“I get like that, too…”

As parents, we all want to give good things to our children and see them growing up strong in the Lord–particularly in areas where we ourselves have been weak. But of course, there are inevitably those negative character traits, harmful appetites, and so on that we unintentionally transmit. Then there are genetics and environmental influences that often don’t work in our favor.  And I don’t even want to open the Pandora’s box of “generational curses.” Some days I ponder this reality and I can only be tremendously grateful for God’s grace.

This morning we got to laughing over which of the kids had “Dad’s feet” (really cute Flinstone feet) versus “Mom’s feet” (umm, not-so-cute). Which turned into a discussion of who among them had “Dad’s nose” versus what we call a “Starkey nose” (a “larger” nose, of course from my side of the family). And then there were even a few comments about teeth, in which I also came out quite the loser by comparison. Thankfully, I can call a spade a spade and my physical flaws no longer bother me so much.

What did bother me was a conversation I had later in the day with one of my children, who often has problems with school assignments and sometimes struggles to have a good attitude and remain diligent. This particular child has made a lot of progress in this area, but today the lesson (being something new), combined with the self-induced pressure of feeling “behind” and the frustration of contemplating not having any free time  because school work would take so long, brought on some bouts of tears which said child tried very hard to control, but which (upon further contemplation of the facts at hand) sprang up again within a short time.

I told this child about a Scripture that I often meditate upon when I am discouraged. It comes from 1 Samuel 30, where we read about a very challenging situation that King David is facing; and the text sums it up this way:

“And David was greatly distressed…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. ” (1 Samuel 30:6)

With that, I recommended that this child remain encouraged in God’s presence and in His ability to comfort, strengthen, and enable us for the task at hand. I almost left it at that. I like to keep things simple, knowing that God will continue to speak to my children’s hearts in the absence of my many words. Instead, I decided to share a little bit about my history of depression, and how I have (with God’s help) experienced victory in that area of my life. I thought it would be helpful to share a couple of strategies for dealing with discouragement, and a little bit of personal testimony often helps a message hit its mark.

I began quite simply with a question: “Do you know what depression is?” And after the “I think so” response I explained it, just for clarification: “Depression is when you feel discouraged or very sad, and sometimes it’s hard to stop feeling that way, even though a lot of times you can think of lots of reasons why you should be able to be happy.” And then I was going to move on to simply offer a couple of tips on how to cope with negative emotions, which I was sure would be helpful. But there I was interrupted, with a comment that made my heart sink: “Yeah, I get like that, too.”

Really, I thought so. I saw that this child had a personality like mine, a predisposition to those negative emotions that “run in the family.” Still, I hoped against hope that this sweet soul wouldn’t have the same struggles that I have had. But, I am thankful that I am in a position to truly disciple this child through difficult moments, with understanding, with love, and…with hope of victory. Because there is victory!

Several years ago now, when I was going through a season of struggling with depression, I deeply appreciated the message of this song (“Keep Singing,” by Mercy Me):

Though I’ve not had any bouts with depression in quite a long time, there has been some “warfare” in that area lately. I’ve had to be on my guard and in prayer. And I keep asking God, as the lyrics to this song ask, “Can I climb up in your lap? I don’t want to leave…” Discouragement doesn’t stay around long when you envision yourself climbing into the lap of the Father who loves you and keeps your soul (Psalm 121). By His grace, we truly can “encourage [ourselves] in the Lord,” as David did, and experience victory even when things are overwhelmingly discouraging. I am so thankful for His compassion, and also grateful that I can share the hope of this journey with my child.

Seeking the Perfect Balance in Parenting

Nobody ever said that parenting was easy. We continually seek after that “perfect balance” that will promote our goal of leading our children ever onward in a committed walk with Christ. It seems we must constantly strive to balance discipline with grace, desire with duty, spiritual with practical, …and so on.

Romans 2:4 says that “the kindness of God leads you to repentance,” and of course there’s the old adage that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar…all true. I try to be an encourager to my children in areas where they struggle and I believe in giving them grace as I see them growing in the Lord. On the other hand, there are times when they just need decisive correction in order to remedy a strong will, a particularly stubborn attitude, or a willful sin. It’s all about balance.

I was reminded of that once again this week, as my oldest son was struggling with having a good attitude about something he was asked to do (in fact, volunteered to do). Though for the sake of his privacy I don’t want to go into great detail about the situation, suffice it to say that he knew he was not exhibiting a godly attitude nor behaving in a way that honored God. I continually encouraged him with prayer, Scriptures and other exhortations, believing that this would help to work things out. After two-going-on-three days of this, I was rather weary and not seeing any improvement in the situation as I had hoped.

Finally, I gave him a rather stern talking-to about some of the specifics of the situation and made clear his need for repentance. Very shortly thereafter was the breakthrough that I had been hoping for.

In talking to my husband about the incident later, he made a comment that I probably should have done that sooner. He may be right. Though I may be painting with a rather broad stroke when I say this, I do believe that Moms tend to be more relational, more emotional, and less likely to enter into perceived “conflict.” On the other hand, Dads tend to speak to issues rather bluntly and may be more quick to discipline. These are two different methods which God made to balance one another in parenting. However, when one parent (primarily) is addressing issues in child-rearing, it’s important to consider what style or method will achieve the desired results, rather than just defaulting to what feels comfortable or what we “always” do. At least, that was my lesson for this week…

When You Feel Like Banging Your Head Against a Wall…

…yeah, that’s a good way to describe how I felt yesterday. Ever have one of those days?

The past few months have been particularly challenging for me. Marc went back to work full-time after working from home for most of the past 4 years. Not only that, but he has a 3-hour, round-trip daily commute and so is gone for at least 12 hours. For many of you, that’s reality…and I’ve gotten used to it, but it was a difficult transition given what our situation had been.

Right at the same time, I was experiencing my first trimester of pregnancy, with extreme tiredness and day-long nausea unlike any of my other previous pregnancies. Again, not something that other ladies don’t go through, but combined with the transition to “solo” days with our brood of seven, I was pretty exhausted and drained.

Then Marc and my oldest son went away for three weeks to Kenya. I praise God for everything that was accomplished in terms of training and Kingdom Expansion while they were there, but…that was a l-o-n-g three weeks.

I figured after the holidays things would normalize. But I forgot how active my children are, how much they love to be outside…and how STUCK INSIDE we all are during winters in Indiana. Our 1400 SF house seems smaller than it used to. And it’s loud.

With all of these transitions, and with my sickness and tiredness, I haven’t been as consistent as I both want and need to be in the discipleship of the children and in relationship-building. I can see that some things are suffering a bit as a result, although I am thankful for the Lord’s grace in enabling me to “persevere” and actually come out of a trying time on a pretty good note overall. Still, we’ve gotten into some habits that need to be reversed or replaced, and that will require yet another period of transition for all of  us. I’ll be honest, I want to see better fruit but the amount of effort that I think it will require is a little intimidating.

I was a little discouraged in contemplating all of this yesterday, after an unexpectedly overwhelming afternoon. However, I had the pleasure of reading this morning from Habakkuk 3:17-19:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,  he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This verse reminds me that even if we don’t see the “fruit” we desire..even if things are challenging…we can and should still rejoice in the LORD. He is our strength. Let us persevere in Him!

Blessing…

For a number of reasons (the least of which was convenience, as it was late and we were just finishing up running a bunch of errands), I decided to take the children to a local sit-down restaurant last Friday night. This is not really our style…we’re more of a McDonald’s “dollar menu” family on those rare occasions when we do eat out.

Between Wal-Mart and the restaurant, I wrestled with myself on making the decision. We had gone shopping for my father-in-law’s birthday and decided to get him a new pair of slippers, which led to all of the children asking for slippers. And I figured slippers would be a good investment and keep the feet warm, given that we don’t set the heat higher than 64* on most days. I had stopped getting slippers because we had a dog who constantly picked them up and carried them around (both inside and outside the house), resulting in very few actual PAIRS of slippers by winter’s end, so I had put a temporary ban on any “new” slippers last year. However, that dog is unfortunately no longer with us and so I re-thought my decision and figured $6 each for slippers really wasn’t a bad price. Until I put 7 pairs in the cart and did the math. And adding in the electric Shark sweeper I picked up to replace the one that had broken six months ago (and which I loved!), I was spending a pretty much un-budgeted $85.00. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of money.

Sooo…you can see why I wasn’t sure about stopping at a sit-down restaurant, because it would cost me easily twice as much as going through the drive-through at McDonalds. However, I knew the kids would enjoy it…they always do when we take them to a “real” restaurant…and they could have pancakes for supper, a bonus! But…in spite of my financial misgivings I really just wanted to bless my children with something out-of-the-ordinary. And I was happy that THEY were obviously thankful and happy to see where we were going to have dinner, as we pulled into the parking lot.

As usual, we drew lots of attention at the restaurant (“Are they all yours?,” etc.) but the children enjoyed doing the coloring and puzzles on their kids’ menus and we talked to some of the folks sitting at the table next to us. The couple on the other side of us were obviously watching the children and enjoying them, and I could see that the gentlemen wanted to speak with us but I got distracted by a woman on the other side of me and we chatted about Jubilee (the “serious baby”) for several minutes. In not too long, the couple had left and I was a bit disappointed not to have engaged them in conversation.

Imagine my surprise when our server came with our meals and announced that the couple sitting next to us had taken care of the bill! They left a sweet note about “paying it forward” and wishing a Merry Christmas to a wonderful Mom and her beautiful children, which blessed me a great deal.

For the remainder of our meal…and all the way home…we all remained in awe of God and how He is such a good Father to bless us in so many ways. On the way home, I pondered this Scripture:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

I had wanted to do something special to bless my children, and God turned it into an even better blessing for all of us!

Let us consider how we can encourage and uplift one another, particularly as members of the family of believers, and also prayerfully bless those outside of the church so that they will be drawn to Christ.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” (Proverbs 16:18)

"I’ve been trying really hard to do it God’s way…"

Yesterday was “one of those days.” Can’t explain why exactly, but it just seemed like everything took longer than it needed to, involved more arguing, whining, and complaining than usual, and…ultimately resulted in me yelling at the children, which we all HATE. Of course, the words were barely out of my mouth when I apologized and tried to re-set things. Even so, I ended the day feeling discouraged for a variety of reasons, the least of which was because I was feeling like the children just weren’t “getting it.”

You know what I mean…it seems like we invest so much, so constantly in our children. We want to impart in them a godly character, but we want that not to come from duty but out of a heart of love that is surrendered to Christ. That’s a lofty goal for little ones, to be sure, and I’m usually pretty realistic in my expectations. Even so, I felt like even my older children were struggling more than usual and I was exhausted by the effort.

The kids knew I was discouraged. After our evening time of prayer and Bible reading, my nine year-old son put his head in my lap and said, “Mom, I’ve been trying really hard to do it God’s way.” But then he kind of chuckled and said, “Well, not really, I guess I just do pretty good most of the time.” And he’s right…he is usually pretty compliant and quiet. He encourages his siblings to do what’s expected of them. He “goes with the program” pretty well. On the other hand, I can readily admit that I have a few other children who are not like that. If they’re not really striving to please the Lord, it is more than obvious in their behavior.

This made me realize how easy it is for me to let our quiet kids “off the hook,” in the sense that they don’t go through as many “teachable moments” as their other siblings. They don’t consistently get called on the carpet for their misdeeds (or worse yet, I don’t always address occasional troubles with their “heart condition,” because it doesn’t necessarily result in acting-out behaviors). I have to admit, in the hustle-and-bustle of every day, I tend to correct the obvious problems and let the “little things” slide. Trouble is, it’s usually my quiet kids that do the “little things.” As a result, I don’t think they’re as likely to be “convicted” and see their sin as sin, because they’re comparatively “better” than others…and likely, they have a harder time understanding their need for repentance. But, as I told my son upon reflection this morning, Hell is going to be full of a lot “good” people.

I hope that as parents, we will all challenge ourselves with this understanding and apply it well as we disciple our children in the Lord.

Having Fun and Enjoying Motherhood

Last night we watched some videos from when our oldest was three and his brother was one. It was some sweet memories. As I thought upon that time in my life, I was kind of wistful over what I felt was now somewhat missing.

I used to have more fun with the children.

We painted with spray bottles full of watered down paint outside. We covered the dining room floor with butcher paper and fingerpainted…body painted! We dabbled in shaving cream, played silly games, and danced.

Many children and much “life” later, I find that we don’t do so much of this stuff. I wondered, can I get back to that enjoyment of life…that fun stuff…with my kids?

And I realized that while, in some ways, I would like to, I thought about where I was during that time…and I had to admit that even though we had lots of “fun” together, I did not really enjoy being a Mom. And, even though my children had lots of experiences…we all had to admit that my oldest displayed a lot of brattiness (and disobedience) in the series of videos that we watched.

So, although doing those things seemed good to me at first blush, I had to admit that the “doings” didn’t promote our overall goals of parenting; nor was I the Mom I wanted to be, in spite of it all.

However, the videos did remind me that we all need to enjoy life more together. We’ve been busy lately…with gardening, canning, now back-to-schooling…and I don’t want the “doings” of life to interfere with our “being” together. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes.

Several of the children have been asking me when we can make “edible playdough” again. I think we will do that today. 🙂 What can you say “YES” to, to enjoy one another and enjoy motherhood today?

One-Word Description

During our last convention trip, as we were all cooped up in the trailer, I decided to take out a card game that we play once in a while, called “The Art of Conversation.” Each card contains a “conversation starter” question and the rules of the game teach–you guessed it!–the art of conversation.

I picked a question for my five year old daughter that asked, “What one word would you use to describe yourself?” Almost before I got a chance to finish the question, I got several replies from the other children, responding about the one I had asked. In defiance of all of the “rules” of The Art of Conversation, one sibling yelled, “Bossy!” and another said, “Loud!” I thought to myself, and then said out loud, “That is really an unkind way to describe your sister. Let’s give her a chance to answer the question.” I asked it again and waited for her response.

Now, this particular child is pretty loud. And sometimes bossy. She also has a good sense of humor. I actually could see her describing herself as “loud” without a problem, since having a “gentle and quiet spirit” is something she gets a lot of reminders about. I kind of expected her to do it, just to get a laugh. (And, quite honestly, that might have been the first adjective that popped into my mind as well.) But very quietly, she said,

“Helper.

And I was surprised that I had never really seen her that way. At least, that’s not the dominant trait that I would have focused on in describing her. And yet, it is true. She’s a very willing helper. She enjoys helping me and helping her siblings. It gives her a sense of accomplishment and confidence in what she is able to do. I know that she also enjoys helping me because it gives us a chance to spend some “quality time” together. She always asks to help, almost always serves cheerfully, and normally goes above and beyond in the quality of work that she does. I was sorry that this wasn’t the first thing that I had thought of in asking such a question of my daughter.

This little question-and-answer has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m continually reminded of how easy it is to “label” a particular person, especially in a negative sense, rather than focusing on the good. And we all know what self-fulfilling prophecies words can be. So, I ask you, what “word” do you associate with each of your children, or your husband, in particular? How does that affect how you interact with them? Do you think that your assessment manifests itself in the way that you behave toward other people in your family? Perhaps more pointedly, I wonder what our “labeling” of others says about us.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

The Strong-Willed Child

I’ve posted before about my strong-willed daughter (here and here…and here, too); our oldest son has a bit of a strong will as well, although any “issues” we have with him as a result of his personality are few and far between these days.

In a recent email communication, one mom commented, “what is your advice for that “strong willed” child. I know you had mentioned that you have one and I do too and have had a hard time dealing with it!! …any advice would be so helpful and greatly appreciated!!!” I decided to sit down and address that one at some length, then figured I might as well post it to the blog. I hope you will add any of your ideas that might be helpful to other moms and dads with strong-willed children.

Easy things you might already be doing:

  1. Offer choices when possible. Don’t make everything a matter of the child’s choice, but when possible, give some freedom: what to have for lunch, which game to play, whether to do dishes or laundry for his or her daily chore, or whether to start the homeschool day with Math or Language Arts. These choices, when offered within reason, allow the child to make choices over non-essential things so that when you (the parent) need to ask something that does not involve choice, there is more willingness to comply because of the give-and-take.

    However, do not let this strong-willed child question your authority when decisions need to be made. If I have a habit of letting the child “choose” certain things but see that he/she is being rebellious, I will often remove the freedom to choose. Children should be aware that they exercise freedom within boundaries, and that their privilege in this area is just that–a privilege. They should understand that rules are for their benefit, and that they are blessed when they show respect to their parents.

  2. Establish solid routines: I believe that all children, and those strong-willed ones in particular, thrive on routine. Not necessarily a firm schedule, but a good routine. Children benefit from understanding expectations and knowing when their times of work (and the reward of play) will be. A good routine will include short periods of work (30 minutes or so), followed by about 10 minutes of “rest”/down-time if possible. This may include reading a book, playing an active game, making a quick phone call, or sitting down with a cup of water or juice (which in our house is always watered down!) 🙂

    If you have younger children, don’t let their will dictate whether or not they will take an afternoon nap. Little kids need naps–or at the very least, an enforced “rest period.” They don’t know that they need it, but they do. My strong-willed 5 year-old still naps every other day, but she would rarely choose to do that. However, after going “no nap” at age 5, I saw that she really needed the alternate-day rest period and implementing this scheduled nap has made days much less dramatic for everyone.

    Make sure your routine includes breaks for snacks or hydration as well. Don’t over-do the snacks, and make sure they’re healthy–but hydration in particular can make a great difference in mood.

  3. 5-minute warning: Every child (but, again, those strong-willed ones in particular) appreciates having a 5-minute warning when an activity is coming to an end–especially if they are having fun. But let your “five minutes” be pretty close to an actual 5 minutes, or they’ll learn not to take you seriously.

The “more important” things:

Doing the “practical” things above will likely help keep the battle of wills from becoming an issue quite so often. However, I’ve found that focusing in the externals (the “doings”) very often misses the heart. It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Instead, there are some deeper and more intensive things that will get to the heart of the issue of will–these are the “spiritual” steps that will have a more lasting impact.

  1. Pray. Perhaps obvious, but don’t neglect to do it. Pray for your own (parents’) wisdom in every situation. Pray not just for your child to be submissive or obedient, but for all of you to learn to have an eternal perspective about daily events and grow in your relationship with the Lord so that love, unity, and His glory would be everyone’s ultimate objective in every situation.

    Pray with and for your children. Ask them how you can pray for them, and pray aloud with them.

  2. Focus on the eternal and the important. It’s easy to make mountains out of molehills and succumb to the “tyranny of the urgent.” When you’re involved in a battle of wills, the temptation is to think that you must “win” the battle–but if your focus is not where it should be, you may lose the war. It’s not worth it! Think first, about what God’s desire is for each and every incident, and how you can glorify Him. Think about how you can grow through trials, and how you can encourage your child to do the same. Pick your battles.

  3. Build relationships. Don’t let your child’s strong will determine how you will view him or her. Resist the impulse to label him (even in your mind) as “the trouble maker,” “the difficult one” or something. See him as a unique individual with God-given gifts, and loved by God. Find the good. Spend time building your relationship with this child in a positive way so that when you do have to provide correction, it will be more than balanced by loving and joyful interactions. Find out your child’s “love language” and focus on those areas, but always look for little ways that you can express caring.

    Don’t engage in relationship-building activities contingent upon your child’s “performance.” They need your time and attention, regardless of their behavior. In fact, their behavior might be improved if you make it a point to regularly invest in them.

    Decide to give grace sometimes, and “reward” a child with special time or a special treat because you love them, not because they deserve it. I don’t even mind pointing out to my children that these “little blessings” I occasionally bestow on them aren’t merited…but just because I love them.

  4. Encourage. It’s easy to pounce on the bad attitudes, the disobedience, the forgetfulness, and all the other wrong behaviors. But don’t forget to liberally encourage. And by that I don’t mean the “puffed-up,” artificial self-esteem type of stuff. Encourage them about what they are doing that shows progress, pleases the Lord, or blesses others. There’s almost always something good about every situation, if you can find it.

  5. Disciple, with grace. Model good attitudes, patient endurance, and cheerful service for your children. Then you will earn the right to disciple them in these areas when they struggle.

    Proactively teach God’s Word and help everyone in the family to apply it to real-life situations, especially in relation to attitude (but also, by extension, anger and other emotional outbursts). Through this consistent exercise, you can create a more consistently joyful home atmosphere. Your strong-willed child, in particular, needs this foundation! If you have read and discussed applicable verses during family time, it becomes simply a reminder to the children when attitudes or anger flare, to share one of the verses in an encouraging manner and say something like, “This is what we talked about the other day (or last week, or whenever)…this is one situation where you can choose to obey God’s Word.”

    The approach of meditating on God’s Word and using it during life’s “teachable moments” is not an instant-fix, but it gets to the heart and will prove more effective than other “band-aids” in the long run. The consistent teaching and application of the Scriptures has been the one thing that I would say has affected the most change in the atmosphere of our home and in dealing with our strong-willed children. So I encourage you to turn to God’s Word to correct bad attitudes and other outbursts in your home; pray with and for your children as you minister the encouragement of the Word and trust God that His Word will not return void!

Feel free to comment about anything that has worked in your home; this post is by no means exhaustive. 🙂

Making Tough Decisions in Child Training

Recently we went on a trip in our travel trailer from our home in Indiana to visit family in Connecticut. While we were gone, we left our 4 month-old black lab with my father-in-law (Jack) next door. After being on the road for one day, my husband called his dad to see how things were going. Jack lamented that the dog had chewed his foam mattress top, pooped on the floor, and whined in her crate at night so much that he ended up letting her sleep in his bed. To keep her from chewing on the mattress, he gave her an old pair of shoes. …

Join me At the Well to read more!

Training, Encouraging, Disciplining, and…the Holy Spirit

If you’re at all familiar with Values-Driven, some things should be obvious: we take very seriously our parental duties of training, encouraging, and disciplining our children. We also have a discipleship focus and desire to show them a lifestyle of loving and serving the Lord. We have proactive things that we “do” to support each of these aspects of biblical parenting, but we also are well aware of the necessity of bathing our efforts in prayer. In the past few days, we’ve had a couple of instances which have also reminded us of the blessing of seeing the Holy Spirit work–God doing His part as we do ours.

When it comes to disciplining our 5 year-old daughter, Marc and I often joke that she has an iron backside and a will to match. Everything she does is dramatic–including her repentance. Once there is breakthrough, her sorrow is heartfelt and genuine. The change in her behavior is instantaneous–the Holy Spirit has obviously been doing something. Those are the moments that make it all worth it.

The other day, I saw the Holy Spirit at work when we were unaware. On Saturday morning, our 10 year-old son *sighed* about coming in for family devotions because he was anxious to try out the new bow he’d gotten as an early Christmas present from his Uncle and Aunt. Marc reminded him that nothing should come between him and his relationship with the Lord and casually said, “If anything comes between you and God, maybe you should give it away.” The reminder helped him to adjust his focus and we carried on with Bible reading and prayer as usual.

Later in the afternoon, my 5 year-old daughter was helping me cook supper. While we stood at the stove, she confessed, “Before when you asked me to do some cleaning up in my room, Hannah [her sister] did it all because I was playing with my new doll set.” (Her magnetic “dress up” doll, also an early Christmas gift from another Aunt!). “And remember what Dad said about giving things away if they come between you and God? Well, I thought I liked my set too much. And I don’t think Bekah’s [her older sister] is as nice as mine. So I asked Bekah to trade sets with me so I wouldn’t disobey you when you asked me to do something.”

After thanking her for sharing her heart and encouraging her about her decision–reminding her how much that pleased God–I had to remind myself, she’s only 5! How long did it take me to arrive at a willingness to intentionally give up things that would distract me from loving and serving the Lord? And we, as parents, had really done nothing to prompt it; it was simply the work of the Holy Spirit. All I can do is praise God!

Likewise, our ten year-0ld son came to me yesterday morning after our family devotions and said, “I’d really like prayer. I want to get back to living moment-by-moment and I know I need God’s help.” This makes sense if you’ve read the free ebook we offer on our site, Keys to Kingdom Expansion. It talks about not living “day by day,” but rather, moment by moment, purposefully living each moment to please and glorify God with the choices we make–our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Our boy has taken this to heart, but obviously felt like he had been slipping of late and needed God’s grace and power to help him in this area. Again, this was an internal struggle of which we, as parents, had been relatively unaware. His behavior hadn’t reflected any significant change; he hadn’t been receiving any more correction than usual nor seemed “off” in any way. But the Holy Spirit had obviously been working in him to persevere in walking in a manner worthy of our Lord and Savior…so of course we prayed for his cooperation in that effort.

I don’t share these stories to say anything about our parenting–hopefully you can see that these stories of God’s work in our children’s lives and spiritual growth have very little to do with us and our efforts. Instead, I share this to encourage you to remember that as we work, God works. Don’t forget to pray for your children and ask God to work in your children’s hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to lead and guide them into all truth. Encourage your children to “do” what they can to cooperate with God, but also to listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit–through the Word, through other godly Christians, or through the “still small voice” inside of them. Remind them that it’s important to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey, so that the voice of God will get LOUDER and not be drowned out by the world or by the lusts of their flesh.

Likewise, as we disciple our children in this area, I pray that we all, as parents, would model this lifestyle of listening and obeying, so that we might all the more glorify God, moment by moment.