Sharing the Blessing – Beautiful Momma Award

Victoria, who writes the blog Homemaking with Heart about natural and purposeful living nominated Our Father’s Daughters for the Beautiful Mama Award. I was blessed since I have enjoyed reading her blog so much. She shares encouragement to young mothers and is in the midst of raising little ones herself. Her lovely pictures add so much to her blog.

I started Our Father’s Daughters after a dear friend and Bible teacher challenged our home group to be intentional about “making disciples”. My heart was to share with young women the blessing of motherhood – something that is not always valued in our culture. Our youngest daughter suggested a blog – which she then helped me set up. ( I could barely use e-mail – so that was an accomplishment)

Our three daughters all have young children now, eleven total, and they are the inspiration for what I write. I am constantly blessed and amazed by their commitment to this highest of callings….being “beautiful mommas!”

Three things I love about motherhood are:

  • The joy of seeing the image of God reflected in each child
  • Recognizing God’s faithfulness – how He uses challenging (even hurtful) circumstances to further His purposes
  • Laughter – children are so funny! (this is true from birth to 35!)

I would like to nominate the following Mums for the Beautiful Momma Award. I read these regularly and have enjoyed their blogs.

http://creationscience4kids.com/ – This blog is written by a mother who is passionate about sharing the Truth! It is well researched and has great information to share with your children about God’s creation.

http://ihcounsel.wordpress.com/ – This blog is written by a mother of four sons who is also a lawyer  – now staying home with these sons. She shares insight as a mother of sons with humour and evident love.

http://homemakingwithheart.com/ – this blog is mentioned above.

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Celebrating Family

Tyler and the turtle

“I love my Pop because he plays with me and reads stories with funny voices. He takes me in the barn and gives me rides in the cart. Pop loves me and I love him.”

These and other words reflect the sentiments of our six eldest grandchildren as we celebrated Pop’s 60th birthday this weekend. Phil’s actual birthday was September 24th, but our eldest daughter couldn’t come from the west coast until early in October. So, since Phil doesn’t put much value on special days (or holidays in general) he was fine with celebrating when all of our four children could be here together. In fact, the only request that Phil had in regard to turning 60 was celebrating with family. We did well in that regard – all four children, one brother, 8 grandchildren, one son-in-law and 2 parents-in-law.

There was lots of playing outside in the leaves, piling them up and jumping in the pile. We had a campfire and roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.  Great grandpa lived up to his reputation of roasting the perfect marshmallow – an evenly light brown crust with a soft, oozing center. It is an art form!

The grandchildren played with a box turtle found by Great grandpa. This amazing turtle was oblivious to the children’s squeals of delight and never receded into its shell.  It crawled around and every time it was picked up and moved, it stayed out of its shell and just crawled more. It eventually crept under the periwinkle and hopefully has found peace, safety, and a food source.

The little branch that runs through the yard (it is too small to call a creek) was the next center of attention. The grandchildren made “soup”, “spaghetti” and other tasty delicacies. All had wet feet (including their socks and shoes) and mud splashed on clothes. Pop found a crawdad, and the claws held fascination for the children.

We picked some of the remaining flowers in the yard and the little ones took them to their mothers (or aunt). Then they came back to me and wanted a flower for themselves!

All these activities were a time to enjoy the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. The beauty of the fall trees and colorful leaves is often appreciated this time of year. Yet seeing the turtle and crawdad were special surprises that added to the blessing of being together as a family. Picking a flower blossom, even if it is taken apart petal by petal, is a chance to examine creation first hand.

Matthew 6:28-33 New Living Translation

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

The beauty of the leaves and flowers and the wonder of the turtle and crawdad were especially meaningful because we saw the wonder of God’s creation through the wonder in the eyes of our grandchildren.

Celebrating Family with our children and grandchildren this weekend was such a blessing. It didn’t cost any money to participate in those activities outside. After the children were in bed we talked and laughed and talked some more. We discussed watching a movie or playing a game, but we were all tired and only played a game together as adults once.

Celebrating family comes in many forms – different families have unique ways to celebrate. The important part is to celebrate the blessing of being together.

A Spiritual Greenhouse

Our homes can be spiritual greenhouses where tender souls are fed and nourished until they are ready to be transplanted out in our world. The soul is the aspect of our being that God created to desire Him. Since the Garden of  Eden God has sought relationship with the humans He created, and throughout history, we have blown it! We have thought it was about setting up rules and rituals to follow, but it is really about relationship with God through His son Jesus.

As we seek to guide our children toward a meaningful relationship with their Heavenly Father, we can learn so much from the way we grow tender seedlings. In a greenhouse, seeds are planted in soil that has the correct nutrients for that plant. The soil also serves as support for the emerging seedling. In our homes, the soil is like the unconditional love we must show toward one another. Our children must sense a constant acceptance of who they are  that allows them to grow in acceptance of who God made them. This is not a denial of sinful behavior, but a realization that God loves us “while we are yet sinners”.

As seedlings begin to sprout and grow, they must have water to sustain growth. As our children are raised in an atmosphere of unconditional love, they need the water of God’s Word to nourish and establish them in spiritual truth.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
   that I might not sin against you.

Then seedlings must have sunshine to grow in a healthy fashion. Seedlings without sunshine are pale, leggy, and have few leaves. They are weak and the stems cannot support the little plant as it grows. The sun is Jesus, God’s son the light of the world. As our children grow it is important to encourage them to develop their own relationship to God through Jesus. They will not become strong spiritually on love (soil) and God’s Word (water) alone. They must have the light of Jesus shining in their lives to strengthen and establish them.

Often gardeners will prune young plants to make sure that the plant grows straight and doesn’t branch off in too many directions creating a weak stem or trunk. Then, after the plant has a strong stem, pruning encourages healthy branching out and more prolific blooming. Pruning spiritually is discipline, cutting out the things that hinder spiritual growth. In young children this can be monitoring what they read, what they see in the media, and the kind of toys they play with. Removing harmful influences is like weeding and being sure that the tender plant isn’t choked out.

Finally, the home should be like a greenhouse protecting the little plants from harsh elements and extreme temperatures. Our homes can be a haven of protection from the harsh influences of our culture. It should be a safe place for our children and their friends. Establishing a time for family devotions where children are free to ask questions and encouraged to share hurts and concerns will create a safe, loving, and nurturing environment that will allow our children to grow spiritually and bare fruit that remains.

Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

“30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.    31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Jesus said these words and emphasized that was no greater commandment then these. The past four weeks we have taken a brief look at the four aspects of our beings, the heart (emotions), soul (spiritual), mind (intellect), and strength (physical).  As parents we sometimes focus on one or two of these areas, or we may switch focus from time to time.  God has created us with all these aspects and Jesus states that we are to love God with our whole beings.

The challenge before us is to balance the training of our children, which will only occur by His grace.

Effectual Fervent Prayer

Some of my earliest memories are of praying. As a very young child, I remember praying as a family before meals, before bedtime, before long trips in the car. In reflecting on this I realized my parents modeled for me an attitude of dependence on God because we prayed before these events. Our family did not just pray when there was a crisis or an urgent need for help. We certainly did pray at those times, but not out of desperation. Prayer was a normal part of our life – in a real sense we had an ongoing conversation with God.

When we had children ourselves, we carried on this discipline of prayer. Prayer was a regular daily pattern and we prayed  together as a family before meals, before bedtime, and before trips. We also prayed before our children left for school in their younger grades. We specifically asked that God would guard their hearts and minds as they attended school. 

When we pray with our children, we are confessing before them our dependence and trust in God. We must model for our children the fact that God is God and we are not trying to change His mind or get Him to do what we want. Instead, we must reflect our faith in God’s faithfulness whatever the answer to our prayers.

A lesson God has been impressing on me lately is the reality that prayer adjusts my mind to God’s will, not praying so that God conforms to my will. I realize now that I wasted many prayers thinking that I knew what was best for our family. In  looking back I see that God had a very different plan.

When our children were young, I was challenged  to ask God how to pray for each one. God was faithful to my inexperienced yet sincere efforts as a mother and put on my heart a prayer for each of our 4 children. For years I prayed the same thing and in this ongoing conversation with God I saw Him fufill His purposes in ways I never would have expected. He still continues that work He began.

Phillipians 1:3-6  says ” I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Prayer should be a constant reminder to ourselves and our children that God is faithful! Now I am asking for a prayer for each of my grandchildren. What a blessing it is to see our Heavenly Father demonstrate His faithfulness from generation to generation.

Tone of Voice

“Watch your tone of voice, young lady!” This was an admonition I frequently heard growing up – and my mother said it in a FIRM tone of voice. Many of us learned in Psychology 101 that a key to effective communication is understanding how communication works. Studies have shown that only 15% of what we communicate verbally is from the actual words we say. That means 85% of communication comes from facial expressions, emphasis, body language, and tone of voice.  (It makes me wonder about those who communicate primarily with texting.)

What does this mean to us as mothers? I learned an important lesson from our son when he was about 8 years old. I was busy asking our four children to help get the house picked up for a home group meeting. I was giving directions and Benjamin asked me “Why do you always talk to me in a mean voice and Abi in a nice voice?”                                                  It stopped me up short – I realized he was absolutely right! In asking my children to clean up I communicated impatience and aggravation to my oldest child and patience and grace to the youngest.  “CLEAN UP RIGHT NOW!” spoken harshly and with a stern look on my face communicates something very different from “Clean up right now” said more softly and with a smile. Same words – different meaning. I had developed a pattern of speaking harshly to my oldest because I expected more from him. That in itself was not a bad thing, he WAS older and I could reasonably expect more from him at 8 years old then from his little sister who was 4. Yet I was communicating impatience and aggravation to one child and patience and grace to another for the same behavior! How willing  to obey can we expect our children to be when we speak to them in that way? I asked our son for forgiveness and told him I would try to talk to each of our children the same. I started talking mean to his little sister as well! No, just kidding. It was a struggle, but I began working on using a tone of voice that communicated love and grace even when I had to be firm.

Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” What a great verse for mothers! I like how the Amplified translation words the last part – “but only such speech as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others….that it may be a blessing and give grace to those who hear it.”

 Words of kindness are a source of healing and that is so important when our children are hurt by the mean words of others. Our children’s speech often reflects our speech. How many of us have been embarrassed to hear our child speak a certain word only to realize they learned it from us! This is true of the tone of voice as well. The way we speak to our husbands will be the way our children learn to speak to their father. They will mimic our tone of voice. May we learn to reflect the love and respect that God holds for each of us when we speak to our husbands and children.

Cultivating the Garden of Our Children’s Hearts

Dogwood at Macktown Gap

When someone comes to our home for the first time, often the first thing they notice is our yard. Now we have been blessed with a lovely older farm house as our home, part of it was built in 1880.  Yet people comment on the yard. It is beautiful, unusually so, not that we can take much credit for that fact. Over the years, folks who lived here planted and tended trees, shrubs, and flowers. The couple who lived here right before we purchased this home were animal people and they let the plants tend to themselves. So, soon after we moved in, Phil and I began pruning, cutting back, and transplanting specimens that were too big for the spot they occupied. Phil also outlined each planted area with river rock to protect the plants from eager mowers. I planned the plantings by type and color so those needing sun would receive the necessary amount and those requiring shade would be sheltered. My father has added his knowledge of plants and their habitat to enhance the beauty and health of our garden.

I’m often asked, “How do you keep your yard looking so beautiful?” or ” When do you find time to take care of your yard?” The quick answer is that I weed every day. I don’t let the weeds take over so that it seems an overwhelming task to rid the flower beds of weeds. But, it is more than that. I enjoy working in our yard. After a day of being inside at school, taking an hour or so to pull weeds, nip off spent blooms,  or transplant a volunteer plant to a more suitable location is rejuvenating for me. Since I find it fullfilling and rewarding, it is not an odious duty for me. I can look at our yard and see the fruits of my labor.

Psalm 1:1- 3  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

I see a direct correlation to caring for young  children. You must tend to them each and every day.  If you negect to deal with “weeds”  – those deliberately defiant attitudes that lead to actions –  they will multiply until they overwhelm all that is good and Godly in children. Requiring them to speak respectfully, and modeling that for them will prevent those seeds of disrespect from taking root. This is an ongoing effort. Just as I cannot pull a few weeds in April and expect the flowerbed to be weed free all summer, I cannot tell my child once to “talk nice” and think my parenting duty is fullfulled. It is an ongoing effort.

Phil and I received a wise bit of advice when we attended a parenting conference while pregnant with our first child. We were challenged to deal with discipline issues as they occur, and not wait until the child is older and the parent can “reason” with the child. “Would you rather deal with this discipline issue when your child is 5 or 15?”  we were asked. Thinking about the implications of defiant behavior when a child is 15 was a great motivator to be consistent with discipline, even when I was tired and my child colored in a book yet again.

We can cultivate such a love for our children that our “weeding” of their behavior is worth the effort it takes to be consistent.  We will be following God’s plan as mothers and that will bear fruit for God’s kingdom.