Teaching Humility

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How do we teach our children to be humble when we so often miss the point of it?

What is humility? How do we protect our children from the sin of pride, while at the same time teaching them that they are valuable and important?

For too many years, I thought humility was to depreciate myself, to cling to my failings and faults in order to refuse value. I thought humility was always being aware of my failings, my sins — to live in degradation because of the things I do or have done wrong…in other words, to continually pay for the consequences of my sins. I have lived in the shadow of seeking to be perfect because I didn’t believe I had value otherwise. I have struggled with teaching my children to be humble because I did not understand humility myself. I have heard parents say they did not want to praise their children’s accomplishments because they didn’t want to teach them to be prideful. I do not want my children to believe they were less than they are. I want them to know I believe in them and I am pleased with their accomplishments!

God has been working on my heart. I have realized that humility is very much like courage. Courage is strongest in the face of danger. A person who never faces a challenge, who never faces danger, cannot be called courageous; so also, a person who does not believe in their value cannot be called humble.

If we do not have an intrinsic understanding of our value, we cannot truly understand humility.

Let’s look at some Biblical examples. Who does Scripture admonish to be humble? At first, it is the Israelite nation. Why? They have intrinsic, God-given value. God made it abundantly clear to them that He held them in high regard. He literally moved oceans, rivers, and armies to prove how much He cared for them. They KNEW, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were chosen to be God’s special people. What did they do with this knowledge, however? A lot of the time they used it to set themselves apart from the other nations. They set themselves up as more valuable than other people because they had God’s favor. So often, they took the special favor given them by God and decided it was their right rather than their gift. They forgot the source of their value. They sought perfection to hold onto His favor instead of seeking Him. They refused to be humble. In turn, they had to be humbled.

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God doesn’t want proud people. Prideful people treat others with disrespect and abuse. He wants us to understand we are valuable and then show others that they, too, are valuable.

Pride is believing you alone are valuable and have the right to hurt or hold others down so you look more valuable than they are.

Then there is self-degradation. Self-degradation is refusing to believe you have value, focusing only on your failings, and believing that you cannot have value until you have achieved perfection. This is disproved in Scripture time and time again.

Self-degradation, the belief that you have no intrinsic value, is pride, not humility. It stands beside pride in believing that you alone are responsible for achieving value.

Though there are many examples through Scripture, you really only need to look at one character to see this: David. David was a simple shepherd, without value in his family of origin, shrouded in mystery, small in size, without anything to recommend him when Samuel anoints him to be the next king of Israel. Suddenly, his life does a complete turnaround and he is pretty much left reeling from the changes. What David does have to begin with is a deep understanding of his value in God’s eyes.

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David understands that all his accomplishments are because God has provided them and protected him. Even knowing that, even understanding that God was beside him and eager to answer any question he had, David was not perfect. Sometimes he forgot to ask God what to do. Sometimes he blatantly chose to sin, such as when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Sometimes he made huge errors in judgment because he neglected to check in with God. History, however, tells us that no matter what David did, God continued to show him favor. David didn’t need to be perfect; he needed to maintain his humbleness by remembering where his favor came from, returning to God every time he messed up, and using his favor to help others.

Humility comes from understanding God holds your value; it is a gift meant to be shared. Humility is understanding you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to accomplish it all or be strong enough to sustain life. Humility is remembering where you have come from, what you have survived; it is knowing you have value despite the mistakes and errors made along the way. It is seeing the full journey, recognizing God’s hand in your life and treating others the same way.

This is what humbleness is. Humbleness is knowing intrinsically what your value is and Who it comes from, and helping others to see the same value in themselves.

So, how do I teach my children to be humble? I have to start by teaching them they are valued, that they are loved, that they are important. I need to teach them that their failings and mistakes will never affect their value in my eyes or in God’s. Then, I have to teach them to treat every other person they interact with as valuable also. Only then will they truly understand the meaning of humility.

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The Service Oriented Homeschool

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This time of year it seems there are so many service opportunities from soup kitchens to Operation Christmas Child to nursing home visits. However, God has been prodding me, raising my desire to raise my boys with servant’s hearts. He is teaching me that service projects are only a drop in the bucket, and I’m so excited about what I’m learning.

You see, having a servant’s heart isn’t just about a weekly visit to a shut-in or a yearly gathering of canned goods for the hungry. It’s about a way of life. That’s part of why I love homeschool. All of these important lessons that you can’t learn from a book, or in some cases even the best pre-planning are far more accessible in a lifestyle that revolves around learning. Let me share what Jesus is teaching me about making our homeschool service focused.

Like most things in life, a servant’s heart is caught and not taught. I can tell my boys about serving others, but it’s seeing things in action – the examples I set, that encourage this spirit of truly caring for others. Even the simple act of writing a sympathy letter (yes snail mail) shows my kids that the tears of others matter.

A servant’s heart springs from a willing spirit. I am going to regularly start praying with my oldest (Samuel, 3 years old) asking God to open doors for us to serve. Then we will look and listen. I think I will make it into a game. Let’s see if God can work through us to help at least one person from Sabbath to Sabbath. Our ears will be open as we listen for opportunities to act and not just hear the needs around us.

Living a life of service requires sacrifice. The sacrifice may be money, time, or something all together different. Sacrifices are never easy, but I’m sure as we start to make little sacrifices, it will quickly be apparent that the payoff is far more than could be expected.

As God has been teaching me these things, I’ve gotten increasingly excited about homeschooling the boys. The flexibility of a homeschool is the perfect place to teach service. We can forego school work for someone in need. We can turn an impromptu service project (like growing flowers, cooking a meal, shopping for clothes, etc) into an educational experience. The most exciting thing is that this kind of school is the kind that will really make Jesus smile.

How about you? How does homeschooling help you foster servant’s hearts in your children? How can you make your homeschool one that cares for the needs of God’s children?

 

*This is an encore blog post. It was originally written and posted to our blog by Laura Byrd in December, 2013.

Dirty Hands and a Clean Heart

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Moms don’t need New Year’s resolutions. There’s already enough on the to-do list. We are barraged by the tedious and annoying on a regular basis, and as a mom of three (ages two, four, and six), I am no exception. Whether it’s the six loads of laundry, the dishes that never end, or the continual fight for the blue cup, we tend to pass our days merely surviving under a load of work that is undone and re-done every hour. An online friend posted the other day that moms should add to their to-do list one thing, every day, that cannot be undone! I love it and I hope to take it to heart, but the tedious stuff still needs to be dealt with.

We all know that when we clean or cook with our kids, that small tasks take three times longer and patience can stretch thin. However, I have noticed that if I go with my natural inclination and do it all myself, that while I’m cleaning/cooking, the kids spend their time making new messes (or old ones that I just cleaned up) or fighting. When I go it alone for the sake of time and sanity, my kids not only lose out on precious domestic skills, but also the character development that comes from helping, laboring, and working together as a team…plus it usually takes just as long because I have to keep stopping to discipline them.

Homeschooling is a wholistic experience, one that includes home economics and hygiene. These particular lessons are important and character-building. So, I’ll share with you a few of my ideas for young children, ones that have made the tedious in life more bearable and, dare I say, sometimes even fun.

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Each responsibility/chore is a printed picture, “laminated” with wide clear tape, and glued to a piece of business card magnet. The kids enjoy changing their magnets every morning.

Their Friday cleaning choices are based on trucks! The enthusiasm for choosing their truck has lasted more than a year. They can be…

  • the Crane (pick up and put away any toys or clothes on the floor).
  • the Street Sweeper (sweep, mop, or vacuum all floors).
  • the Garbage Truck (empty all waste baskets, take out trash and compost).

They also help with the laundry. Long ago I stopped sorting their laundry by type and color. Each child has their own laundry basket, and everything of theirs goes into the washer together (gasp). Life is too busy and short to worry about fading colors and grass stains (that’s why thrift stores are such a treasure). Keeping their clothes separate from their siblings’ gives a sense of ownership and duty. They all help shoving them in the dryer, but when it comes time to fold, they help according to their age and ability, whether it’s sorting, stacking, or turning things right-side-out. It may not sound like much, but they’re actively learning, it really does help with the whole job, and they don’t have time to argue.

Now my oldest is in kindergarten, and as we begin our homeschooling journey, I’ve added daily assignments/privileges (Chief, Cook, and Bottle-Washer).

  • The Chief is in charge of family prayer, grace at mealtimes, and receiving first choice in things like colored cups. No longer do I need to strive to remember who got to pray last and whose turn is it this time. One of you gets to be Chief for the day.
  • The Cook gets to help in the kitchen! Cooking with small children can be a joy, a danger, and sometimes an impossibility. For too long have I tried to cook with all three, only to leave me frustrated and them in tears. With one in the kitchen, it’s safer, I can still reach the counter and the ingredients, there’s no arguing over who “scooped” last, and one child gets to have a meaningful experience. The two left waiting for dinner will play together much more cooperatively than three ever did. There will be special days when I cook with all three, but not every day.  washing-dishes-1112077_1920
  • The Bottle-Washer: It’s time to add “doing dishes” on to their domestic skill list, and at this age it’s still fun to stick your hands in the bubbles.

Chief, Cook, and Bottle-Washer are for our regular home life, but downstairs in our school room we also have Meteorologist, Time-Keeper, and Farmer.

  • The Meteorologist checks our outdoor thermometer and changes our daily weather forecast chart.
  • The Time-Keeper is in charge of changing our calendar and our day-of-the-week chart.
  • The Farmer is in charge of chickens! We are the proud new owners of six beautiful buff brahma bantams, and they must be fed, let out to roam, and cleaned up after daily. The kids LOVE it! The chickens sit on our patio and look in the windows during school.

And, my personal favorite is a daily “Good Habits” chart to help them on their path to independence and self-sufficiency in their morning routine (printable: Good Habits). It’s posted on the refrigerator, and they cover each box with a magnet as they complete them after breakfast. They enjoy the autonomy, choosing the order in which they do them, and checking them off. I’ve named it good habits instead of chores because we use it 7 days a week, including Sabbath.

These jobs are all based on a family of three, but, with a little imagination, can be adapted for any home. I hope this brings you inspiration as you balance the tedious and fun.

Surefooted After the Holidays

dreamstime_xl_35184731 Sure-foot’ed, adjective

  1. unlikely to stumble or slip
  2. confident and competent

I don’t know about you, but I feel lacking in confidence after the holidays when it comes to our home school. We’ve spent much of the last two months absorbed in holiday cooking, do-it-yourself gift making, weekly church musical practices, etc. AND…I did count those as learning opportunities of course! But, at this point in time, I am eager to get my feet back on the ground and into routine with a new focus.

I do love the holidays and the warm early evenings indoors with a good book and my little people gathered around to listen. That being said, I also will admit that holidays stress me out a tad because I get anxious we may lose sight of the true meaning of these events while getting caught up in the pace the world tries to set for us. And so every year, I plan ways we might make these events a blessing to those around us, and an opportunity to be blessed in return. But, this post is about how to gain a strong footing again if we’ve found ourselves losing balance post holiday flurry.

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Count Your Blessings

After you’ve cleaned up and put away the holiday decor, serving ware, etc., have a family date night where you make cookies again (to enjoy for yourselves) and reminisccookiedatenitee over the holiday season and what you’ve enjoyed most so far, and the looks on the faces of those you saw open gifts, or experiences you were happy to share with others. Talk about what you’d like to do again the following year and what it meant to each family member.

Make New Goals

Yes, I do make new years resolutions! I’m saying pick three things you want to do before winter’s over, like go sledding or snowshoeing or make ice cream out of snow — some fun activities that don’t cost money that you can do as a family to continue to enjoy this time of year that you may not have had time or snow to do so before the holidays. This year I’m hoping to try ice skating, which I haven’t done for ages. I also love to pick some personal goals in our home school for each family member, and this year I have some fun ideas which I plan on posting in January as we embark to pursue them.

Declutter and Organize

No matter how much I commit to having a simpler Christmas every year, we always are blessed beyond my imagination, and after the holidays I take the opportunity to find a place for each thoughtful item gifted. The children and I evaluate where we will keep our newly acquired treasures, and often they use this time also to donate items they are replacing or no longer want/need. This sort of coincides with the for-every-item-in-one-goes-out thinking. We do a scan of gently used items we can donate to local charity before the holidays so those things can be a blessing to others in need. But, we often can do it again post gift-giving season. When everyone in the home has received new items, I tend to get overwhelmed if we do not do this final step in closing out the year. “A place for everything and everything in its place!”

I pray these three simple steps help you find a sure footing in your homeschool journey as you prepare for another year of adventure learning beside your precious pupils. May the love we shared over the holidays, as we took comfort in the birth of our Savior and gave thanks over the many things He has done for us, shine forth afresh from our homes and the hearts of each member residing therein!

Blessings,

Allison

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The Best Christmas Gift of All

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I wonder what Mary was thinking about along the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

In her last month of pregnancy, Mary spent over a week on the back of a donkey as she and Joseph journeyed the 80 miles to Joseph’s homeland to register for the census.

You’d think that Cesar might cut the girl a break and let them mail in their registration. But, no.

Eighty miles on an unpaved, primitive road riding on a donkey!

So often we think of Mary as a woman having a child. But, she was little more than a child herself, around 13. If a 13-year-old gets pregnant these days, it’s scandal. For Mary, the only scandal she faced was her swollen abdomen before the marriage was sealed. That’s a pretty big “only.” The man she had vowed to be faithful to for the rest of her life could have stoned her to death.

“But before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

Mary often gets all the credit, and let’s face it, she should. If you’ve birthed a child, you know it’s about the hardest thing a woman can do. But, Joseph is kind of a hero here too. He must have been so angry and hurt and confused and dejected. The hours in between finding out his future wife is pregnant and a visit from an angel must have been agonizing.

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

He was going to divorce her quietly. He finally decided. He would spare her life, and write her out of his. I wonder what he was doing before the angel came to him in a dream. Was he still nursing his wounded ego, or had he thrown himself into his work?

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

What a guy. What faith it took to believe something so outlandish. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit. It had to have been the craziest thing Joseph had ever heard. But, he took her home, only to find out he had to take her, eight months pregnant, 80 miles away to Bethlehem.

I wonder if the trip was awkward at first. “So, thanks for not stoning me…” Did they talk about parenting philosophies or discipline methods? They didn’t have to think of what to call him. “His name shall be Jesus.”

Eighty miles on foot. Under the best conditions they could cover 20 miles in a day. But so many things could have slowed them down – weather, terrain, pregnancy. It likely took them over a week.

What was Mary thinking about this whole time? She accepted the angel’s message without hesitation. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May it be to me as you have said.” Was there ever any doubts in her mind? Was she scared?

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.”

A 13-year-old girl stood in a stranger’s stable, about to give birth to the Savior of the world. With every pang of birth pains, she knew there was no going back. Did she want to? Was she ready?

“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.”

Was it one of those fast, easy births I’ve heard rumors of? Or did she labor for hours? Ever since becoming a mother myself, I’ve wondered about the details of Jesus’s birth. How did Mary feel about birthing her Savior in a barn? As she looked at her son for the first time, was she instantly captivated by him? Or, did it take a while for the bonding process like with some mothers and children?

There are so many unknowns about the birth of Jesus, so many details I hope I’ll hear about in Heaven someday. But, there are some things we do know — important things. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Do you need to hear that again? He will save His people from their sins. From your sins. From my sins.

My friends, He did what He came to do. It is finished. You have been saved from your sins.

The love of Jesus is unconditional. He gives it freely. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be “good enough.” You, in whatever varying state of sin you find yourself in, are loved.

Praise the Lord!

Just as you are. Just where you are. He’s waiting for you to turn your eyes and look full in His wonderful face. He’s waiting for you to accept the gift He’s been holding out to you. Take it. Don’t be shy. Accept His love. Accept His sacrifice. Accept your Savior.

Today, as you unwrap presents, fellowship with friends and family, and partake of the bounty of blessings you might have, do so with the full knowledge that your Savior came to this earth for you. He was born so that you can live forever with Him. Your heart is the most precious gift you can give to Him. Won’t you give yourself to Him today?

**To read the story of Jesus’s birth for yourself, look in the book of Luke, chapters one and two. You’ll also find stories from Jesus’s life and ministry on Earth, as well as His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. The Bible is available for free online and in the app market for smart phones.**

(This is an encore blog post. It was originally written and posted by Cas Anderson on December 25, 2013.)