motherhood

That Child and the Nature of Sin

 

I want to talk a little about that darned sin nature that rears its ugly head and often (as least we think) we see it more often in “that child.” It’s often accompanied by some real defiance and an attitude. Even what may be the most terrifying for most of us, is this response to having lied or sinned in any way. This attitude of “So? Who cares?” That is very disconcerting and it should be. 

that child

It’s NOT a phase

I have heard before people talk about children and their behavior and different things, and they’ll say things like, “Eh, it’s just a phase. It’ll pass.”

My friends, it’s not just a phase that will pass! It’s sin which is a serious issue. So, if you are in a circumstance with a sinful behavior with your “that child”, or one of your other kids or even in yourself, it needs to be taken seriously. We cannot blow it off. We cannot even have a “deal with it later” mentality.

The first sign of sinful behavior should arrest us. We should deal with it immediately, in ourselves and in our children.

Before we can talk about the whole issue of behavior, though, I want to back up the bus. I think too often we settle for dealing with behavior and we totally leave out the heart issues

I want to double dog dare you. Don’t reduce the bar of behavior. Don’t settle for the bar of “do it because I told you so”. We are in a world now that is sending a really mixed message to this generation. They are really confused about what it means to be a man or a woman of integrity. 

While most of our culture says it’s OK to do just about anything as long as you don’t get caught, I’m fairly certain that’s not the standard in which you want to raise your children. I’m going to challenge you today to raise that bar and elevate it to be, “We obey because God said so.” 

We might have compliant kids that will fall in line and they’ll have integrity, and they’ll be honest, at least they’ll try to, but without the power and the might of the Holy Spirit within them to strengthen them, to be all those things, they’re not ever going to achieve and be the young men and women that they need to be to, to be the young men and women that God’s planned for them to be, to be part of the generation that’s going to change the world. 

So we must elevate that standard. We’ve got to give them a why. The why can’t just be, “Because I told you so.” It cannot be, “Because you make me look good when you obey.” It’s got to be more than that. It’s got to be deeper than that. 

We must teach our children that the importance of obeying is because it glorifies and honors a mighty, living God, the sovereign of the universe. 

We hold them up

Where do we start with these issues of sin in the lives of our children? We start the way that Ted Tripp talks about starting in his seminars and that is, we hold up before our children every day a holy, mighty, awesome God, the God of the universe, and we say, “Oh, my children, that you would know God. That you would KNOW God.”

When we introduce our children to God it makes all the difference! If we are just going to be about trying to formulate their behavior…do this don’t, do this, do this, don’t do this…we aren’t reaching their heart and we are short-selling ourselves and them.

We are not giving them the motive that they need. So, we must start by introducing them to the God of the universe. 

When they get who He is, when you and I get who He is, it makes all the difference. It changes how we behave from the inside out, which is what real change is.

I’m sure you’ve heard the one about the little boy who was sitting in his high chair who was 18, maybe 24 months old, and his mother kept telling him to sit down. She says, “Johnny, sit down.” And he won’t sit down. She goes over and sits him down. She turns around and he stands up. She says, “Johnny, sit down!” She goes over and helps him to sit down. She turns around and she notices that Johnny’s sitting down. She says, “Johnny, thanks for sitting down!’ He says, “I’m standing in my mind.”

Look, Johnny wasn’t changed from the inside out. It was a game to him. I don’t want my children to be in a game of behavior. I don’t want them to only do what I want them to do when I’m looking. I want them to do what they ought to do because the God of the universe is on the throne. 

I want to invite you, get to know this God of the universe. The bottom line is you and I are not without sin either and our kids know that. As you and I come into a deeper, richer, more abiding relationship with the King of the Universe, guess what? Our kids witness our being changed from the inside out, in subtle and not so subtle ways.

One of my best tools is “Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. This is a very readable book by a man who was sold out to the cause of Christ and to God, the Father, all about having a higher view of God.

We have reduced God in our culture, and I’m going to dare to say it, in our churches, we have reduced God to merely being our bell boy who is supposed to do whatever we ask Him to do, in faith. 

Look, God doesn’t owe us anything. He has already given us the ultimate gift, His only begotten, not made, Son who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He doesn’t owe us anything! 

It’s all about Him.

We have an opportunity to glorify Him. This life that we are living here is not about us. It’s all about Him. As we look to Him, as we point our children to Him, as we embrace His sovereignty when nothing makes sense, as we appreciate and give Him glory when we’re confused and when we’re tired and when we’re overwhelmed, when we seek to serve Him in all we say and do, we honor His holy name, and our behavior is like incense to those around us and they’re drawn to Him. 

The first step in affecting, for God’s glory, this sin nature of your child, is first you have to acknowledge that they have one. They’re all born with one. If you doubt that visit a friend with an infant. They all came that way.

Selfishness and pride are at the core of our being. We are sons of Adam and we have a sin nature.

But if we want to remedy that, we cannot reduce this to “do what I say”; we must first hold up before them a Holy and Mighty God and get to know Him together. Get to know Him through singing praise worship songs, through singing the old hymns.

Get to know Him in a nature walk, the beauty and the majesty of His creation, get to know Him by reading about him in books like A.W. Tozer, and get to worshipping Him. 

Introduce your kids to the God who not only deserves their obedience but is worthy of their praise. 

Next, after we’ve had an introduction to the God of the universe, we need to start talking to our kids about what sin is. Again, we have failed in this way, not just in our families to discuss what sin is, we have failed in our churches. 

Some churches, in fact, pride themselves in not using the sin word in their services for fear that it might make some people uncomfortable.

The reality is we have a massive, deadly, lethal self-sin issue. If we don’t talk about sin then there’s no need for a savior.

We must talk about sin to our kids. We must acknowledge sin in ourselves and sin in them. There’s no sense in talking about it being a phase. It is an offense to the Holy, mighty God of the universe when we sin. Sin means when we fall short of the glory of God.

In Leviticus 19:2 we are told, “Be holy as I, the Lord your god, am holy.” That’s the standard. We are to emulate Him. We are to be and live as daughters and sons of the king of kings, His ambassadors. 

Live a life that’s worthy

We are to live a life, worthy. When we don’t do that, when we fall into sin, we offend the Holy, Mighty God.

So, what’s His response to the sin? Here’s the deal, His response to sin is His wrath. It is a just response. The Holy God of the universe cannot exist where sin exists. It is not possible for Him to be where sin is.

But, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life. 

Not only does God have just wrath upon our sin but He offered us freely a solution in the gift of His son, who was the holy lamb of God. 

Remember when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and he said, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin, whole, of the world.” 

That lamb of God lived a perfect, sinless life as he walked on this earth. He laid down His life. 

They didn’t take it from Him. He laid it down as he outstretched his arms on the cross of Cavalry and paid our sin price.

Only a perfect, spotless, lamb of God can pay our sin price. That’s what Jesus Christ did. 

These are the truths that we discuss with our children. We talk to them about how holy and mighty, and sovereign, and glorious God is. We talk about the issue of sin and the real penalty. Then we talk about the beautiful solution that God has given in the gift of His son.

Because He loves us

As we are having these conversations in an ongoing manner, around our house, as we drive, as we are having these ongoing conversations about God’s glory and His goodness, about our sinfulness, about His goodness and His grace, His everlasting forgiveness, His loving kindness that endures forever, the psalmist writes, we talk about the sin.

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As they come into fellowship, as they come to acknowledge and know who God is, there is a natural brokenness that comes when sin comes.

Look, our culture tells us that we don’t need God. Our culture tells us that our sin isn’t so bad. Our culture tells us that we are going to be OK. The reality is that God’s word says that we’ve got a problem. But because of His glorious love for us and His grace, He’s given us a way to come into a relationship with Him. That’s through the gift of His son.

When we frame behavior away around “have to”, we don’t do the right things because we might get in trouble doing the wrong things, we don’t do the right things because we are terrified of the consequences. Our motivation is not coming from a relationship with the Father. 

We must do the right thing because it honors God. Not because we have to but because we get to.

We elevate the motive for being honest and good. and kind. and generous. and selfless. and self-controlled. That’s why we do it. 

We do it because we have an opportunity every day to give Him glory and praise as we worship Him in all we say and do.

As we live a life worthy of that to which we’ve been called. 

 

A Peace-Filled Heart (and what we’re having for lunch)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

First thing in the morning, my kids’ little feet hit the floor and they come running in and ask “Mom, what are we going to eat?”

Do yours do that, too? 

peace-filled heart

10:00 AM rolls around and we’re mid-lesson, which is a perfect time, I suppose, for the question “Mom, when are we eating?” or “Are we going to have lunch?”

As if NOT having lunch was ever a thing.

While we’re eating lunch (!) someone asks “Mom, what are we eating for dinner? Am I going to like it?” And they all join in, fully in agreement with these all-important questions.

What in the world?!? Where does this mealtime anxiety come from, anyway? 

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

As I’m staring at them in disbelief, slightly amused and slightly annoyed, I have the fleeting and uncomfortable thought that I do the same thing.

Oh, how I imagine I look so very similar to these children of mine when seen through the eyes of God. How limited my perspective is, as I clamor for needs and wants, when He has so much more planned for me. Where does my anxiety come from, anyway? 

I know God loves me.

I know God will provide for me.

I know that God has my best interest in mind.

I know that everything will work out for His good purposes.

I know that I can trust Him when I don’t understand.

I know that even when things don’t go the way I planned or desired, it’s all in His good hands.

I know that true peace comes in trusting the Lord with all my heart, and leaning not on my own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Yes, I know all that just like my kids know similarly basic truths about me and my heart for them.

Yet how many times does my anxiety, fear, and desire to control of the outcome betray thoughts and feelings I would rarely verbalize? Thoughts that show how little peace I really have in my heart?  Questions like…

When is this need going to be fulfilled, already?

What if it’s painful or isn’t what I wanted?

What if it’s horrible!? Oh, I hope that doesn’t happen!

What if what I hope for most never happens?

What if God’s blessings just stop coming?

What if I’m doing all this wrong – motherhood, homemaking, homeschooling? What if I’m failing Him?

What in the world?!? Sometimes it seems like worry can twist truth into a lie in order to feed itself. Friends, when we find these worrying thoughts stealing our peace and our joy, we need to capture them and hold them up to the light of the gospel. 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

peace

There is no room in a peace-filled heart for anything but purposeful trust in God. We must continually choose to trust the Lord wholly, and purposefully stay our minds on Christ.

Even when things are uncertain.

Especially then.

Lord, help us to trust fully in You, resting in the knowledge that it’s all in Your hands. Give us a peace that surpasses understanding, even in the challenging times. Help us to keep our minds on You, and cast aside worries and anxieties that would steal our peace and our joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

“That Child” : What they aren’t and what they are

 

I want you to think for a moment of the little precious face that is your “that child”.

When I am speaking at a women’s event on the topic of “that child”, I’ve started sending around a sheet so that all the moms can put the name of their “that child” on the piece of paper. Then I pray over all those names because I figure we are in this battle together for the hearts and minds of these little ones. At one conference recently, one of the mothers wrote six names. I think she was thinking all of them were her “that child”. I’m here to tell you, I pray for that mom!

that child

Whomever in your family is your “that child” I want you to keep that face at the front and center of your mind today as we discuss “What they aren’t and what they are.”

 

Before I start my list, I want to remind you that my “that child” journey has been a long one. My oldest son is actually my original “that child” and I have one that I am currently working with. Some days are better than others just like probably in your home; if you’ve got a “that child” you know exactly what I mean. They’re unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. They might be in a fabulous mood and when they’re in a great mood you wouldn’t sell them for anything. But when they’re in “that mood” you might just give them away!

Three things to remember about “That Child”

I was just confident that some of these things are not true. I was sure that they were true. I want to help you get over these lies faster than I did and reframe “that child” for you. 

  1. First of all, I want to assure you that your “that child” (whether you have one, or six), I want to assure you that “that child” is not divine payback for your childhood.The God of the Universe loves you, and me, enough not to leave us where he finds us. He is constantly in the process of glorifying himself and growing us. Often, he will allow things to show up in our children to get our attention. If you have a “that child” they have your attention! God should have your attention. That ought not mean they have your frustration and your resentment.
  2. Number two, they are not broken. When I first had my oldest son, Charles, I was confident that he was messed up and he was broken. God loved Charles enough to send him to me because I could fix him. Do you hear the arrogance and the pride in that? Yes, I thought that he was broken and he needed to be fixed.We talked about last week the issue of the sin nature in “that child” which sometimes is far more evident than in the other children we have that might be more compliant. Those children might be more prone to apologize, or repent, if you just look in their direction. They’re convicted by the Holy Spirit and they respond to that. “That child” however, their defiant rebellion, makes the sin nature often more visible and vile to us.

    “That child” isn’t broken but they a are sinner just like you and me and we need to treat it like that.

    Remember, the way we deal with the sin nature in “that child” is the way we need to deal with it within our own lives. That is, we need to make sure we are getting to know who God is every day. My dear friend talks about this as a high view of God. When we get who God is, we are broken by our sin because we realize that our sin separates us from a loving, holy mighty God in who’s presence sin cannot co-exist. But because of his great love for us, He sent his son.

  3. Finally, your “that child” is not THE problem at your house. When we were first parenting Charles, and as we had six more children come along, I often felt that pain of not spending time with one of the other children because I was having to deal with him!I just want to say to you something none of us want to verbalize, but there were moments when I thought, “What if…” That’s raw and that’s ugly, because in those moments I thought the whole problem was HIM!

    Look, your “that child” is not the problem in your home. They’re just NOT!

    I know a lot of people who would say, “If it weren’t for “that child…” But, I promise you, they’re not the problem. We need to keep that in mind.

Look, if you’re thinking that your child is divine payback, if you’re thinking “that child” is broken, if you’re thinking that your “that child” is the problem at your house, you may think that you’re hiding it from them but they know. They know how we feel about them. Even if we think that we are hiding it, even if we are telling them we love them…. Because, look, there was a point in my parenting my oldest, my original “that child”, that I loved him… Because I had to, I was his mom. But let be honest. I didn’t like him too much. The reality is, you can’t hide that, Mom. You can’t hide that! 

that child

We’ve got to deal with these lies that we’ve chosen to believe about “that child”, we’ve got to acknowledge them as lies, and they are not true! These are not true about “that child”.  

Here are three things that are true about “that child”. Three things that I want challenge you to embrace. 

  1. Your “that child” is a divine invitation to draw closer to God.If my original “that child”, my first born, had been compliant and obedient, cooperative and calm, and all the things I thought I wanted my kids to be, I wouldn’t have needed God. I would have thought I was doing it. I would have thought that I was the most amazing parent on the planet.

    I have a friend who had three compliant children. THREE! She told me that she used to criticize and judge from across the room other parents with “that kid”. She didn’t even realize what she was doing. Her first three children we so cooperative and so obedient. She would look at other people whose children who would throw fits and not behave she would think, “Oh my goodness! If you would just know how to parent. If you would just this… If you would just that…”

    If you’ve got a “that child” you’ve heard that kind of criticism! You’ve encountered that kind of judgment.Then my friend had baby number four. Guess what? She gave birth to the most consummate “that child” I have even known! He would give my oldest a run for his money. All that judgment, and all that criticism, she had been so happy to dole out to everybody else? She had a lot of repentance and work to do with God. This is a story she shared with me. She is now so grateful to have had her own “that child” and to walk in the grace that she’s been given.

    That’s the divine invitation; is to draw nearer to God! Your “that child” gives you a front row seat to your own sin. An invitation to walk in the grace that you’ve been given, and to continue to live a life of repentance and conviction, and let His grace, and forgiveness, and mercy wash over you. Embrace the patience that He has with you and me. I am overwhelmed with the patience that God has with me when I deal with my “that child”.

    The reality is it’s an opportunity for us to look in the mirror and own our issues that sometimes we’ve not dealt with. God divinely allows it to show up in one of our children. Know what? Our sin is usually a lot more hideous when it shows up in somebody else’s face. But it’s just as hideous to God.

  2. Your “that child” is a blessing not a curse. A gift from the hand of God. Do you remember Psalm 139 when it talks about the Master of creation is weaving inside of you a unique person? This child is a gift from the hand of God. That’s one of my favorite things about being pregnant, feeling that child move within me and just imagining God weaving this person together. A gift from the hand of God.It’s not a curse, not a curse!

    We often will think of “that child” as “THAT child”. If we could just do something with THAT one. Right? No!

    They’re a blessing. Your “that child” is a blessing from the hand of God. Not a menace but a blessing. Given for your happiness and your well-being. God loved you enough to give you “that child” to you to draw you closer to him and to show you the marvelous works of His mercy and His grace.

  3. Finally, your “that child” is a unique person for God’s glory. Your “that child” is going to have questions about things that none of the rest of your other children even think about. They are going to just connect dots when no one else in the room can. They are going to see dots that no one else even sees, and connect them in unique ways.Your “that child” is out of the box. They’re not a round peg that fits in any hole at all. They’re never going to be able to be characterized by a formula. Your “that child” is totally unique! God has a plan for “that child”, uniquely gifted, uniquely talented, unique perspective, unique solutions! Your “that child” is totally unique for the specific purposes that God has made “that child”.

He Has a Plan

We know that the overriding purpose for each one of our lives is to glorify God. God has a plan to use those unique perspectives, those questions that are probably driving you crazy, those answers that you have never thought, or those questions that you have never even thought of, God has a plan to use all of that.

blessed-that child

Let us not be the ones that just berate them and allow our exasperations to characterize our relationship with them. Let’s hug that child as the unique gift that they are from God. Let’s cradle their face in our hands and say to them, “I’m so glad that God sent you to this family. I’m so glad that you’re here.” 

Mom, I want to give this as an invitation to you not just because you love that child because you have to, but to like that child, and be grateful for that child, because you are blessed to be raising “that child”.

“That child” is a world changer.

Go give him a hug!

Attitude not Platitudes

This month’s topic is holiness and humility. Each month that I am tasked to write on a given subject, I meditate on the topic at hand, then I reflect on the experiences that God has and continues to use in my life to refine me in that area. When it comes to humility, we tend to associate it with words like “shy and quiet” and while one can be shy and quiet, that is not what humility encompasses.

humility

Humility is an inside job (heart attitude), not merely an outward demeanor. One may put on an outward show of humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance. When Jesus talks about only those who are “meek” (power under control) and “poor in spirit” (spiritually bankrupt) will inherit the kingdom, He is talking about the “inside job” that needs to happen in each one of our lives. There’s a significant difference between “admitting that you are wrong” and “confessing the crime.” God says that when we confess our sin and believe, then we will be saved. Being (holy) humble is not a “shy person” quality, it’s an attitude of our hearts.

How has God taught me humility? Oh! Let me count the ways, but for the sake of brevity I’ll have to limit my storytelling. Don’t worry there’s always next month!

I tend to keep God busy.

Being a teenager and idealistic, I was waiting to take my chance at bat and change the world so to speak. Except I didn’t understand the game nor did I know how to play. After years of self-loathing and self-destructive decisions somehow God shook His head at this desperately lost sheep and brought me into the fold.

When I became aware of that amazing Grace He had bestowed on me, I was so overwhelmed. I was so glad to “make it,” albeit by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, I thought it best to keep a low profile just in case someone would take notice and scream, “she doesn’t belong here!” Regrettably, I went from being in bondage to my sin, to being in bondage to a (false) idea of what I thought Christianity looked like and to people’s ideas of how I should behave, because, you know, I’m a Christian now.

In frustration, because truth be told, I just wanted to please God. I wanted to “fit in” into this new life He called me to. I didn’t have a clue how to “act like a Christian.” What did that mean anyway? Coming from the country I came from, all I wanted was Jesus, for real! I wanted to get as close as I could to the hem of His garment. As I stumbled along, I pleaded for God to show me how to live this life that He called me to and then God gave me a husband and followed it up with children. Just when I thought I was an accomplished human, these two gifts rocked my world. We’ll talk about the “taming of this shrew” on another blog entry, for now we’ll leave it to motherhood to humble me in immeasurable ways.

Love at First Sight

I like to refer to motherhood as “love at first sight” because the moment you see your child you are instantly smitten. After spending countless hours losing sleep, diapering and feeding this little human, we want to see that we have amounted to something other than a chicken-nugget chef, boo-boo kissing, nursery rhyme rock star, and toy picker-upper extraordinaire! Cue the epic background music and roll out the red carpet. Mommas are in the house!

After years of this routine, we are seeking the accolades from the crowd that we have the smartest child, and if lil’ Susie (or Johnny) can’t read by the time s/he’s four, then we’ll move on the next trophy: “godliest.” After all, check out the Awana vest, all badges are accounted for! Or, how about the wittiest, the sweetest, the bravest, and so on until we find a “label” for our precious bundle that meets the criteria that screams from the rooftops, “I produced a super human, how about that!?”

Then there’s a reprieve if you will, and we go from “vipers in diapers” to “taller toddlers” (teenagers) and they are equally as challenging to navigate, which is why we need Jesus. It’s not a cliché, it’s the Truth. During this season, our kids are amid an identity crisis and desperately seeking a trophy to call their own. The struggle is real. The competition is fierce, and parents who are already exhausted from the toddler years enter puberty with both exhilaration and exasperation.

How many times do I find myself looking at my children trying to explain to them that I really did go through puberty, even though I look ancient to them? I dedicate all my gray hairs to them. I understand the awkwardness of what it is to grow up. Echoing my Father’s sentiment (Proverbs 23:26), I remind them to trust me and stay close to my heart and above all, to remain in Him.

They need to see

“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

How do we teach our children that holiness, not a mate nor the latest trend making its debut, is what they need and what they should strive for when the culture is unapologetically trying to swallow them whole? Somewhere along the way we lost sight of God. We lost sight that holiness is what our heart should desire above all else. We’ve been bamboozled to believe that “holiness” is boring. Did we forget we are to be in the world, not of the world? How can we effectively sharpen iron when our standard is to look at what everyone else is doing rather than what the Scriptures say? Clearly, I have more questions than answers.

While my answer may seem over-simplistic, I will say that in my experience it has been eye-opening. One thing has not changed from the toddler years to the taller years – and that is, my children have not stopped imitating me. This is both good and bad. Being a homeschool parent, I don’t even get a six-hour reprieve during the day to act like a fool sans any witnesses. My every move is being watched. It is a humbling, and at times a humiliating reality that I face on a regular basis, knowing that my children are watching every – move – I – make.

pursue humility

We (parents) lead by example whether we like it or not. If we want our children to seek God daily, guess what? We need to seek God daily. We want our children to be humble, love mercy and walk justly with their God. They need to see it modeled in their homes. As we pursue righteousness, they will see us being challenged, refined and restored. They’re watching that process and in it they are learning how to hold steadfast to their faith during the storms that await them. How we deal with our struggles speaks volumes to them. It’s not enough to tell them to pursue holiness, they need to see how we pursue it.

It’s not called a “daily” walk for naught. It must be sought out and pursued. Unlike chasing rabbit trails with no end in sight, our pursuit of God allows us to run our race with excellence. We come to the well and not only do we quench our thirst, we grow up, we mature, we become better humans. True humility produces godliness, contentment, and security. What more can we ask for ourselves and our children? There may not be a single applause from the crowd, but who needs the accolades when the end goal is to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!” from the only person that matters.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

Humility in Homeschooling

I’m a tri-polar homeschool mom. By “tri-polar,” I mean I tend to bounce between one of three poles: the good, the bad, and the humble. I have “good” days when I think homeschooling is the best choice we’ve ever made for our family and wouldn’t dream of changing a thing! I also have “bad” days when I question my sanity and run the same load of laundry for the third time. Because. Reasons. 😉

humility in homeschooling

Most days I’m somewhere in the middle—like a pinball briskly bouncing between the bumpers on the machine (quadrupling the score) before bouncing back out onto the playfield only to slide straight through the flapper paddles into the “out hole.” Game over. Or so it could be, if not for my third (bonus) pole perspective.

Before I share my “bonus pole strategy” with you, I need to explain the dangers of the first two:

DANGER OF POLE #1: PRIDE
To the homeschool moms who paint the picture that all days are good, that homeschooling is easy, that children are always respectful and obedient: Bless your heart! (I mean that in the most Southern of ways.) Actually, what I mean to say is, “Stop. It.”

If I’ve learned nothing else in the past eight years, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that homeschooling is a 2-for-1 deal (God is efficient like that). Both children AND their parents are transformed through the experiences of home education—sometimes, parents more so than children—and the more challenging the experience, the more dramatic the change. God is always working on us to transform us into His image, anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.  Outward appearances can be very deceiving.

“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
    but humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 18:12

Some of the most judgmental, prideful people I have ever met have been homeschoolers; however, the vast majority are among the most humble and kind. My point is that when we make the choice to homeschool our children based on strong personal convictions, we must fight the temptation to condemn those who have chosen not to. More importantly, we should not judge those who do it differently than we do. That is pride and generally frowned upon in most Christian circles.

We should be generous in our assumptions (as if we have the right to make any in the first place). Brené Brown, one of my favorite authors, suggests that we “extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.” This gives satan very little space to bait us with offense and lead us into the sins of arrogance and judgment.

DANGER OF POLE #2: SELF-ABASEMENT
To the homeschool moms who are at their wits’ end, who think all the other moms know exactly what they are doing, and that they are the only moms blessed with disrespectful, obstinate kids in the homeschool community: Things could be worse! And I mean that in the most Northern of ways. Actually, what I mean to say is, “Stop. It.”

“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 15:33

Something else I’ve learned in my years of homeschooling: satan loves nothing more than to make us feel isolated, alone, and abnormal. If he can get us to repeatedly verbalize our insecurities, doubts, and fears, he will lead us down a path of self-pity where we forget that We. Are. Not. Alone! We forget that our homeschool journey is as much an adventure of faith as it is an education. We forget to look up!

As Dr. Tony Evans says, “God would not have called you to it, if He did not plan to see you through it.”

How did we ever conceive the notion that the path would be smooth when following God’s will for our lives? It’s rarely like that. Don’t believe me? Just look in the Bible for a few examples of folks whose path was anything but smooth (e.g., Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, Mary). God uses the ups and downs, curves and caves to sculpt us into the people He created us to be—so we reach our full potential! So, we must be wary of our penchant for whining on the bad days, lest we forget He who planned this journey in the first place. Does it mean we never vent our frustrations with a trusted friend and ally? By no means! God gives us partners on the journey for a reason; however, we must keep our attitudes in check, lest venting take root or worse drag the other down. Does it mean we take responsibility for our spiritual perspective during these times? Absolutely.

BONUS POLE STRATEGY: A HUMBLE PERSPECTIVE
This, my friend, is where our “Bonus Pole” comes in. The third pole exists in another dimension, and the good news is that there are no dangers here! In fact, this place is filled with extra pinballs that come out at just the right moment to help us keep playing the game. Thank you, Lord! This pole is the best place for me to hang my hat as a homeschool mom. It’s an “every day” attitude of HUMILITY. And the cool thing about this pole is that since it’s in another dimension, I can bounce in anytime I want—whether I’m having a good day, a bad day, or just a day.

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4

HUMILITY shifts my perspective from my relationship with my kids to my relationship with God. I’m able to see the battle for what it is and fight the real enemy—which, by the way, is NOT the kids, the pet(s), the curriculum, the finances, the house, or even the spouse!

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

humility shifts

When my vision is clouded by pride (it’s all about me) or self-abasement (it’s still all about me), I forget that the same God who called me to homeschool is the same God who has equipped me for battle.  As I intentionally shift my focus from self to Savior, I am reminded whose I am. My vision becomes crystal clear and my discernment is sharpened. I remember my spiritual armor, and I’m able to fight the fight of faith with weapons that actually work! Interestingly, this shift can only happen when I’m in humility.

So, how do I get there? This place called “Humility”?

Well, when you arrive at the fork on Attitude Road, consider your options: You may head down the paved path of pride or choose the grovel road that leads to self-abasement. Or look up and take the highway to humility where there are no tolls or trolls and the view is quite divine!

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10

 

Humility Is Not the Same As Unimportant

As a mother, I have been hearing that my position is an honorable one, a selfless one, and a humble one. In fact, I often encourage other moms with those very statements. We can go on Pinterest and see beautiful images of a mom and kids at sunset on the beach or cuddling on the couch, along with a sweet statement about motherhood written in swirly gold letters…all this to encourage us in our position. It’s mentioned so much in Christian circles that sometimes I wonder if we are trying to convince ourselves even as we are saying it!

humility is not the same

Well, because we are studying humility this month, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the scriptures and see exactly what they say about the humility of motherhood.

1 Cor. 1: 26-28 tells us,

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.

Though this passage doesn’t specify mothers, I love how we can get a glimpse of our Creator’s character. He chooses what is foolish to shame the wise. He chooses the weak to shame the strong. He chooses the lowly to bring to nothing things that are. It doesn’t make sense to our worldly minds.

Yet we see this thread throughout the Bible. When Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, was carrying Jacob and Esau, the Lord told her the older would serve the younger (Gen. 25:23). Now Jewish tradition held that the first born…the oldest…would receive the double blessing and extra inheritance. God’s choice of the younger Jacob discounted that.

Jacob had twelve sons, yet God chose one of the youngest (Joseph) to rise up and become second in command in Egypt (Gen. 37 and 45). He chose Jesse’s youngest son, David, to become king after Saul. Samuel said in 1Samuel 16, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

It is clear that God’s ways are not man’s ways. He looks at things differently than we do. Our culture looks at the outside: the strong, the important, and the famous.

God looks at the heart.

And that got me thinking about something else. Matthew 6:28-29 says,

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Lilies are pretty flowers, but they are simple ones. When poets speak of superlative flowers, they usually go to the showy or fragrant ones like roses, birds of paradise, dahlias, and irises.

Not lilies.

Even in the botanical world, lilies are considered simple flowers in their structure and biology. But God chooses to clothe the grass (Matthew 6:30) with these humble lovelies!

Do you see a pattern here? In His great wisdom, God chooses the things that the world’s eyes would not choose in order to do His work.

What does that mean for us as moms?

“Humble” is not a bad word. A humble spirit is something the Lord desires in us. And humility is not the same as unimportant. Humility is lovely. It is desirable. It is God’s beautiful adornment on us.

Well, I am the first to say that motherhood can be a humbling experience. But I often thought of that in a negative way. There were days, especially when my children were younger, that I felt like a lily walking among women who were roses. I remember going grocery shopping with one child in the kid’s seat of the cart, another inside the cart, and others in tow. I would be scrambling up and down the aisles, trying to find the best purchases, gather my coupons, and get out of there as soon as possible so we could get back home and finish school for the day.

humility is lovely

Definitely. Not. Glamorous.

And we would walk by them: quiet, composed, perfect hair, and sipping on Starbucks as they slowly walked through the store. They were the roses and dahlias that made me feel unimportant.

But it wasn’t anything THEY actually did. It was MY incorrect perception of them (They were probably nice roses!). Yet their presence made me and my job as wife, mom, and homeschooler feel lesser, or in my mind: humble.

That is wrong. Humility is NOT the same as unimportant! The humble position of motherhood is anything but unimportant, too.

Consider the character of God. He chooses the humble and exalts them for His glory. He considers who you are and what you do to be a highly exalted thing. When we meet someone and they ask what we do, don’t mumble through your lips that you are “just” a mom.

God, in His wisdom, has chosen YOU to do the amazing work He has for you. So be that gorgeous lily and bloom to adorn those around you!

How to bend “That” Child

It is my heart’s passion to encourage you in raising that child. As the mother of at least two, probably more like two or three or four of “Those Children” myself, they really do have my heart. I know how challenging they can be but I also know what a joy and what a privilege it is to be their mom. I’m here to encourage you.

Today I want to look at something very near and dear to my heart. That is the issue of how to bend “That Child” without breaking “That Child”.

raising that child

I know what it’s like to have a day with “That Child” where you just want to yell and scream. You just want to tie them in a knot. You’re just at the end of your rope. Whether it’s the incessant questions or it’s the confronting your authority, or the belligerence, or the inability to focus….I remember one time sending my “That Child” who is now much older to the mailbox to get the mail. I was distracted by all the other children in the house and didn’t realize how long he had been gone. When he came back in, about 30 minutes later (p.s. It’s only about a minute walk to and from our mailbox!) he had done everything but what? Get the mail!

Yes, I know about those long days when focus flies out the window.

Another time I sent him downstairs to get a roll of paper towels. He came back with…. A hammer! It can be very frustrating. I get it, my friend.

I get the frustration that can just build. I know that you do, too. I don’t know if it’s been that day at your house. I want to talk to you about how do we bend these kids and not break them? We are not called to break them. 

My two youngest sons that are now 14 and 13 have recently gotten really kind of deep into entomology. That’s the study of bugs. They procured a beetle for this unit of study. This beetle was very, very, very stiff. There was no way that they could spread out the legs of this beetle, or his antennae. They couldn’t do anything. In fact, this beetle actually had wings underneath this hard shell; but there’s no way that they could expose those wings in order to see the beauty of this beetle. Enter the softening chamber. This is just a piece of Tupperware with an airtight seal, some damp paper towels, and a moth ball so that this little beetle becomes movable.

He had to sit in that in that airtight chamber for 3 or 4 days. The boys could just wait for this beetle to soften up and be malleable, to be movable, so that they can go in and manipulate the parts and study this beetle.

What does that process have to do with bending and not breaking “That Child”? I want to suggest to you, a whole lot! Very often our kids are a lot like that atrophied beetle…really hard and really stuck in a single position. We want to come in and just force this beetle to do what we want it to do. In fact, the boys have had an experience or two where they didn’t wait long enough. Apparently, the anticipation of studying this beetle really builds. They would get impatient! (Sound familiar?!)

They would just jump right in and start opening wings, moving a leg or antennae. And guess what…wings broke off, legs broke off, antenna broke off and the boys would end up really frustrated. Because it probably only needed another 24 hours.

I think this speaks directly to us as moms because all too often, just like my boys see in these little beetles, we can see in our children what they could be. We can see the beauty of what God’s created and the position that God has formed them for in this universe and we have a vision for what they could do in God’s kingdom.

But then we go and we don’t wait for them to grow into that position on their own. We want to cut to the chase instead of enjoying the journey. We end up, breaking that child, just like my boys would break a beetle that simply wasn’t ready to be handled yet. Now, I don’t think we mean to do this, but we are capable, of breaking “That Child”.

What I want you to know is this: they’re a lot more sensitive than you might think they are. I know with my original “That Child”, I was confident that he was behaving the way he was behaving just to get at me. I was confident that he knew exactly what he was doing. But all this time later I can tell you this, let me just tell you, young mom of a “That Child” who has driven you crazy today… they are not doing it on purpose. They really are unaware of what they are doing in most instances.

Look, I get that there are times when they push every one of our buttons at the same time. I know what that’s like. But I also know that there’s a lot of time when they are just wrestling through being them. They’re really not trying to push all your buttons. They really kind of accidentally rubbed up against them.

Three keys to raising that child

  • Humility is key. In order for us to mold these children into the young men and women, the warriors for the Kingdom, that God intends for them to be, we ourselves must come to this task broken. Humble. We cannot come to this task of molding our children, and discipling our children, if we have not dealt with our own brokenness. If we have not yet come to terms with how desperate we are for a Savior, if we are not aware of how much forgiveness, and grace, and mercy has already been bestowed upon us, then we are not in a position to bend anyone.We must first bend our own knees before we can invite our children to bend their knees. Guess what? They know. We might be able to fool everyone else in our lives but we can not fool “That Child”. The key is for us to come humble, for us to come submitted. Look, your kids get to see how you live this every day of your life. If Mom is submitted to God, does she worship Him? Does she sing praise to Him? Does she point others to Him? Does she have the joy of the Lord and the confidence, and the hope of salvation every day?

    Mom, before we can begin this task we must deal with our own hearts.

  • Build that relationship. Next, I want to suggest to you that we need to focus on making our kids malleable and moldable. How do we that? We do it by loving them.  

    Remember in the Bible when Paul wrote, “Christ loved us while we were unlovable?” That’s true! God didn’t wait until you and I had it all together and all figured out. I’ve known people in my past who were waiting to get it all together before they came to Christ. But it says in the Bible that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved us!That love, as we start to embrace that love, and learn about that love, it makes our hearts malleable towards Him. It’s the same with our children. 

We must first point our children, as we’re seeking to mold them, and to bend them, and not break them, we must first point them to God. The wonder of His creation, His majesty, all of His  attributes… I’ve recommended to you before A. W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” and I commend it to you once again. Introduce your kids to the God of the universe after you’ve dealt with your own need for him.

Just love on your kids!

When my boys put this beetle into that chamber, the whole point is to make it moist so that it can move. The best way for our kids to want to respond to our bending is that they know how loved they are by God, how wonderfully he has planned a life for them, given them hope of salvation through the gift of His son, and placed him, this child, in your family, and how much you love them. It is the light of that love that we can bend them.

In the Bible we are commended not to exasperate our kids. That happens when we are just on them all the time without engaging in a conversation. It’s easier to exasperate because exasperation doesn’t take any time at all. It doesn’t take any self-control. It doesn’t take any patience. It doesn’t take any wisdom or insight. It’s just as responding in our frustration. It’s really easy to exasperate.

Engagement takes time. It means that right when we want to explode we exhale and we get a hold of ourselves. We do what we want them to do. We allow the spirit of the Holy, Mighty God to come and grant us patience, and wisdom, and insight. Let us not exasperate our children. Let’s engage, especially with “That kid”.

Rules without relationship lead to breaking. When you are just going to insist on them doing x, y, and z without having a relationship… Look, it’s just like that the key to our relationship with God. It’s not that we have to obey Him, it’s that we get to. We get to this place when we understand the love that He’s given in His son’s dying on the cross to pay a sin penalty that we can never pay. The more that we know this truth, the more than we accept that love, and embrace that love, the more love we have to give to others.

I have a policy that now that I have four out of the house anytime any of those four call, I’m answering the phone. I don’t care what time of night it is or what time of the morning it is.

  • Demands without discipleship make for breaking. Let’s not just demand that our children do what we want them to do. I know that early on as a mom, the number one thing I wanted was for my kids to make me look good. I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who has had that as a priority.But I am so grateful to be liberated from that one. My priority for my children now is that they would be disciples of Jesus Christ. That in everything they do and say He will receive all of the glory. That they would grow their sanctification in him every single day. That takes discipleship!

Do you see the trend here? Exasperation, rules, and demands don’t take any time. They’re quick, and they are easy, and they are a result of our impatience and our frustration. But engagement, relationship, and discipleship are the three things, through love, that make our kids moldable and helps us not break their little hearts. Not break their little wills, but bend them.

raising that child

Look, mom, if you have been given the trust of a “That Child” in your house, I want to tell you boldly and with great confidence today, your God does not need the will of “That Child” broken. This world needs more strong-willed women and men of God who will stand boldly on the truth of Jesus Christ. We just need to make sure that their will is not broken but bent to the things of God. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He knows that one of the strengths of your “That Child” is their strong will. He seeks to steal it, to destroy it, to kill it.

It is our job, it is our joy, it is our opportunity, it is our delight to bend their will towards the things of God so that can use that strong will that He gave them to glorify Him and point others to Him. My friends, raising that child is difficult. It’s frustrating. It is also an incredible journey. Embrace it, don’t fight it.

Humility in Parenting

“Mommy, I didn’t like it when you yelled. It hurt my feelings.” Her big brown eyes were filled with tears and her little lip quivered. I kneeled and sighed. It was a deep, sad, humility-filled, I’m-so-sorry kind of sigh.

I looked at her little face and smiled inside as she blinked a little too hard so the tears would drop with proper drama. And I listened. I already knew the still, small voice would come. The one that says “apologize well.” Ok, Lord. 

humility in parenting

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” James 4:6

“We need to talk about what happened. It’s not ok to disobey mama. I’ll discuss it with Dad first and then we’ll chat after dinner, ok?” I pause and put my hands on her arms. “But sweetheart, that did not make it ok for me to yell, and I’m really, very sorry. It was a sin for me to act out in anger that way and I don’t want that between us. Will you please forgive me?” 

She does. And we pray. We pray confession and repentance, forgiveness and restoration, and strength to turn away from temptation and turn toward Christ. 

There are few things as humbling as parenting. Isn’t that true? If I ever reach a moment where I think I’m doing pretty well in godly living and following His ways, parenting will snap me back to reality. In truth, I still have a long way to go! I imagine the same is true for you as well. 

I often say that marriage and parenting are like a crucible that is used to purify us. Or like a press that is used to form us. In all the challenges of parenting we are pressed hard. It’s alarming sometimes when we see what impurities and sins rise to the surface. Sometimes it’s downright embarrassing and shameful.

humility in parenting

Oh, but what a precious crucible. What a blessed formation! To be pressed and molded by the loving hand of God as He sanctifies us through our parenting. 

It’s true, parenting will humble us like little else. We will sin. We will blow it. But thanks be to God for his continual mercies and faithfulness! He replaces shame with hope, brokenness with sweet dependence on Him. The beauty of a humble heart in parenting is more precious than we can imagine. In those moments when we apologize well, we approach the throne of Grace with our children. With humility. We point ourselves and them to Christ, the perfect example of humility. What an amazing gift! 

Lord, thank you for teaching us humility. Help us to live it out in our daily parenting so that our homes may overflow with your mercy and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When I Live My Faith

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Luke 19:10

Jesus came searching for me!
Jesus came to save me!
It was part of His plan when He chose redemption for the world.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Love was written all over our Savior’s heart.
His compassion is unmatched.
Jesus did the ultimate in pouring out; He gave it all.

When I Live My Faith

This is the kind of love, compassion and sacrifice that I want to make sure my children place their faith in. This requires me to talk about my faith in God, believing who Jesus says He is, and how the Holy Spirit is our Helper and Counselor.

Our children are very receptive, and I’ve found that they develop an appetite for Jesus when we present the truth to them. When I live my faith for my children to see, they develop a yearning to know the Lord. They see our faith in action; how well we trust God. Once they develop a relationship with Jesus, they have just as much right to Him as we do as their parents. THAT is a great relief.  All of the burden isn’t on us to be their El Shaddai.

The Holy Spirit Will Guide Them

Now, our children still need earthly parenting. We must never be hands-off with that. But just think of the dynamic partnership that we’ll have with them and God.

When solving an issue with a child, I’m learning to incorporate this phrase, “What does God’s Word have to say about this?”
It’s God that brings the solutions. They see it for themselves, and it bolsters their faith.

Whenever we’ve needed to believe God for a prayer to be answered, it’s God’s word again to the rescue. We find a Scripture promise that supports what we’ve prayed for (this is praying God’s will). When the answer comes, the children get to rejoice because they experience it first hand. It bolsters their faith. This also aids in long-term remembrance of how God answered them.

living faith

I’ve even seen this carry over into a married adult child’s life. She recalled the times that God answered our prayers of faith when she was younger which gave her a foundation for how she needed to presently pray for herself.

Mom, we won’t always bat 1,000, but we’ll hit some when we swing. I learned that I couldn’t leave their faith up to chance. It made me more aware of my own faith in Jesus, and what I truly believed about Him. When I live my faith I gain experiential knowledge that carries our family closer to God.

We can start today by asking God to bolster (support, strengthen, prop up) our own faith so that we can continue to lead our children in faith.

Parenting by Faith, Not Fear

“I’m a little worried that Johnny hasn’t accepted Christ yet.” My friend crossed her legs and switched the baby to the other side. “I accepted Jesus when I was four, I think, and I know I shouldn’t worry, but I do.”

I nodded, fully understanding that concern. I came to Christ later in life. I know that the Holy Spirit, not me, will lead my children to the Lord. I know that God loves my children, has a plan for them, and desires that they become part of His everlasting family.

I trust God with my children. I really do. And yet sometimes, well, maybe I don’t.

parenting by faith

“Yes,” I say, “It’s hard not to wonder if I’m doing enough, or if I’m doing it right! I wonder sometimes if I’m talking to them about Jesus enough, or if maybe my own issues are getting in the way.”

It’s then that I have this thought: If I really trust God with my children, why do I always mentally wring my hands over whether they are/will be saved? Whether I’ve done enough? Yes, I love them and want what’s best for them. But so does God- even more so – and in HIM is the power of salvation!

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” – Psalm 37:3

Salvation is of the Lord

We know it’s true: Salvation is of the Lord. Only the Holy Spirit can change the hearts of our children. Not us. He calls us to diligently teach and train them in the ways of the Lord and to trust the results with Him.

Do we? Do you?

Fear-based parenting has no place in the life of a Christian. If we want our children’s faith to flourish, we should tend to our own, and regularly fall to our knees to pray for our kids.

Fear is NOT of the Lord

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

When God blessed us with our children and asked us to raise them for Him, fearful parenting was not on the work order.

  • Fearful parenting wrings its hands, fretting and worrying.
  • It is paralyzed by the “what-if’s” of life.
  • It is unsettled and even panicked by the idea that it cannot control choices and outcomes.
  • It makes fear-based decisions, betraying the fact that it doesn’t really trust God.
  • It reels hard with every sin and sorrow life throws its way.
  • It teeters on the edge of a works-based faith.
  • It is no faith at all.

Don’t ask me how I know fear-based parenting so well.

Author and Perfector of Our Faith

God does not want us to parent out of fear. Instead, He calls us to faith-filled parenting, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to look to Jesus, whom Hebrews 12 calls “the author and perfector of our faith,” to finish the work He has begun in our children.

  • Faith-filled parenting finds peace in the sovereignty of God.
  • It acknowledges the hard realities of life AND the power of God.
  • It rests in the fact that only the Holy Spirit can change hearts, watching for it with hope.
  • It is empowered and equipped by Christ to diligently teach and train, surrendering the outcome to God.
  • It lives on its knees, praying for the children’s salvation and faith.
  • It lives out a walk of true faith in Christ.

faith to flourish
Be diligent in your calling as a parent! Teach them to know and love the Lord. Run the race well. THEN rest in the knowledge that the results of your work are in God’s capable hands. Trust Him with their faith.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” – Romans 10:17

Teach it and preach it, friends, in word and in deed!

Lord, help us to parent Your children in faith, not fear. Grant us a great peace and confidence that You are working in their lives and that Your plans for them are good. Please equip and strengthen us for the work you have called us to, helping us always point our children to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

Amen.