Open Your Mouth One More Time

I love acronyms and short says…

Like… Looovvvveeee them. Just ask my kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said things like:

Hard work pays off.

Details matter.

You can only start from where you are. 

And now, I’ve got a new one. This one literally hit me in mid sentence to one of my kids after what was a long day of chores and frustration. We were, as a family, supposed to go to Warren Dunes, a state park in Michigan. The beach, Lake Michigan and a huge sand hill was waiting for us this day. An afternoon of fun. So as we were getting our things ready, Jami and I had to what felt like constantly correct and redirect our two kids from arguing and fighting with each other. Something that had been a consistent issue over the last two weeks. It seemed like if our two kids were close to each other, they were arguing and fighting. Both were at fault. And I could feel myself reaching a boiling point. 

We finally got our things in the car and were getting ready to back out of the driveway. And more bickering from the backseat ensued. I stopped the reverse motion of the car and addressed the kids’ behavior and words and started to slowly begin to back out of the driveway again when one of the kids decided it was a good idea to say, One. More. Thing. I’m not sure what possessed this child to feel the need to say, One. More. Thing. But it happened. The, One. More. Thing. was said. (A word of advice kids. If you find yourself in the same position and you feel the need to say, One. More. Thing. don’t. It’s not a good idea. Ever.) And as I finished backing up and began to pull forward,  the switch in my mind flipped. I don’t know if it was a slow progression of me realizing that the child had said, One. More. Thing. But the switch flipped. And instead of pulling out of the neighborhood, I pulled around the circle and back into our driveway. And I announced in a very direct way that we were not, in fact, going to Warren Dunes. Instead, we (and by we, I mean the two of them) were going to enjoy nature by doing chores for the rest of the afternoon outside. 

This in turn enabled a couple of things to happen. One, the switch in my brain was eventually flipped back up over time. At this point, it was less of a switch and more of a dimmer nob. Two, it helped Jami and I to accomplish yard tasks that we knew needed to be done but didn’t want to do them (a win for us). Three, it gave me some time to reflect one the last two weeks and the bickering and arguing and fighting between our two children. And I knew in that time that we all needed to talk. So, after dinner, we all had a little chat. 

As we were discussing the day’s events and the previous two weeks, the child who felt the need to say, One. More. Thing. decided it was a good idea again to say, One. More. Thing. And as I was redirecting the words that were coming out of that child’s mouth, it hit me. Like a punch from Mike Tyson in his prime. It hit me like Mariah Carey hitting her high notes (ok, she can’t really hit those high notes anymore… did you see the at home concert?) Anyway, in mid sentence my eyes were opened… and I realized this… for the last two weeks, I had been focusing on the kids’ behavior, their arguing, their disrespect, their words. In other words, 

I was focusing on the surface issues that were on display.

And in two point two seconds this word came out of my mouth… are you ready for this? I mean it’s kinda weird. And silly. And crazy. And super simple. The word that came out of my mouth…


I’ll say that again…


I had been focusing on the kids’ behavior. And I was suuuuuuuuuuper frustrated that their behavior wasn’t changing. And it hit me. I was focusing on the wrong thing. Or, at minimum, I was focusing on the thing out of order… in the wrong order. You should have seen my kids’ faces… probably Jami’s too. 

HAM? What? Why HAM? Said in a look of confusion. And I said, “Well, everyone likes HAM right? I mean it’s kinda like bacon.” More looks of confusion and the comment that in fact, not everyone likes HAM. And I quickly realized we were getting off topic… even though they were right. (I mean, Jami doesn’t like HAM, so they were right.) So to bring it back I said again,


You know…




And as I said that, everything made sense. I had been focusing on their behavior, their words. And it hit me… this is completely out of order. If I want their words and behavior to change, their attitude needs to change. And if I want their attitude to change, their heart needs to change. Check this out: 

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

In other words, your attitude and your mouth will speak what is in your heart. The bad attitude and the arguing and fighting were and are surface issues. Like an iceberg, you only see the little bit on the surface. The foundation of the iceberg is below the water. The foundation of the arguing and fighting and bad attitudes is their heart. 

This isn’t something that I didn’t know before. But for some reason, I had been only focusing on their behavior. And their behavior wasn’t changing. And I had become so frustrated. And so the punch between the eyes. The eye opening moment was so freeing for a couple of reasons. One, because I was focusing on their behavior, I had begun to believe I could control their behavior and their attitudes and their words to each other. And because I thought I could control it, I had become super frustrated because it wasn’t changing when I told them to change it. But when I realized that I was focusing on things out of order, when I realized again that their behavior, their words, their attitudes come from their heart, a sense of calm came over me. Why? Because it takes my control over their words and behavior away. No matter how much control I think I have over their words and behavior, it won’t change unless their heart changes. And while this seems strange to think about, I have no control over their hearts. 

I have control over what I do to help their hearts point in the right direction. I have control over what I can do to help fill their hearts with the right things…


Love for Jesus. 

Love for others.

I can’t control whether or not their hearts change. But I can control how I help fill their hearts and with what their hearts can be filled with. And that is a completely freeing feeling because now I can focus on what and who I can control… me. And I can control what and who I focus on and know that out of that focus, I will help fill their hearts with life and not death.

What is my focus? Great question. Here it is. It’s a prayer really. So let’s end this post with this prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19