Hiding Under a Bushel

While we all teach our children differently, I’m pretty sure I can guess some of the things that almost all of us are trying to get across… That Jesus loves us. That while we were sinners God sent his son, Jesus, to save us. That we have good news to spread to the world. That Jesus came for every single one of us. That Jesus came to show us how to live. 

We probably sing songs with our children that help to illustrate some of these points. We sing “This Little Light of Mine” about sharing the good news of Jesus. We sing “I’m in the Lord’s Army” about how we can conquering souls for the Lord. But, is this really what we really teaching our kids? Is this the message we’re giving to the world? Or, are we often saying something completely different?

Verbal communication plays a minimal role in getting a message across. Our actions, the small things we do, say far more than the words that come out of our mouth. Are we aware of what they’re often saying to people around us? I went to an Adventist school for the first 10 years of my schooling. After that, I had to go to a Catholic school. One of the subjects we had was studies of religion, and in my first week at the Catholic school, we had a fascinating discussion. Some of their students were complaining about the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been harassing them. The conversation quickly turned when somebody said the JW’s are bad, but not nearly as bad as those Seventh-day Adventists. The class then proceeded to share all the horror stories they’d had with Adventists — from neighbours who would get mad at them for doing their yard work on Saturday, to people who would only ever talk to them about Jesus and had no interest in how they were going. From the kids whose parents were shopkeepers who got abused by the Adventists because the sale started on Saturday and all the good things would be gone by the time they could get into the shop…to the ones who weren’t allowed to hang out with the neighbours’ kids in case they were a bad influence on them. I sat back, I listened, and my heart broke. I wish this was an isolated event, but I’ve heard many similar things since.

Adventists are a pretty exclusive group. I understand why. Our beliefs are slightly different to the mainstream Christianity and birds of a feather flock together. Usually, when I meet an Adventist homeschooler, I’ll invite them along to some of the activities that we partake in, and the first question is almost always, “Is it an Adventist group?” Most of them are very reluctant to mix with homeschoolers that are not Adventist. But when we do this, what are we teaching our kids?

When we tell our children that Jesus came for all of us, and that we are here to share his good news with the world, and that God is all powerful, but then we refuse to let our children play with the kids next door because their parents are always fighting and swearing and yelling, and sometimes the children act up also, what are we saying? Could the message they get be that the corrupting power of the world is so much stronger than God’s power that it doesn’t matter how much the other kids need stability and love, it’s more important to make sure they don’t associate with “bad” people?

When we associate exclusively with Adventists, doesn’t that negate the power of us telling our children that the gospel is meant to be spread? Because, how can we make a difference in the world when we separate ourselves from it? We are to be in the world, but not of it, but so often we end up just creating our own little bubble and making little difference to anybody else. We become so detached from the real world, from their struggles, from their life, that when we do go out and try to do something, we are making a poor impression like my classmates were complaining of. I have no doubt that everyone they were complaining about was well-intentioned — but were they unable to shine the light to the world because they weren’t a part of it?

How about instead of having a reputation for being exclusive and closed off, we open our homes to the hurting and the broken? How about, in our street, our home is known as an embassy where the kids who have hurting families can escape and know that, though they can’t get away with bad behaviour, there is going to be grace and love? Sure, our kids may pick up some bad habits from them, people at church might criticise us for hanging with the sinners, but it’s then that we’ll be in the company of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want us to raise perfectly obedient children who can recite the great commission at the expense of being able to carry it out. If we believe that God can use anyone, we need to be creating those opportunities for our children to make a difference to those around them.

If we tell our children that God loves everyone and that he came to die while we were still sinners, but we refuse to associate with people because we don’t approve of their lifestyle, and we do not show love to those people, what is that we are really teaching our children about grace? If we’re more worried about children learning a few cuss words than we are about how much our neighbours’ kids are hurting, what is that telling our children about love? God can use each and every one of us where we are. As homeschoolers, we have a unique advantage in that there are so many social activities where we as parents can have casual, friendly chats with other parents, where we can actually do life with other families, and if we only associate with our own clan we’re wasting a golden opportunity — both for us to share God’s love, and to show our children how they can let their little light shine.

Let’s not let our home schools become a bushel where we hide the light away from the world. Let’s use our home schools to take that light into places where it’s needed, let’s spend time and break bread with those who have had negative experiences with Christianity and show that we can be people who aren’t just waiting for another world to come before things get better, but are actively trying to make life better for those around us today.

Image by Petar Milošević, Candle (Slava celebration), CC BY-SA 4.0

Tools that Work

happychildren

Over the course of the last several months, I have started a journey that in the middle may seem uncertain; however, the destination is certainly worth the struggle. It’s leading my family to the gates of Heaven. Each day is a struggle and I get frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes even depressed, but I also understand it is growing me, fitting me, and moulding me into His character, and that is the greatest gift I can ever wish to have. Not only is it moulding me, but it’s molding my children and husband as well.

This last weekend I attended a parenting class with Cinda Osterman. If any of you ever get a chance, I totally recommend it. It was so helpful. I’m hoping to give you a quick overview of the things I have been learning that have made a difference in my interaction with my children.

I have always been excited about having kids. I was always stealing people’s babies or kids in church, and couldn’t wait until I had kids of my own. I used to think of the fun things I was going to do, and of being the fun mom I wanted to be who was always doing awesome projects, etc., with the kids, always had a clean house, and always was able to do anything and everything fun and loving for my husband. And then…reality hit. It’s been such a challenge just to keep the house walk-through-able, let alone have time for the fun arts and crafts, etc., that I had pictured we would do together.

The stuff I am sharing in this last blog is kind of a compilation of what I have compiled over the years. If you have questions or need further information, please let me know. I will be happy to share what I am learning, and although I may not have the answers, I know someone who does. 😉

I am learning first and foremost that order is a huge key to my stress level. Having less stuff is so much easier to manage and really helps with stress levels in all of us, due to my having to constantly clean a messy house. Not that it stays clean all the time now. It just isn’t that hard to clean it all up. If you struggle with getting order in your house, then please pick up the book, Oh No, It’s Sabbath Again. And I’m Not Ready, by Yara Cerna Young. Empowered Living Ministries just republished it. (If you buy it on Amazon, it will cost over $100, so I recommend the $10 from ELM.)

I also have been watching Cinda Osterman’s parenting videos. There are two different programs online. If you type her name into Vimeo it brings up four sermons. They are all very good. Also, Amazing Facts does a two-part series with her at this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuQ31Y1mjqM&t=1s The second one should come up at the side of Youtube under the “play next” tab. They are titled and subtitled in Spanish (or Portuguese — not sure which exactly), but they are spoken in English.

I have learned so much stuff from those DVDs, and God has been blessing in so many ways. I have found the last couple of weeks that the Spirit of God is moving upon His people in a mighty way, in ways I never expected Him to work.

I have been reading the chapter, “The Victory,” in the Desire of Ages for my devotions the last couple of days. I encourage you to read it yourself. It has been amazing!!! By inspiration God lines out how we ourselves are to have victory in our lives and to be able to overcome the devil. Here are some keys I have been learning.

1. We need faith. Faith is something that we have to have. For years I have struggled with the difference between faith and presumption. I have never known the difference, but God made it so clear for me in that chapter. “But faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has it’s foundation in the promises and provisions of the scriptures.” It wasn’t until I believed that God would answer my prayers and followed what He told me to do that I started seeing a difference in my children. And, to be honest, the first two weeks I determined to follow because He said He would bless, the devil really tested me to see if I was serious. I struggled for two and a half weeks with my kids. I was in tears almost every day and totally overwhelmed. But, I kept persisting and I prayed earnestly, and patiently endured the trials while looking for ways to encourage my kids to obey. I had no clue what I was doing on that path, but I knew I had to follow.

2. We need to ask. “We should not present our petitions to God to prove whether He will fulfill His word, but because He will fulfill it; not to prove that He loves us but because He loves us. Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him,” Desire of Ages, pg. 126. I am learning how to ask because He will give it to us, instead of asking to prove that He loves us. I also am learning to ask what I need because it helps me to know my vulnerability and where I need God.

3. We need to submit. What does it really mean to submit to Christ? I have always struggled as I have never known how to submit to Christ, even though I have always had an intense desire to submit to Him. Through Cinda’s meetings, I have learned some good methods to help me understand, and He is giving me the victories through these methods. Plus, it’s awesome as it totally works with kids too. There is a book called Those Juniors, by Eric B. Hare. I want a copy as I haven’t read it myself, but there is a game that He wrote that helps kids to make good decisions and to put their higher powers back into control over their minds. (I am learning even at my age how to make choices, and this game is really helping me.) There are three judges: 1) Reason (who decides good or bad); 2) Conscience (who decides right or wrong); 3) Heart’s Desire (who agrees, disagrees, or isn’t sure if he agrees with Reason and Conscience).  And then, there is King Will. King Will follows Heart’s Desire. So, if Heart’s Desire is happy with the decisions that Reason and Conscience are making, then he will go along with that. If he’s not, he won’t. If he isn’t sure, then King Will isn’t sure. So, lets say we have a situation with smoking. Reason would say smoking is bad, Conscience would decide it was wrong, Heart’s Desire (HD) would consider it wrong, and therefore King Will would go along with the decision. If we say, however, that HD disagrees with Conscience and Reason, then King Will will make the decision to smoke. When we start feeling upset or threatened and we work through this in our own lives, then we are able to recognize when we need to submit to Christ.

Submission is started by recognizing we want something different then we know God wants for us. Then we pray, and ask Him to take our heart. As we ask Him for the heart change, we believe He will preform a miracle in our lives (even if we don’t always see the results quickly, just keep believing), and we ask Him to give us His heart. Then He places grace in our hearts and gives our hearts back with the power to overcome. Sometimes it takes a while of praying before my feelings and desires change, but if I sing, pray, and claim promises, the feeling I’m struggling with will go away. At first it takes quite a bit of time. To be honest, it was 2-2 1/2 hours for me. Then, as my faith grew and I learned how to use it (I am still really new and am growing so we have good times and bad), it’s starting to take quite a bit less time. This morning when my son and I were battling, it was only a 15-minute battle, and that really helps encourage me to keep going. Each battle makes the next one a little easier and so on.

4. Submission is needed for all in the home. On this process it takes patience and loving kindness with each other. A direct yet loving approach to issues that come up is greatly needed. I have started letting my kids tell me when I am struggling to be like Christ. Yesterday my husband was at home. He didn’t realize he was struggling, and I told him very lovingly that in a matter of two hours he had undone everything I was working for that week in regard to the kids. I asked him to go and battle, and I prayed while he took some time for the Lord. He came out with a different attitude, and it helped change our family atmosphere back to where it had been earlier that morning. In order to have a family that runs the way Christ wants it to, we must each first have Christ on the throne in our hearts. You see, each time that someone has an “I” problem, that instantly brings division into the home. When everyone is submitted to Christ on a daily basis, and the I’s don’t come up, there is peace in the home. When we are free to let each other know when “I” problems surface, then the person struggling can deal with it and know that the rest of the family is praying for them. This gives the sense of being a team as everyone is moving toward the same goal of Heaven, and the family is all helping each other on their walk to the Kingdom. God works miracles and the atmosphere in our home is becoming sweeter each day.

5. We must require obedience. As Christians there is no other alternative. However in the previous generations we have lost the skill to do this in a loving Christlike manner. Narcissism is on the rise no matter where you are, and it will only continue to get worse. There is a hierarchy that God has designed in our families; it’s a law that if we unknowingly break, ignore, or disobey, we can not have the power of a Christian family witness. However, that doesn’t mean that we are to intimidate, shame, challenge, or demean our children. He must be first, parents next, kids are to submit to the parents, and the parents are not to anger their children. In fact, I go so far as to say that if we do not require obedience, our children can not be happy. Happiness only comes from obedience, whether it’s us to God or our children to us. I used to think they would willingly submit if they were shown enough love. But, that isn’t the case. We must demand their obedience. How do we do this in a loving way?

We have chosen to use the rod, rather than spanking in anger. It is something very different then a spanking. In fact may I suggest that spankings are the devil’s counterfeit for the rod? It also, once introduced, rarely needs to be used. The rod is used when rebellion is expressed. If a child refuses to do something you ask, if a child has a haughty spirit, refuses a punishment, or is in open rebellion, the rod is in order, but in a prayerful manner. I follow specific guidelines for when and how to use this method, and am happy to share further if contacted.

Children need to be taught to submit. It is very hard to demand obedience, but God blesses when we do this. It is extremely tiring and unfortunately it can be very spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, but it is well worth the effort. And if we teach our children to submit at this early age, I believe it will take away most of the struggles that they have in their teens. As we gain control and lovingly demand the obedience of our children, they become more secure, helpful, sweeter, more confident in the skills they acquire, and more patient. Without this obedience they will not learn to submit, and they will not learn to self govern and be able to make wise decisions.

6. We need standards. Standards are very important; as God has standards with us, we need to have standards with them. When setting up standards they need to be clear and easy to understand. They need to have a positive reward for keeping the standard and a negative reward for not doing the standard. For instance, for being obedient, my child gets two marbles to put into his jar. For each six marbles he gets (one for each year of age), he can do two things. He can either choose to do one small thing (examples of ours: Mommy does his chores the next day, special time with Mommy or Daddy, choosing that night’s meal, getting a toy out of toy jail, etc.); or, he can put a sticker on the poster board with the standards we are working on, and each sticker counts for six marbles for bigger tickets like a new toy. So if he isn’t obedient (prompt, perfect, and happy) he gets the rod; if he is obedient, he gets two marbles. We only have at most four standards we are working on at a time. When starting the process I would suggest obedience being your only standard as it’s pretty overwhelming just to practice that, but well worth all of the effort. If at any time in your training you see a lack of obedience coming back in, then you will need to start back at obedience again and work that until they have conquered that again. When implementing a new standard be sure to practice the standard several times, and practice the positive and negative consequences.

7. Don’t start with the same standards every day; start each day out with new choices. If you are always starting the standards out each day, the kids never get to practice character growth. They know the standards, but they have new choices every day to decide to obey or to rebel against them that day. You can make a picture of two roads and one having a picture of heaven at the end and one with the picture of destruction. make magnets of the kid’s faces and move them along the road throughout the day. If they are battling then take them and show them they have a choice to make. Let them see that the consequences of their actions, no matter how small, always have heavier consequences than what we see at the time. Through all of these steps above, our children learn reverence for authority and ultimately reverence for God. They also understand the consequences of sin in a much more powerful way.

8. We need to be thankful. Even before we see the results of what we have asked for and believe He will do for us. We should thank Him for it. Another great chapter in the Desire of Ages is “A Touch of Faith.” It is one of my favorites. Christ wants to richly bless us, but we have to be willing to see and thank Him for what He is and has done. There was a quote stating that, “It is by thanking God for what He has done and is doing is how we build our faith in Him.” That’s amazing! But, it also helps us to have the joy of the Christian experience.

In closing, I am so thankful for you guys letting me share my journey with you and for encouraging me. I pray that I will be able through these to share some helpful tips for you guys as parenting is a challenge and one of the greatest gifts we are able to receive. My prayers go out for all of you and your families. I look forward to Christ’s soon second coming where we will all be able to meet up there on the sea of glass — finally in our Savior’s presence!

 

 

 

Looking Forward to Change — A Message to Those Heading to Academy or College

It’s that time again! Summer break has already started or is just around the corner, and for some of you going back to school in the fall will mean transitioning out of homeschooling and off into to academy or college. My topic today is geared toward you specifically, although your parents are welcome to read along.

1. Even though you don’t know me, I’m proud of you and your hard work, and your dedication to your studies, family, and friends. Nothing worth having comes easily, and you’ve proved yourself through hours of study, outreach events, and kindnesses to those around you. Heading off to a new school and environment requires continued courage, determination, and the perseverance not to give up when deadlines loom; and, class requirements take more out of you than you ever thought possible. Keep up the good work!

2. All that character you and your parents have focused on building? It’s going to be proven in a big way once you’re out on your own. Decisions to continue to take your education seriously, or to avoid spending time with those friends who have suddenly begun making poor choices regarding drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc., are going to make a huge impact in your future. In the moment it can be hard to see how certain things will affect you positively or negatively five, 10, or 15 years down the line, but take it from someone who has lived a little longer than you: poor decisions can haunt you for years afterward. By that same token, wise ones can benefit you, and be a source of reassurance and strength in the years to come.


3. Know that you’re not alone. You have these intense feelings, emotions, and thoughts (about the big project that is due tomorrow, or significant others, for instance) that you’re absolutely certain no one has felt before. Ever. Especially not your parents? Think again. There are a lot of similarities between you and your parents. You do share 50% of your DNA with each of them after all. They might understand more than you’d think. They also raised you since you were born, and understand you better than anyone alive on this earth (It took me years into adulthood, and having several children of my own to realize the truth of this!) Your parents have wisdom and insight into many situations that you are facing. They’ve probably spent countless days and sleepless nights praying over you that you were unaware of — and you know how important sleep is now, right? They love you, and want your best.

4. Know that you’re not alone (part 2). As much as a parent loves their child, nothing can compare to the love that God has for us. He knows you on a molecular level! He knows your family history farther back than even your grandparents can remember. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows and understands the very essence of who you are, and He wants to fight for you. Your heart is precious to Him. So, why not spend time talking to him about the next big test, a failed relationship, or future job plans? (You wouldn’t be the first person to change their major in the middle of the year).

5. And finally, work hard on your studies, but don’t forget to make time for fun events with friends who will uplift and encourage you. The friendships and memories you make here will most likely last for years to come. Sometimes former homeschoolers can seem like the “odd man out” to uninformed persons. Use the social opportunities to reach out to others and show them you’re anything but “awkward” and “unsocialized.” 😉

I pray the coming year brings growth and wisdom, and helps you discover more about who you were created to be. While this journey into independence may be a little scary at first, I have confidence that you will soon adjust, and even thrive! And, if you do make mistakes or fall flat on your face, know that God is always there to help lift you up. So are your parents, teachers, and school counselors. They love you and are in your corner.

Here’s to new adventures in the coming year!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

See also Psalm 27:1, Psalm 56:3-4, Proverbs 3:5-6, and 2 Timothy 1:7.

“Aha” Moments

When our children are tiny, we wait with bated breath for every first…the first time they roll over, their first step, first words, first meal…the list is endless.

I’m still seeing firsts. When my oldest son, TLC, was three, he asked me to teach him to write his name, and I started teaching him the rules of reading and writing. He could never seem to translate that knowledge into action though. When he turned eight years old, however, a door seemed to swung open in his mind and he went from not reading one day, to reading at grade-level the next day. It was an amazing moment!

When he was two years old, we were frequently amazed at his mathematical propensities! He could do basic math, including simple multiplication. In the last few years, he has struggled with the concept of multiplication and division. On the advice of our facilitator, we have simply accommodated this challenge by providing him a times table chart to use. I’ll confess to many moments of frustration, especially when it takes him a significant amount of time to calculate equations on the two’s times table! Just recently, however, while we were working on calculating areas and volumes, he had to calculate 3×2… I got frustrated with him and went into a bit of a lecture mode — nothing I hadn’t said to him previously, but he suddenly grasped the concept, and I once again saw the door of his mind swing open. In the days following, he has retained and continued to gain confidence in his mathematical ability and multiplication prowess.

What did I say to him? I told him that math is always the same. That the equation for a triangle will ALWAYS be bh/2. His response? “That’s logical, I should be good at this.” I laughed and told him he was good at this. That’s been the most frustrating thing. I know he’s good at math. I know he has a natural affinity for it. It was not until he was aware of his natural ability in math that he was able to begin excelling at it. The key for TLC was discovering math is always the same, that it is logical, constant, and reliable. Once he realized that key point, the world of math opened up for him.

 
I love the “AHA” moments. I love still being able to experience those with my children. It makes all the frustration, the challenges and the struggles worthwhile.

Sometimes we get caught up in trying to make our children keep up with their peers, and forget that they learn at their own pace. We change the way we teach because we fear they aren’t grasping the concept, when our children simply need only one more piece of the puzzle to believe in themselves. Once we empower them to believe in themselves, they can quickly and easily grasp the most challenging concept. I have to be aware, to watch and carefully identify the messages I, and others, give my children. I need to purposefully build up their esteem.

When they believe they can learn, learning becomes easy.

Trusting God When You Can’t See Ahead

When things are going the way I planned, it’s much easier to trust in God. Of course he is leading and guiding our family. Everything is falling into place. But, what about when things go in all different directions and there seems to be no clear path? What then?

I’m writing in the middle of the confusion, so while it would be nice to say how it all worked out in the end, there is no end of the story yet.

Have you experienced conflicting signs in your life? Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Is this from you or another spirit? Am I supposed to work and homeschool? Am I really supposed to do that for the next ten years? How will you sustain me? Are we supposed to move or not move? Are we supposed to do online school, enrichment classes, or everything at home? What if I can’t handle it Lord, and yet I believe you want me to be the primary educator of my children?

I’d like to say that the first place I go in these unsettled times is to a place of trust and gratitude, remembering how God has led in the past and resting assured that he still knows the end from the beginning. But instead, this time I become angry, then confused, then irritated, then frustrated. I feel like Peter, sinking in the waves of the sea after having walked on water.

What to do? Finally, with much resistance, I go to the only place I know it is safe to go when things are churning around me. “Help me Lord! Help me to trust you, even when I can’t see the path ahead.”

And, amazingly and faithfully, the Lord answers as he always does.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

It doesn’t say he might direct your paths. It doesn’t say sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t. God’s word promises he SHALL direct my path if I trust in Him. Trusting is the hard part, but with God all things are possible. I make a decision everyday to put my trust in the Lord and not in my own feeble understanding. It’s not always an easy choice to make, but it is always the wisest choice.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Matthew 6:34.

There are no certain answers at this point, but I can sleep at night. There are many uncertainties and stressors, but we take one day at a time. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but the Lord does. That is enough for today.