How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”

I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.

A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.

I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.

My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.

Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped. 

wisdom

So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child. 

In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.

An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
  1. It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
  2. Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
  3. Grace and truth are high values in our home.
  4. God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.

After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact. 

You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

There is so much bad news. Hurricanes, earthquakes, mass murders, terror attacks, droughts, disease. Our newsfeeds are full of inexplicable horror stories and tragedies on a daily basis.

In the aftermath of the Vegas attack, I began to hear personal stories. People I knew that were at the concert. Friends who knew people who had senselessly lost their lives in this unexplainable horror. I fought inside with how to properly share of yet another shooting with my children. How do we raise our kids in such a scary world?

Politicians and keyboard warriors began their verbal sparring which is the typical response to tragedy today. We are angry with each other because of our beliefs about climate change, gun control, and who really is or isn’t pro life. Instead of coming together in our heart ache, we rip one another apart and cause even more sorrow around us.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream: My family was sitting together around the kitchen table, when I suddenly felt my body floating up into the air. David was next to me, and I turned around, reaching my hand to one of my children, joyfully saying, “Come! The Lord Jesus is calling us home!” I realized there were two shadowy faces, still sitting at my table, while David, three of the children and myself were all rising up into the clouds. My face turned toward Jesus, and I wasn’t able to think anymore about who had been left behind, I was only filled with joy and marvel at being taken up to the one who has loved me and called me His own.

I woke up from the dream. When awake, I was able to remember there were people I loved who weren’t taken up to the Lord. It was a miserable beginning to my day. But, it brought me straight to my knees in prayer.

I really don’t believe my dream had a direct correlation to the rapture of the church or the eternal destination of my children. I do believe that God spoke to me in that dream.

tragedy

Picture source

My friend Tammie and I were texting about the Vegas tragedy, the worries of nuclear war, and the plight of some specific orphans with whom we had become aware. (You know, just your normal, run-of-the-mill texting conversation.) One thing I shared with Tammie that day, I’d like to share with you: “there is not much time left, no matter how we slice it. It’s time to live for better things.” I often hear people say, “Oh, there have always been signs of the end times.” Why do we do that? Do we want to convince ourselves this isn’t the end?

The truth is this: whether Jesus returns in our lifetime or not, our days are limited in number. Time is running short for all of us. Our life is but a vapor. When we see earthquakes, and famines, wars and rumors of wars, mass murders and horrible disease…let’s stop deflecting these signs in fear. Let’s face them as signs of His return as He said and realize that we have MORE to live for.

What gets us out of bed in the morning? For what do we strive after each day? Are our hearts set on our jobs, school, our possessions, finding ways to fulfill ourselves? When tragedy happens, do we hit our keyboards to rail into the opposition’s belief system? Let’s begin to respond differently! With an eternal perspective that remembers that there are only two things that last: people and God’s word.

I want to set my heart on things above and store up treasures in heaven. It’s the only way I can respond to all the heartache and loss set before me. Living for Jesus is the only thing that can make sense out of this messy world. Living my life in submission, obedience, prayer, and service to the God who is and will make all things new, is the only answer.

How is He calling you to live for Him?

For me, it is a simple, but clear calling. I need to pray. I’m praying for salvation for the lost. Praying for my kids, my church, my friends, missionaries, and for God’s will and voice to be clear in my life. Worship and thanksgiving needs to be central in my day. I need to shout out that Jesus is the only answer to the problem of sin in the world. Homeschool curriculum needs to take a back seat to God’s agenda for our days and being intentional to live out God’s word needs to get me out of bed:

“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.”

Friends, God is giving us a wake up call. Are you listening? Have you heard His voice? If you are able to read this, then you still have the ability to respond to Him calling you today. Turn your heart to Him. If you have not experienced salvation in Christ, stop waiting and let today be the day! If you know Him but are living for yourself, repent! Live for Him! There is still time to turn away from our sin, our self-centered lives, and turn to Jesus to give us the abundant life He promises.

We were recently talking with some friends, and I confessed that I am tired. I have a lot of kids and we are together nearly all of the time. I’m not getting any younger, and their needs are increasing. But, this really isn’t my time to sit back and say, “I’m just too exhausted.” Yes, I need to take care of myself. However, I need to keep asking God for strength to fulfill the purposes He has for me. It’s not my time to enter into His rest yet. That day will come, when He has ordained it. For now, He still has important, eternal work for me to do.

The heart ache around the globe isn’t going to end. But the response of God’s people can change. Join me? Let’s live for Jesus together, while today is still called today.

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

When our big kids were little, I remember thinking that they were trying to control me. Their job was to obey, my job was to enforce obedience. When they didn’t do what I said right away, I felt worried that they were going to become difficult. Ceasing to obey me on demand would give them a pattern of disobedience if I didn’t strongly intercede.

I remember asking them to get out of the car, or to come with me upstairs to get on pajamas or brush teeth for bedtime. When they stubbornly resisted, I felt a tightening in my chest. I needed to remain in control and they needed to do what I said!

Sometimes, I spoke with a stern, angry voice, “You need to get out of the car, NOW!”

Other times, I would grab an arm and physically pull the child out of the car, with a scowl on my face and a desire to show I was boss.

Have you been there? Can you think of times when you didn’t know what else to do?

Believe me when I tell you, there is SOMETHING else you can do!

God DOES call my children to obey. It is my job to HELP them do so. In the past, when they didn’t listen and I felt the pressure rise in me, I gave into it, lacking self-control. When I matched their level of stubbornness, I created a power struggle where everyone felt as if they lost. This was the opposite of helping them obey, it created hardened hearts toward me.

When I repented of my need to be in control, it transformed my relationships with my children.

Today, Cupcake wouldn’t get out of the van. I asked her to come inside. She flatly refused. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I calmed my entire body and took a deep breath. Then, sweetly, gently, I walked over to the car. I extended my hand toward her in gentleness. I sweetly touched her arm and smiled as I said, “Come on in with Mommy, honey.” She simply reached for my hand and walked inside.

transforming anger to peace

This kind of interaction between us didn’t happen over night. In the beginning when I began walking in freedom with my children, I would have to stop, count, pray, breathe, ask God for wisdom. My children didn’t always respond right away to my smiles or gentle gestures. Sometimes they dug in even further. I needed to find wise, kind responses. Over time, they began to understand that my heart was changing and they could trust me.

In the beginning, I messed up a lot. During those times of messing up, there were days when it felt hopeless. Sometimes I feared I would never change. I lost hope that this grace-filled way of relating would have a positive impact. Humbling myself and committing to a do-over was an hourly part of my existence.

As days have turned into years, muscle memory has kicked in. My body doesn’t immediately get tense when kids resist what I have to say. I’m able to stay calm, listen to their view point, give them options, and I have power to turn from the temptation of forcing obedience. As I have changed, my kid’s hearts have opened to me. They resist me less and trust me more. This has taken years! And we are still working on it! Am I perfect at it now? No! But we are all TRANSFORMED.

Moms, Dads, if you find your parenting paradigm is causing you distress, pain, anguish…try another way. If you feel defeated, lay awake at night regretting your parenting interactions…you can change! Start small. Smile when you want to give a disapproving look. Speak softly when you want to yell. Ask God for a calm heart and wisdom.

When we as parents obey our commands in our relationship to our children, our children are better able to obey their command to obey us.

Reach out if we can pray for you or help you take the first steps toward a grace-filled home. We are here to help.

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.

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.

 

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