I look over at my darling but quirky four-year-old at dinnertime and she’s vigorously whipping her head back and forth with her eyes closed. Sometimes you just don’t want to know and it’s better not to ask. But in this case, I couldn’t help myself.
Me: “Juliette, what are you doing?”
Juliette: “This helps me eat faster.”
Preschool logic at its finest.
Meal times at our house can sometimes last over an hour. If you have a four year old who likes to chew each morsel of food 48 times, you’ll understand. I often gently (or not so gently) encourage her to eat more quickly so we can be off to our next thing. Her answer to my prodding was to do this head shake which she firmly believed helped her eat faster. It didn’t. But it got me thinking about the little actions we can take to help us do what we need to do, and do them well.
The Vicious Cycle
I don’t know about you, but I hit my grace and patience wall every day around 3. Sometimes earlier, if I’m being honest. And the vicious cycle I find myself in isn’t doing anyone any favors. I get frustrated with the kids, they get upset, I get mad at myself, but then I lose my cool again. Then I escape, either by numbing myself with pretty pictures on Instagram or filling my mouth with food that fills my body, but not my soul.
In other words, every time I yell at my kids thinking it will make them cooperate or push that camera icon on my phone, it’s like I’m shaking my head back and forth thinking that I’m doing something to help the situation. But I’m not.
What I really need is to fall on my knees and ask for an infusion of my Savior’s grace. Is there a way I can “shake my head” that actually helps, that accomplishes something purposeful?
What I need is a grace reminder. Some simple, physical action I can do that will reset my heart and soul and get my eyes back on the right thing.
Lift Your Eyes
How do you “fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18)?
Work with what you have, right where you are.
I went back to my favorite pastime of listmaking to make this happen. I wrote down simple, seemingly insignificant things I could do to refresh my heart, turn my eyes away from myself, and remind myself to find my sustenance solely in the One who saves. Here’s what it looks like:
Send an encouraging text to a friend
Light a candle
Open a window or go outside for a breath of fresh air
Put lotion on
Put worship music on
Make a smoothie
Add something to my gratitude journal
An odd mix of the spiritual and practical, but all things that act as a trigger to get myself out of the shame cycle and into the grace cycle.
How does it look in real time? If I’m making dinner and my littlest is hanging off my legs crying and my oldest is arguing about a simple instruction. I stop, look at my “Lift My Eyes” list attached to the fridge, and chose something. I grab my purse, take out my coconut-scented lotion and put some on. I give some to my girls too, which immediately lightens their mood. By setting up this simple action as an intentional way to reset, I take my attitudes and frustrations to the cross and move on in grace and joy.
Does this happen every single time witching hour strikes? No. But it’s not our performance or how well we’re doing that makes us pleasing to God. It’s our surrender to the perfection of Christ that brings glory to His name.
How do you handle those moments when frustration takes over? Do you have your own version of Juliette’s head shaking to help you do what needs to be done?