Monthly Archives: October 2014

What Kids Wish the Bible Would Say

kindergarten placement testingKindergarten placement testing. That moment of truth where you know whether your efforts in early learning, flash cards, and countless stories made a difference. Whether those moments counting everything in sight, sorting, categorizing, and teaching your toddler (then preschooler, then child) to follow directions were effective.

I had been both anticipating and dreading the moment. He is my youngest, and since our middle child began attending school in fall of 2011, it had been just the two of us during school hours.

But it was also a time of change for our family. I started school again, and began working from home as an editor and ghostwriter. Amidst all that, I knew I did not give him as much time and focus – scholastically speaking – as our first two children.

Hence the mingling of anticipation and trepidation. The defining moment arrived. Our van was in the shop so my dad dropped us off at the school he would be attending in the fall. I waited in the office while he took the test.

Finally, the door opened. The kindergarten teacher walked up the hallway, approaching us. My son followed her. She stopped by the principal’s office and he ran up to me. “Mommy, I did very, very, well.”

Well, that was a good sign, especially since he doesn’t normally use the words “very,” especially twice in a sentence. Maybe he heard it straight from his prospective teacher.

She called me into the office and showed me how he did. She turned the pages of the test, explaining briefly what he had been asked to do on each one. He aced following directions, did well in problem solving, and thinking skills (probably talked a blue streak while working out certain problems). He struggled with the page on phonics. Overall, besides the phonics page, the teacher said that he did “very, very well.”

I was happy. My teaching had been at least relatively successful. Even though I hadn’t given him all the attention and focus that I had wanted to, he was definitely ready for kindergarten. It was all good.

My son played outside while we waited for my dad to pick us up. After a few minutes, he came to sit beside me. “Mommy, I wish sometimes that the Bible would tell us that we don’t have to be nice to each other. I wish it would say that we can be selfish and think about ourselves.”

I blinked, taken aback at his statement, but thankful for his honesty. My other two kids had never said anything like that, especially not at five years old. I tried not to overreact. After all, he wasn’t angry. He was just expressing how he felt. About something rather important, in my point of view.

I said, “Well, let’s think about how life would be if the Bible told us that we could do whatever we wanted. What would the world look like if people did anything they wanted to?”

His eyes glazed over. It was clearly too nebulous of a question. I realized I’d have to bring it home a little closer.

“What if the farmers didn’t feel like doing their work and decided to do something else instead? Or the truck drivers who bring food from the farms chose to stop bringing things like milk, fruits, and vegetables to the stores? Then we wouldn’t have anything to buy. What if the people who keep the streets safe or keep the traffic lights working decided they didn’t want to help people and went home?”

He was quiet, but I could tell he was thinking about it.

“What if Mommy decided I didn’t want to take care of you for a little while? What if I felt like going to a trip to the mountains so I could read and write?”

He looked at me and laughed. It was a small laugh, as if he wasn’t sure whether I was joking or not.

“I would never do something like that, and I’m happy to take care of you because I love you.”

He seemed satisfied with my answer. Usually, if he didn’t agree with something, he would either continue the discussion or stalk off in a huff (and then I’d have to reason with him a little more).

So my youngest son entered kindergarten. I no longer have him with me for the majority of the day. Does that mean my job is ended? Not by a long shot. That single conversation showed me just how important and vital my role as a mother is. And I’m in it for the long haul.

Only God knows what kinds of questions he will come up with on his own, much less what kinds of attitudes and perspective he will face when he enters school. He will likely bring home or store up in his mind many new thoughts and questions, things he will need to weigh up against the foundations that my husband and I have taught him and are teaching him.

I am tempted to get overwhelmed by the responsibility, rearing a child – not scholastically, but spiritually and morally. Teaching Him about God and truth and love. What threatens to alarm me most is that I can give this little man all the information in the world, but only God can do the work in his heart.

But I can help. I can help by praying. By “raising him up in the way he should go,” by loving him and reasoning with him and keeping an open dialogue with him, and with his brother and sister, as they learn and grow. By giving them solid input and informing them of all sides of deep, foundational issues. By having the courage to let them come to their conclusions. Then I can pray some more, that the conclusions will be good one, and that they will grow into courageous and compassionate grownups.

At the end, that’s the very best I can hope and pray for … for any of the upcoming generation.

A Praying Parent

a smiling girl

Often parenting seems like a responsibility so great it is easy to feel weary under the daily burden.

I’m reading through a book that instead makes me feel like rising to the challenge. The title is Praying Circles around your Children, written by Mark Batterson.

Chapter one holds an awesome promise for any parent:

Your worst mistakes double as your greatest opportunities.

Those words jumped out at me, because I probably couldn’t count on two hands the mistakes I make as a mom … in one day (and on a not-so-great day, sometimes I make that many mistakes in one hour).

The book goes on to explain why our mistakes are opportunities:

Your mistakes give you the opportunity to teach them one of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn – how to say “I’m sorry.”

I have a very simple parenting philosophy that boils down to just three words: please, sorry, and thanks. If all else fails, I want to teach my kids to be really good at saying these words. … If they master these three words, they’re well on their way to great marriages, great friendships, or great relationships with God.

Those words jumped out at me, as I was just writing last week about the importance of being able to say sorry. The next paragraph jumped out even more. You know how sometimes you feel something has been written just for you?

You don’t have to do everything right as a parent, but there is one thing you cannot afford to get wrong.

That one thing is prayer.

You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer is your highest privilege as a parent. There is nothing you can do that will have a higher return on investment. In fact, the dividends are eternal.

Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows.

Ever been called a prophet before? Me neither.

But I can’t think of anything more awesome (or more sobering) than helping to shape the destinies of my children and their children. Helping them to reach for the future … not the hopes or desires or dreams I have for them – but the unique and awesome destiny God has created for them before time began.

Realizing that I, as a parent, have such a great calling makes me feel like squaring my shoulders and rising to the challenge, which I can only do by falling on my knees in prayer.

That’s Why Jesus Died?

a child at playThe prayer of my five-year-old one summer evening shocked me with a glimpse into a child’s mind and heart. More than that, it impressed me of the awesome responsibility of being a parent. The importance of listening to, understanding, and guiding my children’s thoughts and resultant conclusions in a way that will enable them to grow into adults with wisdom, love, and concern for those around them. 

I read my children a devotional that touched on the concept that even though we want to do the right things, sometimes we will end up doing the wrong things. Sometimes while we read, my five-year-old is in an entirely different world mentally. But this time, he asked about it. His question seemed an attempt to say, “Let me get this straight … is this how it works?” 

“Mommy, people want to do the right thing, but they can’t sometimes?”

“Sometimes,” I answered. 

“But that’s why Jesus died for them. Because they can’t do all the right things … but He still loves us?”

“That’s right,” I said, wondering what about that concept made him suddenly tune into what we had been reading.

The day passed like most of the summer days had. Trying to inspire them to do their chores. Spending a few hours at the water park. Asking them to clean up their rooms and hearing all the reasons why that particular mess really isn’t theirs or really shouldn’t be cleaned up at the moment. Stepping in to help them resolve issues. 

The evening rolled around. After snack time, getting-ready-for-bed issues and finding stuffed animals, we gathered into the living room to pray.

“Jesus,” my five-year-old son started before the rest of us had even closed our eyes, “you know, there are lots of people who don’t do the right things and some of them want to do the right things.” 

I glanced over at him. His eyes were squeezed shut and his hands clasped together in front of him. But his conversational tone of voice sounded just like he was chatting with a friend. A good friend. A best Friend.

“Help them to know you, to know that you died for them to forgive them for their sins.” He said a few more sentences, which I can’t remember. It was one of those moments I wish I had a video camera or audio recorder handy. I would have loved to record those precious words that came from his heart. 

But I know they’re recorded Somewhere. By Someone who hears the prayer of every one of his children, even (and possibly especially) the ones who don’t pray because they feel they have to or because it’s just the expected thing to do. By Someone who hears every prayer from a sincere heart.

Somewhere along the way, my son discovered a Friend who has entered his heart and touches his life in a way he can’t exactly understand or express. (After all, none of us can ever entirely understand or express God’s infinite love and care).

My heart was full of a whole lot I can’t quite put into words as I listened to him pray with a simple desire for others to know and understand that same Love. To meet that same Friend. To know the one who died to forgive their sins. 

At the end of his prayer, all I could really say was, “Amen.”