In this update I want to spell out just exactly what my plan is for raising kids who grow up to truly live their lives for the Lord and have a desire to serve and reach the world with a community of believers/the church. Statistics these days are staggering, horrifying in fact, regarding how many kids raised in Christian homes turn their backs on the way they were raised and live their lives set apart from the faith. I have spent MUCH time in prayer and have even been caught up in fearful fits of tears over the idea that I could bring children into this world who do not grow up to live their lives for Christ. I admit to going through times where I had no real hope for them and felt overcome by my inability to compete with what this world has to offer.
I think in generations gone by, especially here in supposedly Christian America, behavior modification has been the name of the game for many people. "Good" Christian parents focused on making their children look, sound like, and act the part. They had the kids in church each and every moment the doors were open. They emphasized the diligent discipline of "quiet time" for prayer and bible study with the Lord. There was very much an "us/them" mentality with non-Christians and even Christians of other denominations where children were taught to fear those who were not like themselves. All behavior that could possibly be considered a slippery slope (drinking, dancing, movies, pants, haircuts, playing cards) were all judged sinful behaviors because they lead to even more feared behaviors like premarital sex, gambling, addictions, or rock & roll. Participating in those activities were evidence that someone did not have a personal relationship with Jesus or had backslidden. Only Republicans were Christians (based largely on the prolife platform) and it was our moral duty to vote so we could create more laws that structured the behavior of those not like ourselves to look less like what we feared. If a group of people at a church began to voice something we considered a slippery slope issue or expressed a desire to allow those into the church who did not have the sense to look and act the part of the Christian everyone needed them to be, then the church would just split in two and live in fear of the influence the newest rival church could have over the now badly wounded body left behind.
I mean, Gosh! Sign me up, right? And kids, get yourself a slice of fearful, judgmental, prideful, gossiping, legalistic, wounded, patriotic, Republican pie! Believe you me. It is SUPER DUPER easy for me to get caught up in this too. Thinking of myself as the righteous one and others as unrighteous slobs makes me feel better about myself. I grew up with parents who loved the Lord and always, always wanted to do the right things, but I got to experience all of these first hand as a child. If I have departed from buying into that garbage at all it is largely because I have watched my parents apologize to those they have hurt and reach out to those that once made them uncomfortable and give their lives over to serve and reach the lost, not to mention walking away from a life of Republican agendas for a life of trusting in God's sovereignty over our nation and laws. (This is not to say there aren't godly Republicans with faith-filled agendas. Please don't miss the point here.)
So, I get back to my hypothesis. What do I do/am I going to continue to do in hopes that we beat the odds and raise 4 children who love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds and strengths and then, as a result, love their neighbor (AKA fearfully and wonderfully made humanity) as they love themselves? There are no guarantees in life to-be-sure, but I think it's also helpful to have a paradigm to guide our parenting. Here's mine, and it's based on about a million scriptures that I am narrowing down to a few.
"Philippians 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
I have written about this before in regards to how I try to structure my thinking, but in relation to parenting, I ask my children to investigate what is going on in their hearts. Are they making decisions out of fear, or nobility. Are they doing what's easy or what's right? Do they strive for purity in their hearts and minds or are they acting out of judgmental self-righteousness? Do they focus on living a life that brings glory to God or to themselves? Is truth more important to them than ego. Are their hearts filled with gratitude or dissatisfaction and jealousy? Is their driving force a peaceful faith or a fearful reaction? Is their time in prayer and Bible study based in some legalistic check list that earns them godly Brownie points, or does it flow from a heart of love, faith, and gratitude for what the Lord has done for us? It's not that children are mature enough to manage such complex ideas at all times, but it I do believe it is in their best interest to lay a foundation of self reflection so they can make decisions with an honest and surrendered heart before the Lord.
There are several verses in Romans 14 & 15 that make my next point, but the Bible is literally loaded to the gills with supporting passages that give me my next parenting paradigm.
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
And here's one of my favorite Bible passages to-the-max.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
THAT is how I want to raise my children to think. I want the Holy Spirit to fill them with them fruit of the Spirit and other godly virtues of the heart so much so that they are compelled to love and serve others humbly with compassion, faith and trust in God to effect any change that needs to happen. I don't want them to bare the burden of fixing society or their church or their neighbor or feel the fear or powerlessness of watching the world spin out of their control toward an end that the bible already says is set in stone. With Christ there is an eternity to live in a utopia we can not create now no matter how hard we fight.
So, as for me and my house (of course, Stephen is not only on board but leading the charge) we will not fight. We will trust and seek to flesh out the fruit of the spirit, teaching, instructing, guiding, encouraging with compassion, patience, and humility with each and every person that God puts into our lives along the way.
On a practical level, here's how I use these passages when teaching my children how to relate to the church. The older the kids get, the more they are aware of issues like disrespectful or mean children, friends with divorcing or never married parents and blended families, kids who don't come to church regularly or who have parents who don't come to church. I know there was a time when I would have tried to structure out of their lives both the personal impact each situation could have on them and even the awareness of them. However, I am shifting my approach to be one that disciples them on how to view each situation and each person with the compassion we would want others to have on us.
There is a kid at church with a strong and not very enduring personality who frightens and frustrates my children. This child never does them physical harm, but disrespectfulness and unruly behavior upsets them (despite the fact that they can exhibit these behavior themselves at times). I have, in the past, tried to make sure they didn't have to come in contact with kids like this. I was afraid of the influence they could have on my sweet children or of the damage they could do to them and tried to maintain control of the situation. However I have decided that someone needs to love up on this kid, so why not us? Stephen and I have since sat down with the kids at different points and discussed the sad family situation this child endures and why that would manifest itself in someone's behavior. "Hurt people hurt people" is one of my favorite sayings. It easily breaks their young hearts to imagine going through what this poor kid has been through, and even though the child's behavior still seems an injustice to them, I can see them trying to be brave and include unruly children whenever they can work up the courage.
When they ask about a child who does not have a Christian parent or one parent is missing or has run off, rather than casting judgment on the offending individual, we talk about the hurt that brought them to that point and pray for them that God would deliver them from that so they can make choices that free them up to live a glorified life. When I see my children's hearts break for hurting people rather than shooting off some judgmental comment, tears fill my eyes. They are so little and they so easily get something that alluded me for so long. When I see my children look at people who are not dressed as they are dressed or colored as they are colored or are morbidly obese or super model thin or covered in pimples or missing limbs and realize that they already don't make value judgments or fear or feel insecure because of their differences, then I know they are getting it. They are not filled with the frustration that I believe many church kids feel when they are raised by Christian parents to cast judgment on everyone around them (bless their hearts) in the name of Jesus. Why would they want to go to church where everyone stews in the frustration of the failings of those around them and lives in fear of how everything could possibly effect their own future? I know I didn't want to, and if not for the love for the body of Christ I saw in my parents even to the point of humbling themselves in apology for their own mistakes on that road, I very well might not be where I am today. . . In a place where I myself owe apologies to those I have hurt, and where I strive toward doling out forgiveness as liberally as it has been given.
For the rest of my kids' lives they will run across troubled people, Christians and non-Christians alike, homosexuals, pro-choicers, liberal democrats, rich, poor, ugly, beautiful, talented, paralyzed, immodest, tattooed, famous, unloved, etc., and I believe if we want the church to look like what the Bible calls us to, then we have to love all of the diverse people He sends our way and trust HIM to work and move in their lives as well as our own. By all means, teach, instruct, guide, encourage everyone in the truths of the Word, but with the compassion, humility and patience we want others to have with us. The day I knew I was on the right track with the kids was the day they came to me with a story about some friends of their grandma's who had been robbed at a Zaxby's chicken restaurant. They wanted to add the robber to their prayer list. It was honestly their hearts that the robber come to know Jesus so he wouldn't be so sad that he felt he had to steal anymore. He's still there, on our prayer list, right between the names of two loved ones they want to come to know Jesus, and that seems completely right to them.
On a more solemn note I want to state something more explicitly than what I have alluded to throughout this blog update. Of course, there are phenomenal, loving, godly, example setting parents whose children make the decision to walk away from Lord. Even our perfect heavenly father endures the majority of His creation turning their backs on Him. It's foolish to believe there is a fool proof plan. I just want a plan, a paradigm to guide me on this journey based on what the Lord has been teaching me in His word.
It's also impossible to escape the incredible importance of the most pivotal part of my plan. Prayer. It's something I have been covered, bathed, lavished in my whole life by the generations of godly parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and one God fearing, amazing great-great grandmother who died when I was a child. Surely that has played more of a role than I know in my own life, and it's what offers me the most hope for my children. It's only through my faith in God's ability to redeem all of these parenting mistakes I make along the way that my children have any hope at all.
Lastly, if my children do decide to go their own way, my prayer is that I will show them that same love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (based in my faith, hope, and trust in the Lord and His ability to complete the good work He began in them) that I have all along been teaching them to have for others. . .
FUNNY SIDE NOTE:
-One morning during school when I was particularly sleepy, I accidentally fell asleep in my chair at the table while the kids where doing their reading. I don't know how long I dozed, but when I woke up, the kids were gone. Before I got up to chase them down, I had a good laugh to myself trying to visualize the quiet, probably mimed out, plan they made to escape while they had the chance.
-Has become obsessed with earning and then showing off his money. The first words out of his mouth when someone comes to the door to visit is, "Hey! You wanna watch me county my money!"
-When asked, he will say his favorite subject is math, though I am certain it is break time.
-44" or 3'8" tall
-learned to swim and dive in the deep end this summer.
-is an amazing reader like his brothers. All three of my boys have picked it up with ease.
-LIVES to boss Eli around. It's funny to see his bossy side because in any other context he is mostly go-with-the-flow and seeks drama reduction.
-takes no interest in structured, extra-curricular activities outside of our home quite yet.
-Still has a passion for Cars from the Cars movies.
-Does not like to be without his siblings. When he had to go to a friends house without them (the rest of the kids were being watched by others) he sat on the couch until I got there to pick him up. He wouldn't play or eat lunch.
Evan: Mom, have you ever known anyone to pick their nose so deeply that they came out with some brain?
Me: No, Son. That is impossible. Your nasal cavities do not end in your brain. A drill would be necessary for that.
Evan: Well, what if someone didn’t know where their brain was and accidentally went into it with a drill?
Me: You mean if someone were picking their nose with a drill and it accidentally went through to their brain?
Me: (Sigh) My love, I think I am going to need to have some adult conversation this weekend.
-Weighs 64.6 pounds.
-52"/ 4' 4" tall
-finished his first soccer season with style. I could not have been more proud of him. He went to every game with the best attitude, and even when asked to play for the opposing team so they could have a fair game, he did it happily. I watched other boys pitch fits and disrespect the coaches, but Evan stood out as being an extra great kid. I was so proud of him!
-his favorite subject in school is definitely science and would forego his whole future to never do another Math problem or hand write another sentence again.
-4 days before his 8th birthday asked for the first time if he could take a walk around the neighborhood by himself. We let him go. It was a proud moment for him. I know most kids are doing that younger, but we just wait for stuff like that until they at least ask.
-About 6 times a day I have an argument with Evan that ends with me exclaiming, “For the final time, Son, that doorknob/backyard rock/sparkly sequins/nut/bolt GI Joe hubcap is not real gold/silver/rubies. We are not holding out on you. We are just NOT a precious metal sort of family!”
-After a weeklong unit study on 9/11, I took my kids to see the 3,000 flags Kennesaw Mountain had set up to represent the 3000 people who died that day. After my heartfelt sermon on the profound loss of life the nation saw unfold in front of them on the news that day, Evan says, “Mom, I’m a lucky man.” I was so touched I said, “Ooooooh, Evan! That’s so neat, why do you say that?” Evan: “Well, because I was born in a month with 31 days instead of just 30”. . .Me: “Ooooooh, dear me. . . Let’s go”.
Julia:-"Mommy, when I hear that someone is hurt, my brain just can't help but twirl around and pray for them".
-About once a month Julia will come to my bedroom door in the middle of the night and ask me to pray that God would help her to stop having "bad thinks".
-Loves, loves, loves gymnatics. It's strange because last year she hated ballet despite an awesome teacher who adored her, but this year I could swear her young, indifferent, teacher is addicted to Meth and yet Julia loves it. . . I guess it doesn't have to make sense. I'm glad she's happy.
-"Mom, after you told me I could only have one piece of gum, Satan whispered in my heart that I should take two, and I just said, 'No Satan, I will not obey you!' And so I didn't."
-is going through a hardcore baby talk phase. More than half of what comes out of her mouth is baby talk and we are constantly on her case about it. Once I paid her 10 cents to quit for a day and it seemed to cure her for a couple of weeks, but it's back hard-core.
-Julia likes school in general. She does not seem to have a favorite subject just yet.
-loves to help in the kitchen.
-finally worked up the courage to learn to ride her bike this fall.
-47" or 3'11" tall
-Something you don't necessarily want to hear coming from your daughter in the bathtub down the hall when you are too sick to do much about it, "
-"Mom, when I'm old enough, I want to be the one who cooks while you relax."
-Me: Julia, come up with a sentence that uses the word two. For example "I have TWO friends named John."
Julia: OK, "I have TWO friends named Joy."
Me: Why don't you come up with a sentence that is completely your own, like, "TWO windows let in more light."
Julia: Ok, "TWO windows let in more light in my room."
Me: Girly, I need to hear a sentence that it totally and completely your own using the word "TWO". Not just the same I said, but totally your own.
Julia: OH, OK, OK, OK!! "I have TWO friends who are my windows."
-I think I can officially say he is left handed. There are just so few left handed people in either side of our families that it makes him quite unique.
-carries a phone he made out of LEGO's with him everywhere you goes so he can "play Angry Birds" anytime he gets the notion.
-While doing a pre-school lesson with his grandmother, he made her wait on him while he took a call on his LEGO phone. At the end of his imaginary conversation he said, "I have a project here that I am working on. I have to put my phone away". He "hung up" and joined her again for his lesson.
-Does school with his Grandma, but would always rather be the master of his own schedule.
-"Daddy, when I grow up when I'm 5 I can break my nostrils in half."
-Apparently "accidentally" unloaded an entire, new, bottle of his shampoo into the bathtub and "skated around in it" with all of his clothes on. Of course, the wild scream and laughing must have been an accident as well.
-39 1/2" tall. 3'3" tall.
-loves to dress up as batman.
-Began reading this summer at 3 years and 3 months old and does amazingly well at it. I need to take an updated video of it.
-Has mostly outgrown his napping in random places phase, but every once in a while it still happens. There are still a few photos of him zonked out in the craziest places included in this update.
*Don't forget that all of my photos are now posted to Phanfare, so to view them you have click the link below*p>