The Power of Language and Liturgy

Have you ever considered how amazing the process is by which we learn language?
Somehow, just by the process of hearing, we learn to speak.
As parents we talked to our children from the time they were born. (Actually, we talked to ours the moment we found out they existed.)  Those cute little disruptive balls of humanity had no idea what we were saying but we talked to them anyway.

We told them who we were.

Mama loves you.

We told them who they were.

There’s Daddy’s little man.

We introduced them to people.

Go see Grandma.

Not a word was understood by Daddy’s lil’ man but we sure wanted them to know of our love and we

wanted them to know who their grandparents were, along with the countless other family and friends we named.

And what did our babies do?

They soaked it all in. It didn’t mean much in the beginning but it didn’t take long before the weird sounds we made got connected to real tangible things and understanding began to dawn.

The process happened almost unbidden, with no noticeable effort made to learn the ins and outs of language, the subtle nuances of the tongue growing up unconscious with the maturity of the child.
We don’t question talking to our children or question this way of learning speech. And we don’t dumb it down. I mean we don’t require them to give us the chemical break down of water just because they’re thirsty and in need of a drink, but they do ask for water and they know it will quench their thirst. And at some point down the road they’re going to learn about the chemical make up of water.
The language of the Church, what they are called to believe should be taught to them in the same unbidden fashion.
The liturgy of worship, it’s call to come before God, to realize we can’t go before Him unclean, the answering confession of our need for forgiveness, the way the Word and sacraments nourish us…this is where the foundation is laid for a righteous vocabulary. 
No, the infant or toddler or child in the pew may not fully understand what is being said on Sunday morning. But they are learning who their people are. More importantly they are learning who their God is and what He expects of them.

We shouldn’t underestimate children’s capacity to learn, to be shaped and formed, by our church services anymore than we should underestimate their ability to learn and speak language. They are perfectly designed for the task.

Sam’s White Board Drawing

The oldest is about to turn twenty-one and the youngest is forever reminding me that she will soon be my last child to hit double digits for the first time. (We don’t do huge birthday celebrations every year but going double digits is a milestone we usually mark with some extra hoopla. Is anyone surprised that Claire is working her status as the baby and the “last one” to get a little extra something something for her celebration in November?)

What I am really coming to terms with is that my babies are babies no more. This year in particular seems to have been a tipping point when that reality is just so sharp. Because of the eleven years that stretch between the first and the last it’s not like we’re on the home stretch of parenting obviously. But we do seem to have moved into the late summer and early autumn season of child rearing. There’s weeding and pruning still to do as there always will be but it’s different than before when they were little.

It’s an interesting season of life. Having them home for the summer is putting their various stages of maturity into relief and it’s so easy to see how they’ve grown and matured. Oh, they still have moments where they are the best of friends or the worst of enemies but it’s just different somehow. They are growing up. They have grown up.

And oddly enough I feel like I have too. I was talking with a friend recently and we were sharing how humbling it is to be a parent of older children. When they’re little you have it all figured out…you’re the grown up and they are learning from you. At some point though they should be entering the battle with you, along side of you, fighting the same fight that you are as brothers and sisters in Christ. They begin more and more to join you in the labor rather than being so much a part of the labor.

Honestly, I didn’t mean to get all philosophical and meandering. I really just wanted to share one of Sam’s drawings with you and it just got me to thinking how much they’ve changed and that’s how we ended up on the stroll down that rabbit trail.

Anyway, this tickled me and I thought y’all might enjoy it as well.

The boy has insight, wouldn’t you say?

Oh, Hey There

Well, it has been a while hasn’t it? The end of the school year and beginning of summer came together for the perfect no-time-to-blog quietness that we’ve had here on the old blog.

I hope that is about to change. I want to blog. I enjoy blogging.

I have things I want to talk about.

Pictures I want to show you.

I have recipes to share like homemade pretzel bites, mango pudding and key lime pound cake.

I think maybe, just possibly, we are settling into some sort of routine so, maybe things will get a little more regular.

To get the ball rolling I will go ahead and share one of the sweetest moments I’ve had recently with Claire.

Last Sunday Rob, who is preaching through the book of Romans, was reading the first twelve verses of chapter seven.

I saw Claire write down Romans 7:18 and underline it three times in her bulletin. (She is a prolific note taker and is always jotting down questions or words that she wants to talk about later.) A little later Rob reached that verse specifically and Claire nudged me and ran her finger under the words as he read it aloud and she looked up at me with such a serious expression.

I leaned over and whispered if she understood what that verse was saying and she adamantly shook her head yes, relieved I think, that I understood her. It was humbling for me to meet her on equal ground.

It brought home to me how vital it is that our children be in church with us…so that side by side…sister to sister…we both know that we each struggle the same…face the same enemy…and turn to the same victorious Savior to strengthen us.

Scripture_lessons_in_Romans

Play Is Work ~ Another Simple Toddler Activity

Although I didn’t get a lot of comments on the blog post itself, the activity I shared here a few weeks back generated a lot of interest on facebook and pinterest. Easy busy work with a purpose for little people is apparently something people are curious about I guess.

Remember my friend Gabriel that I mentioned? He needed something to do that offered a bit more of a challenge. More than likely you probably already have everything on hand that you need for this activity ~ you simply need a plastic bowl and some clothes pins. But there are other ways to make this appealing to children and now that school supplies are on sale it’s a good time to stock up on various types of clips. You can also use squares made from either cardboard or heavy card stock instead of a bowl for your child to clip the pins to.
I like the bowl since it doubles as a holder.

Again, this is a simple activity that will help develop small muscle control and that all important pincer grasp. The regular clothes pins were easy for Gabriel but the metal clips presented more of a challenge since they were harder to squeeze open. A variety of clips in different styles, colors and sizes will keep the activity fun.

Remember that clipping the clips to something is only half of the task…taking them off and cleaning up is part of the process.

You can also easily turn this into a math activity by writing numbers on index cards and having the child clip that number of pins to each card. Or instead of numbers make it a color matching game by matching your clips to colored squares.

Play Is Work ~ Something For The Little People In My World

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I taught in a Montessori preschool. There are some things that I really enjoy about the Montessori method especially for those younger preschool years. Those first five years are just chalk full of so much happening in their little lives and world. It’s such a fun and active time.
I learned a lot during my Montessori certification and used it extensively when my kids were little but with Claire about to turn eight (where did my baby go?!) I haven’t given much thought to all of that. But I’ve got some friends with preschool age kids so lately I’ve been thinking about simple activities that can be done easily. Because I am blessed to have a lot of these little people in and out of my house on a regular basis I started pulling together some things for them to do when they come over. I have a large basket on my washing machine where I am adding and keeping stuff as I make/assemble the activities. 
I thought I’d share them here too because it’s nice to have ideas of things for them to do while you’re cooking dinner or paying bills and whatever.
The great thing about most of the things you do with children this age is how developmentally helpful the activities are and the kids are clueless and just know they’re having fun. They really couldn’t care less that you are working to strengthen their small muscle control or eye hand coordination, both of which will be helpful down the road with reading and writing. For them work is play and play is work.
Another great thing about these type of things is that they can be put together on the cheap or you may have stuff already on hand. The first thing I put together required a sugar shaker (the Dollar Tree) and some wooden skewers I already had. This activity can be done by children as young as two and as old as five with some modification.
My friend Bobby is two and he played happily with this for almost 45 minutes. I showed him the pointy end of the skewer and we talked about it being sharp and how we needed to be careful with it so no one got hurt. And then I showed him how to poke it through the holes of the sugar shaker lid. This kind of activity works their small muscles, specifically their pincer grasp, and their eye hand coordination. It also helps develop their ability to concentrate and their ability to follow directions. 
small muscle development, montessori inspired, preschool activities
A few days later my little friend Gabriel, who is three, came over and he wasn’t interested in this game at all. It was too easy for him which got me thinking how it could be modified to suit older kiddos. 
Changing out the skewers for pipe cleaners makes it more difficult to get in the holes since they are more 

bendy.You could also throw in some color matching skills by adding pony beads to the process. Once they’ve placed the pipe cleaners in the holes you can have a bowl of  beads ready for them to thread onto the matching pipe cleaner. Have them count the beads and now you have them doing math 🙂 

One thing I want to add about these kinds of activities is that when I was using them with my kids clean up was part of the process. I wanted to reinforce the idea that they were not completely done with the task until everything had been returned to its proper order. I Corinthians 14:40 reminds us that everything should be done decently and in order and it is in simple little ways like this that we can instill that concept into our children so that it becomes their way.
Next time I’ll show what I came up with for Gabriel that kept him busy for a little while and was more challenging for him.

So Fast

Can you believe this lovely child wears a ladies size nine and a half sneaker? I couldn’t either except that we just bought new school shoes and sure enough that’s the size we had to buy.
It happens at the end of every summer. Even though I am with them day in and day out, watching them and feeding them, I am still surprised by how much they’ve grown in these barefootin’, sunscreening, beach going, pool swimming summer days. It catches me off guard every single time.
And it reminds me that I only have them for a little while. That the goal and purpose is to raise strong and steady warriors, arrows that we launch into the world to go further and do more damage to the enemy in the name of Christ than we have.
Sometimes the responsibility feels too heavy. But I’ve learned to accept that weight…it’s good. It reminds me that I cannot do this apart from His grace. And in His graciousness He lets Claire announces that we’re out of toilet powder (Comet cleanser) when she’s cleaning the bathroom or Abby gives me that sweet precious smile and both of those things make the weight somehow a little easier to bear…a little lighter.
He is indeed gracious and kind and considers our frame.

To Share Or Not To Share

That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don’t offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here’s my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.

To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author’s position that we aren’t doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we’re focusing on something that really isn’t the point.

The point isn’t really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?

Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?

Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else’s happiness and wants over their own?

I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.

One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.

Is there ever a time when they don’t have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn’t seem right or all that fun.

So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?

Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn’t letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren’t. Valuable lessons were learned either way.

Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don’t want them to be hoarders or miserly.  But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.

Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course.  There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.

But these are lessons that aren’t learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It’s a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.

Room For Forgiveness

Last year one of our children made a serious breach of one of our family rules. For most people the rule would seem ridiculous anyway and not realistic, but in our house it had always been thus and it wasn’t new or unconnected to our family way. We don’t have a ton of rules but the ones we do have are in place for very specific and thought out reasons.

It was a very big deal and the seriousness of the situation was not lost upon the child. To use my beloved’s phrase, there was a lot of “emotional intensity” that day and it was clear that trust had been broken and would have to be earned back.

But you know what I remember my husband doing next? He set aside his anger and the hurt that every parent feels when their child has grievously sinned, and he looked at our offspring and reassured them that they were loved and that while they had done wrong they had not committed the unpardonable sin. He made it clear that while our fellowship was broken because of their sin complete restoration was possible.

Basically he prepared the soil for their repentance to take root and bloom.

A few weeks ago I shared a post about how important it is that we do not forget the personhood of the one being corrected. It can be easy to so focus on wanting to eliminate the sin that we forget the sinner.

We have to go back to our reason for correction. We don’t want obedience simply for the sake of obedience. In Hebrews 12:11 we’re told that the reason for discipline is so that it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

How we respond to the one seeking repentance is pretty important. If our child’s desire for forgiveness had fallen onto the stony ground of, “Yeah, well you really buggered this up didn’t you?” the odds are that seeds of pride would have been sown instead of the blossom of forgiveness and restoration.

Are there consequences for sins? Yes. But the consequence is not a harsh pseudo forgiveness that comes with the crushing weight of judgment.

When true forgiveness is given there is a liberation. The imaginary of Hebrews 12:11 is the image of resurrection…life being born out of death. Sin is death and repentance is life.

Let us make sure that we cultivate a community that has fertile soil for the seeds of discipline to take root so that righteousness may grow. Let’s prepare the ground in such a way that it’s easy for our children or spouses or friends to seek forgiveness. There are no hoops for them to jump through and we don’t withhold restoration because it is within our power to do so, dangling it just out of their reach.

Christ doesn’t. In I John 1:9 we’re told that He is faithful to forgive us…may we be faithful to forgive each other.

Baby Wise

We’ve had a bunch of new babies born into our church family in the last several months. I’m talking one a month since September (and two in October!). And that’s just at our church, if you factor in school life there have been even more. It’s been a tremendous and beautiful blessing.

There is nothing quite like the joy a new baby brings. That precious bundle of life and hope and mercy and grace. But if we aren’t careful we can end up despising that gift.  This sort of despising is crafty and masquerades itself as true affection but in the end only leads to destruction. Since the beginning of time the cunning one has sought to distort a God-centered love, be it between husband and wife or parent and child.

As all of these little ones have come into our community I’ve had time to consider what it is to not despise the gift of life that God gives to us in our children. It’s advice that I’ve gleaned over the years by raising my own children but also from watching and heeding the wisdom of those who have gone this path ahead of me. I think it’s perfectly applicable for first time parents of newborns and also completely adaptable for parents of toddlers and older children.

Don’t be afraid to let your baby cry. They need to know that they are a big part of your world but not the center of your world, Christ is.

Expect obedience from the very beginning and teach it to them. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us but if they learn to obey in simple age appropriate matters they will continue to grow in their obedience to you and others and it will be easy for them to obey in the times when it is really important and possibly really difficult to do so.

Don’t be afraid to let them fall down and get the occasional boo boo. Kids need to be tough. If you teach your child from the very beginning that they are strong then they will grow up and be strong.

Don’t be afraid to let them get dirty. Often times hard work is dirty work and you want to raise good workers who aren’t put off by the hard work.

Resist the urge to always make life perfect for them. Real life is seldom perfect and they need to 1) be able to cope with that and 2) know how to think and figure out a different way when things aren’t going perfectly.

Give them chores and responsibilities at a young age. There is so much they can and will learn from these simple tasks. If nothing else it will teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.

From as early an age as possible teach them that they have nothing in their possession that is more important than the people in their life. “Special” toys and things are fine and not everything has to be communal property, but they should be encouraged to know and understand that more joy comes from sharing those special things then keeping it only for themselves.

Keep your word count low as you seek to teach or train your child. It’s very difficult to teach them to have a quiet heart and mind so they can listen if you are bombarding them with  an avalanche of words. What you expect from them should be clear and precise. So should your correction. Think about the book of Proverbs. God’s words to us are few and simple and to the point. Don’t over explain.

Know the difference between a teaching time and a correcting time. Sometimes they will just need to cease and desist whatever they are doing no questions asked or explanations given. Other times there will be an opportunity to teach them through why they need to stop what they are doing. It’s important that you know the difference.

There is a difference between teaching and training. You want to teach your child to sit quietly with you in church (that’s the concept) but you train them by practicing quiet time at home. Be deliberate in what you want to teach your children so that you can be very clear in how you train them.

Don’t hide your mistakes and failures from them. They need to know what it looks like to mess up and try again.

Don’t try to hide your sin either. They need to see what it looks like to be genuinely repentant. And let them be sinners. What I mean by this is you need to recognize that they are precious little adorable sinners. It’s not always the other kids fault and your child is not always “just tired.” Help him to own his sin so that he can honestly deal with his sin as an adult.

As much as possible remind them that everything they have is in some way given to them by their father. Whenever my kids thank me for some thing, be it a new pair of shoes or a trip through the drive thru, I always find a way to remind them to thank their Dad for it. Not just because in our case he has made the money that provided whatever it is but because in a small but very real and profound way it prepares their heart to recognize that all they have comes from the hand of their Heavenly Father.

You are not just raising hard working good adults. Want more for your child than his own happiness.

Raise them to protect the weak and care for the poor. Raise them to go out under the banner of Yahweh and wreak havoc on the enemy for, and in the name of, Christ.

Raise them to die to self and sin so that they can truly live.

Titus 2 Tuesday    Tending Home

A Garden of Yeses

Last week I had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Douglas and Nancy Wilson at a family conference in Sandestin. It was beneficial for me in many ways, and on many different levels and I am really glad our family was finally able to participate in this annual event. One of the things I realized during the weekend was how differently I would want to parent if we were just starting our family. A different tone and coming from a different place, so to speak.

Since my world is currently overflowing with mamas and new babies I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and observations here. But first let me give a little back story on our early years as new parents. Basically, we were utterly clueless and winging it. We kind of had a vague sense of what we wanted but no idea how to go about it. We knew we wanted obedient children and to get them we knew we had to train them in obedience. Sounds like a good, noble, and holy goal, right? 
It becomes apparent very quickly though that we all want that good, noble and holy thing but there are about a gazillion ideas on how to get there. However, I think there are two broad categories that those gazillion of ideas fall into. There is a “training for obedience” and a “nurturing of obedience”. Please keep in mind that I say broad in a very sweeping generalized broad kind of way. This is not a judgement call on any particular methodology or practice but rather is a glimpse in how my own view has grown and shifted over time. 
To be sure, regardless of which category you fall into, there is training that must take place so my preference for one over the other has more to do with the how of the process. I’m sure in the grand scheme of things the difference between the two ways is not as large as it currently seems to me while it is all fresh in my head. But, being at this vantage point of my life, having raised up my children past those early years, and now seeing the fruit born out in the lives of the children who come from both categories (mine as well as those in my circle of living) I do see a notable difference in the sweetness of the fruit and it’s aroma.
In the beginning we fell firmly in the training for obedience camp. We were pretty tight in keeping the rules and we had plenty of them. Don’t get me wrong. Our home was still happy and loving but we were in training  mode all the time. Everything was a training in obedience opportunity. Honestly, there were a lot of no’s.  We didn’t move things out of reach from little hands, we trained them to not touch. Everything was out and a lot of it was off limits so consequently we spent a lot of time saying “No!” and “Don’t mess with that!”. Which really doesn’t sound that bad does it? Until you look at how God parents.
God created the heavens and the earth, made this fantastic garden and gave it to Adam and Eve as their home. Think about it. All of creation was at their fingertips, and there was exactly one no in the whole place. It was a garden full of yeses. That no was smack in the middle of the garden but it was the only one. Everything else was a yes. That fruit? Yes. Want to climb that tree? Yes. Go for a walk over there? Sure! Swimming in that pond? Absolutely! What? That tree over there? No child, not that one
I am in no way advocating letting your children run free and wild without any boundaries. I am advocating for the rules to be as simple and few as possible. Instead of having that fragile and sentimentally priceless knick knack on the coffee table where it can dazzle and catch their eye and be used as a training opportunity, why not move it out of reach? Instead of a house full of no’s why not a house full of yeses with the only rule be that you obey? Do we really think that without the boot camp obstacle course of off limit things that there will be no way of teaching obedience? I submit that there are plenty of ways and opportunities to train and teach our children obedience that nurtures that obedience in a way that becomes less about rule keeping and more about loving the rule giver.
And isn’t that what we want? To raise up children that not only keep the rules but they keep them because they love the Rule Giver? The great Rule Breaker wants us to believe that we need more rules, that life and freedom is found in keeping a bunch of rules. But the truth is that way back in the garden there was one rule and most of us think it was as simple as, “Don’t eat of that tree.” But the reality was that the rule was, “Obey God.”