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Thursday Thoughts: A Letter to Haddon {Encouragement for Those Who Have Lost a Baby}

May, 2011 010At the beginning of March, 2011 my husband, Dave and I found out that I was pregnant with our second baby. While we were not surprised, we were very excited that the Lord had answered our prayers with another child. The timing was perfect. We announced it to our parents at the same time. We then let all of our immediate family know. We planned on having a “gender reveal party” probably at the beginning of June. The baby was due November 19, 2011. This would allow me to be off work for Dave’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s. Not the biggest deal in the world, but family time is important to us, so we were excited about that.

My OB appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, April 26 at 12:30. Dave was able to get off work to join me, so we could see the baby for the first time together. Right before we left, I went to the bathroom. I noticed a little bit of blood when I wiped. I was alarmed immediately. Before I was pregnant with Calvin, I had a possible miscarriage at five weeks, with the most noticeable symptom being bleeding. Thankfully there was only a little bit of light pink blood, though, and I knew some people bleed a bit during pregnancy. I was also thankful that I would be able to see the doctor within an hour anyway.

I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach as we drove. I wanted to find out right away whether everything was ok! As we neared the office building, however, I noticed fire trucks. Then, as I walked into the building the power went out. My appointment was cancelled! My heart sank; I would have to live with this fear for a while longer. Dave kept assuring me that I was fine. I called my mom, and she comforted me with the reminder that my sister and my aunt bled during pregnancy, and they were just fine. I knew that the Lord was in control, but I still feared for the life of my baby. My appointment was re-scheduled for the following Wednesday.

As the week went on, though, the bleeding continued to gradually increase. Dave still kept telling me everything was probably fine, but I was scared. I even told Calvin that I didn’t think he was going to have a baby brother or sister in November. When we went to bed, I started crying, but Dave told me not to cry until we had found out something. I laid in bed for a couple hours unable to sleep. The cramping in my legs was increasing. I was starting to feel cramping in the groin area. The bleeding became very heavy.

I can honestly say, though, as I laid there in bed, I was able to praise the Lord. I asked for the life of my baby, yet I knew that God always does what is best. I praised the Lord for this trial He had given me and for His sovereign control. I had been reading Isaiah in my devotions, and I truly believe the Lord providentially prepared me for this trial, as I had been seeing in His Word once again God’s sovereignty in all of life.

Around 2:45, due to concern about hemorrhaging, I finally called my doctor who said we should go to the ER. My parents both came over, and Dave took me to the hospital at 3:30. It was hard to keep telling everyone why I was there. In my heart, I knew I had a miscarriage. They kept saying, so you’re how far along? I kept saying, I am/was 11 weeks pregnant. I had blood work, IV, pelvic exam, abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds. . . all for them to tell me at 7:30 what I already knew. I had a miscarriage. I had peeked at the US when the tech stepped out of the room, and I couldn’t see a baby.

After the doctors left, Dave came over to the stretcher where I was lying. The truth had finally hit him, and he started to cry. He asked me whether I thought the baby was a boy or a girl. I shrugged, but he said that I thought it was a boy, didn’t I? I nodded. Dave said that we would then name him Haddon Steven, the name we had chosen for a boy. Haddon is named after Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, and Steven is after my dad, one of the kindest men I know.

As we left the hospital around 8, we cried as we walked to the car. We cried as we called all of our family. We cried with Mom and Calvin when we came home. My mom took me to the doctor after that; then I came home and tried to sleep when Calvin napped. Dave came home early, so I could sleep some more. That evening, I went to my sister’s baby shower for her expectant twins. It was good to think about something else, but it was hard at the same time. I still was cramping and grieving.

I was supposed to work on Tuesday, but they kindly took me off the schedule. I did a lot of reading in between taking care of Calvin. We hadn’t studied infant salvation in detail, and we were both somewhat undecided on it. But this reality concerning OUR baby made us think about it immediately. I read John MacArthur’s sermons on infant salvation, which helped me tremendously. I was able to build a biblical basis for believing that our little Haddon was in heaven.

I will spare the details, but on Thursday morning, I finally released what I believe was the body of my baby. This was the source of the continued cramping, bleeding, and smell. This was my dead child that had been sitting in me for days. There was no way that I could flush my baby down the toilet or put him in the garbage. I set him on some tissues on the counter in the bathroom. I called Dave at seminary. As soon as I started talking to him, I started crying. Dave said he would come home immediately.

I found a nice box to put him in. I put a bow around the box and wrote his name nicely on the box. Dave could also tell that this definitely was the baby. As I closed the box the last time and tied the bow, I started sobbing really hard. I felt like I could finally grieve, as we really, truly knew that the baby was gone. I felt empty inside, because there was no longer a little life in there.

May, 2011 003

We called my parents to ask them if we could bury him in their yard. They kindly agreed. We brought dinner over and decided to spend the evening with them. Dad dug a hole in their garden. Dave read a beautiful note that he had written to our little Haddon, and he prayed. I had bought him some white carnations. We put little Haddon’s earthly body, a couple flowers, and Dave’s note in the grave. Then I put the rest of the flowers on top of the grave.

Tears were shed, but there was also a helpful closure that burying Haddon’s little body allowed for us. We loved our little boy, but, as we told him at the funeral, God loves him even more.

We still grieve—especially on that following Mother’s Day, as we were going to announce my pregnancy. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Haddon’s namesake said,

“Dry thine eyes, and bless God that thou hast another link with heaven, and that thou hast helped to fill the choirs that, day without night, circle the throne of God with hallelujahs.”

“It is a wondrous joy to be the father of those who, day and night, wait upon God in heaven, and see his face, and serve him evermore; so be not sad or downcast if that is your case.”

As I thought about the comfort that God brought to our hearts as we studied and came to the conclusion that our child is in heaven, I wanted to share this with others. Perhaps you have had a miscarriage or the loss of a young child. Perhaps your loss has even been your own doing, through an abortion (whether intended or not). Perhaps you have a child, who–like my sweet 3 year old nephew, Evan–has severe mental disability and is unable to even willfully sin or understand the gospel. If so (or if you know someone who has undergone such a trial), then I hope this letter to our little Haddon (perhaps Haddie–we’ll find out in heaven! 🙂 ) will encourage you.

*********

May 5, 2011

Dear Haddon Steven Huffstutler,

God gave you to us for 11 weeks. Then He took you home. As we bury what will be transformed into a beautiful body in the future, we wanted to say a few things to you on earth before we see you in heaven.

  1. God knew you inside your mother, and He knew how long you would live. Psalm 139:13-16 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
  2. God was kind enough to let you have rest instead of the pain and suffering that life sometimes brings. Job 3:1, 16–17 1 Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said, 3 “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ 16 “Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be, As infants that never saw light. 17 “There the wicked cease from raging, And there the weary are at rest. Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he, 4 for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5 “It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he.
  3. God took you to Himself in your innocence. You never knew how to choose between good and evil. Deuteronomy 1:39 ‘Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.
  4. Because you never willingly sinned, though originally sinful like us all, you cannot be judged according to your deeds. If you had a page waiting to be filled in the heavenly books, no deeds were written. And, because you died in your innocence, no accusation from the accuser can ever come your way. Revelation 20:12-13 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
  5. Your earthly father’s namesake said he knew he would be in heaven forever. Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
  6. He, too, had a child that died in innocence. He knew he would go to him one day, in the house of the Lord, forever. 2 Samuel 12:22–23 22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 23 “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
  7. You now reside in a heavenly kingdom. It belongs to children like you. Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  8. Perhaps you met the angel who represented you before the Father. Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
  9. This elect angel, like all of the other elect angels, ministers on behalf of those who inherit salvation. This inheritance is far greater than anything we could have ever given you. It is an inheritance that we will enjoy together forever. Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
  10. We bury this small body of yours today, knowing it will be something beautiful in the future. Philippians 3:20-21 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Haddon Steven Huffstutler, we look forward to meeting you. We praise God we were your parents for eleven short weeks. Because He took you home on May 1, 2011, we will spend forever with you in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We love you so much. God loves you more. You know that now, and this gives us comfort. We’ll see you soon, and this gives us comfort as well.

Love,

Dad & Mom

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Worthy Word Wednesday: Chosen to Serve {Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives}

pastorsfamilybook

 

Another of the (many) books that I am in the midst of reading is one written for pastoral families, The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by a pastor and his wife, Brian and Cara Croft. So far, it has been challenging and encouraging. I wanted to just share one snippet of encouragement for other pastors’ wives:

“Remember that God did not place you in this position accidentally. He has chosen you to be at your current church, with your husband, doing the things you are doing. Know that you are exactly where God wants you to be, whether or not you feel qualified today. Embrace this truth. Grow to love it. And trust that God is using you as the wife of a pastor for his purposes and glory” (p 92).

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

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Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

chocolate chip cookie dough truffles (2)This month my husband’s family celebrated his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It was a grand celebration honoring both their faithfulness to each other as well as the faithfulness of God in their lives.

I had the fun and challenging task of deciding the menu and making the food. As always, the desserts were the most fun part. I wanted to make something that would be simple for people to just grab and eat, without requiring forks. I also wanted something I could make ahead, if possible. And of course, there must be a chocolate option; the difficulty was choosing which chocolate option! When I came upon this recipe for truffles at iheartnaptime and tested them out, my mind was made up. My only modification was using semi-sweet chocolate chips in the cookie dough, as well as in the coating.

These cookie dough truffles contain no raw egg, so they are perfectly safe to eat (if you can really even consider chocolate chip cookie dough truffles safe! More like dangerous to your healthy diet!!) The extra vanilla (1 Tbsp per batch) is what makes up for the lack of egg, I believe, in order to help everything stick together.

I definitely recommend the coarse sea salt on top. You can make them without it, but the additional saltiness places these truffles out of this world–definitely worth the extra purchase! It also makes them  more visually appealing, in my opinion. chocolate chip cookie dough truffles

Each batch makes about 20, more or less, depending on the size of the dough balls. If you make large batches of these (I made 240), you will not need as much of the chocolate for dipping, I found. I multiplied the batch by 12, but I did not need the entire 24 cups of melted chocolate for dipping. I recommend starting with less and melting more as needed (unless of course you have some strawberries, pretzels, graham crackers, or nuts on hand to dip in your leftover chocolate; I may or may not have done so! 😉 ).

Here is my (almost-exact) version of the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
  • 2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (for dipping)
  • Sea salt (optional, but highly recommended)

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a bowl mix together butter, sugar and vanilla. Then add flour and mix just until combined. Stir in the1 cup of chocolate chips. Make one inch balls with the dough and place on the pan. Freeze for about 30 minutes.

When the dough is firm, melt the two cups chocolate chips in the microwave at 50% power. Then dip the cookie dough in the chocolate with a fork. Tap off an excess chocolate. Place back on wax paper and top immediately with sea salt if desired. (If you forget to sprinkle the sea salt immediately, the chocolate will dry fast, and the salt won’t stick. If this does happen, you can dab a bit more melted chocolate on top of the truffle and sprinkle salt on.) Place back in the freezer until chocolate has hardened. Store in the fridge. (Extras can be stored in the freezer as well).

Enjoy! 🙂

{On Tuesdays, I share a yummy recipe. Typically, my recipes will be super easy, because I’m a mom with littles. I try to be healthy and frugal as well. But I like good food, so it will always be delicious! }

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Thursday Thoughts: How Pro-life Really Are You?

pregnancy

Some of the arguments for abortion that I’ve heard or read multiple times from those who are “pro-choice” (the mother’s right over her body includes terminating the life of a fetus within her) are that having a baby could be (1) very inconvenient (e.g., a teen having a baby) or (2) emotionally painful (e.g., a raped woman becoming pregnant). And we pro-lifers vehemently respond that, no matter what the inconvenience or pain, the unborn child is a person, and to abort this person before birth is wrong, because  “a person’s a person no matter how small,” whether just conceived or 90 years old.

I have become increasingly concerned for many Christians who are not as pro-life in practice as they make themselves out to be with their words. Whether knowledgeable or not, they actually terminate newly-conceived life for the sake of avoiding inconvenience. My goal in what follows is to help them avoid this unwitting abortion. Let me explain. . .

When my husband and I were engaged, we had many discussions about children and birth control. We knew we wanted children, but my husband was in seminary full-time and working only part-time at our church. We strongly believe that children are a blessing from the Lord, yet we also wanted Dave to complete his seminary training quickly, so he could minister in a full-time capacity. We decided that I would continue working full-time as a RN. We also both assumed that I would take the pill, just not the “abortive one.”

I decided to do some research on the topic first (I am a registered nurse and greatly appreciate medicine, yet I also like to have at least a general knowledge of medication I take). In my research I came upon this pdf version of a booklet that Randy Alcorn wrote. (You can read a shortened version here.) I quickly found out some disconcerting facts. Alcorn summarizes his own research on the pill (all quotes taken from his shortened version):

In summary, according to multiple references throughout The Physician’s Desk Reference, which articulate the research findings of all the birth control pill manufacturers, there are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills:

  1. inhibiting ovulation (the primary mechanism),
  2. thickening the cervical mucus, thereby making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg, and
  3. thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.

The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive.

Alcorn continues to describe the endometrial changes in detail. He cites arguments for and against his belief that the pill can be abortive. His full booklet describes phone calls with pharmaceutical companies and all of his research. I would encourage you to read it for yourself.

After much study, prayer, and discussion, Dave and I chose not to use the pill. But we felt that this was a decision we would keep to ourselves unless people asked. We considered this to be a “keep between yourself and God” issue (Rom 14: 22). It is a touchy subject, because how many devout believers and pro-lifers have used the pill and perhaps been the cause of unknown abortions? We didn’t want to cause guilt. As a pastor’s wife, I have to especially be very careful about how I counsel. I have had people ask, and I have had some continue to use the pill and some who have chosen not to.

Interestingly, Alcorn also states (emphasis added),

Dr. Walt Larimore [a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine] has told me that whenever he has presented this evidence to audiences of secular physicians, there has been little or no resistance to it. But when he has presented it to Christian physicians there has been substantial resistance. Since secular physicians do not care whether the Pill prevents implantation, they tend to be objective in interpreting the evidence. After all, they have little or nothing at stake either way. Christian physicians, however, very much do not want to believe the Pill causes early abortions. Therefore, I believe, they tend to resist the evidence. This is certainly understandable. Nonetheless, we should not permit what we want to believe to distract us from what the evidence indicates we should believe.

Imagine someone who had once used the pill, but now realizes that it can be abortive and wishes someone had told her before. Wouldn’t she have wanted to know ahead of time? Assuming there may be many women who wish they would have known because life is at stake, I have now decided to pass this information along. If life is involved, it’s more than just a “just me and God” situation. At the least, I can share this knowledge and leave it for readers to decide for themselves.

It is, to a degree, an inconvenient truth to know that a pill may kill. Sure, it would have been easier to pop a pill and not worry about pregnancy (although, for what it’s worth, all three of our kiddos have been born just about when we planned, our first 2-1/2 months after we both completed our masters degrees!). If we who are pro-life are as truly pro-life as we say, I think we will at the very least research this topic very carefully. If there is even the slightest chance that a child could be killed because we simply want convenience, then the pill should not even be an option. I would hope that believers would at least give as much attention and research to something concerning life and death as they do topics such as organic vs. non-organic, dyes in foods, vaccines, etc.

Alcorn concludes his brief article:

How many young lives have to be jeopardized for prolife believers to question the ethics of using the Pill? This is an issue with profound moral implications for those believing we are called to protect the lives of children.

May God give us courage to research this important issue, make the right choices, and have wisdom and grace as we discuss this difficult topic.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Worthy Word Wednesday: Book Recommendation ~ Women of the Word

photo (8)I have become increasingly passionate in the last couple years about people–particularly women–learning how to study the Bible. It is so frustrating and sad when I see the level of biblical illiteracy that exists among Christians, particularly Christians who have been believers for many years. It seems that many people, especially women, are content to read devotionals, a Proverb-a-day, or topical readings about women in the Bible. The thought seems to be that deep study of Scripture should be left to the pastors and other theologians who have had some sort of higher training.

Lately, however, I have become more convinced than ever how important it is for every believer to know the Word. As I combat my own sinfulness, as I seek to view life through a biblical worldview, as I seek to evangelize the lost, and as I (most importantly) seek to know who God is and what he wants me to know, I have realized that we need to know all of Scripture. And we need to know it well.

Although taking a hermeneutics (principles of biblical interpretation) class would be nice, most people do not have this luxury. What then are we “plain folk” ( 😉 ) to do?

Jen Wilkin, a Christian author, speaker, and blogger, has written a great book to discuss this very issue, called Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. She writes in her introduction:

This book intends. . . . to teach you not merely a doctrine, concept, or story line, but a study method that will allow you to open up the Bible on your own. It intends to challenge you to think and to grow, using tools accessible to all of us, whether we hold a high school diploma [or not!] or a seminary degree, whether we have minutes or hours to give to it each day. This book intends to change the way you think about Bible study (p. 18).

In chapter 1, Jen discusses the need to turn around a couple ways we view Bible study. We first need to “let the Bible speak of God” (p. 23). Secondly, we need to “let the mind transform the heart” (p. 28).

In chapter 2, she lists several methods of Bible reading that are unhelpful (if done exclusively) for true biblical literacy:

  • The Xanax Approach: reading whatever passage that seems to deal with whatever problem I currently have
  • The Pinball Approach: reading whatever passage I randomly open
  • The Magic 8 Ball Approach: randomly pointing to a verse to make a decision
  • The Personal Shopper Approach (a.k.a. the Topical Bible Study): gives only a partial, non-cohesive understanding of Scripture
  • The Telephone Game Approach : reading books about the Bible
  • The Jack Sprat Approach: only reading the parts of Scripture that are easy, interesting, or seemingly applicable

Chapters 3-7 discuss what Jen calls the Five P’s of Sound Study: Study with Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process, and Prayer.

In chapter 8, Jen walks her readers through how to study, using the book of James as an example.

Chapter 9 concludes with some wise words to women who are teachers or whom the Lord could use as teachers.

I highly recommend this book to women who are looking to really know God’s Word. Hopefully this is the desire of every woman. May our love for God be evidenced by our desire to know him!

(Jen has some excellent resources on her blog the beginning of wisdom as well. Our ladies’ group at church is nearly done with her 1 Peter Bible study, and we have thoroughly enjoyed it!)

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

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Thursday Thoughts: Child-Training: Good Citizens or Godly Christians?

mom-son-and-flowersTraining my children has been one of the most challenging tasks I have every attempted. And I am only in the very beginning (albeit extremely exhausting) stage, with a 4-year old, 2-year old, and 5-month old. The aspect of training that challenges me most is training my children’s hearts. As I have read the Bible and good books (one of the most transforming books for me in this regard has been Give Them Grace) and as I have analyzed what I am doing (usually in the shower–my few moments of quiet! 🙂 ) I have realized a very important truth.

Aside from the work of the Gospel in my children’s lives, all of my best parenting efforts, discipline, and training will result in–at best–merely good citizens and nice people.

I have heard people say things like, “If a mule can learn to obey, so can children.” Okay. I suppose that is true. And I do discipline and train my children so that they will follow rules. Life is much simpler when my children aren’t total terrors when we are at the restaurant. Life is much simpler when my children play with each other and their friends without biting each other. I feel fantastic about my parenting skills when someone tells me what good kids I have (because they happened to catch us all on a good day). And if my children continue to follow these rules and learn such good behavior, they–like a mule–will have learned to obey.

These children will likely be nice people who hold the door for the elderly lady with the walker. These children will likely stay out of jail and obey most of the laws.

And that is great! As a tired mom of  kids who still fight and scream and run around like crazy, little, cute monsters, I look forward to the day when all that comes true! 😉

But merely good citizens and merely nice people are not my ultimate desire for my children. Merely good citizens and nice people are people who have learned a couple things:

  1. Conformity to the rules (what people often call obedience) generally makes life easier or smoother.
  2. Punishment for breaking the rules is a negative experience.

Now don’t get me wrong. We have our rules, and we discipline accordingly for broken rules. Do not hit, do not spit, do not throw a fit, do not run away when I say come here. . . All of these rules are necessary to train my children to (by God’s grace) be nice people (not monsters) and good citizens (not criminals). And I can certainly basically force them to go through the actions and conform to my rules. I can instill in them the principle that “the punishment fits the crime” and that the way to avoid punishment is obeying the rules.

But I have a higher parenting goal for my children, a goal that is attainable only through the work of the Gospel. Despite all my best efforts, this is something that I cannot force upon my children. Although I want to, I cannot take their little hearts and turn on the switch that makes them obey God because they love God.

Real obedience is obedience that stems from a love for God because he first loved us.

This is why parenting is so challenging for me. I cannot do for my children the very thing that my parenting wants to accomplish. While this truth has changed my mental and spiritual thinking in regard to parenting my children, I have found the practical application of this truth to be a bit more difficult.

How do I train my children to love God? How do I enforce our rules and discipline appropriately when their young hearts haven’t been captured by the Gospel yet? How do I train them to be good little citizens now without inadvertently encouraging hypocrisy?

As I mentioned, I am still in the trenches, still in the learning stage of all this, but there are some things I am learning. Clearly, only God can do a regenerating work in my child’s heart, but there are things that I can do to help prepare their hearts.

I talk about the Gospel all the time. We have our Bible story time. When I pray with my kids in the morning I speak of the Gospel. When I discipline them I tell them that the discipline is because they sinned. I tell them that they can never obey without Jesus’ help. My four-year old will ask questions, and sometimes we have quite the extended conversation. My two-year old is quick to tell me, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins, because he loves me.”  I pray with them that God would help them to obey him because they love him.

I also regularly (really, all the time) ask them to forgive me for sinning against them. I tell them that I need Jesus too. They see a very, very good picture in me of a sinner who needs a Savior.

So, I am still working out the practicalities of attempting to raise children who will be a godly Christian and not merely a good citizen. But I would say the two keys I have  found at this stage are modeling (I am a sinner in need of a Savior) and talking, talking, talking about the Gospel every day, all day.

I pray that God does a work of grace in my children’s hearts. I pray that he helps me to patiently, persistently, consistently train my children so that they will obey God from a heart that loves God, because he first loved them.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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