These Kids Are Driving Me Crazy

“Kennedy, you are driving me nuts,” says my 4 year old son, Kai, to his 6 year old sister. Um, where did he learn that from? That would be me, his mama. I have told my kids they are driving me nuts, crazy, insane! Parenting is not for wimps. Or, if you are a wimp, parenting will shake you out of that. It’s so tough constantly dealing with my own sin, let alone the sin of two little people in my home. There are two things I want my kids to see in our home: 1. They need Jesus; and 2. Their parents need Jesus. And, not necessarily in that order! As we go throughout our day, I often say to my kids, “Choose kindness! Choose love!” And then we talk about how it’s hard to choose kindness and love. And, really our natural bent is to choose to be mean and hateful. In those moments when my kids are at each other’s throats and I’m frustrated to no end dealing with attitudes and actions (my own and my children’s), right then is the perfect divinely appointed time for me to show my kids: 1. You need Jesus; and 2. Mommy needs Jesus. This is how I will pass down the Gospel to my children.

There is a children’s song I heard that has a line in it that says, “Love, love, love, love. The Gospel in one word is love. Love your neighbor as yourself…” Oh how wrong that song is. I don’t want my kids to think if they reach this expectation of always choosing kindness and choosing love, that makes them acceptable to God. No, no. I say, “Choose kindness! Choose love! It’s hard to do that, isn’t it? And this is why we need Jesus.”

So, when attitudes are flaring (including my own) and we are all driving each other nuts, THAT is the place where Jesus will meet us and where the Gospel will become real. After all, the Gospel is meant for the broken.

Summer Fun

“Do you guys have any vacation plans for the summer?” It’s a question we all hear often during this time of year. Somehow summertime brings with it the expectation of family leisure and fun. In a sense, it rightly should be that kind of time—the kids are out of school, so there is a lot more focused time to be spent engaging the family. However, part of the mentality with summer vacation and leisure is that these times need to be big, extravagant, and memorable (read: cost a lot of money).

The world places upon us the expectation for extravagant vacations, and oftentimes we feed into that, regardless of what our bank account would warrant. However, memorable family fun does not need to drive us into debt. In fact, I think most kids would be happy just with time spent fully engaged with their parents. When I asked my daughter what she wanted to do this summer, her answer to me was: go swimming. That’s it. She wants to swim. So, for me to make this summer everything she hopes for, it simply means I need to put down my phone, shut off the computer, and get in the pool with her. Simple.

This does not mean every family should just swim and not travel. Sometimes we have it in our budget to plan a large scale vacation, and that’s ok. It just need not be something we pressure ourselves or our families to achieve every year. When our kids look back on their childhoods, they will for sure remember those grandiose family vacations. But what they will remember even more is you. They will remember the times you spent splashing the water around in the pool and being present. Those will be their treasured memories.

All That Thrills My Soul

My Grandmother is 94 years old and suffers from dementia. It has been a roller coaster ride for my mom for a long time. Some days are good days, some not so good, and she never knows from one day to the next what to expect. I was very thankful and humbled last month when I went down to Tucson and had an amazing visit with Grandma. She was well enough for my mom to bring her over to the house. Grandma was so filled with joy in her heart and happy to be with people she loves. I was so thankful she recognized all of us and was just in a good frame of mind. Words were spoken between us. Sweet words. But, a lot of the time was just sitting with each other. We sat on the back porch and watched the kids swing. Grandma commented how it felt good to be outside with blue skies and family. Just sitting and being was enough. She didn’t need some new reality; she was thrilled to be a part of the ordinary of life.

John Piper has said, “The curse of our fallen nature is that what once thrilled us becomes ordinary. The reality hasn’t changed. We have changed.” This is true of our lives on so many levels. Children get a new toy that grabs their attention for a while, but soon enough it becomes ordinary and doesn’t excite them anymore. New parents bubble with joy over the gift of a new baby, but soon get blinded by the monotony of caring for a family and are not as excited about the treasures they have been given. If we are honest, this can become our attitude with God and His Word too. Truths that once enlightened and thrilled our hearts can become so ordinary to us. Did God change? Did the amazing reality of the truth change? No, we did.

So, when we fall into this slump of losing the thrill in our hearts, what are we to do? Our hearts need to be stirred up by way of reminder (2 Peter 3:2). God is unchanging. He is always great, always awesome, always extraordinary. We need to remind ourselves and each other about all that we already know to be true. And sometimes, God will sovereignly allow circumstances in our lives to bring us back to the place of treasuring Him.

What things have blocked your view of God? What truths about Him do you need to remember in order to stir your heart up again? Don’t miss Him today. He is the same God who thrilled you when you first believed.

All that thrills my soul is Jesus.
He is more than life to me.
And the fairest of ten thousand
in my blessed Lord I see.
(All That Thrills My Soul, Thoro Harris)

Gospel Driven Children

I have a news app on my phone that alerted me of the earthquake in Nepal the morning it occurred. Not long after this notification, I received an email in my inbox from Samaritan’s Purse saying they already had workers in Nepal assessing the damage, and they were sending out a team to help with emergency shelter, water, hygiene kits, and other relief. I was amazed at how quickly they responded to this tragedy. I then asked myself why I don’t respond as quickly. Not so much a response to act, necessarily. But, even to just pray. It often takes me awhile to process these things before my heart feels what is happening and then I respond.

If my response is so slow, how can I teach my children to respond to things around the world? Not just simply responding physically to the tragedy, but being Gospel centered and driven to bring the message of hope?

I think a place that we can all start with our kids is here…at home. I cannot help my kids be missions minded abroad if I am not helping them be mission minded where we live: in the schools they attend, the neighborhood we live in, the lives of our friends and family. But, how do we start?

Several months ago, we had someone from our family visiting us for a few days from out of town. My son, Kai, had a song playing on repeat in his mind and heart since we sang it at church on Easter: Christ is Risen. During breakfast one day while our family member was here, Kai started singing that song. “Oh, church come stand in the life (light). God, He’s not dead, He’s alive, HE’S ALLLIIIIVEEE!!” He squeals that last “He’s alive.” Then, his sister joined and sang other portions of this song. Over and over throughout this day, Kai continued to sing this song until he obviously was getting a bit under our guest’s skin. At one point, our guest just said, “Ok, we get it. He’s alive.” As I was watching this whole thing unfold, I was so encouraged. I was encouraged, because my kids are learning to be missions minded, just simply by being who they are with whoever they are with. We sing Gospel centered songs. They sometimes like to be goofy with those songs. But, even in that, they planted a truth into a soul’s heart that Jesus is alive.

We can all tend to complicate this training of our children into Gospel driven people. The task seems daunting sometimes. I’m learning that I just need to take baby steps! They may not fly out to aid in the next overseas tragedy this year, but as I invest into them through daily devotions, reading truth, proclaiming truth, singing truth, they will become missions minded. Lord-willing, this will carry on with them as they grow, and I pray God will use them to make an impact in their families, neighborhoods, friendships, schools…wherever God will lead them.

Never Forget

As I reflect on my life as a believer, I have some pretty discouraging memories of faith! I look back and see times of doubt, times where my tongue was used to slander, times where I hurt people who are dear to me in the faith…sin, sin, sin. Of course, I do see progress as well. It’s not all ugly memories. Yet, sometimes I want to just leave the past in the past and move forward. The Devil wants to use these shameful memories to discourage and condemn me.

But, what does God want me to do with my ugly memories? He doesn’t give me the gift of forgetting.

God had Israel celebrate many feasts and at least two were feasts of remembrance:

  • The Passover Feast was a feast to remember God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles was to celebrate God’s provision of shelter for His people in the wilderness.

These feasts were not about Israel; they were about God and what He had done. Generation after generation remembered these events. These feasts proclaim: “remember what God has done.”

I believe that’s what God wants us to do with our memories of faith, both the seemingly good and bad memories. We are to look at the bad memories and thank God for delivering us, forgiving us, and providing for us. He gets the glory for sanctifying us and maturing us to where we are now. We are to look at the good memories and not think about how great our faith is, but how great our God is. He is using the victories and the defeats to both encourage us to strive on and humble us on the journey.

So, don’t let Satan use your memories of failures in your walk of faith to drive you to despair. Instead, may those memories drive you back to the Savior who continues to love you, despite of you.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

My friend, Elly, recently posted a quote on Facebook that she read on the bottle cap from Sweet Leaf tea: “Bloom where you are planted.” Elly said she thought that was a pretty good one. Me too!

I think every Christian would agree that our deep heart desire is for God to change us to be more like Christ. We read the Word, put our lives up against it, and see how woefully short we fall of the divine standard. Then, we look at the Savior and are filled with thankfulness that He has lived the life we never can. But, we don’t stop there. Out of that thankfulness, we want to live holier lives.

I will at least speak for myself and say that sometimes I look at my circumstances and wonder how I can change when things are just so hard. If my circumstances were different, I can think, fleshing out this Christian walk would be easier. Yes, that’s it! That’s the change I need. I need to just have a change in my circumstances and everything will be ok…or will they?

See, we really don’t need a change in our circumstances to thrive for God. In fact, the very opposite is true. We believe in a God who providentially orchestrates everything in our lives to bring about our full and final salvation (Rom.8:28-30). At times, I can feel like just running away from the pressures around me. But, the problem is, I cannot run away from my own heart. God has placed me in the city I live in, the church I attend, the family I live with, the friendships I enjoy, and the difficult circumstances (and attacks from foes) I face. Any difficulty I am having to live how God wants me to, where He has me, does not merit a change in my circumstances so much as it calls for a heart change. And, what is so amazing about all of this is that God will use the difficulties to change me, but only as I walk by faith and repentance…here.

If you find yourself consumed with longing for the day when your circumstances will be more bearable on earth, stop yourself and ask:

  • Do I believe that today is a gift from God to me? (Ps.118:24)
  • Do I believe God does all things well? (Mark 7:37)
  • Who will I choose to serve this day? (Josh.24:15)

Choose the Lord, and bloom, by faith, right where He has planted you.

Sick Day

It’s always a bummer when someone in the family has to miss church because he or she is sick. It is even more of a bummer when EVERYONE in the family is sick and has to miss. This happened in my family earlier this year. So, instead of doing the usual “sick on the couch and watch movies all day” routine, I announced to my four-year-old daughter that since we couldn’t be at church, we could play church! She loved the idea! Here’s what we did:

  • She told me she was going to be me and I was going to be Pastor Knight.
  • While she gathered her stuffed animals to be a part of our congregation, I gathered some materials for our service: my Bible, one of her storybook Bibles (I highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible), and a music CD.
  • My daughter arranged all of her stuffed animals and got them all “Bibles” (whatever books she had).
  • We read, we prayed, we sang songs, we read a lesson from her Bible, and we even passed around an offering plate. J Then, we sang the closing song that we typically sing at church.

My daughter had a great time, and it was so neat to see her perspective of our Sunday services through this type of role play. I think it is also a great way to get her excited about the things of God! She loves pretend play at this age, and to integrate pretend play with truth is a great way to engage her.

You can make it very simple. There are so many great resources available for teaching children God’s Word (The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Gospel Story Bible are two that we have enjoyed). There are also so many sing-along children’s CDs! We sang “Father Abraham” and used body motions to go along with the song. You don’t have to be a musician or singer! Just play the CD and sing from your heart.

Most importantly, as you are playing with your children and incorporating Christ as part of that play, remember that you are making memories for you and your children and this is part of teaching His words “…when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut.6:7).

The Restart Button

As human beings, I think we naturally crave new starts; do overs. With each New Year, we look forward to the year ahead, making resolutions in hopes for a better year than the one just past. We set goals, desiring improvement in specific areas. Each morning, in a sense, is a new start for us. God’s mercies are new each morning, and as the dawn breaks, we receive fresh opportunity to live for Christ.

In God’s providence, we sometimes experience major changes in our life that shake us to the core and put us in a position where we feel like we have to start all over again. This happened to me a little over a year ago when my husband left Christianity. In so many ways, it felt like I was starting over again. But, as I have walked this journey, I have realized that though it feels like the restart button was pushed on my life, what really is happening is all a part of the same journey I had already been on. You see, God is using every situation and circumstance in my life, in your life, to shape me, and you, more and more into the image of Christ. Our one “do over” moment as believers was at the point of salvation. It was at that moment that God restarted our lives, so to speak, to turn us radically away from living for ourselves to living for Him.

If you are going through a heart-wrenching experience right now as a believer and are wondering how in the world you will pick up the pieces of your life and begin to build again, let me lovingly tell you that you can’t. As you pray and seek Christ’s face for answers to the questions of why, how, what, and when, He Himself will pick you up and show you that He will use your broken pieces for His glory. We must not make an idol out of our past (wanting “the good old days” back) or our future in this life (coveting something you lust after for your own life). Seek to be a Christian today, and as you do, God will continue the work He started in you. You see a broken life, but He sees a masterpiece in progress, and every circumstance of life is a part of fashioning you into His bride who will one day see Him face to face forever.