Today I was overcome by gratitude. It came from the most surprising place. Not from sunny toddler dispositions or sudden good news. Instead it peeked its head out of broken-heartedness. Have I mentioned that lately I’ve been a little brokenhearted? I’ve been reading Psalm 23, wondering how God would refresh and restore my soul in this season. I think I expected Him to refresh it with joy, and instead He refreshed it with sorrow. He gave me a glimpse into the lives of two women relentlessly pursuing Jesus in the reality of their suffering. One of them prayed over me in a parking lot. The other touched me through a computer screen.
You will probably never meet the beautiful woman who loved me like Christ in a parking lot. But you can meet Larissa, the one who touched me via technology. I heard her story for the first time last year, but watched it again today when it ran through my Facebook feed. This time I found her blog and cried as I stepped into her world–a world so different, and yet so similar, to mine. Larissa is married to Ian, the love of her life who suffered a traumatic brain injury while they were dating. I was moved by their video (posted below), but even more so by their blog. While the video shares the big moment of their wedding, the blog shares all the hundreds of small moments to follow. The small battles for contentment, faith, and gratitude in the wake of tremendous loss. I’ve never been closely related to someone with significant disabilities, yet Larissa’s journey to see God in the reality of her life is so like my own.
As today wore on, I found myself overflowing with thankfulness. I praised God for using believers to refresh the hearts of one another (Philemon 1:7). I praised Him for messy lives that bring Him great glory. For His never-ending love. For the hot water in my shower and the pillow on my bed. It’s like my eyes were opened, and everywhere I looked I saw thanksgiving. A garment of praise instead of despair, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Isn’t God incredible? Who else could pour sorrow over sorrow and turn it into joy?
I’ve referenced Passionate Homemaking’s article about the 7 purposes of the home a few times now because I’m on a mission to meditate on each purpose, prayerfully applying them to our home. After thinking through ways to cultivate a more restful home, I’m on to purpose #2: The Home as a Place of Learning God’s Truth. So how can I more intentionally teach my kids? I’ve started by recognizing that there are two different forms of teaching.
PROACTIVE TEACHING Sometimes the role of homemaker feels like a bad episode of Survivor. Live through the day, make whatever alliances are necessary to maintain the peace, and if push comes to shove close one eye when somebody’s eating a bug. But deep down I know I’m called to more than just “surviving” the little years. I’m called to faithfully shepherd my children in the Truth of Jesus Christ. This won’t happen accidentally. So here’s what I’ve been brainstorming:
Pick a Weekly Bible Story to Study–Rather than reading one new Bible story every day, a wise friend suggested focusing on one Bible story per week with my toddler and preschooler. Not only do kids love repetition, but this approach takes less prep time and allows us to slow down and go deeper.
Have Questions Ready & Waiting–At the start of each week when you pick a Bible story, write a list of age-appropriate questions that are related to the gospel theme of the story. Then utilize all those natural talking times during the day (bedtime, lunchtime, craft time…etc.) to discuss some of the questions.
Memorize Scripture–I always underestimate my kids’ ability to retain information. But even a 2-year-old (and some 18 month olds!) can repeat a simple Bible verse, especially if you practice it with hand motions.
Recite Catechisms–Say what? I know. I’d never heard of a catechism until recently. Catechisms are just statements that express the foundations of Christianity, usually posed in question and answer form. (“Who made you?” “God made me.”) Catechisms for Young Childrenis based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and is a great place to start. The moment your child begins to speak, you can start teaching him these simple statements. The goal is not for him to understand it all right away, but to plant seeds of Truth within his heart that he will grow to understand in time.
Do you remember that annoying boy in gym class who would throw a dodgeball at your head and yell, “Think fast!” This is how I picture reactive teaching. It’s teaching in the context of the moment. “They said I can’t play with them.” (Think fast!) “Why did you argue with Daddy?” (Think fast!) “I will NEVER share my toys again!” (Think fast!) Sometimes I don’t know what to say, and sometimes I’m so depleted I honestly don’t care. In both instances, it’s tempting to use worldly wisdom to solve the problem (“Their game looks boring anyway.” “Sometimes people just argue.” “Be nice or you will never have friends!”)
But to do this is to miss a MASSIVE opportunity! Where proactive teaching presents the gospel, reactive teaching applies the gospel to the reality of your child’s life. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 talks about this kind of teaching: “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.” Clearly this is an all day, every day, lifestyle kind of teaching. And as always, the ability to undertake such a task comes only by walking with God in His ever sufficient grace.
Are you ready for my true confession time? My kids eat lunch in front of the TV on busy days, we haven’t read a Bible story all week, and right now one of my kids is banging on my door begging me to hurry up so we can play. Have I ever mentioned that I blog as much for myself as for others? That being said, I welcome your great ideas for intentionally teaching your children God’s Truth. What routines have you put into practice in your home? What books have been helpful? What practices have been fruitful?
True confession #879: I long for the approval of people. I mean long for it. There was a season in my life when I felt the anxiety over people’s approval so acutely that I called my mom one night and told her, “Every night I go to bed and the last thing I think before falling asleep is that I hope I don’t wake up in the morning.” As usual, my mom surprised me. Rather than panicking (which I thought would’ve been entirely appropriate), she challenged me. “I don’t believe you don’t want to live another day, Jeanne. You just don’t want to live another day in this bondage.” And just like that, I felt the first rays of hope. Because I realized it was true. I did want to live; I just didn’t want to live like this.
Living in the idolatry of man’s approval is like living on a weathervane. You swing here and there, back and forth, your emotions as unpredictable as the wind. Then one day you realize that in all this time you’ve gotten nowhere. You’ve just been spinning in circles. Everybody loves me! Everybody hates me. I’m brilliant! I’m foolish. I’m wanted! I’m rejected. It’s always the same song, sung over and over in a thousand different scenarios. And the star of the song is always the same. Me.
I used to view the idol of approval as “people-worship.” I was worshipping other people’s thoughts and opinions. But the truth is, I’m not just concerned with their thoughts and opinions…I’m concerned with their thoughts and opinions about me. Which means the idol of approval isn’t really about people-worship but self-worship. The person I’m bowing down to is me. The person who consumes my thoughts is me. The person holding me captive is me.
So maybe it’s time I started singing a different song. Here’s one that’s been humming through my mind all morning–
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face! And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
Do you believe it? Do you believe that Jesus is so radiant, His grace so glorious that when we fix our eyes on Him, the things of earth–all those circumstances in which we’re so concerned with our own dignity–will grow strangely dim? Do you believe HE can outshine you? Outshine your problems? Your reputation? Your insecurity?
I do. I do because I’ve experienced it. Turning your eyes upon Jesus is like jumping off the weathervane and dancing in the rain. It’s cleansing and liberating and refreshing. Not only does Jesus Christ define my worth (2 Cor 5:17, John 1:12, Ps 139), He calls me to Himself (Gal 1: 10), reminding me that the story is so much bigger than whether or not so-and-so likes me. The story is as BIG as His love, as AGONIZING as a bloody cross, as POWERFUL as an empty tomb and as URGENT as a coming King. Surely that is reason for you and I to take our eyes off our bellybuttons, and together with the Psalmist David, declare, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord” (Ps 25:15).
Last week I had the privilege of chatting with Jenny Schmidt of Channelmom, a radio show broadcasted on Denver’s KLVZ station. Along with her team at Channelmom, Jenny’s mission is to love, coach, and encourage mom’s worldwide. We talked about the pain behind Mommy Wars and discussed the controversial subject of Public School Education vs. Home Schooling for Christian moms. The 2-part interview airs TODAY and TOMORROW at 5:30pm East Coast Time and 3:30pm Mountain Time. Click on the link below to listen live!
I was twenty-five years old when I signed up for a Facebook account, and in many ways I can’t imagine how my middle and high school experience would’ve been impacted had the world of social media been available to me. Which is probably why the notion of raising my kids in this Brave New World feels so intimidating. With that in mind, I turned to a group of older, wiser moms of children 10-18 years old. I asked them several questions regarding kids and social media, and from their responses drafted 5 basic principles for parenting in the digital generation.
1. Know Your Child
This was one of the most compelling statements I heard from a mom: “I think young people behave online as they behave in their day to day lives. If you see pettiness and dishonesty day to day, it will come out online. If the day to day habit of life is to act with honesty and respect, the same will occur in their electronic communication.” In this same vein, a few of the moms I polled adopt a zero social media policy, simply because they believe their children aren’t ready for it.
2. Establish Ground Rules
The #1 rule the vast majority of moms either established or wished they had established was to keep all computers, X-boxes, and televisions out of their child’s bedroom and in a public living area. Alongside this, virtually every mom agreed that it was wise or would’ve been wise to keep cell phones out of their child’s room overnight. The second most widely adopted rule was that parents had to be privy to all social media activity. While some parents simply “friend” or subscribe to their children’s on-line profiles, others require the password so they can see all private messages as well. One dad who requires his kids to hand over their passwords explained to me that the notion of “privacy” for a teenager is bogus when it comes to social media, because by its very nature social media is a public sphere. Naturally, rules entail consequences. When one mom discovered that her kids had used iPods to secretly open up Instagram accounts, she took away the iPods–not because her kids had created accounts, but because they’d done it deceptively.
3. Educate Your Kids
In addition to ground rules, most parents talked to their kids about the dangers of the Internet, the permanence of what’s posted on it, and the fact that what we write shapes how we’re viewed. As a former teacher, I remember sitting in a meeting as the headmaster announced that for the first time our school was making the decision to expel a student for Facebook activity which the student refused to erase. The lesson? Writing on-line is not the same as writing in a journal, and kids need to realize that the consequences aren’t the same either.
4. Put Technology to Work for You I loved this mom’s practical advice: “I think the best thing we ever did was pay 5 dollars a month for parental controls on our Verizon account. It was easy to manage and I could set it up and change it to fit whatever situation arose. I could have the phone go off at certain times on school nights and extend the hours on weekends. I could block numbers of certain “friends” altogether. I could also see who was texting, when and how much. I couldn’t see the text but just the amount of time spent texting.” This same mom also made me aware of the free “Life 360” app, which can be installed on your children’s phones to track where they are, a particularly helpful tool when they’re old enough to drive. She said, “We never ran up against any of the kids feeling like Big Brother was watching because we implemented most of these things early and they just became accepted.”
5. Use Social Media as an Opportunity for Biblical Instruction
One thing is for sure: when it comes to social media, there’s a steep learning curve, which (yes) makes us nervous but also presents an awesome opportunity for real life training. Whether the scenario is as mild as a child posting something she later regrets, or as significant as ruining relationships and losing friends over a post (both real stories moms shared with me), social media gives us the opportunity to teach in the context of the moment. And it’s not all about protection and prevention–social media has HUGE positive potential for influence. One mom said her kids use Facebook to share their faith and promote youth group activities. Amen! I’m actually Facebook friends with her kids and can honestly say few things are more encouraging than seeing a high school boy openly and passionately proclaim the goodness of God via Facebook.
Final Thoughts After all my research was through, I noticed one over-arching pattern. The parents who felt the most positive toward social media were the ones whose kids talked to them about social media issues. In other words, the parents with the closest relationships to their children felt the most confident when it came to social media. Which leads me to a very interesting conclusion: I don’t think social media is really the issue. I think the real issue is the heart. Social media is just one more realm for the beliefs, desires, and motivations of the heart to expose itself.
Maybe, then, the focus of my concern shouldn’t really be a computer, but the souls of the two little girls God has graciously entrusted to me. Maybe the best thing I can do now to prepare my kids for the world of social media is to know my kids now. To play with them while they still want to play with me, listen to them while they still want to talk to me, build a relationship with them while I’m still their favorite person in the world. And one day when they ask for a Facebook account, after I’ve established rules and set up parental controls, I’ll remember that ultimately my Hope isn’t in any of those things. I’ll remember it’s in the One who has the power to protect and sanctify their hearts.
This is one of my kids’ favorite boring-day projects. We start with a large cardboard box (if it’s got images on it–like a diaper box–turn it inside out). I use the bottom of the box for the roof and the open top flaps as the “grassy lawn.” Cut off the back flap of the “lawn” and use it to enclose the top of the roof (see the purple strip on the very top of our model). Once you’ve constructed the house, let the kids paint it, add whatever details you want, and then after it’s dry invite the stuffed animals (and perhaps small toddlers) to come on in!
Article: Is Public School An Option? by Al Mohler People frequently ask me where I plan to send my kids (now 4 and 2) to school. The answer is, I have no idea. I’ve taken no strong stance on public schooling, private schooling, or homeschooling, simply because I haven’t needed to think about it. But that luxury is rapidly evaporating, and I find myself wondering, how am I going to school my kids? For any parent asking the same question, I think this article is worth reading. Al Mohler examines the historical influences that impacted the changing ideology behind public schooling, and why he believes public schools are becoming less of an option for Christians. I’ll warn you, the article takes a strong stance on an already heated issue, but in my opinion it never hurts to learn the facts–in fact, it may hurt not to.
Product: “Baking Everyday Better” Homemade Treats
With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, these tasty made-from-scratch (affordable) treats are a great idea for local folks hosting parties. I can personally vouch for the A-MAZING cinnamon rolls and Oreo Grasshopper Cake, and I hear the Lemon-Raspberry Cake is divine! Although this has nothing to do with the treats themselves, I can also vouch for the incredible heart of the baker, Destiny. Check out the Baking Everyday Better Facebook page to place an order.
Movie: Lee Daniels’ The Butler
While I’ve heard this movie was very loosely based on the true story, the sheer life span of this one butler is remarkable. The character Cecil Gaines (based on Eugene Allen) lived to serve eight American presidents through the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights movement. To me, the most fascinating aspect of the movie was the way it showed two different African American men’s approaches to surviving and thriving during an evil and oppressive era in our history. While Gaines’s son fights for equality, his father chooses to serve the very men shaping the future of the United States. This movie opened my eyes in a new and meaningful way, leaving me in tears as I watched a man who was born into oppression live to see an African American elected president of the United States.
Book: The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan Have you ever felt like you were in an impossible place–a scary, painful, “where is God” kind of place, and you just longed to sit down with a cup of coffee and a really wise somebody who could give you some advice? If so, you need to sit down with Robert Morgan. In his book, The Red Sea Rules, Morgan uses the Red Sea account in Exodus to draw out ten practical principles for difficult seasons of life. The book is short and to the point, built around the truth that “The same God who led you in will lead you out.” This book comforted me at a time when I felt abandoned by God and needed perspective on how to face suffering as a believer.