By Katie Helmreich
The past month has been an intense struggle for us. My youngest started kindergarten this year, and turns out she wasn’t quite ready for it emotionally. Every school night, every school morning, every afternoon after school, and any time over the weekend she remembered she’d have to go back to school again eventually, she was thrown into nuclear meltdown mode. This wasn’t a few tears and a bad attitude: it was like the daytime equivalent of night terrors. If you’ve seen it happen to your kid, you know…
It’s been excruciatingly frustrating, completely exhausting in mind, body, and soul, a rollercoaster of anxiety anticipating the next episode, but mostly just heartbreaking.
Yesterday, though? Jane woke up without tears! She was clearly anxious, but reluctantly got dressed, let me brush her hair, and quietly walked hand in hand with the principal into school.
Today, she woke up cheerfully, got ready quickly, and played happily while the others finished gathering up their things. She hopped out of the car and walked into school on her own without a backward glance!
I’m on cloud nine! I am blown away by these miraculous mornings! Could it be the storm is starting to clear?
I’d love to say I had a meaningful conversation with her that wisely explained life in such a way that her anxiety disappeared. I wish I could share a few magical tips and tricks to diffuse the nuclear meltdown moments. (Actually, I wish I could say we’re done with them; but this isn’t my first time as a Parent Bomb Tech. I’m sure we’ll still have days.)
No, these success stories aren’t because of anything we’ve done. This has God all over it!
Early on, I had to come to grips with the fact that, while I can physically control my kid in some ways, I cannot achieve the same results as cooperation. Some days a kid just doesn’t have cooperation in them. It’s the first thing to go when the reactor starts leaking.
I can’t make her fear or anger go away. I can’t make her feel loved or secure. I cannot make my kid feel calm.
I can barely make myself feel calm.
The wonderful truth is that God’s love for me, and God’s love for Jane, doesn’t waver. Jesus is not afraid of her anger. He’s not overwhelmed or exhausted. He remains our foundation in every emotional circumstance. The Holy Spirit fills us with patience, love, and the peace that surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in real ways!
My calm comes from the Lord. His breath of life steadies me, and his truth anchors me securely. His peace and love flow through me, to Jane, even in the midst of the maelstrom. He controls the “results,” whatever they may be. My job is simply to sit with Jane, while God sits with us, and experience the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.
I’ve been in awe as I felt the power of that inexplicable calm. I think it’s one of the first times I’ve experienced God’s peace in this way. I’ve often pulled down the emotional shutters to block out difficult things; but this is different. Jane needs me to be here with her, to show her she’s safe, to be a beacon of peace. When I remember my peace, my love, my patience and strength, are not my own but are flowing from the eternal source of the Spirit, I can be both present and okay.
Have I fallen apart sometimes? Yes… Oh, goodness, yes… But His mercies are new every morning (and after school, and after bedtime)!
The Holy Spirit has been at work in Jane, too. As a parent, it’s easy to fall into thinking it’s my job to make sure she grows up to be a kind and intelligent adult, an upstanding citizen, and an active participant in God’s Kingdom. But who Jane becomes will be the work of the Holy Spirit. The results will reflect Him! I’m blessed with the opportunity to be His hands and feet in her life, a vessel that pours out love from Him.
After school drop off this morning, I sat in the car and pulled out My Next Step: Getting Started, by our very own Justin Rossow. I keep it in the console because I really need Jesus to pull me back together after the morning drama we’ve been facing each day. This morning I read Chapter 3.1 “Courage to Try, Freedom to Fail – Live with faith that has nothing to lose.” If you haven’t read it yet, skip ahead! If you haven’t ordered yourself a copy yet, do it now! This chapter alone is worth the price of admission. WOW! Just… WOW!
When the school year began (badly) I struggled to try to be a better parent. I scrambled for more information and better techniques, and experienced failure several times a day. Somewhere along the line, something changed. The impact was huge, but the change was so small it’s been hard to verbalize.
But here it is in Chapter 3!
Even people who know and believe that Jesus completed the work of salvation for them [and their kids] on the Cross can fall into the trap of living for God’s delight instead of living from God’s delight. Knowing Jesus did everything for salvation, I make salvation his job (which is done already) and the Christian life my job (and I better get to it!) …
So not only do I have to live a good life, I’m supposed to want to live a good life and then be thankful while I’m doing all those good things! …
[But] according to the way Scripture tells the story, salvation is God’s work for me and outside of me, and sanctification is God’s work in me and through me. Both salvation and sanctification are God’s work…
The same Spirit who descended on Jesus and empowered his life and ministry descends on you. You now live, and work, [and parent,] and play from God’s delight.
—My Next Step, Volume 1, 58-59.
The Father loves you no matter what and, even when you fail, Jesus is cheering you on to live your life in confidence, knowing you are already His delight—and nothing can change that!
Parenting has a way of pointing out just how little we know. As soon as you think you’ve figured out one thing, boom! New phase! Think you’re good because you already raised two kids through that stage? Nope! New kid, new experiences. Go!
The stakes feel so high! Fear of failure and guilt from past mistakes could so easily cripple us. But instead…
The Holy Spirit is shaping your life of faith… it’s not yours to control. You don’t have to earn God’s favor by your response. You have the freedom to fail in this adventure of discipleship, because failure is part of the journey, and you have nothing to prove.
—My Next Step, Volume 1, 63.
This morning, I rejoice in this truth. But I’m completely dazzled at the beauty of the fact the same is true for our children!
I praise the Lord for loving and shaping my kids! I could shout with joy for the victory over fear I witnessed in my daughter today!
God’s goodness and mercy are shining so brightly around me, how can I keep from writing?!?
You are living from God’s delight!
And that makes all the difference in the world.
—My Next Step, Volume 1, 63.