Since We Talked About Wifery

Rob will also be speaking on children this weekend so I figured I might as well share something on parenting.

It’s really hard.

How’s that for parental wisdom worth sharing? I jest (Though it is true!) but I do have  some thoughts to offer on the topic. Back in May I shared a post on five gifts to give your children and I have thought of a few more gifts worth considering.

1.) The gift of denial.

Seriously, tell your child no. It won’t kill them. It will actually be good for them. You don’t even have to have a particularly great reason to say no, just do it. No one should always get whatever they want or ask for. It makes them think they deserve to have whatever they want just because they want it. I would even go so far as to say that delaying a yes to something they need is good for them too. They will appreciate having what they need a whole lot more if they understand on some level what it is to go without. I’m not saying deny them food, clothing, and shelter long term or anything. But it’s not going to hurt little Johnny to wait an extra 45 minutes for lunch if you have errands that need to happen beforehand. And denying the use of a dishwasher so that a child can learn the joys of washing, drying, and putting away dishes will make them way less whiny about having to load or unload one.

I get it though. We love these tiny little human beings and we want to make them happy and give them stuff and opportunities. But I promise that if your child sees you always moving heaven and earth to give them whatever they want or every opportunity to do something then you will be raising up ungrateful wretched adults who lack consideration for the wants and needs of those around them and they will have no idea how to work for something.

2.) The gift of exclusion.

This is kind of the cousin to the gift of no. Do not include your child in everything you do. There is a world of difference between child centered and child friendly. One caters to the immature whims of a child and the other teaches them how to participate in the life of community in a manner that is healthy and contributes to the wellbeing of others.

Do not directly include them in every celebration. If it is not his birthday then he really ought not get a gift because it is his sister’s birthday. Your child must learn how to function as a spectator sometimes because when he grows up the odds are he will not be asked to every party or event nor will every party and event be for him. It makes it incredibly difficult to truly learn how to rejoice with those who rejoice if he always has to be part of the spotlight. You do not want to cultivate in your child a need to always be made much of. It may seem kinda funny and cute as a preschooler but in older children, especially teenagers, it can lead to dangerous look at me behaviors that do not go anywhere good.

3.) The gift of ordinary.

This one can be hard because we have a tendency to think our child is the cutest, smartest, and greatest child to have ever been born. But do you know how many people have been born and lived just in the United States alone? Millions upon millions.

Do you know how many presidents we have had? 45

Do you know how many athletes competed for the US in the 2018 winter olympics? 244

How many Americans have received the Nobel Peace Prize? 21

I’m not saying your child can’t grow up to be president or cure cancer or win the superbowl. But I am saying the odds are rather significantly against the majority of us for such feats and heights of glory.

25731182937_a6aca7c0da_oWe need to stop trying to convince our children of how wonderful and special they are and focus on teaching them more about the amazing God who created everything out of nothing who knows their name. Who formed and shaped them in our wombs and knows down to the smallest detail who they are, how many hairs are on their head, and exactly how many times their heart will beat in their lifetime. The truth is that your kid is just a normal kid like mine is just a normal kid. But when we teach them, and show them how to love and honor the God who has poured out His extraordinary grace on His people, then they are transformed into glory givers that will literally change the world.

Ordinary is more than okay when it is surrendered in faithfulness and obedience and it is far more beautiful and glorious than any talent or skill or ability to make something. Praise the obedience. Praise the diligence to keep at the hard things. Encourage the pursuit of kindness. Nurture the attitude that looks to serve others, to befriend the lonely. Teach him to walk humbly with His God and understanding his smallness in relation to the greatness and bigness of God is the right way to cultivate humbleness.

Our children are special. But they are special because they bear the image of God. Raising kids that understand that, that really get it, prepares a heart, soul, and mind to love God with all of their heart, soul, and mind. An that is the greatest gift you can give your child.

What’s Going On Around Here and Other Randomness

You know what I cannot believe? Today is the first day of July.

What happened to June? Oh, yeah, it was a trip to Texas and the ACCS conference in Atlanta and just keeping up the in between times.

A friend visiting from Oregon asked me this morning how my week was looking so we could plan a visit. It made me laugh because life can feel a bit like I’m a jockey trying to settle a horse down that just wants to gallop away as fast and far as it can.

But last week I mentioned that I am reading Learning Contentment and having a quiet, or contented heart, no matter the circumstances and needing to take steps to feel a little less at the mercy of activities and schedules.

So this morning when I woke up just after six I went ahead and got out of bed. It is a bad habit of mine that if there is no reason for me to be awake before seven I will make myself doze a bit longer and just stay in bed.  In the interest of not feeling like I am trying to leap onto the back of a horse as it runs by like some kind of trick riding rodeo cowgirl I actually got up. And happily mind you, not grumpily or just resigned to it.

I am working to be mindful that giving myself a quiet morning will go a long way to having a quiet heart. To that end I turned on the coffee pot, feed the cats and grabbed my yoga mat and went out beside the pool. It was not unbearably hot and so I settled down to do some stretches and think a bit on what I am reading.

Picture it. The sun is coming up but still tucked behind the neighbor’s house. The fountain in the pool is adding it’s own tranquil chorus to the occasional bird song and there I am on my comfy yoga mat, inhaling and exhaling.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Of course as I began to do more than breathe it took on the look of a Mr. Bean episode but the point is that I am making the effort to begin my day in a quiet place.  It lent itself naturally and easily to a time of prayer and thanksgiving.

It was a good way to begin the week that is already striding toward being cluttered.

What else is going on a round here?

IMG-0061 (1)Most notably our oldest daughter moved into her first apartment on Saturday. In case you’re new to my life she graduated from nursing school in December and works at an area hospital emergency room. Her apartment is about three minutes from her work and about twenty minutes from us so she’s close but also on her own.  It was a good exercise for me to let her make determinations herself about what she wanted and what mattered to her without me forcing my own opinions and trying to set it up for her. (But I did sort of push a tiny bit on the importance of having canisters for flour and sugar and such even if they’re in the pantry.) Three of the other four kids have, at separate times, asked me how we would do our 12 Day of Christmas with Sarah not living at home anymore. For some reason that makes me laugh. I’m not sure if they are concerned on her behalf or that we will decide to jettison the tradition. We won’t but I guess I will need to consider how that will look with her not living at home when I begin to plan.

I took our fourth child driving yesterday. That was, umm, fun. A little jerky as she is working to get the feel of the vehicle. A friend had mentioned that the university campus is practically deserted this time of year and a great place to learn to drive and he was right. Lots of road with enough stop lights and turns to give plenty of practice. I tried to work a little bit on parking and backing out of a parking spot. Let’s just say that it is a good thing there weren’t a lot of cars around and Imma let her daddy help her with that 😉 All in all she did really well considering it is only her third time behind the wheel of a car.

But that is quite enough milestone parenting for one weekend, don’t you agree?

 

 

 

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.

Sometimes

Parenting is hard and sometimes it can be really hard.

You have to make difficult decisions and then follow through with them. And sometimes you can explain the reasons behind your decision and then sometimes you can’t.

Everything we do should be done for the benefit of our children…for their good. Even when they don’t think it is.

Our goal with every decision, with every act and moment of discipline is to strengthen our children in their faith, in righteousness and obedience.

And sometimes we screw it up.

Sometimes you realize that all the correction hasn’t been a lifting up but rather putting down; oppressive instead of liberating.

Those are interesting words aren’t they? In relation to sin and correcting I mean. I haven’t thought about it that way, not really. But Scripture is full of the imagery of God lifting His people up, of raising them up out of the pit.

Our correcting, not just as parents but as brothers and sisters in Christ, should be done with that same idea in mind. We correct, not so that we can defeat the sin in our children’s hearts, but so that we can lift them up out of the pit of their sinfulness.

It is a battle to be sure and sin is the enemy and we do want to defeat it. But if we are so intent on defeating the foe, on waging war against the sin itself, it is quite easy to forget the personhood of the one that we seek to liberate.

I’m not saying that we should not correct ~ far from it actually. But our correcting needs to be focused on the redemptive work in the mind and soul and heart of our child and not just the big black ugly sin.

Why? Because we want to shape and form a heart that not only hears correction but loves it. Because sometimes we want obedience in little things because there will come a day when He will want obedience in big things.

Titus2Tuesday

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

Just You Wait

“Just you wait!” they say.

Wait until they’re teething and keeping you up all night.

Wait until they start to walk and they’ll be into everything.

Wait until they get to the terrible two’s.

And the big one…just wait until they’re a teenager.

Always the words are spoken with a slightly sinister chuckle and a knowing smile…as if there is some secret club of suffering that awaits you and there is nothing you can do about it. From the moment that precious bundle of joy arrives in the world the clear and seemingly only trajectory is one that leads to hard times ahead.

Expectations of rebellion and trouble and general teenage angst are considered the norm and you just have to hope and pray that you did your best and that you’ll weather the storm without too much collateral damage. What exactly is your best and when you do it, are of course subject to some nebulous thing that is about as concrete and  substantial as the latest parenting trend.

The saddest and most tragic thing to me about the whole “just you wait” mentality is how rampant it is within the church. Believing parents and pagan alike all take a stand on this common ground as if there is no hope. But as a mother of two daughters in various stages of teendom and three other children at different ages and stages behind them, I’m stating without hesitation that Christian parents need to abandon that hill to those who have no Hope and plant the flag of Christ’s reign and rule over our children and every moment of their life.

The expectation is and should be that they will love the LORD their God with all their heart and mind and strength. The expectation is and should be that at every age you exhort them to be as Christ like as it is possible for them to be…and that imitation should grow and develop more fully with every year that they live. There should be no concept in the mind of Christian parents that they can do all they can when their children are little but should expect some kind of sabbatical from the faith from about the age of twelve or so until the early twenties.

Child rearing and boundaries should have a funnel like shape. In the early years the boundaries are narrow, and despite a negative sounding connotation, restrictive and confining.  We may have to rethink our understanding on these “negatives” though because a train is restricted to the rails and that is not a bad thing. It’s a point of fact that it allows the train to fly at amazing speeds and accomplish all that it could not do if it went off the rails so to speak. Fires are wonderful and useful when they are confined to a specific place, destructive and devastating when they are not.

As children grow in their knowledge and understanding the boundaries begin to open up more. By the time they are at the older age of the teen years our children should be at the open ended part of the funnel with lots of freedom and little fear in the hearts of the parents that the young man or woman they’ve raised cannot handle it. Mind you I am not saying the children are completely free of any restraints or ties to mom and dad but the balance should be shifting to a new relationship between parent and child with the child able to stand sure footed beside the parents.

Of course there are dangers to this way of parenting. If we aren’t careful we make it about keeping the rules and doing the right thing without teaching them to love the Rule Giver. It’s the difference between a chain linked fence with barbwire at the top compared to a garden with a beautiful living hedge. The Rule Giver is also the Grace Giver and our goal as parents should be to nurture a love in our child’s heart for the standard of holiness that we’ve been given.

So be faithful during those little years. Even when everyone else around you thinks you’re being too small minded; remember that you’re looking and working toward a bigger picture.

And just you wait. Because the discipline that is hard for you and your child now, will produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Loving God is Best

One minute she’s volunteering to wash dishes; the next arguing with her little sister over who is sitting up front and who gets exiled to the back seat.

The best of friends this morning and the worst of enemies tonight.

There’s laughter and squabbles, acts of grace and crimes of selfishness.

Joyful obedience and sullen compliance.

Tender hearts and edgy pride.

Parenting, my friends, is not for the fainthearted. But we know that if we love our children, then for their sake we must be diligent in our parenting. (Which, if I’m being honest, can be exhausting and my stamina is sometimes not up to the task but usually because I maybe just might be exhibiting some of the above descriptions in my own heart…but that is a post for another day I think.)

I have long loved Hebrews 12:11 and taken much encouragement from it in relation to parenting,

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  

The peaceful fruit of righteousness…what more could we want?

Recently I heard the dots of discipline and joy connected in a rather simple but thought provoking way. A father explains to his toddler that he is spanking her so that she will be happy. What? Spanking = happiness? Obviously, on the surface that doesn’t really connect but it makes perfect sense if viewed through the lens of Scripture. Disobedience brings painful discipline that will produce happiness. (Please don’t flood the comments section on a debate about corporal punishment…discipline does and should take many different forms. Swatting backsides in a loving manner to correct behavior is just an example of one method.)

My point is that from the very beginning we should be training our children to connect disobedience with consequences and discipline with joy and happiness. Why? Because good things come from obedience. In Leviticus 26 God says that He will walk with the one who is obedient. In the first chapter of Proverbs we’re told that there is safety in obedience and in Psalm one that the obedient will flourish.

The world will offer many claims as to what brings happiness but our children should be taught from as early as they can possibly understand that true happiness is only found in Christ.

My six year old sums it up this way:

Linking up with the Proverbs 31 Sanctuary.