New Website . . . New Direction

Over the weekend I moved this blog to a new website – livingwithrealjoy.com. Click on the link and it will take you right to it. You can subscribe to this blog by email or “like” my Facebook page for updates as well.

Thank you to everyone who has been following this blog. It’s been a great journey with all of you.

See you over at livingwithrealjoy.com!

 

 

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Family is Messy . . and Changing

Today, I want to continue where I left off on Wednesday, when I expanded on 3 different ways the Church and parents can work together to mentor and disciple our children. All of this information was from a conference that my husband, myself, and 5 members of our church attended last week. This is not new information, but it was so eye-opening to me that I wanted to share it with all of you – whether you have children or not.

(If you missed Wednesday’s blog, you can read it here.)

4) Create a rhythm РTap into the power of quality moments together and build a sense of purpose through everyday experiences.

This one is very practical, and I think, quite simple, for today’s families. We all know families are busy – soccer practice, basketball games, ballet lessons, evening work meetings, overtime, and on and on and on. If you’re like me, then you feel like you need to wait for the perfect moment to disciple your children. Well, that just doesn’t happen. I’d be waiting forever. We can use the everyday situations in our lives to “memorize God’s laws, and tell them to our children over and over again.” Do you eat dinner together at least 2 or 3 times a week? Do you ride in the same vehicle together, on the way to school or church? For those of us with younger kids, do you tuck your children in at night?

Our family has implemented some of these spiritual disciplines in practical ways. In our van we have music cd’s – one for Connor and a few for the girls. They are age-appropriate Christian music that our kids love and can easily learn the words too. We also have “Adventures in Odyssey” cd’s that my oldest daughter loves to listen to. I’ve also made it a goal to read and pray with my kids before bed at least 3 times a week. I tried doing this every night and just about gave myself a mental breakdown. By the time we’d get ready for bed I’d be so stressed that I’d be shouting, “Now get your Bible and let’s read!” What a great spiritual example I am. ūüôā

I’m so glad God doesn’t have one particular method or style of parenting our children spiritually. What works for my best friend with 5 children ages 3 – 12, may not work for me. Or what works for my friend with one tween daughter who homeschools and is involved in many extra-curricular activities, would not work for me either. Nor would my methods and styles of parenting work for them. God made us unique, and I’m glad that he lets us parent our children uniquely.

5) Widen the Circle РHave other trusted adults in the lives of children before they need them so they will be there when they need them.

The Church can provide these relationships for your kids. Schools and sports teams can’t guarantee a strong, faith-filled, follower of Christ to mentor your child. You and your church leadership together can proactively get leaders involved in the lives of your children and children who attend your church.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 6 different adults that I would trust with my children. I would trust them to be a spiritual example, to disciple them, to take care of them, and to simply be an encouragement to them – knowing that they love my children too. One particular family I have in mind, I would have absolutely no problem with them disciplining my children. In fact, they have no problem with us disciplining their children. (And when I say discipline I mean “correcting” or “setting a good example” for their behavior or attitude.) This is what it means to widen the circle for our kids. My girls are coming close to an age where they may not want to talk with Mom or Dad about personal things. I thank God that they still do, but I want to be prepared to encourage them to talk to someone else if need be; someone else that I trust completely.

I know that’s a lot of information to digest. I was a bit overwhelmed myself, but even though it seems a bit daunting it also gave me hope. God had a plan . . . even way back to when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. He knows exactly what our children need, and he knows what we need as parents.

I challenge you to pray, asking God to show you how you can implement these strategies in the lives of your children, and other people’s children. And you don’t have to be a parent yourself to be a great example or a good friend to a 5-year-old or 15-year-old. Our kids these days can use all the positive examples they can find. And we as parents are desperate to direct them to those positive examples.

What one simple thing can you do today, to show a child, the unconditional love of Christ?

Family is Messy

Chad and I attended a conference last week called Orange. (Click here to learn more about the Orange Conference.) This is our second year and it was phenomenal, again. It’s held in Atlanta, GA, and 5,000 other people from other churches and different denominations all join together to learn and to worship the Lord. I came away so refreshed, with a desire to really implement some things in my church, in my family, and in my personal life.

Thursday was a day of breakout sessions. The first one I attended was called “Unpacking Deuteronomy 6”. In this chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses is relaying a message to the Israelites, from God, before they are about to enter the Promised Land. The following is that portion of scripture:

Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only true God! So love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates. (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, CEV)

The session was taught by two women. One woman was my age and had 2 children, ages 6 and 9. The other woman was younger than me and had 2 children – a 9 month old and a 3-year-old. Although these ladies had just as much or less experience at parenting than me, they were full of wisdom. I knew they had studied this scripture and really looked at what it means, especially for the family.

They began the class by saying this: “Family is messy and family is changing.” Wow, not the most encouraging statement, but really . . . it’s true isn’t it? Even for those of us in the church. We are not exempt just because we follow Christ. Family is full of people, people with messy lives (like yours truly). As the women unpacked these 5 verses in Deuteronomy, they gave the class 5 points that God wanted to relay to His people that day, concerning the next generation.

1) Imagine the End – Focus our energy on issues that make a lasting impact. As the Church, we need to remind parents that it’s all about God. We need to help our children (and ultimately ourselves) remember what God has already done for us. Let our children know that God is the 1st priority.

2) Fight for the Heart – Create a culture of unconditional love for the emotional and spiritual health of our children. When Moses told the Israelites to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength, there was a major shift from rules to love. If any of you have read any of the books before Deuteronomy, you know that there were A LOT of rules to follow. This is where God begins to relay His love, over rules, to His Church. As parents we can show our children this unconditional love in a practical way by doing the simplest of things, consistently over time, to show our kids we love them.

3) Make it Personal – Allow your kids to see how you strive to grow so they can confront their limitations and pursue character in faith. This is one that I know all too well. As a parent, I mess up. And that’s OK. What’s not OK is to continue to beat myself up and let my children see that I can’t handle screwing up. What I need to do is tell my children “I’m sorry” and let them know that God is still working in my life. I am a work in progress, just like they are.¬†One comment that I loved hearing from one of the mothers speaking: “A parent doesn’t have to have everything right before they can be a positive spiritual influence in a child’s life.” I have apologized many times to my kids and for all sorts of things. For yelling, for accusing them falsely, for being in a bad mood and taking it out on them, for talking down to them, and for not taking the time to listen to them. I’m pretty honest with my kids, on an age-appropriate level of course. I want them to know they can come to their Dad and I, to each other, and to God, to say “I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?” I want them to know that God will accept them unconditionally, even when they are at their worst.

I have a lot of information to share so I will continue with the next 2 points on Friday. In the meantime, think about this: How do you show your children God’s unconditional love in practical ways? If you have a thought, please share in the comments section. I’d love to know, and I’m sure other parents would as well, what other families have done. Thanks for sharing!