Category Archives: Emma

Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

Missed the first 2 posts? Check them out here: Part 1, and here, Part 2.

One of the hardest things about teaching your children the gospel is that, unlike an adult who has never heard of Christ, they don’t always have that “Ah HA!” Lightbulb moment where the gospel makes all kinds of sense, and they just respond then and THERE!
Mostly it is a slow and laborious process where we teach it to them over and over and over and OVER again. It begins with us understanding their sin nature, and more importantly, that they understand their own sin nature. It is harder to tell a 2 year old who is in a state of 24/7 denial, that they are sinners, than it is to tell a remorseful 5 year old, who has only recently discovered that their actions have consequences. Often, difficult, and heartbreaking ones.

But we never know when their heart is tender, so we must preach the gospel to them

Every.

Single.

Day.

But how can we do this? At one point I thought “My kids will get tired of me beginning each morning with a recitation of Bible stuff they need to know.”
It isn’t as literal as all that. Best time to teach the gospel to your child? When their heart is soft, and their conscience is pricked, and if your children are as inherently sinful as mine, it will happen daily. At least. Not to say that every child is sorry every time they take their sister’s cookie, but that, in a moment, with the proper instruction, they will be sorry. And not in a mean “YOU’LL be SORRY!” kind of way either.
Here, let me tell you a story.
My daughter, Emma, is a sweet little girl. She loves others with a deep heartfelt kind of love. She is unique in every way, and the way she looks at the world is, well, different, but it is exactly what makes her so special and lovable. One Sunday, when she was particularly happy to be attending church, we sat in our pew, and the service commenced as normal. We sang together, she colored on her bulletin, and the children’s service was lovely. As soon as the children re-entered our pew, to settle in for the sermon, there was a scuffle over something tiny. I forget what, probably a patch of neutral pew that had a… ahem… territory dispute? Emma was upset, so she asked to move. I let her move. She sat next to Sarah, when another dispute arose. She asked to sit with Daddy, and I promptly moved her. Within 30 seconds, she was crying, loudly, to sit with Sarah again. At 5, she understands to be quiet, calm, and respectful during church. I took this moment to remind her that she is expected to, and often does a fine job of, sitting beautifully, coloring quietly. Today, She did not.
“I WANT to sit with SARAH. NOW!”
I told her to calm down, and just sit beside Daddy, the sermon was beginning, and handed her her coloring materials. This would not do. A hiss arose from beside me:
“NO. I will NOT sit here! I want SARAH!”
Uh oh. A no had escaped her lips. I will calmly deal with many things, but when my children say no to a direct instruction that is not only understandable, and normal, but within the scripture’s scope (think of others as higher than yourself = be quiet in church, please.  Or: Be gracious in your speech= do not hiss at Mom.) all bets are off.
I informed Emma, this would not do, and we left the service.

It wasn’t calm, pleasant, or easy. She cried, and cried some more, about how she wanted to sit with Sarah. She yelled at me, she hissed at me, she said some not very nice things. But we sat, in the van, while I nursed Isaiah. After a long time, must’ve been only 10 minutes, but it seemed an eternity, she began to calm down.  She was still crying, that she hadn’t gotten her way, but she was beginning to see that she had done wrong.
“Emma, what did you do, that I had to leave the service with you?”
“I was being loud. And I disobeyed you. I was bad.”
Tender heart. Tender soul.
Cue the gospel. The tender heart is there, the remorse is there. Repentance is a real, tangible thing in this moment.
This was my springboard. In the 5 minutes we had left, my sad, remorseful little girl had a firsthand lesson on unconditional love, sin as separation from God, repentance and what it means, and how Jesus can wash away our sin, because of God’s plan.
This can be as simple, or as elaborate as your child needs, but the simplest terms, for the littlest ones are this:

  1. You did wrong. (You took your brother’s toy, stealing is wrong.)
  2. Are you sorry?
  3. Then say you are sorry. (To God first for breaking his law. Then to your brother, and I)
  4. Jesus took your eternal punishment. (God is not angry with you anymore,  because Jesus died on the cross to pay for stealing.)
  5. God forgives you, and he loves you even more than Mommy does. He can change your heart, if you believe that Jesus died and rose again to “win” against sin.

I know, simple, but every time your child disobeys, is a perfect time to bring them straight to God. The first offense is not against me for disobedience of house rules (stealing) Or even their brother for stealing. Their first offense is to a holy God, who hates sin, and justly, must discipline us for sinning.

Bring them straight to his feet to apologize there first. When they are at ease with their conscience, then to you, and then their sibling.

Teaching them the gospel is a 4 step process. 1. Sin separates me from God,  2. I know MY sin is deserving of God’s anger. 3. God has a way to forgive me. (Jesus) 4. I need to ask for his help, and believe (have faith) he can, and will change my heart.

But how do I know my child is saved? Well. You don’t. Hard to hear, but I can’t tell you how many times my children have walked through this with me. I figure, I will know they are saved when their behavior begins changing to reflect a change in their heart. When the Holy Spirit works in there, and it is clear to them, without my prompting, that they cannot earn salvation on their own, but that it is a gift of grace, through faith. Meanwhile, my job is to teach them: Sin separates, God loves, Jesus died and rose again, to “win”, we must repent, and believe.

Most importantly, we must model the gospel for them. Pray with them, Pray for them, show them your response to God and the gospel. Every. Single. Day.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I don’t even play one on TV, check what I’ve said here against God’s Word. Go with God’s word, every time. It is right when I am wrong. And if you find scripture that conflicts with what I’ve written here, please share.

How to: Survive a Dreary Day!

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Yesterday was Emma’s Birthday Party. Our gorgeous blue eyed whirlwind had a fabulous time celebrating with family and friends:

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   Emma, at 4 years old, possibly an older three?

 

 

 

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Emma’s 5th birthday party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning, as we woke up in a post birthday party haze, everyone was excited about the presents Emma received yesterday, and they wasted no time going downstairs in a flurry of excitement. But… there was one problem! Upon looking over one of Emma’s new gifts, and ripping open the packaging, the girls noted something was missing…

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“MOM!!! We need a kitchen!”

And thusly, today’s dreary day activity was born by the seat of my pants. We found some materials around the house, a little paint, some brushes, and some boxes:

 

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And of course, we got out Mommy’s sparkly letter tool box…

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So we began to paint…

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But we did take a break!

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And then got back to business… painting, and drawing out our plans on the cardboard!

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Whoops! Somebody got ahold of the camera!

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And once it was all finished: Refrigerator, Microwave, Stove, Oven, Sink, They played with it!

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Yup, and we got ahold of the camera again! But at least she “Loves You!”

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The fruits of our labor!

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And that, is how you survive a dreary day!

Confessions of a “SuperMom”

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Since Isaiah has been born, I have struggled more than I thought with adding child no. 4. In fact, I have struggled so much, that I momentarily wondered if there might not be *some* kind of out for our procreational commitment to allow God to determine the size of our family, and the number of our blessings. Not that I didn’t think every child was a blessing, but that it became increasingly harder to smile sincerely and respond kindly when folks at the grocery store smirked and said “Boy, your hands are FULL!” while I walked past with my 4 children, Isaiah (6 weeks) screeching that newborn wail, Emma (4) whining for a drink, Sarah (6) making silly faces at Ava, and Ava (2) having a full on tantrum on the grocery store floor. Somehow, human nature allows these failures to leave a more lasting mark than the 5 successful trips for every 1 failure. During these moments, my policy has always been to leave immediately, but unfortunately, this does not curtail the smirking strangers.

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Our new normal

One example of a recent “failure moment” happened just yesterday. While taking Sarah to her tooth extraction at the Oral surgeon, my Mother graciously agreed to take my two middle children (6am not being a friendly time of day to leave the house with 4 kids under 6 AND retain my sanity.) and I went there with Isaiah strapped to my front snugly, and waited impatiently in the waiting room for my oldest to complete her first “surgery” and wake up from anesthesia.
Upon finding out I had four children total, during my nervous blatherings., one of the receptionists shook her head at me, smiling, and said “You must be SuperMom.” Here, I had a potential ego boost that I had to put in perspective. Just a few short months ago, with three impeccably behaved children, I would have responded to this situating with feigned humility while patting myself on the back privately. Funny how your pride becomes all too apparent after you’ve fallen on your rear enough times.
This time, I felt immediately inadequate to answer her, a little ashamed, in fact. Mostly, because, this “SuperMom” didn’t even change her 6 year old out of her Pjs for the surgery, OR her newborn baby out of his (Don’t worry I DID change his diaper! Haha!)  In fact, I barely slapped on some sweatpants, a t-shirt, sneakers, and stuffed my Lilla Rose Flexi Clip and Lipgloss  in my pocket for easy elegance that could be completed in the space of one stoplight.  Isaiah had also, in fact, had a blow out in his diaper while Sarah was being medicated, and I forgot to bring a change of shirt. So I was also covered in baby poo. I felt like anything BUT a SuperMom. I even felt a momentary twinge of sadness that the only thing needed for “Super Mom” status in this case, was the number of children I have.  I wanted to feel justified in being called “Super Mom, ” and as proud of that title as I had felt when I had three children, but considering the past 6 weeks, and how very hard it has been to get back to being just a Mom and a Wife, I had nothing good to reply with. So I lamely mumbled that I didn’t feel like SuperMom, and then gratefully rushed off when the nurse called out “Is Sarah’s Mom in here? She is awake!”

Thinking on that moment later, I felt like it was a missed opportunity. I feel this burden on my shoulders, one that grows with each child God adds to our family. A burden to not only appear to be perfect, but in so doing, to prove the value in large family living. So many people in our lives, strangers, friends, some family, think we are certifiably NUTS not to take Birth Control. In fact, I recently had an exchange with my OB that went like this:
Dr: “So, what are you doing for birth control now.”
Me: “I don’t do birth control.”
Dr: “Yes, I know, you just had a baby, so what will you do now?”
Me: “I don’t believe in birth control.”
Dr. (incredulous.) “So what will you DO for birth control?!”
Me: Nothing.
Dr.: “Well what will you DO?!”
Me: “Be the next Duggars?”

The student observer standing behind me snickered at that moment, giving some much needed levity to the situation. But the point is clear. We must be CRAZY. These kinds of moments have led to putting this burden on me, and admittedly, my children every time we go into public. I feel like we must “represent” for large families. Be a shining example of how great they are. My own daughter challenged that thought just before her surgery when she said to me, “But why must WE convince everyone it is nice to be in a large family?” Ouch. Ok, I really don’t know the answer to that one. And, I had a sudden epiphany that perhaps in trying to be our “best” in public, I’m breeding a sort of nasty hypocrisy. We don’t need to be our “best” and always present only one side of large family life. We don’t need to be ashamed either when we don’t measure up to a “perfect” ideal on our own steam. With one approach, we alienate others by our artificial perfection and obvious pride in our own work. With the other, we publicly negate God’s work in our lives, by an exaggerated sense of humility, or shame.
We need to be real. We struggle. At least, I do. It is HARD work being a large family, and I don’t even think we qualify yet! I think that officially is reached at 5 or 6 kids… technically, anyway. Maybe rather than teaching my kids we need to be a walking commercial, I need to teach my children that we need to be a walking example of God’s grace. Tantrums do happen. And they happen in stores. They aren’t ok, and they aren’t good, and they are VERY annoying to other customers, but maybe the example of handling it Biblically, and gracefully, even under pressure, is far more powerful than being “perfect.”

So here is my “Super Mom” confession. I struggle too, and by God’s grace, THAT is how I am a Mom of a “large” family. I am not super, Christ works despite my failure to BE “Super Mom.”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Curriculum hunting

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Emma (4) and Sarah (6) at the kids Creation Seminar run by Answers in Genesis.

Homeschooling appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it is FLEXIBLE! I love that one day we can do back to back doctor appointments, and another we can stay home and learn there. My children’s learning doesn’t suffer from this, in fact, it often benefits! They have the benefits of multiple social situations and master teachers. (Who better to teach my children about the structure of the eye than our Optometrist?) But they also have the benefit of relaxed days, and a comfortable classroom. I want my children to think that although we must be diligent in completing our tasks, we can be creative in completing them too! Who says I have to wash the dishes grimfaced and snarling? I can sing and dance instead! Who says we have to do school uncomfortable and forced? We can have fun and explore instead!
One of the first places to start in this, something I am still tweaking as we go, is the area of curriculum! Some parents thrive on routine and predictability, and if that is the case, I would recommend a boxed curriculum with a teacher’s manual and lesson plans. I am the opposite. A seat of the pants kinda gal. I cobble together curriculum until I get everything just right. I am not a fan of across the board choices. So I find what curriculum I like in one subject, and supplement it with something fun. I prefer basic and thorough curriculum that uses a mastery concept. This way I can apply it in real time using real life situations and experiences to reinforce what they are already learning in their books. I’d rather be done with book work by lunch, and then spending the rest of the day learning incognito, than spending all day with our noses in books, tears pouring out in frustration!

So if you don’t want to go the boxed curriculum way, and you’re a seat of the pants kinda Mom or Dad, how can you cobble together a curriculum? Simply stated, do your research. Find out how your child learns, take your schedule into consideration. Do you need a mobile curriculum? Do you have a LOT of outside opportunities set up for your kids that can supplement something basic and simple? Or do you need a curriculum that covers everything in one book? After you’ve determined what kind you need, go for it! Ebay has a lot of books for good prices if you can snag them. We gambled on McGuffy’s Readers and bought a WHOLE set on there for a steal of $30ish dollars! But, now we have chosen that as our reading curriculum for several years now. At least for 6 years, maybe longer! Understand that if you choose this route, you may or may not have access to teacher’s manuals, you may have to plan lessons to fill in areas you feel are scanty, or in areas that your child needs extra instruction and reinforcement. Also know that you may have to tweak things year by year until you find things you like. We may have McGuffy’s for reading, but we will be adding Easy Grams, and perhaps English From The Roots Up. As the children grow older, so will our curriculum. We will add and adjust with them. It can grow in books, or experiences, or in any way that it works! That is the beauty of customizing!
Here is how our curriculum looked this year, and may look next year, with a few adjustments:

For reading, we use McGuffy’s Readers for formal instruction and supplement it with books or phonics programs (Dr. Suess, Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Starfall website for phonics support.)

The girls making dough ornaments.

For Math, we are currently using an online website called IXL, but I am not satisfied, so next year we may just do Horizons. After 3rd grade, we are considering The Life of Fred. For now we’ve been supplementing IXL by applying the concepts we’ve learned online with in home situations. Measuring fractions for cooking, using an abacus to add, subtract, or make calculations for home needs, like how many grapes each child should get, etc. Also, paying for and calculating the price of objects when shopping.`

We are really liking “History for Little Pilgrims” for our history this year. We supplement this with social studies situations,

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Tea Party!

such as watching Rand Paul Filibuster in real time, or taking part in a community service project etc. We also do a geography element to this, learning about our state, our country, and using real life experiences to educate the children about other cultures and languages. This multi-cultural experience is organic and natural.

For science we are members of the Da Vinci Science Center, we can go there any time for hands on fun, we also use the book “The World God Made” by E.J. Shewan. We also supplement by going to any seminar we can find that includes our children’s grade levels.

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Emma, climbing a tree.

Another way to apply science year round is our plethora of pets to care for (rabbits, cat, and fish) and our organic vegetable garden, and mini fruit orchard in our backyard.

For health and wellness, we use doctor’s well checks as unit studies. We pick body parts and study how they function and what they do. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to do so in depth with Da Vinci Center’s Bodies Revealed exhibit. One of the girls also received a really cool body toy that one can remove the internal organs and replace them. It came with a booklet that describes the functions of each organ. Of course, a lot of outside play is involved, and this year, since I was pregnant, we did a constant study on how Mommy’s body works to bring life into the world. We studied how the baby grew each month, watched videos of what was happening in the womb, and learned all about the miracle of birth. (Age appropriately of course!) This will have a more formal curriculum as they grow, but now while they are young, visiting our doctor, and talking about how our bodies work, spending time daily to discuss nutrition and healthy practices, in hygiene (brushing teeth) or in diet, or in activities, we make this a part of everyday life.

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Emma (4) at the Lyons Fiddle Festival listening to some prime fiddlers!

For music and art we do a variety of projects, crafts, (all by the seat of our pants!) Lots of play doh play, We have a series of CD’s on the classical masters, each has examples of their most famous music, and a narrated biography fit in throughout the CD. We also do field trips like the Lyons Fiddle Festival, and Band or Orchestra concerts. None of this is from a formal curriculum, it is just LIFE! I love that.

We do not use a formal Bible program. This is something we do on our own too. Sola Scriptura is a great way to go! We take times to memorize scripture together for AWANA, and every day we review the Proverb of the day. (We use this website, and often listen to the devotional of the day, but I don’t like how they cherry pick scripture for the devotional, so we don’t use that every day.) The goal is that within a year of doing this, each child will know the Proverbs well, or perhaps even by heart. This is an excellent character building program, as throughout the day we apply the Proverb we read! Next year we may do something else, like a daily reading of the gospels, or a jaunt through Genesis. The point is to have them reading scripture. We are strongly considering a program of reading the Bible in a year, to expose them to the whole work of God. I have yet to find a program that suits my idea of doing so chronologically, but that is not overwhelming for little ones to sit through. (All of ours are 6, 4, 2, 1 month, presently)

It is very easy to cobble together your own curriculum if you choose. It can be cheaper, and more eclectic! This way you can customize it to meet your child’s needs, and to educate children of multiple ages at once. We LOVE field trips, because each child, no matter their age, takes away an age appropriate experience. Same thing with Bible programs, or Home Economics.

The best part is when the whole family participates side by side,the older ones helping the younger, and the younger’s questions challenging the older. Homeschooling just naturally provides a multi faceted approach to learning.

This time of year is perfect for considering curriculum options. Better to prayerfully consider now, than to have to change mid year, or have to buy things last minute during the summer. Once we buy programs we like, we will probably use them for child after child, handing them down as each child reaches the next level. Buying new books for our oldest at this juncture is also handy, in case she finishes her current book, and still needs to continue on.

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Our Kempton train ride field trip! Looking out the window of the caboose!

Happy Curriculum hunting!

Motherhood is Humbling

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There is nothing like the ahumilitypostavabandwrrival of a new baby to set your world spinning around and around until you are forced to realize: Motherhood is humbling.

My first jolt back to that reality was seeing my postpartum pictures. Cute kid, but who is that awful looking lady holding him?! Ack! THAT IS ME?! Yuck.

But there were more substantial reminders that while managing three kids had become a piece of cake for this Mama, God is NOT done with me yet! Sanctification continues.

I found the most humbling moments in these two experiences:
The other day one of my daughters had been especially exasperating in a new set of behavioral difficulties. I was frustrated, and at the end of my rope. Having a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, but adjustment or no, there was no excuse for her behavior! I was having a hard time reining her in. So I asked for advice from Moms I knew, My Mom, etc, and even some Mommybloggers. (Shout out to 4 Moms, 35+ Kids!) I still made no progress in helping her to curb her disrespectful behavior. I was getting rolling eyes, talking back, and exasperated rude responses. Then one day, this very child walks in while I was putting 2 of her younger siblings to sleep. She wanted to show me something she made. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and respond with “Well what is it? I’m putting your sister and brother down for a nap!”

Yikes.

It was me. How could I expect her to stop a behavior that I wasn’t even recognizing, let alone dealing with in myself? What a humbling moment. I felt awful instantly. I apologized to her and told her to please come back later.  It wasn’t a while until I was able to confess my full sins to her. It takes a lot to tell your child you’ve been wrong. I started half a dozen times only to put it off. Another sin of mine, pride, was staring me right in the face. Motherhood is truly humbling.

Then, yesterday, my husbaIsaiahnd called me on his lunch break, telling me “I forgot to pay some bills! And I never deposited that check… Could you handle it for me?” I was excited to show my husband I was getting back in my super prepped Mommy groove, and I could handle an emergency. Of COURSE I could handle it! “It” required a trip to the bank, and a trip to another bank to pay both bills. No problem, this was a piece of cake with 3 kids! Should be nothing with 4!
Wrong. Oh so wrong.

Instead: I grabbed some PB and J and…. uhm, what else is there? Carrots. Ok… whipped everyone into (semi decent) shape, and headed off into the sunset, wipes on hand for the inevitable peanut butter faces. We started the whole adventure off with an incident in the parking lot. Someone made a break for a puddle in a high traffic area, and I began the whole outing with a screech: “DON’T run there!”
There ended up being no cars in the parking lot, and the child in question responded instantly, and went back to her “spot”, never having been in any real danger,  and so all was fine, but I think this was the first indicator I was in over my head.  Before I had to juggle a toddler and an infant in exiting the car, she never would have even dreamed of making a move for that puddle.
Inside both banks the children ran around in circles or bounced nervously on the chairs while I signed papers. During the rest of our errands there was a lot of angst in the back seat, with everyone hitting the naptime wall, including me. We went home, nobody the worse for wear, but my pride having taken a few fatal blows, the whole drive home was dominated by Isaiah’s expressions of discomfort and disapproval after our long afternoon in the minivan hopping from place to place.

I had been at that place most of us go to when we’ve been “successful” in our christian walk. We begin to (erroneously) assume our hard work is paying off. But we forget
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:20, ESV)
We begin to trust in the law alone, and forget the all important work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, our home. Without God’s all consuming work in us, the law does nothing.  As I’ve heard said before (I think Rushdoony said it) ” The law does not justify, it sanctifies.” I had forgotten that truth, and began to feel as if I had conquered my sinful nature, and was fully capable of addressing my children’s shortcomings as well. But I’m not sufficient on my own. If anything, my knowledge of the law should inform me of how very deficient I am, and how much I need God’s righteousness. (Romans 7:7)

And so armed with this new dose of humility, I am reminded of many things. Firstly, without God’s Word, change is impossible, and without the Holy Spirit, lasting, sincere change is a lost cause. Time to get back to the Word of God with a humbled spirit.

humilitypostmomandemmasnuggling  To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:2-7, ESV)

I can’t make my chilhumilitypostsarahemmadren wise on my own, I can’t make my children well behaved on my own, and I can’t cause them to be their best, but I can introduce them to the God who sanctifies me daily, changes me as only he can, and provides me with the wisdom to meet many things head on. I can’t claim any of that goodness for myself, but I can lead them straight to the wisdom from God’s Word that does not return void. I can obey God’s command (Duet. 6) and teach them daily as I walk with Christ. And I can trust in his ability to bring lasting change to their hearts, minds, and lives. In the end, my failure riddled parenting isn’t enough for them, but the sufficiency of scripture in informing their wisdom and decisions, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives is something I can trust in to overcome my own sins and shortcomings.

“But I’m not ready to be sorry yet!”

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“But I’m not ready to be sorry yet!”

Saturday, depending on the week hovers between a cleaning day, and a day to go to parties. This week, it was cleaning day! We had a few wonderful experiences, in which the children were very helpful, like this one that I put on my facebook this morning:

While cleaning the kitchen and putting the groceries away, I gave Emma a box of cans, and asked her to put them in the pantry one by one. Emma tried to pick the WHOLE box up, (rather than one at a time… typical Emma. ♥) and dropped them. Sarah swept into action: “Here! I’ll help you! Lets all line up and put them away, it’ll be faster that way!” She and Emma took an end of the box each, carried them over closer to the pantry, then Sarah lined everyone up, Emma, Ava, and herself, and started a canned foods brigade! Haha! *Totally* the oldest child! I was SO proud of her leadership, kindness, and organization!

It was a heartening moment where all the training came to fruition, and the children worked together as a team! I was in heaven! However, these aren’t the *only* moments in this house! Later this afternoon we had another one in which I realized I was in a position to teach Emma some very important doctrinal ideas.

Emma was asked to empty the silverware container from the dishwasher. This, among tidying up her room, making her bed, wiping the table after dinner, and cleaning up her toys after play, is one of her own chores. This is a non negotiable task. It has to be done at least once a day, or no one will have any dishes to eat off of! Emma said “Ok, ok, I will do it!” then continued to play. I gave her a minute to comply, and when she didn’t, I then reminded her of the task, giving her one chance to correct her behavior on her own. “I’m going! I’m going Mom!”and yet, she sat. Playing. Uh oh. We’ve definitely entered disobedient territory!
I took her into my lap, and told her she was being naughty. I took her toys away, and told her she was being disciplined. She had lost her privilege of play. She cried bitterly, upset at being interrupted tangibly.

“Are you ready to say sorry, Emma, and do your job?” I asked.
“But I’m just NOT ready to say sorry!” She said, and folded her arms across her chest.

“Then you may sit here, without your toys until you are ready to do what needs to be done.”

She began to cry “But I want you to forgive me and hug me!”

I told her I gladly would, all she had to do was realize what she had done, and apologize. Not knowing how to put it in her terms, I said: “I love you, but you can’t be forgiven until you say sorry!”

Then I thought, ‘Can I say that, is that true?’ How do I explain to a child that although in my heart, I have forgiven her, and all she has to do is realize there is a sin to be forgiven, acknowledge that, and accept my forgiveness?
Isn’t it just like that with God? He has forgiven us, offered a sacrifice in our place, but it does nothing to us, or for us, until we see our own sin, its effects in our life, and surrender that sin nature to him? Here I was, at an impasse with my 4 year old daughter, just like the one I had been in with God a few years ago, but here I sat on the other side.

I believed for the longest time that because of grace, God loved me no matter what I did. I often excused my bad behavior this way. My terrible marriage, my halfhearted mothering, and my selfish ambition in my own career. I took refuge in a feel good church culture where sin has no weight, and God’s Grace makes it ok. I don’t know how to explain, but I justified my behavior with a selfish idea of God serving me, a cosmic vending machine to whom I prayed only when it got financially dicey. I was not made for God, God was made for me.  I forgot what Paul said about God’s Grace in Romans 5 and 6:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
(Romans 6:1-4 ESV)

We must walk in newness of life. That what our old self was, a slave to sin, must no longer be a slave to sin!

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 6:20-23 ESV)

To be sanctified, to be new, to be God’s, is to die to our own wants, our own ideas, our own sin. This is a heavy 2 chapters. It is, in a nutshell, what our family has been learning, living, for about 2-3 years now. We forget SO many times in today’s lukewarm churches that grace is received *after* repentance! We are nailed to the wall by this idea that “God gave the chance of salvation to EVERYONE!” And so he did, but there is the matter of the Holy Spirit producing that conviction in each heart. Salvation doesn’t just happen to the whole world instantaneously because Christ died and rose again. Salvation happens when we die and resurrect with him! When we say no to self and yes to God. But first we must die to sin.  We must put God’s Glory first, and take his Word seriously when it comes to sin.  As Paul says in this passage:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

(Romans 6:12-18 ESV)

We have forgotten in this current culture to reject sin, in our own lives, in our own families, in our own homes. We have forgotten that sin has no dominion over us. This doesn’t mean we should be out there holding everyone else accountable, 24/7, but that we should be living such a life that it is clear who owns us. Our life, our choices, they affect others. This goes from parenting, to politics, to how we eat, what we say, what we watch, how we dress. In being sanctified, all of God’s Word is useful in ALL areas of life. ALL of God’s Word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
This was written in a time when ALL scripture included the books of law. The gospels hadn’t been added to the canon of scripture yet, nor had Paul’s letters. We forget as a church, and as individuals what a light we carry as God’s children, and as ‘slaves to righteousness.’ We are placed here, in grace, to glorify him, not gratify ourselves! And he has equipped us for such a task with his Word, and the Holy Spirit.

Now I did end up sorting things out with Emma, and oddly enough, that included a good nap! Haha! A little grace and mercy  extended to Emma on my part, but there is where grace and mercy come in. They are not expected, demanded, or taken. They are gifts. God gives them to us. We claim them, yes, but they are still his gifts, and nothing to do with our own actions. Remember as you live out a life under God’s grace, that your presence in this poisoned sinful culture is a tangible reminder to others of God’s grace, and the truth of his Word.

Birth Story- Emma

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Birth Story- Emma

With Emma, I also suffered three weeks of “false labor” but had enough sense this time to forego 5 or more hospital visits that were unneeded. A few days before she was due, I went in for my normal prenatal check up in the early morning. Thanks to checking my dilation, I started to spot. The Dr. told me that at 3 cm dilated with spotting, he’d be surprised if I didn’t go that very day.

I went home to “wait it out” (this is why I love my Doctor!) and promptly decided that NOW was a fantastic time to re organize ALL of the closets in my house! I ripped all of them out, put them ALL back together. Still I was spotting! at 4pm the Doctor called to find out how I was doing. When I told him I was still spotting and cleaning out my closets, he told me to get to the hospital NOW considering my quick labor during the last pregnancy.

My husband had just gone to work (at the local deli,) and so I called him, all frantic
“Honey the Dr. says I’m in labor! Hurry back home, it is time to take me in!”
“Ok! I’ll clean up and be there in ten minutes!”
I waited. 10 minutes…
15 minutes…
I called my Mother in Law to tell her to come get my 22 month old, Sarah.
20 minutes…
I called again. My husband answered.
“What are you STILL doing there?!”
“Well, a lady came and ordered a hoagie, so I made it for her, and my coworker said I gotta find a replacement before I leave, so I found one, she’ll be in soon.”

Needless to say, that isn’t where the conversation ended, I was in labor and I was MAD.

After that unpleasant scene, I hung up the phone.  I promptly grabbed my 22 month old, the hospital bag, and in a huff of indignant fury, I began to WALK, carrying both! I walked a mile down a hill, and a man from my workplace passed me in his car. I hid my face, knowing full well he would try to pick me up and give me a ride. NOT in the mood for that right now! I was headed to the Hospital! When I had just made it a mile down the road, both my husband AND my Mother in Law showed up. My Mother in law took our 22 month old, Sarah, and my husband popped me in the car.

We went straight to the hospital, where I asked for an epidural IMMEDIATELY. I was NOT skipping out on one this time!  I was roughly 5 cm when we got there. 4 hours and 10 minutes later, we had a healthy happy Emma weighing in at 7 lbs 8 oz. She had beautiful Blue eyes and Blonde hair. heart

 

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Sibling Conflicts From Matthew 18 Weekly Goals: Part 2

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Sibling Conflicts From Matthew 18 Weekly Goals: Part 2

So since I got a bit long winded yesterday, I turned this into a 2 parter to discuss this week’s goals. This past week, Raising Olives had a question and answer post. In this post she linked to another, older post of hers, on solving sibling squabbles. This is an issue that grows as they grow! And I was beginning to wonder, if like in many other areas of life, I’ve allowed bad habits to form. I have it much easier with Ava, and Isaiah, because with these two, we are starting from scratch. I don’t have to break a bad habit and replace it, I just start a good habit. This has been proven in Ava’s response to things which I found terribly difficult with Sarah. When you expect specific things from a young age, children have a way of rising to the occasion! When you expect it suddenly at an older age, they (as we adults sometimes do!) have a much harder time of making it a normal behavior. Change is HARD! But, in this case, change is necessary! Sibling squabbles can’t continue as they have, or things will deteriorate as more kids arrive into the Sacks Brood! Must. Get. A. Handle. On. This. NOW!

Now, second lesson I’ve learned is I never have a handle on ANYTHING! This is where God comes in. First thing to do? Get on my knees. I know the particular passage that Raising Olives mentioned in her post: Matthew 18. In fact, I’ve quoted it a lot myself in other quarrels with adults, and issues within my extended family. My husband and I have discussed it at length in solving issues with others when it comes to disagreements over life choices. (and believe me, we have PLENTY of those! Lately we’ve become quite a lightning rod for that. But that is another story!) I never, oddly, considered it as a principle to teach my young children. This is where I find I failed in the early years of mothering. Applying scripture correctly, on their level, and faithfully. But at that time in my life, scripture was only referenced when it was useful, and inspirational. Time to roll my sleeves up, and apply scripture liberally!

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So how can we apply Matthew 18 to our little girls, 6, 4, and 22 months?

Well. First we read it. A friend recommended ESV for little kids, the language is clear, concise, and doesn’t lose its weight in trying to be simple either.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

We break it down, often right when it is most applicable. I started this week, and am already noticing an uptick in peaceful negotiations! 🙂

It goes like this:

Sarah: BUT I WANT THAT TOY!

Emma: But I want it TOO!

We stop, separate, and often, I encourage some kind of positive physical contact with somebody. Me, or the other child. If it is especially heated, they are encouraged to hold hands with me. This might change as they get older, but when they are little, it has an instant calming effect. The toy in question is set in a neutral place until the argument is settled. It acts as a motivation to settle.

We start with confrontation. “What is your problem with your sister?” Each child takes a turn stating their issue. The other child is asked to consider it in terms of selflessness, not selfishness. If we’re still resisting, often we quote this scripture at this point: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

If there are other sin issues, a stolen toy for example, those are also dealt with immediately, the offending child is asked to state what the Biblical law is on that point. Should we hurt? Should we Steal? What does God say? Often, this reminder is enough to solve the issue on the spot. The offending child hands the toy over, apologizes, and they are encouraged to hug or otherwise comfort the other crying sibling.

We’ve also asked each child to apologize when sin is present. I have been told many times in my teaching days that forcing a child to apologize is wrong. But the Bible has a different standard than the world. In some cases of law, apology isn’t even enough! Restitution is needed. If a child repeats the offense of stealing, in some cases, they will be asked to provide restitution. (You took her toy, now you must give hers back, AND one of yours.”) If that doesn’t stop the stealing in its tracks, we take time alone together to address the heart issue, maybe it is envy, covetousness, and I try to be aware of what that child is doing constantly.

Part of the apology process is the healing. A quick hug, a word of forgiveness, and all is over, and everyone happily returns to play. If we still have some petulance on one side or another, it still isn’t resolved, and we move back to square one. Oddly enough, Although Ava needs constant prompts, and nudges to properly complete an argument, Sarah and Emma have caught on quickly, and do attempt to solve it themselves in some cases. 50% of the time I am not asked, and don’t need to intervene. If they can’t solve it on their own following these steps, they come and get me, and ask me. (Getting a third party, as per verse16) Usually then, before I go and intervene, the child who approaches me is confronted on her sin. “What happened?” The child may tell a tale of woe where the other child will not give her a desired toy. “Are you being selfish, and putting your wants before hers?” Sometimes, that even makes my intervention unnecessary. If the problem is really a heart issue with child no. 1, it can stop there, and they play on happily.

Although every situation, every argument is different, what really blows my mind is how scripture has a principle, a word of wisdom for each one of them. It reminds me of that moment in Matthew 22 where a young lawyer tries to trap Jesus into a disregard for some portion of the law, and fails:

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

Everything depends on loving God first, and loving your neighbor as yourself, putting their needs on par with your own. Oddly enough, almost all (in fact, I might say all) of the arguments we confront in our home have to do with either selfishness or pride, or a combination.

(Mom, you might be laughing right now, because as I type this, I can hear you saying that to us as we all sit in the back of that big van, arms folded across our chests, rolling our eyeballs at your latest mention of selfishness and pride!)

Arguments are by no means gone, or as well handled as I’d like yet (after all, we’re only a week into applying Matthew 18! Although we’ve been using restitution as a consequence for a year now, and apologies have always been expected.) We aren’t perfect, and kids struggle, just as adults do, with selfishness and sin. But using this goal as a working point, and teaching the children to meet this standard is making a difference, and I am hoping with perseverance and hard work will become a life long habit.

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Mom, We’re Not Arguing! We’ve… Got A Difference Of Opinion!

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However it is labeled, bickering, squabbling, fighting, brawling, dispute, altercation, rumpus (pick your favorite.) There is no shortage of them in a home with more than one child. As much as we’d all like people to believe our little angels get along well all the time, they just don’t! Part of growing up is learning how to disagree appropriately. We’d all agree that in the human experience, there is nothing more miserable than someone who argues all the time! The Bible even has a few words on the subject:

Proverbs 21:19  It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

This morning began bright and early with a quarrel over who got to wear the pink skirt between my 4 and 5 year old girls. What amazed me (it shouldn’t I guess, I witness it frequently enough,) is how quickly it can go from just chatting to an all out brawl. 1.2 seconds and we’ve ceased chattering over how excited we are for VBS today, and begun a violent tug of war over the skirt, complete with shouting and tears. As a Mom I’m wondering how to stop this? I’ve read studies in my previous schooling that we need to give them strategies, which usually consist of some kind of negotiating skills, but I won’t even mention how I feel about THAT, because that is another blog post entirely that would be titled “Why what I learned in college about teaching children is a load of manure.” It would end with a statement about how ineffective man based strategies touting humanism that deny the Bible really don’t work, because they deny the creator. But I digress!

So my college classes have taught me nothing useful. Alright, what about what I learned working in a daycare? Those every day experiences with fighting kids? That the more I teach them to negotiate, the more nothing happens. They are children. Their first impulse is to hit and yell. Teaching them to react is doing nothing. I’m going to choose follow the Bible’s advice, after all, the Creator knows more than the created! Time to get training!

Proverbs 1:2-7 says:

for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Alright so scripture is clear, if I want to teach my children ANYTHING, I need to start by teaching them the fear of the Lord! We all know that famous Proverb of Solomon, “Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It makes so much sense when it comes down to it, I train my children how to cross the street, tie their shoes, how to make their bed every morning, how to find wisdom in a scripture verse, how to listen to a sermon, and to obey Mom and Dad. Why haven’t I trained them how to properly argue? I know it is a skill that I value now in my marriage, but that the initial lack of that skill was disastrous! So what does scripture say about “contention” and “strife?”

1. Pride is the first issue to deal with! Proverbs 13:10 says: “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” First step is to teach our children the evils of pride, and to abandon self, and seek to serve others. Jesus said: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” in Mark 9:35. Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

2. Recognize an issue before the blowup. Proverbs 17:14 says: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Teach your children to mention an issue before it becomes a problem, or, with young children, be clear about boundaries. This morning’s pink skirt issue was something I should have dealt with before. My girls are in roughly the same size, and many hand-me-downs occur, so we’ve instituted the family closet. I thought this would stop arguments  about who is wearing what. So this morning they still fought about it! Pride cropped up. Generally it gets taken away and no one has it, until the argument is solved. That worked. They cry for a bit, but they move on. Teaching them to surrender the item every time a contention occurs, and THEN deal with the argument is a good way to teach them how to properly disagree, and how to submit and seek God’s opinion before asserting ours foolishly. It can be hard at first, but the more it becomes habit to surrender the contentious point, the better things are. One day at a time, right? Children stumble and sin too, this is where patience and grace come into play!

3. Confront an issue. Much like step 2, this is a more sophisticated version. Sometimes the problem isn’t material, it is emotional. An offense has occurred. Teaching them the steps of resolving conflict Biblically is a good thing. Now, I highly doubt sibling issues will end up going all the way to the church, but children learn how to work within a body in their family first. Here are the steps laid out in Matthew 18:15-17
“(a.) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (b.) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (c.) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. “  Ok so this is specific to churches, how to translate that to family life? Here is what I tell my children: (a.) If your sister has said something unkind, talk to her. Tell her what is wrong. (b.) If you can’t reach an agreement/settle the problem, BOTH of you come to me. I will listen to both sides. Then, we discuss it. It is resolved at this point more often then not. (c.) IF it continues, and is an ongoing problem, we might have a family meeting that involves DAD. Generally, they want to avoid this scenario… So we don’t reach that point often!

4. Go back to basics. Remind them often that fights and quarrels are a result of our own pride and need to win. James 4:1 says: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” Remind them that wisdom, and peace are to be found in fearing the Lord. Proverbs 28:25 says: “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” Remind them that God does not take kindly to a constant quarreling attitude, but he blesses peace. Romans 2:8 says: “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

5. Pursue peace. Romans 14:9 says: So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. As my Mother says “If you don’t have anything nice to say, Don’t say anything at all!”

Additional Wise sayings on the subject of strife:

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling. Proverbs 20:3

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.  Proverbs 16:28

Last but not least:

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  Proverbs 10:12
How do you practically handle arguments in your house? What works? What doesn’t? What does scripture say on the subject that strikes you?

On the Subject of Tag-Alongs

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One of my championing issues as a daycare provider was “be more involved with your kids!” In fact, while cleaning this past week I found a sign I made for an open house that said  “When you are more involved in your child’s education, your child is more involved in their education!”
I championed this because studies showed that children whose parents were more involved, tend to be more well-adjusted, learn better, retain knowledge, and apply it better to their daily lives. Children whose parents are more involved had higher grades, were less likely to be involved in crime, and the list can go on and on. It seemed like a good thing! And I saw frequently, as a part of my job, what happened when the opposite was true, when parents did NOT involve their children. Experience and education taught me that tag-alongs were more than an excellent way to keep in touch with kids, they were a great way to prepare them for life!

Now, even more than then, I find God’s Word supports this. Strong nuclear families are God’s plan for us, and isn’t that a good enough argument?  This is a classic case of secularism inadvertently proving scripture’s validity. Here is what God has to say about Nuclear families, and how they should work:

Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says:
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So firstly, God points out that by following his commandments, keeping his statutes, our children will be prepared to serve him. Sanctification is a blessing, and when we are in God’s Word, we know more of what he has planned for us. God makes it clear here that when he is the priority, and his Word is the priority, we enjoy the blessing of following his plan for us, and it is good!
He continues on in verses 4-7 to say this:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.   You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

It is clear in this scripture (one that is frequently quoted as parenting advice from a Biblical perspective.) that God designed the family for children to be involved, while we’re walking by the way (maybe traveling somewhere, going about our daily business… etc.) When we’re lying down, and when we rise. Our children should be taught by our most mundane actions, and our more public actions as well. They see EVERYTHING! We can’t lead by example if we’re constantly pushing them away. My inference here is that God expects us to be very involved in our children’s lives. Not marginally, VERY. Scripture has some other points that incidentally point to the value of family meals, direct instruction, etc.

Psalm 128:1-4 says:

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord. “

This beautiful song of ascents points out the blessings that come of fearing the Lord, and incidentally, it points out the normalcy of a family table. Eating together, being together, is a blessing! It reminds you of what God is doing in your home.

More specifically, scripture gives us a very serious responsibility in Titus 2 to mentor the younger generation. This doesn’t start as adults, as we see above, it starts when they are very young. So as parents, we are our children’s natural Titus 2 mentor.

Titus 2:1-8 says:

“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Ok, so scripture has all these commands for us. What is the natural application of this? Here is how I apply it. (Not everyone will apply it the exact same way, but the basic application is general: Live it!)

  • We involve our children in everything! They come to the bank, the grocery store, the restaurant. We once even took them to a home closing. That was tough! We concluded that we need to be more prepared next time…  Often times to prepare them for the unique situations in which they find themselves doing all these not so “kid friendly” activities, we will discuss what is appropriate behavior, how we greet and leave someone, and also, we might change our dress. When we went to the bank, the children and I dressed in ‘business clothing.’ Oddly enough, it set the stage for better behavior. They were angels! 🙂  We also model, then send the children to do things. When we went to the Post Office to mail a letter, Sarah (5) went inside (it is a small post office in a small town, with an all window exterior, so I could see everything she was doing. I also grew up with the postmistress, so she knew Sarah well. 🙂 ) by herself and bought stamps. She did beautifully. Emma (4) went in the following week to simply put a letter in the slot. Training them how to do these simple things with courtesy, kindness, and respect is a mundane, but HUGE part of their training. They knew how to do it, because they’d been tag alongs many times before on the same task!
  • Teaching service is being of service! Sarah and Emma have seen firsthand the beauty of serving. They’ve assisted in baking pies for neighbors, delivering them, etc. They’ve helped to put boxes together for donations, cards for those in spiritual or emotional needs, etc. They roll the dough, or write their names, or help to buy donations, or even something as simple as handing out a few plates or drinks when guests enter our home.  This is already beginning to become second nature to them, at a party recently I was very surprised to turn around and find my 5 year old had volunteered to carry the tray of cake around to everyone! It was particularly sweet to see her take initiative in an act of service.
  • When we show bad examples, they mimic bad behavior. I found my young ones drawing on themselves frequently with pens. I was confronted rather innocently when I asked them to stop. “But you write on your hand, Mommy!” Even more sinister? My children watch everything I do. I was very convicted about a habit of perpetuating “little white lies” (not so little, and not so white.) when I inadvertently offended my little ones.  I also found them lying quite a bit. It ended up being more destructive when I realized, especially when it affected my children more than I thought. It is amazing how tag-alongs can end up pushing you to be more Christlike!
  • Be aware of their faith, cultivate it. I realized they watch me pray, they see the answers to prayer, and they initiate their own prayer. We’ve been praying over boo-boos, small perplexities, lost toys, etc. And then in some cases, where applicable, finding a simple verse to bear out God’s Word on the subject. It was a beautiful moment when both of the girls asked for prayer for their grandfather in church. Even more beautiful was the fact that they are aware of his needs, and that they are actively seeking God’s answer to prayer on their own. Now to teach them to trust his plan whether it suits us or not!
  • Remember the little ones. Ava, our 18 month old, is beginning already to mimic some behaviors. Often times I simply do whatever with her on my hip. As young as she is, she is watching, listening, and engaging. Sometimes I forget she is there, it is so natural to think of her as a passive observer. But no more! We’ve reached Toddler stage, and the intentional teaching has begun! Whether I know it or not! This realization came when I realized after several trips to the garden together, she already knows how to harvest certain vegetables! She watched me, and then imitated me. Looks like I have me a new tag-along!

In a nutshell, we have a unique position and responsibility to be ready at all times with an answer, in word, in deed, for our little tag alongs. We need to purposely include them in our walking, lying down, and rising up, and teach them intentionally with the wisdom of God’s Word.