There’s no denying we are what we eat; what is your family feasting on? What we treasure in our homes is often reflected in the hearts and lives of our children.
Maybe it's crafting cute Thanksgiving turkeys with your kids, opening envelopes on your Advent calendar, or making pancakes for birthday mornings—all families have traditions. They range from the simple to the elaborate, the every-so-often to the every-year, the super meaningful to the silly.
Sometimes traditions bring us joy. They help us reorient our hearts toward what we value most, offer us pause in the midst of life's hustle and bustle, and provide consistent signposts to think of God's faithfulness. And sometimes, they're just plain fun.
Other times, traditions cause pressure and guilt. We’re upset when we abandon the Advent calendar, annoyed we forgot to pull out books on time, or frustrated there are now turkeys glued to our tables.
Thankfully, traditions don't earn our good standing before God, measure how well we "did" the holiday season, or guarantee our kids will love Jesus. Instead, traditions are another area the gospel gives us freedom to decide what's best (and most fruitful) for our families. We can light the weekly candle for Advent, or not. We can have an Easter party, or not. We can start a tradition, or stop one.
As long as we’re living by faith in the completed work of Christ, and striving to love others well, we each have freedom for how traditions play out in our own homes.
At R|M, we want to equip you to apply the gospel to every aspect of life by being “gospel thinkers.” Because the gospel changes everything—even our traditions.
So to help you kick off this holiday season with biblical understanding, @emschumacher is explaining how to take what scripture teaches about traditions and apply it to our lives. Think of it as a tool for filtering what traditions you might want to start (or stop) in your own home. Wondering what to do with Santa? How you should engage in Halloween? If the “tooth fairy” should visit? We hope this resource helps you consider how to engage in these (and many other) traditions.
We even added discussion questions so you can talk with your spouse, podcast club, or friends at the playground. (And it has a handy printable!)
“We’ve all been there. We’ve all given our children instructions, they’ve asked why, and we’ve responded with neither grace nor eloquence, ‘Because I said so!’
We’re tired, exasperated, and in search of a quick fix.
But if time paused and we were given a moment to really think about the answer to their question of why, what would we come up with? Why do we want them to do what we’ve asked them to do? What are the motives behind our commands? What’s driving us?
In the Bible, Paul answers the question why over and over. In every letter he wrote to the early churches, he didn’t merely give them instructions for godly living and say, “Because I said so!” He gave them—and us—a foundation, a motivation, a robust reason for doing what God asks us to do.
When we read Colossians, we can almost hear Paul’s words getting faster and faster, culminating in a crescendo of praise. And then he says, ‘Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.’
The praise comes first, then the pivot, and then the instruction for godly living. This order is crucial.
First, we understand the nature and character of our God. We remember his goodness and kindness to us. We recall how he gave himself over to us. We acknowledge that we were in darkness before him and he brought us into the kingdom of light. We say out loud that he’s a gift we do not deserve.
Then, after those rehearsals and proclamations, we set out to obey our good God. It’s from a heart full of remembrance and praise, which is how we received Christ Jesus the Lord, that we walk in him.
First we remember the gospel, and then we walk in it.
Christian parenting is discipleship. As Christian moms, we want our homes, our language, our actions, our thoughts to be distinctly Christian. So our answer to why must have the substance of our Savior.
May they bear the aroma of Christ.
It was his grace that saved us. May it also be his grace that propels us. God’s grace is the answer to why.”
Maybe you grew up like me, running around the white-steepled church smack in center of your small-town.
Maybe you heard stories of a different Jesus, an imposter Jesus that sent you running from the church building as soon as you grabbed your diploma and your own set of keys.
Maybe you met Jesus in small doses, spread here and there.
But whatever your story, now we’re here, wanting to lead our children to the face and hands and words of the real and risen Savior, the greatest treasure we meet in scripture.
From beginning to end, the story of redemption has always been about God. The God who shot twirling planets across space by the words of his mouth chose the weak and broken things of this world to make himself known. Our God used mud to give sight to the blind, water to bring wine to the wedding, children to feed the multitudes. So, don’t sit there stressing Bible degrees and church pedigrees, unread book lists, and unlistened podcasts.
Instead, sit there celebrating a God who is enough.
This God who wrote the greatest story ever told in the pages of eternity, also wrote a new story, this gospel incarnate, inside of us. A story painted in sweeping brush strokes of Redeemer blood. A story that rewrote our past and redirected our future.
The Author of the greatest story is present in the pages of scripture, and he’s present in you as you tentatively whisper and confidently shout his words to your children.
The greatest gift we give our children isn’t handing them the all answers to life, wrapped in a sparkling red bow. It’s bringing them along with us as we live out the redemptive reality of Christ in us. When we come to God’s word with them, asking with utter confidence, ‘God, show us yourself today,’ we are modeling for them how to live this life on earth. This is what they need.
So become treasure hunters together.
Next time you open the Bible with your children, take a moment to pray your eyes will see the wonderful story of redemption on every page.
My four daughters have been raised on three continents. They cut their teeth in Asia, experienced some middle years in Europe, and now live in the United States. These sweet babes have traversed everything from squatty potties and flying cockroaches to endless gray days and desperately wanting to buy a vowel in a language that has almost none.
Now that we’ve settled down in Colorado, I’ve noticed there are few natives here. Americans are increasingly transient. We’re less and less obligated to stay close to our roots. We move for school, work, climate, friends, a new lifestyle, even on a whim.
It was one thing to relocate when we were footloose and fancy-free college kids or young adults. But now that we’ve got a toddler or elementary-aged boy or tween girl or a teen in tow, we need a game plan.
Moves across the state, the country, or even the world can be both traumatic and exciting at the same time. As our families experience upheaval, we need to be firmly grounded in the unchanging nature of our God and his good news.
Here are some gospel foundations for making a move as a family:
1. Jesus will hold everything together.
2. You cannot escape God’s presence.
3. God ordains when and where we live.
4. As Christians we have family wherever we go.
Though difficult, transitions can be an immense blessing. Trust the Lord to work in yours. As far as you are able, be faithful in preparing your own heart and the hearts of your children. Beyond that, know that our God is good and gracious and he will not only meet you there, but he will meet your kids there in ways you never knew possible.
Taking an uninteruppted shower became a luxury after the birth of my first child. I would linger in the bathtub, praising God for a quiet moment before the rocking, the nursing, and the sleeplessness. Motherhood stretches not just our bodies, it stretches our time and capacity, filling them with long days and nights—as well as joy and delight.
Many of us are hard-pressed for time and energy. Our schedules are filled with homes, husbands, children, churches, jobs, friends, and the constant temptation to stay in-the-know of the hashtags, the trends, and the news. We are busy mothers with full hands. And somehow, amid the juggling of responsibilities, we are to nurture our children in the instruction of the Lord.
Picture the scene: dishes need to the done, dinner needs to the cooked, and I have a phone conference with a church group. I’m desperate for an uninterrupted hour so I offer my girls the diversion of a ‘Bible movie.’ They watch and I work; all seems well until I hear these words sounding from the screen: ‘David was brave in facing Goliath. You need to be brave and God will help you fight your battles too.’ I cringe.
Translating Bible passages into behavior instructions might help kids to prize certain traits and values, but this kind of teaching will miss the intention of the scriptures themselves—which is to testify of Christ.
Jesus is better than moralism, and thankfully we can find him everywhere in scripture. I want my children to hear narratives like David and Goliath with their eyes on David’s Greater Son, the one who defeats and liberates us from a deadly enemy we could never conquer on our own, sin.
With language that is understandable to our child, we teach in order to direct them to the Lord who bids little ones to come. This Lord is Lord of all, “bestowing his riches [without distinction] on all who call on him.” This means that, everyone (even fidgety children and with busy moms) can take in the goodness of God’s glorious gospel.
And the story of David and Goliath reminds me of Someone else.
Every mother wants a strong relationship with their daughter. Or at least, I think they do. I actually don’t know for certain since I’m not a mother. I’m a daughter who just graduated from her teens last year.
As I look back on my teen years, I loved hanging out with mom. I loved learning from her. I even took her correction pretty well because she exposed my sin truthfully yet tenderly. I loved praying with her, baking with her, going on adventures with her, and reading books with her. What’s more: I still do.
So what’s so special about my mom?
It actually isn’t anything particularly special at all. It’s merely two things: she prioritized her relationship with her kids and she relied on the grace of God.
As I consider my teen years, I’m mindful of five things my mom did to build this relationship with me: she started young, she prayed for and with me, she risked vulnerability, she learned with me, and she had fun with me.
I wish you could meet my mom. She’d say she’s far from a spiritual giant and that raising godly kids wasn’t about her.
‘It just took intentionality,’ she’d tell you. ‘But most of all, the grace of God.’
For both my mom and you, there is gospel grace to meet you at every turn. No mom is ‘mom enough.’
Every mom needs infinite grace to forgive her sins, to work through her mistakes, and to point her and her kids to Jesus.
Remember: he is the savior of your family, not you.
Do you remember the first time your parents or friends talked to you about sex?
I wouldn’t describe the emotions that I experienced from the conversation with my mom or with my friends as positive. And yet, in Genesis 2:25 we have a description of a very positive experience. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed.
Can you imagine a scenario where you could be completely naked, emotionally and physically, and be unashamed? Nothing to hide. Nothing to cover. No good parts to emphasize. No bad parts to deemphasize.
This is the beauty of the sexual experience as God intends it.
We know that our kids won’t get the biblical view of sex from culture. The culture swings between sex being too important and not important at all. It is the end all of every great experience and it is so unimportant you can engage in it with anyone.
We need to give our kids a different view. We need to give our kids a grace-centered, biblical view of sex.
The question is how do we talk about sex to our children in a way that validates the goodness of sex, the way God intended, without shaming or scaring them into thinking sex is a bad thing.
How do we stand next to our child and give them more than a list of dos and don’ts?
We must show our children that a relationship with Jesus is better than any other experience. And we must make sure they know that no sin, sexual or otherwise, is beyond the grace of God. We can only give a complete biblical view of sex when we affirm that Christ loves the prostitute as much as he loves the woman who was a virgin when she got married.
Grace levels all of us.
This glorious news is worth the embarrassment that you may feel in any conversation with your kids.
So smile, and share.
“Do you think she’s old enough for theology flashcards?” I asked my husband while perusing Christmas presents for our daughter, “You know, to help her learn words like ‘justification’ and ‘atonement.’”
“Well, since she’s 10 months old and can’t say, ‘Mama,’ I’m going to guess probably not.”
I nodded. And then I put the flashcards on the list.
Before she was a toddler, my daughter was brand new. I remember pulling the blanket away from the perfectly chubby cheeks of my baby girl while she slept on my chest. I gazed at her tiny nose and thought it funny that she wasn’t aware she had a nose. But that amusing thought led me down a list of everything she didn’t know—which was everything from her ABCs to God’s existence. While I’m shocked at how much she’s grasped over the last 14 months, she still has so much to learn (like recognizing that we don’t check for other people’s belly buttons without an invitation).
I sometimes spend hours researching books, songs, and other resources (like those flashcards!) which might help my little lady learn about God and his world. The weightiness of teaching her about our faith sits heavy on my heart, and I often find myself overwhelmed about the best resource, most accurate children’s Bible book, or if we should ever sing a nursery tune that doesn’t include a full biblical metanarrative.
I think many parents feel this way, because we understand our faith is the most important thing we want to teach to our children. But when the options are endless and the advice is non-stop, I have to remember that God has given us his word to teach, instruct, and encourage us in our role as mothers. The Bible is living and active, and studying it changes our hearts and minds. His word offers us a framework for our calling as parents and provides the freedom to live it out.
I will never forget the first night I held my daughter in my arms.
After friends and family had come and gone, it was just the three of us—my husband, my daughter and me. In the dimly lit and quiet hospital room, I was lying in the bed studying the face of my swaddled baby girl. And then a thought almost took my breath away. How was I supposed to be the mother and teach this newborn baby the way through all of the decisions and storms of life?
Many of you have prayed a similar gospel-saturated prayer over your child … and many of you have also experienced the same fears and insecurities that I have in this journey of motherhood.
There are so many decisions we face in raising our children. We constantly assess what is good, better, and best for them—sleep training, feeding, disciplining, discipling them, developing their giftings, and schooling.
I have found that a helpful principle in my own decision-making process is to think through the lens of biblical stewardship while gazing closely at the mission of God. As parents, our children are some of the most precious gifts that we have been entrusted to steward and love, not use or keep for ourselves.
We are asked to roll up our sleeves in love and humility and labor towards two hard tasks: (1) help them know and follow Christ, and (2) help to cultivate in them the God-given gifts that he wants to use.
Because we trust an unchanging and faithful God who is still on the Throne, we must find comfort in who he is and commit to do the hard work of planting our children to grow—whether that is in public school, private school, or homeschool—rather than burying them to keep them safe.
As moms, we can find so much freedom in this.
As I send my precious girl into our nearby public school this fall, I know that I will be scared and choking back tears. If you’re in Ann Arbor and reading this, come find me at a local coffee shop and sit with me that morning. No matter the choice you or I make regarding schooling for our children this fall, we both need each other for encouragement and the grace of God to sustain us as we plant our children in the harvest fields of the Kingdom of God.
When my son was just about a year old, I heard a mom friend say that she was doing scripture memory with her three-year-old because he was, “Such a sponge.” I had other friends reading a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible every night as part of their routine. And still others who were taking their school-aged children to Wednesday night church to learn the Bible with a group.
I remember feeling intimidated and wondering if I was behind. “Should I be doing more scripture memory with my baby?” (I literally thought that, even though he couldn’t talk yet!). Instead of focusing on the long road, making it a goal to consistently expose him to the word of God, I felt apprehensive about each method and strategy.
How do you know what to teach your children about the Bible?
Well, the goal is to equip them to be a disciple of Jesus Christ — to be able to follow him in obedience as adults if they place their faith in him.
Let them see you authentically loving God, repenting when you fail, turning to God in prayer, and studying sound doctrine along with the local church. Involve them when you host neighbors for dinner, encourage them to work hard when no one is looking, and love them as an image-bearer of God. It’s hard to be faithful in this work..., but what to teach them is actually fairly simple.
Teach them to be a follower of Christ.
October 31st is marked by falling leaves, buckets of candy, and adorably dressed children parading down neighborhood streets as animals, a favorite character, or, as I was for many years, a pumpkin. The anticipation of the 31st begins as early as stores release costumes and candy corn in the late summer months. But the 31st actually marks two holidays, and one – though lesser known – is extremely significant and exciting for all Christians. The final day of October is known as Reformation Day, where a surprisingly monumental decision was made in a little town in Germany in 1517 that would impact generations. And this year is the 500th anniversary.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Reformation Day or maybe you’re wondering how this relates to motherhood in 2017. Here’s really brief history lesson:
Like you’d teach them with anything else, it’s essential that we begin to teach our children about creation, specifically the image of God, at an early age.
If you want your children to embrace those who are different than them, then you must start with helping them understand that God is the Creator of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Heaven will be filled with people from Indonesia, Dubai, Zambia, the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee and the Grand Cayman Islands. And today we can get a foretaste of heaven when we step out of our comfort zones to get to know someone not like us.
Your children are watching and learning from you. They will embrace whom you embrace. It is God who motivates us to step outside ourselves and celebrate the differences around us. God created, he redeems, and it is He who is calling all these different people together in Christ for His glory.
Find this list as a free printable here!
1. When they see something they love in nature. || God created everything.
2. When they get ready to eat a meal. || Give thanks to God for all he provides.
3. When they show off a skill, gift, or ability. || God gives us abilities to glorify and worship Him.
4. When they get hurt or feel afraid. || God is always with us, He is our refuge and strength.
5. When they disobey. || Sin severs our relationship with God, but He offers forgiveness in His son, Jesus.
6. When they see you reading the bible or praying. || God wants us to spend time talking to and listening to Him through His word.
7. When they hurt other children. || God created everyone in His image and He loves that person. He wants us to be kind to them.
8. When they share or show generosity. || God loves a cheerful giver.
9. When they show self-control instead of selfishness. || God helped you do what is right and put others before yourself. Thank you, God!
10. When they are ready for bed. || God loves you. He is always ready to hear your prayers.
For more like this, listen to Episode 27 | Intentional Motherhood: It's the Little Things and Episode 29 | Using Life-Giving Words With Our Children.
Five ways to involve your young children in hospitality:
1. Have them help clean and prepare for guests. Set the table, run a handheld vacuum, decorate place cards.
2. Let them help in deciding the menu and preparing the food. Is there a simple desert or side that you can work with them the day before on?
3. Have them greet guests at the door. Coach them ahead of time on what to say. Tell them they can offer guests a "hug, handshake or highfive!" Allow them show guest where they can put their boots or coat.
4. During and after the meal, help them to "see needs and meet them." This usually means mom or dad "sees" the need and helps the child in meeting it - getting new napkins, handing someone a drink, finding an age appropriate toy for the youngest of guests.
5. Teach them to walk their guests to the door, thank them for coming and help them find their shoes/coats.
My children are two and four (next month), and both of them are capable of most of these things - admittedly - with lots of help from mom and dad. (But isn't that like everything in parenting?) We find the main key is in communication. Prepare your child beforehand for what you expect and how they can love the guests that come to your doorstep. Gently remind them of their responsibilities as the evening goes on. Talk about the why to point them to the gospel: We want to bless people through the blessings God has given us (skills, abilities, material things). Everything was given to us by God. We serve because Jesus first served us, etc. (Lots more "reasons" on this week's show!) Most children that are really young still find this exciting and fun – not dutiful – so it's a great chance to capitalize on their willing attitudes.
Hospitality in the little years does take extra work, but if we're thoughtful and plan ahead, we can use it as a wonderful teaching tool for our children to learn to love others more than themselves and show people the light of Christ.