Three R’s for Raising Children

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Every event seems to be taking on new meaning lately.  We are nearing the end of our parenting journey-well, the parenting children at home journey.  It’s not easy for this mom.  I know they deserve to fly, to soar, but boy is it hard to think about a quiet house.

In the midst of it all I find myself thinking about all of the things I had hoped to teach, to share, to impress upon their hearts and minds.  My husband and I had to wait what seemed an eternity to have our girls.  The pregnancy road was long and hard and brought with it as much sorrow as it did joy.  We had a lot of time to pray.  We had a lot of time to think about what kind of parents we wanted to be.  We also worked in the Youth Ministry at our church so we saw a lot, worried with parents, walked students through frustration and anger with parents, saw great parenting, saw some bad parenting.  We took a lot of notes, we spent a lot of time with families soaking up their wisdom.  In the end, it boiled down to three things.  Three words that captured the core of what we hoped to impart to our girls.  Three things we hoped we lived out in front of them.  Even now as I look back at our own parenting journey, take stock and think towards the next two years, the final push, the same three R’s are still the main things.

  1.  Reverence:  Paul and I have a healthy fear of the Lord and His holiness.  Not a brimstone and fire kind of fear, but a healthy fear.  We live life with a complete understanding that we serve a Mighty God who is all powerful, all knowing.  He is the creator of heaven and earth.  He is Holy.  He can part the waters, heal the lame.  He allows Satan to roam this earth and He has in His infinite wisdom given all of us as humans freewill, the choice to choose whom we shall serve.  We want our girls to have reverence for God.  Knowing they have reverence helps us to feel more confident that God is indeed Lord of their lives.  We want them to see Him as Holy and deserving of their awe, their devotion.  No one else deserves that same kind of adoration.  Knowing they have a healthy fear of God gives us some assurance that they desire to love Him for Who He is and that an outflow of that love is to do His will, to obey His Word.  We also believe that reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and that we desire above all else for ourselves and our girls.  (Deut. 4:10, Deut. 6:2, Psalm 19: 9, Psalm 33:8, I Peter 2:17)
  2. Respect:  More than ever we feel this one is important.  We have raised our girls to know they must show respect to those in authority, beginning with us, their parents.  Yes, we expect our girls to say “Yes sir.”  “No ma’am.”  We expect them to follow rules and show respect to teachers, coaches, bible study leaders, other parents.  We have always told them that if anyone in authority asks them to do anything that makes them fearful or uncomfortable they are to ask to make immediate contact with us.  We have always told them if they disagree with authority they are to show respect, share their opinion with us and then we will discuss an appropriate game plan (which often means they just have to suck it up and move on.)  By in large we have told our girls there is never an excuse to disrespect another person-even when we do not like their behavior, or their views.  This is increasingly difficult in a day and age when most people seem to think their rights out way showing respect, but we believe it is a Christ like behavior.  You can respectfully disagree.  You can respectfully get angry. Respect is paramount to honoring another individual and their worth.
  3. Responsibility:  We want our girls to know they have been given much.  They are blessed to have been born in this country, where affluence abounds, freedom of religion still exists, opportunities are abundant.  We want them to know they belong to God and their lives, their choices, their words, their deeds should exhibit that.  We set high expectations for their behavior and hold them accountable for doing what they are supposed to do, for carrying out their work (whether school work, athletics, chores, paid employment, volunteer work).  We teach them priorities, reminding them they are first to serve God, then family, then church and others.

Even as I type these words I think of lessons yet to teach.  I think of the times my husband and I have failed to live out these principles ourselves.  Yet at the same time I see these principles being lived out and I know the three R’s have served us well.  I know the three R’s have made a difference.  I know we will continue to focus on these three R’s.

Reverence, Respect, Responsibility-this family’s formula, our guiding principles.

When Hope is Lost

Hope is a difficult thing.  And all too often, my hope seems lost.  I see it in my daughter too.  It breaks a heart to lose hope, to see the one you love lose hope.

Our human nature hopes in things to come-circumstances.  We hope for new jobs, new provisions, new friends, new opportunities.  We want our circumstances to change, believing our lives will change.  And there is truth in that.  The hope of the human nature breeds dreams.  We picture our circumstances or the circumstances of others to be different, better.  But human nature hope can deceive.  Circumstances don’t always change.  The new job never comes.  The loved one dies.  The friendship is lost.  Striving doesn’t change the circumstance and we lose hope.  In those moments I doubt.  I wonder if I’ve made all the wrong choices, decisions.  I wonder what I could have done or do differently.  In those moments I feel the weight of past mistakes, the weight of a world not right.  I see it in my daughter too.  The struggling to hope in a future.  The struggling to want something different and yet having no idea how to make that happen, to get there.  The struggling to look past the seemingly perfect lives of others, the successes and believe there is more for me.  When hope gets difficult, it seems I am only reminded of all the hurts, the injustices, the losses.

Hope is a difficult thing.  And when hope in circumstances fails me, when all my striving, my dreaming, my planning seem to get me no where, I realize hope has to be something different.

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,” Psalm 33:18

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I am reminded he bore my sin at the cross, my pain he takes upon himself each time I come to him.  I am reminded his death and resurrection offers hope in a new day, a new life that is mine at his appointed time.  While may circumstances may not change, his love never changes, the work he did at the cross remains forever, the place he has prepared for me endures.  I must teach the daughter to hope-not in circumstances, but in him, her heavenly father.  I must point her to the cross, the only place where life is changed.  She and I must learn together to quit looking around and look up.

When hope is lost, it can only be found again at the foot of the cross.

Not Enough

I looked at my husband through eyes filled with tears.  “I can’t do this any more.  I have nothing-I only hear the message, ‘You are not enough'”.  In that moment I felt drained.  I honestly felt like any ability to extend grace, love generously, even think, was gone.  I had two discontent teenage daughters pecking at me, I had not been able to take care of something my husband needed done, I had received a message I wasn’t spending enough time with my mother, I had not called my mother-in-law and thanked her enough for Christmas (according to my father-in-law), I was behind on laundry, I was out of groceries, and my business had not met my expectations for the month.  The day before I had also received a call asking that I take a large leadership role in a ministry engaging women in our state.  While I desperately wanted to serve in this way, to engage again in ministering to women through a structured ministry, I knew beyond question my answer at this time was to be “No.”  It wasn’t what I wanted the answer to be.  In fact, I wanted to ignore what I knew to be true and say “Yes.” I was disheartened by the clear direction to say “No”.

It was a melt down  moment.  There was nothing my husband could do.  There were no “Sorry mom” statements big enough. There was no deleting the messages.  The only way to say “Yes” was to act in disobedience.  With wisdom my husband simply took the girls on to their respective activities, never saying a word.  And I, well I was left to fall into a puddle of what felt like complete overwhelm and despair.

Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to talk to God.  I didn’t know what to pray.  Yet, I didn’t want to be angry.  I didn’t want to feel defeated.  Joy.  That was supposed to be my word for the year.  Only weeks into the new year and Joy felt like a universe away.  As I sat there motionless, empty, 2 Corinthians 12: 9 began to play through my mind.  “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect (complete) in weakness.”

I am not enough.  That is the truth.  I can not do it all.  I can not, in my own strength, be all I need to be.  I am not enough.  I am not complete.  There was nothing to do in that moment but to release the emotions and lean into His grace-grace that is sufficient for me.  A part of obedience is not only doing the stuff, but it is the letting go and leaning in.  It is the acknowledging.  It is the accepting.  I am not enough.  The message didn’t need to be defeating-that’s what Satan would like.  The message simply needed to be an accepted truth that would prompt me to act in obedience, leaning into Him, His grace, allowing Him to complete me, to strengthen me.

” I am not enough, but His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.”  That is the message I need to let run through my mind.  That is the truth.

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Home Matters

If you follow my blog, you know I love home.  Having grown up moving a lot (and I mean a lot-like 24 times before I was 30) there was always a part of me that wanted to “settle down”.  However, in all honesty there is still a bit of wander lust in me and I do like a change of scenery every now and then!  Any way, back to my point.  I love home.  As a Christian woman and mother, I have always felt like home was a critical part of my role, my purpose.  Early on I spent time studying about how to care for home. Fortunately I went into marriage and motherhood pretty well prepared thanks to parents who taught and expected a lot.  I remember reading Emilie Barnes’ books and her statement that “wives set the tone for the home” impacted me, stayed with me. I have always wanted my home to be a safe haven, a quiet place for my family to refresh, regroup, share, rest.  I have worked hard at trying to create the right atmosphere-sometimes too hard, sometimes too focused on the material contents and keeping order.  These days, as a mom of teens and quickly approaching 50, I have found myself settling into a bit more balance, lowering some of my expectations, and really focusing on the tone of my home.  Tone of home is a feeling. It is that “home sweet home” sense you get when you walk in that familiar space that makes you feel safe, important, valued, loved.

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I want that tone to extend beyond my immediate family.  I want everyone who enters to feel that sense of welcome, to know they can stop and take a deep breath.

As I was reading through Home Life magazine from Lifeway, I came across some word art in the front of the magazine.  It resonated with me.  It reminded me of how very important home is.  It made me stop and voice a prayer of gratitude for these days I am able to be at home, home school, raise my family.  It made me ask forgiveness for those nights I awaken worried about our finances, wondering if I will ever have a job of any substance once the girls leave home and I venture out to help pay for college and all the associated expenses.  It reminded me that while others may seem to have it all, be more together, have less worries, I would not exchange my life for theirs.  Our finances aren’t easy.  I walked away from a career I may never have again.  We have to make choices and our girls are a part of those conversations.  But it is worth it.  Every moment home with them has been worth it.  Home’s importance drew me to my Mary & Martha business, where I have opportunity to equip and encourage women to engage in hospitality.  (www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana).  Home’s importance is why one of my best friends and I run an organizing business.

I have posted the words above my desk-a daily reminder.  Not my words, but words that encourage and remind.  I wanted to share them with you.

We believe in the home. It’s the place where ministry starts and ends day in and day out.  We stand for dynamic marriages that beat the odds and practice commitment.  We believe in family meals and talking about your day.  We believe that your corner of the earth, whatever it looks like, is an extension of the church, a place where community is grown and nurtured.  We believe that if you change the home you change the world.  There’s a lot of life between Sundays. (January Home Life magazine/Lifeway)

I hope those words encourage you and challenge you.  Be grateful for home.  Remember it is a high calling.  The lives I impact in my home will forever impact the world.  Home matters.  It matters enough to give up some other things.  It matters enough to set aside time to invite your friends in.  It matters.  The church does not create godly families.  Godly families create the church.

Hire the Babysitter!

We had a great weekend.  Saturday we hosted a baby shower for one of the girls’ former babysitters.

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Back in the day, I taught 8th grade girls’ Sunday School.  I had an incredible group of young girls, whom I grew to adore!  No one prayed harder for me to overcome infertility and have a baby.  No one prayed harder for the babies growing in my tummy.  And no one, beat any of those girls to the hospital to visit the fragile premature little girls laying in the nursery.  Two young girls in particular captured my heart.  They had the most amazing friendship.  They became our duo babysitting team- from 9th grade through 12th.  We were blessed.  My girls were blessed.  I think they were blessed.  One of them has a cute little 5 week old baby boy. The other, well, she is soon expecting a beautiful baby girl, and therefore a fabulous tea party themed shower this weekend.

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Decorating and preparing was so much fun.  I pulled out two old quilts-one made for me by my grandmother, the other one quilted by my great, great aunts.  They served as the perfect backdrop for a moss runner, candles, roses, greenery and some touches of crystal and silver.  Making the table, were the vintage pink dishes left to me by mother-in-law just before her death early in my marriage.  She was a soft-spoken woman of grace.  Each time I use those dishes I think of her, how much I know she would have treasured her grand-daughters and I smile.  We ate, presents were opened and by the end, there was an explosion of pink!  The dad’s, grand-dads and dads to be showed up to load the “loot”.  The real visitin’ and eatin’ began.  I loved it.  I loved watching my own girls, just now the same age as the two babysitters were when they began working for us. Life had come full circle.  It hit me with joy, mixed with a tinge of sorrow-sorrow time passes so quickly.  Most of all though, I was struck by what an incredible blessing these two young women, now mothers, have been to my family.  I stood back as the new mom let each of my girls hold her precious son.  I watched as the four of them laughed, talked about his little nose, attire and life in general.  I laughed as they talked about the soon to be mom’s nursery.  Then, it seemed to hit both these young women.  Almost in unison, they looked at me and asked, “How old were they (my twin girls) when you let us babysit them?”  “A little over six weeks,” I replied.  The response was comical.  Within seconds they were both talking a little louder and as if in total astonishment!  I found myself being reprimanded.  “Were you crazy?  We were 14!!!!  You left us with your six week old babies?  What were you thinking?”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  There in front of me stood the six week old baby girls-now 15 years of age, standing taller than their mother!  Alongside them stood the nearing 30 young women who were once the sweet 14 year old babysitters.  Obviously all had survived.  Obviously all four are bonded for life and still crazy about each other.  For a brief moment though I did wonder what in the world I had been thinking.  Or maybe I hadn’t been thinking.  Maybe I had been nothing more than a crazy, sleep deprived, in need of adult conversation new mom.  I am not denying that in part describes me, but the truth is I intentionally asked those sweet 14 year old girls to take care of my just over 6 week old babies.  I waited a long time to become a mom.  Six years of infertility had kept me on an emotional roller coaster, friends had come and gone, my marriage had been tested.  And in God’s timing, in His way, He had chosen to grant us twin girls.  The pregnancy was difficult, they came too early, I hemorrhaged shortly after delivery, and for several days I don’t think anyone felt confident all three of us were going to survive.  But we did.  During those years of waiting and even during those difficult days awaiting their coming home, I vowed to give them back to God.  I determined to surround them with as many faith filled people as I could.  I vowed to be their biggest advocate, but to not hold on too tightly.  I knew they would need someone besides mom and dad to “watch”, to talk to, to trust.  So in those early days, yes just past six weeks (actually I think it was closer to 9 weeks), I purposed to let those two, sweet, 14 year old girls become a part of my girls’ lives.  I purposed to encourage what I knew would one day be a mentorship and a friendship.  Crazy, maybe.  But as I said, in the end all survived.  Two young 14 year old girls got to spread their wings.  They got to share with me, borrow shoes for prom, and seek advice.  I gained their mothers as life long friends and mentors.  Now, my girls have two sweet, young moms to share with, borrow from and seek advice from.

The baby shower was great.  Greater yet though was seeing life come full circle.  If you are a young mom or dad doubting, wishing you had some time alone or with your mate, to you I say, “Hire the babysitter!”

Average: Perfectly Acceptable to Me

Average:   a level that is typical of a group, class, or series : a middle point between extremes.  

The above is “average” as defined in the Webster dictionary.  Nothing extraordinary.  A simple word.  Why then do we as a culture, as parents, gasp at the very utterance of the word?  Why has “average” become something negative, looked down upon?  Why this drive to excellence-not just for ourselves, but for our children?  There is this never ending push, striving for excellence.  One can no longer just play ball in the backyard and make the school team.  One can no longer take instrument lessons from the sweet lady down the street and expect an opportunity in the school orchestra or a chance to obtain a scholarship.  One can no longer take “regular” classes at school and even dream of getting into the best college and receive financial aide.  Everything, everything seems to be about achieving excellence, being accelerated.  A 4.0 GPA is to be frowned upon. Now we demand or expect a 5.6 GPA and our 18 year old children to enter college as Sophomores!

What happened to average?  Average is really all I want.  It is perfectly acceptable to me.  Especially as a parent.  I would love to think my kids are “a middle point between extremes”.  I want my children to be more focused on WHO they are, than WHAT they are.

As I pondered this thought, that average is perfectly acceptable, I turned to scripture.  What does God expect of us?  No place in scripture does God ask for excellence.  Not one place in scripture does God say we are to perform at a higher standard than everyone else.  Quite the contrary.  Repeatedly in scripture God says we are to be humble, “the least of these shall inherit”, and the last shall be first.  He told us the rich man was not greater than the widow who gave her one mite.  God didn’t call men of wealth or position or of education to be a part of the inner circle to walk with His Son on this earth.  And the few who did have some means or success in their “careers” He asked to walk away from it all.  God did not send His Son to be born in a five star resort, a midst the royalty of the day.  He chose a young girl, of little means, to bare His son.  He sent her on a donkey to a small village town, to give birth to her son in a stable, surrounded by sheep, goats and donkeys.

I think average is perfectly acceptable to God.  I believe He wants me and my children to do everything we do to the best of our abilities and “as for Him”.  But, I still think He finds average perfectly acceptable, in fact desired.  God doesn’t want me striving for earthly success.  He doesn’t want me to strive for position or wealth.  God wants me to strive for Him.  He asks that I yearn for Him, for wisdom.  He asks that I earnestly seek Him.  He asks that I persevere and run the race.  He doesn’t ask me to win the race.  He just asks that I run it and I run it with my eyes on Him.

That is all I want of and for my children.  I want them to be willing to spend more time seeking God than they spend seeking straight A’s.  I want them loving Him with their whole beings-heart, soul and mind (Matthew 23:37).  Secondly, I want them to allow that love to spill over into others (Matthew 23:38).

Does this mean I wont’ challenge my children?  Does this mean a C average in school is all I expect?  No.  I expect them to work hard, to give everything they do their best effort. But, if the choice is between making the team only if they invest 5-6 hours per week in expensive, private coaching, the answer is “NO.”  If taking AP and college concurrent courses means they can’t attend Wednesday night worship, work to sacrifice and save for a mission trip, or engage in missions in their community, then the AP and college concurrent courses won’t make the cut in our house.  Average will be just fine.

When I stand, when they stand, before Christ at the judgement seat and are asked, “Did you love me?  Did you really love me?” I want to, I want them to, be able to say, “Yes, Lord I loved you above all else.  I loved you so much your loved spilled over into others and they too learned to love you.”

More than ever I am convinced it is OK for me to accept average.  I challenge you to accept average.  What are you and/or your children missing out on as you chase after excellence/success as defined by the world?  Will it matter when you die?  Does it honor God?  Is it a means of loving Him, worshiping Him?  If not, could you give it up and refocus those monies, time and energy on Him?

Average-it’s perfectly acceptable.

I’ve Got Great Kids-And Yes, I’ll Take a Little Credit for That

I was asked the other day what Paul and I had done to have such great kids.  At first, I started to do that thing we all seem to do-be modest, act like I had no idea, not come off sounding haughty or proud etc… but then I stopped myself.  I have been engaged in an on-line study focused on “being intentional”.  Thank goodness!  Just as I was going to brush off the compliment, and as a result brush off this young mom’s request for advice, I took a breath and gave her question some real thought.  We weren’t in a situation for me to expound much, but I knew I needed to share some real advice.  I needed to take credit for a lot of really hard work.  So, in that moment I shared with the young mom just that.  I told her Paul and I have such great kids because we made a very deliberate decision to raise them according to God’s word.  We have been very intentional about our rules, our choices, who they spend time with, who they don’t spend time with, what goes in their eyes and ears etc…  We have worked hard at parenting, praying, reading, seeking counsel and making a game plan for each new age and stage.  We have sacrificed work time, play time and personal friend time.  We have sacrificed financially.  Having great kids doesn’t just happen.  You don’t “get lucky”.  Having great kids doesn’t happen because you drop them off at church, take them to the lake, or enroll them in the right school.  Having great kids happens because you, as parent, know how God calls each of us to live and you are willing to say yes to only those things which teach your children those standards and say no to everything that could distract or hinder their learning God’s ways.

I have continued to think about the brief interaction.  I realize with regret how many other times I have laughed off the question or hesitated to share and be proud of the decisions.  Living intentionally is not optional, not if we want to see success, find peace, walk in His ways and be women and men of influence.  Living intentionally is mandatory.  Being too busy, having too much on our plate-none of that excuses our lack of living with intent, focus, purpose, deliberateness.  There’s a lot of blame in this world today.  Sadly, there’s very little taking responsibility.  I wonder if so many shy away from taking responsibility because they realize that in deed they have never taken responsibility for their choices, their marriage, their children.  They don’t have much to want to take responsibility for.  Intention, responsibility, deliberateness.  Big words.  Hard words. Words requiring action and follow through.

I am so thankful my parents taught me God’s word.  I am so thankful they instilled His precepts in my life.  None of us as parents will be perfect.  None of us will raise perfect children.  But, if we take responsibility for knowing how to live, and make a plan for teaching that, we can raise great kids.  Today, I gladly stand up and take credit (with my husband) for two really great kids.  I gladly take credit and acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices.  I have no desire to leave my marriage, my children, our family to chance.

Here are a few things we do in our attempt to be intentional:

Mom and dad have access to everything at all times-because we own it until you are on your own paying ALL your bills.

We pray together daily.

We eat breakfast and dinner together every day (with exception of a special event or two a couple of times a month).

You do not go to anyone’s home unless mom and dad have met their parents face to face and know who all lives in the home.

Church is not optional AND we worship together as a family.

No one is on their phone during a meal at home or out.

We attend every one of our girls’ games or events.

We listen.

We own our mistakes as parents, apologize to our girls and tell them what we are going to do different.

You get in trouble away from home, you get in trouble at home.

As parents we are never let inconvenience keep us from disciplining-yes, we are grounded when you are grounded, the buggy full of groceries can be left, etc…

We never go to bed angry.

Live on Purpose-Not Drowning in “To Do” Lists

I have the incredible privilege of previewing this book for Crystal, along with a great group of other mom bloggers.  Crystal and I attempt to live life from the same place-a place of purpose.  This book is already challenging me to revisit some of those principles I claim, yet can stray from.  That’s the thing about life-it takes focus, it takes time, it requires pause.

“Living with purpose means wisely choosing and committing to a few of the best things for the season of life you’re in.”  Crystal Paine, “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode”

There is no better time to revisit this principle.  To sit and think through your priorities and choose the best.  As we enter this time of celebration, remembering Christ’s birth, His purpose and hopefully reflect upon our relationship with Him, all that matters most should rise to the surface.  What is the best for the season of life you are in right now?  For me it’s this Second Season Mom time:

1.  Growing my relationship with God through a more disciplined prayer life.

2.  Homeschooling one teen daughter.

3.  Making each day a celebration of life-creating an atmosphere of gratitude in our home.

4.  Praying for provision and helping my husband carry out our budget.

5.  Growing a new organizing business, setting clear boundaries on the number of hours worked.