Here is an article I wrote that was published in Book Fun Magazine in March 2014. Enjoy!
As a patient, I consider life outside the realm of medicine to be indicators of my overall health. As a parent and grandparent, I also consider my relationship with my son and grandson to be indicators of my stress level and spiritual health. Anyone who has children understands that they are not only blessings, but that they can throw your everyday psyche into a tizzy. But, should we, as godly people, be stressed out when children make poor choices to get attention?
The Bible clearly states in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” How do we do that? It’s well and good to train them when we can contain them in playpens. What happens when we have to work because of economic constraints and find ourselves with little time to guide them? How can we pass on the grace of God’s love in those small pockets of time we may be left with?
That’s where the issue of our health comes in. When time seems like it is nonexistent in our lives, when our children are overwhelmed with what they see on television or hear from friends, it may seem impossible to arm them with the Word of God. It’s then that we feel guilty. We overcompensate. We stress out.
So, what CAN we do? First, we must take moments out of each day to be alone with God. Whether a parent or grandparent, employed or retired, we need time to refresh our souls and listen for God to speak. A bowed head in the car, or a quiet moment in the shower before our work begins is the breather we need to start our day. Here, in the quietness, we give our whole heart to God as we ask him to provide pockets of time in the coming day to encourage and teach our children about Him.
No, a few seconds is not enough to give a holy God who sent His only Son to die for us, but a few seconds is enough to set the tone for what God may guide us to do that day. Seeking His will may grow into opportunities that help us recognize teachable moments, and the minutes that follow then gives us peace.
One of the greatest lessons I learned about using pockets of time came during a conversation with my older brother. He and his wife had opened their home to us as long-term visitors while my husband attended the FBI Academy. I was a young mother, inexperienced, and frazzled. I had a son and an unsaved husband whose police job kept him far removed from us. I relished the moments when I could have godly conversations, so the visit with my brother was especially welcomed. At the time, my brother had three children and a child on the way, yet, there home was full of peace. I thought my husband and I emulated loving and patient parents, but looking back, that wasn’t true.
I remember myself pushing my son to another room to play, or plopping him in front of the television, so that I might accomplish my self-important tasks. My husband came home at night distracted by the day’s encounters with drug dealers and thieves. His interactions with our son were limited, as he arrived home just before our son went to bed. A quick ruffle of the boy’s hair and a kiss goodnight was all the time they had together.
I was no better. I rushed to a part-time job I thought was so important. I missed the precious moments when my son burst through the babysitter’s door and spilled his day into her lap. When we arrived home, it was homework, dinner, laundry and bed. Rush. Rush. Rush. I was frazzled and disconnected. The extended stay at my brother’s house was a blessing.
On the second day of our visit, the children were playing outside. My husband, brother and I were deep in a doctrinal discussion, while my sister-in-law cooked a heavenly roast for the coming dinner. I still remember the smell of sweet potatoes and gravy circling the room as we talked.
All of a sudden, my brother’s youngest son, Jeremy, burst through the front door and rushed to his father’s side. His face was flushed red and his excitement was palpable. In a breathless voice he said, “Dad, I’ve got something to tell you!”
I waited, expecting my brother to do what we did—tell the boy to wait—as we were in the middle of an important conversation about God. Instead, to my surprise, my brother turned to us and said, “Guys, you’ll have to excuse me. My son has something important to tell me.”
At first, I remember feeling angry, turned aside for a child. I watched my brother slide from his chair and kneel before the young boy, his hands draping across his son’s shoulders. With breathless wonder, Jeremy raced through the description of the slimy frog he’d found, his tiny limbs shaking in excitement.
“Daddy, did God make that frog?” he concluded, his small chest heaving up and down.
My brother’s face softened. “Yes, Son, he did,” he said, “He made everything, even you and me.”
The boy’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“Really,” my brother countered. “Come here and I’ll show you the proof, okay?”
The boy nodded his head quickly and climbed onto his father’s lap. My brother opened his Bible and began reading from Genesis. A few minutes later with a sufficient explanation from God’s Word, the boy kissed his father and rushed back outside.
As I watched my brother and his son, my anger turned to shame, as I realized the lesson that was being taught. This child was being shown complete and total love. He was accepted as a fellow Christian, not too small to be listened to, nor too unimportant to be turned away.
To this day, I remember the joy in my nephew’s face, and the lesson of how we, as parents, must show God’s love to our children by giving them our undivided love and attention, even in the small pockets of time we have. In this world, we allow ourselves to be distracted. We substitute television, day care, church activities and our own selfish needs, cheating our children of those teachable moments and possibly eternity.
When Jeremy was killed in a car accident at the age of twenty-one, I still hadn’t realize the lesson God had shown me through my brother’s actions that day. I do now. My brother took the time to listen to his children, whether they explored the wonders of nature or just needed to share something they felt was important to their day. By showing Christ’s love in such a tangible way, using tiny pockets of time to feed the Word of God to his children, I know Jeremy left us as a Christian, as will my husband who quietly listened that day.
I departed my brother’s house wiser than when I arrived. I took to heart what I’d observed. I started practicing what I had seen and soon found myself more able to cope with the chaos in my own life. Years later, my husband was saved, citing that moment.
Today, I am the mother of a wonderful son, but I am still praying for his salvation, which I know will come. I am the grandmother of a two-year old who calls me Tootsie. He visits every day and stays overnight when I can pry him from our children’s arms. He was here last night, his little legs rushing to and fro, his hands poking and prodding every crevice around this house.
I stopped chasing him for a moment to converse with my family. In the middle of our conversation, my grandson rushed up to me, a shattered robin’s egg in his hands. “Tootsie!” he yelled, tugging at my arm. “Tootsie, help.”
My son continued his sentence until I placed my hand in the air and said, “I’m sorry, dear. My grandson needs me right now.” I squatted to my knees, the cracks and cringes echoing my age. “What, Little Man?”
The memory of Jeremy returned as I gave my undivided attention to the little boy in front of me. I helped him pick up pieces of the broken eggshell and used that time to share the glory of God, tugging my Bible from the bookcase to read a scripture as he cuddled on my lap. My son and daughter-in-law looked on. Peace covered me.
I now seek those pockets of teachable moments. They made a difference in my own family’s eternity. As I learn to spot these pockets of time, I’ve found a wealth of peace that makes a difference, not only in my spiritual life, but also in my everyday health and well-being. As a patient, what better medicine could I seek?