Working Out Their Own Faith

working_out_their_own_faithOur family recently had the opportunity to visit with friends at their daughter’s birthday party. The kids had a blast, and we were able to catch up on recent happenings. But instead of walking away feeling refreshed and encouraged, I found myself thoughtful and frustrated. During our short visit, the father had expressed to my husband how he hoped we had enjoyed the young years while they had lasted. His reasoning? He went on to explain that all children need to work out their own faith and go through their own gospel experience. Now that our children were teens, we would lose our children to the world and they would rebel.

While I believe his heart was in the right place – he meant to impart wisdom – his words rubbed me raw. Do all children need to accept God on their own? YES! While it might sound like a cliché; God does not have any grandchildren. We don’t piggyback on our parent’s faith. We need to have our own. What I do not believe is that all children need to go through a hard, rebellious stage before accepting Christ as Savior. While there are no foolproof ways to keep our children from rebelling, there are steps we can take which help them make the right choices. Not all children go through this stage.

So, how do we go about preventing rebellion? I honestly think it all boils down to relationship. When our children know we love them and our choices reflect this love, they are less likely to rebel. When our children love us in return, they will do everything in their power to please us and bring us joy.

The key to squashing rebellion is love. We ought to be loving on our kids constantly and allowing them to love on us. We have open communication with lots of talk about why decisions are made in our home. Love is not casual permissiveness. (We don’t just give them what they want.) Love sometimes means correction, discipline, and consequences. When we love on our kids to this extent, we know who their friends are and their friends’ families. We know who is offering influence and we curb those choices; explaining them to our kids and why.

I believe that when our children see the evidence of love in our relationship with God, in our marriages, and for them, they will naturally want to please us. This love also opens doors for how they view God. Through our conversations, our actions, and our affection, our children see faith in action. They will see the blessings that come with a life lived for Him. They will see the distinction between those who rebel and those who obey. Our children will naturally come to their faith and without necessarily having to experience a tragic testimony.

Does this mean our children are perfect? Heavens, no! We aren’t perfected yet so why would be expected this of them? What this does mean, is that they will not willfully go out and hurt themselves, us, or God. While they might make mistakes, they are not doing so out of mutinous emotion.

I can always tell when I am failing to love on my children as much as I ought. Our children question my authority, they act out, and they have a hard time controlling their own emotions. This is a wake up call for me. I have somehow dropped the ball and need to bring things back into perspective. Once I get things back into focus, our children naturally resume their loving nature. The problem is usually me!

If I learned one thing from that afternoon with our friends, it was this… Unless I want my children to contribute to this statistic, I need to be proactive. I have a choice. I can allow this to happen or I can strive to prevent it. The only way I can see that happening is through strong doses of love. Supernatural, unconditional love; which only comes from the Father. With His help will my children be victorious in working out their faith.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~ Proverbs 22:6

Your Turn!: Do you know a family whose children have yet to rebel? What do you think was the key to their success?

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Purposeful Affections

Purposeful_AffectionsWhen I was a very little girl, it seems I had an extremely close relationship with my father. He would snatch me up, tickle me with his mustache, and try to give me kisses. In response, I would giggle endlessly and scream out, “No kiss me, no kiss me!” Little did I know my father would walk out of my life when I was only four years old, never to kiss me again.

Through junior high and high school, I began to look for an outlet; a place where my desire for affection would be gratified. While I can say I remained pure during all of my schooling, that doesn’t mean I was completely innocent. I liked being around guys who were willing to pay attention to me. I looked for excuses to give hugs and be close to someone. I wanted to know I truly mattered to someone, that I was worthy of their time and effort.

Jump to now… I am still a very affectionate person (much to my husband’s delight). I love to be held and hugged. I have found a guy who loves to show me how much he cares and in turns loves for me to show him.

Now, how does this at all relate to my kids? Simply this… I have known a great deal of women (and men) who have lacked affection in their lives; either from their parents or their spouses. The interesting factor is that, generally, the lack of affection stems from one place; CHILDHOOD!

It caused my husband and I to think. Would our children go looking for affection, if our home was filled with it? Would they feel the need to date at such a young age, if they were constantly being hugged and kissed? Why is it we often forget teenagers need hugs too?Why do we allow them to pull away from us, instead of pursuing our children’s hearts?

I want to be purposeful about gaining the affection of my children. So, while they are young, I snatch them up and cuddle them. I find ways to tickle them, kiss them, rub their arms, pat their heads, gently tug their braids, sit cheek to cheek, and other lovely things of that nature.

Now that our children are older, there may be boundaries they decide to set in place (“No kissing me in front of my friends, mom!”), but that will not prevent me from purposefully seeking them out. Whether they deny it or not, I think they love being held and hugged. I think they enjoy being cuddled, tickled, and kissed.

I pray my children would not just know we love them, but feel our love. I pray my children would not feel the desire (as I did) for outside affection, but they would gain all they need from our home.

Yes, one day my children will desire a Godly husband or wife (and they should!), but prayerfully it will be because that is the direction the Lord is leading them. It won’t be for lack of love and affection. It won’t be because their lives were missing something. It won’t be the need for attention. It will be for all the right reasons.

📢 Chime In!: Are you purposeful in your affections towards your children? How so?

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Hug Your Teenager

Young adults can be difficult at times, can’t they? Of course, if we are being honest, we can be a little difficult at times, too! In all the emotional hubbub, it can be all too easy to forget that our growing kids sometimes need affection.

Kids are not always easy to like. They talk back, they yell at us, they get irritable, and they are moody. It can be difficult to know how to handle those raging emotions. As parents, our first reaction is often to be strict and firm; nipping the disobedience as quickly as possible. Our desire is to remedy the situation and get things back to normal.

I wonder how often such circumstances could be dissolved with a simple hug. Instead of laying down the law, what if we chose affection? Would this solve the problem and excuse their disobedience? Definitely not. I imagine it might prevent the problem from escalating, however.

Play With Me, Mommy

When our children understand that we love them and only want what’s best for them, when they feel our affection for them, they are more likely to hear our words. If we were to start our correction or training with encouragement and understanding our children might be more willing to admit failure and reconcile.

To be fair, most of the time our young adults don’t even know what upsets them. Hormones are raging through their system and even little things set them off. Receiving a comforting hug or squeeze on the shoulder helps center them and bring them back into focus. It might help to remember how we felt at their age.

Hopefully this will encourage each of us to reach out to our young people. Discipline is not the only answer, sometimes what our kids need is a hug.

Time to Chime In: Do you find it hard to be affectionate with your teen? Share your ideas on how you bond with your young adult.

Personal Boundaries

I could see the discomfort in his eyes. My little boy had taken his baby girl’s hand and was trying to lead her across the room to show her a toy. One look at the papa, told me it was time to have a big discussion with my little man. It was time to talk about personal boundaries.

I’m not sure how most boys approach the subject of personal boundaries, seeing as I only have one, but my little guy is extremely affectionate towards his sisters and both of us parents. He is free to hug us, sit on our laps, and express his affection. When it comes to friends, once he warms up to you, he willingly asks to hold your hand while walking in busy crowds or wants to know if you’ll go on that ride at Disney with him.

I’ve recently begun to notice that our son is particularly tender-hearted toward children younger than himself; especially young girls. He wants to walk them to where ever they need to go. He wants to open their door; help them with their chairs; and more. While this might seem sweet to some, I’m afraid it’s also going to become an uncomfortable habit for other parents to witness. (As was the case with my friend’s husband.)

Personal BoundariesLittle man and I needed to have a talk about personal boundaries. We’d already discussed proper ways to get someone’s attention, by gently touching their arm or waiting patiently for someone to acknowledge him. Now we talked about not holding hands with young ladies; ladies who aren’t his sisters, that is.

While I appreciate my son’s desire to be helpful and sensitive towards those younger than himself, he needs to learn when and how to do so. When it comes to young ladies, it might be best to let their parents handle things or, at the very least, keep a significant distance between himself and the young girl.

This is a hard lesson for a young child to learn, especially for the baby of the family, I would venture to guess. They are so used to holding someone’s hand, they assume all those younger than themselves must do the same. I would imagine it is also confusing for them to know who they can be affectionate with. Some of our personal friends have no problem with our children holding hands, especially as our son tends to be the youngest in the crowd. On homeschool outings, the older boys are encouraged to hold hands with the little fellas and the girls are always doing so with each other without having to be asked. As Christians, our children are frequently greeting their friends with hugs and doing so again when they depart.

At some point though, it was inevitable. My little guy is getting bigger and those lines in the sand need to be drawn. My babies are growing up! (sigh)

Where do you draw the line when it comes to personal boundaries with your children?

No Kiss Me, No Kiss Me!

T and Mommy

My oldest girl when she was just a few months old.

When I was a very little girl, it seems I had an extremely close relationship with my father. He would snatch me up, tickle me with his mustache, and try to give me kisses. In response, I would giggle endlessly and scream out, “No kiss me, no kiss me!” Little did I know that my father would walk out of my life when I was only four years old, never to kiss me again.

Growing up, my mother did her best to be affectionate with my brother and I. We held hands while walking, we hugged, and we would occasionally sleep all together in one bed. As we got older though, the affection seemed less and further between on all our parts. Life became busy and we focused on other things.

Through junior high and high school, I began to look for an outlet; a place where my desire for affection would be gratified. While I can say that I remained pure during all of my schooling, that doesn’t mean I was completely innocent.

I liked being around guys who were willing to pay attention to me. I looked for excuses to give hugs and be close to someone. I wanted to know that I truly mattered to someone, that I was worthy of their time and effort.

Little Man and Mommy

My son when he was about a year old.

Jump to now… I am still a very affectionate person (much to my husband’s delight). I love to be held, hugged, and touched. I have found a guy who loves to show me how much he cares and in turns loves for me to show him.

Now, how does this at all relate to my kids? Simply this… I have known a great deal of women (and men) who have lacked affection in their lives; either from their parents or their spouses! The interesting factor is that generally the lack of affection stems from one place; CHILDHOOD!

It caused my husband and I to think. Would our children go looking for affection, if our home was filled with it? Would they feel the need to date at such a young age, if they were constantly being hugged and kissed?

While my mother was very affectionate with us as children, we were not as affectionate as teenagers (which is not entirely my mother’s fault; we probably didn’t initiate either). Why is it we often forget that teenagers need hugs too? Why do we allow them to pull away from us, instead of pursuing our children’s hearts?

All the GirlsI want to be purposeful about gaining the affection of my children. So, while they are young, I snatch them up and cuddle them. I find ways to tickle them, kiss them, rub their arms, pat their heads, gently tug their braids, sit cheek to cheek, and other lovely things of that nature.

When my children get older, there may be boundaries that they decide to set in place (“No kissing me in front of my friends, mom!”), but that will not prevent me from purposefully seeking them out. Whether they deny it or not, I think they will love being held and hugged. I think they will enjoy being cuddled, tickled, and kissed.

I pray that my children would not just know that we love them, but feel our love. I pray that my children would not feel the desire (as I did) for outside affection, but that they would gain all they need from our home.

Yes, one day my children will desire a Godly husband or wife (and they should!), but prayerfully it will be because that is the direction the Lord is leading them. It won’t be for lack of love and affection. It won’t be because their lives were missing something. It won’t be the need for attention. It will be for all the right reasons; a desire to share their lives with someone else and create a family of their own. Playing at the Beach

It occurs to me, as I type, that my brother and I are now grown and gone from my mother’s house. I wonder if she ever feels lonely or lacks affection, living by herself. I need to be more purposeful in my love for my mother; hugging and kissing more often.

Perhaps this will teach my children to remain affectionate no matter their age. So that when they are grown and gone, they will still remember to come back and hug their dear, old mom and pop. Perhaps they will one day repeat my words, but with a different meaning, “No; kiss me. No; kiss me.

Are you purposeful in your affections towards your children? How so?

Tying Strings

Little Man and IThe relationships we have with our children will not always run smoothly. There will be times they need training and discipline. There will be times we provoke them or hurt them, even if it is unintentional. While it would be easy to say, “that’s part of life, they’ll get over it”, and move right along; it is crucially important we don’t.

There is a strong tie between a child and their parent; a bond that is more than just blood. When our relationships are injured and strained, we need to draw them back in and retie those strings.

How do we retie those strings once they have been pulled or cut? Here are some great suggestions that have been given to our family:

  • Smile often and express joy in your child.
  • Go out on a date and have a good time!
  • Enjoy their company. Pick a book, a movie, or something they like and enjoy it together.
  • Have a tickle war!
  • Go on an adventure; even a hike can be adventurous.
  • Make something together; it can be as simple as dinner or as complex as a treehouse.
  • Include them in your daily responsibilities. When children have an opportunity to help out, they feel loved, respected, and needed.
  • Hug often! Even big kids secretly like to be hugged; just grab them and let them know you are there.
  • Tell them you love them; sometimes we take this for granted, but kids need to hear the words.
  • Surprise them with “blessings”. Even something silly, like their favorite gum, can touch their hearts.

I am sure the list could go on and on, but it is definitely a starting point. As our children get older and as their personalities change, we will have to adapt the ideas; constantly growing along with our kids. Playing in the Rain

More often than I would like, I find myself in a position of needing to discipline my kids. While this is important and needs to be done, I also need to make sure that I retie those strings of our relationship; reaffirming my love and affection.

If I fail to retie those bonds, my children will find me to be a tyrant or a bully. They will turn away from me, refusing to hear my words and rebelling against our authority. If I fail to retie the strings of our relationship, my children will cut themselves loose and I would lose their hearts.

The relationship I have with my children is crucially important. I need to be constantly aware of the “ties that bind” and ensure that they are strong.

How do you “tie strings”?

Letters of Love

Lunch NotesAs I ready my children for school, I stand at my kitchen counter packing wholesome lunches all set to be tucked away into their boxes and carted off to school. Along with their balanced meal, I lovingly slip in a note of love which promises of homemade cookies and cold milk upon their return.

WAIT!… Scratch that… How could I forget? I don’t send my kids off to school. I don’t pack them lunches in cute little boxes. I don’t give them milk and cookies when they come back because they never leave. I don’t send them little love notes in their lunch pails; there are no lunch pails.

When shopping for back-to-school supplies, I happened upon these cute little “lunch note” cards for parents. What a cute idea, I thought! In reality, I have no use for them. We homeschool, so I don’t pack meals for our kids. I don’t box a lunch for my guy (usually); he works at home! I make our lunch at the stove and then we sit down to eat as a family.

The idea behind the love notes was touching though; surely there must be a way for me to use them? Then an idea struck me! Part of dating someone is writing love letters, right? So if I was “dating my children“, surely I would need to write them “love letters”! These little notes would indeed come in handy!

Now I needed to find creative ways to deliver my letters of love… Hmmm… Perhaps when we are on a field trip, I could attach them to their juice boxes or water bottles? I could tuck it into the front cover of their current book read. I could stick them to the chairs at the kitchen table between breakfast and the beginning of our day! There are so many possibilities, I could go on forever.Our eraser

As for my man, we rarely send each other notes anymore. However, we have found one cute, clever way of reminding each other of our affection. An eraser! Yes, you read that right!

Years and years ago, when we were just friends, we went on an expedition to a museum. During the drive, I dug into my pocket for something I apparently needed and came up with an assortment of little items I had stored away. One of which was this silly, red, heart-shaped eraser that said, “I Love You”. Not thinking much about it, I set the eraser in one of the cup holders and found the item that I was looking for. It seems I forgot (really, I did!) to put the eraser back into my pocket and in the car it stayed.

A year or two later, when we got married, my husband cleverly tucked the eraser into one of my bags. I was astonished to discover that he had kept the eraser all that time! It seems that the Lord knew better than both of us!

Now the eraser has become a symbol. It reminds us of God’s hand in bringing us together and the continued affection we have for one another. One of us always has the eraser, finding a new place or manner in which to leave it for the other person to find. I never grow tired of hiding it, it brings me great pleasure to see his face when he discovers it. I never grow tired of finding it, it brings to mind that day at the museum and all the days in between.

Whether it is a stack of silly little notes or a funny, heart-shaped eraser; I need to remember that my family appreciates these little demonstrations of love. I constantly am trying to find ways to show my heart and express my feelings.

As homeschoolers, I have to be a little more creative. I am learning to take advantage of an opportunity when I see it. I can’t use a lunchbox, but I can use other things. The key is remembering and doing, no matter how little or how silly.

Do you write your children letters of love? What creative ways to do you find to deliver them?