We have been without air conditioning in one side of our home for the last three weeks. FYI, we live in Florida and it’s August. I don’t know if you’re familiar with August in Florida, but the temperature and humidity reach what can only be described as “oppressive.”
(I didn’t make this up. I actually saw this word on an actual weather site describing August in Jacksonville.)
Last week we had record high temperatures with a daily heat index of 105°. Oh, and to make it even more fun, the part of the house without A/C happens to be my office, our guest area, our master bedroom, and master bathroom.
If you’re new around here, let me bring you up to speed on some relevant facts:
- Last summer my family relocated to Jacksonville, FL from Louisville, KY. We were in an apartment for the first five months and moved into a beautiful home in November (thank you, Jesus).
- Our house was built in 1987, which makes it almost 34 years old–so young in people years, but kinda old in house years.
I don’t mind that it’s an old house. It’s got a lot of character and quirks I happen to find delightful. Except for the fact that some of the major systems are nearing the end of their usable life. And that is why I’m so thankful the previous owners purchased a home warranty. I’ve had to use this home warranty no less than a dozen times since moving in nine months ago.
Every week it’s not a matter of if something will break, but what will break. Taking care of broken things and blocking out four-hour windows of time to allow contractors in is my new part-time job. This A/C unit alone has stopped working SEVEN times since November.
So, last week the A/C guy was here replacing the fan motor on the outside of the unit. And when he was done, he stepped into his truck, put his truck into gear, and assured me through his window that everything was “all up and running.”
I may not be an HVAC technician, but this is not my first A/C rodeo–it’s my seventh–so, I knew that before he left, he needed to come inside the house and also check the thermostat to make sure it was also functioning properly.
The thermostat was completely blank. And while it was true that the fan motor was, in fact, running at that very moment, I had no way to operate the air conditioner.
Call me crazy, but I assumed that since he was there to repair my A/C and, as we already established, it was “oppressive” outside, AND I had already waited two weeks for someone to come to my home, that he’d actually make sure the whole system was working before he left.
But no. No, he told me that he was only there to replace the fan motor and the fan motor was working “just fine.” If I had an issue with the thermostat…well, that would require me to submit another ticket with the warranty company and make another appointment.
And with that, he drove off.
And I burst into tears.
I walked back into my house to my office where the thermostat stared at me BLANKLY and contemplated how I was supposed to set the temperature or see the temperature. And while I was staring at its sad, blank display, the air conditioner shut down completely. Again.
The moral of this story? If the thermostat is broken, it really doesn’t matter if the fan motor is brand spankin new. The A/C won’t work properly.
What does this have to do with peace in the home?
When I had babies and toddlers, I read some article or book directed at Christian moms telling us that we are the emotional thermostat of the home. That our attitude and disposition set the tone for the entire household. If we were set at hot, the whole house would follow. If we were set at cold then everyone in the house would be cold, too.
So, for years, I carried the responsibility of this role. Emotional Thermostat of the Cooper Family. Sometimes it worked, sorta. Sometimes, when I remained calm or joyful, everyone else did too. And other times, if I stormed into a room with a rotten attitude, slammed cabinet doors, and raised my voice…well, then my kids and husband would respond in kind.
But sometimes, no matter how cheery and joyful I tried to be, someone else would walk in and be grumpy or irritable or depressed or anxious or defiant or mean…and the whole temperature would change. If I cranked up the joy, it didn’t help at all.
Turns out, I was NOT the thermostat of the home. That whole concept of mom as emotional thermostat is flawed.
It puts waaaaay too much pressure on moms. A thermostat literally controls the whole system. It is Command Central of the whole HVAC unit.
(As I now know oh so well.)
(Sitting in my office with fans blowing all over me because of a blank and broken thermostat.)
Since when, mom, have you been able to control your child’s mood or your husband’s mood?
Never. The answer is never. You can’t control anyone else.
Can you influence them? Of course!
Can you control them? No, you cannot. Just ask any mom who has a troubled, anxious, depressed child in the home. Ask any mom with a child struggling with addiction. Ask any wife whose husband is an alcoholic if they are able to “control” the emotional temperature of the home.
No, you are not the controller. You are not emotional command central.
But God is.
So, if you are asking yourself, “How can I create a peaceful home for my family?” the first thing you need to know is what we can and cannot do.
We CANNOT control anyone else’s mood or attitude or levels of peace because we are not the thermostat. Jesus is. Jesus is literally the source of peace in our homes.
What CAN we do then? Well, a lot actually.
- We can plug into the Actual Thermostat ourselves and we allow Jesus to control our emotional temperature.
- We can point everyone in the home to the Actual Thermostat so they too can plug into Him and allow Him to control their emotional temperature.
- We can facilitate the peace of God. We can be promoters of the peace of God. We can even create an environment in our homes where peace can thrive–where peace has its absolute best shot at living and spreading. We can be like the box fans I have all over my house pointing the cold air from one side (where the air conditioner is still functioning) all the way to the other side (where it is not.) 🙂
The Bible speaks a lot about the peace of God. So, let’s look at a few passages in the book of Proverbs and put some skin on this.
“Patience is better than power; and controlling one’s emotions than capturing a city.”Proverbs 16:32
When your kids are dragging their feet in the morning, be patient.
When they are telling you every last detail of the battle they just fought and won on their video game and you want to poke your eyeballs out, be patient.
When they are struggling to understand math and you need to explain it in five different ways, be patient.
I know. Easier said than done right? Trust me, I understand. I have been intentionally working on my own patience with my kids for decades.
One strategy I’ve used that has absolutely made me more patient is to slow down my own pace. When I’m hurried and rushed, I am a terrible version of myself. I’m impatient with everyone who stands between me and wherever I’m trying to go–whether it be the guy in the car in front of me or the slow girl in the check-out lane, or my child moving or talking more slowly than I’d prefer.
When Elliana was really little–maybe three years old–she loved going to the grocery store with me. But she wasn’t content to sit in the cart. Instead, she wanted to take her little pink stroller and her little baby doll and walk with me as I tried to select and purchase $200 worth of food for my family of five.
I wanted to be a mom who could tolerate whimsy. But, you guys, the first time I let her try it, I was losing my mind–it took me about 30 seconds to realize this was going to take an incredible amount of time to go through the store at this pace. I wanted to just scoop her up and tell her “No, you cannot push your little stroller through the store every time we come.” The end.
But then I thought,
“What if I just carve out more time to go to the store?”
“What if I just make a morning of it? What if I just let her slowly push her baby doll through the aisles and pretend to be a mommy grocery shopping? Would it kill me to slow down enough to let her do this?”
Turns out, no. It wouldn’t kill me. It didn’t kill me.
In fact, when I finally stopped telling her to hurry up and instead let her chose to walk at her pace, the entire situation became peaceful and enjoyable. In fact, those are some of my favorite memories of her, and I could hardly tell this story without welling up with tears. Because that precious little girl just started high school.
(Sidenote to you moms of little ones who dream of the day you can run in and out of the grocery store alone: I promise, it’s coming.)
I could give you many more examples where I intentionally chose to be patient with a kid who was just being a kid and the immediate payoff was peace in the home.
I remember, for example, when I decided to see how long I could go without saying the words “hurry up” to my kids.
Have you ever listened to how many times that comes out of your mouth?
For me, it was shocking.
And, yes, of course, there is a time to scoot a child along or cut off their lengthy monologue, but even that, when done with patience will facilitate a peaceful environment.
“To start a conflict is to release a flood; stop the dispute before it breaks out.”Proverbs 17:14
When do things go off the rails in your house? When do you see peace morph to chaos? Do you see patterns?
Is it a particular time of day, like in the morning before school when kids are sleepy and no one can find shoes and you’re trying to pack lunches and drink your coffee and get everyone out the door?
How about the universal bewitching hour of 4 pm to 6 pm when everyone (in the whole world!) is cranky and hungry and you are trying to cook dinner?
Is it situational? Like when kids have been on screens too long? Or when you’re trying to transition a kid from one activity to the next? Or when kids are expected to share a space or a device or a toy?
Look at those specific situations and see if you can, as the proverb says, stop the dispute before it breaks out.
Maybe you need to be more intentional at night to set out clothes and pack lunches and set backpacks and shoes by the door, so in the mornings there is less to remember to do.
Maybe, like me, you need to get up before your kids and have your coffee and talk to Jesus so you can get your head on straight before you engage anyone.
Maybe you need to have a snack ready at 4 pm and send the kids to their private spaces to decompress after a long day while you cook dinner.
Or maybe you need to establish some boundaries around screen time or perhaps coach the kids how to resolve the daily conflict over who gets to play with the toy or use the device or share the space.
Look at your specific situations that lack peace in your home and see if you can be creative and figure out a way to stop the dispute before it breaks out into a flood.
“A gentle answer turns away anger; but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”Proverbs 15:1
Once when Elijah was in preschool, he had his little friend over to play. Of course, little preschool boys playing in the house is just a whole thing: precious and hilarious, to be sure. But also lots of running and climbing and yelling. So, needless to say, I was doing a lot of correcting that day.
I noticed that every time I addressed Elijah, I was firm and harsh. But every time I addressed his little friend, I was gentle and kind. It was such a contrast!
That day, I felt like God stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “How about you talk to your own child with the same gentleness that you address his friend?”
Resolving yourself to speak gently is one of the best all-around commitments you can make to create and maintain a peaceful environment in your house.
Try just lowering your voice. Instead of yelling, try whispering!
(My kids know that when I drop my voice to a whisper, I mean business.)
Sure, yelling will also get the job done, but deciding to yell when a whisper will work is a bit like using a bulldozer to pull up weeds in your flower bed. Sure, you’ll get the weeds up alright, but you’ll also dig a giant hole into your landscaping and your lawn. It’s not the best tool for the job.
Or how about trying this: When you’re tempted to respond harshly, pretend you are in public in front of a whole audience of people. Or pretend that someone you respect and admire is listening to you.
When I was working hard on this personally while dealing with one of my middle school kids who knew how to push all my buttons, I decided to imagine that my pastor was at my house listening to how I was responding to my child.
If pastor Tim was standing here is how would I respond?
(I know that’s weird, but somehow, that worked for me.)
(Maybe you’re weird and it will work for you, too.)
And notice, when the Scripture says, “a gentle answer turns away anger” that not only means that you can diffuse the anger in the other person, but it diffuses the anger in your own heart as well. When you choose to let the Holy Spirit give you the self-control to respond gently when you’d rather lose your crap, it literally diffuses your own anger you have toward that person.
Giving a gentle answer not only works with kids, but also with husbands. A few years ago when my marriage was in a horrible place–Jon and I were in marriage counseling actually–and everything coming out of my mouth was tense and sarcastic and bitter, God told me to be kind.
Respond kindly to Jon Even if I was right. Even if I was hurt. Even if the last thing I wanted to be was kind.
I knew it wouldn’t fix our issues–we needed a year of counseling for that–but it sure did shift the atmosphere in our home. It helped create an environment where our marriage could heal because peace could thrive.
Light Up Your Face
“When a king’s face lights up, there is life; his favor is like a cloud with spring rain.”Proverbs 16:15
You know how when you smile at your baby–even if it’s not your own baby, any random baby in public will do–that baby smiles back? This is because God designed us to respond this way. We can read so much into how a person feels about us by the look on their face.
So, when your kids walk into the room, or get into your car after school, or walk in the house after playing outside and your face lights up, it’s life to them. It communicates your favor towards them. It refreshes them, like spring rain.
Changing your facial expression is such a simple thing to do–especially if you’re like me. I’m one of those people who, if I’m not smiling, I look sad. I cannot tell you how many times people see me and ask, “What’s wrong?” and I’m like, “Nothing–this is just my face!”
And, no, I’m not suggesting you plaster a fake smile on your face or hide behind a mask. I’m talking about lighting up your face when the people you love most walk into your presence.
You may not be able to control the moods of other people in your home, but you can control your face–and this simple act of lighting it up cuts through anxiety and fear and anger and chaos, and shines life into your home.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”Romans 12:18
Mom, you are NOT the emotional thermostat of your home. Jesus is.
Plug into Him and allow Him to control your mood, your tone, and yes, even your face. Allow the Holy Spirit to develop peace in you, so you can point your whole family to the Prince of Peace.
Then, rather than feeling like it’s your responsibility to control everyone’s emotional temperature, you can be more like a fan–blowing the peace of God all-around your house.
That sounds so corny, I know. Every analogy breaks down eventually, and I’m afraid this one just did as well.
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