We live in a self-centered culture—but love requires that we focus our gaze away from ourselves and fix it far into the future. What kind of fruit do you want to see in the months that are ahead of you? Invest now. Love your family well. We are our children’s first introduction to how God sees them. Slow down and fix your eyes on what really matters. Good things are coming!
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- Genesis 15:4-6
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Hey, everybody. This is Heidi St. John, giving a little shout out to all the moms and dads who are listening today who have lost their Christmas spirit. If that’s you, we’re going to talk a little bit about it today. Stick around. I think you’re going to be encouraged.
Today is a great day to talk about all the stuff that’s happening in the culture, particularly as it relates to mothers and fathers in the middle of the Christmas season. Thanks for listening today everybody. My name is Heidi St. John. This is Wednesday, December 4th. It’s episode number 853 and I’m so glad you guys have joined me.
I’m going to take a little bit of time today, we’re going to talk about shepherding, and particularly shepherding as it relates to our children and what God’s word says about it. But I wanted to start off by just reminding you— because as we come into this Christmas season, and I’m already getting letters from you guys that you feel overwhelmed, that you don’t know how to juggle it all, that you feel out of sorts, and out of place, and kind of off your schedule a little bit.
I want to remind you of what God says about you and what he says about your children. In Isaiah 43 verse four it says, “Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored and I love you.” And if you’ve ever had a moment when you wondered if there was something else, something more important that you could be doing instead of shepherding and raising these children that are seeming so ungrateful, they not saying thank you, they’re making you tired. “You’re getting up early and you’re working late,” as George Bush used to say, “working weekends, Saturdays”, you’re not alone.
The culture today has devalued the role of raising children in more ways than one, and I think we have quietly relinquished our rights and responsibility to be not only the primary influence in the lives of our children, no matter how innocently we’ve done this, all right, we have done it, we’ve yielded it to youth pastors and school teachers. And I wonder what the message is that we’re sending. You guys, raising children is a precious responsibility, and I’m here to remind you today that the window that we have to influence our children closes quickly.
I want to ask you, what are you doing with these years? What are you doing you do with the Christmas season? You only have 18 Christmases to celebrate with your kids. Well, 18 when they’re not going off, and going their separate directions. One of our oldest children decided to take off for seven weeks with a friend and went to Europe, and there goes my Christmas, and my Thanksgiving. You guys, it goes by really fast! And are we grumpy? Are we yelling at each other while we’re putting up the Christmas lights? I’m not saying it has to be perfect. This is not about Pinterest. This is about making sure that before we turn into the Grinch, before we get grumpy, that we remember what this whole thing is about and not trade it for anything and certainly not give it away.
If you guys have forgotten, even for a moment, how precious your role is and the fact that you are making memories for your children, training them in righteousness. I just want to look to God’s word for a change in perspective. In Isaiah 43, which I just read to you, the prophet makes a reference to others who were given in exchange for quote, “Their lives.” So who were the others? Well, most Bible scholars believe it’s a reference to the Egyptians. You see, God seems to be trying to get through to the Israelites, who by the way, had a tendency to forget that God had ransomed them and saved them from a life of slavery and servitude to the Egyptians. Because of his love, God would go to great lengths for the people that he chose as his own and it was like he was saying, “Look, you guys. I gave up the Egyptians and I’m ready to give up others, too, if it becomes necessary. That’s how much I love you.” I sometimes wonder if our own kids see that kind of extravagant love when we speak to them.
We are supposed to be reflecting the love of God to our children and it’s so funny to me that in the Christmas season when we’re supposed to be reflecting on it more than any other time of the year, we often get caught up with family drama, moment of silence. We feel pressured because of Christmas lists, and Christmas cards, and baking, and all that stuff that we forget that this should be the time of year when we are extravagantly loving each other. God is full of love for us, isn’t he? He has gone to extravagant lengths, even in his own son’s death on the cross, it was to ransom and redeem us. You guys, love God’s love wasn’t just words either. When he says he honors you, he shows it. When God says, I love you, you can count on it being backed up by actions. What are we doing for our kids today?
My question to you guys today, and I’m going to hopefully have time for a question from a mama, I think will tie into this, is do your children know how precious they are to you? Do our kids know how precious they are? Are we ready to give up whatever God asks us to give up for our family to flourish and grow strong in Christ? Sometimes we find we’re in a season of real sacrifices, we say no to things. In another season of life, we might say yes, right. But over time, those small decisions to prioritize our children are going to yield huge dividends.
And you guys, this isn’t about presents. It’s really not. I had to laugh the other day. We were talking with our kids and we were saying the most wonderful time of the year, often when my kids were very little, found me being very much of a Grinch. I was staying up late and cleaning the kitchen because we made popcorn balls, or whatever else we did. If I’m tired enough, I lost my cool and I’m slamming the dishes in the sink. “Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do,” just like—I am the Grinch.
I want to just encourage us, myself included, to love our families well this season and to love others, but love requires sacrifice. We live in a self-centered culture and love requires us to look beyond the temporary goal of more presents, or bigger Christmas tree, or a bigger house, and instead focus our gaze far ahead into the future because we’re making daily choices right now, hopefully for the good of our children and for our family. If our ultimate aim is to grow to be more like Christ, we got to do it in every area of our lives, starting with our marriages and our children.
So yeah, we might trade some things in this season of life to make room for it, make room in our hearts, and on our calendar, for training hearts, and I’m telling you guys, when you trade the things that are good for things that are better and things that are best, I promise you the trade will be worth it. Nothing that’s precious in this life comes without a sacrifice. Nothing, not a single thing. Ask God, He knows. God is the ultimate sacrifice. He knows what sacrifice looks like. He gave his son Jesus. And so as we enter into this precious time of year, as we get closer and closer to… I know you guys are busy, I know you got Christmas concerts, and you got plays, and you got cookie exchanges, you got all the things.
Listen, if it’s going to turn you into the grump and your kids don’t know how precious they are to you and they don’t know how precious they are to the Lord—can I just say it might be time to take some things off your calendar. Take a step back and say, “How can I show my children how precious they are to me?” Because we are our child’s first introduction to how God sees them, to the precious nature that God sees in each one of us that he was willing to sacrifice his son. He was willing to sacrifice His son.
A little bit of encouragement today because I’m going to get to a question from a listener and she has a great question. I know a lot of you are kind of feeling it today, so let’s just look at it from that perspective as we sort of move into this.
She says, “Heidi, thank you for your podcast. I recently found it and have been very blessed by it.” Well, thank you so much. She says, “I’m wondering if you have any wisdom for me. I’m struggling with disciplining my son, who’s almost three years old. I have tried putting him in timeout, as well as taking toys away from him when he needs to be disciplined.” She says, “Spanking is not an option as I live in a country where it’s illegal.” Well, that’s unfortunate. “Sometimes this works well, but many times he gets furious. He just starts screaming like crazy and it’s like fire in his eyes. I feel at that moment, I can’t really control his emotions. Many times I feel like I’m the one who’s provoking him to anger as I discipline him, even when I myself remain calm and explain to him why he is getting disciplined. It says in the Bible not to provoke your children, but how do I discipline him and bring him up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord in a good way without provoking him to anger?”
Okay, so couple of things. First of all, I actually love that you’ve asked this question. The fact that you see that your child is struggling with anger lets me know that you are probably listening to the Holy Spirit. So most of the time when I see people provoking their kids to anger, they don’t know that they’re doing it, and you know that you’re doing it, and so my hunch is it’s probably not you. It sounds to me like you need to find the currency that your child deals in, right? The Bible instructs us to tender parenting, right. Isaiah 40:11, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his wisdom and gently lead those who are with young.” To me, it’s really important that we parent our children the way, God, the heavenly father, parents us. But sometimes, God disciplines us and sometimes that discipline is not very pleasant. In fact, the Bible says that right?
In Proverbs 19:18 it says, “Discipline your children while there is hope, otherwise you’ll ruin their lives.” This was a verse that I actually put on my mirror for a long time. Did you guys catch that? I’m going to read it to you again. Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your children while there is hope, otherwise you will ruin their lives.” Have you guys ever been around a kid who wasn’t disciplined? It isn’t very fun. We are called to discipline our children to raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
My husband and I have been raising seven children for almost 30 years and I can tell you right now that what worked with one child, didn’t always work with another child. One of my kids in particular, I’m telling you what you guys, everything that had worked with the other kids didn’t work with this particular child. If I said, “Stand up,” this child would sit down. If I said, “Go,” this child would stop. If I said, “The sky was blue,” then I was told, “No, it’s not blue, it’s green.”
I’m telling you what, nothing worked and this child had anger issues. I would carry out a disciplinary measure, and I was met with tantruming and screaming. I remember one time just going to the Lord and saying, “Father, I don’t know what I’m doing.” Kind of like Jehoshaphat, right. When Jehosaphat’s surrounded by the armies, the Moabites and the Ammonites, and they’re all coming after him. The Bible says, “That he looks to the Lord and he said, father, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you.”
And so mama, I want to encourage you, that’s the place to start. And dad, who’s listening to this— if you have a child who’s not responding to discipline, then you need to ask the Lord for a correct disciplinary measure that will actually get to the child, to the heart of the child, because that’s really what we want. We want to get to the heart of the child. We don’t discipline for the sake of disciplining. You don’t put your child in timeout so that you can have five minutes of peace. Well, okay, maybe we do that, but that’s not the point, right. That’s not what we want to be doing. We want to discipline our children to get to their heart, to change the behavior, to ultimately change the heart, right.
I asked the Lord specifically, and I remember this very clearly because I was so frustrated with how this child was not responding to my discipline. And the Lord said, “You are not speaking in the correct language.” I wasn’t dealing in the currency that this particular child needed to have dealt in. In other words, I was using the same currency for this child that I had used with my other children and it wasn’t working. I was like, “Lord, show me.” Well, the Lord did show me. And the thing that really ended up working, it wasn’t spanking, right, which I had spanked my other kids. I actually believe in spanking. Why? Because the Bible tells us that that’s not a bad form of discipline, but I will say this, it doesn’t work for every child. And it didn’t work for this child. I mean, I would administer a spanking and the look I would get in return was, “Is that all you got?” Right, and so I was like, “Okay, that’s not working.”
I have another child who I would give a swat on the bottom and immediately, like she was just devastated. But that’s not how it’s been with all of our kids, and so I asked the Lord to really help me find the currency that the method would reach the heart of the child, and that’s really what you want. For this child, it ended up being, for whatever reason, the timeout thing, I would say, “Hey, we’re all going to sit down and we’re going to play a game and have some hot chocolate, but you’re not because you’re not obeying mama and you’re going to have to sit there today.”
The fact that this child was left out of that was just devastating, and it started to produce the change that I needed, but that came from the Lord, and it came after weeks and maybe even months of me just exasperated in my training and discipline. So go before the Lord, take Jehosaphat’s cue and go to the Lord and say, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are unto you. Show me how to reach the heart of this child because that’s really what this is all about.”
Okay. The second part of her question says, “Also, how do you encourage young children, two to four year olds to do chores, easy ones like emptying silverware, et cetera, and making their bed? But when they’re not into it, they keep saying things like, “I’m so tired.” How do you stay positive and encouraging without getting frustrated or starting to threaten?”
All right, so mama, can I just say, welcome. This is the gig. You have just described like so many other listeners who write to me, you’ve just described motherhood. This is how it is. And you’re talking about a two to four year old who won’t do chores. I could tell you stories of 14 and 16 year olds who said, “I’m so tired.” It’s the same thing, and so our response as mothers is to be like, “Lord, help me stay positive. Help me not be angry. Help me not be bitter,” right? And so again, it’s going back to the Lord and saying, “Lord, how should I handle this child?”
Let’s talk about chores for just a second. I’m a huge fan of chores. I’ve written about this ad nauseam on my blog. So if you Google chore chart, Heidi St. John. Also, if you want to get my book, The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight, lots and lots of great information in there about everything from chore charts to planning menus, just anything to help you run your house in a more organized, more efficient way. As somebody who has raised seven children, I can tell you right now, it’s an invaluable book for you to have in your home. I’ll link back to it in the show notes today, but I think that children starting at about two years old, can absolutely help with chores around the house.
The reason we want them to start at two to four years old is because we’re trying to build a sense of community for our family. Like it’s an ethos of the family,.So how do we let our little two year old know that she, or he, is a valuable part of our home? We say, “You know what, sweetheart, I really could use your help. Could you take this little pile of dirty dish rags up to the laundry room? Could you help mama by unloading the dishwasher?” They’re learning not only to unload the dishwasher, they’re sorting, right. There’s so many things they’re learning. Little ones, you can give them a dust rag and have them dust the baseboards around the dining room table or whatever it is.
You’re letting them know, “Wow, you’re a valuable part of this house and I’m so glad that you’re here and thank you so much for helping.” When they don’t help and when you give a child a chore to do, and you know that it’s within their skillset to be able to do it, and you know that you haven’t asked too much, it also allows you to get to the heart of that child because you can see very quickly a child whose like, “No, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do that,” and throws a fit, you got some character work to do. Now it’s an issue of more than just teaching them to help you around the house. Now you’re training a heart. Now you’re trying to get a response from them that is going to be a godly and is going to help you in the weeks and months to come.
I would say that it’s probably just as important, in fact, it’s probably more important when your child says, “I’m too tired.” Sometimes I’ll say to my kids, “You know what, I know you’re tired. I’m tired, too. In fact, I’m often tired when I’m making dinner for you guys. Or, I’m often very tired when I have to get up and remember, oh, I forgot to let the dog out, or I forgot to lock the front door.” Whatever it is, it’s good for your children to remember that the Bible has a lot to say about obeying parents, right, and this is something that we’re not teaching very much in the church today, but we sure need to get back to it— Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and your mother, which is the first commandment with a promise.
God wants us to train our children in obedience. We are called to train our children to obey, and we do that to let them know that they are responsible for the Lord to first obey their parents and in so doing, they’re also obeying the Lord. We want to do this with kindness. The Bible has a lot to say about not exasperating our children, right. We don’t want to make our children angry. We don’t pick at our children to make them angry. That says a lot about us when we do that. Every single one of us, including myself. I have had moments when I have said things to my children, flown off the handle, gotten so angry because I was tired, or I had a long day, or I’d gone over the same thing over and over again, and it wasn’t working, or they weren’t listening, or whatever.
There had been occasions where I open my mouth and said something and thought, “I cannot believe that I just said that.” Then, of course, you got to go back to your kids and you got to say, “I am so sorry, I was wrong. That was wrong.” But the Bible gives you, mom and dad, the responsibility for training your children. It’s not the job of your pastor, certainly not your youth pastor, or a school, or anybody else, it’s your decision. It’s the parent’s responsibility, right, to teach their children God’s standards, and we do it from the time they’re very little. We can involve grandparents, we can involve other family members, we can involve our pastor, but ultimately, that responsibility is yours, and you guys, it takes time.
Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go when he’s old, he will not depart from it.” All right, Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide these truths from our children. We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders.” Sometimes we do that when we’re working around the house, sometimes we do it when we’re raking up leaves in the backyard. I was having a really great training session with a couple of my younger daughters last week. I was out with a power washer trying to wash an outbuilding, and I’m the girl who when I’m trying to relax, I get out the power washer— it just makes me feel so good.
I had a couple of grumpy girls that didn’t want to go out there and I was like, “Hey, sorry you guys don’t like it. This is what we’re doing today.” We can train them up, and as you see bad attitudes, we massage those attitudes, we pray over him, and we discipline our children. The Bible teaches that that discipline is what helps bring children to maturity. We are not raising children, we are raising godly adults. You can do that without pushing your children to frustration. That’s Ephesians 6:4 “We don’t exasperate our children. Instead, we discipline them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
If you want to find out what happens when we don’t correct our children, I’ll link back to the show notes today, but read 1 Kings 1:5-6 “The result of parents who do not discipline their children are nothing short of devastating.” Remember to walk in obedience to the Lord, teach your children how to do the same. It is exhausting. It can be exasperating, but it’s completely worth it. Your kids need to know, in the process of all of this, even when you mess up, go back and make it right. Tell your children, “You are precious to me. You’re precious to me.”
All right, speaking of precious, you guys are precious to me. Thank you so much for listening to the show today. I have been encouraged to see you growing in the Lord. So many of you come and study God’s word with me every week at MomStrong International. Today is the day I’m video teaching over at MomStrong International, and I just want to say I’m loving watching how you’re growing in the Lord, and I hope that you’re taking advantage of the section called KidStrong every week. It is our heart to help you as you learn the things of the Lord, to pass them to your children, to also train them in righteousness.
For more information about MomStrong International and my ministry to mothers, check it out at momsstronginternational.com. It’s a great time of year for you guys to support this ministry. We are listener-supported here at the podcast and we would love to have you either sign up as a member of MomStrong International, you can purchase. This is a great time to purchase the Speak Life Necklace from the store, or some of the awesome MomStrong International gear, or the #offthebench gear, and all that sits in the store, and we hope that you will take a look at those things and consider how you can come alongside us in partners in ministry as we get the message of the hope of Jesus out to a new generation.
We love you guys. Have a fantastic Wednesday, and I will see you back here on Friday, unless of course, you’re at Godspeed Calvary Chapel, in which case I will see you at a Christmas tea. Have a great day everybody. I’ll see you on Friday.
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Heidi St. John
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