Planning Ahead

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This might seem silly, and it’s okay if you laugh at me, but I actually rehearse conversations with my kids before they happen.  When the house is quiet in the late evening, and I’m standing in front of a pile of soapy dishes, I think about what I am going to say to them in certain situations.  When I am driving in the car, and it is the rare moment that everyone has fallen asleep, I rehearse what I will do when they fall into certain sins.  When I am reading the Word in the early morning, I jot down verses that I want to bring up with them later.  If I am going to be a good trainer of these little troops, I have to have a plan.  If I am going to be able to withstand the surprising stressful moments with patience and kindness, I have to think ahead.  Because when you have any children under the age of six, nothing should surprise you.  I love little ones.  Their behavior is sweet and cute and funny, but they have only been in the world a few years.  Should I really be surprised when they are overtaken with jealousy or when they can’t control their tiredness?  I’m called to train them, which means they are going to need training!  I can’t expect them to know how to live without years of correction and practice and training

If you have spent any time with your children, you probably know what kinds of sins they are easily ensnared by.  Generally speaking little boys struggle with controlling themselves physically, and they are prone to hit, punch, wrestle or run where they shouldn’t.  Little girls seem to struggle more with controlling their emotions.  They tend to cry when they shouldn’t, whine, sulk, and envy.  I find it extremely helpful to watch for and notice what sins my particular children are more prone to, and to make a plan for how I am going to handle the situation when they start to slip.

I have put together a list of verses that I memorize with my girls.  These have helped me in many situations.  Have you ever seen your child in sin, and in the moment you can’t think of anything to say other than “Stop it!  Just stop whatever it is that you are doing!”?  The frustrating thing for them is that most of the time they don’t even understand what is wrong with whatever they are doing.  Instead I find it so much more effective to say something like “I can see that you are grumpy right now.  What does the Bible say about being grumpy?  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.  Can we pray together for a joyful heart. Now you need to stop being grumpy.”  Or “I just told you not to jump on the couch.  What does the Bible say about obeying my words? Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  You need to listen to my words and obey them.”

I know there are many, many more verses that can be used for training children, but these are some of the ones that I seem to use the most frequently.  I try to use the same ones over and over again in my correction so that they remember it.  I hope these can be helpful to you, and that you can add your own verses for whatever your children need

For when they need to be reminded to obey:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1

For when they need to remember to speak respectfully:
“Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God if giving you.” Ex. 20:12

For when they are throwing fits:
“A man without self control is like city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28 I explain this one by telling them that that if they throw a fit, their heart has no walls and it makes it very easy for sin to get in and control them, but if they control themselves, then their heart is strong like a city with tall walls.

For when they are afraid:
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust” Psalm 56:3

For when they need to forgive or be kind to others:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

For when others are unkind to them:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

For when they need to be reminded to be cheerful:
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

For when they notice how beautiful they are:
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 30:30

For when they make crass jokes:
“Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which is out of place, instead let there be thanksgiving.” Eph. 5:4

For when they are complaining:
“Do all things without complaining or arguing, so that you may become children of God, blameless and pure.” Philippians 2:14

For when they forget the rules:
“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:11

For when they are feeling shy:
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

For when they are jealous or envious:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with the things that you have, for God has said, ‘I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5

For when they need to be reminded of God’s forgiveness:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Enjoy these years, they go too fast

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I think we have all heard it, maybe from an aunt or from a sweet lady at the grocery store.  “Enjoy these years, they go too fast.”  When I was leaving my last job one of my coworkers sent me a note that said, “Enjoy your days at home.  The days feel long, but the years go fast.”  How right he was!  I am so thankful for these pieces of wisdom.  Every time I take the kids out to run errands with me, I get so many sweet comments.  Most of them are from elderly men and women.  Just today a very old man stopped me in Kroger to tell me that he thought I was so brave for having children “in this day, with everything being so expensive.”  He said he had 5 boys in 7 years before he turned 30, and he has no regrets.  He enjoyed all those years.  Last week in Costco, a middle aged woman stopped me to tell me about her 3 children, two girls and a boy, just like mine, and how she missed the little years so much.  She just wanted to chat with the girls for a few minutes.  I am always so amazed at how encouraging and kind people are when they see me with my three children and a pile of groceries.  I always make a point to assure them that I am enjoying these years!

But if any of you have experience as a stay-at-home-mom, it is easy to forget to enjoy it.  We can quickly loose our joy by listening to our own stresses and worries.  We can also loose our joy by letting our children define the atmosphere.  I can’t even count how many times my kids wake up in the morning and the first thing out of their mouth is a complaint.  Am I going to let that define how the morning will go?  Nope. I am going to encourage them to dwell on the things they are thankful for, and we will move on to joy.  We have many days where it seems like at least one person is crying at every point of the day.  Will I let this define the atmosphere?  Nope.  We figure out the problem, turn on cheerful music, and move on to joy.  We have to be actively trying to enjoy these years!  And there really are so many fun moments in our life!  I have to choose to dwell on the wonderful things about these years, and let the hard things slip out of my mind in order to enjoy every day.  And lots and lots and lots of days that have been enjoyed turns into years that have not been wasted.

In an effort to enjoy each day more, I have been writing down funny and cute things my kids say.  One of my favorite things about social media (maybe my only favorite thing) is watching other parents enjoy their kids by sharing funny things they do.  I love to see people dwelling on those moments instead of the stressful moments.  Here are a few of my favorite cute moments from the last couple of weeks…

Darcy, talking to Jon, “Papa, we must keep our house on the path of life. If we swerve into ugliness and selfishness we will fall into a pit of snakes and spiders! As big as me!”
Jon, “ok, are these really spiders and snakes or just metaphors?”
Darcy, “Ha of course they are real! But they are in your heart.”

Darcy, on the subject of romantic love, “You know how you make a woman fall in love with you?
First, you make her feel like you love her by showing her your muscles, and then you have to say she is very pretty and that you love her, and then when she blinks, you find bad guy and hurt him really bad.  Then she will be in love with you.”  (I did not teacher her that)

Darcy, on finding a husband, “I just want a man who loves Jesus and has a job and a ton of money. When I was a kid we had plenty of food, but no money.”

June, “I feel sad”
Darcy, “Look, June, look at this.  Do you see that pretty color? Whenever I am sad I just look at pretty colors and think of things to be thankful for.”
June, “oh yeah! Okay! Sure!”

In the nursery during Sunday School last week June was standing in the middle of the room, clearing her throat until all eyes were on her, and then performing ballet for everyone.

I put the kids to bed and was walking away from their room when I heard a tiny voice say “Mom! Mom! Can you hear me? It’s me…June! No one has give me a hug.

And then there is the regular occurrence of June running through the kitchen yelling ” Robin Hood, Robin Hood! Save me! Save me!  The bad guys!  Mom, you are Robin Hood.”

Or Darcy walking into the kitchen with an open book and a basket in the crook of her elbow and saying “Bonjour, Gaston.  Now, mom, you have to say ‘but there aren’t any pictures’ and throw my book in the mud.  Ok?  Start over.  Bonjour, Gaston.”

Gratitude from a Miscarriage

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I remember so well the fear that swept over me, the nauseating knot in my chest, as I realized that death had cast his shadow on our family and taken my unborn child.  I wasn’t prepared for the sickening sense of loss I would feel, or for the loneliness that accompanies a miscarriage.  Nobody else knew that child.  Nobody feels the loss like the mother.  I wanted life! I wanted days, time, memories with this person!  The world tries to convince us that life begins at birth, and they numb their pain by calling a child a fetus.  I am not a believer.  I call it a life.  I call it a person, an eternal soul, created by the Lord.  You don’t feel loss for random cell tissue.  Random cell tissue is not created in the image of the Godhead, but a person is.  The pro-choice movement is all about changing the terminology so that mothers don’t believe they are carrying a life.  But if I believe this is a life, then I feel the loss for what it really is: a death. And if I believe this is a death, then I have so many questions…

Why, Lord, would you take a life so early?  Can the dead praise you?  Can the dead proclaim your love? Do you show your wonders to them in the grave?

Your answer came to me from Your Word,  “Where were you there when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Have you given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?  Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out? Do you know when the mountain goat gives birth?”

Oh, to be like Job and clap my hand over my mouth when You speak.  Would I understand Your ways if I would be silent?  Instead I am like the disciples, trying to place the children where I think they should be, trying to enforce an order that I think is right

You answered me again, “Let the little children come unto me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Oh, to be like Abraham and open my hands willingly when You ask for my greatest treasure.  He knew Your wonders, he understood Your power, that You could raise the dead if that was necessary to keep faithful to Your promises.  His faith did not forget Your kindness when asked to give up his own son.

What do You do with these souls, Lord, these souls who never experienced the sinful world?

I do not know the plans of God, but I know that He is good and kind and faithful.  And when I do not know or understand, I assume His goodness, I believe His kindness to be greater than I can imagine.

Do these unborn souls have a special place in Your heavens, Lord?  Do You have a unique plan for them in Your kingdom?  Is there a reason why You want them so young?  Can I have the faith to be content with not knowing, believing that if I did know my mortal mind could not comprehend how wonderful Your plan is?

When I feel pain and death, when I feel the squeeze in my heart of loss, am I looking too closely at the story? Should I look further into the future and believe that You will take this and create something perfect out of it?  You are the one who made the mountains with your breath, who used blood to save the world, who used a gruesome crucifixion to conquer our greatest foe.  Can You not also take a dead baby and create something more beautiful than my imagination can come up with?

I find comforts in thinking of my baby with great-grandmothers, with cousins, without pain, in heaven.  Would these seem like small comforts if I understood the real joy they have in Your presence?  Is my imagination so limited that I cannot fully know how great Your kindness is to them?

I want to have on this earth.  I want to have time and memories and experiences and loved ones.  You are teaching me to open my hands, to be content, to store my treasures in a different place.  Maybe this life is not about having, but about learning to live with open hands.  Maybe the purpose of life is to die, and the purpose of dying is to see, and when I finally see, maybe I will understand why it was so important for me to live with open hands.  I believe Your glory will make all my sacrifices seem ridiculously small.  Will You not give back ten thousand times what You have asked of me?  Will You not fill my open hands until they overflow?  Is the weight of Your kindness too much for me to hold now?

My first child entered heaven six years ago this week.  Can I be so bold to consider myself blessed? “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted”  “Blessed are those who mourn”  I believe these things.  As time has numbed the initially sting of loss, I am thankful.  Thankful to be considered by You to give up a child who has never seen day, who entered Your courts after their heart beat only a few months, who is seeing now Your kingdom come in heaven while I still wait to see to your kingdom come on earth.