I had challenged myself to 30 days of gentleness about a year ago. I was pregnant with my 3rd child and, as any mom knows, when you're pregnant the crazy just seems to come out! Raging hormones, sickness, pain, lack of sleep. Then I had a 2 and 1 year old to take care of as well. It was tough, but instead of remembering who I am in Christ and calling on those powers I tried to figure it out on my own. The result was frustration, helplessness, and fear that I took out on my children in the form of my voice. When I knew things had to change I struggled with how I was going to do it. Remembering to act out of a spirit of gentleness was the perfect start and was a great reminder of why I was doing what I was doing. This past couple of weeks as my children get older and are trying to be a little more independant (i.e. making their own choices instead of listening to me) I found myself struggling again. Luckily, remembering the spirit of gentleness prevented me from being hurtful to my children with my words, but I needed a little something extra to make it happen on a regular basis.
On Halloween a few friends and I were discussing whether or not Christians should participate in the activities. That's when God revealed to me that it's all about having an alternative! Churches offering a Christian alternative to Halloween is not participating in the pagan holiday it is providing people a chance to enjoy their families in a Christian way and to reach others in the process. Now, this isn't about your convictions about Halloween and I have several friends who refuse to participate. That is fine, I'm just using this example to show you where God led me. Just like Fall Festivals are an alternative to keep people from participating in ungodly activities, I needed an alternative to my behavior. Remembering gentleness was great, but beyond that I needed something to replace my actions, not just my mind-set.
My kids LOVE to sing. We spend a ton of time making up little songs throughout the day just being silly. I use this as an opportunity to teach them little lessons like with my "Obedience" song. It's just silly little words to a tune I made up one day in the car, but it has had a huge impact on my kids. Here's a little snippet, "Obedience, Obedience, that's what God says, Obedience. We listen to our mom and dad because that is Obedience. We're never rude, we eat our food, because that is obedience. We never cry and don't ask why, because that's not obedience..." (I inserted words for things my kids struggle with like when I ask them to do something and they cry and ask why rather than just immediately obeying.) They ask to sing this song all the time, to the point that if I hear it one more time I may pull my hair out, but how sweet that they are enjoying a song with such a sweet purpose. Surprisingly, the fact that they love this song provided me my alternative to yelling! Now, whenever they are being disobedient I immediately start singing our "Obedience Song". It reminds them that they are not being obedient in that moment, and it keeps me from raising my voice, using angry words, or having to repeat myself over and over and over.
Obviously, with your friends and family you can't just start singing the "Obedience Song", they will probably have you committed. But I challenge you to make up songs throughout the day about struggles you have. Sing them to yourself. Instead of counting to 10 when you are upset, sing a little song in your head about keeping a gentle spirit and a tender heart. I've began to use these little songs for everything. To get my kids to happily put their clothes on in the morning we sing our "Get Dressed" song, to pick up toys we sing our "Clean Up" song, etc. It may seem silly, but I'd rather have a day full of silliness than a day full of frustration, hurt, and raised voices. There's just no way to keep a frown on your face if there's a song in your heart!