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.

When You Lose Your Baby and Your Fertility At the Same Time

Two years ago, I was pregnant. We found a creative way to announce it to the kids. All of us were thrilled. Our house was already buzzing with five sweet kids and we knew that many people in our life wouldn’t understand. But, we still felt there was one more little Swannie missing from our table.

loss

Morning sickness had kicked in. Around 7 weeks I couldn’t hide my growing bump. The weeks were going by quickly. It was an exciting and scary time, thinking of what it would be to transition to a family of eight.

One night at dinner, we decided to discuss baby names with the kids. After lots and lots of suggestions, our little Cupcake suggested we call the baby “Happy.” We decided we would go with the name Happy, until we were able to find out if we were Team Pink or Team Blue.

Team Happy

The very next day my doctor could not find a heartbeat. I drove home devastated. We gathered the kids and told them their baby Happy was gone. I remember the pathetic little huddle we made on the basement floor. Tears streaming down each of our faces, we told God how hurt we were, entrusting our pain to His care. And then, I don’t remember who it was, maybe it was me, it may have been one of the boys, but we started thanking God. We know that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Each of us thanked Him for knowing better than we did. It wasn’t an easy prayer. It was a prayer of faith. That prayer of faith turned into a time of sorrow filled worship on that cement floor.

A week or so later, on October 1, David and I walked into a hospital, knowing our baby’s body would leave mine. We faced it bravely. We cried when it was over. My doctor held me and cried at my bed side. We went home that night with empty arms. And for me, an empty womb.

loss

We ached for our baby, but life went forward.

As the days slipped into weeks and then months, I started noticing my body doing strange things. My doctors didn’t seem very worried. But six months after our loss I began to bleed, profusely. And it didn’t stop. For an entire month, I just bled and bled. I was sick and miserable. I either called or went to the doctor nearly every single day. The doctors told me it was “normal” for a woman my age and tried to manage the bleeding with medication.

When I began to hemorrhage, we sat down and prayed. As we prayed, both David and I were convinced God was leading us to do something we thought was outrageous. At 6:00 AM, we drove to a closed doctor’s office, 50 minutes from our house, where I was not an established patient. Miraculously, the doctor came in early that morning and though the clinic was closed, he saw me anyway. After an exam, he scheduled emergency surgery. He asked us about our marriage, wrote down each of our kid’s names, and asked about our faith life. Our appointment wrapped up as he prayed for each one of us by name, prayed for my healing, for wisdom for himself as my surgeon, and off to the hospital we went.

After surgery, the next six months followed with the total absence of bleeding…and the presence of one gigantic cyst. Almost a year since we lost our baby, I was back in the hospital, this time having surgery on my remaining ovary. The cyst removed easily, but other complications kept me in the hospital for several days.

Instead of having a baby, we had a year of suffering

The year we thought would end in a full term pregnancy and the care of a newborn looked quite different. We took on over a year of physical suffering. And in the midst of it, lost our fertility. We were going to end our years of reproduction with loss.

In other loses, I always thought, “We can try again soon!” This time it was, “It’s over. My baby is gone and our family is now complete.”

It’s hard for some to understand that losing your fertility after having five kids is a struggle. For me, it was. It was appropriate to mourn both losses for a season. And then there was a time for my grief to come to a close. Here are some things that helped me move toward peace when I had to say goodbye to my baby and my dreams for my family size:

  1. Choosing a thankful heart. I thanked God for the eight pregnancies He has given me. The five children I am blessed to raise are an amazing blessing and gift. There are three children I will get to meet in heaven, who I didn’t get to meet on earth. What a joy it will be to see precious Anna, Sam, and Happy!
  2. Examining my heart. Were pregnancy and childbirth becoming idols in my life? Was I lacking faith that God’s ways were best? It helped to ask some probing questions to come to a place of acceptance of God’s will for my life and our family. Asking God to cleanse me from any sin and give me faith was helpful and good.
  3. If I felt something was missing in our lives, was there something else God wanted to birth in our family? What new focus could I have with my kids that I couldn’t have had our other baby lived, or our fertility had been restored? What new ministry might God want to give us to use our gifts for His glory? How could I move into this new stage of life as a family with joy and purpose?

I sometimes still look at the empty spot at our table. While I no longer envision a baby there…I do see it as symbolic for our family. That empty chair is there to remind us that Christ is always welcome in our home. Our door is open in hospitality to those who need to be loved. It’s a symbol of work to be done. There are plans laid out for us that God has already prepared in advance. When I think of the one who I thought would sit with my little girls, I’m reminded of the future glory which awaits me; where I will worship Jesus with my three little ones who got to rest in His presence before me. Finally, it’s a reminder that God’s ways are not like my ways; but I can trust His ways, for they are best.

Loss is a difficult part of life. If you’ve suffered miscarriage or infant loss, my heart goes out to you. If you are struggling with infertility or the loss of fertility, I’m so sorry. So many questions go unanswered. I do know however, God is good, you can trust Him, and you are loved.

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.

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

 

 

 

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