UPDATE on Parenting [Gabriel]

One of my greatest tasks these days is parenting Gabriel. There are so many facets to this calling of mine! It is my greatest joy, privilege, responsibility, time-consumer, and challenge. For instance, click here to read another great article by Rachel Jankovic on the calling of motherhood—it isn’t a leftover activity for someone who is mediocre at everything else, and it isn’t something to pursue because you happen to think kids are cute: it’s a righteous calling, and if God blesses you with it, you ought to rejoice and embrace it because you are forming generations in each child you raise in your home. It’s so huge. But Rachel puts the hugeness into a concise little article you’ve simply got to read. Really. I mean it.

Okay. Plug for that article aside… I am more thankful that I can tell you that God has blessed me with the privilege of being Gabriel’s mother for over three years, and I am humbly excited about continuing on this journey for the rest of my life! Parenting changes over time, but it never goes away. It’s a fluid calling, though, and I am constantly praying for wisdom in how to adapt to the ever-changing aspects that God calls me to incorporate into my parenting skills-set.

 

DISCIPLING

The spiritual aspect of parenthood is, obviously, probably the most important and prevalent. It isn’t just what I teach Gabriel with my words that teaches him about his God or trains him in the ways of the Lord—it is everything about my life. How I interact with him, how I interact with others, how I show respect and love for his father, how we speak about his siblings, how we treat our home and our family and our neighbors, how we prioritize, the things I do and say and am from day to day! I am prayerfully seeking to live out a beautiful gospel to him so that God his Father would be more attractive in his eyes due to the way he is discipled and parented, rather than less so. Gabriel loves to pray and sing, he loves to have us read the Bible to him, he loves communion, he loves church. Really, he just loves to worship his Creator! It is beautiful to see him growing up as a child of God. I am so thankful to know that he belongs to God. It is beautiful and humbling. If you ask him, “Gabriel, who do you belong to?” he will readily tell you, “I belong to God”—nobody can doubt it.

At church, Gabriel has the blessing of sitting with not only his parents but also his grandparents. It is a blessing to have generations worshipping together in a single pew. Gabriel sits, stands, kneels, prays, sings, holds his Bible during Scripture readings (he wants to read along, but of course that’s a work-in-progress…), and sits quietly during sermons (he likes to play with Grandmama’s bracelets, or draw in his notebook, or “read” his Bible, or sometimes eat funfruits…). He loves to put his hands up at the end of the service when we sing the Gloria Patri. I frequently am up on stage playing piano, and sometimes I’ll see him signaling to me “I’m obeying, Mommy” because he loves to obey and please his parents and “make God happy.”

We are continuing to work on catechizing Gabriel, although I’ve been taking it slower than I had originally hoped. It’s my fault, not Gabriel’s. He latches onto things much more quickly than his mother does. I am thinking of starting to have him memorize some little Scripture verses. He has already memorized so many psalms and hymns and liturgical songs, so I know he could do it easily. I just have to pick which ones to start with him.

 

DISCIPLINE

Discipline is an area of parenting that really does change frequently as the child grows, as the sins change, and as we mature together as a family under God’s guidance. We are constantly seeking grace and wisdom from God our Father as Steven and I desire to raise our son, and discipline him, according to the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Gabriel is very receptive to discipline, he knows the beauty of forgiveness (both giving and receiving), and his confessions of sins (especially for ones I don’t see him commit) are humbling and beautiful examples even to his own mother.

I am learning to be more vigilant in some areas and more lax in other areas as Gabriel grows and boundaries change. It is a challenge for me, but I am thankful for the grace God gives me in this.

I am also endeavoring to remember not to “share” my son’s particular sins in public. That is something that I think is really important, and so I am seeking to be diligent in that. I don’t think it’s wrong to say to another mom, “I’ve been there” or “we’ve struggled with that too” for the purpose of mutual edification in godly motherhood. But I am not going to vent to someone about a sin my son committed or go into detail about our struggles in a certain area—I want my son to grow up knowing that his parents have always respected his position in our home and that when we forgive him for a sin, we seek to emulate God by putting it as far from us as the east is from the west. I seek wisdom and diligence in this as well.

 

GABRIEL’S INTERESTS

This boy of ours loves such a variety of things! He loves to cook and clean and shadow Mommy all day; he loves to mow the lawn with Daddy and go to the hardware store with Daddy; he loves lemonade, cherries, ice cream, and root beer; he loves to play computer games (Grandpapa taught him how to play cards on his desktop and he can do Hearts all by himself!) and board games; he loves T-ball and soccer and all sorts of running games; he loves to be tickled and chased and play hide-and-seek; he loves going for drives in the car and he loves being at home; he loves spending the night at my parents’ house and he loves going to our new house to see what our builder (who he admires) has been up to and he always asks to see his room and Baby’s room.

Gabriel enjoys playdough and coloring and painting and stickers and “writing his name.”

He loves to cuddle in bed with us (he adores Saturday mornings just for that reason), watch movies together (we’ve taken to doing family movie nights occasionally, usually streaming Thomas The Tank Engine or some equivalent), read books for as long as we’ll oblige, and he has a fascination with pulling up my shirt and talking to Baby and trying diligently to feel kicks & wiggles.

Our boy can make anything into a toy, which I know isn’t unique to him but it still cracks me up. So often, even an hour after he’s been in bed, we’ll hear him talking to his hands (usually one is Gabriel and one is Grandmama) and taking them on a bulldozer ride. He has a really active imagination and loves to play with invisible things, which of course keeps me guessing as to what he’s doing or who he’s playing with.

Gabriel loves photography—and I have to say, he’s got talent. He has his own little Fisher Price digital camera, but he much prefers Mommy’s or Grandmama’s real digital cameras. He takes great pictures, centers things, and is actually surprisingly artistic with some of his work. We’ve talked about printing them up into a book for him of his own photography.

Gabriel loves learning. He is going to push me hard as a homeschooling mom, I think! He knows lots of colors and shapes, he knows all his uppercase letters and most of his lowercase letters, and we’re just about to start working hard on numbers now. Although I tried doing some sit-down type preschool things with him when he was 2 ½, I learned that it just wasn’t the right time for us. But now at just over 3, he seems more interested and like it would be something he would truly enjoy. So I am thinking of incorporating some more Totally Tots type things into our life over the next couple of months, and seeing how he likes intentional learning time with Mommy. I think he will enjoy it… but we’ll see how it progresses.

 

CURRENT ENDEAVORS

Besides getting ready to start some more intentional, purposed learning (I guess you could call it “preschool” but that term sometimes turns me off, honestly) with him—like recognizing numbers, getting more confident with lowercase letters, beginning math, etc—we are currently working on a few other things as well.

Beginning today, we are doing the hard work of giving up thumb-sucking. Ack! It’s a pretty big deal for this mommy actually. We’ve been gearing him up for it over the last week, telling him that we would soon be instituting a rule of “blankie and thumb are only for in bed” (because he only sucks his thumb when he’s got his blankie)—and then today we instituted it. So far he has been very brave and compliant, for which I am so thankful. He likes being a big boy, so he understands that this is one of those steps in growing up. We have been so thankful that Gabriel has been a thumb-sucker (from about three months old!), so it’s hard for me to be excited about asking him to work on giving it up. I realize it will be a process, and it will likely have its ups and downs… unless, of course, it’s as simple as potty training was last winter! God gives great grace even for these “small” things we work through; what a blessing!

Another thing we are working on is speaking to strangers. Gabriel vacillates between two extremes: talking peoples’ heads off and not wanting to respond at all. I know this is very normal for a three year old, but it’s something we are working on balancing. It is another obvious work in progress, and I am thankful that we’ve got a smart, diligent, obedient boy to be working with. That’s another great blessing.

 

WRAP IT UP

Besides being thankful for Gabriel’s life, curiosity, tenderness, energy, and stamina, we are also thankful for the testimony he is of God’s grace—in our home as well as in public. We prayerfully seek to use this testimony for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom and the glorifying of Him alone. In our home, in our neighborhood, at church, amongst our friends, at the grocery store… in all of these places, we are thankful that God gives us an opportunity to show His faithfulness and kindness simply by having Gabriel’s life present with us. We are thankful that His grace is evidenced in Gabriel’s growth, attitude, vivacity, and demeanor.

As we seek to be good stewards of this tremendous blessing, we are humbled that God has chosen us for this calling. To show God’s covenantal faithfulness to the watching world is humbling to us and glorifying to Him. Thanks be to God!

 

Music for Little Saints

Psalm 9:11
“Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples His deeds!”

A number of weeks ago I wrote about how I have been trying to incorporate the Small Child’s Catechism into my discipleship of Gabriel. We haven’t added lots of questions yet, but we’ve got a handful & they’re down pat. Gabriel has also turned a corner in suddenly asking all kinds of questions: mostly about God and heaven and respect and obedience… you know, super good stuff that really challenges this mommy to learn how to put big concepts of Truth into phrases and littler concepts that he can understand and absorb.

Anyway… one of my friends pointed out something in a comment on that previous post that I wanted to follow up on. Music is a truly excellent way to work on discipling our little saints. It’s a truth that I have clung to for years! Back when I was a little girl in Sunday School I struggled to memorize the weekly Bible verses. I have never been known for having a good memory, and memorizing passages of Scripture has certainly never come easily for me. But my dad knew precisely how to help: put the words to music, and I could memorize anything. So he, being a very creative dad/guitarist, would come up with tunes for my verses so that I could literally sing them to my teachers. You know, so I could obtain that oh-so-important piece of candy (or whatever the incentive was…) like the rest of the kids.

Memorizing songs has always been the best way for me to memorize anything. Scripture is no exception. It’s still like that for me even today. I know Psalms better than any other book of the Bible because we have spent over a dozen years singing through psalms in The Book of Psalms for Singing and in Cantus Christi. I also can remember all kinds of random pieces of Scripture that my dad put to music when I was little that he would sing with me and for me almost every day of the year (sweet memories). Things like Isaiah 26:3 and John 17.

Psalm 30:4
“Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.”

Gabriel has shown a love of, and talent for, music since he was extremely tiny. He comes by it naturally. 🙂 But we have also worked to inculcate a culture of music into our home ~ specifically Christian music. Now, when I was particularly young, I remember singing along with Psalty the Singing Songbook and The Donut Man ~ and yes, I can still sing some of those ones too! 😉 And while there is nothing wrong with them that I can think of, they aren’t necessarily the best. And why would I want my own son, this little saint who has been entrusted to our care, to have anything but the best I can find for him? Of course, obviously, “the best” will be highly subjective and that’s okay too. My job is to train him for the Kingdom to the best of my ability by God’s grace, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My responsibility is before God. Just like yours is. The Lord gives us each wisdom, He directs each of us, and He provides things for our families ~ so I recognize that what may be best for us may not necessarily be best for you.

Psalm 89:1
“I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations.”

Filling up our home and our car with Scripture set to music has been such a blessing for us! How thankful I am that I get Scripture stuck in my head throughout the day. What could be better?! Well, I can top that for you: I am even more thankful that I hear my little boy singing Scripture throughout the day. Ah, the glories of a little saint who loves the Lord and loves His music! Gabriel mostly sings music from the Cantus, since that is what he most often hears his parents sing (at church, family worship, bedtime, etc). He knows the Sanctus, the Gloria Patri, the Lord’s Prayer, God that Madest Earth and Heaven, Holy Holy Holy, Psalm 128… I know there are more but they’re slipping my mind at the moment. All this to say: it is truly glorious and rather humbling to hear these praises streaming from the mouth of a little three year old boy from hour to hour throughout the day. He literally goes to bed singing, wakes up singing, and sings two dozen times in-between. During meals, we often have to remind him that he ought to finish eating before he starts another song. 😉

Psalm 98:4
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

Another way that we have recently been saturating our home with Scripture put to music, is by the ABC Bible Memory Verse Songs CD that I reviewed not long ago for a homeschooling magazine. I have been delighted to memorize these, and am eager to see Gabriel start memorizing them more as well.

A longer-standing musical presence in our CD library has been a collection of discs by Jamie Soles. While Gabriel used to prefer the more child-geared CDs like “Fun and Prophets” and “The Way My Story Goes” (which have lots of Bible stories put to music, lists of the kings of Israel, the geneology of Christ, the Apostles’ Creed, the books of the Bible, etc) he has recently shown a bigger fondness for the Scripture-set-to-music discs like “Pure Words” and “Ascending.” These are excellent resources for ways to hide the Word in your heart, saturate your children with words inspired by the Spirit, and fill your home with tasteful music.

A few months ago we were given a CD by Nathan Clark George called “Pull Up A Chair.” Our favorite songs on the disc are the ones that are straight from Scripture, or close to it. But his music is another resource for good music for the whole family; not only the texts but the music as well.

I have heard of other good music resources specifically geared toward kids, such as Songs for Saplings and Seeds Family Worship. I have never yet gotten my hands on any of those discs, but have listened to some clips online and think they might be fairly good as well.

Psalm 104:33
“I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”

I love having music geared for children, but I am an even bigger fan of having music that is appropriate for the entire family. If I’m going to have a little ditty stuck in my head all day, I don’t want it to be something meaningless and annoying (like Pop Goes The Weasel or The Wheels On The Bus or whatever else we all grew up singing!) when I could have it be wonderful gospel-truths or portions straight from Scripture. Teaching our children how to praise God with their hearts and their words and their songs is such an incredible responsibility, privilege, and joy.
How excellent it is to have good things filling our hearts and flowing out from our mouths ~ not to mention, the hearts and mouths of the littles in our homes.

Psalm 8:1-2
“O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
You have set Your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
You have established strength because of Your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.”

Training a Small Saint

One thing I spend a lot of time praying about is the discipling I do with my Gabriel. Discipline is obviously important and we spend a lot of time praying about that & implementing that also. But discipling is huge. And I don’t want to limit myself to modern evangelical, super-sappy, watered-down versions of teaching my son about Scripture, about God, about his salvation, about the body of Christ, about theology… This child doesn’t need to be fed watered-down milk. This child needs steak! Obviously not an entire steak thrown in front of him, because he doesn’t necessarily know how to properly wield a steak-knife and fork yet on his own. But I will feed him steak. I will help him cut it into pieces appropriately sized for his ingestion. I will instruct him on how to chew it, what swallowing it does, and how it nourishes our bodies. And of course we might occasionally wash it down with a glass of milk, especially if the steak gets a little too chewy or chunky in the throat. I have no problem with that. (I’m using Hebrews 5:12-14 & 1 Cor 3:2 as some inspiration for the metaphor, in case you didn’t pick up on that yet. 😉 )

But my endeavor, my goal, is to bring my son up on the hearty solid food of the Word. On steak and wine. Not on watered down milky psuedo-Scripture and psuedo-theology.

How that will look over time, I can not precisely tell you at this point. It’s a fluid concept. It will grow as he grows and as I grow (and as we grow as a family).

One way that I am striving to instill good theology into my toddler (who is not yet three years old) is by catechizing him. We are using this catechism right now, and Gabriel is quickly learning the answers; and I love having little discussions with him about it, as we chew and swallow and enjoy and are nourished. On a childlike level of real steak and wine. Little bites. Little sips. But truly nourishing, delicious, and delighting.

Encore of Honor

When my friend Erin asked me to participate in a special blog recently, I had too many ideas rolling around in my head to nail down just one for my post. So I wrote two posts. The first post was part of the original blog party, and this second one is just for a little encore honoring my parents and holding myself accountable for my own parenting as I pass this legacy on to the next generation.

Upon thinking about many of the ideas I had rolling around in my head, I realized that a large portion of them fell under one common thread or heading: giving yourself away.

Parenting is sacrifice, and you can do it beautifully & joyfully or you can do it bitterly & begrudgingly. My parents chose the beauty and joy, and my husband & I endeavor to do the same. The Merriam-Webster dictionary includes a definition of sacrifice as being “something given up or lost, i.e. the sacrifices made by parents.” Given up. Given away. My parents gave of themselves for their children: their money, their energy, their prayers, their time. What I want to focus on here is how my parents gave themselves away by giving of their time. They gave us themselves.

My parents constantly gave themselves away to my brother and me, both in large and small ways. I know this is a large umbrella, but I will give a few specific examples of ways they exemplified this and how I now give myself away to my children.

My dad had an extremely busy medical practice when I was growing up, so any time we had with him was especially coveted. Once a week (usually Friday morning), he gave himself to my brother and me in a very specific way, by taking us out to breakfast (donuts or Jack In The Box) and letting us go on rounds with him at the hospitals. To use other words I frequent here, he extended grace to us by allowing us to enter his world. My dad also gave himself to us by bringing joy into tedious things like math problems. He would sit us down at the kitchen counter with a little bowl of M&Ms, and work through our math lessons with us using one of his favorite treats—candy coated chocolates. He knew how to turn a grumbly little girl with a red-circled math problem in her hand into a grinning little girl with chocolate-coated teeth and a shiny star on her paper instead.

We pass this on to our Gabriel by going on special family dates, letting him help with yardwork, and are beginning to use chocolate chips to count one through ten. In the future, I would love to see my husband take our child(ren) on errands, out to breakfast, and help with math papers. Giving himself away is something my husband has been doing for me since we first met and he moved three thousand miles across the country to live near me—and he is already doing the same with our little boy.

My mom was always giving of herself for us: being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom necessitates that, I believe! She never begrudged us of herself. We never felt unwelcome in her embrace or like we intruded upon her. Not only at home when doing schoolwork, playtime, or cooking & cleaning—we went everywhere with her. Especially me. It was extremely rare that she would go to Safeway or Mervyn’s without me! I even went to aerobics class, Bible study, and church craft night with her. Again, she gave herself to me not only by entering my world of baby dolls, plastic play-food, and my backyard prairie house—she let me enter her world of grown-up conversation, spiritual food, and responsible routine.

Being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom myself gives me many opportunities to pass on many of the ways my mom gave herself to me. I endeavor never to begrudge myself to my little boy, no matter what I am doing. He goes almost everywhere with me—not because he has to, but because I want him to. I want to give myself to him when I am cooking, cleaning, gardening, driving, banking, listening to a sermon, fellowshipping over a meal, and helping him learn. I give myself away by giving him my time, energies, attention, and love—by allowing him to enter my world as well as by entering his.

One of my other favorite ways my parents gave themselves to us was the bedtime routine. They would trade off putting us to bed—one night I had my mother, the next night my father, and so the pattern went. There was always tucking in, kisses, prayers, and lots of singing. Oh the singing! I loved it when they gave themselves to me in the form of music. My mom created her own special words for me to the tune of Brahms’ lullaby, and to this day when my own son’s musical toys play that song, I still hear my mother’s sweet voice lulling me to sleep with our secret lyrics. My dad, too, gave me the gift of his creativity in music. When he would ask what song I wanted on a given night, often my favorite answer was “make up!” No, not powder and lipstick—I wanted him to make something up on the fly. Sometimes it would be about dark starry skies, ladybugs, or my blanket—other times it would be about God’s love, a Bible verse, or loving my family. With his guitar and his voice, my dad would give himself away to me with bedtime songs.

We pass on this heritage of singing at bedtime now to Gabriel. He can’t yet tell me what his favorite songs are, but I know them—right now he especially likes the Gloria Patri, The Lord’s Prayer, and the Jamie Soles version of the Apostle’s Creed. Steven hasn’t yet started including guitar when he puts Gabriel to bed, but someday he will—maybe when Gabriel is slightly less infatuated with the guitar (at this point it wouldn’t help put him to sleep, it would keep him awake).

My parents also taught us through example how to give ourselves away to others. My dad spends crazy hours ministering to people at his office, giving parenting advice, marriage counseling, and sharing the Gospel—even more time than he spends looking at infected ears, checking bowel function, and listening to heartbeats. He gives himself away to anyone who asks of him, even purposely doling out longer appointments than are “necessary” in order to allow him to give more of himself away. My mom has always been a woman of encouragement through words, be it in written notes or the spoken word. For as long as I can remember, she has had some kind of clever remote headset for her telephone, because she is always counseling somebody—be it in motherhood, wifehood, homemaking skills, cooking lessons, or spiritual accountability—and she never begrudges anyone who demands of her time in this way.

These are small ways my parents taught us to give ourselves away to others, and ways that I find myself imitating already. My little boy already knows when I am writing notes, speaking on the phone, or working on the laptop (sending emails or writing on forums)—and I will tell him specifically, “Mommy is encouraging someone with her time, words, and prayers. Please be patient.” We always came first to my parents, as my son does to me, and yet it is made obvious that giving ourselves away is important in many directions, not just toward the child(ren). By giving myself away to others in the presence of my son, I am giving myself to him in the form of teaching him the act of sacrificial encouragement. Just like my parents have always taught me.

Lastly, my parents taught me by example to give myself away physically to my children. When my son is sick does that mean he doesn’t get kisses? Of course not! He gets even more than usual, regardless of a snotty nose. This may seem like a silly thing to highlight, but it is one way that my parents sacrificed themselves for us as kids—showing us that even our physical health is not more important than giving ourselves away for our children. This is something that is keenly evident in my life, as I give my body away constantly to pregnancy, miscarriage, and heaps of medical treatment. My physical comfort is not more important than my babies. Anything that I can do physically to help nurture my children is not too great a task (even though I am tempted to feel otherwise at times). In fact, as I sit here looking at my arms and the eight welts that I have to show for the eight injections I recently got as a reproductive immunological treatment, my eyes are filling with tears, as I acknowledge that I would do it again every day if I had to for my babies. Even as I shirk at the idea of all the needles & pills in my future during the pursuit of children, I am confident that every pain, every prick, every tear is more than worth it for the children God has & will give us.

And who taught me that lesson of sacrificial self-giving? My parents.

I love you, Mama & Daddy.

The Centrality of Scripture & The Prominence of Psalms

My friend Erin asked me to participate in a special blog party honoring our parents, highlighting our Christian heritage, and specifying ways that we want to pass that legacy on to the next generation. As she put it, today is our own little Honor Your Father And Your Mother Day. 🙂 Deuteronomy 5:16, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” At first, I had lots of little ideas rolling around in my head—there are lots of things that I appreciate about my Christian upbringing that are being passed down to the next generation already! I had a hard time coming up with just one thing to highlight. In fact, I wrote two [fairly different] posts in anticipation of this blog party, and will just post the second one at a later time. 😉

When trying to think of something specific my parents did in their parenting that I am eager to do in my own—one of the main things that kept coming back to me was their constant spouting-off of Scripture. No joke: my parents had a Scripture for every situation. That simply taught me that Scripture applies to my every situation! It was a valuable lesson, and before I can remember it ever being specifically taught to me—it was simply exemplified for me.

My parents constantly reiterated the centrality of Scripture in our lives by word and deed. Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

I have always had trouble with my memory, and Sunday School memory verses were a terrible stress for me as a young girl. So my dad came up with a handy solution—put the verse to music, and I would have it memorized in about ten minutes. My father was always quick to help me with Scripture, not only memorizing them in word but showing me how to apply them in my life, relationships, attitudes, joys, and struggles.

When my brother and I were older, beginning to try out our wings, my mother continued to bathe us in the Word. In fact, she would put little sticky notes with a new Scripture for each day on the steering wheel of my brother’s car and on the mirror in my bathroom. She never failed to encourage us with those little sticky papers covered in handwritten Scripture—in fact, I still have a collection of them that I simply didn’t want to part with.

These are just a couple of little ways that I want to likewise shower Scripture upon my child(ren). I want to help Gabriel memorize Scripture, whether it is to music or not, much like my father did for me. And I want to give him Scriptures for specific days and specific trials, much like my mother did for me. I want to emphasize the completeness and coherency of Scripture for everything God ordains in my life and the lives of my children. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Besides emphasizing the centrality of Scripture in general, my parents also emphasized (through word sometimes, but largely through example) the prominence of the Psalms. In prayer, in singing, in encouragement, in exhortation—Psalms were just a part of our daily life. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” I have learned to cling to this precious book of the Bible more than any other, as it encompasses everything I could imagine! What a beautiful prayer book. What a stout song book. What a timely encouragement book. What an honest story book.

I want to continue singing Psalms with and to Gabriel, reading them with him (two of his favorite books already are Psalm 127 and Psalm 103), encouraging & exhorting him with them throughout his life—both childhood and adulthood. I want to keep praying Psalms over all of my children, even while in the womb.

I am thankful that God blessed me by putting me in a family overflowing with covenantal faithfulness that goes back for many generations. I am thankful that God blessed me by giving me parents who were faithful not only to God & His Word, but also to one another and to their children. I am thankful that God has continued to bless me through my parents’ encouragement and exhortation even in my adulthood. And I am thankful that God’s grace is abundant, as I endeavor to set before my children a godly example of faithful Christianity, ardent wifehood, and fruitful motherhood. May I, like my parents before me, never neglect to emphasize the centrality of Scripture in our life, home, and family—and to nurture a love for and knowledge of the Psalms, making them prominent each day. May I inculcate hope in my family as we cling to Scripture to supply our instruction and encouragement. Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Graces

Showing grace by entering his world:

Showing grace by allowing him to enter ours:

Lavish Grace

My husband writes excellent posts. I find him incredibly profound, and yet somehow easy to read and simple to understand. I am very fond of my head. 😀

He recently has written up a few posts expounding on principles that Mr. Wilson spoke on at a conference we attended in April. One of them discussed the emphasis on grace that we need to have with our children, just as God has with us (His children). Steven and I have constantly gone back to this theme of grace, grace, grace ever since the conference, and I feel like it is changing not only my parenting, but also many of my relationships in general (I posted this last fall, which is another great reminder of grace spilled into relationships). It is beautiful. It is freeing. It is powerful.

In this post Steven wrote emphasizing grace in parenting, he talks about how God lavishly dumps heaps of grace upon our heads, and how we need to imitate that by lavishly dumping it upon our children as well: “We should overflowingly spill grace to our kids.

Steven and I have discussed, on occasion, different ways that we spill grace to our Gabriel (and to our other babies too). Diligent, consistent training & discipline is one way we spill grace (one of our imitations of God). Teaching & indulging curiosity about God’s created world. Reading extra books at bedtime. Having a cookie picnic on the kitchen floor just for fun. Laughing over spilled milk instead of crying. Allowing jolly messes to be made (I’m thinking blanket forts, fingerpainting, and trucks in the mud) and joyfully cleaning them up. Adding bubbles to the bath. Not exasperating. Playing silly games over and over and over. Showing them how to use the vacuum. Teaching how bread is made, how to chop onions, how to pour lemonade. Taking them places, even if it’s just to the bank. Jumping in mud puddles, and following it up with a lesson on laundry while drinking hot cocoa. Singing, praying, going to church together. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper together.
This list could be endless, and I could go on & on — which just reiterates the point that we have endless opportunities to overflowingly spill grace to our kids. Especially because, as Steven says, faithful discipling & disciplining of our children is the first & foremost way of spilling grace upon them — and we all know that there are countless times in every day where we are able to spill that particular grace! 🙂

But what I really wanted to share here was a simple yet profound statement my husband said to me when we discussed this a few days ago:

  • Showing grace to our children isn’t just entering into their world — it is that, but it is only partly that. It is also allowing them to enter ours.

Isn’t that profound? And isn’t that excellent? How God-like!! Just as He enters our world, He allows us to enter His as well. In part now, and in fullness yet to come.
All honor, laud, and glory be to Him.

Saturday April 24, 2010

Steven and I were very blessed to attend a conference at one of our sister churches, about raising our children to face the future, full of faith and unafraid. The speakers were Doug and Nancy Wilson. The sessions were incredibly encouraging and convicting. What a blessing!! Lots of talking about loving our children, educating them, and disciplining them rightly. It was so excellent.
I’ve typed out some of my bullet-point notes, and hope you may glean some blessings from these as well. I may elaborate more on a couple of these points in the near future. Although, really, you should just order the cds of the conference to get the full measure of blessing. 🙂


  • The promises of God for the Kingdom are fulfilled over the course of generations, but more to the point, they are fulfilled by generations.
  • Proper eschatology gives us an arc of time, so we know where we are and where we are going. Since God’s promises are fulfilled over time, Christian child-rearing and education are intimately related to eschatology.
  • God is the Master Storyteller.
  • Comedies tend to culminate in a wedding — so does the Bible.
  • Covenantal mercy (i.e. in Psalm 103) is not a reward for being a perfect parent.
  • These promises are given to us by grace.
  • Generational connectedness = history.
  • You are  bringing up eternal beings.
  • Repetition in parenting does not mean you’re failing! God repeats Himself all the time! (Have you ever read Proverbs?)
  • In contrast to our feeble existence, the mercy of the Lord is not feeble. (Psalm 103:13-17)
  • Child rearing is generational training.
  • Things we do now matter forever.
  • God set eternity in our hearts; we are supposed to get the big picture.
  • One of the ways God grows us up into maturity is having us raise others up into maturity.
  • Are you training your progeny to be leaders or followers?
  • You want loyalty from your kids, not cookie cutter response.
  • The Law doesn’t grow you into maturity (alone) — grace does.
  • Respond to your kids the way God responds to you.
  • Over time sin matures; obedience matures; righteousness matures.
  • Young children thrive in an environment of strict, loving, predictable, and enforced discipline.
  • The only way your covenantal influence will extend over generations is if your biblical standards are internalized.
  • You don’t just want your kids to follow the standard, you want your kids to understand and love the standard.

  • All your parental efforts must themselves be ground in God’s grace, appropriated through faith.
  • You can extend grace to your children because you are a non-stop recipient of it (Eph 2:8-9).
  • If you don’t have a solid grasp of God’s sovereignty, you will parent in fear.
  • Godly Christian parenting looks an awful lot like hard work. But take into account God‘s strength and His enabling grace.
  • Grace accumulates, grace multiplies, grace grows richer & deeper.
  • It is grace to grow accustomed to grace.
  • The Scriptures are all of grace. The world around us is all grace. The breath in your lungs is grace, and the warmth of your feet right now is grace. The children around your table are grace. Receive them as grace, and give to them as grace.
  • Faith the size of a mustard seed in the right object (God) is enough — enormous faith in the wrong object (anything else), however, will not get you anywhere but disaster.
  • When your faith is weak, don’t take it out and look at it — it will grow weaker. Look to Christ. Look outside yourself and your circumstances.
  • Pray with big faith in your big God; don’t use escape hatches in your prayers (i.e. “if it be Your will.”) This is not praying with big enough faith. Ask big of Him.
  • When you’re motivated to discipline, you aren’t qualified; and when you’re qualified, you frequently aren’t motivated.
  • Motivation to discipline must come from another source than annoyance (i.e. your own obedience to God’s commands, and an overwhelming love for your children).
  • Grace is an everlasting waterfall with no top, no bottom, no sides, no front, and no back.
  • What is the thing that makes life hard? A misunderstanding of grace.

  • Psalm 127’s reference to children as arrows is not cutesy — it shows us that children are weapons. They go with us against the gates of Hell.
  • You want to bring up children who will stand with you in the gate.
  • Having more weapons (children) is not the point — having excellent weapons is.
  • Academic work is preparation for life, and preparation for life is a character issue.
  • The most difficult sins to see are the ones you thought were your virtues.
  • You need to raise kids with three qualities in mind: Loyalty, Courage, and Content.
  • Hard teaching produces soft hearts; soft teaching produces hard hearts.
  • School is boot camp — not the war.
  • You must shape and steer your child’s soul and spirit, not break it.
  • Love your children to pieces — this secures their loyalty.
  • Put them in situations where they can fail — and teach them what to do when they fail, how to get back up.
  • Courage is secured by sending your kids out.
  • Courage is not a separate virtue, but the testing point of all the virtues.
  • One of the principal glories of education is learning how to throw down with biblical standards and in biblical ways.

  • Mothers must put on honor, strength, integrity, and courage in order to smile at the future. (Proverbs 31:25)
  • Worry is not limited to motherhood. As women, it is our tendency. We must have faith instead of fear.
  • God suits our afflictions to the needs of our souls.
  • God is going to give us tests over the material He is teaching us. But His tests are all open book!
  • God loves to bless us in our children and grandchildren. (Psalm 112:1-2)
  • We give our children to God even before they are conceived, and we continue to give them to God.
  • Our children are to grow up knowing who they are. Not only blood family, but church community. Who are their people?
  • As far as your earthly ministry goes with your husband, your central and first priority is always your kids.
  • Emphasize to your children that they come first (not before the marriage relationship, but before other relationships, before the laundry, before your hobbies, before your perfect house, before your perfect schedule). Let them know they are your priority.
  • We are raising up the next generation, and that is so much bigger than we can see.
  • We must view our home as an oasis for our husband and children. It must have an aroma of grace and fresh bread.
  • We want our children to grow up in a place that is friendly to them.
  • A worrisome mother will either become repellent to her children, or just plain ruin them.
  • Be mindful not to instill fearfulness into others. Encourage instead.
  • Doubts and fears don’t have answers.
  • Learn to distinguish between the voices of the Devil and the Holy Spirit.
  • Get to know your vulnerabilities so you can control them.
  • Pray preventatively. Strengthen the walls that are weak in your city.
  • Dress yourself in submission to God and to your husband.
  • Do not engage fear. Ignore it. Don’t let it in when it comes knocking — it’s hard to evict once you let it in.
  • God never gives us commands without the means to do them.
  • Leave your children an inheritance of joy: memories, stories, integrity, Sabbath tables, laughter, forgiveness, humility, grace, etc.

  • The duties of a godly parent are profound and challenging.
  • Parenting is completely dependent on the grace of God (like everything else).
  • Parents should love mercy.
  • Mercy is principled, tough, courageous; not lazy, slack, or relative. Mercy is mercy!
  • You can correct your kid because you love him too much to let him grow up that way (the right reason), or you can correct your kid because you’re annoyed and have a headache (the wrong reason).
  • When we stumble or offend little ones, we are refusing to let mercy triumph over judgment. (James 2:13)
  • Faithful parents = full of faith parents.
  • Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises in the Bible. His coming fulfilled God’s faithfulness to generations.
  • Promises to parents are based on the unchanging character of God.
  • Psalm 102:25-27 doesn’t tell us what God can do, but what He will do. This is based squarely on His unchanging character.
  • Parents should always desire to be like God in their relationship to their children. But when we think to apply this, we gravitate to what we think God is like instead of what God reveals Himself to be like.
  • Keep life simple. Keep the rules simple and easy to memorize.
  • Don’t multiply opportunities for disobedience.
  • Reduce the number of commands you issue by about 90%, and then enforce all those commands. Don’t exasperate your children. Remember their frame.
  • A parent who disciplines effectively is refusing to allow his child to make himself unlovely.
  • Discipline is corrective, and it is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and it is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it.
  • Discipline, rightly understood, is not an exception to the rule of delighting in your children, it is a principal expression of it.
  • All who love, discipline (Proverbs 13:24). But it does not follow from this that all who discipline, love. A child must grow up in, be surrounded by, and be nourished in, the love of God revealed for His people in the Word Incarnate and the Word revealed. This is the context in which godly child-rearing occurs, and outside of which it cannot occur.

Thursday March 18, 2010

March 18th was the due date for my first baby, Covenant Hope. Two years ago. Two whole years ago. Anyway, this is the third time I have come upon her due date, and the first one where I didn’t wake up in tears about it. I don’t know if I like that or not, it’s just simply a fact.

But at this moment, I am celebrating life. There is a little boy in the other room, not anxious to get out of his crib in the morning. He loves to spend forever playing with his fuzzy white bear, little moo-cow, and music box blue elephant — in his crib. No matter if he needs a diaper change or not. He loves to play and jibber-jabber in there and move aside the blinds to look out the window near his crib so he can watch trucks going by. (He doesn’t know it’s trash day, but he will be loving that in about two hours!!)

This is life. This is a miracle-boy whose life goes against the odds. This is my son whose very existence is God-breathed, continuously. This is the baby who only exists because his big sister left the earth far too early.

So yes, I miss Covenant. I miss having a March baby. I miss the things I would’ve, could’ve done with her.

But I never take for granted the fact that Gabriel is here, really, because she isn’t.
And because, obviously, our God is good.

So in honor of Covenant, and celebrating her little brother’s life today, I am sharing a few of our favorite things in the world of parenthood. Enjoy.


These are a Few of Our Favorite Things

People have not infrequently asked me what some of my favorite things have been that I’ve used with my baby over the last two years. So I compiled a list (complete with links) for your perusal. These are things that I highly recommend. They’ve got the redhead stamp of approval, lol. : ) These make great things for baby shower requests/registries, and Christmas/birthday lists as well—for you or your baby.

Blankies!!—Made by Grandmama, about ¼ the size of most fuzzy blankets you’d have a kid sleep with, trimmed with satin edging. We’ve got four of them: one in the car, one in the diaper bag, one in the crib, one in Gabriel’s hand (however, occasionally, one or more is in the hamper!).

Pediped shoes—We’ve had lots of these as Gabriel has grown, and they have proven to be not only super adorable but super durable. Now his cousin wears the hand-me-downs, and maybe someday a little brother will wear them. Because, yes, they are that durable.

Stonz boots—Just so clever, so convenient, so mommy-friendly. Especially if you need to quickly run from muddy outside to the potty, they come off super fast thanks to the handy toggles. We have loved these in snow, rain, mud, even just dust.

Prorap diaper covers—These are a blessing. No leaks, no blow-outs, easy to use, easy to wash, they work like brand-new even after months of usage. Excellent diapers, especially since they are excellent on the budget!

Calmoseptine—The best diaper rash cure I’ve found. And trust me, my kid teeths practically nonstop, and whenever he’s teething, we need diaper rash help.

PlanToys toys—Moms love durability and safety, kids love fun! These guys have got everyone pleased.

Sandra Boynton board books—Our little library has quite a few of these, and they always seem to be the biggest hit. We’re now starting to share the Boynton-love with our niece & nephews!

Bumbo seat—Gabriel started using this when he was 3 or 4 months old, and it became a lifesaver for both dvd time and food time (when he was 9 months). It really helped him develop his neck and tummy muscles when he was young. It works as a great booster seat at home and as a take-with-you highchair substitute. Our almost-two-year-old is average size for his age, and I don’t see him outgrowing this thing yet!

Babyhawk mei tai—Quite possibly my all-time favorite baby carrier. It just seems the most beautiful (lovely fabrics to choose from), versatile (front, back, or hip carry), and user-friendly (two simple knots and you’re done). Ours is reversible, with stripes on one side (hubby loves that) and flowers on the other. It can be used from newborn (I didn’t get it until my baby was about three months old but I’ve got friends who’ve used them from day one) all the way up through toddler. I still use it on my 27 pound little boy, and he loves riding around on my back.

Ellaroo wrap—I started out with a stretchy jersey knit wrap, and although I liked it for about a month, I didn’t like it once my baby started to gain weight. So I found a substitute, this wonderful handwoven linen wrap that won’t stretch out during a day of babywearing. This is the carrier that best aided sleeping for my baby (which was helpful because he wanted to be held 24/7 as a small baby, and this allowed me to hold him while cooking, cleaning, exercising, etc). He loved to nap in this wrap! He felt secure and safe, and the linen kept him cool enough he didn’t sweat a lot, even when we were traipsing around Barcelona. Plus, it’s beautiful, and can make a lovely accessory, especially if you’re running errands and taking baby in & out a lot.

Britax carseat—Safety is important, especially when strapping your kid into the car. Side impact protection is a huge factor, and Britax has found a solution. These seats are big and sturdy, and will last a kid for years. It’s a great investment. They are cute, comfortable, easy to use, and it fits great even in our small sedan as a rear-facing seat.

Beaba Babycook baby food maker—There’s nothing like homemade food. We all know it. So why would you give your baby canned food when it’s not what you’d want to eat for dinner? Well, usually the reason is because it takes too much time or is too complicated to make your own baby food. Hah! Not anymore. When Gabriel was first eating solids, I made him delicious fresh purees. Some I made fresh every day (fruits), and others I made in batches (veggies and meat) every week or two, and froze them in ice cube trays. Nothing could possibly be more healthy & handy. And this baby food maker makes it a cinch. Now I still use it to steam veggies and make occasional purees! I even use it to make smoothies for myself. : )

Gymboree’s clearance rack at the mall—Style and fashion. There you have it. : ) But the clearance rack is what helps out the pocketbook. Looking ahead toward the long-term, shopping for clothes at WalMart does not pay off in my book. I like to buy well made clothing that will last through my kids as well as my brother’s kids (since we share stuff). The Gymboree clothing (which is probably 75% of Gabriel’s wardrobe) that I am getting back from my sister-in-law as my nephew outgrows it, looks practically as good after two boys’ usage as it did when I took off the tags. What a blessing! Because, let’s be honest: who has time to mend baby clothes, and who wants to be wasting money to buy a new wardrobe for every baby?!

Saturday October 31, 2009

God, oh God, be merciful.

Be gentle and be kind.

Our flesh has grown so weak

And now we feel quite left behind.

 

You gave to us the desire

To have children and yet

You take them all so early;

We feel, it seems that You forget

 

That You were the One

Who called upon us to be

Fruitful on earth and multiplied

And a faithful family.

 

Our minds can not fathom

The streets of pearls and gold

While our arms sit here empty

Without our children to hold.

 

We ask and we pray

And we seek; shall we find?

Our hope and our faith

And our strength are all declined.

 

As we taste this bitter fruit

We feel alone in so much pain;

We long to feel Your comfort

And Your face shine once again.

 

Please guide and lead and strengthen

So that we may learn to be

A true and noble witness

To the Church and world of Thee.

 

Give peace beyond our knowledge

And return to us our joy

Please take this cup of sorrow,

Our doubts and fear destroy.

 

We thank You for the honor

Of producing babes for You

Who will ever live in Glory

Singing, dancing, honoring too—

 

But we beg of You, our Father,

And beseech Your holy name,

To please fill our home with children—

Your faithfulness to proclaim.

 

Astound us with Your mercy,

Bowl us over with Your grace,

Behind this frowning providence,

Please show Your smiling face.

 

Return to us sevenfold

For our sorrows and our grief,

Restore us to our kindred,

Recover hopeful belief.

 

We know that You are worthy

Of our sacrifice and praise.

We do desire to worship, love,

Serve, honor You all our days.

 

But we ask You as Your children

For bread and not a stone.

We trust You in Your sovereignty

To provide as You can alone.

 

Lead us and guide us,

For our footsteps make a way;

Mold us and shape us,

More like Christ a bit each day.

 

And while we learn to wait

And tread right through the fire

Please be our daily sustenance

And help our souls not to expire.

 

We long to be restored

To the joy of Thy salvation

And to once again pursue

Producing a covenant nation.

 

For of us, Your people, You demand

Faithful, pure diligence

To be fruitful, multiply, and subdue

On the earth in Your presence.

 

Provide for us, dear Father,

So that we may faithful be,

Be strong now in our weakness

And cause us not to flee

 

Thy presence, in our anguish

In our fear, and in our cries.

Purge our sorrow, refresh our spirits,

Wipe each teardrop from our eyes.

~by MJC~