***I Believe in Santa Claus***
Who does this describe?
- A bearded, good-hearted man
- A generous man who is well-known for giving to others
- A gentle man who is often pictured welcoming smiling children
- A man who, it is said, “sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good…”
- A man we believe in without ever having to see
- A man with amazing, awe-inspiring ‘magical’ powers
If you answered ‘Santa Claus,’ you’re right! If you answered ‘Jesus,’ you’re right, too! The parallels are striking, aren’t they? And with good reason…
One is the symbol of the Christmas season. The other is the reason for it. One is the parable. The other is the reality.
“I, like many new parents, struggled with the idea of perpetuating a ‘false belief’ and thus undermining my children’s trust. But then I turned to the Bible and saw how Jesus, who spoke absolute truth always, often spoke that truth in parables. He knew something about people’s hearts that I needed to learn as a young parent. He knew that the human mind is logic, analysis, reason, and that the human heart is imagination, creativity, love. He knew that sometimes you have to bypass people’s minds and speak straight to their hearts, those well-springs of wonder, for true understanding to occur and that often the deepest truths are the ones that are too big for the human mind to receive and can only be grasped by the heart.” [The Great Santa Claus Debate]
Flights of fantasy, wonder, and awe are vehicles through which all of us, not only children, can grasp the inexplicable, understand the unimaginable, embrace the extraordinary.
I want my children to dance with excitement as the Christmas season begins with the ringing sound of carols and the glitter of decorations filling our home. I want them to wonder and imagine as we read Christmas stories and watch Christmas classics together under warm blankets with bowls of buttery popcorn and piping hot mugs of hot cocoa. I want them to gasp in awe at the brilliant abundance of presents under the Christmas tree as we gather on Christmas morning and sing ‘Happy Birthday to Jesus’ before the tumble-bumble, joyful chaos of gift opening begins.
I want these things for them so that as they grow up they’ll take these memories of joy and laughter and wonder and awe with them and always be able feel the beauty of the Gift we were given in the Christ Child instead of just having head knowledge of Him.
“I chose the way of the parable. I embraced Christmas in all its glory, decorated and baked and showered my little ones with gifts, all while sharing the story of the birth of a Baby. Woven through every event, every tradition, every memorable moment of our family’s Christmas, is the celebration of the wondrous gift of a Savior. We watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and all the other fun Christmas shows together. We read bedtime stories about Christmas elves and magical toys and talking animals. And when my children ask me if Santa really exists, I tell them “Yes,” because it’s true. Every parent who carries on St. Nicholas’ tradition of leaving secret gifts, of being the heart and hands of Jesus, of sharing the wonder, excitement, and glory of the most extraordinary Gift ever given to mankind, every one of us is Santa Claus.”
I believe in Santa Claus because I am Santa Claus!
That, to me, is the true reason for the season~sharing the truth of the most unimaginable, unattainable, unfathomable Gift ever given, and the way we choose to do that in our family is to celebrate Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas.
How does your family celebrate the holidays?
[Click here for more ideas about how to keep a spirit of giving at the center of your family’s Christmas celebrations. Happy Holidays!]
This video of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing ‘I Believe in Santa Claus’ makes me cry every time I see it.
The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate
Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living
A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood
The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques…Practical Gentle Discipline
Fairy tales in childhood are stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’
Life with kids is messy. Just ask God. He’s got a whole planet of them, and the scrapes they get themselves into are the stuff of legends, literally! Luckily for us, He’s the best. parent. ever.
That’s one of the things I like best about Easter, celebrating the Original Gentle Parent, the Author of Intentional Parenting, Unconditional Love in Person, and I love sharing and implementing what I learn from His example.
I had a perfect opportunity to implement some of that gentle, intentional, unconditional parenting last night when I headed into the kitchen to color Easter eggs with a clingy, tired baby on one hip and an over-excited six-year-old dancing around my legs, only to find a tidal wave of sudsy bubbles exploding from every crevice of my dishwasher and covering my newly cleaned floor. My Renaissance Girl had used dishwashING liquid instead of dishwashER liquid…sigh.
Now, just to set the stage, we have a home church and, in anticipation of the extra family and friends we were expecting for the Easter service, I had spent the entire day cleaning and scrubbing and organizing and still had more cleaning and setting up to do as well as coloring eggs and settling little ones in bed for the night before filling Easter baskets.
So I stood there, staring at the billowing disaster and adding a slew of new tasks to my already too-long list, and winged a quick prayer up to my Role Model. Then I threw down a towel levee, plopped my little people down for a good old bubble romp, and grabbed my camera. Disaster-misaster, what we had was a fun Easter memory in the making!
That Old Rugged Cross on a lonely hill is a testimony to triumph…life conquering death, good conquering evil, hope conquering fear…justice served and grace given. And that Empty Tomb we celebrate isn’t about death. It’s about life…messy, muddled, mysterious, mistake-ridden life, the kind we live every day…even Easter!
An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier. His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life. Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. They are a living love story, two hearts time-stitched into one, beautiful old souls stepping in tandem toward eternity.
Truly, love does have many seasons and faces, each revealing its own power, its own purpose…
Young love shouts from the rooftops and expresses itself in passionate displays. Its flames are brilliant, stoked with newness and fueled with idealism, but at times it burns itself out with its own heat or through lack of care and tending.
Old love whispers quietly, “I’m here. No matter what, I’m always here.” It is a silent glance, a hand clasp, a timeless commitment.
Young love, blind to the rich time-tested tapestry, deaf to the wealth of meaning in quiet companionship, lost to the supple oneness of hearts in accord, often looks at old love and calls it dead.
Old love sometimes looks at young love and smiles with fond remembrance, but ofttimes shakes its head and declares it foolish.
Each has a place in the world, a purpose, a time, and a season.
And then there are the other faces of love…
The exhausted young mother tenderly cradling a brand new life in the early morning hours. The middle-aged man getting up at four o’clock in the morning for another backbreaking day of work to support his family. The teacher spending her meager pay to make sure her students have pencils. The pastor visiting a convicted felon just to play a game of cards. The teenager stopping to help a stranger push their stalled car to the side of the road…
Each speaks love in a different language, but the message is the same…love is alive.
There is another Love, a living, breathing, timeless, endless, lavish, inconceivable, unconditional, sacrificial, unlikely Love. His Name is Love because He is Love. He and I have an old love, a stalwart and enduring love, a time-tested, unraveled and rewoven, wounded and healed, shattered and renewed love.
In the beginning, when I was newly in love with my Love, His passion fueled mine and I was consumed. I flared white-hot and brandished His Name like a sword, intent on conquering the world all on my own and presenting it as a treasure to my Love. I scorned the quiet love of my elders as a burned-out relic, not fit for my King.
Then time passed and life happened. My Love clung to me fiercely through the storms, even as my own grasp weakened and slipped. My Love held me close in the dark and never let go even when I kicked and flailed and railed at Him because I couldn’t see Him through my tears.
And my young love grew into an old love, deep and rich and still. Our old love is a stunning tapestry of life and loss, triumph and tragedy, joy and heartache, woven from the tattered and torn remnants of our young love.
Now, in place of conquering the world, I let Him love the world through me. Instead of proselytizing, evangelizing, and sermonizing for my King, I let His love permeate all I do like the subtle fragrance of rain as it washes clean the earth. Rather than feverishly working to present My Love a treasure, I bask in His presence knowing I am His treasure.
And our beautiful old souls step lightly toward eternity…
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
As a child, I loved to find a little ‘hidey-hole’ and tuck myself away from the big, big world for awhile. Somehow, sitting in a closet quietly singing to a much-loved babydoll, hiding in the leafy bower of an old grandfather oak with my nose in a book, or throwing a blanket over an end-table and crawling under it with a flashlight just made the world a little smaller, a little friendlier, a little less overwhelming. I remember feeling safe. I remember listening to the sound of my breathing, just listening. I remember closing my eyes and daydreaming, the cadence of my breath the only sound in the stillness.
It was there in the stillness, in the wanderings of my imagination, that I processed the brokenness of a broken home, adapted to the subsequent juggling of two homes, coped with the eventual abandonment by a father, and, over time, unlocked my guarded heart to a new father. It was in the smallness, in the microcosm of my own creation, that the big world shrunk down and the chaos receded and life’s mountains became surmountable molehills.
With my own children, I’ve fallen in love anew with the ‘hidey-hole.’ Whether it’s a fort of sofa cushions, a sheet with the ends tied to dining room chairs, a blanket hung over a coffee table, or the tree house built by my amazing hubby, my children’s imaginations take flight. And, as they make clubhouse signs and set about ‘nesting’ in their little corner of the world, their muffled giggles and busy chatter make my heart sing.
I pray that the big, big world out there is kind to my children, that they never know sadness, never taste bitterness, never experience disillusionment. But I know better. I know life can and will challenge and even hurt them. I know people will disappoint and hearts will be broken and dreams will be shattered.
But I also know that in the quiet places God’s still, small voice can be heard whispering comfort. I know that in the simplicity of play the complexity of life can be sorted like puzzle pieces joined to reveal a picture. And I know that in the nooks and niches we carve out for ourselves even as adults, the world seems a little smaller, a little friendlier, and a little less overwhelming.
St.Nicholas was just a man, but he was a man with a mission. Born in the third century, he grew up to be an intensely kind-hearted man who was especially devoted to children’s issues and helping the poor. He was a Greek Bishop who defied the established Church in order to go out among the ‘unwashed masses’ and live his life as the ‘heart and hands of Jesus.’ While many miracles and legends about him evolved through the centuries, his penchant for leaving secret gifts is the one that captured the hearts and imaginations of people world-wide, leading to the present-day legend of Santa Claus.
I, like many new parents, struggled with the idea of perpetuating a ‘false belief’ and thus undermining my children’s trust. But then I turned to the Bible and saw how Jesus, who spoke absolute truth always, often spoke that truth in stories. He knew something about people’s hearts that I needed to learn as a young parent. He knew that the human mind is logic, analysis, reason, and that the human heart is imagination, creativity, love. He knew that sometimes you have to bypass people’s minds and speak straight to their hearts, those well-springs of wonder, for true understanding to occur and that often the deepest truths are the ones that are too big for the human mind to receive and can only be grasped by the heart.
When it comes to the breathtaking gift of the Christ-Child, the Eternal Creator born of a woman, God Himself wrapped in swaddling clothes, the I AM in a manger, what better way to share such an absurd and immense truth than Jesus’ way…with a story? How else would my little ones be able to grasp the concept of such a gift? How would they embrace the wonder? How could I possibly break down the impossible into a pedantic lecture? Would the improbable make more sense in a dissertation?
And so I chose the way of the parable. I embraced Christmas in all its glory, decorated and baked and showered my little ones with gifts, all while sharing the story of the birth of a Baby. Woven through every event, every tradition, every memorable moment of our family’s Christmas, is the celebration of the wondrous gift of a Savior. We watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and all the other fun Christmas shows together. We read bedtime stories about Christmas elves and magical toys and talking animals. And when my children ask me if Santa really exists, I tell them yes, because it’s true. Every parent who carries on St. Nicholas’ tradition of leaving secret gifts, of being the heart and hands of Jesus, of sharing the wonder, excitement, and glory of the most extraordinary Gift ever given to mankind, every one of us is Santa Claus.
I believe in Santa Claus because I am Santa Claus…and you are, too!
Note: I don’t ever use Santa Claus as a threat (i.e. “I’m calling Santa right now if you don’t…” or “Santa’s watching, and you won’t get any presents for Christmas if…”) first because a parable’s purpose is to teach, not to manipulate or control, and second because what I am teaching is the wonder and miracle of receiving a free gift, one that can’t be earned because it is freely given! Manipulating my children into ‘performing’ might work temporarily, but am I really trying to raise works-driven Christians, or am I trying to teach my little people about the incredible gift of grace?
Here are some of the ways we focus on Jesus for Christmas:
Children learn best and most happily through play, so letting my little people ‘play Santa’ (i.e. wrapping up their toys and ’surprising’ each other, making ornaments and delivering them to a nursing home, shopping at the dollar store for Operation Christmas Child, etc.) is a very important part of our Christmas traditions. And the best part is…they’re playing Santa for Jesus!
Leading up to Christmas, we marvel about how Jesus loves us so much He wants us to get presents on His birthday (truly awe-inspiring to children and a lesson in sacrificial giving!) because all He wants for His birthday are smiles and happy hearts.
Then we brainstorm ways to give Jesus as many ‘birthday presents’ as possible (a lesson on generosity). We work together to share Christmas cheer with everyone we meet, but focus our best efforts on the grumpiest people because they don’t smile as often and so their smiles make really special gifts for Jesus (a lesson on unconditional love!).
We have a 12 Days of Christmas tradition where everyone gets a small present (chocolate, a special pencil, etc), and we read Christmas picturebooks every evening, building excitement for the Christmas morning celebration of the BEST GIFT EVER!
On Christmas Eve, we go to a special church service and then, after celebrating Christmas with family, we go home and make a fire in the fireplace (in Florida weather!) and make s’mores and hot chocolate and read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke.
Then, on Christmas morning, we have a ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ party before opening presents, complete with a birthday cake and candles and singing ‘Happy birthday to Jesus!’
Here are some other resources on making the true meaning of Christmas central to your celebrations this year (I’ll be adding more as I find them!):
What traditions does your family have to keep Christ in Christmas? Share them in the comment section!
[Reprinted from Gentle Parenting: A Christian Perspective due to be released in 2014; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
Throughout the Old Testament, He spoke through prophets, dreams, angels, and even a bush! He revealed His character in His commandments and in the Names He called Himself and in His interactions with that lovely, stubborn, chosen nation, Israel.
And, finally, in the New Testament, He just stuck His feet right in the dirt and somehow stuffed His infinite Being into the skin of a human.
GOD. With. Us!
Why in Heaven’s Name would He do that? Well, that’s been the subject of dusty tomes and esoteric debates for centuries, but in truth the answer is very simple: God is a Father, a Daddy who wants to connect with and build a relationship with His children.
In the Old Testament God revealed Himself as a Father who is Creator, Provider, and Protector. He showed Himself to be an involved Father, interested in every detail of His children’s lives, from what they ate to how and where and when they worshiped Him. And He revealed His purity, His incomprehensible Holiness that kept His beloved children hopelessly separated from Him and helpless to change that fact. All the rules for cleansing, all the rituals, and all the formulas, only served to highlight the pitiful fallen state of God’s beloved children.
And that ritualistic, external, temporal cleansing? It became internal and eternal.
Stones once thrown in righteous judgment were laid down in humble mercy. Punishment was replaced with grace as Righteousness Himself stood between sinful man and his dire fate.
And so we have Jesus, God Himself with us in the flesh, God’s heart in a very literal sense laid bare for all the world to see, the perfect Parent to model ourselves after.
We have the Father…not a father, but THE Father…to look to for guidance on how to parent our children.
So, let’s get practical. What does God’s parenting look like, and how can we model ourselves after Him?
Well, Jesus raised twelve children, so let’s take a look at how He did it!
Twelve of God’s children, all with different personalities, backgrounds, and talents, became Jesus’ disciples. The word disciple is the root word in discipline, so to discipline our children means to disciple them.
What characteristics defined Jesus’ discipleship? In other words, how did He treat His disciples? Was He harsh? Did He yell? Did He punish them? Clearly, He had the authority to. But since He came to take our punishment, it really wouldn’t make sense for Him to start meting it out, would it?
Was He distant, unresponsive to their needs? Did He make demands, insist on instant obedience, and toss around kingly commands?
No, no, no, and no! Jesus treated His disciples gently, tenderly. He listened. He responded to their needs, answered their questions, spoke their language. Jesus encouraged and guided and taught His disciples.
He drew them close to Himself, lived with them, ate with them, traveled with them. Jesus didn’t just say He loved His disciples. He didn’t simply feel love for His disciples. Jesus lived love for His disciples. And He lived that love daily, mercifully, sacrificially.
So, what are the characteristics that defined Jesus’ discipleship?
Gentle. Tender. Responsive. Available.
Listening. Encouraging. Teaching. Guiding.
God, Himself, intimately and empathetically connecting with His children.
That is perfect parenting.
I, however, am NOT a perfect parent. In the time it’s taken me to write this so far, I’ve failed at pretty much every single one of those perfect parenting qualities. I only say that to point out that we aren’t shooting for perfection here.
If perfection were possible, the Cross wouldn’t have been necessary.
I have failed and will fail again as a parent. But even my failures have great value because they lead me back to the Cross, time and time again.
My failures remind me to turn to my perfect Parent, God, and trust Him with my children. And my failures offer me the opportunity to be transparent with my children, to ask for forgiveness, to show them it’s okay to be human and make mistakes.
In short, my imperfections are perfect for demonstrating God’s unconditional love. I call this particular parenting ‘technique,’ for want of better wording, “If you mess up, ‘fess up!”
So, what are some ways we can reflect Christ-like qualities in our never-perfect-but-best-effort parenting?
1.) Build your relationship. Everything, absolutely everything in raising children, is dependent upon a secure parent/child relationship, and the foundation is trust. We talk all the time in Christian circles about needing to trust God more. Why? What’s so important about trust? Trust is the secure knowledge that we will be cared for, that the person we are dependant on is who they say they are and will do what they say they will do. Without trust, there is no relationship. You build trust in your children starting from day one by responding faithfully and quickly to their needs, day or night, even if their ‘need’ is simply reassurance that you’re there.
2.) Be there in the moment. This isn’t about quality time or quantity time. This is about actually being with your children when you’re with them. I’m talking about muting the television and making sustained eye contact all the way through the story of how they had the piece of string first and how it was taken by a sibling when they only set it down for a minute and…well, you get the picture. Jesus showed He cared by listening and responding to what was important and relevant to His children.
3.) Encourage, don’t discourage. Jesus built up His disciples, giving positive directions, allowing time and opportunity for them to try, helping when they needed it, and forgiving them when they failed. Never, not once, did He lash out at His disciples in anger. He taught them gently and encouragingly, often in stories that related to their daily lives, and He was always available to discuss or clarify or answer questions.
4.) Practice what you preach. This is foundational, right along with trust. If you don’t live out how you want your children to turn out, you can be pretty much guaranteed they’ll go an entirely different way! Listen to your children if you want them to learn to listen. Respect your children if you want them to learn respect. Model compassion, kindness, honesty, forgiveness, and a grateful spirit if you want your children to grow into adults with those character traits. Jesus lived out every one of those qualities for His children!
5.) Don’t make excuses. If you fail (and you will) apologize! Nothing penetrates hurt more deeply and with more healing power than an honest, open apology.
6.) Give grace. The unconditional love of God is beyond human comprehension. Even ‘veteran’ Christians resort to trying to earn God’s grace when they’ve already been given it freely. We all fall into that trap, time and again, because we just can’t wrap our little human brains around something as awesomely simple as unconditional love. We think it MUST be more complicated, and we end up complicating it by trying to pay for something that is free! So help your children while they’re looking to you, their earthly parent, for an example of how their Heavenly Parent operates. Give them grace. Guide them gently. Forgive them when they fall, and get down on their level to help them back up again.
7.) Enjoy your blessings. Your children are a reward, a blessing, a gift straight from the heart of your Father to you, His precious child. He wants you to feel what He feels, to experience Him through your children. He wants you to delight in your children so you’ll understand how He delights in you. He wants you to feel the depth of concern He feels when you stray into danger, the heights of joy He feels when you run trustingly into His arms, the pangs of compassion He feels when you are hurting or scared. Take the time to enjoy your children, and you will find yourself closer to the heart of your Father than you can possibly imagine!
The world never knew you, but I held you under my heart as long as I could, treasured every kick knowing that was all of your life on earth I would experience, and delivered you into my arms for a moment, into God’s arms for eternity~L.R.Knost
~~~When God says ‘No’ ~~~
I started this with the intention of updating ‘The List’ (below) from my miscarriage/stillbirth blog, which I was able to do, and then I was going to talk about the times God has said ‘No’ to me, the miscarriages, the stillbirth…but I can’t. I can’t go there right now. It’s still too fresh.
So, here, instead is this beautiful memorial butterfly, created by I Am A Mother To An Angel in memory of my stillborn son, Sammy. It links to my miscarriage/stillbirth blog. You can click on it and read about my journey through many, many losses. ‘The List’ is a part of my journey.
I have a list of people I pray for every day, children, adults, even several babies, and they are all fighting for their lives. Some of them, a precious five year old little girl, a sweet mom with breast cancer, an infant with spinal cancer, and another baby with a rare brain disorder, lost their fight for life. My heart is broken for their hurting families. I can’t imagine what they must be going through. I don’t even want to try. Others are just starting their fight, like a seventeen-year-old boy, seemingly healthy and strong, who just went in one week for a routine sport’s physical…a mass was found…brain surgery followed quickly…pathology reports came back…cancer. Another is a friend waiting for a kidney transplant. And then there are is the newborn baby boy born with half a heart, the one-year-old who recently had a liver transplant, the four-year-old boy whose body is riddled with tumors, and so, so many more. My thoughts, prayers, and hopes are never far from these small people and their heroic families.
For my part, the struggles and losses these families are enduring press themselves deeply into my soul. I am in a constant battle with fear. I am all too familiar with how fragile life is and how suddenly life can change. I am filled with joy at the blessings God has given me, but my joy is often stolen by fear. My heart waits for the next bad thing to happen, always secretly wondering what will be taken from me next. I know God doesn’t want me to live that way. In First John 4:18 God says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Since God Himself is ‘Perfect Love’ He is saying that trusting Him is the key to overcoming fear. I know in my head that this is true, but it is my heart that keeps me awake in the darkness, locked in a battle with fear. God gives, and God does take away. I need to be at peace with that, trusting my Father’s perfect will. But I am afraid. I am so afraid.
I wish God never said ‘No’ when the whispered prayers of scared Mommies and Daddies reached His ears, when a child’s desperate prayers for a sick parent are sobbed in the night, when hearts and voices storm the gates of Heaven on behalf of a beloved friend. But He does say ‘No,’ and His ‘No’ is the right answer, even though I’ll never understand it this side of Heaven. I wish I could understand, though. I wish I could sit and talk and reason with God…but that is prayer, and so I will sit, and I will talk, and I will reason…and I will learn to trust. I will battle the fear and withstand the pain and cling to the Cross in the storm. And I will learn to trust. Or maybe I won’t, not fully. Maybe that is faith, not really trusting, not fully, because the heart is human, after all. Maybe faith is choosing to wait, to hold on, to struggle, never fully trusting, but always believing and always remembering that God even said ‘No’ to His own Son in the Garden of Gethsemane…and He did it for me.
I am thankful for my big, happy family!
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven”~ George Bernard Shaw
I am thankful for hardship.
Life is hard. That’s an intrinsic part of its breathless beauty. What joy would there be in a rollercoaster with no steep climb? What triumph in a race with no competition? What accomplishment in an endeavor with no risk? What motivation in a life with no death? I don’t speak lightly of hardship. Hardship involves suffering, and I have suffered more than I am willing to share. But I choose to embrace the beauty, to rise to the challenge, to submit to the fire…because that is where life in all of its rich, messy, glorious fullness is found.
A Colorless World
I grew up in a primarily black neighborhood in the 1970’s, a little white girl with mostly Black, Filipino, and Hispanic friends…a little white girl whose favorite babysitter was a black teenager named Cassandra…a little white girl who carefully tossed rose petals one by one down the aisle as the flower girl in a biracial wedding…a little white girl who never even knew racism existed until she became a teenager and found her friends divided, angry, mistrusting, no longer friends, now just ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I didn’t grow up color-blind, seeing only ugly shades of grey. I saw and understood and appreciated the different colors and backgrounds and cultures in my poor socioeconomic, but richly diverse neighborhood. I never felt the need to change to be like them or to change them to be like me. We all went to the same school, worshipped at the same church, played in the same streets, shopped at the same stores, but that was where the sameness ended. The unique flavor of each family filled their homes with tastes and colors and sounds my child’s heart delighted in, never knowing what exotic new treat my babysitter would produce or what dazzling hue would grace the hat on my neighbor’s head, and never, ever, knowing what in the world my Filipino friend’s sweet grandma was saying, bless her heart! And now, in a world where color-blindness is the supposed path to peace and gender-blindness the new chant of tolerance, my adult heart aches, wondering when we lost the wonder and the beauty of difference, why we reject who and what we were created to be instead of embracing and celebrating our uniqueness, and how we can “become like little children” again. God has created an amazing array of beautiful masterpieces splashed across the earth in a stunning mosaic. What tragedy if we reduce His majestic display to a series of canvases turned to the wall in uniform rows of monotony!
~I am thankful for babies!~
“Every child begins the world again.”~Thoreau
“Babies are such a nice way to start people.”~Herrold
“If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle.”~Vincent van Gogh
“A babe in the house is a well-spring of pleasure, a messenger of peace and love, a resting place for innocence on earth, a link between angels and men.”~Martin Fraquhar Tupper
“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.”~Author Unknown
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”~Elizabeth Stone
“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”
~I am thankful for this man~
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.
Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”
With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere.
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
I gave in, and admitted that God was God.
What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
For every mother who has carried and lost the precious gift of life…
Every mother who has suffered loss locked in silence…
Every mother who has not been comforted because society tells her that what she lost was not a child…
Though the world may not listen, we know…
birth; the pressure and anguish of countless women and girls who are driven to abortion; and a cheapening of our respect for the human person and the sanctity of human life.
As I wrap up ~A September to Remember~ with such a grateful heart to all my friends who shared their ‘vintage treasures’ with me, I’ve chosen a final few posts to share as a lead in to October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Here is a touching post from Theresa at NurturingtheNaturalMama. Be aware that loss is discussed. Be blessed, mamas.
The Doctor said I had been “struck by lightening twice”- I have now conceived twice while on the pill. And I get it, with so many women who struggle with infertility out there, how is it that someone like me conceives TWICE on the pill? I have no idea. First time I can chalk it up to perhaps imperfect compliance, this time- I have no explanation. Nonetheless, it happened.
So just as anyone who thought they were being “safe” that finds out they’re pregnant would do, I freaked. I had a complete and utter panic attack. I have a nine month old, I’m still on medication for PPD (the label for which says it can cause birth defects), I’ve been taking the pill, and drinking alcohol! EEK! So I go to the Doctor, who draws some blood… assures me I’m probably early enough where it won’t matter… and talks me down of my stress-cliff. I go home more self assured and semi- ready to try and explain this to my husband.
Needless to say, by the next day the thoughts have sunk in and we’re ready to dig in our heels and make our growing family fit into our tiny apartment, and even spent well into the night before chatting about names and the other idle chit chat that goes along with the beginning stages of pregnancy.
That’s when we got the call.
I would need my bloodwork rechecked the following day at my OBGYN’s office. When my OB called, the conversation started with “I am so sorry…”
What?! You’re sorry about what???….
My HCG levels had dropped, and I was told if I hadn’t already, I was having a miscarriage.
“This is not a viable pregnancy.” What does that even mean? Simple translation: Your baby is dead. Now I get it, to some this seems dramatic- especially for someone who was probably only 6- 8 weeks pregnant. But my baby’s heart was beating. My baby was alive, and is now dead.
The few family members we had told have attempted to console us with the ever popular “something just wasn’t right”, or “your body just wasn’t ready”, or “everything happens for a reason”- and while I can appreciate all of that, it still means my baby is gone. And what makes me feel the worst, is that s/he was so tiny at such an early gestation…. I get a lump in my throat even just THINKING about typing this… that s/he probably got…. gulp….. flushed down the toilet.
I, for all intents and purposes, could have flushed my baby down the toilet.
This devastates me most of all.
But the biggest lesson I have learned from all of this, is that miscarriage is such a silent and lonely struggle. You don’t tell anyone because you don’t want people to think you’re just seeking pity, but then everyone around you is going on with their daily lives, talking about the night out with friend A, or their trip to the bar with friend B, and you were just told your baby is dead. And no one ever knew your baby even existed.
How do you get support? Who do you talk to? You’re certainly not going to go around asking ‘hey, have you had a miscarriage? I just did and I’m not sure what to do next’.
I have at least found the following links which have either brought some peace/support to me, or I feel could help others:
And I have found much needed solace in my husband, and in our Church. And tonight, as I rocked my baby A to sleep, I held her a little tighter, kissed her forehead a bit longer, drew in a deeper breath of her warm baby smell, waited for her own breathing to even, and then laid her down and watched…. and then did what I haven’t done in … well, I think my whole life… I prayed. I prayed to whoever this God is, that my other babies stay safe. And that I wanted to thank Him SO much for the blessings I DO have in my life. My two existing, healthy, happy babies… my wonderful husband.. my beautiful step daughter… my family…. my friends…
and then I asked Him, pretty please, if He could just take tonight, to rock my baby to sleep…
Thanks for Theresa for sharing, and don’t forget to check out her site at NurturingtheNaturalMama!
“Spare the Rod…”
[Reprinted from Gentle Parenting: A Christian Perspective due to be released in 2014; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
One of the hot-button issues when it comes to discipline and children is spanking, and the more Christian and conservative the audience, the more hot the debate becomes. And yet there are no verses in the New Testament that support spanking, smacking, whipping, or otherwise hitting children.
In the Old Testament there are a total of five verses that have been interpreted to encourage, or even command, the use of physical punishment on children. All five of those verses are in the book of Proverbs.
There have been many books, papers, articles, etc. written debating the interpretation of those verses, so I won’t take the time to go into the linguistics other than to mention that the word translated ‘child’ and ‘children’ in those Old Testament verses, when literally translated, means ‘young man.’ (Note: This is not a translation error, simply a language barrier in that, while the original languages of the Bible~Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek~have many words for the same thing, each with a different specific meaning, in English we just have one word for child, so that one word must suffice for my ’small child,’ my ’adolescent child,’ my ’young adult child,’ etc.) So a very literal interpretation of the Bible in those verses means that when a young man stubbornly refuses all other corrective measures, then the punishment of the culture at that time was a lashing. So, applying these scriptures tochildren is not in line with a literal interpretation. It would actually make more sense to apply them to the disciples!
The main issue, though, that seems to get lost in the debate is that Jesus brought grace and mercy as His methods and message for a reason. The purpose of the law in the Old Testament was to highlight the need for a Savior because man simply cannot live perfectly.
Jesus came to fulfill the outward requirements of the law that highlighted man’s sinful nature and replace them with an inner heart change. He demonstrated in many ways that the law (outer governance and control through fear of punishment) was no longer to be a rigid yoke with its heavy burden of cleansing and rituals and sacrifices and punishments, but instead was to be a kingdom of the heart, of mercy not sacrifice, because the sacrifice was Himself!
Jesus stopped the people from stoning the prostitute (which was a command in the Old Testament).
He healed people and traveled on the Sabbath (punishable by death in the Old Testament).
He consorted with ‘sinners’ and ate with them (despite the commands in Proverbs, the same book in the Bible with the ‘rod’ scriptures).
He showed again and again that if we accept Him as our Savior, we are called to be “ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
We accept that Jesus brought a new and better way, a way of the heart (“Not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3b), but don’t seem to want to acknowledge that better way with our children.
We accept God’s grace and forgiveness for ourselves, but often don’t share those gifts with, and model them for, our children.
But we are our children’s first taste of God. Is it any wonder people have such a hard time understanding grace and mercy and unconditional love when they may not have been taught those things by their earthly parents and don’t exercise them with their own children?
Through Jesus’ sacrifice, He tore open the veil dividing man from God and brought a new kingdom, a kingdom of inner governance through the Holy Spirit who’s fruits are “peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Nowhere does Jesus say to follow Him except when it comes to our children. He doesn’t say to offer grace and mercy and forgiveness to everyone except our children. The Bible doesn’t tell us to show the Fruit of the Spirit to everyone except our children.
If we truly believe that, based on five verses in the Old Testament that may not even be interpreted correctly, we are being disobedient to God’s commands if we don’t spank our children, then we must take that belief and walk it out fully.
In other words, if we must obey that supposed command, then we must obey all the other commands such as an “eye for an eye” and stoning adulterers (but don’t we teach forgiveness?), and we shouldn’t feed the homeless because “if a man doesn’t work, neither shall he eat” (but aren’t we supposed to be the heart and hands of Jesus?), and we shouldn’t give Christmas shoeboxes of goodies to prisoners’ children because “the sins of the father are visited on the children” (but isn’t the “kingdom of heaven made up of such as these”?)
My point is summed up in this verse: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) In other words, if you feel bound by those five verses, then you must be bound by all.
If you truly believe that those five verses have been interpreted correctly and that “spare the rod, spoil the child” (Note: There is no verse in the Bible that says ”spare the rod, spoil the child.” That phrase is actually from a satirical poem called Hudibras by Samuel Butler first published in 1662.) refers to an actual physical rod (instead of a symbol of guidance and loving correction…i.e. discipleship) and that the word used for ‘child’ refers to a person under the age of eighteen (instead of the actual linguistic translation meaning ‘young man’), then so be it.
But do you really believe that Jesus’ New Covenant is for everyone except children? That grace, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness are for adults only?
The disciples made that mistake, and Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
by Lee Binz
Learning to Compensate
Dealing with learning challenges is difficult, but in high school, it can become seriously concerning. You don’t have to be afraid! With the great student to teacher ratio of homeschooling, and the love for your child, you have what it takes!
Debbie was at her lowest point when she realized her 12 year old son, Dan, could not read or write in his Sunday school classes. She had to carefully shield him from the judgment of others. Her homeschool friends were very understanding, but she worked hard to keep him away from situations where he would have to read aloud. She was distraught. Again and again they changed curriculum, hoping each time that a new curriculum would change everything. It seemed like nothing would ever work. He struggled with learning all the way through high school. She never had him officially tested, because she didn’t want him to be labeled as an adult. Dan has achieved wonderful things since graduating homeschool!
When Dan turned 18, he started working at Starbucks. An excellent worker, he received nothing but positive feedback which motivated him to continue his education. He decided to attend college. He didn’t score well on the SAT, so they did not report his scores to colleges. He entered college “through the back door” his mother said, by attending community college first. His excellent work ethic and love of learning helped him thrive where others felt adrift. Dan transferred from community college to the university with a 3.89 grade point average. There were 300 applicants to the business school this year, and Dan was one of only 100 admitted. Debbie says “He finally realizes he can do it!”
Debbie has some great advice for parents. Don’t push them before they are ready. She was glad she kept him home, so that he could avoid the negative feedback from a public school setting. She read aloud to Dan constantly – even his high school textbooks, when necessary. She used verbal assessments in all his classes, and didn’t introduce essay writing until much later.
She recommends books by Dr. Raymond Moore, including Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education and Grace Llewellyn, The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education and Cynthia Tobias, The Way They Learn. She says, “You feel like you’re failing – like you didn’t do something right.” Don’t be deterred, though. It takes a lot of one-on-one time, but that’s the benefit of homeschooling. Read to them their textbooks, and the classics. Even in college they can be allowed help with reading.
In her lowest moments, Debbie would remember her grandfather. He also could not read. His wife would read blueprints to him each night so he would be prepared for work the next day. Still, he grandfather was a successful businessman. He was able to compensate. Her son Dan is able to compensate now.
Her biggest surprise was realizing that Dan wanted a college degree. She had never thought he would go to college, and only vaguely considered a technical school. But when he worked at Starbucks, he identified his gift in business. So her additional advice is the same as mine. She says, “Even if you think they won’t go to college, they may – so always be prepared!”
Dan is so thankful he was homeschooled. He has said he would never put his own children in public school. He knows that if he had been in public school, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Nurturing is critical, and homeschooling can provide that best. Debbie says, “I remember the hopelessness. They CAN succeed and excel – just give them the tools.”
Learning to Teach
JoAnn homeschooled her two daughters, feeling extremely unsure of her abilities – until her girls were officially diagnosed with learning disabilities. Once she had the diagnosis, she realized that homeschooling was the best option. She didn’t want her girls ostracized and placed in a “special” group that would have a negative effect on their socialization skills. Even her mother became increasingly supportive of homeschooling after the diagnosis was made.
Her two girls could not read until half-way through 5th grade. They struggled in reading, writing, and spelling. Joann took her children to The Slingerland Institute. She recommends two pamphlets that really helped her cope. One is Why Wait for a Criterion of Failure. The other is An Adaptation of the Orton-Gillingham Approach for Classroom Teaching of Reading, both by Beth Slingerland.
JoAnn’s advice is “Never despair! The timing of brain growth is on your CHILD’S timetable, not yours. Accept it, because you certainly can’t change it!” She wishes she would have dropped more academic subjects when they were in elementary school. Still, she is so glad she homeschooled. “Homeschooling is better for dyslexic kids for the positive encouragement and socialization.”
She taught with multi-sensory input and multi-sensory output. In every subject she worked to provide lessons with audio, visual, AND tactile input. She would supplement courses with drama, hands on projects, and verbal assessments all the way through school. Her daughters were especially helped by the use of color. Her daughter still color codes her college lecture notes to improve her retention.
JoAnn’s older daughter went directly into the University and majored in biology with a minor in chemistry. She has recently graduated with an advanced degree as a Veterinarian Technician. Her younger daughter also went directly into the University. She will graduate with a degree in interior design, and has already done some design work for Bill Gates as a college intern. Both girls were very successful in college.
Learning to Cope
Jill is hesitant about labeling her daughter in any way, but knew she faced some unique challenges even though she wasn’t formally diagnosed. Her daughter recently became a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist. Here is what Jill says about her daughter’s struggles: “She worked hard and I’m very proud of her. She is the daughter that would fit into the statement ‘I could never homeschool my child because….’ She is very active, intense, dramatic and a joy to be around. I am convinced that if she were in the public school we would have been ‘encouraged’ to put her on medications (the standard line around here, when she is getting jumpy is to ‘run up to the mailbox and get the mail’ which is a mile round trip). She has forced me to think outside of the box and, well, it is an adventure I’m sorry to see come to a close.”
Like the other mothers, Jill was able to find a way to harness strengths and weaknesses, and teach her child to compensate for difficulties. With a parent’s close attention, unique coping mechanisms can develop. A homeschooling parent can see small successes, and learn to shape and mold new ways of coping with each challenge.
Joelle is right in the thick of things, with her young child. I asked her for some advice for others, and she emphasizes that coping comes from faith. This is Joelle’s experienced advice.
“A learning ‘disability’ (a word I hesitate to use for anyone who doesn’t have a severe condition) isn’t something you can just make go away if you have a clinic and a handful of web links. A learning challenge is best addressed with being sensitive to learning style and interests, which, as you know, vary from child to child. A learning challenge is also a mindset, a lifestyle, and sore knees from prayer. A learning challenge means you’ll come face to face with your pessimism and lack of faith through tears of mourning for the child you don’t have. But lest anyone abandon hope, a learning challenge also means seeing God answer those tears by turning them to tears of what is, hands down, absolutely the most incredible joy when you see the triumphs. You will see those victories sooner or later on Earth or in Heaven.
A learning challenge leads to personal growth in the siblings of the challenged child. A learning challenge is a worldview, a lens, a perspective. It’s the fierce mother-bear love you have when you whisper to your child, ‘Don’t listen to the naysayers. I love you no matter what, and I’m still your teacher.’ I can’t put this in a box. I can offer a short list, but there’s only one resource on here that I can guarantee hands down will help everyone. The rest can be labeled ‘of interest.’
1) The Bible. Children are people – in fact, they are the most human of people. There are lots of passages on how we are to deal with our fellow humans. This is the only resource on this list that I can guarantee *will* help.
2) Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv – read this concurrently with #3
3) Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head by Carla Hannaford – which will probably lead to curiosity about #4
4) Brain Gym or similar therapies offered by #5 and #6
5) The National Association for Child Development ( )
6) The Developmental Movement Center, Seattle (206) 525-8038″
Learning to Grow
Jay Smith of Linfield College says this, “The advice that I’d give to your students, is to simply be proactive in their college search process. The students shouldn’t be afraid to ask colleges if they offer support for students with learning disabilities, and what that support entails. We have high expectations of our students, but we also understand that we all learn in different ways.”
Some colleges have an extremely supportive environment for children with learning disabilities. Redeemer Pacific College is a small Catholic college in Langley, BC, affiliated with Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university, Trinity Western University. Admissions Coordinator Jennifer Friesen says, “All RPC students are able to use the services for students with disabilities offered through TWU, including access to the Learning Resource Centre and starting off their university career at TWU’s Freshman Academy.” The Learning Resource Centre offers services such as note taking, accommodated examinations and providing material in alternate formats.
Freshman Academy is a program for students who have not met the requirements for admission into university due to a low grade point average or missing academic courses. Friesen says, “Freshman Academy allows students to go through their classes in a small cohort with the support of their professors, a faculty Learning Coach, and their classmates. Once students have completed Freshman Academy they are able to directly enter their second year of university at Redeemer Pacific and Trinity Western.”
When I go to college fairs, I notice how many colleges truly specialize in students with learning struggles. They WANT your students, and they are ready, willing, and able to teach them.
Learning to Succeed
You can request accommodation for the SAT and ACT if necessary, which does require a doctor’s diagnosis. If you don’t want accommodation for the college admission tests, a diagnosis may not be necessary. You may feel comfortable with your homeschooling methods, and don’t need additional help or direction. Perhaps a specialist will not impact what you’re doing, and a diagnosis may not change anything or be worth your while. On the other hand, if you are completely baffled about how to teach your student in a way that makes sense, and the input of a specialist will help you and change what you are doing, then evaluation may be useful.
If you think a diagnosis will help YOU, then I think it will help your child. In that situation, testing would be worthwhile, even if it’s inconvenient. If testing will not help you, then it may not be necessary.
Keep in mind your long-terms goals. You want your child to grow up and have their own home. You want them to succeed and thrive in anything they choose. There are colleges that specialize in learning disabilities. There IS a great college out there for him, and they will understand and accept any learning issues without hesitation. Search and you will find just the right college.
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee’s 5-part mini-course, “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School.” You can find her at http://www.TheHomeScholar.com. Sign up for our newsletter, The HomeScholar Record: http://www.thehomescholar.com/homeschool-newsletter.php
Up next in ~A September to Remember~ is The Peaceful Housewife with a ‘vintage post’ about modeling grace in our parenting. Lovely!
~~~To the Time Out Corner!~~~
As I’ve blogged about previously, we are on a new journey into grace based discipline in our house. I am learning so much about Christ from my children and about parenting my children from Christ. I am seeking to model my parenting from how my heavenly Father parents me. He is, after all, the ultimate parental figure.
In grace based parenting, your connection with your child is foremost. As a result of that connection and the relationship you build with your child, true loving obedience is born. This seemed strange to me at first, as one of the suggestions you often see is time-in’s, or loving your child during the undesirable behavior rather than sending them away to sit by themselves as punishment for their behavior. Sending them to time out can send the message that you will not love them or be connected to them if their behavior doesn’t please you.
In reflecting on this, I wonder if that’s part of why so many people are codependent. I also think that’s part of why I struggle with understanding how Christ can love me with my character defects. The manner in which I discipline, or disciple, my children teaches them about Christ and His love. I have a very sobering responsibility to ensure that I model Christ’s actual love and correction rather than a skewed version that is overly heavy on punishment or on grace.
So I asked myself how Christ corrects me when I am sinful. He convicts me and speaks to me gently but firmly, and then He waits for me to ask for forgiveness and make amends. He never breaks His fellowship with me or throws a tantrum. He doesn’t lash out at me in anger. He always has the end result in mind – when I am made perfect and whole in Him when my life here is done. He doesn’t demand that I apologize when I don’t yet fully understand why what I’ve done is wrong or try to make me feel guilt and shame in order to force me to behave. The connection is first. The relationship. I am not capable of being fully and constantly sinless for Christ. Praise God, my relationship with Christ isn’t dependent on my actions or character. He loves me and disciples me even when my character defects are rearing their ugly little heads. He is constantly reaching out to me, drawing near to me, guiding me, filling me with His Holy Spirit.
So how does this translate to my parenting? I need to be constantly drawing close to my children, guiding them, filling them with wisdom and grace. I need to remember that my relationship with my children is foremost and should not suffer because of their character defects. I need to disciple my children gently but firmly and help them to understand Godly character and the fruits of the Spirit. I don’t need to demand superficial apologies that aren’t sincere or try to control my children’s’ behaviors by making them feel guilt and shame. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to convict my children and be there to help them understand that conviction. I need not behave in anger and I must keep the end result in mind – I have been entrusted with the very important job of helping to raise up a servant of Christ.
I am constantly reminded of this in the 12-steps of Celebrate Recovery. In step 12, having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. The verse that goes with this step is Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently, but watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” My children are children of God. They are my brother and sister in Christ. If they are caught in a sin, I need to restore them gently, using caution to ensure that I am not sinning against God by abusing the responsibility that He has entrusted me. It is a sobering responsibility. One day, I will be called to account for how I raised my children. Will I have neglected that responsibility by being overly permissive and not enforcing boundaries? Will I have abused that responsibility by attempting to control and change my children into what I believe that they should be? Or will I have done the best that I could with Christ’s help to model the love of Christ and give them a healthy understanding of God’s love, grace and conviction?