Seashell Assumptions

broken-shell
sea shell skeleton (c) Carole Sparks

We wandered down the beach in the early light, the first to imprint the sand with our feet that morning. We stopped with almost every step, scanning the sand for seashells. The sand was much further away for me than for my four-year-old. I was selective, only making the effort to bend over if I saw exceptional colors on perfectly formed shells. She wasn’t so selective. “Look at this one, Mama!” she said for the forty-seventh time in ten minutes. More often than not, “this one” was dirt brown and broken, well on its way to becoming sand.

“Oh, throw that one back. It’s not beautiful,” I told her more than once. “Look at this one, how perfect it is, how nice the colors are.”

“But I like it.” She looked a little sad. “It’s interesting. Look how you can see the inside—all the spaces. I think this is beautiful, too.”

An objection formed on my month but didn’t escape my lips. What was I teaching my child by insisting that “beautiful” and “perfect” or “whole” were the same thing? What did that assumption imply about people? Surely, I didn’t think the only beautiful people were those considered whole, attractive, and pristine in the world’s eyes!

I didn’t mean to teach my child that, but I was.

She saw the woman in the wheelchair at the grocery store. She saw the burned man at the next table in the restaurant. She saw the homeless man wandering down the street, talking to himself as I drove past him. I valued such people—ones the world might consider broken—and knew they were loved. I tried to show respect when I could. But such people weren’t part of our everyday experience any more than walks on the beach, so we hadn’t really talked about it. By rejecting the broken shells, I implied that some things (maybe even people) were more valuable than others because of their appearance. I knew I needed to correct myself before my daughter subconsciously acquired my tainted values.

I squatted down beside her and held out my hand to receive the broken shell. She ran down to wash it off in the water before placing it carefully in my palm. It was beautiful: intricate structure and shades of color that revealed a Creator much more clearly than the smooth outer surface of my “perfect” shells ever could, but it also, through its brokenness, told a story, and even though I didn’t know the story, I knew it was a beautiful story.

The Scriptures say we are each woven together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139), that He has plans for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and that he values us above everything else He created (Matthew 6:25-34). We easily apply these Truths to ourselves but find it more difficult to apply the same standards to others. If I want to live out the Word of God in my own life and as a parent, I must believe these verses are true for every person, regardless of their outward appearance, not just for me as the reader. Then I must intentionally lead my children to believe the same thing.

All of us have prejudices (or at least assumptions). They are part of our sin-tainted worldviews, sometimes buried so deep we don’t even realize they are there. The challenge comes in discovering them because they are so deeply ingrained. With intentional parenting, God calls us to lay bare those assumptions and purge them from our lives and our words before we unwittingly implant them in our children’s minds.

Throw back the broken ones? No, they’re beautiful too, just like people. (click to tweet)

What have you taught your kids without realizing it? What assumptions have colored your conversations so that you had to correct them later? I know I’m not alone in this. Please share!

**A shorter version of this story appeared on Just18Summers in March 2018.**

 

 

Respect is a Two-Way Street

We all want—no, expect—our children to respect us. It’s Biblical, right? Both the Old and New Testaments say, “Honor your father and mother” (e.g. Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). We are right to expect respect, but no matter how much we quote these verses, no matter how much we stomp our feet and vociferously demand respect, we don’t always get it.

Why not? Well, part of the reason is the sin nature with which both we and our children were born. Part of the reason is our culture and the influences of media, peers, etc. But may I submit something to you? Perhaps another part of the reason our children don’t respect us is because we don’t respect them. Respect is a two-way street.

In Intentional Parenting, we model respect for our own elders and superiors (at work, church, etc.). We also talk about respect, about how honoring others honors God and other associated Biblical concepts, such as “The Golden Rule.” Sometimes, however, we forget to apply those same Biblical concepts within our families as well.

Need some solutions? Here are a few age-appropriate ways to demonstrate respect toward your children. You can expect that respect to be reciprocated.

At Any Age

Follow through on your promises and commitments. If you said you’ll read a book before bed, then read a book. No excuses. If you said, “One more time and you lose [a certain privilege],” then after one more time, they lose that privilege.

This kind of integrity demonstrates that your words to the child actually mean something. When you begin to do what you say you will do, they will start listening.

Young Children

From the first visit to a playground or first playdate, institute a two-minute warning. Two minutes before you need to leave, tell the child he/she has two minutes remaining to play. (We usually tried to give a five-minute warning as well.) This simple warning has helped us avoid so many tantrums! I know because the times we didn’t give a warning were much more difficult.

When you, as an adult, are busy on a project or in a conversation, you don’t like to be interrupted. Even worse, you don’t want to be forced to stop without warning. I don’t either. Why do we think it’s any easier for our children?

Early Elementary

Allow your children to make as many decisions as possible. Before you correct (or laugh—even worse!), ask yourself if it really matters. Toy storage locations, everyday clothes worn, books to read, interests to pursue…all these are decisions a six-year-old can make. Maybe you prefer the Legos in the bin on the left and the doll clothes in the bin on the right; maybe there are even good reasons for your preference, but as long as there’s no danger, allow your child the choice. That “ownership” in the location of the toys may even help at clean-up time.

Children at this age long for independence, but they have so little. By allowing their decisions to stand, we demonstrate the validity of their choices and affirm the children as independent thinkers. Besides functioning as a confidence builder and sign of respect, this approach will help your children know that when you do object, there’s an important reason.

Middle-Grade Children

Elementary and middle-grade children have so many stories to tell. Let’s be honest, though. Some of them are boring. Long and boring. As parents, we may be tempted to interrupt with something unrelated or jump in and quickly finish the story ourselves. Don’t interrupt. Allow them to finish the stories. (At our house, we have a sign for “make this shorter” when the story gets too long. It helps.) If it’s necessary to interrupt, say “Excuse me,” just like you would if interrupting an adult.

From the time they could speak, we’ve taught our children not to interrupt us. Allowing them the same honor says their experiences are valuable and their family participation is important.

Tweens and Teens

If your child asks you not to show affection in a certain way or say a certain thing in front of his/her friends, don’t do it. Respect their public image. Public displays of affection, pet names, even cheering too loudly may infantilize our teenagers (at least in their own eyes), and it may be fodder for teasing or bullying among their peers. Our teenagers don’t deserve that. Don’t worry, they’ll still enjoy the hugs, pats, and verbal affection in private. Also, refrain from telling embarrassing stories or showing naked baby pictures no matter how cute they are.

Let’s face it; we will embarrass our teenagers. It’s inevitable. But our efforts to minimize the embarrassment demonstrate our respect for their increased maturity. That respect will surely be reciprocated.

Reciprocate Respect

The world says respect is earned, not given. Contrary to the world, however, the Bible says every person—regardless of position or power—is a unique creation of God Most High (Psalm 139, for example). We begin there: every person deserves respect. This is not a burden to lay on our children (that they should respect us) but a principle to lay under our interactions with our children (that they are worthy of respect). At the same time, however, we parents should live lives worthy of our children’s respect. That’s just a given. We clear the way for respectful responses when we demonstrate respect in our interactions with them. Respect is a two-way street.

Respect your children at every age and you can expect respect from them-5 ideas. (click to tweet)

I thought about sharing stories of parents carrying their children from the playground in the middle of a temper tantrum, but let’s not do that. Instead, use the comments below to share some positive stories of reciprocated respect. Let us hear from you!

respect-2-way-street
Rainy road (c) Carole Sparks

3 Approaches to Allowance

I have some really practical Intentional Parenting thoughts for you today about our children’s allowances. There are a few different approaches we’ll look at, and I’ll let you know why we chose the one we did.

There are three broad approaches to allowances. (I’m making up these categories.)

  1. The Beneficent Ruler approach
  2. The Employer/Employee approach
  3. The Citizenship approach

The Beneficent Ruler Approach

In this approach, there are no allowances. The parent buys the child what he wants. While it feels generous, this approach is subject to the mood of the parent, who might choose not to buy a new toy because she is angry with the child or in a hurry. The parent may also be tempted to bribe the child in order to influence the child’s behavior in the store. Furthermore, as the child grows, his expectations will become more and more expensive, creating problems for the parent who will inevitably have to start saying “no.”

I don’t recommend this approach after the child learns to count money. In addition to the issues above, the child will not learn the value of money or how to save it. He also won’t understand why some shopping trips result in toys and others don’t.

No matter which of the next two approaches you take, an allowance is a good idea. It helps your children learn how to manage money and how to save for things they really want. I am so thankful my mother taught me how to spend and save money. I’m fairly sure it’s that experience which has helped my own family stay out of credit card debt!

The Employer/Employee Approach

In this method, parents pay children for the completion of chores. Although we don’t use this approach, I have friends who do, and there are some benefits to it. Children learn the value of their work—that effort has rewards. Parents sometimes quantify purchases, saying things like, “That book costs five dishwashings.” This can be helpful for children who don’t grasp the concept of paper money and coins yet. Children will also have incentive to do their chores because of the reward, and the punishment for incomplete chores is built into the system.

The Biblical basis for this approach comes from verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

The Citizenship Approach

In this method, all members of the family possess certain rights and responsibilities inherent to their positions as family members. Members have the right to an allowance, that is, to a small amount of money that can be used at one’s discretion. They also have a right to be heard and to provide input into big decisions (financial and otherwise). At the same time, family members have certain responsibilities simply because they are part of the family. Parents go to work or work from home, children go to school, parents drive places, parents buy groceries, children obey parents as governing authorities, etc. Everyone does household and yard chores appropriate for their ages and strengths.

Even if you don’t do your chores all week, even if you get disciplined every day, you still get your allowance (unless part of your discipline is the loss of that allowance, which we’ve never done).

I prefer this approach because it’s not really about the money. It’s about the family and each person’s permanent place in it. Through it, we teach our children about our (and therefore God’s) everlasting love and generosity but also our response of obedience. We fulfill our duties because we’re part of the family, not because we get something for it. We receive an allowance because we’re part of the same family and not because we did something to deserve it. Sure, it makes chore completion more of a hassle, but I think it’s worth it.

The Citizenship approach refers to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. The Biblical foundation for this approach comes from verses such as this:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. -Romans 8:17

Details

Just a couple of details, if you’re interested.

  • Each person’s allowance (including parents) is half their age. So the 10-year-old gets $5/week. (We might have to change this in the later teenage years, but it’s working for now.) This helps us modify amounts as the kids get older. Because we parents get an allowance, too, the children watch us go through the same waiting times and decisions as they experience. They don’t think we can just buy anything we want because we have the ATM cards.
  • We give occasional advances if there’s a good purchase that probably won’t be available later. We are faithful, however, to ensure that it’s repaid. Learning about debt is part of the experience.
  • The children tithe on their allowance, as practice and as an act of worship.

3 Approaches to Allowance for Intentional Parenting. (click to tweet)

What about your experience as a child or as a parent? Please share some good allowance strategies or ideas in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

beach storm
beach storm (c) Carole Sparks

Just as I went to bed one night last week, it started storming. Thunder rattled the windows and rain battered the roof. Did I lie awake in bed, worrying about the effects of the storm? Did I think my house might go splat? No. In fact, I probably went to sleep faster because the sound of rain relaxes me. I have the freedom to relax in a storm because I know my house is solid and the weatherproofing on my windows is strong.

Jesus knew what a big storm feels like. We have documentation of his presence in a couple of storms (e.g. Matthew 8), and I imagine he lived through many others before His ministry became public. Jesus had this fantastic ability to take the everyday “stuff of life” and use it to instruct his listeners…and us. That’s what He did with the storm. Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us a parable (which is an analogy or word picture presented as a short story) to help us understand the importance of His teachings (Matthew 7:24-27/Luke 6:46-49). Many, many years later, someone (we’re not sure who) created this children’s song about it. Let’s dig into the parable and song for a minute to see what parents can take away from what’s seemingly “just” a children’s song.

wise man, foolish man
car window on a rainy day (c) Carole Sparks
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rain came tumbling down

The rain came down and the flood came up
The rain came down and the flood came up
The rain came down and the flood came up
But the house on the rock stood firm

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

The rain came down and the flood came up

And the house on the stand went SPLAT!

We can assume these two men are equally dedicated to their task, using quality materials and excellent craftsmanship. We can assume they equally desire to protect and comfort their families.

What’s the difference between them? Below the foundations of their homes, they have different substrata. It wouldn’t even be apparent at first. Both families move in. Both families throw housewarming parties. But at some point, a huge storm comes. As the rain beats against the windows and the shutters creak in the wind, one house hangs on…possibly a bit worse-for-wear, maybe a few shingles missing and a cracked window pane, but still solid. The other house? Well, it goes SPLAT!

The parallel is hard to miss. The conviction needs little explanation. What’s under your family?

flash flood
flash flood 2015 (c) Carole Sparks

It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into parenting if your foundational faith system is misplaced. Think how much time and money the foolish man wasted because he built in the wrong place, on the wrong soil. Your family may look good and function well for a while, but eventually—when the inevitable difficulties arise (a.k.a. storms)—your Pinterest-worthy family structure will crumble. You can provide your own examples. I know you’ve seen it happen.

On the other hand, parents who rely primarily on God’s direction (through His Word) will weather the difficulties and stand tall against the storms. They may have to fight, and they may come out with some scars (Trust me, I know.), but they survive intact. Not because they are better than the other families but because they located their family structure on the One and Only Solid Rock.

A simple song reminds us to reevaluate the assumptions that underlie our family culture. (click to tweet)

Maybe you didn’t start your family on the Solid Rock. Maybe shifting sand better characterizes your first years of marriage and/or parenting. There’s good news: it’s not too late! Like those big trucks that come in and move existing houses to new locations, your family can resettle. It’s painful and might require some major upheaval, but it’s possible. I know a family who did it well!

This admonition from Jesus is certainly for all believers, but there’s a similar warning just for women.

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. -Proverbs 14:1

Two random things in my mind now:

  1. “The Three Little Pigs.” Anyone else reminded of them? No? Hmm… Might be a good lead-in to a discussion of this parable with your children.
  2. My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less by Edward Mote, is a “grown up” hymn based on the same parable. It’s one of the best!

Want to share your story? Please leave your response in the comments!

Attribution: unknown, public domain

wise man foolish man score

Previously in this series:

This Little Light of Mine

The B-I-B-L-E

Deep and Wide

Zacchaeus

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I’ve Got the Joy

Still to come:

  • Father Abraham
  • My God is So Big

How to Study the Bible with Your Grade-School Children (in app. 500 words)

If the thought of opening the real Bible (not the children’s storybook Bible) with your children intimidates you, here’s the help you need! It’s a simple Bible study method to engage you and your children in studying His Word. It requires no weekly preparation and it should be fun.

But first, it’s okay…

…to laugh with the Bible. Have fun; be creative; stretch your imagination. For example, what kind of face do you think Zacchaeus made when Jesus looked up in the tree?

…that you don’t have a degree in Bible. The Word of God is accessible to all. Plus, your kids don’t need a lecture on transubstantiation. They need to know what it means to take the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

…if you or your kids can’t answer all the questions. Everyone can try. You will all get better at it after some experience.

…to use the “grown-up” Bible with your children. Just find an easy-to-read translation such as English Standard Version (ESV) or New International Readers Version (NIrV) and start reading!

Before your first study time, choose a book of the Bible. Start with a gospel such as Mark or Luke—lots of stories. Read the introductory material in your study Bible. That will help you answer questions about the author and situation.

The “How To”

Pray together.

Ask for understanding, patience, listening ears, no distractions, etc.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. -John 14:26

Use stories.

Read one story, along with any preceding transitions or introductions. Then have someone else retell it or act it out. Try letting a child read the story, then you retell it.

(Next time, review previous weeks, then read the next story. Make it like a series so everyone catches the bigger picture.)

Ask interactive questions.

Use interrogatives to discuss the story. Answer the questions together.

  • Where are they?
  • When does this happen?
  • Who is there?
  • What actually happens?
  • How did people respond?

Now take it deeper.

  • What did it mean to the people who were there?
  • Why did the author include this story?
  • What connections do you see to other stories/Scripture?

Finally, application.

  • What have we learned?
  • What do we need to do about what we’ve learned?
  • What action do we need to take (as a family or individually) in response?

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

Create a ‘take-away’.

Find an object to remind you of this story, have someone draw a picture of the story, or (if everyone can read) display an application phrase in a prominent place for the week.

Extend the discussion.

Talk about the story and application as you have opportunities throughout the week.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. 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 6:6-7

Family devotions without a devotional book: How to Study the Bible with Your Kids (in <500 words)  <-click to tweet

Try this out, then leave me some feedback. I’d really like to know what you think!

New School Year, New Parenting Practices

4 Habits to Draw Your Family Closer to Christ

It’s that time of year! No, not Christmas (although we’ll see it in the stores any time now). In the USA, it’s the beginning of a new school year. Many of the school systems around us begin classes this week or next, and every homeschooling mom I meet has an imminent date in her mind as well.

As a parent, mid-August feels more like a new beginning to me than early January. With the establishment of new school schedules, after-school activities, etc., this is a fantastic time to implement or refresh some Christ-centered practices in your family life as well. Consider any or all of these four ways to ‘up’ your Intentional Parenting game.

  1. Establish Family Devotions

I will just confess right here that we don’t do this. In fact, my impetus for writing this post is my desire to finally start a weekly study time with my family!

Rather than depending on a pre-written devotional (sorry, writer friends!), try reading through a gospel such as Mark. Do one chapter or one story  each week. Be creative; act it out if your children like that kind of thing or play charades or draw pictures or just take turns reading aloud. Leave time to talk and to pray for God to help you respond to what you’ve received. For older children, you might study a paragraph per week from an epistle such as Philippians.

If the thought of discipling your children like this leaves you weak in the knees, come back next week. I’ll post How to Study the Bible with Your Grade School Children in 500 words or less.

Intentional Parenting perk: When we prioritize Bible study…when we model digging into the Word, obeying what we find, and living according to God’s guidance, our children naturally learn to do the same.

If you just don’t know how to fit this intentional time into your family calendar, look at #4. We’re making it a priority this fall—finally—and I’m praying you see the value in it, too!

  1. Implement Drive-to-School prayer time

We started this last year, and it was such a blessing. If you deliver your child(ren) to school, turn off the radio on the way. Ask what he/she anticipates in the day to come:

  • Academically: tests, homework, projects, presentations, PE expectations
  • Socially: friends, lunch conversation, locker break
  • Emotionally: disappointing grades, difficult teacher

Repeat the names of classmates and friends to help you remember. Ask for clarification if necessary. Show that you are really listening.

After listening, pray aloud as you drive. (Don’t close your eyes, obviously.) If you feel led, offer a very little bit of counsel…maybe a Bible verses that applies. This isn’t the time to advise; it’s the time to support. Let him/her know you’ll be praying through the day.

Intentional Parenting perk: This habit says, “I love you and I care about you, my child.” It also demonstrates that God is interested and active in our day-to-day lives. Just watch after God works in something about which you’ve prayed!

Give God a chance to prove Himself faithful in your child’s life through voiced prayer. (click to tweet)

  1. Create After-School Conversation Time

My introvert just isn’t up to processing her day the moment she gets in the car after school. She needs some quiet. My extrovert wants to talk right away, and he always has multiple stories (some of which don’t make any sense to me, but that’s okay). The when isn’t important. It might be immediately after school, over dinner, or just before lights-out. The point is to spend some time processing with your child, holding him accountable, and helping her see how God did answer those morning prayers.

Avoid yes/no questions, and make sure you ask about whatever they mentioned in the morning. Beyond that, we’ve used these two questions since our first one started Kindergarten. They know to expect the questions, so they look for answers as they go through the day.

  • What was your best thing from today?
  • What was your worst thing from today?

You may have different questions or more questions. Don’t get too complicated or long, though, especially for younger kids.

Intentional Parenting perk: The purpose of this habit is to communicate your enduring investment in your child’s life and to coach them through their days away from you.

  1. Set a Family Schedule

It’s super-easy to over-commit at the beginning of the school year. Everything seems like a good idea: PTA council, STEM scouts, sports teams, after-school clubs, service clubs, tutoring sessions, music lessons, Bible studies. Before you know it, you’re wearing out your mini-van tires on the road to school, church, the field/court and back!

With planning, you can create blocks of open space for family, so don’t say ‘yes’ yet! (click to tweet)

Before school starts, sit down together and, keeping your family mission statement in mind, decide how many activities each child will participate in or how many evenings/week you are willing to be out of the house. Decide this before the offers and ideas start rolling in.

After school starts, wait until everything is ‘on the table,’ include AWANA or whatever evening programs your church offers. (I realize some parents may be shocked by this, but sometimes the best choice for your family will be to skip Wednesday night church programs for this year.) Talk through which parent will drive where, how long the commute takes, what it means for family dinners, finances, homework plans for those days, longevity (such as continuing piano lessons), etc. Some options will automatically be disregarded. For the rest, make decisions as a family. Even the youngest ones can participate. This is hard. Believe me, I know. We have said “no” to so many good-but-not-best things, but our family is stronger and closer to Jesus because of those tough decisions.

Intentional Parenting perk: As your children watch you model responsible, Christ-centered time management, they see what’s important to you and to your family and they learn to make intentional decisions for themselves.

Small changes in your family routine will go a long way toward peace and understanding in your home. Or, to make a bread-baking analogy…

Knead some small changes into your new school routine and watch your family rise into richer Christ-centeredness. (click to tweet)

What about you? What small changes do you hope to implement at the turn of the school year?

Want more? Check out any of these posts:

How to Make Room for the Important by Kelly Smith at The Glorious Table. Kelly has guest posted on Intentional Parenting before, so you know I like her. This post is for the moms and dads who fell led to adjust their own schedules—especially applicable at this corner-turning time of year.

4 Tips to Start Off the School Year by Sarah Anderson at Parent Cue. Sarah has very young kids, so her tips are different from mine, but I found the post insightful.

Also, my Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me* post may be helpful if your children are in middle or high school.

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: I’ve Got the Joy

When I recall this song from my early childhood, there’s hand-clapping. Only…we weren’t any good at it. The effort of my 3-year-old self to clap in time to the music was so strenuous that sometimes I forgot to sing.

My more introspective (or maybe cynical) adult self has learned to clap with the rhythm, but sometimes I look at the words to this song, and I’m the one asking, “Where?”

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where?)
Down in my heart (where?)
Down in my heart.

Sometimes, the joy feels so deep down in my heart that it isn’t springing up far enough to reach my lips or my mind. When joy becomes elusive, what then?

Fish for it. You know you still have it because the Scriptures say joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23). Use verses about joy to reach deeply into your heart and pull out the joy that’s stagnating down in that cave.

When the daily drag of parenting looms large, sing this simple song to yourself—a declaration of truth! (click to tweet)

Because the song repeats joy four times, consider memorizing four verses about our joy as Christ-followers. Then you’ll have them ready the next time your joy feels like it’s waning. Want some suggestions?

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his dwelling place. -1 Chronicles 16:25-27

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. -Psalm 5:11

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. -Psalm 16:11

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. -1 Peter 1:8-9

What happens when you start saying—I mean declaring—these verses to yourself? You bring your mind into alignment with your heart (where the joy already dwells) so that your outlook begins to change. It more closely resembles Jesus’ perspective.

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.

This joy that you know exists down in your heart…it’s a permanent thing. It’s there to stay. I don’t believe it’s something you can conjure up or create out of nothing. You can, however, call it up. (See my post, On Joy for more about this.)

Joy: You can’t conjure it up, but you can call it up. (click to tweet)

It’s about a refocusing…a shift in mindset from the groans of earthly life to the glory of the Kingdom.

I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart…
I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus down in my heart, down in my heart
    to stay!

Time doesn’t permit a discussion of the additional verses to our song, but you can apply the same principle of Scripture memorization and/or application on your own.

Sometimes those simple songs speak truth into our hearts when we need it most. Let’s use this one for His glory!

What verse helps you maintain your joy? Please share in the comments below!

Attribution: according to hymnary.org, this one is by George Willis Cooke (copyright not renewed after 1926).

Previously in this series:

This Little Light of Mine

The B-I-B-L-E

Deep and Wide

Zacchaeus

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Still to come:

  • Father Abraham (maybe—if I can get over how silly it is)
  • The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
  • My God is So Big

 

 

Scary Social Situation? Be BRAVE.

It’s one thing to say, “Be brave,” but quite another to equip our children for social situations that require courage. Here’s a great acrostic (using the letters in brave) to help you coach your children through those scary social situations that come up during summer camps and events. But first, some background…

Music camp: My so-tall-for-her-age, introverted daughter squared her shoulders, threw her very-unique violin case over her shoulder and said, “Bye, Mom” as she turned toward the auditorium doors. She knew not even one of the over two hundred students inside. I had to hold my other child’s hand just to stop myself from walking in with her.

Sports camp: My long-haired, tall and skinny son who has never played basketball before in his life finished his registration and marched right into the university arena with other boys his age who’ve played for years. I knew I would want to pull aside one of those massive college players and explain his situation or tell him to watch out for my son. This one was so hard that I couldn’t even do it. My husband signed him in.

This is what summer is for! New experiences, stretching existing skills, growing in ways the school year doesn’t often permit. Oh, I’m not talking about the kids; I’m talking about me!

We must give our children opportunities to be brave. As they age, they need to start practicing their reactions to socially scary situations. They need to learn to interact with new people without a parent’s intervention. They can be successful…and we can help!

Take these five prompts and adjust them for the age and personality of your child, then square your own shoulders and smile as he or she walks into that room full of strangers! Not that he’ll look back. The smile is so the other parents don’t know how apprehensive you are.

Brainstorm a few conversation starters.

This one’s mostly for introverts. At school, it’s easy to strike up a conversation because the environment is familiar. You talk about the teacher or the classroom or the other students. But in a brand new place, she may “draw a blank” when she sits down beside someone. The day before, brainstorm with her and let her practice a couple of not-over-the-top ways to say hi. Encourage her to find someone else who looks like she’s alone and try out one of her lines there.

Remind him to be kind or generous.

In an uncertain situation, it’s natural to start reacting defensively. But selfish people don’t make friends. Present a couple of relevant case studies (you don’t have to call them that) in which he can make a decision beforehand about how he will act. For basketball camp, we could have asked, “What will you do if you and another boy arrive at the back of the line at the same time?” The best answer would have been to let the other boy go in front of him.

Ask her about the experience afterward.

Be ready with questions when she’s ready to talk. For some, that’s as soon as they walk out, for others, there’s a need to process first. Ask about who she met, what was hardest about the day, what she enjoyed the most. Also give her some extra time to rest. Even if she’s an extrovert, she’s probably exhausted after so much newness.

Verify God’s constant presence.

Not only will you be thinking of him and praying for him the whole time he’s gone, but God Himself goes before him and beside him. His confidence comes from who he is in Christ, not from how many people laugh at his joke. I like to write Bible verses on my kids’ mirror with a dry erase marker. I would choose something like Isaiah 41:13 or Joshua 1:9. Sure, it’s not “the valley of the shadow of death,” but Psalm 23:4 would work, too.

Encourage her every day.

Remind her of a previous situation in which she showed courage, even if it seems unrelated. After the first day, tell her how brave she was for walking in alone. Tell her you’re proud of her for trying something without any of her friends around. Point out something she did well or something she learned from the experience—not just the training (i.e. violin or basketball) but socially as well. Tell her about a time when you had to “go it alone.”

With these BRAVE prompts, your children can navigate scary social situations this summer! (click to tweet) And you can relax with your favorite coping mechanism while they’re gone. Mine is coffee.

scary social situation

How do you help your children navigate new social situations? Do you use a particular verse to encourage them? Please share in the comments below!

 

Encouraging Words for the Anxious Mom (guest post)

I'm so happy to introduce you all to Lisa Brown today. She maintains a blog for
moms, but it often ventures into other related areas (such as writing). I know
you'll appreciate this encouraging story of God's faithfulness in her family life.
Then, read more about Lisa and connect with her at the end of the post.

Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from my husband while washing dishes and making meat loaf with my five-year-old daughter. He called to let me know that he was heading home with my son from Boy Scout camp. I was so thankful that everything went well.

Before they left Friday evening for camping, I was worried that something bad was going to happen to them. This was the first time they had gone on a campout without my daughter and me.  Anxiety tried to swallow me up and it took everything in me to stay focused. Anxiety paralyzes me and floods my mind with unwanted thoughts.

I feared they would get in a car crash…or a bear would attack them…or they would get separated.  My imagination got carried away. I had a choice to make, and that was to either spiral down into a pit of darkness or keep my eyes on God.

I gave God my dreadful thoughts and as a result I had a wonderful time with my daughter.  

After I hung up the phone on Sunday, I took a moment to reflect on my weekend. Just thinking about it filled me with an unexplainable joy. We had so many sweet moments, and we connected so well.   Anxiety had no control over me.

Before they left on Friday evening I took Kaylee shopping and we bought red roses for our table, soap that smells wonderful, and a chocolate candy bar. We delighted ourselves in laughter, and the anticipation of an enjoyable weekend without the boys brought us closer together. This warmed my heart and gave me strength to push through the scary thoughts I was struggling with.

On Friday night—our first night alone—we decorated a jewelry box and made jewelry.  Together our hearts danced!

 I allowed myself to enjoy being in the moment. Together we giggled as we chased each other through the house playing tag and hide-and-go seek. We had a sleep over and breakfast in my bed. Life couldn’t get any better than this.

I felt God calm my anxious heart and fill me with His joy: a joy that comes from love and laughter. I’m so glad I didn’t let worry get the best of me. It was so nice not to be weighed down and depressed.

I have accepted that there are things in my life that I cannot control. I have decided to trust God. He knows everything and He is in control.

Lisa-ballerina 2
photo credit: pixabay

The word of God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV),

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Dear Mom, give your concerns to God. He wants to give you peace and joy. Ask Him to come into your mind when worrisome thoughts threaten you. Be still and know that He is with you.

CLICK TO TWEET: Moms, ask God to come into your mind when worrisome thoughts threaten you.

Lisa BrownLisa Brown lives in Colorado with her husband and two kids. She writes on both of her blogs about Christian Living, Parenting, and Homeschooling.  Connect with Lisa through Me Too Moments For Moms or Gathering Place For Sisters In Christ.

 

Mom’s Best Gifts for Dad Every Day (not just Father’s Day)

**This post is exclusively for mothers. Sorry, guys.**

This Sunday is our official day to honor the fathers in our lives, including the father(s) of our children. (I’m married to the father of both my children, but I know that’s not always the case. These principles still apply if you’re divorced, never married, or otherwise.) When it comes to fathers, unless you honor him every day, you won’t be able to authentically honor him on this special day. As we approach Father’s Day this year, consider how you might tweak your attitude toward your husband in order to show him more honor.

3 Ways to Honor the Father of Your Children (with lots of sub-points)

I’m going to be very straightforward here. It’s not my intention to be harsh; I just don’t want any padding to distract you from the truth in the details (and my word count gets too high too quickly anyway). I’m not pointing fingers. This is the way I deal with myself.

  1. Show Respect

God calls women to respect their husbands. It’s one of those verses with no qualifications, no conditions. It simply says, “and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Not “if he deserves it,” or “if you feel like it,” or “if he loves you like he should.” In context, the previous clause instructs husbands to love their wives and the following clause instructs children to obey their parents. So you can see that I’m not leaving anything out here. It was a woman (Aretha Franklin) who demanded it: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but it’s also a woman (well, Christ-following women—that’s us) who must show it.

A few things respect might mean:

  • Don’t interrupt him in the middle of a sentence.
  • Support his parenting decisions (even if you don’t 100% agree).
  • Give him space to be himself. So he likes ‘70s disco music? There’s nothing actually wrong with that.
  • Don’t praise another man too much. Short story: I recently met a new doctor that I immediately liked and respected. I knew I’d praised him too much when my husband (of nineteen years) said, “Good thing you didn’t meet him twenty years ago!”
  • Treat him like an adult, not like one of the kids. If he doesn’t usually do the laundry, don’t take the opportunity to correct him because he doesn’t do it “right.”
  1. Show Restraint

Sometimes, as wives and moms, we think we need to “vent” about something our husbands do…or don’t do. Nothing productive comes of venting. If I have a problem with my husband, I talk to him, not to my girlfriends. At most, I might share, “Bestie, I need to have a difficult conversation with husband tonight. Will you please pray for me?” There might come a time (after it’s resolved) to share this story in a God-honoring way, but most of the time, when we “vent” we’re just looking for someone to agree with us that we are completely right and the object of our venting (in this case, the husband) is completely wrong.

I’ve found it helpful to apply Philippians 4:8 here.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—[about my husband] think about such things.

If I take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) and keep my thoughts on the positive aspects of his character and life, my words will follow.

It goes back to respect. Showing restraint regarding my husband means I don’t tell belittling stories about him—even if they are funny. It means I don’t itemize his faults to others. It means I never talk to our children with phrases like, “If your father hadn’t…” or “Well, your father…”. I honor his reputation among our peers, in front of other women, and with our children.

  1. Show Recognition

In general, men love praise. But here’s something else: Children love for their fathers to be praised. So tell your children about something wonderful their father did in the past (or recently). Tell them what you like about him, what originally attracted you to him. If he catches you doing it, even better!

A few ways to recognize your husband’s character and actions:

  • Make a habit of showing appreciation for something he did and admiring the quality of it: “That is some nicely applied plumbers tape under the sink, honey. It looks like it’ll hold for a long time.” Sounds silly, I know, but try it. You’ll be surprised!
  • Acknowledge an effort to change/improve and comment on his hard work.
  • Praise qualities in your children that they inherited from their father. Things like, “You are so generous, just like Dad.”

As a Christ-following parent, you’ve probably quoted Ephesians 4:29 to your kids, but have you considered it in reference to your husband?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

I know I want a strong, confident man. If offering a little extra praise is what it takes, that’s a small sacrifice to make. Maybe your husband doesn’t really need that. Still do it. Why? Because of who’s listening. Your children. When you praise their father, they benefit as well!

By taking time to recognize his contributions to your life and within your children, you’ll find it easier to dwell on the positive aspects of his character (showing restraint—#2) and respect him as a person (#1).

Don’t wait for Father’s Day to honor your children’s father! (click to tweet) These kinds of gifts come from “a wife of noble character” (Proverbs 30:10) and last through decades, not just days.

 

For Further Study: