5.01.2012

ephesians 5 parenting


 I'm thankful to say that my life has reached a season in which I'm able to listen to sermons again.  Sometimes.  In chunks big enough to at least know what it's about.  Sometimes.

Anyway, this past Sunday, both of my children were occupied and quiet enough that I was able to pay attention and even (gasp!) take notes.  Considering the subject now, it's no big shock that God wanted me to hear it.

It seems like I'm always struggling with something and here lately it's been my parenting skills... or lack thereof.  It's hard to parent when you're being convicted to change something about yourself.  Resisting God's will and being a patient, loving, kind person don't seem to go hand in hand.  And being a frustrated, rude, hateful person and being a mama don't go hand in hand.

Does it ever feel like God is trying to tell you something everywhere you look? Every blogpost I've "happened" on, every scripture I've tried to read, songs on the radio, Bible studies I've been "randomly" invited to participate in, other people's Facebook status updates... seriously, everywhere I've turned lately something has been screaming at me to change.  CHANGE... and don't look back.

So, after listening to the sermon and taking a few scattered notes, pondering on it since then, re-reading the scripture, and taking more detailed notes... it has felt more and more like a tailor-made gift all packaged up and gift-wrapped just for me.  Most people probably would have caught on a lot more quickly than I have, but it took actually sitting in a pew and having it handed to me.  I mean... God even helped my kids behave so I wouldn't have any distractions.

The question that's been plaguing me is this:

What am I doing to prepare my children's hearts for salvation?

The thought of the conviction they're sure to face has been torturing my prayer time and while I don't purport to be able to help them be saved, I can't help but think that my influence will have something to do with how they deal with it when that time comes.

Sure, I pray for them.  I take them to church, teach them Bible verses and Bible stories, try to show teach them right from wrong, and try to help them pray.  I talk a good game when it comes to stay-at-home parenting and homeschooling.  But really... really... what am I doing?

I want to look "peculiar" as compared to the rest of the world, but shouldn't that start at home? Shouldn't my children be able to see that in me first and foremost?

If I'm telling them that we're supposed to be set apart and holy but still harboring sin in my own home then shame on me.

I might as well wear a big neon sign over my head that says HYPOCRITE so everybody knows for sure.

So, with all that said... Sunday's sermon was entitled "Acceptable Proofs" and was based on Ephesians 5:1-21 - a long list of instructions that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and then a list of ways by which they should prove themselves as children of God.

The more I look at the list, the more convinced I am of my need to change.  These are the ways we outwardly show what we inwardly are - to our children and everyone else with whom we come into contact.

I broke these scriptures down as concisely as possible so my feeble brain would have a better chance at remembering them.

Instructions
1. Follow God like a child follows a parent (5:1).
(This makes me think of imitation... I should imitate Christ so I can be more godly)
2. Love selflessly (5:2).
3. Avoid all sin and excessive foolishness (5:3-4).
4. Use your energy for praise instead (5:4).
5. Don't be deceived (5:6).
(Doctrinally or otherwise.  Know what's morally sound and stick to it.  Period.)
6. Don't partake in those deceptive things (5:7).
(If it's not doctrinally or morally sound, don't do it.  Period.)
7. Be a light in the darkness (5:8).
(Be obvious about it.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy - Psalm 107:2)

Prove yourself...
1. ...with good fruits - goodness, righteousness, and truth (5:9).
2. ...by not having anything to do with things opposite those good fruits (5:11).
3. ...by reprimanding sin (5:11).
4. ...by not even speaking of sinful things except in reproof (5:12).
5. ...by being careful to use wisdom (5:15).
6. ...by using our time wisely (5:16).
7. ...by godly wisdom and seeking after God's will (5:17).
8. ...by being filled with the spirit rather than excess wine (5:18).
9. ...by meditating on spiritual things (5:19).
10. ...by thankfulness for all things (5:20).
(makes me think of Job... What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?)
11. ...by submission to one another out of respect for God (5:21).

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I don't really know what else to say about this other than... just wow.  I've read these scriptures a lot of times in my life.  They aren't the most poetic or picturesque words in the Bible, but they become absolutely beautiful when they're delivered to your heart as an answered prayer.

God's little handbook on parenting.  Just for me.  And for you.


4.18.2012

recycled :: laundry

 This is probably my favorite thing I've ever written.  Some may have read it previously on another blog, but I happened upon it and just had to share it again.  I feel like I refer to laundry a lot when I write.  It's just so relative to... well, everything! Here's an explanation of why I think so... enjoy!

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If there were ever a fit analogy for eternity, it must be laundry.

It is the ever-present stuff that life is made of. And even when the baskets are empty, the promise of tomorrow's dirty socks, underwear lingers. Since, after all, every today's starchy button down or grungy Saturday t-shirt is every tomorrow's lights and darks.

Even before birth, one's diapers, clothes, and bed linens must be laundered appropriately. A time-consuming task for the nesting mother. One's laundry must be continued indefinitely by whomever is brave enough to take on the task.

All of this is hardly a concern to most until the great new adventure of college life, at which time one must find a suitable laundromat or haul home gigantic bags of increasingly moldy and mildewed unmentionables to Mother. Laundry, at this point, becomes a concern of great proportion since laundromats cost money and Mother nags.

Perhaps laundry is the infinity represented by the exchanged wedding bands, as the task of laundry only grows with the swap of those sacred vows. Ceremony and reception in hindsight, what is the next step but to hurriedly shed the symbolic attire, which is tossed aside becoming tomorrow's wash pile before the marriage is even consummated. Sure there's still the honeymoon, but that, of course, only leads to sand-filled swim suits which naturally must be laundered (and normally HAND laundered, I might add).

Thus life begins and wedded bliss ends. The towels creep from the hamper and slowly progress toward the ceiling. The young couple grows accustomed to each other's varying stains and smells and settle into a comfortable familiarity. Everything ticks along swimmingly until the washing machine becomes unbalanced. The newly wedded pair sit bolt upright in bed alarmed by the racket coming from the laundry room, a rhythmic ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. The brave young husband dashes through the house in his skivvies only to find that the washing machine has tangoed its way out of the laundry room and halfway across the kitchen. There is no long-term repair, they find. So, the concede to closing the laundry room door, turning the television up, and doing their best to ignore the spin cycle.

These are only a few aspects of life affected so distinctly by laundry. There are many more. Introducing children into the household creates more laundry and less time to do it. The older the child, the more varying the stains. Babies produce only two or three kinds of stains, but a more independent child who is capable of preparing his own peanut butter and banana sandwiches as well as going outside unattended to feed it to the dog is capable of a virtual rainbow of stains almost every day. Thus, pre-treating becomes something of real importance.

At this point, Mother's only hope is that the child will prefer the laundromat over her nagging. And then it's most likely not far off that the child will get married and start his or her own wash pile.

In the end, a person who is careful to make plans ahead of time has everything put down in a will. With every detail in place, one's executor should know even what outfit one would prefer to be laid out in. Unfortunately, too many times, said outfit has been stored away in a stuffy attic or perhaps with mothballs. Since no one wants Mother, Grandmother, etc. to smell of mothballs the outfit must be, you guessed it, laundered.

Thus is the great circle of life... all laid out in the ever-present medium of laundry. 

*Written on June 23, 2007

4.03.2012

our homeschool decision

I am a second-generation homeschool beginner.

Before attending a tiny, church-affiliated private school, I was taught at home by my parents for 5 years. I learned to read at the kitchen table. It was also there I learned those basic foundational skills that carried me through the remainder of elementary and middle school, high school, and finally college (WKU class of 2008 - Go big red!).

This is the first year I've sat on the other side of the table.

We did preschool this year.  The past-tense is only partly true.  We had a lot of ups and downs and backs and forths while trying to get our feet under us, but the Kiddo is able to do everything (and more) I put in my original goal for the year, so overall I'm pleased.  In a technical sense, we're done for the year.  In a practical sense, I don't guess I'll ever really be done until my children's education passes into someone else's hands.  Oh, and because I don't want a backslidden Kindergartner, we'll continue some random review work through the summer.

All that being said, I figured now would be as good a time as any to share some of our thoughts on educating our kids ourselves and our reasons for doing so.

I don't know when I formed the actual thought that I actively wanted to homeschool my kids someday, for Kindergarten definitely and maybe a couple years beyond that. I remember discussing it with my husband back when we were still dating and I remember at least thinking about it before then. It just always seemed sort of a given to me. Why would I hand my children over to strangers for something that I'm capable of doing myself?

It was a fun idea. I never assumed it wouldn't be hard work, but I have always thought it would be a lot of fun.

We continued discussing the topic as it came up throughout the time we dated as well as after we were married. He was publicly educated throughout his school years, but he was 100% on board from the very start. We both agreed on the idea of definitely the first few years and play it by ear as our kids got older... maybe keep homeschooling, maybe send them to the private school I had attended, maybe send them to public school.

Between that time and now, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Both kids were born, I began to do more homeschooling research and resource gathering, and we became acquainted with other homeschool parents. We also began to feel more and more strongly about the certain indoctrination that is taking place in the public school system about such topics as evolution, religious equality, sex education, etc. This is not to mention the absolute falsehoods that are printed and presented to kids as part of American and world history.

All of this and more caused us to feel more and more uneasy about the possibility of ever sending our children to public school. Other issues raised question to the possibility of my private alma mater.

But all of these things paled in comparison to the conviction I felt growing in my heart.

I had always wanted to teach my children at home for some amount of time. I had looked forward to it. But suddenly, and for the first time, I felt that I must.

This was something God was calling me to do.

Now, for reasons that I can only blame on my human weakness, it wasn't until after I felt that conviction that I began to question my ability. Satan has his ways of casting doubt on even those things we feel most led to do. The truth of the matter is... if I pray and seek God's guidance, He is sure to help and strengthen me. Even in those situations where I feel the least capable.

Can I teach my kids to read? Sure. Can I teach them to add and subtract? I feel confident that I can. Can I teach them the history of this great nation and explain photosynthesis and how to read music and how to diagram sentences? I don't deny that some subjects may be challenging for me as they get more advanced, but I honestly don't think that any of these things will be the truly hard part.

The truly hard part, I've found even in this little bit of time, is persevering through the hard days, having patience in the face of persistent distractions, applying wisdom in choosing the best material, and, of course, answering the tough questions... like any one of the following:

"Mama, why did Brother Brad say he got lost?"


"What kind of new bodies are we going to have?"


"How can God and Jesus be the same person? And what about the Holy Ghost? What does He do?"

But we would rather do our best to meet these challenges ourselves and fail miserably than to drop our kids off every morning and never really know whether or not the people they come into contact with each day are even attempting to help them grow into the best versions of themselves.  Or attempting to drive them in the opposite direction of everything we hold so dear.

What is boils down to is, even if there weren't countless other little reasons that seem to keep popping up around every corner, the main reason we've chosen this path is because... well, because we haven't chosen it at all.  It was chosen for us.  And sometime when I haven't driven myself to the point of puking, I'll write about how absolutely terrified I am at the prospect of the years (and years... and years...) ahead of me.

To close up this particular blogpost, I want to share one tiny little personal tidbit about how God has grown me a little bit through my short journey thus far.  I struggle a lot with prayer.  I've written about it before, but I'll say it again... I like order.  Lists and post-it notes and calendars and planners and things of that nature... but God won't let me pray that way.  I've tried.  It was ugly.  One way He's taught me to pray is through the scriptures.  I'll (hopefully) write more on that another time, but here are the 2 verses that seem to show up the most in my prayers (and thoughts) these days:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

(If anybody in the world ever needed that basket of fruit, a homeschool parent does! Okay... ANY parent!)

And... perhaps my all-time favorite words in the Bible...

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (from II Corinthians 12:9)

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I could go on, but there I shall end.  My plan is to start updating more regularly... but don't hold me to that!