“Mom, Samuel pushed me!” he declared emphatically, eyes as big as saucers and beginning to moisten with either authentic or dramatic tears (who can know?).

“I did not!” the accused retorts, even more emphatically because one-upping is important in these situations.

The pick-a-little-talk-a-little game ensues.

And I just can’t listen to it one more time because it’s currently running rampant through our home and honestly, I don’t really know how to stop it.

So because I’m weary and at-a-loss, I handle it with grace and love by smacking the towel I was using to dry dishes against the wall.

“I can not, CAN. NOT. Listen to you argue one more time. It’s not even 7 a.m. and I just can’t . . . I just. Can’t,” I warn.

Now both boys have eyes as big as saucers.

I don’t always understand sibling relationships because I’m an only child. I admit I don’t always know how to handle these frequent squabbles sandwiched between declarations of love. The highs and lows are confusing and I often don’t get why we can’t all just get along.

Most of the arguments are rooted in utter and complete selfishness. And before you think I’m throwing my kids under the bus, I need you to know that they’re really, really good kids. (Other people say so, too, so I know it’s not In-Denial Mom Syndrome.)

And yet . . . They’re still human. Disabled by the flesh, just like you and me.

As I skulked back to the dishwasher and they simmered down, I felt the gentle nudge I often feel after I’ve totally blown-it as a mom.

“You can be selfish, too. You’re just better at controlling it and covering it up.”

Ouch. Holy conviction sometimes stings deep.

I don’t know about you but now and then I forget my children are still under construction – just like me.

But I’ve had a jump-start. My construction began 31 years before my first child was born.

“Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle or end,” I often tell them.

So I’m guilty of doing what I tell them not to do. I’m comparing their beginning to my middle.

I can guide them to have grace with each other and to choose relationship over being right but this took me many years to truly understand and truth be told, I’m still learning.

I can guide them to think of others before themselves but this is also something I’m still learning.

And I can guide them to not emphasize their “things” so much, to not worry about who’s toy is whose, to adopt an attitude of sharing but then, yes . . . I’m still learning this, too.

When we point our finger at someone else, there’s always three fingers pointing back at us.

So yes, I’m still tired of the bickering. I’m sure I’ll have other slam-the-towel-against-the-wall moments. I’m still at a loss of what to do.

But through His holy conviction, through the gentle prodding of the One who knows the specific cry of each of His lambs, comes love.

Because conviction doesn’t work if it’s not first rooted in love.

Those rooted in love grow-up to bear fruit. A bountiful harvest that feeds others and is filled with a beauty beyond compare.

Flesh disabilities lead to conviction. Conviction leads to progress. Progress leads to permanence. Permanence leads to character.

And character points to His glory.

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” – Matthew 7:16-20