Faith At Home

How To Help Your Children Remember Who They Are

IMG_20170224_092905_585

A few weeks ago, I shared about the four words from the Wingfeather Saga that are changing my life:

Remember who you are.

But these words aren’t just changing the way I look at myself. They are changing and informing the way I parent my children. The mom in the story, Nia, spoke these words to her children, and I’ve been pondering ways I can say this to my own kids. Who are they? And how can I remind them of that?

One, day, when my boys were very little, I was praying for them, and the Lord led me to a couple of very specific verses based on the names we have given them.

“My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly.” Numbers 14:24

“Your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord.” 1 Kings 22:19

It amazes me how every year, my understanding of these verses deepens, how they name and inform my boys’ innate personalities, but also how these words have the ability to call out the very best in them. God keeps challenging me with new depths to these two stories of men who followed hard after him: Caleb, the mighty warrior who had the courage to stand against a multitude and believe God’s promise was true, and Josiah, the zealous king who tore down idols and wept when the Book of the Law was read in his presence.

My Caleb can be downright different sometimes, and it takes someone who is willing to be different to stand against a scared mob and trust that God will do what he said he would do. And Garrett (Josiah is his middle name) responds with his whole heart in almost everything he does. When he combines it with humility, that trait makes him kind and passionate and deeply committed to what he believes is right.

I know Caleb and Garrett’s God-given identities will continue to take on flesh in a thousand different ways as they go through life and grow and change, but these verses name the very best in my kids and call it out in them. That’s why these are the words I want to be deepest in my kids’ hearts. Deeper than the enemy’s lies. Deeper than the ways I’ve accused and misunderstood them in my less-than-stellar parenting moments. Deeper than their fears or what the world says or how things look from the outside. I want them to know who they are

If you, like me, want to know who your kids are, at their very God-breathed core, but you don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • What are your deepest dreams for your child? This is not about you wanting them to play football, because those kinds things can be taken away in an instant by circumstances. Even professional players have to retire eventually, and usually pretty young. But who do you want your kids to be after they hang up their cleats for the last time? Honest? Righteous? Brave? Dream big.
  • Why did you choose your child’s name? Does your child’s name mean something special to you? Did you name him or her after someone? What do these things say to you about who you want your child to be?
  • What emerging personality traits do you see in your child? Think of both the things you love and the things that most frustrate you. Chances are, your child’s greatest challenges can be gifts in disguise. In that strong-willed girl are the seeds of a woman who won’t cave to peer pressure. That kid that cries at the drop of a hat? His compassionate heart might be one that fights to give justice to the oppressed. Prayerfully consider the ways that your child’s weaknesses could turn out to be their greatest strengths.
  • What kind of family culture are you building? What family values do you all hold? For example, in our home, Reasoners are game-players. We like to go camping. We are people who pray and worship together. We love to read. What does it mean to be a part of your family?

Once you’ve identified who your children are, and who they are becoming, make a point to call these things out in them. Here are a few ways you can begin doing that today:

IMG_20170324_144305_732

  1. Display who they are in your home

A few of years ago, I had a local artist, design and paint my boys’ verses as art I could hang in their room. They are one of my very favorite things in our home. (If you’re in Southwest Missouri, you need to check out Heather’s stuff; it’s amazing.)

  1. Make them learn it by heart

It was important to me to make my boys memorize their verses. It’s easier because we homeschool – it was the very first memory work we assigned to them this year. But even if they were in public school, I would have made a point to make them learn these words by heart. If you don’t have a verse that names your children the way these do for mine, ask the Lord to lead you to one. Or craft a statement that speaks to things you’re trying to call out in them and make them learn that.

  1. Pray these things over them

Pray both aloud and to yourself. Speak it over them all the time. Tell them who they are, and make them repeat it back to you if you have to. Show them that you see them for more than how they are acting right now right now, and you will in essence, be saying to them Remember Who You Are.

Faith At Home

Three Things We’re Doing to Build a Strong Family

I wish so badly that there was some sort of formula for parenting.

That if you fed your kids a certain number of vegetables, took them to church a certain number of times, and gave them a certain number of goodnight kisses, you could guarantee that things would turn out the way you wanted them to.

Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, there is no one clear-cut way to guarantee results in your parenting. The longer I serve the Lord, the more I realize that beyond the basic right and wrong, it is absolutely essential to be yielded to the Lord’s leading in all that we do, especially in parenting.

Remember what Mary said to the servants at the wedding in Cana? “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Mary knew Jesus. She knew his authority and his power. She trusted that if the servants followed his guidance, Jesus would make things right.

So before I share about the ways we are building a strong family, I want to preface it with this: do whatever he tells you. I really think that these pillars of our family culture are beneficial for all kids, and research even backs up how important and foundational some of these practices are. But you have to start with the vision God gives for your own family. If one or more of these doesn’t resonate with you in your season or particular family dynamics, and most importantly, if God is leading you to do something different, then by all means do that.

But like I said, I think for most families these three things will help, over time, to build a foundation for a resilient, close-knit, healthy family.

  1. Share stories

14054994_921512514958_7468120198367657584_n

Stories matter. Did you know that one of the biggest predictors of a child’s ACT scores—more than race or gender or socioeconomic status—is whether or not that child’s parents read to him or her? But even if it didn’t virtually guarantee academic results, I’d still read my kids stories. Jesus told stories. The Bible itself is a story. Stories show us who we are and who we can be like nothing else can, and being able to pass that on virtue and character to our kids through stories is a priceless gift.

  1. Share meals together

There are so many studies that point to the overwhelming importance of regular family meals. Kids whose families eat together are less likely to be overweight or become addicted to drugs. They are also more likely to do well in school, and be resilient in the face of adversity. But again, I think there is a strong case for eating with your family even if these factors were not in play. Food plays an extremely important role in the Bible, and if Jesus spent time eating with his disciples, shouldn’t we eat with ours?

I know that, at least for me, the time and effort it takes to make regular family meals happen can be a challenge. Soon, I’ll share some more strategies for making this a little easier, but there’s one big thing that really helps us make family meals a priority: we eat breakfast together.

Several years ago, another pastor’s wife shared with me that family breakfasts worked better with their weird schedule, and I instantly realized what a game-changer that would be for us. Now, I feel more off-kilter when we haven’t had a sit-down breakfast in a few days, than when we’ve missed a bunch of dinners in a row. If dinner works for you, that’s awesome. But if it doesn’t, know that it doesn’t have to be at night to count as a family meal.

  1. Share time in nature

20160822_152500-2

Kids absolutely need time outside. Period. Not only does it help their physical bodies, but it’s so much easier for us to wonder at the mystery of God’s creation when we are out in it. Standing at the edge of the ocean, climbing to a mountain peak, sleeping under a canopy of stars—these are the things that absolutely take my breath away at the beauty and majesty of our God. I want to pass those same experiences on to my children, so we try as much as we can to explore and camp and go on hikes.

And one more, as a bonus:

  1. Play Games

    12096600_10153181405268715_9077729617002680062_n

I would be remiss if I left if out because this is such a big part of who we are as a family. Jason and I both come from game-playing families, and playing games together was an early part of our relationship. We love sitting around the table and playing games with our family (the big people) and we would love for that to be true with our own kids when they are grown. I don’t know if there’s any research backing up the importance of a regular family game night (something we’re trying to get more consistent at doing), but playing games teaches kids to be gracious winners and losers, to cooperate, to think strategically, and a host of other skills. Plus it’s tons of fun!

So, that’s what we are doing. Like I said, there’s no formula, but I think if I can do these things consistently over the next decade or so, these habits will eventually bear good fruit in my kids’ lives. So now you tell me: did I leave anything out? What do you do to build a strong family? And do you have any tips or tricks to make it easier to implement these habits? Let me know in the comments!