Monthly Archives: April 2016

You Aren't The OneA while back, I wrote about teaching my children about Jesus, and mentioned that I wanted to reach out to other mothers for advice. The first person I asked was, naturally, the leader of my new moms’ Bible study at church. I invited her to share with me and my readers some of her thoughts on teaching our children about Jesus, and what she returned to me was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be. 

Susan has such a generous and humble spirit, and she is truly an encourager. I love that in this post she releases us from the burdens we may feel about our responsibility in our children’s faith journeys. As she reminds us, we are not THE ONE, God is THE ONE, and we can rest confidently in that truth. 

From Susan:

Our church has a lovely tradition of conducting baby dedications throughout the year during the worship service. It’s always a heartwarming moment – the proud parents standing with our pastor at the front of the church, holding their cherubic babe in their arms, usually with some or many family members standing alongside them. Sometimes the baby is a newborn and sometimes the baby is more of a toddler. Always always, the baby is dressed to the nines, which adds to the complete adorableness of the occasion.

The basis of this meaningful rite of passage is the parents’ wish to dedicate publically their precious baby, a new image bearer, unto the Lord. Pastor Jim will quote Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He will also mention this is the first commandment that comes with a promise.

Photos are taken, prayers are given and hearty applause is offered as this freshly anointed family unit walks off the platform.

I often wonder if these new parents get into their cars, travel home and say to themselves, “Sighhhh…that was so nice…wasn’t that great…wait, what? Train up a child in the way he should go…and just how do we do that?!”

It is every believing mother and father’s desire to do just that. It’s at the top of their unwritten, lengthy job descriptions. And yet, in this age of modern parenting, we either feel completely ill-equipped from lack of knowledge or are over-burdened from an avalanche of instruction, advice, articles, books and the latest research. Too much noise, not enough wisdom.

As the mother of three school-age daughters with one entering middle school in the fall, I have been that wandering parent in the wilderness of “how.” I know where I want to get, I just don’t know how to get there. And, as a bible study leader of new moms, I am deeply compassionate of their burdens and concerns, and recognize the burning, innate hunger for practical wisdom that is grounded in timeless truth.

Here are some things I am both convinced of, and convicted by:

First, as a godly mother, there is no right way nor wrong way in teaching your children about Jesus.

Second, you don’t have be a theologian, have 100 scripture verses memorized and be able to quote C.S. Lewis before you can teach your children about Jesus.

Third, you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect, or sound perfect.

Fourth, it’s less about your ability and more about the faithfulness of God.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13)

In the very early stages of pregnancy, my husband and I spent a lot of time becoming educated about pregnancy, delivery and early childcare, and of course, made herculean efforts in preparing for each little baby (well, less and less with each child). We had a vision and we had a plan.

I am a little embarrassed to realize and admit that we had zero plans for how we were going to raise our children for Christ. Plenty of cute dresses, stuffed animals and nursery décor. Zero thought or preparation for practical teaching about Jesus. You could officially say we were winging it.

Despite our ignorance, misplaced priorities and rookie attempts, the Lord was and is at work in the young, tender hearts of our children.

I saw it in their budding recognition that God made the sun, flowers, trees, rainbows, butterflies and themselves 

I saw it in their innocent awareness that God hears their prayers.

I saw it in the small, easily unnoticed ways they would attend to the hurts and needs of other friends.

I see it now, in the way God is using them already, to be a light in this world and be His hands and feet. Small, but mighty.

It’s in our nature to feel overwhelmed, confused and completely inadequate for the task set before us – we’re in charge of growing God’s Kingdom Builders, after all 

We’re not the first…

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

And,

We’re not the One…

“Now may the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:21, abbreviated)

If we can take off the spiritual Superhero Parent cape and remember who is actually the true Victor, we can sigh with relief and offer empty, sticky, formerly clenched hands of faith to the One who is faithful to lead us, equip us and meet us in every moment of “training up our child.”

Thank you Susan for your wonderful words of encouragement for me and any parents reading this post!

W

 

 

 

 


If You Knew You Wouldn't Fail, What Would You Try?The other day I was reading Real Simple Magazine, and I got to the section where the editors ask a question to the readers and print a handful of responses. The question readers had answered for this issue was “If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you try?”

It garnered a range of responses, from being an astronaut to going skydiving, and while it was neat to read all of these people’s dreams, for some reason it kind of depressed me. There were some pretty simple goals in there; very few of them were outlandish or completely out of the realm of possibility. It made me want to get all of their contact information and write them emails saying “What are you waiting for! You can do this! And if you fail, at least you’ve tried! The only sure way to fail is not to even try!”

What is it about the possibility of failure that strikes fear into the hearts of men? I wonder how many of us live the life we never wanted or expected to live, purely because we were afraid to try what we truly wanted to do. We have this beautiful quality when we are young, this fearlessness that allows us to believe we can do whatever we want to do, be whatever we want to be. And yes, some of that is naïve, and we realize as we grow older that our dreams may have been out of our reach. But I think more often the world gets the better of us, and all the messages of “just get a job” and “you’ve got to settle down” and “you’re probably not going to succeed at that” drown out all of the hopes and dreams we have grown up believing could one day come true.

I get it, we have bills to pay, houses to take care of, children to raise. Life is busy, and often it’s just not practical to reach for the stars. But I don’t ever want to let my little to-do lists or my desire for stability to keep me from accomplishing the goals I’ve always had in my heart of hearts, the hopes and dreams that come to mind when I lay my head on my pillow at night. And I certainly don’t want the mantra “what if I fail?” to have its way with these dreams, to keep me from even entertaining the possibility of “what if I succeed?”

When I decided I wanted to get into writing, the only experience I had was in my journal. I was sitting at my desk at a music publishing company, typing the same names and numbers that I typed every day for a year into the same computer program I opened every morning at 9 and closed every day at 5:30, and I realized I needed something else. So I set up a meeting with a friend of a friend, who set up a meeting with the editor of a magazine, who for some reason decided to take a chance on me and let me write a few short articles for them (she may have been a bit unstable, in hindsight). And just like that, I went from journal writer to published writer. Maybe it was desperation, maybe it was confidence, maybe it was naivety, but I didn’t let any fears keep me from putting myself out there. And that small step has made all the difference in the world.

Nothing monumental has happened in my writing career since that day. I’ve plugged along, writing when I can and where I can, reaching out to new people and slowly gaining more experience. I’m still honing my craft, still finding my place in the world of writing, but ever since that day my editor took a chance on me, I’ve been a writer. And I know that for the rest of my life, I will be a writer, no matter what that looks like.

I don’t want to teach my children that they will be whatever they want to be when they grow up, that they will definitely be successful at whatever they put their minds to. But I want to teach and show my children that while failure is a very real possibility, fear of failure shouldn’t be an excuse. We will fail in life, that’s a certainty. But in order to succeed, we at least have to try.

Maybe it’s time for you to ask yourself, “If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I try?” And then maybe, if you’re feeling fearless, it’s time to throw out that part about knowing you wouldn’t fail, and go ahead and try it anyway.

W


Teaching Children About Jesus

Having a child comes with a bundle of worries that never even crossed my mind before I became a mother. Is my baby eating enough, when will he sleep through the night, why hasn’t he gotten his teeth yet, shouldn’t he be crawling? And that’s just in the first night months or so. In the two and a half years I’ve been a mother, none of these concerns have slowed down. In fact, they’ve multiplied.

I don’t know if it’s always been like this, but I get the feeling we are living in a culture that worries way too much, way too far into the future for our children. I find myself wondering how the food I’m feeding my seven month old will affect her health for the rest of her life. And I’m not giving her donuts. We’ve barely strayed outside the bounds of fruits and vegetables.

My son is two and a half and I catch myself deciding what sport he’s going to play in college because he seems to be athletic. I pore over his school reports and wonder whether he is on track with his peers. Should he have known his ABC’s when he was two? Do all the other children already count to 20? Will he even get into college?

It’s insane.

I’m bombarded from all sides—doctors, the Internet, other moms, well-meaning friends, the Today Show—about the things I should be concerned about for my children. Their development, their health, their education, how much money they make when they grow up, how to make them “successful” adults. And so far, I’ve drunk the cool-aid, ticking off these boxes in each new stage of their lives, to make sure I’ve set them on the right track. But is this really what should be my focus?

As a Christian, should these things matter? Yes, and no. Obviously I plan to care for my children in every way possible, to raise them to be healthy, happy, educated individuals. But above all else, I have been called as a mother to care for their hearts. It is my duty as a parent to teach them about Jesus, to teach them how to be like Jesus, and to prepare their hearts to know, love and follow Him.

If I do nothing else as my children’s mother, I want to teach them about Jesus. If they receive nothing in their lives, but receive Jesus into their hearts, I will have done my most important job in raising them. First and foremost, I want my children to be lovers and followers of Jesus, and if they succeed at nothing but serving Him, I will be satisfied.

It’s easy to let all of the outside noise drown out what I believe is important. Because let’s be honest, most of the noise that surrounds us is not telling us to focus on Jesus. In fact, most of the noise tells us to focus on things directly opposed to Jesus’ desires for our lives. Money, success, power, safety, security…we are not called as Christians to desire any of these things, nor are we promised to receive them. So we have to be intentional about keeping the noise out and directing our lives, and our homes, around Jesus.

I don’t know yet what this will look like for my family, except that I know it starts with Jesus being the center of my own life. I can teach my children about Jesus until my face turns blue, but if they don’t see that He is real in my life, those words will be empty. So right now, while my children are young, I’ll tell them about Jesus and sing about Jesus and read about Jesus, but most importantly, I’ll make sure that Jesus is the rock upon which I stand. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

W


Wednesdays are tough mornings for me.

Marshall leaves early, so I wake up with the kids and have to get all three of us fed, clothed, and ready to get out of the house by 9.

If you’re not a parent, you may be thinking to yourself “9:00? That shouldn’t be tough! I get to work at 8 every morning! Don’t your kids wake up at like 6:30 anyway? Piece of cake!”

One would think.

I swear it doesn’t matter how much time I have to get out of the house, what time of day it is, how much prep I’ve done ahead of time, it’s ALWAYS a struggle.

But I digress.

Yesterday Shook was just a ball of emotions. He’s in a really loud phase (Is it a phase? Ask my family and they would say I never grew out of this one), so even when he’s happy he’s inevitably yelling or singing or banging on something he shouldn’t be banging on, which can be trying on a tired mother who hasn’t finished her coffee. When he’s not happy, he’s somewhere on the spectrum between whining and tantrum, and for some reason there were a lot of things making him unhappy yesterday.

Some days I’m good at handling his emotions, and some days they just push me to the limit. When it hit 8:45 and I hadn’t gotten his lunch together for school or either of the children dressed, I was at my limit. When Marshall walked back in to get his lunch I released an exasperated “thank goodness” and immediately put him to work.

I finally got Shook in the car at 9:05 (gotta love that 15 minute grace period). I rushed him into his classroom and snuck down the hallway without a goodbye so I could get back home to get the baby ready to go to Bible study.

Before I made it halfway down the hall, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet and a familiar “Mommy!” followed by a frantic teacher running after her little renegade.

I turned to see Shook, arms outstretched, begging me to hold him.

I knew right then that he needed me. That I had ignored him and pushed him aside and gotten frustrated with him too many times, and that he needed me to hug him, to remind him that I loved him, to give him some undivided attention before I left him to play with his friends.

So I went into his classroom and sat on the floor with him in my lap, hugging him, kissing him, telling him I was sorry for not paying attention to him.

He wasn’t mad at me for ignoring him, he wasn’t bitter that I had been less than loving to him, he wasn’t resentful that I had tried to rush away without saying goodbye. He just wanted a hug from his mommy, because he hadn’t gotten enough of my love yet. And in turn I received love from him that I didn’t know I needed until I got it.

What an act of mercy on God’s part, to send my little toddler out one last time before I left him for the day, to allow me the opportunity to make up for a bad morning and give my little boy the love he needed. And what a display of the grace that God gives us daily in various ways.

I always say that when I became a parent, God unveiled his love to me in a new way through the unconditional love I have for my children. But recently He’s been showing me His love in a completely different way through the unconditional love my children have for me.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve talked to God, how long it’s been since I opened my Bible, how long it’s been since I’ve come to Him with my thanksgiving, my supplications, my confessions, my worship. He’s not mad, He’s not bitter, He’s not resentful. He just wants me to turn to Him and give Him my love, and allow Him to give His love to me. It’s that simple. His love for me is truly unconditional, and no matter what I do to deflect it, He is always there chasing after me, waiting for me to turn around.

How many times have I been too distracted to see that God is trying to show His love to me? How often do I allow the worries of this world to cloud my vision, to let what seems urgent to obscure what’s truly important?

Sometimes I’m able to look at my children and dwell on the love I have for them, and how it is a reflection of the love God has for me. Most of the time, however, I need God to send my toddler running down the hallway after me asking for hugs, stopping me in my tracks to remind me of the love my children have for me, and what a beautiful reflection it is of the love God has for me.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

W