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“When I Think of How God Sees Me, I Think…”

I posed a question to each of my children and asked them to pick the answer that they thought best applied to him/her:

When I think of how God sees me, I think . . .
A. He loves me and accepts me even when I do bad things
B. He doesn’t care about me. He’s unhappy with me because I do bad things.
C. He’s indifferent about me. He’s not interested in me. He doesn’t care whether I do good or bad.

I typed out the question and instructed my oldest four, ages 8-12, to consider the question carefully and pick the answer that best describes how they feel.  I told them that there was no right or wrong answer. In addition, they were to select an answer not based on what they think is the correct answer.

Two of the children picked answer A and one picked C.  Yet another child picked A but was unsatisfied because it did not fully answer how he felt.  Knowing what he was communicating, I told him he could circle any part of the sentences on the entire sheet to describe how he feels.  To which he circled the following: “He loves me” and “He’s unhappy with me because when I do bad things.” It was interesting that he changed the wording from “because” to “when.”

I’ve been reflecting on why and how certain children reject God after they leave their parents’ home. I increasingly see how we as parents play a huge part in our children’s belief in God and perception of him.  How we treat our children has an effect on how they think God treats them. We are the link to our children’s view of God. If we create a legalistic home life – one that primarily emphasizes obedience to rules – they tend to see think of God primarily as a rule-giver.  But if we give them a grace-filled home – where rules are not abandoned, but mistakes and failures and disobedience are received with patience, forgiveness and understanding – it is much easier for our children to see how wondrous and gracious God. With this in mind, I crafted the above question to understand how my children really think about God.

I rejoice that two of my children think that God accepts and loves them for who they are, even when they mess up. As for the other two children’s answers, I was not surprised by how they answered because I had long suspected it based on their personalities and, yes, how we’ve parented them differently.  I am not dejected but I press on with hope that God is more than able and willing to help me show grace towards these two children who are made quite differently from me. The questionnaire is humbling.  It forces me to think about ways that I can help my children move towards the truth that God accepts and loves them for who they are, not based on what they do.

Posted in Children, Our Family, Theology in Life.


“Dads Against Daughters Dating”: How Not to “Protect” Your Daughter

A few months ago, I came across this shirt in public and got a chuckle out of it:

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Of course, this shirt is merely one in a long line of jokes revolving around daughters growing older and the fathers who’ll intimidate, threaten and otherwise scare off unsuitable would-be suitors with a shotgun on their lap.

And, in jest, I think, there’s nothing wrong with such jokes.

Today, however, my wife brought to my attention a very thoughtful and compelling blog post pointing out that fathers may actually be sending the wrong message by purporting to be ready to scare off unqualified suitors:

Here’s the problem with shotgun jokes and applications posted on the fridge: to anyone paying attention, they announce that you fully expect your daughter to have poor judgment.

Yup. By stepping up with all seriousness about our preparedness to fend off suitors lest our daughters marry the wrong kind of man, we’re actually denigrating our daughters!  In contrast, the blogger, says fathers should:

… raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because, you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of old Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.

The blogger then makes some very pertinent and powerful observations that cut to the heart of what, I think, are very real problems underlying many Christian families who strive to uphold God’s standards for marriage and distinctions between men and women. In fact, her observations go beyond merely dating, and bring to light some serious misconceptions that I’ve personally witnessed in numerous marriages about what constitutes godly leadership and/or strength. This passage, in particular, felt like a whole lot of wisdom packed in a single paragraph:

Raise a strong daughter, even if – no, especially if it means potential suitors question whether they can “lead her”, whatever that means to them. You’ve just identified those suitors as ineligible, without so much as an application process. Leadership is not about the strong looking for weaker people to lead. It’s about the humble looking for those whose strengths offset their weaknesses and complement their strengths. Strong leaders surround themselves with strong people, not with weak ones. Rather than finding the strengths of others threatening, they celebrate them and leverage them. This is Management 101, but I fear young Christian men and well-intentioned Christian parents of daughters have gotten a little fuzzy on the concept.

Now, please, dear reader of the too-rarely-updated DingHome.net blog, don’t miss the central philosophical point here:

Leadership is not about the strong looking for weaker people to lead. It’s about the humble looking for those whose strengths offset their weaknesses and complement their strengths. Strong leaders surround themselves with strong people, not with weak ones.

My wife and I have been baffled by Christians whose practical translation of the Biblical concept of “husband as head of the wife” is literally “Husbands, disciple your wives” — virtually assuming that wives are less knowledgeable in the Scriptures, less capable in discernment, and less mature than their husbands. We’ve come across and heard of marriages (and heard counsel to the same effect) that the most important dynamic in a Christian marriage is that the wife submit to her husband’s leadership, i.e., that he’s the one in charge, and she’s to follow him. But such “leadership” is foreign to the New Testament. That’s not Jesus’ kind of leadership. That’s not the “headship” he exerts over his church. Instead, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk. 10:45). Jesus’ leadership isn’t about wielding authority; it’s about self-sacrifice and service!  And that’s what this blogger pointed out well: true marital leadership is not the so-called “strong” husband leading the “weak” wife. It’s about the humble (husband) looking for a strong (wife) to offset his weaknesses!

So here’s a proposal: instead of “Dads Against Daughters Dating,” let’s go with a new one: “Dads Against Dumbed-Down Daughters.”  Let’s raise our daughters to be strong, godly, faithful women who will be amazing helpers (read: not assistants, but co-laborers!) to their future husbands.  You want your daughter to marry a truly godly man? Then help shape her into the kind of woman that a truly godly man will want to marry; and anyone else will not want! Instead of planning to protect our daughters from their own future folly by wielding shotguns (and/or locking them in their rooms!), we need to pour our lives into raising daughters now who are humble, gracious, wise, well-read, critically-thinking, diligent; who love Jesus and, above all, know they are deeply and unswervingly loved by Jesus.

P.S. Dads of boys, don’t miss this counterpoint from a commenter on the blog post, equally essential to emphasize:

Parents of young sons: If you like this post, please raise your boys to appreciate these types of Christian women. Today, I’m praying for a whole lot of single women in my church (not just me) who are waiting, waiting waiting long past the college years.

Posted in Parenting.


Gardening: A New Hobby

For years I had always said I don’t have time to grow plants because I’m busy growing kids.  We have finally reached a season where we are able to grow plants while not ignoring our six vibrant children.  I never knew gardening could be so much fun, relaxing, and rewarding.  As I get older, I’m more convinced that we need more nature.  Having a little garden to cultivate forces us outdoors and enjoy nature more regularly.

A couple of months ago, we decided to convert part of our back lawn for veggie gardening. This is what our back lawn looked like before:

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My handy husband built four planters from a design he found online:

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… and together with everyone in the family, we transported several cubic yards / truck loads of compost and soil from local sources to our home and then our backyard:

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We then sprayed the old grass with undiluted vinegar, dug holes with a post hole digger, and put in four total planter beds and filled them in. Here’s what they look like today:

 

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In addition to the four new planters, we have other existing beds in our garden where we are growing different types of zucchini, tomatoes, kale, stevia, lettuce, etc.

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We look forward to a fruitful summer where we can enjoy the fruit (and veggies!) of our labor as well as sharing with friends.

Posted in Gardening, Photos.


Am I Worthy To Come To the Lord’s Table?

Still LifeOur weekly church bulletin contains four different silent prayer suggestions for the portion of the service when we come to the Lord’s Table to receive the Lord’s Supper, which our church does on a weekly basis. I find these helpful because many times I’m left wondering what I should be doing while waiting for people to take the Lord’s Supper. One of the lines in one of the prayers caught my attention:

I come to this table on the basis of your merit only and not my own.

Through many years of church experience, when taking the Lord’s Supper, I’ve routinely been encouraged to focus primarily on searching my heart for any wrongdoings or attitudes or broken relationships. I’ve been reminded that if I have any unresolved conflicts or undealt-with sin, I should refrain from taking the Lord’s Supper. This idea is taken from 1 Cor 11:27-29:

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

This has always puzzled me. What if I miss something? What if I search my heart with all my might for any wrongdoings, but my search is incomplete? Does that mean I risk taking the Lord’s Supper in vain and being potentially subject to God’s judgment and that I may have offended God for receiving the Lord’s Supper with an impure heart? We all have broken relationships with people, and many of them remain unresolved. Many require years to resolve and heal. Are we then to refrain until these conflicts are done and over with? Will we ever be completely pure, without any “overlooked sin,” enough to come to the Lord’s Supper in this kind of “worthy” way? What exactly was going on in Corinth that Paul set aside this special rebuke for them that wasn’t raised with any other church to which he wrote?

The mistake of the Corinthian believers wasn’t that they hadn’t cleansed themselves enough, or that they’d spent an inadequate amount of time in self-reflection. Rather, their fault was that they were an overwhelmingly self-absorbed bunch in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper had simply become their supper (vv. 20-21):

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.

Paul’s tough words in 1 Cor 11 are not a universal admonition to spend a prolonged period of self-examination before taking the Lord’s Supper. They are a rebuke against a church that had effectively taken the Lord out of the Lord’s Supper by simply making it a self-centered gluttonous first-come, first served buffet line!

So this prayer I came across got my attention because it’s a wonderful refocusing on the proper point and basis for coming to the Lord’s Table. Being worthy of the Lord’s Supper doesn’t depend on how well I vet myself of any wrongdoing or faults. My worthiness for this beautiful sacrament is what Christ has done for me through the cross to make me worthy. The beauty of this truth is that it is not about me but about Christ. He has invited me and enabled me to come. I no longer have to be plagued by whether I’m worthy to come or whether I’ve done enough to come. What a blessed truth, and one that makes the Lord’s Supper even more wonderful. Instead of a weekly cause for worry, it becomes a weekly rejoicing in His grace, His generosity and His goodness toward us in the gospel!

 

Posted in Theology in Life.


Teaching Children How to Receive Criticism

I really wish I were not so sensitive to criticism that comes my way, and I suspect many people feel the same way.  Criticism often go straight to the heart and they can rip our hearts into pieces.  And yet criticism isn’t necessarily bad. Proverbs tells us in many different ways the value of correction and reproof; and the wisdom of heeding it graciously and turning aside from it.  So I want my children to learn how to receive criticism rightly and not be emotionally destroyed.  We can learn much from criticism, as long as we are humble and have a teachable attitude.

It is exciting to see my children’s personalities develop, and we can clearly see each of their strengths and weaknesses.  In some instances, I want them to be a certain way but that’s not how God made them.  I wish all of them could be good at whatever they attempt, but this simply isn’t so.  I wish they wouldn’t compare themselves with one another or with other people, but again, this comes so easily.  I wish they wouldn’t cry or feel so dejected when they fail, but that seems quite natural as well.

I am with my children all day long.  When we do school together, the children’s abilities come to the surface and it is very apparent to see who is good at certain subjects and who isn’t.  They even know this.  Sometimes they speak harshly to those who are less capable, and I have to step in and relieve the tension.  Sometimes they get frustrated themselves because they don’t know how to overcome a problem, so once again, I step in to comfort and dry tears.  Sometimes I just have to be the mean mom and bluntly utter those dreadful words: “YOU ARE NOT GOOD AT THIS.”

How do we teach the children to better receive criticism?  I believe the first thing we need to do is be honest with our children.  Don’t sugar coat the facts.  Just say those hard words of “You are not good at this.”  Children need to learn to accept this.  No one can be possibly be good at everything and there’s always someone better than you.  Just accept this fact.  Once this is established, we can move on to how to receive critique well.  Just because we may not be good at a certain subject or activity, it doesn’t mean we cannot improve or that we should not even try.  I explain to my children that God made them with different gifts and talents, and we should be thankful for what God has given them.  In the areas where we are weak, we can work on them and be better.  Don’t compare their weaknesses with others’ strengths. As I work with the children’s weak subjects, I tell them that they can’t expect to be better overnight and that it takes a while for them to improve.  Don’t lose heart but keep at it.  They need to keep a humble attitude and a teachable heart so they can learn, even when it is hard.

All of us have the tendency to base our worth on the things we do.  When we excel at them, we feel good because our worth just got bumped up couple notches.  When we fail, our self-worth plummets.  After I tell my children that they are not good at certain things, I bring in the fact that because our worth is not based on what we do but based on God’s acceptance of us, we need not feel dejected.  We are made in the image of God and just because we are not good at certain things, we don’t need to feel depressed.

Ultimately, how we receive criticism is tied to how we view ourselves. If we think that our value in this world is tied to how well we can do stuff or what other people think of us, criticism becomes a nemesis — a threat to whatever efforts we’re putting in to be “better people.”  But if we place our worth not in our abilities but in God’s unswerving love toward us and Christ’s accomplishments on our behalf, we can actually welcome criticism as an opportunity and not as a feared enemy.

 

Posted in Children, Homeschooling, Parenting.


Our Family’s Nightly Routine

Over the course of 11 years we finally settled into a more consistent family nightly routine.  It’s one we tried, failed, retried, and finally gelled into a workable routine for our family.

About an hour before bedtime, we have the children get changed into their PJ’s and have their teeth brushed.  We then start our nightly routine of Bible recitation by the children per our newly instituted speech practice.  After giving some feedback of each reading, we may discuss a little of the specific Bible passage the child just read.

After the reading, we listen to a story, either from an audio book or a book read by my husband.  Currently we are listening to The Swiss Family Robinson audio book.  During this time we just sit in the family room and listen and relax. The children are typically drawing, crocheting, playing with their toys, or doing other quiet activities in the meantime.

We then transition to a time of prayer.  We share prayer requests and count our blessings, and after which we inquire if anyone wants to pray for a specific prayer request.  Typically everyone except the toddler prays, and we end with daddy’s final prayer.  The prayer time is my personal favorite time.  I love the fact that prayers from the children are very simple.  As sure as the sun rises, you can count on our four-year-old pray this prayer each night:  “Dear God, help us to have good sleep.”  I just never get tired of this same prayer.  As adults we think we can somehow please God more by sprucing up our prayers, especially with fancy words or long and complicated sentences.  As I dwell on this, I think God is very much please with simple prayers, especially from little children.  I’m encouraged by my children’s simple prayers and I believe God hears and accepts them.

Finally we give hugs and kisses and the kids go to sleep happily ever after.  Well, no, almost never.  They like to stay up just a little so they plead.  Often we find them chatting or singing amongst themselves in the dark.  More recently we caught one or two children reading secretly with a flashlight.  Unbeknown to us, the children have a secret stash of books in their beds, accompanied by a small flashlight.  Their antics never fail to crack me up.

Posted in Our Family.


School Assignment Chart

A year ago I came up with the school cards system where each student must complete daily school assignments as printed on individual cards.  While this system worked fabulously, I modified it to better serve our homeschooling needs.

All the school assignments are now printed on one chart.  When a student completes a subject, he/she marks it off.  At the end of the day I’m able to see at a glance what subjects are still outstanding for each student, all on one sheet.  This new system saves me time because I can easily see what subjects still need to be done.  The assignment chart is color coded, laminated, and hung on our refrigerator.  The chart can be reused because all the markings are wiped off at the start of each week, ready for the new week.

The laminated assignment chart adhered to the refrigerator, next to the laminated chore chart.

Close up view of the charts.

 

 

Posted in Homeschooling, Photos.