Saturday, August 28, 2010

Should Mom Lie?

keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Psalm 34:13

Are you ever tempted to tell little lies to your children? Or do you do it without thinking? I have found that this is fairly universal. We think, 'he doesn't need to know that' or 'it will just cause more questions/confusion' or 'I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with this' or, simply, 'I'm too tired right now.'

The questions from children and situations we face where we have to come up with answers to things in the spur of the moment. Sometimes we do well. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes I simply don't want to get into whatever it is their asking about.

Yet, we have made conscious decisions not to lie to our children. These are the easy things for us. Our children know the truth about Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny. We chose, in part, not to feed these fantasies so that our children will not be able to come back to us one day and say, "but you lied to me!" We don't have a problem with families who continue these traditions, it is fun and everyone enjoys it. It's a choice we've made that works for us.

When our children ask us direct questions about the world around them, often the answers are easy and straight forward. Other times they are not. How do we handle these? Do we tell the truth and nothing but the truth? The whole truth? Or tell them it's something they don't need to know at this point in their young life? Or, do we tell a partial truth or a "little white lie" to survive the moment? I can answer "E." All of the above.

However, God calls us to be truthful. We are not to give false testimony. We are to keep lying from our lips. This is not easy, but God would not call us to do so if it weren't important. He also willingly gives us the ability to do so if He calls us to do so. This is where "praying without ceasing" and "pray about everything" come in handy. Nothing we face is a surprise or new to God. He has a perfect will for us in everything, including how we handle difficult questions from our five or seven or thirteen year olds. If we seek Him in our quiet times and in our questioning times, "... God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Day to Sing

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Psalm 33:1

I am a big music lover, always have been. There are untold hours I wasted in my childhood recording songs on the radio, trying to cut out commercials and make just the right mix on my audio tapes (you know, before CD's, MP3's and the like.) I remember trying to catch the top 40 every weekend. I remember playing songs over and over until I had every single word memorized. I often annoyed my sister by blaring my stereo and singing at the top of my lungs the songs she hated most.

As I grew older and began to mature in my relationship with Christ, He consistently put people in my life that introduced me to a world I had previously been unaware of: contemporary Christian music. Gradually over time, I began to make this what I listen to almost exclusively. I have found that on almost every other radio station/CD I listen to, there is a risk for things that are not holy to be introduced into my thinking.

To me, there is never a debate of whether songs should be traditional or contemporary. As long as the words are geared towards praising God, I'm okay with it. Someone wise once said, "The old hymns speak great gospel truths and the new contemporary songs sing great praise to Him." In other words, they either make His character known, or praise Him for His character. Some do both.

I'll have to admit, I don't have the radio on quite as much as I did before kids. I now have an ipod, which I was hesitant with at first but now use constantly, on which I listen to some music and some teaching. I also have several children's praise and worship CD's which we put in on occasion. However, once in a while I realize that it's been too long since we put some joyful music on and spend time doing nothing put singing to the Lord. Some days I don't feel like it. Some days seem too busy. But, I need to remember, singing and praising God shouldn't be something I do based on my feelings or circumstances, it should be something I do simply because He is the I am.

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. Psalm 30:4

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Women with Solid Walls

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

Do you ever feel like the walls that maintain order in your house are broken down? I think we've all been there. I know for sure that I have. And what I have found is at the root of the problem is not my children. It's me.

Children will be children. They will push boundaries. They will disobey. They will have bad attitudes. Okay. Children will be human. And when they tend to be more human (i.e. more controlled by the flesh than by self-control) I generally find that it is because I have been that way myself. When I have not been submitting to the Holy Spirit and exercising self-control in the way I act, speak and react I see that reflected in my children.

I used to think that I was a very self-controlled person, until I had children. Then I learned that they were capable of pushing buttons that I never knew I had. One of those buttons is defiance. It will drive me crazy quicker than anything else. (Ever felt that red-heat anger in your belly? I hope I'm not the only one.) If I allow that feeling and anger at being disobeyed in how I handle that disobedience, I am myself stepping into disobedience against God.

This is a practice that takes practice. It is a skill that takes submission to the Holy Spirit and a recognition of how sinful I am myself. Because I have learned that consequences of losing it (I never feel good after having acting without self-control) are, I pay very close attention to myself when I'm dealing with my children when they are acting up. I'm no where near perfect, but I continue to work on developing the skill of self-control. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

And when I do, I see improvements in my children's behavior. They are still human (as am I) and they are still children, but they exhibit more positive behaviors the more I exhibit positive behaviors. I don't have any regret about losing my temper or yelling at anyone. The walls of my city stay intact and are not broken down, opening up the way for more sin to creep in.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today's Forums

You can also find me on FaceBook. Search for the Mommy Answer Page and like me! It's another great place to have discussions and share.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God is in the Details

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30

Have you ever wondered if God is really in the details of your life? I mean all the nitty gritty, little, seemingly inconsequential details of your life? I used to not even give this a consideration. I thought that God probably cared about where I lived, worked and who I married, but that was about it. Other than making sure I didn't sin, He was uninvolved in my life. He has been teaching me otherwise for years now, and this morning He gave me a small reminder.

I never realized when I was 13 and decided to place my faith in Jesus as my Savior that He wanted more than just for me to make it through this life to spend eternity with Him. I lived a long time in that ignorance. I have learned in the last decade or so that He wants so much more - He wants ALL of me. He wants me to obey Him, and love Him, and submit to Him in everything. In return, He will work out my circumstances to that I will have everything I need to be a blessing to others and bring glory to Him. And, as if that weren't enough, He also works out blessings in the details of my life.

Our local Chick-fil-A has begun having a Mommy and Me time (or maybe they've been having it and I just found out about it) and we decided to go. We invited a friend who met us with her five kids (I'm thinking, it's going to be really crowded with just us there) and planned on having a good time, maybe pass out a few Women's Conference brochures. Well, God had so much more in store.

There were two ladies there whom I have been emailing about completely different things. On any other given day, we wouldn't have known that we were each other, but during Mommy and Me time you where name tags, so we were able to connect. It was so divine, it was unmistakable.

And it reminded me, God can even make things happen when I go out to play time with my children. He truly is in the details.

I know this may sound frivolous, but nothing that we do is unimportant to God. Not the meals we fix for our families, not the booboos we kiss and bandage, not the baths we give, play dates we make, laundry we wash, or beds we make. You never know what God is working out behind the scenes on in your heart while you go about the minute tasks of every day. But if you learn to trust Him in the small things, when the big things happen your faith and trust in His ultimate concern, love, and control will get you through.

For another example, we can always look to David. He learned to trust God in the small things (of a shephard) and was able to believe Him in the big things (when he faced a giant and was being pursued by an army.)

God cares for the sparrows, and how much more important are you to Him than they are? Infinitely more. Enough more to send His Son to die for you.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:1-10

Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting Your Children To Respect Your Parenting

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. James 5:12
A friend of mine shared this verse a while back for a totally different reason, but ever since then it's been on my mind as to how important this is to us as moms.

As a family counselor, one of the main things we encouraged parents to do to be effective was to set boundaries and maintain them. To say what you mean and mean what you say. Otherwise, your children will run right over you - begging, pleading, whining, and conjolling until you finally give in and let them have their way. Or, they will simply ignore you and do what they want knowing that there won't be any negative consequences.

Even having full knowledge of the importance of this, I struggle with it. It's especially difficult when you don't have a specific reason and so do give in eventually. However, I've found this gets me into deep parenting poopy. The next time I say "do this" or "no" my answer is not respected. It becomes a battle, of which there never should be. As parents, God has given us authority over our children and we are to teach them to respect that authority. Note: they need to be taught to respect our authority.

I have one particular child who is famous for pushing the envelop. This particular child will ask for the same thing a million times after I've given my answer. Even though I very seldom change my answer, and often state that I've already answered and am not going to change my mind, this particular child will keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on and keep on... (I think you get the idea.)

Lately, I've begun to stop this process. I will make it clear that I've answered the question, that is the final say on the matter and there will be negative consequences if the question is asked one more time. It has only taken a few times for the consequence to come with the words for me to get the process to stop mid stream.

"So harsh!" you may be thinking. But, I am reinforcing my God-given authority (which is ultimately important when they take the inevitable risk that puts them in major harms way - like walking out in the street, disappearing from our sight in a crowded area, just trying one joint, having unprotected sex - it is all connected) that puts safe boundaries around them until they are able to make greater and greater decisions on their own. If I don't establish that authority in the small things like respecting my answer on a requested activity, I won't have authority on the larger things as they get older.

So, as hard as it is to draw the line in the sand and maintain it, it is vital to effective, loving parenting. And if God has given us this authority, commanded us to let our words stand as they're said, then He will provide us with everything we need to do so.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mommy Perseverance Part 2

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

The hard part of remembering the cloud of witnesses, throwing off what hinders us and the sin that entangles us is the perseverance part. We get tired. Or, at least, I do. I think that this is one quality of motherhood that is grossly overlooked and neglected. What we do every day - the race that is marked out for us - is not glorified and can be very tiresome. I know some moms who thrive on certain aspects of motherhood, but each of us faces our own challenges. Those are the areas we struggle to persevere in.

But, this race is marked out for us and it is of utmost importance. We are raising other human beings. We are to guide and direct them to become Christ-centered adults. It doesn't really matter to me what career my children choose, or what hobbies they take up, yet we spend the majority of our parenting time in these areas - education and entertainment through hobbies. For me, the ultimate goal is that my children live a life of obedience to Christ. I realize that this may mean sacrifice on my part and will most definitely mean sacrifice on their part, but it comes with the only rewards that matter: those that are eternal.

It's hard to see how changing diapers, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning house, and disciplining our children even when they disobey in the smallest of matters can make an eternal difference, but it does. It's how we do those things that makes the greatest impact on our children. If we have a heart for God and do everything unto Him, that will show. If we are diligent in the tasks we are given, the character traits we display will be more easily learned by our children.

So, when you get tired, when you get frustrated, when you get discouraged and are ready to give up, remember: God marked out this race for you and will equip you with everything you need to run it with perseverance. You simply have to trust in, rely on, and look to Him in and for everything.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mommy Perseverance Part 1

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

This is one of those scriptures that I look at and think, "boy, that looks simple." But when I try to apply it to my life every day, day in and day out, I fail miserably. I forget what others have gone through despite times of strong faith. I get entagled - easily. And I get tired of running the race. Fortunately, I've learned never to give up. I may take some time to recover after falling off the provervial horse, but I do eventually get back up on it.

In this verse, it is pointed out that we as Christians are surrounded by witnesses to God's promises and faithfulness (I recently finished the book based on this verse by John Maxwell: Running with the Giants.) This statement comes after a listing of many of the prominent figures of faith in the old testament. A review of these individuals lives is encouraging, not only because of what God did in their lives and the testimony their stories are to His awesome character, but also because they are very much imperfect - just like me. When my tendency is to beat myself up, or mull over the most recent mistake I've made (in parenting or in life in general), the great cloud of witnesses remind me to return my focus to God, ask for His mercy, and get back on track.

Sin and other things do easily entangle us. The moment we're not on alert, they sneak up from behind and act like our friend. I think especially for us women who have hormones to deal with, we are vulnurable to letting the flesh take over. "I'm hormonal! Leave me alone!" we yell in one way or another. But this is not the Spirit of God talking, it is us allowing the flesh to take over and rule our lives. And no, thank you!! My hormones are too unstable. I do not want them to be in charge. Therefore, I must remind myself constantly to throw them off before they entangle me and cause me to fall into a trap of sin. That doesn't mean I don't feel my feelings. It simply means that I ask the Holy Spirit to take over and help me not to act on those feelings.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Every Mommy Question Answered

“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”- Jeremiah 33:2-3

Questions about being a mom and the right things to do start from about the moment we become pregnant. These questions are big and small, can be unsettling, and often send us to the internet or the bookstore to look for answers. Our greatest resource for motherhood, however is God and the wonderful resource He's given us in the Bible. While you can find tips on breastfeeding and helping your child sleep better from these resources (and from good mommy friends), but the basis for how we parent our children and conduct ourselves is and should be God.

He made the earth. He form it. He established it - and everything in it. If you sit back and think about those truths for a few moments the awesomeness of God will envelop you. If He could form the earth and everything in it (think of how amazing a simple seahorse or ant or heart are), then couldn't He guide us through motherhood and give us all the answers we're looking for?

I'll be honest. God has not always been my foundation for motherhood. Still, I sometimes look other places for my answers rather than coming to Him first. But, I have learned that taking every single question and parenting challenge I have to Him is the best course of action. He has promised that if we call to Him, He will reveal to us "great and unsearchable things" we do not know.

It's not bad to use the resources that He sometimes provides to us in other ways, however, we should ALWAYS measure it up against His Word and His character. If something I read or am being told doesn't sound right, I should see if it is in agreement with scripture. I should pray about it. He will provide the right answer.

God is faithful to His promises: And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6. If we will seek Him first and foremost, He will give us everything we need to be godly, effective, successful mothers "according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Your Labor is Not in Vain

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

We're starting today with the final words of yesterday. Motherhood is a challenge that lasts day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out. It is no different for Christian mothers than it is for secular mothers. We all face challenges. The strategies are the same for dealing with those challenges, but there is a distinct difference. Christian mothers have victory through Jesus! When we parent our children with this knowledge, we will not fail. It is not a guarantee against sin in their lives (after all, look back at what we've done,) but it is a guarantee that if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will be victorious.

The words that follow this verse are a great place to go next. They are:
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Stand firm. This is definately something we mothers have to do. Especially if we've been blessed with a strong-willed child (or two.) The first thing we need to do, is make sure that we are standing firm on the right things. We need to let nothing move us from our faith in Jesus and the truths of His Word. And we are always to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. That work includes being a mother. It includes changing diapers. It includes wiping runny noses. It includes calmly disciplining a screaming three-year-old. It includes cooking and cleaning and laundry. These tasks are not respected and revered in our society, but I can promise that God reveres them when we give ourselves fully to these tasks to best take care of our family and home.

I feel like I could write for days on this verse alone. It is fully rich. Let nothing move you means, don't let laziness move you (to the sofa), don't let emotions move you (to grumpiness) and don't let selfishness move you (to whatever it is you want despite what your family needs.) That doesn't mean you don't ever take a break (for more see my other blog, where right now I'm talking about the importance of taking care of moms.) It instead means that we do everything we do as unto the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (Colossians 3:23) When God calls us to be mothers, He calls us to many tasks we will never be thanked for. But each one of those tasks add up to the culmination of raising children. When we do it with all our hearts, when we do it with joy, when we give ourselves fully to it, our labor is not in vain.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Key to Patience

The first lesson I'll share is not the first parenting lesson God taught me, but one that has become essential to me. That lesson is how to have patience in parenting my children, the key to which is understanding my place as a fellow sinner.

Over the last several months I have prayed continually for God to show me how to love better and more effectively. What I thought I was asking for was for God to show me ways to love others - what gifts to give them, when to send a word of encouragement, etc. What He has been teaching me instead is that when I have an appropriate view of my self, as a sinner and as being completely forgiven, I will change the way I percieve and respond to others, becoming more loving in my thoughts and actions.

In 1 Timothy, Paul, the greatest New Testament missionary and evangelist, calls himself the chief of sinners. I never understood that, until I began to grow closer to God. It's like having a flashlight in a dark room. In a room with no other light, the flashlight looks bright and illuminates some things. But if you take that flashlight outside on a sunny day, the only light you see from it is by looking at the bulb itself. When you begin to see yourself in the light of God's holiness, the light you thought you had on your own fades into almost non-existence.

So what does this have to do with patient parenting? As I began to see myself as a "chief of sinners," I became more and more grateful for the grace and forgiveness God has poured out on me. And I began to see my children as fellow sinners. They weren't doing anything to intentionally antagonize me or hurt my feelings, they were simply behaving in the way any human does in a fallen world with fleshly desires. Just like me. So, if they're not doing anything I haven't done (all sin is rooted in disobedience, and I've been that plenty), then why should I not deal with them with patience? That doesn't mean that I don't consequence them, after all, God consequences us for our sins, but it changes the manner in which I do so.

Ephesians 4:25-27 says: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin"[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. What this means for me as a mom is that I am not to discipline my children in anger (no yelling, no mad face, no acting while the fire of being disobeyed is still in my belly), then I sin.

I believe this is one of the most difficult challenges for parents: to remove emotions from the disciplining process. But, it is essential for effective parenting. Especially if we want to raise our children to have faith in the one true God. We are the role model for God as parent. What they see in us, they will relate to God (especially if we claim faith in Him.) Therefore, I must ask myself every day whether I am being a good ambassador for Christ in the way I am parenting. I am not perfect, and I do not always do it the way I know I should. But, thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Everything for Moms

I have been blessed to learn a great deal about motherhood from experience, other wise moms, reading, and Bible Study. I believe that all these components are helpful in becoming the best mom I can be, but the most important is getting closer to God and walking in the path He has designed for me. As I learn more about His nature, who He desires me to be, and become obedient to Him, the better mom I become. This blog is about looking at motherhood with the lens of scripture and the focus on growing in our relationships with God. I desire to be a good and godly mother, but through 7 1/2 years of birthing and parenting 4 children I have learned the truth of Romans 7:18 - "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Only through the grace of God can I be the mother my children need me to be. This blog will help keep me focused on Him and share that journey with other mothers who have the same heart's desire.