Archive for Christian Parenting

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.

**This post contains affiliate links, at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting my blog when you use these links.

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 

Are You Accomplishing Anything For God?

Maybe you’re discouraged today, dear friend.

Maybe you’re wondering if what you’re doing matters in the long run.

Last week I wondered, too.

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I was reading over a list of New Year’s questions (meant for personal reflection and growth) from a sweet friend in a writing group. It was a wonderfully thorough list, meant to prompt confession, repentance, acceptance.  Questions like:

  • “If the last year could be summed up in a word, what would it be?”
  • “What are the two or three themes that kept occurring.”
  • “What are some major life lessons I learned this year.”
  • “What’s one thing I can do this year to increase my enjoyment of God?”

I breezed through them until I came to this one:

What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of?”

I sat and thought. What one thing did I accomplish that I was most proud of?

Honestly, I couldn’t think of one. I sat on this for a few days, thinking about it. Still nothing. This really bothered me.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t done anything. We live a busy life. But to not be able to think of one thing? This bothered me enough to write a dear friend to see if she could think it through with me. (THIS is the benefit of having iron-sharpening-iron friends.) We hashed it out a little and she helped me gain perspective.

Some seasons of life cannot be measured by accomplishments.

There are times when life happens so fast and people need you so intensely that what you accomplished hardly makes the highlight reel. (Think sickness, death, new baby, foster child, new adoption, moving, etc…)

This Christmas I planted a lovely amaryllis bulb that a sweet reader, Becky, gave to me. I’ve been watching it grow and bloom against the backdrop of the grey bare trees outside my window. It started as a brown bulb, a stump really, not very pretty but full of potential. I planted it, put it on the windowsill, and gave it water. Things must have happened underground, because now it’s in full crimson bloom. The flower was alive and accomplishing its task underground before any of us had any clue it was accomplishing anything. The growing season was an accomplishment that allowed the flower to blossom.

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I believe our mundane days are the same–underground work, unseen, undetected, un-celebrated, but vital.

Maybe you are in a mundane season right now. Maybe all your hard work is unseen because it’s undone the very next day– the clean house dirtied, the once shiny sink now full of grimy water.

Moms, we feed hungry bellies. We wash clothes and remove stains. We wipe tears and console hurt feelings. We listen to little hearts. We make meals for others and host people in our home. We bake cakes to mark milestones for family parties and church fellowships. We bathe dirty bodies and change messy diapers. We stir stew and kneed bread. We watch our neighbor’s kids. We calm irrational fears and keep toddlers on our hip when they are whiny. We make sure our kids do their homework, get to their appointments, and make their beds. We sit with hurting women. We stay behind so that our husband can minister to others.

It’s not hollywood stuff and it may not be memorable, but it’s important. This is the stuff of life and it’s where God has called us to bloom. It may not feel like an accomplishment. Nobody’s going to celebrate that you made your bed and got tangles out of the two year old’s hair.

But it’s our sacred work. It’s our reasonable service.

My friend sent me this wonderful verse:

Ps. 37:3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

God doesn’t require accomplishments. God just wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to take joy as we serve others in hidden ways that no one will ever know about except God.

My friend also sent me these lovely lines from Robert Louis Stevenson that I hope encourage you as much as they encouraged me!

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.”

and

“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”

And from Elisabeth Elliot:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

Teach Your Children Virtues, Not Just Rules


The internet is full of advice for mothers. Full.

Yes, motherhood is hard. It is. No denying it. Tough days, frustrations, exhausted nerves pushed to the limit of almost crazy. We all know this.

Yet, in all of these discussions, one topic is lacking: teaching virtue.

We focus on rules because we believe that rules get results.

Yes, rules are important, for sure. Boundaries should be clear, consistent, and enforced. But rule keeping is only one side of the coin.

The other side–the reason for law and order–the reason for the commandments is virtue that allows us to love God and others well.

Do most people know what virtue is? In a world that’s false and Photo-shopped and me-centered, where does virtue fit in?

What does the Bible mean when it says, “If there be any virtue…think on these things?”
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Virtue and Integrity go hand in hand. Virtue is the sense of what is noble, fair, right, just. It’s all that’s good. Integrity is the character that allows you to pursue virtue. It is the same in the light as in the dark. Integrity does the same in private as it does in public. When nobody else sees, a woman of integrity does what’s right.

A mom lamented that her child was sneaking food. The food is an issue. Chocolate before supper is naughty. But the real issue is a heart that was willing to deceive—to do something that they wouldn’t have done if mom was there.

Look for ways to teach virtue. More importantly, live virtuously.

So, for instance, a mom who yells at her kids but then answers her phone sweetly is not living a life of integrity.

The mom who screams at her child and then expects the child to respect her might as well forget it.

The mom who lies to her kids or exaggerates to others can’t expect her kids to trust her when they are older.

Bottom line: What will stop a child from lying? Is it your threatening? No. Only an elevation of the truth and the love of it.
What will stop selfishness and self-focus? Seeing the beauty of generosity and kindness against the backdrop of our own dark hearts.

What will stop a teen from gossiping or laughing behind someone else’s back? A love for justice and for protecting people.

What will stop any sinful behavior? Nothing–absolutely nothing, until you behold the humility and perfection of the Savior and want it for yourself. Seeing the virtue in our Savior shows us our lack and inspires us towards goodness and godliness.

Behold the Lovely

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Virtue is a forgotten tool in the mothering toolbox.

Highlighting virtue in our daily lives inspires our kids to be noble. When we see goodness, we want to be good.

When we experience grace, we want to be grace-givers.

And then when we see injustice or are the recipient of hurtful behavior like prejudice or gossip, we should abhor the behavior, and it should propel us to love virtue even more.

2 Peter 1–

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

…For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You might be caught in the “no” cycle–saying no for wrong behavior more than you highlight noble behavior.

Have you praised the generous child who shared a cookie, or the unselfish one who offered a better spot on the couch during movie time, or the compassionate one who offered a hug when someone was sad?

I remember the hard days of parenting, but the good news is that children can grow into lovely, compassionate, virtue-loving adults. (Why don’t more people write blog posts about that!)

I have three adult child and three younger ones in the home, and I have been on both sides of the “hard parenting” stage. Can I just tell you how much of a blessing older children are when they exhibit the virtue of scripture?

My daughter Emily is sitting out for a semester. While she’s home she’s been clipping coupons for me and writing out the local deals. She takes initiative to straighten out the house. She’s generous with her money and loves buying gifts for people. She plays with our foster child. She offers her clothes to her younger sisters. All these things are not part of the rule following, but are part of the virtues growing in her.

Rebekah is a dorm counselor at Bob Jones University and she has a coffee ministry in her room. She offers French pressed Starbucks and treats to anyone who needs to talk. Last week I sent her fall napkins in a care package and she was so excited to be able to give her girls a cookie on a “pretty napkin.” She’s concerned with the needs around her and when she comes home, she jumps in with the needs here.

  
Matthew is generous almost to a fault. He texts to ask how our foster boy is doing because he misses him. He’s always on the look out for his sisters safety and even, occasionally, for mine. There’s nothing more attractive than kindness and gentleness in a man.

Although I love to brag on them, (ahem) I’m not using them as an example to say what a great parent I have been. On the contrary. I’ve stumbled along the way and had to learn on the fly.

I’m saying that the tough days do pay off. You’ll wake up one day to these wonderful adults and, like the pain of childbirth, you forget the trauma. 😉 Well, almost forget.

If you are in the trenches of the early years, make your child obey the rules, yes. Be consistent, certainly. But train them to love virtue and give them plenty of good examples to follow.

Praise them when they are good, and make virtue something to be pursued and emulated.

Don’t let “first time obedience” be your end all. Who wants to raise a rule keeper who is heartless?

After your child’s faith in Jesus Christ, mind 2 Peter 1 and “add virtue.” Don’t skip this.

Need parenting inspiration? Get into God’s word and look at the life of Jesus and talk about it. When you read with a heart to imitate the goodness, it highlights the virtue instead of always focusing on the forbidden.

Does that make sense? Let me know if I’m not clear in the comments or tell me what you’ve done to instill virtue in your kids.

Have a great day!

RESOURCES FOR TEACHING VIRTUE:

God’s Wisdom for Little Girls: Virtues and Fun from Proverbs 31
The Book of Virtues
Loving God with All Your Mind

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Five Ways Teens Are Like Toddlers

I’m caring for a 16-month-old a few days a week, (the sweetest little guy ever!) and I’ve been ushered back to the world of sippy cups, toys, nap times, cutting up food into small pieces, answering “what’s that” questions, exploring, and the “everything-is-new-and-wonderful” stage that the toddler years bring. “Little B” already knows the ropes around the house and has pretty much used it to lasso our hearts.

 

My children are mostly teens and adults (ages 12 to 21) and somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten a few basic truths that should inform everything I do in this house. Caring for Little B has reminded me of several of these things.

1. Children watch everything. They’re learning by their environment. Little B watches Holly and Hope to see their facial expressions and he responds. When they clap, he is elated. When they do their school work, he observes. When I fold my hands to thank God for the food, he folds his. It’s true of toddlers and it’s true of teens–they learn how to do life from watching you. God help us if we lead these kids astray.

2. Children want to please. Kids are easily motivated by praise. I see it so clearly with this little guy. He flashes the most adorable smile whenever we clap or say “Good boy!!” He gives me a toy because he knows I’ll give him a huge “Thank you!!” and it becomes a game to see how many times I’ll smile and say it.

Teens want to please you as well. Somewhere along the line, maybe they stopped trying because they got more negative feedback than positive or could never make their parent happy. Maybe you criticized more than praised. Maybe you used your words to injure instead of build up, causing the teen to conclude that building walls and keeping you out was safest and most peaceful route. If so, make that right and ask forgiveness. Teens are almost adults and just like all of us they want love and acceptance.

3. Children mimic. They say what you say and copy what you do. You see it more in toddlers, but it’s true of the teen years as well.

I’ve sat with mothers of teens who can’t figure out WHY on earth their teen is so sneaky, moody, rebellious, or just plain disrespectful and I honestly have to hold my tongue because it’s so obvious to me that the teen gets that behavior from one of the parents. We are often blind to our own sin, and yet we see it clearly in our kids.

Maybe the issue are different,

but if the parent lives their life as though they are above the rules

or they make exceptions or excuses–always the easy way for them– how can they complain when their kids break house rules like curfew, or sneak media, or plain disregard the instruction of the parent?

If the mom is moody (or mouthy!) saying whatever pops into her head without thought for righteousness, how can she be surprised when her child uses her mouth disrespectfully or cruelly?

A mom of a passively/outwardly rebellious child has to ask herself if she’s been joyfully submitting to the authorities in her life or if she’s taught her daughter unwittingly how to manipulate life to make it work for her.

The truth is that our kids tend to copy our own sins–the ones they grew up seeing us commit.

4. Children value what we value. When I make a big deal of going in the car, Little B catches that excitement. When my eyes light up and I ask “Do you want an ice cream?” he can’t get to the car fast enough. Our teens are the same way and learn what we value by our enthusiasm. They know when we expend energy, and know where we cut corners or make excuses. They hear it in our language about “getting to go” here or “having to go” there.

5. Children want to be loved. Toddlers come running for hugs or want to give kisses to the puppy. They snuggle when they are tired and want to sit on your lap to read a book. Closeness matters.

Teens may outgrow much of that but they still want to know that you love them more than anything else. Make sure they know it. If they doubt your love, they’ll go searching for it wherever they can get it.

The teen years are the letting go years, and independence is the goal, but one thing we should never let go of is the pursuit of our teens heart.

Do you have teens and toddlers? What similarities do you see?

2 Minute Ways to Feel Productive

If you are caring for young children, you know that your time is not your own. Many days you don’t have five minutes to yourself. You try to unload the dishwasher and someone needs you. You come back later to the job half done and it’s frustrating.

Instead of getting frustrated, settle for doing things in small chunks of time as you can. If you feel like you’re not accomplishing much, think of your days in small chunks of time and attempt life that way. The small chunks certainly can add up and you’ll find you are not as frustrated and are much more productive.

Something is better than nothing.

What can be done in two minutes? Here are a few ideas.

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  • Glance down at your Bible on the counter for a word of encouragement or instruction.
  • Write out a verse on a card for your fridge.
  • Text a friend, “I’m thinking of you.”
  • Rotate the laundry.
  • Write a thank you.
  • Water the plants.
  • Make a bed.
  • Clean a toilet.
  • Wipe down a counter or Windex an appliance.
  • Wash a glass door that is full of hand prints.
  • Braid your daughter’s hair.
  • Pull out meat from the freezer for dinner.
  • Straighten the pillows on a couch and fold a blanket artfully.
  • Sweep the porch or deck.
  • Check the mail.
  • Tidy up the shoes by the door.

What are some other ways you find to be productive with little snatches of time?