Tag Archives: children

What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving Your Children?{We interrupt our regularly scheduled Proverbs 31 programming to bring you this completely random post}

I was listening to NPR this morning and a story came on about wills. Something like half of Americans don’t have wills, and it can leave a mess for loved ones when people die without them. 

They mentioned a type of will I’d never heard of before, called an “emotional will.” According to one website I found, an emotional will “is designed as a way for you to share your thoughts, values, lessons in life, passions, hopes and dreams with your children and future generations in the years to come. This is your chance to ensure that you don’t leave this life with things left unsaid.” 

This struck me as odd, and a little bit sad that this is actually a thing. I mean, I understand the concept behind it, but should this type of thing be necessary? 

I want to leave an emotional will for my family. But I don’t want it to be a piece of paper they read while they are mourning my death and working through what life is going to look like without me.

Just like I don’t want my family to have to figure out what to do with my physical assets when I’m gone, I don’t want them to have to figure out what my thoughts, values, passions hopes and dreams were after I die. I don’t want to relegate those lessons to a letter they open in my absence.

This interview made me realize that every day, I am leaving an emotional will for my children. Everything I say, everything I do, is showing my children what I value, and therefore what they should value. 

I can do this accidentally, or I can do this intentionally. When I get to the end of my life, whenever that is, I want my children to be able to say to themselves and to others, “We know what our mother’s emotional will for us is.” I want them to be able to point to my life and say, “this is what our mother loved, this is what she valued, and this is how she wanted us to live our lives.”

Recently I listened to a sermon series by Matt Chandler about discipling children and families. He made the point that we are all making our children into disciples, the question is: of what.

If we are constantly talking about financial security, worried about money, striving for material comforts and being envious of people who have more than we do, our children will see that those things are important to us. And those things will become important to them. 

If we stress the importance of education, worry constantly about the state of our children’s schools and place great emphasis on grades and getting into college, our children will see that we value those things. And they will value those things as well. Certainly these are good things, important things even, but its easy to let these and other worldly concerns to take precedent over what should matter most. 

We can tell our children what we want them to value, but the lasting legacy we will leave on them comes from the way we live our lives. Our children learn by listening, but more than that they learn by observing. If they hear me say that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, but see me cling to worldly things, they will see right through my words and into my heart.

I can write an emotional will out on a piece of paper, telling my children about the life I wish I had lived and the values I wish I had shown them, and hope they listen to my posthumous words of wisdom. Or I can write my emotional will on my life, through the way I live, the way I love, the person I am because of my love for Jesus. That’s the legacy I want to leave for my children, and for everyone who knows me.

W


Image via FlickrI hear a lot of talk, and read a lot of blog posts and articles, about how hard it is to be a parent. Heck, every other blog post of mine is about that. But one thing I feel like isn’t mentioned often is how hard marriage gets when you have children.

Marriage before children is hard. There are bills to pay, houses to keep up, stressful jobs, in-laws, moves, financial hardships. My first couple years of marriage were spent a thousand miles from home in a foreign land (okay, it was Massachusetts, but it felt like another country) while one of us was in school and the other was working a job she hated and then getting pregnant (that was me). We had money issues from the beginning, and we’ve always been “fighters,” so it was never purely sunshine and roses for us. But still, we had our freedom, we could go on dates, take trips and sleep in.

Then we had a kid.

Everyone told us it would be hard, but so worth it because we would be so in love with this little new life that none of the hard stuff would matter. And that was true, about the parenting part.

The marriage part? Well, all of that crap we had brought into our marriage was still there. Wait, you’re telling me I have this baby to take care of around the clock, and I still have to find ways to be loving toward my spouse, to spend time with them, to get along with them and work through issues with them?

Issues. Let’s talk about issues. Remember how when you got married, all of these issues came up that you never even knew were issues? How you dealt with finances, how you related to family, how you handled emotions, how you arranged your pillows at night? Well, guess what. Bringing another life into the world brings up a whole new host of issues. Who gets up in the middle of the night? Who wakes up with the baby in the morning and who gets to sleep in? How late is too late to come home from work when the other spouse is drowning in diapers and baby food? WHOSE LIFE IS HARDER? (I’m convinced this is one of the great mysteries of life, one that will forever be disputed. “I have to come home from my job every day and go straight into my other job of being a parent!” “Well I never get to leave my job! Ever!” And so on and so forth).

I’m a firm believer in premarital counseling. But since having children I’ve decided that what we really needed was pre-parental counseling. No one ever sits you down and asks you if you’re really ready to add another life into your marriage relationship. In fact, from the second you get married, all anyone ever wants to know is when you’re going to start having kids. No one asked me if I felt like my relationship with Marshall was in a good place to start a family. People talk about being financially ready to have kids, and while that’s important, I think it’s much more important for your marriage to be strong enough to handle everything that comes along with becoming parents.

So if you’re thinking about having children, I’m not saying you need to go see a counselor (though I’m not saying you shouldn’t), but I do think it’s wise to take stock of your marital relationship and whether its ready for such a monumental change. If you have children, it’s never too late to start better tending to your marriage. It’s easy to say “We’ll deal with it later, I’m too tired right now.” Don’t do that. Talk to your spouse. Go on a date. Learn how to enjoy one another even when your children are going crazy. Let your spouse sleep in. One of the best gifts we can give our children is a happy home, which starts with a happy marriage. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

 W


Babies Don't KeepI have a lot of days when all I can do is wait for them to end. Especially recently, with my son being every bit a two and a half year old boy, from tantrums and all the “no”s and pushing his sister to roaring at the top of his lungs (YOARRRR!!!! Usually directly at the baby or the dog, neither of whom are ever amused) and using his maraca to drum violently on his guitar while he yell-sings the ABCs. My emotions pretty much remain somewhere on the spectrum between on edge and at my limit, from the moment I wake up until the moment my kids go to sleep.

I know this is a temporary phase, that someday in the future my monster child will be enjoyable again, that I won’t spend the rest of my days saying “Leave her alone!” and asking “What did you do to her?” and taxiing him to and from timeout. And while it’s comforting to know that this phase won’t last long, I have this little voice in my head telling me, “Enjoy this phase, because it won’t last long.”

Last night I was feeding Mabel before bed while Shook was out on the front porch watching Marshall mow the lawn. He had taken a pair of those Velcro gloves you use with a tennis ball (remember those? They’re like ping-pong paddles with Velcro on them and you “catch” the tennis ball with the Velcro) and put them on his feet like skates. He was “skating” on the front porch yelling “Mine okay! Mine okay Daddy! Mine okay Dad!” because he kept slipping. And I thought to myself, “I want to remember this.”

I don’t want to let this time pass me by, without stopping to dwell on how sweet it is. Yes, my toddler drives me up the wall most days, but he also cracks me up, makes me smile, and lets me hug and kiss him. Yes, my eight month old is crawling now, which seals my fate in regards to being productive while they are both awake, but every day a new part of her little personality shines through, and it’s so fun watching her follow us around everywhere.

I want to remember this time with littles as an exhausting, stressful, amazing time in the life of our family. I want to be present every day, in every moment, even when many of them seem terrible. I don’t want to spend my days wishing my kids were older so my job would be easier. I want to take it all in, the good and the bad, because I know this time will be over way too soon.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Author: Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

W


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

 

 

 

 


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


Missed going to the gym today (or every day since you had kids)? Don’t let that get you down, it’s never too late to start getting in shape. I can personally attest to the proven effectiveness of this workout, and the ease of staying consistent with it. Finally, a workout moms can stick to! 

Day 1:

Anytime between 5:00 and 7:00 am: Have one of your children wake you up. This can be done in a number of ways: screaming through the monitor, jumping on your bed, standing beside your bed and breathing/staring quietly until you sense them. This will create a sudden jolt of the stress hormone, cortisol, which will wake you up immediately and eliminate the need for a snooze button. It’s important that you don’t know when they will wake you up, as this heightens the fight or flight instinct that comes with the sudden awakening.

 Immediately begin lunge/squat/lift circuit. Any size child will do, so use whichever children happen to be at your house. Most likely these will be your own, but don’t hesitate to use friends’ children, children’s friends, even pets. You will begin by lifting the child who woke you up out of his or her crib or bed, and will continue this at various intervals throughout the day. Once you’ve mastered the one child lift, you may add more children as needed. Targets: core, glutes, calves, arms.

7:30 am: Begin breakfast circuit. This is a great way to get the heart pumping, especially with hungry children following you around asking you when breakfast will be ready, even though they probably already have a snack in their hands. Use this as motivation to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Benefits: balance, dexterity, self-control. You will want to brew coffee either before or during this process. The coffee will come in handy for later circuits.

9:00 am: Vacuum circuit. Start by picking up all toys and moving all furniture out of its usual position. This is a great lower body exercise, and by now your third cup of coffee should supply a great baseline heart rate to keep you going. Once all furniture is out of place, remove vacuum from the back of your closet and lift it. Vacuums are extremely heavy, not to mention clunky, so this will really work your arms and core. Vacuum entire house. You may want to carry an infant with you for extra resistance. Work up to screaming infant and/or unruly toddler. Also great for balance.

9:30 am: Mop circuit. You’ll want to make sure to bend as low as possible to get under and around all furniture, and push down on the mop with as much force as possible, since this is the only way to get the floor somewhat clean anyway. Repeat circuit as necessary when children, pets and husbands walk through the room you just mopped.

11:00 am: Lunch. No need to make lunch for yourself. Eating toddler food, particularly leftovers, is a great way to keep your calories in check. If you do fix your own lunch, your child(ren) will inevitably want to eat it. Resist eating leftovers when they don’t eat a bite of what you gave them off your plate.

12:00 pm: Nap circuit. This is a good opportunity to get some cardio in, especially if you have two kids. Purely attempting to get them both settled for nap should be a good start, but once they start asking for things is when you’ll really get some interval work in. When both children are asleep (if this ever happens), get some rest. Or clean up all the toys they left lying around, do the dishes you never got around to after lunch (or breakfast, for that matter), fold the laundry, prepare dinner, or work on your part-time job. Once all of these things are done, try and get some rest.

Immediately after sitting/lying down to get some rest: Be woken up by one (or all) of the children. Begin afternoon lunge/squat/lift circuit.

3:00 pm: Outing circuit. This can be anywhere: park, playground, mall, friend’s house, but let’s be honest, it will probably be the grocery store. Start by lifting all children into car seats and buckling them in. This is a fabulous upper body workout, especially with children who want to “help” with buckling, and/or extremely large babies. Depending on how you are feeling after your morning workout, you may place all children in the cart or have one walk beside you. The walking child adds a great interval opportunity when they run off, knock something over, or reach for things they can’t have. Encourage grocery baggers to grossly over-pack your bags (bonus: they usually do this anyway). This will work the biceps, triceps, neck, back and shoulders. Most likely you will end up carrying the walking child for the last half to three-quarters of the trip, which really works the core. Bringing children, car seats and groceries in from the car once you get home works to tone the trunk. If you have stairs leading up to your home, great. Extra calf work.

5:00 pm: Begin dinner circuit. This will be similar to lunch circuit, but children will be much crankier and more destructive. Great time to get some interval work in and improve that balance. Try to be mindful while you eat, taking at least two to three minutes to complete your meal. Immediately after shoveling the last bite into your mouth, begin final dish circuit.

6:00 pm: Begin bedtime circuit. Bath-time is essentially one big standing crunch, so really focus on those abs. Squeeze the glutes for extra toning. Final lunge/squat lift circuit will take place between bath and bedrooms, changing tables, cribs and beds. Children will most likely be exhausted but extremely resistant to sleep. Embrace this resistance, you’re burning your last calories of the day! 

7:00 pm-9:00 pm: Optional child wake time. Feel free to use this time to relax while your child yells your name repeatedly from the next room, or get some final intervals in by entering their room and responding to their every demand.

9:30 pm: Stretch. If you feel like you’ve earned it, have a tiny square of extra dark chocolate as a “decadent treat” to end your day. But be careful! The miniscule amount of caffeine it contains could keep you up for hours, even though you felt like passing out right when your children did.

Between 5:00 am and 7:00 am the following morning: Repeat. This can (and will) be repeated every day until your children are grown. 

W