Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

Experiments with grace May 30, 2010

Filed under: Behaviors,Correction,Parenting,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 9:43 pm

As we seek to shape our children’s character toward godliness, we often focus most on training and correction.  How can we teach them to think and act in God-pleasing ways? How can we help them cultivate obedience, self-control, kindness, humility?  Frequently our efforts center on our kids’ actions, hopefully also with an eye to the heart.  Johnny pushes Sally, so we address the misbehavior, administer discipline, oversee the repentance/forgiveness process, and discuss underlying motivations.  And indeed, this type of episode it a critical part of raising godly children.  I find myself often mentally rehearsing Ephesians 6:2 -3: “Honor your father and mother… that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  How can I help my child see that honoring me will contribute to life “going well” for him – and failing to do so is linked to things not going well with him?  Or: how can I help him internalize concepts of sowing and reaping – that his choice to sow anger here will cause him to reap negative consequences?

But one can focus too much here and under-emphasize grace.  Am I raising my children to believe that it’s all about them and their actions – everything rests on their obeying, behaving well, choosing the righteous path?  Because everything does not rest on these things.  Everything rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ and the fact that His perfection covers all of our earthly imperfections – that forgiveness and life are free gift from Him.  So what am I doing to build this critical reality into my interactions with my kids?

Last week I got a chance to test out my “demonstrating grace to my kids” muscles; the episode revealed that they’re on the weak side.  I had to mail a package at the post office, and I quietly decided we’d pop into the donut shop next door afterwards for a treat (the type of thing we rarely do on a weekday morning).   The donuts would be a fun, low-key treat just to make them happy; I would surprise them with it when we were through at the post office. (more…)


Getting away: trips and Sabbath May 26, 2010

Filed under: Bible,Blogging,Books,For moms — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 6:13 pm

Last night my husband and I pulled into our driveway after 11 hours on the road with a van full of tired kids, dirty laundry, and a back windshield void of glass and elaborately covered in duct tape due to a rock our 4-year old put through the window two days prior.  We’d spent three days and four nights in the beautiful, lake-side woods of northern CA in unseasonably cold weather – combining our first multi-night camping trip as a family of five with practice in winter-tenting. (Photo-disclosure: it snowed near but not at our campsite.) It was a huge adventure and well worth it; more details from the trip will no doubt follow in upcoming posts.

This morning I saw that a post I’d written for Christianity Today about Sabbath-keeping called Our Restless Lives came out last week, just before we left.  This timing seems especially fitting because Wendy Mogul’s analogy of Sabbath-keeping with a trip to the wilderness resonates with me and our family’s experience.  As I quoted in my last post about the Sabbath, “What? Day of Rest?”, Mogul:

“cites a rabbi who compares the Sabbath’s ‘sense of timelessness to river rafting or being in the wilderness.  Preparing for such a trip – finding the right maps, inspecting equipment, packing the car – is so much trouble you wonder if it’s worth the effort.  You have to work so hard to prepare to stop. But once on the river, with no watches or other obligations, time can unfold and expand in a natural rhythm.’  You can’t get into the natural rhythm – stop and enjoy life – till you’ve done the work to get away (literally, figuratively, or both) from the daily grind.”

It was a lot of work to prepare for that trip. There were a lot of hours in the car with our kids to reach our destination. But the experience there was one we could never have recreated at home, and it was fabulous.  Our trip was a Sabbath from our regular life… just as our day of rest should be a Sabbath from our regular week and mindset.  There is catch-up to do on the flip side sometimes (as the mounds of laundry around me attest), but who cares?  I’ll take refreshment, widened perspective, deepened relationships with my family members, and a renewed sense of the adventure of life over the annoyances of prep and clean-up any day.


Is there such a thing as spiritual helicopter parenting? May 16, 2010

Filed under: Bible,Culture,Parenting — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:55 pm

I’m doing a Bible study this year in Esther – a book about a Jewish orphan who defies the odds to become the queen of Persia through marriage to King Xerxes.  During Esther’s reign, a decree is issued for the entire Jewish population to be exterminated, but God uses her royal influence to thwart the plot and save the Jews.  In the penultimate chapter of the book we read this: “On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the edict (to annihilate the Jews) was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.”  According to study facilitator Beth Moore, the “most pronounced theme of the Book of Esther is the reversal of destiny”… And about this reversal she says: “God can’t turn a table that was never set against you.”

It’s a fairly obvious point but still a striking one.  A story like Esther’s is compelling and inspiring because of its drama- the threat of annihilation, the fear Esther must conquer to intervene, and ultimately her brave “risk-it-all” act of approaching her husband, the king.  The triumph and relief that accrue to Esther – and all the Jews- come in the face of otherwise fatal circumstances.  They anticipate evil and destruction; they get rescue and life.  God swoops in and saves them through Esther and her cousin Mordecai.  God responds to their cries, fasting, and prayers. He hears them. He reverses their destiny. (more…)


Mother’s love: a look inside May 10, 2010

Filed under: Bible,For moms,Mothering role,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:22 am

It’s Mother’s Day, and my reflections today were mainly about a mother’s love for her children.  I was reminded of Jesus’s words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  The analogy He makes between Himself and a mother hen intrigues me.  Of all the types of love for Jerusalem He could have described here, He chooses a maternal picture of care, attachment, and protection.  It makes me realize that the love we moms feel for our young ones is truly akin to the love God has for us humans, His children. 

This got me thinking about the ways God loves us, and the ways that we moms in turn love (and sometimes don’t love) our own kids. In a talk called “Loving my Children,” Carolyn Maheny speaks about maternal love with special emphasis on the type of love the Bible commends to mothers.  She focuses on Titus 2:4 in which Paul tells Titus to teach the older women to “train the younger women to love their… children.”  The teaching centers on this word “love,” because Paul chooses an expected form of the Greek word for love; he uses “phileo” rather than “agape.” “Agape” love – which Paul doesn’t use – refers to sacrificial, selfless love.  “Phileo” love, on the other hand, refers to warm affection and tenderness.  Thus the instruction here is for moms to tenderly, affectionately love their kids.  Maheny says;

“I found it interesting that Paul didn’t use ‘agape’ love, sacrificial love. Instead he used ‘phileo.’ Of course we know that we are to love our children with a sacrificial and selfless love, but I believe that Paul encouraged the older women to teach the younger women to love their children with a tender, affectionate love rather than a sacrificial love may attest to the fact that women are generally weaker in exhibiting phileo love than they are at showing agape love.  I mean think about it with me: isn’t it a rare experience to meet a woman who doesn’t sacrifice for her children and daily lay down her life to serve them? Women are good at that kind of love. (more…)


Involving kids in household tasks (or “Can I get some help around here?”) May 7, 2010

Filed under: Behaviors,Household,Materialism and entitlement,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 2:53 am

“Diligent hands will rule…” ~Prov 12:24

For months now I’ve been trying to figure out how to tackle better involving my children in household operations.  At 4 1/2 and 2 3/4, they’re both capable of doing a fair amount to help out… But I’ve been unclear on how exactly I wanted to achieve this in our home.  I got hung up on all the different “kids job” options and styles out there… Individual chore charts and sticker rewards? All helping out together, tomato-staking style? Tied to allowance or not?  Too many choices, and I felt overwhelmed just figuring out the best tack – let alone getting started.

Our ultimate goals are basically these: (more…)


Yes, no, or neither May 2, 2010

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Behaviors,Communication and speech,Correction,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:47 pm

Y’know how women have a reputation for not saying what they mean- saying yes when they mean no, and no when they mean yes?  This has been a source of conflict in countless marriages since the first one in Eden.  Husband asks wife if she’s OK with him goes out with his buddies on Saturday; she says yes — while hinting that she’s annoyed and/or inwardly seething because his doing so disrupts all her hopes and wishes for the weekend.  Etc.

I have other communication problems and sins, but generally speaking, this problem isn’t a biggie for me.  I’m pretty good at being honest about my needs and at speaking up about my feelings.  That’s why it’s been so strange for me to observe this tendency in an unlikely place: my 2-year old daughter.  When she disobeys or is defiant, it comes out in the most passive-aggressive way.  It started shortly after she turned 2… she’d say the right words in a given situation, like “Thank you Mommy,” but she’d yell them rudely at me.  Letter of the law, yes, but spirit of the law – no way.  Each time I’d work with her, outlasting her, to repeat the phrases till the tone and words matched.  But I began to see the same type of thing cropping up everywhere.  Her way of demonstrating to me that she would not accept my authority was by manipulating the situation.  She’d comply outwardly, but not fully – and certainly not at heart level(more…)