me, set an enemy of my daughter's heart

Roses growing through grate fence Often lately, we’ve found ourselves there stuck between emotion and disappointment.  Tears threatened to fall from her reddening, yet stubborn eyes as she stood before me while doing her best not to look directly at me.  I leaned over her lording big controlling words meant to strip down her actions to unthoughtful disobedience aimed to hurt and defy.

There we stood, worlds apart screaming at the moon wanting love without give trouncing on delicate soil uninvited yet demanding so long to lullabies equaling love I know she loves me.  She knows I love her, but there are times lately when I feel absolutely lost parenting Elizabeth, my oldest.  The fact that she’s only approaching her teen years intimidates me, especially when others are quick to respond that I should brace myself for when she is a teenager.  And the waves won’t quit as my younger daughters race to break on those teen shores, too.  As we near then, the joke of owning an escape cabin visited monthly sways further from comedy and closer to reality.  Until I own a cabin, patience must be cultivated in my thorny heart.

“There will be times when you won’t like me very much, and I need you to understand that I’m okay with that.”

Patience hangs from a branch rooted in love and there my heart finds clarity and returns to Christ-led parenting.

In times overrun by emotion and disappointment in my shortcomings as a parent and her defiance as a child, I grow impatient and irate and steal moments from guiding love sharp enough to cut through the most mired emotional tangles.  Simply put, I am my own worst enemy as a parent when my love is based more on my kids liking me than me loving them.  And by loving them, I mean caring enough to wage steady war against their little hearts set selfishly inward, evidenced by possessive pronouns littering their speak.  The real challenge is in separating from my own selfish heart enough to let the love of Christ guide me as a parent rather than my heart mercenarily demanding obedience for love.

Love doesn’t demand; obedience blooms in a heart loved so well.

Like a veteran gardener plucking weeds from good soil, I vigilantly remind myself to hold higher value to where we’re going instead of how we’re getting there.  And this is important to remember, for it’s easy to get lost in wanting to be loved back by your children.  If I will love her defiant heart well, I must set myself as an enemy to her heart.

Practically speaking, her tears shouldn’t shape the way I love her, neither should her accusations of me not understanding her and not caring about how she feels.  My role is to lead her through fierce times where Love will be saving grace.  Lots of parenting can be left to positioning - how I position my heart, will determine how I’m able to reach through innate selfishness that plagues their little hearts as it plagues and preys on all human hearts.  My goal is to set them free, free to love truthfully.

In short, parenting is the most difficult thing an adult will ever aspire to do.

in the way she should go.

“You must earn the right to quit.” And with those words floating wisely across the room finding only a lonely stare in my daughter’s young eyes, I returned to the corner of the room and the lotus position from which I came.

Another parenting stroke of genius gently leading my daughter from a place of despair and desolation to perspective as the ocean deep and endless sky sprawl.  One day she’ll look back with forever adoration thanking God for gracing her life with such magnificence.

That’s what it looked like seconds after I spoke a Confucian smoke screen hung with ornate words that impressed only me.  It was one of those lines spoken valued so good that repetition was a must for certainty that the hearer surely missed the glory.

She just sat there unaffected by my words, despite repetition and rephrasing, overwhelmed with emotion and armed with countless reasons to quit.  I miss the mark in my parenting relationship with my daughters.  It happens quite often.

I say the wrong things and do the wrong things every day, but I am convinced that perfection in parenting is a misdirected illusion cutting the legs out from under many parents sinking in mistakes.


My oldest is growing into her own faster than I can count days.  Before I know it and much sooner than I care to even entertain at the moment, the day will come when she hugs my neck in a hurry on her way out the door to cut her own path in life.

Already behind us are those days when I carried her and ruled righteously in her life with a firm and unquestioned ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Life was simple.  That was then.

Now and in the days ahead, she is beginning to (and will continue to) push boundaries, question my judgement and reasoning and stretch out the legs strengthening beneath her.  This is an important formative process that must happen, but also must be shaped by the parent.

“Train up a child in the way (s)he should go; even when (s)he is old (s)he will not depart from it.”  - Proverbs 22:6

And hear me clearly when I say that this, her stretching, pushing, objecting, protesting, is all good.


Our conversation was more than simply my words being spoken to her, or at her.  A milestone now sets behind us marking her maturing.

You see, training your child to go at life the right way happens in the smallest of opportunities.  This particular opportunity came in the form of a conversation about giving up because of rejection and difficulty.

Elizabeth has been a dancer for over 5 years now.  She’s learned the basics in several different forms of dancing as she’s been a part of two different dance schools.  Dancing is simply a regular part of her identity as a young girl.  As the new session began, Elizabeth chose to enroll in an advanced ballet class, one that would surely push her ability beyond anything that she’s aspired to accomplish as of yet.  After the first class, I could tell she was frustrated and sinking into a bad attitude.  Then her new teacher suggested she move to a more basic ballet class where she could master base techniques.

Suddenly in her own mind, Elizabeth couldn’t dance.  She wouldn’t.

Vanished were the years of dance behind her.  The recitals, the classes and all accomplished, gone lost in her perceived rejection and difficulty.

In the grand scheme of circumstance and reality, her difficulty seems minute and insignificant.  That was my initial evaluation of it, but I undervalued a great struggle for her; a tension between do and don’t, try and quit, win and lose, significance and perseverance.

She made a handwritten list detailing no less than ten reasons why she would quit dance.  With that list written in the little handwriting that I helped teach, she had my attention.

She was shrinking, giving up without giving greater effort in heavier circumstance.


“If you quit now, what will you be?”

...silence, but her eyes said everything.

With a hushed voice she nearly whispered, “A quitter.”


As a parent, I never want my kids to feel forced to do anything that they do not want to do.  If she really wants to quit dancing and move onto other activities, she’s free to do so, but she has to earn the right to make a mature decision, to quit.

For the sake of her future standing in wait for her, I made her commit to a mature decision.  She would have to commit to three more weeks of her new ballet class, trying hard, giving full effort and having a positive attitude.  Then once she completed three weeks, we would revisit the discussion.

As kids grow, so must parenting techniques and relationship.  The mistake I observe in parenting is to try to parent the same way as kids grow older and face more mature situations.

We prayed simple words and committed to simple action.  Packed into the cryptic statement that I began our conversation with bathed in her tears, was truth far simpler and greater than I originally intended.  She understood that she couldn’t just quit because a habit would be given room to grow and that life required perseverance through difficulty.

I’m convinced that a good portion of any parenting success with me is due to a sort of subconsciously driven dumb luck pulling wisdom and experience from my past into their present.

After I picked her up from her new class, she smiled almost slyly like she learned a new secret, and told me that she loves her new ballet class.

Gone were the worries that convinced her she should quit.

in a moment much too big.

“We are not now that strength which in old daysMoved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” from “Ulysses” (Tennyson)


In moments heavy, thinning in the heat of an everlasting day, when I’m not quite sure my heart has clarity to see and feet the fortitude to move another eternal inch, an error clouds thought every time.  I slow to a crawl, forget what got me this far and act like a child or alien to difficulty.  As if this particular time, in all its weighted glory, is the first time my heart feels strain, beats quicker and shallower in the face of difficult circumstance.  I doubt ability, lose sight of tomorrow and beyond and shrink to the size of the moment ...or smaller.

Gone are any traces of faith or courage, valor or bravery, displaced and decayed by worry, fear and everything wrong.

My mistake is to value trust as an option.  Trust is never an option.  That is, it should never be reduced to only an option.

Maybe you’re like me in that trust is yet to mature beyond the grasp of circumstance.  If so, I’d imagine you, too, wrestle with not trusting enough, often responding in difficulty with a heart bent toward doubt and uncertainty.

At any given moment straining, doubt could certainly be seen as a much higher value in my life.  Because they remain opposing options, to trust or to doubt, the one with the higher value, the one that makes more sense and seems inevitable, wins.

Perhaps trust needs no measuring at all.

Maybe trust does not need to be matured to any certain size, but constantly present in the heat of a day burning out of control just as in the cooling calm of an afternoon breeze whispering comfort.

Time and circumstance will weaken you.  You will fall.  You will fail.

Strength comes to those who allow the slightest bit of trust to mix into doubt clouding.  From their knees they rise again standing in a moment much too big.  Where they have failed, they are found.

All we can ever really do is trust.

Proverbs 3:5-6 :: To trust God with all of your heart requires nothing more than the confession that you are not enough; not your actions, nor your ability or heart.

No moment is ever too big for a heart abandoned to trusting God fully.