Archive for Christian Parenting

A Parenting Gem from Charlotte Mason, That Nearly Every Other Parenting Book Missed

I’m re-reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason and I stumbled upon this nugget of mothering goodness that stayed with me for months and wanted to share it, as I don’t recall ever reading it explained this way anywhere else.

(And let’s be honest, you’ve seen my bookshelves! I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on parenting and education books.)

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Charlotte Mason, as you might recall, was an educator in England during late 1800’s, known for her compassionate heart for the plight of children and her keen observations about what made them tick.

She knew how to win their hearts, and understood the difference between being lectured to and being fully educated.

In volume 1 part 3, Entitled “Offending the Children,” she talks about a code of ethics for dealing with children, taken from the gospels:

It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye offend not––despise not––hinder not––one of these little ones.

She opens by telling the story of a mother who thinks it’s “funny” to get a reaction out of her baby by saying “Naughty Baby” just to watch the way the child’s face drops and her countenance changes. In short, teasing the baby by saying something untrue. She notes that the baby’s face changes because her little conscience is working and she’s aware of right and wrong. Then she asks how this child could grow up into someone who couldn’t care less about doing right?

She contends that is because of the inconsistency of the mother and her example of not loving virtue.

By slow degrees, here a little and there a little, as all that is good or bad in character comes to pass. ‘Naughty!’ says the mother, again, when a little hand is thrust into the sugar bowl; and when a pair of roguish eyes seek hers furtively, to measure, as they do unerringly, how far the little pilferer may go. It is very amusing; the mother ‘cannot help laughing’; and the little trespass is allowed to pass: and, what the poor mother has not thought of, an offence, a cause of stumbling, has been cast into the path of her two-year-old child. He has learned already that which is ‘naughty’ may yet be done with some impunity, and he goes on improving his knowledge.”

 

She contrasts this behavior with that of the “law compelled” mother–one who upholds virtue as a standard for all in the house, including herself and doesn’t allow herself to rule her children from a place of convenience, selfishness, moodiness, or whim.

This mother believes it’s her DUTY to live under the very laws she upholds as beautiful and right to her children. AND, conversely, to parent any other way, especially to parent on your whim or moods, it to train your child to live selfishly and hate virtue.

She explains that children are born into the world with a sense of justice. They recognize injustice when they’re called “bad boy” or “naughty girl” when they weren’t truly bad.

Children know and learn quickly that sometimes the only truth they have to get around is mom’s bad mood or dad’s tired hour to get what they want. They are trained to manipulate when parental whims are the prevailing law in the home and God’s law, or virtue and right and wrong is nothing.

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A mother who “does not offend or hinder a child” is one who consistently calls good good and evil evil.

She teaches the child that they both have a duty to God and to truth.

Therefore, she doesn’t laugh or overlook when the child throws a fit or hits another child, or steals cookies before dinner, even if she’s in an upbeat, silly mood and doesn’t feel like dealing with it.

And when the mother is aggravated or tired or stretched to her limits, she refuses to come down hard on the kids for little offenses, as though she’s the only consideration in the house and she’s above the law of God. She has a duty to love virtue and live virtue, and well, unjust anger doesn’t fit into that rubric.

I think many times we parent to our own whims. We know the right things to do, yes, but we don’t love virtue enough to do the hard things, and consequently, our children don’t love virtue either. It becomes a big game of pushing limits, testing mom and dad, or seeing how far we can go to the edge without getting in trouble.

Charlotte Mason, in Home Education says,

The child has learned to believe that he has nothing to overcome but his mother’s disinclination; if she choose to let him do this and that, there is no reason why she should not;

On watching a mother who lives by whims, not principle or law:

if his mother does what she chooses, of course he will do what he chooses, if he can; and henceforward the child’s life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way; a struggle in which a parent is pretty sure to be worsted, having many things to think of, while the child sticks persistently to the thing which has his fancy for the moment.

After describing the battle of wills that will surely result from self-centered living in parenting, she asks where it all stems from:

In this: that the mother began with no sufficient sense of duty; she thought herself free to allow and disallow, to say and unsay, at pleasure, as if the child were hers to do what she liked with. The child has never discovered a background of must behind his mother’s decisions; he does not know that she must not let him break his sister’s playthings, gorge himself with cake, spoil the pleasure of other people, because these things are not rightLet the child perceive that his parents are law-compelled as well as he, that they simply cannot allow him to do the things which have been forbidden, and he submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age.

In short, the child needs to know that his mother

“is not to be moved from a resolution on any question of right and wrong.”

I have done a lot of parenting and I’ve seen a lot of parenting and I know how easy it is to parent out of “convenience” for mom.

“Stop fighting.”–This house is so loud I can’t hear myself think.

“Do your chores.”–I don’t want to have to remind you and I want the work done.

When it all comes back to us as the center, and we forget virtue all together, we are woe-fully off of our goal of parenting to the glory of God.

Virtuous parenting looks up to the will of the Lord. It insists that we all live for God’s desires. Parents can’t live as though they are above God’s law. They don’t get a pass. They must not shirk their duty to live a life worthy of imitating.  To do so is to imitate another thing entirely.

In a Christian home, the standard must be God’s Word. What does God say about a matter? How would he have us act and react?  We don’t “seek our own” because we are not our own.

It’s worth working through Part 3 of Home Education if you want to read more about this. I found it very helpful.

For further reading on CM’s method’s, you might enjoy A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Her blog is also enjoyable and refreshing.

Fall Planning: Carve out time to live your true calling.

Whenever I talk to younger moms, the same question always comes up in one form or another: How am I supposed to get everything done?!

If you’ve had kids for more than two minutes, you know that, despite our best efforts, unpredictability and busy-ness is the name of the game. And the more kids you have, the busier you are.  P.S. Nobody ever told me that the teen/college years were going to be the busiest of my life! (Someone should write about that! Really, now.)

If you’ve read here for any length of time you know that I can commiserate with the crazy-busy life. With a large family, my plate is full.

And full is good, but an over-flowing plate is not so good. Overflowing plates look a lot like forgetting appointments, unplanned dinners, haphazard ministry, and a disorganized home.

So, my advice to the younger moms and the advice I give to myself is this: plan and prioritize to avoid frustration and save your sanity. Then start with the needful things.

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Sally Clarkson, in Own Your Life, says,

“From the moment we take our first breaths, our days are numbered, so how we live matters. The decisions we make—the important ones and, yes, the mundane ones too—they all matter. Everyday decisions add up to form the life we live and the legacy we leave behind.” Own Your Life

I sit down every fall with my priorities sheet and pray over and eliminate any area that is wearing me down or where I’ve over extended myself.

“Someone has said that if you do not plan your life, someone else will. How true! Every woman should try to manage her own life and priorities with the help of the Lord. If you do not, more organized people will eagerly help fill your day and try to control your destiny.” The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook, pg. 269

The negative results of unmanaged, haphazard lives are:

  • “Unmanaged lives reveal personal weaknesses.”
  • “Unmanaged lives are influenced by dominant people.”
  • “Unmanaged lives surrender to the demands of all emergencies.”
  • “Unmanaged lives get involved in activities that gain public acclaim and are not necessarily important. ” CHH, pg 270

 

In The Life Ready Woman,Thriving in a Do-It-All World,  the authors give “Life Long Decision-Making Principles” that I found very helpful:

  1. There is a time for everything.
  2. Your core callings never go away.
  3. A choice for one thing is a choice against another.
  4. Make choices appropriate to your season.

This is such practical advice!

I don’t want to live with regrets, so I re-evaluate my season of life, pencil in the “non-negotiables”, those things that only I can do for my immediate family, then I add the things I’m called to do and passionate about, whether it’s ministry of some sort, hospitality, blogging, or encouraging women one-on-one, then add any extras that I might hold loosely, like local events, classes I’m interested in, or sites I’d like to visit.

In Teaching from Rest, Sarah MacKenzie wisely warns us to simplify our schedule:

“If God expected you to get thirty-six hours’ worth of work done in a day, He would have given you thirty-six hours to do it. If you have more to do than time to do it, the simple fact is this: Some of what you are doing isn’t on His agenda for you.”

“Take a hard look at the 168 hours in your week. Now consider nonnegotiables: sleep, eat, shower, pray. Plug in meal preparation, rest and church on Sunday, and enough wind-down time at the end of each day to ensure a good night’s sleep. See what’s left? You don’t get any more than that, sister.” pg 38,39 Teaching From Rest

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So, as you plan your fall, remember that you want to embrace His agenda for you. If you are married, are you scheduling time to love and befriend your husband as a priority? Do you have margin in your life to assist him if he needs it?  Make his life special?

If you are a SAHM, be all there. Be an overachiever in your own home. Don’t shortchange your immediate family by buying into the lie that anything and everything outside the home matters more than what you are doing inside your four walls. Rock those babies. You are the only one who can. Comfort your children. Don’t despise work that is unseen. Be content living a life that looks different than others if God has called you to stay home. Plan to use your home to minister to others. Invite others in. Meet one on one for Bible study or encouragement with a younger mom. Use your home for gospel ministry.

Older moms who are running teens here, there, and everywhere, or who are trying to stay connected to married children, don’t forget that little things are still big to kids of every age. Show interest. Schedule time to write a letter or make that phone call. Plan one-on-one time with your teen because this is the time they need it most. Be as connected as they want to be. Show them you have all the time in the world for them.

Moms who work outside the home, be a stickler when it comes to adding extracurricular commitments. You can’t do it all and thrive. Decide which activities feed your soul and which are adding frustration. I recently read that it’s more important for a child to learn to cook than to learn soccer. I think there’s some wisdom to that somewhere. 😉

As you plan, pray that God’s kingdom would come to fruition in your little home as you plan your daily tasks. Ask Him for grace to do what’s right, to love what must be done, and for a heart to follow hard after Him as He guides and leads you.

Are you planning for fall? What tools are you using? What do you need to cut (or add!) in order to live the life God has called you to? Feel free to share in the comments.

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My Toy Purge Experiment

After reading This Mom Threw Away Her Kids’ Toys and Got Her Life Back, I got rid of most of my toddler’s toys.

I wasn’t “drowning” in toys but little B had too many and he didn’t seem to be handling them well. Our little guy seemed to be losing his ability to focus on what was in front of him, a habit essential for learning and school success.

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This really concerned me.

Before the toy purge, I encouraged him to focus on one item by placing him in his toddler chair for a few minutes with a project like painting or legos, or on a rug with cars or building blocks. I’d set the timer and tell him that he was going to do “paint time” or “block time” until the timer went off. Nothing worked. He wandered and I continued to redirect him back to his activity. This wasn’t working. I even sat in the same room with him as he played as he sometimes has separation issues. Not happening.

So, I decided to give the toy purge a try. Why not? At least my living room would be decluttered for a few days, right? One day while he was out, I bagged up all of his toys but 15. I hauled them down to the basement: two trash bags and one Rubbermaid tote FULL. (Don’t judge. When we first got B, people gave us a ton of toys because we didn’t have any in the house. Okay, and we like to buy him toys, too. ;))

I arranged a few open-ended toys on his little bench: a play silk, a ball, blocks. I also left his favorites: his Woody, a few Matchbox Cars, a Playmobil train set, an Octonauts playset, lightsabers and a Woody dress-up hat.

Bonus: My living room was gloriously uncluttered!

When he came home, I waited for his reaction. He sometimes freaks out at change. But, lo and behold, he ran into the living and exclaimed, “I found my Octonauts!”.

He sat on the rug in the uncluttered room and played for 20 minutes. I was intrigued and wondered if it was just the newness of the set-up.

The next morning, he sat and looked at his Cars and blocks on.his.own. for about 15 minutes.

This morning he came running out with a play silk around his neck pretending to be Superman.

I’m happy I tried this because I think he is the type of kid that needs an uncluttered environment to concentrate. (Aren’t we always trying to figure out how each child ticks?)

Also, having too much limits our creativity. Aren’t we most creative when we have to be? If we had everything at our fingertips, we wouldn’t need to be creative. I think this applies to imagination and creative play as well.

Seems this approach is not as uncommon as I thought. Apparently, some preschools are getting rid of toys.

The program grew out of an addictions study group that worked directly with adult addicts. They determined that habit-forming behaviors started in childhood, and that these adults used toys to distract themselves from negative feelings. As they got older, they turned to other things.

 

I know these are small steps, but I’m encouraged to see him sitting and interested again. I’ve always believed that typical children can be taught to concentrate in the right environment.  (Obviously, I realize that there are exceptions to this!) With my older children, I kept a low-key atmosphere in the house. They weren’t bombarded with television that was too hyper or allowed to sit passively and be entertained on a regular basis. (It’s impossible to compete with the TV, am I right?)

I encouraged lots of play time, crafts, outdoor play, and audiobooks as I felt that it was very important to learn to “listen”, especially for school.

I’ve also realized that our little guy’s viewing habits need to change. He came to us loving movies that were fast paced, and I’ve tried to slow the movies down. Like, way down. Did you know that you can get several seasons of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood free with an Amazon Prime Membership? They aren’t as “flashy” for sure, and the first time he watched one he reported that it was “boring” but I like that the child can be thoughtful as they watch. Some movies are like trying to get a drink from a gushing fire hydrant. And with the constant barrage of images, who can process or make any kind of judgment about what you are seeing? It’s hard to keep up. (YES, I realize how old-fashioned this sounds.)

So, I’ll let you know how we progress. Have you found that too many toys actually limit your child’s creativity? Do you think limiting toys and “noise” is extreme? How have you encouraged your kids to learn to focus? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Two books I’m loving on the calling of motherhood

I don’t quite remember the first time I felt self-conscious and embarrassed when I told someone I was a full-time housewife and mother, but I’ve had lots of experience with that feeling to date. Mostly feelings of inadequacy and second-guessing what I was doing with my life.

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It usually plays out something like this:

“So what do you do for a living?”

“I stay home and take care of my kids.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”—subject change needed because, WHATEVER. “Err…Where do your kids go to school?”

“We actually home school them.”

“What does your husband do for work?”

“He works at a church full-time as the youth pastor/business administrator.”

Crickets.

If you’re a stay at home mom, you know the stigma. We do nothing all day. We’re wasting our life. We’re wasting our talent.

Thankfully as I’ve aged, I don’t care about the current feminist rhetoric du jour and I’m more comfortable with my own choices. As I look around at the landscape of our troubled society, one thing is clear: people need to be cared for and children need guidance like never before, plain and simple. Who better to pour your life into than your own cherished husband, children, extended family, neighbors, and church?

I’ve been reading two books on calling that have resonated with me. The first one that I’m reviewing is entitled Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, a book about our stay-at-home work and re-thinking the value of it. Courtney Reissig says,

“What I’ve learned is that God is glorified in the mundane work as much as he is in the magnificent.” (Kindle loc. 171)

“You image God uniquely when you work. You tell a story to the world about his goodness and glory through your work.” (loc. 234)

“We take the good things that God has given us (work, the home, etc.) and make them seem pointless. But for those in Christ, the futility of the ordinary chores isn’t the end of the story. Our work is meant to be a means of loving God through loving our neighbors, so the greatest love we can show them (even the neighbors in our own home), is to bring some sense of order in a broken and chaotic world. Sometimes this looks like opening your home to a friend who is weary and sometimes it looks like disinfecting the whole house after a stomach bug makes its way through.”

The chapter on imaging God by preparing and providing food for the people at your table really inspired me. We think of Jesus teaching and preaching, but the Bible shows Him eating and drinking with his friends and feeding His own manna, fish, milk and honey and more.

I’m also making my way through a gut-wrenching book written by a woman who has fostered over 100 children, Another Place at the Table which shows the devastating results of children who are *not* cared for and end up in the foster care system. It’s not for the faint of heart and as you can imagine. It is riddled with stories of physical and sexual abuse. It’s heartbreaking and convicting and inspiring and maddening all at the same time. It makes me want to care for my own and then some and has made me thank God for the service I can do for Him that come disguised as mundane and thankless jobs.

It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of comparing ourselves to others. But it’s imperative to know that the only thing that matters is the job that God has called us to.

If you are a mother, God has given you children to lead and guide. So much of what we do behind the scenes impacts generations. Our integrity in the home is no small matter and our kids pick up on our attitudes. These verses from Psalm 106 always convict me:

“They forgot God, their Savior…then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.” (21a,24,25)

These verses remind me that forgetting God leads to discontentment in our place and with His provisions and plans, which leads to complaining–which God hears, even when it’s in the quiet of our own house where we think nobody hears.

If you get a chance to read Glory in the Ordinary, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It will help you as you care for your home and family. Let me know if you pick it up.

 

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Does this generation know what love is?

I read an article the other day that made me wonder if our current generation understands love at all.

It was entitled “Survey: Sleeping together before a first date is a-okay, but cracked phones are a put off.”. My heart hurt after reading it, and though I know these types of surveys aren’t completely accurate, I couldn’t help but feel concern for a generation who is looking for love and connection so desperately that the cultural norm is sleeping together on the third date.*

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The world interprets many lesser things as “love”–

  • cheap clicks on social media
  • attention gained through sexting and skin-baring
  • gaining a “following” by revealing your most private self for men to gawk at on Instagram or Snapchat
  • “being together” even when abuse is present because anything is better than being alone
  • indiscriminate s*x outside of marriage

The hurt and regret that follows such a misguided pursuit of “love” makes me wonder where our kids have learned this. Can we blame them entirely? Kids learn from examples, and we have to ask, where were we in this teaching process, and do we know what true love is? Have we demonstrated self-less love in our marriages and to our kids?

If we haven’t, the world has certainly been busy indoctrinating them to reject God as Creator (ultimately dismissing Him from any say in their life, erasing accountability) and to embrace self-love as the “ultimate good”, doing what feels right in the moment, an act which in itself makes loving others impossible.

Which leads us to confess that apart from God, we don’t know what true love looks like. Without His example of extreme sacrifice, we’d believe that the greatest love is the one that gets me what I want, feeds my ego, lets me use and dominate others, and always caters to my needs.

God shows us a better way. True love serves and sacrifices, as seen on the cross.

Love actually does the hard thing. When you want to fall in love, know this, love costs and invites inconvenience.

And we have to ingrain this in our kids and live it out before them. Sometimes love is not a feeling. Sometimes it costs us something. Sometimes we lose so others gain. Sometimes love is self-denial instead of indulgence.

Peter and I have been married for 25 years, and though I’ve married one of the finest men alive, it’s not the flowers, notes, dinners, or get-a-ways that show me how much Peter loves me.

It’s his love displayed in the daily self-denial moments.

  • It’s holding his tongue when he feels like telling me off.
  • It’s getting up for work every day for 25 years to provide for us.
  • It’s standing by me in my worst moments, through 5 pregnancies, the “unattractive days” of morning sickness, the bed rest, the encouragement through postpartum depression, the getting up early on Saturdays so I can catch some extra rest while he walked the floor with cranky babies.
  • It’s the speaking truth to me when it’s not popular.
  • It’s giving me opportunities to do things I love when he could have used the time or money on himself.

Love looks a lot like sacrifice that doesn’t wait around for reciprocation.

You and I can relate to this kind of love in motherhood. What mother doesn’t want the best for her kids? We do hard things because it’s best for our kids. When we are exhausted, we still get it done for our kids. When they’re praised, we don’t pout and wish we were the one praised. (Love does not envy.) When they are excited about an opportunity, we rejoice–we don’t brag about our own opportunities. (Love does not boast. Love is not proud.) It’s not about us, it’s about them, and we’re happy to have it that way.

(Side note: when you struggle with that problem person in your life, compare your love toward them to your “mother-love.” Ask, would I be excited if my child was honored or given an opportunity? Yes, because, mother-love. Then how does my love for this person compare? Why is it lacking? Would I be glad if my own child received good gifts that I never had? Yes. Then why do I feel the need to downplay or stew over their happy moments? Usually, you’ll find that love is lacking, friends.)

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, let’s remember that we only know what true love looks like in purity when we see Christ. We can’t define love our own way. God has modeled and defined it:

Love is patient and kind. It doesn’t ever envy or boast because it’s always happy for the other person. It isn’t proud because it mainly serves. True love doesn’t keep track of wrong doing. Doesn’t tally up your mistakes as ammunition later. Love overlooks and extends grace. Love protects and cherishes. It always expects good and hopes with eyes that sees all the possibilities for a person.

Don’t settle for lesser loves. Don’t embrace a love-fraud that promised happiness and leaves you hurt. Let your love be regulated by scriptural bounds and tested for truth and purity by Biblical standards.

As Christians, we’ve known the Giver of the greatest love, and as we know and enjoy Christ more every day, and find our satisfaction in Him, that knowledge will revolutionize the way we love others in return.

Want to love your spouse better? Plan to sacrifice more. Want to love your neighbor as your self? Serve him in ways you’d appreciate being served. Want to love that church member as Christ commands? Plan to deny your flesh, and expect inconvenience as ministry (aka–service).

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  ~John 15:12

 

*Side note: no matter how conservatively or conscientiously you’ve trained your kids, they are more like the current culture than you’d ever believe. For reference, read Generation Me and Already Gone and Revolutionary Parenting, all very helpful books for understanding how the “rudiments of the world” stick to your kids and shape their thinking.

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A few thoughts on foster care from the first year.

Several of you have asked me to write about my fostering experience, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts about that. Obviously, I can’t write details, but I can give you some general thoughts.

In some ways, fostering at my age is like being a grandmother except that I have full time care of the child. We love seeing all of B’s “firsts”, from big things like seeing Disney and having his first airplane ride, to small, daily things like learning to wink and trying apple pie.

Fostering is emotionally draining on levels I never knew with my own five. It requires wisdom about how to interact with the family (kinship), DCF, court, lawyers, etc… Everyone has a say and their own set of expectations. Ultimately, my job is to advocate for little B and do what is best for him.

As a homeschooling family, DCF was always portrayed as the monster lurking in the background ready to snatch your kids if you didn’t put them into the public school system. I can honestly say that I’ve had nothing but REASONABLE interactions with DCF. They’ve been pleasant, helpful, resourceful, and really quite “hands off” in our case. Yes, we had to meet certain requirements and they came to the house each month, but B’s case worker honestly just wanted to see him safe and thriving and was relieved to see that he was. She was overworked, and still had time to sit in my living room and talk about fun stuff B was doing. I can’t imagine the brokenness she’s seen at her young age (27-30 years old maybe) and I certainly couldn’t do her job without becoming depressed, but she was amazing and upbeat to all of us.

Fostering brings out the best in people. Someone has said that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they treat someone who can do nothing for them in return. There are people who just ooze with compassion for our little guy. You can see it in their eyes–they just want this little guy to land on his two feet and their hearts hurt for his little plight. They text that they are praying for him. They give him toys and more toys. And it’s true that if you want to love people well, love their kids–or in this case, their foster kids. We’ve been so amazed by the good friends God has given us.

On a spiritual level, fostering has taught me to love without strings attached and simply for the good of the person.

Fostering has also opened up doors of ministry.  It’s put me back into the throws of younger mothers who want to do play dates and meet for coffee. When they ask me for help with parenting, I’m not talking from a “rosy” “I remember when” nostalgic view which can forget how hard the day-in and day-out really is. I can speak from a place of both experience from my adult children, and compassion and understanding from my 2 year old. I totally get it when they tell me that their toddler is taking a tantrum and they are too exhausted to read their Bible in the morning with any intelligent attempt at study.

Fostering has shown me a little more about the effects of sin on other people, and has made me more aware of my own sin. No man sins in a vacuum. It ripples out and punishes “innocent bystanders”, whether it’s heroin use or a bad mood to selfish behavior.  No where do you see little ones paying for the sins of their parents like in the foster care system. It opens your eyes to the brokenness of this world like nothing can. Any of you who’ve read here know that I have a particular HATRED for cruelty to children in any form. So to read and see the brokenness surrounding these kids makes me sob. Fostering has made me hate sin more and love God more. It’s also made me thankful for the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus Christ made possible. The gospel truly is good news for this broken world.

Fostering has taught me to embrace every season with gratitude. I can’t do what I could do a year ago because I have a God-ordained job to do right here with this little guy. I don’t write as much as I did, I’ve declined speaking invitations, I’ve backed away from things that would be good and pleasant to do, but that aren’t best for us or Little B right now, and God has given me joy in that obedience. Seasons change, moms. Embrace the NOW with your little ones.

“”Don’t let the fear of loving a child who might leave deter you. Let the fear of a child not knowing love drive you.”

That’s about it for today. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or message me. Have a great week.

 

Thoughts on love as my daughter gets married

It’s wedding week in the Beals household, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what genuine love looks like. Rebekah and I have had many great conversations about life and love, and I’ve been mulling over the command to love God and others in a new way this week…in a practical way, so that I can flesh it out in words and advice to my daughter.

It’s surreal to think that the words I speak to her have the potential to impact generations (especially my own grandchildren someday) and to do good to her husband-to-be.

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Shower favors: Starbucks individual brew bags and Fortnum and Mason Tea with tags that say “Love is Brewing.”

And I’m thankful that in the midst of the busyness, the Lord has given me clarity about what loving well looks like so I don’t overload her with information because it’s my “last chance.” Not really, but that’s how it feels. :)

But love is pretty simple.

Love is not about what you can get from someone. It’s not how you feel. It’s not in the give/take tension/compromise the world promotes.

What is love? And how do we best show love?

I really appreciated Jen Wilkin’s definition of love in her Bible study over I John which I highly, highly recommend.

I’m paraphrasing Jen from the notes I’ve taken:

Love is an intelligent, purposeful attitude of esteem or devotion. A self-less, purposeful, outgoing attitude that desires to do good to the one loved.

Love is not given because the recipient is worthy, or meeting your needs today, or because you are personally feeling fulfilled, or based on your spouse living up to your expectations. No, because our love is supposed to mimic Christ’s love for us and we all know that he loved us when we were still horribly unlovely and wallowing around in the mire of our sin. We were the object of his intentional, decided love.

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

Hate is the purposeful attitude of disrespect (vs esteem) and disregard (vs devotion), a selfish, purposeful, self-centered attitude that desires to do harm to the one hated. An attitude of contempt, or worse, indifference.

 

How do you go about loving others in a practical way? What advice do you give your daughter on loving well?

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

By the way, the golden rule is often twisted in our minds into something like this:

Don’t do what you don’t want others to do to you. If you don’t want someone to___________ to you, then don’t ______ them.

But that’s not it at all.

It’s DO unto others, the thing you’d want done to you.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

This is pretty simple because we all know how we wish others would treat us. With kindness, dignity, and respect. So be the first one to act. Outdo one another with kindness.

If you’d like him to make you coffee, then you make it for him.

If you’d like him to remember you during the day, you text him and let him know you’ve remembered him.

If you’d like him to speak with gentleness, you speak that way.

And honestly, if we lived like this, our marriage advice could be cut refreshingly short.

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are to do; not only toward God, but toward men; not only toward those of our party and persuasion, but toward men in general, all with whom we have to do. We must do that to our neighbour which we ourselves acknowledge to be fit and reasonable. We must, in our dealings with men, suppose ourselves in the same case and circumstances with those we have to do with, and act accordingly.

And Calvin says this:

The only reason why so many quarrels exist in the world, and why men inflict so many mutual injuries on each other, is, that they knowingly and willingly trample justice under their feet, while every man rigidly demands that it shall be maintained towards himself…

Perfect justice would undoubtedly prevail among us, if we were as faithful in learning active charity, (if we may use the expression,) as we are skillful in teaching passive charity.

…the second table of the law is fulfilled, when every man conducts himself in the same manner towards others, as he wishes them to conduct themselves towards him. There is no need, he tells us, of long and involved debates, if this simplicity is preserved, and if men do not, by inordinate self-love, efface the rectitude which is engraven on their hearts.

Don’t weddings tend to make you look at your own marriage and relationships and evaluate if your love has been Biblical or not?

Moms, we have the privilege of training our kids to love well by simply loving well by example. Our daughters learn how to love a husband by watching us. And we all learn from each other by being the recipients of sacrificial Christ-like love on the days we don’t deserve it. And we are more apt to love like Christ when we’re infused with His love and preoccupied with His goodness to us.

Thankful for these days. Thankful for time. Thankful for Rebekah’s Peter, the “boy” I’ve been praying for since Rebekah was a child. Thankful for God’s love to us which has shown us what genuine love looks like.

Kids who sacrificed, and why we should expect more of our teens.

One of the highlights of our time in London was a Christian Heritage Tour. I was especially moved by this wall, a memorial tucked into the back corner of a church park. It was to commemorate the heroic acts of people who sacrificed their lives for someone else.

I think what touched me most about this Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice was the fact that so many of the heroes were young people.

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IMG_1259 IMG_1262 IMG_1264 One story was of Alice Ayres, a 25 year old who rescued three young children from a burning building, going back into the flame to get one child out after another, and eventually lost her own life.

John Clinton, age 10, who drowned near London Bridge trying to save a child younger than himself.

David Selves, age 12, who drowned while trying to keep another boy afloat.

Henry Bristrow, age 8, who died trying to extinguish a fire from his sister’s clothing which had caught fire.

Amelia Kennedy, age 19, who died trying to save her sister from their burning house.

George Blencowe, age 16, who died trying to save a drowning friend.

I guess what really struck me was that we’ve become a culture that expects nothing of our teens. Even in the church, the average person almost expects rebellion and dismisses it as the result of hormones or age or peers.

We aren’t surprised by disrespectful talk, immoral behavior, imitation of the ungodly elements of the world, or even passive rebellion.

And yet, here this quiet memorial stands and reminds us that our kids can take the high road, do right, and that we can expect more of them. They can live and die for someone else.

As Christian moms, we do our teens a disservice when we expect nothing of them as though they are unable to live by God’s ways.

Instead of teaching them that their young heart wants to function from THE default setting of all mankind,rebellion and self-rule because of the fall, we pander and make excuses, really paralyzing them from the self-discovery they really need: all of our hearts are rebellious, no matter what age, and we all need the restraint and rule of our Creator.

Over the years in youth ministry, I’ve seen parents blame rebellion on a myriad of things: legalistic expectations enforced on children, super intellect that needed to find expression, deep hurt from adults that should have helped the child but abandoned them, peers who led them astray.

These parents are setting these kids up to fail by excusing and deluding them to the universal truth of all men: we are desperately wicked and want self-rule and self-fulfillment. Not one of us bends easily to external rules, because our hearts tell us that we need to be our own mini-gods.

Until we come to the conclusion that our teens are passively or actively rebellious because they have the common ailment of the entire human race, a corrupt heart that needs redemption first, then submission and reliance on Christ, we’re going to spend our lives making excuses and expecting nothing from this whole generation.

This memorial was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me that all of us, no matter what age, can live self-less, heroic lives. And it reminded me of the need to teach our kids that successful Christian lives are dependent on our willingness to submit our stubborn hearts to God’s will and ways, no matter what our age.

Grace for the Mom Who Isn’t Enough

Wipe the counters. Empty the trash. Vacuum the rug. Make the coffee. Wash the cups. Fill the dishwasher. Empty the dishwasher. Change the laundry. Pick up Cheerios. Pick up Legos. Swiffer the floor. Change the diaper. Answer the phone. Fill the sippy cup. Check the mail. Write the check. Fold the laundry. Brush the teeth. Feed the cat.

Dizzying, this mother-life. Constant. Always moving, never seemingly making progress.

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Nothing will hit you with the stark reality that you are not enough like motherhood will. You quickly realize that you don’t have enough of anything–energy, time, organizational skills, wit, wisdom, patience, or maternal instinct– to parent these kids like you dreamed you would.

Our suspicions seem to be confirmed when we check social media and notice that our friend’s kids are wearing matching outfits and hairbows and they’re all “off” to ballet lessons. You notice your smiling friend seems to have the Kate Middleton blowout, and she’s clutching her coffee in neatly-manicured-hands.

And with every click, we are measuring ourselves and mentally keeping track of our deficiencies.

Click. Oh, she’s on a missions trip with her kids! Wow.

Click. Oh wow, they’re on vacation at that beautiful resort.

Click. What a sweet husband she has. He’s always sending her flowers and wisking her off for dinner. 

Click. Look at how amazing her decorating is. That house looks like it should be in a magazine!

Click. Oh, look at her surrounded by all her friends. They always have so much fun. I wish I had just one close friend like that.

Doesn’t social media feed the notion that everyone’s enough but you?

I had a day like this recently. I was going on day three of barely any sleep because my little guy was suddenly crying at night and needed to be rocked. I was also fighting sickness.

I pulled myself out of bed earlier than normal because my to-do list was long, poured myself an extra-large cup of coffee, plopped down on the couch and admitted to God, “Well, here I am. Completely overwhelmed before the day even begins, exhausted, moody, and ridiculous, but here for whatever I can get today.”

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I’ll admit to you right now that my flesh hates to come to God. I hate to admit that I’m needy. I feel like a beggar and who wants that? I want to be like my friends in the pictures who have it all together! But I’ve learned that my feelings are rarely truth. God tells us to come. He implores us to come! Because he wants to satisfy. He tells us to come with nothing in hand and be filled.

I love this paraphrase/commentary of Matt. 11:28-30

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Bleary eyed and half-heartedly I read:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

God’s power made perfect in the midst of my weakness.

Yes, please. That’s what I need.

When I agree with the Bible and admit that self-dependence is NOT a Christian virtue, nor the trait of a Spirit controlled woman, I can embrace these truths when I am depleted that give me hope:

I am never left to fend for myself and I am not parenting these kids alone.

God gives me exactly what I need in the moment. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” He takes care of every one of my needs.

I do not need to conjure up the strength to do this thing right. I have God’s strength to cover my weakness.

God promises grace for today. I don’t need to worry about the tomorrows, because God doesn’t dole out grace for all.of.the.things I could ever worry about tomorrow. He deals in today.

No matter what I feel, God called me to parent these kids. This wasn’t a freak lottery. God is sovereign and in His wisdom, you are “it”, dear mother! Yes, you have inadequacies like we all do. Yes, you’ll struggle with issues your friends may seem to conquer with ease. But God does not call you to do something that He doesn’t equip you to do. While parenting is hard, we are not left comfortless. We have the Holy Spirit to cheer and guide our daily work.

My life doesn’t have to look like my friend’s life. God called me to this. He ordained my place and time. He wants me to rejoice and live it out!

Could it be that weakness is a gift? On those days when we are most aware of our own frailty and feel like a failure before we begin,

on the days when we are most vulnerable, is it then in those moments that Christ can work in us and through us in visible ways by the power of His might?

And isn’t it when we are the frailest that we’re also hyper-aware of His work in us and through us and we’re most prone to thank Him and give Him the glory?

So instead of beating yourself up for having limitations or for lacking ability, let’s give thanks for anything that causes us to press in to God and to rest in His sufficiency.

What is lacking in your life? Could it be that God will use that deficiency to keep you close to Him? Praise Him for it and rest in Him.

The Love Chapter For Mothers

I’m in the process of doing something that I’ve been planning for 15 years now. Years ago, I heard Elizabeth George speak and she encouraged younger women to not only make future goals, but to take steps to wisely prepare for their future. One way that she recommended was to make “fat files” which were basically articles ripped out of magazines or printed out and stored by category on topics you wanted to learn more about. As time passed, you’d have “fat files” full of great resources, favorite quotes, articles, and a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. (Today we have Pinterest–the same idea, only digital.)

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Over the years, I’ve collected articles on raising children, hospitality, discipleship, marriage– anything really about godly womanhood and living. Now that my oldest daughter is getting married, I’m trying to organize and assimilate all of this information for a future generation.

All that to say…

I’ve been working on another website for nearly 2 years in anticipation of this moment. It’s a project that has been a labor of love for my daughters especially, but for all younger women as well. I’ve had limitations on my time and have been stretched by having to learn some techy things that I knew nothing about, so it has been an uphill battle. I’m still not there, but I’m close and can’t wait to share it with you. Would you pray about this with me? That God would allow me to finish this project in His time and His way and that it would be an encouragement to the next generation of women? I’d be honored if you would.

In looking through my material, I came across this lovely poem and wanted to share it with you. Hence, this post. 😉

The Love Chapter For Mothers

If I talk to my children about what is right and what is wrong, but have not love, I am like a ringing doorbell or pots banging in the kitchen.

And though I know what stages my children will go through and understand their growing pains, and can answer all their questions about life and believe myself to be a devoted mother, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give up the fulfillment of a career to make my children’s lives better and stay up all night sewing costumes or baking cookies on short notice, but grumble about lack of sleep, I have not love and accomplish nothing.

A loving mother is patient with her children’s immaturity and kind even when they are not; a loving mother is not jealous of their youth, nor does she hold it over their heads whenever she has sacrificed for them.

A loving mother believes in her children; she hopes in each one’s individual ability to stand out as a light in a dark world; she endures every heartache and backache to accomplish that.

A loving mother never really dies. As for home-baked bread, it will be consumed and forgotten; as for spotless floors, they will soon gather dust and heel marks. As for children, right now toys, friends, and food are all-important to them. But when they grow up, it will be their mother’s love that they will remember and pass on to others. In that way, she will live on.

So care, training, and a loving mother reside in a home, these three; but the greatest of these is a loving mother.

-by Dianne Lorang