Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oh, Be Careful Little Mama What You Say

Riley Grace is at the fun stage where when she babbles, she knows what she is sayingbut we don’t always know what she’s saying! This makes for some interesting conversations as we try to decipher what she’s trying to communicate. Her vocabulary has recently expanded a lot. She loves to talk! Some people think this is a little ironic since her Daddy and I are not really big talkers. J She seems to pick up everything. We went to the zoo this past weekend, and now she won’t stop saying “tiger” and “snake” (pronounced “iger” and “nake”). Patrick has been watching the Women’s World Cup, and so Riley Grace also wants to watch “goccer." Her all-time favorite word is “dog”, and she calls everything squirrels, cats, trees, houses “dog." She pronounces “dawg” with a major country accent! “Dog” is also very similar to “door” (pronounced “doe”). She knows a lot of body parts, and she has just recently learned “elbow” (pronounced “bilbo” as in Bilbo Baggins of Lord of the Rings!). She has always called her socks and shoes “gock," and this is one of her favorite words. She will walk around saying, “gock, gock, gock” as she points to socks and shoes. Recently, however, we realized that she is not always saying sock. She is actually saying “Great Scotts!” which is an expression that Patrick and I use all of the time. (I started saying it a few years ago to be corny, and then it stuck!) Riley Grace will walk around and say “Scotts!” It’s the cutest thing. As we began to realize that’s what she was saying, the realization of the impact of our words and actions really hit me. Riley Grace is a sponge, and she is soaking up the things that Patrick and I say and do. What a huge responsibility we have! She can pick up lots of good things, but she can also pick up lots of bad things. We really have to be careful! What do we want her to learn from us? We have to be intentional in our example to her, or else she can pick up some not-so-good things from us.

As we continue on in our parenting journey, we cannot be complacent about the things that our kids soak up. Children are impressionable, and they are always looking and listening and learning. They will learn from you, their parents. They will learn from their friends. They will learn from the television. They will learn from the Internet. They will learn from the culture around them. Hopefully they will learn godliness, rather than worldliness, from us. There will be lots of pressure on them and on us from our culture and from other people. As their parents, we have a great responsibility to show them the way of godliness and how to be pleasing the Lord.

There are a few things to remember as we strive to be godly parents:

God is our ultimate example and parenting standard, not the world/culture/other people. God has entrusted Riley Grace to our care. He is the perfect Father loving, forgiving, holy, merciful, gracious, just, wise, etc. He has modeled for us and given us instructions as to what a godly parent should look like. We have guidelines and boundaries within Scripture to aid in our parenting. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we will become better people and better parents. The world is not our standard. If other parents allow their children to watch a certain movie that you don’t feel comfortable with, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents allow their daughters to wear certain clothes that are too revealing, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents have a certain discipline method or a certain bedtime or a certain policy on sleepovers, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents wean from the bottle or the pacifier or begin potty training at a certain time, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents choose private school or public school or home-school, remember that other parents are not your standard. Your parenting standard is God, and God has given us His Word. No, the Bible is not a parenting manual with answers to specific child-rearing questions. However, the Bible does tell us to whom we can turn to with our questions. God wants us to seek Him for the answers on how to be godly parents. HE is our standard, not the culture and not other parents. Sure, we can learn a lot from the wisdom and experiences of other godly parents, but still, their experiences and advice are not higher than God’s wisdom and mandate for godly parenting. God allows us and invites us to seek Him when we are unsure of how to raise our children. He knows how to do it, and He wants to teach us! He is the perfect Father to us!

Our relationship with God greatly affects our parenting. If you want to be a godly parent and if you want your children to learn how to practice godliness in their own lives, then you have to pursue your relationship with God! That statement seems to make an obvious claim, but so many times, we don’t really put much effort into our relationship with God even though we hope to live a godly life. We will reap what we sow in the area of sanctification. If we seek God and seek to live a life that pleases Him, then He will grow us into godly people. If we just “talk the talk” but don’t actually practice spiritual disciplines in order to pursue godliness, then our lives won’t really change. If you want your children to see Jesus in you, then you have to pursue Him daily! One thing I can always look back on from my childhood is the evidence of my mom’s commitment to God. Every morning when I woke up and finally made it out of my bedroom (I’m not a morning person, and my mom had lots of trouble getting me out of bed each morning), I would always find my mom on the couch with her Bible, journal, and coffee. She was (and still is!) committed to seeking the Lord. She knew that her time with God needed to happen before her children got up, or else it would likely be pushed to the back burner. Her example has stayed with me. As a child, I watched my mom and observed how she lived, measuring it up against the way in which she told us to live. Kids observe, and kids remember! Being a godly mom starts with being a godly woman. Your children will observe your pursuit (or lack of pursuit) of the Lord!

Our relationship with our spouse greatly affects our parenting. Just as children watch and learn from the way in which you interact with them, they also watch and learn from the way in which you interact with your spouse. Riley Grace will learn a lot about relationships as she watches Patrick and me interact. As a wife, I have trouble being critical and nagging. Also, I often have a bad attitude about things. That attitude is often accompanied by eye-rolling or the silent treatment. I’m not proud of my either of these habits. Sometimes, I’m convinced that I didn’t even roll my eyes (but I probably did roll them it’s just so second nature that I don’t even think about it before I do it!). I can give the silent treatment when Patrick is asking me something that I don’t want to respond to. However, I do NOT want Riley Grace to pick up these habits! BUT if I consistently exhibit these negative attitudes and actions, how can I expect her not to pick up on them?! She can learn lots of negative things from this. She can learn how to be disrespectful. She can learn how to be rude. She can learn how to react badly when she doesn’t agree with what’s going on. She can learn negative body language habits. She can learn that this is how Mommy treats Daddy. She can store all of this away and use it when she’s in a situation that she doesn’t like. She can also learn that it’s ok for a wife to act this way. The problem isthese responses are NOT OK, BUT if that’s what she sees from me, then that’s what she’ll learn. These habits are not godly at all. So when she’s a teenager or a wife or a mother, these kinds of responses are ones that she’s learned from me and are the ones that she’ll bring into her own marriage and parenting. Wow! Yikes! I do NOT want that for herwhich means that I have to stop responding that way in front of herwhich means that I should stop responding that way PERIOD! What kinds of things do I want her to learn about being a wife? Those are the kinds of things I should start showing to her now. I love Patrick, and I want him to know that. I also want Riley Grace to know that I love her Daddy, too!

God has entrusted us with the role of being parents to our children. God has called us to be good stewards of the gifts in which He’s entrusted to us. God has entrusted Riley Grace to Patrick and me. He has entrusted your children to you. He didn’t entrust your children to different parents; he gave them to YOU. He knows your flaws and weaknesses, and He still saw fit for you to parent your children (that means that HE will equip you with what you need to raise them!). Now, your children are not yours to keep and they shouldn’t become an idol to you. Your children first and foremost belong to the Lord. They are His, and they are alive to bring glory to Him. Yes, God graciously allows us to enjoy our time with our children, but we shouldn’t idolize them. Since I have become a mom, I can see how very easily I could come to idolize Riley Grace. I love that little girl so much, and I would do absolutely anything for her. I care about her so much and I don’t want anything bad to happen to her. As her earthly mom, I cannot protect her from everything. Also, I am not all-wise or all-knowing or all-powerful like the Lord, so as much as want the best for her, God is the only who ultimately knows what’s best for her. As Riley Grace grows up, I can lovingly teach her that she belongs to the Lord even more than she belongs to me. With that being said, we still need to be good stewards as parents, and so we do have lots of responsibility to raise them up to be godly people. What are you doing with this great responsibility? One of the most loving things that you can do for them is to pray for them. God is the most sovereign, loving, and wise parent. Trust your children with the Lord. He loves them more than you do, and HE can take care of them better than you can! Get on your knees for them every day!

Children are sponges. They are watching us, listening to us, and learning from us the good and the bad stuff. As a girly girl, I do NOT like bugs at all. I usually spaz out if a flying, stinging insect comes anywhere near me. I could never stand still as I was told. My thinking was that I need to get as far away as possible from the flying, stinging thing, not stand still as it buzzes around plotting to sting me! Well, being that we live in the most humid state in the south, we cannot escape bugs. One would hope that going indoors would mean that you could escape from the bugs, but that thinking is incorrect. Bugs creep into our house under the door all of the time! Well, I didn’t realize how much of a spastic person I was about bugs until I freaked out about a housefly in front of Riley Grace. (No, I’m not scared of houseflies, but they are aggravating and shouldn’t be buzzing around our kitchen!) A huge housefly came in buzzing around our kitchen. He was not going to live much longer. I had my magazine in one hand and dishtowel in the other. I was ready. Then, I looked over, and Riley Grace was wondering what in the world I was doing! So that she wouldn’t be afraid of my crazy moves, I made a game out of it. In a dramatic and high-pitched voice, I spoke these words to the fly, “Get out of our house! You will not come in our house!” Then I swatted the fly and looked at Riley Grace. She cracked up! She laughed every time I said that phrase or swatted the unwanted pest. Well, in case you were wondering, the fly did die, and that was that. Later on that evening, Riley Grace was standing by the door. She started pointing her finger and babbling in a fussing tone. I looked over to see what was wrong, and she was fussing at a bug! Now, every time she sees a bug (or a black speck or anything that remotely resembles a bug) on the floor, she immediately points and starts fussing at it. She will not stop pointing and fussing until the bug is gone! It is hilarious! It’s also amazing at how quickly she picked up on my words, actions, and demeanor when dealing with bugs. She was observing my every move during the incident with the housefly, and now she was putting it into practice. Children are sponges. They pick up on everything, even things that we think are insignificant or things that we do without even thinking. They will repeat what you say, what you do, and how you respond to different situations. If you roll your eyes or slam a door or utter profanity, they will learn that behavior. If you are disrespectful toward your spouse or irate at a fellow driver, they will learn that behavior. If you spend more time on you iphone or computer than with your family, they will learn that behavior. They are watching and learning from you! We have to be so careful about the words, actions, and behaviors that we are modeling in front of our children. Knowing that they are watching can encourage us to pursue godliness even more because we have a huge responsibility to be good stewards of the time we have with our children. What kind of example are you setting for your children? What behaviors and attitudes are they learning from you? What words are they picking up and repeating? Remember that they are sponges, and they are soaking up the good and bad behaviors of the people they live with especially their parents.

Your role as a parent will always affect your children, no matter how old they are. You have probably made mistakes in the past. You have probably made some good decisions in the past. The key is lots of things happened in the past regarding the kind of parent you have been. The good news is today is today a new day! Don’t let your past parenting mistakes and failures define you or cripple you from making godly changes from this point forward. I can remember several times where either one of my parents came to me or to all of us to apologize for something and ask for forgiveness about a way they handled something. I really respected my parents for doing that! I learned so much from them in those instances. As they apologized for a mistake they had made, I learned that they are not perfect, and they are not too prideful to seek forgiveness. You can always teach your children, even in your failures. Also, your role as a parent will always affect your children, no matter how old they are. I have learned different parenting traits and expectations from the kind of experiences I had as a child the good and the bad. What your children see in the home now will be what they bring to their own marriage and family. Let them see Jesus in you so that they bring godliness into their marriage and parenting! They will always remember your example, no matter their age.

APPLICATION: Take some time to evaluate your own parenting and pray through these questions. Don’t beat yourself up! The Lord is gracious, and He desires to change us as we pursue Him! We have all made poor parenting decisions. Don’t stay in a state of depression regarding the ways in which you’ve failed. Rather, use this time of evaluation as a time of prayer and encouragement for the future!
1.      How is your relationship with the Lord? Do you seek Him before anything else? Do you seek Him when it comes to how to raise your children?
2.      What is your parenting standard? In what ways has the culture/worldliness infiltrated your philosophy and practice of parenting? Do you trust in your own knowledge of parenting more than the Lord’s wisdom? Do you bend to the pressure of staying in step with what other parents are doing?
3.      How is your relationship with your spouse? In what ways do you think your children are affected by the way in which you and your spouse interact? Do your children see love or strife, respect or disrespect?
4.      Do you have the proper perspective regarding parenting? Do you see your children as “yours” or “the Lord’s”? What are you doing with the time the Lord has given you with children?
5.      What are some godly things that your children have learned from you? What are some ungodly things that your children have learned from you?
6.      The most loving thing you can do for your children is to pray for them. How can you pray for your children? What are some Bible verses that you can pray for your children?

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:1-8

Sister, I pray that you will depend on and trust in the Lord instead of on your own understanding as you seek to be the parent that He wants you to be!

Always, Jacquelyn

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When I'm Not in Control (and want to be...)

CONTROL. I like to be in control. There are many reasons and circumstances in which I like to be in control, but the underlying motive behind my desire for control lies in my intrinsic need for security. I (foolishly) think that if I can control the outcome of a situation, then I will be secure. I will be safe. I will be taken care of. All of my needs will be met. If I can plan the events so that the outcome is to my favor, then I’m good to go! I can plan for all possible outcomes. I can try to manipulate the situation to yield the outcome I desire. I attempt to control our financial situation so that we will be taken care of and worry free. I attempt to control our marriage to avoid unnecessary conflict and have both of our needs met. I attempt to control the circumstances in Riley Grace’s life to ensure that she is safe and free from harm. I attempt to control our employment situations in order to aid in our financial security. And on and on and on.... Can anyone relate to my desire for control, which is driven by the need for security? Can anyone relate to the examples that I listed? Unfortunately, this control plan of action contains numerous flaws.

The fundamental issue within our attempt to control things is TRUST. If we are attempting to control something, then that means we do not have proper trust in the Lord. We need the Lord to show us and remind us that HE IS TRUSTWORTHY!

TRUTH: God is in control; we are not. God is infinite in wisdom and power, and we are very limited. He is good, and we are sinful. He is trustworthy, and we are fickle. This truth may be comforting, or it may cause anxiety to know that you are not in control. This truth should be comforting because we know how fickle, weak, and unwise we can be. Even though we are not really capable of being in control, we still attempt to tackle decisions and circumstances with our own strength and intellect, instead of relinquishing control to the Author of Life. We shouldn’t trust ourselves to be in control!

Powerful Reminders about the Character of God (in light of our issue with control)

God is sovereign.

His ways are not our ways.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

He will lead us in His ways.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”  Proverbs 3:5-8

When we attempt to control situations, we are ultimately stating with our actions that we are “wise in our own eyes”. We are showing that we believe that the control belongs to us. Proverbs warns us against being wise in our own eyes. Instead, we should trust in the Lord and fear Him only. Our own understanding is very limited. Attempting to control our own lives (and inevitably not trusting that the Lord is in control) is not pleasing to Him. One area in which the struggle for control gets me into major trouble is in my marriage. I don’t mean that I get in trouble with Patrick regarding my desire to control. The trouble comes when I attempt to control a situation in which the Lord never intended for me to control. The Lord intended for the husband to be the head of the marriage and the head of the family. The Lord has entrusted this role to my husband. Scripture is very clear about that. However, not a day goes by that I don’t try to sneak in and control something in our marriage or family (sometimes it’s not so sneaky). I will assert myself in a financial decision, parenting decision, or spiritual decision. When I try to take over, I am minimizing and not trusting in the leadership role/initiative that Patrick could have taken. I don’t even give him a chance to lead because I’m too busy blurting out my opinions or criticizing or worrying! This control struggle wears me out and wears him down. Patrick and I have had the conversation time and time again about the truth that I am not called to lead, which is why I become emotionally drained, stressed, or depressed when I fail at it! I know that it’s sinful, but because of my apparent lack of trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and in my husband’s calling and ability to lead, I try to snag the control in just about every situation. Thankfully, both the Lord and Patrick have been gracious as I struggle with this issue. Isaiah 55 and Proverbs 3 are very convicting and encouraging passages in light of my struggle for control.     

God is omnipotent.

We can’t fathom the depths of his power and wisdom.

“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.”  Jeremiah 10:12-13

This image of God’s power is truly breathtaking! He made the world and everything in it. He established the boundaries for time, the seasons, all of the peoples of the earth, and He holds everything together. He is truly all-powerful. He is not a God who uses His power for evil. Rather, He is a good, gracious, and loving God that uses His power for His glory. Because He is good, we can trust that His power will not be used for our harm. He loves us and cares for us as children. Yes, He disciplines us and allows us to endure trials, but He allows these things because, out of love, He desires our spiritual maturity and sanctification. We, on the other hand, are NOT always good and definitely NOT omnipotent. Thankfully, we are not omnipotent because we are sinful and finite! We have limitations. We have sinful and self-seeking motives. We cannot see into the future to know the ways in which our current decisions will affect other people and future situations. So thankfully, we are not in control! Unfortunately, we are not always thankful that we’re not in control

God is omniscient.

God is all-knowing. Who can understand the mind of the Lord?

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”  Romans 11:33-36

We are not all-knowing. God is the only being that is all-knowing. He created all things and knows the times and seasons for everything under the sun. We can search out God’s character and seek His Word for all of the truths listed about Him, and we would never reach the depth of who He is. As much as we may attempt to know all things and control all things, we simply cannot. Our understanding is limited and our abilities are limited. We are finite creatures. The Lord knows this about us (of course He does He made us!). He tells us to trust in Him at all times. He tells us not to worry about tomorrow. He warns us against anxiety, and instead encourages us to turn to Him in prayer in all circumstances. When we don’t turn to him and instead attempt to control our circumstances, worry inevitably ensues. We worry because once we attempt to control a situation, it becomes apparent that we can’t control it! Once we see that we are out of control, we worry. Can anyone see that all of the attempts to control things that are out of our control will cause lots of unnecessary anxiety?! Even though it’s pretty clear that we are finite and not all-wise, we still try to take the reins on situations in which we can’t control and weren’t meant to control. It seems very scary at times to let go of control, but it’s actually the wisest and best thing we can do because God is WISE and ABLE and we are not! It’s actually a much more dangerous and risky scenario when we (who are finite, sinful, and possess limited knowledge) try to hold on to control.

 God is loving and just.

As a loving Father, He disciplines His children.

“My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”  Proverbs 3:11-12

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:5-14

(Steering the stroller by herself)

(Enjoying a nice stroll)

(Thinking about standing up while the stroller is moving)

(Standing up while the stroller is moving)

Riley Grace is at a stage where she is becoming more and more independent. It’s interesting to watch her as she tries to learn new things on her own. Sometimes it’s very cute, and then sometimes it’s rather dangerous. One example of her budding independence is found in our nightly routine of taking a walk around our apartment complex. Usually, when we begin the walk, she is sitting in her stroller. By the middle of the walk, she wants to get out of her stroller and walk around. She either wants to walk beside me without holding hands or she wants to push the stroller by herself. It looks so funny to see her pushing the big stroller by herself. There are a few issues with Riley Grace’s desire to complete this task alone. One issue with her pushing the stroller is that she cannot steer it very well. The stroller is a cheap umbrella stroller that has taken a beating on the uneven sidewalks surrounding our apartment, and the front wheels don’t work very well. Sometimes, you have to pick the stroller up to reset the front wheels so that they’ll actually move forward. She cannot do that. However, she does not want any help. If I try to assist her by putting my hands on the handles to help her steer, she stops the stroller and moves my hands! Another issue with her pushing the stroller is that she cannot always see where she is going. She is just tall enough to see over the top, but her line of sight is not very clear. She doesn’t always know what’s ahead, whether it’s the crossing street, another person, or a pothole in the sidewalk. A third issue is that the handles are too high for her. She insists on keeping her hands at the level that an adult would use instead of putting her hands on the back of the stroller. She wants to use the handles even though they are too high for her, thus creating more steering issues. A fourth issue is that she is easily distracted. If she sees a squirrel or hears a train, then she wants to veer off of the safe path to follow the new sights and sounds. The culminating problem from all of these issues lies in the fact that if she cannot steer well, cannot see well, refuses help, and veers off of the path, then she is putting herself in danger. As her mom, I want her to be able to exercise some independence as she learns new things, but I also want to protect her from the dangers of the busy streets and uneven sidewalks, dangers that she cannot fully comprehend or protect herself from as a 21-month old toddler. So, in the instances where she refuses my help and tries to go her own way, she receives my correction. She does not always welcome that correction, but I love her, and so I offer the correction anyway. She tries to be in control of the situation, but there are many factors in this situation that are out of her control. She doesn’t have the physical ability to completely control the stroller. She doesn’t have the mental capacity to be aware of the dangers she may face. She also doesn’t have the understanding to know why I am correcting her. Even with her limitations, I still need to correct her because as her mom, I have more wisdom to understand the situation. I love her and want to care for her even if she doesn’t understand why I will not allow her to have control. In the same way, the Lord may discipline us with regard to a certain situation in which we are struggling to control. He knows the bigger picture. He is aware of our limitations, even when we deny them. He knows what is best for us, even if we are convinced that we know what’s best for us. He creates limits and boundaries for us because He cares about our spiritual sanctification. It is safe and wise to trust in Him instead of in ourselves.


1.      EVALUATE: Where do you find yourself within the struggle for control? Are there certain situations in which you attempt to control (children, husband, finances, job, friendships, future, etc.)?

2.      MEDITATE: Meditate on the following verses. Which situations do you need to trust God more (instead of trusting in yourself)? What are some situations in your life in which you desperately need Him to reveal the right paths to you?

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:1-5

3.      TRUST: Of the attributes listed above describing the character of God, which one do you find hard to trust? Which aspect of God’s character do you forget about when you are attempting to control something? What Scriptures can you hide in your heart in order to learn to trust God more?

4.      PRAY: Ask the Lord to change your heart about the issue of control. Ask Him to deepen your trust in Him. Ask Him to reveal to you the areas that still need to be surrendered to Him.

Always, Jacquelyn

Monday, June 15, 2015

FALLEN: My Definition of "Uh-Oh" and Riley Grace's Definition of "Uh-Oh"

If you’ve ever heard Riley Grace say anything, then it’s probably one of four things: “Daddy”, “Momma”, “Dog”, or “Uh-oh”. These are her favorite words, and she says them ALL the time. She has become quite the talkative little girl. She’s always chattering about something. If you continue to talk to her and ask questions, she will continue to respond in her 21-month babble with partial words, barks, and “choo-choos”. It’s truly precious! I love talking back and forth with her.
She had been on a kick for a while of saying “uh-oh” about everything. She learned this word as Patrick or I would say it after something fell on the floor or after she fell down. Now that she has heard us repeat the word over again for things that happen on accident, she has (kinda) learned when to say it. Now, she doesn’t quite understand the exact context of when to say it. For example, if something accidently drops to the floor, she says “uh-oh”. However, when she intentionally throws something on the floor, like her baby doll or her food at the dinner table, she also says “uh-oh”. Her little mind doesn’t fully grasp it yet, but we are trying to help her understand the difference between something that’s an accident verses something that is intentional. Therefore, for now, Riley Grace and I have two different definitions of uh-oh. I would use it when something happens on accident. She uses it in any instances where something falls down, whether accidentally or purposefully. One big issue (side note) is that I think it’s funny when she does this. Her cheesy grin is so cute. I usually wonder, “How in the world does she already know how to try to manipulate this situation?! She knows what she’s doing is wrong, but she is trying to test our reaction by grinning and being cute!”

From this illustration, I want to move into an unpopular topic that the Lord recently laid upon my heartsin. I think Riley Grace is really cute. However, the sinful motivation behind her actions is not. Sin is ugly. Sin is not fun to discuss. Sin is messy. Sin is a serious offense against a holy God. And sin is a natural inclination of our human nature. In Psalm 141:4, the psalmist prays the following words: “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!” The psalmist is aware that we are naturally inclined to do what is evil because of our sinful nature; therefore, he prays to guard against being drawn to evil things. Sin is a big deal, no matter how small the sin is, because sin is what separates us from God. Offending the God of the universe (which is what we do each time we sin) is a BIG deal. It is not something to be taken lightly. It is not an "uh-oh". 

Even at Riley Grace’s young age, she is sinful. She tests the limits. For example, she is very aware that she is not supposed to toss food off of her tray while she is eating. She is aware of that boundary, and yet she tests it. It never fails that while she is eating supper, she will stare at us, hold a piece of food out over the tray, and wait. This action shows us that she is aware that she is contemplating something that Daddy and Mama have instructed her not to do. Sometimes she’ll put the food back on her tray and grin; other times, she will toss it down and say “uh-oh” and grin (even though it was on purpose so it can’t be classified as an “uh-oh”!). Either way, this action is sinful because she knows the expectation and she’s testing the limits.

Fallen: No Denying It

We are fallen people, and there’s no denying it. It is common for people to comment that children are “innocent” and “pure”, but actually they are not. As humans, we are each born with a sinful nature because we live in a world that is fallen and tainted by sin. Spend one day (or maybe just one hour!) recording your thoughts, words, and actions, and you’ll be painfully aware of how your heart and mind are inclined toward sinful things (whether it be a bad attitude, a nasty word, a white lie, or something else). Hopefully, the more we are in Christ, the less our hearts and minds are inclined toward sinful things. Ephesians 2:1-3 states it very plainly: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedienceamong whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” The hope in this verse is found in verse three, which says that this is the way in which we “once lived”. If we are in Christ, then there is hope that we will not live in this sinful lifestyle any longer! Of course, in this fallen world, we will not live lives that are sin-free, but we can choose godliness over sinfulness more and more.

Fallen: A Little Attitude

The first kind of sin that we are inclined to commit is the intentional kind. One intentional sin (that has become second nature to me over the years) is my bad attitude. If something doesn’t go my way or I think something is unfair, my negative or disrespectful attitude comes to the forefront of my response to people or to the situation. I can picture my dad asking me over and over again, “Do you have a little attitude with me?” (We would joke with him that he’d run the words together, so it would come out as “li-attitude” instead of “little attitude”.) Of course, I was sooooo sure that I did not have an attitude, especially in my wonderful teen years. Little did I know, my bad attitude was plastered all over my face, complete with my smirk, eye-rolling, and disrespectful body language. (Sorry, Dad!) Now that I am married, Patrick and I have had many conversations about how these elements of my bad attitude negatively affect constructive communication. If I already have a sarcastic smirk or disrespectfully roll my eyes, then our conversation is destined to go nowhere really fast because from the beginning, Patrick can see that my heart is inclined toward evil thoughts and actions. This kind of sin is intentional. By sinning in this way, I am hoping to communicate my disapproval of some element of what was said or done by someone else, and I want to “get my point across” so that they “get what they deserve” because I certainly am not in the wrong. Sound like a bad attitude to you?

Fallen: Unaware, but Responsible

The second kind of sin that we can commit is the unintentional kind. Even if there is a sin that we are committing and we are not plotting and planning in our mind to commit it before it happens, it is still sin. When I was in grad school, there was a situation with a friend that I handled very badly. In an attempt to follow something I felt the Lord leading me to do, I communicated my point to this friend in a very unloving way. At the time, my intention was never to hurt this person. Looking back on the situation, I am deeply regretful of how I handled the situation. I still believe that the Lord did communicate a clear message to me of what should be communicated to this friend. However, the way in which the message was communicated was very unloving and harsh, and I am completely responsible for the hurt. I did not intentionally wish to hurt this friend, but I did. At the time, I was unaware that my actions were sinful, but they were. I am still responsible for this sin even though in my heart, I didn’t want to be hurtful or uncaring.

Fallen: Action and the Lack of Action

There is also another distinction that can be made regarding sin: sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission are sins that we commit. They are thoughts, words, and actions that we commit that are contrary to God’s design for us. Then, there are sins of omission, which happen when we do not do something that God wants us to do. I commit a sin when I have a bad attitude. In this instance, there are several thoughts, words, and actions that I am committing. I also commit a sin when I neglect to share the truth of Jesus with others. This is something that I know God wants me to do, but I omit it from my daily life because it can be intimidating and uncomfortable.

Fallen: Responding to Your Sin

There are two ways we can respond to sin. We can ignore it or pretend that it didn’t happen (as in the instances where Riley Grace says “uh-oh” for a sinful action that she deliberately did), or we can recognize it in confession before the Father and repent. These two responses sound very simplistic, but they are far from that. It is never an easy thing to own up to our sin. It seems much easier to attempt to brush it under the rug so that it remains hidden from everyone. However, that is not entirely true. While we may be able to hide our sins from others and also convince ourselves that it’s not that bad, we can never hide it from our Maker. He knows the intentions of our hearts and minds, even without outward words or actions that reveal our sin.

1.      EVALUATE: Evaluate your mindset toward sin. Do you take sin seriously? Do you tend to attempt to brush it off as “not a big deal” or “not that bad” or “not as bad as what someone else is doing”? The point is that our standard of sin vs. holiness is not what everyone else is doing. Rather, the standard in our pursuit of holiness is the standard that the Lord has laid out in His Word.
2.    READ: Take some time to read, meditate on, and pray though Psalm 51 and Psalm 139:23-24. Ask the Lord to give you a clean heart before Him. 
3.    PRAY: Ask the Lord to reveal areas in which you struggle with regards to sin (intentional, unintentional, sins of commission, sins of omission). You may already be aware of them! Ask Him to give you His attitude toward sin, so that you will hate sin and long to pursue holiness in order to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
4.    REPENT: Repent of the sins that the Lord reveals to you.

I pray that you will find freedom from the sins that so easily entangle you and hold you in bondage (Hebrews 12:1-2). The Lord does NOT desire for us to be held captive to our sin (Romans 6:6). The Bible even describes sin as slavery (Galatians 5). We may think that we’re enjoying the sin, but we’re actually enslaved to that sin. Our loving Father wants us to walk in freedom in the Spirit. If we ignore our sin, then we won’t be healed from it. I pray that we will be bold enough to confront our sin, ask the Lord to cleanse us, and plead with Him to give us the self-discipline to resist the things that tempt us (Colossians 3). I also pray that He will cause our hearts to long for holiness in a much deeper way that we could ever imagine (1 Thessalonians 4, Hebrews 12:14). Let’s pray to have a clean heart before Him!

Always, Jacquelyn