Why Should we Expect Obedience?

Can I be honest with you about something?

Sometimes I yell at my kids.

It is an ongoing struggle in my heart – I know it is sin, and yet I keep doing it. *

It’s the kind of struggle that makes me think “I’m failing as a mother.”

The kind of struggle that makes me think, “How can I expect that they obey me, when I mess up all the time? How can I tell them that yelling is not a kind way to speak, when I yell at them sometimes?”

It makes me feel like such a hypocrite.

What authority do I have to instruct and train and discipline these little ones?

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Expecting obedience from our children can be a controversial topic these days.

My generation of parents tends to shun authority for the sake of authority. Perhaps we have bad memories of being told “because I’m the parent, that’s why” when we were kids. Perhaps we felt locked down and constrained by (seemingly arbitrary) rules. Perhaps we felt shamed into behaving a certain way.

So we can be left asking, “Why should I expect my child to obey me?”

But as Christian mothers, we need to base our parenting on God’s word, the Bible.

And the Bible is quite clear that children should obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20 and 1 Timothy 3:4).

But why?

Is it because grown ups are better behaved than kids? Is it because we “did our time” being kids, and now it’s our turn to be the boss?

No, the authority given to Christian parents – like everything given to us as Christians – is a gift of God’s grace. It is not something we earn. It is not something we deserve. It is not based on our own merit or goodness.

This is so encouraging to me as a Mum who struggles with sin, even the horrible, ugly sin of yelling.

I don’t need to listen to the voices of doubt or the accusations that I am failing as a mother, that I don’t deserve to have these children under my care.

I am a sinner deeply in need of God’s grace, just like they are.

I don’t have authority over them because I deserve it or I’m better than they are. I might be further along the road than them in my walk with Jesus, but we are on the same road.

And when I sin, I don’t need to pretend I’m always right or be bull-headed with them. I can be free to humbly come before them and say “I’m sorry for yelling at you – that was wrong. Please forgive me.”

Because my authority does not come from myself. It doesn’t come from how good I am personally.

It is a gift from God for their protection, their training and ultimately to point to a good and perfect Father in heaven (in contrast with their imperfect earthly parents).

And that’s how we can expect and train our children to obey. We don’t appeal to “because I’m the parent, that’s why”. We teach them, “because God gave you parents to love you and train you, and obeying us is what God wants you to do.”

I know, it will sound weird and awkward at first. We live in a very anti-authority society. As we train our children to love and submit to God’s good authority, we often need to re-train our own brains as well.

I would just encourage you, whatever parenting articles you read or ideas you mull over, always take them back to the Bible and see whether they match or contradict what the Bible says.

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* On the issue of yelling, I’ve seen many articles across Facebook and various blogs about how parents can stop yelling using a number of techniques like reducing stress, connecting with your kids more or finding different discipline techniques so you don’t use yelling as your fall-back option.

Most of these suggestions are good and helpful things – I definitely notice that I yell less when I take the time to be more connected, less rushed and more proactive on the discipline front. But there is a problematic assumption here – that yelling is merely something caused by outward circumstances, and if we just change those circumstances, then we won’t need to yell any more.

But the Bible teaches us that our mouths can only bring out what is already in our hearts – no one and no circumstance can “make” us yell or get angry. We yell and get angry because there is sin in our hearts. And that can’t be changed by following ten easy steps or doing yoga every morning.

Sure, we might seem to stop yelling as much and on the surface, it looks like those techniques work. But we have failed to deal with the deeper issue of a sinful heart. Jesus is the only one who can change hearts. The Bible prophecies about life in Jesus in the Old Testament with this amazing promise:

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

So let’s not settle for surface solutions to heart-deep issues!

Here is an article from Jess Connell about tackling the sin of yelling at the heart level, if this is a struggle for you also. I’ve personally found this article really helpful: http://jessconnell.com/make-no-provision-for-your-yelling/

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Scattered thoughts…

I’ve almost written a few blog posts recently, but have held off as my thoughts are not quite fully formed yet. (I’ll get there, lol.)

So here is an offering of some bits and pieces that I’ve been thinking about lately.

 

Simple Pleasures

In this season of life I have been enjoying the many simple pleasures throughout my day.

  • Playing with my kids and making them laugh heartily
  • The neighbour’s chicken that keeps getting into our yard.
  • Watching my daughter learn to read.
  • The warm sun that pierces through the cold winter air.
  • Waking up before sunrise and my children and just taking a minute to watch the light peaking over the hills.
  • My baby (toddler?) who has learnt how to cuddle.

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From Milk to Meat

When I had our third baby last year, I knew things would be crazy for a while. Not only was it hard to find time, but I also felt like my brain couldn’t quite cope with the in-depth Bible study I used to do on my own.
So, I made sure I was still listening to God in His word over that year, but it was mostly in the form of Bible verses stuck up around the house or specific passages memorised or a longer section read every once in a while.

I was sustaining myself on the “milk” version of God’s word – enough to keep me fed, but not forever.
Now, I have been enjoying getting back into the more “meaty” study of God’s word. Specifically, the book of Romans at the moment. There is just so much good stuff in there!

Reading Romans Like

I have printed out this bookmark from Women Living Well, which shows you which colours to highlight Bible verses according to their main theme. This has been really helpful for me, because it forces me to concentrate and really think about what the passage is saying.
I’m very much a pen and paper kind of girl – writing things down really helps me to take them in and absorb the concepts. I usually pull out my journal and do some kind of visual representation of what I’ve read.
Sometimes that looks like this:

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And other times it looks more like this:

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So I guess I would just like to offer a word of encouragement to my sisters in Christ – if you have been struggling to get into the Word or to really make time for in-depth study of the Bible, don’t neglect it any longer!

You can “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Just like you take the time to feed yourself every day, don’t neglect feeding yourself spiritually.


Scared of the Dark

Our older two kids have been starting to say that they are afraid when it’s dark at night or they are scared that baddies are going to get them (they share a room).

I’m sure sometimes it’s just one tool in the toolbox of “ways to avoid bedtime”, but still, I think it’s important to listen to their heart and always use these opportunities to shepherd them towards Jesus.

So we’ve been working on memorising Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

Once we go over the verse a few times, we work through it’s meaning.

If you’re scared because it’s dark, remember that God is always with you and he will be your light.

What’s a stronghold? Well, it’s kind of like a big, tall tower that no baddies can get into. When you trust in God, he will keep you safe.

What does is mean that the Lord is your salvation? Well, the truly scary and dangerous thing in life is your own sin, because being a sinner means you deserve death. But the wonderful thing is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross and come back to life so that you can be saved from what you deserve. That’s why it’s great that the Lord is your salvation, because it means you don’t have to be afraid of anything!

 

I want our kids to know that no matter what is troubling them in life, God’s word is alive and relevant to them. They can turn to Him and find truth and clarity for whatever their situation.


 

So there you go – I’m over here enjoying the simple pleasures in life, carving up a big slab of Romans and teaching our kids how to apply the Bible to their lives.

What have you been up to?

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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Going to Church with Little Kids

Strategies and suggestions to help things go more smoothly.


Before we had kids, my experience of church was involved, but fairly laid back. We would arrive 5-10 beforehand, chat to some friends and then find a pew somewhere around the middle to front region. When it came time to sing, we would stand and sing. And when it was time for the sermon, we would sit and listen. I always enjoyed taking notes – writing down verse references to look up later or phrases that stood out to me. Or even having a good old doodle to keep my mind from wandering. Then, when the service finished, we would turn around and have a chat to whoever was in the pew behind us or catch some friends. All before leaving when we were good and ready.

Ahhh.

Don’t you feel so relaxed reading that?

Because going to church after you have kids is a little different…

Now, we tend to arrive on time (yay!) or 5-10 minutes late (better late than never, so… yay!). We find a seat towards the back of the hall, in order to minimise disruptions to everyone else during one of the 50 million times we will get out of our seats. During songs, we spend about half the time singing the words, and half the time whispering to an inquisitive child what the song is about or telling a child to face the front or disseminating snacks. The two older kids go out to Kids Church during the sermon, but we keep the baby in with us and let him crawl around in the general area in front of our seats. I’m lucky if I can hear an entire sermon these days, let alone process what has been said. And how long we stay at the end of church is determined by the battery life, I mean tiredness, of the youngest members of our family.

So if you’re in a place where going to church just seems too hard or you’re thinking about giving it up, let me encourage you to keep going! Keep trying!

And maybe some of these practical tips will help you out… (And please add your own helpful tips if you’ve “been there, done that”!)

 

Babies

  • When you arrive at a new church or before your baby arrives at your current church, take a moment to suss out a place where you can change a nappy and a place where you can go if the baby gets too loud. Ask the person at the front door if you can’t find somewhere suitable. It’s best to find these places at the start, otherwise when your baby starts crying in the middle of the service, you might get flustered and just leave!
  • When breastfeeding, I prefer to sit at the back of the church. I find that people can’t see much from the front of me, but they might “catch a glimpse” if they are sitting behind and to the side. So sitting right at the back of the church provides the most comfortable place for me to feed. (Our old church – pictured below – had two big red lounges at the back of the church specifically for nursing mothers. It was fantastic!)
  • When our babies were little, we always tried to line up one of their naps to be during the service. We would either put them down to nap in the pram or with one of us using the baby carrier. This often involved one of us going outside or into the hallway until the baby fell asleep. Sometimes this worked well, other times they would either not fall asleep at all or they would fall asleep, but wake up immediately upon entering the church hall again. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to go with the flow. Babies often run on their own schedule (and sometimes that lines up with ours). It’s okay for them to miss the odd nap (provided they don’t just scream until the next nap). It’s okay for them to have a shorter nap than usual on one day of the week so that you can make it to church. Our kids never napped for longer than about 30 minutes in the pram or carrier, so we just accepted that they would need the next nap to be a bit sooner.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush out of the church hall every time your baby makes a noise. There are happy noises and there are not so happy noises, and both of these can be equally disruptive to the church service. We tend to wait a minute or two to see if the baby settles down, and if they keep being loud, one of us will take the baby into the back room (where Kids Church meets) or into the hallway to the side of the church. We have just accepted that we will miss parts of the church service for the time being. It’s just a season – not forever.

 

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What screaming baby? I can’t hear any screaming baby…

Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m lumping these two together because there is a fair bit of over lap.

  • Scout out the location of the toilets and somewhere you can take the child for “time out” if they need it. Like I mentioned with babies, it’s best to find these locations before you sit down so you know exactly where to go, should the need arise.
  • Bring snacks. We still bring snacks for our 5 year old, but I’m sure that will stop some time over the next year. I pack a little bag of things like crackers, raisins and nuts and give them to the kids right at the start of church. Morning tea is provided at the end of the service, but that’s too long for them to wait when they have eaten breakfast at 7-7.30, and church starts at 10. (Actually, bringing snacks applies for older babies too!)
  • Explain to them what is happening and your expectations. It might seem like they don’t understand, but they will eventually. Use simple phrases like, “Now we are talking to God. We close our eyes to help us concentrate”, “Now we’re singing a song about God – we read the words from the screen” and “Now it’s time to be quiet and listen to the person speaking at the front”. Over time and with consistency, they will learn what happens in church and how they should behave. (But it won’t be instant!)
  • In the school holidays, when the Kids Church program takes a break, our church hands out colouring sheets and pencils for all the kids to do during the sermon. We also bring along a sticker book each for the older kids, as we find this helps them to stay quieter during the sermon. It might mean we don’t actually hear much – we are busy holding the book steady and peeling off stickers and finding the right page for them to go on, but this is more for the benefit of others around us – so they can hear the sermon.

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Some Bible verses for reflection

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Matthew 19:14

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-27


 

What strategies have worked for you? What hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!

Mothers and Sons

I came across this music video the other day, by Christian hip-hop artist, NF.

And through tears, I watched as he told the true story of his mother’s addiction to drugs, her death by overdose and the impact on this young man’s heart.

You know how some songs just reach deep inside your chest, grab you by the heart and don’t let go? Yeah.

Here are some of the lyrics:

They say pain is a prison, let me out of my cell

You say you proud of me, but you don’t know me that well

Sit in my room, tears running down my face and I yell

Into my pillowcases, you say you coming to get us

Then call ’em a minute later just to tell us you not, I’m humiliated

I’m in a room with a parent that I don’t barely know

Some lady in the corner watching us, while she taking notes

I don’t get it mom, don’t you want to watch your babies grow?

I guess that pills are more important, all you have to say is no

But you won’t do it will you? You gon’ keep popping ’til those pills kill you

I know you gone but I can still feel you

Wow, it makes me teary just reading the lyrics again.

 

 

Recently I watched the controversial (for it’s take on suicide) series 13 Reasons Why.

There were many “moments” that got to me from that series, but one in particular centred on the character Justin. (Spoiler Alert)

He lives with his single mother, but is often kicked out by her on-and-off boyfriend, who doesn’t like Justin. I think his mother struggles with mental health issues and alcoholism.

There is this one scene towards the end of the series where the boyfriend has Justin up against the wall, holding onto his throat, telling Justin to get out of his (the boyfriend’s) house. Justin’s Mum is standing off to the side, watching. Justin looks over at her and pleads, “Mum?” But she does nothing.
Then the boyfriend lets Justin get down. He grabs his bag and runs out of the house, wiping back the tears.

As I watched that scene, my Mumma heart just wanted to reach out and hold that big little boy. To reassure him that he was loved. That someone had his back.

 

 

I’m still only early on in this motherhood journey. I’m in the “sowing” stage, not yet at the “reaping” stage.

But I know that our young boys need us, Mums. They need us in a distinct and important way – different, but no less important to how they need their Dads.

I know they need us to sow into their lives love and security and warmth.

I know they need to see what a healthy relationship looks like.

I know they need to see that we don’t put inanimate objects before them (whether that be pills or phones or anything else).

And ultimately, they need us to introduce them to Jesus. The ultimate source of love and security.

Mothers – myself included – we only get to raise each child once. Let’s not mess this up.

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Middle child and I when he was a gorgeous chubby baby. Photo credit: http://www.sophietphotography.com

Here’s a fantastic resource about raising boys, from a Mum who is older and wiser and further along than me: http://jessconnell.com/25-tips-moms-boys/

I Am Thankful…

I am thankful for…

  • The crystal coat of frost on the grass in the mornings.
  • Cold air and warm coats.
  • Three tiny tickly bodies.
  • A new friend, baking up a storm and laughing in the kitchen.
  • The peacefulness of the house at nap time.
  • Little arms reaching up.
  • The warm arms of my husband around me in the night.
  • The subtle citrus candle that makes my house smell clean.
  • Thoughtful conversations with a five-year-old.
  • The tree with red leaves that haven’t yet fallen.
  • The anticipation of exciting things to come (a catch up with a good friend, a date with my husband and a weekend getaway with my family).
  • The pink glow of the sunset across the sky.
  • The feeling of a full tummy.

 

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. In this season, I am thankful for all He has given.

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On Being Needed

I can remember a time in my childhood when Mum was sick enough to need to rest in bed during the day.

I remember my Dad looking after us and saying “You need to stay out of our bedroom – Mummy is sick and she needs to sleep. Come and play.”

And I remember how my little heart felt – that it was unfair that we had to stay away from Mum; that she belonged to us and being unable to access her felt wrong.

Of course, as we grew older, we grew in compassion and saw that she had needs of her own.

Now I’m a Mum myself and I can see the other side of the equation.

Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I rode my bike over to our church early and had breakfast and coffee by myself from the local cafe.

As I was getting ready to leave, I told the kids that Daddy would be bringing them to church and I would meet them there.

My 3 year old said – in the sweetest, most sorrowful voice imaginable – “But Mummy… I just… love you de most in de whole world.”

I could feel what his little heart was feeling. Why does Mummy have to go away from us? Why can’t I have access to her constantly?


 

Sometimes the “feeling needed” part of being a Mum is so intense.

I can feel it when my daughter follows me into the bathroom. When the baby wriggles to get out of my arms, and then immediately stretches his hands up to me, wanting to be picked up again. When my daughter comes and sits in the kitchen and says, “I just want to do what you’re doing Mummy.”

Whether these moments make me swoon or grind my teeth usually depends on where my head is at. If I’m feeling well organised and refreshed, I see the joy in being needed. But if I’m feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, I just want some space.

It’s actually good to be needed. This means that my kids and I have developed a healthy attachment. But I can’t pour out of an empty vessel.

So I will continue to pour myself out for my kids, and my husband and whoever the Lord chooses. But I will also continue to fill my cup.

First, by spending time with the Lord. And then by spending time on my own.

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