Not Children, But Pre-Adults

I tried to grow herbs for my rabbit.

I tried really, really hard, but I had lots of things working against me.  First, I live in a specific part of the pacific northwest, where we go nine months out of the year without sunlight.  Secondly, the windows in my house face north/south, so even that little bit of sunlight we *do* get doesn’t come in any of my windows to reach that little box of dirt behind my big kitchen sink.  And third, I have a black thumb.  Seriously. I kill plants.  I think I shower them with too much love or too much water or I look at them funny or something.  I have a very hard time growing anything.  I always say I’m glad I can grow kids and animals – clearly any ability stopped there and doesn’t extend to plants!

But one day a stubborn and special little sprout magically popped its head out of the barren dirt and I cheered.  “Guys, we have cilantro!”

Could I pick it?  Noooo.  Poor thing was barely alive.  Could I smell the spicy goodness?  (By the way, I’m one of those people who do NOT think it tastes like

angel-cemetery-the-dead-the-tomb-of

soap!)  No, there was no smell.  The little thing had one sprout.  We wouldn’t be able to pluck its leaves any time soon.

But we didn’t call it a “nameless sprout thing.”  We called it cilantro.  It didn’t look or smell like cilantro yet.  But it was still cilantro.

Yet so often, we view and treat children as separate creatures from us – like they’re not human beings yet.  Like they’re not the little sprouts of adults that they will be someday. Like what we do to them won’t matter in the long run because they’re not really products of us or anything.  That they’ll forget all of our mistakes. 

I think our children’s behavior surprises us when it becomes their adult behavior.  And we glance down and have full-fledged cilantro and are shocked.

Do I mean that kids can’t be kids, and we should expect adult behavior from them?  No.  Bear with me.

In the past two years, I’ve focused much of my free time and energy on studying childhood traumas, especially parent-child relationship issues.  Whether it was through ACBC counseling, excellent non fiction books, therapist newsletters, calling on brave sufferers who wanted to come forward and share, YouTubers who divulge their gritty backstories, and textbook articles of brain scans, I’ve put aside a lot of my fiction writing to focus on how to understand and help those I love.  I’ve had to pull back a bit in order to peel back the layers of behavior to see that root.  That basic beginning sprout.  And for so, so, so many of these people and these disorders, it goes back to pre-age seven.  SEVEN years old, folks.

These little baby sprouts were given horrible foundations that still haunt them to this day and cause harmful ripple effects at age thirty… forty-five… seventy…

Divorce, destructive behaviors, addiction, emotional abuse… We have rampant relationship and family issues, and cycles of generational traumas.

Not all of them came from crack houses where they had their bodies prostituted.  We’re not even talking truly worst case scenarios here.  Many, many of the friends and acquaintances I have met and interviewed and gotten to know and love over the last two years grew up in basically normal homes.  Homeschool, public school, private school, two parents, one parent, divorced parents, church attendance or not… the stories ran the gamut.  But usually well provided for, well educated, and physically healthy.

Yet one thing was true for all of these very different human beings across the board: none of them felt like their emotions were of any interest to anyone else, least of all their parents.  Many of them felt that emotions were downright evil – the bad or immature or unnecessary part of them that needed to go in the garbage can. All of them, decades later, have a deep suspicious distrust of their own emotions, and many of them look at Spock the Vulcan as some sort of secret hero.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is a real thing, and causes emptiness, lack of intimacy and connection, and stifled negativity that leads to bad stress management and sometimes even destructive relationships.

But CEN was the most basic of the concerns I found.  For those who experienced actual ongoing active trauma as small children, not just passive dysfunction from parents, friends, or relatives, the mental health disorders also ran the gamut – multiple personalities (now called dissociative identity disorder or otherwise specified dissociative disorder DID/OSDD),  or borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissistic (NPD), histronic, and antisocial personality disorders, to name a few from the cluster B list.

ALL stemming from trauma under age seven – many of whom parents were considered pillars in their communities.

So what’s going on?

The other day I watched a historical drama on British aristocrats in the 18th century.  What appalled me even more than the rampant infidelity and treating women like cattle to be bartered and traded, was the perspective on children and parenting.  They were to be seen and not heard.  They were toys to be fed and put to sleep by a live-in servant.  They were second-rate citizens, beneath the favorite house pet.  And somehow expected to age a couple years and enter society, hold government positions, or even raise children of their own! Horrors!

Where is this disconnect happening?

Children are not separate creatures from adults, who somehow magically die in a fire and burst forth as phoenixes, completely unrecognizable from their past selves.  Fat little caterpillars that go into cocoons and emerge butterflies. Things that stop you from YOUR life goals and dreams and get in YOUR way.  Things you have to pacify and put up with for a while and then move on from.   Beings who will go, “I get now why I was mistreated and it totally doesn’t matter.  I have an ‘Adult Brain’ now and everything makes sense and all is forgiven and forgotten and I’ll probably do the same to my kids because it builds character and all.”

NO.

Children never really forget.  Their brains never forget.  Deep down, that foundation, by an extremely young age, is SET.  And if you have to undo foundation, you have your work cut out for your tenfold.  It takes like ten times the effort to help repair the foundation.  It can be done, praise God, but it will probably be that kid’s spouse or your own grandkids, let alone a therapist and counselor or two, who will be putting in the effort.

Do the hard work now, parents-to-be and moms and dads of little kids.  Be intentional, sacrificial, open God’s Word, and be wise.

Can you look your child in the eye and see not a houseplant or a cute pet but the next president of the United States?  Can you look them in the eye and see the future mother of your grandchildren?  Can you see the next schoolteacher of other people’s children, the mayor of your town, or someone’s future best friend?  Can you talk to them like you expect them to grow and hold opinions and vote in a future election or pastor a future church or lead a Bible study or raise their own kids?

If you wouldn’t treat another adult with such blatant disrespect and unkindness – if you’d sit a bestie down and listen to the tales of their woes for hours – and if you’d explain with calm and intelligent sentences why God says what He does in His word to a congregation member who sits next to you in the pew… why won’t you do it for your own children?

Many peer parents just assume their five-year-olds are going to wake up one day and “get it” through osmosis.  They’re going to be great citizens and understand a relationship with the Lord and be kind to their peers and avoid bad boyfriends and work hard and never do drugs and the list goes on! These peers are shocked when some of us take the time to explain doctrine to our children, or pray for our daily concerns out loud  in front of them, or apologize on our knees when we’ve sinned against them, or ask them if there are ways we could be a better parent and take notes, or go out one-on-one and listen to them ramble about their life like it matters and is a worthy and legitimate life that bears listening to.

My kids are still under my authority and answer to my commands, but even those are run through God’s Word and have a reason behind it.

Their feelings, their hearts are precious.  If you wouldn’t squash a best friend’s or a close coworker’s heart and questions by your lack of care and concern, by your unfocused attention and disinterested spirit, by your silent tongue when you need to speak and angry impatient tongue when you need to listen… then why are you doing it to them?  They’re the ones who can’t shake you off and find a new, better counselor and friend.  They’re the ones who are busy learning their adulthood foundation. 

I’m barely scratching the tip of the iceberg in what I want to say about parenting in this article.  Some days I think I want to write a book after all of the horrendous things I’ve heard and seen in the last two years.  The horrendous things I’ve experienced secondhand.   There will be more blog posts to come, for sure.  For now, I’m busy listening to the sufferers, weeping, and taking notes.  Hugging my own three girls close and learning to give up my own rights for what my day looks like.  Maybe it looks like reassuring the almost-three-year-old with tight hugs because the little one thought it was her fault the rabbit got into her goldfish crackers and got sick.  Maybe it looks like reading another chapter of the Bible and praying at length with the seven-year-old when she talks back instead of getting to math facts.

I can sum up at least the general thought in three question: Do you see your children as pre-adults?  Do you see your actions and words and attitudes as being a lot of what makes up their adulthood foundation?  Do you see them as more than just “yours,” but as part of God’s plan for the world, and that He’s asking you to treat them like His special instruments and to help put in a lot of the hard work now?

“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

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Your Child Doesn’t Love God

I have a child, a young child, who is currently actively rebelling and deceiving me daily.

It breaks my heart to watch it happen over and over again, even in the face of constant correction. Sure, she’s very young – not even a teenager – and so her mistakes are small in the grand scheme of things, but sneaky deception and disobedience are not small issues, even if it just involves hiding her toys that she was playing with when she was supposed to be cleaning her room.  No matter what her age or offense, watching your child do these things is always crushing.  But I get an opportunity NOW, while she’s very young, to tackle some of these issues at their root, before she becomes a chronically lying young adult like her mom was at one time.  I have been convinced, up to this point, that she is a born-again Christian, so my tactics with her can be very specific to a baby believer.

At first, I lay in my bed mulling over what this meant about me.

“How could she do this to me when she sees it upsets me every time?”

“Does she not care about her parents?”

“Am I just a terrible disciplinarian?”

“Where have I failed?” etc.

But if you ask yourself these questions when your child struggles in an ongoing sin, you’re probably missing the mark.  Sure, as a parent, it’s important to make sure we’re setting a good example, leading in Scripture and prayer, and being consistent, loving, and patient, but the truth is, your child isn’t sinning because he doesn’t love you.

Your child doesn’t love God.  

Not like she should.

It hit me, as I prayed and mulled and thought last night over discipline tactics, that nothing was quite right.  I thought about assigning her Bible verses to write and/or memorize on truthfulness and obedience.  I thought about taking away any TV watching for a week.  I thought about giving her more chores.  But everything felt so superficial, like they were tedious activities that wouldn’t actually speak to her heart.  Yes, she needs to have a consequence for her ongoing disobedience, but then what is the training I can start to incorporate?

The root problem is that she doesn’t know God enough to be intimately in love with Him and want to obey Him.

That hurting Him breaks her heart and that His commands are precious to her, like gold and silver. (Psalm 119:127).

You say, RJ, this is a big task.  I, as an adult, don’t even love God like I should, or want to obey Him like I should.  I know!  Me too!

So maybe, in preaching to her, I can preach to myself.

51r9pfxl22bl-_sx327_bo1204203200_The first book I thought of, that really cultivated a love for God in me, a book that spoke so highly of God, His character, His plans, and His love for me, and my should-be love for Him, is Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me – a fantastic book that describes the high grandeur of the gospel in new ways you’ve never thought of.  Makes you truly love God for who He is and what He has done!

But much of the writing might go over my little one’s head.  How does one cultivate a high view of and passion for God in an young child?  Or an elementary student?  Why is almost nothing written to kids that give them a higher view of God?

I’ll never, ever forget what my best friend in CA told me while I was out visiting her last month.  She said, “The thing I can’t stand about most Sunday schools and programs for Christian kids is that it revolves around the child.  That they are the center of the universe and God just wants to dote on them and love them and that they are just perfectly wonderful little balls of perfection.  That, from a young age, we aren’t showing kids that they’re one cog in the great wheel of God’s plan.  That He’s sovereign and powerful and mighty.  That He demands our obedience, and we are desperate sinners, but He loves us immensely.  That we are called to love and pursue Him and have a relationship with Him.”

Our children’s faith can be so intellectual.  So rote.  So tedious.  So dry.

Our relationship with God, even as children, shouldn’t be dry.

Who among us has seen a child light up with absolute passionate wonder at a fireworks display?  When meeting Santa Claus?  When seeing a magic trick?  When decorating the Christmas tree?

There is so much wonder and awe in children, and yet it is either snuffed out, or completely ignored when it comes to the most Wonderful Being in the universe: their God and Savior.

So, as of this moment, I’m ditching all of my other writing projects for this new one.  I had so little motivation lately anyway, and maybe this is why.  I’m writing a pamphlet.  A booklet.  For my child.  For me.  And maybe for your child too.  And it’s going to be on the amazing wonder that is our God, and the fact that we get to love Him!  Like Elyse’s book, it will be on how the cross is applicable to daily life, but it will be in the language of children.

Pray for me and my children.  I will pray for yours!  Pray that this is a God-led project that I can do to benefit and convict and excite and cultivate God’s love, not only in my daughters, but in myself even more and more!

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Philippians 1:9

 

May We All Be Pollyanna’s Dad

Growing up, I got so sick of the Hayley Mills’ Pollyanna movie.

Even though Hayley Mills was my favorite actress (Tied with Shirley Temple!), I got way too much of Disney’s Pollyanna, as my younger sister was obsessed with the movie.  When it was our week to do the family’s laundry, it was also our week to pick the movie the kids watched while we folded the clothes.  There were four of us, so, once a month, on the dot, my sister frequently chose Pollyanna.

Whatever lessons that could be gained from it were lost on me after the forty-fifth time.  (I kid, I kid… maybe.  😛 )

I mean, the movie is an ESFJ‘s (my personality type) deepest wish come true.  ESFJ girl walks around just loving everyone and spreading cheer and happiness to everyone, and, when she has her first real trial, the entire town shows up to thank her and tell her how she blessed them. Could it get any better for an ESFJ?!

Unfortunately, real life is rarely like this.  You can spend your whole life loving people, and maybe one percent cares when you suffer yourself.  A good fifty percent may never say thank you for all the care you show.  It’s why we shouldn’t ever do things for the humanly recognition!  😉

I remember, one day, when my sister had picked it for the umpteenth time, to groans from my two younger brothers and myself, my dad said, “Hey, guys!  This is a good movie!” and actually sat down with us to watch the whole thing.  My dad was not one to love kids movies, but he laughed at all the funny parts, exclaimed at all the sad parts, and sat riveted.  I’ve never enjoyed the movie more than that day, and it taught me how much a parent can influence their child’s attitude.

Now, looking back on it, I’m not sure all of my dad’s reasons were noble.  I think he was a serious Hayley Mills fan, back in the day.  That, or the two of them were secret twins.  😀

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My Dad

Hayley Mills

You see it, don’t you?  😀

Speaking of dads, though, let’s talk about the unseen character who is really the hero of this beloved story.

I sat down and watched this movie with my little girls this week because we had just finished reading an abridged version of the book.  (The sequel is way better than the first, by the way.  Pollyanna Grows Up is a hidden gem for a slightly more mature audience.)

But, for the first time, watching this as a parent, I thought about Pollyanna’s poor dad. Hated by his wife’s relatives, a missionary off in a remote country, barely making any money, living on charity where he couldn’t even afford to buy his daughter clothes and a doll… yet happily doing God’s work.

And he was the originator, teacher, and guide for every good thought Pollyanna shared with Harrington Town.

Everything that Pollyanna was and is – everything she did in that town – originated from her dad. He searched the Scriptures for things about God’s love, grace, and joy to bring hope to his congregation. He learned how to bring out good character in people and encourage them on toward love and good deeds. He never complained, but taught his daughter to be thankful in all things.

He may have died young, and, for all we know, never saw fruit in his ministry – single parenting alone – but his daughter, taking what he taught her, went on to bless multitudes of people. His ministry continued.

As a parent, this would give me no greater joy.

Parents, as you do God’s work, day in and day out, saving money for kids’ college funds – instead of buying fun things for yourselves, changing poopy diapers, trying to do devotions with squirmy, disinterested toddlers, taking your children faithfully to church and chatting with them on the drive home, praying before bedtime, and living your life feeling perhaps small, tired, and weak – just be faithful.  Know that you are raising future Pollyannas, future Billy Grahams, future John Wesleys, and Martin Luthers.

Your work is amazing.  You may not be in the spotlight for it, but you are the unseen hero of all of your children’s stories.  May they rise up and call you blessed.

I’ve Never Told My Kids to “Bow Your Head and Close Your Eyes”

In a culture where 70% of young people (aged 18-30) leave church and quit attending, many falling away from their faith completely, we have to evaluate what’s going wrong.

As the church gets more and more wishy-washy and looks more and more like the world, we aren’t seeing attendance numbers rise.  Instead, they’re dropping even more.  Clearly pandering to the world and looking “cool” isn’t the answer.

One of the things my loved ones and I worry about are unbiblical dogmas.

A dogma is defined as a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system’s paradigm, or the ideology itself.

I have a few dogmas myself:

  • Jesus Christ is God.
  • Jesus died on the cross and rose again.
  • You must confess your sins to be saved – you can’t earn salvation by good works

… Just to name a few.

However, an unbiblical dogma, given to today’s savvy, emotional, and rebellion-driven youth, is picked to pieces in an instant as hypocrisy.

“We only use the King James Version of the Bible.”

“Men cannot preach unless ordained by a certain denomination.”

“Women can only wear skirts to be biblically feminine.”

I hope I didn’t step on any toes there, but these are cases of unbiblical dogmas.  Nowhere are these explicitly stated in the Bible.  To say you are in sin for breaking these preferences is wrong.

Maybe, for some of you, those examples were obvious.  Maybe you’d consider yourselves to be “open-minded” and “accepting.”

It sure is nice to love other people and to not “cast the first stone,” but I didn’t say that you can’t have preferences.  If, for some reason, I can only worship with one style of music, otherwise I find myself tempted to sin or my mind drifts away from God, then I should leave that church and find another. Maybe I’m the “weaker brethren,” but so be it.  If my husband decided I should only wear skirts (I probably wouldn’t have married him in the first place!), I should submit and then make a biblical appeal.  I have preferences – TONS of preferences – and I have the right to choose a church that suits those preferences – but you will never find me calling someone else out in sin for MY preferences.  At least, not anymore.  😉

Back to unbiblical dogmas.

Maybe we are grace-filled Christians who stick solely to our Bibles, but I want to challenge you to search your lives and hearts for things that are not exactly Biblical, especially in the area of parenting.  Like I said, as a musician, I can have strict preferences on music, but that doesn’t mean I will ever teach my children that drumsets are evil and of the devil, and people are in sin for using them.  Matter of fact, I’d probably keep my strong preferences to myself unless asked – raise them in the church my husband and I approve of, and then let them seek the Lord and His Word on what music they will adopt in the future.

There are so many little ways we impose nonsensical rules on our children.

It’s not our fault if they fall away and leave the church later in life, however, it doesn’t give us an excuse to be legalistic Pharisees with them either.

So many children are taught, “Bow your head and close your eyes to pray,” with discipline being doled out for when they fail to do so.

I recall, as a child, peeking and tattling on my sibling.  “He had his eyes open!”  To which, my godly mom would reply, “That means you had yours open too.”

I have never, ever told my children to “bow your head and close your eyes.  We’re going to pray now.”  

I’ve just never seen it in Scripture.  Prayer is not a man-invented formula.

And we wonder why our kids grow up and suddenly realize they’ve never known God at all!  So much of our relationship with God we make into a perfect script that we enforce on our children.

I pray with my eyes open, my hands on the wheel, driving and watching the road.  I pray while I’m scrubbing their little pink toes in the bathtub.  I pray while we walk outside.  And sometimes I pray with my eyes squeezed shut, on my knees beside my bed, my hands clasped together, tears dripping down my cheeks.

I’m talking to God.

If my child doesn’t know God, why would I require them to follow a bunch of hand motions and force them to pray?  I don’t believe in making the sign of the cross or clutching a string of beads when I pray, so why would I enforce a hand-clasping, eye-closing routine? This is a relationship with God, not a yoga move to check off my to-do list.

I’ve noticed that one child focuses better while stroking something with her hands, her eyes open.  She can tell us exactly what we prayed for when she does that.  The other likes to look down at the table.  Both of them say exactly what they want.  I’ve never scripted how they’re supposed to talk to God, besides teaching them what the Bible says about praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.  And I tell you, their beautiful, heartfelt prayers bless me more than anyone else’s.  If they’re not interested and looking around and not focusing?  Then God knows their heart.  Me enforcing a series of hand motions doesn’t guarantee them access into God’s presence and their sins to be washed clean.  They’ll pray when they truly know God, and, in the meantime, I continue to share the gospel with them over and over again, and pray a LOT, letting them hear and see and practically touch my relationship with God.  Sure, they need to be respectful and quiet when someone else is praying, but the rest needs to flow naturally from a changed heart.  Both were saved (I think!) at the age of three.  I have seen the Holy Spirit move them to care about prayer.  ❤

You know what else I don’t do?

Make them say, “I’m sorry.”

I make my children say, “I’m wrong.”  Because that’s objective.  Regardless of what they feel or think, their sin is wrong.  Teaching them to understand and vocalize right and wrong is my job as a parent.

They may never actually feel “sorry.”  I can’t make them say, “I’m sorry,” because being sorry is an emotion that only a regenerated heart, who is repentant, will feel.  Why do you think so many of our children thought they were saved?  Did they assume magic words made them repentant and sorry?

Were they ever taught that their heart is nothing but wicked and God must change it before they can even try to be sorry?

When my children follow up a confession of, “I was wrong for ____. Will you forgive me? I’m sorry!” it makes me rejoice, because I know that the feeling came naturally from them, and I did not force them to lie and say it when they didn’t mean it or repent of it in their heart.

The times that they don’t feel sorry or repentant?  They still have to say, “I was wrong for _____.  Will you forgive me?” and acknowledge that what they did was morally and spiritually sinful, even if they won’t repent.

I find that, later, after some prayer time, where they may stand with eyes wide open, with their hands outstretched like Moses (Ex 9:27), or kneeling down like Jesus in the garden (Lk 22:41) – because their posture and hands are up to them! – the Holy Spirit has convicted them of sin, and they return – truly sorry.

I also confess in the same way to them.  “I was wrong for getting angry with you.  I am so sorry.  That was so wrong.  Will you forgive me?”

Because I keep making mistakes too.  And I’ve probably got more unbiblical dogmas I haven’t uncovered yet.  I want to keep my faith 100% biblical and completely real with my children, so I better go get back to my knees – or maybe just sit at this computer desk (because there’s nothing that makes me more spiritual by being on my knees!  God can hear me just fine in my leather office chair!)

So thankful my kiddos always forgive me.  ❤

The Ten Books That Have Changed My Life – Here’s Why (Follow-Up Post)

Follow up Post to the previous entry (with cover pictures) of the 10 books that have changed my life or my thinking. 

Here are the reasons why:

 

1. The Bible.

Obviously, this is on the list, first and foremost.  The Bible is the only inspired, inerrant Word of God.  I will never be finished reading it, I wish I could memorize it all, and I came to know my Lord Jesus Christ, have an ongoing relationship with God, and live life in a more godly way because of it.

 

2. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

http://www.amazon.com/Give-Them-Grace-Dazzling-Jesus/dp/1433520095

This book reinvents parenting, by bringing it back to before it was invented.  By taking truths ONLY from the Bible, it’s embarrassing to realize it’s that easy.  In clear ways, Elyse and her daughter Jessica show us how to speak the gospel to our children over and over again from day one, how to live a gospel-centered life where grace covers all, and how to train your children to see their need for a Savior from infancy.  My speech and actions were changed in how I deal with my children, a load was taken off of my back, and Biblical words were put in my mouth.  By the grace of God, my oldest daughter became saved at the age of 3, and I attribute that to God using this book to teach me how to share the good news with her, and how to have all of my parenting point to Jesus.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  Every Christian parent should read it.  I’ve read it through twice, and it’s all underlined and marked up.

 

3. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Life Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

http://www.amazon.com/One-Thousand-Gifts-Fully-Right/dp/0310321913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410204087&sr=1-1&keywords=One+Thousand+Gifts

Again, some times the simplest things are the most profound.  In gushy, artistic language that you get used to and learn to love, Ann writes about the beauty in everything God has given us, and how being thankful can truly change your life.  Take her challenge, learn to make lists of thankfulness, teach your kids to be grateful… It totally changed our family’s life.  Now, whenever my girls whine and cry, I have them list five things they are thankful for.  Their spirits brighten up by the end of it.  When I’m feeling depressed or discouraged, I list things I’m grateful for in the back of her book.  A family member, going through teenage angst, used to not go to bed until she had listed five things she was thankful for every day.  Some days, she said, she was so mad at the world that she could only list things like “silverware,” but there was always something.  Always something to thank God for.  Always something to bring hope.  This idea of gratitude changed my life.

 

4. The Giver by Lois Lowry

http://www.amazon.com/Giver-Quartet-Lois-Lowry/dp/0544336267/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410204193&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Giver

The Giver is also my favorite book, and always will be.  I read it at the age of 14, and there were just so many new concepts in it for me.  Totalitarianism, the struggle between security and freedom, and Jonas’ moral dilemma to save a baby from infanticide, forcing his community to remember reality, were all mind-bending things for me at that age.  Lowry’s trilogy (now a quartet!) brought Jonas’ story full circle until the earth was wicked again and needed someone to die in everyone’s place.  I emailed the author, Lois Lowry, personally, and said, “You seem to understand man’s depravity and need for a savior.  Do you know that Jesus came to die for your sins?  Your books could be more complete if you understood the gospel message here.  I’d love for you to hear that.”  She told me, “YOU write that gospel book.”  Inspired and motivated by her rejection of Christ, yet promotion of my cause, I DID go on to write a few novels, all with the mission of showing sin, justice, and mercy, and with a desire to change hearts. 

 

5. A Wrinkle in Time and the sequel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

http://www.amazon.com/Wrinkle-Time-Quintet/dp/0312367546/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410204245&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Wrinkle+in+Time

http://www.amazon.com/Swiftly-Tilting-Planet-Wrinkle-Quintet/dp/0312368569/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410204806&sr=1-1&keywords=a+swiftly+tilting+planet

Be watching for my book review on A Wrinkle in Time!  I’m re-reading and reviewing it right now.

Also, be aware that L’Engle is a Universalist, however (feeling like all roads get to heaven), so there are a few non-Christian concepts in these books.

A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (the first two in her series about Meg and Charles Wallace) changed my thinking because they were the first sci/fi, scientific, deep books of their kinds that I read. Not only was I impressed with the immense imagination of the author, but A Swiftly Titling Planet, where they go into the human body and heal it, while not really biblical, was amazingly intense, well-thought-out, and deeply artistic, in a sense where I praised God for the details of what He had created. I was also impressed that a woman could write so scientifically and imaginatively in a field that, before her time, had been so dominated by men. I’m not a feminist, but I think that L’Engle was probably INTJ (Myers-Briggs personality that usually belongs to computer-oriented, science-loving men :-P), and that’s a rare type for women. Her brain worked in ways I had only heard men do up to that point, and I was impressed and learned a lot of depth-writing from her.

 

6. A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke

http://www.amazon.com/Gown-Spanish-Lace-Women-West/dp/B0027CJ4S8/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410204379&sr=1-2&keywords=A+Gown+of+Spanish+Lace

On first glance, this book just looks like a Stockholm-syndrome romance.  But there’s much more to it than that.  I read it when I was 12 or 13, and the other concepts were new.  The main character is kidnapped and imprisoned in a small, dark place.  She spends her time reciting Scripture that she memorized over the years, and it keeps her sane.  I was struck by how powerful the Word of God is, and how important memorization is.  If I were alone in silence and darkness, my mind would turn to the Scripture as well.  Also, her kidnapper is tenderhearted to her and the gospel, and is unaware why he has always had a softer conscience than his criminal peers.  Come to find out, his mother prayed over him and sang hymns and read Scripture to him his entire time in the womb.  Of course I’m not superstitious that this actually softens a person’s heart in adulthood, but we also know that the Word does not go out void, and that God answers prayers.  This settled in my mind so firmly that, over a decade later, when I was twice as old, I still remembered this book, and my husband and I read our devotions out loud to our unborn daughters every day of their pregnancies, both of us praying over them out loud.  The novel also has an interesting twist, in my opinion.  I realized that I didn’t actually own this book, recently, when I was making up this list, and so I just purchased it for my home.  Can’t wait to read it again!  I’ll try to review it for my book review website, as well.

 

7. 31 Days of Praise by Warren and Ruth Myers

http://www.christianbook.com/31-days-of-praise/ruth-myers/9781590525586/pd/38752

Just like “One Thousand Gifts,” I am convinced that no one can not love God or walk around with a bad attitude while reading this book.  Broken down into short two-page days, 31 Days of Praise takes Scripture and teaches you how to praise God with it.  First, they point out all of the amazing attributes of who God is, and secondly, talk about all of the many things God has done for us, all worded in a personal prayer straight from your heart to God’s.  The Bible verses are always listed for reference and further study.  I am on my second copy of this.  I mark it up as I go, with things that move me or things I find hard to believe that God would actually do for me (awe-inspiring).  Everything about it is immensely worshipful.  I am glad to see how my faith has been stretched since starting my second book and comparing my notes with the first one. 

 

8. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hiding-Place-Corrie-Boom/dp/0553256696

I was given this book when I wasn’t even double digits yet.  I tended to be a fearful child who liked to stay sheltered, but, for some reason, this story didn’t scare me.  Corrie ten Boom’s experience with the Nazis was a complete testimony to God’s faithfulness, and her life was fascinating.  I have a leather-bound copy and, as a child, I used to read over it often.  The difficult topics were delivered with a gentle realism that points the reader to God’s Sovereignty, without leaving me with a fear of people.  Corrie’s sister, Betsie, is one of my favorite people to ever walk this earth.  For years, I had a hand-drawn (one of the best art pieces I’ve done!) picture of her hanging in my room.  Her sweet spirit and devotion to God shone out of my rendition of her, and her face kept me on the straight and narrow.  I can’t wait to meet her in heaven.  She is my number one hero.

 

9. Elsie Dinsmore (and the Elsie series) by Martha Finley

http://www.amazon.com/Elsie-Dinsmore-Original-Classics/dp/1598564005/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410204775&sr=1-1&keywords=Elsie+Dinsmore

It amused me that all of my friends, except my husband, hated Elsie Dinsmore.  They probably read the theologically shaky second volume and stopped there, but the Elsie series was a lot more than that.  Even book 2 led me to good theological debates with my parents.  (What if my conscience is stricter than theirs?  What if they ask me to do something against my conscience that doesn’t actually exist in Scripture?  etc.)  Elsie, instead of annoying me with her perfection, motivated me to do right.  I don’t know if it’s a personality difference, but, in my case, I liked having a godly role model to read about.  I always felt more inspired to walk closer with the Lord and fight the good fight after reading an Elsie book.  Later volumes focus on Elsie’s granddaughter Lulu, and those were amazing.  Lulu is a very realistic, strong-willed child, and the lessons I took from her struggle with her sin, on some days, felt written just for me.  As the books got more and more into just history textbooks with little character development, I began to lose interest, but I can boast owning the entire collection.  I plan to read them through to my children some day.

 

10. Missionary Patriarch: The True Story of John G. Paton

http://www.amazon.com/Missionary-Patriarch-True-Story-Paton/dp/1929241372

I was a voracious fiction reader as a child, and really cared little for non-fiction unless it was a missionary story written in an exciting way. (This has since changed since marriage and becoming a parent!  Now I need those godly nonfiction books more than ever!)  Therefore, Mom had to assign me John G. Paton for school (I was homeschooled) to get me to read it.  I was very disconcerted by the thickness of the book, and went into it assuming it to be very dry.  I was taken aback by Paton’s voice, which was straightforward and relevant.  His time with the South Sea Cannibals was interesting, of course, but it was actually his mission work before that that moved me the most.  Paton was a tee-totaler (meaning, no alcohol ever) due to the sordid lifestyles he witnessed on the Scotland streets where he lived.  His work to get the people sober and give them occupations, as well as extended family struggles we were going through with relatives at the time, convinced me to make a promise to God and myself to never touch a drop of alcohol.  This definitely made a big mark on my life.

 

Leave me a comment on your thoughts or books that have changed your life.  If I get enough comments, I’ll leave a bonus: the one book that had such a negative impact on my life that I made it into a positive thing to learn and grow from.

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister

I am the person least qualified to write a devotional for my sister, and she knows it because she heard me sound pretty exasperated with my girls the other day on the phone. However, because I love her the most, and am in these same trenches, I’ll just share what is valuable to me in this challenge and struggle called parenting.

There are people who say, “I was crazy to have children!” or “What was I thinking?” or “How did I get into this?” But, the truth is, you didn’t. You were led. Even the most diligent family planner was also chosen. God got you into this, and HE decided that you and your husband would now glorify Him best as parents, here at your current age. There was no, “how did I get into this?” about it. This was predestined from the beginning of time. You are going to be pregnant with your specific child through the hot summer months of the year 2014.

So before we go any further, this isn’t a congratulatory devotional on “Good job, sis,” it’s an “awed and on my knees” type of letter to you. God decided that YOU would best glorify Him as a parent and that it would be in your best interest too. This is humbling. This is grand. This is greater than us.

It’s important to mention this because quickly I forget. It’s back to “Good job, RJ” and “What did you plan for this child, RJ?” and “What are your thoughts for this child, RJ?” and RJ, RJ, RJ!

And really, parenting isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about our methods or styles or how soon they were potty-trained or what curriculum we use or how they behave in public. Even their sin isn’t about us. They’re responsible for it. It’s easy to look at that brand new baby and think their life revolves around you. We so often accuse babies of thinking everyone’s life revolves around them, but we mothers are guilty of the same thing with that child. In reality, they’re in your home for a short period of time, and then they’re off doing what God has planned for them. God has designed YOUR child specifically for this world, for the future years following 2014, for the life that they’ll live then and the relationship He’ll have with them.

And I get so caught up in the relationship they have with ME. I get so caught up in how they’re going to fulfill my life and satisfy me and bring me joy. And when they don’t do it – and oh! They don’t do it often! Then I’m bitter and upset and unsatisfied and angry.

Because it IS a battle. Parenting might just end up being the hardest thing you ever do. It will definitely be your hardest job. Do you know why? Because, unlike your husband, you didn’t pick a child ahead of time with a personality you enjoy and a maturity you can count on. Unlike your best friends, you didn’t choose a child that makes you laugh, loves to talk deeply about spiritual things with you, and is fun to be with. You may end up with someone you don’t understand whatsoever and is nothing like you. For sure, you will end up with a depraved sinner who, at first – and for who knows how long – wants nothing to do with your God. And that’s HARD. It’s hard to be around immature unbelievers 24/7. It’s not something I had ever done before or was ever truly prepared to do.

But that human being who you love so much but who can be so hard to live with and understand… Their life isn’t about you or your home – not really. God decided that THIS baby needed to be born because they were going to glorify Him. With their sins, with their successes, with their relationship with Him or without – although we sincerely pray that they are a powerful lover of God! Sure, you brought them into the world, but even the science of that would not have succeeded without God deciding, in His sovereign pleasure, that your baby, your specifically unique baby, was going to bring Him glory. Was going to bring good to you and your husband. Your hardships with this child, as well as your joy with this child, God decided is GOOD.

So yes, you have a responsibility. But even your responsibility is not really to this child in the end. It’s still about your relationship with God. And that frees you from the burden of failure or comparing yourself to others or worry, fear, and doubt. Even your parenting, breastfeeding schedules, homeschooling, and diaper changing are to further your relationship with God. When changing the 7th poopy diaper in a day becomes about you and your rights and the burden it is on you, it is instantly not about God any more. So no, it’s not “How dare you, my child, go against me and my plans for you” as I so often think and even say. Instead, it’s “Do you understand that you’ve hurt God who loves you and died for you? Do you understand the plan He has for you? Do you understand how to surrender your life to Him and turn away from sin? Can I tell you about how your repeated disobedience today has taught me more about my own inadequacy with God and how forgiven I am?”

I think a child brings you more joy than you thought possible, but also more hard work. Yet we hold the promise of knowing that we were specifically chosen for this task, as if God placed a sparkling crown that says “Mother” right on your head. So whyImage do we get bogged down with the results? Why do we fear what other mothers say? Why do we take personally how these little personalities that God created – we sure didn’t choose anything! – respond? I don’t know. If you figure it out, let me know. All I can tell is, it comes about when my own idols come to the surface – and you will discover you’re much more of a sinner than you thought! But how gracious of God to purify you even more – to make the ruby red of your heart shine with pure intensity and have no specks or planks in it! When I take my eyes off of that sparkly crown, off of God’s face above it that is reflected in its shiny surface: the crown that is my relationship with Him and the tasks He has given me, not the plans and ideas I have for myself and my kids, all mayhem in my soul begins.

I will never stop loving you, and I’ll never stop loving this child. Even before the baby has been born, I chose to love them wholeheartedly, because they is of my blood! And because this child is yours.

It’s the same with our Lord. Whether you feel like you’re a bad mother or a good one, the fact is, you’re a sinful one. And He will never stop loving you. Before you were born, He chose to love you and die for you because you have been washed in His blood. And because you are His.

I know, someday, you will finally, physically receive an imperishable crown and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Because that’s what you are: a servant. And you will understand how much of a servant you can be made to be in the next coming years! Fight the GOOD fight that glorifies God. We’re all here for you. We can’t wait to have you running alongside of us! I love you, sister.

The Story of My Friend Problems

 

I’m not going to name any names, but I think it’s good for me to share, especially with you young unmarried – or newly married – girls what you could very well find yourself getting into.

 

I’d like to share what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned.

For a little over two years, I had these friends.  We lived close, we went to the same church, and we did a lot of things together.  I was pretty clingy and could be controlling, I admit, but it’s not my fault for what they put me through.  I think it’s normal for these type of girls.

They were drop-dead gorgeous.  Everyone was remarking on how beautiful they were.  Some times it was nice to be associated with them because of this.  It made ME feel complimented!

They definitely, at times, treated me like their best friend, but, at other times, shunned me.  Some times I think they only put up with me to hang out with Brad.  😦  That wasn’t a pleasant thought.  Often times they acted totally different in front of my husband too, like he thought they were sweet girls when he didn’t see what went on when I was off doing girl things with them.

They tended to call me in the middle of the night – all hours of the night – some times just being snarky and catty.  They were SO emotional!  I mean, I know girls are, but this was over the top!  Some times they called me even to complain about each other!  Pitting me against each other tore me in two!  I was often just keeping the peace.  However, other times, they were like joined at the hip and I couldn’t even get close to their inner circle.  They’d pull pranks together, get in trouble, and ignored or lashed out at me because I tried to be the “good girl” and stop them.

They loved to eat my food too.  Like, they’d be sitting on the couch at my parents’ house or mine (later on) taking food off of my very person!  I’m sorry, but that’s kinda mine!

When we’d be out shopping, they’d make me foot the bill because they had no cash.  They owned tons of nice clothes, but I was always covering the cost of new ones for them.  I thought I was being a good friend.  I really cared about them.

One of them had tons of health problems.  I know quite a few were real, but some were so made up it wasn’t even funny.

When I’d ask to pray for their concerns or needs, they hardly paid attention.  And I worked so hard on that.  I shared the gospel with them a ton.

I’ve just really never seen a more selfish pair of people in all of the humans I’ve met.

And yet, I was in such a unique position to help them, to share about the Lord with them, and to serve them.  Even if they never served back and couldn’t care less about my needs.  See, the thing is, no matter how much they sinned against me or how self-serving and narcissistic they were… I love them.  I love them more than anyone else on the planet beside Brad.

 

 

Why did I put up with these girls, you ask?

 

 

Oh yeah, I forgot to include one detail: these friends are also known as “my children.”

Gotcha!

It laughed to myself so hard as I wrote this – come on, you know you’re smiling now too!  If we adults behaved the way children do out in the real world and to others, we’d probably end up in prison.  Like for assault and battery, thievery, or slander.  *wink*  Hee hee  You know it!

But I was struck with the fact that I do all of the above, and worse, to my Lord God.  To Him I am nothing but selfish.  I commit the same sins over and over again and demand His gifts and blessings.  I fuss and whine and am so incredibly stupid, in my little finite brain.  And yet He loves, and loves, and loves.

I think parenting makes Him sit and smile – maybe even laugh – because we’re getting a minor taste of what we’ve put Him through.  And that deep well of affection and devotion you feel for those crazy little monsters?  That’s only a taste of how God loves you too.

But don’t forget to hug a mother today.  Mother’s Day is in a month – some great gifts wouldn’t hurt as well.  😉

The Five Gems of Wait

“AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHH!”

 

cries the cartoon comic character.  His head grows to twice the size of his body and is colored in with bright red marker.  His eyes are big black Xs and his mouth a hole large enough to swallow the page.  He is ANGRY and his temper is portrayed garishly.

Lucy from Peanuts with her screaming tonsil.  The hulk ripping apart his clothes.

Many of you lived under that parent.  Or lived with that spouse,  Many of you had that child.  Or sibling.  Or friend.  Many of you ARE that person yourself.

I’m not.

I’m not a gaping hole of scream, a yelling monster of madness.

So I smugly walk around fooling myself that I’m all right.

I may not be a yeller who has a temper – and that’s only by the grace of God.  MY faults are far worse and far more crafty.  I’m still an impatient person.  A frustrated person.  I just show it differently.

I show it in a burst of tears when my child disobeys for the eleven hundred and twenty-second time.  I show it in the whine that comes from my own mouth, not my two-year-old.  I show it in how I complain to my husband.  I show it in the frustration that makes me look at my children and say, “I give up.”  I show it in my lack of faith.  I often live my daily life as if God doesn’t listen or won’t answer my prayers.  I wonder if I’ve ever really learned how to Biblically wait.

And that’s dangerous indeed.  Far more dangerous than being a volcano once in a while.  I’m the worst kind of impatient person.

The one who makes it a lifestyle.

 

I’m currently studying Joseph.  He was sold into slavery by his own brothers.  He was put in charge of Pharaoh’s captain of the guard’s household, but he was still a slave.  Then, when he refused to give in to temptation, he was imprisoned.  Interpreting a dream for Pharaoh’s cupbearer should’ve been his ticket out of the stinkhole he had been falsely thrown into, and yet he was forgotten.  For two years after that, he must have lived in wait thinking, “Today’s the day, right?  The old man’s going to show up with a parade to free me, right?  The wine guy had to have shared about me now, right?  Maybe processing paperwork is taking a few more weeks?”

Nothing.  Forgotten.

Waiting.

I thought about HOW HARD that would’ve been for me.  I thought about the grumbling and whining and crying and moping I would’ve done.  I could almost feel the tears of doubt and faithlessness falling on my cheeks.  Faithlessness as I waited on God’s timing and provision.  Waited.  Oh, the pain of it!  Waiting like feeling someone scratching a long knife across my arm so slowly, every centimeter pain, the burning of the injustice and suffering of it.  Not knowing when it would stop.  Would it ever stop?

See, I always believe it won’t.  I give up before I’ve begun!

 

What are you waiting on?  For that day when you can get every task completed?  For that child’s heart to change?  That husband to become a leader in your home?  The salvation of a friend?  To stop being too scared to do what you know you should do?  For money or a better job?  For the abuse to end?  For someone to forgive you?  For someone to come home?  To become like Christ?

Psalm 37 has the answer.  In verses 3-11 we find FIVE GEMS OF WAITING.  These five truths are things to memorize and meditate on so that we can learn to wait on the Lord.  This is our solution:

 

ONE:  TRUST

(“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” – v. 3)

What does it mean to trust the Lord?  It goes hand and hand with obedience.  It says, “Do good.”  Live where you’ve been placed, become bosom friends with faithfulness.  Obey and do what you know is good every single day.  These are the soil, sun, water, and fertilizer for the baby sprout called “Trust.”

 

TWO: DELIGHT

(“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – v. 4)

This doesn’t mean that if you spend some time feeling some lovey emotions toward Jesus that a Ferrari is going to pop up in your garage.  This means that, when your heart starts really being like His, your desires are going to change to be like His as well.  When you truly delight in God and who He is, your desires are going to become exactly what He wants them to be – so that He can fulfill them!

 

THREE: COMMIT

(“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” – v. 5-6)

This is a promise!  If you give over your ways, your desires, your future, your wants, your fears – all that you are WAITING for, He will act!  He will be your justice.  And He was for Joseph.

 

FOUR: BE STILL

(“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in His way, over the man who carries out evil devices!”)

I can picture this one so vividly!  That two-year-old of mine is fidgeting, fidgeting, ever struggling to see beyond my hands that are gathering up her baby-fine hair.  She wants to know what’s happening in every second that she cannot be a part of.  She’s missing out – how long will this updo take?  It can’t possibly be more important than what exciting mystery Baby is experiencing in the corner.  I say, “Be still.”  She will look so cute once it’s done.  It won’t take long.  It feels like forever to her, but it’s not.  Be still!  Wait.  How very often I am like that with my Savior.

 

And, finally, our thumb on our hand of gems:

FIVE: REFRAIN

(“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.  In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.  But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” – v. 8-11)

Refrain, refrain, refrain!  Don’t worry, don’t get angry, don’t doubt!  It leads to EVIL!  Those who wait on the Lord will inherit the land!  It takes meekness, folks, to be patient, to wait and be still.  To trust and commit your ways to an unseen God, especially a God who feels like He has been silent.  But that God IS always there if you are still enough to forsake your doubts and listen.  He wants to give you and me abundant peace.  He wants to delight our very soul.

Do we doubt His goodness?  Do we think the thing we are waiting for is greater than God and His promises?  Do we truly believe that we will one day live in delight and peace bigger than one person even could ask for?

If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to number one on our hand of jewels.

It all starts with trust.

 

 

What do you think about when you read Psalm 37:3-11?  What has the Holy Spirit spoken into your heart regarding the five gems of waiting?  Let me hear your thoughts so you can teach me! 

Too Attached to Your Kids?

Amongst the Christian conservative community, there has been a major change in parenting in this past generation.  More than ever, Christian conservative mothers are staying home with their kids.  Homeschooling has increased to an estimated 2 million students nationwide.  It has increased 7 percent in just three years.  Of those who homeschool, more than ever have taken a very achandstive role with their children.  There is a rise in homes going agrarian or more “natural.”  Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding has been growing steadily. The involvement between the mother and her baby amongst certain families has even received a label: Attachment Parenting.  This usually involves some forms of nursing on demand, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and not letting a baby cry it out.

Many of these parents whose desires to be involved and to be self-sacrificing also seem to be followed around by aggressive guilt-trips to “not miss out on their children’s childhood” biting their backsides.  There are a lot of blog entries, memes, and articles going around with similar themes.  And while the blogs make excellent points for those addicted to technology and entertainment as well as for the fast-paced distracted parent, I also sense a lot of needless guilt being placed on women I know.   And I know a lot of sincerely lovely mothers who are beating themselves up!

I’d like to be the devil’s advocate for a bit and remind you of the flipside of the matter.  How many of us have seen movie after movie where hard-working dad is pictured as the bad guy because he won’t give the finger to his over-demanding boss, losing his job rather than miss his kid’s baseball game?  I’m seeing many of my peers walking around with their heads down over articles they’ve read about how they’re bad mothers because little Emily plays at a friend’s house an afternoon a week or because they go to women’s retreats twice a year with their church.  A woman at my Bible study spent the entire end of our time together in tears the other day because she was convinced she was a failure to her children because she had to work a job a few mornings to help make ends meet in this rough and frightening economy.

Don’t get me wrong.  We are in a fast-paced gluttonous society, a society with entertainment out the wazoo, a society where we can live a false virtual life as easily as anything real.  We meet time and again those lazy, uninvolved, and workaholic parents.  We have even been some of them ourselves.

But, on the whole, this does not describe conservative, Christian, homeschool America.  Not the homeschooling America that I know.

I think our parents’ parents came from a generation of people where family couldn’t always be first priority and where men went off to war, and women were concerned about getting liberated so they worked 9-5 jobs, and where children were labeled “latchkey.”  And so, as is the human way, I think that we schooling-at-home-minded couples have swung far to the other spectrum of things.  How many of us, dear women, are run entirely ragged where we can’t even leave our homes for months on end due to the fact that, even though our bodies says stop, we, deep down, feel like we would be failures if we quit having children?  How many dear sisters are not getting sleep for over a year after having a new baby because, if the child cries, it means they need food NOW, even if it’s in the middle of the night every night for months on end?  (And I’m not talking about a real physical need or concern, but allowing the child to get their own way purely because they want it.)

As a conservative community, I think some of us run around worrying we’re going to miss something, worried our children aren’t going to be “attached” enough.  If I can say, “I want my baby and young child to be truly attached to me above all else,” I’m saying I promote idolatry.  I’m just not hearing, from my own mouth, “I want my child to be attached to God.  I want my child to go to God with their needs.”

Sweet mothers, are we scared that if we aren’t there for that child every moment of every day – and night! – that the baby is going to have an underdeveloped moral conscience that will lead to all sorts of horrors and sins in the future – an emotionally scarred child?

Who told me that I am a mini-god, in charge of the spiritual well-being and conscience of another human life?  I am not omnipresent.  No matter how much I want to be, I cannot be all-in-all for that little life.  Nor would I want to be.  Not if I call myself a Christian.

And I’m not telling my ultra-caring and loving friends not to sleep with their child or not to be Attachment Parents.  I don’t care what it is you do – and you shouldn’t care so much what I do.  There is nothing in the Bible saying one is right or one is wrong.

But the Bible DOES talk about fear – and that’s what I want to get at.  As a culture, are we Christians desperately afraid?  Do we parent out of fear?  Are we afraid that we’re going to screw something up from birth and that somehow it’s all about the mothering that makes the human being?  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.”  (1 John 4:18)  That Bible verse doesn’t mean love more obsessively.  It means love perfectly.  Are our children idols?  Do I disguise idolatry and obsession with my children by calling it “being attached”?

Co-sleeping can be a special thing, for sure, but “Let the marriage bed be undefiled.”  (Hebrews 13:4)  I’ve never really thought of this meaning an actual bed before, and the Scripture really is talking about sexual intimacy with your spouse, but could your child be coming between that?  Maybe not, however, it might be wise to make sure you’ve asked your husband, “Are you upset that you have to share a bed with a child year after year and don’t get that special sleep time with me? “  How many of us, as well, never, ever go on dates?  Do we say “We don’t want to leave the kids” or “We may miss something important with the child” or “It’s just not that important” or “We just can’t get out; someone might need us.”  Does our marriage get thrown by the wayside during the childhood years?  Are we truly being obedient to the Lord and His calling for our life while parenting?  Or are we throwing everything else He might have planned for our family aside to give the kids what they want?

How many of us, dear, conscientious women, go on Internet fast after Internet fast, or even cell phone fasts, claiming that our twenty minutes a day on Facebook, or our desire to keep up on current events, or our emails to Christian sisters are “taking me away from the kids.  Face it, I don’t have time to do anything but feed the baby right now.  My body isn’t my own – or my husband’s!  ‘Tis the age!  All else goes out the window except for the kids for a few years.”  I’m not talking about real laziness, selfishness, or addiction here – and we all need to evaluate our hearts – but it’s silly of me to think there’s something bad about letting the child learn to play by herself for an hour a day, letting her learn that she isn’t the center of the universe!  Do you know what would happen if I went on an Internet and cell phone fast?  I would break my mother-in-law’s heart.  She lives hundreds of miles away and no information is too much when it’s about her son, his wife, and her granddaughters.  If I didn’t post my gobs of pictures, if I didn’t give her a call every so often, I would be shutting her out of our lives.  So some afternoons the kids actually get placed in a playpen and play with each other, or sit at a table with their shelves and shelves of books so that I can think about someone outside of our home for a little bit.  Once a week or so, I have cards I write too.  At that point, the kids know that Mama is going to be inaccessible for a half hour or so because the girl who just lost her family in a car accident is just a bit more important right now.  Writing a card really is such a small thing to do.  I try to time it during their nap, but, if I need to sleep along with them, I’m going to do that too.  I’m going to miss out on their childhood more if I’m grouchy as a bear because I’m sleep deprived.

No one has time for each other any more.  The children have extracurricular activity after extracurricular activity.  Little Madison, Jacob, Jack, Emma, Isabelle… All SEVENTEEN of the kids have THREE sports each!  (Don’t you feel this way some times?  Am I sure I don’t have seventeen children – because where on earth did all of that food go?  And they must all have at least three sports!  :-P)  Mom isn’t a self-sacrificial mom if she doesn’t drive each one around hours upon hours each week.  Far be it from her to say, “This is not a profitable and God-glorifying use of my time – or our time as a family.”  Some would say she would be selfish for thinking so.  “They’re only kids for so long.  How can you miss any of it?  You stand out there in the rain and cold every single Saturday and cheer them on!”  SOCCER MOM!  SOCCER MOM!  Soccer… zzzzzzzzz  (She’s exhausted now!)

Meanwhile, the church suffers.  No one has time for church activities.  No one has time to run them.  How many of our young moms aren’t getting invited over for a meal or don’t have someone come and hang out with her, when parenting, in its newness, is scary and overwhelming and she’s crying out for help?  How many of us never “get the kids together to play”?  Very few of us even make the drive to go see people.

“I’d love to,” the homeschool mom says, “but I’m sorry.  I just can’t get everyone out the door.  It’s too stressful.  Our school day would be ruined.  You don’t eat what we do.  You don’t run your home like I do.  Your kids don’t look and act like my kids.  I really just don’t want to.  It’s too much work.  We’re not organized enough to make it happen.  ”

Okay, nobody really says all of that.  Instead, everyone just uses the big bad B word.  BUSY.

“We’re just too busy right now.  I know I should be reaching out to you and discipling you, but it’s all about my kids right now”  – and they know it! – “I’m too busy making them kings and queens of their own little worlds.”

Yeah, we probably don’t admit that either.  😉

A New York Times article stated that, while Generation Y’ers are closer to their family members, they’re also “coddled, disrespectful, narcissitic, and impatient.”  They’ve never learned to wait for anything, never learned delayed gratification, and use Mom and Dad as slaves.  The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds is at 17.6%.  They’re unmotivated.

Families, I really feel that we, instead, should be serving together, teaching our children to look outward and recognize needs, to be able to discipline themselves instead of crying for every need and expecting Slave Mama to fix it immediately.  To take initiative.  As church activities shut down around us, I’m startled that the sheer amount of young people doesn’t lend itself towards more of us serving and running the ministries that used to be led by our parents.  “Do hard things” is a motto that has been trampled upon by our children with earbuds listening to their iPods who didn’t see it right in front of them.  The parents, as well, are burned out homeschooling and catering to the needs and activities of said young people.  I could also say much about the woman who physically lets herself go, never exercises, and becomes very unhealthy, causing a danger for herself because she doesn’t get any time away from the kids.  Husbands need to help out there!

The Bible doesn’t talk about nursing babies on demand or scheduling them.  It’s just not a moral issue that needs to divide people and cause discord.  It just isn’t.  Let it be.

There are also no references to “Do not miss out on thine children’s childhood.”  Instead, we mainly see that godly children are called to obedience, respect, and propriety.  Parents are pretty much only told to discipline their child and to “not exasperate their children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  (Ephesians 6:4)

We see Timothy, at a young age, jumping into ministry with Paul.  Rhoda opens the door for the apostle because she is sitting with church members praying for his release.  A little boy who listened to Christ for possibly hours on end donates his own lunch basket to feed the multitude.  The Proverbs 31 Woman has a business buying and trading!  She is not too busy to do anything but coddle the kids.  The early church was very focused on evangelism, ministry, and serving.  Why have we fallen so far from that because of our fears about parenting that lead us to idolizing our kids and ostracizing our friends and church members?  Reading about the lives of many key missionaries, whole families would leave and evangelize together.  I know of one family who limits their children’s Christmas presents, instead deciding to involve everyone in choosing gifts for poor and underprivileged kids and going to their homes to distribute them.  Their children have learned that their wants are not the center of the home.  They are taught early on to look outward.

Hard-working and well-meaning mothers, I feel so badly that you’re being guilted into feeling that if you let your kids play on their own, give your babies some formula instead of just breastmilk, not wear them constantly in a sling on your back, if you schedule to feed them only every three hours, and actually take the time to go once a week to a Bible study or volunteer in the community that they are going to grow up feeling emotionally deprived, love-starved, or become willful, disobedient children.  Do we, unfortunately, find out too late that our husband’s needs have not been first priority and that we have become doormats for our children to rub their messy bottoms on?  Do I do this to try and not lose their love and devotion?  Is this actually about ME and what I get out of being a parent?  Do I want them to be attached to me to satisfy my desire to be loved?

Or do I just think that I control their souls?  Is the devil using headlines like, “Don’t miss a thing!  What are you doing getting on Facebook for those fifteen minutes a day, you worthless mother?  How dare you schedule time for friends?  Don’t you realize you’re missing everything!  Worship childhood!  Put it above your personal devotions.  Put it above your marriage.  Be afraid of something happening to your child – be so afraid that you forget to trust in the Lord, and instead trust in yourself as a mother, in that ‘intuition’ that proves you always can handle it and you know best!”  Is he using such thoughts from the conservative community, that are often well-meaning but get taken too far, to guilt us into thinking we’re failures and into training our children to be “narcisstic, coddled, impatient,” unable to keep a job, unable to see needs in others’ lives, unable to do hard things, and egotists?  I’m very much struck with the fact that it would be better for my girls, even, to do less play and more service.  More chores, more good hard work, and more self-sacrificing of their own!

“The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)

So often I have used that verse to remind myself not to fear the decisions made by authorities, but does He only hold the king’s heart?  Does He not hold all of ours?  Should I remind myself of this verse to not fear the choices my children make as well?  I could be the perfect parent who shares the gospel each and every day, who teaches my child selflessness and service, and who is a shining example of Christ’s love in action – and yet my child could still reject the Lord and become a criminal.  It will have had nothing to do with whether I regularly took Internet fasts to devote a fifth hour to playing with them.  Only the Lord is in the business of changing hearts.  (Ezekiel 36:26)  Only the Holy Spirit can woo the soul.  It is up to us to teach them and admonish them in the Lord, to tell them about Jesus who died for them, and to faithfully and often brutally point out that they are sinners – that there is nothing good in them.  My girls are not little perfect princesses who deserve the moon, they are flesh who deserve hell.  Deserve hell but are loved.  By a perfect God.  Cling to HIM, not to me.  Become fully attached to the Lord who will never let you down, will never sin, and who will always be with you.  Even when Mom just cannot – or should not.  Even when Mom rightfully puts Dad first.  Even when Mom sends you off to college or bravely lets you leave the nest.  Even when Mom says, “You can’t live in the basement any more.  Go get a job.  You’re going to have to pay for your cell phone bill yourself from now on.”

Let’s all go on a date with our husbands this weekend (Even if we use up the available babysitters amongst us!)   I’m going to have to part with the girls for a couple of hours even though it’s in my nature to want to be the clingy, fearful, controlling mother I talked about.  Yet let’s attempt to regularly head out on dates with those hard-working husbands!  I also think it’s good that I regularly drop them off in the care of others so that I can enjoy an hour of Bible study with women who spur me on towards love and good deeds.  Let’s all, if we are able, jump in our cars and drive the distance to go visit a church member in need.  I even set my phone to vibrate with new Facebook notifications while I was waiting to receive word that a dear sister in Christ has had her baby because I want to rejoice with her!  Even though I stay at home, spend hours of my day with them, and have begun homeschooling my daughter – even though I’m part of conservative homeschooling America, I have just been so convicted to not give my girls a headstart in rejecting humility.  My life, and the life of our family, does not revolve around them.  Like myself, they are one cog in this wheel labeled Glorifying God and Pointing the World to Him.

Also, if these little princesses of mine really are the wonderful things whose time on this earth and in my home is not worth missing, wouldn’t I want to direct them to bless others with some of that childhood?  😉

Love Instantly and Forever

I’ve only been at this mom business twenty months. 

Well, twenty plus nine months because I was the pregnant woman who already felt like a parent.  I got a gender and a name to the pounding feet inside of me as soon as the technology would permit it.  I planned for and prepared for that precious first girl and felt motherly from the moment the maroon line appeared on the test saying I had a new life within me.

And then little girl number two came along seventeen months later.  Within three months of baby Rosalie’s birth, we moved. 

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind and I’d love to blame my moods, irritation, and lack of an imagination on the 5:45 AM wake up calls from a hungry hippo-of-a-baby who has more rolls than Pillsbury and really shouldn’t need to get up that early to add to them, should she?  I want to say I’ve been a tiresome, boring, and frustrated mother because I have to clear a path through boxes and have piles with mementos dating back to the 1980s that needed to be sorted – and… Did you put that in the hall closet, honey?  I have to get at that every day!  Why on earth are we saving the Mountain Dew bottles from your college days again?

Regardless of what I blame it on, this really isn’t the mother I wanted to be.  The mother who stands in the toy area of Ikea while her toddler plays, staring vacantly at her and leaning tiredly and heavily on the shopping cart trying to avoid looking at the baby’s face in the carrier – knowing she’s going to campaign for a diaper change if eye contact is made.
I haven’t been at this mother business for long, but I’ve already forgotten some of the things I planned on doing. 

The person I planned on being.

The memories I wanted to make.

Wishing the moving to be done, wishing the Terrible… One-and-a-Halfs? to be over, wishing any of this time away is something I never do.  Ever. 

And yet, I sure live like it some times.

I’m not finding a lot of things funny these days.  I’m picking too many battles and not being forgiving for the ones I do duke out, even if I win.  I’ve almost forgotten how to crack a joke or play like a kid.  And believe me – playing is something I’ve always done well, and promised myself I would continue to do!

Because I woke up one morning, the sound of children in the daycare next to my apartment crying their heads off reminding me that I chose to keep my adorable and impressionable girls with me all day for a reason, I realized I’d simply been forgetting all of the things I wanted to be, do, and never do.

So I wrote this list.  It’s on the back of my bedroom door so I have to see it every morning before I leave my room.  It’s called “Things to Never Forget”:

♥   Spend time with the Lord every day

♥   Read the Bible to them – practice verses

♥   Sing at least one hymn a day

♥   Pray with them all throughout the day

♥   Laugh, and don’t sweat the small stuff

♥   Never get angry

♥   Play pretend – be the mom that gets into the McDonald’s playground

♥   Write in each of their journals

♥   Everyone needs some fresh air and exercise

♥   Greet Brad at the door with a smile, hug, and a kiss

♥   Be goofy and get a little crazy with all of them!

♥   Love and forgive instantly and forever

And, with the jolt like a shock collar that I gave that sleepy memory of mine, in an act of Instant Love, I decided we were going to put the wings on to unpack today.