One of my ongoing struggles as a mom is to connect emotionally with my daughters. It’s one thing to keep your kids fed and safe (both great things!), but it’s another to be a joyful and patient parent. It’s much easier to parent with low-grade irritation and angst, especially when you’re tired from work or a long day with the kids. I know that’s my default.

Except… sometimes it’s appropriate to be irritated and angsty! Life happens, things get chaotic, and kids don’t listen well all the time. However, if we’re not careful, parenting with underlying discontentment, frustration, and resentment can become our default state. Over time, that can degrade our relationships with our kids and set a culture at home that’s not ideal.

But how can we be joyful and patient when we don’t feel it? Of course, I know the short answer is to abide in Christ. But what does that mean?

Abiding actually

Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5). Just before that passage, in John 14, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit as our helper, to help us live with peace and joy that are from outside of us, from him! So these verses from John 15 are Jesus reminding his disciples (and us), to rest in him, to find security in him, and to find our identity in him.

Here are a few observations I found helpful: resting in Jesus and abiding in him start with 1) knowing who he is (the Son of God), 2) understanding why he came (he loves us), and 3) knowing what he accomplished (salvation for all who believe). How would those 3 truths change your heart if they gripped you anew each day? How could knowing that he is ALL you need change how you view your circumstances?

Foregoing the flesh

Joy and patience are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5), yet we wonder why we lose both when we walk by our flesh. It’s in those moments when angst, frustration, anger, tiredness, and impatience seem overwhelming that I’m realizing how—instead of following my flesh—to set my foot down the path of walking by the Spirit. It’s not easy, and I’m not saying I get it right every time, but at least I’m starting to see the cues.

Hopefully this post helps you see your cues too.

A painful process?

I’ve found the following process helpful when my flesh wars against the Spirit within me:

1. Remove variables

It’s almost impossible for me to act lovingly when all of the kids are either yelling, arguing, crying, whining, or otherwise causing chaos. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to sequester them (as patiently as I possibly can) into their room(s) so I can think. It doesn’t have to be long, just enough time for me to do steps 2 & 3.

2. Pray, remember, breathe

In these moments I need help from God, so I must humbly myself and pray. Doing so helps me remember His goodness, my need, my role, and his sovereignty even over whatever challenge I’m facing.

3. Calibrate

This step happens almost naturally as a result of praying. I include it here because it’s the time when I can come up with a more patient plan of action for how to navigate the situation—whether that means disciplining the girls, repenting to them, reading them a story, or putting them down for naps. Whatever the decision is, I can now make it without being flustered.

Remembering rest

Rest in Jesus today, fierce parent. Trust he is still King, no matter what you’re facing. Trust that he is working in and around you… and that you don’t have to know/fix/resolve everything to feel his peace or make it real.

Instead, take the peace and joy that are already yours in Christ and rest as a beloved child of God. Then, that same joy and peace will naturally infuse your parenting.