Lessons in Kindness from Kids

“Use kind words, gentle hands and find someone who needs a friend today,” I said to my son as I dropped him off at the gym daycare.

“I will mommy, I will be kind today. I will share.” He replied as he bounced away gleefully.

It is so important to me that my kids are kind; in fact, sometimes I think I place a little too much emphasis on it. In a world that so desperately needs more kindness, I want to make sure I’m raising boys who love God and love others unconditionally.

For as much as I give verbal reminders, true kindness is shown by modeling the behavior; seeing kindness in action. So when my son reminded ME that I should be choosing kinder words when I was asking him to do something (“You need to be kind, mommy!”), it made me stop in my tracks.

How often am I *really* modeling kindness for my sons?

“Don’t do that.”

“Hurry up!”

“Get your shoes on, NOW!”

Phrases that are often heard throughout our day blare like sirens in my brain when I lay down at night and wonder if my boys’ hearts are filled as they fall asleep. I mean, don’t get me wrong, kids are resilient, they know unconditional love like adults can only dream up, so I know they feel loved and safe, but are their hearts filled? Am I nurturing them and showing them kindness?

Recently my husband and I went out on our first date (just the two of us) in over 8 months. Ironically, we have an 8 month old baby at home so I’ll let you do the math (sigh) and, to be honest, it felt like a chore to get that date planned. It seems the longer you don’t give a relationship proper nurturing, the harder it is to get back to that baseline foundation. Once we were out we had a blast, but it’s the getting out that is hard right now.

At one point during our date I found myself apologizing to my husband for not expressing gratitude enough. The truth is he works really, really hard so that I can stay home with our boys. We both work hard to make our home what it is, but stress can take it’s toll on each of us.

Matthew 19:5 says, “a man will leave his father and mother and be untied to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

When is the last time we felt we were a united front or on the same exact page? When is the last time we were truly “one”?, I wondered.

Like most couples with young kids, we are sleep deprived and over-scheduled. Many evenings and weekends are jam packed with obligations, home-improvement projects and then the usual errands of grocery shopping, cleaning, bathing our children and keeping them alive. I admitted honestly to him, “you know, I wonder what our marriage would be like if I spent as much time working on being a better wife as I do trying to be a better parent.”

Just like my kids feel they can be sassy and defiant to me, I often feel I can be sarcastic and harsh with my husband. That’s never easy to admit, but the more and more I think about the example I want to set for my children, I recognize that I need to start with me.

This admission may seem like I’m airing out a vulnerable weakness, and if that’s how you see it, you’d be correct. The truth is there are many days I wonder if God picked the right woman for the job: this raising kids in a sinful world is no joke!

In her book, You Are Free, Rebekah Lyons says this “God demonstrates his power through our frailty. In fact, this is the only thing we can boast in: His power is made perfect and on full display in our never-enough-ness. When we are weak, we are actually made strong in Christ Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

God nurtures us in the most perfect way, HE sets the example of kindness and love and when I’m falling short, full admission of my weakness and asking for forgiveness (from God, my husband, my kids or anyone else I’ve wronged) sets me back on the path He created for me.

Lyons also writes, “God delights in us. He doesn’t want us to live in bondage. When we invite him into our places of weakness, he comes and says, “Let’s nail this thing. Let’s not dance around it, perform around it, or seek validation to make it feel better. Let’s just go after it.”

So, while modeling kind words, gentleness and love is extremely important in raising empathetic and God-fearing boys, so is admission of sin and forgiveness. Recognizing that I’m not a perfect wife and mother doesn’t make me want to give up it, but rather helps me recognize that I need God more than ever and makes me want to try better next time.

She goes on to write, “This is why it is critical to keep declaring the truth: God has promised that when we are dependent on him, he walks with us. Then we can ask whatever we will, and he will lavish us with his power, his goodness, his grace, his kindness, and his mercy. He doesn’t want to keep us where we are. When we are brave enough to ask him to meet us in our weakness, he comes.”

It’s not always easy to admit weakness (sometimes the list feels so long that I don’t know where to even begin) but I’ve regularly been asking God to show me areas of my life that I need to work on; areas that could use a little nurturing. My son pointing out that I wasn’t using kind words could have made me angry, but it didn’t. I believe God was using that sweet boy to kindly point out that mommy needs to remember that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45).

So now, instead of just repeating my mantra when I drop my son off to play with other children, we speak it every morning, together, as a reminder for us both: “Today we will try our hardest to use kind words, gentle hands and to be a good friend. With God’s help we can do it!”

God’s calling to nurture and love my husband and these boys doesn’t mean that every day will be easy, but he has fully equipped me with Christ’s example and His promise that we are in this together.

Unexpected Provisions

It had been one of THOSE days. One of those when you feel the weight of every obligation, every responsibility heavy on your chest before you even set foot out of bed. The morning had consisted of an overflowing sink of dishes from the night before – yes, I am one of those that find it extremely difficult to go to bed while soiled dishes remain in the kitchen so this was a rare occurrence -- and a headache the size of Montana. Of course it also happened to be one of the three days during the week that I work, which meant not only did I have to get myself looking presentable, I also had to get the kids ready, bundled up, out the door, and loaded into the Jeep in time to drop them off at the sitter’s prior to heading to the office. Bound and determined not to be late, I attempted to shake the overwhelmed feeling as best I could and forced myself into the morning routine. Despite the fact that my jeans felt even tighter than they did the day before and that I realized I still hadn’t found the time to pluck my ever-growing out of control eyebrows, things were chugging along. Then I noticed the stroller which had managed to be forgotten sitting out on front walk. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that rain had fallen for a good portion of the nighttime hours and was still continuing to do so. It would have to wait.

After successfully settling an argument about who would “sit on the potty” first and then carrying both of my almost 30 pound twin daughters to the Jeep (I’ve learned the hard way that allowing them to walk there themselves only leads to a much slower transition to the car and many tears shed over the disappointment that comes from not being able to run like a screaming banshee into the back yard regardless of how cold it may be), we were off. Knowing that our automatic payment for our mortgage was due to be taken out of our account any day now, I quickly texted our automated banking service at a red light for an updated account balance. Fifty-four cents.

Look on the bright-side, I told myself, at least you’re not overdrawn. I shook my head and laughed under my breath, realizing what an eternal optimist I had become when it came to matters such as these.

Once at work, I fell into my normal routine, going through the motions of the tasks at hand. For the most part, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill day: I ate my typical hard-boiled egg and yogurt for lunch, chatted with co-workers about the weather and the upcoming work party. But I definitely wasn’t myself. The fact that I had two disgustingly dirty bathrooms at home, a pounding headache, 54 cents in my checking account, and no plan for dinner whatsoever plagued my every move, my every action.

Steamed_Pot_Lid

I’d like to say that I prayed unceasingly that day for guidance, wisdom, a break. Anything to help ease the pressure I was feeling. But I didn’t. I think I may have managed to squeeze in one or two shout-outs to the Man Upstairs, quickly asking Him merely for the strength to make it through the end of the day, which probably sounded more like grumbling. But unfortunately, the pity party I had chosen to throw for myself that day took precedence over most everything else.

Then I got a call. A call from a woman at our church who had recently hired me for some landscape work.

“Mel,” she said, “would you be able to stop by quickly after work? I pride myself on paying people promptly for their work and really wanted to get you the check for the project you’ve done.” Even though I could not say for sure, I can just about guarantee that my mouth slightly dropped open at the moment. I obviously quickly agreed, knowing that stopping there would mean I’d have to leave work right on time so that I could make it there and then the bank before picking up my girls -- after all, it would be nice to actually be able to pay the sitter today.

I arrived only five minutes later than I had planned and was greeted by this wonderful Sister in Christ with a hug and a smile. Talk about an eternal optimist, this woman has the gumption and drive to do God’s Will of an entire convent. As she handed me the check she said, “How about some chili to take home for the family for dinner tonight? Would you like that? I just made some and it's more than we can eat -- in fact, it's already warm!”

Are you kidding me? Would I like that? I would love that! I literally could’ve kissed this woman at that very moment. The last thing I wanted to do after this day was to attempt the cooking of a meal while two hungry girls and a starving husband encircled me. I was elated as I carried that warm bowl of comfort and the check which was a financial lifeline back to the Jeep, I barely knew what to say.

As I drove to the bank to deposit that check, I smiled to myself. God had done it again. I had woken up that day, not really knowing what I needed. I had figured something along the lines of a cleaning fairy or a winning lottery ticket may be what I was craving but I had no idea that His help would come in the form of something much more real, much more personable.

Chili_in_Pot

I recounted the story to my husband that night over dinner and marveled in the fact that this woman probably had no idea what a difference her seemingly small act had made in my day. When I made sure to tell her so later she responded by saying, “Thank God, for He gives us all good things and it was a joy to do His will.”

This one gesture had opened my eyes that night. I had spent the entire day wrapped up in all that I had needed to do – all that demanded my attention within my life. Yet God had provided. And not in a way that was tangible or self-induced, but rather through a fellow believer in Christ. Reflecting on the day’s events later, I was reminded of Galatians 6 vs 1-10, specifically verse 10 which says,

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Hasn’t God equipped us for good works (Phillipians 1:3-6)?

The night did not end perfectly. In fact, not more than an hour after enjoying this wonderful provision of the Lord did one of my daughters proceed to have an incredible accident in her favorite underwear, resulting in a spontaneous bath and scrub down of the entire bathroom (hey, at least I got one of them cleaned!). But it no longer felt like another responsibility on the pile. It was merely a part of life, which was made slightly sweeter that day by the thoughtfulness of a fellow believer.

I pray that I may be able to see past my own responsibilities and in turn, be a blessing to someone else who desperately needs it. Perhaps a random act of kindness performed by me may have the same effect as it did on me that day!

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