It’s the Heart That Matters

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I was talking with my friend, Carol, about parenting as Christians. At our age, we are done with active parenting. We each have grandchildren who we love deeply and pray for consistently. We now look back on our own parenting and realize the mistakes we made and wish we had known then….what we know now.

But, that is just the point isn’t it?

We couldn’t know then what we know now, because we see differently from this end.

One thing we agreed on, we wouldn’t focus so much on the “little things”. We spent a lot of time making sure that our children DID certain things. Some of that was important, but now other things seem more significant.

Like our children’s hearts.

In the Bible dictionary it defines the heart as the “central or most vital part of something.” YES! That is what Carol and I realized was most important in Christian parenting – focusing on the heart.

  • Where was my daughter’s heart when she pulled her sister’s hair?
  • Where was my son’s heart when he laughed at his brother who fell?
  • Where were their hearts when they excluded a younger sibling?
  • Where were their hearts when they lied or blamed others for what they did?

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.         Luke 6:45

It is the heart that matters.

Proverbs 4:23 says it so plainly –

23 Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

A child’s words, tone of voice, and facial expressions are windows into their hearts. We must pay attention and strive to touch their hearts so they sense God’s unconditional love for them. That love is what will draw them unto Jesus. “For God so loved the world….” God has designed our hearts to desire relationship with Him. We can help our children open their hearts to God so their hearts are not hardened. Worship, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer will help hearts be open to God.

As a grandparent I am praying that God will guard their hearts from the fiery darts of the evil one. I must be an example of one who has a heart for God.

This prayer from Paul is my prayer for my grandchildren –

18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

It’s the heart that matters.

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Dormant

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Phil and I recently planted grass seed on some bare spots in our lawn. Well, it is a stretch to call it a lawn…  You know, the green part in front of our house.

Well, actually it is a stretch to call it green. It is brown mud or moss.

So – last year I planted grass seed about March 3rd and it came up beautifully! Then as the weather dried up in June, so did the new grass. The roots weren’t established enough when the temperatures rose and there wasn’t as much rain to keep the new grass alive.

SO – this year I planted in JANUARY. My plan is that the grass seeds will sprout and the roots will be established long before the temperatures rise and the rain stops. I won’t make the same mistake I made last year.

Only one problem – the seeds are lying dormant.

  • The seeds need water – we’ve had plenty of that.
  • The seeds need sun – we have had several sunny days (between the rain)
  • The seeds need warmth to germinate – NOT ENOUGH WARMTH in JANUARY!

The definition of dormant for a plant is – “alive but not actively growing.”

So, my dormant grass seed is alive, but not actively growing. My hope is that as soon as it starts getting warm, the grass seeds will sprout. At least they are ready and waiting.

This situation got me thinking about raising our children. Two friends and I were talking about this at lunch today – as loving parents we work hard to provide all our children need to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes we feel we made mistakes with one child, so we try something different with the next child. (just like I did with the seeds) In discussing this we realized that as hard as we tried, we still made mistakes. Only God’s grace made our feeble efforts effective.

In I Corinthians 3:5-7 Paul is talking about how God’s servants minister to their fellow Christians.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.          NLT

As Christian parents we must do all we can to help our children grown spiritually. But as Paul said so clearly – “God makes the seed grow”. God will use parents, friends, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, and YES – grandparents to plant and water those spiritual seeds.

We must not be discouraged if we don’t see growth when we think we should. Those spiritual seeds may be lying dormant – alive, but not actively growing at this time.

God makes them grow.

 

 

In My Garden with God #14

 

 

No Greater Joy

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We visited some of our family this weekend. I had some meeting responsibilities, but Phil (and I later) was able to see

  • one granddaughter play basketball – her team won
  • another granddaughter sing a solo in her Chorus Concert
  • a grandson play basketball – his team won
  • and twin grandsons play basketball – their team won

We were certainly pleased that they all did well and had fun. I am so thankful they are able to play and sing and that they have these opportunities.

BUT, later that day, before dinner, one granddaughter let me read her testimony of accepting Jesus as her savior. Now THAT was really exciting!

After completing her confirmation class, our children’s’ pastor asks each participant to write their testimony down and then bring it to a one-on-one meeting with the pastor. What a wonderful way to affirm their step of faith!’

Several of our grandchildren have made a commitment of faith in Jesus as their savior and have been baptized. There is no greater joy for me as a grandmother than to hear that one of there precious children has become a Child of God.

In III John 2-4, John is writing a letter to Gaius and the churches in Asia and says the following –

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 

Some of the traveling teacher recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. 

I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth. 

I agree with John – there is no greater joy!

My prayer is that each of these precious children continue to follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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Supporting Our Children’s Teachers

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In my 25 plus years of teaching I learned some important lessons about communication between parents and teachers.

Some of these lessons I learned because of mistakes I made. I want to share these thoughts with the hope that each of us allows God’s grace to overshadow all we do as parents, grandparents, and teachers. It can be especially hard when the parent is also a teacher! I remember….

So – here goes:

  •  don’t believe everything your child says – check it out.

I had a parent come see me my second year of teaching and ask me if I had dressed up as a moose. No, I had not. In talking further, we realized that I had a dress with a white pinafore (this was 1975) and that the child was trying to tell her mother that I had dressed like Mother Goose – only the child said “moose”. I am so glad she came to ME, and thankful this was before Facebook!

  •  if you have a concern, ask about it respectfully, don’t
    accuse

I remember thinking “why didn’t the teacher let me know about this field trip, assignment, etc. earlier” only to find out a note was sent home – but never given to me. Not the teacher’s fault.

  •  if you have a concern, write a note or an email that says something like this – “I am concerned about Jimmy’s __________ (fear, negative attitude, apathy, lack of understanding of new material, etc) and I was wondering when I could meet to talk with you about it. Is there something I could be doing at home to address this concern?”

Showing up during class or calling during class is NOT a good idea. Teachers want and need to be teaching during class. Waiting around right after school unannounced may also be a problem because the teacher may have after school duty, a faculty meeting, or a sports event for their own child. A note expresses your willingness to respect the teacher’s schedule as well as let the teacher know you want to work together for the good of the child.

  • Whenever something positive happens, especially after you have expressed concerns, share appreciation for what the teacher has done and is doing. It means so much and it also sets a good example for our children.

Eleven of our 12 grandchildren have started back to school. Four of them had their first day today! Some of these grandchildren are in classes of 30 or more. Those teachers have all those precious minds and hearts (and not so precious bodies:) to teach 5 days a week. We must remember to pray for them!

As a former teacher I must remember not to criticize or complain about my grandchildrens’ teachers. God is in control, I need to trust.

The two following verses are a good reminder for teachers, parents, and grandparents since we all share the responsibility of teaching our children.

Proverbs 15:2 (TLB)

2 A wise teacher makes learning a joy;

Proverbs 16:21 (TLB)

21 The wise man is known by his common sense, and a pleasant teacher is the best.

May God Bless this school year!

Heirloom Plants and People

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Heirloom plants are all the rage now. At our local farmers market you can find plants that our grandparents ate frequently, but that I had never seen for sale locally. One plant that is becoming increasingly visible is beets. If you believe the “info-mercials”, beets are the answer to all the physical and mental problems one might face.

My grandparents ate beets. LOTS of beets. Grandma Barker was a wonderful cook, but I never developed a taste for her beets. Grandma and Grandpa Barker moved into our home when I was 11 years old and they brought their beets with them. Grandpa Barker loved potatoes at every meal and Grandma cooked the most delicious potato dishes. Fried potatoes with onions, scalloped potatoes, potato salad, boiled potatoes, and mashed “to perfection” potatoes.

Yet the image of the beet juice creeping slowly across their plates and turning the delicious mashed potatoes pinkish purple still sends culinary chills up my spine.

I have been thinking recently about the heirloom plants that people are now planting in their gardens. I have some heirloom flowering plants that were on our property when we bought it and are as old as our home built in 1880.

What is this fascination we have with the past?

Obviously everyone does not have it. One of our daughters lives in a home where all the furniture is new. It is lovely.

We buy old, vintage furniture and treasure the family heirlooms we are fortunate enough to have. We nurture and protect the old plants and flowers that grace our yard with their perennial beauty.

Truth be told, new appliances are a blessing. I am thankful for a washer and dryer, even though I enjoy using a clothes line, weather permitting. I am glad I don’t have to use a wringer washer and heat the water on the woodstove to wash our clothes. We actually have an heirloom hot water heater in our cellar. It is cast iron and was fed with coal. Our electric hot water heater sits next to it connecting to the hot water pipes that plumb our house. I’m glad I don’t have to stoke a coal fire every time I need a shower!

There is a balance between honoring the heirlooms of our past and utilizing the benefits and innovations of our current culture.

My mother recently gave me my Grandma Barker’s Bible. It is a King James Version which my Grandmother gave to her father, George Auman, in 1946. He was a pastor in the United Brethren in Christ denomination. My Great-grandmother gave it back to Grandma Barker in 1956 after Great-grandpa Auman passed away. Grandma had it rebound in 1964 and she writes in the fly leaf – “The * in the margins are Dad’s markings.”

Grandma has written many notes throughout this Bible in her beautiful, distinct hand. It is well worn, well read, and an heirloom I treasure. It demonstrates her sincere faith on every marked page.

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In II Timothy 1:5, Paul says –

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

As a grandmother now myself, I want to live like Lois did, like Grace Auman Barker, my grandmother did.

I want my grandchildren to remember my sincere faith.

And when they see the carefully tended heirloom flowers, or the notes in my journals and Bible, I hope it points them to the God who loves them and blesses them as Grandma’s Bible blesses me.

 

 

In My Garden With God # 13

It’s All About the Soil

 

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When folks see our yard, they often ask – “How do you get these plants to grow so well?”

First, I always stress that we are just the caretakers, God is the source. I truly mean that – it is NOT just a statement of false humility. Phil and I have moved plants, sometimes multiple times – until we find just the right location for them to thrive. But, then the rich mountain soil fulfills its God ordained function.

Phil – “I thought we moved this plant last year.”

Gayle – “We did, but I think it will do better over here.”

Phil – “It looks fine here.”

Gayle – “Yes, but it needs more sun to bloom. Just dig the hole, please”

Phil – “Is this why you married me?”

Gayle  – “Yes” (smile – always smile)

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The MOST important factor in the beauty of the plants in our yard is the soil. We had nothing to do with that. Over the years, many leaves and plant matter have decomposed creating a rich, nutritious soil that results in beautiful plants and flowers. That is one of the many blessings of living in an older home. Some of our shrubs and trees are very old and we receive the blessing of their beauty year after year.

But it started with good dirt.

I was thinking about this as I was reading in Ephesians as part of our Bible study. We are in chapter 6. In verse 4, Paul says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In the Amplified translation verse 4 says this –

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I try to place our plants in the best location for that plant. Hostas need shade, Shasta daisies need sun. ALL plants need the good foundation of rich, nutritious soil so their roots can grown down deep in that soil.

As we raise our children, we must first and foremost make sure that we provide a good foundation (soil). In a family this means a safe, secure, loving environment where the child can grow. As the child grows, we must then provide nurture for the specific needs that child may have. Just as all plants don’t require the same amount of sun, each child will not thrive in the same activities or learning environment.

Raising plants are a fitting parallel to raising children. If I place a hosta in full sun, just because my crepe myrtles do well there, the hostas are sure to burn up in the summer heat. Our native plant section is at the edge of the yard where these lovely plants thrive under the canopy of  poplar and oak trees, their natural habitat. When Phil and I move a plant, we study where it has thrived in nature and move it to a similar environment.

We must do the same as parents. Society now labels some of our children “special needs” which I feel is a respectful way to understand that these children have their individual path for growth and development. Yet ALL children have unique needs and recognizing those needs will help ensure their full growth and development. Those who don’t fit into the “traditional school mold”, (like most little boys) will need increased attention to their specific situations. Like some of my plants, they may need to be moved (i.e. try various strategies) several times before just the right place is found.

God is SO patient with us!

My dear friend Julianna is facing challenges with her special needs son, Hawk. They are facing these challenges with faith and grace, choosing to celebrate each step of progress no matter how small. Hawk is blessed to be in this family. Instead of focusing on what Hawk is unable to do at this time, they get excited over each new accomplishment.

We must provide the “soil” as parents – that firm foundation. Then as verse 4 says –  bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Each child is unique. Each child is precious in God’s sight.

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In My Garden With God – 9

Nesting

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In winter, when all the leaves are off the trees, you see things that are not visible when foliage is full. We have found several nests recently and looking at their structure causes amazement and wonder. Birds are master builders using various materials to form nests that perfectly meet the needs of their species.

The small nest in the picture above has sticks that form the outside shape, then grasses, and an inside layer of fine, soft fibers. Perfectly suited for this small bird’s eggs.

Nests are made in a wide variety of sizes and materials. We found one that was almost exclusively sticks, nothing soft or cushiony about it. A humming bird nest found in our forsythia bush is tiny, just as the birds who built it are.

I can see some large nests very high in the poplar tress on the ridge behind our house. I would love to see inside the nests and see how they are constructed. I am not sure what kind of birds built these nests, but they must be large.

I will  NOT be climbing any ladders to check them out. Please Phil, don’t get your ladder out!

Phil is engaging in his yearly perusal of garden catalogs. He has already ordered some seeds and is planning where he will plant things this year. I think Phil especially enjoys doing this because of the anticipation of a harvest. That is a long way off from our current winter weather, but Phil loves being outside and planning the garden is a sign to him that winter will end and spring, summer, and fall will come in succession.

Jesus refers to planting in this passage in Luke 13: 18-20 AMP

18 So this led Him to say, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky found shelter and nested in its branches.”

What struck me about this passage that Jesus used to describe the kingdom of God is the result of the man’s planting.

I would assume he planted mustard seeds to get mustard. (which by the way is my favorite condiment) The verses do not say anything about the man planting seeds to get a tree so that birds could nest in it! 

Yet that is just what happened, and what Jesus compared to the kingdom of God.

What this spoke to me was the fact that we as “gardeners”  will plant “seeds”, but the end results may be very different than we planned. Or, there may be additional results that are totally unexpected!

This is so true with children and grandchildren, isn’t it?

How I want to embrace this aspect of the Kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom is the place where God reigns – where God’s authority rules.

That place must be my heart.

I must be willing to let “seeds” I plant produce mustard, or grow into large trees so that others can find shelter and nest.

I will plant – God is in charge of the results.

God’s will – God’s way.

 

In My Garden with God – 3