Checking In With Our Kid’s Hearts

hearts

Lately, God has laid on my heart to check in with my kid’s hearts. Today, I took each of my older four children aside and went for a walk: one-on-one.

We set out, my oldest and I, and I asked some simple questions: “What’s going on in your heart lately? Anything on your mind? What has God been doing in your life?” She talked a bit, I listened. Then I talked a whole lot and she listened. That’s sort of how we roll. I’m a talker. She’s an introvert and listener. It was sweet. Her heart is golden.

We got back to the house and I asked the next in line to walk. We got outside and I said, “So, what’s God been doing in your life these days?” He looked at me and said, “Wow! This is so cool. I’ve been looking for a time to share with you some things I feel God is doing.” We walked and he talked. And it was amazing, because we were seeing answers to prayer together in ways that astounded us both.

hearts

My next son was eager to get out to the door when I returned. “What did you talk about with the older kids?” I laughed and told him how cool it is that we have similar temperaments and how we are both third born in the family. We discussed his gifts, and wondered what God might have in store for all of the unique ways he has been gifted. He doesn’t care for history, though the rest of the family loves it. So we talked about all the reasons it’s good to study it. We smiled, laughed, and he prayed for me when I felt like a migraine was coming on. He had recently shared some things going on in his heart so we checked in on that and shared our thankfulness for all that God was doing in his life.

Number four was anxious to get alone with Mom and see what this was all about. She initiated questions with me, and we talked about our dream home floor plan, setting, and decor. We began to get to heart issues and she readily shared some struggles, how she is wanting to grow, and asked for advice on how to deal with a few things. She prayed together and she asked for some accountability and to check in on how she is doing at a later date.

Little Cinca would have loved to go for a walk too, but at this point, my feet were a little raw from having worn flip flops and my headache was returning…so we sat together and read a silly book instead.

I’ve decided that my goal this school year is to do weekly check-ins with my kid’s hearts. I’m going to log in some time praying over this and our time together. Each precious child will get one day each week for a 15-30 minute heart check. We can pray, follow up on how things are going and share with each other in ways that aren’t practical for group sharing.  These kids are getting big and there is so much going on in each of them in their unique life stages. I’m so thankful God is leading us to connect in this way right now. I need it as much as they do.

Do you do anything special to connect with your kid’s hearts? I would love to hear about it!
I hope you all check in with me too to see how this idea is going this year!

Six Steps for Starting Your Homeschool Year Right, Putting On the Armor of God

new year

new yearA new homeschool year is upon us. No doubt, you have spent countless moments prepping for this time. Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homeschool Creations have been recipients of your many searches as you’ve done your diligent homework for the school year ahead. Budgets have been stretched and your shiny new (or used) curriculum is set up in the book shelves. The kids are signed up for all the church, co-op, and community activities. Meal planning has been done and school rooms have been re-organized. Each child has picked out new crayons, pencils, notebooks, and folders.

Good job mama!

Setting up our homes to educate our children is a serious task that takes wisdom, foresight, organization, and planning. However, if you are anything like us…shortly after beginning a new year of schooling and plans, you hit a snag. Maybe the kids aren’t quite as enthusiastic as mom about the new schedule. Math keeps getting harder and harder to explain. Attitudes are rough, voices raise, wills clash, tears are shed; before you know it, your best laid plans have crumbled around you. The kids sigh with relief as you usher them out to play, and you slump over in a chair asking yourself, “Why do I do this?”

Homeschool mama, please hear my heart…for all the lovely aspects we experience in the calling to homeschool, the reality is…this life we’ve chosen is HARD. There is no scheduling we can do, no curriculum we can choose, no organizational system that will shield us from this reality.

Thankfully, we can plan for all the challenges we WILL face as our new school year unfolds.

Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us to, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This is the first thing we need to do as we prepare for the school year: recognize that our struggle is not against our CHILDREN…but against an unseen force. The enemy or our souls doesn’t want us to homeschool! And he certainly opposes our efforts to disciple our children in this setting. STAND AGAINST HIS SCHEMES.

What schemes have you faced in your homeschool struggle? Whatever they are, you can know that you have everything you need to face them. So how do you then, stand firm and put on the armor of God in your homeschool?

1. Keep the belt of truth buckled around your waist:

Resist being tossed around by all the philosophies of the world and keep our minds set on truth. Be in God’s word! I know this sounds like another thing to “check off” your list. But it doesn’t need to be a burden! Be creative. You don’t need to do it like everyone else. Here are some ideas:
Have a daily quiet time and read the Bible on our own.
Read the Bible before/during/after breakfast or lunch with your children.
Join a Bible study.
Purchase a devotional book.
It doesn’t matter HOW you do this, what time of day, or how quiet it is around you…just DO it. Read God’s word!

2. Keep the breastplate of righteousness in place:

Recognize that YOUR righteousness will never be enough to please God. Realize that if you are God’s child, it is HIS righteousness that cleanses you from all sin. Submit to the cross..and know that your purity comes from Jesus’ blood. When God convicts you of sin, turn from it, acknowledge your need for God and obey Him. He will change your heart. (Hint…you will mess up in your parenting as you homeschool. A lot. Be quick to see your need for the gospel and confess your sin, not only to Jesus, but to your children.)

3. Make sure your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

When you mess up in your home and confess and apologize, turn away from self condemnation. Ask for a Do-Over. But even better, use your mess ups, your kid’s mess ups, and life’s heart aches to continually point your kids to the cross and the gospel. When my kids sin, when I sin, when we butt heads, or argue, I have the opportunity to talk about our need for Jesus, and how He is enough for us. There are opportunities to be ready with the gospel of peace EVERY DAY in our homeschools. Keep going back to the cross, over and over again.

4. Take up the shield of faith: Faith is a gift from God.

If your faith is small or weak, ask God to increase your measure. When lies come into your head that cause you to doubt your calling, you need to replace those attacks with truth from God’s word.  Remember what He has called you to and why. Recognize the lies that seep in (i.e., Can I really do this? Will my kids be OK? Did I pick the right curriculum? Is it worth it to homeschool and live on one income? It feels like we are missing out! Fill in your most common lie), and ask God to help you to resist believing the lies, and believe He will be faithful.

5. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit:

Our kids put on helmets when they ride their bikes to protect their brains. We need our brains protected by continually renewing our mind. We need to hear the story of salvation often. Let’s renew our minds with the truth of what it means to be in Christ. Remember it is HIS goodness that keeps us and changes us, not our own. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by quoting scripture. Scripture is our greatest tool in facing everything we face as moms educating our kids at home. I’ve said it a few times in this post already…but Ephesians 6 seems to make it a recurring theme, so I will too; read it, quote it to combat lies, memorize it, sing it, just let it be your guide. 

6. Pray!

Pray for your children, your homeschool, your home life, yourself as teacher, your husband. Pray, pray, pray as you shower, exercise, make meals, and clean toilets. Pray when you are fighting with your kids (even better, pray together!). Bring ALL your prayers and requests to God. Be alert and pray for your homeschool friends. Pray WITH your homeschool friends. Start a prayer co-op. Two school years ago, my kids and I invited three families to pray with us, two times a month. The boys prayed together (my oldest son lead), the girls prayed together (my oldest daughter led), and the moms prayed together (I lead).

I can not promise you a year filled with ease by following these steps. You can count on various trials as you face your days: sick kids, messy houses, bad moods, confusing studies, bad diagnoses, family problems. I CAN promise you that when you put on the armor of God you will be guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. You will come to a fuller, more mature faith; growing in Christ. Your Savior will face each challenge with you, keeping you strong, helping you stand firm, until you see Him face to face.

Here’s some extra credit for you:

One of my kids and I have had regular face offs for awhile now. Both of us have had some less than exemplary behavior. Tonight, we went together and hung out, just the two of us. We talked about some things God is teaching us, we played cards, we ate junk food. Right before we left to go home I said something really simple. “I’m REALLY excited for this school year with you. I love you so much. We’ve had some hard times. We will probably have more hard times this year. But, I’m committed to you. And I want to work on communicating better and showing you love and patience.” I wish you could have seen the smile on my kiddo’s face. If you need to do this with any of your kids, do it! You will both be so glad you did.

Homeschool on! These days are precious and fleeting! Enjoy…and put on your armor!

Does a Connected Approach to Parenting Really Make a Difference?

Recently, someone yelled at me for not doing what this person wanted me to do. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I felt a familiar rage rise up inside of my spirit. I was ready to fight back against the injustice spent on me. Before I opened my mouth, a flash back of a conversation I had with my 14 year old daughter raced through my mind:

Jules was in a musical…and her director, talented, but fiery in spirit, often said unfavorable things to the cast. The negative comments were not directed toward her, but her castmates. However, one day, my daughter and the cast mates she worked with most closely were the recipient of sarcastic, hurtful remarks. When I picked her up that evening, I asked if there had been any blow ups at rehearsal. Jules calmly explained the situation, with no inflammatory remarks toward anyone. I was livid that an adult spoke to my child this way. I asked my daughter’s response which was,

“Mom! It wasn’t about me. I’ve watched the director interact with the cast and it’s just how this particular director chooses to work. It isn’t the best way to address things, but it also isn’t personal. I don’t need to own this and feel upset. I’ll keep doing my best and look for what I need to work on in the midst of words that are unpleasant to hear.”

connected teens

The silence in our van was deep and wide. I had to catch my breath, reflecting on the maturity of my first born. In all honesty, had it been me, I would have probably debriefed it with about three friends and let it bother me for days. I’m guessing my 14 year old would never have mentioned the event had I not asked. Her ability to measure the situation with such maturity took my breath away.

As I reflected on my daughter’s capacity to face unwarranted hostility, I took up courage and strength and made a choice. The person who yelled at me wasn’t my issue to take on. It wasn’t about me! Because of the strength garnered from my daughter’s example, I faced my adversary calmly, respectfully, and even validated this person’s feelings about the situation.

And the words from Romans 12:18-21 immediately rang true:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will replay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” 
Those verses references are from Proverbs 25 where the Lord concludes, “In doing this, the Lord will reward you.” I was rewarded immediately, with a peace flooding my own soul.

My oldest son was sitting out by our fire pit, looking deep in thought. I went out and asked if I could join him. I told him I would be up for listening to anything that might be on his mind. He slowly opened up to me some troubles he was having with a sibling. I looked at this almost a man, but still my little boy in absolute awe. Five years ago, this boy suffered with an overactive sense of justice. He kept me on my toes and my knees as we dealt with his often big emotions which could disrupt the household. Today, he quietly shared his struggle with kindness toward a misbehaving sibling. He told me he was asking God for wisdom and help to love this family member with an enduring “love you no matter what” kind of tenderness.

connected teens

I felt tears spilling over my eyes. I confessed my own struggle to love unconditionally when this family member acts out. Putting my arm around my son in understanding, I shared how his godly response was exactly the example I needed to move forward in parenting this child. He looked at his own actions and went running to Jesus for help. I shared how proud I was of the character growth, humility and love, he exhibited. We prayed together…asking God for wisdom, growth, and His spirit of kindness and love. We prayed for our sweet family, lifting up the challenges we face together. Humbly we asked for God’s Spirit to reign in the midst of the joy and the heartache.

We walked back into the house and I silently thanked God for intervening in our family so many years ago now.

There were so many times in the beginning of our journey as we began to change our mind set from “adversarial” parenting, to a more connected approach, that I doubted and wondered if this was the right way to go. I have no question anymore. My children are more equipped to face the world and it’s challenges as young teens, than I was in my first few years of marriage. I’m learning from their depth of insight and maturity and challenged to be a better version of myself. What a gift to move from a place of trying to control these little hearts, to a place of freeing them to be who God intended.

Giving our kids a safe home where they know they are loved no matter what; where they understand they are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing; creating an environment where our children are responsible for their actions and moving toward wisdom is something I will never regret. I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to implement these messages consistently with a couple of my kids. I’m re-energized as I see my older children living them out on their own. And I’m ready to re-commit myself to living out these values in our home.

I hope you choose to join me in my own journey. Together, let’s reach our kid’s hearts for the sake of Jesus and reconciling our children and others to God.