I Am Not Enough (guest post)

Friends, you will be blessed by this honest, Spirit-filled post from my
virtual friend, Heather Bock. Receive these words from her heart, then
connect with her through the links at the end. And as always, we'd love to
hear what you think in the comments!

As a mother, I am broken. I am not enough.

Since the moment I knew life was growing inside me, I wanted so much to be enough. In fact, I wanted very much to be as close to a perfect mother as possible. I ate all the right foods, took the right vitamins, and slept the recommended way. When my baby was born, I read all the books, swaddled him carefully, and started him on solids, thinking carefully about which food to introduce first and watching for allergies each time. Continue reading “I Am Not Enough (guest post)”

Advertisements

Teens: #MistakeManaged

He tried to decide well. He talked to his parents and tried to foresee the consequences. He thought about it, not hastily jumping to a conclusion; maybe he even prayed. But there was no clear right or wrong and no precedent to which he could refer in his short life.

He tried to decide well. But he chose wrong, and now he’s faced with managing a whopper of a mistake.

We could have chosen for him, but he’s old enough now to make his own decisions. (We may not have recognized the best decision anyway.) He’s old enough now to learn from both good and bad situations.

So what can we, as parents, do now? How can we walk our teen through the aftermath of a bad decision? How can we coach him (or her) to manage mistakes?

Help your teen work through his situation with these steps. (If you’re facing a similar bad decision, these steps work for us parents, too, by the way.)

4 Steps to Managing a Major Mistake

  1. He must “own” his mistake: “Yes, I did this. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, I accept the consequences.”

Our teen must admit his error and accept the natural consequences that follow. This is not the time to lecture but to comfort, to gently peel away the excuses and blame-casting. Help him see the connection between his decision and what followed (and may still follow). Help him look for anything he can learn that will help him in the future. This is wisdom: learning from our experiences!

  1. He must apologize to the wronged parties: “I’m sorry. I messed up.”

In whatever way is appropriate (although face-to-face is best), help him create the space to apologize. In admitting he was wrong and asking for forgiveness, this bad situation can begin to heal—for everyone involved.

  1. He must forgive himself: “God loves me. I am forgiven. I can learn. I can change. I am valuable.”

Yes, he made a mistake, but our lives are never summed up in one decision. Let him know he may laugh at this whole situation one day. Encourage him to consider the value of learning from a mistake and becoming better equipped for the future. (This is a “growth mindset.”) If appropriate, share an “epic fail” from your own teenage years. He will see that you’ve recovered from your error and that you’ve gone on to have a full life. But hey! Don’t lie. If your bad decision still affects your life, let him know, and point Him toward God’s faithfulness even through your consequences.

  1. He must move on: “I will not be defined by this one decision. I can and will continue with my life.”

At our house, we call this step “nail it and press on” (from an AIA camp years ago). If forgiveness looks back toward the mistake, “nail it” looks forward toward a better future. It’s easy for our teens to get emotionally or spiritually stuck at their mistake. We can help them take that intentional next step. Ask something like, “Where do you want to go from here?” We (the parents) must not repeatedly return to his mistake. Sure, there will be times to remind him, but we can’t pick up the hammer and keep nailing. Keep moving forward with him.

It’s inevitable that our children will make mistakes—some of them doozies! If we handle their mistakes with maturity and coach them through the process as well, we’re equipping them for adulthood where (as we all know) mistakes continue to pop up in our lives.

Parents, now is the time to help our teens learn how to manage their mistakes! Try these 4 steps, via @Carole_Sparks of #IntentionalParenting. #mistakemanaged (click to tweet)

You probably don’t want to embarrass your teen by sharing one of their big mistakes, but we would appreciate any counsel on how you helped them walk through it. What did you say that elicited a positive response? What should the rest of us not say to our teens at such a time? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

The Method Drowned the Message

It feels like yesterday when my firstborn would climb onto my lap to read a book. Well, I read. She turned pages–sometimes too quickly. One day, she brought me this book about a sad sheep. (I can’t remember why the sheep was sad.) I liked to do voices when I read (still do!), and I voiced the sheep as if he was horribly upset. After about three words, she turned around with a look of horror on her face and tears in her eyes. Before I could react, she burst into tears and pushed the book away. I’m not sure we ever read that book again.

The method of my delivery drowned out the message of the story.

Twelve years later… Continue reading “The Method Drowned the Message”

Memorable Mealtimes (guest post)

I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has 
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime. 
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of 
this post.

“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.

Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.

Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.

As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.

Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:

  • Unplug

We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.

  • Keep it relaxed

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.

  • Facilitate conversation

The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.

  • Make room for fun

Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.

  • Model healthy habits

From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.

  • Find your own rhythm

For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:

  1. Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
  2. Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
  3. What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?

Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.

How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.

Prioritizing family #mealtimes may take a little work, but it’s worth it! Some #IntentionalParenting tips via @DazzledByTheSon and @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

IP - Meredith Mills headshot

Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter.

 

 

 

FOMO for Minister’s Kids

This month on PastorsWives.com, I share about those years when we lived where there was no church, about how I worried that my kids wouldn’t spiritually mature without the programs so familiar to most of us, about how God met their needs in unique, over-the-top ways. Looking back, I’m actually glad they didn’t have all the advantages of a large church.

It starts like this…

I want the best for my kids. We all do. It’s part of being a mother.

When God called us overseas, we had to forsake a loving nursery where every worker had a background check, followed by a well-structured, modern children’s program, and culminating in a large, energetic youth group. Without these, I was anxious about the spiritual education of my children. 

  • Who would teach them the Bible stories?
  • Would they be “normal kids” without pizza parties and emphasis weekends?
  • How would they learn how to battle PEER PRESSURE?!
  • WHAT IF THEY NEVER LEARNED “JESUS LOVES ME”?!?!? (I was happy to avoid “Father Abraham,” because that song just drives me crazy.)

Click on over to read the rest. I’d appreciate it if you leave a comment there or pop back over here and let me know what you think.

The Bedroom Door Prayer (guest post)

Today I’m welcoming a new-found writer friend, Julie Dibble. You can read more 
about Julie at the end, but trust me when I say her heart for the Lord is clear…
and it informs everything she does, especially her parenting. I hope you’re 
blessed by this story of Intentional Parenting like I was.

Have you ever wondered if your children are listening? I mean truly digesting all the half-lectures, devotionals and parental sermons?

20161023_075301
Julie and Jackson

Our youngest son is a pistol. His feet pushed my belly out on all sides.  He danced in the womb instead of sleeping. If you haven’t already guessed, our little Jackson is also a strong-willed child. I find myself often thinking, His determination will serve him well in his adult endeavors.

Our house runs much differently today than it did a short three years ago. I am into my third year of intentionally learning, praising, and following our Lord. Prior to this, the word forgiveness was not in my vocabulary. My focus was to hold all rule-breakers accountable, so you can imagine how many consequences our feisty Jackson received in his young life.

Fast forward to now. Jesus is Lord of our home. He came to save all of us, who are sinners. For Jackson, this news hasn’t settled in quite yet. Sometimes muttering out of his freckled nosed face is the age-old sibling rivalry cry, “But Braedon never gets in trouble.”

Braedon is twelve, academically gifted, and obedient as the day is long. Jackson is ten, athletically gifted and finds it hard to submit to authority.

Slowly, in evening devotions, we have expanded the meaning of sin. Anytime we choose not to follow or trust God, we sin. Therefore, Braedon often has to ask for forgiveness for worrying and not trusting God. My husband and I ask for forgiveness for things like jealousy and judging others. Jackson struggles to say the words, and we help him understand Jesus will forgive as long as we ask.

Honestly, sometimes during devotions, Jackson is goofing off. Patience wears thin, and there we are as a family of four, frustrated and not honoring our time set for the Lord. As the night’s ornery behavior follows into the next day, you might see huffing and protesting and stomping of feet.

Is it sinking in? I wonder.

One day, after resisting his discipline, he took time by himself. After a few minutes, he came directly to me, wrapped his short arm around my growing waist, and said, “Mom, will you forgive me?” Hugging him tightly, my heart leapt.

Preparing this post led me to repent. Who was not trusting our Lord this time?

Sometimes when I arrive home after the boys are already in bed, I stand in the hallway and say a Bedroom Door Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for Jackson. Thank you for trusting me with his care. Please help guide him with Your wisdom. Please help Jackson stay on your path, Lord, to grow a desire to follow you out of love instead of avoiding consequence.

In Your Name,

Amen

For if we sinfully think it is our eyes alone watching our children grow and mature, we must repent. God is all powerful in every moment of time, and He knows our children’s entire hearts and souls.

As parents, prayer itself is an invitation to involve God in our children’s lives. When God sees our honest efforts at teaching things like forgiveness and grace, He will bless our families.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us, helping us, and reminding us as parents we are not alone.

Carole here. It’s like I said, isn’t it? Julie encourages all of us by example. 
If this story touches you, let her know in the comments below. You can also share
this post on Twitter!

Ever wonder if your words are sinking in? One mom got tangible evidence… (click to tweet)

julie-dibble-headshot
Julie Dibble

Julie Dibble, MA is a Christian speaker and author who has a passion for truth and faith. Julie and her husband, Jason, live in Central PA with their sons, Braedon and Jackson. She writes weekly at her blog: www(dot)juliedibblewrites(dot)wordpress(dot)com. Julie commits to offering any of her blog posts as topics for speaking events.
You may connect with Julie on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook.

Goal-Setting for Children

Even though it’s only mid-December and the biggest event of the year is still ten days away, I find myself already looking toward the new year. I’m not big on making resolutions, but I do like to use the fresh year as a kicking-off-point for new habits or emphases. If you’re the same, you know it takes forethought and prayerful consideration to implement meaningful change—in ourselves and in our children.

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart (which I also mentioned last week), Tedd Tripp offers guidance on how and why we, as parents, should set goals for our children. There’s no need to rehash that. Let’s look instead at what sort of goals we might set for our children.

In my parenting, I often come back to this one verse.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. -Luke 2:52

(I wrote about Luke 2:52 as a guide for prayer in the past.) When we think about the young Jesus, we know he didn’t grow up in a vacuum. Joseph, Mary, and others influenced his maturity. I’m a little jealous; that must have been the easiest parenting job ever! For the rest of us parents—the ones raising non-God-incarnate children—it’s even more important to intentionally influence every facet of our children’s maturation.

This verse provides us with four areas of growth. Applied to goal-setting, the short version looks like this:

1 achievement, 1 skill, 1 spiritual growth, 1 relationship

Let’s brainstorm some ideas.

Wisdom: intellectual development

violin-close-up
music lessons (c) Carole Sparks

Set one goal related to their education, learning, or other thinking/mental skills. This could be a skill or an achievement. Some possibilities:

  • Learn to read chapter books.
  • Improve average grade (overall or in one subject) by one letter grade.
  • Attend a special class or camp that emphasizes an area of personal interest such as environmental sciences, computer coding, painting, soccer, etc.
  • Learn to play an instrument or, if they already play, learn a significantly more difficult piece.
  • Learn another language such as sign language or Spanish. Connect this with their social development by finding someone they would like to talk with.

Stature: physical development

gymnastics-assist
gymnastics assist (c) Carole Sparks

There’s not much we or our children can do about their height or shoe size, but we can help them practice a healthy lifestyle or improve their fitness. Set one goal related to their physical development, also either a skill or an achievement. Something like…

  • Learn to ride a bike.
  • Learn a new sport.
  • Achieve a new level in their existing sport. For example, earn the next belt in karate or make the varsity team in his/her sport.
  • Accomplish a fitness goal such as running a 10-minute mile.
  • Learn to eat three new healthy foods.
  • Learn to cook something specific, learn a certain type of cooking, or learn how to do some household chore. (Don’t just say “learn to cook.” That’s too broad to measure.) Last year, my oldest learned to use the washer and dryer. This year, maybe we’ll focusing on cooking some simple dishes.

Favor with God: spiritual development

11-21 read Bible story (2)
(c) Carole Sparks

How can we help our children grow closer to God through the year? Consider one of these or something else that fits your child’s interests and current maturity level.

  • Become consistent in having a daily quiet time or personal devotion.
  • Memorize a certain number of Bible verses. (Personally, I’m planning to memorize twenty-four passages in 2017!)
  • Work on one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) such as kindness or self-control. This one will take some extra effort on your part, parent, to find actions and/or practices specifically targeting this one thing.
  • Begin paying attention and/or taking notes in “big church.” Start with once/month or five minutes/sermon.
  • Learn a certain number of Bible stories (great for younger children). Maybe one per month?
  • Improve upon one spiritual discipline such as meditation or generosity (great for older children).
  • Read a certain numbers of books related to spiritual growth. I’m challenging my teen to read one non-fiction book per month, mostly faith-based. John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is a great one for thinking teens to start with.

Favor with Man: social development

02-17-jo-hangs-with-big-boys-2
kid spectators (c) Carole Sparks

Without a little encouragement, our children fall into relationship ruts just like we do. Talk with them about how they want to grow this coming year. Some options might be…

  • Intentionally make a new friend at school or church.
  • Reconcile with someone they don’t like or with whom they had a fight. This starts with praying for that person.
  • Learn how to make “small talk” with adults.
  • Compliment/encourage someone every day.
  • Learn another language so they can talk to someone in that person’s “heart language.” (See intellectual development above.)
  • Learn a technique for diffusing conflict—one they can practice with siblings.

 

As you look toward 2017, pray through what sort of goals God is leading you to set regarding your children. Ask Him to reveal areas where they need purposeful intervention, bringing them into the conversation at an appropriate level. For my older children, they fully participate in the process, but younger children may need more guidance from you.

After you’ve set your goals, don’t just leave them at the level of ideas. Goals need action plans or steps toward fulfillment. Sit down with your kids and discuss the small steps that will lead to big growth in 2017. Look at your own life, too. We have to model before we can teach. This is why I’m signing up to learn twenty-four Bible passages this year. I need accountability for my own spiritual growth, and I want to model the importance of Scripture memory to my children.

And finally, follow up! Through the year, revisit the goals. Are you seeing growth? Do you need to adjust something? Are they experiencing the difference? Encourage them to stay faithful to the task…and you stay faithful, too. Jesus grew up at the same rate that our children do. He didn’t achieve wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man in one day or even one year. This is an eighteen-year process, parents!

Then celebrate at the end of 2017! Recognize your children’s achievements. Talk about how they’ve grown and what changes you’ve seen.

As you anticipate Intentional Parenting in 2017, I pray this brainstorming session helps you set significant, achievable goals for and with your children. If you’ve been encouraged, please share this post using the tweet below.

4 #IntentionalParenting goals to help our children grow in #2017.

What goals are you setting in 2017 for your children or for yourself as a parent? Join this brainstorming session (in the comments below), and you’ll be helping us all!

Discipline is Designed to Disciple

When my firstborn was toddling around—less than a year old—she once stuck her finger in an unguarded electrical outlet. (At someone else’s house. Of course, we had covers on our own outlets!) I grabbed her hand immediately. I got down where she could see my face. I looked her in the eye, and while squeezing her little hand just until I could see that it was hurting her, I said “no” in my most serious voice. If I remember correctly, I only had to do this twice before she learned not to put her fingers in electrical outlets. Yes, I hurt her just a little bit, but way less than if she’d been electrocuted. I thought of it like a vaccine: a little pain now to prevent a lot of pain later. I squeezed so tightly for her own good.

Parental discipline is like a vaccine: a little pain now to prevent a lot of pain later. (click to tweet)

I disciplined her in the only way her young mind could understand. It was an action/reaction concept: if I put my fingers here, then I hurt. The discipline was immediate and tangible because her brain wouldn’t have processed anything else. Why did I hurt her when she was so young?

  • I knew she was capable of understanding it. (The form of discipline matched her maturity level.)
  • I wanted to protect her in the future. I might not be watching so closely next time.
  • I loved her (still do) and didn’t want her to be seriously injured.
  • I wanted her to begin practicing self-control.

I did not squeeze her hand…

  • Because I was angry,
  • Because I wanted her to hurt,
  • Because she irritated, interrupted, or embarrassed me.

This is the difference between punishment and discipline.

Parental punishment is about me: my anger, my needs, my embarrassment, my convenience, my sense of entitlement or frustration with the situation.

Parental discipline is about my child’s physical well-being and spiritual growth. That’s all.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. -Proverbs 13:24

In Intentional Parenting, we teach our children in advance, but we also watch for opportunities to correct through discipline. There’s no love in pampering them, in hiding their sins and failures from them, in allowing them reckless “freedom” that ultimately enslaves them to their own desires. Discipline is something we do carefully and purposefully because we love our children.

My children have grown since the electrical outlet incident. They’re both in double-digits now, and squeezing hands isn’t the best option anymore. (Sometimes I wish it was. It was so much easier!) This week, however, I had a chance to practice some fairly serious discipline with one of my children.

At first, I was so angry that I had to just send him to his room. I felt like there was steam coming out of my ears, and I’m sure my face was red! I wanted to punish him. I wanted him to hurt. (Don’t judge. You know you’ve felt the same.) Because I was angry, I was in no state-of-mind to discipline properly. Once I calmed myself down, I went to him and told him I needed to talk with his dad about the discipline. I still didn’t trust myself, honestly. As we talked a little, I made sure he knew I loved him. The next morning, having talked with his dad, we sat down and discussed the situation calmly and arrived at some discipline that fit the situation and aligned with his maturity level. I’m praying it helps him grow in wisdom and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Some observations about discipline:

Good discipline comes out of love. We already talked about this one.

Good discipline comes out of humility. I do not present myself as better than my child but as another sinner learning how to please God throughout my life.

Good discipline comes out of obligation. As another Christ-follower, as one called to be his parent, it is my duty to correct my child when he fails. I’m helping him understand how to follow Christ more completely.

Good discipline is a product of peace. I’m talking about Biblical shalom, that confidence in God’s sovereignty over His creation and the security of knowing He loves me. Anger dismisses His sovereignty. It says I deserve something or I have been wronged. With peace, I approach my child in the confidence of God’s economy.

Good discipline aligns with the child’s maturity level and spiritual state. The wise parent desires her child to learn from the error/sin through the discipline. Just like you don’t teach first graders calculus, it takes thoughtfulness (and sometimes wracking your brain) to provide discipline at each age. If the child has accepted Christ as Lord of his life, that significantly influences the way discipline is given.

Good discipline ends. What could be more miserable than to be repeatedly reminded of a failure from your past? Trust the Holy Spirit to work in your child’s heart and lay aside the situation once the discipline is complete.

Good discipline is reserved for disobedience or danger and other clear acts of sin. Children will be foolish and forgetful. They’re ignorant of many things we take for granted as adults. Before enacting discipline, be sure the situation warrants it. Perhaps a good “talking to” (a Southern term) is all they need.

With older children…

There’s a reason discipline and disciple look so much like. Add these to the description of good discipline when your children are past the stage where physical things work best.

Good discipline is mutually-agreed-upon. We discuss ways for him to learn what is necessary. It’s important for him to understand why he must forfeit a privilege or spend time alone or do something extra. He doesn’t like it, but he understands the purpose. If he doesn’t understand why it’s happening, then he will not learn. That’s punishment, not discipline.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -Hebrews 12:11

Good discipline involves follow-up. After the discipline phase is completed, we come back to the subject at least once more to test what he’s learned. If it arises around the same time in a sermon, book, or other medium, we’ll mention it again. (See “Good Discipline Ends” above for the balance on this.)

Good discipline incorporates forgiveness. If I’ve personally been wronged, I must intentionally and specifically forgive my child. If my child has wronged someone else, he must clearly request forgiveness—including an explanation of how he now understands his behavior. He must also ask for God’s forgiveness. Never leave your child wondering if everything is “right” between the two of you afterward.

Good discipline renews trust. A follow-up time gives the parent an opportunity to talk about trust. Can you trust your child again? Do you need to see evidence of a changed heart first? Does there need to be a trial period? Make all this clear rather than leaving your child guessing.

The child who is disciplined in a Godly way will see the wisdom of Proverbs 12:1…and probably enjoy that the Bible calls someone “stupid.”

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. -Proverbs 12:1

11 characteristics of good discipline for #IntentionalParenting. (click to tweet)

prov-12-1-meme

For further reading:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (more for younger kids)

Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp (for teenagers)

Yes, they are brothers. Both of these books offer excellent sections on Biblical discipline. If you’re struggling with this issue, I urge you to take a look at the appropriate one.

More Everyday Images for the Christ-Life

On this fifth Tuesday of the month, with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas ahead of us, I’m returning to the basics of Intentional Parenting: discipling our children. Enjoy these three metaphors for the Christ-life found in God’s creation. Like a potter shaping a vase, God leaves his fingerprints all over His creation. These everyday images are endless! Read through these, then share your own at the end.

Calluses/A Hardened Heart

everyday-image-guitar
guitar calluses (c) Carole Sparks

My son plays guitar. The tips of his fingers on his left hand have calluses from pressing on the strings to make different tones. I don’t play guitar, but I sat down to play around with his one day. Because I was pressing my fingers against the metal strings of his guitar, it only took a few minutes for the skin on the ends of my fingers to turn red and hurt. Why? Because I don’t have calluses.

You can press on a callus with your fingernail, and it doesn’t hurt. Sometimes, another person can touch your callus and you won’t even realize it.

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  -Matthew 13:15a

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…  -Hebrews 3:7b-8a

When you love Jesus and you want to make him happy, we say your heart is tender. Any small sin will press up against your heart, and you’ll feel the pain of that sin until you confess. But if you choose to ignore the pain instead of addressing it, you will probably sin again in the same way. But the second time, it won’t hurt as much because the area is already inflamed (like a blister). Over and over you press on the same spot, and that’s what creates a callus. While calluses are good on a guitar player’s fingers or on the middle finger of your writing hand, they aren’t good on your heart. They make it harder to know what Jesus wants and to respond to his gentle direction. Confessing your sin and pushing it away means it can’t press against your heart anymore.

Salt/The Kingdom of Heaven

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  -Matthew 5:13

This one’s straight from Scripture, but here’s a good tactile method of explaining it.

everyday-image-popcorn
popcorn (c) Carole Sparks

Make some popcorn (in a pot, not microwave). Separate it into two bowls. Salt one bowl but not the other, then ask your children to taste each. The one with salt tastes so much better! This is what we’re called to be in the world: unobtrusive difference-makers. You can’t really tell which popcorn has salt until you taste it, but it makes all the difference. (Salt has preservative properties and other uses, but let’s keep this simple.) If the salt wasn’t salty—if it didn’t make a difference in the popcorn—it wouldn’t have any use. As Christ-followers, if we don’t bless the world with Christ, we don’t have any use either.

Ask your children how believers can make a difference in the world. Answers may range from smiling at a sad person or picking up litter to starting a charity or sharing Christ with a friend. Remind your children of one way they made a difference in the past week, emphasizing their unique personalities. Challenge everyone in the family (including parents) to share one way they plan to intentionally “be salt” in the coming week. Write SALT on a big piece of paper, on a white-board, or on the bathroom mirrors (with dry erase markers) to remind everyone of the challenge.

For more on popcorn, check out one of my previous analogies.

Pebbles in a Stream/Unconfessed Sin

This one’s not original with me, but it’s so good that I thought you should hear it.

everyday-image-pebbles
rocks in a stream (c) Carole Sparks

Every time you sin, it’s like throwing a pebble into a river. One doesn’t really make a difference, but over time, the river will become dammed by the accumulation of pebbles.

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  -John 7:38

The Living Water cannot flow from you if it’s blocked by unconfessed sin. Even though we try not to sin, we all do it. When we ask God to forgive us, however, He removes that pebble from our “river of life” so the water keeps flowing.

Parents, you could make this very tangible while playing outside in the rain. Just find a flow of water and start dropping small rocks into it at a certain spot.

 

So I pray these are helpful to you in Intentional Parenting. Remember, just look for opportunities and experiences to bring up spiritual things as a natural part of your day. Like Deuteronomy counsels, Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Be equipped to talk with kids about spiritual things at any time (Deut 6:7) with these analogies. (click to tweet)

I’d love to hear some of the creative ways God has shown you to understand theology. (That’s what this is, you know.) Please share in the comments. Maybe I’ll post a collection of other parents’ images at a later date.

Thankful, because I don’t have all the answers.

img_7853
(c) Carole Sparks

In this month of giving thanks, I’m so grateful to those who have graced my space here with their humble, penetrating words. So today, let’s remember the guest posts we’ve enjoyed over the past year.

Almost exactly a year ago, with violence and school shootings in the news, I republished a parenting post from my friend, Chester Goad. In Talking About Tragic Events with Kids, he offers some advice and resources on helping our children walk through such difficult times.

Another wise friend of mine, Hannah Vanderpool, wrote When Not to Worry for her own blog. It touched me so much that I asked permission to share it with my readers as well. My favorite line: “Refuse to give in to the temptation to fret.”

And with those two posts, I started hosting guests monthly here at Intentional Parenting. Some of them have been tangible friends, some virtual friends, and some simply parenting authors I respect. Check out any of these you missed.

In The Highest Calling of a Parent is the Shaping of Hearts, Kelly Smith uses the story of Pharaoh to remind us that our task as parents is not behavior modification but heart shaping.

Mary Felkins stopped by in March to take us back to the basics in What is Intentional Parenting? She included a reminder not to take our intentionality too far.

There’s a sweet Mother-Child story in Forget Where You Live? by Cherrilynn Bisbano. She enjoyed the fruits of Intentional Parenting when she heard her son encourage her with truth about Heaven.

It’s so important to glean advice from those who’ve already experienced the phase of parenting where you and I are now. I asked Kim Wilbanks to look back on her years ofparenting teens and share some insights in Parenting Advice from the Other Side.

Lisa Brown used a personal story to encourage every mom who ever feels anxious (and that would be all of us!) in Encouraging Words for the Anxious Mom. I think you’ll be blessed by reading her post.

When I became more active on social media, I discovered I wasn’t the only one writing about Intentional Parenting. Phil Conrad hosts a podcast and writes on the same topic, so I invited him to join us here. Read his fantastic perspective on everyday decisions in Four Intentional Decisions in Parenting.

How do you explain intentional destruction, mass murder, and other such evils to your children? Author Leigh Powers faced this dilemma when she visited a museum with her children. Practicing her Intentional Parenting, she used the situation to point her children toward Jesus. Thankfully, she shared all this with us in Raising Whole Kids in a Broken World.

Emily Wickham often writes about moms as mentors for their daughters, so she was a natural fit for a guest blog in September. Read her reflections on Jochebed as a mother in Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned.

Finally, just last month, Jessica Michaels shared her heart regarding foster care and its impact on her biological children in Loving and Letting Go. Jessica is a personal friend from my church, not a writer, so I truly appreciated her willingness to lay it all out here.

In the past year, I hope you found something here at Intentional Parenting to spur you toward more Christ-like parenting, either from my writings or from my guests. None of us have all the answers, and I am supremely blessed to have learned from all these wonderful parents this year! If you feel the same way, drop one of them a message or leave a comment below, and I’ll make sure they get it.

I’m #thankful for a whole year of guest posts about #IntentionalParenting. Find the summaries here. (click to tweet)