A Glimpse of God’s Blessing

We’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Japan where our son serves in the Navy. We flew halfway around the world for one reason and one reason only–to meet our first grandchild! The feeling of holding him for the first time was really indescribable and as I held him in my arms I thought of the fact that the birth of this little guy marks the beginning of a whole new generation for our family.

My family is a treasure to me and with each new person who becomes a part of it, whether daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, or new babies, my heart grows exponentially. Each new member is a blessing and a new opportunity to multiply our spiritual legacy—a new avenue to influence the next generation for Christ.

Parents and grandparents, there is nothing more important than raising our children to love God—not their academic success, their popularity among their peers, their athletic achievements or their dating life. You are a Christian parent (grandparent) so that you can leave a spiritual legacy and through your children, perpetuate Christian values and influence in the world.

There is nothing more fulfilling than to see that our grown children have taken ownership of their faith and are striving to live for Christ. When we arrived in Japan we discovered that our son and daughter-in-law are not only a part of a small group Bible study but that our son is actually leading it! We also attended their church where we met several members who spoke of the spiritual impact our son and his wife have had on others. Now that’s what I’m talking about! 

I share that story not to brag about our parenting (for we have fallen short in so many areas over the years), but to emphasize the fact that God gives grace to us as parents and blesses us when we truly desire to raise kids who love Him. You will mess up many times, no doubt, as we did, but if you will commit to putting Christ at the center of your family life, allowing nothing else to take priority other than the spiritual development of your children, then one day, you too will see the fruit of your commitment to intentional Christian parenting.

As I held that precious little baby in my arms I had full confidence that his parents would raise him in a community of believers, teach him the ways of the Lord, and seek God for wisdom and guidance in their parenting journey. I felt such a warmth come over me. I can’t help but think it was God saying, “I know your heart. I’ve seen it all along. This blessing is for you.”

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 3 John 1:4 (NKJV)

 

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Raising Kids Who Will Impact the World

 

“You are the light of the world. a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV

All parents want their kids to get along with others, form meaningful friendships and positively impact the world around them. For Christian parents, that means we want our kids to exhibit Christ-like character traits that will draw others in and ultimately, to Christ. We hope our children, by the time they are tweens and teens, will be caring, kind, and compassionate—allowing the light of Christ to shine through them to the world. But that doesn’t just magically happen. Instead, we have to focus on developing godly attitudes and actions by parenting intentionally.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is my child a good friend to others? Is he or she welcoming and inclusive to those of all sizes, shapes, races and ethnicities? Is he or she well-liked at school? What exactly are the traits of a good friend? What can I do to foster Christ-like character traits in my child?

Below are 5 traits kids need to impact their corner of the world:

Approachablity – If your teen is to exhibit Christ-like character that impacts others then they must be approachable. This means, they are not a part of an exclusive clique. They may still, of course, have a core group of friends, but other students should know that they are welcome to come be a part—whether that means joining the conversation, or sitting at the lunch table. My daughter would say that from the time she was very young, I have told her not to leave anyone out but instead, to be a friend to all. And when it comes to friendship, a smile is our greatest asset. It says, “I like you. You are welcome here. You are valuable.” Encourage your child to smile at others rather than to scowl or turn their gaze downward when interacting with them.

Trustworthiness – A good friend is one who can be trusted. That means if a fellow student shares a confidence with them, they will keep it to themselves. (Better yet, they will offer to pray with them about the issue!) Teach your child what the Bible says about gossip—it’s not good. Your child should know not to spread rumors about others and to walk away from situations where that is occurring. Be a good example for them in this area, as well. We know that children are much more likely to copy what we do than to heed what we say.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Kindness – Is your teen kind to others? Many teens today are starving for kindness. In high schools around the country, bullying is rampant and self-centeredness is the order of the day. A kind student can have a real impact in their corner of the world. Teens are faced with numerous opportunities each day to show kindness—from helping a friend study for a test, to walking a new student to their next class or engaging with a student who is standing alone. As parents we can not only talk to our kids about how to show kindness, but we can model it—to neighbors, strangers, and others in need.

“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NKJV

Encouragement – The teen years can be challenging, for sure: hormones wreaking havoc on emotions, complicated boy/girl relationships, pressure to perform academically and athletically; in this stressful environment, there isn’t a teen alive who doesn’t need encouragement. Therefore, a person who encourages others is a person who will not lack for friends. Help your teen get into the habit of uplifting others with encouraging words, notes and texts. For example, if your teen mentions that a friend is having trouble at home, suggest that they send an encouraging text or scripture verse, or perhaps, invite them over to hang out. Athletic teams are a great place to practice being an encourager. There your child can cheer on teammates and encourage those who are temporarily “off their game” or injured. Webster’s Dictionary defines encouragement as: “The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” I love that definition! Through encouragement, your teen can definitely point their peers to the giver of hope, himself, Jesus Christ.

Joy/Positivity – I often get compliments from others on my teenage daughter’s character. The thing I hear the most is the fact that she is so joyful and positive. She has the kind of magnetic countenance that draws people in. That fact is certainly a blessing for her and for us, as well. In fact, since she is a believer, the joy she exhibits so naturally is the inner joy that only comes from Jesus Christ. It’s the light in the darkness spoken of in the Bible. Negativity will not draw people to you—it will repel them! Teach your kids that joy and positivity is a choice they make each and every day. Praise your kids for exhibiting a positive and joyful attitude at home. While you’re at it, be an example of a “glass-half-full” parent!

“I have told you this that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:11-12 NIV

Is it really possible to raise an impactful kid?

It would seem impossible that our teens could actually embody all of the godly character trait discussed above. And it would be—if they relied only on their own power. However, believing teens have within them the power of the Holy Spirit which allows them to be good people… shining lights… faithful friends. The fruit of the spirit is waiting to blossom forth in your teen, drawing others to the light of Christ, impacting the kingdom of God in a mighty way—from the classroom to the athletic field, and even to the world at large.
Let’s encourage godly character traits by: talking about them often, praising them when they occur, and modeling them in front of our children. In doing so we can help our kids become faithful, encouraging friends in a world that desperately needs to see the light of Christ.

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

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5 Ways You Can Pray For Your Young Adult Children

 

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When our young adult children leave home— heading off to start college, join the workforce, or marry— we, as parents, feel a renewed sense of urgency to pray for them. For the first time they must face the unique dangers and responsibilities of living life on their own and we worry whether or not we’ve adequately prepared them for the challenge.

My husband and I are no exception. At this point we’ve launched two sons into the world. We pray for them often. On one particular weekend, we knew our second son would be traveling from his college to another state to visit his girlfriend and we had been praying for his safety. The weather in that part of the country was not going to be good for the next few days so we were praying a little more fervently than usual. As we finished up dinner on the night he was to travel back to college, the phone rang. It was our son. He said, “Mom, I’m driving through a blizzard and my windshield wipers quit working. I can’t see anything.” He was about half way back to his college at that point and had several hours to go. After having a brief panic moment, I handed the phone to my husband, confident that he would handle the situation with calmness and wise advice, which he did. Our son found a place nearby were they could replace his wipers and made it safely back to college later that day. That scenario could just as easily have had a not-so-happy ending.

There is no way we can protect our young adult children from every danger they face after leaving home. But, we do have a powerful tool at our disposal—prayer. Here are 5 ways we can pray for them:

  1. Pray for their physical safety. Your children are now out from under your protective wing. They are navigating the college campus, finding their way around large cities and–now more than ever—traveling across the country and the globe for foreign study, internships, mission trips, and cultural enrichment. If we think too much about the dangers out there we will be paralyzed with fear. But we can pray that God will put a hedge of protection around them and that no harm will come to them. And we can have peace. After all, let’s remember that our loving, omnipotent and omnipresent God has them in the palm of his ever-steady hand.
  2. Pray that God will place godly influences in their lives in the form of friends, co-workers and mentors. There is a community of believers to be found just about anywhere you go around the country and the world. God’s people are everywhere. In the case of our own children, God has graciously brought other believers into their lives wherever they have gone—from Chicago, to West Virginia, even to Japan! My kids would tell you that the support of Christian friends has been invaluable to them.
  3. Pray for clarity and direction for your children regarding college decisions, job searches, and marriage partners. At this point your young adult children are facing some major decisions; they are new at it and sometimes unsure about what they should do. Of course, we can give them advice when they ask, but the most important thing to do is to pray. Pray that they will seek God’s direction and that he will make his will known to them through open windows and closed doors and the many other ways in which God speaks. It’s time for them to learn to seek God and make their own decisions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Pray for protection from liberal ideology and boldness to stand for truth—the truth of God’s Word. Our culture is spiraling downward away from absolute truth towards relativism, secularism, humanism—at a break-neck pace. Whether your children attend college or enter the workforce, they will encounter thought and speech that is antithetical to Christianity. Pray that God gives them discernment to sift through the trash and find the truth. And then to stand up for it!
  5. Pray that they will take ownership of their faith. Up until this point, your children have followed you to church. They have listened to you espouse your beliefs. They have faithfully gone to youth group because that’s what was done in your family. They may or may not have read their Bible on their own. But, in most cases, its been your faith that they have walked in. When young adults leave home it is time for them to take ownership of their faith. No one is there anymore to make them go to church, read their Bible, pray. They have to come to a decision to walk in the faith on their own. The statistics are staggering as to how many young people fall away from the church after leaving for college. (Lifeway Research says that 70% of them do) Pray that your children do not become a part of that statistic.

Just as a predator will swoop in and devour a baby bird who has fallen from the nest while learning to use it’s wings, Satan would love to snatch our own kids as they struggle to fly on their own. He sees it as a great opportunity since Mom and Dad are no longer there to protect them—to tell them what is right and true.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15 NKJV

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 17:6 NKJV

Pray for your young adult children who have left home.

Pray often. Pray fervently. Pray specifically.

Prayer is effective and powerful and God is faithful and true.

 

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Parenting Teens: When Shocking Things Happen at Your Child’s School

 

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Like it or not, every week shocking things happen at your child’s school. Whether it’s a student who’s been caught using drugs or texting explicit photos, driving while drunk, or experiencing an unplanned pregnancy; everything under the sun goes on at school these days– even at private, Christian schools.  Some of the issues are eerily familiar to us as parents, and some are issues that we never could have imagined. My kids have been exposed to all of these issues and more–even, an inappropriate student/teacher relationship (several years ago).

Not at my school!

Why do things like this happen at your “Christian” school, or in your small town, you ask? I mean, shocking stuff like this isn’t supposed to happen here. Well, first of all, we live in a fallen world (thanks to that Adam guy). Secondly, we all struggle with doing what’s right. Saved and unsaved. And, thirdly, teens are just learning how to make wise choices. Sometimes they have to crash a few times before they get it right. Don’t expect your Christian school to be like heaven, itself. It is a microcosm of the world at large.

When our teen comes home and reveals the latest bombshell that happened at school, how should we react? Do we have a plan on how to deal with it? Is there an opportunity for a spiritual lesson?

Tips for shell-shocked parents.

Here are some tips for shell-shocked parents on how to help your teen (or pre-teen ) handle the difficult, and sometimes traumatic, issues they face at school.

Respond in a calm manner (even as you flip out internally!). Avoid looking shocked, mouth agape, eyes wide open, “What? You’ve got to be kidding!” Listen to the whole story. Read your teen’s body language. Are they confused? Upset? Traumatized? Comfort your child in whatever way is appropriate. If your teen has come to you at all with the issue, then you have probably developed an open and trusting relationship with them. Kudos to you!

Address the fact that when people fall into sin or make bad choices, we can still love them without condoning what they did. When kids crash and burn, it is sometimes a non-verbal cry for help. Your teen can possibly be an encouragement to them when all others are keeping their distance. Make sure your teen understands that they are called to love people who are going through trials and difficulties. Even those who are not like them–those who are especially hard to love.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (NKJV)

Remind your teen not to gossip about the person involved. I know– that seems like a pipe dream in high school culture, but it’s an important thing for your teen to learn and this is a great opportunity to drive the point home. Teach them practical ways to leave the group when gossip is occurring and make sure they know not to initiate gossip themselves.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Go to the Word. What does God say about this issue? Look at it as a spiritual teaching opportunity. As a Christian parent, you are charged with the task of raising your child in the knowledge of Him. Here is a practical way to do so. The Bible definitely speaks to issues like dishonesty, drunkenness, sexual immorality, immodesty, and anything else that may come up. Be an example of searching the Word for help, advice and wisdom.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)

Help your teen see the incident as an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to the person involved with words of encouragement and acts of kindness. Just as Jesus did. They can be a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. Or– the only smile the student sees that day among the sneers and stares.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Remind your teen that disobedience to God and His laws can bring heartache, brokenness and ruin. No, the Christian life will never be problem-free of course, but the Bible is clear that obedience brings blessing and peace. And, our obedience is proof of our love for God.

If you have yet to experience your teen running through the door to drop a bombshell of shocking proportions, just wait. Your time is coming. And when it does, be prepared to handle it with patience, wisdom, and grace–after you pick your jaw up off the floor!

 

 

 

 

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Marriage Basics: Choosing to Love Your Spouse

 

 

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Marriage is challenging.

Take two people whose genders make them different by nature, stir in unique personalities, the needs of children in the family, the pressures of extended family, and the stress of difficult circumstances, and you have a pot lid that’s ready to blow! It’s not fun. It’s not romantic. It may even seem hopeless.

For example, my husband and I are so different. I love communication. He prefers to be alone with his thoughts. I am an organized planner. He flies by the seat of his pants. I love to be with people. He can take ’em or leave ’em. ( That’s a joke but, we did have to come to a happy medium as to how often we entertain guests.)

Let’s face it, there are time periods in marriage where the mushy, romantic feelings are few and far between and all we feel is frustration, stress, anger, and disappointment.

As couples, we sometimes wonder: Where is the love?

Well, it’s in those very times– the dull and dry, feeling-less moments–when we need to remind ourselves that love is a verb. It’s something we choose to do, even when its the last thing we want to do.

In choosing to love, day after day in marriage, even when we don’t feel like it, we are a living picture of the sacrificial, forgiving, grace-filled love expressed to us by our heavenly Father. And as we press on in this kind of intentional, sacrificial love, we begin to see blessings in our marriage–the blessings of obedience to God’s Word.

Because… marriage is also, awesome! A lifelong friendship. An exciting journey of highs and lows. A relationship with someone who knows you to your core and chooses to love you anyway. It’s building a home and raising children and having grandchildren! And traveling, and holding hands through the difficulties of life– emerging on the other side stronger than ever!

My point is that melding two very different people into one shouldn’t work. And if we relied on feelings of love and adoration, it wouldn’t. But my husband and I have learned that seeing love as a verb is the way to marriage success.

It’s so wonderful to have feelings of love for your spouse and you will! But, as the years go by, you will have to choose to love–by your actions, your words, and your attitudes. And that obedience, effort, and self-sacrifice will ultimately lead you to a strong, impactful, enduring marriage that is a beautiful example of Christ’s love for us.

 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

“Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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