unless the Lord builds the house…

Two words: Potty training. Ugh. I’ve been dreading it and putting it off and finally decided I needed to get started, and it’s almost as unpleasant as I feared it would be.

I know that one day, probably not too far in the future, this will be behind me and will seem relatively trivial, but for right now, it consumes my days, and I’m so glad that the Lord cares, even if it does seem silly. Whether it’s potty training or discipline or anxiety over my daughter’s relative lack of interest in eating coupled with her almost-off-the-chart-low weight, the Lord cares because it is through these day to day trials that I interact and build a relationship with my beloved daughter. Through these mundane, completely normal challenges of parenthood, I am not just taking care of her physical needs. I am communicating to her countless other messages about who we are in relation to each other, how I feel about her, who she is, how to deal with different emotions and unmet expectations, and what it means to be a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and neighbor. Though I often feel that I fail miserably in various areas of being a mother, I do not take the task lightly.

My greatest mistake does not come from any of the many mistakes I make in parenting, though; my greatest mistake is choosing to rely on myself instead of on God. I know it sounds trite, but I am realizing what a powerful truth this is. I have not been very consistent with my quiet times lately, but some time in the last week or so, I was reading James 1:5-7:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I ask the Lord for wisdom fairly often, but it had been a while since I thought about the exhortation to “believe and not doubt.” Recently, in a conversation with my dad when I was telling him about something that made me angry but that I didn’t want to be angry, he helped me realize that my anger was coming from frustration. Having that emotion labeled as frustration was a light bulb moment for me. One of the areas of parenting where I have felt the most convicted is that I get exasperated too quickly and have trouble remaining loving when I’m frustrated. I started to realize that while different emotions can lead to anger, frustration is probaby my biggest trigger; I do not handle it well when I feel at a loss for what to do. This ties in with the verse about not only asking God for wisdom, but believing that He will give it to me.

Which brings me back to potty training. Dear daughter did better than I expected the first two days and then started having lots of accidents on days 3 and 4 (today). Because it is clear that she is capable of doing so well but for some reason has regressed, I’ve been feeling frustrated and unsure of what to do, and my frustration has lead to me losing patience with her much too quickly. Today it became not just about potty training; I started feeling completely impatient with every little thing she did that was different than what I wanted her to do. After a stand-off where I finally gave in and put her down for a nap because she wouldn’t eat part of her lunch, I went to read where I had left off in my one year Bible:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
-Psalm 127

 The first part hit me because I realized that I am laboring in vain, spinning my wheels in the mud, trying to do everything on my own strength and my own (lack of) wisdom. The second part was a gentle reminder from our loving heavenly Father that He has given my daughter to me as a gift. I want to love and appreciate her as the precious gift that she is. Instead of feeling shamed, I felt the Lord convicting but also encouraging me, as He is wont to do. I pray for forgiveness for not treating her with loving patience and for relying on my own strength. I confess that the job of parenting is too much for me to do on my own and that I absolutely need the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to be the loving parent that I want to be.

As I pondered what I could do instead of getting angry when I am frustrated, the Lord seemed to answer quietly that I should come to Him. I know in my heart that this is right because after all, isn’t that what He desires most? Praise God that He is loving, patient, and faithful, even when I am not. Again and again, I am so glad that “the Lord disciplines the one He loves…” (Hebrews 12:6) and that “…it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). I’m grateful for a God who is willing to stick it out with me and not leave me the way that I am, and I pray that He will help me love and discipline my daughter with the same patience and wisdom with which He loves and disciplines me.

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