Seven Ways to Count Our Blessings

Thanksgiving!

It’s just six days away, for those of us in the United States!

I decided to share seven fun ways to record blessings, that we’ve enjoyed over the years. You can do many of these activities at any time of the year, but, like making applesauce seems to go hand-in-hand with autumn, so do many of these ideas.

For those readers elsewhere, you can participate too, because this is really a year-round attitude — this giving of thanks!

If we count today, we could use one of these suggestions per day for a Countdown to Thanksgiving, to help us gear up for the big day! Even as I say this, though, I realize that practically, these ideas are more pick and choose, to be done as a habit instead of trying to cram all of them into a busy week. If you want to try them all, go for it, but if you even find one idea that works for you, then that is what is going to matter the most in your family!

Idea One: The Blessings Tree

The first and favorite way for us to cultivate a grateful attitude is our Blessings Tree. Below is a sample, because, in our packing for a move, I can’t seem to find a copy of ones we have made.

The idea is very simple, as simple as you’d like it to be. I usually use a huge sheet of paper taped to the wall, or a poster board if I want it smaller. I draw a brown tree trunk — I like it REALLY BIG, because we want lots of blessings to hang on it!

I then make lots of leaves out of colorful construction paper. In years past, I’ve mostly done the simple oval-shaped leaves, or sometimes maple or oak leaves, but those get tedious to cut out. Oval really works just fine! Last year we did something similar for Sabbath School and I ran out of leaves. I found a great solution at the Dollar Tree. They sell bags of pretend leaves made of cloth for $1/100. They are shaded and some are even glittery — no work for you, Mom!

Every night, or morning, or whatever you decide, everyone in the family gets to pick a leaf or two and say what they are thankful for. We put answered prayers, kind things people have done for us, and just all kinds of random things that we think of. This is a wonderful way to bring the family together and change the attitude of the home! And, it’s so fun to see those leaves add up. Don’t you think Jesus and and angels are happy to see us count our blessings in this way?

Thankful Tree Clipart #1

Idea Two: Blessings on a Roll

That’s not on a roll of toilet paper! You can get little rolls of printer paper for not much, and following the same idea as above, you can have each family write something each day that they are thankful for. The lady who shared this idea with me has four kids. She had each family member write in their own handwriting each day, so over the years, she had a nice memory of how they grew up in penmanship and in spiritual experience. You can hang the roll somewhere, and when it gets too long, wrap the loose end up around a stick and roll it up like a scroll. Unlike the Blessings Tree, which most likely will get removed come December, this project spans the seasons and doesn’t take up much room.

Idea Three: ABC Prayer Time in the Family Circle

This is the idea we are currently working on in our family. It is probably the simplest, because the only tools and supplies needed are your brain and your family members. When you have your family circle for prayer, you go A..B..C… and so on, every day/night, and say what you’re thankful for. For instance, the first night, everyone says something he/she is thankful (in his prayer) for that begins with A: Apples, Aviaries, Aardvarks, Anne, whatever. Next night, you advance a letter. This really helps us in our family to think, and many times one or more of us gets stumped over the letter for that night. So far, we are to S. We had a hard time with Q, but even some ordinary letters that you would think would be easy create a brain block when it comes to your turn to share. Nevertheless, we are all enjoying this exercise in naming more blessings than we normally think of while praying.

Variations on this are saying a fruit, vegetable, animal, person, missionary, relative, flower, or whatever topic you choose — and everyone must think of one thing in that category to thank God for. In our family, and probably in yours, we easily get into a rut with our prayers, and sometimes the same people mumble the same prayer night after night. This just helps to wake up our brains!

Idea Four: Laminated Blessings Placemats

Okay — all kids like to weave. This is a simple one for all ages, and I’d say especially for the littles, with some help. You can make these in a morning. All you need is two or more colors of construction paper. Cut the one color in strips about an inch wide. You can actually have as many colored strips as you’d like. Two to three would be the max I’d recommend, but I know children love to get creative! The other color will be the solid “background.” You take this paper and fold it in half, either way. Then cut strips with it still folded up to one inch of the edge, all the way down. When done cutting, you should have an unfolded piece of construction paper that has cut lines, so that the strips you cut from other colored paper can be woven between. This sounds more complicated than it is.

Have the children weave in and out their strips, then arrange the edges so everything’s even. You can tape or glue the edged down, but we just laminate them, so I don’t bother.

We did this one year at Thanksgiving. Our children made a place mat for each guest, then before eating, we wrote things we were thankful for on the place mats, then laminated them for future years. It’s fun to look back and see what we wrote!

I am having difficulty getting my photos to cooperate, so here is a link that someone else made, showing the same thing. Only, we added things we were thankful for on the squares.

Idea Five: Bible Promises

This idea I am still working on. My plan is to have times (Sabbath afternoon would be good, or during Bible time) when we take a Bible promise book or a concordance and find specific promises that have meaning for our own children’s needs. I don’t plan to make this a “Thus saith Mom,” but verses that my boys need that they find. Faith verses will be green, verses about God’s love for me with be red, etc. We can all sit down for 20-30 minutes with our pens and Bible promise books, and find meaningful verses that will help us when we are thoughtfully flipping through the pages of our Bibles. The verses we have marked will pop out and bless us, so this is an ongoing blessing idea.

Idea Six: Prayer Wheel

This is a simple device, where you write down people or topics to pray for on each day. As you spin your wheel every day, a new person appears in the sliced out section, and you pray specifically for that person. We can include a prayer of thanks for each person! All you need is two index cards, cut into circles. Divide the circle into how ever many wedges you need for the number of people you will be praying for. Cut out a wedge for a window, and laminate if you want. Fasten with a brad fastener. Spin every day.

Idea Seven: Songs of Thanks

There are plenty of songs I can think of that mention being thankful or blessings. The one most obvious is Count Your Blessings. You can hear it and get a nice flip book here with the printed song at My Bible First.

Other songs about blessings:

  • We Gather Together
  • Come, Ye Thankful People
  • This is My Father’s World

Many Scripture songs are about thankful themes such as God’s goodness, and you can think up your own tunes if your verse doesn’t have a song already!

Idea Eight: The Blessing Jar

You got a bonus! I was just going to list seven ideas, then remembered this one. This idea can be done yearly, like Blessings of 2017, or just for a season, or for a whole lifetime! Just get a mason jar, or find a cute jam jar, and add a nice label and ribbon. Record daily or weekly blessings, answers to prayers, and things that have made you smile. Use little slips of paper. You could use a different color for each family member, or all the same. We’ve used old business cards that no longer serve. The key is to periodically take the cards out and read them together, to see how many rainbows have appeared in your life. If you Google Blessing Jar or Memory Jar/Thankful Jar, you will find a plethora of ideas to glean from. Here’s just one example. These make nice gifts that anyone can make and use. No big expense, and no calories! This is not my original idea, I have only used someone else’s idea. You can go as artsy and coordinated or as simple as you have time for. That’s what I like about this project.

I hope that these ideas will spark some interest in you in this week leading up to Thanksgiving, and beyond! Such simple ideas are really the glue that helps to hold our families together, and provide much happiness as we look back on the ways that God has blessed us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tools that Work

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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!

 

 

 

Connecting Emotionally

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This last week has been an extremely challenging week. My son and I tend to have good days and bad days, but for some reason we have been having several bad days in a row. If you want in on the secret of why, I’m glad to tell you. Someone had sent me some links for a seminar done by Cinda Osterman. I have been struggling for quite some time trying to figure out how to be a parent that truly reflects Christ to my children, while at the same time being a firm and loving mom, and being in charge of my home. My son really struggles with needing to be in control of my home. Even though he is five, he is very determined to control the house and to parent us.

A few weeks ago after watching Cinda’s series on Vimeo, my husband and I decided to rededicate our lives and family to Christ. I decided to start getting up at 5 a.m. and doing my worship in spite of the obstacles to do so. Of course, the devil didn’t want to lose us so easily, so he is fighting us in any way that he can. My son and I are the biggest area he can attack in my life. At first he tried the kids waking up at 5 a.m. Seeing me persisting in my worship, he wasn’t happy with that and stepped it up a notch. The following Sabbath there was an announcement at church that the pastor was holding a class that was meant to improve your intimacy with God. I was not prepared to stay, but I decided to stay anyway, as I needed to take the class.

During the class I tried hard to listen and keep under control my two very energetic kids. But, I ended up leaving halfway through as it just wasn’t working. (Of course the devil wanted me to be discouraged.) I asked God what He wanted me to do, and after talking to Pastor, he said that he would find a way to make it work because he knows how much I not only want the class but need the class. (Of course the devil wasn’t happy once again.) I was learning to persist… The following Thursday my daughter got “the runs.” Not only did she get them, but it was dripping out of the side of the diaper and going through three pairs of pants from diaper leaks in two hours! I cancelled everything on my plate and gave lots of baths that day. Friday, it was just as bad. To be honest, I have no idea where it all kept coming from as she wasn’t really eating.

Sabbath morning I woke up and was planning on not going to church. As I was doing my worship (the kids were finally sleeping through my morning worship), the Cradle Roll teacher texted and asked if I was going to be there. I texted her back and said that I was thinking I didn’t want to go because of the issues with Abby for the two days before. As I wrote the text, I don’t know how to describe it — God spoke to me.

“Bitsy, You believe that I am God, right?” I was kind of surprised by the question.

“Uh, yes, Lord!”

He replied, “So you believe that I can do anything, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well you say you believe it, but you won’t act on your faith.”

I was a little confused for a minute. “But Lord, I can’t go to church; there is no shower there, and what if it’s contagious?” (Half of our congregation is older; they don’t recover so well from things like this.) “And, how am I going to sanitize a mess that is dripping down her legs and running onto the carpet, especially in the middle of church.”

So he responds. “Bitsy, you need to make a decision. You either believe I am God, and I can handle this, not to mention do anything you need — and you go to church; or, you don’t believe Me, and you sit there all day and miss out on Me showing you my power. Not to mention not allowing Me to build your faith in Me, which you are always asking me to do. So, what are you going to do?”

Talk about a slap in my face! But, He made it clear the way that I have always wanted Him to. So, I decided to go. When I did, Abby woke up and came out. “Mommy, I’m poopy!” I, in my still lacking faith, looked in her diaper. He had already answered my request! So, we went to church.

It’s hard to be like a little child, but each day I am reminded of the trust that we are supposed to have in our relationships with Christ. The trust that my children model to me helps me to understand more of what I am supposed to be like toward Christ. The issue I see is that I need to be emotionally connected to Christ in order for my children to be emotionally connected to me. How do we achieve that? I am still learning that myself. However, here are a few tips that I have found, both for becoming emotionally connected to my children and to my Heavenly Father.

1. Take time… Take time to pray, even if it doesn’t feel like it works. Believe it will. Take time to have devotions and to have quiet time focusing on God. This is totally exhausting to do as a mom of little ones, but it is a huge blessing in dealing not only with life but with marriage and parenting as well. Try to cut out the nonessentials. Make your number one priority your children. Then, pray for the strength to keep it that way. God has really impressed upon me that their relationship with us and theirs with Christ are the only things we get to take to Heaven with us. We have a huge role to play in the bringing up of our children, and if we ask, He will provide the strength to fulfill that promise.

It is so hard to reprioritize, but over the last several months God has helped me to see the most important priority is my children, and to be quite honest, I have had to pray that He will change my heart and help me to enjoy being with my children. (They have been so challenging that I am ashamed to admit I have wanted to be done with parenting.) As I have prayed daily for the last three weeks, and have been focusing on Him, He is giving me His grace to change; and I, in spite of our challenges, am starting to enjoy the precious moments with my kids. In fact I am taking time daily to spend time with them and emotionally connect. As I spend this time emotionally connecting with them, I am also finding that the problems we are having are getting easier. He truly fixes all things if we are patient and willing to submit to Him.

2. Pray over each of your children… If Daddy can also do this, it is a special blessing. Pray to claim promises for them. Every night before they go to sleep, I go in to tuck the kids into bed. I am so tired when it comes to bedtime, that we do worship and they get into bed. I put my hand on my child, and I pray individually with them. I claim Jer. 29:11, and if there is something they are particularly strugging with, I claim promises that help with that. Since I started that three weeks ago, the kids will not go to sleep without it, and they both have a hard time being patient and waiting their turn. There is comfort in knowing someone is praying for you.

3. Focus on little things… Focus on the little things that are done right, that the kids need encouragement in, or that they might need a little extra help in. There is a reason that God says the little things are important. This is because the big things are built up of little things. Notice the little things that your kids do to try to please you. Take the time to teach them the little things that are so often overlooked. When they see that you are happy with the little things they do, then they will realize that in their work and their play, their desire will be to help us and please us.

4. Be thankful... We have started a blessing book, and each morning and evening with worship we all say three things we’re thankful for. It’s amazing the happiness that it has brought into our house. I read a quote and I wish I had written it down, but I didn’t. Anyway, it says by counting the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us, we are building faith in Him. I want my children to have a firm foundation of faith in the Lord.

5. Take His word at face value and believe what He says… Sometimes it seems so challenging yet way too simple. Being children of God is a real challenge. Each day we have to wake up and truly believe that He has our back. Because of how things may look or how badly things go that day, it’s often hard to understand how He has our back. However, He promises that He does, and we must trust Him in spite of our feelings. If we ask He will show us what we need to learn from each situation, and sometimes He even tells us about the prevention of things we may not have been aware of.

6. Be vulnerable… This is the hardest part for us as humans, each day struggling to go through without having to be vulnerable…without having to reveal the challenges, struggles, and pain we are experiencing…without showing our children what our hearts are actually dealing with and the fact that most of the time we are feeling the same way they are, but we just won’t admit it. As I have started to show them how I handle the struggles I am dealing with, they are learning and open and asking about the struggles they are having. They are asking me how to handle things, and are interested in being led by me. They are beginning to understand that on the outside we look like adults, but sometimes on the inside we really feel the same way we did as little kids. It helps them to see we really do care. Remembering that we are all in this battle together helps a lot. And, I am starting to allow my children to respectfully say, “Mommy, do you need to have some time with Jesus?” That helps me to know that I am not being Christlike and I need to surrender to Him.

As we press forward this next few weeks, my prayer is that God will open our eyes and help us to see the things we need to cut out and the things we need to add, and help us to see things we can implement in faith to connect more emotionally to our Lord and Savior and to our families and all of our relationships.

Where Do Babies Come From?!?

You know the question is coming sooner or later. So, when is the best time to handle it — sooner or later? And how?!?

This is an area that comes up on the SDA Homeschool Families group page on Facebook from time to time. Over the last several years, many members have responded with advice, as well as with a wonderful collection of resources. These have been compiled to share with you. Some of the resources also have comments by the people who suggested them.*

Keep in mind that, like any sensitive topic, sex education methods and opinions are varied. If you’re looking for input on when and how to address this with your kids, we invite you to peruse the following advice and resources, prayerfully seek God’s guidance in selecting the best responses for your family, and then share the knowledge about the wonder of continued creation and loving expression with your children.

 

ADVICE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

Timing

  • Start young. If you don’t broach the subject until they are teen or pre-teen someone else will have already told them. The Bible is a great teacher, too. Show them the consequences of not following God’s will.
  • Dr. Sears has good advice. I don’t remember all we used, but I do know it’s so important calling every body part the real name and to start using it when your kids are young; it is easier on you and them.
  • Here is what I have done with my son. First, PRAY!!! I couple years ago I was at a loss as to when to start talking about this to him. I knew it would be up to me due to my husband’s background. I decided that the following school year would be good time to start (my son would be going into fifth grade), but God had other plans. Several times He put the thought into my mind, but it wasn’t until my son said something at the zoo did God give me the wake up call and made me realize He meant NOW!!! So, I spent several days going over the basics of God’s plan for marriage, Satan’s attempt to destroy it, the illness that come from immoral activity, and the type of talk that slanders a pure and holy thing — and provided defense mechanisms, should such talk happen in his presence.
  • My boy was young when he first started asking where babies come from, like about five or six. He was also a very specific questioner — wanting as much info as I’d give him. I pretty much gave him all the “academic” basics at that age. He knew what body parts were called, and what went where to make a baby. I also found some simplistic books with illustrations of people and sperm and eggs, etc. The beauty of this approach for us was that he was too young to be in that “oooooo, gross” phase that so many kids hit by about age 10 or 11. It all seemed a little bizarre to him, but his brain was not remotely “sexualized” yet, so it was just information — much like you’d learn about any body system. It also gave the opportunity very young to start planting seeds of morality and our expectations for when this all should happen. Of course, then you have to be prepared for the occasional, “Oh, look! Those squirrels are getting married!” out in public, but that was a small price to pay. Here’s the other benefit in my mind for early information. He trusted me back then to tell the truth. Now he is 12, nearly 13. Changes are beginning in his body, he is hearing terminology from his friends, and his curiosity is becoming more “aware.” Where does he go with his questions? To me! (I was widowed when he was young.) Granted, I have delved into topics with a 12-year-old boy that I never thought I would, but I feel blessed that he is comfortable gaining info from me rather than from his friend’s older brother or some kid on the playground. Also, because we don’t have to stumble over what-goes-where and the resulting uncomfortableness now, we can spend more time talking about the risks of having a girlfriend/boyfriend too early, and a host of other tricky topics that will hopefully prep his brain with reasoning for the day when the hormones totally kick in.

Approach

  • We just read Genesis 38 for family worship last night. I was not expecting it, and i think it is good wording to start the discussion.
  • You know, it came up in science class and that is exactly how I handled it — very practically. I made it not a subject that was taboo, funny or embarrassing to discuss in any way. (This was after praying about it first). And, praise the Lord, my daughter is now 13 and thinks that kids who do talk about it and giggle are immature and silly. She doesn’t understand what the big deal is. She also went through Passport 2 Purity a few years after we discussed it. It was good, but had some parts my daughter and I felt were unnecessary and inappropriate for the target age group.
  • I had a little conversation with my five-year-old about the topic. What I realized was, at that age they are quite satisfied to know that boys and girls are different because God made them that way. The major question is truly where the child comes from. I answered simply that he, my five-year-old, came from my belly. How did he get in there? God put him and formed him there from a single cell. That was enough. There were no questions ever since. I think it is important not to make a big deal out of it and answer questions straight forward without unnecessary details. If a child wants to know more and thinks about it, he will ask again. It is important for a child to feel comfortable to ask anything he/she wants to know, and for a parent to be sincere and not afraid of the topic. The key is, I think, not to give more information a child asks for because what he asks is what he is ready for.
  • For the time being I suggest asserting your expertise in this area [in reference to a child who has obtained misinformation from another child]. You have had a baby and little friend has not. There are a lot of pretend stories about this, but you know what’s true, and if he has questions he should ask you because you know all the true stuff and you can help him not be tricked (no one likes being tricked). Then be general… When my son asked how the baby got out, I told him God made a hole for that and it’s at the bottom where the two other out holes are, and when the time comes the hole opens and the baby comes out. I couldn’t show him because God wants us to keep all the holes clean and private.
  • I’d probably just talk honestly with your child about their specific questions and see where it goes. I don’t remember what triggered it, but in the last year or so my girls realized that people have babies outside marriage and asked a similar question. I was just honest about it and said something along the lines of “we’ve talked about how when people are married they can cuddle in a special way and sometimes the mommy gets pregnant. Sometime people decide to do those things even when they aren’t married. That’s not what God wants, but it happens.” We talked some about the Bible verses about marriage, and such.
  • Both my husband and I are physicians (pediatrician and family doc), so our children (eldest is five) know the anatomical names. We answer their questions as openly and honestly as they’re capable of understanding, and we only answer their questions, i.e., we don’t use their one question to give them a lecture on the ins and outs of human reproduction. We always reinforce that they can always ask us anything and try to foster a relationship that encourages open communication. The ongoing relationship and communication that is formed now will be a stronghold in the times when others typically have difficulties.

Science and Nature

  • Depending on the age of your kids, you might think of this more as a “biology” talk. It provides the info they need, and takes some mental pressure off yourself.
  • Farm animals! LOL. Seriously, though, this totally comes up organically since we have goats and chickens. It provides a natural progression of their own questions as they are ready to know.
  • Cats and dogs. Experiences from nature.
  • Nature. Accidentally getting a rooster a couple years ago brought up questions, so we talk of it in terms of mating. But, the oldest knows people call it “sex,” and it was a gift God intended for married people. I agree with keeping it more about biology until they get older.
  • Basic anatomy. I picked up the coloring book used for college students testing for their med-school entrance — just because it’s a cool book and my toddler was into naming bones — and he loved looking at pictures and asking questions.

Caution

  • I remember being so traumatized by books people tried to share with me. So, I just answered my kids’ questions straightforwardly as they asked them, not offering more than I felt was necessary, but also not holding back or acting like it was any different discussion than what was for lunch. They thank me for it now. No regrets. Just know that whatever book you use and whatever graphics it contains will be forever emblazoned on their little brains. Some things are best left to the imagination. Building any strangeness or weird mystery around it can have serious repercussions later, especially for generations that crave authenticity.
  • I would tread very very carefully with this subject. Both my girls, ages four and seven, know nothing at all, except that it is God that creates life and gives a mommy and daddy a baby. The baby grows inside the mommy and then comes out of her when it’s big enough to survive in the world. I was tainted at a very young age by asking this question…probably around four, and my mom took me to the library and got a book meant for kids — but honestly I still remember the images very clearly in my mind, and it was way too much. It went into detail with drawings of how a man gets a woman pregnant, talking about private parts, sperm, eggs, etc. What a child [incorrectly] learns now about this beautiful plan of God could corrupt their young minds and set the stage for problems down the road. One of the best ways to explain all of this is through the plant kingdom: the parts of a flower (female and male) and how pollination works. This is obviously for an older child, but it’s a beautiful, simplistic way to explain it in very gentle non-graphic terms. We just studied plants for homeschooling and how they reproduce, and I myself had no idea that plants have male and female parts and how the whole process works! Quite amazing, and when the times comes I will use this to explain in more detail how it all “works.”

Added Thought

  • The most important piece of advice I gave my fourth-grade son was this: “You can ALWAYS come to me with questions. But, because this is such an important topic, and not everyone is comfortable with discussing it or being around such discussion, please ask those questions at home, and during school hours.” I assured him that no question is too dirty, or too old, or too sensitive to be asked. And, he has asked!!! Pray!!! Pray!!! Pray!!!

RESOURCES

Books

Videos and Other Resources

Hopefully these resources and advice from other parents will be useful to you. We will be placing it in the Files section of the SDA Homeschool Families group on Facebook, and may continue to add resources and advice as they appear in the group.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth,’” Genesis 1:27,28 ESV.

*The comments and resources were gathered from about 30 members of the SDA Families Homeschool group. We’d like to especially thank member Jenn Cook, who did an initial resource compilation, adding a lengthy list of books and sources for the benefit of the group and blog readers. 

Sheltering With Purpose

I hear it all the time when I talk about growing up in the country: “Your parents must’ve sheltered you!” It’s as common as “The S Word” when someone hears that I homeschool my kids. The truth is, I might have been “sheltered,” but I don’t think my parents did it by accident. I think it was purposeful. I think they had a determination to teach me things, prepare me for things, keep me safe. That’s different than sheltering.

At risk of sounding like a crazy chicken lady, I will stop beating around the bush. We protect our chickens from predators by keeping them in a pen. We build them a coop with a door, maybe a heater. We feed and water them. Would they be happier as free range all the time? Yes. They would be happier, maybe fatter, and might lay more eggs — but they would have a shorter life. Because we live in the country, many predators have access to our chickens. We have lost so many due to opossums, raccoons, owls, and illness. We wanted so much for them to be free, to run in the whole yard, but now we have to start over with a new flock, and we need to build the fences higher.

It is easy for us to teach our boys these types of lessons because we have animals as examples. These animals they see every day serve a purpose as well. “No, I’m sorry. We can’t let the dog run around when we go to Nanna’s. He can get run over. He can freeze to death (mini pinscher). He’s an inside dog for a reason.” We aren’t sheltering the dog, but we care for him. The kids understand this. People don’t.

People don’t understand why I won’t put my son in public school. Aren’t I doing them a disservice by not letting them learn how the other kids are learning? Aren’t I spoiling them with my love, my attention? What’s so wrong with public school anyway?

My decision to homeschool has little to do with public school. It has to do with protecting them, raising them, and teaching them. It’s not a slight against public school any more than my staying home with them is a slight against working moms.

My purpose as a parent and teacher is to prepare my boys before all else — prepare them for the world, the workforce, spiritual warfare, matters of life and death, politics, love, anger, and more. I cannot do this while sheltering them.

What’s your purpose? Ponder your purpose while you’re planning the coming year of school, the upcoming curriculum, family devotionals, and activities. If all I’m doing is sheltering these kids, and not purposefully teaching them, I’ve failed.