When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

During a recent car ride, nearly all of my kids were fighting and one girl in particular was displaying extremely unkind behavior to some others. We had been going strong for several days with lots of late nights and we were all tired. Another late night was ahead of us and I was irritated that we were dealing with sibling fighting only three minutes out of the drive way.

Upon my request, David pulled over and so I could give full effect to the guilt trip I was about to deliver. I told the biggest offender that I had no problem turning the car around and sending the rest of the family on the fun outing. She and I would stay home. I watched her eyes fill with tears and heard apologies begin to fly around the van.

You would think I would have felt satisfaction. I didn’t. I slumped over in my seat, disappointed with myself. I’ve been walking the path of freedom and grace in parenting for eight years now and STILL there it was:

exasperate

 

Fast forward to a different day. One of my sons decided to engage in a power play with one of his sisters. I stuck myself in the middle of their controversy. Acting as both judge and jury, I swiftly decided my son was guilty and wanted to make sure he knew it. Not only did I want him to know how displeased I was with his unkindness, I wanted to bring him to sorrowful repentance by using harsh words and a displeased face. There it was again:

exasperate

In the first scenario, I created false repentance from my daughter. She wanted to go to the activity, so she apologized. She wasn’t turning from her sin, she was avoiding consequence. In the second scenario, I disobeyed God and exasperated my son. He hardened his heart toward me. I wasn’t even a part of the original conflict, but now it was all about me! His body language showed me that he was DONE with any instruction from me.

The tragic thing in both of these stories is that I not only sinned against my children, I sinned against my Lord. Ephesians 6:4 clearly spells out my part in the parent~child relationship and I failed.

Do you find yourself failing in this way as well? Do you find yourself controlling your children instead of building godly wisdom? Are you building a culture of true repentance in their hearts? Or demanding a false repentance that bears no lasting fruit? Are you intensely irritating children when their sin makes you feel annoyed or angry? If so, please hear me:

There is hope.

I was angry with my son. However, when I saw I was losing his heart, I became concerned. My need to be right was going to drive him away from any wisdom I might have. A lifetime of these interactions would drive him away from not only me, but God. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and told me to take the plank out of my own eye. I was mad at my son for trying to control his sister, while I attempted to control him! Such hypocrisy! I cried out to God for help, a softened heart, and I removed the plank in my eye by humbling myself.

“I need to confess something to you Pal. The way I was talking to you earlier was totally out of line. It’s not the kind of Mom I want to be. It’s not the kind of mom God wants for you. I’m sorry for sinning against you.” He forgave me and I watched his heart soften. We were then able to  discuss his behavior. He apologized to me and told me he had already gone to his sister in repentance.

I went on, “I’m thankful you forgave me. My sin wasn’t against you alone. I sinned against God as well. He has told me in his word not to exasperate you, and I did. Will you pray with me while I confess my sin?”

Moments later, we sat down in a public restaurant with the other kids who had gone in before us. My son silently bowed his head in thanks for his food. After the meal, he stood next to me and tenderly placed his head on mine. Our hearts had come back together. We were restored to each other and to God. And he was able to again receive instruction in the Lord from me.

The BEST of parents mess up from time to time. YOU will sin against our children as I did, but in your own way. We are so, SO fleshly and still being sanctified.

So what do you do about it?

When you fall, turn your hearts to God and admit it! Confess your sin and walk in humility. If you are in need of God’s intervention in your parenting as I am, (and I suspect you are) you will need to do this kind of work, over and over and over and over and over again. But do it! Walk with God! Keep your kid’s hearts!

exasperate

Over time, your do-overs will decrease and your victories will increase!

My sons were in a major battle. One of them slammed a door on the other. David and I heard the kind of yelp that causes panicked middle-aged parents to run as if they are in 5th grade again. As the details unraveled, we saw pride and deceit in the son who slammed the door and caused an injury on the other. My Mama-Bear instinct was strong. I was enraged to see a child of mine had been hurt by another individual’s temper. I was livid to discover I had been lied to on top of it. My instinct was to spew shame filled messages to the perpetrator of the crime.

Thankfully, my muscle-memory kicked in and I knew that I could help my child in his sin without sinning against him. Quickly, I offered up a silent plea for God to give me love, grace, and forbearance. After tending to my hurt son, I walked over to my other son and gently rubbed his back. David and I asked gentle, but pointed questions as to what was going on in his heart. Without excusing his behavior, we were able to communicate: “It’s OK to admit you have done something wrong. Bringing your sin to the light is necessary for healing. You need forgiveness. Our love for you hasn’t changed because of the temper, the pride, or deceit you displayed. And God’s love for you hasn’t changed. In fact, God’s love was demonstrated while you were yet sinning, by giving His son as a sacrifice for you.”

His heart didn’t soften right away.

The boys requested time alone to discuss things with one another. After they talked, they went back to life. Forty-five minutes passed when the son who had hurt the other, came inside, with a sorrowful and contrite spirit. He apologized to his brother for hurting him. The Holy Spirit was able to work in our son’s heart because we hadn’t exasperated him. There was no effort to control him or force a change of heart. True repentance brought forth beautiful fruit from a heart that had been softened by grace.

Let the gospel of grace transform your hearts as you parent. You won’t do this perfectly. But if you humble your hearts and let the God of love and truth guide you, you will be transformed. And his power will begin to change you-and your kids; slowly, beautifully, over time.

 

 

 

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

It’s hard to write a post like the one I’m about to share without including a few stipulations. Yes, there are crazy people in the world who treat women and girls like property. It’s true that many women are called into important, wage earning, professions. Certainly, some women are called to single life. Let’s operate under the assumption that I’m NOT functioning as a voice for the dogmatic stay at home daughter movement. And many, if not most of our daughters will one day marry and have children. Fair enough?

I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie, dissatisfaction with “just” being at home as a wife and mother. Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains, grabbed her brief case and coffee while kissing her children goodbye as they got themselves ready for school. Claire Huxtable practiced law and brought her skills home to navigate the waters of a large family. I was told repeatedly I could be anything I wanted to be. My list of possibilities was long; teacher, broadcast journalist, advertisement, musician, pastor, missionary, writer, etc.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother. I have no memory discussing this as an option. I remember dreaming of success and goals achieved. Of course marriage and having children was part of the plan, but almost like a side bonus, not, THE DREAM.

What kind of messages have you received about motherhood? Recently, talking to older teens and young adults about their dreams I often hear, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a missionary, etc.”

I’ve been gently asking, “Have you ever considered becoming a homemaker?” These young ladies don’t know how to answer a question which has never been posed to them before.

Have the young ladies in your life considered homemaking as a career?

I love the idea of my daughters receiving a solid education, a foundation on which to support themselves, and general development and growth as human beings. There is something I know however, which they do not. I know what it feels like to hold your very own baby in your arms for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life’s breath for that baby the instant you lock eyes. I’ve wept the tears of a woman who nursed her baby, not wanting to hand her over to a childcare provider at 12 weeks of age. And I’ve walked the path with numerous women, shedding tears over wanting to stay home with their babies, but set up their lives in such a way that it was financially impossible.

What messages are we giving our sons and daughters about homemaking?

homemaker

Why don’t our girls dream about the passionate pursuit of raising children as a profession? Do we not present it as a glorious option? Is the pull on the world, requiring two incomes to live like those around us, so strong? Do we send our children (boys and girls) into higher education, accumulating unthinkable debt so that staying at home with children is an impossibility? Do those of us who live out the roles of homemaker do so joylessly, making the job unattractive? Is the church building up and valuing the glorious job of mothers raising their babies and children at home?

Sisters in Christ, if you have been called to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking, you have received a high and holy call.

We receive no paycheck or glory and few accolades from the world. Managing our homes however, brings us to a glorious place of storing up treasures in heaven. As we change diapers, scrub toilets, instruct toddlers in the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, organize our cupboards and prepare meals; we have the ability to perform every task as worship unto the Lord. When we creatively prepare a menu on a budget and joyfully serve our family, we are serving Jesus himself.

Teaching our little ones the gospel in our day-to-day interactions, growing them in godliness and discipline is a certain way of doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. Impossible questions need to be answered, world-views need to be shaped. Boo-boo’s need to be tended to with great wisdom. And our husbands need our love and attention as well. All of this takes great skill, devotion, and selflessness.

I don’t know that we will turn the tide, making the High Call of Motherhood and Homemaking, into a longed for profession in our culture. But we can do an amazing job of showing the beauty of it in our homes. We can do our job with excellence. Join me in challenging our daughters with our devotion to the home and the Lord.

Let’s challenge them with our words as well.

We can speak highly of our job as homemaker. When we talk about our daughter’s futures, when we talk about Jesus command to “store up treasure in heaven,” include the career of motherhood as a path for them to consider as a worthy call. I don’t have my daughter’s lives mapped out for them. That is between my daughters and the Lord. I do desire, when they think of the future, to realize that jobs with titles, advancement, and paychecks aren’t the only career paths to consider. Homemaking doesn’t need to be an after thought. It’s a worthy, lovely, worthwhile career they can be proud in wanting to pursue. Let’s give our girls the dream of raising a family for Jesus.

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

There is a trend today in social media Mom blogging, the “Messy Mom.” The Messy Mom says she’s imperfect and fumbling and stumbling through life. She doesn’t have it all together. She presents her parenting challenges, flaunting her children’s struggles and her reactions. She says her reactions aren’t perfect. However, I wonder if she might be a little bit proud of how she handles things in her flesh. She loathes pinterest, yet presents a pristine, perfect looking blog. She sets high standards for her children, but excuses her harsh, unloving responses to them.

 

messy mom

Moms…don’t buy it! Don’t buy into the messy. If you are a Christian you are NOT called to imperfect, messy, sin-excusing lives. You are called to growth, love, self-sacrifice, holiness, and grace. Will you be perfect in this? NO! Should you flaunt your imperfection? NO! Should you flaunt God’s glorious grace in your life as it changes you? A billion times, YES!

John 15:16 “…I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will remain…”

I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Romans 6:6 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. 

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 

Dear, dear sisters in Christ…God has called you to a high standard. Don’t miss HIS call for you as you watch moms, “glorify in the messy.” Love unconditionally. Make your home a place of peace and safety. Grow responsible adults. Teach your kids God’s word. Don’t compromise. Our culture wants you. Don’t give in. Be set apart. Be holy, because He is holy.

Love Your Kids Challenge

Love Your Kids Challenge

Think back to the pre-parenting days when you wanted to be a mom or dad. Remember when you looked at the positive pregnancy test or heard/saw your baby’s heartbeat the first time? Do you recall the day you got the call from your adoption agency or social worker? Your child was ready to come home? What did you feel like the first time your saw your child’s face, tiny hands and feet, smelled their skin? Can you still feel the warmth, the longing to protect, soothe, and sacrifice for this new life in your home?

love challenge

Love challenge

Those first moments with our children are some of the sweetest moments in our lives. As time wears on, the feelings fade a bit. We sin against our children in our selfishness at times. Our children sin against us in their willfulness. At some point we have to stop the continual gazing at our child and go on with life. Our joyful zeal diminishes and our ideals take a back seat to sleepless nights, feedings, crying, diapers, toddler messes, homework, activities, sibling rivalry, teenage heartaches and mistakes.

Have you stopped smiling at your kids?

Do you feel disillusioned and disappointed? Tired and complacent? Are you lacking peace, contentment? Do you feel angry? Have you stopped gazing at your children and smiling?

Some of you have children home for the Summer months. (Or in our case, a loose schedule as we are not “formally” educating our children and taking a homeschool break.) My heart breaks a little bit every time I see a mom post on social media how she needs a wine break by 10 am. I hurt when I see the looks on little faces when moms talk about how they can’t wait for Summer to end so mom can get her freedom back. Let’s do better moms and dads!

If you are familiar with Connected Families, then you may know their Family Framework to help you grow in God’s grace and truth: 1. You are safe with me. 2. You are loved no matter what! 3. You are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing. 4. You are responsible for your actions. I want to issue a challenge from the second point:

How can I communicate love in all circumstances?

What does it look like to love your kids when things are going well?
Will you show love to your children for no particular reason?
How can you love your children even in misbehavior?

Love challenge

How can you fill your Summer with messages of love and acceptance toward your children?

Here are a few ways you can practice communicating love this Summer:
~SMILE! Don’t underestimate how much our children need to see warmth in our face.

~Listen to your tone of voice. Are you harsh and disinterested? Be intentional to speak with gentleness and sweetness. Show interest in what your kids are saying and sharing. Laugh.

~When you children fight, stop yourself from sighing and feeling exasperated. Look at their fights as opportunities to help them learn about the world and relationships.

~Do you have a child stuck in disobedience or rebellion? Hug them! Find an activity you can both enjoy together and do it. Don’t wait until they “clean up their act” to show them tenderness and interest in being with them. Love them now in the midst of their sin! (Remember God’s lavish love for you.)

~If you have a day with nothing planned and everything is going swell…surprise them! Take them to Sonic happy hour for a candy slushie. Go to a library event or puppet show. Find a free kid movie and go together. Hit an amusement park or go shopping. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or expensive. Just play together and enjoy it without distraction!

~Is it hard to like one of your children, much less love them right now? It is up to YOU to bridge the gap and mend the relationship. Take the lead. Encourage your child in this difficult time and show love even when you may not feel it. Take a walk together. Read a book aloud. Ride bikes. Listen to your child’s favorite music. Watch their favorite YouTube channel together.

~Set down your phones and walk away from your computers and devices. Enough said.

Love Challenge
Join me in this challenge to Love Your Kids No Matter What.

Think back to those first moments of tenderness and the thankfulness you felt for each of your kids. God has given you a great blessing and gift to parent the child(ren) in your home. Don’t forget it. Remember the joy. The days are fleeting and you won’t regret loving your children with a deep, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Let me know if you are with me!
~Swannie Mom

Family Sports Night…One Family’s Solution to a Busy Culture

One of the things we value in our family life is avoiding the “busy trap.” How do you accomplish the daunting task of discipleship when outside activities demand your attention most nights of the week? Our family is striving to regularly eat dinner together, do daily devotions, serve, and open our home in hospitality often. In order to accomplish our goals, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions about our time and finances. One of them is around sports.

A friend shared this article on Facebook: The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports. Our family hasn’t experienced this kind of sport culture first hand, however we know it is common. We’d like to share with you one alternative which has made a big difference in our life.

Family Sports Night

Three years ago, we were invited by friends to participate in a Family Sports Night (FSN). Several families gather on a weekly basis and tried out different sports together. This has been a perfect way to expose our kids to different sports and exercise, while maintaining our family values.

What is FSN?

Entire families meet once a week for a determined amount of time and play sports. A leader chooses the sports by the group’s interest level. The sport has to be something good for all ages, without requiring special equipment. FSN introduces common sports and rotates selections from month to month. Dads and moms teach basic skills related to that evening’s sport for the first hour. A parent shares a short devotional during a break. During the second half of the evening, kids are able to use their skills, by playing an actual game. Teams are divided by age categories so play is fair for developmental stages. Depending on the number attending, there may be several games going at once.

Our FSN meets at a public park. It’s an open event and a great way to invite families to play together, hear a gospel message, and experience sports in a loving and safe setting. The goal of our FSN, according to Dave Miller (the current lead organizer) is “to simplify the suburban American sports frenzy, by bringing all family members together on one night each week instead of running ragged 3, 4, or 5 nights a week.” This goal fits so well with our family values! Our kids are exposed to different sports and healthy competition. Our family is able to play together and invest our time in other life worthy goals during the week. We love Family Sports Night!

family sports night

How do sports work in your family life?

Are the choices you are making fitting into your long term family values and goals? We encourage you to start a Family Sports Night chapter of your own if it would help you meet some of your family goals.

 

Summer With the Kids

Summer Bucket ListHow do you spend Summer with the Kids? What is your Summer parenting philosophy? Are you the mom who sends the kids out after breakfast and calls them home at dusk? Do you sign up for lots of classes, teams, and camps? Does structure fly out the window? Will you waterski and fish at the cabin every chance you get?

The rhythm of our household changes in the Summer months. I love the kids to get a lot of free time to explore, read, play, and exercise, without my direct involvement. However, I am keenly aware my kids want me present as well. As the years continue to slip by, I want to build into my children, and establish firm roots of friendship in our family. I am carefully working at keeping our time together intentional, meaningful, and fun!

Several days ago, my oldest daughter and I set out Summer Bucket list we hope to follow loosely:

Work with modeling clay
Finish up craft kits around the house
Teach the little girls how to Rainbow Loom
Smash Book
Work on coloring posters
Free movies with friends
Backyard water games
Night time bowling
Shaving cream Twister
Water bag piñata
Solar oven s’mores
Grammar and spelling review hour
Human bubble
Rock candy making
Ice cream making
Summer Acts of Kindness (leave sand toys at the beach and bubbles on a park bench)
Corn dogs and pop rock slushies with the Dehnnies
Make a chalk town on the driveway
Math lessons every day
Tin foil river down our hill
Play croquet
Make dioramas
Make Christmas gifts
Sponge sail boats
Under the Sea Graham crackers
Park hopping day
Science experiment books
Piano practice plan
Play basketball
Scavenger hunts
Paper bag book nature journal
Make a funny face book
Make puppy chow
School supply shopping
Girl’s Week
Camping

We made lists of books we want to read and people we would like to see. A couple of business ventures were added to our wish list as well. And yes, we have vacations on tap, weekends at the cabin, fishing trips, athletic endeavors in which to participate. Add our Summer family traditions with dad, blink, and it will all be over and we will enter a new school year. While we won’t cross off every idea on this list, I like having a master plan in which to refer back. Any moms out there want to play with your kids this Summer? Show me your plans!

*Most of the ideas listed above are pinned on our “Summer” pinterest board.

How I Use Scripture to Discipline My Kids

Scripture is our best parenting tool. I’m not talking about forcing your child to write out a passage which correlates to his or her specific sin 100 times. Nor am I suggesting we use it as a verbal weapon to use against our children when they are caught in unsavory behavior. God’s word becomes a natural part of our discipline when His word is a centerpiece in our lives.

2 Timothy 2:16 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

I found some kids in my house engaged in a battle of epic proportions. The details aren’t important, other than: Mama Bear was unleashed. The kind of fight I witnessed was new territory for me as a parent. I found myself separating the culprits and sending them away lest I say something I would later regret. As I stood scrambling my morning eggs, I pleaded with The Lord for wisdom. I sought wise counsel. And then, I went into a battle of my own. The spiritual battle of keeping my kid’s hearts while administering grace-filled connection.

After gathering the necessary information to understand the situation, related consequences were given to the parties involved in the fight. As we talked, it became clear that one party was repentant. The other party had a hardened and defensive heart. I was sincerely disappointed in this child’s behavior, but I knew my angry child needed a lot of reassurance and love.

After significant time had passed, I asked the unrepentant child if we could sit on the couch and snuggle for a minute and chat. I listened carefully to my kiddo’s heart. There wasn’t any reason in that moment to argue, correct, or share how I felt. This was my chance to show my sincere desire to understand. When it seemed natural in our conversation, I opened my Bible to a passage we had been learning from in church. This wasn’t a time to give a super spiritual list of ways this kid could have done better. I wanted my child to hear the amazing grace of the gospel of Christ.

Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…”

I stopped and emphasized this first sentence. “You my child have been chosen by God. You are set apart for Him. You are dearly loved by Him.” I went on to talk about the sacrifice of love God had made for us and how Jesus went to the cross for us, loving us, just as we are. “This was a big mess up today. I was sad and angry to see how your angry choices were affecting my other children. But even in that moment, you were still deeply loved and God still called you His own.”

As we talked, I watched my child’s heart begin to soften. Tears flowed freely. I said sweetly, “I know you are capable of rising above what happened this morning, because you belong to God. You are growing. The choices you make right now are shaping your character. We can respond to what Christ has done for us by reflecting the character of our God who loves us dearly. Or, we can choose our own way. Those choices impact our life and the lives of those around us. The Bible tells us, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”

I watched the tear soaked face look up at me and heard the words, “I want to grow in godliness.” After a long hug, we wiped away tears. The struggle to want to fight when someone hurts me is a struggle I share. It was easy to think of specific examples of ways I’ve been hurt and how hard it is to forgive and bear with those around me. We discussed how natural it is when we hurt to, “look at what someone has done to us, instead of what Jesus has done for us.” ~Troy Dobbs

Colossians 3:12-14 “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

On our knees, we began to pray through the rest of this verse, responding to what God had done for us. There wasn’t any way we could change in our own strength. We needed God’s power to change us. We prayed that God would help us to clothe ourselves with compassion; for the strength to bear with others who offend us; for forgiveness and the ability to forgive; we prayed for love.

discipline

God’s word transformed the hearts of both my child and myself during this moment of correction and discipline. We experienced a holy and sacred moment, as we embraced the love of God in the midst of some pretty ugly stuff going on in our home. The sweetness of God’s character began to seep into our hearts. Throughout the day, He answered our prayer as we walked in forgiveness and love with one another and the others in our house.

When we live with God’s word as our center…we can be transformed by it. We can use it in disciplinary moments, while also keeping our kid’s hearts. Our discipline can point to the gospel. I want my kid’s characters to grow…not for the sake of earning favor with God, but as a response to the One who gave His all on the cross, conquering sin and death.

 

Six Ways to Be Intentional In Sibling Bonding

Intentional Siblings

“Dear God, I thank you that we get to be home and do school together. Thank you that we are in a musical and can spend that time together as well…”

…This was an excerpt of a prayer one brother was praying for another. It took my breath away. We all want our kids to love one another, because, let’s be honest, it makes us feel pretty warm and fuzzy. There are however, other reasons we want our children to get along with their siblings.

It’s practical:

Rob Reinow shared at a retreat how he was always hoping for a prayer partner from his youth group, never thinking he had a built-in prayer partner right down the hall: his own brother. So often, we find ourselves discontent, even into adult-hood, looking for new experiences and new people. When our children form tight bonds in childhood, they can live their entire lives with their best friends. Siblings can given amazing spiritual support when it’s a natural part of life growing up.

Mom and Dad won’t always be around:

If things go the right way, our kids will out live us. When parents are gone (so I’ve heard), you can feel a little alone in the Universe. When our children have grown deep bonds, they can be there for one another. We share many of our first life moments with our siblings. Who understands us better than those who we spend day in and day out in our childhood?

Sibling relationships are training ground for all future relationships:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…amazing life-lessons can spring up from sibling relationships. Our children will some day be someone’s roommate, employee, employer, spouse, or friend. What better way to hone relational skills than with the people we see the most (and have the hardest time getting along with)?

How do we intentionally help our children form bonds of friendship?

1. We’ve taken Jim & Lynne Jackson’s advice and we “send our kids on dates.” We have encouraged our kids to pair up, pack a favorite shared activity, and give them money to split a treat in a restaurant. We sit nearby to make sure they are safe, but far enough that the entire activity needs to be directed between the two of them. What an amazing bonding experience this has provided! (We especially like to pair up kids who may have been having trouble getting along in recent days or weeks.)

2. Our kids share bedrooms. We have plenty of bedrooms in our house, but it is entirely normal for kids to pile up in one or two rooms each night. They giggle, debrief their days, and bond in this way. Sharing bedrooms always challenges different personality types to work together in stressful settings. This is a good thing!

3. We encourage our kids to give each other hugs. This actually occurred recently, when I found out one of my sons told the director of his play that he didn’t want to hug a female cast mate and that he doesn’t hug his sisters! I made a fun game out of them all hugging each other until everyone broke out laughing. Since then, I occasionally nudge one to hug another. I don’t like to make a big thing out of this or do it all the time. I’ve noticed however, there has been a new warmth among the crew since implementing this idea. I’ve even seen them initiate a few hugs to one another without my prompting.

4. Strategically placing kids in the car or at the table has been amazing. Two of our feistiest kids struggle often with loving one another. We decided to place those two in the very back of our van for a very long road trip. Just the two of them. With no one else to talk to or rely on for entertainment for hours on end. This devious little plan was brilliant beyond words! They had a couple doozy fights back there. But in those fights, they gloriously worked things out…and they enjoyed each other immensely. Parenting win!

5. Our children pray together. We shared about our prayer day in a previous post. On the day when that child is singled out for more significant prayer, if brothers and sisters are around, they pray too. This plan has done two things for our kids: the one who prays has grown in love for the one for whom is prayed; the prayer day kid has grown vulnerable by sharing requests in front of siblings. As time goes on, I hope to encourage more independent prayer between our kids. It is my hope that into adulthood praying together (without mom and dad) will feel natural.

6. Our kids school together. This is a unique benefit for homeschool families. Over the years, I have enjoyed watching kids say their scripture memory passages to one another during the day. My oldest daughter has often included younger siblings in school projects that have been fun such as baking, olympic games, science experiments, etc. Our oldest son has followed her lead and is exhibiting the same kind of inclusion with the younger kids. Nature hikes, sledding, basketball, read alouds, three meals a day, devotions, prayer time, we are together a lot. There is definitely a lot of distinction in their learning as we have almost a decade spread between the five of them. However, we joyfully bump into each other all day as we circle around our to-do lists. I can’t help but think this is knitting their hearts together in a special way.

I really did feel warm and fuzzy when my son prayed that prayer of thanks for his brother. But more than that, I am deeply grateful for the relationships they are forging with one another. I hope and pray that as we are intentional about our children bonding with one another, that their love for each other will grow and reflect the love of Christ.

Intentional Siblings

 

 

 

Gentle Restoration

gentle

One the way to church one morning, I was whining about something to my husband. As he patiently listened to my heart, Jules was listening too. When I paused, she said, “You often talk to me about the dangers of comparing my life to someone else’s. Do you think you are doing that right now?”

We have learned over years, that the Bible is so applicable to all of our relationships. Those pesky verses that convict us on how we relate to people, apply to our interactions with our children too.

Galatians 6:1 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”

My 13 year old daughter has been experiencing gentle restoration when she sins. In turn, she was able to gently restore me when I was caught in sin. I was silenced (almost…I admit, I still had to get a few more words in). There was no way I could have responded in defensiveness to her rebuke.

Eventually we arrived at church. As we began to worship God in all His holiness, the Holy Spirit used her words to bring conviction to my heart. I wept, as I confessed my sin of ungratefulness and my pride-filled-spirit during the car ride. I wept, as I received the freely offered forgiveness of my Savior.

Friends, we can be simultaneously gentle and consistent in our parenting. These are not mutually exclusive. And the behavior we model, is the behavior they will display. Praying for you as you love your families today!

 

 

 

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part III: Service

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part III: Service

When we think of presenting our kids mature in Christ, we are striving to cover three areas: Knowing and obeying God; loving and worshipping God, and living a life of service unto God. In this third and final post in our series, we want to look at a few ways we can encourage spiritual maturity in our kids as they become Ambassadors for Christ.

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” 

Service in the home: The best place to begin serving is in our homes. Swannie dad is servant hearted in every way and simply modeling that to our kids has affected them deeply. We want to encourage our kids to look out for the needs of others. As we honor our children above ourselves, they are catching the vision. We’ve noticed them making each others beds, picking up each others messes, volunteering for chores that need to get done. In fact, just today, Catty walked by and said, “Oh no! I forgot to do my consequence of bringing Ode’s dishes to the sink.”

Stretching in my memory, I couldn’t remember giving her any discipline, “Who gave you that consequence, Catty?”

She looked at me and replied, “I gave it to myself. Earlier I hurt Odes with my hands and I thought I should find a way to bless him with my hands.”

Our home is a place to welcome friends, family, and neighbors. Therefore, we make every effort to open our door in hospitality to those around us. The home gives us endless ways to mature in Christ through service.

mature in Christ: service

I Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Service in church: The beautiful picture of the body of Christ working in harmony is breathtaking. We have all been given talents and spiritual gifts in Christ. As a family we look for ways to serve the church together and on our own. David has taught Sunday School. I’ve led worship. The kids and I have led worship together. Our kids have sung, danced, and played musical instruments. We have joined with our church outreach, Big Serve together. As our kids continue to grow, their gifts will continue to unfold and God will mark out the ways He wants to use them in vocation, ministry, and families of their own. Growing in this area and seeing how God will use us in the life of the church is exciting. 

Romans 12:14 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”

Serving the people in our lives: Through the years, we have tried to keep our eyes open to serve the people around us in need. If we are looking, there is a multitude of ways to bless those around us. Families can serve together in any number of ways.

Are you good at cooking or baking? Bring someone a treat or meal.
Do you have a new or lonely neighbor? Shovel their driveway.
Do you know a family who is suffering, with little help? Watch their kids, clean their house, pay a bill or two if you can.
Send a card of encouragement.
Do you know families who foster? Find a way to bless them. (Diapers, formula, gift cards, new clothing, food, and prayers would bless the families we know who are fostering children.)
Dress up the kids and visit a nursing home.
Do you interact with the homeless? Give them something in the name of Jesus.
Bring a small gift to an old friend.
Drop off chocolates and a fun book or magazine at the home of a mom with young ones.
Give away your kids old toys and clothes to younger kids in the neighborhood.

The other day a little girl was sitting in our back yard watching the neighborhood kids play down the street. David said she looked lonely. My heart soared when Jules ran outside and asked if she wanted to play. One by one our kids descended upon her and the six of them played the rest of the evening. *Since writing this, I heard one of my kids share a praise report that they were able to proclaim Jesus to this little girl. Yes, they are getting the vision!

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your true and proper worship.

Service on vacation: Exposing our children to different parts of our country has been a privilege. When traveling, we look for different ways to serve. In Texas, we partnered with a church for a day. David was able to share God’s love with Latino families, while the middle kids and I packed food for them to bring home. Jules blessed children by doing crafts with them, as their parents picked up boxes of food and heard the message of God’s love.

mature in christ: servicemature in Christ: service

mature in Christ: service

In Arizona, we took on the challenge of the church we visited by organizing our own creative outreach. We stayed on a golf course and made fresh lemonade for the golfers as they passed. Additionally, the church offered materials for us to hand out in Jesus’ name. Looking for ways to serve on vacation, has played an important part in maturing ours and our children’s faith.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “We are therefore Christ’s Ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 

Vessels of Reconciliation: Ultimately, we hope for our children to become those who reconcile others to God. Our church is giving our kids a fantastic view of world missions. Before each of the kids leaves our home, I hope to complete the Apologia World View books. We look for real life examples to continue to share the truth of the gospel with our kids and through conversation are teaching them different ways to communicate the gospel to others.

Mark 10:45 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When we think of communicating a life of service and obedience to Christ, we always want to emphasize that we serve out of response to His work in our lives. It’s so important to guard against the subtle lies that make our children believe that the more they do, the more they matter to God. There is NOTHING we can do to earn the favor of God. Service to Him and others is because He loved us first.

We have been blessed to be a blessing. If our kids are going to grow to maturity in Christ, we need to model a heart of service. Proclaiming Christ in both words and service is an area I pray we will grow increasingly as a family. How are you building hearts for others in your homes?

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part I: Scripture
Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part II: Prayer