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Entries in Family (10)


Divided families

I was reading Mark 2:23-3:35 this morning. In this passage, we are told that the reaction of Jesus' own people to his ministry was not positive. Mark 3:21 says, "He has lost his senses." It's pretty sobering when the Saviour himself generates a reaction like that.

I am sure my own family believed I had lost my senses when I was converted. It was't the first time I'd had a religious experience. As a teenager, I spent a number of months immersed in the teaching of the Latter-Day Saints. I was a very good Mormon. When I had a very emotional change of heart, it probably came across as having been merely a fad.

However, it was only the beginning of something else. Perhaps some would object, but I see now God's providential hand in directing me to the LDS church. It propelled me forward in a significant way: it impressed upon me the importance of the Bible. After that, my path was fairly clear. Three years later, I was converted. Perhaps the skepticism of my family was understandable. Here we go again *eye roll*.

It is not easy being the only Christian in my family. The reality is that despite spending our lives together, being raised by the same parents and in the same context, my brothers and I live very different lives. We have different priorities. The similar experiences remain part of who we are, but since my conversion, and as we moved into adulthood, the differerence was apparent, especially once we became parents. The place where we begin to build a family is important, and for me, it started with God as the focus of our home. That put me even more on the outside. Now, as my parents are getting older, the reality of aging and death has shown me how I am separated from my own parents. I love my parents and they love me, too We enjoy being together, but the difference remains.

Luke 12:51-53 reminds me of the expectation of division: 

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Christ's coming would pit people against one another everywhere, including among families. This is a hard truth to live with. Our siblings are our closest biological relatives. We share a common life, a common upbringing. We have memories. I love to sit and listen to my own children remenisce about the fun things they did as children. Those times are part of who they are. But when we are separated by a difference of belief, it can be difficult. In the past couple of years, as I have spent time with two of my three brothers whom I see very little, I am reminded that in some ways, we don't really know one another well, and we have little in common. That saddens me.

The end of the exchange in Mark 3 finds Jesus embracing those around him: "For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." We find fellowship and a common life with the Body of Christ. And if we are fortunate to have biological family members in the Body of Christ, we are doubly blessed. The church is important. It is a gift to us. That is one of the reasons I struggle with people who say they love Jesus but not the church. The church is imperfect, but it is within that body where I find the opportunity for fellowship and friendship. It isn't always easy, but it is possible. 

It takes work and the grace of God to live peacefully with unbelieving family members. We pray for their salvation year after year. We hope that every time together is an edifying time where we can live Christ before them. Sometimes, our efforts are well received, and sometimes not. Our families know us well, and they often bring to the surface our worst qualities. The temptation to be bitter or dismissive is real. But we must continue to love them, accept the reality of division, and rely on God. It isn't easy, but as I get older, I realize how very difficult the Christian life truly is.


Maybe we could be easier on the boys

When I was a teenage girl, I was boy crazy. This interfered with my education. A couple of years ago, I was looking at pictures at my parents' house and found my old report cards. The difference between my 7th grade report cards and what I achieved in high school was quite striking. While I always loved reading, I'm afraid I was more worried about boys than anything else. I was relieved to get out of high school, where one can actually worry less about such things.

The Temptation to Hover

When my daughter became a teenager, I was concerned she would repeat my mistakes. My concern led to hovering, and that probably interfered with her deveveloping male friendships. Note I said friendships, not romances. I think it is healthy for boys and girls to be friends. Looking back, I think I was (like many other women) worried about every boy who came along becoming a distraction.

We do worry about our daughters' purity. Please do not misunderstand me and believe I am saying we don't have to worry about such things. Teaching our daughters biblical attitudes towards young men and other girls is a crucial part of their development. But it isn't the only thing teenage girls need to learn.

Other Distractions

There are other distractions that are just as serious, and in a day and age when more young women than ever are pursuing advanced education, it is something worth thinking about. While a boy can be a distraction that leads a girl down a path that is far from the Lord, so can academic achievements. Having a 4.0 grade average can be a wonderful thing, but it can build an attitude of self-reliance. If a young girl succeeds in school, it will definitely help her in life, but it can also make her rely on herself and not God just as easily as that cute boy she's been mooning over. 

Pride in Accomplishments?

I am not discouraging study or education. My husband and I both have university degrees, and our children are all in school. My daughter is in year eight (yes, eight) of school, preparing for approval for her doctoral dissertation. She's an excellent student. But I wouldn't want her to find her identity in those achievements rather than Christ. I wouldn't want her to place her hope in her academic ability rather than Christ. I think sometimes because education is good, and it equips our daughters to live as adults, we don't think it can be a problem. It can. While we are worrying over her dating in high school, we should also watch carefully her attitude toward her own accomplishments. Does she recognize God as the giver of her academic success and thank him for it? Is there the hint of pride in those accomplishments?

Teach Her to Serve

One way I think we can teach our girls to balance their time is to find ways to serve. Instead of every extra-curricular activity being about them, how about finding time to work with the kids at church, or volunteer with people less fortunate? Or how about serving a grandparent, an older neighbour? How about finding time to use that great intellect to tutor someone? That intellect ought to be used to further the Kingdom of God, not just a girl's portfolio.

The Beginning of Wisdom

I do agree with the many who are concerned about dating issues with their daughters. Having raised three kids to adulthood, and going through our own experiences with the issue, we were very attentive to that. But I can tell you that sometimes, we worry too much. Anything can trip our children up; or us, for that matter. Anything can lead to sin. Don't forget to watch for other things. It may be that the thing that tempts your child doesn't wear saggy jeans and and a sideways baseball cap. It might be the lure of a grade point average.

Proverbs 9:10 reminds us: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." Our daughters need to understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. All of their academic knowledge may teach some wisdom, but only God will teach them the wisdom they need to live a godly life.

For a related post, check out Melissa's piece at Out of the Ordinary on a similar theme.


Two things I know for sure

There is a courtship/dating theme a-buzz on the interwebs again. Oh, how I remember those days when it was my teens, and I was reading and thinking about this. I read just about everything on the subject, was too sure of myself in most things, and likely more opinionated that I ought to have been.

The matter is complicated because how we guide our children is influenced by our family situation/dynamics. The truth of the matter is that what works for one person doesn't for another. There are still a lot of questions about the matter, and there are a lot of things unanswered. 

But I do know two things from watching it up close and personal. 

First, if the goal of the dating/courtship scenario we adopt for our families is based on a desire to avoid our own bad dating past, we have the wrong motives. This is not about us; it's about guiding our children. And it begins with being made in God's image, and how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to deal with each child as an individual while at the same time upholding biblical principles in each situation. This isn't about how we can make up for our own mistakes.

Second, whether you call it dating or courtship, if your children have a relationship that becomes too serious for their maturity level, and it ends, it will quite possibly be devastating. It will feel very much like a divorce. And it will affect your entire family, especially if that special person became like one of your own.

My young adult children have expressed the opinion that especially in church youth groups, boys and girls are not taught to be friends. Once they are into puberty, the warnings begin, and it is almost like the are instructed to be wary of the opposite sex. There is more worry about what can go wrong than developing friendships. I think they may be on to something.

For an excellent book on the matter of dating and relationships, check out Sex, Dating, and Relationships. I wish it had been around when my kids were teens.


It isn't by hammer and nails alone

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Proverbs 14:1:

The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.

A wise woman will build her house.

This is not referring to hammer and nails, although, I suppose it could begin with that. My aunt and uncle lived in a very old, inconvenient house for many years. When my uncle built a new one, it was enjoyable for my aunt to be involved in how it was set up, which side of the house would have windows, and how high or low the kitchen counters would be.

These verses refer to much more. They address the relationships a woman has in her home. Building a home where there is children involves love and discipline (Prov. 6:20) and providing for their needs (Prov. 31:13-15). It involves serving her husband (Prov. 12:4).

Building a house involves industry and commitment, and it is not confined to the married woman. Women who are single have homes, and they build them, too. Many single women have children, so the way it looks for one woman may not be the same for another.

What does it mean to build my home? My children are grown and mostly on their own. Does that mean I get a pass on building my home? No. I still have a husband, and I still have a home. My home can be used for more than just chasing toddlers around or hosting sleepover parties.

Building a home means it is my priority. Whether my vocation is to be home full-time or perhaps working outside the home, my home is still my priority. Certainly, having work outside the home means one must juggle more, but home is still important. In my position, with no children and no career, it could be very tempting to just plop down on the couch and read all day, or knit or crochet all day. I've done that. Even those of us who continue to find our primary vocation inside our homes need to make a priority. 

Building a home means making it a place people want to be. And I don't just mean in elaborate decoration, although if that's your strength, by all means, make it lovely. I'm not a decorator. The attractiveness of a home extends beyond appearance. It involves hospitable owners and warm and loving conversation. One of the best times I had with a friend not long ago was a simple cup of coffee at her dining room table. I wanted to be there, and I knew she wanted me there by the way she welcomed me.

If I want to build my home well, I need to like being home myself. When I was growing up, some years my mother worked, and some she did not. She preferred to be at home full-time. We loved it when she didn't work, because her attetion to the house was greater. She had more time for us, and was less stressed out. The house ran smoothly. Knowing I had a mother who wanted to be home with us meant a great deal to me, and it set an example I was determined to follow. Working mothers cannot be at home as often as they would like, but when they are not working, they can definitely communicate to their children that they are glad to be home when they are there.

Building a home means reducing conflict. There is nothing more disruptive and more off-putting than open conflict in a home. When you were a child, did you ever leave a friend's house because there was always arguing and bickering? Did you ever leave your own home because there was too much arguing and bickering? Was it nicer to stay with a friend than go home to arguing and quarreling parents? Proverbs has a lot to say about quarreling (Prov. 19:13; Prov. 26:21; Prov. 27:15-16). That is one way to tear down our homes: being argumentative, petty, and bickering. My husband would not tolerate that kind of thing when we got married, and I'm glad. Quarrelsome parents often beget quarrelsome children.

I am a homebody. I love to be home. It's the place where I can, as my mother used to say, "let my hair down." For our families and friends, it should be also. That means building a comfortable environment. If home is important to us, it will show. If we neglect our homes, that, too will show.

I feel very fortunate for my home. God gave it to me. With gratitude, I want to be a good steward of that. 


I'll never regret homeschooling

In 2000, my husband and I pulled our children from public school mid-year. There were many reasons. Our plan was always to take things year by year. I had no idea how it would go, but as that first few months unfolded, I began to see the benefits. And one of the greatest benefits was time.

Time for kids to play: a five year old being homschooled doesn't need more than a couple of hours to finish what he needs to do for the day. Kids learn a lot from independent play, and there was time for that. My two boys, two years apart, had incentive to buckle down and work because they could play. I will always have memories of them dashing upstairs to the bedroom to get out the Lego or go outside with their bikes. Play is good. Today, kids' play is so structured and micromanaged. Free play or time to do absolutely nothing are good things; they foster the imagination.

Time to be together as a family: I never realized how much the school schedule controlled us until we get out of it. There were no more rushed dinners in order to get out of the house for music lessons, soccer practice, or kids' club. We could have music lessons at 2:00 in the afternoon, and we did. One year, our piano teacher even taught here at the house in the morning because it worked for everyone. We took vacations when we wanted. Off-season vacation prices are great and we found fall was much better for vacations than the summer.

Time to explore: Homeschooling gave my kids a chance to investigate whatever they wanted. My daughter was able to indulge her voracious reading appetite with historical fiction and a heavy doses of Agatha Christie and Lord Peter Wimsey. She was able to focus on her piano playing at the time, and write as many stories as she wanted. My boys were able to nurture their musical interests. They were able to work at their own pace, faster or slower as the case may be, without anyone hurrying them or asking them to wait.

Time for good books: We read together every morning. I can't remember everything we read, but that first year we read the Chronicles of Narnia. My youngest was only five, and he was allowed to listen as long as his attention span would allow. Eventually, when he was nine, he read them on his own. We read the stories of Redwall, and I even did my best to make the accents of the animals in that series. I cried when I read the end of Charlotte's Web, and I had to get one of the kids to finish "In Flander's Fields" when we read that out loud on November 11th one year. 

Time to talk: When we homeschooled, it was possible to take bunny trails in any discussion of schoolwork. There were no deadlines, only guidelines of when we wanted to get done. Taking thirty minutes to talk about something related or something unrelated was possible because there was always time.

There are holes in every education. One cannot learn everything and every student will leave their school years with gaps in things learned. Even the years they spent in public high school left holes. No education is perfect. I don't regret sending them to high school despite some of the issues.

And I will never regret homeschooling because it was a worthwhile investment of time with my children. Think about it: generally speaking, the majority of our lives is not spent living with our parents. The years with our children fly so quickly. My children are young adults now, and it's work to schedule a time when we can all be together. I'm glad I had that time with them when we did. It was worth every moment, good and bad. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.