The Apple Doesn't Fall Far

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The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s funny how true that is. Many days I walk past a mirror and think, “I have become my mother.”  It’s true for our physical appearance, but it is even more true of who we are on the inside. The things I value like God, church, family, cleanliness, organization, and creativity are all things that my parent’s valued. No one ever said, “This is what we value.” Their behavior showed me every day what was important and what was not accepted or tolerated.

Our children will most likely become who we are.  

This is a sobering thought for some of us. We can so easily see our weaknesses and hope that our children don’t fall into the same patterns. But if those are the patterns our children see day after day and year after year, they are the easiest for our children to replicate. 

Do what I say, not what I do.

That doesn’t work. If we want our children to value prayer, we need to make it a regular part of our family life. If we want them to value serving, they need to see us serving others. If we want our children to guard their hearts and minds when it comes to entertainment, we need to guard ourselves and set an example. Kids, especially teens, quickly lose respect for parents who have one standard for the children and another for themselves.

Yeah, team! Hallelujah!

We are all on the same team. We are all learning what it means to love and follow Christ in every area of life. My husband and I may be a little ahead of our children in the process, but we certainly don’t have it all figured out. As a tangible sign to our kids that our family was a team, we changed our bedtime prayers. Each prayer begins with the leader: “Thank you, God, for our team.” Family: “Yeah, team! Hallelujah!” It was just a small way to say, “We’re in this together.” The tradition continues to this day. 

THE PLAN isn’t just about kids; it’s about families who are choosing to focus on becoming a reflection of Christ as they come in contact with the world and as they interact with each other. It isn’t easy, but I’ll be cheering for you. Go, team, go!

Tomorrow we begin with the first trait--Prayer.

The Perspective that Changed My Parenting

A water-damaged picture beside my kitchen sink, taken Mother's Day 1999   

A water-damaged picture beside my kitchen sink, taken Mother's Day 1999 

Once upon a time, I was a mom of four girls, ages six and under. My life goal had been to be a mom, and I wanted to be the best one ever. But no one told my girls that. They argued and fought and screamed and cried and complained to go to church and said unkind things to our adult friends—all things that normal children do to embarrass their parents. I read parenting books, prayed, cried, and disciplined—sometimes for the same repeated disobedience many times in one day. Their character wasn’t growing, but my anger sure was. I considered myself a failure before the oldest was even 10.

Man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. (I Sam. 16:7)

God showed me one day that I was trying to raise “trophy children” so everyone would see that I was a good mom. Truly, my primary goal was that their outward behavior would be socially acceptable and make me look successful. (That sounds so selfish and ugly, but it's the truth.) I repented, and God changed my perspective. This time my goal was not a temporary behavior change for a particular situation, but a forever heart change that would cause them to make godly choices for a lifetime.  

When I asked my girls to do something or to change their behavior, I tried to connect my request to a Bible verse which helped them understand that it was God’s request, not just mine. This perspective had some unexpected benefits. First, it caused me to carefully consider each request and align it with God’s Word. I also tried not to ask the girls to do something that I could do myself, like retrieving an item. I also realized that when the girls chose not to obey, I didn’t take it personally or get bent out of shape about it, because I realized that they were choosing not to obey God. That perspective disarmed my emotions of failure because their obedience was not about me personally.

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason doesn’t make it right.

God calls us to “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Prov. 22:6), but it isn’t so that we’ll look like successful parents. That would be all about us. He wants our children to have pure hearts so that they will “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Phil. 2:15) Our goal is to train our children to love God and to make wise choices that honor Him when no immediate reward is involved and no one is watching, to be bright lights that lead the way for others to encounter Christ. That change in perspective of parenting has made all the difference in the world for me and my family. Tomorrow we PREPARE.

#IntentionalParenting2015

Happy 2015! 

For the past week my email box, Facebook feed, and online advertisements have been filled with systematic plans for meeting new year goals—Couch to 5K for the running enthusiast, a 12-month plan to organize your home, a 30-day menu and shopping list for clean eating, daily email assignments to declutter your brain, and the list goes on. This morning, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen one article about one of the most important goals in my life—raising godly children. 

Achieving a goal doesn’t just happen. 

Achieving a goal takes a plan, behavior changes and lots of hard work. After talking about losing weight for the last 20 years, my husband finally achieved his goal in 2013 and lost 80 pounds. (Yep. 8-0) He made a plan to use the My Fitness Pal app to chart a course and record everything he ate. Finally, he bought a used bike with a comfortable seat and disciplined himself to ride. Nearly every day. In about 6 months, he had lost 50 lbs. A year later he had reached his goal weight. Eighteen months after that, he has kept it all off.

One bite at a time.

The saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” When you have a big goal, it’s easier to achieve when you break it down into smaller goals. Raising a godly child is huge goal and sometimes overwhelming, so I’ve made a 12-month plan broken down into various character traits. I am not promising to blog every day, but I am committed to post at least weekly to provide some ideas for you and your family. I welcome your questions, but I hope you’ll post your suggestions for the others who are also following this series. 

As with any goal, it always helps to have someone who is walking beside you in the journey. If you are married, I highly recommend that you and your spouse decide together what this will look like for your family. If you’re a single parent, you may want to find another parent who will act as a sounding board and an encourager. I may not live in your town, but I hope this series will be a source of support for you, too. You can do it!

During this year, I plan to post ideas and our own family experiences on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #IntentionalParenting2015. I hope you’ll do the same so we can share experiences and encourage each other.

Big goals require big changes. 

If you are serious about raising godly children, it will require planning, change, and incredible dedication. I believe that the goal is worth the sacrifice. Tomorrow I’ll post the plan, but the behavior changes and hard work are up to you.