The carrot harvest from our garden was so measly this year, that as I pulled them from the ground, I asked myself, "Why am I doing this? Why do I bother? Is it even worth my time?" Yet, I couldn't bring myself to leave them there to be buried by snow and wasted. I never would've bought these ugly things at a farmers' market or grocery store, but I did learn something about their value as I pulled them from the dirt.
“When you're happy, you enjoy the music but when you're sad,
you understand the lyrics.” - Frank Ocean
Music can sometimes help us find words or tones to express sentiments we do not have adequate ways to explain in conversation or writing. I am sharing with you some of the songs that were the cry of my heart during the very difficult time after our step-daughter moved out of our home in a wounding manner. I will give small explanations about my experience with each song below its video. The above song, "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North, clearly expresses how wretchedly miserable and exhausting the constant pain of grief is, especially after the first raw days, weeks, or in some cases, months, are over. The shock, the repeated traumatic experiences all come to a lull and you look around surveying the desolation.
Do any of you have "good" plastic containers and then just a bunch that hang around like hoodlums in your cupboard? You know, the faithful ones seal water tight so they won't drip and the lid stays on when your child knocks it out of the fridge while looking for a snack? The photo above is one of my few plastic storage containers that answers the call over and over. Once a set of three, only a large and small have survived, the medium one going missing in action somewhere between marrying my husband and our third child being born.
This morning during prayer time I asked God to give me patience- to help me be patient. He revealed to me the correct prayer for me right now is, "Lord, help me to choose patience." I had this idea that God would give me patience as He gives rain. Or transform me (with or without my futile works) into a patient person as miraculously as He adopted me as His child. I've been praying for patience for years while struggling to have patience. Hmmm, praying, yet acting as though I needed to still strive for it myself.
I don't need to strive, nor should I just pray and be continuously disappointed when I fail to be a patient person the very next moment, hour, or day. I regret that I have sown so many impatient words in my relationships with my children and my husband. I could waste time blaming health, stress, or circumstances. Instead, I'm grateful to proclaim, "All my hope is in Jesus. Thank God, my yesterday's gone. All my sins are forgiven. I've been washed by the blood!"
This responsibility to strive toward becoming more patient is not all on my head. I'll continue to fail. It's not all on Jesus, either, He never promises to whisk away our sinful habits without us lifting a finger. What His Word does say is that He will always offer us a way of escape from the temptation to sin. He offers the escape, I need to be mindful it is there, and willing to walk through it with His help. Focusing on the small steps will can make daunting tasks (like that of learning to bite my tongue when I feel we are behind schedule) into reasonable opportunities. So grateful for a Savior Who is in relationship with us!
I understand that this may just seem like a play on words to some people, but it offered me a much needed perspective shift. I will continue to flounder in this area, but that does not change my identity (I'm not a failure), nor does it change God's faithfulness (He's not neglecting me on this journey.) I am sharing it in hopes it encourages another saint who continues to sin at times like myself.
Following Jesus imperfectly, but authentically.
Discipling Your Children without a Bible Curriculum: Lifestyle of Teaching Kids to Practice the Presence of God
With countless curricula available and surrounded by Mrs. Jones's kids who can quote entire chapters or even books of the Bible from memory, sometimes I feel I'm not doing this "teaching" thing quite right. As a Christian, homeschooling, church-going mom, I've had many conversations over the years about how we should teach our children about the Lord and the Bible. I've laid hands on and leafed though pages (and even purchased) some amazing resources that are geared to enrich our understanding of and relationship with the Lord. But, can I let you in on a not-so-secret admission? That curricula is sitting on a shelf. Not being used. Am I doing something wrong here?
I don't think so. I came to faith by reading the Bible and lately, I've been concerned with my own spiritual and mental health state being bogged down by to-do lists and don't-do lists that seem to come at me from many sides: church suggestions and promotions, voices within the homeschool community, Christian books, literature, and online articles. While some of these suggestions are wonderful, they can also serve as distractions from listening for the still, small voice of Jesus in my own life. Many of the voices I listed are speaking at large audiences. Masses, even. They're geared to spread a message to multitudes (often about their own curricula, program, or current priority). Call me crazy, but I think God has an individualized, personal plan for each of our lives. Of course He does, you say. What does that have to do with curricula?
One of the many reasons we choose to homeschool is to provide an individualized learning experience for each of our children. Tailored to their needs and even interests at times. (I say "at times," my kids haven't been terribly interested in percentages, but I will teach them about it anyway!) I'm not indicating that Bible curricula are bad, poor, or a waste of time by any means, but I'm writing this article to encourage those who aren't using them.
There are so many ways to disciple our children. The following ideas don't cost any money, don't need to be scheduled, and are 100% customizable for what fits your families' needs best.
Read them the Word of God. It doesn't have to be every morning, every bedtime, or every afternoon during a time of rest. If you miss a day (or a week or a month) give yourself grace; Jesus offers it to you.
Answer their questions with eternity in mind. This is a lifestyle choice. This can become daily and there's no check-list, prep-time or quiz afterwards. When your kids hear about a pet dying and wonder whether animals go to Heaven, answer the best you can (it's fine to say you're not sure!) and tell them something you do know about Heaven from God's Word. When you're admiring a beautiful sunset, big-clumps of snow falling to the ground, or a fascinating plant or animal, talk to them about the Creator Who made such an exquisite world for us to live in. When you've caught a child in the middle or aftermath of an anger outburst, they may be full of questions (why did he get away with this? Why can't I...?), Slow down and remind them who they are. Children of God, forgiven by Jesus, loved by the Lord of the Universe, created with a purpose, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Tell them who they are so they can repent, rise up and take the right path next time. Answering their questions about sins of others, possible injustice, etc. is often more beneficial after the emotions have calmed and they've accepted their responsibility (if any) in the situation.
Link celebrations and struggles back to the bigger picture. This is similar to answering questions with eternity in mind, but it takes the matter one step further because the parent takes initiative to bring up spiritual matters without getting a que (question) from the child first. Weddings, the birth of a baby, the death of a loved one, individuals struggling with chronic or acute pain or handicaps, a challenging relationship or task, or reaching a long-awaited goal can all be seen in light of God's love, mercy, and care for us. It's not always easy, but we can model looking unto Jesus even in the midst of adversity and trials of life. There are so many unhealthy places people turn to when celebrating or struggling, show them how to navigate the highs and the lows resting in God's faithfulness.
Point out God's protection, provision, and divine intervention in daily activities. If you don't notice any of these yourself, you may need to pray and ask God to begin revealing them to you. That won't be enough, though, you'll also need to start looking for God's involvement in your daily life. You know He's there, so expect to see Him, and offer Him praise when you do.
Pray for your kids, in front of your kids, and with your kids. I don't pray for each of my kids by name daily. I wish I did sometimes, but in reality, I don't. So I'm not preaching that you have to. I tend to have a very private prayer life. I sway between chatting with God like a bestie to approaching Him with deep reverence. I think that's okay since I can do the same thing with elders I respect here on earth. We can have casual, light-hearted conversations or gut-level discussions. Both appropriate in my opinion. Sometimes I am angry with God and I tell Him so. I complain to Him and ugly cry to Him too. If David, a man after God's own heart, can be real with God when the going is tough, I can too. A wise pastor told me that Satan loves it when we give God the silent treatment. If we stop talking to God (or listening via His Word or Spirit) when we are struggling or when things are going great, it creates a vacuum for other voices to speak into. Some of these voices may be godly counsel from wise individuals, and others may very well be lies (some of the best lies are 90% true so you will swallow them). Pray in front of your kids sometimes so they can hear how your "usual" prayers are worded and learn from you how to communicate with the God they do not see. Pray with your kids, encouraging them to pray out loud if they are comfortable. Giving them suggestions when they are at a young age or during a difficult time is perfectly acceptable, but the goal is to encourage them to pray for their own situations, praises, and concerns in addition to you praying for them.
Wait, isn't this just another to-do list?
I sure hope you don't take it that way, as that's not how its meant to be. Please, don't think in your head, I'm going to start doing all these things tomorrow (or next week, etc)! Take them into consideration. Pray about them. Take one here or there and you may just find that they weave into your lifestyle and soon you're teaching your kids to practice the presence of God. Teach them to keep Christ in the forefront of their minds by tearing down the boundary between spiritual and ordinary. We live in a world where spiritual and physical co-exist, yet all too often we try to mentally separate the two.
Lifestyle (interwoven into day) vs. Habit (set time & task) One of my hesitations against using a curricula for Bible or even against requiring my kids to have a set time to read an assigned portion of the Bible is that it will become nothing more than a forced-habit, a check mark on a to-do list that they can fall right out of the habit of and let drop off the list once my authority is removed from the situation. I've experienced this in my own life. I was committed to reading through and emailing out the entire chronological KJV Bible in a couple of years. I was sharing it with others and while it was a worthy project, I found myself turning to the Word less often out of my own desire and more often out of a sense of obligation. After I completed the project, I went a few months without opening my Bible to read without prompting (such as for church, or to read/talk to the children about a passage). Now, I'm not saying I never require my kids to read God's Word, there are times when I do, but I tend to model the behavior and make suggestions more often than requiring reading. My kids aren't fasting from God's Word, my husband and I read the entire Bible to them regularly and my son who can read voluntarily reads his Bible.
It's a relationship with the Lord I choose to foster, not a disciplined religious life.
I once explained to my son like this: Do you know George Washington? He responded that he knew who he was. Exactly. You can read about George Washington, study his life, artifacts from the time frame, and interview people who are experts on his biography. That is knowing about George Washington. I could force you to read 100 books on the first president and you'd know a LOT about him. But you still wouldn't know him. If you want to get to know someone, you have to spend time with them. Even though Jesus is no longer walking the earth in physical form, His Holy Spirit and Word are alive and rich. I don't want my kids to be able to quote the book of James, but to fail to willingly turn to the Scriptures when they are trying to make a hard decision. I don't want my kids to pray as eloquently a Paul in church, but fail to hit their knees or raise their hands in intercession and worship at their homes. I don't want my kids to perform acceptably in a church program or answer apologetic and creation science questions in a curricula but fail to see and serve the lost, hungry, and lonely in the world.
Church programs and religious curricula aren't bad if the messages they send are Truth. My kids attend some church programs and I do hope to casually use one of the Bible curricula we own someday because it is a solid way to reinforce teaching for your kids. However, if you feel like you can't keep up, remember that Jesus taught his disciples by walking with them, talking to them, sharing meals with them, going on a boat with them, praying with them, sharing God's Word with them, showing them mercy and justice and loving them. Deuteronomy 6 gives examples of how parents should teach their children: by talking to them when sitting, walking, lying and rising. Basically, as you go about life, doing the things you do every day- teach your kids to remember, respect, and love the Lord.
On a final note, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is a short book that tells the inspiring effects of one man's efforts to keep the Lord at the forefront of his thoughts no matter what his activity or circumstance happens to be. I'm not promoting that anyone uses this book as the standard of how to live their life- that's what the Bible is for! Just thought I'd share if someone were wondering where the phrase "practice the presence of God" originated.
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I am not much of a blog reader. There's only a couple I check on occasion:
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!