Our oldest, Zoë, has been talking our ears off lately. It’s both beautiful and exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is nod and say “mmm-hmm” or just smile while I try and think through my Costco grocery list before the littlest one realizes he’s not buckled in the cart and tries some wild escapade.
This morning after our Bible reading,
Noble said, “But if you believe in Jesus you won’t die. Because heaven is our true home.”
Zoë: “Will we keep breathing in heaven?”
I responded, “Your body dies, but your soul never dies and lives forever in heaven with God. We get a new body, and every breath we breathe will be praising Jesus the King.”
Zoë: “I think that already happened to Nana.”
Later while strategically hitting up every snack sample in Costco, Zoë asked: “How do we gaze upon His beauty?”
After gathering my thoughts from such a breathtaking question, I answered, “It means that God is majestic and holy and too wonderful to comprehend and awesome and good and perfect. When we see Him as that we want to spend our lives knowing Him because there is no one else like Him.”
Zoë: “It is hard to understand why life passes through so quickly.”
My thoughts exactly, Sweet Pea. Only I was lamenting how fleeting these days are when all 3 of my babes can fit in the front of the cart, and they lean over for hugs and kisses or head butts. Alternatively, they rest their heads on my shoulder, and I feel their little arms around my neck while I try and push a heavy cart with a big ole pregnant belly.
And we’re having conversations like these.
And all three of them are talking in my ear at the same time. Or they are pestering each other by covering up the letters on the handlebar. Don’t ask. It’s maddening.
However, I was overwhelmed with gratitude this morning for this season. I love having all my babies close and the togetherness all day long (don’t hear perfect harmony) even in the midst of being at the end of my rope as Zoë so honestly and insightfully said about me on Mother’s Day: “You’re good at being slow to anger even though sometimes you’re fast to anger.”
Yup, because Mommy needs Jesus too.
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.
Isn’t this what Scripture means when it says to teach God’s words to your children when:
- you sit (in the car in rush hour traffic) and
- walk (up and down the grocery aisles) and
- lie down (but not in your own bed because your 5-year-old still has too much to say at the end of the day) and
- rise (before the sun because everyone in your house is staging a coup against sleep).
Even when you think they’re not listening and you feel every thought you’re trying to share is interrupted by some catastrophe, they catch little drips at a time that become impressed on their tender hearts and will one day overflow. That’s what I’m striving for anyway in all the ordinary, mundane rhythm of life.
So here’s to keeping those babies close and entrusting their hearts to God.
Noel McKenna is a wife and a mommy who blends a pile high stack of books on CD and outdoor play with a whole lot of Jesus into her journey through motherhood. She and her husband, Nathan, have been married for 8 years and juggle this leg of their lives with grace and humor. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more of her beautifully honest glimpses into this life she now lives.
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Tuck Them In - Audra’s Pick
We try to be intentional at night time when putting our kids to bed. We always make a point to tuck them in, talk through the day, pray as a family, and let them ask any questions they may have. This is a sweet time to be able to unpack what has happened in everyone’s day, since the school year is such a busy time!
Scripture Memory In the Car - Laura's Pick
I can’t take credit for this one, but my husband is so good at using the undivided attention during the car ride to school. He drops our daughter off at school every morning and they memorize a scripture each week during that 5-7 minute drive. Usually on Monday or Tuesday she tells me what verse they are memorizing and then by Friday she is reciting it to me.
Pray Out Loud For Them - Rebecca's Pick
When one of my children is facing a big day, I like to pray out loud for them as we are driving to school. I will ask the Lord to give them quick recall and clarity during their test. Or, I'll ask Him to take away their anxious spirit and replace it with a spirit of peace before presenting a project. As I pray, I try to ask for specific things (not just that they would "do well") so that they will be able to see the undeniable answers to that prayer and give thanks to the Lord. On days that I don't pray aloud, I always pray for them after everyone is dropped off.
Verse Flip Book - Tammy's Pick
One of my "Terrific Three" struggled greatly with anxiety. After praying for direction, the Lord gave me the idea to make her a verse flip book to help her learn to allow God's Word to comfort her heart.
1. I purchased a flimsy $1 photo book.
2. I looked up my favorite "God is with me" verses and printed them.
3. I inserted them into the photo book and gave it to her as a reminder that while I won't always be with her, God is!
My print and cut and stuff version is pictured below. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you want. This verse flip book is from a couple of years ago. She still carries it in her backpack to this day.
Teach them to be independent without nagging -
We have a white board on our fridge that lists what my boys need to do before school, after school, and what types of food can be packed in lunches. This allows them to check the list when they aren’t sure if they have everything ready and I’m not asking each child a million times if they filled their water bottle. On the first day of school this year, my boy that loves routine asked for the list to be re-written as it still had summer lists on it. You better believe I wrote it after drop off!
'A car not my own sat in my driveway this morning. Two other cars were in its spot last night. This is the new phase of parenting we're in, one where my kids and their friends drive. Not only do they drive, but they now choose where they want to go and hang out.
As I was pondering the bittersweet beauty of this season, I reflected on a few of the recent comments made by my kiddos' friends:
"Thank you for always letting us crash here."
"I feel at home in your house."
"You always make us feel welcomed."
I share these comments not to brag on myself, because it's not me, it's Jesus. Yet since I gave birth to my firstborn, I wanted to be the house where my kids and their friends wanted to come. Making that a joyful reality is a daily feat in itself because there are
- Shoes and dirt and wrappers and pillows everywhere.
- Late night laughter and early morning pancake making guarantee a less than ideal 8 hours of sleep for this momma.
However, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It's not about a beautifully clean house or a pantry abounding with snacks. It's about loving and accepting my kiddos' friends as if they were my own. Noticing them, loving on them, feeding them (ha), and speaking life to them.
It's having the eyes and ears of Christ.
The command to "practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13) and "show hospitality to one another without complaining." (1 Peter 4:9) is not bound by age restriction or stage of life requirement. It's just a command to share your life with those who walk thru your door:
Open your home to young and old alike with a cheerful attitude.
And oh, my friend, the ministry opportunities I have as they are noisily eating salsa and dip at my table or quietly slipping in my door at 10:30 at night. These are the opportunities to speak life and truth and peace into my kiddos' friends, these friends they choose to hang with, listen to, and do life with. Priceless!
Hospitality. It certainly is not what I pictured 17 years ago as I was rocking my firstborn to sleep. It's much more beautiful. It's an always/anytime open door to my physical home, but more importantly, it's an open door to my heart and my time, regardless of age or season of life.
Come on, Mommas! Throw open the door! This generation needs us. Who better to speak truth and life into our kiddos' friends than us Jesus Girls!
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Eating Tide Pods, leaving class to march for #enough, and gaming into the night are just a few indicators that this current generation is restless. Granted, each generation has its own cauldron of woes, including my own. Ha! But I've been in much thought and prayer for this current generation, the one I birthed my terrific three into.
So what exactly is it to be restless? Is it bad to be restless? One definition for restless is "Anxious and bored." But it also means "not satisfied and wanting change." The difference between "anxious and bored" and "not satisfied and wanting change" boils down to what we believe is the answer to the question, "Why am I here?"
When we believe
- we are here by chance and
- life is all about me
we can easily drift into boredom and anxiety.
Such a mindset causes the answer to "Why am I here?" to vacillate with each passing trend.
But when we believe
- we were created intentionally for this time and place by our Creator.
- God wove a purpose and a plan into our DNA
we are not satisfied with the status quo and want change.
This mindset knows the answer to "Why am I here?" is found in believing Ephesians 2:10.
"For we are God's masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
Think with me of the heroes of the faith. We think of them as cute little Sunday school stories, but these were real people just like you and me! They had hopes and dreams as well as fears and doubts. But their actions showed they were confident in their "Why am I here?"
Such examples like:
Noah - While others lived a debauched existence, he skillfully and faithfully built an ark. He knew why he was here.
David - While others quivered and wrung their hands, he charged toward the God-mocking giant, Goliath and defeated him! He knew why he was here.
Daniel - While others gluttonously partook of the king's sumptuous food, he ate fruits and vegetables and was found to be 10x smarter than those around him. He knew why he was here.
Mary - While others whispered and speculated, she washed Jesus's feet with her tears. Jesus's feet! Can you imagine! She knew why she was here.
and the list goes on and on.
They were restless but channeled that restlessness for their good and for the glory of the Lord. Why?
They knew the answer to "Why am I here?" To fulfill their part of God's amazing plan.
We too should be relentlessly restless for God's kingdom and so should our kiddos.
Think of water, it can be life-giving and good when channeled and functional, like a river or a water hose. But when a river breaches its banks or a water hose cracks and busts, chaos erupts. So it is with restlessness.
As believers, restlessness channeled by anything other than God's will is chaos.
But what if Christian parents were as intentional as the #enough movement to inspire an awakening in our kids?
What if we pointed them to THE answer to "Why am I here?"
What if we helped channel our kids restlessness for something bigger than themselves?
The sleeping giant called the church would wake up! Wow! Revival would break out! Yes! I believe anxiety and depression and suicide and school shootings would decrease all because our kids - the light of the world - chose to live securely in knowing the answer to one of life's most troubling questions, "Why am I here?"
Next week, I'll share some of the ways my man and myself are intentionally pointing our kiddos to the answer to "Why am I here?" In the meantime, how about you? Do you know why you are here? Do you wake up satisfied knowing you are here for a reason and a purpose. Look again at Ephesians 2:10. Ask the Lord to increase your faith and to shine the light as to "Why am I here?"
"For we are God's masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Hey! It's Laura and I am so excited to have Amberly on the blog today. She is actually our first Friend Friday Vlog (that means video, in case you're technologically challenged like me)! Amberly and I met over ten years ago through our husbands and we were actually pregnant with our daughters at the same time too! I have watched as the Lord has totally turned their world upside down for His glory! Today she shares about how the Lord has called them into foster care.
You only get a six minute video today, but you MUST go follow their family at Growing Up Houser because you will want to know more about them! The Houser's let you into their crazy life with laughter, tears and complete transparency...that's what I love about them the most!
I am a mother, wife, and self-proclaimed hot mess. My husband Matt and I began our journey as foster parents in 2017. We currently parent 6 kids: 3 biological, and 3 foster siblings that we love dearly. By day, I am an elementary school teacher. By night, I drive kids to and from practices in my big blue bus while blaring Jesus music. Donuts are the way to my heart, followed closely by witty t-shirts and Bible journaling. I constantly pray that God will show me the front of the puzzle box but He just keeps handing me one piece at a time. Someday's I am thankful for that and other days I'm bitter. Jesus loves me anyway. I believe I can accomplish anything in a day with a cup of coffee, dry shampoo and fake lashes. This is the story of my life and what it's like to Grow Up Houser.
Glorious…hard…rewarding…exhausting! The list of adjectives is endless when I think of this adventure called parenting. But mostly, awe rises to the top of my list. I am in awe of the 180 switch the Lord birthed in my mothering. Gone are the days of joyless parenting. In it's place, joy has watered the desert places and created something beautiful - a joy-filled mother. Only God can do that!
As I pondered my transformation, a "tricks of the trade" list began to emerge. There is no rhyme or reason to the order, just tricks that have made this mommying job a whole lot more enjoyable.
1. Playing in my Strengths
It's easy to fall into the comparison game when it comes to talented moms: this one is athletic, this one is artsy, this one can spin a tale, etc. etc. etc. Early on, I learned that I enjoyed motherhood best when I stop trying to be like other moms and embrace my own uniqueness. I love books and games and the great outdoors. So that's the way I'm intentional with my kiddos. When we have downtime, we pull out a game or a puzzle or walk/bike/hike in the great outdoors. Gone is the guilt that I don't play dolls or trucks or ball like other mommies. In its place, contentment has filled my heart knowing that I mommy well just by playing in my strengths.
2. Have Favorites
My “Terrific Three” consist of a girl, a boy, and another girl. Just like God does not have favorites (Romans 2:11), I strive not to either (1 Timothy 5:21). I've assigned labels to my Terrific Three and regularly call them by it. I have a "favorite oldest girl," "a favorite boy," and "a favorite youngest girl." They’re all my favorites in their unique way and don’t need to fight for my favor.
When our kiddos hit the tween years, we knew we needed to keep the airwaves open. We happened to be eating Oreo McFlurries when one of them shared something close to their heart. Born was the code phrase "Oreo McFlurry" for times when our children wanted to share something with us but were fearful of our response or the impending consequence. Now when they approach us and say, “Oreo McFlurry.” we prayerfully brace ourselves (ha) for what they're about to say while calmly listening without.saying.a.word. It’s a safe-zone, and they honestly haven’t abused it.
4. Apologize with No Strings Attached
It is easy to excuse my angry response by pointing to my child's wrong action which prompted my anger. This causes my apology to fall on un-listening ears, especially the older they have become. Instead, I have taught myself to focus on what I did wrong and ask for forgiveness. Not only does this show them that parents can make mistakes, but that it's important to apologize for them!
5. Calm in the Storm
If child A was "on my good side" but child B was not and had gotten into trouble, I caught myself disciplining them differently. I would irrationally lash out or be harsh and impatient with the not "on my good side" child B. I began to purposely visualize how I would lovingly discipline child A if they were the one who had just gotten into trouble. Then, I would pray that the Spirit would help me disciple child B with the same gentle heart. This practice alone was revolutionary for my parenting!
6. Laugh at Yourself
Last summer, we had just finished floating a local river, and I wanted to get one more group picture. As I was gesturing for the group to move over, I was side-stepping on the rocky beach. My toe caught under a rock causing me to trip and in s. l. o. w. motion I splatted on the rocks in full view of everyone! Quite embarrassing and painful! But as I collected myself, I just laughed and laughed at the spectacle I made. This released the group to laugh with me and recount my performance. I could’ve been mad and nursed my pride and ruined a glorious day together. Instead, I chose to laugh and make a fabulously funny family memory.
7. Text and Drive
If I “need” to message someone while I’m driving, I ask my kiddos to serve as my scribe. I dictate my message to them as they type it into my phone. They then read it to me before pushing send. This trick serves three purposes:
1. I’m safe and not looking at my phone as I drive.
2. It teaches them how to communicate effectively and (hopefully) kindly via text messaging.
3. It serves as an example of when they’re -gulp!- driving on their own.
8. From Darkness to Light
One of the hardest prayers I pray for my children is that any sin they are hiding would come to light. It’s quite breath-taking what the Spirit reveals, and they’re always like, “What!? How did you know?!” ha, ha! But I much rather deal with childish heart issues while they’re under my roof than them having to wade through their childhood junk as an adult.
9. Momma Timeout
If I feel my mommy tank quickly depleting itself of joy, I take a momma timeout. I may take a hot bath, take a walk outside, or sit in my room by myself praying and calming down. This trick allows me to rejuvenate and relieves my kiddos from being the recipients of my less than lovely attitude.
10. Bedtime Bonding
Most nights, I choose to sit on each child’s bed and connect. It can be as short as 5 minutes finding out about their favorite thing of the day, or it can stretch into a lengthy discussion about a life issue they're working thru in their heart and mind. We then end our time with prayer and a kiss on the cheek. Hopefully, they are left going to sleep with a heart a little lighter because I chose to invest the gift of time into them. It is always worth the time and effort to give up a bit of "me time" at the end of my day to get a little more of them.
Looking over this list just fills my heart with awe. God has truly filled and continues to fill my parenting gaps. But that shouldn’t surprise me, for He parents me so well as my Heavenly Father, the giver of every good thing. James 1:17
How about you? What are some of your favorite parenting tricks of the trade? Or perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed in this great adventure of parenting. Pray Matthew 7:7 and purpose to implement one or two of my tricks. Trust me, if I can do this mommying thing joyfully anyone can! Through Christ’s power, you can mommy joyfully as well! Philippians 4:13, my friend!
Part 2: Rites of Passage
Last week was the eve of our daughter's tenth birthday and I talked about things that we do to help point her to Christ. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Teaching our kids how to manage life starts in our homes. We want to teach our kids the Biblical view, so when the world begins throwing it’s view at them, they will have a firm foundation to stand on. It’s scary raising kids in the world today. We want to encourage you to be intentional with your kids and point them to Christ. It's a scary world out there and our kids should find comfort, safety and direction in their homes.
My husband has a friend that began a ministry called Parent Ministry. It's a resource for Student Pastors to help engage parents in the Youth Ministry. Through him, we were introduced to the “Rites of Passage," and we knew we wanted to implement it with our own kids when the time was right. We feel ten years old is a big deal, so we decided to start this year! My husband and I feel it’s very important for our daughter to know that she is loved and supported by her entire family and there is NOTHING she can do that would ever make the Lord or us love her any less. Here is what the Rites of Passage looked like for our daughter's tenth birthday:
Rites of Passage
This year on our daughter's tenth birthday, she requested a “fancy” dinner. The planning began; She was most excited to choose the cake that her Maw would make, then dinner reservations were made, family invitations were sent, and all of the intricate details were chosen. She picked the fanciest dress out of her closet, proudly pulled out her gold heels, her hair adorned with curls, and we added a touch of makeup...because, well, she can be a girly girl and it’s her tenth birthday!
Ahead of time, I asked our family to choose a characteristic about her and a prayer/scripture to speak over her. It’s neat how all of this played out. As we were planning to make this a special night for her, she was planning as well. She wrote a speech and picked ten Scriptures to recite, one for each year. It was a beautiful night of our family encouraging her that she is loved, she is supported and she is prayed for.
We are creating a book with each family member's picture, prayer and scripture so our daughter can always go back and remember what was prayed over her on this day. We will continue the Rites of Passage at age thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, and marriage. Every year will look different since the season of life will be different.
There is not a textbook way to incorporate the Rites of Passage. It can be very simple or as elaborate as you want to make it. Every child is different and it needs to be suited to their personality. For instance, our daughter is a major extrovert and wanted a fancy dinner with lots of people present. Another child may not like big crowds, so you may do something for them completely different. Whatever it may be, being intentional on speaking truth to their heart, and making the big milestones important and memorable, that's the ultimate goal!
I want to leave you with Scriptures that we can pray over our children. There are so many, but I am just listing a few here. Include your child's name into the Scripture:
3 John 1:4 - "I have no greater joy than to hear that ________is walking in the truth."
Luke 2:52 - May _______increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to _________, 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."
By Faith She has written other blogs pertaining to raising kids to love the Lord. Be watching for more By Faith Kids Bible Studies coming soon too!
Raising Little Girls with Big Faith
By Faith Kids
May we walk well in the calling the Lord has placed upon our lives. To bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!