This girl. She will be four tomorrow, but she wants to be five like her big sis. I want her to stay three for just a little while longer. She still asks, “Mommy will you hold me?” and I would hold her forever if I could. She’s stuck in the middle between Kindergarten and baby trying to find her voice in the noise of a beginning reader and baby babble. I hear her. If you know her, you can’t help but hear her. She will make herself heard, trust me.
Analise in a SnapShot
Analise is such an interesting little woman. She puts up a bold front, but she is quite shy and prefers to be kept hidden. She loves TobyMac and Mac and Cheese. Her love language is fruit snacks. She can count to fifty skipping 21 and 35, or some other numbers inbetween. She has the prettiest little voice, but she won’t sing for you on command. You have to overhear her in the other room. Her big sis loves the spotlight, but Analise runs from it unless you tickle her, then it’s all over. She comes undone in a fit of giggles. Her will is strong, and she will put up a fight over just about anything that goes against her will. And yet she has such a sweet spirit underneath all of the feistiness. She gives the best hugs. You know the kind- those “all over hugs” that make you warm from head to toe. Sometimes when she is explaining something to me I have to hold back the laughter because of her over-expressiveness. I mean, every muscle and dimple in her face come alive when she feels strongly about something. She wants you to feel what she feels, and she longs to be understood.
Fighting, Reaching, and Resting
I want her to be understood. I want to listen to her heart more. I think this is what us parents strive for- to know our kids and to reach them the best we can. And they want to be reached, even those stubborn, independent ones.
A verse of Scripture that I am committing in my relationship with Analise is “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I get real angry with Analise. If you have a strong-willed child (like “She-Ra” strong-will), then you understand. I overreact to her overreacting and I pitch a mommy fit while she throws a tantrum, and no one is heard. She’s a fighter, and she will do anything she can to have her way.
Parenting an overly sensitive, strong-willed child (or any child for that matter) I am finding is a messy business. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t bows, ruffles, lace and curtseys. It is a flat out mess. Mama blows it. The kids blow it. There are tears, prayers, tiny wins, discouraging defeats, and the end of the day leaves everyone slap tired. One day, the Holy Spirit turned on this inner light bulb and whispered, “Jenna, this is not a physical battle. Stop fighting so hard for your kids.” Stop fighting? I am suppose to fight and try my hardest for them. I’ve got one shot at this. I am embarrassed to admit that these words actually came out of my mouth one day not too long ago: “With all of the work, sweat, prayers, and tears you would think that my kids would behave better than this!” And the Spirit tells me to stop fighting. “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Parenting and Prayer
Parenting has transformed my prayer life. I am not saying that I am a prayer warrior (although, I strive to be), or that I am faithful in prayer. No, I really need to pray more than I do. What I mean is that parenting is causing me to realize how needy my children, my husband and I really are. This really is a spiritual battle we face as Christians, and it is no different for Christian parents. I will go as far to say that the Christian home is a 1st priority target for the enemy. If Satan can tear apart marriages and drive children away from Christ, then that means that there will be that many less people effectively advancing the Kingdom. The Christian home is a force. It tells Satan again and again that God reigns and that Christ and His Church will be united in the coming age. It shouts the gospel, and the enemy rails against it.
I do not know what God has in store for Analise or for my other two kids, but He’s up to something. There is just too much warfare in our home to think otherwise. I was chatting with a friend the other day who is experiencing similar spiritual struggles in her home, and the Lord impressed upon me that the very fact that we pray with and for our kids, teaching them God’s Word, faithfully disciplining them in love is WHY we are under attack. Our goal is not behavior modification, you see. Our goal is heart transformation, and if our kids’ hearts are anything like ours then there is a lot of transforming left to occur. Christ does this. Not us. We are to be faithful unto Him as Christian parents, and He does the actual work of stirring our kids’ affections for Him. The best thing we can do for our kids is to know this God we want them to know more ourselves. We cannot pray enough. We can not feast on God’s Word enough. We cannot praise Him enough or draw our thoughts upon Him enough.
A Birthday Wish
Analise’s birthday this year comes at a point in our lives when we are facing the reality of parenting for the long haul. The teenage years are yet on the horizon. Our kids will gradually pull away seeking to discover who they are. We are surrendering them now. May God show them who they are, and more importantly who He is. I can give Analise the tools, the gospel, and a lot of love, but only God can soften her will to know her need for a Savior. This is my prayer for her on this birthday, and every day, that her heart will be stirred deeply with the love and truth of Jesus Christ and that God will use her mightily for His Kingdom. It is not by accident that He has given her such a strong will and sweet spirit. He makes no mistakes. So I say, “Happy Birthday, Analise, and know that Mommy and Daddy love you always, and more importantly that the God who made you loves you even more. My birthday wish for you is this: Let Jesus in and live your life for Him.”