Sunday, January 15, 2012

Susannah Wesley is da bomb.

There is an oft-quoted story about Susannah Wesley that says that in the midst of her many children she would throw the apron over her head and spend time in quiet with Jesus.

Susanna Wesley is probably best known for being the mother of Charles and John Wesley, and many people consider her the Mother of Methodism.

Confession: I am not Susannah Wesley (though I deeply admire her; what an amazing woman!).

Nor did God create me to be her. But, I came under condemnation feeling that I needed alone time and when it was difficult to really connect with God with screaming (or even well-behaving sitting on their blankets playing quietly) children around me.

I think I was under the illusion that I couldn't have time alone. I felt myself shriveling. So, in case it's helpful for you, here's a couple of things I have done the in the past year to help me get the alone time I so desperately need to internally process and connect with Jesus (and my husband).

1. We put the kids to bed earlier. Most nights our kids are in their room by 7:30. Sometimes we have them read to themselves and be quiet. Sometimes, we let them play. We go in later and turn off the light around 8:30. This lets my husband and I have some time to unwind and catch up before it gets too late, and it also lets our children have time to either exercise creativity playing games or stretch their imagination reading books. They love this! And it helps us do #2, which is...

2. We get up earlier. When I get up is irrelevant, because my schedule is different than yours, but last year I decided that it was so important to me to have time alone before anyone woke up that I was going to set back the clock until I had enough time to spend with the Lord, plan, and exercise before my kids woke up. I can't tell you how much this has helped me! I sure am not Susannah Wesley, but I am getting what I need.

Disclaimer: some of you are in a season of life that it seems impossible to do all of that. My advice to you is to do what you think God is asking you to do (for your specific situation). Please don't feel condemnation if you're nursing a baby through the night! AND please don't feel like you have to be me if you're more like wonderful Susannah!

I also wanted to refer you to a wonderful website Inspired to Action, which is really encouraging for practical things like this!

What are some things you have done that have helped you get sanity in the little years? I'd love to hear what you have to say! If you have any practical tips for us, don't be stingy! We want to hear them!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Feeding Kids Bigger Portions

Over the coming months, I hope to introduce you to friends of mine who are also finding joy in the blink of raising children.

My first guest blogger is my great friend Carrie (see her blog here, and she's coming out with a book soon, too!). She lives with her husband and five children in China. One of the things I admire most about them is that they are always asking the question "what's it gonna take?", living a life of difficult decision making and joyful sacrifice, and passing it onto those around them. They they make it all look easy, and its because they flow out of a deep conviction of who is Lord over their lives. That challenges me so much. Oh, and she's darn funny, too! This is the first of many guest posts I hope to have from her.

(aren't they cute?)

So, without further adieu...

What does it really mean to be a Christian parent?

Does Christian parenting mean that we choose our names from the original Greek or that we put Chris Tomlin music on our pregnant wombs?

Does it mean that we say a two-line prayer before dinner and paint our nurseries like a Noah's ark petting zoo?

I think our calling as a Christian parent is hard, complicated, and full of satisfaction. What a privilege that the Lord has given us as parents!

Here is just one of the many ways to separate us as Christian parents, instead of just nice moral ones:

Find ways to intentionally build Scripture into our days.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is going to encourage us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and might. And we are to teach these things diligently to our children. Loving the Lord is not something our kids learn simply by proximity of Christian parents or a good children's program at church. We have to instruct our kids in the ways of the Lord. This will require a lot of work on our part. If, as Deuteronomy 6 says, we are to talk about the Lord when we sit in our house and walk along the way, then we have to give our children the raw materials to be able to talk about.

The Jesus Story Book Bible is a great beginning story Bible to get your kids to understand that the whole of the Bible is about Jesus. From beginning to end, Jesus is being announced as King. And don't just assume that because there is a cute picture of Jesus simultaneously petting a lamb and a child on the cover of a children's storybook Bible that the theology is great. So many children's Bibles jack up the stories and make them very man-centered. Do your homework and stick with the kid's Bibles that actually keep God central. This is an important foundation in building a solid theological foundation in kids.

The Desiring God children's curriculum will help you as a family begin to talk about theology. While there are lots of good children's ministries out there, we find that most don't assume your kids can handle theology. We have found that kids can actually handle the bigger truths of God with relative ease when it's communicate at their level. This curriculum does a fantastic job of just that. We talked about the omniscience and sovereignty of God with our 4 year old. It gives our kids a chance to move beyond David and Goliath and sink deep into a rich understanding of God. Choose a night a week for a family time of worship. Go through this together. Sing, pray, confess and plead to the Lord together.

The Westminster Catechism for kids is a series of questions and answers for our kids to set in their hearts. Basic fundamentals like "Who Made You?" and your child would reply with "God."

Seeds of Worship is a series of worship albums of Scripture that don't make me want to pound someone when my kids want to listen to them over and over again. I love hearing my kids sing Ephesians and John as they run through the house wearing only a feather boa and their underwear.

Memorize Scripture together. Desiring God has Fighter verses that will give you plenty to work through. Make it fun by giving them characters that move through an enchanted forest each time they get a verse done. At the end, go get ice cream or tell them you'll do a cartwheel. Or maybe that your husband will sing John Denver at breakfast.

Will people look at you strange when your child is singing, "Who is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God!" in Target? Probably. But people find it cute when a four-year old sings "All the Single Ladies." We need to start redeeming the minds and hearts of our children at a young age. Sometimes we have people who give us a hard time about the amount of Scripture we try to build into our kids. When Dt. 6 uses the word "diligently," I see no other way around it. The world is offering my littles a buffet of temptations and I need to remind them that the Word of the Lord is the only thing that will feed their souls. They aren't going to learn this on their own. It is our responsibility as parents to breathe this into them. These are the children the Lord has entrusted to us for a time. It's only for a season. A very brief season.

Let's take this season back from what the world is offering them and give it to the Lord so that He can write His promises into their souls.

Friday, January 6, 2012

When the nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall...

...He lifts his voice, the earth melts (Ps 46:6).

Israel has fallen.

Sennacherib's emmisary is threatening violent attack on what's left of Judah, speaking in their native tongue. All can hear.

And what does King Hezekiah do? He petitions Isaiah the prophet to ask for prayers for his people "...children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth." (2 Ki 19:3)

Sometimes I experience this in the spiritual. The enemy is closing in, threatening me with what should be nonsense with the God I have, and I have no power to move forward bearing His fruit. Its tempting to believe what the enemy says. It seems so true.

And I am faced with a choice: will I turn to God in my attack as Hezekiah did, or will I turn away and try to fight my enemy on his terms like Hoshea, the king of Israel tried to do (see his story here).

"Further up and farther in." That's the goal, isn't it, until we get to our real country? As long as I am retreating towards God and not away, eventually I will get to the point where I am defended, because my Defender is Strong.

Its in this kind of environment that the idols crumble--in our retreat to him.

And this is how he wants it. He wants all that we're depending on to be crushed and shaken and whittled away, so that what remains can be pure.

All of the other nations Assyria attacked just crumbled before them. False gods couldn't protect.

And Hezekiah cries out to God, reminding him of His character, and declaring truth "they were not gods...therefore they were destroyed." (2 Ki 19:18). But You! You, Lord are not like those wooden things they trusted in!

Some things God reminded me of this morning as I was reading this...
1. Hezekiah pulled into God in the face of attack.
2. Hezekiah wasn't afraid to share his grief with others and ask for them to intercede.
3. Hezekiah did not neglect going to the Lord himself.
4. Hezekiah refused to believe that the lies were true.

And God responds: "...the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward." (2 Ki 19:30).

Just beautiful.

And this is why Israel's story is important. Its important to know our roots and know the history of our God, and know how we fit into the Bigger Story. Israel's story is my story.

And you can see what happens to Sennacherib here.

How do you fight when the enemy attacks?

Guest post today at Ordinary Life in the Wild

Today, I have a guest post at my friend Alina's blog Ordinary Life in the Wild on bringing life to dead places.

The beginning of the year is such a time for newness! Take a walk on the wild side and comment to let us know how you are starting new!