Have You Seen God?

Dear tired mom who barely made it to church this morning,

Today I served in the class where your toddler spends an hour and a half every Sunday morning.  I love those toddlers.  Toddler's tell you everything they are thinking. Toddler's are brutally and hilariously honest. They cry really hard, laugh really hard, play really hard, and love with all their hearts!  I learn a lot from those little people.

Here's what I learned today:
(I capitalize what toddler's say because when they answer a question, they always answer very loudly with their arms flinging over their heads!)

1. They are learning to pray.
    Teacher: Who wants to thank God for our snack?  
    Toddlers: I DO! I DO!

2. They are learning to read their Bible.
    TeacherWhat day is almost here?
    Toddlers: CHRISTMAS!
    TeacherWhat is Christmas about?
    3 year Ember: GOD!
    TeacherHave you seen God?
    4 year Caleb: YES!
    Teacher: You have seen God?
    4 year old Caleb: YES! IN MY BIBLE!
    3 year old Ember:  I HAVE A BIBLE, MY DADDY HAS A BIBLE, AND MY
    3 year old Colby: I HAVE A BIBLE TOO!

3. They love their families.
    Teacher: It's time to pick up the toys. Your mommy and daddy are coming soon.
(Toddlers sing a song about cleaning up, then they race to the door,  lean over the gate, and peer down the hall to get a glimpse of their family. )

4. They are learning to say, "I'm sorry." They are learning to forgive.
    TeacherDid you just grab that out of his hand?
    4 year old boy: Yea...
    Teacher: What do you say?
    4 year old boy: I'm sorry. (he hands the toy back.)
    (The boys continue playing happily.)

5. You spend time with them.
    Me: I've missed you!  I haven't seen you in 100 years!
    Me: Did you get your Christmas tree yet?
    3 year old Ember: WILL YOU READ TO ME?
    Me: Sure. What do you want me to read.
    3 year old Ember: THE CAT IN THE HAT!
    Me: Do you read that one at home?
    3 year old Ember: YEP!

Precious, tired mom, you are sacrificing so much! You are sacrificing time, sleep, and even some of your own interests to invest in these children. As you serve, teach, train, and set an example for these precious little people, you are building a solid foundation for their lives.  When you choose to be faithful to your calling as a wife and mom, they are learning  how to choose to be faithful to their callings.

Every time you:
  • say no to social media, 
  • turn off your computer, 
  • choose to watch "The Little Mermaid" for the 800th time, 
  • take the time to read them a book, 
  • or, choose to take facebook and twitter off your iPhone, so you won't be distracted from those real life people in front of you.  
Every time they see you sacrificing what you might like to do to pour out for them,  you are choosing to be faithful to your calling. You are choosing them.

You are making it easier for them to see God.   

Don't think for a minute that you are wasting your time or missing out.  The fruit is already there in your toddler. Yes. It's already there. And if you persevere, the fruit will be there as they grow up.  Don't lose heart. Don't grow weary.  I promise that the time you miss on social media, facebook, Twitter, your computer, or even an interest or gifting you have...what you may miss during this short season of being a mom is nothing compared to what you may miss if you choose to push them aside for the temporary satisfaction of all those things that are clamoring for your attention.

I need to say that again:
"...what you may miss during this short season of being a mom is nothing compared to what you will miss if you choose to push them aside for the temporary satisfaction of all those things that are clamoring for your attention."
I promise.

15 Things You Can Do To Help Keep You From Legalistic Parenting

Just a couple of months ago, my book "Grace Gifts: Celebrating Your Children Every Day" was released. It is a compilation of things that God has taught my husband and I, and is still teaching us, in our parenting journey. It was a scary thing to put it out there. It is precious to me because it God's story for my family, but I also know that we are all in different places and that some might not appreciate or even like it. I suppose that's a risk you take when you are a writer. You write down what is in your heart and release it into the hands of God, praying He will use it the way He wants to use it.

So far the feedback has been positive. I believe God is using it in His own way. I am aware that there are much better books out there and much bigger voices. I am a very small blip in the world of blogging and writing.

I am just so grateful to be a blip!

One of the suggestions that was offered concerning my book was that they wished I would have added more practical ways to transition from a legalistic parenting style. That is an excellent suggestion, isn't it? It shows the heart of the reader. It shows she sees evidence of legalism in her life and wants it out of there! God is working. That is an encouragement!

As I thought over her suggestion, I kept coming back to the same answer. We are so very desperate for guidance in our parenting journey. There are so many excellent resources out there for parents, but if we aren't careful we can slip into relying on the resources or other people, rather than relying on God and His Spirit that is ever present, never changing, and always ready to direct! To some degree, parenting philosophies are always changing, even in the Christian community. The only One who truly knows what is best for your family, is never changing, and honestly has your best interest at heart is the God who made your children and who made you a family. He is the one who will lead you and guide you away from legalism.

But you must be on your knees every day asking Him for wisdom!

With this in mind, I offer you a few suggestions that should help keep you from a legalistic parenting style.

15 Things You Can Do To Help Keep You From Legalistic Parenting
  1. Pray that God will show you any error or legalism that you may be walking in.
  2. Pray that God will keep you from a legalistic mindset.
  3. Pray for God to help you understand His grace and that He will show you how to live a life of grace with your children.
  4. Before you implement an idea into your family life, pray over it. It may be a great idea in general, but not good for your family. 
  5. Make sure you are in the Word and seeking God before you ask for advice from others.
  6. Make sure that the people you seek counsel from are seeking God, and that they make it a habit to point you to God before they point you to their opinions or what they did when their children were young.
  7. Remember that those character qualities that you so desperately want your children to possess are the same qualities that God is still perfecting in you. We are always growing in these qualities. Live them out and let them be a natural part of who you are, and be sure to point it out when there is even a glimpse of them in your children's lives. 
  8. Ask God to help you to see your children as individuals who are in a process of growth and learning.
  9. Ask God to help your children hear the truth they need to hear each day, and that the He will give them understanding.
  10. Don't expect young children to perfectly live out truths that we as adults can't even completely understand and live out perfectly.
  11. Remember that God has to do a work in our children's hearts. It takes time. We can't do it for Him. 
  12. Pray more than you talk.
  13. Live truth more than you lecture.
  14. Make the Word a natural part of your conversations rather than preaching it to your children.
  15. Trust God that He can work, and is at work, in your children's hearts even if you don't see any evidence of it happening.
Having a to do list and rules to follow might make it easier for us as parents. Leaning towards a performance based - or legalistic parenting style might comfort us temporarily when we see our children outwardly measuring up to our desires and expectations.  But it will be these very things that could keep us from seeking God, relying on Him to do His work in our children, and could ultimately be a hindrance in our children's growth process.  
Be in prayer...Seek guidance from prayerful people...Live the Truth...and pray for God to work in the heart of your children.  That's the only way to keep away from legalism!