The Heart of Being a Good Parent

We all want to be good parents, don’t we? I know I do. It’s something I strive for most days. (And I say most days because, well, some days are just for getting through than for thriving.) I’m always trying to learn more about what God thinks is a good parent and what makes a Christian family thrive. It’s a passion of mine, hence the blog.

But just because I’m passionate about wholehearted motherhood and seeking God’s will on family life doesn’t mean I have it all together. So very far from it. I go through rough patches where our days are great struggles. I get frustrated, grumpy, irritated, impatient. I have even manipulated my kids to get them to do what I want when they’ve been stroppy to me.

I know. Mother of the Year, right?

Thank God, quite literally, for grace. Unmerited favour poured out on me, a sinner.

Thank God that He covers our mistakes and uses them for His glory in our children.

And, thank God that He guides the way so that we can keep seeking to be good parents and become more Christ-like to our children.

…That is the heart of being a good parent, isn’t it? Loving our children as Christ loves them.

That is a big, broad, beautiful truth to understand. It’s of sacrifice and selflessness and service and deep, never ending, unconditional love – no matter how much our children hurt us (because they do and will).

But on a smaller scale, what does that look like? What ought the heart and actions be of a parent towards their children as they seek to love them like Jesus?

Little People

Just recently I have felt a challenge to really seek to understand our children as people. It is very easy as a parent to look at our children as mini-me’s or as blank slates that we can imprint upon them our own agendas. But this isn’t biblical at all.

As a sidenote, James Dobson wrote about these unbiblical notions in his book Solid Answers and how the root of them in child education/psychology is from the 1950’s era of “permissiveness”.

We know, firstly, that God made our children by Himself and for Himself (Col. 1:16-17). They have their own unique personalities and God has His own plans for them (Psalm 139). Despite having physically grown and birthed our children, they are not ours. They are His. Therefore, they are their own little people.

“Truly parents are happy people – to have God’s children lent to them.” Charlotte Mason

I believe as we see our children are people – with their own valid thoughts and feelings – it will encourage us to really seek to parent them in a way that meets their needs. 

Please don’t think I am saying that if a child is screaming on the floor saying mean things to you because you didn’t give them another lolly you should validate their feelings and not discipline them. That is not the answer. God clearly says we are to discipline our children when they sin (Proverbs 22:15, 23:24-25, 10:17 are just a few). We can acknowledge their feelings of frustration but, in that moment, the most loving thing we can do for them is to correct their hearts and behaviour. Sometimes coming at our children is the very best thing we can do for them.

But that’s the key word, isn’t it? Sometimes. Most of the time we seek to understand their little personalities and what makes them tick, and this will guide us as we strive to love them well and train them up in the Lord.

Under, Not At

 A quote by John MacArthur really opened this idea to me further:

“Parents are to submit [to their children]…And they are to submit by ‘not provoking your children to anger; but bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph. 6:4). That means you are to ‘get under’ your child, as it were, and be a caring and supportive teacher.” John MacArthur, The Family

Paul’s instruction in Ephesians clearly shows that the most effective way a parent can reach a child’s heart – that is, the heart of good parenting – is to come under children (knowing them as people) and meet them where they are. 

We are not to be always up here…

                                                                  …and our children down here.

Like I said, there are moments in the day when we are the parents – period. My daughter’s running down the driveway with no intention of slowing down before the street? My word goes. My son is getting sassy and disrespecting me? I am his mother, by God’s authority, for his good. But, for the most part, we’re on their level – loving them, knowing them, seeking their little hearts and thoughts, tenderly embracing these souls God has lent to us.

Isn’t that a privilege and an honour? I have been so challenged and so encouraged. I pray you will be too and, as we seek Christ’s help in this, He would help us to be more aware of coming down From Up There to our children’s level, where we can meet them as they are there and begin our teaching of them right where they are.

 

 

The Discipline of Giving Myself Grace.

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I’m not sure about you, but for me, grace is one of the last things I give myself.

Towards other people, I often encourage grace: Don’t kill yourself over this. Remember this is a season. Be kind to yourself, you’re going through a really hard time. 

In some ways, it’s easy. I see the whole picture, the wide lens on their situation and life. I’m not struggling to keep my head above the waves. I’m not in the hole with them, whatever it may be – suffering, doubt, insecurity, difficult circumstances. To my friends in these times, I believe I can see them the way God sees them: totally and absolutely loved, no matter how terrible the day, no matter how mucked things up are – they are resting in His love, His care, and His grace.

But can I see myself in this restful position of God’s grace? Ha, nope.

In me, I imagine how God expects more of me. Not because I’m better. Far from it. Rather, there is a very high standard expected of me – and I’m not making it. Though I can give others grace {most of the time, I’m a sinner]} when they don’t reach the standards they give themselves, I really struggle to allow myself the margin of failure.

I’ve often thought this was perfectionism. You know, that I must have perfection or nothing. But now, I don’t think this is true at all. As Christians, we are called to be holy as God is holy {1 Peter 1:16}. That is, we’re to be perfect.

Now, of course, we can’t be. We need Christ’s perfect holiness as our covering, changing us from the inside out. Yet, we are still called to pursue godliness, holiness, and right living.

Why?

Because of the grace that has been given to us. Because of grace, we are to be holy. Because of grace, we are to live godly lives. Because of grace, we are to be servants of Christ. All because of the unmerited favour lavishly poured out on us in Christ, through the Spirit, because of God’s love. It is something to drink in, fill up our souls with, and be poured out as living sacrifices in thankful worship.

But, most of the time, I can’t accept this grace for myself. I don’t deserve it. I need to work for this grace. I need to be enough to be able to have it.

That doesn’t make sense, does it? I try and earn grace – unmerited favour – by striving for it. That’s ridiculous and goes against the very Gospel that saved me. But it’s the truth about me. And I know it’s the truth for many women.

There is something in most people that causes us to strive. It causes us to believe there is no-one else as bad as me, or as worthless as me, or as

disgusting

perverted

useless

weird.

And we see this grace offered to us and we can’t believe it. We grab at it because our very lives and souls depend on it. We just need this grace.

But even when we have become God’s child, and we’re clean and free and righteous in His sight, all those old doubts come creeping back in. We start to think we need to be on that “good works treadmill” in order to continue to receive the grace that was given to us.

Friends, that grace hasn’t gone away. It is not taken from us because we slept in and didn’t pray – again, or that we gossiped – again, or that we slept with an old boyfriend – again. God doesn’t watch us and our pathetic attempts at rescuing ourselves and says, “Right, she’s mucked up again. I’m going to hang on to that grace again until she gets her act together”.

I know this is how we feel. I know this is the weight you feel – because I feel it too. By golly, I never feel enough. It is almost a constant conversation going on in my mind.

I’m not strong enough.

I can’t do as many things as she does.

I’m not as pretty.

Or as thin.

Or as accomplished.

What it comes down to is that I need to discipline myself to give myself grace, constantly. Not just on the bad days when I think I am no different to that wretched person the moment before she was saved. But I need to discipline myself on the good days when I have it all “together” – whatever that means.

Grace is a gift. It is there once given and is never taken away.

But I need to discipline myself to remember that and actively speak that truth to myself when I’m feeling like the world’s worst person. And you need to as well. Remember that we are under grace, which produces hope and mercy. It is living a life under the law that produces fear and wrath.

When you’re feeling weighted down, ask yourself, “Am I full of hope and mercy? Or am I feeling fear and wrath?” You’ll know which one, and then you need to speak truth to those untrustworthy feelings.

A beautiful book on grace is Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges.

Homeschool Preschool Plans: Letter C

The plans I have laid out I aim for, but hold loosely. Life happens or something else needs more attention. But, I am working hard at making this time a priority at some point in the day. Most days I aim for our time to be after morning tea, but I also know when to go with the flow if it needs to be later {or earlier!}.

Monday

Tuesday

  • Nature Walk
  • Math

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Make cupcakes
  • Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Gymnastics Class {Josiah}

Friday

There we go. Our simple homeschool preschool week. Each day takes about 15mins, give or take. We do other things too, like reading LOTS of stories and going on walks. We do grocery shopping, chores, and play together. But in terms of “academics”, this is it.

Hope it helps and gives you some guidelines if you’re looking to do something similar.

How To Know If You’re Parenting From Fear

I don’t often catch on straight away. It can take a few weeks for me to realise what’s going on.

What is going on?

Signs You’re Parenting From Fear

  • I start to get overwhelmed.
  • Instead of finding joy in my days, I feel frustrated and a plaguing feeling of lack.
  • I find the children difficult, even if they’re not doing anything abnormal.
  • All I want to do is be alone.
  • I feel totally insecure as a mother and doubt all the choices I’m making.
  • I start worrying about all the details of my children’s lives: how much TV they’re watching or if they have had too much sugar.
  • I start to feel guilty every time I say “No” to them, even if I am busy doing something needful for the entire family.
  • And it just keeps going downhill from there.

Thankfully, every time this happens for me {perhaps, every six months or so}, God mercifully pulls me up and – through His Word, or conversations, or a book I’m reading – He shows me the pit that I have fallen into – again.

The pit I fall into is this: I start to parent from a place of fear and not of peace.

Anyone else like me? 😉

Not From God

I never really know how it begins. Hormones? A hard parenting week? An article that sparks doubt? I’m very rarely sure but this I know is true: parenting from such a place is not from God. He is like a Shepherd with His sheep:

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

Isn’t that so beautiful? Our God is a tender God and if you are worried, fretting, and making decisions from a frightened heart, it is not from Him.

When I am in that place, I don’t believe in myself. All the decisions that my husband and I have made about how to raise our children – our values, how we teach, our plans, how we discipline – it all comes into doubt.

In that pit, as I go about my days with them, almost every single thing I do with them comes with an inward, questioning doubt: Is that really the right thing to do? Did God really say that children need this kind of discipline? What happens if this moment scars your child for life? What if you screw up your kids?

Where Fear Comes From

Do you know who that is? That’s right, the enemy. He always makes those who love the Lord doubt that they are on the right path. And as soon as I listen to him instead of the One who loves and saved me, life at home just starts going downhill…

Bad behaviour.

Broken habits.

Chaotic days.

Lots of tears from us all.

Except my husband, nothing sways his beliefs! God bless him 🙂

And then, a word will come – from the Bible, a friend, a mentor, a book, a sermon – and it’s like the veil has fallen from my eyes: I remember what I actually believe and who I have been listening too. Suddenly, I believe in myself again. I start mothering like I love mothering: intentional, wholehearted, with joy. And you know what? Everything goes back to normal. Kids are happy, mama’s happy, and hubby’s happy – still!

Our days are not as difficult anymore.

So how can we avoid this pitfall in our wholehearted mothering journey?

Parenting From Peace

Stay in the Word. Know what paths God has laid out for parents and how to raise these kids of His {Proverbs is excellent}. Hide that in your heart. Talk with your husband about how you’ve been feeling, attack any lies with truth. Pray together, pray by yourself on your knees. Seek God’s forgiveness – because you have doubted Him. Get back up and get back to being what you are best – an intentional, devoted mother.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

 

When Your Doctor Tells You, “Don’t Have More Babies.”

Our baby girl is almost three and it took this long for us to decide that we would try for another one.

Why Only Two Kidlets So Far

Our two munchkins are 16-months apart, and both pregnancies were not easy. The most pressing concern were the blood clots I got. I only had one with Josiah’s pregnancy, around 32 weeks along and which, with some cream, went away. Then, in Rosalie’s pregnancy, from the late second-trimester and within a two-week period, I developed nine blood clots in my legs.

It was really frightening. None of them were deep vein ones, but all very painful and would develop with very little cause. One time, I had an hour’s nap on the bed, lying on my side and, on the inside leg that was lying on the bed, two blood clots grew. In just an hour.

They were painful and doctors pretty quickly put me on blood thinners. I was monitored for the rest of my pregnancy, especially when preterm labour started around 34 weeks. It was a very trying time and, when she finally came out at 40 +4 weeks, my frist words were, “It’s over!”

And I didn’t mean the labour! 😉

With all this and keeping an eye on my anxiety levels post-partum, the thought of having any more children made me want to shrivel up and leave my body. I love my children, I love motherhood. But I couldn’t face all that again.

And then.

Changing

The Lord, I believe, changed my heart. My perspective changed on parenting and children. I could see a bigger picture that was beyond myself and the discomforts and the fear. I could see the risk was worth it. The desire to nurture and raise another wee arrow took hold on me.

It took almost three years, but particularly the last year, I began to think that I could do it all again. Just maybe. When my husband was on board and we had pysched ourselves up to the journey, I went to check with my doctor for the go-ahead.

And he said, “No.”

No More Babies

I felt pretty disappointed really. It felt like quite a let down after all the build up to even making that decision – and then, that squeeze of the heart that I would never get to hold a little baby that was distinctly ours. All in a moment, the possibility, gone. It was a let down, a sense of disappointment in my own fallen body that just can’t.

But I accept it, readily. I believe in my doctor, I trust him and, more importantly, I trust in Him whom I had asked for guidance and confirmation before I went to that appointment.

In this instance, there was no right or wrong in choosing to have another baby. My doctor said, “If you really, really, really, really want another one we could somehow manage it, but…”

The risk is too great. The risk of blood clots and the worst – death – to suffering – an aneurism. He looked at me gently and said, “If you got pregnant and something happened, I would kill myself for the rest of my life that I didn’t encourage you enough not to.” I have two beautiful children who need a mother, and a husband who needs his wife.

So, the decision is made. No more natural babies.

Where to Now?

Why did God change my heart only to have it disappointed? I can’t say for certain – for who knows the mind of the Lord? – but I know I am in a better place now than before. Instead of not wanting more children, I just can’t. Instead of fearing a dangerous pregnancy, I accept it. Instead of always wondering, “What if?” I now know the cannot.

There is peace when a door is closed. But only if I submit my heart and will to Him who loves me and has other good works for me to do.

We have thought of other options, and maybe. Just maybe. But even if not, the work God has done in my heart is beautiful and I’m thankful to Him who knew what fear and – in honesty – selfishness were ruling my heart towards fertility. Now, because of His grace, wisdom is ruling us. 

Hope in Him

So if this is you too, I want to give you a hug. It’s not easy. We don’t like disappointment, or pain, or our own plans being turned down. But God loves you and has a reason why you can’t – whether because of your fallen, broken body or for other reasons – that goes beyond the temporary. His “No” always leads to a better “Yes”. Just submit and trust Him who died for you.

Homeschool Preschool This Week {Letter B}

The plans I have laid out I aim for, but hold loosely. Life happens or something else needs more attention. But, I am working hard at making this time a priority at some point in the day. Most days I aim for our time to be after morning tea, but I also know when to go with the flow if it needs to be later {or earlier!}.

This week we are looking at the letter B. Click the link for the resource I intend to use. Here is our loose plans for the week:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • ABCMouse song
  • Letter B Maze for 4yo/Colouring page for 2yo
  • Find items around the house that are Brown and Blue and place in prepared coloured circles

Thursday

  • Outing day with friends

Friday

  • Starfall
  • B worksheets
  • Practice writing B on the chalkboard
  • Repeat rice tray with B items

There we go. Our simple homeschool preschool week. Each day takes about 15mins, give or take. We do other things too, like reading LOTS of stories and going on walks. We do grocery shopping, chores, and play together. But in terms of “academics”, this is it.

Hope it helps and gives you some guidelines if you’re looking to do something similar.

Book Review: Home Sweet Homeschool by Sue Maakstad

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Ever since we decided to educate our children at home I have been reading and reading almost anything that I can get my hands on {see this post on some other home education books}. Now our eldest is four and heading towards the “officially homeschooling” mark {though, really, we’ve been homeschooling since his birth – but that’s a different post altogether 😉 }, I’m diving into as many as I can.

Here’s the latest.

I randomly {or, I thought it was random!} came across this on a second-hand online shop and bought it on the spot. I had never heard of it in all my homeschooling rabbit trails, nor the author, but it was being sold here in NZ {rare}, so I thought, “Why not?”

I’m so glad I did!

Written by a homeschooling veteran when such a thing was, as Sue Maakstad says, “in the Dark Ages”, she raised and taught eight children right through even though she never even finished high school herself. How did they get into homeschooling when a) no-one else was doing it, and b) she was “uneducated” herself?

“God’s so smart. He knows that if he told us this kind of stuff up front, we’d certainly opt out early. But he also knows that if we just stick with him and do what he sets before us because we know it’s a rough job but somebody’s gotta do it – and because we know he’s able even if we aren’t – he’ll always pull off great things in spite of us.” p.21

Sue is humble, wise, straight-forward, and very funny. She has a way with words and creating the chaotic scenes of homeschooling days with a tonne of kids. I loved it how much she made me smile, and not just challenged and encouraged.

“I pile the kids in the van and the dog [whose had an accident] in the car. Now I notice the puddle of soft vulcanized rubber under the wheel rim. The tire passed away last night and has awaited me with expectant glee ever since. The lug nuts haven’t been budged since the Revolutionary War. This provides relevant material for history class. I empty two cans of Liquid Wrench over them while the kids call our tearful reminders that Fido may expire any second…

Days like these make me wonder if I can muster enough collective brain cells and achieve sufficient level of peace amid the pandemonium to conduct some sort of teaching, let alone impart pedagogical wisdom.” p.30

She is very realistic about homeschooling. She doesn’t paint it all rainbows and butterflies. She’s clear that it is hard, that you’ll want to quit, but that you can’t. And that is what I love about this book: it is full to the brim with inspiration and thought-provoking wisdom to keep your feet one step ahead of the other on the homeschooling journey. For a newbie, it’s refreshing and encouraging.

Though I have read many arguments for homeschooling, particularly biblical ones, I found Sue’s to be the most theologically-balanced ones. Obviously, Sue is very pro-homeschooling and believes that Christian parents should educate their own children, but she isn’t condemning or judgemental towards those who do not. I don’t think {though I can’t confirm} she believes homeschooling is a biblical mandate, like other author’s such as R C Sproul Jr. I found this great and added to the gentle-but-affirming tone of the book.

Here are some of the topics Sue discusses in her book:

  • Their story: evidence that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness
  • Recalling the readily visible as well as often hidden advantages of home education
  • Your parental calling: to educate, train, and disciple men and women of God
  • Family, the extracurricular curriculum that impacts a lifetime and builds a heritage
  • Discipline and motivation: foundations to survive the hard times and achieve the results
  • Everything is clearer in retrospect. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Some favourite quotes

“Our kids have been given to us so we can present them back to their heavenly Father. His image is stamped upon them, and it’s up to us at home to teach them from His Word about their godly heritage and calling – to birth in them a love of him and show them the more excellent way.” pg.102

“The conventional ‘wisdom’ must be discarded on the faith that higher and more reliable wisdom will carry us across the chasm. When we step outside the realm of the familiar, the boundaries disappear. Homeschool parents know the secret effectiveness of alternative fuel: The grace of God will guide unique individuals through individually tailored plans that help each learn best, and thereby broaden their horizons. When we careen off that cliff into the unknown, we ind our kids’ Creator has a bridge in place to take them safely across the chasm to the future he’s prepared for them.” pg.89

“And the real truth is, nobody ranks higher than you as the expert of your own children. The real truth is, you have the goods – the wisdom and power of God, not the deficient methodology of man. The real truth is, you are duty and honor bound to answer the William Tell calling given to you by God in Psalm 127:4: ‘Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth’…Those little arrows are your unique area of expertise. They’re placed in your quiver at birth. You get the first shot.” p.79

“I know in whom I believed, and I know that I’m able because he is able. As parents, we’re partners with God in our greatest earthly endeavor – raising kids.” pg.44

“[I know that I do homeschooling] to save myself from myself via my children. Because it’s not really about me anymore, which is the best way to find out whom he has created me to be.” pg.160

I really recommend this book. Have you read it?