Children Are Not Check Boxes

Children Are Not Checkboxes

I love my children.

All of them.

Individually.

Uniquely.

I have enjoyed playing with my children, reading to them, cuddling with them, and talking to them.

I have loved many years of blowing bubbles, riding bikes, and building blocks.

I have cherished late night movies, surprise rides for late-night ice cream, and rubbing the back of a fever-ridden child.

I also take my job of mothering my children very seriously.

With gravity, I understand the importance of my place in their lives and for what seems like an eternity, I have worked really hard to be the best mother I can be.

But over the passed few years I’ve noticed something.

I’ve noticed that I’ve slowly slipped from the joy of raising my children to the job of raising my children.

I have shifted my focus unintentionally from sharing my life with them to shuttling them around, getting things done, and checking their lives off of my lists made on their behalf.

And I’m grieved by that reality.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Type A person that covets a sense of achievement and want my kids to measure up to my need for perfection.

Maybe it’s because I’ve allowed the current and pace of the culture to dictate to me how much we should do… how much they should do and how it all reflects on me.

Maybe it’s because I’m a homeschooling mother and so much of what surrounds my relationship with my children also centers around daily duties, weekly assignments, and checklists galore.

In the last few months, I have slowly awakened to the reality that I have become a task-oriented mother, moving from one goal, objective, or ambition to the next.

Is it bad to have goals for your children?

Absolutely not.

Is it a terrible thing to outline the objectives you have for your children or work with ambition to do your very best job as a parent?

I don’t believe it is.

But the problem is when those aspirations and aims eclipse your affection.

What happens when your parenting rules or regulations overshadow your relationship?

The hard truth is this…

All of my good deeds as a mother… the books I read, the Bible studies I attend, the Bible stories I share, the meals I make, the clothes I wash, the homework I review, the carpools I participate in, the soccer games I go to, the chore charts I create, and the money I spend…

They mean nothing.

NOTHING…

If I don’t have love.

Yes. Boundaries are healthy.

Yes. Discipline has its place.

Yes. Sometimes your very best parenting won’t make your kids feel warm and fuzzy inside.

But I’m not talking about being a good parent.

I’m talking about being a good parent while forgetting to simultaneously reassure them with a smile, a touch, or a tone of voice that says, “no matter what kid, you are mine and I would choose you again.”

I am realizing that the most important thing that I can give my children is love.

Not the hard, cold, duty-driven kind of love but the kind that let’s them know unconditionally, without reservation, and without hesitation… I’m glad they are mine.

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.

If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. 

If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (TLB)

Dear mother, I know you love your children.  I know you love them deeply even if they are making you tired, hurting your heart, or driving you crazy.

I just want to whisper a small encouragement to you.

While you do the work of motherhood – because motherhood is work indeed – don’t forget to love your children in a way that they can tangibly sense.

Don’t let the satisfaction of crossing your mothering tasks off the list override the intentional affection you offer the hearts of your babies.

Don’t let your duties dictate a decrease in the amount of love and devotion that your kids can feel.

Do the work.  But don’t focus on checking off the boxes.

My children… your children… are not boxes to be checked.

They are souls to be loved.

I have to be honest and tell you that I woke up one morning and realized that I’d lost sight of that.

I’m grateful that God has reminded me of the great value of His love in me overflowing to others… especially my children.

My prayer is that my wake up call is a reminder for you too.

And if you, like me, have gotten off track, know that it’s never too late to love.

 

There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 (TLB)

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Sometimes The Book on Motherhood is Missing Chapters!

I often hear parents, specifically mothers, longing for a parenting manual…a spelled out book that gives detailed instructions to follow. The good news is there IS a book that has no missing chapters, is tried and true, and guarantees positive results. The instructions are written on pages and are accessible to the majority of us on every technological device we own…it is the Bible.

The Bible teaches us how to love and instruct the body of Christ. It shows us how to operate as the Body of Christ, but we miss one very important fact: our children are a part of the body of Christ.  As I read through Ephesians, a letter from Paul, a disciple of Jesus, his words spoke deep in my heart about child rearing. As you read this excerpts, read with the filter of parenthood.

1I therefore, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, 3bearing with one another {in the Greek, this means to put up with one another} in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 11And he gave some…teachers; 12for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:1-3, 11-16, 29-32 ESV)

Many of you may be familiar with this passage and never saw its parallel message in regards to mothering. The words of Paul influence our “Ministry” in the church, our Bible Studies, our Outreach programs. We find it easy to follow the advice in these verses as applying ‘church’  and how to treat others in the ministry. We see that it is for building up of the saints, for the building up of His body, but we miss that we have the same charge as mothers.

As moms, we are called to be righteous teachers to our children. We are called to walk in humility, gentleness, patience and to “put up” with one another in love. God did not write a love letter to His own children about life and leave out how to raise Godly children. The vocabulary is just different.

For those that really like to do lists and manuals, I have put Ephesians in to a mini parenting manual…sort-of-speak.

Parenting Advice from Ephesians:

What character traits should I, as a Mother, have and show toward my children?
1. Humbleness
2. Gentleness
3. Patience
4. Forbearance- the ability to put up with one another in love
5. Kindness
6. Tenderheartedness
7. Forgiveness

How do I speak to my children?

1. Teach/Instruct them. We speak with word of instruction and encouragement. We don’t lord over them our authority, but lead them in the way they should go.
2. Be a Truth Speaker- Speaking TRUTH and life, into your children in love. We correct and edify them IN LOVE because we are the body of Christ and are to fit together to work properly and to grow as we build one another up in love.
3. Speak with words that are uncorrupt- Corrupt means ‘rotten or worthless.’ The words we speak to our children should be good for building up that it administers Grace to the hearer. Building up our children doesn’t imply puffing them up and giving them only “pleasant” words. Correction and rebuke build up a child as well. It helps steer them down the path of righteousness. If the Lord, who loves us enough to die on the cross for our sins, rebukes and corrects us, then we do well to show our love to our children when we correct their ways and teach them what is good and pleasing to the Lord…we just do that in a manner that is loving and not rotten and worthless.

What to avoid while parenting:

1. Avoid bitterness and wrath taking root in your life. The end result of a life of bitterness and wrath to the one who is harboring these feelings is loneliness and misery. To those on the receiving end of bitter and wrathful words is despair and sorrow. Be a life speaker.
2. Avoid living in anger or outcry (clamor). Don’t let your children feel like you are angry about their very existence. Don’t let them feel that there is an outcry of your heart, a deep regret, that you had children. Show them love.
3. Avoid slander (name calling) and malice (hatefulness) flowing from your lips toward your children. There is no place for mean and hate-filled words in parenting. Period

Why purpose to walk worthy of our calling as parents? In order for our family to be unified in the Spirit and bonded together in Peace. The end goal is a family who loves and serves the Lord, unified in what they believe and a family that lives in Peace with one another. We purpose to walk worthy of our calling so we can bring up a generation that walks in the fullness of their callings. We walk worthy in order to edify the body of Christ…your children are part of the body! We want our children to walk in maturity and in the fullness of Christ that they will be strong in the faith and not swayed by the doctrines and teachings of the world around us that tickles our ears and lulls us to sleep or beckons to us to follow.

This may seem overwhelming. The enemy may be whispering in your ear all your failures and shortcomings…DON’T listen to the lies. The Lord is with you and He love you more that you can think or hope. When we fall short…His loving hands pick us up, dust us off and set our feet back on the path of righteous parenting. Because of His great love for us, we can walk worthy of the calling of motherhood that is on our lives. We can know that our Father in Heaven is, in His perfect love, raising up His children to be examples of His love to the generations to come. Walk worthy of your calling as a mom and rest in the hands of a Loving Father as you parent the body of Christ living under your roof.

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Holding Their Hearts

Family

As the radio blares one of his favorite groups, we sing and dance as much as the confines of the car will let us. I am sure, to the oncoming traffic, we look hysterically funny! I don’t mind one bit. I’m holding my son’s heart, reaffirming how much I like him and gaining his confidence. I’m investing in our relationship.

It’s past time for bed and she want to practice “their dance”. It’s the one she and her daddy will dance at her wedding. Although she is only 10, and her definition of married life means she gets married and she and her hubby live with us, she must practice. So he gets up and moves through the routine of steps and twirls. They’re going to be pretty good when we finally let her get married at 45! {giggle} It’s more than a dance…he’s holding her heart & gaining her trust. He’s investing in their relationship.

The late night talks. The cuddles on a cold morning. A cup of coffee when no one else is awake. The extra special pink milk. The loud music, that I like…but isn’t my first choice. The spin around the kitchen island. They are all small efforts that have lasting effects on the hearts of our children.

As my children grow into independent young adults, I still want to hold their hearts. I want to have their trust, their friendship, the privilege of gentle guidance that trusted companions allow one another. When they are children, we mold them and lead them. But as adulthood tiptoes in, independence blossoms. Independence is a GOOD thing! We want our children to be independently dependent on God as they walk in adulthood. Independence in young adults is NOT to be confused with rebellion. Giving our children the power to make decisions and letting them practice in a protected setting is the perfect way to breed healthy independence they will need as adults. It is also the way to remain their confidant and friend.

“Train up a child in the way that he should go and
when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)

This is a promise of the Lord…with a condition. TRAIN up a child. Not preach at the child. Not yell the rules at them. Not live by the ‘do as I say not as I do’ motto. NO! Training is time consuming. It takes effort. It takes repetition. Love. Character. Long nights. Acting Silly. Hot chocolate and their favorite snacks. As a parent it demands trust and sympathy toward our children.

Train: (verb) to teach a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time. To point or aim something.  Synonyms: Instruct, teach, coach, tutor, school, educate, ground, aim, point, focus, or direct.

Scripture tells us that children are arrows in our quiver (Psalms 127:4). Arrows are meant to be shot from the bow. But the arrow is at the hand of the archer. Where ever the archer guides or trains the arrow…so it goes.

Where are you training your arrow to fly? Is the arrow in your hand strong and straight for your leading, or is it crooked and flying off in a new and uncertain direction. If you find your arrows are a little bent…pray. Simply ask the Lord to guide you to capture the hearts of your children. When He answers you, act. Don’t let another opportunity to touch the heart of your children pass by. It is never too late! “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not evil, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11)

Our children won’t be children much longer. We are working, intentionally, to invest in them while they still live under our roof and are under our covering as their parents. If listening to music and acting a little strange while we dance in the car reaffirms to my son that he’s the best…what a SMALL price to pay in securing a healthy relationship down the road! If a twirl around the island is what it takes to hold the trust and confidence of my daughter in his hands…my husband is more than willing to dance a million times around the island. We know their childhood is fleeting and they will be grown all too soon, so we are investing, singing, dancing and laughing. We are developing lifelong companions as our children step from childhood into adulthood. We are holding their hearts.

Think Before You Speak

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by Cherie Werner

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.  Ephesians 4:29

 One of the greatest jobs I have as a mother is to instill godly character into my children. To do this, I intentionally utilize both resources and teachable moments. I have found that it is best to learn from life’s blunders.  Currently I am reading aloud and discussing the book Love As A Way of Life by Gary Chapman with my youngest daughter, Cayley, as well as the mom group I’m leading.  At the end of one of the chapters, I became convicted. There was a challenge to evaluate verbal interactions with others and determine whether or not the words spoken were kind. If any unwholesome words came to mind, the challenge encouraged you to take action and apologize.

My heart sunk as I remembered a phone conversation that I had with a friend. I sent the apology email below to my friend and then read it aloud to my daughter. Even though I was embarrassed by my blunder, I wanted to use it as a teachable moment. Words do matter and carry weight.

OK my dear friend, things just got real.  I just finished reading a chapter on kindness to Cayley and I was convicted.

I read, “To make kindness a habit, ask yourself after each verbal interaction with another person, what kind words did I say and what unwholesome words did I say?” I thought back to our conversation and was convicted.

 I realized that sharing with you about my disgruntles with ________ were not edifying or life giving.  I did looked up the quote you mentioned by Dave Ramsey concerning gossip which said, “gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.”  So I’m apologizing for gossiping.

Words are powerful as they give life or death.  I desire to be known as one who spreads life. 

Love ya.

My friend wrote me back the following:

Your email made me think, what if the words about _______ were said in a happy, surprised, and excited tone, but because it was hearsay, and because of our filters, we assume it was negative?  It gave me a lot to think about.  The other thing that I want to sort through with you is where is the line between gossip and sharing our heart, and frustration with a friend.

Was I gossiping or simply sharing my heart and frustration with a friend? I wanted to know. Actually, I needed to know.

Two definitions of gossip:

  1. Dictionary – Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
  2. Bible – One who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.

Gossip is different from sharing information in many ways. Below are some ways I feel the two differ but I’m sure there are many others.

  • Consider your motives for sharing? Are you seeking to build yourself up by making others look bad? We often feel superior to the person we are talking about which is prideful and often gossip.
  • Gossiping wants to share and tell a story for reactions. It is done repeatedly to many persons.
  • If you are hurt or angry with someone and desire to draw others into your pain wanting them to side with you it’s likely you are gossiping.
  • What type of information is being shared? Gossipers speak of the faults and failures of others or reveal possibly embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval.
  • Gossip usually occurs when you complain or talk about one person to someone who knows both of you.
  • Ask if what you are saying is helpful for building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon said, “Tale bearing/gossip emits a threefold poison. It injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.”
  • Ask yourself why you want to share this information, do you have permission, and if it’s necessary? Then consider whether you would share if the person you were talking about were present? If not, you are most likely gossiping.
  • It’s gossip to say anything about someone that will lower the listener’s opinion of that someone as gossip changes the way we see people.
  • Do you have a complaint about someone that you take to someone else who can do nothing about it? If so, then that is gossip.
  • Do your words build up and edify others? Gossipers seek to tear down others.
  • Kind words see the best in people and call it forth. Gossipers tend to focus on the negative and nit pick.
  • When someone is talking negatively about others it become gossip on your part if you jump into the conversation.
    • Don’t participate. Excuse yourself from a conversation that becomes full of gossip, to avoid “falling into” gossip games or socializing-by-demoralizing.
    • Encourage them to speak directly to the person who is involved as it’s biblical, see Matthew 18:15
    • Let gossip end with you. Help navigate the conversation to whatever is true, pure, and lovely.
  • Always remember your words are powerful enough to give life or death.
  • Will what you share glorify God?

With this particular situation, I decided that my friend might be right as I truly was sharing my heart. Nevertheless, I realize that it is a fine line. Next time, before talking to a friend about something, I will ask myself if what I am about to say is true, kind, necessary, or helpful? This whole experience has reminded me that it is important to THINK before speaking. “He who guards his mouth keeps her life, but she who opens wise her lips comes to ruin.”  Proverbs 13:3

T –is it true?
H –is it helpful?
I  –is it inspiring?
N –is it necessary?
K –is it kind?

In closing, I encourage you to ponder the following poem by Ann Landers. Personally, this poem really made me think deeper about a few things.

Remember Me?
“My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for Justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never quite the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. “I AM CALLED GOSSIP.” Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip.
I make headline and headaches.
Before you repeat a story ask yourself. Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary?
If not – KEEP QUIET.

GREAT minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt       

Which are you?

How do you differentiate between gossiping and sharing?  I’d really like to know. 

How Living With a Sibling Can Be Preparation For Living With a Spouse

“Mommy, we don’t want to play with him, he’s mean.”

I have heard that line so many times from my daughter in reference to my son, my warrior lion boy who leaps through his day growling and preparing for battle.

“Honey, boys sometimes act differently than girls, and while it may seem like he’s being mean, he’s just really into playing lions.”

I bring my daughter and my son and her friend together, and we talk about playing together, and taking turns with what they play. I advocate that they find ways to include each other. I understand that sometimes girls need to play with girls, and boys with boys, but overall, I’m trying to instill a bond between my children where they want to play with each other.

I do not want to perpetuate the popular thinking that sibling rivalry has to be normative (sin, of course, is normative).

Almost every movie or T.V. show I see, siblings are at each other with ugliness; it’s a rarity to see genuine friendship or tenderness between them, especially between brothers and sisters.

I understand that there is conflict between siblings, we have plenty of it, but I don’t want to foster the idea that it’s okay to ignore or even encourage sibling bickering. I am holding my ground on this one in our family, and at every turn I’m reminding my children that God gave them to each other to be friends, and to love each other and be kind to each other. We deal with conflict daily, but my heart is to admonish my children to be close and tender-hearted with each other.

We even encourage our children to be best friends.

We tell them to watch out for each other, protect each other, and respect each other. We try and teach them to serve each other, think of the other before themselves, and treat the other how they want to be treated. Basically, we’re civilizing them. We’re preparing them for life, and even marriage.

I know the more I strengthen my children’s resolve in treating one another with love and respect, the more prepared they will be in marriage. Living with a sibling is like living with a spouse. You must choose to love, even when the days get long and the other person’s faults make you crazy. You choose love. You choose forgiveness and grace. The day in and day out of choosing to love someone, faults and all, is accepting the human story: we are mess makers, but the Maker loves us anyway.

I want my children to reflect the Maker. I want them to love well, to be gracious, and to be long-suffering.

I want to teach them to love the eternal soul of another, with all its intricacies, weaknesses, and beauty.

No, I will not accept the “cat and dog” mentality of the sibling relationship; I’m aiming higher. I’m aiming for love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

How do you handle sibling conflict in your home?

Love, Sarah Mae

P.S. Want more encouragement in motherhood? Consider coming to a Mom Heart Conference! I’ll be speaking at the Denver one January 24th-25th and I’d love to meet you!