First time obedience, really? Revisited and A Giveaway of Heartfelt Discipline!

My own children, (. 3 years ago!), on whom many philosophies of child discipline were practiced! And yet God’s grace covered our mistakes and they grew into healthy loving human beings by His grace!

I just wanted to tell all of you again just how much I appreciated your comments and emails in response to my questions. I will be printing it all out and try to figure out a plan for hitting as many subjects as I can.

However the next few days, I am going to be reposting some older discipline articles. The most common questions are about child discipline. I also want to promote the newest version of Heartfelt Discipline, which Clay finished a couple of months ago. It has been fully edited and has been rewritten in a number of places to give more clarity. I will also be giving away one copy each day of my discipline articles. So be sure to tell all of your friends about our giveaway and about Clay’s wonderful book. It will answer so many of your questions about Child Discipline, but from a discipleship perspective. I hope you enjoy these principles–I call them basic leadership principles. Let us know what you think.

And yet God’s grace covered our mistakes and they grew into healthy loving human beings by His grace!

HeartfeltDiscipline-Final.indd

ORDER HERE!

FIRST TIME OBEDIENCE, REALLY?

Often, the subject of child discipline comes up as I am working with young parents. I do not have the time to answer all of my email or comments as I must stay focussed on my own family and I will not be able to answer all the questions this article will raise, so please understand my time limitations. But I do offer this as some of my own thoughts on childhood discipline and hope that in some way, it may be of encouragement. My blog below is a mish-mash of some of my thoughts–but hope you can make some sense of it!

A Need for Guidance

Well-meaning parents all over the world have tried throughout the centuries to try to figure out the right formula or wisdom to use in raising up a godly, responsible, emotionally and spiritually healthy child. It is right to desire to find a way to love, educate, train and discipline a child to help him become mature.

However, in our culture, so many young couples do not live around their parents, do not have good models of what a healthy family looks like, and so they look to “authorities” to find their answers–people who speak or write books. (Scary thought, since that is what Clay and I do!)

Formulas do not work!

 Most parents are looking for a formula–a one easy step guide to instantly raising up an obedient child, a one size fits all.

But, over the years, I have heard so many extreme talks about child training and I have also seen many young immature parents follow rigid, formulaic parenting philosophies and I have lived to see many children rebel, leave all the training of their parents and even turn their hearts away from God.

The parents wring their hands saying, “I don’t understand. I followed all the books and did it just like they said!”

Thinking Biblically

However, when we learn to think Biblically, we must learn to live by faith and in wisdom in the raising of our children. If God had wanted us to follow a formula, He would have given one and made it clear so that we could use the ten easy rules to pop out perfect children. But He made each person with a different personality, different maturity level, different ability.

Scripture is much more long term about maturity than we usually want to understand. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not fall away.”

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” A path of life parenting that allows for more and more light to show forth with each passing year.

In Hebrews we read about the mature and immature–about babes who are still drinking milk and not yet ready for solid food–and here the context is of a young Christian and a mature one–allowing for growth.

I tend to look at my children through this lens, “It is the kindness and mercy of the Lord that leads to repentance.” Romans

An Issue of the Heart

First, we must understand that all discipline should be focussed on the heart–not the behavior. Over 800 times in scripture, God talks about the heart–Love the Lord with all of your heart. God searches to and fro for a heart that is completely his. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. and so on. And yet I see many extraverts being disciplined for being louder and more talkative (not rebellion–a personality issue–or boys for being boys–moms who want them to behave like a little lady, etc.)

But God is concerned with our desire to love and obey Him, he already knows we are immature and that we take time to understand His ways. Jesus was patient with Peter and said, “Satan has desired to sift you like wheat,” He predicted that Peter would fall–and Jesus was totally supportive of his disobedient, immature disciple—He said, “I have prayed for you, and after you have returned, strengthen the brethren.” In other words, “I know you will blow it, but I will be with you, I will pray for you, I will still use you.”

And so, when we discipline our children, we must learn to look at their hearts. Is their heart rebellious? Are they being willful? Am I expecting too much for them–their age, their level of over-stimulation, the circumstances, their maturity level, their abilities? A child should not be punished for being exhausted, immature, a boy, or for making a mistake. I make mistakes all the time, again and again. And yet scripture teaches in the new testament and the old that maturity is as a result of training, time, growth, heart and will.

Reading and understanding the way babies and children respond at different ages helped to inform my expectations. I remember that I read an article that said that the average 2 year old took between 30 seconds and a minute to have some messages sink in if they were engaged in their brain somewhere else. And so often,  Moms can be very strict with their children and  harsh when sometimes the child has not even understood yet just what he is doing wrong. Harshness does not win over a child. Neither does wanting a 2 year old to be more mature than he can be and so punishing him for being 2. We must use wisdom and discretion to understand the situation, the heart of a child, and how to best train him according to our wisdom, faith and training of the child. It is the kindness and mercy of God that leads to repentance. Child discipline should always be based on a relationship between a mature, benevolent, loving parent who is seeking to lead his child to maturity, to train his child to think in the direction of righteousness and to train his behavior little by little.

The mature parent should consider the state of the child, his emotional needs, physical needs before meting out harsh discipline.

Formulas like “First Time Obedience” do not necessarily reach the heart!

I was speaking at a conference once and the speaker before me was plying the audience with all sorts of guilt. This speaker said, “If you don’t require first time obedience every time from your children, then you are disobeying God and you will be responsible for losing your child’s heart and tempting him to rebel against God!” Many men in the audience cheered loudly and clapped. I could just see the harshness that would follow in their homes because a speaker had given them permission to be harsh and demanding, every time with children, without ever teaching these parents sympathy, wisdom, skill and understanding with their children, their ages, their paths of life.

But Really? Can you cite me verse and give context that says God always requires first time obedience without mercy? I am thankful that He is much more patient with me than that in my own life. I have made so many mistakes over the years and done such foolish things, and still He is there loving me, instructing me, showing me his compassion and gently leading me daily to better understand His holy and righteous standard for me. God reveals one issue of immaturity at a time and I learn slowly. He has never pointed out all of my weaknesses and disobedient attitudes at once–and if He did, I would be devastated.

There seems to be no exact Biblical evidence that this is a true “rule.” Of course I believe in training our children to obedience and to teach them to have the highest of standards, and often it meant training them to learn to obey us as we requested something of them, by training them to learn to respond to us and obeying quickly as they learned and matured.

 The reason Deuteronomy 6-8 talks about us speaking to our children morning, noon, night and presenting truth and the gospel to our children every moment of the day, is that training is to be a whole-life passing on of values and obedience and wisdom, a morning, noon and night—let’s live together in fellowship and relationship and you will see that I have your best in mind and I will teach and train you how to be mature, wise and excellent.

It is a process of love, consistency, patience, and repeating over and over and over and it takes many years for a child to become mature. Maturity and integrity are also issues of the heart and motivation that comes from responding to the teaching and instruction given in love and mutual respect.

Ignorance produces harshness

The unfortunate thing is that many parents, in the name of faithful discipline, do not understand the differences between babies or toddlers or young children or even teens with all of their hormones,  and they exhibit  anger and harshness toward  their children, act in a demeaning way, while neglecting the cues of the child at each stage. These parents  have no perspective for the children themselves–they use  a  rule and formula no matter what–and often wonder why their children to not respond to them.

But, this kind of one rule discipline neglects the child’s basic well being. If children are exhausted or overstimulated by television or other children, they are naturally more hostile or out of control. A wise parent will tend to his child’s need for rest, quiet, rhythm, balanced blood sugars and understand hormones or emotions, and personality. Often I see children disciplined for things the parent has neglected–their physical and emotional needs—when the child’s behavior is often a direct message to the parent of a basic need that has been neglected.

 Biblical discipline must take a long time to secure the heart–many years of constant loving training and instruction. We had very high standards for our children, but our discipline was always viewed through a lens of relationship as the strong basis of our discipleship of our children. Without a close relationship, discipline is quite unproductive.

A parent must live by faith, trust in God, wisdom, and patience. I spent many hours on my knees praying, seeking God, learning new ways of His parenting with me as I parented my children. It was a process of growing in wisdom. My children are all very different in personality and ability, and yet, by God’s grace, all have come to love us and do deeply love the Lord. But we had to raise each of them up in love, by faith and treat them according to their own personality bent. And the basis of our home was God’s unconditional love and grace.

Lack of Basic Knowledge

I have also observed often, lately, precious moms who do not even know how to treat little ones. I was walking down the hallway of a hotel several months ago in California and a sweet, very young, exhausted mom was exasperated and shaking her 4 month old baby, saying loudly, “Go to sleep, go to sleep!” At which point the exhausted baby cried louder and louder. The baby was her first child.

I offered to hold the baby for a few minutes and to give the mom a break. She quickly gave the baby to me. I held the baby tightly in my arms and held it against my cheek and gently rubbed its head while singing softly into his little ear, and swaying gently back and forth. Immediately the little one relaxed its stiff body and listened to my voice and within 5 minutes was soundly asleep.

She just had not been taught how to be gentle, affectionate, or personal. It scared me a little to think of the future of this little child.

I also observed that my very introverted, creative child took longer, even as a baby to focus on me. I learned to work with his personality and to get on his eye level, gently get his attention and clearly state what my expectations were. He was happy to comply, but he did not always hear me the  first time. (He now my absent-minded professor who composes music and still has a great heart to obey and to please me.)

My third son, I eventually learned, was adhd, and ocd and a few other letters. But being harsh never, never made his more mature or able to change his behavior. I learned that the more I poured into his life–affection, time, listening, talking, the more able he was to obey. I learned that if I was patient and gentle and helped him–holding his hand, using words of encouragement, gentleness, I could lead him in obedience.

My husband, Clay, wrote an excellent book, called Heartfelt Discipline and many have said that it changed their lives. It will be back in print next summer.

When babies are touched and loved and sung to and talked to and have regular routines and regular, healthy diets, they are much more happy all the time and responsive to instruction. However, when a child has not received these basic needs, the only means of a child letting his parents know he is not happy or comfortable with his life is to whine or cry. When I am around generally healthy children whose needs have been met, it is obvious because they seem more content with life. All children are immature and will misbehave, and pages and pages could be written about the subject, but these are just a few of my thoughts.

My last thoughts on this today and then I must run to my day. Jesus’  life is my example. There was a lost world because His children rebelled against Him–no first time obedience. But His love and compassion was so much a part of His character and being, He was compelled to come to save us. He fellowshipped with His disciples, loved them, listened to them, confronted them, corrected them, fed them, taught them, and laid down His life for them. Because of their relationship with Him, and their love for them, they were willing to lay down their life for Him and His kingdom.

His love compelled them–it was a long-term process, this one of securing their obedience and hearts, but their hearts wanted to please Him and obey Him because of what He had meant to them. And so I did write Ministry of Motherhood, reflections on Jesus’ method to secure the hearts of His twelve. It has been a study over many years. And today, from my quiet time, I am again humbled and blessed by His active, redeeming, sacrificial love that redeemed me.

His model to me as a parent, “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for his friend.”
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De-Cluttering your Soul—the Secret to Peace and Rest

My Home Town

There is something uniquely good about January 1. It marks a new year, a new beginning, a new possibility. It also marks, for me, the reentry into simplicity. I don’t know if there is a more satisfying feeling for me during the year than when we put all of our Christmas things away, the decorations, the remnant of cookies, the clutter. We did that in my home, today. I have also been revisiting an article that I rework every January 1, as it is a pattern I seem to keep needing to learn.

Every year for the past few years, I have pondered and written about de-cluttering my soul. I hope you will be blessed by these thoughts. I am pulling away for a few days, once again, to see what needs to stay and what needs to be cut. I am sending Sarah off to Oxford tomorrow and Nathan back to Hollywood and then we will get back to normal. And so I am deliciously excited to take time alone to get back to my soul.

I love the celebration of life and the traditions and the fun and the beauty of special times spent with my children, husband and friends. But, there is something deeply satisfying to me about getting it all put away and getting back to normal.

Perhaps it is because my normal responsibilities of caring for my family’s needs demand so much of me—cooking nutritious meals, organizing our schedules, cleaning and organizing on a daily basis, homeschooling and add to that ministry—these are enough, but holidays put on that extra load. Routines go by the wayside and so the clutter and demolishing of the house, slowly takes over.

I am not a person gifted in handling details—too much mail, too many catalogues, too many emails, too many options, too many things. The more there is, the more I become responsible for, the more work there is to be done, and so, the more anxious I become. Same with activities. The more I commit to, the more I say yes, the more I have to drive, the more my house gets into a mess, and the more anxious I become, the more hurried we feel, and the more weary I become. When I am not at peace, nothing in our home is at peace.

We can all see how too much clutter and too many piles causes us to feel overwhelmed with life. Consequently, slowly, I have learned to declutter as often as I can—throw away unnecessary stuff. Clay is really the master at this. He helps me get rid of things, organize things and put away things. Yesterday, he decluttered our pantry—threw away chip bags that held little but took up space, cleared out empty water bottles, bad, junky Christmas candy that had been given to us, but would never eaten; baskets that had fallen off of their nails, groceries that had never been put in their place. Now, if someone came into my pantry, they would mistakenly think that I am an organized person. (Thank goodness for Clay!) It made me feel good just to open the door and to see that all was manageable again.

But, I have also come to realize that my brain and heart can be the same way—cluttered with worries, responsibilities, duties, children’s future, finances, time constraints, expectations, disappointments, critical attitudes, resentment. All of these added together, can tend to create soul piles and mind clutter. If I don’t take the time to sort the piles of mind clutter, my spirit becomes a mess and my heart becomes overwhelmed and weary.

It is what awakened me at 4:00 a.m. this morning-soul clutter and worry. It is another reason I like January. It gives me an opportunity to make a new plan, to simplify the mind messes and to start off a whole new year well. In the same way that throwing away stuff and clearing out closets brings me relief, even more, soul and mind cleaning and decluttering brings me rest.

So, as I begin a new year, and head into my conference season, a very busy time for our family, I resolve to deal with my soul-clutter, so that I may have strength to face each day in peace. I come to the place where I know I will find the help that I need. I come to my Father and ask Him to help me, His child, to show me how to make get rid of the junk that is unnecessary, and to help me clean out and organize my soul.

He speaks to me gently.

It was in writing my new book, Dancing with My Father, that I have learned so much about finding joy–and peace. In Him, with Him, by Him all the moments of my busy day. His voice leads me to what I long for–but I must get rid of all that causes me to fret, worry, criticize, control. There is a way….

“In quietness and rest shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
You need to come to me and give me all those things that are weighing on your heart. Resolve to seek rest and peace.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

I listed all of my issues this morning in my journal (and there seem to be multitudes of clutter piles in my soul–worries, attitudes, bitterness, weariness, fear, sin and a few more!) These are issues that will suck me dry and my energy dry if I do not notice them in order to clean out my soul!

The Lord prompted, “List all of your issues, give them over to me, don’t hold on to them. I am capable of taking them from you and being responsible so that you will not be weary or carry what you are not capable of carrying.

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. “ Psalm 37:7

Focus on resting in me—sit in my lap, so to speak, rest in my arms. Let me carry you. I love you.. Wait for my timing. Don’t force things or beg me to hurry up. I am in control.

“Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2

Give me your attention and get control of your spirit. Be quiet. Be still. Recognize my sovereignty and transcendence. Remember what Jesus said, “Our Father who art in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus modeled his understanding that my will is what you need to rest in. I am in heaven and I see all things—the future, the past, your children, your relationships, –all your clutter. Give them to me. Quiet your soul and rest in my strength and power.

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this receives me.” Matthew 18:3-5

Come to me as a child—even as your children, in their innocence and sweetness of heart, know that you will care for them and meet their needs because you are a loving parent who cares for them, so I am your Father who will take care of you. Leave the burdens to your father and take your rightful place as a child. Humble yourself and trust me. Enjoy me. Delight in the beautiful moments of this day. Notice the little miracles. Live as an unfettered child. Accept your little and big children and receive them as a gift from me, and your will indeed receive me inot your midst.

“ … a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” I Peter 3:4

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about so many things. But really one is needed and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10 41-42

Don’t worry and fret and stew and stir up unnecessary dust. Choose simplicity—just one thing I require—that you give it all to me and love me. I will take over. Even as I gave and provided a Sabbath in which all of my children should have rest from their work, so I want you to live in my Sabbath rest for your soul. Rest from your striving and labor. Take time for naps, for pleasure, for joy. This day you have to receive as a gift–I can’t promise what tomorrow will hold. But today you can love, give peace, speak kind and wise words, dance in your soul with my secret pleasure that comes from knowing that I love you.Simplify your life, don’t make choices that will complicate or add unnecessary pressure or cause you to sin or grumble. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” as Paul said.

So, as I yielded my lists into God’s hands and decluttered my troubled soul, I left feeling that even as my house has been coming to order, after we cleaned and straightened it yesterday, now my soul is moving in the direction of order.

Rest, rest, rest—in quietness and rest will be your strength every day, every year, until you see me face to face. I love you, my sweet girl. Don’t forget that I am with you each moment of today.
Your doting and loving Father.

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May all of you dear friends indeed have a happy and fulfilling new year with your days filled with the blessing of His company! Thanks for so many who have taken the time to write. Each note, Christmas card, picture, email and comment has given me strength and joy. I am sorry I have not responded to each of you as you really mean so much to me and keep me going.I appreciate your words of life so much! Keep writing me as I love to hear from you.

The Many different seasons of a mother’s life

Albert Bierstadt

I think that fall may be my favorite season (or spring!). I love the colors, the sunny, crisp days, the opportunity to begin drawing in and making homemade soups and breads and reading a great book and creating more beauty and life-giving friendship and fun with more people inside the walls of our home. (I also love autumn art!)

Even as there are seasons with variety and scope in our lives, so there are so many seasons to a mother’s life. One day she loves her children and thinks they are the greatest gift God has given. Another day, she isn’t sure she even likes them, but she is obedient and has to put one foot in front of the other just to keep going.

Recently, a young mom I know confessed that she sometimes has a hard time “feeling close” to her young children and being available to them emotionally because she is tired. Most women feel this fairly often. I know that as the tasks of motherhood need to be pursued every day with intention, or they will overcome the home, so life can feel tedious. There were many times throughout the years that I did not feel like giving or even feel close to my children. But, I would just put one foot in front of the other and seek to be loving and gracious and patient, even though I did not feel like it, and eventually, my joyful feelings would return.

It seemed to me, that I would read stories of families that seemed to be all together–studying Greek and Hebrew by age 5, perfectly neat house, home-cooked meals and all in order, with children who had perfect attitudes.

That was not my reality. Mine was a whirlwind of seasons–some were fresh seasons where I loved my children and they seemed to be growing and I enjoyed them and others were winter seasons of darkness and struggle and seemingly no real life or  growth in our home. But I learned that all homes have seasons and it is the faithfulness through all of the seasons that determines the outcomes.

Seasons of a Mother’s Heart is the first book on Motherhood I ever wrote. I would learn different truths about God, about how to cope with the different demands and challenges of each season and write down what I learn and how God showed me to walk through the seasons by faith and with His wisdom. Topics addressed in the different seasons of my own life were coping with messes and learning to focus on relationships in the midst, dark seasons of depression, learning to live free of other people’s rules and expectations, growing with my children through the seasons of babyhood, childhood, teenage years and beyond!

I wanted to write about this book today because it answers many of the questions I get in my emails from sweet moms and just can’t seem to find time to answer.

A sweet friend, Erin,is hosting a book discussion of Seasons of a mother’s heart.You will also love her blog and her encouraging writing at Homewiththeboys.net.  Find all the info about how you can join her book club discussions at: (http://homewiththeboys.net/seasons-of-a-mothers-heart-getting-started-connected/)

I know I love seeing what other moms are learning and thinking when reading a book. You will enjoy her blog and her musings about the book. In light of her book club, wholeheart will give away one book by Monday morning if you leave a comment telling me a little about season of life you are in right now. Or tell me your favorite chapter or topic that you have read in this book.

I have just gone through a season of winter with deaths and children leaving and medical and financial issues and weariness, but every time I go through difficult seasons, I know that spring is coming and I will see all sorts of growth and blessing springing up everywhere. I am so very encouraged already to see God’s grace and blessings in my life. He is so good and He always leads me in His blessing, when I endure the seasons with His grace and waiting for Him to bring the life. He shows me the reasons for the seasons and has given me such deep fulfillment in my life as I have learned to trust His timing and live by HIs strength and grace.

May our precious Heavenly Father strengthen you today in whatever season you find yourself and may you hear the voice of His love and encouragement in the midst of it. I hope you will find His encouragement as you read Seasons of a Mother’s Heart.

: You may order it here: http://www.wholeheart.org/store-2/#ecwid:category=1117022&mode=product&product=4605088

Cultivating Civility

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
C. S. Lewis

As I pursue the idea of building foundations of truth and beauty and loveliness into the souls of our children, I have to say that we cannot pass on what is not a part of our own lives. A mom is the CEO of her home, the one who determines and cultivates the life, activities, values and soul, she must be working from the depth of her own soul. This is a long term call–a long distance run, and so pacing ourselves, making sure our own emotional cups are full, seeing that we are growing in grace and beauty is essential to modeling that to our children. I will be more intent on writing about how to build foundations in little ones, but first I would suggest that a mom must define, “What kind of a woman do I want to be? How can I become more excellent? How I am doing on growing more in grace and civility each day?” I suggest that each year, moms who want to grow in wisdom, must take a morning or afternoon away to think through personal goals for themselves and the plan in time to make those goals happen. I will be writing more about that after I finish writing about how to establish values that build children into strong, godly leaders. But, first, you must define who you want to be, so that the influence you give to your children will come from your own soul-set values and convictions. Below I share a story of my own life from a few years ago–and I see that my children love it when I am a picture of civility–it draws them to their finer selves! Enjoy.

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Excitement bubbled up inside as I considered the day I had charted for myself. A morning away as a real, live friend, around my own age! Carefully applying my make up, smoothing my hair to its most beautiful style and dressing up in something a bit more sophisticated than my regular jeans marked an adult day out with a beloved friend. Time away from my work-a-day world of children, dishes, teaching, writing and then doing it all over again, is rare. I am one who sometimes likes the predictable on such days–depending on those places I know will bring pleasure and comfort. Meeting my friend in a favorite cafe promised to provide a spot for catching up and sharing dreams and ideas. Now the reason I am telling you this is that I was looking for a day off–a day without conflict, a day of rest before the “busy-ness”  of the year starts again!

High-backed, overstuffed chairs provided privacy from the other customers and just the settling in we needed for our morning together. A steamy pot of tea, warm apple-caramel coffee cake all went down easily. Times like this help me to find my center. A busy and passed-too-fast summer had left me a bit fragmented and out of breath. I was storing up this pleasure and goodness and relaxation against the very busy next few months of a new school year, which is upon me!

After an hour and a half of conversation, we were ready to proceed on to our next pleasure–a stop at a lovely gift shop, filled to the brim with china tea cups and pots, delectable bits of jams and jellies and tea; a beautiful array of cook books and biographies and children’s books, feminine clothing and an array of other girl-pleasing artifacts. We hoped to exchange some ideas with the owner about books and art and other future projects.

Just walking in was a pleasant sensate experience, because of all the pretty and fine gifts scattered around the shop. As we chatted with the store owner about our day and some of the books and one of my new projects, she engaged with us in lively conversation. I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to be home to take Joy to a choir practice and so I tried to savor my few minutes as of quiet heart-sharing with my friend. We left the shop and I drove home. Much to my pleasure, the traffic was much less than usual and I found myself home with a half-hour to spare.

I chose not to glance in the kitchen to see what messes were there, but instead, made myself a cup of hot tea. I knew the messes would be there to tame when we all got back home later. I walked over the backpack and a small stack of books on my stairs to my bedroom. They could be cleaned up before dinner. I walked in, lit my candles, turned on my cd with the soothing piano melodies rising and flowing from my Pride and Prejudice cd (very beautiful, by the way!). Joy, who had been in her room reading, heard me and gently knocked on my door.

“Come in, sweetness!” I responded. “Here, have a few sips of tea with me before we have to leave.”

She sat down, and began to bubble all over me with thoughts and ideas and incidences that had happened in her morning. I intentionally took a deep breath and observed with thanksgiving at my child who has so much become my delightful friend. We had fifteen minutes together in peace and pleasure.

“Mom, I am so glad you take time for civility–it makes me feel special, and most of all, it really makes me feel like you like listening to me and just celebrating life together.” (Has she been around Sarah lately? And now, she regularly lights candles, sips tea and reads–hummmm–where did she get the habit?)

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I taught my monthly mom’s group and we were discussing chapter 8 in Mission of Motherhood. Our topic was becoming the gardener of your children’s souls. Even as you would not expect a garden to emerge from throwing a handful of seeds into the wind into your back yard, so we cannot expect our children to have excellence in their own personal lives by just hoping it happens. Though education is important, it is mostly the way we invest in the other moments of life when our children’s souls, manners, habits, skills will determine who they really become. When we become the gardener of their souls, we plant beauty, memories, confidence, and  winsome ways of living that  will capture their own imaginations. (Mission of Motherhood)

First, we must take time to be civilized. I know that my soul dries out if I don’t plan in time that fills my own emotional cup. Getting away from my home (where all the chores cry out my name!), to a lovely place where I can think or read or share time with a friend is something I try to plan into my schedule. It doesn’t happen as often as I like, but I need it so that I can get back to my center and fill the cups of all those who are in my life to take from my own heart–children, husband, friends, and ministry. I will have nothing to give if I don’t take care of myself first. So each year as I plan my children’s needs and schedules and activities, I take time to get alone and evaluate, “How am I doing–physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally? How can I simplify my responsibilities so that I can make it with grace through the next months.

Next, though, I make sure to plan in civilizing times with my family–traditions like family dinners or deserts that we will share with our friends, special Sunday afternoon tea times–the first Apple Pie time with a story book. (Giving my children the responsibility of decorating the dining table, writing little notes of encouragement  to their guests who will come, lighting the candles, making the meal.) We plan a time for making cookies or bread or flower baskets to share with those we know who are in need of encouragement or love. (We found cute pumpkin baskets and filled them with dried flowers–Joy sold a few to raise money for a dog she hopes to purchase and then we chose two for special family friends who need to know they are appreciated.)

Plan civility into the moments of your life this fall. Make time for you to have your own experience, however small, that will remind you that you are royalty–as a child of the king. And then, make time for your family, to have peace and beauty and manners and elegance in your home, however small. It will produce a soul that values taking the time to celebrate the importance and intimacy of friendship and fellowship. Happy weekend!

Fall ~ A New Season for Heart Work–focussing on the eternal


Julian Aiden Weir  Autumn Rain
The leaves are starting to turn from various shades of green to vibrant oranges, golds, and reds. Crisp morning air greets us as we close the bedroom windows, before heading downstairs to brew a hot cup of tea! A fresh, new season is just around the corner! As many families prepare to go “back to school,” our hearts wonder what God has in store for us next, what classes He has enrolled us in. Is it “Patience 101″ again?! Will I learn more about His love? Grace? Discipline?  I am in his school room of holiness as I model and teach my own how to walk daily with Him.

Fall has always felt to me like the real “new year” and I have great anticipation to have a new slate, with, as Anne of Green gables said, with  no mistakes made yet, all new possibilities. So it is exciting to see how the schedule will come together and what we will pursue in the way of commitments and activities.

Fall is also a strategic time to reflect on our children’s character and our own. Making sure my calendar is not so crammed with activities and lessons that the only time I have with Joy  is in the car is a filter for the commitments I am willing to make.

Fall is a reflective season in which to take some time to pray over each of my children, asking the Lord for wisdom in how to help each child grow in their faith–those who are in my house and those who are far away.  I ask God to show me their potential, their gifts, their temptations, the areas in which they need to grow. Wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit, who has access to my children’s hearts, minds and souls. As I read the word and pray, He impresses me with those thoughts that lead me to be a more intentional leader and mentor of each of them with their own unique personalities and needs.

Joy will finish her formal schooling in May. It will mark for me the end of my commitment to homeschooling, which started 26 years ago, so I want to end well. As an extrovert, she would like to be busy every day, every minute! Participating in a 3 practices a week drama troop, with many performances this fall (The Importance of Being Ernest), will keep her quite busy. Added to that is dance, her history group, Inklings group, piano lessons, voice and small discipleship group, and we are pretty booked–let alone my own ministry schedule which I fit in between her commitments.  She wanted to take some more outside classes (she is a driven personality–easy to finish on!)

But this will be my last focused opportunity to really drive home the deep messages of Christ, to read the last round of great books, to cultivate discussion, to build into her heart, to have those last cozy tea times, just Joy and me, and watch the Holy Spirit turn our time into memories that will feed her soul for her whole life.

So, I limited her from signing up for college pathways, the two classes her friends were taking. Why? Not because they were not good classes, but they would have robbed me from the chance to intentionally use this year to touch her heart for eternity! Probably, for me it would have been easier if she could have taken outside classes that I didn’t have to teach, and I have certainly loved so many of our coop classes that she has taken.

But, I prayed about my schedule and really felt the Lord tell me to “Make time for building into her life.” And so I am planning and choosing books and arranging some social gatherings in our home that will make this a great year for her and for me.

In light of this, I thought I would share with you some of my previous thoughts about my own children as I was discipling them through the teen years. Chapter 6 in The Ministry of Motherhood is devoted to inspiring a sense of purpose in our children’s lives. In that chapter, I tell about how then sixteen-year-old Joel and I discussed his possible career choices. Here is an excerpt from pages 72 and 73:

Jesus’ work in a person’s life has always begun with a call to leave behind the goals, purposes, and distractions of this world and to say yes to a whole new life, a new way of thinking. “Follow me” is what he told the disciples as he recruited them. And they did, abandoning their fishing nets, their tax-collector’s moneybags, their permanent homes, their everyday duties and pleasures. And they never went back. Sure, they still did a little fishing from time to time! But once they made the choice to follow Jesus, their lives were forever changed. They never returned to “normal.”

I think this is vital for us to keep in mind as Christians and as parents. We know we are called to follow Christ, to take his message to the world, to raise our children to heed Jesus’ call. But  sometimes I think we fail to consider that following the Lord might mean leaving behind the ordinary and the familiar. It means exchanging a temporal view of life for an eternal goal. And this may mean leaving behind things we really care about — involvements and pursuits that seem important and worthwhile but may not be God’s best for us.

Part of giving the gift of inspiration is helping our children understand this — and perhaps reminding ourselves. To fulfill God’s design for their lives, our precious children must at some point determine to give Jesus allegiance in every aspect of their lives. There is a cost to discipleship, and that cost is everything!

Exchanging a temporal view of life for an eternal goal. Our lives will not reflect the world’s values. As mothers, we are life-givers. Our culture encourages us to live for the moment. But how does that give life? How can being selfish bring about an eternal goal of holiness? Many times we allow a behavior to continue, thinking we will “get back to it” when it is more convenient, but does that time ever come? We want to give our children every possible opportunity to be creative, to find their strengths and weaknesses. Do we ask why we are involved in so many activities? Will this produce eternal fruit? Or just weariness? Sometimes we need to take a break from our normal routine to see just how out of control we are. Sometimes the Lord allows something into our lives to slow us down, to help us focus on what He really wants us to do.

As Christian moms, our hearts’ desire is to follow the Lord and do His will. We want to set a godly example for our children. God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, but we need to make ourselves available to Him. When we surround ourselves with busyness, we cannot hear His still small voice. Let’s look at some Scriptures that remind us of who He wants us to be.

Some Biblical Wisdom

Philippians 1:6 says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

What will God do in your life? When will He finish that work? How does this encourage you in your walk with Him and in your children’s spiritual growth?

Meditate on these words from Isaiah 55:8-9:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.

‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways

And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Can you think of a situation where God’s ways were not your ways? Why are His ways better than our ways?

Ephesians 2:10 is a great reminder that the Lord has a plan for our lives:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Who are we? We are created in Christ for what? Who prepared the works for us to do? What work has God created you to do? Does God know why He has given your child his or her particular personality? Does He have a plan for leading them to their life’s work? How can you encourage each child to pursue what God has uniquely prepared him or her to do?

Application

Put together a puzzle with your children. Leave a couple of pieces out so the puzzle cannot be completed. Use this to explain:

  • How God has specific good works He wants each of us to do. If we do not do those works, there will be “holes” in our ministry to others? What will be the holes in the lives of others that could have been filled if we had followed God?.
  • How God wants us to surrender our entire lives, not just certain pieces. He wants us to be complete in Him.
  • If our life was a puzzle, God would keep working in our life until it was complete. He would not give up!

As you pray over your children, take time to listen to God’s voice. Is this the school year to simplify and focus on things of eternal value instead of trying to do it all? Is this the season to fall into His arms and just rest? May the Lord give you wisdom as you seek His purpose in your life!