5 Ways Every Mom Can Capture a Child’s Heart

I’ve always been moved by the truth we often miss in the midst of evangelism amongst the poor.

Empty stomachs have no ears.

Hungry bellies can’t focus on our lessons about God’s provision like the moment we give them a warm roll to chew on. It’s a hard balance for the church today. Thankfully, by His mercy, we learned that gospel truth plants more deeply in the warm soil of love in action.

We nourish their physical hunger and the spiritual antenna goes up. Love can soften the hardest heart.

It’s the same, I’m learning, with the children we raise up.

My son doesn’t really hear my frustrated words about treating his sister with kindness after I made him feel less important than the book I was reading twenty minutes earlier.

My daughter will nod to please because she wants to be liked but her heart will wonder where my priorities are when I say “in a minute” one more time to her request for playing with her.

I pray they are passionate and courageous and sold out for God. I think most days of how and in what ways I will try to teach them the better ways of life. But the truth here in the home where world changers are meant to be nurtured, is that needy hearts have no ears. 

Children need to feel loved first.

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When any relationship is based solely on duty, behaviors may adapt short term while the heart only hardens or breaks.

Forced obedience is one route, but it won’t follow them out the door. Or bring them back. Souls return to grace over law every time.

If I want my influence to go deep and long, it must be rooted in something other than my authority.

Authority is a gift to be stewarded well. All Moms know it’s a daily struggle to balance law and grace. Lately, in our home, grace has just been needed much more.

I don’t want perfect behavior; even I can’t pull that off. I’m praying for molded hearts. Here are five ways I’m working to earn the ears and mold the hearts of my children:

My promises are “Yes”

All of God’s promises are yes in Christ. As a bearer of His goodness, I want to keep my promises. We are careful in our home about using the word, and when we do, we consider it important to follow through. We will all fall short of God’s faithfulness, but we can then point our children to the One who keeps every promise. When I forget, I try to apologize quickly and tell my kids I need their grace. When I do keep my word, I build credibility with my kids. So when the day comes that they have hard questions, they come to me as trustworthy. Words only go so far when the actions don’t match. How can I focus mostly on their actions but ask them to focus on my word alone? I’m paying attention to see that my actions match my words.

Strategic Prayer

We don’t need to wait for the hard teen years or the various school challenges to arise for our prayers to truly matter. Only parents know the most specific emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our families. Every single need can be targeted in prayer with scripture. We can even pray for their hearts to be receptive before we teach them a principle we value. For the things you see in your children, have you tried prayer as a first approach? It is powerful and provides a peace in our home and heart as Moms. One important note: let them hear you praying. The seeds may not be visible, but the fruit will follow.

Quick Response

If quick obedience is requested, will our children have ever seen us respond as quickly to them? How long do they wait on us to give them our full attention? What priority do they hold in our day? How long do we really have to capture their hearts? I’m working on dropping what I’m doing the moment they ask me to hold them or play for five minutes. We can’t always do this. What if we responded quickly when we can? It trickles over to their quick obedience. Children need to know they are a priority to us. They need to see it, feel it, experience it first hand.

Praise

For all the days of discipline, praise can go a long way. Kids are as hungry for praise as we are. Some are just plain starving for it. When my days are heavy with “No’s” (and that’s often in the younger years) – the house can start to feel heavy with frustration. How often are we looking for opportunities to encourage with our words? Positive affirmations often work much better than constant correction. I’ve found the more I praise, the more often my kids want to obey. We talk about praise in our home. Praising God and sharing His love with others. We invite the kids to think about how they can encourage others. We can’t make their choices for them, but we can lead their hearts. We start by praising them.

Laughter

There is just nothing like the breaking of laughter in the midst of stress. It is absolutely healing. For grief, frustration….and even anger. For our kids, it just helps break the ice. Tickling is quite common here. When awkward comes in, the tickle monster comes out. Parents need laughter too. Sometimes the family just needs to remember that we are on the same team. That not every issue is worth fighting over. That we can even laugh at ourselves. When children struggle to communicate, they understand touch – whether it’s through tickling hands or loving hugs. It’s about a return to joy and the bigger perspective. Perhaps the issue is not as important as us loving each other in the moment.

We live with needy hearts. Little or all grown up, all anyone needs to know is that they are loved. It’s a daily goal to capture those little hearts with grace so they will desire the law of the Lord. Perhaps, along the way, we will learn more about grace ourselves.

How Little Children Lead Us & What Laughter Has to Do With It

My children love to giggle. They find the smallest reasons to laugh. If they can find someone to join in, all the better.

I mean head back heavy laughter.

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In the movie, Finding Neverland, the playwright is quite nervous about the crowd’s response to his silly play. Meant to bring laughter and written from experience with real children, the play is not as proper as the audience might expect. So the playwright has an idea. He buys about fifty tickets throughout the theater and invites the local orphanage. They fill the seats dispersed throughout the theater.

As the play begins, silly giggles erupt. First the adults, dressed to the nines, chins high in the air, are quite taken back. Slowly though, they begin to chuckle.

You can’t help but feel the laughter of a child.

For even the most tired of souls, a grin sneaks upon the face in the hearing of a babe’s laugh. We were born to laugh.

My own babe was less than four months old when he taught me about joy. I can remember the smell of his skin. It was midday, and I was rocking him. My husband was in the room, and without any reason or sound or provocation, my son began to laugh. Long deep belly laughs. And from the surprise of it all, we joined him. It sounded so beautiful it was contagious.

In the midst of my depression, the long days of motherhood wrapping round my soul, something broke. I could not stop laughing.

“Even in laughter, the heart may ache…” Prov. 14:13

Even in aching, something can break. Perhaps, sometimes, it is only in the aching that we find the need for a laughter that heals. When chuckles turn into that deep internal shaking we cannot withhold. When we actually feel what internal joy is meant to live within us.

Michelle DeRusha wrote about laughter in the midst of grief recently. My favorite two lines read: “I see now that God’s presence is often experienced more vividly and palpably in these moments when heaven and earth meld. I believe when we feel joy, even as the weight of grief hangs heavy, we experience the nearness of a God who is with us wherever we go.”

Laughter is the internal healing balm. We were pre-wired to heal.

Just as our bodies were given antibodies, our spirits were given laughter. Something about life just tries to steal it. Bind it up. And silence the music of our souls.

Perhaps a child can help us find it again.

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Matt 21:16

To ordain: to officially establish or order.

What did God know about life stealing our joy as we moved along in years? Everything. So he planted joy upon the babes – to lead us in praise.

They are leading us – even now. If only we can stop long enough, breathe deep enough to follow.

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 Linking up today with Meredith, #TellHisStory, Holley, and Kelly. Join us!

Make it a great Wednesday!

Five Ways I’m Teaching My Children to Create Good in the World

My prayer of late has been about fruit.

“I just want to produce something for you, Lord, that will last.”

I want something tangible, touchable that I could actually lay down on an altar. I want to see the work finished. The published book that draws a heart to God. The Bible study that lights a fire in the souls of men. I want to see the fruit of my laboring prayers. Perhaps I’m wired that way. Perhaps we all are.

We were created to do good works. (Eph. 2:10) and to bear fruit in that work. (Col. 1:10) So it is entirely natural to want visible evidence that our works are producing a harvest for God.

All the unfinished ideas and dreams can assault us, as though we have yet to truly offer anything of great worth to God.

My tendency to see achievement as king seems to slip in here.

When I read about the High Calling’s encouragement to create good, I liked that idea. I began to look into my life and ask, “what good am I creating even now?”

What good things are we already doingall of us – that we often overlook?

I stumbled upon little ways every day that I am making a real and authentic offering to God – through my children. For the recovering legalist, it’s a gift of grace to recognize the good God is cultivating in me and passing along.

Giving Jar: We’ve begun our allowance plan in our home to encourage good stewardship, which begins with giving – to God and to others. We are planting a seed of habit, that we hope our children will cultivate all of their lives. After tithe and the piggy bank, we encourage our kids to put a portion every week into our family giving jar. Each month, we plan to find a need in another family and try to meet it with this jar. For extra incentive, I match their contribution dollar for dollar. (We offer great family benefits)

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Showing Gratitude: I’ve found a great use for the sixteen million drawings my children bring home from school. This may be genius. (You’re welcome, Moms) We upcycle (or is it recycle) them into Thank-You cards. We teach our kids to say the words “thank you” and then follow through with action. If words can bring life, actions prove their worth. I teach my kids to provide proof of their gratitude.

Joyful Obedience: We play music when folding laundry and sing the “clean-up” song while picking up toys. Because so many tasks in life are mundane, I hope to teach my kids to find the joy in doing the necessary. This includes obedience to authorities. There is more peace in the home and the workplace when lines of authority are respected. Though discipline is always tricky with toddlers, I look for open doors to teach them that quick obedience brings joy to the family. (Especially to Mom. ;))

Minute Prayers: I would say I teach my children simple prayers, but really they have taught me here. They pray so easily and naturally already that I find I want to pray like them. My daughter, Ann, began praying, “Thank you for Jesus” as her evening and morning prayers. That about covers it. I believe teaching prayer as a daily conversation creates hope and trust in a God who cares about our every need. When my son Josh struggled with discipline, I taught him to pray, “Help me, Jesus.” I caught him praying it in his room one time without me. If one man can affect change in the world, and one prayer can change a man, then prayer changes the world.

Share Everything: One of our big family slogans is this: We share everything. You can imagine how well that goes over with four-year olds. Then, when you least expect it, a child takes the initiative. We start early talking about giving toys away to kids to don’t have any. The lessen I tell my kids every time sharing comes up is this: God will always provide enough for you, so you can give with joy. When Josh wants more grapes and Ann starts to take his, I remind him I can always get him more. He doesn’t have to tighten his fist. It’s a lesson we all could use a bit more of…the opening of the hand.

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What are some ways you are creating good in your places? Your home? Your work?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9

 

 

Extremely Important Intel from a SuperMom

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I thought about naming this post How to Eat a Mexican Pizza While Driving, but I truly didn’t have enough good intel on that. A little though.

The kids watched TV for umpteen hours yesterday, because I read something recently about the importance of face to face contact in speech development. And how lots of TV is a bad idea.

That’s okay though. We did flash cards for .2 seconds in the afternoon.

So recently we had a little outing to the local Burger King – to play, of course. As we were exiting, Josh didn’t want to take my hand before crossing the parking lot. I bent down to make eye contact and told him he knew what was right and he would take my hand right then. After a stomping of the foot, he did and we crossed safely to our motor vehicle. As I was strapping the kiddos in, a man approached me.

Let me backtrack. This man was near the doorway as Josh and I had the little hand discussion. He just stood there, like he couldn’t keep going is own way until we were done. We were not in his way. Anyhoo…he saw the whole deal. Which is one reason why I waited until reaching the car to have my longer talk with Josh. Because the best discipline happens in private.

So he came up to me and said,

“I saw what happened between you and your son, and it just broke my heart.”

It’s a good thing I didn’t raise my voice during the little hand-holding lesson. The man may have fallen over dead. I’m glad he has no video surveillance in my home.

I continued to listen, intrigued.

He began to tell me that he brought me a book from his car and he encouraged me to read a paragraph on page 55 about motherhood. And how to mother.

About how to mother.

He actually said that if I read it, I will finally have peace in my home.

[Action shot of me]: Blank stare happening. Smile emerging.

I’m sold. I’m thinking I’ll help him market this one paragraph to the world. Like today.

He said quite a few other things about discipline and such. I kept a calm neutral face while trying not to raise even the tiniest little eyebrow.

My husband was in the driver’s seat, waiting. He’s gracious like that, ya’ll – letting a stranger minister to me in my obvious time of great need.

The man was totally serious and seemed totally sincere. I thanked him, took the book and entered the car. There may have been a slight look given to the husband.

You guys, the paragraph was like the shortest paragraph ever. Definitely it covers ALL of the basics on how to be a good mother. I thought I would add just a few ideas from my own SuperMom book.

Sticks are our friend. Free, long, entertaining. It’s like five toys in one.

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Cups are also multi-purpose. I’m still not sure how. Just trust me.

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Mud is great for exfoliation. I use when available.

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Teach the kids to share their snacks with the pets. It’s cheaper.

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Always treat kids to be kind to animals. Except squirrels. You can chase them.

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Where they sleep – not important. Letting them sleep there – mucho importante

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Leave shoes laying around. It’s handy.

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Dirt is edible. And high in fiber. When necessary, use a spoon.

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Quiet =mess. It’s okay. YOU WANT the QUIET.

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Encourage them to use their creative side.

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When energy abounds, find a dirt pile. Works every time.

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Encourage blood to the brain. Learning is tiring for the young ones.

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You guys, I have so much intel on potty training. I cannot. even. I’ll spare photos. Just ask.

No animals or children were harmed in the writing of this post.

Sadly, no picture was staged.

And that man? I bless him. Truly. He was just trying to find an open door to give me a book about his faith. I get that.

All you Moms out there…..

We’re in this thing together. Yeah. Pouring out into the next generation. Don’t worry about how everyone else is doing it. Don’t fret about how you’re doing it. We’re all super in our own way.

How you raise them is one thing. How you LOVE them… It’s EVERYTHING. Love on.

 

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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Know You’re a Mom to Toddlers When…

You go out with your friends and ask them if they need to go potty.

You call your husband Daddy even when the kids are not around.

The petals have been picked off of all your flowering plants.

You do not EVER leave the house without plastic bags and a change of clothes.

It’s impossible to get through the day without saying “No hitting” or “Don’t chase the cat.”

Crackers and cheese is considered an entrée.

You use baby nail clippers to give yourself a manicure.

You wake up with more people in bed than when you went to sleep. (Should I insert “little people”)

You can put “stain removal” as a strength on your resume.

You run. A lot. Not for sport.

You drive miles down the road without kids before realizing you’ve been listening to Sesame Street on cd.

Your order milk at restaurants.

You run the bath water at least three times/day.

The local carpet cleaners know you by name.

You read the same books over and over and over again. Every night.

You have experienced a complete nervous breakdown in the toy aisle.

People have to ask you how to open your cabinets.

You are wearing a Little Mermaid Band-Aid.

 

Intentional Mom

I’m trying to be one.

Intentional about instilling the right things. Reading, studying, praying about every little thing I do. Because the influence is enormous. And it’s not seen – the things we mothers do in the background. At home when no one is watching.

Not just the “things” or the “doing.”

The changing. Of our hearts. The molding.

I think it’s just me trying to mold them with all my notes on discipline scribbled on scrap paper. But it’s God….molding me.

And I can see my sharp corners softening. Being more of yes Mom. And they aren’t yet 3. So I have a long road. But I want every bit of it. Every pothole and crevice on the asphalt. To dig into this season and plant something worth harvesting. Because I’m their only Mom. And it’s about eternity.

It’s hard. This Mom gig. The rewards are far more internal than external here. It’s a hope really. Of who they can be and will choose to be because of every single time we picked up the Cheerios or filled their sippy cup to serve them.

To teach them to serve is to show them.

But it’s hard. There’s no applause from the washing machine or the rags we’ve rubbed right down. The grind doesn’t seem to fit our own young ambitions to change the world.

I’ve fought this season.

I’ve been trying. Learning. Since they were born. To joy in giving all of myself for all of them.

I’m selfish. So selfish.

And then I battle the balance of life. Time for me vs. my marriage vs. the kids vs. the church vs. God. Not in that order. Those things shouldn’t compete. But let’s be honest. Sometimes they just seem to. Wait. They just do.

But the joy – internal joy- is increasing in the season as I press in. Press in to intentionally mother the babes He gave me. Learning from those who have walked this way in the Scriptures.

Because there is hope there, for change.

And the first to change is my attitude. Always. My attitude lays the ground for my words and their response to discipline. And then….my expectations.

I’m expecting good things from them and for them….while knowing they are just little people who need grace as much as me. They will stop sinning when I do.

Something will spill today. The carpet is just plain gone – so no more worries there. Things will break…but I care more about the heart. About my words and how my eyes tell them I care.

And just as I begin to see we are shaping them, I get a glimpse – so small – of how God is shaping me. How teaching them grace is affecting me. Spilling onto me too.

How I’m a toddler too – tantrums and battles and wanting my own way. And He has been wanting to coach me. Into His arms. Into His bride.

And even I fight the hand that feeds me. We all need grace.

And the only way I can even long to be intentional with the little ones is because of that life inside me. He was intentional with me. He sought me out. And created in me a hunger for more. Eternity more.

I watch my kids push back. They want their own way. Don’t we all. I see myself in them – pushing God back as He waits for me.

So here I am. Trying. Trying to wait on Him to change their hearts. Only He can. But I’ll be intentional about passing on the best thing I’ve ever received: Him.

 

 

Making Children Mind without Losing Yours

The title of this post is a book by Dr. Kevin Leman. Great read.

About a week ago, I was waiving my white flag and thinking my son would just have to turn out to be a terror. Anyone been there?

I’m not one of those natural moms. Seriously. I don’t even know what to make with play dough. I was drawing with Annie the other day and didn’t know what to do next after I had covered heart, flowers and a cat.

As I was laying in bed last night totally worked up and unable to sleep because of excitement after reading just one chapter of this book…I thought – what is it? Oh my gosh – this is called H-O-P-E!

In the three days that I have applied a totally new way of thinking and acting around my two-year-old twins, I have seen a huge difference in my son. Now – he’s still 2. And I’ll be learning for a while – but I found something that just may work!!

After reading Ephesians 6:1-4 in the New Living Translation – it hopped off the page as if I had never seen it before. (Just goes to show my normal NIV snobbishness should go out the door)

“Children, obey your parents, this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God’s Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing.

And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.”

So I looked this verse up in various translations and then I got out good ol Webster.  One translation uses the word exasperate. (Don’t exasperate your children).

Exasperate: to excite the anger of (engrage); to cause irritation or annoyance.

Synonym: Aggravate – to burden; make worse or more severe

WOW. I remember talking to my Mom and telling her Josh just seemed to get worse when I raised my voice or fought back with my authority. I was pushing. I was being too authoritarian instead of authoritative. Pushing never worked. It just made it more severe. In my frustration (which I tried very hard to get over) there were days I just took the attitude of I’m in charge and I don’t care how you feel about it.

The difference now is – I am in charge but I don’t push. I do care how he feels, but he still faces consequences. My whole manner of thinking has changed and his actions have too.

Colossians 3:21 states, “Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” It was scary to see that embitter is actually closing related to empoison: to exert a baneful (seriously harmful) influence on. Ouch. 

Lord, I don’t want my words or my actions or my anger to embitter my children. Ever. Because it’s possible Motherhood in itself is not the call – leading children under my care to Christ is.

Let’s talk about  nagging. Even God has put it before us that nagging will not work to our advantage. So asking your children more than once to do something does not help. They heard us the first time, and they understood. Now I walk away ( I let him see me walk away) as if I EXPECT him to obey me from the first time I asked. I’m tweeking that – but it’s helping!

The biggest help so far is knowing to talk to our children about reality and treating them like they are older than they are. I’d seen that done with other moms/children, but hadn’t quite known how to apply it. Now I now to talk to them about what is really bothering them before jumping to discipline.

I honestly think this is the first time I have felt a spiritual growth because of Motherhood. For some of us – just getting them fed and taught and entertained and healthy takes our energy. I’ve felt many days as though it would be forever before I would have any place in ministry again. I know for some other Moms, it’s a natural ministry. But I’m more selfish. See, I have my idea of ministry. 🙂 I’ve been waiting for the call to do something bigger. I looked at this season as one of preparation for what would come next.

I’m finding, as I continue to listen with my heart, a new idea. This may just be one of the most spiritually fulfilling rides yet.