On Headbands and the Writing on My Hands

Today I started a 7 day reading plan on You Version focused on the topic of parenting.  It’s been a struggle lately, so where better to turn than Scripture.  You Version has really great reading plans based on whole Bible reading but also on specific topics if you are looking for God to speak to you on something specific.

The first reading took me to Deuteronomy 6:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Moses is talking about the Ten Commandments when he speaks of the “words” to be on our hearts.  I don’t know about you, but when I have read this before, I’ve often thought of how to bind them in my children’s hearts more than I think of my own.

The heart is defined as the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, the center of emotion, especially as contrasted to the head as the center of the intellect. When something is bound on our hearts, our speech and conduct, the way we do life overflows from that within us.

When God gave these words to Moses, He already knew of the battle raging within their hearts. The Israelites would struggle with loving their stuff more than He.  He knew they would even love their kids and worship them more than they loved Him. He could see they would have a hard time loving one another.  Their sexual temptations were never a surprise to Him, or their struggle to want what they did not have.  They would wrestle with being content where ever they were…Egypt, the Desert, even in the Land of Promise.

Historically, Jewish people would literally bind something on their hands and have a band or ribbon tied around their foreheads to remind them of these commands.  But metaphorically, God knows we need reminders too.  Reminders that the work of our hands, the way we serve, embrace, and hold our children as well as the perspective by which we see should be infused by this Way being bound in our hearts. They are to be set at the entrances of our homes where we tend to exhibit our worst behavior {when no one else is looking}.  Also on the gates surrounding our homes, creating a safe place to learn how to walk in the way of God so when we go into the world we know  who we are, where we came from and better yet Who we are made of.

Parenting, like everything else we do, should be in response to Who we know God is and what He has done for us.

His grace that saved us. His love which reached us when we were dead in our trespasses.  His mercies, new every morning.  The love that is steadfast and suffers long.  His hope that reminds us of His plan for our lives, you know the ones… the ones to prosper us and not to harm us.  His kindness that leads to repentance.  The security that comes with the promise He will never leave us and He is with us where ever we go.  His love that isn’t easily angered or holds on to records of wrongs.

Perhaps the two chapters are tied up in 5:33

“Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”

Lord, thank you for your infinite grace and mercy, your love that is from everlasting to everlasting.

Help us to walk in your ways today so we can be a life-giving display of your presence among us.

In the Way They Should Go

 

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”  Proverbs 19:2

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” Proverbs 19:18

It’s summer and for our family it means a slight slowing down of pace and more time together.  Our three oldest are all in school full-time which has been a great experience for us thus far.  As Anne Ortlund says, “children are wet cement,” so summertime also affords us the opportunity to reshape and course correct anything needing attention.

This is often spurred on by the fact our pace lends itself to more time to be observant of what is going on in their minds and hearts.  I have more time and space to know what they are thinking and how their world view is being shaped.

Early in June I think it was on a Simple Mom podcast where I heard “you’re not raising your boys to stay home but are raising them for someone else.”  It immediately reminded me of another Proverb that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” 

In the way he should go.

Because what all of us parents have to face is they should, in fact, go.  It’s good and right for them to go.

One day, they will need to go either to college, enter the work force, into marriage (hopefully all of the above).  They will go and create families of their own, participate in their own community, make their own choices, live in their own spaces and influence those around them.

They should go.

What our little baby has taught me in the last year is that it really does go by fast.

Just a couple of years ago I thought of discipline more as training, correction and immediate consequences for standard toddler and early child hood defiance.  But as my boys grow, I grow as a parent and I’m seeing discipline more as training to do the everyday things.

Discipline in thinking of and trusting the Lord when something is hard.  Knowing its okay when it’s hard and doing the hard thing can build their confidence in Him and themselves.  Discipline in getting up in the morning and taking care of household responsibilities and things needed for a good day.  Getting a good meal started, doing the laundry, managing time wisely.  Not rescuing when things go wrong but allowing the space and discomfort to figure it out themselves.

Of course these are things we do from the very beginning, but this summer the end game has become clearer.

If we teach them to be disciplined men, trusting God and being capable of living well and leading well…there is much hope in that.  But if they go, unprepared for the world, they are likely to fall prey to much.

At the same time the discipline required of us is to live it out first.  If we are not good examples, anything we say has no merit.  It also requires us to be observant of where each child is.  Each one is so different in the way they think and process life.  It’s necessary to observe and be knowledgeable so we don’t miss the way God is leading them.   We are officially a big family now so if we choose to parent in a one-size-fits-all manner, it’s far too easy to miss something because there is often a lot going on.

Proverbs 19:2 reminds me of the power of observation and listening.  Really listening not just to what God is showing me but what He is revealing to them.  Because if I really believe God has plan for each of their lives, then I have to accept it’s already begun and my job as a parent is to help them find the way.

The way they are to go.

One Year

Happy Birthday to my “gift.”

You are…

Proof God exists and His ways are higher than ours.

Joy embodied in a person.

You are a source of healing for a weary cancer survivor.  Repair for a literal broken heart.  You have brought calm to a chaotic home.

You represent trust where we lacked it most.

You have given us the gift of laughter, unceasingly great smiles, love when we thought we had enough.

May you continue to bring hope every where you go and may that smile never, ever leave your face for too long.  God has a plan for your life and it is good.  My prayer for you is that you would learn from an early age and live each day knowing He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within you.

I love you my precious son.

One Year

Happy Birthday to my “gift.”

You are…

Proof God exists and His ways are higher than ours.

Joy embodied in a person.

You are a source of healing for a weary cancer survivor.  Repair for a literal broken heart.  You have brought calm to a chaotic home.

You represent trust where we lacked it most.

You have given us the gift of laughter, unceasingly great smiles, love when we thought we had enough.

May you continue to bring hope every where you go and may that smile never, ever leave your face for too long.  God has a plan for your life and it is good.  My prayer for you is that you would learn from an early age and live each day knowing He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within you.

I love you my precious son.

5 Conversations: Pleasing God

This is the fifth and final week of our study, 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son.  Here is where we converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Answer one question or answer all… feel free.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.   If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

I can hardly believe how fast these five weeks have gone.  Part of me really wishes the study was longer because many of the insights I’ve gleaned from Vicki Courtney as well as from all of you who have commented and shared your thoughts and wisdom on and off-line have been priceless.  This is definitely a study I will return to from time to time to bolster my courage as these 4 boys grow into men.

Of every value and moral code we hope to instill in our sons, the most important thing is undeniably the hope and prayer we have for them to please God.  Our family sat all together in church this last Sunday and as we were worshiping, I was overwhelmed by the desire that each of my sons would love Jesus and follow Him all the days of their lives.  By the end of the morning, I had peace.  Not that everything would turn out perfectly according to my plans, but according to His plans and I must trust God for the outcome.  Peace for a fleeting moment in the life of a mom is worth something and I will take it!

The message in this fifth and final week that rang loudly in my ears was humility.  Without humility, our boys will not be able to hear from God, put others first and make decisions with a heart submitted and yielded towards God.

Isaiah 66:2:

“All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word.”

Humility and a contrite spirit is the only way we can actually become people who tremble at His word.

Teaching our boys humility and pleasing God comes largely from our own example of how we approach God.  Humility requires me to give up control and submit to the truth that God’s ways are better than my own. It calls us to daily put down our own desire and put God first. It’s considering Jesus and giving Him the first fruits of our lives, trusting Him for the abundance.

As the author pointed to I Corinthians 3:4-11, it’s up to us to plant and water and trust God for the outcome of growth.  A good friend of mine reminds me from time to time that you cannot thwart God’s plans for your children.  If we believe what we say when we whisper in their ears, “God has a plan for your life, a plan to prosper you, not to harm you but to give you hope,” then we must trust Him for that plan to come to fruition as they walk out their days here on earth.

I appreciated the author pointing out one of  the characteristics of chivalry early on to include courage.  We moms need courage to show our boys the way of Jesus, pointing out His presence in their lives and teaching them how to recognize His voice. If we believe the Spirit of God dwells in them, we need courage to trust Him to lead them in the everlasting way.

In eleven years short years of mothering boys, I’ve learned courage is something I need to ask for daily.  Courage mingled with humility knowing I’m planting and watering but it’s God who will make them grow.

Raising these little men is not just my story, or their story… it is the story of God.

How do you practice the discipline of yielding to God, giving Him full control of your life?

In the five weeks of the study, where have you learned you need courage the most?

How can we pray for you?

5 Conversations: Launching Manhood

This is week 4 of our study, 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son.  Here is where we converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Answer one question or answer all… feel free.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.   If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

When I picked up the boys from school on Valentine’s Day, they were anxious to tell me all about the day’s events, particularly who asked who to “be their Valentine.”  In 5th grade, the kids seem more open to the possibilities of romance and begin teasing and sharing who they have crushes on.  Apparently some kids will even bring a special gift for a special someone to demonstrate their heart leaning towards that said someone – for about 5 minutes.

My son shared that he was thinking about asking someone to be his Valentine, but wasn’t sure if he was allowed to.  Here is how I handled the conversation:

“You could ask someone to be your Valentine, if you want.”

“Really?”

“Sure, but you want to be honoring to her and her family, so you’d first have to speak with her dad about it and get permission.  After all, she is his treasure and you don’t want to upset any dad in regards to his treasure.”

“What?!?!”

“For example, if you wanted to ask {Cute 5th Grade Girl} to be your Valentine, you’ll need to call up her dad and see if you could come over and talk with him.  Wear something nice, I’ll drive you over and you can ask him permission to give his daughter a gift and ask her to be your Valentine for the day.”

“I’m not doing that!  I’m too young for that.”

“Okay.  It’s up to you.  Just be prepared that when the day comes that you may want to treat someone special, she’s already special to her Daddy so you’ll need to have these conversations.”

It was pretty fun and thankfully I knew my son would be completely mortified but it was a good opportunity to lay some ground work about how we’re going to do this girl/boy thing differently.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation if – indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” ~ I Peter 2:2-3

I really liked how the author pointed us to this verse because it speaks to the process of maturity and growing up into who God intended them to be.  There was an article in a well-known magazine a few years ago expressing how in our western culture we’ve added adolescence and the teen years into our social life spans.  The article asserted that either you are a child or an adult and in our cultures we have created this in between that has often trapped people and left them in an abyss.

We see the struggle in many twenty somethings and sadly even those in their thirties who have never fully understood what it means to be a man or a woman, in the adult sense of the word.  I speak to many young women who somehow believe that you don’t really become a woman until you’re married.  And in our church, hundreds of men go through “Men’s Fraternity,” a study on manhood that calls men up to take their responsibility as providers, protectors and leaders at work, at home and in their spheres of influence.  Notice I didn’t say, “take their place.”  I don’t care how liberal or independent you are as a woman, somewhere inside of her, every woman wants a strong man by her side.  If you think you don’t, then ask yourself if you’ve ever used the phrase “Man up!” in talking to or about someone you love… but that’s another blog post.

In raising our boys, this week’s study spoke to the necessity of preparing to launch our boys into manhood and the process begins at the beginning of their tender lives.  I came away from this week wondering how well we are doing this with our four boys, particularly in two areas:

1.  Their faith.

2.  Their Work Ethic

Since my husband and I are in ministry, our kids go to church a lot, are surrounded by believers. Because we love Him, frequently talk to and about Jesus in our home.  In thinking of launching manhood, I want to address their faith first because the heart is the wellspring of life.

We serve together when given the opportunity, we give together. The tension I’m wrestling with today is that by no means do we lead our family in regular devotion time.  Nor do we insist they have their own devotion time daily.  Our discipleship of the boys is based on conversation and {we hope} our example of loving Jesus. We turn to the scriptures when we are inquiring of the Lord but I’m really careful not to beat them down with it.  It’s a tension for us being in ministry because we want the boys to love Jesus, His Church and His mission… not become inoculated to it because of their surroundings.

Ultimately, they will need to birth and grow their own faith.

Regarding work ethic, we have a system set up for chores and through their chores they earn money for their allowance.  We have a big family, so we often talk about the necessity for each of us to do our part.  Of course we love the bless our kids when we can, but honestly with the growing appetite for “stuff” we have found early on that we need to have these conversations with them.

So, I was challenged… are we instilling a healthy view of providing?  Are we setting the table for them to come to their Savior?

What do you think of when it comes to launching manhood? 

Are their practices you have established in your family towards these goals? 

Where are you challenged in raising your sons to become men?

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby {5 Conversations: Saying No}

If you’re following along in our study on 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son, Raise your hand if the Salt ‘n Pepa song came to mind at least once this last week.

If you are doing the study with us, here is where we will converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Answer one question or answer all… feel free.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.   If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

This week’s study was thought provoking to say the least. It caused me to think about my own upbringing, experiences, impressions, conversations with friends and parents {or should I say – lack, there of}.  And along with some other random conversations this week, really made me think about how the subject of sex is being leaked out, presented and impressed upon our kids.

From page 81:

“Our sons need to know that sex is good and that God, the Creator of sex, put some rules in place so that they might experience the best sex life possible.”

Question – How did you learn about sex growing up?

I’ll go first… I learned from my friends, the media, and thankfully at the right time in my life learned from some amazing youth leaders from church and other people’s parents.  {Shout out to Mrs. Reed!}  If God hadn’t intervened, life may have turned out very differently for me and I’m thankful that in the midst of hearing from a mom in my community, I realized even then how I wanted to approach the subject when I became a parent.

Consider this quote from page 92:

“For evangelicals, sex is a ‘symbolic boundary’ marking a good Christian from a bad one, but in reality, the kids are always sneaking across enemy lines.”

If you were to take a moment of honest introspection, is your view of sex

closely tied to your view of a good Christian? What are the results you are looking for in your kids?

About 15 years ago, I would have reluctantly answered yes.

This week’s conversation drove home the concept that we as mothers ought to be about shepherding and nurturing our children towards a relationship with God.  An authentic-Christocentric-Jesus-loving-Holy-Spirit-leading-Sheep-hearing-His-voice-kind of relationship with the Living God.

I want to do my best to impress upon my children the truth and give them a God honoring perspective of sex and how fantastic God intends it to be. That being said, we must be careful not to make virginity more important than a heart turned towards Jesus.

Should they remain pure until the day they are married, praise God… this is only one sign of fruitfulness.  Behavior modification will only go so far… heart transformation is eternal.

In retrospect, my view of sex was largely based on a rule, “don’t do it.”  I didn’t grow up understanding the “why’s” of God’s design.

Have you and if so, how have you began the conversation with your son? 

If your sons have reached adolescence, do you encourage them to wait? If so, how?

In our home, it’s began in 3rd grade.  The questions came up and we decided to answer them {age appropriately} lest they hear a different, less accurate answer from a friend.  My son told me the kids are already talking about it, so I was glad when we began.

Consider the following:

“We moms must approach the topic of sex with confidence and assurance, so our sons are left with no doubt that it is an amazing gift from God.  If we’ll only ask, God will give us the wisdom to know when to initiate conversations about sex and the boldness needed to approach the topic with confidence.  Our boys need to hear the truth.”

What makes you nervous about these conversations? 

If you are married, do you think it’s just as important for you to be having the conversations

along with your husband?  Or would you rather leave it up to him?  Why or why not?

And just a note… one of the best books I’ve read on the subject so far is called Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns.  Jim is the President of HomeWord Ministries where they have a plethora of resources on marriage, relationships and parenting, including books on sexuality you can read along with children as young as 6 (which we’ve used).  We have found these resources helpful… and I didn’t get paid to say this.

5 Conversations: Choosing Sides

Today is the week two wrap up for the study we are doing on 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son.  If you are doing the study with us, here is where we converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation anytime by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.  If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

I thought week one was challenging, but week two has really got me thinking.

A few years ago, when my oldest son was still a tot, someone challenged me to pray for him to be a light in darkness rather more than I pray for his protection.

Like any mother, I will not stop praying for my sons’ protection but I am gaining a better understanding of praying for them to overcome and be light in darkness.  This chapter made things a bit clearer to me.

I confess… some of the temptations this world will serve them scare the heck out of me.  I don’t want them to suffer the consequences of the sin that will crouch at their door. I worry every time they are in front of computer screen. When a friend has an iPod touch near them.  Every time they get that glazed look in their eyes from playing video games.

But God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control (or a sound mind). (2 Timothy 1:7)

Which means that if I’m going to teach self-control, I’d better model it by not having such a spirit of fear when it comes to the things my sons’ may face.  I was challenged this week that in these young and formative years, with prayer and God’s leading my job as a mom is to pour Jesus into them so they will see He is bigger than themselves and they will hear His voice and learn to respond to it.  Easier said than done.

However, we did get to practice a little “Stop, Listen and Think” this week.  I gave my son some money to run into Jamba Juice to pick up an order for us.  He said while he was waiting, he thought about buying one of their new lip balms.  Before making a bad decision, he stopped, thought about it (he skipped the prayer) and realized it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Baby steps. 

There is always a way out of temptation.

I’ll take baby steps in the right direction any day knowing there will always be a few steps back along the way.

So I’m encouraged…

Pray for self-control more than I pray against temptation.  We will all be tempted until Jesus returns.

Pray that Jesus will become their master rather than something created for this world.

Pray for power, love, a sound mind and self-control.

How have you been able to overcome temptation? 

How have you experienced teaching this to your children so far?

If you’re studying with us, what challenged you this week? 

5 Conversations: Redefining Manhood

Today is the week one wrap up for the study we are doing on 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son.  If you are doing the study with us, here is where we will converse about the daily study.  Contribute to the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comment field.  Make sure you check the box for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so the conversation isn’t just one-way and you can also respond to comments.  If you have insight into parenting boys but aren’t necessarily doing the study with us, you are also free to join the conversation!

The title of this week’s conversation is “Redefining Manhood.”  There was so many rich things we could talk about here but what really stood out to me was the building up of character.  Drawing from examples in 2 Kings and Genesis, there was a building up of character we want to nurture in our boys.

A Penitent heart  (a tender or responsive heart over wrong doing)

Humility (Having or showing a low estimate of one’s own importance – - the rare quality of caring more about God’s approval than the approval of men)

Courage (grounded in faith, seasoned in love)

From boyhood to manhood, we want to partner with God in raising up men who embody these three characteristics.

In one of the personal reflections, the question was asked: “How might you encourage a penitent “softening of the heart” when your son does something wrong?” 

I have to be honest here… my answer was:

I. don’t. know.

In our family, we believe in discipline, we believe in consequences.  These are good things, but I was really challenged with whether or not we are also forming the hearts of our boys to respond with a heart like Jesus… a heart that breaks like His.

It all came to a head on day three when another character trait came up. This time it wasn’t regarding the boys, it was for the moms.

Fear.

“But while at first glance hovering Helicopter Moms may appear to have their child’s best interests in mind, their high need for control is unhealthily rooted in fear.  Fear of danger. Fear their child will not find future success (as defined by the Helicopter Mom). Fear their children may not be accepted if they don’t look or perform a certain way.  In a nutshell, Helicopter Moms want to ensure that their children turn out according to their personal script and time line.”

I was really proud when I took the Helicopter Mom quiz, I only checked one thing (Confession – I’ve signed my kids up for 2 extra curricular activities in one season).  I’ve never considered myself a “Helicopter Mom.”  But I was challenged that I often respond, discipline, and react from the root of fear.

What do I fear?  Perhaps they will not choose the narrow road.  What if they would not live healthy lives – choosing things or lifestyles that are unhealthy? What if they end up doing drugs? Or get caught up in pornography?  What if they choose friends or a spouse  who will not love them or love God.  I have many fears about the outcome.

In the beginning of the week, the author used the illustration of a mother perhaps acting like a “regent” to a king. Someone working to surround him with Godly role models throughout his reign to help him make good decisions, be a good influence to help him live up to the potential and carry out God’s plan for the boy and the nation.  We ended the week with Rebekah, a mother who manipulated and made her plans and timing supersede God’s.

There is a thin line between a regent and a manipulative, helicopter mom.

Our plans and God’s plan.

Courage vs. Fear

One way to teach our boys courage is to parent courageously.  Knowing there are lessons with skinned knees and brokenness.

Father, help us raise these boys to men according to the plans you have for them, not our plans.  Give us courage to let them live adventurous lives, learning how to trust you when they encounter difficulty and danger.  May they learn throughout life how much bigger you are than them and may they learn to seek you with all their heart, soul, mind and strength so that at the end of their lives, they would be known as men who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

Questions:

1. What, if anything, do you fear in parenting?

2. How do you encourage penitence, humility and courage?

3. What were you challenged in your parenting this week?

4. How were you encouraged in your parenting this week?

Feel the freedom to answer, one or all of the questions in the comment field.  Be sure to check the “follow-up box.”

A Bible Study for Mothers of Sons: Want to join me?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with my boys and how much it will influence their attraction to and choosing of their wife.

That’s a frightening thought.

But it’s been convicting me to be more purposeful and careful in the way I relate to them and instruct them.  I came across this interesting Bible Study by Vicki Courtney called 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son.  While many of the principles in this book will be caught from and taught by their dad, it looks really interesting from the perspective of the mother-son relationship.

The five conversations are:

Redefining manhood: “Don’t define manhood by the culture’s wimpy standards.”

Choosing sides: “What you don’t learn to conquer may become your master.”

Saying no: “Not everyone’s doing it!”

Launching manhood: “Boyhood is only for a season.”

Pleasing God: Godly men are in short supply – dare to become one!”

So, here’s an invitation I’d like to throw out to any moms of boys out there… want to join me?  Two are better than one and I figure if anyone wants to go through this with me I’ll have a better chance of actually finishing it. 

I’d like to start the week of January 8th and will post reflections and discussion questions each Tuesday.  There are 5 days worth of homework for each week, so our first discussion forum will be here on January 16.  If you have a blog, you can post about it as well and link up here, or we can just chat in the comment section.

The video sessions are available for download for $4.99 each and the book can also be purchased here.

Are you in?