Parenting with Grace

I’m going to start by saying parenting with grace is something I desire to do, not something I am already good at. This is something the Lord has been working on in me for the full 3.5+ years I have been a parent. And I’m still not very good at it, nor do I anticipate perfecting the art in just the few years I have as a mother with children living under my roof. I do not claim to be good at this concept but the Lord has been telling me to try to write about it, so here it goes.

I desire to parent with grace. I really want to be patient, long suffering, and understanding of where my children are coming from in regards to age and their own understanding of the world. And I want to extend forgiveness. But that is not my nature. No, my nature is to do what I just did — go into a room with 2 kids who are playing instead of sleeping. Fuss at the 3 year old for loosing something, give her a cheap substitute and leave.

I often find myself fussing at the kids (3.5 and 1.5 years). I say things like “if you had just obeyed we wouldn’t be dealing with XYZ, would we? You need to follow my instructions” or “because I said so.” Then I hear this voice saying “mm-hmm, seems like I’ve been saying that for a while, too. Just obey, and things will be easier. You don’t have to understand.” I find myself just wanting to hush that voice. “nobody asked You. You don’t understand, this is the third time today we have dealt with this. Why don’t You tell THEM that?!” All such hate filled thoughts. Then I hear that voice say “but I forgive you of much bigger things than a lost paci, or a spilled drink. All I ask is that you go and forgive others too.”

Y’all that voice…that nagging conscience of the Spirit can be such a frustration. I want to yell. I want to throw my own fit. And I often do. I’ve been back in that room with those 2 non-sleeping kids three more times now. I still haven’t found the lost paci. I’m still fussing. And, yes, I have made it clear that if she had slept instead of playing, the paci wouldn’t have been lost in the first place. That’s how I handle these situations. The problem is learning to handle them with grace. Learning to go back and not yell. To calmly remind her that a screaming fit isn’t helping, and that this time she does have to take the consequences for her actions and that means she doesn’t get back the thing that she lost on her own.

You see that’s the hang up. I can not raise children to release to the world as adults, if I have let them grow up without the consequences of their actions. I have to discipline. I have to tell them things are their fault and that obeying me and dad will mean fewer consequences. Just like it is true that the more I obey my Father the fewer messes I will find myself in. So, what is the balance? When do I extend grace and say, “you know what, you goofed. Big time. Let’s fix it, together.” And when do I say “no. This is on you. You chose to do your own thing, figure this out.”

My kids are small. Many of their peers don’t even have any chores yet, and here I am trying to figure out when to let them suffer from their own actions, and when not to. I don’t know. I don’t know now; but if I do know if I don’t start trying to figure it out now I will be in a lot more trouble, when they are older and the things they do wrong are much bigger deals than spilling milk.

I’m not saying my kids (or yours) should be given a free ride. All I’m saying is my Father has forgiven me of much bigger offenses than the things I get so upset about. My children can’t learn to accept God’s forgiveness if I never teach them how to accept my own. They can’t learn to forgive if I don’t model that behavior. I have to show them these things, because just like it isn’t my nature to forgive and peacefully handle upsets with grace; it isn’t in their nature either.

Lord, teach me to parent with grace. Your grace; because I have none on my own.

 

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Pastor Appreciation Month: From a PK

I’m a PK — Preacher’s kid — and October is pastor appreciation month. Seems logical for me to write something about it. My dad has been a preacher all my life, and a pastor for most of that time. I’ve seen church ministry from the inside out for a long time. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. So believe me when I write to say thank you, I really do see what pastors, and their families have sacrificed.

For my family, it wasn’t just “dad is a preacher, and we tag along.” Ministry was a whole family deal. Sure, dad did the pastoring jobs, but none of us were allowed to just sit and watch. I’ve been 30 minutes to an hour early, to church, nearly every Sunday of my life. There was no option to be too tired or busy for church. There was no “that is someone else’ job” either. I’ve seen my dad vacuuming church halls in his suit and tie right up until people began to arrive. I’ve seen him emptying trash cans, picking up gum wrappers, and sweeping the same way. My mom, siblings, and I have all done the same. Your pastor’s family does so much, that you may never see. His wife is probably playing piano, singing, teaching Sunday School, keeping nursery, or some combination of all of those things. His children are likely mowing the church lawn, or being asked last minute to keep nursery or teach a class to children during revival. He is spending his own money on small church repairs that need to be done ASAP. So this month, thank your pastor’s family.

And of all the things you do see your pastor doing there are dozens more going on behind the scenes. He spends hours a week studying and preparing to teach and preach. He prays for you and the other members of your church. He worries about things for you. He takes calls late at night or early in the morning, when he would rather be sleeping. He prays with you over the phone, or drops everything to drive to the hospital. He counsels and marries your children. He buries your aunts, uncles, parents, and friends who had no church home. He sucks countless cough drops to squeak through preaching while he should be home in bed. He fights back pain, kidney stones, family worries, and stress to stay focused on delivering God’s word to you and the congregation every week. So this month, thank your pastor.

When you do see your pastor he smiles, hugs your neck or shakes your hand. He asks about you. About the new job.  About your children. He has his own concerns. His weekday job is rocky right now. His truck is broken down. His dad is sick. But he knows most people he speaks to on Sunday morning will unload on him, and then walk away without asking how he is doing. So this month, thank your pastor.

Then he stands up in front of the church. Maybe he leads music too. Maybe he just taught Sunday School. But now he comes to deliver the Message. He can see you are distracted. He knows that isn’t a Bible app you have pulled up. He hears you whisper to your friends, and he sees you get up for 3 bathroom breaks. He knows you keep checking your watch. All of these things are a huge distraction. But he keeps giving the sermon. He continues to do his job. Then he gets in the car, and turns to his wife… “did that make any sense? I struggled with that so much this week, and I don’t know if anyone heard it.” So this month, thank your pastor.

After all of this, he wonders. He loves you. Your pastor really does love you and your family. He wants the best for you. He wishes he could cast off your pain. He hates to see you suffer. But his job as your pastor, and thus roll as your friend, is always on the line. If he preaches too strongly on a subject will the church reject God’s word, and fire him? If he points out new ministry opportunities will people balk and leave the church? What if clearly false rumors begin to spread about him, or his family and the church kicks him out. After-all, he is human too. So this month, thank your pastor.

Really, having one month for pastor appreciation is such a huge down play of all that your pastor does for you. Thank him. Thank his wife. Thank his children. Thank the lady who makes coffee (or maybe your pastor does that too). Thank the nursery workers. Thank the Sunday School Director. Thank the sound team. Thank the guy taking out the trash. Ministry is hard work. It’s taxing. It can be stressful. Your pastor loves to serve, or he wouldn’t be there. So this month, thank your pastor.

Not the Preacher’s Job

I’ve been thinking lately. Mostly my mind just wonders here and there. Yesterday it wondered toward seeing children saved and baptized. Always such an awesome experience! But then I thought of the times I have heard Sunday School teachers, or parents say their children had to talk to the preacher. I’ve heard mothers tell their kids this for months; saying the child has to approach the preacher herself, supposedly, to show they are really “ready to be saved.” I have a few objections to this approach.

These are personal objects and maybe some pastors won’t agree; but here they are anyway. First, I believe once a child reaches a point where they know they are not good, no matter how narrow that understanding; they have already reached the “age of accountability.” In other words, if your 6 year old asks about being baptized because they “don’t want to die in hell.” Then that child already understands the beginnings of salvation. He may not fully grasp all aspects of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but he knows enough that God will hold him accountable. I know it sounds absolutely horrifying to think of a 6 year old going to hell; but I do believe knowing he needs Christ, and not actually accepting Him, would merit separation from the Father in Heaven. Again, maybe a stronger Bible scholar would argue with that; however, that is MY understanding.

Which brings me to my second objection with asking kids to go to their pastor to accept Christ. If, once a child begins to see the need for Jesus in her life, she is accountable for her sins; then is time not important in that situation? Let’s suppose your 9 year old is asking questions about asking Jesus into her heart. Now let’s say that you don’t feel “qualified” to answer those questions so you tell her to wait and ask the preacher on Sunday. Sunday comes and the pastor has to rush after church for another obligation. You try again to speak on Wednesday but your child is shy and doesn’t want to interrupt the preacher chatting. This goes on for a couple of weeks before you are in a car wreck…… What if your child were to die not having professed Jesus as her savior? What if that were the case, and you had simply ignored her questions because “that’s the preacher’s job?”

That last statement brings me to my final objection to making children wait to talk to a pastor. If you can not even explain Salvation through Faith in Christ to your own child, to whom CAN you explain it?! If we are to be leading others to Christ, shouldn’t we know what that means?  If you can’t tell your very own child that when they do bad things, like lie or disobey you, that it makes God sad. If you can’t continue by telling them God knew we would do bad things, so He gave something even more special than toys or money just for us. That God loved us so much that He let His Son be killed; and then His Son, Jesus, didn’t stay dead. He rose again so that We can still know Him. We can pray and tell Jesus “thank You for dying so I don’t have to. Please forgive me for doing bad things; I want to do things that make You happy.” …. If we can’t find SOME words to explain it to a child, how can we ever explain it to a coworker, a stranger, a friend, or anyone else?

Jesus said “let the children come to Me.” He didn’t say let them talk to the preacher and let him decide if they are ready to come. He said “let them come.”

May Operation Christmas Child Ideas

I’m running a little late posting this, but here it is!

The month of May is dedicated to collecting things for 10-14 year old girls. This can be a tricky age to shop for. It’s hard to know what a 14 year old girl we have never met, might want as a gift. The truth is, most of the children who receive gifts through Operations Christmas Child need so many things, that almost any gift will be a blessing. Like the months before I have shopped and found some things I recommend for the shoe boxes.

Clothes

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The shoe boxes that can be ordered from Samaritans purse are pretty small. That makes shopping for older kids tough, because the clothes need to be bigger. I recommend something like this shirt, leggings set. Both are soft and can be rolled fairly small. A simple dress, or skirt would also be appropriate. This set is size 8 and was $8.74 at Wal-Mart. Socks and panties are also great to put in each box. This package of size 10 briefs is perfect. And the package of size M socks is also a great buy. (Sorry, some of my prices are missing… I misplaced my receipt.)

Shoes and Accessories

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Unfortunately, shoes are really hard for this age group. They are just too big to fit in the box with many other gifts. $.98 flip-flops are good compromise over nicer shoes, unless you are using larger boxes. The set of 4 bright colored necklaces make fun “filler” gifts for this age. They were only $4.88. Bright colored bandanas can be very useful; and they are only $1! This neat little purse is sure to bring a smile to a young lady across the globe. This one was in the girls clothing department for $5.47.

Fun Gifts

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Gifts for this age can be more along the line of small tools or other useful items. I read in Franklin Graham’s book Operation Christmas Child, how a young boy was ecstatic to find his own “towel” in his box. He was in a orphanage and all the children shared just 1 or 2 towels. He said he was later told what he had was actually a wash cloth.Can you imagine even one child drying off with a rag? But we can assume from his story that the towels they all shared could not have been too much bigger than a rag. With that in mind, I think hand towels (around $2); or even bright, fun kitchen towels will make super gifts for this age group! I also suggest a small sewing kit (around $1) and some fabric (around $5-7). Any box with a sewing kit should also receive a pair of school scissors, for cutting fabric.

These are all simple gifts, and none of them are expensive, but they may very well change the course of a child’s life by bringing them to knowledge of the Love of God.

A place for Everything

Here is some food for thought on this Monday morning!

Ladies, there is a place for everything. And everything should be in it’s place. This goes for your boobs too. I’m so sick of being flashed in public — even at church of all places! Put ’em away. Please.

Before you start thinking I’m just jealous of other women’s figures. I’m not. I’m only 26. After nursing 2 babies, the girls are still pretty perky. My husband says they look great. But that’s for him to say. And not for you to see. No, I’m not jealous at all. Disgusted maybe? Okay, that’s a pretty strong word. Offended for sure. I don’t care if you are young, or old; married, dating, or single. Quit sharing them.

Here’s the deal. We all know you have boobs. We don’t have to see them for proof. When you try on clothes, or get dressed in the morning; do us the favor of looking in the mirror. I’m not saying wear turtle necks every day, forever. (I HATE turtle necks!) Just make sure at LEAST 3/4 of those puppies are left for the imagination!

This is a good rule of thumb, for married women. When you buy something new, before taking the tags off, model for your husband. You know “that look.” If that comes across his face, the top is just too low. If you can’t read his face, then ask if he would be okay with you wearing the garment to go hang out with him and his all male group of friends. If he says “no,” see if you can add a layer under it, other wise return it and try again.

For single ladies, think what your dad, brother, or maybe grandad might say about what you have on. If you think they would question it, or be uncomfortable talking to you while you have it on, then the rest of us don’t need to see so much either.

Both of the rules above apply to garments that may be too tight, too short, or too anything else, as well. Modesty, can be so much more attractive than dressing like a clown.

I know most of this sounded pretty harsh, and perhaps embarrassing. I rather intended for it to come across that way. It’s so important that we respect ourselves enough to dress well. I’m not talking about being fashion forward, and on trend; I am NONE of those things. I’m talking about honoring ourselves, and our husbands (or future husbands)  by saving our bodies just for them.

 

April OCC Collections

April is just around the corner, and that means I’m gearing up to start a new Operation Christmas Child collection theme at church. We collected soap and rags in January; toys, clothes and blankets for 2-4 year old girls in February; and we are wrapping up collections for 2-4 year old boys for the month of March.

After some research and reading I learned that Samaritan’s  Purse tends to see the most shoe boxes for 5-9 girls. With that in mind, we will be skipping that age group this year. So, April we will be collecting for 5-9 year old boys.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit scatter brained for my idea shopping trip this month. I actually needed to go to Walmart for milk and some produce. But I try to avoid going for a bunch of extra trips, so I tacked this shopping on too; and forgot my idea list at home. (Go, me!)

Without further ado, here is a list of what I did get…and  a list of some other great ideas, as well.

Shoes and Socks**

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Like the last 3 months, I’m going to ask folks to bring shoes and socks for the shoe boxes. Flip-flops are easy to fit in the shoe boxes, and Walmart has these for $0.98! I recommend getting size Small (5-6). As always, I encourage you to try to get some good sturdy shoes for the boxes. Flip-flops are better than barefoot. But real shoes… WOW! These canvas shoes are size 10 and cost $5.87. The socks are size 10-2 1/2 and $3.97 for 4 pair.

Pants and Shirts**

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Clothes are great to include in Shoe boxes. I found these solid color shirts for $2.97 (the red one was marked down to $2. No idea why, but it may be worth digging.) I went with an XS and a M. The shorts were $4.97, and I went with size 5. Long pants would also be great, but they will need to be athletic type pants that will fold up really small. Remember to avoid wording or movie characters. What would be super popular here may be unknown, or even offensive in another culture.

Underwear

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Most Americans take things like underwear for granted. Other countries that just isn’t the case. It’s always good to include a pair or 2 of underwear in each box. I chose 4T briefs. The size chart says it will fit a 35-38 pound child. Small boxers or briefs would also be good for this age group. This package was $3.47 for 5 pairs.

Hats Bandanas and Sunglasses

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Obviously, I didn’t remember to actually buy sunglasses the other day, but just some ordinary shades would be great in a shoe box. I found this beanie on sale for $.50! But caps or the floppy brimmed sun hats would also be great to include. Bright colored banadans are fun and useful. Pick them up at Walmart for $1, or go to Hobby Lobby for a huge selection at about the same price.

Toys

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Just like for the last 2 months, stuffed animals are still welcome. Just remember to keep them small so we can still fit everything else in the boxes as well. These are T-balls so they are slightly softer and more bouncy than a regular baseball. I found them in lots of colors for $1.50. Tennis balls are also great. The match box cars were $3.47. The bigger cars that I suggested for  2-4 year old boys would be fabulous for this age group as well.

Other Ideas

Some other ideas for 5-9 year old boys, include:

  • Peg games (found on tables at Cracker Barrel. Find them near the store check out, for just a few dollars.)
  • Slinkies
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Flash lights
  • Echo-Mics
  • Cups or bowls

Happy shopping y’all! Let’s bless some children with some material things, while reaching out to them with the Gospel.

**As sad as this sounds, many of the children who will be receiving these gifts live in countries where food in scarce, and undernourishment is rampant. I say that to remind you that what we would consider average size for each age group, may likely be a pretty big kid in another country.

OCC: 2-4 year old boys

Last month I wrote about collecting things for Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts going to 2-4 year old girls. This month (March) I will be coordinating church collections of things for 2-4 year old boys. Just as I did last month, I’ve gone to Walmart and collected things to be included in the shoe box gifts. Again, no single item costs more than $10 and most cost $5 or less. Remember children receiving shoe box gifts are living in extreme poverty. They do not need cheap gifts that will break right away. So here are some good, quality ideas guaranteed to bring a smile to a little boy’s face.

Clothing:

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I don’t think I can stress enough how special it would be for these little boys to have NEW, clean clothes. So often we want to help others by donating our old things. And there is nothing wrong with that; but imagine if you had never had a single brand new shirt in your whole life. Then some one you never even met sent you one. That would be huge. Huge!

A lot of people find it very hard to shop for clothes for a child they have never met. This is understandable. I try to shop on the middle to high end of a size range; in this case, 3T pants and shirt. Stick with fun colors (NO CAMO) and neat designs but try to avoid words or cultural references. A child who does not speak English may not want to wear clothes with words he does not understand. And movie or TV characters don’t always translate well. Solids, Stripes, or sport type themes are great.

The shirt in the picture was $3.88. And the pants were the same price.

Underwear:

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It may seem like an odd gift to send to a perfect stranger, but this is a much needed item. I shop for the middle to high size range here too. This package of 6, size 4T briefs was $3.50.

Socks and Shoes:

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Lots of people buy flip flops to go in OCC boxes. There is nothing wrong with that but it’s good to step it up a notch. Sure flip flops beat going barefoot, but real shoes are even better! Little boys shoes can some times be hard to find. For this age range a solid red, black, white, etc pair of girls Keds type shoes would also be great. Socks are also great. Especially if the box finds it’s way to a colder climate.

These little shoes are size 5-6 and were on sale for $2.00. The socks are for 3-5 years and were $2.50.

Blankets:

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep with out a blanket. Maybe even more than one. And I certainly like my children to have blankets. However, many children who receive shoe box gifts do not have a blanket, a bed, or even a home. Imagine the comfort of a soft, clean blanket to wrap up in. Baby receiving blankets are the perfect size to put in a shoe box, and they aren’t that expensive since you can get 4 for $7.97 at Walmart.

Toys:

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Blocks, balls, and cars! So much fun for little boys. I love this little box of blocks. It’s a small set but just the right size to fit in a shoe box. I found it for $5.96 in the toy department at Walmart. The bag of 12 tennis balls was $7.97. The 2 soft Nerf balls were just $2.97 each. And these cars are perfection! Yes, you can just bring matchbox cars but these are sturdier for driving in sand and rocks, instead of across a nice living room rug. The set of 3 is only $4.97.

Stuffed Animals:

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These tiny and very adorable little animals are in the Easter section at Walmart. And they’re just $.98!!! (You don’t have to go broke to pack a shoe box.) They also have some that are slightly larger for $2.98. Remember to keep animals small enough to fit in the box with other goodies.

Cups, bowls, and spoons:

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Operation Christmas Child organizers stress that many children have never had a cup of their own and how excited the children get to find such a treasure in their box. These cups can be found in a variety of styles and colors depending on the nearest holiday. It’s only $.98 for 4 of them… Do the math, that’s a REALLY cheap way to send a smile!

So there you have my Operation Christmas Child ideas for 2-4 year old Boys. My church (Canyon Country Church, in Canyon, TX) will be collecting these things through out the month of March. Happy shopping. And don’t forget to pray for the children as you shop!