Category Archives: Parenting

What Blueprint Are You Sketching on the Hearts of Your Kids?

Dads are so important! What blueprint are you sketching on the hearts of your kids?

Guest post by Steve Lambert
Former pastor and Publisher of Five in a Row

There comes a time in doing pastoral counseling when you run out of answers and you need to stall a moment and ask God for wisdom. Through the years, I had developed a question that would buy me a minute or two of silence to cry out to the Lord for insight in difficult situations. I would ask, “when you pray, how do you see God? Do you envision an ancient man on a throne, or a resurrected Jesus, or a gentle shepherd or perhaps the celestial heavens?” Most people would pause to consider while I prayed with urgency for direction and help.

But one day I got a startling answer from a troubled young woman. She began crying softly and as I waited she finally responded, “I see newsprint?” I wasn’t prepared for that answer. I probed gently, “do you mean, like a page of newspaper?” She nodded. I waited. Finally I ventured another question, “do you have any idea why you see newsprint when you pray?” The tears came in a flood now as she nodded.

At last, she composed herself enough to speak.

“I never saw my father’s face when I bared my soul to him. When I would talk to him all I ever saw was the back of the newspaper he was reading as he vaguely responded with an occasional ‘uh-huh’ or ‘oh’ while I poured out my heart to him. I know that when I pray, God isn’t paying any attention to me because he has more important things to do than listen to my problems.” I sat stunned.

As fathers, perhaps nothing we do is as important as realizing we shape our children’s understanding of the character and nature of God–for better or worse. How we listen, how we respond, what we say and what we do offers a blueprint. Could there possibly be a more sobering thought? Each inattentive moment where we’re watching the football game on the screen across the room, or checking or email on our phone, or wishing they would stop their incessant babbling defines God a bit more clearly for our child.

The things we buy them, or the vacations we plan for our children are important. But they pale in comparison to the image of what a father is like; an image which we define little by little, day by day. It is the most important job we will ever have. I ask that you pray over this truth. Talk about it with the Lord. Ask Him to help you become His ambassador and represent His nature and character accurately in the lives of the little ones around you. Even if you didn’t grow up with a good example in your own natural father, the Lord can help you become the kind of father who helps your children know the nature of their heavenly Father.

Steve Lambert

“You’re not as fun as my friend’s mom.”

“Mama, it seems like my friend’s mom is more fun than you,” my daughter openly announced to me a few years ago.  I don’t even remember my response to her, but I know I was defensive about it whatever the words were.  It was a defining moment for me in my journey of motherhood.  One that made me stop and ask myself, “Am I not a fun mom?  Do I not laugh enough with my daughters?”  I was afraid of the answers to those questions!  After taking a good look back at my attitude during the days preceding my daughter’s comment, I realized something about myself.  I had been so caught up in my daily tasks… homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, bookkeeping, disciplining children, teaching music lessons, and on and on…. that I had forgotten to have fun!

not-fun-mom

Discouraged and faced with something new to worry about, I confided in my husband, telling him that our daughter felt like her mom wasn’t any fun.  (Well, that’s not exactly what she said, but it felt like it!)  So, being the “fixer” that he is, he asked me, “What do you do that’s fun for you?”  Ummmm…. you mean besides sleeping or does that count?  So, I had to think a minute.  Surely there was something I did for fun.

Then I thought of all the cool things I USED to do like playing my flute, scrapbooking, jewelry making.  Those hobbies certainly brought me joy when my girls were little but the busier of a mom I became, it just felt like more effort to take time for those things.  At the end of a full day of homeschooling and working for my husband’s business, the most fun thing I could think of was collapsing on the couch and watching a movie or sleeping, (or sleeping during a movie!).

Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”  I don’t know about you but I want my children to see my cheerful face, and I’m not just talking about putting on a fake smile.  I want my face to shine with a genuine smile that represents my truly happy heart.  If we want to display a happy heart to our children, we definitely need to make room for FUN in our busy lives.  What do I do that’s fun for me?  I’m still trying to answer that question.  I think it’s in the little things right now.  Waking up to a creamy cinnamon latte made by my husband – That’s fun.  Listening to  Louis Armstrong on my record player while I fold laundry – That’s fun (well maybe not the laundry part!).  Laughing at my husband’s jokes when nobody else does – That’s fun.  Watching my girls grow and develop into such beautiful beings who love the Lord- that definitely makes my heart happy! :)

Pay attention to those little blessings in your life.  Ask God to make you more aware of whatever it is that gives you a happy heart.  If you find yourself bored with your routine or stressed that you can’t get it all done, take a mommy break…even a 5 minute one where you sit and have a cup of tea or coffee and read a book/magazine.  Go outside and listen to the birds.  They always have something to sing about.  Listen to your favorite music while you’re doing a mundane task- it will make it way more enjoyable.  Whatever you do, just don’t forget to have FUN!!

What do you do that you find fun? We can all probably use your ideas!

Will the Parents Who Have Never Lost Sight of Their Child Please Stand Up?

Will the parents who have never lost sight of their child please stand up?

In yet another example of our culture gone bezerk, over 236,000 people have signed a petition calling for “Justice for Harambe,” the gorilla that was shot and killed after a four-year old boy fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.  

Go home, “Change.org.” You’re drunk.

Can any mother reading this REALLY tell me she has never lost sight of her child? Even for moment?

As a mother of seven I can assure you, children can be with you one minute and vanish the next. I think I’m a pretty good mom. BUT. I have “lost” my kids in Legoland, Disneyland, WalMart, church and even in my own home. (This happened in 1998. Turned out the child was up on the roof with her two year old sister in tow.) I know. You’re mad. Don’t worry. Happily, I know where my kids are at the moment of this blog post. You might be surprised to learn that three of my children have survived to adulthood. So far, the therapy bills aren’t too bad. Time will tell.

My point? I don’t think I’m the only parent who has felt the heart-stopping, sheer terror that comes from losing track of a child. Be careful when you judge the mothering of this woman. This was an accident. A horrible accident but an accident nonetheless. The zoo did the right thing. What would we all be saying right now if they had hesitated and the child was killed? What would the headlines be then?

The loss of the gorilla’s life is tragic—but in this upside-down world, we seem to be placing a higher value on the life of an animal than we do on our own children. We want to judge the zoo and the mother for taking the life of the gorilla—nevermind that it was necessary to save the life of the child.

But we don’t care about the child, do we? Not really.

125,000 human beings are murdered EVERY DAY through abortion, with a negligible number of people speaking on their behalf, but a gorilla is killed to protect the life of a child, and 236,000 people rush to his defense. All I can do is sit here and shake my head.

21% of all US pregnancies end in abortion. One gorilla is killed to protect a child and we want to crucify the parents instead of being grateful that the boy is not dead or terribly injured.

Sad situation indeed, but I feel for the parents who are being judged so harshly. 

We’ve got a huuuuuge priority problem in this nation. It’s time we talked about THAT.

Heidi St John Homeschooling Guide to Daylight

Schedule a Moment to Wonder

Up until 75 years ago most Americans lived in close contact with nature on a daily basis. Far more of us lived in rural communities, farming and raising livestock. We spent our evenings outdoors watching the sunset, listening to crickets and marveling at fireflies. But today we’re tethered to our electronics morning, noon and night. And for most of us, our children are leading the way into the all-consuming world of digital living. For most Christians, Romans 1:18-32 is a familiar text. In the midst of a world that seems to be collapsing morally a little more each day we rush through verses 18-21 in our headlong dash to verses 22-32 which offer insight into what’s happening to our culture.

moment-wonder

But I want to draw your attention instead to verse 18-21. I want you read those verses several times, linger there for a moment and allow Paul’s words to sink in. He suggests that if we take the time to look around at God’s creation, we can’t help but see the Creator behind such magnificent beauty. If we take a look at pelicans and peacocks, elephants and eels, giraffes and gorillas our hearts have to pause in wonder. As we gaze up from a rural hillside at the myriad of stars overhead far from the light pollution of the city we can’t help but be amazed at God’s creation.

When Jane and I began homeschooling more than 35 years ago, she would often take the girls to the park or woods or to a nearby lake or stream for the day. They would read there, do their math, work on art, write poetry, develop their nature journal there and more. Set within the context of God’s creation the subject of His creativity and His plan for our lives was almost unavoidable.

Today with online learning, Chromebooks and Ipods, Ipads and Iphones, Google and cable television our children see almost exclusively what man has made–and often the very worst of what man has made at that. Rarely do they see what God has made.

I want to encourage you to get outside as often as possible. Dress warmly and go for a walk on a snowy day. Go to the beach or walk in the woods. Take family camping trips on the weekend or just go out in the backyard to do schoolwork. Perhaps no other emotion is more helpful for young minds than wonder. Let them be awed by an ant colony or a beehive or 10,000 acorns falling from a tree that may someday become mighty oaks. Let them watch birds or fish or butterflies and allow the awe and wonder to soak into their souls.

You’ll be amazed at how much learning goes on in that environment: science, Bible, history, art, poetry, literature and more. Linger in God’s magnificent creation at least once or twice each week and see how your homeschool experience begins to change. Watch as your children begin to grow spiritual eyes that can see the Creator who lurks behind the Creation.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.” Romans 1:20a

Ask the Lord to open the eyes, mind and heart of your children and then let them soak in His creation. The results will amaze you.

See more articles from Jane Lambert on Nature Study and how to use the Five in a Row Nature Studies in your family.

One Tough Mother

If you’ve been a mom for more than 10 seconds, you know it’s not for the faint hearted.  As I scroll through social media and the internet I see numerous posts (many of  them very good) about how hard it is to be a mom, but I find myself wondering if this is actually helpful all of the time.

I’ve been a mom for over 25 years (we have eight kids), so when I started this gig there wasn’t internet or social media.  Often that meant we learned the hard way, but we learned as we walked the journey out in our own homes…without the world looking on or hearing much about it.

tough-mom

The internet and social media can be a great way for moms to connect, especially when it’s impossible to get out with the kids. We can find helpful information and encouragement to better equip us for motherhood and we are reminded that we are not alone.  But for most of us, it typically doesn’t stop there.  It can quickly become a distraction and keep us from engaging in the real battle that is going on.  The battle for our kids’ souls.

Our two oldest daughters are married with children of their own.  They have told me how hard it can be to get their own unique groove in motherhood alongside Pinterest, Facebook, blogs, etc.  We are inundated with more information than we really need to be a good mom.

While we are fretting over whether or not our kids are “keeping up” developmentally with other kids their age, we are losing the opportunity to be praying over their souls, asking God what HE has for their lives.   We sacrifice the chance we have to savor these moments of this specific season of their childhoods.  Instead of embracing what is…we are constantly grasping for what “should be” based on how others are living or we THINK they are living.

YES, it can be hard. Really.Hard. But can I just say it?  We aren’t the first generation to experience motherhood and the struggles that come with it.  For thousands of years, moms have been having babies and growing them to adulthood.  They have experienced the joys and sorrows that we are feeling and they lived to tell about it.  The real question is HOW are we going to walk this journey?  Are we going to feel sorry for ourselves over every struggle, trial and pain? It’s a temptation I have faced a thousand times over and often given in to.  It never ended well.

Motherhood involves a lot of grit and perseverance, but not necessarily in the ways that are often portrayed on the internet.  Being a good mom requires a certain amount of toughness.  These days, that toughness means that we have to be willing to forge ahead based on what GOD is revealing to us and stand against the strong cultural tides that are undermining God’s good plan for  our families.  It means that we have to tune out the other voices and tune into what God is whispering in our hearts concerning our children.  We have to be warriors…women who aren’t afraid to be the mom God has called us to be.  We have to be one tough mother.

When the kids were young and I had to do so much for them, the physical exhaustion was real.  Having teens in the house is a another season of exhaustion, but a different kind. It’s more emotional and mental.  I get a little less frustrated now with the sometimes monumental task of parenting.  I am slowly toughening up and realizing that all of these struggles are part of the parenting package, not a personal affront toward me.

In this culture of being easily offended, we can quickly slip into becoming resentful over the work it takes to be a good parent.  This is not God’s heart for the family.  He has so much more for us and we need to pay attention to His ways because, although sometimes hard, they are good.

I am all for validation, friends and hugs for moms who are in the trenches everyday, but as someone said, “It’s okay to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and LIVE there.”  My concern is that going over and over and over every little nuance of motherhood, can quite often end up as a distraction and temptation toward self pity.  There is so much about motherhood that takes grit and perseverance and I can’t help but wonder if changing our thinking toward letting it make us stronger would be more helpful.

Here’s the thing:  Our kids will probably experience a world we never dreamed of, one where they will most likely be persecuted in some way for living out their faith.

Moms, we need to GIRD UP!! Our kids are watching and taking their cues from us.  What are we telling them by how we are living our lives?   Are we telling them to quit if something is too hard?   Are we exampling a weak, anemic faith or a robust, durable, sturdy, rugged, solid, long lasting faith?

Don’t let the culture keep you from being the mom has called you to be. Grow in your faith and walk it out in front of your kids. Train them up in HIS ways.  Let them KNOW that our God is almighty, sovereign, powerful and REAL!!  Be one tough mother.

How to Shape Music Desires While Kids Are Young

How to shape music desires while kids are young.

“I’ll be the angel by your side, I will get you through the night.  I’ll be the strength you can’t provide on your own.  ‘Cause when you’re down and out of time, and you think you’ve lost the fight, let me be the angel.  The angel by your side.”  These are the sweet lyrics that I heard my little angel, Anelysse, singing as she was listening to Francesca Battistelli.  Each time I hear one of my three daughters singing lyrics to their favorite songs, I find such joy in knowing that the words they are communicating are good and honorable to God.

About 4 years ago when my girls were 9, 6, and 5, my oldest daughter was developing her love for music.  She was just beginning to show interest in the popular music her friends were listening to.  I figured that if she was going to be learning secular songs and singing them word for word, I better approve the content!  So, I looked up lyrics to some of the songs.  (I won’t give you names of songs or artists because I don’t want this to be a condemnation of secular music.)  Well, let’s just say that some of the words were not ones I would like my daughters repeating over and over again.  We live in a world where our daughters seem to be growing up way too fast, and I feel that the messages within certain secular songs (not all) definitely contribute to that.

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Realizing that my daughter needed a substitute for the music she was desiring to listen to, I began my search for popular Christian artists that would appeal to her.  It wasn’t long before I discovered some fabulous songs that I just knew my girls would LOVE!  Thrilled with my results, I immediately ordered CDs by:  Britt Nicole, Dara Maclean, Moriah Peters, Jamie Grace, and Francesca Batistelli.  I gave each of my daughters the CDs for Christmas and just as I hoped, they instantly fell in love with the music!!  Lauren Dagle is another favorite.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

I really take this scripture to heart and desire it not only for my own life, but for my precious daughters’ lives as well.  That’s why my quest for honorable music was so important.  I knew that if they had a love for music like their parents do, it needed to have a message that focused their thoughts on something true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good, excellent, and WORTHY OF PRAISE!

I’m not saying that they are never allowed to listen to secular music.  They occasionally hear my husband’s favorite classic rock tunes or my old Louis Armstrong records that I like to listen to, and my youngest daughter has discovered that she likes ELVIS!  But when my girls are rocking out to their favorite music and singing the songs over and over again, my desire is for the words coming out of their mouths to be pleasing to the Lord.  Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”    There’s power in our words, even in the songs we choose to sing.  Let our words be LOVELY and of GOOD REPUTE.  HONORABLE to GOD!!

So, I encourage you, mamas.  Take time to learn some of the lyrics to the music your kids are listening to.  If you don’t approve, have a conversation with them about music and the power of words. When you hear songs that aren’t honoring to God, take the opportunity to talk about them and the worldview they communicate and whether that measures up to Biblical truth.  The younger your kids are, the better.  Turn them on to honorable music during their elementary years so that when they are teens, they choose music that is pleasing to God!

A Powerful Partnership

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.”
Psalm 127:4

 

warriors (2 of 13)

 

This is one of my favorite verses from the book of Psalms.  I’ve learned that whenever I see imagery used in Scripture, it’s time to pay close attention. God has something very important for me to take away from that image.

warriors (10 of 13)

7 St. John arrows; six in the quiver and one in the bow

The Bible is replete with images and verses which tell us that we are engaged in a battle: a very real battle with very real consequences.  We’re in a spiritual battle. In Ephesians we read,

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

The imagery here is a powerful reminder of a beautiful relationship.  God gives children to us as “arrows” in the hands of a warrior.  That makes you a warrior, busy mom!  And you’re not just a run-of-the-mill warrior, either—you are an archer.  You’re in the arrow-launching business!

I love the imagery of this sculpture.  It was made for me by the son of dear friends, and it illustrates the way we should see ourselves as parents: we’re launching our arrows for the Kingdom, aren’t we?  Notice the way this couple is engaged in battle: the husband, in front of his wife, protecting her and shielding her from enemy arrows.

His wife is not standing by passively, is she?  No—because she is part of a team with her husband; a dynamic duo, if you will, for the Kingdom!  This woman is launching her arrows out into the world under the protection and covering of her shield-weilding husband.  What a powerful image!

warriors (6 of 13)

So how do we launch our arrows?

It helps to remember three key things:

  1.  Our children have been given to us as gifts—as arrows in the hands of a warrior. It is our job to tenderly train and teach them to walk with the Lord.  Ephesians 6 – “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
  2. We are in is a spiritual battle. We can’t lose sight of this fact. When we do,we forget who the real enemy is.  Our kids are not the enemy. Our husband is not the enemy.  Satan is the enemy.  And one of his prime targets is Christian families.  Gird up!  Be ready. Protect your marriage. Protect your family.
  3. A good marriage is a partnership—a dynamic duo for the Kingdom!  The goal of Christian parenting is best achieved inside this amazing partnership.  This means that nurturing our marriages is of primary importance! It’s not secondary to raising children—it’s essential to it.

kissing

Seeing or marriages in light of eternity is a vision-sharpening experience, isn’t it?

Are your ready to launch your arrows?

Gird up,
signature-heidi

Heidi St John Guide to Romance