Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Merciful Mama (Day 28)

 
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13
 
As we live our lives at home...sitting down, rising up and walking along the way, we sin against each other.  The need for repentance is constant. Our conversations should be full of grace and seasoned with salt, but often they are not.

I believe one of the greatest lessons we should teach our children is the habit of asking forgiveness, and repenting of sins towards each other and God. We need to pray (and teach our children to pray) for the grace to see their sin and the humility to confess it.

We need to teach them not to try and justify their sin or blame shift it to others.  We need to teach them that "I'm sorry, but..." isn't asking forgiveness.  And the only way to teach them this is for them to see us do it. We can teach them the principle but they will only demonstrate it when they see us doing it.

Do they see and hear us confess and repent when we exchange harsh words as husband and wife?
Do they hear us ask for their forgiveness when we have spoken or disciplined in anger towards them?

I fear that often I expect my children to apologize to their siblings during conflicts, when it is too rarely modeled for them by me.  When they learn the lesson of confessing sin to God, they will find mercy:

"but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

They will find mercy from the Lord, and they should find mercy from their parents too.

I want our home to be a place of mercy. 

I want our home to be a place where forgiveness is the rule.  Deep and wide forgiveness and mercy that no one deserves but that they receive anyway. A place where sin can be brought to light, repented of, and mercy extended from Daddy and Mama.

Mercy when the jelly jar gets broken, mercy for childish messes, mercy for young adults who may mess up in ways that bring serious consequences. Forgiveness and mercy toward the spouse that spoke hurtful words in anger. Mercy toward ones who don't deserve it.  Costly mercy.

Mercy as a lifestyle because we have received so much mercy from our Sovereign Lord and we want to reflect his glory.

His purifying mercy will develop in us humility and gratitude to pour out more mercy on each other.



Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13


If you have missed the rest of this series:
Day 1: The Wise Increase in Learning
Day 2: Teaching Them to Search for Treasure
Day 3: Discipline, Love and Not Withholding Good
Day 6: Go to the Ant and Age Appropriate Chore Lists
Day 7: The Stuff Hollywood Movies are Made of
Day 13: A Companion of Fools
Day 14: Demolition Woman
Day 17: On Social Media and Being Deemed Intelligent
Day 22: How to Accept Our children For Who They Are
Day 27: Knowing Your Flock


Monday, October 27, 2014

Knowing Your Flock (Day 27)

 
 
 
Know well the condition of your flocks,
    and give attention to your herds
Prov. 27:23

This is such a wonderful verse, especially when you apply it to motherhood and our own small herd of children :)

The New King James Version of this verse says:

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds;"

Be diligent. Give attention...it requires a lot of effort and time.

It is a common temptation for us to look at the state of our flock and not like what we see. We feel like failures, guilt is our constant companion and so we look for other areas of "ministry" where we can feel successful. But following the relationship with our husbands, our children are our first duty before God. How are they doing spiritually, each one of them? We must be diligent with our primary ministry before we take on other responsibilities. Our children are our ministry. Our mission field.

It can be exhausting at times to remain steadfast in our duties, but God will give us grace one day at a time. We shouldn't look for success or "fulfillment" outside the sphere he has so lovingly placed us. (Not saying we can't minister other places if our herds are attended to. Only that first things come first.)

It is a weighty thing to know that our children are our disciples. It is weighty to shepherd their souls and push them in every way we can, towards Jesus. It is weighty to realize they will imitate the behavior we model for them:

  • We can't expect them to be cheerful if we're always sullen.
  • We can't expect them to be thankful if we're always complaining.
  • We can't expect them to love Christ and his Church if we're not giving them a close-up example of this love in our own lives.

Discipline

Discipline done for our sake, the parents, and not for the child's sake really isn't discipline. I am grieved to think of the many times I discipline because "I've had enough!" rather than my love for the child. It's hard to remember when several small humans just declared a Lego war, that discipline is for them not me. If I discipline out of anger, then my motive is not that they would be conformed to the Word of God. If I am angry I'm the one who needs discipline, not the child.

Discipline is out to correct and restore. It should yield peaceable fruit of righteousness, like self control.

Listen

Giving attention to our flock means listening to our children, not ignoring them. Listening also when they are quiet. Sudden quietness usually means something.

Awhile back our family returned from an outing where other children were present. I noticed one of my children had become unusually quiet. After quite a bit of probing he told me through tears that another child had called him stupid, made fun of him and other kids laughed. (There had been a serious debate concerning which continent lions lived on). He was humiliated. And being a child who enjoys being considered "tough," this was hard for him to admit that he was wounded.

We talked about forgiveness a lot. Forgiveness even when the other kid doesn't ask for it. I wiped up the tears and we had pizza for supper.  All was better.

Encourage

Often children misbehave (or whine...or have attitudes) because they need more encouragement. Sometimes I reflect back over a period of time and realize I am much heavier on "no's" and correction than I am "yes's" and encouragement.

Recently I saw my son running, laughing and enjoying the same child who hurt him not so long ago.  I saw him help the other kid up when he fell, and tears filled my eyes when I watched him brush leaves and dirt off the other boy's back. I saw sincere forgiveness and no hint of grudge bearing (oh how convicting is the humility and forgiveness of children?!). You better believe I pulled him aside later and told him I saw Christ's love and forgiveness in those actions. He beamed. 

Mothers have such a unique position to investigate thoroughly the state of their flocks, and love those little sheep with our diligent attention and discipline. We can use every opportunity to guide and teach and discipline our precious little lambs. Lord, make us faithful. For your glory!



If you have missed the rest of this series:
Day 1: The Wise Increase in Learning
Day 2: Teaching Them to Search for Treasure
Day 3: Discipline, Love and Not Withholding Good
Day 6: Go to the Ant and Age Appropriate Chore Lists
Day 7: The Stuff Hollywood Movies are Made of
Day 13: A Companion of Fools
Day 14: Demolition Woman
Day 17: On Social Media and Being Deemed Intelligent
Day 22: How to Accept Our children For Who They Are

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Accept Our Children For Who They Are (Day 22)





Proverbs 22 contains a beautiful and highly quoted verse:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6
 
 
Taken in context of the entire book of Proverbs, we read this verse in reference to wisdom, part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.
 
It is a grace dependent work and one that requires great wisdom to train up a child, no matter how many you have.  Kind friends have encouraged me before that I have "so much experience" with children, therefore I must know what to do in every situation.  But the truth is, all children are different.  And while we can make some blanket rules for the whole family, there is no herd approach to raising children. 
 
Verse 22 says to train up a child. Not children.
 
In the way he should go.  Not in the way they should go.
 
Singular not plural.
 
A herd approach, stuffing all children into a mold, would deny the wonderful creativity God has displayed in each individual child, to carry out the purpose He has for their lives.
 
Children must learn obedience.  Boundaries.  This prepares them for wholehearted obedience to God, later on. But to believe that we can raise ("train up") all children the same way, and that means how we discipline, correct, bless and reward, would be unwise.
 
Knowing Them Well and Accepting Them For It
 
Maybe it goes without saying, but this means we should know our children well. Children are unique.  They have their own inclinations, gifts, strengths and weaknesses in character.  This diversity is good.  It brings a richness to our lives and relationships.  Maybe one child memorizes easily and one has a love for studying insects and one has a friendly ability to put others at ease. Maybe one has a gift in music and one would spend all her days studying history.  In all of these gifts we can encourage our children to be good stewards of those abilities as well as the opportunities God brings into their lives to serve him through it.
 
It is easy to be drawn to and more easily accepting of the children who are most like us. But if you didn't feel accepted, would you feel that you belonged? (It took me awhile to figure this out so I'm hopeful this will help someone :)  If not, bear with me here.)  Home, more than any other place in the world, should be a place that we are accepted for exactly who God made us to be.
 
I think our own fears of rejection by others, as well as our lack of acceptance toward those in our family for who they are, is rooted in our lack of understanding that God accepts us.  The Baptist Shorter Catechism says:
 
Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners effectually called to Jesus Christ, wherein he pardons all their sins, and accepts them as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
 
This acceptance through Christ brings peace with God. Completeness and harmony and fulfillment.  And the one who lives in light of God's acceptance can now go and reflect that acceptance to others, free from the burden of trying to be accepted, as well as the expectation that others must earn our acceptance. I fear that often we expect our children to work harder to become accepted by us, rather than enjoy them for who they are.
 
We demonstrate acceptance of our children and their differences from us, when we take joy in those differences, knowing what balance it brings to the family, to the glory of God.  My highly structured kids bring balance to my loosey-goosey-ness (just made up that word).  My extroverts stretch me to get out of my comfort zone and be friendlier than I tend to be.  Part of their "training up"means I encourage them and build them up where I see God has gifted them.
 
Accepting them also frees me from trying to elevate myself through my children's social or academic accomplishments. Did I mention it took me awhile to get here? 
 
Keeping It Straight
Acceptance is not the same as tolerance. Acceptance is based on love and truth and the motive is the glory of God.  Tolerance is rooted in self-indulgence.  Tolerance is a cultural idol and refuses to recognize the reality of sin. 
 
And so we come full circle back to the beginning of this lil' ol blog post:  Train up a child.
 
Instruct him
 
Guide him
 
Correct him
 
Discipline him
 
with diligence and love.
 
And now, parents, let me beseech you to think seriously of this.  You have imparted to your children your own corrupt nature....And in consequence....they will perish forever, unless these evils be counteracted.  But God has in mercy put into your hands means to counteract them.  Make known to them his works and his will.  Pour into their ears his praises.  Let them see that you think of nothing, care for nothing, fear nothing, and love nothing as you do him.  Let them see that you care, comparatively, very little what their situation is in this world, provided they receive a Christian's portion in the world to come.  Do this, and add fervent persevering prayer; and the corrupt nature which they have derived from you shall be changed by God's grace, a new heart and a right spirit shall be given them, and they shall be thus prepared to perform the same good office for their children, which you have performed for them. ---Edward Payson
 
 
 
Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6
 

If you have missed the rest of this series:

Day 1: The Wise Increase in Learning
Day 2: Teaching Them to Search for Treasure
Day 3: Discipline, Love and Not Withholding Good
Day 6: Go to the Ant and Age Appropriate Chore Lists
Day 7: The Stuff Hollywood Movies are Made of
Day 13: A Companion of Fools
Day 14: Demolition Woman
Day 17: On Social Media and Being Deemed Intelligent

Friday, October 17, 2014

On Social Media and Being Deemed Intelligent (Day 17)


There is always some sort of controversy brewing on social media.  From week to week there is some new dilemma that faces humanity and we think that debating on Facebook is going to drastically alter the course of events that God has providentially planned for our lives.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
Prov. 17: 28
 
I'm certainly not suggesting that we stop sharing the truth in any medium that we're able to.  But Facebook doesn't lend itself well to debating.  You can't see facial expressions, body language, or hear the loving tone in someone's voice. Body language and mannerisms are a huge characteristic of communication.  It is so easy to misunderstand...and be misunderstood.
 
Therefore, debates I have personally witnessed sometimes turn into fruitless exchanges that do not build anyone up nor change anyone's theological/political/educational view.
 
Matthew Henry:
 
A wise man will be of few words, as being afraid of speaking amiss: He that has knowledge, and aims to do good with it, is careful, when he does speak to speak to the purpose, and says little in order that he may take time to deliberate. He spares his words, because they are better spared than ill-spent.  This is generally taken for such a sure indication of wisdom that a fool may gain the reputation of being a wise man if he have but wit enough to hold his tongue, to hear, and see, and say little.
 
Even a fool is considered wise if he just keeps his mouth shut....or his fingers still. This is particularly an area that we must counsel our teens in.  Much of the communication they engage in, unlike my generation, will be carried out within this medium.  Many of us may choose to take the path, often, of Proverbs 17:28. Our children and teens need specific instruction on how to communicate online.

I enjoyed this post recently at Lies Young Women Believe, although it is just as pertinent for adults: Ten Ways to Shine Online

"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent."


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Demolition Woman (Day 14)


Proverbs 14 opens up with the wise and foolish woman who either builds up or tears down her house with her hands.


The wisest of women builds her house,
    but folly with her own hands tears it down. Prov. 14:1


 I asked my own daughters for their thoughts on this.  How could a woman tear down her own house?  They didn't have to think long:  Words

  • Critical words
  • Complaining words
  • Unkind words
  • Impatient words
  • Nagging words
  • Harsh words
  • blame shifting words
You get the idea. 

Oh how guilty I have been!  Even this morning as we read this verse I was cringing inside, thankful for the Lord's new mercies each day.  Because Ground Zero is the home, ya'll.  That's where the real day to day tests are at.
  • When siblings are arguing
  • When people are hungry and YOU ARE TOO and there isn't anything spectacular on the menu because the pantry is pretty bare
  • When the needs of the husband and children seemingly far exceed your own capabilities and you want to throw in the towel
  • When you're on a time deadline and people and one child is moving slowly
  • When that conflict in your marriage has never been resolved only buried, and you think you can't take the rearing of it's ugly head any longer?

These are the God-ordained moments that happen constantly in a busy household.  These are the opportunities.

Opportunities to build up the house or tear it down.

Opportunities to cry out to God for mercy and wisdom and creativity and help. How often we neglect our life source and run to a book or blog or social media for help. Anywhere but the place true help can be found.


Choosing to Build

A woman doesn't choose to be the wise woman or the foolish woman in the same way she chooses her ice cream... chocolate or vanilla.  By default we are foolish.  Wisdom is the only choice there is.  And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

We all act foolish at times.  We fall into bad habits like squandering away our time, or habitually complaining.  But if we are wise, we can see our folly for the destructive thing that it is.  And we turn from it.

A woman who doesn't fear the Lord is the foolish woman. Her every move is made with self at the front. She is seldom content or thankful. She must always have the last word. She brings shame onto her husband.  Her children can't wait to leave home. She is persistent in her destruction, day after day. 

A woman who is growing in the wisdom of God is looking to and striving to live by, the word that is a lamp to her feet and a light to her path. She will never be perfect this side of Heaven.  But she knows to run to the One who is. The wise woman is a great blessing to her husband, her children, her church. 


Related: How to Tear Your House Down in Ten Easy Steps

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Companion of Fools (Day 13)



Hopefully ya'll weren't paying attention when I said I was going to blog every day this month.  Maybe I should have done a 31 Days of Overcommitment series. I'm just going to jump back in with Day 13.

Reading through the Proverbs is great because we can make such easy application to our own life, as well as our children and teens.  This is especially true with verse 20:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Prov. 13:20


When children are given unlimited and unsupervised time with other immature children or teens, the result is that they will suffer harm.  How so?  We become like those we spend time with. I don't know who first said, "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future," but it is true.

When our children are young we rarely allow unsupervised time with other children.  Proverbs 13:20 is why. This family rule has never made us popular.  And at times it has made for awkward situations.  But we care more about pleasing God than we do other parents, or our children. 

It is right to take note of the fool and his folly throughout the Proverbs.  But I'm so thankful for both sides of this verse: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.  What a beautiful means of grace! If we seek out more mature Christians to walk with, who encourage us to live in the light of God's glory and grace,  we will continue growing in our knowledge and sanctification. 

This should make us pause and reflect: Who do we enjoy spending time with? 

Who do our children enjoy spending time with?

Who do we moms gravitate to?  Other women we can learn from, encourage us in the Word, who point us to Christ and His Word? Who remind us of the gospel and the spiritual treasures that are ours in Jesus?

A fool, according to Proverbs, is one who scoffs at truth, mocks godly living and hates any sort of correction.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't evangelize the lost, nor does it mean we aren't friendly and kind to the unwise. But knowing the difference in ministering to fools and becoming a companion of them, is the key.  And most children are not able to discern that for many years.

Our friends, for better or worse, will influence and shape us. "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future."


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Starting Points (Day 8)



This is Day 8 of the 31 Day Walk through the Proverbs.  These are short little blog posts born from our family discussions as we read through a chapter of Proverbs each day. 

One of my hopes for this little series is to illustrate how simple it is to teach and train your children in the Bible.  I am no genius...but I know enough to stay ahead of where my children are.  It requires so little to teach them, really.  Just willingness and faithfulness...the Lord waters if we will plant :)

When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world. Proverbs 8: 27-31
 
This portion of Proverbs 8 gave us another wonderful opportunity to talk about God as our Creator.
 
The starting point for a Biblical worldview begins with the knowledge of creation.  There are many implications of creation, and we must pass on this knowledge and training to our children and not assume they will just inherit Biblical thinking from us.
 
The event of creation teaches us that God has authority over us.  We were made to bear his image and reflect his glory. We cannot have a right understanding of sin if we do not have an understanding of being created by God, and that our unfaithfulness grieves him.
 
The first five questions of the Children's Shorter Catechism say:
 
1.) Who made you?
God made me.
 
2.) What else did God make?
God made all things.
 
3.) Why did God make you and all things?
For his own glory.
 
4.) How can you glorify God?
By loving him and keeping his commands.
 
5.) Why ought you to glorify God?
Because he made me and takes care of me.
 
 
Even if they never went any further, what a rich treasure our children would have with just these simple answers hidden in their hearts.
 



Day 1: The Wise Increase in Learning
Day 2: Teaching Them to Search for Treasure
Day 3: Discipline, Love and Not Withholding Good
Day 6: Go to the Ant and Age Appropriate Chore Lists
Day 7: The Stuff Hollywood Movies are Made of