A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want a Peaceful Home?

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Aren’t there days when we would give our children’s birthright for some peace and quiet?

Oh, wait. I remember a story about that with two brothers named Esau and Jacob. Giving up a birthright did NOT end well. Scratch that….

Yet the fact remains – there are days we would give up a whole lot for a little peace and quiet around the house, wouldn’t we?

That is why the following verses jumped out at me. Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

But afterwards there will be a peaceful harvest ! 

What an amazing promise. If we endure the discipline  – we will reap the rewards.

Why do we give up on disciplining our children? There are as many reasons as there are families, but here are some common causes:

  • we as parents are tired
  • we give in
  • we are disciplining the same bad behavior again and again
  • we give in
  • our children whine and fuss
  • we give in
  • we forget to follow through, i.e. make sure they don’t use their device, get desert, etc.
  • we give in

Do we see a pattern here? We give in, we aren’t consistent, we don’t follow through on what we say.

I will always remember a high school junior telling his classmates that he didn’t care that his parents had grounded him for a month. “They will forget about it in a week.”

If I say that there is a certain consequence for a certain behavior – I must FOLLOW THROUGH.

If I don’t act on my discipline consistently, I am sending the very strong message that I don’t mean what I say, and that there aren’t really any consequences for my child’s actions.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Notice verse 11 says discipline is “painful”. It is often harder for us as parents to follow through than to give in.

BUT….giving in has a price.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Let’s commit ourselves to consistent discipline so that afterward we will reap a peaceful harvest of right living.

We will have a peaceful home when we commit ourselves to following through – meaning what we say.

We can have a peaceful home, even in the midst of chaos.

Philippians 4:6-7 LB

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

Think on These Things

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Spring is my favorite season of the year. I love seeing the trees bud, the flowers bloom, and the birds building their nests.

If you were here right now you would hear me break out in song!

(scary, huh?)

I remember a friend telling me years ago that it is good for our SOULS to work in the garden. It certainly is good for mine. I see God in all that He created and tending our little part of this vast universe does wonders in helping me keep things in perspective.

Such as –

  • I cannot keep poison ivy out of every part of our property – but I can keep it out of my flower beds and yard. I cannot keep hatred out of our culture – but I can keep it out of my own heart and mind.
  • When plants are new, I need to nurture and protect them. I need to nurture and protect my grandchildren from negative influences when they are in our home by my example.
  • I can protect my plants as much as possible, but their ability to grow and bloom depend on many variables like the temperature, rainfall, pests, etc. that are beyond my control. I must guard my own heart and mind and then trust God in the things beyond my control.
  • I must not neglect my plants after they start growing and even begin blooming. I must weed around them, pulling up weeds as soon as I see them before they take over. When I notice negative attitudes in myself and my children or grandchildren, I must address them right away before they “take root” and take over.
  • I need to “deadhead” or cut blooms from my blooming plants so that they will continue blooming. The best way to do this is share flowers with friends. I must give away or share the gifts God has given me so that I will continue producing more spiritual fruit.

These are a few of the thoughts that nurture my soul as I tend our garden. So many of the things that concern me in our world are far beyond my control.

Yet there are things I can do, starting with my own heart and mind.

I must start there – but not STOP there. As God gives me opportunities to put into practice what I have learned, I need to be faithful to respond.

In Philippians 4:8 (MSG)  Paul says the following –

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

As I tend my garden, I will think on these things – the true, noble, gracious, authentic, beautiful things.

Then, by God’s grace, I will put them into practice.

 

 

“No” Still Means “No”

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We have dear friends who have 4 children just like we do, also now grown. Their children were all born after our youngest, so it has been interesting (fun?) to watch their children go through each of the growth stages after our children had done so.

This kind of situation is proof that hind sight is 20-20. It is so easy to think of solutions after one has faced a particularly difficult stage with a child. It is also easy to watch children a few years older than yours and think “I would never let my children do that!”

This is dangerous territory!

Truth be known, no two families are alike and we don’t know what we would do in another’s situation.

Our friends had one child with a strong will – to be honest and a VERY strong will. They are effective, nurturing parents and from the beginning they set clear boundaries and had realistic expectations. Yet, this child tested every limit and challenged every standard set by the parents. We were visiting from out-of-town one weekend when he was about 3 or 4 years old. The parents were giving bed time instructions to their children and this one kept asking for changes to the normal routine.

Children will frequently do this when there are guests since they think the parents

  • 1) aren’t really paying attention or
  • 2) the parents don’t want a “scene” in front of the guests.

Both of these ideas are quite often TRUE!

Our friends did not give in. They firmly repeated “no means no” and refused to discuss the matter further. This did not deter their son at first. He, being a very bright and creative child, had new and unique alternatives to the standard bedtime procedures. The parents did not cave in, they repeated “no means no” calmly and firmly and soon their son was in bed.

I commented to the mother after he was tucked in for the night, “You were so consistent! You repeated “no means no” and meant it!” She smiled a weary smile and said, “Gayle, if you only knew how many times a day I say that. Every reason I give him just creates another opportunity for him to come up with an excuse for not obeying. But a simple “no means no” works. Sometimes I get so tired and I want to give up, but I know we need to require obedience.”

Don’t give up.

God requires obedience from His children “Thou shall not steal” “Thou shall not commit adultery” “Honor your father and your father”. Exodus 20: 12, 14, 15

These are not suggestions. God does not say “If it’s ok with you, don’t take anything that isn’t yours” or  “Try to be faithful to your husband, alright?”

To God – no still means no.

Are we sending mixed messages to our children when it is nap time and we say “Do you want to take a nap now?” Is there a choice? If there is fine – but nap time in our house was NOT a choice. It was the goal each afternoon to get everyone fed, changed, and down for a nap at the same time! If I had said “Do you want to take a nap now?” one of my four might have said “no!” My day would have fallen apart!!!

Yet I hear many parents, and I probably did this some myself, ask their children if they are ready for lunch, nap time, supper, clean up time, bath time, etc. It would be a clearer communication of my expectations if I said, “It’s time for lunch. Please come sit down at the table.” ” It’s nap time, take your shoes off and pick out one story.”, or “You had so much fun playing with all these toys today. Now it is time to put them away before you go to bed.”

It is unfair to the child to appear to a choice when I don’t intend to allow the child to choose. Let my “no” mean “no” and my “yes” mean “yes”.

Believe me, it will be so much easier when your children are teenagers if they learn “no means no” at a young age! It is less difficult to deal with issues of obedience when a child is 3 or 4 than when they are 13 or 14.

No still means no.

Start at the Beginning – Stay ‘Til the End

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For several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts.

We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain that involvement throughout their child’s career in school.

It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows? Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you as your child begins kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable for your child and for me.” (This usually got several polite laughs. 🙂

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility for their education in over, we are sadly mistaken. As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I admit that I did not see and hear everything that went on in my classroom. I also know that I was not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students faced – unless the child or parent told me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through –

  • if you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes effort but it will pay off!

Read to (and with) your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?”
  • “Did anything funny happen at school today?” “What happened?”
  • “Did you do your homework?  “Let me see it.”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Using devices, watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing many things that are important to their physical, emotional, and social development, like playing outside.

God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

May God bless our children and grandchildren with a great school year that helps them grow in God’s grace.

For Such a Worm As I

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The pew was shaking –  I knew because my parents were giving my little brother and I the “evil eye”.

The pew was shaking because we were trying our best to suppress the laughter that arose every time we sang that song. After once being overcome with giggles, a simple glance at each other set us off again.

Did that ever happen to you? Do you remember how hard it was to stop – even knowing the trouble we were in if we didn’t stop.

It happened every time we sang the hymn – “At the Cross”

“Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”

That was the line that did it! That set off the giggles. It is a beautiful hymn with deep and heartfelt meaning. But for Gregg and I, the vision of ourselves as worms brought on laughter every time we sang it.

Sometimes it is hard being a child in a worship service.

Three weeks ago we attended the worship service in Maryland where our daughter and her family attend church. In the seats in front of us I saw two “tween” age girls who were writing in notebooks during the service. As we stood to sing the closing hymn, I glanced down and saw that they had been taking notes during the sermon. I asked one of them about it afterwards and she said,

“Our youth leader gave us these books to encourage us to pay attention to what the pastor was saying.”

What a blessing!

As a teacher and committed note taker myself, I was thrilled! These young girls were following along as the pastor preached and writing down statements they wanted to remember. The notebooks had a two page spread for each Sunday. There was space for such things as:

  • date –  topic
  • verses used
  • notes
  • questions I have about the sermon

I thought this was a great way to introduce adolescents to note taking. These two girls seemed very engaged with the process.

It is a challenge for children to participate in worship services, yet it is such a blessing for children to learn at a young age that they can sense God’s presence and learn to honor him through worship. God gives instructions to his people, the Jews, before they enter the promised land. They have spent 40 years in the wilderness and God wants to make sure that they REMEMBER the lessons he has taught them.

Doesn’t that sound just like a parent?

Deuteronomy 4:9-10

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Teaching our children the importance of authentic worship is best accomplished when they see their parents and grandparents worshipping authentically.

Some ideas we found helpful when our children were small were:

  • expect excellent behavior, clearly communicate expectations before the service
  • do not threaten. If a child misbehaves, take them out and correct behavior right then
  • threats prolong misbehavior and the child will keep misbehaving to see just how long they can get away with something before the parent intervenes.
  • give grace as a child is learning to worship respectfully, encourage them as soon as their behavior improves
  • talk about the service afterwards, at dinner, or on a walk, ask questions
  • do NOT criticize the worship service in front of your children, such as complaining about the choice of songs, the sermon, or the special music. This will breed disrespect for the participants in the worship service.
  • pray together as a family that your worship will honor God

Looking back on my over 64 years of participating in worship, I am so thankful my parents included me as a young child….

even a worm such as I.

 

Roots

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“You got to take care of the roots. If they die, then you ain’t got nothin’ left at all.”

A wise mountain man shared that advice with me when he gave me a small seedling to transplant.

This is important advice for all plants, but especially young plants and those susceptible to cold temperatures. Phil and I have gathered pine needles for years from parking lots around Jackson County and we mulch heavily, especially around our azaleas and camilias.

The roots are the foundation of a plant, as well as the vehicle for dispersing water from the ground to the stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit of a plant. Roots are not usually seen, but they are of utmost importance to the health and well-being of a plant.

As people, we need roots.

We need a foundation of beliefs and truth that will anchor us when we face times of “strong winds” or “flood waters.”

As parents, we need to make sure we lay a strong foundation for our children to build their lives upon. We cannot protect our children from the storms of life, but we can help insure that they will be able to weather these storms by being rooted in truth.

Jesus taught us how important good roots are or a firm foundation is in –

Luke 6:47-49  (NLT)

47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

How do we help our children lay a firm foundation?

Just like with tender plants we;

  • put a little fence around to guard new plants
  • water regularly so the roots grow deep and don’t stay on the surface
  • mulch around to protect the roots
  • fertilize to ensure growth

As parents we;

  • set boundries for use of the Internet, limit TV and videos
  • take our children to church and Sunday School so they hear Biblical truth
  • talk about God and trusting Him to our children so they know they can trust God
  • pray with our children and be honest that we need God’s strength just like our children do

My prayer for our children and grandchildren is right from the Bible – Colossians 2:7 (TLB)

7 Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all He has done.

God is faithful.