Training Our Children

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

I spent much of my high school and college years intentionally building relationships with unbelievers, sharing the gospel with strangers, and passing out tracts. I even wanted to bring this message to other nations as a missionary. 

But God was leading me to a different season than I imagined for myself. A season that didn’t look like typical missions work or much of an evangelistic opportunity. I was to become a wife and mother. 

My interactions with the outside world were mainly the cashier at the grocery store, the children’s librarian, and people at the park. My limited interactions were fraught with countless interruptions, distractions, and little moments of crises.

I didn’t understand how this desire to evangelize matched up with motherhood, especially the part of motherhood that involved changing diapers and cleaning spit up. And I would feel guilty for not actively sharing the gospel with someone else.

But I was thinking about motherhood and evangelism wrong.

When Jesus walked this earth, he made disciples. He called them to come and follow him. He didn’t share a brief three point sermon, knock on a door, pass out a tract, and then walk away. He walked the same roads as his followers and traveled in their shoes. Jesus went the distance.

Because making a disciple takes time. 

I can change the baby’s diaper as an expression of a type of sacrificial love that reflects Jesus. I can teach both my boys that the gospel is their only hope for change and right living, while I reach out to the mom next door. I can love my children and the mom from story time. They are both my neighbor. 

When I offer my children grace, love, and acceptance in their failures I’m pointing them to a greater version of these things in Christ. Just the same, when I extend an invitation for a playdate with an unbeliever I’m reflecting a greater invitation from the Savior. 

I’m being faithful where God has me.


I can trust God with the new seeds I plant now.

Five Ways My Mom Invested the Gospel in Me

Five Ways My Mom Invested the Gospel in Me

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.

The Talk

The Talk

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.


Passing Along our Heritage: Teaching the Gospel in All of Life

Passing Along our Heritage: Teaching the Gospel in All of Life

“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.

 

School Choice as Stewardship

School Choice as Stewardship

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.

What Should I Teach My Childern About the Bible?

What Should I Teach My Childern About the Bible?

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.
 

The Other October 31st Holiday: Reformation Day

The Other October 31st Holiday: Reformation Day

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:

Helping Our Kids to Celebrate God's Beautiful, Diverse Creation

Helping Our Kids to Celebrate God's Beautiful, Diverse Creation

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.

Ten Opportunities to Talk to Your Child About God in Everyday Life

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

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.

For more about hospitality, listen to Episode 55 | Hospitality in the Little Years and Episode 43 | Serving Others Right Where You're At


Carry The Message of Grace To Your Children

Carry The Message of Grace To Your Children

Even if you only shared the basic message of the gospel with your child 1 time every 2 weeks, by the age of 5, they will have already heard the good news of Jesus about 130 times.

130 times for the pattern of of creation, fall, restoration, redemption to be heard and absorbed.
 

Seven Principles To Keep In Mind When You Don't Know How To Discipline

God has given each parent the task of loving their children by instructing, training and disciplining them - but all of us feel clueless about this task from time to time. Here are seven principles to keep in mind when you don't know how to handle a discipline issue:

1. Act. Learn. Adapt. Most of the time, you just need to try the things you already know and see how they work. If it's going terribly, learn from it and try something new. Your first parenting strategy isn't your last parenting strategy.

2. Ask Someone: Sit down with a godly and experienced mom and ask her for a "Training and "Correction 101."

3. Pray: When you don't know how to handle it practically, pray over your child, that God would calm their heart, give them a desire to submit to authority and give you wisdom in the situation.

4. Read scripture and do what it says: There are lots of arrows in the Bible to point us in parenting. Sometimes, we don't like those arrows because they require us to sacrifice what we want to do, and take hard work and planning. Sometimes, when we're not sure how to discipline our child it's not because we literally don't know what's right, it's because we don't want to obey scripture.

5. Pay attention to your husband's leading: Oftentimes, your husband will see things that you don't and can see things more objectively. As hard as it is, listen to him when it comes to behavior issues and consider adopting his approaches.

6. Remove distractions: Sometimes confusion about discipline stems from letting other priorities cloud our calling. We haven't been consistent, or we've been overcommitted, or just lazy. Here, it's not that you need better parenting strategies, but need to repent to God and your children - making discipline a priority again.

7. Remember the goal and keep going: Being a faithful and godly parent is something that reaps rewards. We aren't promised that our children will become Christians, but there is treasure stored up in heaven for parents who faithfully raise their children in the way of the Lord. It isn't a perfect input = output relationship, But the bible shows that good fruit can result from raising our children well.

* A version of this post first appeared on Emily Jensen Writes Blog January 2015 // For more on gospel-centered discipline, listen to Episode 57 | How Discipline Helps Us Communicate the Gospel.


Parent With Prayer

Parent With Prayer

I'd pretty much exhausted all of my usual strategies for discipline when I came to my husband and said, "I'm just out of ideas for how to handle this. What should I do?"

(I was listening intently for a magic bullet technique that I hadn't thought of yet. I REALLY wanted to hear a 1-2-3 solution to the complex heart attitudes of our pre-schooler.)

"Well, have you tried praying with him? Just stay calm, correct him, and ask God to help. Let him see that you are both dependent on the Lord for a heart change."