Revealing a Faith That Stands

mother and child and inspirational message

Moms, what you do each day matters. How you live your faith, it matters. When you pray, turn to praise music, or simply power through—it matters.

They say children learn more about faith from watching us than they do from anything we might tell them. And though I think that’s probably true, I hope it’s not. Because there’ve been so many times I’ve messed up. Times when I’ve chosen selfishness over love, pride over forgiveness, and disobedience over surrender.

If left on my own, I would’ve completely messed our daughter up ten times over. But whenever my heart would begin to stray or deception set in, God would gently nudge me, saying, “This is the way, My daughter. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). And because of that—because of Him—situations that could’ve destroyed our family and greatly hindered our daughter’s faith had the opposite effect.

The most memorable occurred when we were living in Louisiana. The year before, my husband had quit his job and we packed our things and headed south, far from the church and friends we’d grown to love, only to find our lives uprooted less than six months later.

I was angry, frightened, and confused, and began to withdraw within myself, so consumed with what was going on within me, I was completely oblivious to how my growing irritability and sadness affected everyone else.

women and childUntil one morning, while laying in bed, Bible spread open before me, I read Proverbs 14:1, which says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV). The moment I finished reading the verse, my daughter said, “Mommy?” and I looked up to find her standing in my bedroom doorway, watching me.

My heart wrenched as realization took hold. My daughter needed me, and she needed to see Jesus in me. She needed to see not only the faith that shouted hallelujahs on Sunday mornings or carted her off to Bible class. She needed to see the type of faith that could stand when it felt like the world was crumbling.

She needed to see what it looked like to lean on Jesus—that this Christianity thing was more than cheery slogans adults say to one another. She needed to see a real, living, steadfast faith, and our season of chaos offered the perfect opportunity.

From that morning on, I determined to behave differently. I was still sad and frightened. I was still angry over some of things that had happened, but instead of pulling within myself, I began to focus on Jesus. Dinner turned from times of tension and silence to prayers and family devotions. Bedtimes turned to faith discussions where we openly talked about what we knew to be true in the midst of all that was going on.

And as a result, our family grew closer and I believe, Jesus became all the more real to a young, impressionable, and equally frightened little girl who needed an unshakable faith to stand on.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you reveal enduring faith when life feels hard or uncertain? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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The Importance of Knowing and Teaching Truth

It’s the one area I was most concerned about. I knew I’d make countless mistakes as a mom, but this was something I needed to excel in! Though numerous other things my husband and I sought to teach our daughter were important, this was the only one with eternal implications.

I knew, regardless of how kind or successful she became, when her time on earth ended, her good deeds would amount to naught if she wasn’t right with God.

So, I started reading Scripture to her before she could walk or talk. We began with a picture Bible, then to one for toddlers, than for early readers, ending each night with prayer. This became our bedtime tradition, one that helped mold and train her little, impressionable heart.

I was certain I had this parenting thing down! Until the questions started coming.

“How do you know the Bible is true?”

“What makes what we believe right?”

“What about Buddhism and Islam and all the other religions?”

Though I tried to respond with a confident smile, internally I was terrified. She’d been exposed to things that had caused questions to arise and I wasn’t sure how to respond. What if I answered her incorrectly or insufficiently and she turned away from the only faith that can save?

I don’t remember what I said to her in the moment, but I do remember what I did shortly after—I turned to God in prayer. ‘Show me what to do, Lord. Help me. Help her. And please, hold her tightly.”

His response, whispered like a gentle thought that brought my anxious ones to a halt: “Don’t panic. Teach her.”

And so I did. We began to look at why Scripture was credible, the problem with man-made religions and their failure to deal with sin, and more. We didn’t shy away from tough questions, and I learned not to fear them. In fact, I began to welcome them as I realized they offered wonderful teachable opportunities that, if handled well, could strengthen our daughter’s faith, draw her closer to her Savior, and deepen our relationship with one another as well.  

I wonder if Paul and Timothy offered similar prayers on behalf of the Ephesians as I had for our daughter. Knowing eternity was at stake, did they, like I had, feel a rising sense of panic? And did God say the same thing to them I sensed Him saying to me, back when our daughter was young and curious about false truths that promised a way to God but lacked the power to save?

I’m not sure, but I do know what God instructed the young preacher through Paul: Read and thus reveal truth (Scripture). Encourage believers. Teach them. Keep a close eye on your teaching. (1 Tim. 4:16). Make sure it’s sound and true.

I believe Paul is saying the same thing to us, especially if we have children or grandchildren. But even if we don’t, as Maria mentioned a couple weeks ago, we all have a sphere of influence. And we should continue teaching ourselves, so to speak, as we read Scripture daily, allowing it to encourage us, and prayerfully focus on making sure our doctrine is sound and true.

This leads me to this week’s memory verse: If you’re a parent or grandparent, what are some ways you have or can focus on teaching your children or grandchildren truths revealed in Scripture? What are some ways you are working to teach yourself the same truths?

Share your thoughts here or join the discussion in our online Bible study group which can be found HERE.

You might also enjoy:

Discover One Thing (An online Bible reading plan with brief discussion of the text)

How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

From God to Us (Revised and Expanded) by Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix

Hearing From God by Lyndsey Baker

 

Trusting God With Our Children Part II

When did our children’s behavior become an extension of ourselves? Or am I the only one who seems to have a difficult time recognizing that my child is autonomous, able to make her own decisions and mistakes? When I speak to parents, especially those raising prodigals, I encourage them to analyze the parable Jesus told of the man with the wayward son. Once we recognize who the father represents in the story, I believe we’ll begin to cut ourselves some slack. Because honestly, parenting is crazy-tough, and we all could use a fair amount of grace in this area.

headshotToday, Robin Patchen visits us again to share part two of her encouraging and insightful piece on what it looks like to entrust our children to Christ.

Trusting God With Our Children Part 2 by Robin Patchen

When my oldest chose drugs over our family, my husband and I let him walk away. But we didn’t forget him—not for a moment. No, we prayed and begged God to bring him home. At one point when I was praying, I felt the Lord’s words in my ears. “Do you trust me with your son?”

Did I trust him? Too many young people, many children of godly parents, get lost to drugs and alcohol—or simply lost to their own foolish choices. Some kids end up in prison, others end up homeless. Some run away and aren’t heard from for years. And some end up in the grave. There are no guarantees for any of us. Trusting God meant facing that my son could be lost to us for a time, or for good. But I knew I couldn’t fix it, and I believed God could. I was out of options.

I decided at that moment that I did trust Him with all my children. It was either trust Him or go mad with grief and fear.

My first-born’s story has been a testimony to God’s provision. He brought my son home. He went to rehab, he got clean, and now he’s studying to be a missionary with Youth with a Mission.

God’s plan for my son was not my plan for him. He rejected us and rejected God, but God never rejected him. God wooed him back, pulled him through, and turned him into this amazing, Spirit-filled young man with a burning passion for Christ. None of that would have happened apart from the rebellion that started it all.

So are we failures as parents, because our son landed in rehab? Or, are we good parents, because now he’s walking with God? Or, are we merely imperfect parents, doing our best—all anyone can be asked to do? God knows our faults and shortcomings, and He blessed us with these young people anyway. How they turn out is ultimately in His hands. No matter what happens, I will continue to trust Him with my children.

***

Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, KoboiBooks, B&N, and find it on Goodreads.

Trusting God With Our children ~ Guest Post by Robin Patchen

boy-926103_1920My mentor always says parenting will test and grow our faith like little else can. Each year, as my daughter gets older, and the stakes inherently rise, I agree more and more. I, like today’s guest Robin Patchen, once thought if parents did A and B, C and D would necessarily occur. But then I began to encounter parents who’d done everything they knew to do, who lived incredibly godly lives, to have their children rebel against nearly everything they’d taught them. And suddenly, my black and white world was marbleized with all sorts of ugly grays.

Trusting God with My Children by guest blogger Robin Patchen

I have a confession to make: I have three teenagers, and all of them have rebelled to one degree or another. In fact, one rebelled so thoroughly, he spent what should have been his senior year of high school in rehab. I promise you, when he was a little baby, all smiles and giggles, I never imagined that. When I was reading Goodnight Moon to that boy for the thousandth time, you couldn’t have convinced me he’d ever struggle with addiction. When I homeschooled him, taught him to read, took him to church, rehab never entered my mind.

So what went wrong?

When my kids were preschoolers, my husband and I attended a parenting conference. A man I respected greatly taught one of the classes. He made a lot of points in that class, but one stuck with me.

He suggested that some of the “great” men in the Bible weren’t all that great as fathers. He mentioned Eli, whose sons were called “scoundrels” (1 Samuel 2:12). He talked about David. One of his sons, Amnon, raped his own sister (2 Samuel 13). Another of his sons, Absolom, started a revolution (2 Samuel 15). This Bible teacher’s point was clear: If your children misbehave, then you must be a bad parent.

Some evidence for that idea can be found in the Bible. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV).

Way back when I had preschool children, I savored that idea like I would the best Swiss chocolate. I believed I had that much power, that if I just did my job right, my children would obey me, walk with God, and be blessed. I was convinced that if I could just be good enough, then my kids could skip that pesky rebellious stage and slide effortlessly into adulthood.

What a nice thought, that great parenting plus solid Bible teaching equals perfect kids.

A decade later, I can testify to one thing—that’s a total crock.

Don’t get me wrong, friends. It’s essential that we parents do our very best. We must discipline our children consistently. We must teach them the Bible. We must expose them to truth and encourage them to do right. It’s essential that we love and spend time with them and guard their influences. There’s all that stuff, and there’s mountains more we need to do to ensure our children have the best chance in life.

But do our efforts guarantee results? If we do all of that, will we then have godly, obedient children?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If you read Proverbs 22:6 closely, you’ll see it doesn’t promise that your children will never depart from the way you taught them to go. It says that “when he is old, he will not depart.”

What about the time between today and “when he is old”? Will he not depart from the correct way at all, ever? How does thatyoung-1683363_1920 fit in with the idea that “all have sinned and fall short…?” (Romans 3:23) Other Scriptures warn us that children do rebel against their parents, even perfect parents.

“Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!
This is what the Lord says:
‘The children I raised and cared for
have rebelled against me.’” Isaiah 2:1

If our perfect God doesn’t have perfect children, how can we, as imperfect as we are? And do we truly believe that our children are simply blank slates, or are they, like us, born with a sin nature? Why do we believe we can outsmart sin with rules and guidelines?

It’s a lovely idea. Or perhaps, it’s an insidiously evil idea. Because if I believe I can control my children’s futures with perfect parenting, where does God fit in? If I believe that Bible teaching and Scripture memorization will make my kids into perfect little Christian soldiers, what room have I left for grace? And when my children fail to be perfect—which they are guaranteed to do—who do I blame? Myself, for all the times I failed? God, whom I was trying so hard to obey? Or my children for not living up to my expectations?

I thank God that over the years of parenting, He taught me that, ultimately, I have very little control over their choices. The older they get, the less control I have and the more freedom they have to make good choices or to mess up their lives.

(Join us next Thursday for part 2 of this post where Robin will talk about trusting God with our kids.)

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! For those of you with rebellious children, can I say, I’m sorry. That’s hard. I suspect there are times when you’re consumed with guilt, analyzing ever word you spoke or lesson you did or didn’t teach. I suspect there are times when you feel judged by the Christian community, because many of us tend to think in black and white, forgetting that life is incredibly complicated. And third, I suspect your heart is breaking as you watch your child, the one you love so intensely it hurts, self-destruct.

Again, I’m sorry. May we pray for you?

Some of you, who are or have parented prodigals, might have words of wisdom or encouragement to share. I encourage you to do so in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

You may also find the following helpful:

A Mother’s Heart Praying for Her Prodigal Son

Parenting Prodigals

Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait by Ruth Bell Graham

***

headshotRobin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, B&N.com, and find it on Goodreads.

 

Focusing on Those Traits That Will Help Our Kids Succeed

l8snwgunqbu-gaelle-marcelBook learning won’t amount to much if the heart of the reader is weak. Lazy. Entitled. One can excel at tests and utterly fail at life. And parents can run their kids from one activity and class to the next in the hopes of helping them gain a leg up in life and, in the process, cripple them emotionally, robbing them of the chance to develop those very traits that will help them succeed longterm.

When our daughter was young, a friend gave me a homeschooling book that encouraged parents to focus on attitudes and character rather than behavior modification. This book had a huge impact on how I parented.

I thought of this book and many of the ways we sought to train our daughter when I read a sweet friend’s post, shared on Facebook, the other day. I knew instantly the parents among us would find her wise words encouraging and inspiring, so I asked if I could share them here. My friend graciously said yes.

When Our Children No Longer Want to Be Superheroes by Brianna Swick

A few days ago while driving in the car, my seven-year-old daughter, Clara, said, “The paleontologist on Dinosaur Train said he fell in love with dinosaurs at age four. The astronomer from Ready, Jet, Go fell in love with a picture of space at seven. I just LOVE check lists. I want to be a school bus driver or a dance teacher when I grow up so I can check the students off as bus-1319360_1920they arrive.”

Honestly, at first my heart sank.  This girl taught herself to read at four years old.  She spends hours reading about science and space.  She often dreamed of being a superhero with the powers to do anything in the world.  This girl wants to be a bus driver.  I said something like, “Oh, that would be fun,” and the conversation quickly shifted to another topic as it so often does with little ones.

Her words (and my less than encouraging response) reemerged many hours later when I should have been sleeping.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in encouraging our kids to be super “successful.”  We want them to know that they can be an astronaut or prima ballerina if they choose.  As if success is marked by how prestigious your job is or how much money you make. Sometimes we forget that hard work and diligence in whatever you do is most important.

Children often see the true value in things we as adults miss. I’m encouraged in being a stay-at-home mom every time Levi says he wants to be a dad who doesn’t go to work. He sees value in what I do.

Although it breaks my heart that she’s realized she won’t really be a superhero with powers to do anything (an evaporated drop in that pool of innocence- does anyone else think of Bing Bong from Inside Out and start bawling at these moments?), I find joy in the fact that she sees the value in the people who take care of her.  They have a huge impact on her life, and impacting lives is the highest ambition.

img_20160522_101809684… just some 4 am thoughts from a tired mom …

***

Brianna Swick is the chief baker, chef, story-teller, launderer, maid, inspirational speaker, and chauffeur for three young children and one handsome husband.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you have intentionally trained livingbygracepic-jpyour child’s attitude and character? Have you ever paused to make a list of key traits you’d like them to develop? Doing so can help us create a plan of action, a parenting road map if you will. And parents, we can do the same for ourselves. 😉 Because character is a big deal, and something God speaks on often.

Whether it’s regarding training your children, grandchildren, students, or yourself, we’d love to hear from you! Share your ideas, thoughts, and insights with us, because we can all learn from one another!

I would also add, there can be incredible, God-honoring purpose in driving a bus, in sharing the love of Christ with the little ones riding to school each day. Or, for those in public transit, in offering a kind smile and word of encouragement to the lonely and elderly who wonder if anyone sees them and if they have value anymore. Our purpose isn’t defined so much by the what but rather by the how, as Wholly Loved speaker Chaka Heinze reminds us. We live out our purpose any time we accept our role as imago dei. Want to learn more? Join us for one of our upcoming conferences, or invite us to come speak at your next women’s event!

Other resources and articles you might enjoy or find helpful:

Three Ways to Sabotage Your Children’s Future

Parenting With the End in Mind

Team Mentality Parenting

Oh, and before I go, all my previous releases (ebooks) are still on sale for under $2! Plus Restoring Love is still being sold at a discounted rate. I’m not sure how long either sale will last, but you can check all of my books out HERE.

 

 

Sheltering Our Kids (And a Giveaway)

If only we could keep our children in a bubble, point them to only the best resources and influences, and saturate their brain with nothing but truth. And yet, that would drastically stunt their growth and likely get in the way of all God wants to do in and through them. There’s a fine line between sheltering our kids and shielding them. So where do we draw that line? My guest today, Tessa Emily Hall, writes a helpful post that encourages us to point our children to Jesus. Read on–and be sure to enter Tessa’s giveaway at the end of this post!

Is Sheltering Teens More Dangerous Than Exposing Them?
by Tessa Emily Hall

unwritten-melody-quote01Is sheltering kids the answer to keeping them safe from the sin and danger that lurks in our world today? In effort to explore this question, I wrote a YA novel, Unwritten Melody. The protagonist in this story, Cassie, is a 17-year-old who has been raised by her overbearing grandmother. As a result of the strict rules, she develops a hunger to ultimately go against her grandmother’s wishes.

We all need rules and guidelines to follow, but could too much of this potentially lead to more harm than good?

Let’s look at the possible dangers that could result from this:

  1. Kids might long to break free from their bubble as they become desperate for “freedom”.
  2. Their walk with God could become based on rules and regulations (“religion”) rather than from a pure adoration for Him, wanting to obey Him, and an understanding of His Son’s sacrifice.
  3. They might not know how to witness to unbelievers since they’ll have no way to identify with them.
  4. If the kid is raised believing that being a Christian consists of all rules and no fun then Christianity might leave a bad taste in their mouth.dad-909510_640
  5. They might not have the chance to walk out their own faith without having to rely on the faith of their parents’.
  6. If the kid is resentful toward their sheltered lifestyle, when they’re given their first taste of freedom, they might rebel in attempt to make up for “what they’ve lost”.
  7. It might cause them to believe their parents sheltered them out of spite rather than love.
  8. They could become resentful toward their parents for keeping them from being “normal”.
  9. The lack of life they experience might cause them to experience depression. They might feel as though they’ve become a slave to rules, have no purpose in life, and aren’t worthy to live the life they’ve longed for. (This is a lie Cassie believes in Unwritten Melody.)
  10. It might cause them to develop a low-self esteem. (In Unwritten Melody,Cassie believes the reason she’s shy is because of the way she was raised by her overprotective grandmother. It’s this temperament that makes her feel as though she doesn’t measure up to other teens and has few friends.)

Since Satan is the ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), we should be careful not to become influenced by the ways of the world. So how can Christians strike a balance between shielding and sheltering?

Encourage children to establish a personal relationship with Jesus. When they fall in love with their Savior and are lead by the Holy Spirit, they won’t have a desire to live a life cross-423157_1920that displeases Him. Show them that the rules set by authority are there to help them, not to keep them from having fun. And remember to always lead and discipline in the spirit of love.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Parents should introduce their kids to Jesus. When it’s time to let go, they should trust that the Holy Spirit will lead, guide, direct, help—and yes, shelter their kids from the danger that threatens to put an end to their faith.

Even when kids do become exposed to the world, they’ll remain much safer in the hands of Jesus than they could ever be if sheltered only by their parents at home.

***

Enter for your chance to win the Unwritten Melody Prize Pack! Two winners will be selected and announced on Tessa’s blog the final day of tour (Friday, December 9th) and will be notified via email.

unwritten-melody-giveaway

This prize pack includes…

  • E-copy of Unwritten Melody
  • Signed paperback copy of Purple Moon
  • Unwritten Melody mug, filled with goodies
  • Unwritten Melody swag, including a bookmark, pen, and poster
  • Starbucks mocha flavored instant coffee
  • Free Unwritten Melody: Page-By-Page Secrets PDF
  • Handmade journal
  • Typewritten thank you note

*This giveaway is open to the US only 

Enter here:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

***

Unwritten Melody:

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

unwritten-melody_webCassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

***

tessa-emily-hall_headshot1Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show others they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, Purple Moon (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, Unwritten Melody, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of PursueMagazine.net, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. She also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency.

When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, Tessa can be found making healthy homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website.

Connect With Tessa on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: When our daughter was young, we sheltered her–in numerous ways. We homeschooled, and I was very careful about who she spent time with and what I allowed her to experience. But I didn’t do this on a whim. I knew this was how God was leading me. Fast forward to her seventh grade year, and suddenly, God turned the tables on me. He told me it was time to release her–to the public school arena. Again, I followed His leading, though I was terrified her innocence would be shattered along with her faith. The opposite happened–her faith and reliance on her Savior grew, and God gave her clear vision into her encounters. In other words, she began to see a clear distinction between good and evil, light and dark, and she was drawn to shine with the love and truth of Christ.

The key then–prayer. Momma’s, make prayer the most important part of your day. Pray for your kids regularly, and pray for yourself–that God would reveal their hearts to you and give you clear wisdom as to how to raise them. Because only He knows what they’ll face and what they’ll need to experience to prepare them for that. (If you and your group would like to hear more, ask me about my Parenting to the Heart talk. I’d love to come share what God has shown me with your Bible study/women’s ministry/moms group. Contact me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com to find out more.)

Your turn! How have you achieved a balance between shielding and sheltering? Do you believe over-sheltering kids could lead to more harm than good? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace on Facebook.

Visit Sarah Ruut’s blog (scroll down) to learn where else Tessa will be on her blog tour. 

Loving the Weird in Our Kids

JohnStudy1I must have mortified my parents on numerous occasions. I was the kid who walked into walls, got lost in elaborate daydreams I spoke about as if they were true, and chose to wear a big old clunky feather in my girl-1538809_1280combed-frizzy hair for school picture days. Seriously, folks, I was strange.

But on a more serious note, we’ve become the comparison culture. The insecure culture. We see other people’s highlights, compare them to our lowlights, and think, “I’m not doing this parenting thing right.”

But here’s the deal. When we focus on what everyone else’s doing, what their children are doing, we lose sight of all the beautiful things God is doing in our own kids. And trust me, He’s doing amazing, glorious, life-equipping things–at this very moment. Molding our children to be, not who we think they should be, or society says they should be, but who He knows them to be. (Eph. 2:10, Ps. 139)

 

Loving the Weird in Our Kids
by Mikal Dawn

Do you sometimes look at your kids and wonder what planet they came from? When et-1435634_640they’re running in circles with underwear on their heads, or telling you stories of their friends who just moved here from another galaxy (and insist they’re telling you the truth), or want to take up the sport of Chess Boxing (yes, it’s a real thing…there’s even a World Chess Boxing Organization).

Please don’t ask me how I came up with the ideas above. Just … don’t.

We all have dreams of having the child who will be easy, normal, never be made fun of, who will fit in with everyone, whom everyone will love. But what do you do when you know your child isn’t like everyone else? We turn to the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

John the Baptist’s life started out differently, even before he was conceived (Luke 1:5-25). His ministry was prophesied by Isaiah in the Old Testament (Isaiah 40:3-5). His parents were already old, having never been able to have children until the Lord decided it was time. When the angel Gabriel announced John’s impending conception, Zechariah didn’t believe him. Because of that, he was silenced until the day of John’s birth (Luke 1:19-20). When Mary, Jesus’ mother, visited her cousin, Elizabeth, John—now in the womb—was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15) and knew his Saviour was near. “When Elizabeth birth-466140_640heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41, MEV).

When the baby was born, Elizabeth insisted his name be John. Those around her argued because John was not a family name; however, when Zechariah stepped in and named his son John, he was finally able to speak … and those around him wondered just what kind of child John would be (Luke 1:60-66).

I think it’s safe to say that most of us will never have children who are quite as different as John the Baptist was. Our kids likely won’t live in the wilderness, wearing camel hair clothing and living off honey and locusts, until the day God calls them to enter the Jordan area and begin preaching.

It’s obvious, however, that Zechariah and Elizabeth loved John. How is it obvious? Zechariah then prophesied over John, declaring his son’s purpose in Luke 1:76-80 (MEV):

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
     to give knowledge of salvation to His people
by the remission of their sins,
     through the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise from on high has visited us;
     to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This prophesy gave Zechariah and Elizabeth the guidance in how to raise John. While they may not have known how John would be martyred, I’m sure they knew how difficult his life would possibly be because of the circumstances of his birth and the Lord’s obvious fashion-1524525_640hand in it. They raised John under Zechariah’s teachings, ensuring he knew the Scriptures. In other words, “the child grew and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80a, MEV).

So how does that translate to us and loving our kids? It’s a matter of cultivating what we see in them. That kid running around with underwear on his head? Maybe he’s a track and field athlete who will one day get a scholarship to a university because of his accomplishments. Take him out to the park or track and race him. Not only will you each get exercise, but he’ll remember those sweet moments you spent with him as he grows, and you’ll deepen a relationship that will sustain you both throughout life.

That child who told you stories of their friends from another galaxy? Maybe that child is an author in the making. Buy a father-1633655_640bunch of pencils, pens, crayons, and paper, and ask her to write her story in a book. Even send it to a printer to have it bound. Find some classes around town that can teach her how to grow in her talent. By doing so, you’ll give her confidence in her ability, and what child doesn’t need a dose of confidence? Especially from her parents.

And that child who wants desperately to get into Chess Boxing? Well…just love on them because I’ve got nothin’.

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dsc_2718-edit-1Mikal Dawn is an aspiring inspirational romance author, wedding enthusiast and proud military wife. In addition to being part of the new Wholly Loved women’s ministry team, she blogs for a local ministry, works as an administrative assistant for an international ministry organization, is a virtual social media assistant, volunteers as a Key Spouse for her husband’s squadron, and drinks a lot of coffee. When she isn’t writing about faith, fun, and forever, she is obsessively scouring Pinterest (with coffee in hand, of course!) for wedding ideas for her characters.

Mikal lives in Nebraska with her husband, Mark, and their three children and one ferocious feline. Find Mikal on mikaldawn.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! If you’re a parent or grandparent, how hard is it for you to resist the comparison game? Is this made more difficulty by social media? How might viewing your child through the lens of grace and God’s sovereignty help? In what ways might God be cultivating the “weird” in your child for His divine purposes? Share your thoughts here in the comments below, on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our interactive For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

But before you go! Two fun announcements. My sweet friend and ministry team partner, Mikal, already shared one, but I’ll expand. I’ve recently launched a parachurch women’s ministry called to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. To this end, we facilitate events locally and nationally that encourage authentic community, emotional healing, and spiritual growth. We’re focusing on two main events:

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Scheduled dates and locations to be announced soon! We’re still booking (though our availability is limited), so contact us if you’d like us to come to your church or women’s group!

If today’s post encouraged you, you might also enjoy my piece on Christians Read titled “Unpopular Parenting.” 

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

JohnStudy1

 

I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

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danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

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candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.

Making Marriage Work

divorce-908743_1920How can a couple go from googly-eyed in love to utter hatred within a few years? Why is it so many adults who once pledged to love and cherish their spouse “till death do we part” stomp on their vows, toss in their wedding ring, and walk away?

Maybe the better question is, what does it take to make a marriage work? Today, my guest Mary Hamilton shares her experience in doing just that when her son comes home from college. Read on and be blessed and encouraged.

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What Makes a Marriage Work?
by Mary Hamilton

Upon his graduation from college, our son noticed how many friends from both high school and college were getting married. But considering the number of troubled marriages he’d seen and the number of friends who came from homes scarred by divorce, writing-1209700_640he wondered how many of these relationships would succeed.

So, he gave his dad and me an assignment. Based on our 34 years of experience, we were to prepare a list of 5-10 bullet points on what makes a marriage work. While the following are not necessarily in order of importance, here’s the list we came up with.

    • A common faith, and a similar maturity in that faith. Without our personal faith in God, our marriage might not have stood the test many years ago. Faith provides accountability to a higher authority. It humbles us when pride gets in the way, provides hope in troubling times, and deepens the joy of victory over self.

     

    • Agreement on money—both spending it and saving it. Like most couples, one of us likes to save every penny and one likes to spend them. We need each other for balance so that the spender learns to save for a rainy day (and retirement) and the saver learns to enjoy the benefits money provides. Appreciate each other’s “bent” and cooperate to achieve maximum benefit from your finances.

     

    • Communication skills. Are you willing and able to talk with each other about anything and everything, revealing your deepest, darkest secrets? Can you broach a touchy subject withoutnails-1420329_640 fear of rejection, ridicule or punishment? Can you argue without making personal attacks on each other? Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Marriage requires both skills.

     

    • Some common interests. Couples should have activities they enjoy doing together. But allow room for differences as well. Varied ideas and interests keeps both partners growing in ways they wouldn’t achieve on their own.

     

    • A strong sense of humor. Laughing together is fun and builds the relationship in positive ways. When used properly, it can also defuse tension whether pressures come from outside the relationship or within.

     

    • Commitment to each other and the marriage. Make your spouse and your relationship a priority over other family, friends, work, etc. Keep complaints and disagreements between the two of you, speaking only good things about each other to friends and relatives and guarding your spouse’s reputation and integrity in front of others.

     

    • Respect each other. Show gratefulness and treat each other with kindness—even when you’re tired and grumpy, even when you’re disappointed with your partner, even when you’re angry and arguing. (Yes, this will happen!) Attack the problem, not each other.

 

All of these might be summed up in the word “Attitude.” Are both partners in this marriage more interested in having their own needs met or meeting the needs of the other? Are both willing to humble themselves in order to lift up their mate? Are both willing to compromise for the good of the relationship? An attitude that says, “We’re in this together and divorce is not an option,” lays a solid foundation on which to build a strong and vibrant marriage.

Would you add any suggestions to our list?

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HNEmodifiedcoverHere No Evil:

A mother’s rejection. A bully’s taunts. Summer camp isn’t supposed to be like this.

Thirteen-year-old Brady is stunned when his mother drops him off for a week of camp and says she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. His pain only deepens with the cruel taunts and teasing of the camp bully. But is it possible his mother’s rejection was for his own protection?

Find out when you read Hear No Evil, Book 1 Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.

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Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp similar to the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels.

Two of those novels have been named Selah Award Finalists.

Mary also enjoys knitting, reading and evenings spent bird-watching from their back patio with her best friend and marriage partner for 34 years. She and her husband make their home in Texas.

Connect with Mary on her website, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Marriage should never be entered into without prayer and great thought. Mary’s son was wise to ask those with strong marriages for guidance! What are some suggestions you would add to Mary and her husband’s list? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 

Learning Through a Child

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

I admit it, I’m a needy Christian. I crave need and crave constant attention from my heavenly Father, especially when He’s nudging me into a new area. I want to be reminded of things He’s told me a thousand times, and more than anything, I need to know He’s always there, to feel His presence walking beside me.

Yes, I’m a needy child, but I don’t think God minds.  Today my guest  Teresa Tysinger, shares what she recently learned through her daughter about fear, insecurity, and divine reassurance. Read on and be encouraged.

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

What My Daughter Taught Me about Being a Child of God
by Teresa Tysinger

Labor with my daughter, Emma, took over thirty-two hours. She began walking at only nine months old, learned to cook herself scrambled eggs at four years, and was only five when she took the dog out for her morning walk down the street while my husband and I were still sleeping. Now half way to eight years old, she reminds us that soon she’ll be mailbox-959299_640driving. She’s independent, determined, helpful, and maybe a just tad stubborn. It’s easy to forget she’s still a young child.

We recently moved into a new home. As night descended for our first night sleeping in the new place, Emma whined about bedtime as I tucked her in. The following conversation tugged at my heart in unexpected ways.

“Mama, can I sleep with you and daddy, just for tonight?” Her big brown eyes pleaded with me.

“Aren’t you excited about sleeping in your new room?”

“No. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and forget where you are?” Her little hand reached out and held mine tightly, as if afraid I’d be lost if she let go.

“We’ll leave a light on so you can find your way to our room if you wake up, okay?”

“But…Mama…” she whined.

“Emma…” Prickles of frustration marched up my arm. Boxes waited to be unpacked. You aremySunshineLaundry needed to put away. So much to do. It would be a big help if this bedtime process sped up.

“Will you at least sing me a lullaby so I can hear your voice in my head while I sleep? That’ll remind me where I am.”

Her eyes closed, waiting for me to sing. I swallowed past the lump formed in my throat and crooned out You Are My Sunshine. As the last word hung in the air, her breathing was calm and rhythmic, face relaxed. Bless her.

When I made my way back to the living room full of boxes and bubble wrap, it dawned on me how similar we must seem to God as his weary children. We need constant reassurance that he’s there. We need to be reminded of his promises. And we need just to go to his Word to let his promises ring true in our hearts so we remember where (and whose) we are.

“And behold, I am with you always,
until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

Parenting is so hard. The demands are constant, challenges plenty, and rewards child-praying-hands-1510773_640sometimes seem too subtle to recognize. I struggle with patience and selflessness. While Emma needed a simple reminder of her security in our new home—a reminder of her parents’ presence—she taught me about being a child of God through her ability and gumption to ask for what she needed.

Don’t miss these lessons parenting provides. I’m so thankful for my fiercely independent, yet still young and vulnerable, seven year old.

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teresatysinger_bioTeresa Tysinger is a wife and mother transplanted from North Carolina to North Texas. When not working as the Director of Communications for a large downtown church, she writes charming southern romances, inspired by grace. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Religious Communicators’ Council, and the Association for Women in Communications, Teresa has spent over a decade committed to telling stories of faith through written word. She loves coffee, caramel, and stories with happy endings.

Connect with Teresa at:
Facebook – Teresa Tysinger, Author
Twitter – @TMTysinger
Website & Blog – http://teresatysinger.com

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Emma asked Teresa to sing her a lullaby so she’ll hear her mama’s voice while she’s sleeping and remember where she is. Have you ever experienced that deep need, whether with another person or with the Lord? How did you fill that need? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 Before you go, some fun book news! Two of my novels are currently available from Amazon at significant discounts!

Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.78! That’s 58% off the e0d5a-intertwined_n154121regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE. Aaaaannnnnd, my latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.21! Get it HERE!