Recently my children and I visited a neighborhood park on our Spring Break to play, ride bikes and have a picnic on a beautiful day. As my oldest son sped along on his bike, I heard him exclaim loudly, “Shut your mouth with duck tape!” Immediately I observed two moms sitting on a bench nearby gasp and look at one another after hearing what my son had yelled aloud. Suddenly, this boy that they barely noticed before, they took an interest in and listened to him as he played, watching him intently as if they were afraid of what he might do to their children.
I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t do anything.
I simply watched.
As the two moms whispered to one another, I imagined what they might be saying…
“Oh my goodness! His parents must threaten to shut his mouth with duck tape.”
“I wonder what he is watching on TV….or what he sees at home.”
“Kids these days.”
“What a scary world we are living in…”
Little do these moms know that my son’s phrase, “Shut your mouth with duck tape,” actually came from a Veggie Tales movie. Yes, Veggie Tales. You know, the vegetables that tell BIBLE stories. About God and Jesus.
At the end of the Veggie Tale story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, they interview two little boys and pose the question: “How do you think God kept Daniel from being eaten by the lions?” One boy suggests that God held their mouths closed. The other replies that an Angel put them to sleep. Thinking a little more, boy one exclaims with a gleam in his eye, “God shut their mouths with duck tape!” and the two boys being interviewed laugh wildly. Which, in turn, causes my own children to burst into laughter. I admit, the thought of God using duck tape is quite humorous.
As I observed those two women take my sons innocence and vilify him, I am reminded just how often I must take someone’s innocent comment or thought and judge because I am unaware of it’s context.
We all do it.
We all judge at times without truly understanding.
I am reminded of a man whose innocence was vilified in the Gospel of John chapter 19. As Jesus stood before the crowd, they yelled at him ‘crucify’. He was misunderstood. The crowd had not seen his miracles. They didn’t really even know who he was, but judged him anyway.
He didn’t say anything.
He didn’t do anything.
He simply watched.
How many times have I been ‘the crowd’? How many times have I judged? How many times have I overheard a conversation or someone’s story, and come to a conclusion without fully understanding it’s context?
Proverbs 18:2 says “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
Oh Lord, let me be sensitive to others and seek to understand.
I hear it all the time…the dreaded, “oh, you think it’s hard now, you just wait until they are older”. Let’s be REALLY honest with each other. That doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t make me look forward to the future or encourage me in raising children and it doesn’t cause you to see the joy in your present circumstance with your children. The fact of the matter is, when we look at life in retrospect, we only remember the good. Moms of pre-teens or teenagers, you don’t remember every detail about the previous season of your life. Just as a mom of young children, I don’t remember every detail about having infants. And none of us remember what our lives were like before we had children. Let’s face it. We forget.
The truth is that in life, we have seasons. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven”. Just like the changing of our seasons in nature, there are positives and negatives for each one. Summer is my favorite season. I love it because we live at the pool and get to travel to the beach. My children can sleep late and wear bathing suits every day. There are no socks to wash and our laundry piles are much smaller because we wear less clothing. I can look at our pictures of our time on the beach and remember the fond memories and happiness we shared. However, what I failed to remember was how much my husband and I grumbled as we loaded the car, trying to make it all fit in our van. Or how long the drive took because our potty training children needed to potty every thirty minutes. In looking at that family beach picture, I also have forgotten how much we had to bribe our children to cooperate and smile and how each of us was profusely sweating in the suffocating humidity and burning sun. Looking back, we only remember the good.
The point is this: moms, no matter what season of life you are in, it’s the hardest. It’s hard because you are in it NOW. When you are no longer in that season, it will no longer be hard. It’s a matter of perspective.
Moms, we have forgotten the trials of our previous season. Instead of predicting the impending doom of the future of other moms and their children, let us commit to “encourage one another and build each other up” 1 Thess 5:11.
Raising children is a long-distance race. There are hills – some more steep than others – and rough terrain. The elements are not always in our favor. It’s agonizing at times. There are moments in which you want to quit. Sometimes the miles are long and it seems that we might not ever reach the finish line. You sweat, you cry…but up ahead is the finish line. The victory! Let’s be those spectators on the sidelines who cheer on and encourage other moms in the race. Let’s not tell them, “watch out. That next hill is a doozy!” But let us say, “it’s not going to be easy, but you can do it! I know you have what it takes and I am going to be here cheering you on the whole way!”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Heb 12:1. Let us change our perspective on the race and the challenges up ahead. Let’s focus on what is good and tell those moms who are racing uphill, “Oh, you just wait! The victory is ahead! The view is amazing!”
Music is a powerful thing. Put anything to a catchy tune and watch it take over the minds of those who hear it. (Just ask the guy that sings “What Does the Fox Say?”).
Sometimes music can seem like the enemy to us as parents. More often than not, we hear about music that promotes drinking, drugs, promiscuity, and entitlement. I know that in my own life there have been several artists that I choose not to listen to because it affects my attitude. I may enjoy the music and it may not be “bad” per se, but if I have a negative or selfish attitude afterwards, it may not be beneficial for me.
1 Corinthians 10:23 states, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
Some music may not be beneficial for us or our kids, but the right music can be a mighty instrument to help us teach our kids about Jesus. Think about how powerful it would be if the Word of God were engraved in the minds of all of our youth the same way that some of the popular songs stick in their head.
Below are 5 ways that we use music for kids in our home:
Family worship. Music brings our family together. It is a way for us to praise God, and rejoice in our Savior as a family unit. It teaches our kids to truly celebrate who God is. “Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.” Psalm 96:1-2
Music allows us to reach our 10 year old where he is. At ten years of age, he has his own style and his own opinions. He has a way of expressing himself and a way that he relates best to the world. He is gaining understanding about the ways of life and trying to figure out how he, within God’s plan for his life, fits into the world. He has found several Christian artists within the Christian rock and rap genres that really speak to him. As I sat and listened to a song on his iPod (yes, we screen all of his music- even Christian artists), I realized how fortunate that I am to have Christian musicians like this one speaking Truth into his life. (I was listening to Move, by Flame at the time.) I may not communicate with my son by rapping (you would not want to hear me rap), but if that is the way that he likes to receive the message, I am thankful for someone that does. “Let my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right.” Psalm 119:172
Music helps us to teach the little kids. Songs help us relay bible stories and biblical truths to them in terms that they can understand and in a manner that is fun. It reinforces what we teach at home and the songs are short enough to keep the attention of a young child. “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Colossians 3:16
Music makes it easier for the kids (and adults) to memorize scripture. Our goal as parents is to equip our kids with the Word of God so that they can use it to stand firm in their faith. There are some great resources for making music a part of memorizing scripture and it makes it so easy for the kids to remember! More often than not, this is what we listen to in the car. (Check out Hide ‘Em in Your Heart by Steve Green or for older kids and adults try the Verses Project).
Music helps our kids express emotion in a healthy way. The tempo, the tone, and the volume of a song can all be expressions of emotion. We can turn on an upbeat song and dance and sing to express joy, frustration, or excitement. We can play a slow, more somber song for quiet moments with the Lord- just taking a moment of thanksgiving when we are feeling relief, anxiety, or even sadness. Whatever the occasion, we can find a song that helps us to release our feelings in a positive, constructive way. “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;” Psalm 98:8
Romans 10:17 says, ”So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
I pray that our children truly hear the word of Christ, that He gives them understanding of exactly who he is, and that their hearts will turn towards him to follow in his path all the days of their life.
You know the moment it happened to you…the day you opened your mouth and your mother came out. The things you promised you wouldn’t say to your children because you didn’t like hearing them as a kid, are the very words that rolled over your lips. You may have been on the playground, at the grocery store, or in the middle of the doctors office, but most of us have had the experience where we have uttered the words we heard as children from our parents. We are the products of our parents. Good or bad. Right or wrong. They have shaped our lives and left a lasting impression.
As a mom of young children, my life is constant discipline. I will admit there are moments that my mother has come out of my mouth. When my youngest son is whining, questioning my reasons for saying no and asking “why”, I have answered in haste, “I am the mom, that’s why”. My answers of “because I said so” did very little to “encourage, comfort, and urge them to live lives worthy of God” (I Thess 2:12) but rather demanded respect and absolute submission.
In her excerpt, Model Parenting, Carla Barnhill explains “that is not the way God parents us. True, our Heavenly Father asks for obedience to his commands – and he punishes those who persist in rebelling against him – but He is also compassionate, slow to anger and faithful to forgive. He doesn’t demand our respect; He wins it by His loving care and mercy. God doesn’t push us into obedience; He invites us to follow Jesus”
In reflecting on parents and children, I have realized that we are really not that different. We fuss. We complain. We lose patience. We get frustrated. We whine. Not once has The Lord stood over me and said, “because I am God, that’s why” or “because I said so”. Instead, He offers me grace and guidance when I make mistakes. He loves me, affirms me – He definitely disciplines me – but offers forgiveness and complete acceptance.
Every day He shows me how to be more like Him. Each day I am learning to parent more like Him. I pray every day, that when I open my mouth…my Heavenly Father comes out.
“Just as a father has compassion on his children, so The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” Psalm 103:13
“For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield” (Ps. 5:12 NKJV).
Our pastor preached a series this summer on the life of Nehemiah. It was powerful. One of my summer reads was a book called The Passionate Mom. In the book she compared mothering to the life of Nehemiah. I found myself thinking; could the Lord be wanting to tell me something?
I have learned in walking with The Lord that if something repeats, it usually means he’s telling you to press in. So that’s what I found myself doing- digging into the life of Nehemiah a little more. As I did, I felt The Lord directing me to a single word, favor. Nehemiah had favor. All throughout the rebuilding of the wall he was met with favor.
In our family; we have a very simple way we end our nightly prayers. Whichever kids turn it is to pray, they end in saying “I am blessed and highly favored.” We started this as soon as our firstborn could pray out loud. We took it from Mary’s encounter with the angel in Luke 1:28. The angel says to her “you are highly FAVORED The Lord is with you, BLESSED are you among women.” So ever since they could talk; my kids have spoken over themselves ” I am blessed and highly favored.” Are you kidding me?!! And I am just now understanding the significance of what they are saying?!?!
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says this of Favor ~regarded or treated with favor, “provided with advantages,” special privilege.
Throughout scripture Gods favor is often linked with righteous living. Noah, Moses, Samuel, Mary. They were bestowed favor because of the way they lived. So I must start now!! Praying that my kids will desire righteous lives and in turn receive his favor.
Diving into Webster’s dictionary of favor it says, “friendly or kind regard; good will; approval; liking; unfair partiality; favoritism”; “attractiveness”; “to be partial to; prefer”; “to help; assist”; “to do a kindness for;” “endorsing.”
Wow! That was it for me. It made sense. That’s why he wanted me to dig a little deeper- to truly understand favor and what it means. And pray it into the lives of my children. I want God to “endorse” my kids. To be “partial to, help, assist” them at school, with peers, teachers, on the softball, football, soccer field.
I am also praying that the only response they would have to his “special attention” would be that of Mary’s in Luke 1:46: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
Do you see Mary’s response (particularly in verse 48)? His favor didn’t puff her up, but brought her low. In awe that he took notice of her. You see HIS favor is for HIS glory.
That scripture in Psalm said he would bless the righteous with favor. Let’s start praying now for righteous kids who attract the favor of God!!!!!!
It’s almost that time again….fall means football in our house. Every weekend it will be Georgia games on Saturday and the Falcons on Sunday. My life will be scheduled around these two teams over the next few months. Football is a way of life here in the south. I once saw a sign that read “We serve God, sweet tea, and the SEC.” Nothing could be more true of our family. We take pride in wearing our colors, cheering for our team, and being apart of it all. Our extended family gets together to watch the games and support the bulldogs. When games are good, we celebrate together. When they don’t go our way, we analyze the game, offer our advice on the plays and encourage one another that next week will be better.
The same is true of our lives as Christ followers. As moms. As wives. As women. As people. We need one another. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” God knew this was true from the beginning when he created Eve for Adam. It was His idea! Like our favorite football team, we need to huddle up. We were not meant to live life alone. We need to join a team of people who share in our similar life experiences. Just like all good teams, the players are unique with their own strengths and specialties. The quarterback cannot do the job of the kicker and the wide receiver doesn’t do the same thing that a defensive end can do. However, they work together. They use their unique gifts and talents for a common goal. This team is lead by a coach – someone who guides them and sees the overall picture. The coach mentors the team, works with them, and encourages them. A coach believes in the team.
Teams don’t live life on the sidelines, they get in the game. When we live life on the sidelines, we look at the team and think they have it all together. As moms on a sideline, you think everyone else serves organic meals, has organized houses, perfect marriages, secure finances, and well behaved children. We don’t see the tiring, endless, practices the players endured during the week. We don’t see the hours of preparation that went into making the plays, the sweat, or the struggles.
Teams huddle up. They talk about what is going on, what just happened and they plan their strategy. I am apart of a moms group that huddles up each week. We talk about our struggles with motherhood, raising children, and learning to point them to Christ. We learn from one another and pray together. We have God’s word and wise women who have walked before us as our coaches. When we come out of the huddle, we are stronger and restored. We are ready to go out and face our opponent. In the huddle we realize that we are all the same. Other moms feel exactly like we do, have the same struggles and concerns. The huddle is our opportunity to lean in and lean on one another. In the huddle learn that we are not alone and “if either of them falls down, one can help the other up” Ecclesiastes 4:10.
We need one another. We need to share our struggles, our experiences, our hardships and our victories. The game of life is challenging. We go through tough times to help someone get through their tough times. We celebrate their victories because we have known the joy in our own victories. As moms, wives, and women, we need people that we can share our lives with openly, honestly, and intimately. It’s a tough practice, but the victory is sweet.
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
Fear. It is a commonality among humanity. What we are afraid of may vary, but the emotion is the same. I have heard many moms express fear of sending their child to school for the first time. Most parents fear middle school. Others express fears of rejection from a team, club, or group. We fear that we aren’t doing enough to train them up in the early years, or fear we are doing too much and not letting them be kids. We fear they won’t fit in, or we fear our children will make the wrong choices. Fear is a common emotion. What we do with the fear and our response to it, makes all the difference.
While away at a recent conference for my jewelry business, I heard Elizabeth Draper, Diamond Executive Director in Premier Designs say that whatever it is you fear, you need to “do it afraid.” So if we ask the question, “What are you afraid of?”, everyone has an answer. Jesus however did not ask His followers the question, “What are you afraid of?” Instead He asked, “Why are you afraid?” As He was crossing the Sea of Galilee in a small fishing boat, a life-threatening storm started to swamp the boat. The Disciples feared for their lives. What did Jesus say? He didn’t say, “What are you afraid of?” He said, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:23-26)
For Jesus, the question is, “How in light of my presence can you be afraid when you should have faith?” In Scripture, doubt is not the opposite of faith. Fear is the opposite of faith. So in a world of fears, God’s answer for us is not courage – God’s answer for us is faith! He asks us to trust Him. He asks us to do it afraid.
I am sure that Moses was afraid as he led the Israelites towards the Red Sea not sure exactly how they would get across, but he trusted God. He did it afraid. Abraham was certainly afraid when he led his only son Isaac up Mount Moriah to be sacrificed, trusting that he had heard The Lord; unsure of the outcome. He did it afraid. Mary, mother of Jesus, expressed fear when the Angel of The Lord appeared and told her that she would have a child and her son would be the Messiah. She did it afraid. Then in Matthew 14:29-31 we read, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. He did it afraid. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith.”
We fear because we do not trust the Lord. Have faith in what He is calling you to do. Of what are you afraid? What do you fear?
Have you been afraid to quit your job and fulfill your dream to be a stay at home mom because the numbers don’t add up and you are not sure how you could afford it, but you know God has called you to it. Do it Afraid.
Are you struggling with your marriage, parenting, and feelings of “am I the only one who is dealing with this?” but you are afraid to talk to someone about it. Do it Afraid.
Do you fear going on a mission trip to a third world country and leaving the comforts of home? Do it Afraid.
Do you fear telling the truth about your past because it may make people uncomfortable or reject you or your children? Do it Afraid.
Do you fear telling the neighbors down the street that you actually cannot afford the lavish vacations they continue to invite you on because you are up to your neck in debt? Do it Afraid.
Are you afraid of fostering or adopting a child God has laid on your heart of a different race because of what your extended family will think, say, or do? Do it Afraid.
What God calls you to do may not be easy, but trust Him
and Do it Afraid.
Have you ever thought about the pressures of being a youth pastor?
Sure, it looks like a lot of fun and games on the outside (I mean seriously,youth pastors get to call white water rafting and paintball work!), but the calling to pastor our youth is a very serious responsibility. And I think that many times that pressure is probably multiplied by parents that place the sole responsibility of shepherding their kids on the church.
It is easy as a parent to shift the obligation of teaching about Christ to the church; to the children’s pastor or youth pastor. They are trained. They are experts. They understand it better. Right?
But we are the parents.
I do believe that the church plays a vital role in the faith of our children and youth, but I also believe that God’s Word makes it clear that as parents we must take on the charge of teaching our kids and setting the example of living out our faith.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
We are a bigger influence on our children than many of us believe. And we (and by we, I mean I) need to take that responsibility seriously.
In a recent sermon series at my church, the Youth Pastor, Timothy Parker, gave parents a list of 11 things that we can do to help develop a “Sticky Faith” within our children and our youth.
1. Don’t make Jesus a light switch…integrate Jesus into sports, friends, meals, fishing, etc.
2. Listen to church podcasts with your kids and talk about things they don’t understand, and things you think are important (have them show you how iTunes works if you don’t know)
3. Make space, don’t hope for space, for intentionally spiritual things and conversations
4. Debrief with your kids daily, both your day and theirs
5. Your kids need to see you pray, worship, and study the bible
6. Learn to listen, ask good questions, and be creative
7. Don’t avoid hard subjects in conversation, for real
8. Statistically, kids who attend church-wide worship services have a“Stickier-Faith”; give your kids a high view of the church… Do your kids understand church? Worship? Sermons? Baptism? Communion? Do you?
9. Find out your kids favorite spiritual practices and encourage them, develop weaknesses (figure out the “why” here… buy a bible they understand…)
10. Celebrate character development over achievement. Realistic goals and expectations that are planned and discussed.
11. Give your kids a voice in your family.
I love this list. And, I think that as a youth pastor, he has a different perspective than we as parents might have. He sees the faith of our kids from a different angle.
And he sees the difference that a parent can make in the life and the faith of a child.
Lord, I ask you to guide me as I guide my child. I choose today to take my role as mom seriously. I choose to take the spiritual life of my child seriously. I choose to fully accept the calling of parent that you have bestowed upon me. This task is too big for me alone, but thankfully, my trust is in You.
Motherhood is not easy. It is the best job in the world, but it is hard sometimes.
I am a true believer in surrounding myself with others that can walk through that journey with me. As Joy talked about in the post Mom Posse of 12, I do not have it all figured out and sometimes it is nice to hear an encouraging word or the tale of someone that has been there before. Someone that can speak into my current situation of life from experience.
Many times that uplifting message comes from a friend, but there are also times where I get encouragement from a book or a blog article. I may get an idea from Pinterest that helps me through a rainy day or hear a song on the radio that puts my day in perspective. Every little bit helps, right?
There are a ton of great resources out there to help me parent intentionally, whether it be children’s devotions, music that helps us memorize scripture, a video that serves as entertainment and feeds my child truth at the same time, or a book from a mom that has been there before. In this information age, I love that there are hundreds of tools to assist me in my everyday.
There is no resource greater than the Creator himself, and no book that is a greater encourager than His Word. But sometimes I think that a good book written by a mother who has been there or encouraging song that reminds me that He is greater than anything that my day holds, may be his little gift to me in the moment.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “but those who hope in the Lordwill renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint.”
I love the change of pace that summer brings. Routine and structure suddenly gives way to flexibility and relaxation.
The pinnacle of this change of pace for me comes with the most anticipated stretch of time of the season….vacation.
Vacation is a time of rest, rejuvenation, adventure, and exploration. We leave behind the scenery of home for a backdrop that stimulates the senses with something new. Whether you like it to be quiet & restful, or adventurous & exciting, vacation is always a chance to trade in the monotony of everyday life for something different.
I love a break in pattern or routine. For me, it is exciting. And I think that changing the way we worship while on vacation is a great way to awaken our passion for Christ. For us, and for our kids. It takes the routine out of the equation and helps praise and thanksgiving really flow from the heart.
Here are 5 ways that you can incorporate worship into your time away from home:
1. Talk about Elohim, our God the Creator. As your family looks across a new landscape, discuss our great and glorious God that has created it all. From the change in skyline to the array of creatures that inhabit the earth- Elohim has made each one.
2. Do a family bible study or quiet time at sunrise or sunset. Taking this time in a different setting may make it exciting and new.
3. Pray for the community that you are visiting. Pray as a family that the town experiences an out-pour of new believers seeking to follow Jesus with everything they have. (I truly believe that one of the best things that we can do for our kids’ faith is to let them see us pray with the power and authority of Jesus Christ in expectation of big things.)
4. Do a little research and find a church nearby. Vacation can be a great opportunity to listen to a speaker that may share from a different perspective. There are some great churches across the nation and abroad sharing Truth in a powerful way.
5. Use your time in the car (or plane, bus, or ship) to sing praises to God as a family. Talk to each other. Read together.
As we break the patterns of life at home to rejuvenate in a new surrounding, I pray that God will also breathe new life into our time with Him.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:12)