I’ve been working on this intro for quite a long time now. I’ve been struggling to type out all the important things without high-jacking the article. I met Jocelyn when I took one of the greatest leaps of faith in my life. That leap started me on the path I’m still working on now, and she really was a major part of this for me. I’ll explain a little, I had already quit college in the worst way possible, I didn’t feel like anyone thought my alternative plan was a good one so I backed out on that as well. I found a mediocre job at a bank and I felt like I was finally on a decent path, at the same time I was promoted there my boyfriend asked me to travel with him to Australia. Passing that up as I was unsure of my future with him, I stayed on at the bank… the slow road to unhappiness started. I don’t know if it was my job, or the people I worked alongside, or if it was me all by myself, but I became bitter. I turned into the “poor me” girl who couldn’t find anything nice to say about anything, it turned bad quickly and I hated myself for the way I viewed life and the world around me. After a few years I decided to quit to pursue another dream. I hesitate to call it a dream, because at the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew something needed to change. I took a part-time job at The Center for Autism Education (CAE). This is where I met Jocelyn.
Jocelyn had been on board with the school and the program since day one pretty much, she had so much compassion and information to share. I looked forward to going to work just so I could learn some sort of lesson from Jocelyn. She definitely trained me in my position, but she was started to share her personal values and wisdom more and more and I couldn’t help but follow her lead. I needed Jocelyn at that time in my life to lift me up and help me see the good in all things, to address some concerns I had weighing down on my shoulders still, and I needed her to light a fire in me to share my love with the world. I thoroughly enjoyed my job, and I became so much happier at that time and things were becoming clearer and clearer about life in general. After moving to Tulsa, I still used my memories of the time working alongside her as a way of figuring out how to live. I would get in a sticky situation with students at school, with my kids, or quite possibly my husband and think, “What would Jocelyn do here?” She was a rock in a fast moving river, and if I wanted to better myself, I had better hang on fiercely.
If there is one thing above all else I admire in this woman it is her ability to find the perfect inspiration for every situation. Be it a scripture verse or a handy quote, we can count on Jocelyn to find the best words to motivate us. I say “we” and “us” because you’re about to find this out for yourself. Read on to hear what Jocelyn has in store for you. Her words are as genuine as they come because the words she chose to share with us today are the words she literally lives by on her walk through life.
Without further ado, here is Jocelyn.
What are your hopes for your son and how do you attempt to achieve that in this world?
My prayer for Jackson is Ephesians 3:16-19 (The Message version)
“I ask Him to strengthen you by his Spirit-not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength-that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
Basically, the outcome I pray for is that he falls in love with God. Because ultimately, I know from examining my own relationship with God, Jackson won’t change and grow into the person God intended Him to be just from our parenting style, behavior modification, and mere rule following. It was either Andy Stanley or Paul David Tripp (probably both) who I heard say, (and I paraphrase)
“The ‘law’ in the Bible is a great GUIDE God gives us, but rules don’t have changing power in the heart of a child. If rules changed people, there would be no need for Jesus. Part of our job as parents is to give our child a beautiful display of what an authority figure looks like so they will recognize that in God. We follow Jesus’ example, and hopefully by modeling that they not only follow our example but ultimately Jesus’. The goal is that the child falls in love with both us and God in the process. Parenting needs to be infused with grace. We take our cue from God’s example. We attempt to parent just like He does. God doesn’t love us because we’re lovely. He loves us to make us lovely. FIRST he sacrifices for us, loves us unconditionally, invites us to have a relationship with Him…AND THEN He starts the process of growth and discipline. We always lead with love and relationship before discipline.”
So how we live that out in practical ways starts with having that conversation and explaining to Jackson WHY dad & mom choose to follow Jesus’ example. This is such an important step in helping him understand and even WANT to follow, and a step that I think is easily overlooked. As parents we become so focused on making sure they know the do’s and don’t’s, but don’t always provide the WHY, which is so critical and plays a huge part! We explain how much God loves us, the gift of grace, and why God gives us the Bible and the Holy Spirit. We explain how when we make our relationship with God our number one priority, He helps us become the best versions of ourselves, and that, in turn, helps us to love others better. We use our own stories as examples to help personalize it for him. For example, I’ve shared with Jax how I saw how ugly my heart became when I decided for a time that I didn’t want to be friends with God anymore. Also, how even during times when we were friends, I treated Him more like an acquaintance. When I didn’t talk much with God or rely on His help, guidance, and friendship, in my pride, I ended up hurting a lot of people and giving Jesus followers a bad reputation.
Since my husband, Tony, and I know that God has given us, as parents, this awesome responsibility to be a tool in pointing Jackson to Him, we try to be very aware and intentional of the examples we set. The most effective way we can do this is through modeling and living out the fruits of the spirit and our priorities in our daily actions and reactions. What this looks like in our house is helping Jackson develop habits and disciplines early in life because he sees us doing them consistently. I want to preface this by saying 3 things.
1. Its these daily consistent “little” things that end up making a big difference ultimately.
2. It took us a while to become consistent. In the beginning, just like forming any other habit/discipline like eating right and working out, it was a struggle to stay consistent. With the craziness of life, it’d be easy to feel defeated and give up, but we’d miss out on so much if we did.
And 3. Its important to explain we don’t want to become legalistic in doing these things, but rather, we do them because just like in any other relationship we have, we can’t be close friends with God and grow in our relationship with Him if we don’t spend time talking with Him and learning more about Him.
I’ll share some examples of praying and talking with/hearing from God:
- We try to convey through teachable moments that pop up, that while yes, we have set times where we pray on the way to school with him in the mornings, and during our family devotion time at night before bed, it’s also possible to thank God randomly for the beautiful sunset or for helping us be loving toward someone we weren’t really liking in that moment, or we stop what we’re currently doing to pray for someone who just came to mind.
- Having Jackson take ownership of his own weekly prayer list. For a season, he chooses certain people to pray for each day. Monday it could be his cousins from Ohio, Tuesday – his Missouri cousins, Wednesday – some friends from school, Thursday – friends who have a rough home life, etc.
- At the beginning of the week, we focus on and pick one weakness we want to pray for God’s help in. ( Me: my attitude, Jackson: his arguing)
Each night, during our family time with God, a different person will pray. So Monday may be Tony’s night to pray, Tuesday mine, Wednesday Jack’s. When Tony and I pray, we try to make sure we’re leading by example by not only thanking and asking God for help in certain areas for ourselves and others, but also confessing (for example : apologizing for raising our voices at each other because we chose to stay up too late and were crabby and impatient in our responses.)
Some other random ways we try to model is by:
- Calmly saying phrases we learned from Love and Logic like “I make better decisions when I’m calm. I’m going to have to address this in little bit.” or “I love you too much to argue.”
- Apologizing to Jackson when we snap at him or raise our voice, forget something that was important to him, etc. We’ve noticed that he responds really well to our humility in these situations. It softens his heart toward us and strengthens our bond with him. He’s always quick to say “I forgive you.” while giving us a hug. Those are sweet moments with our boy that we’d miss out on if we allow our pride, frustration, or laziness to get in the way.
- Using OUR “please” and “thank you’s” with Jackson. I think some parents confuse this and think by doing so you aren’t asserting your authority, but hopefully your kid already knows you’re in charge.
- Making sure he sees how Tony and I love each other in our spouse’s love language…whether its with the “15 second kiss” we give each other at home when we say goodbye in the mornings or the “red light kisses” we give in the car while Jax makes barf noises and dramatically mimics us making out. Or when Tony gives me a compliment on my soccer skills, and ends it with “good game” instead of being competitive and upset that I just destroyed him. 😉 Or when Tony cooks for the family 90% of the time, and I mow the lawn 90% of the time because that’s our preference, and that’s okay.
Is there one thing you wish you would have done differently from the start of your marriage and also in the beginning of being a parent?
In marriage, definitely hands down, we both wish we would have made God our number one priority. I think we both THOUGHT we were at the time, but looking back, we didn’t fully understand what that meant and what all goes in to making that happen. It doesn’t even make sense, but because of our pride, we were self-reliant and independent of God’s help. We were trying to do better in our own strength, meanwhile not tapping into God’s help in doing what He does best…making us new. It took us 10 years of marriage and coming close to divorce to finally fully grasp what makes a marriage not only last, but flourish. And that is to love God first, before our spouse and family, and surrender our lives to how He intended life for us. I’m so grateful we both chose to finally soften our hearts enough to let God get through to us. I can only imagine He felt like shaking us so hard that all the nonsense, pride, and selfishness would fall right out.
Here are some quotes and a verse that speak to this lesson and is something we clung to during that time:
- “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.” – C.S. Lewis
- “Jesus will forever be our perfect example of love. When we fully understand how Christ loves us, we’ll be able to love our spouses selflessly and sacrificially. Jesus’ words are timeless: ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.'” John 15:12
- “The best gift you can give your spouse is a heart after Christ. The best person you can be for them is the person God created you to be.” Fierce Marriage.
- “So many times, people focus on meeting and marrying “the ONE”…their one true “soulmate.” But really marriage is not about finding the right person as much as it is about being and becoming the right person. When we make our spouse our number one, we tend to idolize them initially, and then demonize them later on in the marriage. And its at this point where we find ourselves questioning if we made a mistake and what if our spouse really WASN’T the “ONE” after all. We start entertaining ideas of leaving in search of our “true soulmate.” Bottom line, we need to make God our number one and our spouse our number two. It sounds crazy and even offensive to our spouse to say that, but I don’t want normal. Normal is 50% of marriages ending in divorce. I look around at normal and I’m terrified. If you want something no one has, you gotta do something no one does. If you want different. Do different. If the statistics said that 50% of the time we got into a car with our child we would end up getting into a fatal car accident, I can guarantee we’d take some serious precautions. So why don’t we approach our marriages like this? Normal doesn’t work.” – Craig Groeschel
Its been incredible to see how much God has changed us and worked in our lives since then, but it also took a year or so of intense action and intention on our part. During this season, we met weekly with a Christian marriage counselor for the first time ever. (Should have done that YEARS ago.) We made commitments to set aside time to read the bible and pray every day… something we always struggled to stay disciplined in for more than a few months at a time. We took a ton of classes our church offered like Healing is a Choice and attended Marriage Retreats. We read a lot of books and listened to a plethora of podcasts/speakers on topics like pride, grace, marriage, strongholds, etc. Tony set up transparency and accountability with the men in our Life group who we met with twice a week, and I did the same with the women. God took a sad, selfish, seemingly hopeless marriage and redeemed it into the beautiful thing it is today. 14 years in and our marriage has never been better or stronger.
In parenthood, instead of relying so much on the removal of privileges such as sports, xbox, tv, etc. (which spoiler — doesn’t work to create lasting behavior changes), I wish I had focused more on making BIG deals out of each and every one of the preferred and positive behaviors we did see in Jackson. I still get annoyed with myself, because after 15 YEARS of working with kids with Autism, I should have known better as a parent, but once we started making a concerted effort in building him up with our words of affirmation by drawing a ton of attention to the fruits of the spirit we noticed he was displaying, we began seeing an increase in them. Instead of focusing on what he shouldn’t be doing, we put the focus on how we become more like Christ and what that looks like in our day. Again with the parent modeling… Tony and I make sure in our prayers to give shout outs to God for helping Jackson display self-control, for example, when he was really frustrated with one of us earlier that day.
Lisa Chan said “We can’t be our kids’ holy spirit. They only need one.” Instead of shaming and isolating Jack when he makes a mistake, I should be partnering with him and saying things like “Yeah, I have a hard time sharing too sometimes, but we can pray together for Gods help. There’s hope for us both to improve in this area.” When I haven’t withheld my love/kindness/playfulness when he’s made a poor choice and been disciplined, he has been more motivated to come to me on his own to apologize without us saying anything. I’m really loving this age.
Colossians 3:21 “Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.” In some versions it says “Parents, don’t exasperate your children… meaning provoke to anger.”
Andy Stanley said “There’s no greater factor in your child’s emotional health than their relationship with you. Investing in your relationship with your children is like investing in all of THEIR future relationships. It will affect who they end up choosing for friends, boyfriends, role models, and so on. As soon as we can, we need to start influencing through our relationship. Unconditional acceptance and a quantity of quality time… thats your starting point. Using your position and size to intimidate while they’re young or with the car when they’re older doesn’t influence them with your relationship to want to do the right thing. Don’t grade yourself by the “win” in having control or the outcome of their behavior. That doesn’t create positive change. Grade yourself by the nature and depth of your relationship. If we as parents have the mentality of ‘Well, you’ll do what I say because I’m bigger, stronger, or have the money you need’, it eats away and erodes the relationship with your child. Once that transition takes place when your child grows up and leaves the home, you come to the realization that there isn’t much of a relationship. It then becomes you using guilt or bribery to get your children to come hang out with you.”
I was listening to Paul David Tripp, and really appreciated his words regarding Emotionally Reactive Parenting vs. Grace Based Parenting. When kids are surrounded by easily irritable parents who don’t themselves display fruits of the spirit like patience, self-control, or gentleness, why on earth do they expect their kids to? He said unfortunately kids become emotional weathermen, constantly wondering how mom is doing today to know how she will react and behave. When we parent by shaming and condemning our child… when we make the kid feel like a horrible human being for making mistakes and attack their character and confidence by saying things like “What is wrong with you?” or “Why would you do something like that?” we end up pushing them toward a rebellious spirit and produce a child with low self-esteem. They don’t become kids of character, they just become smarter sinners.
What do you consider to be the hard parts of being a wife and mother?
As a wife, it would definitely be being Christlike even when your spouse isn’t. Tony and I both have gone through dry seasons in our walk with God to the others detriment.
“Your spouse is the one person who will see all of your sins… and not only see them, but feel the affects of them. Therefore it’s God’s design to use marriage as a unique vehicle to mold us to become more like Him. Love does its best work when people aren’t deserving. That’s when love rises. While we each have our own role in the marriage, the greatest thing is, we each get to play the Jesus role to our spouse.” –Tim & Kathy Keller
To answer your question more specifically though, refraining from nagging Tony is the first thing that comes to mind. This is an area where the struggle is so real for me, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve totally failed so hard for the majority of my marriage. One of the best things I’ve done (and most productive, I might add) to help change my ways, is made a commitment to exchange worrying with prayer and nagging him with praying for him privately and then encouraging him. So to use a light example — if everything in me wants to mention that he ONCE AGAIN left the oven on, I instead choose to extend grace and discreetly turn it off. Then I wait for the next opportunity when he DOES REMEMBER to turn it off, so I can thank him and proceed to give him a steamy make out sesh to show how much that simple act means to me.
As a mom, I’m not sure if its the hardest, but it’s what sprung to mind… Allowing Significant Learning Opportunities (SLO) to take place. Again, I’ll use a light example… even though there can be some heavy, heavy examples we experience as parents, and that’s what makes it so hard. One Saturday morning, I told Jax that he needed to spend two hours reading, have his laundry put away, and all of his stuff picked up on the lower level by 4pm. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was for me to see that he hadn’t started on any of his responsibilities yet as I watched the clock roll around to 11am, noon, 1pm. It was mainly difficult, because I knew if I wanted to help him become responsible, that meant I do NOT provide a reminder, even though I REALLY didn’t want him to have to miss out on going somewhere fun that evening if he didn’t finish all of his responsibilities. Thankfully, he ended up finishing them in time, but there have been other times with not finishing his dinner for example, where I had to let the SLOs do the teaching, and watch him go to bed hungry. (Something I also have a really hard time with since I know I have a hard time sleeping if I’m hungry.)
“The challenge of parenting is to love kids enough to allow them to fail. To stand back, however painful it may be, and let the SLOs build our children. As parents, this means we must allow for failures and help our kids make the most of them during their elementary school days, when the price tags are still reasonable.” – Parenting with Love and Logic