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This week I have lost count of the number of times I have talked back or grumbled at my children. Here I am busy 'trying' to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit - you know love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control - then I have little people who seem to push my buttons and what comes out is wrath, vindictiveness, anger outbursts, grudges, crankiness, need to control, attachment to material possessions and two doses of meanness.

It's the sin in me, reflected back at me from my children. Those children aren't pushing my buttons; God is using them as tools to purify me. I wouldn't be repenting of anger outbursts and lack of self control if those buttons were not being pushed. My children this week have showed me areas where I lack patience and goodness, kindness and gentleness. My son has taught me that I am controlling and edgy. My daughter has taught me that I lack patience to listen to her long narratives.

What or who has been stopping me from exhibiting the fruit of the spirit in my life? What's blocking the flow of the vine life? It is not my children, just fatigue. I get tired and I shut down and Miss Cranky comes out, and is she ugly? She is not the representation of God in me that I want my family to see. I want to model kindness and peace and joy and worship and gentleness. I realise how much dysfunctional parenting I have carried forward from my own childhood and I don't want my kids to struggle with the same- parenting by sacarsm, or short temper or unkindness. So I have found myself apologising to my children for needs ignored or things done or said after 8.30pm. I want my children to love the God they see in me.

God has called me to love and peace and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self control. So it doesn't matter if my kids are being disobedient or pesky or noisy. God is calling out virtue from me. He is in he business of making us holy. Gary Thomas his book Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls puts it beautifully:

"The silence of the Bible on the plan for parenting, along with the repetition of the Bible on spiritual growth, could lead us to conclude that God believes the parent’s own spiritual growth is the most essential part of the “how-to” of parenting. In other words, God may be telling us, Grow in Me every day — in faith, patience, virtue, love, and worship, and let that faith and growth perfume your house and anoint your children. Paul first tells us to focus on purifying ourselves, not our children. Many of us are so tempted to focus on purifying our children that we neglect our own spiritual growth. If we neglect our own “spiritual oxygen” — our walk with God — our motivations will become polluted. Our ability to discern, empathize, encourage, and confront will waste away."

"We must see parenting as a process through which God purifies us — the parents — even as He shapes our children. Parenting will lead us to confront spiritual sins that we never even knew existed. It will point out inner weaknesses that we saw as strengths. It will reveal holes big enough to drive our SUVs through. our own spiritual quest must drive our parenting. Unfinished or neglected spiritual business inevitably works its way out through our relationships in a negative fashion. We become more demanding, more controlling, more intolerant, more resentful."

"Christian parenting is truly a sacred journey. It invites us parents to purify ourselves, to use the process of raising kids to perfect holiness, and to do this consistently, every day, out of reverence for God. If we enter it armed with this understanding, each season will gain new meaning and purpose — even the difficult ones. We live in the midst of holy teachers. Sometimes they spit up on themselves or on us. Sometimes they throw tantrums. Sometimes they cuddle us and kiss us and love us. In the good and the bad, they mold our hearts, shape our souls, and invite us to experience God in newer and deeper ways. Although we may shed many tears along this sacred journey of parenting, numerous blessings await us around every bend in the road."

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