Intentional Mothering

Do You Have a Mother-Heart Like Mary?

By on August 21, 2017

When I am searching for hope and encouragement in my Bible as a mother, of the gospels my favourite is the Gospel of Luke. There are some special treasures in there for mothers seeking insight into what the heart of motherhood looks like. Every single time I read the first few chapters, I am blessed again by the simple beauty in the heart of one mother for her son.

Why is the Gospel of Luke so special for a mother? It’s the only one that looks closer at Mary, Jesus’ mother, and what it was like for her raising the Saviour of the world.

What was it like raising God’s own Son? What was it like knowing what the ancient Scriptures taught about the Messiah? …About what would happen to him? …what would be required of him? How did a mother, flawed and like any other mother, care for such a special boy – one who would save people from their sins? What would be required of that mother?

Mary’s Requirement: A Sacrifice Like Her Son’s

After giving birth to Jesus, when he would have been about a week old, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for Mary to be purified (after birth) and for Jesus to be consecrated to the LORD, requirements under Jewish Law. A man named Simeon, who was waiting for the Messiah, took Jesus in His arms and dedicated Him to the LORD. Then he said something that would have rocked Mary to the depths of her being:

This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35

What would have gone through Mary’s mind at such words? What fear – that motherly-instinct deep in her core – would have gripped her, tempting her to snatch Jesus back from Simeon’s arms and take her baby far away from any threat? Mary was a normal mother, with normal motherly feelings.

…A sword will pierce her own soul, too.

The Sword That Would Pierce

Would it be a real sword? Was she and her Son going to die? Her mind would have rushed back over the many Scriptures she had known about the coming Messiah and what would happen to Him. Wasn’t He supposed to be a King that would rescue Israel? Why would this reveal the thoughts of peoples’ hearts?

She would not have known what it all meant, that only time would reveal God’s plans for Israel and, therefore, the fate of her Son. The only thing she could take from such words was that, whatever was going to happen, it was going to hurt deeply. To her very soul.

Burying the Treasure

I really believe that Mary, in the face of such a future, did what any mother would do: she treasured her Son, burying the special moments of His childhood deep in her heart.

When He did things that were beyond boys of His age and which amazed her, Mary

…treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 2:19

When He astounded her and Joseph by staying behind in the Temple teaching men two times His age, Mary

…treasured all these things in her heart. 2:51

Isn’t that so simple and yet, so beautiful? A mother who faced such trials and heartbreak – such bleak unknown – carefully and intentionally buried moments of her motherhood deep in her heart like irredeemable treasure. 

Her Son was very special and He did different things during His formative years that were astounding and perplexing. Yet, He was also an ordinary kid who obeyed His parents and grew up under their parenting, their teaching, their discipline (Luke 2:52).

Mary understood and accepted that motherhood is a privilege and an honour. She knew that it could be here today, but gone the next. She faced a future of uncertainty certain that every day of her children’s lives matter, however momentous or mundane. Mary had a mother-heart that treasured the role of parenting her children, even the Saviour of the world.

Her Treasure, Our Example

Friends, Mary is to be an example to us. Though we live in different times, with different children, and with a different call upon our lives, Mary’s mother-heart can be our heart for our children, too.

Just like when the angel came to Mary and told her what God was going to do through her, Mary’s response to the prophecy about Jesus and herself was humble, trusting, godly. Mary accepted the cross that came with motherhood and the cross that came to her specific motherhood.

You may have a different cross to bear in your mothering. You may have a difficult child or one with a disability. You may be a single mother or a widow. You may have depression, a chronic illness, or an unhelpful spouse. Or, you may really struggle to believe in your ability to be a good mother. Every day may be a struggle not to feel inadequate, restless, dissatisfied.

  • To have a mother-heart like Mary, we are to humbly submit to our Heavenly Father’s hand upon our life…
  • We are to believe that whatever circumstance we are in, is His will for us – for our good and His glory…
  • We are to rejoice – that is, intentionally praise God even when we don’t feel like it – for the privilege of mothering His little ones…
  • And, we are to treasure every day moments with our children.

I believe that as we do this, no matter how hard it is or how much we doubt it’s worth it, God’s Spirit will grow in us a passion, a devotion, a willingness to love our children and thrive in our mothering. I know this to be true for myself. God has transformed selfish, resentful, rebellious thoughts of my heart into humility, praise, and delight for this role. Not that I don’t struggle – I do, so much – but God has captured my heart and given me a vision for motherhood.

We just have to trust Him – like Mary did – that if we are mothers, this is His perfect will for us right now. From there, our mother-hearts will just deepen and widen and expand.

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

Why Disciplining Our Children Means First Disciplining Ourselves (Thoughts on Charlotte Mason).

By on August 2, 2017

As we continue to walk slowly into a homeschooling life, I easily see and embrace the beautiful educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason. I wouldn’t say that we will be a strict Charlotte Mason homeschool family, but her ideas about educating children will influence me as I guide the children to a lifelong love of learning within the calm and life-giving atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason had a three-pronged view of education. She believes that,

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Two of these I feel I adopt instinctively, like breathing. I love creating a home that induces learning, creativity, and a hunger to know more. And I know the education is more than “school” – it is a wholehearted desire to know God – and His world – and grow towards Christ-like character. If my children are learning math, they’re learning about God because He made math.

But one facet of Charlotte Mason’s approach is a struggle for me: that is, education is a discipline. It is like a wall that I keep running into and struggle to climb over.

Before I look at why it is a struggle for me, first I want to briefly explain what Charlotte Mason understands discipline to be within education.

Education is a Disicpline: All About the Heart & Habits

By Education is a discipline, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body.” Vol. 1, Preface

Charlotte Mason believed that the character of a child was the most important part of their education. It was the parent’s primary responsibility to steadily form in their children habits – both of their hands and of their hearts – that would aid them as they grow into adults.

Some of CM’s formation of habits included:

  • cleanliness
  • courtesy
  • order
  • fortitude
  • generosity
  • gentleness
  • respect
  • obedience
  • imagining
  • observation
  • self-control
  • thanksgiving
  • truthfulness

The ultimate “goal” in the formation of habits in children is the child’s mastery of self: that is, self-control and self-discipline. Sonya Schafer in her e-book, Education Is, says that we (as parents),

…guide them with discipline from without until they can make the transition to discipline themselves from within.” 

Year after year, as we work alongside our children, diligently and with persistence, our children will slowly learn to work within themselves the discipline that leads to a joy of life: freedom. The more a child is in control of their heart and habits, the more freedom in life they will have. It’s one of those divine dichotomies: the more we limit, the more freedom we have.

This seems very straight forward and I believe wholeheartedly in it. But I struggle with this aspect of the Charlotte Mason life among the three-prongs of education. Why?

It All Starts With Me

That’s it, really.

Forming children of character with responsible habits lands primarily at the feet of the mother. It is her burden to carry since the children spend the majority of their time with her. God has given her that task of laying down the rails that will lead to their freedom in later life, and he has equipped the woman with attributes that lend herself to this task.

And this is why it’s so hard: I struggle with self-discipline myself. If I battle to have mastery over my own heart and habits, how can I consistently attend to my own children with joy, persistance, and fortitude?

Because that is what it takes to raise balanced, God-loving, kind, loving, and enjoyable adults – joy of the Lord, in it for the long haul, holding on to truth when it is tough. This is a daunting task and one that I know I ought not to take lightly. Why else did I choose to have children? To make me happy? Or fulfill some selfish desire?

I definitely started motherhood out that way. Not purely in a selfish way, of course. But, as the years begin to go on and the Lord opens the eyes of my heart to the task before me, I see how much deeper motherhood goes.

I see how much more a servant heart is needed.

I see the roots of a submissive heart reach, not just toward my dear husband as his wife, but as a mother coming under the needs of her children.

I see that the discipline of the hearts and habits of my children requires a depth of discipline in myself – who I am and how I behave on a daily basis – and is a level of hard work that I never realised. And I find myself baulking at that, often.

The Hard Work Comes From Conflict

Not only is the responsibility and authenticity of parenting in a transparent and exemplary way hard work, so is the actual forming of my children. The reason why they need help with their hearts and habits is because they are people. And what are people? Sinners.

Mothering is basically a continual battle of the wills. The will of the mother (who knows what is good, what is right, what is God-honouring – however imperfectly and fallen) to the will of the child (who knows only limitedly and spends much energy on feeling and egotistical instinct). And how is that easy?

There is no other way … but a certain strenuousness in the formation of good habits is necessary because every such habit is the result of conflict.” ~ Charlotte Mason, Vol.6, p.102

Strenuousness and conflict. How can I do this???

Labouring and Striving…With Help

This is why my personal verse for motherhood (and which is always at the end of one of my email newsletters) is Colossians 1:29:

We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, striving with all His energy working in me.”

And that is the key, isn’t it? This is the only way we can see the responsibility before us as mothers and press on, not running away or giving up that responsibility to someone else. Christ is that key. His power is that key.

Both Christ and I work in tandem as I raise His children: I labour and strive to present these children perfect (or, doing all I can to lead them to Christ where only He saves them and takes over) for Him while He works His life-giving, death-defying, healing and divine power in me.

I cannot do this without Him.

So as I struggle with my own self-discipline in my heart and habits, I can take comfort. He is perfecting the good work He has started in me, and He will finish it. Part of finishing it is the many years He has asked me to mother children, who will battle against me (because I represent the Spirit in their life), and who won’t make it easy.

But nothing on this earth that has any eternal worth or significance will be easy or require little of us. So let us not balk, but press on deeper.

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

Why Mothers Should Sing Around the House More

By on July 26, 2017

I’ve never been a “singer”. In our home, my husband is the singer. He’s been singing all his life – boys’ choir, head chorister, church music team, weddings etc. He has a beautiful voice. Me on the other hand? I have an okay voice and I’m pretty thankful I can sing in tune.

I do, however, enjoy singing. It soothes my soul and expresses feelings I often can’t articulate to myself. But I sometimes feel inadequate because how I can sing is not how I want to sing. There is a lot of praise in me wanting to come out but my voice is not strong enough. (So, if you have the gift of a beautiful and powerful singing voice, bless the Lord!)

Yet, despite not being Adele, I sing a lot. As I’m doing housework, getting dinner ready, driving the car, gardening – I sing much of that time. Hymns, church songs, and favourite singers (like New Zealander, Brooke Fraser). Whatever comes to mind, I sing.

And today, by God’s special grace, He’s shown me an unexpected fruit of being a mother who sings around the home.

Little Hearts Sing

I must have been singing this hymn without realising it. And perhaps it’s been sung in church recently before the kids head out to their little preschool programme. But today, all on his own, I suddenly heard Josiah singing the first few notes of “Crown Him With Many Crowns”.

“Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon the throne; Hark! how the heavn’ly anthem drowns, all music but it’s own! Awake, my soul, and sing; Of Him who died for thee; And hail Him as thy matchless King, throughout all eternity.”

I was blown away. This boy listens and he takes in what he is hearing. What an amazing thing!

Of course, it’s not as though I didn’t know my kids listen. We often sing little songs together, and Rosalie is singing Tangled’s “I See the Light” all the time. I’m always hoping to pass on a love of singing to them.

However, I don’t think I have realised what a powerful tool singing is for a mother seeking to instill Gospel-truths into her little one’s hearts. I didn’t realise that as a mother sings songs of the Lord around the home – doing her tasks and playing with the children – she is organically and authentically passing on both her faith and her belief to the little hearts listening.

This is incredibly beautiful. And what a responsibility!

Authentic Faith

One song I love to sing is Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong, especially Lauren Daigle’s cover. (I’m personally not a massive fan of Hillsong but every now and then they produce a beautiful song that I really love, like Oceans or Man of Sorrows.) It speaks to all that God has done for me when I have gone through deep pain and suffering, and the faithfulness He has shown to me, a broken sinner.

As I sing this song, I sing it with a genuine love and faith in my Father. And the children see that. They pick up on something in me that I might not be able to communicate in words. They see a light that is in me, a love for a God they know is real but cannot see. And I pray that it plants seeds of memories and faith in their own hearts, just like I have of my own mother singing The Father’s Prayer at bedtime.

Authentic Truths

Above contemporary Christian songs, I delight and love hymns. The main reason is because of the depth and truth of the words within them, that I find more modern songs sometimes lack. Hymns communicate deep, spiritual truths that the everyday person often cannot come up with themselves. This is why hymns stand the test of time.

One of my favrourite hymns, Rock of Ages, lifts my soul to Heaven and articulates the Gospel in ways I pray my children hear and take into their little hearts. I pray that when they hear the words that there is “nothing in my hand I bring/simply to Thy cross I cling” they know that only Jesus can save. I pray they know that, given that our lives are short, we must think of “realms unknown” and that oneday we will “Bow before Thy judgement throne”. And yet that, if we believe in Jesus, He will [as our] Rock of Ages, “cleft for me”.

So, dear mothers, even if you aren’t “singers” – sing anyway. Or quietly put on music that draws hearts to the Lord. Without even being aware of it, our dear children will absorb the truths and the faith we show. Slowly, over time, we can pray that God will hide those thoughts and memories and words in their hearts, bringing them to full fruit as they grow older.

So sing! Sing with all you heart.

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

Motherhood & The Few: Why Our Feet Should Be Tied

By on June 12, 2017

 

There are millions of mothers in this world. And there are millions of Christian mothers. But, out of all those millions of mothers, there are but a few that are pursuing their responsibility with passion, intention, and wholehearted, undivided hearts.

Several centuries ago, there was one mother who recognised that she was one of the few. Her name was Susanna Wesley, the mother of nineteen children – only ten of which grew to adulthood. (At one time, she buried her two baby twin boys within weeks of their births.) Two of her sons grew to be devoted, passionate men of God who began the Methodist movement within Christianity.

Over one hundred years later, another woman recognised the singularity of dedicated motherhood. Her name was Amy Carmichael and she rescued children from Indian temples who were either child prostitutes or the children of prostitutes. Though no children were ever birthed from her own body, she birthed new life to hundreds.

What did these two strong Christian women believe about motherhood?

Susanna Wesley: One Of The Few

No-one can, without renouncing the world, in the most literal sense, observe my method; and there are few, if any, that would entirely devote above twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save the souls of their children, when they think they may be saved without so much ado; for the was my principle intention.”

She renounced the world’s method’s of mothering. Even in the days when mothers were still at home with their children, Susanna recognised that few women were actually present with their children. She rejected the idea that children were in a separate sphere that required governesses or nurses. She didn’t give her children just the first year of their life and then went to do her own thing. No, she dedicated twenty years of her life and more to wholehearted, undivided motherhood.

Her principle intention was to lead her children to Christ. Susanna knew that the principle goal of raising children was to endeavor to bring them to a knowledge and love of God. This is why she spent the majority of her life pouring herself into her children. She knew that the only way that she could win her children’s hearts to Christ, and keep them safe from the world’s influence, was to invest all of herself to that principle duty.

She accepted being different. Being one of the few, she knew that there wouldn’t be many like her. She accepted that the path God had called her to was a narrow one, oftentimes lonely and misunderstood, but that this was necessary for the sake of her children. She was called to be different, asked to live towards a higher standard, for the sake of her children and for the glory of God.

Amy Carmichael: Fit to Be Tied

Children tie the mother’s feet the Tamils say…We knew we could not be too careful of our children’s earliest years.So we let our feet be tied for love of Him whose feet were pierced.”

She accepted and embraced sacrifice. Amy, despite all the opportunities that were being offered to her as a missionary in India, saw the call God was giving her to raise needy and orphaned children. Despite the fact that these girls {and later boys} were not born from her body, they were her children and she gave up the rest of her life to caring for their needs. She did not seek fame or glory. She sought the hard, the dirty, the exhaustion, the desperation, the helplessness, the wonder, the blessing, and the sacrifice of motherhood. She allowed herself to be tied.

She understood and pursued intentional motherhood. Amy did not waste away the early days of her children’s lives. She did not let one day pass into another without any thought, care, or intention on her part. She knew the vital importance of those early years of life that her children had to spend with her. She could have rescued them and then allowed them to be brought up by other women. But she didn’t. She had helpers, but all the children knew – and experienced – that Amy was their mother. For their formative years, the children had all of Amy.

She did it because of Jesus. Her Saviour is the reason she did it all. He is why she went to India. He is why she didn’t marry. He is why she suffered through the loss of many children and friends. He is why she carried on when it was hard. He is why she continued on during bed rest for many of her later years. He is the very reason she mothered and how she mothered at all. And He blessed her and her children.

Dear Mother,

If you have any doubt as to the call God has given you, or the importance of caring for your children, or for the need to sacrifice for the season of a child’s life, look to these two examples and see the profound legacy that their dedicated, Christ-loving mothering has had on thousands of people. Please do not give way. Please do not listen to the world’s siren call, seeking to lead you away from the home and your children. Nothing in this life will be as hard – or as fulfilling – as the joy of giving your life up for Jesus in the service of caring for His children. Don’t give up! He who has called you has, and will, equip you to do the work He has asked of you. Loving our children for Jesus is what He has asked us to do and,

To this end [we] labour, striving with all His energy working powerfully in [us].” Colossians 1:29

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

The Heart of Being a Good Parent

By on May 30, 2017

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.

 

 

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

How To Know If You’re Parenting From Fear

By on May 19, 2017

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

 

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

Book Review: Home Sweet Homeschool by Sue Maakstad

By on May 5, 2017

This post contains affiliate links.

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?

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

Why I Believe In Homegrown Kids {Part 2 in the Homegrown Kids Series}.

By on April 11, 2017

I actually don’t really know where to start with this post. Sometimes a belief goes so deep it is very difficult to articulate into words. I think this is especially so when there are a myriad of reasons, which is the case for us. Also, this journey for us seems to have layers and levels – the reasons we’re heading down this path and our belief in it just keep transforming, and cementing, and growing.

If you haven’t read how raising homegrown kids kicked off for us, read Part 1 here. Otherwise, I just want to enter this post with these words: 

This is our journey. Though I believe deeply that it is ideal, I know that it is not always possible. The reality of families the world over is very different. And God is the God of all families, and will lead us all differently. I write our conviction to encourage, challenge, and inspire – not to judge or condemn. I really pray and hope I can bring you along with love, humility, and friendship.

So, why do we believe in homegrown kids? Get comfortable, and possibly grab a sustaining meal 😉

My early life story is one of a settled childhood, both in the city and the countryside, and of chaotic and uncertain teenage years, when I lived in a suitcase and had no place to call home for long. So, when I started married life and we eventually had children, I came at both roles with a determined passion to bring security and devotion, and to do all that I could to give my family a place to call home.

Despite painful years, I am thankful to God for the story He has written for me as I believe our children would be having a different upbringing than the one they are having. I certainly wouldn’t be as counter-cultural or have the perspective to look beyond the here and now like I do.

I’m also thankful to have had both parents in different aspects of the education system {in NZ} for the last 30-40 years so that, through them, I am able to see how – in the end – government’s can never make up their mind as to how children, in a school environment, learn best. Through the experience and working history of my parents, I can see how educational philosophies are like fashion – they come and go within the ministry of education like flare pants and big hair.

So, with this background and our own experience of early education, questions were raised about how our kids were going to be educated pretty quickly into our parenting journey. Neither of us had ever considered homeschooling; pre-kids, we have always been adamantly pro-public schooling. Post-kids, we sing a different tune 🙂

As we began wrestling and reading and talking, a train of thought settled in our minds and hearts that became the fundamental driving force behind our decision to keep our kids home. Essentially we believe that today’s fractured family – parents working here and there, kids at school and a thousand different activities – is not how it is meant to be. Especially as Christians, we believe that sending children away to be under the strong influence of people not of their family is not how God intended children to be raised.

An initial objection to this thought would be to say, “Well, the Bible never addressed education as we know it. How can you make such an assumption?” I used to think this way too, that is, that education of the family is not spoken of in God’s Word. But now, along the track, I actually think it does – when you’re looking for it and have a heart open for what it says.

I could quite easily go into a maze of tangents in regards to what the Bible says about education, but I will stick to the one basic point that is quite clear when one reads into what God says about the upbringing of children:

It is the parents that are to raise their children.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

In his tome of a book, Man and Woman in Christ, Stephen B. Clark says,

“The term ‘discipline’ (paideia) in this passage is particularly significant. The word could also be translated ‘training’, ‘instruction’, ‘punishment’, or even ‘formation’. The Hebrew equivalent (musar) appears often in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament… ‘Training’ in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives. It does not mean only knowledge or mental understanding. It means training to act in a certain way.

…Training in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives.

This means that true education is when the entire person of the child – his body, mind, heart, and soul – are to be disciplined, trained, taught, instructed, and changed to the man he is to be.

In the ancient world that Jesus grew up in, sending children to an environment that was run by Caesar-endorsed teachers for most of their formative years did just not happen. In those days, children were in the primary care of their mother until five- or seven-years-old. At this point, boys would spend the rest of their childhood with their father learning the trade and how to be a man. Daughters continued on at home with their mother until marriage, learning how to run a home and how to be a woman.

“The boy was not really raised until his father had equipped him to function as man.” Stephen B. Clark

A five-year-old – or even an eleven-year-old – is not fully trained. They are not men or women. But they are learning how to be every single day of their lives. By implication, if they are spending the majority of their time at school, it is obvious who they will be learning this from: from their teachers, the government-endorsed curriculum, and their peers. 

It’s not that I think public schooling is wrong or that homeschooling is the only option for Christian parents. I have been public schooled and Christian schooled, and I am alive 🙂 But, I firmly believe that Christian parents need to be sure that the place they are sending their children to be educated at is a place that will further, rather than hinder, their work they are doing at home in their children to equip them into manhood/womanhood as a godly person. 

“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

What is the Bible’s definition of a fool? Someone who says there is no God {Psalm 14:1}. And if there is any other time in history since Scripture was written that these commands be more pertinent, wouldn’t it be now? 

Because of all the above, this is the main reason why we will be homeschooling our children. If you have been thinking of as well, or have been wondering what true education is as a Christian parent, I hope this encourages you on your journey. It’s posts like these that started me on ours, like this one from Abiding Woman, or this one from The Unplugged Family.

**Tune in soon for how to children without going crazy.**

Continue Reading

Intentional Mothering

Homegrown Kids or, Why We Keep Our Kids Home {A Series}

By on January 16, 2017

We’ll soon be coming up to a year since we began wrestling with bringing our son home from preschool. Though we didn’t pull him out of preschool until May, the first quarter of 2016 was a time when I did a lot of wrestling in my soul over our son, our daughter coming up behind him, and our vision for the growth and direction of our family.

Our son was two when we enrolled him two mornings a week {for three hour sessions} at a local preschool. It was a lovely centre with caring teachers and a great outdoor area. It took some time for Josiah to settle in. He would cry when I left, and I would talk to myself as I walked away with another person holding him as he cried {often screamed} for me, “It’s okay. He’ll get used to me not being there. This is good for him. He’s getting more independent.” I hardened my heart against his feelings because I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do. Everyone does it. It’s normal.

But, despite him getting used to being without me over time, something in me would not rest easy. He had fun and did learn to “socialise” better with kids. BUT. We noticed him changing. He became less and less like the little boy of before. He was naughtier, meaner to his baby sister. He was more dissatisfied with home life, with his toys and playthings. He has always been an energetic boy, but I would find him even more worked up when he came home at lunchtime.

When term holidays would come round, especially the long summer January holidays of 2016, our little boy would return. Life would become easier. Our day-to-day wasn’t such a battle anymore. He was more obedient and kinder and a joy. But as soon as preschool started again, his behaviour would regress. I found that it would take two or three days to de-preschool.

The uneasy feeling I had about letting my little boy spend time apart from me, despite it being what everyone did, continued to grow. Both my husband and I could see so clearly what an effect preschool had on him. We asked the Lord for wisdom and help, and He did. We made the choice to pull him out.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to have a lot of courage in the Lord to approach the teachers, sign the forms, explain to other mothers why we were bringing him home. I grappled with doubt and feeling faint of heart. It’s hard when people don’t understand. No-one ever disparaged our decision, everyone was very supportive and helpful. But I know they didn’t understand, and if they disagreed, they were really kind to not share their thoughts with me. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, despite my beliefs. I’ve always struggled with trying to please everyone. But, as I’m learning, you can’t!

I do remember, after officially unenrolling him, on the second to last session til he finished, walking with Rosie in the buggy to pick him up and getting a call saying that Josiah seemed to be unwell. I hurried my steps, thankful I was only five minutes away. When I got there, he was lying asleep on a little kids couch that he was too big for, pale, shivering. He looked so fragile and small. I gathered him up and took him home. He said to me, “I cried and wanted mummy. I want to go home.” My heart broke.

What seemed so normal at the beginning, now seemed really unnatural.

Within a week, our life with our three-year-old was transformed. His beautiful nature returned and he was our happy boy again. I remember the first week of having him home again, I felt incredible amount of relief. I knew he belonged at home with me.

Since then, despite how hard it can be and how much I have to give of myself, that belief has only grown and grown. As we have sought God for wisdom, guidance, and help, He has so graciously provided everything we have needed – including times of rest from burnout.

My passion for raising children at home – or what I call Homegrown Kids – has grown and deepened, and I really want to share these thoughts with you.

This isn’t to condemn, at all. I know how varied our world is and the pressures there are on modern families. But, I really do believe this is best for most children, so I share this in the hopes that it will encourage other mothers. I especially hope it will encourage mothers who may be thinking of doing something similar, but are scared to make that first step, or just want to hear of someone else’s experience. I know I scoured blogs, particularly homeschooling blogs, looking for encouragement and inspiration and guidance.  This is for you, dear mother, and the heart you have for your children and for their future.

I plan to write three more posts in this series. When they are finished, this will be the landing page where you can find the rest of them. They will be:

1. Homegrown Kids: Keeping Our Kids at Home Series {You are here}

2. Why I Believe in Homegrown Kids.

3. How to Be a Full-Time Mother of Young Children {Without Going Mental}.

4. Resources for Raising Homegrown Kids.

I’m really excited to write this series, and humbled, as well. None of this is my husband or I. We had to make the practical, earthly decisions for our family, but it’s been completely God above it all. I’m really grateful that this is the story He is writing for us. Please share and comment below with any thoughts.

Continue Reading

Marriage

If the Husband is the Head, What is the Wife?

By on December 12, 2016

Headship. Submission. That’s what I’m wanting to talk about today. But not to you, to me.

Huh?

What I mean is that, if I were talking to myself, I would know that I have read, understood, accepted, and am trying to live out the Biblical design for men and women in marriage: of the husband being the leader of the family, and of the wife being his helper and submitting to his leadership. This way I can get straight into what has been on my heart and mind, and I don’t have to do all the preamble of theology etc.

So, you’re me, got it? 🙂

Right. Let’s do this!

Headship and Submission

If I’m being honest, in this year of 2016 I have found it really hard to submit to my dear husband. There is so much behind that struggle which I won’t go into, and it’s been a long time coming, but I really feel like this year God has been asking me this question:

“You tell me that you agree in My design for marriage, but do you really believe it is good and My best for you?” 

Over and over this year, as I have been faced with opportunities to submit and come under my husband’s leadership and have struggled – sometimes with an ugly, selfish fierceness – God has been gently, but persistently, knocking on the door of my heart. I feel like He’s been asking me again and again,

Where is your joy?

Don’t you trust Me?

Don’t you know, from my Word and your history, that I am trustworthy and I always do what is best and good?”

When I see it put that way, my heart cries, “Yes! I know You are good! I know that all Your ways are THE BEST. I don’t doubt it! I want and need Your Truth in my life!” So I look at myself and I know that it isn’t God’s Word and His laws that are doing me harm or making submission hard —

It’s me.

I am the problem. Always. As Dave Harvey says in When Sinners Say I Do {best marriage book ever, by the way},

There are no marriage issues. There are only sin issues.

Sin. The obvious, but always elusive, culprit. We are apparently good friends. Especially when it comes to me trying to truly love God, and truly love my husband, a friend who gets this spirit-and-flesh-battle we’re always in.

A big thing my flesh and spirit have been fighting over this year is the feeling of What About Me? {I know, it’s always about me.} If it’s true – which it really is, Sarah, so deal with it – that God lovingly crafted men to be the leaders of their family units, what position did He lovingly craft women to have?

We are helpers. We accept and respect our husband’s leadership {ie. submit}. Yes, Truth.

But what does that all really mean?

As the head of the family, all responsibility is laid on the shoulders of our husbands. On Judgement Day, the state of our family will be laid at his feet before the Lord in all His glory {Ephesians 5:25-27}. Will he have led well? Imperfectly, yes, but still, will he have led well?

And when I face the Lord, thankfully, that weighty responsibility will not be at my feet. But my responses will be. How joyful was I as his helper? How caring was I in showing my respect of him? How honouring was I in sharing my opinions and, subsequently, how gracious was I in submission when our opinions differed?

This is big stuff that I have been grappling with. And, as I have mulled over it more and more, and faced with it practically again and again, I realise it all comes down to this:

How is my heart?… Because I am the heart.

If my husband is the head of our family, then I am the heart. We all come under his care, we are all cared for by me.

This is what Sally Clarkson says in The Mission of Motherhood:

I realized again that the ultimate key to providing a nurturing environment in my home is me…In the end, though, what my children and husband need most from me is not a perfect home or perfect training or a perfectly spiritual role model or a wife without faults – but a mother and wife who is committed to doing what it takes to love them and make a home for them.

They need to know that they are cherished by someone who is a champion for their cause, a cheerleader for their lives – someone they can always count on in the light and dark times of life.

Accepting the responsibility of being the overseer of my domain with all of the heart and energy and faith I can muster is what nurtures my family best and provides my children with the sense of security and stability they need. My attitude is ultimately what makes our house a peaceful haven.

What Sally is saying is that if mama ain’t happy, then no-one is happy in the family. We are the emotional thermometer of our homes. Our attitude sets the tone. That’s a big responsibility. It may not be the burden our husbands bear, but it is a hard one. Basically it means that we have to work hard to keep our joy, keep our peace, keep our hearts aright before the Lord all the time.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have bad days. Of course we can! But, for the most part, if we want our family to be happy, healthy, joyful, and content then it is our work in our own hearts that matters, and we need to be disciplined and persistent in cultivating a relationship with the Lord. We can only be the heart of our homes by the grace of God.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have this job than my husband’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with wanting to be in control and having things my own way. I’m a daughter of Eve, after all. But, when I consider it, I would rather be the beating heart of our lives than the working head. This suits me perfectly because I am a woman. I am a nurturer.

I am so grateful the Lord has worked this all out in His original design, and I am grateful for all the struggles I have had this year to help grow me and make me more into the woman – and the wife and mother – the Lord would have me be.

What do you think about being the heart of your home? How do you keep your heart joyful, at peace, and content so that your family thrives? What evidences of God’s grace can you see in your struggles and will to follow Him?

Continue Reading