Monday, July 6, 2020

Measuring Hamilton’s America

How do you measure a man? A nation? Do our mistakes and evil choices define us and discredit us? 

I’ve been watching Hamilton quite a bit this weekend. The first half of the musical highlights many of A.Ham’s admirable qualities and accomplishments as a “young, scrappy and hungry” patriot who played a pivotal role in our nation's beginnings. 

We also see his relentless ambition, outspoken nature, and his reputation for indiscreet tomcatting. The offstage interaction with the bursar who he “may have punched” and the duel he instigates with General Lee show us how Hamilton’s pride reacts to insults of his honor with violence.

Those character flaws bear rotten fruit as the musical draws to its tragic climax. Despite repeated pleas from his wife, Eliza, to accept their life together as enough, his ambition drives him to stay behind to work alone while the family takes a break upstate. Home alone, the former tomcat can’t say no to an encounter with Maria Reynolds and entraps himself into an ongoing affair and extortion scheme. Arrogantly believing he can write his way out of anything, he publishes the details of the adultery and makes a scandal of himself and his family. In the aftermath, his son Philip attempts to defend his father’s honor, and Hamilton gives him fatally bad advice about how to survive a duel. 

Hamilton at this point is held in contempt politically and socially and distrusted by his family. At the scene of Philip’s death, Eliza screams accusingly, “Alexander, did you know?” and in that moment his face crumples silently, reflecting the irredeemable guilt he feels. His double sorrow over the marriage he damaged to the breaking point and the loss of a son in whose death he played a part are unimaginable and perhaps insurmountable. 

In “Quiet Uptown,” Alexander grieves and seeks consolation in prayer and long walks. He humbly expresses that just being at his wife’s side is now enough for him. Eliza takes his hand in hers, offering something even more unimaginable than their shared grief: forgiveness, a “grace too powerful to name.”

And yet, he once again lets his pride lead him to violence, risking a senseless death even knowing the sorrow it would cause to those who loved him. 

In the denouement after the fatal duel with Burr, we are once again reminded of Hamilton’s accomplishments and told how “God in us mercy gave (Eliza) more time” to do humanitarian work he might have done in a longer life. 

Of course, the portrait of Hamilton in the play is fictional and incomplete. It shows some flaws and mistakes while glossing over others. Still, what are we to make of the version of Alexander Hamilton it presents? How can we esteem him and the nation he made in light of hypocrisies and contemptible acts committed by both? 

The answer is forgiveness, accepting the powerful grace of God through Christ Jesus and extending it to others. The alternative is “an endless cycle of violence and vengeance with no defendants” that Alexander feared the Revolution could unleash. 

Alexander Hamilton and all the founding fathers were nothing less and nothing more than human. They were brilliant and noble at times, yet their fallen nature, prejudices and fatal flaws hindered them from living up to the Enlightened men they aspired to be.

The American experiment they began likewise has always been imperfect and full of contradictions. Despite fits and starts of progress, our nation has never fully lived up to the greatness aspired to in the Declaration’s self-evident truths of equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Knowing there is forgiveness, we can make a clear-eyed reckoning with the injustice woven through our history in the form of mistreatment of indigenous peoples, slavery, segregation, discrimination, and prejudicial and often brutal policing. We can break out of our tribalism and partisanship and unite to answer the peaceful protestors’ call to fundamentally reform and remake our society to better reflect the Declaration’s ideal of equality. 

The humility that comes from knowing we are forgiven people frees us from the need to claim absolute complete knowledge and a monopoly on righteousness. We can welcome and encourage the free interchange of ideas. 

Freedom of speech and a diversity of ideas contribute to the flourishing of liberty. Allowing dissenting voices to be heard and engaged in dialogue carries on the tradition of Hamilton, who outspokenly argued to defend his ideas and attack those of his rivals and enemies. 

How do you measure a man? A nation? Soberly, knowing that we are and will be measured ourselves, and that without the grace of God, no one can stand. We can honor Hamilton as a founding father in need of forgiveness. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Short Story - Lost at Disneyland

Charlotte had an assignment for the month to write a short story. I decided to write one of my own as well.

Lost at Disneyland
By Maggie Sierdsma
Sam leaned against a brick wall, jiggling her right leg in time to a minor-key version of “Up On The Housetop.” The eerily festive tune echoed the macabre skeleton and spider web holiday decorations around the stately grounds of The Haunted Mansion. 
Sam liked Nightmare Before Christmas. Everyone said the seasonal overlay was amazing. She had to see it, they said. She wanted to see it. 
If only she could make herself go in the building. 
It was better this way, she thought, remembering the breathlessness, the cold sweat, the shrill whimpering sobs that wouldn’t stop. That was two years ago, the last time she forced herself through the Mansion’s double doors into the dimly lit portrait gallery. No matter how awkward it was to wait out here for the others, it was much less awkward than causing a scene like that. Especially in front of Jamie’s new friends.
Sam’s leg jiggles graduated to toe taps and soon she was pacing restlessly in front of the ghastly green wrought iron gate that marked the exit from the ride. 
“This is taking forever,” she muttered. “I don’t know how much longer I can wait.” Her fingernails flicked lightly back and forth against the sides of her thumbs as she considered what to do. How soon would her best friend Jamie and the other girls from St. Mary’s come off the ride?  Did she have time to make a quick run to the restroom?

To read the rest of the story, follow the link to my Google Drive:

Monday, October 7, 2019

Spiritual Storm

I help out sometimes in 5th/6th grade Sunday school, and yesterday the kids read about Jesus calming a storm.

I have a storm inside me today. "Never be enough" echoes through my brain like lightning strikes and howling wind.

Last night at a marriage seminar, the imagery of The Armor of God was referenced.
To mix scriptural metaphors, it's like this morning I was on the deck of a ship tossed in a tempest, decked out in full armor, fighting hard.

Fighting against the temptation to despair at what I lack by embracing gratitude for what God has given.

Fighting against performance anxiety by receiving grace through Jesus Christ.

Fighting against the fretfulness of my mind with the peace of the Spirit in my soul.

In the midst of crashing waves of "Never be enough," I hear a whisper.

"Be still."

You know, I never will be enough. Nothing I ever do will be enough.

But Jesus is always enough, and he did everything required for my salvation.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Unraveling Unhealthy Shame

Recently my ADHD became "Kaiser Official."  I had previously had it diagnosed by a psychiatrist based on conversations. This time, I went through a formal set of screening questions over the phone, and then completed a computer based test.

Anyway, since the more official diagnosis I've ravenously consumed Twitter threads, vigorously nodding, "me too!" at their anecdotes explaining what it is like to live with ADHD. I also searched out articles and resources designed to help ADHD adults work around the hindrances of dysregulated attention and live a full life.

The metaphor of one article in particular struck me and has been percolating since. It was "Who Drives Your Bus" by Bonnie Mincu of Thrive With ADD.   When my symptoms are really bothering me, I can be a Helpless Hannah. Much of the time, I'm a Steady Eddie, as I rely on the external supports I've developed over the years to make up for what I lack internally.

But I realized that it is Emotional Emma who tends to give me the most trouble. She is the one who

cringes in shame when she remembers the time she accidentally cut someone off and got yelled at in the middle of downtown. In fact, she’s avoided driving on that street ever since.

The key words are "cringes in shame" and "avoided."

It makes no real sense, but when I feel I’ve failed at something, I sometimes want to pretend it doesn’t exist. How irrational and ridiculous is that? I'm no better than a small child covering my eyes and thinking I've disappeared or plugging my ears and chanting "la la la I can't hear you!"

I’ve come to recognize the pattern, and the ways it does not serve me, in several areas of my life.

One area of impact is navigating the paperwork and administrative processes to access support for Charlotte and Elliott's autism. They are both clients of Central Valley Regional Center. As such, they are both eligible for "institutionally deemed" Medi-Cal to cover the co-pays for their therapies. All I had to do was gather the documentation and information needed, fill out the paperwork, set up an appointment and submit the application.

OK, to be fair, that was quite a lot to do. Those steps actually require a lot of executive function, and they were difficult for me. The process took me months each time. What would happen is that I'd get to certain point with their paperwork, set it aside, forget about it, and eventually find it again.

When I found the packet of papers, instead of diligently moving on to the next step and tracking down the missing information or document, I'd set it aside again. Each time I'd find the packet, I'd feel flooded with shame about taking so long, feeling defective for having so much trouble filling out the darn thing. Worse, my failure was costing us money we really needed for other things. Every week I didn't submit it was another week that co-pays for their therapies were piling up.

Not fully conscious of what I was doing, I'd once again I'd set the packet aside and pretend it didn't exist to avoid feeling that intense discomfort. The irony is the process took much longer because of all the time I wasted beating myself up over how long it was taking.

Another place I've noticed the pattern are in my fitness and weight loss efforts.

I'll start a program. The gimmick or novelty keeps me engaged and I do wonderfully, following the program to the tee. I'm a model student or patient or client.

Until I'm not. Until real life sets in and the novelty wears off and I slip away from model student territory. I usually tell myself I'm happy with my progress at that point, or that the program stopped working.

But looking at it through this new insight, I see that the program, whatever it is, becomes aversive to me. A painful reminder of my shame that I instinctively start seeking to avoid.

So there too, I see the same nonsensical, ironic pattern — I’m ashamed that I didn’t stick with the program so I’ll just avoid the program and pretend it doesn’t exist/interest me/work. And as a result I get even further away from sticking with the program and reaching my goals. I'll even tell myself that those goals weren't even really that important to me to begin with.

A benefit of finally being on proper medication for ADHD and the depression/anxiety I developed secondary to it, is that it clears my thoughts so I can see those unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I can see the sneaky lies of shame and how shame steals my joy and wastes my energy like wheels spinning in mud.

I wrote about these unhealthy patterns here to expose the shame to the light. Look, here is how I struggle and here is how I have failed and probably will fail again. Having expressed it, it loses some of its power over me.

Also I can laugh at this ShameCat:

Monday, September 23, 2019

Inspired by Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen is a recent musical with a focus on mental health.  A song from early in the first act, Waving Through a Window, captures the inner dialogue that accompanies social anxiety, withdrawal and avoidance.

The song begins:
I've learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
Head to read the full lyrics or to watch Ben Platt perform it at the 2017 Tonys.

Lately, I've wondered if there was a way to rewrite the song to reflect a journey toward healing. I've only been able to come up with the first stanza though. Something like this:

No need to slam on the brake
I'll take a risk to turn the key
Maybe I'll make a mistake
I can breathe, try again and just be me

Granted, that's pretty cheesy and not as catchy as the original.

But I like it.

Saturday, September 21, 2019


Running away

It's a topic hard to write about, hard to talk about. Shame and fear both hang thick and heavy around the subjects for me.

At various times over the years, all three of my kids have left my side at church, at the grocery store, at Costco, at the mall, at the air museum, at the beach, and at multiple fairs, carnivals and amusement parks. It happens when I am alone with them.  It happens even when I have other adults with me. 

Shame tells me I'm a terrible parent. Logic tells me it takes half a second for a kid, even neurotypical kids, to slip off. It has happened to even the best parent at some point or another. It’s biologically impossible to be alert every single second.
When one of my kids takes off, I try to stay calm, keep my wits about me. I push down the panic of what if because I know it isn't helpful in the moment. I can put myself in their shoes and think about where they most likely went.

So given that I have three kids, each with their own history of eloping, am I foolish to even risk going out in public with them in the first place? 

Just stay home and keep them safe. Sounds like a plan.

But they have eloped from home too. The child-proof locks are only child proof until they figure them out or a way around them. At some point, one child needed attention and the other takes the opportunity to impulsively take off. Sometimes we need to open our doors, and sometimes that is all the opening they needed to escape.  

Am I doing the best I can? Yes.
Am I able to be vigilant enough to prevent most of their elopements? Yes. 
Can I prevent all of them? History proves that no, I can't. 

So, prevention is an incomplete solution. 

Equipping them with safety skills fills in some of the gap. 

In some settings, that means providing them with a safe spot to go to when they motive is to escape a situation. In community settings, it means that I have made sure that my kids know my phone number. They know their address. They know how to use crosswalks and other basic pedestrian safety rules. They know what kind of people to ask for help, and so far, they have been cooperative with those who offer help. 

I'm grateful to each and every person who has looked out for my kids, and most of all, I'm thankful for the grace and sovereignty of God who has ultimately kept them safe.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Small Moment: Crisis in the Drop-Off Lane

Elliott pounded his feet on the floor of the van, holding tight to the headrests of the front seats. "They're already lining up for the flag salute! No, no, no! I missed morning work!" His face flushed almost as red as his glasses as his kicks grew wilder. "I missed morning work! I missed morning work! And I'm late." 

Surprised at his intensity, Maggie's hands froze on the steering wheel. "Bud, it's 8:13. You are not late yet. Just go line up with your class," she urged. She was keenly aware of the line of cars behind them in the drop-off lane.

She repeated herself, hearing a familiar edge to her voice. Her face and chest tingled with hot sparks she had learned to recognize as anxiety.  She knew she was at a crossroads she had visited many times before—anger or calm. I can't calm him if I'm not calm, she told herself, and bit back further instructions. Instead she took a deep breath and tuned into her racing thoughts. 

I feel pressure to solve this quickly. We're in the drop off lane, we're not supposed to linger, people are waiting, we're in the way. Great, just great. Dropping off is so convenient but I'll probably have to walk him in every day from now on just like I had to do for Charlotte ... OK that's not relevant and is definitely not helping us now. I need to pause and focus. 

Maggie took another deep breath and performed silent triage while Elliott continued his lament over the missed morning work. A plan and several backup plans in mind, she twisted in the driver's seat toward her older son, who stood uncertainly outside the van door. "Zachary, just go in without him. I'm going to pull all the way forward so we don't block the drop off lane." 

Zachary said his goodbyes. Maggie inched the van forward, Elliott still lamenting, sliding door still gaping open. Maybe I should go ahead and park instead? Will he calm down in time? She reminded herself to breathe again.

The pressure of blocking traffic removed, she felt much more relaxed. "Bud," Maggie began, with a softer voice this time. "I understand you wanted to do your morning work. We'll have to plan to get to school earlier on Fridays from now on so you can do that before flag salute, OK?"

Elliott took a ragged breath. "Yeah. Wait, am I late now? I don't want to be late for school. No, no! Now I'm late!" His voice spiraled up and tears started anew.

Maggie put a hand on her son's small shoulder. "Elliott, pause. You are not late. The gate is still open. You can get out of the van now and still be on time."  

He picked up his backpack, took a step and froze in his tracks. "I don't want to be late. Are you sure I'm not late?" 

"Not yet. You will be in a second though unless you get out of the van now. Look, they're waiting on you to close the gate."  

Almost suddenly as it began, the storm cleared from Elliott's face. His whole demeanor shifted and he hopped out of the van. "Bye, Mom!"

Before pulling away from the curb, Maggie braked hard, and the sliding door slammed with a satisfying thud. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Hush, Inward Squidward

The day after a wonderful experience tends to be not quite so wonderful. I slept fitfully. Woke with a headache. Excitement about writing remained, but specific ideas jumbled and slipped away before I could pin them down into a possible topic.

My problem is too many ideas all at once, but I often phrase it too myself that I don't have any idea of what to write.

So I guess I'll write about that today.

My brain contains multitudes. I always have one or more songs playing in my head. My mind's eye constantly roves over the landscape of ideas and possibilities, while simultaneously an inner critic questions the validity and worth of my every thought and action—past, present and future. Seeing so much at once can be fantastic. Making connections, seeing patterns. But more often it is simply paralyzing. I’m a creative perfectionist which means there’s always something out of place and chores undone while I hyperfocus on a new inspiration or rabbit trail.

The creative half of me loves it (whee!) while the critic is like an inward Squidward or that hornbill Zazu shouting, “Now see here!” The inner critic wants me to be as "normal" aka "neurotypical" as possible. It unforgivingly shames me for everything I do that falls short of that standard, with an order to "just try harder."

Day after day of trying harder, striving for an unachievable standard, feeling a failure but hoping no one noticed, that wears a person out. My self-talk over the past three years increasingly sounded like Eeyore regarding his tail:
“No matter. Most likely lose it again, anyway.”
I've had to fight against that chatter again today. What have I done by letting people know about my intention to write and post writing here? Set myself up for failure when I inevitably lose interest or motivation or self-discipline or succumb to ?

Hush, Inward Squidward! So what if I do fail to meet some imagined standard of writerliness?

I'm a writer, not because I post to a blog regularly or cultivate an online brand or get paid to write in any capacity. I'm a writer, not because I write the most eloquent enviable thought provoking prose.

No, I am a writer because God made me to be one. Throughout my whole life I wrote, stopped writing, started again. Throughout the rest of my life, I will write, stop writing, start again.

On a side note related to the felt need to appear as neurotypical as possible, some fresh outside perspectives have helped me shift my thinking on that.

Lately I've been reading posts from a group of women with ADHD on Twitter, eloquent articulate women like Rene Brooks (@blkgirllostkeys), Dani Donovan (@danidonovan), Erynn Brook (@erynnbrook), and Pina ADHD Alien (@ADHD_Alien).

Their threads, and especially the comments sections, have brought me a new level of self-understanding and therefore self-acceptance. (Sings to myself, "All I ever have to be, all I have to be, all I ever have to be .... is what He made me." —Amy Grant)

Pina's work in particular resonates with my experience. I encourage you to check it out.

I'm sure it will help you understand someone you love a little better. Maybe that person will be yourself.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Writing about Writing

Hello. This blog has been inactive for what... three years?

It's been inactive because I have been telling myself that I was ONCE a writer.

That young girl who filled up tiny memo notebooks with scribbled silly stories, she was a writer. In high school and college, that girl was a writer who filled journals with written prayers, existential grapplings (and also short stories for fun!)

That girl grew up and was paid to write as an intern copywriter/editor at the Youngstown Vindicator. At another job, real estate brokers paid that writer girl to write text for promotional brochures and 32-page long books used to sell fancy apartment complexes from one investor to another. Switched jobs and a staffing company paid her again to write proposals to win large long-term contracts.

In my spare time, the writer I once was wrote a few children's stories and made several goes at writing a memoir/roman-a-clef novel, half-dreaming of publication. That writer started this blog and once posted fairly regularly.

That's the writer I once was.

When I found out about my end-stage heart failure in 2014, I was definitely a writer.  I wrote about the ins and outs of that physical and spiritual journey before and after heart transplant. In that season, I also wrote and re-wrote tens of thousands of words of that pesky unfinished novel. The writer I once was self-published that novel here on Blogger (and then later, cringing, removed it).

So what happened?

The last few years have felt like groping through a dense forest. Caring for three high-needs kids with little respite. Trudging through the bureaucracy around special needs and accessing support—endless assessments, forms, meetings with an endless parade of strangers. Stumbling through a season of questioning my beliefs about grace-based parenting. Worrying about what kind of nation we live in. Doubting, not the Gospel, but the orthodoxy and faithfulness of the churches and parachurch organizations I once trusted.

I felt lost, and I slowly lost my belief that I had something worthwhile to say.

So, I stopped writing. I stopped thinking of myself as a writer entirely.

In the last six months, the forest has thinned out. There are meadows and space for my soul and imagination to breathe and make sense of where I have been and where I'm going. In concrete terms, that means that I switched up my antidepressant, the supports we trudged to access are in place, the therapies are paying off, and our household atmosphere is more peaceful and less chaotic. Most significantly, my youngest is in kindergarten.  Even my homeschooler has enrichment classes away from home two days a week. I suddenly have a luxury I've sorely lacked: stretches of time to spend alone or with friends.

Yesterday, my daughter wrote two sentences to start off a persuasive essay—about why everyone should have weekly dance parties—before asking if she could dictate the rest to me. Her hand muscles tire and cramp easily. Having a scribe is written into her IEP.

I am the scribe. Except it's SO HARD to just be the scribe.

Whenever she starts dictating, immediately a part of my brain kicks into gear, interpreting what she wants to say and generating possibilities for how *I* would word it. Writing and editing are my jam, baby.

I was once a writer? NO. I still AM a writer! So, I'll be writing. Stay tuned for more from this writer who writes about writing, about God's grace on display in this neurodivergent family learning to cope, to thrive and to embrace life with autism, ADHD, anxiety and depression.

Magpie the Writer.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

No foundation but Jesus

In early September, Wade Burleson's blog post "MOPS and Its Move Away from Biblical Christianity" came across my Facebook feed.  

Sarah Wilkins, who wrote an Open Letter of Concern to MOPS with the theme materials for the 2016-2017 MOPS year, says (emphasis mine):  
...  I realized my core issue with the MOPS curriculum this fall is how sin, truth and Biblical sufficiency are addressed in the materials.  I also have realized that MOPS International seems to have become a major player in a loose trend within traditional Christian churches, a trend in which Truth is represented as something that changes and can't be known. It is a trend where sin is not addressed because personal salvation is deeply rooted in self transcendence. It is a trend in where anyone who takes the Bible as sufficient for one's faith and life is scoffed at as a closed minded and archaic person.
The blog encourages the reader to not take Wade's or Sarah's word for it but go to the source materials.

I took this advice to heart and began an investigation into not only MOPS' materials but also evidence of the "loose trend within traditional Christian churches" toward relativism, mysticism, and theological liberalism that Sarah notes above.

Indeed, in my research, I was alarmed to find how widespread and popular such ideas seem to be, and convicted to examine my own beliefs and practices, in keeping with Paul's exhortation in Colossians 2:8 (New Living Translation):
Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.
 Trevin Wax's 2011 book Counterfeit Gospel includes a table that summarizes some of the most influential types of "empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense" that are at large in the church today.  He uses a three-fold model of story, message and community to show a full comparison of the true gospel to these counterfeits.

  • True Gospel Story: God's good creation was marred by the fall into sin, and our only hope is a Savior. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
  • True Gospel Announcement: The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the solution to this problem.  "God showed his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
  • True Gospel Community: Our ongoing response to God of repentance and faith creates and requires the creation of the Church which lives out the Gospel.  "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25

I confess I have allowed subtle variations of these counterfeit gospels into my faith life and I repent of that.  I've been convicted that when I read others' interpretations of God's Word more than I study it for myself is when I put myself in danger of such deception.

I plead with you to do research of your own, and to follow the examples of the Bereans who examined the scriptures to test even what the Apostles were saying.

Or to put it a better way, back to Colossians 2, the two verses previous to Paul's warning against being captured by human philosphy says:

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Special Girl

Let me tell you about my little Charlotte.  She has unruly dark blond curls and wears pink glasses for an eye that turns in when she is tired.

She tests above grade level in math and reading.  She is hooked on the Magic Tree House series, wants to travel the canals of Venice, and is Rainbow Dash's biggest fan.   She likes to tie knots and build things.  She excels at games that require spatial reasoning.  She collects rocks and pebbles.

On Friday, doctors confirmed something that we already strongly suspected: in addition to her ADHD, our daughter meets the criteria for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, level one (also known as high functioning autism or Asperger's).  

This morning I told staff at her school about the diagnosis.  The first response was a sympathetic "aww," which was odd to hear.  Getting the diagnosis isn't bad news to me.  We already knew Charlotte had these issues and needed support.  As I wrote on Instagram this weekend receiving a diagnosis "means her quirks and difficulties have a name, and she will soon be getting the support she needs for all her strengths to shine."

On Saturday afternoon, Charlotte had some difficulty at a neighbor girl's birthday party and ran home in tears.  After helping her calm down and talking through what upset her at the party, there was a natural opening to talk about the fact that she has autism and what that means.  So now she knows.

The truth will set you free.  Knowledge is power.  These and other similar phrases echo through my mind and heart whenever I think about my precious girl.

Now we know.    

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Jesus, Present and Merciful in the Mess

So, Connected Families framework is our ideal way of relating to each other as a family.  I don't think anyone would be surprised to learn that we don't live it out perfectly.  Some days we don't even come close.  We are learning and improving in our ability to apply God's truth and grace in our family.  

In the 2012 edition of Jim and Lynne's book Discipline that Connects With Your Child's Heart (a new edition will be released on September), there is a quote on the bottom of page 30 that really resonates with me:

... I act on the belief that Jesus is present and merciful even in messy family conflicts.  He gives me self-control and clear thinking to solve the problem.
We definitely have our share of messy family conflicts, and so these words encourage me deeply.

The presence of Jesus is such a fundamental and powerful truth.  He is Immanuel, God With Us.  What does it mean to act on the belief that Jesus is with me?  Even in the smallest moment of my day, I can bring to mind that He is at my side.  When I think of Him as an observer, I remember the charge to work heartily unto the Lord in my vocation, which is motherhood.  But he is more than a distant audience.  I also renew my mind with the understanding that He is active in the situations I face.  He is working in my heart and the heart of my husband and children.  He is on our side.  He is FOR me and my family, beckoning us to walk in His ways, rooting for us when we make steps in the right path, hesitating and feeble as they may sometimes be.

And when I don't bring those truths to mind, when I dive in impulsively or become paralyzed with anxiety or allow distractions to sway me from my priorities, Jesus is merciful.  When I sin against my children and exasperate them and add fuel to the fire of conflict instead of shodding my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, Jesus is merciful. He is my 24/7 parenting coach, whispering gentle correction to my heart whenever I err.  Thanks be to God for his great mercy in Christ our Lord!  Without it, who could stand?

I have found that I can't white-knuckle or fake patience or wisdom in my parenting for very long if at all.  It is such a relief to realize there is a different path.  Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  He is faithful to supply the patience and wisdom that I need for each moment and He does the real work of connecting our family to Himself, to each other and to what He has for us to do.