us.
“We’d he go?”
“Did it get him?
Panic starts to set in as we scan the area looking for where he might have went.
“I’ll go look for him.” My brother volunteers as he sets out through the trees to get a better view.
I continue to scan the area, wondering if I should try and go too. About when I decide to take off as well, I hear a snap of a twig behind me. Spinning around I see our leader come back holding his arm, which must have been injured in the battle.
“Where’d your bother go?”
“He went looking for you.” I point in the opposite direction.
“Well come on, let’s go find him.” We head off together into the trees, soon to catch up with him and continue our adventure.
I always have to smile, every time I see a kid holding a stick up to the sky, shooting down imaginary beasts, who must be threatening their life, because it reminds me so much of my own childhood. All the time I spent with my younger brother and our “fearless leader in arms,” fighting off dinosaurs, escaping over raging streams of lava, exploring, building, swinging, racing… countless hours of fun just playing together with our imaginations.
Now, as I watch my daughter start to dive into her own world of imagining, I can’t help but take a step back and remember all the fun times I had growing up. I occasionally find myself wishing my daughter would just grow up, so I don’t have to explain a hundred “why?” or “what’s that?” questions, clean up all her messes, or walk as slowly to the park. I’m reminded, though, it’s my responsibility and privilege to teach and train up my children in the way that they should go. I need to let them be kids; make messes, explore the outdoors, occasionally challenge the laws of physics, have fun studying the world around them, because that is the best way for them to learn. Remembering, they’re only young once. I need to let them play, while keeping a safe eye and reasonable, but firm, guidelines in place, taking the opportunities to teach them about Christ and His ways. For really, how short life is! James 4:14 says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” How easy it is to get so caught up in all the blaring problems and responsibilities of being an adult! We forget what it was like to be a kid. We forget to enjoy and make the most of each day we’ve been given.
Job 14:1-2, 5 says, “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” We only have a set number of days on this earth and we don’t know what that number is. It really makes me stop and think about how I’m spending the time that I have been given. I think about how I fill up each day and how I can get so frustrated when I don’t make it someplace “on time.” That extra red light, can throw my whole day into chaos and frustration. Accidental or purposefully spilled milk can swiftly send boiling lava coursing through my veins.
When I take a step back, I can’t help but ask, “why?” Why do I let the little things have such a big effect on me? Why, when one little thing goes wrong, do I jump into a series of panicked reactions instead of controlled responses? Why am I not able to enjoy life and replace worry with joy?
I’m not focusing on the right things. (Matthew 6:19-21)
I can get so focused and consumed with the immediate that I forget to take a step back and look at the big picture. It says in 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” There’s a song playing on the radio lately by Jonny Diaz called Breathe and my husband always jokes that it was written especially for me. So now, whenever I start getting frazzled and “freaking out” my husband will start singing, “Breathe, just breathe...” Surprisingly, it actually works sometimes. At least, it helps jolt start my mind, into the fact that I’m not thinking straight.
I’m letting worry consume me. (Matthew 6:25-34)
Worry can sneak in and take over my thinking before I even realize it is there. Matthew 6:25-27, 34 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” My biggest counter attack to worry is a thankful heart and a trusting spirit. It’s hard to worry about something when you’re thanking God for what He has already provided and realizing that the future is in His hands as well.
I’m going too fast (Psalm 46:10-11)
As a culture especially, we are so driven by time. We fill our days full from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. If it’s not with different activities, work or meetings then its tv, facebook, games or some other form of things we "have to do". I’m not saying that any one of those things in and of themselves are bad, but combined, when we get so busy that we push God out of the picture and push quiet time with him aside then it is.
In my Bible study this past week one of the things I put down that I wanted to work on was being still. There are so many verses in the bible about being still and knowing God. (Zechariah 2:13, Psalm 46:10-11, Exodus 14:14, Habakkuk 2:20 just to name a few). I know, as a mother with two young ones, being still can be an extremely hard thing to do. There’s a quote that says, “Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy.” The same applies to being still, being quite, and reading God’s Word. It’s not an easy thing to do that just comes naturally. If we continually wait for a time to magically come up, it never will happen. We have to make and guard that time as if our life depends on it. It takes determination and perseverance, not to give up when it doesn’t work how we want it to. Mornings are the best time for me. I try and wake up at least 30 minutes before my kids. Though, some days that doesn’t always happen and I have to find something to distract them with, long enough so I can get a little bit of “Jesus and mommy time.”
I wake up, hands sweaty, heart racing and my head pounding. Guilt jabs me in the stomach, making me want to throw up. I want to escape, to undo what has happened, but I can’t. I can never go back. I can never change what has been done. I feel powerless over the future. My mind replays the scene over and over again for the thousandth time. The emotional pain seems unbearable. I fiercely grip my pillow between my fingers sobbing into its cushioned fluff hoping to drown it out and not wake up my husband.
I plead with God to take it away, to give me wisdom and discernment with what to do now. I scream out in anguish asking Him how long He will let it go on. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 replays over and over in my mind. But I am weary Father and I don’t have the strength I complain but before I even finish Matthew 11:28-30 pops into my mind “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Oh Lord, I pray over Psalm 27 again, Hear my voice when I call O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, seek his face! Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Sleep slowing starts to seep in, when my mind deviously starts wondering back replaying, yet again, scene by scene everything that happened. I jolt awake, telling myself to stop going over it and to just let God have it. I start listing off things that I’m thankful for and finally, sleep comes again.
We all have things in our lives that we can feel guilty about. Traumatic experiences that have left such a scar on our lives that they will never be completely forgotten.
Sometimes, I wonder, if that’s how David felt waiting for his son to die. That empty ache in his stomach that feels like an endless black hole wishing he could undo what he had done, pleading with God to take it away, to save his son’s life, knowing that he was the cause but being powerless to do anything about it. David wrote in Psalm 38:4, 10 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” “My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.” David knew what it felt like to have guilt that threatens to destroy you. But here’s the key:
He never stayed there!
Satan wants to keep us defeated to remind us over and over again of all the things we’ve done wrong. To keep us replaying circumstances that have emotionally devastated us. But in Christ we have freedom. David wrote in Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
This is my “A” list that I have put together for things that help me when I'm dealing with a traumatic experience or struggling with feelings of "deceitful guilt" in order to gain freedom:
Acknowledge the Truth
I don’t know about you, but for me, when I’m in the midst of a hard situation where my emotions are all mixed up, it’s really difficult to be able to distinguish what’s really true and what’s a lie concealing itself as the truth. This one can take some sorting out, to really get down to what the real issue is and the truth behind it. Sometimes, it helps to talk to someone who isn’t emotionally involved, as it can be a lot clearer for them to see. Also, staying in, and searching the Word of God, is a must!
This takes humility! Getting help and letting someone into a vulnerable situation in my life, willingly admitting that I don’t have it all together, can be scary and a hard thing to do. Though, having someone to honestly talk to and wrestle through things with and even keep accountable to is a huge blessing!
The dictionary’s definition of forgiveness is "the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well." 1 John 2:9-10 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” It’s really easy when we’ve been hurt or feel like we’ve been unjustly treated to hold on to anger and bitterness and sometimes vengeance, wanting to make the other person pay. All this really does is bind and cripple ourselves into unhappiness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. There is freedom in forgiving others. It doesn't always come all at once, sometimes it's a process, where we continually have to keep forgiving.
Refuse to Dwell on it. You can’t stop thoughts from popping up in your mind, but you can refuse to let them stay by forcing yourself to think about something else. I have a tendency to try and punish myself as a false sense of control, to keep blaming myself for every little thing, whether or not it really is my fault. I continually have to remind myself that I am not responsible for the action of others, but I am responsible for not letting myself become bitter over it. Philippians 4:8 is a great verse to remember during these times “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Action plan of escape
When you go through a traumatic event or experience, there end up being things that will happen in your day-to-day life that trigger a similar response to what happened the first time. It helps knowing what those triggers are. Then, having a plan in place to know what to do or think about when a trigger does happen. For me, it helps to mentally start listing off things that I am thankful for. It doesn’t even have to be about the situation at all. Just giving thanks for anything and everything I can think of right then, helps swing my mind away from feeling sorry for myself and letting fear and anger cripple me into its downward spiral, back to the truth. Also, memorizing scripture that I can recite easily when thoughts do come into my mind is a great way to remember the truth.
I want to leave with a prayer Paul prayed in Ephesians 4:16-21, as it is always an encouragement to me and I pray it may ring true in your life as well, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
My eyes cloud over as tears threaten to break fourth from the massive dam right below the surface. My jaw tightens at the sudden feeling of being a failure and that of all things, I’m losing it over my water jug being spilled all over the carpet. I blink back hard and try and take a deep breath, reminding myself that it’s just water, a simple towel thrown over and stepped on is all that is needed. Though my head is pounding trying to see reason, the screaming voices keep flying out of control right beneath the surface. “This is the 5th time I’ve told you—don’t touch my water!” “Why can’t you just listen to me?” “Am I not being hard enough on correcting?” “What am I doing wrong?” “Will you ever just behave?” Why do you have to test the limits of every single thing?” “I don’t have the energy for this!” My anger starts rising and frustration takes over reasoning as I snatch the water from my almost two year old daughter, slam it back on the counter, hearing myself yell “Stop! Stop! NOO!” while swinging her around to sit back down on the couch. Looking back at her ready to unleash all my frustration, one look in her eyes and I realize I’ve done it again, I’m out of control. Regret and failure immediately wash over me. I reach for her hand, saying “I’m sorry! Here, let’s clean this up,” while throwing a clean towel, from the pile of laundry I had just finished folding. Gently I pull her over to step on the towel to get all the water out of the carpet. The incident is immediately forgotten by my sweet baby girl as she goes back to playing, but my mind is still raging with questions and the feeling of failure as I continue to fold clothes. Looking over I see my new baby boy quietly stretching on the floor, completely oblivious to the chaos happing right next to him. “Oh Lord,” I pray “How am I supposed to be a good mom? I feel like I am going to completely mess them up. I can’t do this!”
Being a mom is hard! No matter how many books we read, or lists of do’s and don’ts we read off Pinterest, or how hard we try to get a good night’s rest to help control our attitude and our words. There will be days (sometimes lots of days) that we don’t get enough sleep, if any, and are running on empty. It’s those times that we need to hand it over to Jesus even more. When we mess up, when we fail—which we all do--not to be too proud to go to our kids and say we’re sorry and ask their forgiveness.
That being said, here are a few tips that have helped me in my two short years of being a mom. When I find my temper is flaring, my patience is running out and all I seem to be doing is saying “no, no, no, don’t, don’t, don’t, STOP!” Here is what sometimes works for us:
Get out of the house!
Sometimes, fresh air is all that is needed, to cool off the jets for a bit and let the steam out. Not to mention the exercise for your kiddos lets them exert some of their never ending energy. Even just a short walk around the house or around the block does a great deal to improve everyone’s moods.
Invite another mom or friend over, or see if you can go to their house.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I constantly have this battle in my own mind. But my house is a MESS and with even more kids it’s NEVER going to get cleaned or at least will take FOREVER! Getting all my kids rounded up and into the car just to go play for a little bit before a meltdown happens is just a waste of time. You know what I find is interesting though? Once you get pass all the excuses of why it won’t work to have anyone over and just invite them anyways, even between the 3-6+ kids and only two adults it seems to always work out just fine. I know for me, my spirits are always lifted just to be able to talk to someone else you truly gets it…even if it’s just about the weather and exchanging “my kids are worse than your kid” horror stories.
Get your kids involved.
Many times, I find when I’m getting frustrated, it’s because I’m trying to get something done and my kids keep interrupting and getting in the way. I will always remember what one of my college professors taught me. Laundry, dishes, messy floors, ect. will always be there, but your kids won’t. It’s our job as parents to raise our kids up and to teach them. So, even though it may take twice as long, not get done how we might like, or how we would do it, sometimes it’s more important to teach our kids how, by doing it with them. Even if it’s just letting your two year old play in the sink water while you’re washing dishes. You will never get today back to do again, so enjoy the time with your kids while you can. Slow down, take a deep breath, or lots of deep breaths, and try and remember what it was like as a child. Let them be a part of your world and not just see them as a nuisance or a hindrance to what you want to do.
Melody, a proud mother of three beautiful, adventurous children and the wife of one very loving and caring husband. Molded, daily, by the Maker of the Universe and longing to become more like Him.