Dear January [again],

Alas, we meet again. You know I still don’t like you, but we seem to be getting better at maintaining a tolerable coexistence. I hope you don’t take my disdain personally. I wrote you a letter last year about how I was going to change my mindset concerning you, and I think I did. In fact, when you visited last year, I was putting the finishing touches on my dissertation and preparing to defend it, so that was good. A lot of changes took place last year — so much so that I’m even greeting you from a different time zone this year!

Honestly, I don’t have anything particularly sassy, smart-alecky, or gripey to say to you this year. I suppose this must be what healing looks like. I still don’t look forward to the 23rd, which happens to fall on a Friday this year. I’ll have a class to teach that afternoon, so staying under the covers and pretending not to be a grownup isn’t a valid option. I still have to get the kids to school and then get to school, myself. It’s going to be hard, though. It always is.

Would you believe this is the first Christmas since I lost Nathan that I didn’t cry at all that day? I almost lost it on stage during the Christmas Eve service as we sang Silent Night, though. Normally, I can’t really see the congregation because of the lighting, but they dimmed the lights for the candlelight portion, and I looked over to where the boys were seated. I saw my five boys — thankfully, not setting the pew ablaze — and then my eyes lingered a bit longer on my two nephew-sons. In that moment, I saw a glimpse of Nathan’s facial features lit up in both of them; my eyes got watery and a lump rose in my throat, and I couldn’t sing a couple of lines. I was thinking about singing with him in Glory one day, seeing his face lit up with the Light that lacks shadows, and I felt such a pull on my heart to want to be with him.

Instead of dreading you this year like I have done in the past, I’m going to choose to be thankful for you. Seeing you again is a reminder that my time on earth isn’t yet complete. There’s still work to be finished here, and for reasons often unbeknownst to me, the Lord has designated a few particular things for my doing. So, January, I offer you a truce. Perhaps by the time you roll around again, we might even be friends.

Lessons in Discipline (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 7, 2014)

So, I had this devotional idea to write about discipline, after I came across a few verses in Proverbs 19 that I’ll share below. I was thinking about telling the story of how my brother once kicked a hole in my bedroom door because sweet, lil’ innocent me made him mad for some reason or another that I’m sure was his fault, to begin with. 😉

I pondered this idea for a few days, and then – I kid you not – one of my boys lost his temper and put a boot-toe-sized hole in a brother’s bedroom door. I would prefer to only share the stories about how darling my children are, and how much they love each other. Those things are true … on certain days. On other days, the proverbial organic fertilizer hits the fan.

Sometimes I wish God’s instructions would be written on the wall for me. (See Daniel 5 for the wall-writing reference.) Trying to decide on the right punishment to fit the offense is one of the hardest things for me as a parent. I don’t share stories about my kids because I think I’m an awesome parent. Believe me, I screw up all the time and question myself way more often than I feel confident. I do know, however, that learning to accept responsibility for your actions is a huge part of becoming a mature adult. Proverbs 19:18 warns parents that if we fail to hold our kids accountable to their choices, then we are contributing to ruining their lives! Ouch. Verse 19 (NLT) goes on to say, “Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”

Let’s switch gears a sec. It’s easy for me to put myself in the discipline-giver seat, since I’m the parent in the above scenario. Yet, how many times have I been the discipline-recipient because of my own poor choices? I don’t go around kicking doors, but if there’s a genetic link to smart-aleckness, then my kids come by it honestly. My attitude can get the best of me, at times.

Deuteronomy 8:5 and Hebrews 12:4-11 remind us that the Lord disciplines us like a loving parent – not for punishment’s sake alone, but so that we’ll learn and grow from the experience. Discipline should bring about the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Heb. 12:11, ESV). As painful as it may be to accept, that goes for us grownups as well as kids. What might God be trying to teach you, even now?