Posted in Thoughts from Kids

Knowing it All…Or Not

Sometimes thoughts pop into my head that seem downright wonderful. I want to write them out. Process them. Turn them into something tangible. But when I try to do so, they fall apart. They don’t seem to materialize quite like I want or even expect them to. A thought that feels so complete one instant seems to be missing something – maybe a lot of somethings – in the next.

That feeling can be incredibly frustrating. When it happens, I am tempted to just toss the whole idea and never touch it again. It is incomplete after all. What more can I do with it?

A family discussion earlier this week made me rethink that response.

Our church is reading through the Bible jointly this year, and all three of our children are participating. Every morning, we read a portion. Then we discuss it, either at breakfast or at lunch.

One morning, I cringed as I read a passage in Genesis. We’re really encouraging our children to read this? I thought to myself. Almost as if reading my thoughts, my husband chuckled and commented on the nature of some of our Scripture readings.

At lunch that day, we asked the children if they had any questions. A few things were tossed out, but nothing major. So my husband looked at our young son and asked if he had any questions. He shook his head.

“You understood everything?” Doug asked with a grin.

“Yes,” our son replied.

“Did you know,” I chimed in, “that I first read that passage when I was about nine or ten? And I’ve read it many times since then. But even I learned something new from it today!”

But still, he was convinced he understood it all. Doug and I knew better. But, we just reminded the children to be intentionally looking for questions or points of interest to share. Then we moved on.

The whole incident made me stop and think about my own growth in understanding. I clearly remember the first time I read the stories of Genesis for myself. I was running a fever that day. And I was bored. I didn’t feel well enough to get up and play in my room, but I also wasn’t sleepy. When I complained to Mom, she handed me a Bible. Before I knew it, I’d spent the afternoon mesmerized by the non-storybook version of familiar stories I’d known for as long as I could remember.

And now, just shy of thirty years later, I am still learning new things from those same passages.

Here on earth, I will always wrestle with incomplete thoughts and incomplete understanding. My thoughts and words will never be able to capture the full depth of the spiritual truths that rumble through my mind on a daily basis. Just as I know there is much more for my son to understand as he reads the Bible, so I also know that there is much more for me to understand. An incomplete thought is a necessary start and cannot be discarded.

In the meantime, I must say that I am thankful for my son’s lack of understanding in some areas. I’m thankful that God’s Word, no matter how explicit some parts may be, is perfectly safe for my children because it is the living, breathing Word of God. He illuminates it as they need it.

And He will illuminate my understanding in just the same way.

Posted in Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Life

Things I Learn from Disciplining My Child

This morning I clashed with one of my children. Yes, it does happen. Rather frequently. I’m a normal mom, after all, and my kids are normal kids.

This particular clash came because an instruction my husband and I had given over and over again was one again ignored. When I asked if the instruction was remembered, my precious child responded that yes, it was remembered. When I asked if the affects to siblings and the rest of the family were known, the answer was once again a yes. Feeling my anger rise, I simply said, “Okay,” and walked away. I knew I needed to step away so that I could hear the wisdom being whispered to me by the Holy Spirit.

So, walk away I did. Within a few minutes the peace of the Lord had washed over me and I was ready to talk with my child. I laid a few things out, and then we went our separate ways so my young one could contemplate the next step.

When all was said and done, three things really hit me about the whole encounter.

  1. I typically don’t walk away soon enough. I say too much before I open myself to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Too much anger is allowed. Too much talking. I’ve gotten better, to be sure. But this morning showed me just how much more wonderful it can be if I really walk away at the very beginning. If I really allow myself to grasp the situation and then say nothing…nothing at all…before the Lord has had a chance to work on my heart.

  2. The personality that makes us prone to the sin also strengthens us for obedience. And our children need to know that. This morning’s disobedience was born out of an inborn desire to stand out. To be different. To never bend to an action or behavior just because someone says, “Do this!” As I started our “discussion,” I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to explain that a stubbornness like that can be a great thing! (You should have seen the size of my child’s eyes when I said that!) Those who refuse to say, “How high?” just because someone else says, “Jump!” tend to get into less trouble. Of course, that attitude also leads to rebellion. Rebellion against our parents. Rebellion against God. I explained that, too, and the eyes got even bigger. My child suddenly understood that the personality itself is not bad. In fact, it’s good! But the disobedience is not. My child felt affirmed instead of beaten.

  3. We have to plan for obedience. In just a few minutes, I’m going to ask my child for the plan of obedience that was to be mulled over through the course of the day. We never just happen into obedience. It doesn’t work. What we happen into is disobedience. Lack of discipline. Self-centeredness. Obedience is much more intentional. We have to make a plan. Prepare. Intend to surrender. Obedience and discipline go hand in hand, and discipline never just happens. Thinking back to my response to my children’s disobedience, I realize that I cannot just happen into stepping back to listen to my Father’s instructions for disciplining my children. I must be sensitive to Him in the first place so I will not give in to my anger. If I need that preparation, how much more do my children?

I’ll be honest – this day started off rough for many reasons. But after that encounter with my precious child, it began to improve. God’s peace reigned. We had a good school day. And my interactions with all three of my children were good.

Obedience is good. Learning from it is even better!

Posted in Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Life

Hard Things

I dread hard things. I think it is the unknown that I dread the most. I don’t know how the hard thing will feel, and I know that my emotions tend to get me into a lot of trouble. What if I can’t handle it? What if it is interminable? How will I stand strong?

This week my son is facing a hard thing. He is experiencing a first in his very young life – a week without his sisters.

As the third child in a homeschool family, my son has no idea what life is like without siblings. Rarely are both of the girls gone without him, and even if they are it is for short periods of time. Typically his biggest frustrations revolve around them still working on school work after he is done or them deciding to play something girly when he wants to play with them.

But this week the girls are off at camp. He nearly cried when that van pulled away yesterday morning, taking them from him. He really did not think that anything would be okay. He dreaded the hard thing facing him.

Then came the rest of yesterday, and it was really good. First thing in the morning I gathered up the edits I needed to work on. I then asked my son where he was going to play. He picked a spot, and I grabbed my bean bag chair and plopped down right beside him. As he played with his Legos, I worked on my edits. He would show me his creations and we would chat every now and then. He even told me it felt like we were having date time, even though I was working! Later I got some snuggles and we played together a bit before lunch.

He played through the afternoon and then we went for a swim before spending a little time with Daddy in the evening. It was a good day.

Today he has a friend over, and they have already enjoyed a delightful hour and a half of various play. I think I hear Legos clinking right now. Good ole Legos.

Today will pass quickly, and then we’ll face tomorrow. I already have a few things planned that we can do together, some productive and others fun. Then Friday morning we will get up and get on the road early so we can go see the girls as they and their fellow campers present all they’ve learned this week.

Is it an easy week? Nope. Are we all having to change our normalcy with the girls gone? Without a doubt. But is it bad? Hardly! It’s actually been quite good so far.

I realize that not all hard things turn out so easily. But, when I put it into perspective, I realize that this is a pretty big deal for my not-quite-seven-year-old, just as our hard things are big deals for us. And when we rest in Christ, our hard things really do turn out more wonderfully than we expect. They might not be easier than we expect. In fact, they might turn out to be even harder than anticipated! But, they always end up more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

God goes much farther to walk us through our hard things than I have gone to walk Steven through this week. He draws us to Himself, opening up opportunities for us to do the very thing we were created to do – worship and glorify Him with the entirety of our beings! That’s the knowledge I want to walk in as I anticipate hard things. They will still be hard. But they will also be beautiful because they will draw me closer to Him.

Posted in Thoughts from Creation, Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Scripture

All Around Us

I love the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” I used to sing it to my children at bedtime. We would sing together through all of the silly little toddler songs, and then it would be time to really settle down. That is when the longer songs, typically hymns, would begin.

I remember using “How Great Thou Art” to try to help my sweet son settle down during a storm. He has an extra sensitivity to loud noises and lights, and storms overwhelmed him. He would freeze up, every muscle in his body so tense that I could not help him relax. If he had a grip on me, there was no loosening it. The only thing moving would be the tears streaming down his face as he suffered through the noise.

So, I would talk to him about the amazing God who loved him, protected him, and was more powerful than any storm.

I see the stars

I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed

This hymn reflects a mentality spread all throughout the Psalms. God is in the mighty. He is in the powerful. He is in the overwhelming. And He is so much greater than all of those things put together!

Yet, in the Psalms we also see how He is in the small. The simple. The almost unnoticeable.

He is in so much, yet I so frequently miss Him. Oh so frequently.

This week I’ve seen His hand in so many ways. I want to see more. I want my eyes to be opened to the incredible ways in which God’s presence is everywhere! He gives us such an amazing gift, a gift that goes far beyond just sending one of our representatives into His presence once a year for the purpose of atonement. We have the gift of standing in His presence every single moment of every day! Yet, we take it for granted, ignoring Him in all the ways He reveals Himself all around us.

I cannot hear thunder and see lightning without thinking of the amazing presence and power of God. And now even my son can do the same. I’ll never forget the stormy night I went to check on him and he calmly and groggily said, “The thunder woke me up, but I went right back to sleep, Mommy.” He almost did not stay awake long enough to finish his sentence! Sounds and lights still overwhelm his senses, and sometimes storms still cause stress. But, his little six-year-old heart now serves as a temple for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and oh what a difference that makes as he deals with overloaded senses or any other stress! He sees God all around him!

Lord God, may I see you! In the big, in the little, and in everything in between!

Posted in Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Life

A Real Giver

Three years ago I bought a big bag of men’s tube socks. My daughter’s ninth birthday was approaching, and at the last minute (from a “make a birthday present” perspective), she decided she wanted me to make her a sock doll.

A sock doll?

I still have no clue where she got that idea. She had no criteria other than that it be a doll made from socks. Okay.

So, I prayed for wisdom and direction and then made a sock doll. I was nervous, afraid it would not live up to her expectations, but I poured every ounce of my thought and creativity into trying to do it well. My anxiety was unfounded. She loved the doll!

Over the past three years, many more sock dolls have joined the family. William came along a year after Susan, and now they have a son named George. My other two children have sock dolls as well—Ella, Oliver, and Han. A seventh doll, George’s still unnamed little sister, has been stuffed and is awaiting final assembly, a face, hair, and a dress. She will be a birthday present from my son to his big sister.

Amazingly enough, even with all of those sock dolls, we’ve barely used half of that bag of socks. Half a bag of tube socks, a bit of fiberfill, some fabric scraps, a bit of yarn, and a whole lot of love, time, energy, planning, and excitement have produced three years of gifts so far.

Real gifts are like that. More than money or other resources, real gifts require time, energy, thought, and even prayer. They require a part of ourselves. Perhaps that is why so many of us have pulled away from being a giving people. Oh, we spend money on other people, tossing stuff at them on appropriate gift-giving occasions, but we do not truly give. Giving is too hard. It cannot be done by walking into a store and picking something cute off the shelf.

Real gifts might be bought at a store. They might be made. They might be neither, consisting instead of time shared, a shoulder offered, a listening ear made available, a word of encouragement offered. Whatever they may be, they are thought out. They require effort. They are sacrificial.

When did you last truly give? My children do it all the time, but I think it’s been a while for me. As I help my son finish his sock doll gift, I realize that I want to change that fact.

I want to really give.

Posted in Thoughts from Kids

Just Talking

Every week I try to have some focused time with each of my three children. We call it our “date time,” and we typically play a game or create something together.

Yesterday I had date time with my oldest. As we played a few rounds of nerts together, we just started talking. She ha2013-03-08 11.15.03d seemed a little glum that morning, so I asked a few questions to make sure she felt alright. By the end of date time, our talk had become so incredibly silly that we could hardly play our game! Somewhere in the middle, though, my sweet girl said something that grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go.

When I feel bad, I don’t even have to talk to you about anything specific. Just talking to you at all makes me feel better, even when we talk about nothing!

“Nothing” is exactly what we talked about. I cannot for the life of me tell you what was so funny about our conversation, and I know we didn’t cover anything deep and meaningful. But by the end of our date time, both of us felt unified, cheerful, and ready to conquer the day.

Why can I not approach my heavenly Father this way? Regardless of my mood, I feel like I have to talk to Him about something. I have to pray over a prayer list or present a specific issue to Him. I have to make sure my words of praise are just right or that I focus well when I sing to Him in worship.

What if I were to just talk. Or maybe just listen. Perhaps even simply laugh with the delight of knowing His presence.

What if I didn’t have to have an agenda for prayer.

Maybe I’m the only one just now cluing in to such a fantastic thought. Perhaps the rest of you are far ahead of me. But this is where I am. I forget that I can approach my heavenly Father just like my baby girl approaches me. I can simply delight in the fact that He wants to be with me. I can find joy in the knowledge that He loves my presence and the sound of my voice. He loves those little moments when my focus is completely on Him. He loves me more than I could ever imagine loving my daughter. That’s hard to fathom because I really love my children.

As I type, Philippians 4:4 is running through my mind.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

I don’t think I’ll ever see that verse the same way again. My sweet girl’s statement about conversation with me sums up what it means to rejoice in the Lord always. Communion with Him brings rejoicing.

Lord, may I learn the joy of truly talking to you about everything…and nothing.

Posted in Thoughts from Kids

Stages

Wednesday night we had the delightful opportunity to share in a storm system that ripped through several states. Thankfully, no tornadic rotation ever came near us, but the storm roared loudly for quite some time.

The thunder rolled in while we were still at church, with the rain just beginning as everyone headed home. We got home, sent the kids to get ready for bed, and checked the radar to determine if we could send them on to their rooms or if we needed to herd them into our bed since it is much closer to our “take cover” spot. Despite the house-shaking noise of the storm, we felt confident we could send them on to their rooms with the promise that we would get them up if anything changed.

Just like that, all three munchkins went to bed and settled down easily. Each time my husband checked on them through the night, they were all three sleeping soundly. I cannot help but smile in thankfulness at this stage of life, especially considering where we were not even a year ago.

My baby boy has long had a high sensitivity to sights and sounds. I could easily tell when my son became overwhelmed by tall buildings, sudden noises, or anything related to a crowd because he would stiffen and cling. By stiffening, I mean he would lock into position and barely move an eye muscle. If I was holding him, I could completely let go and he would not fall! For years, even a little thundershower would send him into panic mode. Imagine the effect of a full-blown storm!

Then one night, something changed. A loud boom of thunder awakened us in the middle of the night. I jumped up to go check on my son, certain I would find him stiff and sobbing. When I peeked into his bed, I was shocked to be greeted by a sleepy smile.

“Are you doing okay?” I asked him gently.

“Mmm-hmmm,” came the groggy reply. “The loud boom woke me up.”

“Do you need Mommy, or can you go back to sleep?” He was almost too sleepy to answer. I kissed him, tucked the covers more tightly around him, turned his music on per his request, and left my brave big boy to drift back off to sleep despite the rumbles going on outside. My husband and I checked on him several more times that night, but he never stirred again. Now, just a few months later, he not only sleeps through storms, but can put himself to sleep even while one begins raging at bedtime.

We have moved to a new stage in life.

I remember so many other stages. There was the stage when my oldest was a newborn. She slept well and was a perfect baby until 11:00 at night when she would decided to scream. A couple of years later, her baby sister went through a ten-month stage of refusing to sleep much at all, followed by four more years of night terrors. We have endured bed-wetting stages, lying stages, fighting stages, and “push all of Mommy’s buttons” stages. We have experienced enjoyable stages, too, as we have watched our children learn, grow, and develop.

I wonder how my heavenly Father looks upon my stages of life. I, too, go through both good and bad stages. I can look back on my life and see intense struggles, remembering how it seemed I would never get past a specific perpetual temptation or develop discipline in a certain area. Now, those things are behind me and I almost never even think of them any more. New issues have taken their place, though, and the new struggles now seem interminable. But I know that these, too, are only stages. I will grow through these stages just as I have grown through every previous stage.

Are you struggling in a stage? Persevere, my friend. God is growing you through it. Even as my sweet son suddenly overcame his terror of storms as we firmly and lovingly walked him through each one, so you will overcome your struggle under the firm and loving hand of your Father.

Posted in Thoughts from Kids

Just to be With You

Steven noticed me rummaging around the kitchen, putting away dishes and taking care of a few other tasks. Thinking I intended to wash dishes, he ran to grab a stool and push it up beside the sink, ready to rinse. Rinsing dishes ranks among his favorite household chores, and he never minds jumping in to help family members. It’s a bit different with me, though. If he has the slightest inclination that I am preparing to wash dishes, he will drop anything and everything, grab a stool, and jump up to be by my side. Many of my tasks he cannot help me accomplish, but he knows he can help with the dishes. And he knows it offers a perfect opportunity to be close to his mommy.

On this particular occasion, I gently informed him that I wasn’t washing the dishes right then. I was simply taking care of a few things while I waited for his big sister to be ready for our weekly date time. (My date time with him would come a couple of days later.) The expression on his face said it all. He was sincerely disappointed to miss that shoulder to shoulder time rinsing the dishes, even though we would get some nice snuggle time shortly when we sat down for Bible and read-aloud time in school. Later in the day he was disappointed again when he saw me prepare to wash dishes but knew it was time for him to go shower. He rushed through his shower as quickly as possible just so he could come back and help me. And yes, he did somehow still manage to get clean!

That is the deep beauty of fellowship. It is the choice to do whatever it takes to be near someone, even if whatever it takes is a less than pleasant task and even if other, more pleasant, together time has just occurred or will come very soon. For my precious son, it matters little how much time he has spent close to me leading up to that moment or will soon spend with me. We might have just given each other hugs in passing while going through the business of the morning, or we might have spent the last hour with him in my lap. We might be ready to launch into our individual tasks or be preparing for date time. All he knows is that he can never get enough Mommy time, and he will gladly do anything to be with me.

I want to be like that with my heavenly Father. I want to love His presence so much that it does not matter what we do together or how much time we have already spent together. I want to hunger for His company so greatly that I will do anything and go anywhere as long as I get to be with Him.

I admit, I have not yet reached that level of hunger for His companionship. But I know the delight I feel when my son wants to be with me. I exult in his enthusiasm and attentiveness. Although it is hard for me to fathom that the Creator of all existence could feel the same way about my attention to Him, I know it to be true. He loves my presence. He loves my attention. He loves my hunger for Him.

May we be like Steven, willing to do any task just to be by the side of our Father.

Posted in Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Life

What Kind of Student?

It happens every year, at least once a year if not twice. I get a cold. Nothing serious, but definitely more than the run-of-the-mill stuffy nose that just automatically goes along with unstable Arkansas weather. The normal congestion turns into all-over ickiness. A cough starts to tickle my throat and then dip down into my chest. Like I said, it rarely becomes anything serious. It’s just enough to slow me down – and take my voice away. Typically by the time my voice goes completely, I feel much better. One more “take it easy” day, and I’m good to go.

Last weekend the cold hit. I felt the stuffed-up head become more on Friday. By Friday night my voice was growing gravelly, and Saturday morning it was obvious this was the real thing. When I got up Sunday morning, I felt rotten. I still had the gravelly voice, but I knew what was next: after spending Sunday at home on the couch, I would go into our first day of school silent.

My children also knew what was coming, and I expected them to start lobbying for one more day off school since Mommy was about to be voiceless. But the suggestion never came. Instead, the children began discussing what they would each read aloud so we could have as normal of a school day as possible.

Monday morning dawned and, as expected, I had no voice. But the day progressed without a hitch. A few times I whispered brief explanations, but for the most part we accomplished school through my hand signals and their voices.

The whole scenario made me realize that we truly are achieving our primary homeschooling goal. My husband and I desire to teach our children more than just facts and information. We desire to teach them to learn. They are only eleven, nine, and six at this point, but they already get it! They already know what questions to ask and how to search for a lot of information on their own. They still need me, but not necessarily to teach them. They need me, instead, to direct them. They cannot take a wide-open field of information and determine what portions of that information they need. But as I hand them guidance, they can take that guidance and teach themselves. Even the six-year-old. Come to think of it, many times when they come and share what they have learned, I end up learning facts and information from them!

The way my children learn academically should resemble how we learn spiritually. So often we want our pastors, Sunday school teachers, and mentors to provide us all of the information and knowledge we need. We anticipate it. We expect it. Yet there will always be something lacking in their teaching. They cannot cover all we need, and sometimes they will not be able to be there at all. But they can teach us how to grasp it for ourselves. They can teach us to learn how to learn.

That’s what we need. On Monday I could not truly be there for my children. That day will come for our spiritual leaders as well. What sort of students will we on that day?

Posted in Thoughts from Kids

Learning & Producing

I cannot remember when I learned to crochet. I know I was a child, and I know Mom taught me. I feel, though, as if I have always known. Now as I teach my girls to crochet, I cannot help but wonder at the challenges of learning. Did I struggle the same way? When was it not easy for me?

Something else challenges me, though. One of my daughters asked me for a pattern recently. I had to admit that I have never used a crochet pattern. Before I could teach her how to follow it, I had to learn. Exploring the terminology and stitch descriptions made me realize that I really do not know all that much about crocheting after all! I can handle the hook. I know the most common stitches. But I have missed so much technique, style, and pattern.

I also realized through all of this that I have never truly produced much of anything with my crocheting skills. I have no hats, scarves, or gloves to show off. I started an afghan as a teenager, but never finished it. Essentially, my crocheting skills have been wasted.

Is that reality ever reflected in my spiritual life? There are so many things I know…well, so many things I think I know. What if those things were challenged? What if my knowledge of suffering were challenged? If I were to truly face persecution, how would I respond? Would I really trust God in suffering?

What about my understanding of and familiarity with Scripture? If I had no Bible in hand to search through, or if I could not run my thoughts past my husband, would I still be able to share truths from God’s Word? Or would I be lost?

In many parts of the world, these challenges are reality. They are the way of life. Believers and churches thrive as they are bound together by the things they have not only learned, but truly know. Our Christian walk here in the United States is currently quite easy. But that does not give me an excuse to waste what I know spiritually.

I must show two responses.

  1. I must acknowledge that, no matter how much I know, there is still very, very much left to learn. I know the foundations of this walk, just as I know the foundational skill for crocheting. But there is much left to learn about the implementation, about following the pattern set before me by Christ, and about producing results.

  2. I must produce results. I cannot just have the ability to walk with Christ because of my knowledge of Scripture. I must actively go ahead and walk it. I must produce a life that reflects Christ.

What are you? Are you a Christian who knows the basics but has not learned how to follow a pattern? Or are you a believer who knows that there is constantly more to be learning, and you are actively pursuing that knowledge? Do you sit on your knowledge without producing results, or does your life product continually based on what you know right now?

I want to continually learn and constantly produce. Will you join me?