Easter and The Children

One part of shepherding my children that I always put a lot of effort into is preparing their hearts for the two most important yearly Christian celebrations, Christmas and Easter.  While Molly Kate was just an infant, I read Disciplines of a Godly Family and Treasuring God in Our Traditions and recognized how important it is for little ones to understand the meaning behind these two holidays…two holidays that have become so commercialized in our present day but actually unfold the incredible mystery of God’s wonderful plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

This year I feel like Easter kinda snuck up on me.  I had pulled this collection of Easter Scripture readings from Desiring God and planned for us to read them each night starting with Palm Sunday, lighting the candles as directed.  While I was excited for us to dig a little deeper into God’s Word in our Easter preparation this year, I had still hoped to do more.  Understanding this, you can imagine how thrilled I was when my mom mentioned Ann Voskamp’s “Grace Garden” on the phone a few days ago.  She had run across a picture of it on Pinterest (one more reason to love Pinterest!) and mentioned that she thought the kids would really like it.  The minute I read her blog post, I knew we were going to make one.  So yesterday the kids and I took a field trip to Home Depot to plan our garden…a sweet man who loves Jesus (oh yes, my children made sure to ask him!) helped us find just the right rock for Jesus’ tomb and the kids helped pick just the right plants.  And today we sat down in the backyard to plant and prepare our garden, talking all the while about the cross and the tomb and the glorious resurrection.  So come this Sunday, we’ll begin our readings, circled around our garden and the children will have a beautiful visual as they think about the horror and love that flowed mingled down on that cross.

What about you?  How are you preparing your own heart as well as the hearts of your children to mourn the death of our Savior and then joyfully celebrate His power over death in the Resurrection?

Patting down the dirt
Looking for the perfect rock to seal the tomb
Carefully adding her plant
Making room for one more
Very pleased with their hard work (Miles lost interest after the rock finding!)
Our finished "Grace Garden"

On a Lighter Note – Disney World!

Two weeks ago, God graciously provided us a family trip…to Disney World!!  Given the size of our family, I assumed we would never be able to afford to take our kids to see good ole Mickey Mouse.  But the Lord so kindly provided for several of the associated expenses and we were able to spend an entire day at Magic Kingdom!  I’m bummed I didn’t get more pictures…it was so hard to get the kids to slow down long enough for a shot!  But here are a few of my favorites:

Dinner at the T-Rex Restaurant in Downtown Disney!
All the PK's...what a crew, huh?!
So thankful for a little girl to share in the wonder of Cinderella's Castle!
My little princess meeting her favorite princess, Rapunzel from Tangled! This was one of my favorite moments of the day...Molly Kate was beyond thrilled and her awe was just precious!
Peter Pan loved our kids...I was literally dragging them away so the people behind us in line wouldn't be mad! They struck up a great conversation with him and he was eating it up!
Molly Kate watching one of the parades and getting her first glimpse of Cinderella and Belle!
Daddy and Madden waiting to ride Aladdin's flying carpets...Madden LOVED the rides! When each one was finished, he would start signing "more" like crazy! He fell asleep during the fireworks, but I'm so glad he woke up before they ended. His facial expressions were priceless and I don't think I'll ever forget his sheer delight in the sky!

My Heartfelt Apology

Yesterday it was brought to my attention that a few sentences in my post regarding Colossians 4:6 and biblical parenting may be taken offensively by some of my readers, particularly members of our new church.  I have been so broken before the Lord this weekend that I would ever be so careless as to write something that might be hurtful.  In fact, I always take great measure to pray through each post, that God would make my words humble and edifying and to that end, I always let Kevin edit my posts before I hit “publish”.  He nor I caught the statement that had potential to be harmful, but once brought to our attention, we understood and I am so very sorry for my words.   In a post about teaching your children to be gracious with your words, I wasn’t careful to be gracious with my own and I am deeply sorry for any hurt my words may have caused any of you.  Please forgive me.  I wrote that I feel like an odd-ball here in this new place and to clarify, I was mostly just baring my soul that this has been such a hard transition for me.  Overall, I don’t feel like I’m fitting in here and I am very lonely.  But that comment wasn’t a jab toward our church…the members of our church are precious and loving people.  It was more just a statement about where I’m at.  I also said that I’m more determined than ever to raise my children biblically, but I’m not motivated because of any great lack of biblical parenting here, but rather because through my own times with the Lord and various e-mails and questions from other moms, He has been helping me to think through and see its overall goal and worth.  Again, I’m so sorry that I didn’t phrase my words more carefully and I hope this will help to clarify my heart and intentions.  I love parenting, I love that God has called me to be a mom and if this blog serves as anything, I would want it to encourage other moms to love and cherish their role and find great satisfaction in putting their whole hearts into raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Top 5 Books on Biblical Parenting (a.k.a. My Lifelines!)

As promised, I’m posting my favorite books regarding the topic of biblical parenting.  Several friends have requested this lately and a good conversation with our pastor’s wife last week made me realize I should take the time to list out these books and why I’m so indebted to them.  Now, first let me say that I think the Bible itself is completely sufficient to teach us everything we need to know to parent our children in the way that the Lord commands.  But I’m also thankful that God has led Bible-believing Christian parents to write good and helpful books that shed light as to how I should carry out God’s commands in my daily life with my four little people.

So, first on my list is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.  If you only read one book about Christian parenting in your entire life, this should be it!  What Tripp does so well is reiterate over and over that our task as parents isn’t to create well-behaved children, but to expose the sin in our child’s heart that forbids them from a relationship with the Lord until they repent and trust in Christ.  So, Tripp reminds us again and again that it is our job to draw out the child’s heart through consistence discipline when the child disobeys and subsequent conversation about how that particular act of disobedience exposes the sinful heart.

Second on my list is Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman.  I wasn’t sure whether or not to continue recommending this book as Ginger Plowman took a leave from public ministry because of marital issues.  I’m still not sure of the exact details, but this book is what I would consider the practical application of Tripp’s book.  Tripp gives you the philosphy, Plowman gives you the practical.  One of the most helpful techniques I gathered from Plowman’s book was that of re-enacting situations between the children.  For example, suppose Miles’ snatches a toy from Molly Kate and Molly Kate then screams at Miles in a more-than-aggravated tone.  After talking to each of them about their various offenses (stealing a toy from another and speaking harshly to a sibling), I require the children to re-do the entire scenario.  Molly Kate pretends to play with a toy and Miles walks over and asks “Molly Kate, may I play with that toy now?”  Molly Kate, knowing that part of God’s command is that we put others’ desires ahead of our own and that she has had sufficient time with the toy, replies, “Okay Miles” and then hands the toy over.  If she had just started playing with the toy, then she is allowed to say “Miles, I just began playing with the toy but I’ll give it to you when I’m finished” and Miles responds “Thank you Molly Kate.”  I know…it definitely takes more time to re-enact these situations but after several times, its amazing to see the children respond and begin to do it right from the start.  It is rare now that my children ever squabble over anything, but they have learned how to exercise self-control over their desires and kindly ask one another when they want to play with one another’s toys.  This idea can be applied to many other daily situations (like when a child physically hurts another child or fails to serve someone, etc).  Whatever the situation, it has been so useful and Ginger, being a mom, understands the daily demands of parenting, yet remains faithful to train her children according to the Scriptures.  For that, I love her and am so thankful for this book.

My third book is The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.  I’m such a task oriented person and can so easily get caught up in training my children, homeschooling and managing our home that I forget to just love an play with my children.  This book made me stop and think about the ways that I daily make life more beautiful and joyful for my little ones.  I was confronted with my selfishness and recognized ways that I needed to love my children with a sacrificial love.  I also love that Clarkson wrote this book once her children were older, so she’s seen the fruit of her labors and is able to share wisdom from years of parenting.  She reminds me that giving all of me to my children is the exact grand purpose God designed me for and daily equips me for.  If you pick up this book, I promise you won’t regret it!

Fourth on my list is Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo.  While I didn’t love Priolo’s writing style, he definitely hits home how to use the Scriptures for regularly training your children in obedience.  After reading this book, I began memorizing specific verses with the children to help them with specific disobedience areas (i.e., Colossians 4:6, Philippians 2:14, Proverbs 15:5).  When a particular act of disobedience was committed, we could easily call to mind the memorized verse and the children were instantly confronted with the way they had transgressed God’s Word.  This is one of those books that takes Tripp’s writing a step further and you probably won’t need until your children are out of the toddler years.  Nevertheless, it has been vital to my parenting and thus, I have to recommend it as a must read!

My final book is A Mother’s Heart by Jean Flemming.  I love this book and I always will.  This book paints the grandeur picture of my calling and causes my heart to rise to the challenge.  Again, I’m such a task-oriented, Type-A person that I need to be regularly reminded that my children need my love, my praise and my adoration.  Flemming makes me heart and my head remember the bigger picture and when I feel myself pulled by the myriad of daily demands as a wife and mother, I pick up this book and read a few chapters…it never fails me!

Again, I have to make clear that these books are not the end-all…only the Bible can be our ultimate source for wisdom.  But I also believe that God has gifted specific writers to help us apply His Word to our life and these books have helped me “train up my children in they way they should go”.  I hope you might be encouraged to read them as well and that God would encourage you in the mighty work He as called you to, dear friends!

Be Always Be With Grace

Photo Credit

Sometime last year, my children were struggling with they way they spoke to one another (not that they’ve completely overcome it now, but I have seen great growth!) and since we were memorizing one verse a month, I decided we should memorize Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt.”  My little Molly Kate couldn’t get the phrase quite right and it was so stinkin’ cute that I just let her continue every week with “Let your speech be always be with grace…”.

I know I haven’t posted in a while and I’m so sorry that our new life is so busy and the days are just rolling by.  But lately, I’ve felt this recurring surge in my heart regarding the particular topic of biblical parenting and so tonight, God has granted me time to just write.  Since moving to Georgia, God has made me so aware of exactly how useful my time in Louisville was.  Not only did the Southern Seminary community coupled with the body at Third Avenue Baptist Church grow me in my understanding and theology of the local church, but more importantly, God allowed me to just sit at the feet of two extraordinary women and learn.  From each of them, I learned what it meant to love my husband sacrificially and submissively.  I learned what it meant to serve the church, especially when it wasn’t glamorous or exciting.  And I learned how to shepherd and parent my children with the Scriptures as my source.

Recently I sat through a conversation between mother and child.  The child had said something that wasn’t very kind to another child.  After recounting what the child had said, the mother responded with “We shouldn’t say that…its not very nice.”  And while I agreed, it wasn’t nice to say what the child had said, I couldn’t help but think “Isn’t there more?” You see, there is more…there’s a holy God who has instituted holy regulations for our lives, one of which is that we use are speech to be gracious to others.  We are also called to use our speech to build others up and not tear them down (Ephesians 4:29).  When our children speak unkindly to another, God has given us the opportunity to explain His holy will for our lives and expose how that child has transgressed it in that moment.  Telling them “we just don’t say that…its not nice” won’t cut it…it might keep them moral for the next hour or so…but it won’t cut to the soul and plant seeds for salvation.  And isn’t that what God has called us to as Bible-believing parents?  To nurture our children in the Word of God and help them to understand how to daily live it out, all the while helping them to understand that they can never obey it apart from Christ?  If you’re unsure of the answer to this question let me just tell you…the answer is Yes!!

So biblical parenting is on my heart…I don’t do it perfectly and this side of heaven, I know I never will.  But its my goal and its my desire and with every conversation I have with one of my four little ones, I’m seeking to give them a greater understanding of how God’s Word applies to their little lives.  And if you think, “well yes Laura, that sounds good in theory but I can’t imagine it really working with my kids”, let me assure you that my four precious kiddos are just as much sinners as yours!  But, having heard Colossians 4:6 for over a year now, they know before they take another breath that when they’ve spoken an unkind word or said something disrespectful to an adult, that I’m going to confront them immediately.  And so I say “Mikias/Molly Kate/Miles…what does God want our words to be?”  And they reply “to always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt.”

Sweet mamas…if you are weary in parenting, I beg you to turn to the Bible.  You know as well as I do that God’s Word is the only Word that has the power to change.  Your words to your children have no power if they aren’t the very words God has revealed to us in the Bible.  Don’t train your children to be nice or to be moral.  Train them according to the Scriptures and pray that God allows you to reap a bountiful harvest!

P.S. – Later this week I’ll post my top 5 biblical parenting books and why I love them so much.