Our family took a walk in the mountains a couple weeks ago. I can't really call it a hike, because we didn't go far enough for that, because kids. Actually, I would've been happy to sit by the little stream and eat watermelon, but I went on the walk. Again, because kids.
And I was glad I did. We got to experience a lot of different things, and as I thought it all over the next few days, I realized a few parallels. As it turns out, parenting is a walk in the Rocky Mountains. And then God gave me some beautiful mind pictures to go along with it. So, I'm inviting you to take this walk with me and we're going to get a new look of our parenting.
When we got to the mountains, we set up our little day camp spot, complete with chairs, watermelon, and lots of water. It was comfortable and restful. I felt like I could sit there and take in the beauty all day. Much like the day we brought our first baby home. And our second. Well, kinda the same for babies 3, 4, 5, and 6 too. I didn't know everything about parenting (still don't) or about this tiny little person I was holding, or anything, really. But it felt cozy and beautiful and I just wanted to sit in that season for a while. Spiritually speaking, it didn't require a whole lot for me. Tender prayers, sweet songs, sacred blessings; these are the things we whisper over our newest ones.
Soon, it was time to move on. The kids were calling us to explore, so we went, leaving the comfortable area we knew and exploring new ones. The two oldest led the way, the middle ones held our hands and the babies were in our arms, as we trudged along a trail worn by many wild hooves and paws.
“Give what you have decided in your heart to give.”
What powerful words from Paul in 2 Corinthians that my husband and I took to heart in our early days of parenting.
We loved being parents and loved pouring into our children as well as their friends. “The more the merrier” was our motto when it came to having our daughters’ friends at our house. We wanted those kids at our house. That way we knew what they are watching, doing, eating, drinking and who they were hanging out with.
It wasn’t a conspiracy or a plot to be the cool parents, but rather a calling that we felt when we became parents. It was like 2 Corinthians 9:7 became our north-star verse: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And that giving included lots of gatherings.
Pouring our lives into our children and their friends by being Christian witnesses is the most important thing in this world – showing them Jesus; being the hands and feet of Christ.
And so we began that journey years ago. As most young couples, we didn’t have much extra money, so we looked for ways to do fun things that didn’t cost a lot. We wanted to be the gathering house and by being the gathering house, we knew we would have to spend money on snacks and other things.
We found 2 Corinthians 2:6 was a promise that God kept for us. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
We figured out ways to sacrifice spending on other things so that we could use funds to provide a safe place for kids to gather.
When our girls were younger, we would have parties for about any occasion we could think of: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, summer, back-to-school, Halloween and Christmas. Our snacks usually included homemade cut-out cookies and Kool-Aid® drinks. We would play games like drop the clothes pin in a jar, Duck-Duck- Goose or tag in the front yard. We had a swimming pool that was always a summer favorite activity. And we did crafts. So many crafts!
I’m going to take a wild guess that my children aren’t the only ones with a bad habit every day. Or two. Or seven. So I’m going to share some of the practical ways I’ve found to weed them out. Spoiler alert: I’m a flower farmer and weeds rarely disappear the first time you pluck them. This isn’t a quick fix mama.
But take heart, Stefani posted an amazing blog post here about God’s escape from the frustrations of parenting when you feel like you’re constantly correcting your kids. If you haven’t read it - I encourage you to click here and give it a quick read!
Which brings me to my disclaimers. The first is that this will require faithfulness. This isn’t self produced or muscled up from your own strength. It’s a blessed, fruitful consistency that grows out of relying on our Heavenly Father. My second disclaimer is simply that I don’t claim any of this wisdom as my own. I’ve struggled bunches with lack of discipline in myself which has trickled down to my children. In my research, I’ve found the bulk of my inspiration from scripture and the writings of Charlotte Mason and C.S. Lewis among others. So I’m right there with you mama!
Know your “why”:
Teaching our children things such as manners, kindness and obedience are big jobs for the long haul. If we don’t keep sight of our reason for this task, Satan’s attempts to foil our plans will be all too successful.
First there are Biblical reasons we should take this job seriously. God asks us to work mightily for Him in all we do. (Col 3:23) We have the responsibility to be good stewards as parents to train our children. (Prov 13:24b) And we sincerely hope that our children will exhibit these things as Spiritual fruit stemming from a walk with the Lord. (Gal 5:22-23)
Additionally, God has unique purposes for each of our families. The ways he has gifted & called each family will and should add more beautiful purpose to our mission as moms. (Be sure to checkout our printable and get your “why” written down!)
On the other hand, If our why has unrighteous motivation, the habit likewise will be unwholesome when it comes down to it. When looking at my own life I can relate to this quote from Charlotte Mason: “... “given, on the other hand, a mother whose final question is, ‘What will people say? what will people think? how will it look?’ and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not of being; they are content to appear well-dressed, well-mannered, and well-intentioned to outsiders, with very little effort after beauty, order, and goodness at home, and in each other’s eyes.”
What: breaking down the concept of habits.
Every time we think or act a certain way, it’s as if we flex a muscle in our brain. Each time we do that same thing, the “muscle” gets stronger. A habit is a very strong neural pathway. Each time we repeat the action it gets easier to do. We can be super grateful for habits. They’re what allow us to do most of our daily functions with very little effort or thought. Imagine how exhausted we’d be if we had to put the same effort towards walking and eating that we did when we were infants!
Hey mama. Do you ever feel like you tell your kids the same thing 1,000 times a day? No? It's just me? Ha!
It's truly one of the most frustrating things of motherhood. "How many times have I told you to pick up your clothes?"
"You don't have to be told to fix your bed. You know you're supposed to do that every morning!"
"Would you stop teasing your sister?!?"
Can't you just feel the tension rising? I feel a need for chocolate just typing those phrases out. Ha!
I don't need to tell you this isn't God's plan for motherhood. But you also need to know that there is no need to drown in condemnation and exasperation. That is also not God's plan for you, and He always provides a way of escape for His children.
Motherhood is a labor of love.
We all know that, right? From the first moment we discovered we were pregnant, or the first time we met our child through adoption, we learned a different kind of love.
But some days...
Some days the love is as strong as ever, but the sparkles seem to have faded. The rose-colored lenses (ok Instagram filters) have been removed, and real life hits.
And we wish they would just learn to fix their bed already. Or that they'd put their toys in the toy box, and not behind it. And why do they have to whine about washing the dishes every single night. Are you feeling these bold words? Yelling them in your head?
I so often forget that my kids are kids. Not tiny adults with fully developed minds.
At this writing, we have just celebrated Mother’s Day. I loved seeing all the ways women were honored all over social media. Some women got breakfast in bed or a special lunch, or both! Most women got at least a card or a phone call and some of us got beautiful gifts and thoughtful scribbly drawings. There were written tributes everywhere and abundant ravings for the importance of mothers in church on Sunday.
Now, Father’s Day is coming up. (If you had forgotten consider this your friendly reminder!) Churches and newspapers all around the world will provide acronyms and three point sermons regarding ways for father’s to be the very best dad possible. They'll be encouraged to be strong leaders, with the perfect balance of gentleness and authority, mercy and justice. Not only that, but they’ll be reminded that their relationship with their kids can only be as good as their relationship with their children’s mom.
Do you see the contrast? Many dads will receive gifts and cards of thanks, but the overarching tone of Father’s Day seems to be: here is the high bar you should seek to attain. Why are the two holidays different in this way? In preparation for this Father’s Day, I’d like to take some time to really ponder why Father’s are worth honoring.
One of the implications of this difference in attitudes towards each holiday is that (since we know that Mother’s aren’t ACTUALLY perfect, despite what the Hallmark card says) there is abundant grace for moms, but not so much for dads. By overlooking her short-comings, but prodding him to improve on his, we are rending concepts that in actuality must coexist to reflect God’s design.
So I’d like to start by reminding us that yes, there is infinite grace for all of our shortcomings. Just as there is great value in seeing Christ’s example and other scriptural wisdom and following after them wholeheartedly. I want you to know that I do believe in the value of teaching men how to become ever more capable to fulfill their calling. I also believe in giving abundant grace while the Spirit makes us new. I just feel like we as women mostly get the latter and men kind of get the short end of the stick each spring. As we move forward, let’s take these inseparable concepts and think of fatherhood with a more cohesive set of lenses.
The Weight Of Authority In Fatherhood
As women and mothers, many of our responsibilities are very tangible. In many homes, mom is primarily responsible for much of the household duties. This looks different in every home and can be very dependent on whether mom works, whether or not there are two parents in the household and so many other factors.
Our responsibilities could be cooking and cleaning, working and/or educating children, or maybe keeping the lawn or garden looking pristine. No matter what it looks like for each unique family, it’s common for a woman’s responsibilities to be self-evident. It’s easy to see if they are completed and with what level of care. It’s also therefore a lot easier to be grateful for them. I know not everything is quite as simple and visible. Sometimes mom is home with the children during the day and her efforts to love and discipline her children go largely unnoticed. Unless of course our kiddos misbehave in public of course! (I’m right there with you, mama!)
Let’s take a moment and think about the cultural and Biblical expectations for a Father. Colossians and Ephesians have similar instructions to Fathers, asking them not to provoke their children, but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As husbands, men are expected to make important decisions, be financially responsible, lead their families spiritually and maintain a healthy walk with Christ. I feel like I need to take a breather just typing that out!
Think about it this way. If you don’t do the laundry, within a few days or more people will notice. They’ll come to you looking for clean underwear and complaining of having nothing to wear. (Although I don’t know about yours, but my daughters sometime feel that way even if everything is clean.) Since this responsibility is so tangible (and never-ending right?!) it’s easy to see that you need to kick it into high gear and get it done, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal if your kids wear dirty jeans for a day.
Compare this with most of dad’s roles. It might work similar with mowing the lawn or filling the car up with gas. But what about making life decisions such as whether or not to move? How does it work out with his efforts at spiritual leadership? It usually takes a lot longer (and a lot more risk) to find our whether he made the right call. Will you pause a moment and consider the weight of these things?
Ladies, our jobs have great eternal value. They do. Both in and out of our home, we have been called to do precious things for God’s kingdom. But the bottom line is, a husband and father’s role has added responsibility. A teacher I enjoy recently reminded me of this when speaking on submission. It’s easy to focus on the difficulty of submitting, especially if we believe the leader in our life is wrong. But as women, we don’t often taste the pressure that comes with that authority. You may know how it feels to lead a team, a ministry or a business venture. But unless you’re a single mom, we don’t feel the burden of taking the lead on issues with eternal weight for the people we care about more than anything in the world. Business and ministries can have do-overs. Father’s only get one life to live well.
Making it practical...
Like I said in the beginning. This is a two way street. We all need grace and growth. So this Father’s Day, what can we do differently? Here are a few ideas to start - we’d love to hear yours in the comments!
In the week before or after Father’s Day, take time to pursue your husband’s (or father’s) heart. Many men hesitate to reveal how they’re feeling. Take time to chat and enjoy the conversation. Take time to really listen. Sometime when life is really busy, this alone is such a gift! If time and talk allow, ask him how he’s really doing. Depending on your relationship with him and his with Jesus, you might ask him what God’s been teaching him or how you can pray for him. Maybe, with humility and grace in each hand, you could ask if there’s one thing you could work on or do better to help him.
Say thank you. A real, true, positive thank you. If it’s hard to think of positive things about the man in your life, ask God to help you see through different eyes. Avoid the temptation to blow sunshine and say things that have very little value. One pointed, meaningful word is worth hundreds of shallow ones.
Have some fun! Take him to do something he loves! If you have little ones, maybe add in a gift certificate or home made coupon for him to do that thing alone sometime. For instance, my husband loves to fish. So naturally, he loves to take us fishing with him. Except what he’s really doing when he fishes with the family along, is rowing the boat, untangling fly lines, tying knots, teaching our children how to tie knots, netting fish, calming frustrated casters, and I think you get the picture. I don’t think Father’s Day would be the same without us, but there’s also nothing like a quiet day on the river.
When I started writing on this topic I had that old Christian song - This is the Day - in my mind. I haven’t sung that song for years - and if you are a young mum you may not even know what I’m talking about. So I went on Youtube (as you do these days) and the first find was just precious. To be honest, after watching this little clip with this old chorus in the background there may be no reason for me to write any more.
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made
That the Lord has made
We will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it
And be glad in it
For this is the the day that the Lord has made
We will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.
My words were tight and my face was exasperated. Why were we talking about this again? Sibling rivalry is nearly as old as time and I felt like I had been battling it since it started. Why didn't they get it? I sighed as I quoted Bible verses to them once again, ignoring the angry words that wanted to come out of my mouth. But even Scripture sounded hollow and empty. The ancient words seemed to fly over their heads, unheeded.
Weary of the battle, I sent them off to play in separate rooms for a while. Why God? I'm trying so hard. I'm saying the right things. I'm searching the Bible, reading parenting books, and daily teaching the right kind of behavior. I felt disillusioned with parenting.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.