Throw back Thursday--I took this picture of our princess on a special family day. Memories matter, and time passes quickly. Make it count.
Throw back Thursday–I took this picture of our princess on a special family day. Memories matter, and time passes quickly. Make it count.

Oh, my, does today’s post hit me smack in my momma-heart. With our princess so near launch age, everything in our home has become more… intentional. Because we know our time is short, and we want every moment to count. It’s like we’re trying to cram all these memories into her already exploding brain. I’m not sure if these memories are for her or us. 😉 I suspect both.

I often say, parenting is the hardest, most important, most rewarding, heart-wrenching and heart-lifting job a person can have. And there aren’t any do-overs.

Okay, so that thought sent a jolt of adrenaline shooting through my gut. Let’s just say, there are numerous moments I’d like to do-over. But praise God He’s in the restoring, healing, transforming business and can turn my biggest parenting mistake into something beautiful. (If anything, I’ve helped our daughter see plenty of things she doesn’t want to do when she becomes a parent. ha!)

Maria headshot LLBDToday my sweet friend and fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan, shares her thoughts on influential parenting. If you haven’t read her book to your kiddos yes, you absolutely must. I’ve heard it’s becoming many children’s favorite.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy (I believe e-version) of her children’s book, Louie’s Big Day! The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments left on today’s post. 

Making Your Influence Count

By

Maria I. Morgan

What kind of influence are you having on your kids? Our only child will be getting married in less than a month, and over the course of her engagement I’ve had ample time to reflect on that very question.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. It comes with both wonderful experiences and some difficult challenges. In spite of all of our parenting blunders, I’m confident the Lord will continue to work in our daughter’s life. God’s Word is reassuring:

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

No guarantees

To the best of our ability we’ve pointed our girl to the Savior and tried to live out what God’s Word teaches. I’m so thankful for His grace where we’ve fallen short.

As parents, we have a big responsibility to teach and counsel our kids based on the truths of the Bible. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for families that began with a godly heritage to walk away from the Lord a generation or two later.

A sad commentary

Remember Ahaziah? His grandfather was Jehoshaphat. God’s Word describes Jehoshaphat as a man who,

“…sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 17:4

But Ahaziah’s father, Jehoram, decided to follow a different path. He married Athaliah, a woman who worshipped idols, and he chose to follow in the footsteps of the previous kings of Israel. In the space of one generation, the true God had been denied.

The advice of a mother

By the time Ahaziah began ruling Israel after his father died, he was already entrenched in evil practices. His mother had left a lasting impression on him:

“…for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction.” 2 Chronicles 22:3b-4

I’m thankful for the examples of others who chose to follow God in spite of parents who were unbelievers. Godly parenting doesn’t guarantee godly children. Each person must decide who to follow: God or Satan.

This doesn’t negate our parental responsibility to teach our children the truth of God’s Word. Each day as we submit to the Lord and clothe ourselves with His armor, He will equip us with the ability to do so.

Your turn

Are you leaning on the Lord as you parent your children? What step will you take today to teach your kids God’s truth?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for working in my life and the lives of my kids even when I fail. I know I’m not 100% responsible for how my children turn out, because each of them was created with a free will. But I also know I am responsible for teaching them Ad for December issue Book Fun Magazine-page-001Your truth. Help me to do so today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*It’s so important to teach our kids godly truths. And just in time for Christmas, I’ve released a children’s book that can serve as a tool to help accomplish that goal. Louie’s BIG day! features timeless characters who learn about purpose and friendship. The book concludes with questions to stimulate conversation and help re-emphasize biblical concepts. It’s fun for the whole family! Available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Maria Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker who has a passion for sharing God’s love and truth with others. Visit her online at MariaMorgan.com

***

Let’s talk about this! Life can get so busy, and there are so many issues we as parents or grandparents must deal with *now*. And yet, I’ve found I can get so busy chasing fires, it’s easy to lose sight of my longterm plan. How am I preparing our princess for adulthood? Am I pointing her to Scripture? In our discussions, am I speaking love, grace, and truth?

livingbygracepic.jpI encourage you to ask yourself those same questions. Are you parenting with intentionality? What can you do, starting today, to build spiritual truths into your children? Make a realistic and attainable plan, then start today. I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with us. Then we can all learn from one another. What makes intentional parenting challenging for you? What have you found to work? How do you free up time in your crazy-busy week to train up your children and build lasting and meaningful memories? Share your thoughts here or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

 

Two brothers, one blessing, and a mother who effectively turns one against the other. Family dysfunction forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
How would you like to leave that as your legacy?
cookdishwashing001Legacy.
Does that word make you cringe? If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled

with guilt, fear, and feelings of defeat on more than one occasion. Maybe daily! As I was listening to my Pandora this morning, lyrics I heard really encouraged me. Of course, now I can’t recall them, but in essence, the singer said each day he’d give all he had, and that would be his legacy.
Pause to consider that for a moment. When everything goes crazy and it’s all you can do to keep those nasty thoughts from flying off your tongue, give your all.
When your kids are sick, or crabby, the air conditioner breaks, and your bank account dwindles, and you haven’t got a dime to spare. When it’s all you can do to share a smile and maybe a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor, give your all.
When you want to serve in a half a dozen places but time, young children underfoot, or a failing body holds you back, and it’s all you can do to send out emails or phone calls or encouraging texts, give your all.
That will be your legacy, and that is enough. Because worship and surrender is a heart issue.
Today my sweet friend talks about giving God our all when our self rises up, demanding our full attention. As you read her thoughts on perhaps the most famous feuding brothers in all history, consider her question: How do we–how do you–know when we’re seeking God’s best?
beth picSeeking His Best by Beth Farely
There is such deception that takes place between Jacob and Esau. The brothers both wanted their father’s blessing, but Jacob eventually stole Esau’s blessing. They were seeking their own selfish best, not God’s. Genesis 25:29-34
How do we know if we are seeking God’s best for our lives and not seeking self-gratification? I admit there have been times in my life where I get into a mood and feel that I can do whatever I want and convince myself it will work for me. That is not an example of seeking God’s best for my life.
Stay Focused
When I am focused on something I’ve desired, it always has a way of showing up. A huge piece of cake, an over-spending shopping trip; a white lie…yup, there they are right there in front of me.  Are they God’s best? Absolutely not!
Stay in the Word
What does it mean to seek God’s best? It means seeking His will by being in His Word–reading the Bible daily. It really means giving up of self and adding more of Him in your life. Like Esau and Jacob, we can become jealous of others and allow that jealousy to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Unbelievers may see this as God being the dictator of our lives because He calls the shots. But He is not a dictator; He gave us the free will to choose. Jacob and Esau didn’t have to be so jealous and evil toward each other; God did not choose that for them.
Stay in His Will
God holds the key to an abundant, joy-filled life. His way is really the best way. The world tells us to make our own path, to do it “my way.” But the Bible teaches that true freedom comes from living under the loving care of our heavenly Father. Understanding how God’s sovereignty impacts our lives helps us enjoy a life of greater meaning and purpose; His perfect purpose.
Beth Ann Farley lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and six grown children and 13 grandchildren. She wrote for www.bookfun.org., Toot n’ Town magazine. She has recently been published with Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, Indian Life and Wesleyan Publishing.  Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom written by Jennifer Slattery. She’s guest blogged on thewriteconversation@blogspot.com by Edie Melson and Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community. She often writes for the Senior Smart Network; a network devoted to senior citizens. Visit her online at FirstHalfDay.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Do you ever wish you could do more for God? What are you doing with what He’s giving you today? Are you seeking His best in every moment, in the gunk and the joys? Because he who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful with the big. 😉
As a fun aside, I recently learned my novel is now available for purchase in ebook form and at a discount–under $8 in fact! You can get your copy from CBD here.
Other news and updates–seems I’ve been all across the web this week. Join me on fellow LbG hostess Maria Morgan’s blog as I talk about my novel and what God’s been showing me about faithfulness. You can read that here.
On Internet Cafe’ Devotions I talked about our need to cultivate listening ears. You can read this here.
With school starting and all the chaos that brings, I wrote an article for Crosswalk on how we can live by the Spirit when life gets crazy. You can read that here.
Last Friday I chatted with another LbG hostess, Jessica R. Patch about my writing and my debut. You can read that interview here.
On Saturday I visited with Crystal Barnes from Stitches in Time. Join us here.
Monday I chatted with fellow ACFW author Casey Herringshaw. Join us here.
And finally, yesterday I camped out over at Takin’ it to the Streets where I talked about slipping and falling, and responding to others who do the same. You can read this devotion here. (And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our first annual Hope for the Homeless event, coming next month!)
That’s all that’s new with me. 🙂 Now it’s your turn! Share your thoughts, your news, your celebrations with us over at Living by Grace on FB or in the comments below.

Time is a funny thing. It zips by when you want to hold on to it most and drags when you’re in a hurry.  Lately, I feel

Me, Steve, and Ash on our way to tour School of the Mines in Colorado
Me, Steve, and Ash on our way to tour School of the Mines in Colorado

as if I’ve been in the zip stage. In fact, the clock started ticking louder the moment our daughter started touring colleges. She has one more year. One more year of family dinners, of guaranteed family vacations, of her coming into my room at night to sit on my bed and dialogue with me about all she’s learned and experienced and all she hopes to become.

When she first entered high school, I heard a lot about “empty nesting” and how difficult it could be. Funny thing, I never understood it. I thought it was about a mother not having ways to occupy her time or, having centered her identity in parenting, now felt empty and without purpose.

But as my daughter grows, I’ve gained a new  understanding. It’s not about losing the what but the who. It’s about releasing a child

MeandAshyou adore with your entire heart, releasing those moments of your day you cherish most, knowing this relationship will soon become one of periodic phone calls and occasional visits.

I know this is a normal part of life–this leaving; maturing; launching into adulthood. In truth, it’s what my husband and I have spent years–her entire lifetime–preparing her for. We’ve prayed, read umpteen parenting books, sought wise counsel from others, at times asked for help. In everything, we’ve done everything we knew to do to help her reach this stage and beyond.

And  yet, that’s not entirely true, that we’ve done everything we knew to do to help her, for there were times, many, that I failed. That I let selfishness creep in, choosing the convenient over the best. There were times when my selfishness infected my attitude and my words. There were times when my mistakes and weaknesses caused her pain.

We’ve all done it, and we’ll do it again, because were imperfect, selfish beings. But that’s where humility comes in: dialoguing with our children openly (and age-appropriately) about all those times when we’ve failed and asking them to forgive us. (I also suggest opening a therapy fund as soon as they’re born. Kidding. Sort of.)

That’s where prayer comes in, confessing our shortcomings to God and asking Him to buffer and strengthen our children’s hearts, using every struggle, every parental failure, every weakness for their good.

Because that’s what He’s good out–making beauty from our messes.

Moms, I have a feeling you can relate. None of us our perfect. None of us our patient 100% of the time. There’s no fail-proof book on parenting that promises if we do X, Y will occur, and though we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, much of the time we still feel like we’re playing a guessing game. Except this isn’t a game. In fact, it’s the most important job we’ll ever have. It’s the one area we hope and pray we won’t fail in. Then one day, our children stand at the door, bags packed, and we hope we’ve done enough.

Isn’t it great to serve a God who makes all things beautiful and who showers us and our kiddos with grace?

A God who loves our children even more than we do, who created every fiber and cell of their being, and knows exactly where they’ll be ten years from now and what they’ll need to get there?

A God who, though we want to hold tightly to these precious, growing children, gives us the strength to release them when that time comes.

 

Oh, my do I love that child!

HappyMothersDayHappy Mother’s Day, my friends. If you’ve got kids at home, hold them time. Take the time to enjoy every giggle, every snuggle, every late-night awakening.

 

And moms of any age, I encourage you to read Eileen Rife’s post on Faith-filled Friends about letting go.  You can read it here. Plus, return on Saturday to learn who one our May gift-basket!

If you’re getting tired of my “Time is Short” motherly posts, sorry! I’d say they won’t continue, but I have a feeling they will, growing all the more frequent as her graduation day appears. 😉

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! If you are a parent, what are some of your most  precious memories? What areas have been hardest for you to “let go”? How have you seen God redeem some of your shortcomings and blessings in your child/children’s lives?

Grown children, what are some of your most precious memories of you and your mother? I encourage you to call her or send a card listing telling her of three or four of them and why they meant so much to you. If your mom is not around anymore, I encourage you to share those memories with your children. Time passes quickly, but aren’t you glad we’ve been granted the gift of memories?

For those raising children, find a way to make a memory this week.

You can share your comments here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

It’s late October, and many of you are thinking of pumpkins, candy corn, and, well, maybe even dead people. If you’re not, I encourage you to, although my version of dead might surprise you. 😉 Come see what I mean by clicking here.

Today, I’m thrilled to share a story my sister, Jesseca Randall, shared with me. You might remember her. In 2011 she visited my blog and talked about something that is and will forever be very close to my heart--hurting children.  Fast forward two years, and this sweet Christian woman began feeling an increasingly persistent nudge to put action to her words. But how? And when? Her days were jam packed as it was!

Jessandfamily

She’s in grad school.

Raising two young children.

Jessandkiddos

JessandfriendsTrains for and runs in half marathons. Has a soldier for a spouse, one that recently returned from a one year deployment in Afghanistan.

Honestly, there are days when making it through the day is enough to do her in. How could she possibly add one mort task–or, more accurately, one more heart to care for, in the mix?

But that nudge wouldn’t go away. In fact, the more she tried to deny it, ignore it, the stronger it became.

Here’s her (and a young boy named William’s*) story:

Running yesterday morning I heard a message about how the definition of faith is to step out and do something impossible expecting God to show up.  You know me and my brain so I start to think of ways to do this. “Okay, so I’m going to contact the church about a teen mom group, and maybe I’ll revisit the juvenile detention ministry…yada yada yada.”  I do, and then proceed to drive to class. During my drive I turn off my radio and just pray about these possible ministries.  In the middle of prayer my phone rings. It’s the call asking us to take in a young boy named William*.
Here’s the deal – this is the fourth time God has put this little guy in front of us since the end of summer.  We said no THREE different times.  I tell the lady on the phone that we’d love to but we don’t have childcare, and I am 9 weeks from graduating so “I can’t quit now”.  She thanks me anyway and we hang up.
Now I’m in tears because I know that God has placed this same little boy in front of us now four times, and we have said no every time.  I do not believe in coincidences! So,  sick to my stomach (you know the feeling when you know God is telling you to do something but you don’t), I continue through my classes at school.
But then my husband, Rob, and I talk. We decide we will step out in faith and take this child in and expect God to show up with childcare or some other way.  That was Tuesday.  By the next day, we have childcare from two unknown families for Friday and Monday (unknown to us but not the agency).
Having said all that, I clearly see God all through this but holy smokes this is one of the hardest thing I have ever done.  It is hard to see him suffer,  and it’s hard to see my kids struggle. He seems to have a love/hate relationship with with my youngest child, and I can’t leave the room because he hits her.  He is the most active child ever, and again, you can’t leave the room.  He is also the sweetest thing (especially for what he’s been through).
Those who know me know I am a control freak and love my comfort – this is very trying.  God is stretching me.  There is also a large part of me that just wants to adopt this little guy and take him away from his chaos. But he is not even up for adoption as his mom says she still wants to have him.  Turns out though she has used our state’s programs as well so I’m afraid this little guy has clear attachment issues.
I could use prayers and the constant reminder that this is not about me but about him and God’s overall plan.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.
Jesseca Randall is Air Force wife and mother of two who has a God-given passion for helping troubled youth.  While stationed overseas, Jesseca completed her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on youth at risk.  Once she and her husband returned to the United States, she worked for the State of Oklahoma investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect and as a Foster Care Specialist.  After the birth of their first child, Jesseca became an independent contractor, certifying homes for foster care and adoption.  Wanting to work in a more therapeutic role, Jesseca is now working on her Masters Degree in Social work and has recently completed her practicum at a child advocacy center.  If you have questions about foster care ministry, would like to be come involved, would like more information, or would like to be added to Jesseca’s email loop, contact her at Jesseca.Randall(at)gmail(dot)com
livingbygracepic.jpLet’s Talk About This! What has God placed on your heart? Does it feel impossible? Maybe too hard or too scary? If so, then my guess is that ministry is exactly where you need to be, because it is when we are weak that God’s power is most seen. 🙂 And like Jesseca said, taking in Isaiah wasn’t about her–her abilities, strength, or comfort. It was about saying yes to a mighty God and allowing Him to work in and through her. The same applies to you. 🙂 Will  you say yes? Will you humbly and without hesitation offer up to Him all you are and all you have? Chances are, it won’t be easy, but I can gaurantee you, it will be so worth it.
Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
Another post you might enjoy: How Big is Your God?

When our daughter was an infant, she spent hours in my arms. Then she learned to walk, and our times together have grown increasingly shorter ever since. This makes those rare moments when she sits with me on the couch or invites me to spend an afternoon with her at the mall even more special. If you’re a parent, I imagine you can relate. Today Zeke Lam, author of subMISSION shares the heart of another parent–our Heavenly Father. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to fathom the depths of God’s love, but we can catch a glimpse of it when we look at our own children.

Incomprehensible Love by Zeke Lam

When I consider God’s love for us, it generates an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. His unconditional and insurmountable love towards His children is easily the most powerful truth in our lives. Understanding the level of love that Christ offers has often been a reality that is difficult to fully grasp. Why does God care so much about me? How am I supposed to reciprocate that kind of commitment? These questions crossed my mind as I matured in my walk with Him.

The birth of my first child was an eye-opening event that catapulted my faith as it relates to grasping His love for me. On one occasion however, I received a love lesson that altered my thinking and settled any uncertainties as to what God expects of my life.

It was a typical Sunday evening service where I was filling in for our pastor who was travelling. With my head bowed in prayer as I always do before preaching, I heard a loud commotion coming from the rear of the church. It was my two-year old son. With tears flowing, he kicked, screamed, and wrestled out of my wife’s arms and made a mad dash towards the front of the church where his daddy sat. All I could hear was the loud chant of: “I want my daddy. I want my daddy!” My wife caught him and settled him down, but he generated quite a scene amidst the formal and quiet atmosphere of this particular service.

Two things happened as I laughed from the front row. First, I experienced an incredible amount of joy. As my son proclaimed his love for me, he did so with no regard for his surroundings. He didn’t care what other people thought. He refused to be held back. He wanted to run to his dad. I was so proud.

As I pondered with appreciation this little outburst and prepared to approach the podium, God spoke to my heart, “This is all I want from you.”

This was a paradigm shift in my life. In relation to God’s love, what He expects from me became so simple. He wants me to want Him with no regard for what others think. He wants me to want Him to the extent that I hold nothing back. He wants me to run to Him with all I have.

He doesn’t just command our love. He desires it.

subMISSION:

What is the greatest challenge that the Church is facing today? In one word, author Zeke Lam suggests that the following is the greatest challenge: submission, or the lack thereof. It is not the external forces that nullify the testimony of a vibrant and Christ-centered Church. Instead it is the lack of submission to the Lord within the heart of each believer. Zeke Lam shares Scriptural truths coupled with real life experiences to demonstrate a life of biblical submission. Are you ready to live a life of joyful submission unto Christ?

Zeke Lam is a 27-year-old youth minister, evangelist, and missionary who followed God’s leading in 2010 and moved his family to Sugar Land, Texas. Although they knew nothing about the area, they soon met a church family that changeed their lives.

Writing subMISSION was another unexpected detour in Zeke’s life. In the book, he outlines his best advice for daily preparing yourself to be obedient to the Lord.

‘If you don’t prepare,’ he says, ‘one of two things will happen: 1) You will not hear the call, or 2) you will hear but not have the courage to obey.’

Zeke, his wife Kathleen, and their three children currently reside in Virginia.

Parenting is the greatest test of faith I’ve ever experienced. Nothing can break my heart, send my pulse sky-rocketing, and bring me to my knees like the sweet, hurting or scared face of my child. Watching our daughter navigate through high school is hard enough. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know they’re fighting in a war. Today’s post, from a Marine’s mom and fellow writer, shows us what it means to trust God not only with our lives, but with the lives we hold most dear.
 
The Purpose of Faith by Mary Hamilton
 
The bumper sticker on my car reads: “I may look harmless but I raised a U.S. Marine.”
 
In approximately two weeks, my son—a Marine—deploys to Afghanistan.  It’s not the first time he’s been deployed. Two years ago, he served in Fallujah, Iraq as part of the security detail for a battalion commander. He finished his enlistment, came home and went to college for a year, then decided he wanted a little more adventure and excitement. He always thought it would be impressive to say he fought in two wars, under two presidents. And he figured he had a window of opportunity where he was still young enough and unattached, and he needed to make use of it. Sound judgment, in our opinion.
               
Seven years ago, he told us he wanted to join the Marines. My husband and I heard “military” and believed he would go to college, maybe join a ROTC program, and enter a branch of service as an officer. He was accepted at a university, but when we went to look it over, he was obviously uninterested. We attributed it to normal teenage apathy. Several days later, he told us (with little enthusiasm) that he’d try college for a year and if he didn’t like it, he’d quit and join the Marines. We thought that sounded reasonable.
               
I expected to feel settled now that the decision had been made. Instead, I felt…restless. My spirit felt troubled. All week, I kept thinking he’s going to change his mind. He’s going to join the Marines. School is not where his heart is at. It would be a mistake for him to go to college right now. He’s going to join the Marines.
               
Finally, I figured out it was the Holy Spirit pestering me, so I sat down to discuss this with God. I sensed God was leading my son into the Marines; this was the path chosen for him.
               
“But what if he doesn’t come back?” I argued.
 
A saying came to mind that I’d read when my dad died nearly 30 years before. It went something like this: If we believe in God, we don’t have to worry about when we die, because whenever it is, we’ll know we’ve accomplished everything God thinks it’s important for us to do.
 
I sensed God asking me, “Has anyone ever died outside of my timing? Has anyone’s death ever caught me by surprise? I decide when you’ve accomplished everything important that I have for you to do, and nothing can take you from my hand before that time. But when that time comes, it won’t matter whether you’re in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or out here on the freeway, or in your own back yard.”
 
Okay, Lord. Next question–how do I cope if his time comes when he’s over there?
  
Christ gives us eternal life. First Corinthians 15:19 says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Faith is not just something we use to get us through this life. It’s for the next life. Death is exactly what our faith is for. Hope beyond the grave. Hope that this is not the end, that we will see our loved ones again on the other side.
 
Now, seven years later, I remind myself of these things. That no one can snatch my son from the Lord’s hand before his appointed time. Not even terrorists.
 
Easy to say. Hard to practice. Especially when I read of young men shot by snipers or blown up by buried explosives. But, I raised a U.S. Marine. One of the Few, the Proud, the Brave. If he can face this danger with confidence, so can I.
His time may come while he’s in Afghanistan. If it does, I will cry my eyes out and grieve for the man whose smile brightens any room; whose one-liners can make us laugh so hard we get tears in our eyes; who once told me, “Mom, I may take a different girl out each night but you’re still my favorite.”
 
And in the midst of grief, I will cling to my faith, to the hope that this is not the end. I will see him again. That’s really what faith is for.
 
Mary Hamilton is a follower of Jesus Christ, a sinner saved by grace.  She is happily married with three terrific kids who are almost grown and on their own. She started writing for publication about 25 years ago. A few articles found publication in magazines like Today’s Christian Woman, Seek, Discipleship Journal. She also wrote a Christmas play entitled “Homespun Angel”. Now, she’s working on her first novel. Although she originally intended it for an adult audience, it has taken more of a turn to middle-grade (ages 8-15). Hopefully, someday, you’ll see her name on a cover in a book store.Visit Mary’s blog to find out more about her and her writing, or shoot her an email at mhamilton122@yahoo.com.
 
***And remember, this month I’m hosting my “top 20 of 2011” where I repost twenty of my favorite blog posts, written by others, from the past year. At the end of the month, I’ll tally your comments, FB shares, retweets, and “likes” to determine your favs of my favs. 🙂 So…if you loved this post as much as I did and want to see it in the top three, you know what to do.

A few years ago, my daughter would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and an adorable, slightly crooked smile on her face. I knew that look, and what was to follow. “Mom, because you’re such a kind, loving mom, will you…?” Then she’d bat her eyes and try to weasel an act of service out of me. As a parent, I must continually ask myself: What is best, long-term, for our daughter? When is helping an act of love and when does actually cause harm?

Our daughter’s behavior lasted but a blip because I’d always respond, “Honey, I love you too much for that. I want to train you to have a servant’s attitude, not a serve-me attitude. I want you to be responsible and confident, not dependent and insecure.”

In my opinion, helping hurts when it prevents growth or perpetuates faulty thinking.

About ten years ago I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the book, one of the authors share a story of visiting a friend. While there, this friend picks up her teenage son’s room. Watching this, the author says he feels sorry for the young man’s future wife. Basically, he pointed out that although the mother thought she was helping, her assuming responsibility for her son would actually hurt him in the long run by creating patterns of behavior that would affect future relationships.

I wrote a story about this very thing on Samie Sisters, a tween E-zine. You can read it here. Through the story, I explore the habits formed during chores, habits that will carry into your child’s adult years. Although I didn’t mention it in the article, I also believe chores go a long way towards strengthening your child’s confidence. Each time we assign a task, then allow our child to complete it without jumping in, we are in effect saying, “I have full confidence in your ability to do this.” Each time we rescue them, perhaps because they throw a fit, get overwhelmed, or don’t do it how we’d like, we say, “I don’t believe you can do this.”

Everything we do, intentionally or unintentionally, forms habits, positive or negative. Our actions always make a statement. Multiply these unspoken statements over the course of 18 years, and you can see this is a big deal.

I adore my daughter. If given the chance, I’d shelter her from every trial and shower her with blessings, but as a mom, my love for her must override my desire for her pleasure. I need to parent from a long-term perspective, always evaluating attitudes and behaviors (I tend to place more emphasis on attitudes, because I believe attitude precedes behavior), in terms of our long-term parenting goals. We all want our children to be compassionate, responsible, dedicated, etc. The trick is helping them develop those character traits. I believe character traits are learned through consistent action.

Okay, so we all want these things for our children, and we love them deeply, but often we’re not sure how to go from desire to game-plan. (Forming a game plan, with your spouse, is essential because otherwise you’ll have a tendency to parent on emotion and the present, not based on forethought, education, prayer, and long-term goals.)

For me, one verse sums it up and ties it all together: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

Notice truth and love must always go hand-in-hand. And what is the goal? Maturity.

Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your parenting in light of your child’s adulthood and Ephesians 4:15. Make a list of character traits, habits, and attitudes you’d like your child to develop, then review your parenting in light of that. Are you and your spouse moving your child toward those goals or away from them? And what can you do, starting today, to help train the future adult in your child?

Do your kids know you’re on their side? Before you answer this question, think about it from their perspective. If all they hear are rules and criticism, they may not. We have to discipline–kids need discipline, but there’s a way to train that communicates, “I’m for you. I’m on your team. I see you, and understand you.” Seeing and understanding our children means moving past the behavior to the cause. It means taking time to connect with them on an emotional level–finding out their fears, struggles, thoughts, and emotions regarding a subject. When we take time to connect, even while in the midst of training, I believe God allows us to catch a glimpse into our children’s heart. And when you start parenting from the heart, you’re more likely to invite cooperation from your kids. Why? Because they’ll know you’re for them, not against them. Today’s post by Laura Anderson Kurk evaluates Paul’s relationship to Titus, pointing out relationship building principles we can apply to our parenting.

Call me Titus please, by Laura Anderson Kurk

Not loner. Or wallflower. Or introverted or shy, even though I am. Just call me Titus.

Sitting in a Bible study last week, trying to become my chair as usual, I heard something that made me smile. Titus, of the tiny book, was “left” in Crete. I knew it already but hearing it that day made me chuckle. I pictured Paul sailing away from the island and then, however many nautical miles away, turning a quick circle on the deck and realizing Titus hadn’t made it onto the boat.

I wonder how often Paul had to look around for Titus, the quiet friend and faithful follower, just to make sure he was still there. Later Paul writes Titus and says, “Oh, by the way, the reason I left you there is because I want you to finish what we started, but, (and this is purely my speculation) maybe make some noise next time so we’ll know where you are.”

Now, you know I’m not serious. I know there was a divine plan that placed Titus in Crete. And, given Titus’s role in the early church, he might not have been a shy person at all. But we all need role models and I’ve chosen to project my personality onto Titus. For someone who has been “left” before because I’m quiet and, frankly, forgettable in social situations, it’s sort of delightful to think of Titus in this way.

I also love that Paul anticipated that there would be questions about Titus. “Who is this guy? Is he actually one of them?” Maybe Titus was one of those rarest of creatures who actually stood back and listened. Who wanted, more than anything, to understand before he spoke. Maybe he, like all wallflowers, got the heebie-jeebies if he had to talk about himself.

Paul knew Titus’s nature. He wrote, “If anyone asks about Titus, say that he is my partner who works with me to help you. And the brothers with him have been sent by the churches, and they bring honor to Christ.” (2 Cor. 8:23, New Living Translation) His descriptions of Titus paint a relationship that was deep. He said things like: he is my partner; he has been my companion in travels, and my partner in preaching the Gospel; he is a fellow helper; he is a worker. Together, these two men had faced troubles and persecutions, and together they had communion and fellowship.

I like to think that Titus found comfort in the fact that Paul understood him and was prepared to back him up. In the same way, my one or two close friends prop me up, speak for me when I’m unable, and understand my heart.

It’s like a parent raising a child who needs propping up at times, who aches for someone to understand. I’m raising a couple of those kids right now, one of whom is so full of becoming a teenager that my heart aches when I see her changing. As a mother, I admire the respect Paul had for Titus. It was almost like a father who cares for a son and understands him completely. The happiest kids are those whose parents don’t try to fight the created self of the child. I had that as a child and, in turn, I’m trying to give that to my reticent children.

Jung said, “The shoe that fits one pinches another.” I believe that, and I also believe that a deeply introspective existence leads to greater understanding. Cut out the noise, and you hear simple truth.

So, picture with me, Titus on that island, suddenly alone and fully responsible. He had plans. He had goals. He had a list of things to get done for God. So what if he didn’t want to constantly define who he was. That was all fluff and Paul was perfectly willing to do it for him, if necessary. Now let’s, like Titus, get done what still needs to be done.

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Laura Anderson Kurk lives in College Station, Texas with her husband and two children. She writes YA fiction and her first novel, Glass Girl, is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She blogs at Writing for Young Adults (www.laurakurk.com) and in the e-zine for teen girls, KatharosNow (www.katharosnow.com). Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/writerlaurakurk

Pre-baby, I used to dream about parenting. I had this idea that everything would fall into place and I’d spend my time snuggling pudgy-faced children with a picture book spread between us. Yep, it’d be easy. As long as I followed steps A, B, and C, everything would work out great. But once our sweet little baby came, reality hit and a terrifying thought ballooned: “What if I can’t do this?” Worse yet, “What if I mess our daughter up?” I worried about everything from vaccinations to nutrition, but my biggest concern centered around her faith. How could I encourage her to fall madly in love with Jesus—to make our faith her own? Not knowing what else to do (Read the rest here, then join the cyber chat at Mom’s Together.)