Do the next thing.

Elisabeth Elliot introduced me to this phrase that continues to give me direction in chaos and confusion. I don’t need to formulate a complete plan. I just need to do the next thing. One thing. And then, do the next thing.

This is not an easy concept for a slightly OCD person like myself who really wants to start EVERYTHING new in January. The idea of starting a new habit or routine in April just seems wrong to me. But I have found that I can only change so many things at the same time and maintain those changes over time. For me, small changes over time produce big results in the future. After all, raising children isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. 

You need a bite-sized plan for a God-sized goal. 

As Harold and I were setting goals for our young children many years ago, I ran across I Thessalonians 5:23-24: “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. the One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” This one verse helped us to categorize the goals we set for our daughters’ lives: Spirit—how they related to God, Soul—how they related to others, and Body—how they guarded themselves. My husband and I talked about the behaviors and heart attitudes that we believed were critical in the godly character formation of the girls and then created a list of goals for each category. 

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. ~Tony Robbins 

Achieving a goal begins with putting it in writing and breaking it down into smaller action steps. THE PLAN outlines the character trait goals that we chose for our family. I wish I could say that the girls mastered every one in the span of a year. The truth is that we’re all still a work in progress, but we look more like Jesus that we did when we began this journey. 

There is more than one way to raise a godly child.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to raising children who love and honor God. THE PLAN is only one tool in the sea of many options that helps parents to be intentional about raising godly children. (Click here for a printable copy.) It is a simple chart that suggests one or two character traits to focus on throughout the month. I’ll be posting scriptures, activities and ideas from our family that focus on that particular trait. You may choose to focus on one or both of the traits for the month, or you may focus on one trait for several months. You’re the parent and God will give you wisdom about what is best for your family. The goal is not a number completed; the goal is a changed heart. 

The first change starts tomorrow—PERSPECTIVE.

Godly Children--Impossible Dream?

Before I was married, before I had children, one question repeatedly filled my mind: Is it possible to raise a family of godly children who don’t rebel?  It certainly looked impossible in my world. The church of my childhood was filled with families of at least 3 but not more than 6 children who were committed to attending Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night services. But even with the emphasis on church and faith, most of these families had one or more children who walked away from the church--and from God. It was the same in the church I attended during college and again repeated in the church we attended as newlyweds. There were less than a handful of exceptions, but these families gave me hope.

I want to be that family for you. I want to bring you hope that you can raise children to be adults who love and serve God wholeheartedly. Our family is far from perfect. We can be kind and loving but sometimes we get angry and we speak unkindly to one another; we are generally respectful but other times quite selfish. But we are forgiven and redeemed and, most of all, we love God. All six of us. As I write this, our daughters are ages 15-22 and they are in love with their Lord and Savior. They love, obey, and serve Him, not out of duty but out of love. Thankfully, none of them have ever walked away from God. Yes, they have been challenged and some have surely questioned their faith. But each has a relationship with their Heavenly Father that is vibrant and alive.

My husband and I can’t take credit. Yes, we may have done some things right, but you know that my list of things I’d change is a mile long. We did not cause our children to become Christians, but the grace of God helped my husband and I create the best greenhouse garden so we could to grow the seeds we were given. We were intentional and thoughtful about how to grow these precious seeds into blossoms of beauty. We carefully chose the soil where our prodigy established roots. We supplied healthy food and nutrients avoided dangerous parasites so these seeds could grow strong. We controlled the climate until they were strong enough to survive in the world. And always we directed them to the Son who is the author and finisher of our faith.  

Please don’t hear that I think I have a formula for raising perfect children that will not rebel.  Children grow to be young adults with their own ideas and the ability to make their own decisions. While we as parents do have great influence in the lives of our children, we do not have complete control over their choices and cannot take complete responsibility for their actions. If you are praying for your prodigal son or daughter to return home, don’t judge yourself. Keep praying and don’t give up. God’s heart is that all will come to relationship with Him.  I’ve seen plenty of examples of lost ones who turn their lives around and never look back. If you’re waiting for the day, I’m praying with you that it will come soon.

Your circle of friends may not include a family who has raised godly children into adulthood, but those families do exist! You are not alone. Don’t accept the world’s idea that there’s a “black sheep” in every family. It is God’s heart that families adore Him together. God has given you this heart-felt passion to raise godly children and He will walk you through, every step of the way.

With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  (Matthew 19:26)