Like a Child

Today we were driving to the shops, and my daughter said, “Oh no! Someone left their Old McDonald’s wrapper ON THE GROUND!”

“That’s not good, is it, honey? People should pick up their rubbish,” I said.

“I know!” she said immediately. “We could have a garbage hunt!”

And so – when the weather improves – we plan on having a garbage hunt. Walking around our neighbourhood with a garbage bag, picking up all the rubbish we find.

I don’t know if this is something they’ve done at school before, but I’m fairly certain her teacher has talked to her class about the environmental impacts of leaving your rubbish lying around. She has come home from school before talking to me about how rubbish that washes into the water ways can cause fish to choke and die.

And just the other day we were walking back to the car and she stopped to pick up someone’s empty juice popper “so we can put it in the bin at home”.

For her, it is so simple… Rubbish pollutes the world, so we should pick up rubbish and put it in the bin.

Belief = action.

We call this integrity, when a persons actions match their beliefs.

But I don’t think it’s so simple for adults.

We know that littering is bad for the environment, yet most of us would quite happily walk past someone else’s rubbish because we don’t want to touch it or be seen touching it or it’s not our fault.

Our actions don’t match our beliefs.


 

The other day, while I was having an internal ultrasound, I had the opportunity to explain the gospel to a stranger – the ultrasound technician (now, don’t tell me you find it uncomfortable to talk about your faith…).

He asked what the difference between Catholics and Protestants was, and I proceeded to explain that the main difference is that Protestants believe that the only way to be saved is by having faith in God, not your own good works.

This is the good news of the gospel – that salvation is a gift, from start to finish, and there is nothing we can do to contribute to that.

It’s very good news, but it does cause problems with our human nature.

Because some of us hear that and think, Great! I will just trust in Jesus and then get on with my life, doing whatever I please, because I am saved anyway!

This is why James needed to write in the Bible:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Yes, faith in God is all we need to be saved. James is not arguing that our good deeds somehow contribute to our salvation, like an add-on to faith. Rather, he is saying that deeds are the evidence of faith.
We can’t say that we have real faith – a living faith – if we don’t act on it.

 

If we say we believe that Jesus is the Lord and the only way to God, but we don’t worship him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell, but we don’t tell people about Him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that living life God’s way is best, but we don’t obey him, our faith is dead.

Faith without action is nothing.

In fact, it’s worse than nothing – it’s hypocrisy.

 

Maybe we have something to learn from children here.

They have no gap between their beliefs and their actions.

Let’s have a real, live faith.

A child-like faith.

A faith that cannot help but act.

 

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Your Child is a Sinner

And they need true grace.


There is some popular parenting advice out there these days that claims when small children act out, they aren’t actually being “naughty” or doing anything wrong, they are just trying to come to terms with their place in the world, and perhaps finding some aspect of that challenging.

This parenting advice says that they don’t need discipline, they just need your love and understanding and gentle guidance.

As Christian Mums, we always need to weigh parenting advice carefully against the Bible to see if it is consistent with the gospel, or opposed to the gospel.

The problem with this new parenting advice is that it is based on the philosophy that humans are basically good at heart. And this is a denial of the truth we see in the Bible, that humans are sinful at heart, even from birth.

I definitely agree that children need our love, understanding and gentle guidance, but because they are inherently sinful, those things alone will not cut it. You cannot love a child into being a good person – you are not God.

Sometimes I struggle with this parenting philosophy too. I’m tempted to make excuses for my kids’ sinfulness, blaming it on tiredness, hunger or over-stimulation. Those things certainly make self-control harder (even for me, as an adult!).

But how does God treat me when, in my tiredness, I lash out with harsh words to my husband? Does God say, “Oh, don’t worry about it – you’re only speaking harshly because you’re tired. All you need is a good night sleep.”?

No. He responds with gentle, loving correction. “You are tired right now, and that makes it harder to control yourself. Instead of leaning on yourself for the strength to do the right thing, you should lean on my grace. I have all you need.”

You see, the Bible teaches us that our actions are the overflow of our heart. No one can “make” us shout in anger, if the anger wasn’t already in our hearts. No one can “make” our children snatch a toy in selfishness if the selfishness wasn’t already in their hearts.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

…the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18

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Sin, at it’s heart, is rebellion against God. To say that our children are inherently sinful means that they are naturally set against God in their hearts, and the actions that spring forth from this rebellion are opposed to what God has set out in his law.

No one, on their own, can stop sinning because it is in our nature. And although I don’t do it perfectly, keeping this in mind has great benefits in my attitude to my children.

  • It means I’m not shocked by their sinfulness. When one of the kids comes out with a tantrum over not getting their way or shouts at me in anger, I don’t think “Where did that come from?!?” I know where it came from – their hearts.
  • I don’t take their bad behaviour personally. I know that they aren’t struggling with sin because of my failure as a parent, but because of their sin nature. I let them own their own behaviour, and then point them to the One who can help them to overcome it.
  • I don’t think I’m better than them. I can relate to them as a fellow sinner in need of God’s grace. And I can say this to them too! “Mummy needs Jesus to help her do the right thing.” Just the other day, my daughter said, “Mummy, maybe you can pray that God would help you not to yell at us today.” It was a real bitter-sweet moment! I might be a little further along the road than them, but we are on the same road.

 

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Comparing Bible translations 🙂


 

My husband and I read something once that said when your spouse apologises to you for doing something wrong, you should resist the urge to respond with “It’s okay.” The reason for this is, saying “it’s okay” is saying that what they did wasn’t really wrong at all. If they actually did something wrong, it’s much better to say, “I forgive you”. This acknowledges that they wronged you and by extending forgiveness, you are both agreeing to leave that wrong behind and move forward in grace. Saying “it’s okay” merely papers over the offence; it doesn’t actually bring you closer to each other.

True grace can only come when sin is looked at and acknowledged, unflinchingly. Making excuses for our kids or explaining away their bad behaviour with external circumstances might make us feel like we are being kind and extending grace, but this is not true grace.

True grace says, “Your heart is hopelessly wicked, but God can change you.”

True grace says, “Sometimes you do the wrong thing, when you know the right thing to do, but I forgive you.”

True grace says, “Come. Meet my Saviour, Jesus – I need Him just as much as you.”

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Stunning sunrise out my kitchen window the other day.

Do You Need a Mummy Reset Day?

27 March 2017

Do you ever stop and wonder when was the last time you just sat and cuddled with your kids? When was the last time you gave them a really good tickle – you know, the kind that makes their little bodies hunch over in spasms of laughter?
I have moments when I feel like life has just turned into one event after another. The days start to look like this: meal time, get in the car, activity, meal time, back in the car, nap time, meal time, get in the car, activity, etc.

Instead of cultivating my relationship with my kids, my engagement with them becomes all about the hustle.

“Okay, go to the toilet. Get your shoes on. What’s that in your mouth? Come on – we’re late!”

Now, we all have busy days, but when they start to accumulate, one after the other, relationships suffer.

When I start to feel constantly frazzled by my kids, instead of delighted by them, I know it’s time for a “Mummy Reset Day”.

Read the rest of my post on the MOPS blog: http://mops.org.au/archives/7349

Contentment in Mothering

“It’s all going too fast,” is the thought that has been consistently occurring to me over these last few weeks. Something about having a new baby in the house makes life slow down and speed up all at once.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him looking, once again, just a little bit bigger; his cheeks a little fuller. And I think, “How did that happen? Haven’t I been watching you this whole time?”

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Heart to heart in the baby carrier, AKA, Mummy’s Sanity Saver

It’s a thought that must resonate with many of us mothers, because this video recently went viral on social media:

It’s a touching reflection on the fleeting years of motherhood, and the desire to go back to previous years when our children were younger. It’s a tribute to the feeling that life is passing too quickly before us.

 

For me, there is often also a sense of “I wish I had done this differently” or “I wish I hadn’t been so focused on that“. It’s not a strong sense of regret, but it is regret nonetheless.

 

A while ago I read an article by Jess Connell about intentionality in marriage, and one part particularly resonated with me, regarding more than just marriage:

This is my real marriage. This is my real family.

THIS IS MY REAL LIFE. THIS IS MY REAL MARRIAGE.

I won’t get these moments back; I won’t get a re-do.

 

The way I’m living now can’t be altered later. The way my marriage is now can’t be erased and re-written. I need to walk in the way that I will want to have walked when I am old.

I need to walk in the way that I will want to have walked when I am old.

How do we do that, when it comes to mothering?

How do we live in a way that we will look back on and feel content with how we lived? To do away with the regrets and the “if only I could go back” feelings?

I’m not talking about a bumper sticker type of “no regrets” attitude, where you live recklessly and pretend your mistakes are not mistakes.

Obviously, none of us are perfect, so we will all make mistakes. But I think we can get to a place of contentment with our mothering through God’s grace, as we seek to grow daily and live in a way that honours Him.

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Here’s how I’m trying to do that:

  • Be fully present in each moment. Banish all thoughts of “I can’t wait for this to be over.” This means, admiring the perfect chubby cheeks of my baby as he nurses in the night, instead of watching the clock and counting the hours unslept. It means being a bit more hands on with my daughter getting dressed, even though she can do it all by herself, instead of huffing and puffing about the time and issuing ultimatums. Even in the crappy carpet scrubbing moments, there is joy to be found in the satisfaction of the filthy made clean – I shouldn’t wish these moments away, no matter how hard or horrible they are.
  • Take the time to teach and train. Sometimes I forget that children don’t automatically know how to do things, and I expect them to “get it” the first time I give them an instruction. But this just results in frustration and missed teaching opportunities. When I slow down and properly explain things, they learn something new and we all enjoy each other more. This can mean explaining anything from how to bake muffins to why we need to wear seatbelts. Every day is filled with opportunities to teach and train our kids – I want to be careful not to miss them!
  • Respect and submit to my husband. As children grow up and into the world, they are told from multiple sources – TV shows, school, peers – that authority is a bad, bad thing and sometimes a necessary evil (at best). Within our families, we have the opportunity to model first-hand that authority is a good, God-designed concept. Obeying God is a good enough reason to submit to my husband, but modelling this for our children is a huge motivator for me here.
  • Show my dependence on God through conversation and prayer. I try to season our conversation throughout the day with comments about how God can help us to do things, or what He would want us to do in given situations. We often talk about asking for His help to do the right thing, even when we don’t want to. In fact, I didn’t realise how much we must talk about it until the other day when my daughter said one morning, “Mummy, maybe you should ask God to help you not be mean to us.” I’m ashamed to say I’d been yelling at them more lately due to stress and frazzled nerves. But I think it’s good for them to see that even Mummy needs Jesus, as humiliating as that was to hear.

Anyway, I have a long way to go and to grow here, but these are my thoughts at the moment as far as contented, no regrets mothering. What would you add?