What I’m Reading- November 2014

Firstly, I want to thank all my friend/readers for the overwhelming support I received on my last post about my loss in pregnancy and taking joy in the midst. You have touched me with your kindness and I love being a part of such a wonderful community of friends. Just thank you.

Secondly, As you may know I have a book problem. Not only am I a bibliophile and love collecting beautiful books, I like to read them simultaneously which means sometimes some books never get finished. I am trying to work on reading all my books from beginning to end. It feels like a big task. It is usually not a problem when I love a book and can’t seem to put it down even for sleep but usually this is an issue when reading multiple non-fiction titles. Which I do read a lot of. It probably is not a good thing for me to read multiple books at a time but that is habit almost thirty years in the making. I think I need to change the habit of not finishing books at least so I’ll list the books I’m reading now as a sort of semi-accountability and to keep track. This choatic Type-B actually really likes a good book list, usually I have more fiction than religious non-fiction in my list but this is a season for me to glean wisdom from wise believers (but, hopefully every season is too).

Right now I am reading:

The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper – This book is about the culture of TV and movies and how those stories are a cry to something deeper and powerful than they may even know. I am really enjoying it so far and since the intro began with a 30Rock quote I pretty much am sold.

Daughters of the King– I love Instagram, I have met so many lovely women and IG friends (I like to call them) that live all over the world that are speaking truth into my life. Melissa Deming is one of those friends. I am going through her book Daughters of the King and it impeccably tells the gospel story by walking you through the Bible showing you your place in the story. I am thankful for this book, thank you Melissa for sharing it with me.

Stepping Heavenward– This book was a gift from my beautiful friend Wendy for my Birthday this year. Stepping Heavenward was written by Elizabeth Prentiss who wrote the Hymn; More Love To Thee, Oh Christ and this book seems to be just as lovely as that hymn. There is something special about following the character, Katherine, through her young life and on as she begins to understand the sweetness of God. It’s helping me to understand as well.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart– Do you want a book that lays out Biblical Parenting and Discipline? We have had recent struggles with Emma but I am trying to glean from the Bible and other biblical books good wisdom for how to tackle these times. We have started to implement a lot of the information and it has already been a big help. This book does deal with Biblical discipline in God’s design, now there is a lot of debate about what that design looks like, but there is no debate in our home so this book will be a mainstay. We like this book and what it extols and we are seeing fruit little by little from Tedd Tripp’s wisdom.

Good News for Weary Women- Read this book if you are a believer and a woman, no, I mean really, stop what you are doing and read this book. Elyse Fitzpatrick doesn’t even know how she’s touched my life with this book and other titles. This book tells us there is good news for us, weary women. I love that she just comes out and says what I need to hear, that people tell women a lot of dumb things but there is Hope. She speaks candidly in the way my ears and heart need and I appreciate that so much. This book feels like a good Godly girlfriend telling you sweet truth.
I honestly think this book will help undo some of those stupid things people have said to women, Thank God. It is so good to knowing the freeing love of Christ. I am thankful that Mrs. Fitzpatrick wrote straight to my heart in this book.

So, many of these titles I will probably post a review on once I have finished them. Have you read any of these, did you enjoy them? Also, what are you reading now?

Also, I am glad that many have mentioned how the love the new look of the blog and I am so glad, Thank you for the kind words.

I’ll leave you with a hymn of encouragement from Mrs. Prentiss:

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

I have been absent for awhile, absent although not absent in thought. The words have failed me. I couldn’t speak because I didn’t know how. You see this is a post about loss, specifically my recent loss, our recent loss, something so deep and painful for me that it would be easiest to lose the words forever and shut them up in my heart letting them wilt into nothingness, That is even more painful though, and pain is powerful but can be redeemed. But this is not really only a post about loss it is much more a post about Joy, Rejoicing. I will explain later.

Before I go any further please stop reading now if you will be uncomfortable with how real I am about to get with my account. I feel I cannot better explain except for truthfully and plainly. This is all part of my healing process as God pours grace and mercy on me. Additionally this is my pain, yours may be much greater in the scales of things that hurt, so know there is no comparison and I am not saying I understand all pain, nor do I even understand mine. This is just a story.

I am no good with dates, so some of these that I am throwing out are arbitrary. A few months ago as I started to feel the familiar queasiness and exhaustion I had a feeling that there was something happening, that familiar something that had happened twice before. We checked and positive was the answer. Mixed emotions of joy and worry ensued. Joy because a child is always a joyful occasion and worry because the “What are we going to do?”s start. We we’re happy, as happy as a couple could be as we started dreaming and planning. We we’re keeping it a secret for most until the time we felt was appropriate, it was still really early and we felt it was best. We still talked and dreamt about this little one forming and growing and starting making plans as we anticipated.

I was less than a week out from my first OB appointment because we could not calculate the date of conception correctly. I hadn’t even seen a doctor yet when scary things started happening. Over the weekend I started feeling very off, I felt off before any signs there was anything wrong happened. The feeling started on a Friday and mild spotting followed. Because spotting could be normal I tried to remind myself of this and just rest my mind. What started mild became much worse and alarming, enough to require an Emergency Room visit on Monday of the next week. There was nothing they could say, everything looked fine but my body said different. They told me it was “o.k.”. The ultrasound said I was still pregnant, they said I was fine but to go home and rest. They tried to assure me. I don’t know if it was that I knew different or that I couldn’t trust them in that situation, but I knew it felt like empty assurances. The next day I knew for certain, I cried and prayed for the bleeding to stop, for everything to go back to normal, rewind the last few days. It didn’t. I miscarried on Tuesday Morning. It was the worst and most painful experience and there is no point in sharing the minute details but know it was tramautic, emotionally and physically.

Not because I am super spiritual but there hangs a picture on our bathroom wall of a woman robed in white clinging to a rock amongst a lapping torrent of waves. The only thing I could think of was to stare at it and out of a need for comfort I started to sing Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee. I needed that rock for comfort in my time of need and sorrow.

So, on Tuesday Morning I knew and the Doctor confirmed it on Wednesday Morning. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, it still feels a little that way. The Doctor was telling me that it wasn’t my fault and there are the statistics and the good news was that it probably won’t happen again and I was screaming on the inside not knowing if I should sit and listen or run away and I was just trying to make it through the appointment, praying silently, without passing out.

Emotions are like a wave now, sometimes it hits me so hard I feel like I’ve been kneed in the chest and other times it’s a smaller ebb of pain intermingled with this growing peace. I prayed for peace and am still praying for peace, it comes, if you ask. It may take time for you to ask. It may take pain ebbs lessening, perhaps anger too, to learn to rejoice in the suffering and in your sorrow, but I am learning so much about the sweetness of God in even my sorrow. I need the reminders to myself.

Charles Spurgeon said “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” and isn’t that such a beautiful quote. I hold that quote very close to my heart because I feel a lifetime of dissapointment with people, with the world and as I struggle with depression and recent events I need that rock. This is not a post about a miscarriage or loss really or definitely not a request for pity. This a post about learning to kiss the waves, those hideous waves.  This is an encouragement. It is about being sorrowful, yes, sorrow is appropriate and needed for healing but in that sorrow there is a source for that can bring joy and rejoicing despite it. I am preaching this to myself.

That title Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing did not come from my own head, it comes from 2 Corinthians 6:10:

 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This foreign notion that I could have sorrow and rejoice as well is not of the World. It is an otherworldly notion. It is a mark of a believer, joy.

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven”

I have had to ask myself very recently, am I joyful person? I may look joyful on the surface, but am I truly joyful? The answer most times has been “No”. Truthfully, my human nature is one of a bitter, jealous and angry person. I am in need of that joy, desperately. Jesus is transforming me daily and I want to grasp and cling to that joy as slowly or as quickly, I pray, as it comes for me.

I am definitely not telling you to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, to just feel better, or that it’ll all work out or whatever bad advice you have been given. Well meaning people give a lot of bad advice. This is a hurting person saying that there is a source that can heal all wounds. There is a reason to rejoice in our suffering, believers.

There is a line in Rock of Ages that goes:

Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.

It may feel like tears will forever flow and I can’t tell you they won’t but we can learn from Christ and others that have gone before us to rejoice through our sorrow that there is nothing that this world can offer to heal my broken heart, to heal yours but there is one we can hide ourselves in, the Rock is cleaved for me, for you, for all that would plead for it. Thank God.

I am not trying to make anyone uncomfortable with this post but the fact of the matter that through this very personal suffering some things have become very clear to me about my personal faith and I can only respond to God’s grace with boldness. I can only want for you joy.  If you do not know the comfort of Christ in your situation and have long suffered or would like to know God, I want to pray with you, for you. Let us run to the throne and rejoice, the wonderful, frightfully beautiful throne of the Rock of Ages.

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I am sharing the artwork I made for this post. I hope it can be a comfort, as well as this song by Liz Vice that has brought me much comfort recently. Also if you like big words like Christian Hedonism you can read more about Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing from people that know much more than I: The Ethos of Christian Hedonism; Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing-John Piper

SYAR print 4×6

SYAR print 8×10

Also, I hope you like the new look to the site, I worked on it to make it more clean, readable and fit my aesthetic. Hope you enjoy.

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mini idols

 

This may possibly be an unpopular post, it’s definitely not a feel-good post. This is a post about the reality of Parenthood and the dangers we all face as believing parents when we make our children or our Parenthood greater than God. I will call them mini idols.

I brought this topic up at home group last night as we discussed Proverbs and heart idols. Parents, have we made idols of of our own children? I know as a parent it is easy to fall into the trap of loving my children best, thinking they are better than all other well-loved children. Of course this is common for parents, we think our children are the greatest things to walk this side of our spiral shaped galaxy and possibly beyond that. But what if they aren’t? What if are children are just like us, people that fall short? What if what society models as a parent is completely wrong?  What are we teaching them by elevating them to the highest points in our hearts and minds? What is it doing to our families? As a believer, what is the solution.

After bringing this topic up in home group last night, my friend Wendy sent me this article: How American Parenting is killing American Marriage. If you get a moment you should read it today. To summarize, the way we prioritize our children over everything else is hurting our Families, hurting our Marriages. It’s pretty taboo to say that you love your Husband/Spouse more than your children because we all know that ignoring one another for 18 plus years works wonderfully. It sounds like to the layman that you must hate your children, because obviously you hate your children if you happen to put your spouse first or even more shockingly God. Ayelet Waldman, who is not a believer that I know of, went on OPRAH to explain that she believed that loving her husband before her children has been a wonderfully healthy thing for her kids to witness, she received death threats and reports to Child Protective Services. Now, if a non-believer is telling us these things, how much more important is it for the believer to realize that God must be first then our Spouse and then our Children. I mean you don’t have to agree but this is biblical truth.

There are so many opinions on how we should raise children and there is no possible way to do them all, nor should the believer. Our Godly Mandates as parents should look foreign to the world. They may not like it. All the books by this Doctor or that Specialist are no match for Godly wisdom. Remember that worldly wisdom is foolishness. There is a grand story at work and we should be shaping our families with that mindset. American Society tells us that parental love looks like bussing your children around to all the things, giving them all the things, never letting them miss out or lose or be disappointed, keeping them cage in our homes and teaching them to be afraid of all the things, the list is longer, I’ll stop there. We need to be wary that this cultural example is contrary to a biblical one. We need to be careful that we aren’t forming mini idols based on culture and and our selfish desires.

There are many ways we can make children and Parenting our Idols. Christina Fox gives some examples in this post, more specifically for Mothers who seem to fall prey the easiest to this issue: The Idols of a Mother’s Heart (I’ll paraphrase):

-We can make Affirmation our Idol. We are affirmed in our beliefs about our children when family, friends or strangers tell us we are “doing a great job”, our kids are “pretty” or they are “well-behaved”. We can be prideful and desire affirmation more and more. We also can desire affirmation from our own children.

-“Our children in and of themselves can become idols.” Living for your kids and making them happy can become the most important thing in our lives, it’s a dangerous thing to do.

-Success. The “perfect family”, successful children, the “American Dream”.

-Control in every area of children’s lives, planning life out with no deviations or exceptions. This shapes the family dynamic causes us to fear, worry, have anxiety, and just plain grumpy.

When we make our Children or Parenting or Motherhood an idol in our lives we are setting a dangerous path for our children. Dissenters may say you cannot love your children too much, and of course that’s true, we can’t measure the love God has for us but what that looks like is obviously different then the love of the world. 1 Corinthians 13 is our reminder. As parents what does my love look like toward my child? Does it look the Father’s love?

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:5- 6 

Not only must we put God first and prioritize our family biblically we must not put our children so high as to forget that we are commanded to lead them and discipline them. A lack of discipline is not love, a choice to not discipline your child only offers greater hardship for them later.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

I think it is clear but I just wanted to state that there is a difference between Discipline and Punishment, the first is corrective and the latter in Punitive, so on the other end we need to seek God in our parenting on how to do the first, we can go the other extreme and punish our children for our irritances with them. Godly love disciplines and reproves.

So back to making our children idols or role as a parent an idol, so how do we safeguard against these. I am a Mother so I tend to speak from that viewpoint a lot. We may all know Mothers occasionally that may have extreme views on this or that and let everyone know whenever they can, they might hold one of the previously listed idols of parenthood in their heart as the utmost importance. But it can be the quiet mother as well that holds their children idol in their heart. This is not a judgmental statement. this is the reality that we all can fall easily to idolatry of our children, our families, our role as parent. 1 Corinthians 10:14-18 states:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel:are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

We must be vigilant to keep ourselves focused on God and to keep our hearts tuned to Him. That is when our children will benefit. There have been many times where I followed my own selfish desires as a parent. My child is not perfect and it is foolishness to act like she is but also I have let my flesh anger toward my child when I should be leading her. I also fall to wanting to hear the affirmation that my children are “the best” or what have you. I need to pray for the Spirit to reveal the idols of my heart so that God can deal with them. We must be humble as parents as well, our children are not our own. They have been given to us, we do not deserve them and it is our duty to raise the according to the instruction of that Giver. Children will be formed by how their parents act, so in my humility must ask my daughters to forgive me when I have sinned in my parenthood.  Just like our children we need Godly reproof to battle the idols that pop up in our lives:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19

The only way we can can combat the idols of parenthood or our mini idols is to turn to God.

count it all joy

 There are times when joy seems fleeting and unattainable, those are the times that we must fight for joy. Joy should be our daily habit as a believer, even in tough and trying circumstances, joy in the Lord and what He has given us should sustain in our difficulties. But it is one of those “easier said than done” scenarios, so how do we develop the habit of joy even when we don’t feel like, how do we instead of our grumbling turn to joy instead when the paths get rocky and undesirable?

 I’ve talked a little bit before about counting your blessings or counting it joy it tough times, specifically depression. And since this post (like most of my posts) is largely a “preaching the Gospel to myself” type of post I am revisiting the topic in a very much-needed way.

I do not know in what ways you struggle right now, I do want to encourage to reframe our suffering in a Kingdom perspective. God did not promise us easy living regardless what prosperity preachers and bad theologians may tell you. To say that God plans an uncomplicated and painless life is to say the Bible is wrong when it teaches us in 1 Peter 4 that suffering and trial is indigenous to the believer. I won’t talk much on teaching contrary to 1 Peter but I will say that God’s plan looks much different than streets of “wordly” gold but that we would rejoice as we share in Christ’s suffering and that we would Glorify God through it all and entrust ourselves to Him.

C.S. Lewis wrote about grief and suffering in his book about his late wife, A Grief Observed. I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. I know that that struggles, sadness, grief, whatever it may be feel like this all too well. It is a pervasive wart on our mind and it causes us to worry and stress and lament over things that can not be changed by our worry or stress or lamentations. C.S. Lewis also wrote these words about it which are a comfort to me; We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination. Sometimes I need that reminder that this was in the design and I need to realize that it is “part of the program”. 

SO how do I take those steps to reframe my circumstances and count it all joy like the exhort from James 1:2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. An obvious option here is to firstly look at the life of Paul who understood what that looked like. In 2nd Corinthians Paul talks about his countless beatings, imprisonments, punishments, dangers, near death experiences but says all of this not for pity but boast not in himself but in his weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. It’s not something we can do on our own, it’s about turning to a big God and trusting that He is big.

In our turning to God I think it’s important, at least for me, to remember that there are so many already good and beautiful things that I have been blessed with and I am blessed with these things because God gives these good things to me. I need a habit of joy and thanks. I need to fight for it in my life. Ann Voskamp says It’s habits that can imprison you and it’s habits that can free you. But when thanks to God becomes a habit —  so joy in God becomes your life. 

A very practical way to keep a habit of joy is to keep a list or journal instances of joy or gifts that God has given as they happen or as God opens our eyes to their presence in our lives. I’ve recently started again to write out the things gifts in my life that I am thankful for, the little seemingly insignificant things that might not matter to others or previously to myself. The things also that may not have seemed as blessings before but truly where. I truly have so many more joys than hardships. God is blessing the believer even through our suffering, we may not be able to see it but the Word and the Holy Spirit will reframe our minds to see the things we missed before.

I probably will share some of my private journaling via the blog and instagram using the hashtag, #thebensonsarethankful. I encourage friends to join me privately or publicly, I would love to have some friends to encourage and be encouraged by.

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Today, I am thankful for:

Coffee with Whipped Cream and a husband that makes it for me in the morning.

Hot Water, our water heater has been broken, so hot water and Bubble Baths

Television, yes, television, I was able to finish this post because my children are watching Daniel Tiger.

Morning hugs from my girls

Dimples, specifically Alice’s dimples.

This Weather, I want it forever.

Provision for today

sisters that love each other

photo 2 (12)

Let me leave you with the these words from a recent Desiring God post by Vaneetha Rendall that really shook me:

Habakkuk models this exchange beautifully. Though he had pleaded with God to save his people, he closes his book with this exquisite “even if” . . .

Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—

Even then,

I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

Amen.

“Even If”, not just “What if”, things transpire that are out of my control “I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me”. I don’t think there is anything else to say.

 

What you do when your child wakes everyone in the house at 4:30 screaming that you stole their fan.

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The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

 Ok, so the title pretty much sums up the story but if you want to know the details… Emma, my 7-yr-old wakes up today at 4-ish to screaming that she can’t sleep but it didn’t end there, and when I say screaming, I mean screaming, waking up the whole house including a baby that should not be awake at 4:30. She proceeds to tell me that I stole her fan. This is the deal with the fans, it’s hot, I mean stifling, around 100 highs and so we have the fans out to help with the heat at night. There are two identical fans except for one has a knob on the top and one has the knob on the back. Somehow in moving fans around the house the last couple days that fans got switched around. Eithe

r fan is no one’s possession except for the Benson household. They blow the same amount of air about, so I was very angry at 4 in the morning.

So what did I do when she woke up screaming that I stole her fan?  I am not writing this post because I am some sort of parental authority. This like a lot of posts are written to help myself walk through things mentally and a way to preach to myself truth which I very much forget at 4 in the morning after a night of bad sleep already.  So, that being said, I screamed back at this 7-yr-old because I was angry and it was the absolute wrong thing to do. I screamed and showed no Grace because I was tired and bothered. I screamed because I had to now but a restless baby back to sleep. This is after I blew up at her last night for repeated disobedience. I needed to have a talk with myself.

Let’s talk about the heart of the matter, well our hearts, that’s the matter. I’ve been going through my head all morning and read the word and read a little of a biblical parenting book I’m reading and it gave my mind perspective that I may have already known but choose to ignore in these incidents. So, last night and this morning I needed to ask my daughter for forgiveness for anger towards her. It truly is a humbling experience to ask your child for forgiveness, and I know a lot of people may be uncomfortable with the idea but it is a biblical one.

My plea for forgiveness from my Daughter is not because she should get her way in everything and so my offense was not allowing her to do that. I sinned against her because the Word says so. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.It is actually quite the opposite, we talked about our hearts and why we do the things we do, why we sin against each other, and because grace was not shown. So knowing what I did wrong I woke seeking the word and resolve to ask my daughter for forgiveness. We had a great talk, Emma shared with me that she was only thinking about herself and that she was sorry for waking us all up. She asked me for forgiveness and I instructed her what she should do. Emma happily accepted my apology and hugged me. I am always amazed how freely she loves and forgives and shows me grace. I’m just a bitter old lady in comparison.

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp says this: Correction is not displaying your anger at their offenses; it is rather reminding them that their sinful behavior offended God, It is bringing the censure of sin to these subjects of his realm. He is the King They must obey.

I am a learn-on-the-go type of person, I have to learn things the hard way in order for me to truly get it. This whole parenting thing, it’s so hard. I am thankful for people on my life and a few people that have written books that point me back to the Word, Christ. Thank you all.

So here are a few of those books that are really helpful for those that  struggle like me and need a little helpful prodding, knowing the Bible first as well of course:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp – I am reading this right now and it has been very revealing especially in this season of life.

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson– This is a great guide to showing Grace to your kids, it’s incredibly truthful and biblical. There is a very, very helpful chart in the back that helps me sometimes when I get flustered what to do in a particular situation.

Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel– This was the first book I read that truly diagnosed my heart as a parent and got to root of it, Sin. I am thankful for having been introduced to this book in a time I really needed it. Many people confuse Grace  with permissiveness or lack of discipline but this book helped me see that is a gross misunderstanding of the word, and help me to form my thoughts as a Christian Parent.

So thank you all for joining in this journey with me as a Parent, I am flawed but He is perfect in my place. The image above is of Emma playing sweetly outside this morning after our talk. Alice is still asleep, God is good.

 

This is a Post about Depression

 

So, I was going to post a homeschool post today but there are so many thoughts going on in my head I needed to thoughtfully and carefully write them out. Most of us in the Modern World know that we lost a person very dear to a lot of us. Robin Williams, the Man who was still a Boy at heart passed yesterday of an apparent suicide stemming from his depression. How I cried all night. It feels like losing a dear friend but on top of that when I heard the news with the words DEAD, SUICIDE, DEPRESSION in the title, all the air felt like it was sucked from the room never to return. Why? Because this is a very real battle for a lot of us. A lot of you know that I have struggled with Depression and know that even though much better these days, I still battle it. You may not know all the details, not even my family other than my husband does and I am going to bear my soul here as humbly as I can and then outline why there is hope for me and all hopeless through Faith and help from others.

I have struggled with Depression all of my life, shockingly, even people in my family say that isn’t the truth. They remember me as a happy person and can’t believe this to be true. Yes, Happy people can be depressed, they can be dying on the inside and smiling on the outside and that’s even so much more painful. Fake, plastic smiles tear at our hearts but we feel too burdened to share our thoughts and struggles with genuinely happy people. As a Teen and an Adult I was one of those “happy people”, joyful, laughing, and just tired and worn down to bare threads on the inside. I’d wake up and immediately be overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions and wish to fall asleep for a hundred years like Rip Van Winkle until I could feel better. Everyone has days they don’t want to get out of bed but when you have whole years like that, there is something wrong. It really is hard to describe it someone that has never felt it before but this is how I’ve described it recently, I’ll quote myself: “It feels like being sewn into a mattress and that mattress being buried in the ground under the weight of million pervasive thoughts while you are screaming at the top of your lungs and no one in the world can hear you. It feels heart wrenching and suffocating all at the same time.”  That is the best way I can describe it. Even more shockingly I struggled with Suicidal Ideation and I want to be completely candid on bad days I still struggle with this. Suicidal Ideation is…”Strictly speaking, suicidal ideation means wanting to take one’s own life or thinking about suicide without actually making plans to commit suicide. However, the term suicidal ideation is often used more generally to refer to having the intent to commit suicide, including planning how it will be done”. These are sick and twisted thoughts that someone with Chronic Depression deals with. A Depression that can suffocate us and knit us into Darkness and Death.

I sat on a hill facing the Savannah River about three years ago, before Alice was born, feeling every bit of a failure at life and my circumstances, not wanting to wake up each day, wishing for rest from all the black noise. I would stare at the water and idealize just walking in and not coming out like a Modern-Day Virginia Woolf. I would be driving down the interstate and would imagine, what if? What if I just turned the wheel a little too much in the other direction, would it be quick and  painless? What if just “accidentally” took all these sleeping pills. I would imagine what it would be like if I died, who would mourn for me and I would get a sort of sick satisfaction thinking that people that had abandoned me, forgotten me, or looked poorly on me would shed tears for me. In these times the thoughts are pervasive, not a lot of reason is employed.  You aren’t thinking what about my family, will they be ok? or what about my Daughter, how could she live without a Mother? These are pushed back and replaced by the darkness. Maybe so far this post may be too much for anyone reading and perhaps it may seem pitiful at best, but I am hoping by sharing this, someone can see that there is hope for spiritual and mental darkness. While I thought these things, I didn’t want to talk about them, my Husband would ask me what was wrong and I didn’t want to talk about it, and even in the times that I did I didn’t know how to verbalize it. My mouth was moving and nothing was coming out. I needed prayer.

I am a believer and depression has many ramifications on your faith and vice-versa. Part of my problem was that I believed I was to long waiting for my life to be the stuff of dreams. I was like David in the “miry-bog” of his own thoughts. John Piper says this in When the Darkness will not Lift:

The king of Israel is in “the pit of destruction” and “the miry bog”—descriptions of his spiritual condition. The
song of praise is coming, he says, but it is not now on his lips. It is as if David had fallen into a deep, dark well and
plunged into life-threatening mud. There was one other time when David wrote about this kind of experience. He
combined the images of mud and flood: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in
deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me” (Ps. 69:1-2).
In this pit of mud and destruction there is a sense of helplessness and desperation. Suddenly air, just air, is
worth a million dollars.

This is it exactly and I can identify with a King in this instance, fallen into a deep, dark well and life threatening mud. There are many reasons people suffer with depression whether it be clinical or brought on by external situations but many times a believer that struggles with depression will very much wonder if they are still God’s or if their faith is real. This not really theological thinking so no points of whether Salvation can truly be lost or etc. come into mind. Sin is mingled with depression and both contribute to the other quite heavily.  I am not saying the reason you are depressed is because you are a sinner, if that we’re the case every human being would be (even though is some cases it may be) but Sin adds flame to fire, while Depression allows sin to go un-named or worse torture us, at least in my experience.

In the presence of Depression there is a want and lack of Joy. Regaining Joy is important, it seems lost and can’t be refound, it went to some long forgotten place and can’t find it’s way home. I will share what has helped in my life as a believer and given me hope and is still helping because I still fight it. I am not a doctor or counselor but can speak as someone who fights this fight. Firstly, Pray, God is listening, He knows our pain and can lift us from it. Pray when you wake up and when you fall asleep, when you eat, wehn you shower, when you are driving, any, pray for deliverance. These are not fruitless prayers, there is Someone listening. Secondly, turn toward the Word, God has given many substantial scriptures to encourage those in Darkness, there is Hope there for the Hopeless.

He sets us on the Rock:

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD. Psalms 40:1-3

These following verses have been great comfort for me:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. Psalm 42

 There is a song that I would listen that pertains to this and I would just weep in desire for Hope and Joy that felt so long far away, I’ll share it at the bottom of the page. Thirdly, it is very important to reframe Joy in our lives. While we are waiting for the big things to happen or God to work miracles we forget to see the little miraculous things are happening in each moment. I was really helped by reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, it help me to name all the little things I was thankful for no matter how mundane. I began to thank God for the smell of Grass and for warm baths and for little girl laughs. It was a beautiful transformation of mind. When I am feeling low I still do this. When your gifts outnumber your trials so much so it can cause major shifts in our Worldly thinking. Lastly, I encourage you to talk to someone, anyone, friends, loved ones, Pastors, a counselor, a doctor. People that love you deserve to know what you are going through and that is the only way they can help you, pray for you and encourage you. There are very real physical, clinical and external reasons that someone might fall into depression and it helps to talk, even when it doesn’t feel like it, to get to the heart of what is causing it. My Husband was this person for me, he refused to let me go and just waited on me until I was ready to talk about it, he put my suffering in to Godly terms, pointing me toward the Cross. I am very thankful.

I can tell you there is Hope in Christ. If we look on Him, He can take this yoke from us. It may not happen overnight and it may always still be a fight we must fight but know that His burden is so much lighter than the turmoil of dark thoughts. I want to encourage anyone that needs someone to talk to please comment, text, message me, etc. I know what it is like, I am slowly recovering through the help of a Big God. I may always struggle and that is ok because that Big God is on my side.

I do want to say something to all that are onlookers of depression, hurting with those hurting. My Facebook post last night after the news was this: “Depression is a real and terrible battle. It feels like being sewn into a mattress and that mattress being buried in the ground under the weight of million pervasive thoughts while you are screaming at the top of your lungs and no one in the world can hear you. It feels heart wrenching and suffocating all at the same time. Reach out to friends you know that struggle, pray for them, call them, send a letter, tell them you love them, ask them how you can help without offering opinions….and then wait, but please help. This is an all too real and painful fight.”. Simply put pray for them, hug them and do not let go.

 Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh.

Be Wary of the Flags You Fly

 

war·y
ˈwe(ə)rē/
adjective
  1. feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems.
    In fact, our inability to find security for ourselves is so profound that we’d never find the One who is to be our Rock on our own, no he must find us. The language of Psalm 27 is quite precise here, “he will…set me high upon a rock.” It doesn’t say, “I will find the rock and I will climb up on it.” -Paul David Tripp

I am going to preface that this post may hit a chord with folks in dissonance or agreement but I think this is truth for me in my life and hopefully it can be helpful.

Be wary of the flags you fly. What do I mean? Well I mean be careful of the titles you claim and give priority in your life. The titles that you hold true above all other things and make it known to the world. I am clearly going to speak here from my perspective as a women, mother and believer, so my lens to the world may look different than yours, it shouldn’t negate the truth in the message.

I had had this post sitting in my drafts a while so when my Pastor preached on ACTS 15, It reminded me of a lot of some recent thoughts on this matter.

We live in a time where titles and classifications, the groups you belong to, the views you hold are very important, some raise these titles above all else. In a digital age where In-Real-Life contact becomes fleeting and the internet is a staple of everyday life it is much easier to find those that agree with you in all regards and argue with those that disagree with you in all regards. We start to put the groups and morals we ascribe to as a priority worth fighting for. We fight non-essentials like they are essentials and alienate every one not in line. This isn’t a judgement, everyone does it, I do it, We all do. It’s our nature because of sin but what is the alternative? Titles have always been important….. but now we have it all out there for all to see, our personal profiles become our identity, we become no more or less than than the 150 words that we can fit into our Instagram profile.

It’s everywhere, flag flying at it’s best, trying to top others flying flags decidedly. We definitely are in the Age of Digital Divisiveness, dare I say just Divisiveness. Digital divisiveness is a part of our daily lives but it is not just an “internet” issue, it’s a symptom of a bigger, greater wound. A heart issue that has real IRL ramifications. It reaches far beyond the internet, it affects the very real people we are and are around.

I will speak as a Wife and Mother and then as just a Believer. As a Woman, Wife and Mother there is an excess of words that we can give power in our life, I mean the titles or ‘views” or classifications we can put ourselves in. Complimentarian, Feminist, Liberal, Conservative, Attachment Parent, Baby-wiser, Breastfeeder, Bottle Feeder, Stay-at-Home Mother, Working Mother, Believer, Non-Believer, Natural Mother, Natural Birth Believer, Medical Intervention Believer (or perhaps you had no choice in the matter), Home Educator, Public School Parent, Private School Parent, Free Range, Over-Protector and on and on and on, I’m sure there are a million I am not stating. It’s dizzying and very tiresome. Each style, method, issue, classification, opinion, none of these are good or bad in reality, they are views each of us decide to hold. I am not saying opinions are bad, though. I am stating that when these non-essentials become ultimate, we all suffer. Our hearts and the hearts around us.

As a Mother and Wife I have been looked down upon for almost every decision we have made as a Family, and it’s ok. There is Grace more so than judgementalism and moralism. Those latter things are not in my vocabulary anymore as a believer, I try not to recognize them. They are deadly to the believer. My experiences have ranged from the Grocery store opinions from strangers about my Parenting or Mothers at a new playdate judging my Birth experience or my Breastfeeding issues. I can recall them vividly, each and everyone because they were like burning coals of shame on my head. Like the Man that told me he would call the cops on me because I walked five feet from my car to pick something up in the middle of the nicest fall day with my five year old daughter asleep in the car, window open, a stride away, or it’s the Know-it-all Mother that told me I was harming my kids because of our particular family choices, or it’s family that clearly makes assertions that make me feel like the worst of mothers. The fact of the matter is that these things aren’t truth and are not spoken with love, I don’t have to look to the worldly wisdom of others but to something else, someone else, much greater. Whether it is family or strangers, the opinions that are put forth as primary usually are not, so I encourage you also, do not listen to the noise…

And here is where I talk as a Believer first and foremost. The Truth of the matter is that our Hope is in Christ and NOTHING ELSE. Your birthing options or food choices or parenting styles do not save you. We are not the sum of our personal views and choices like our profile descriptions would have all believe. As a true believer our identity is only in that one God-Man, nowhere else. This is why I encourage all of us including myself to be careful of the “FLAGS” we fly other than Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.(*)

We can be confident that in Christ the Solid Rock we stand all other ground is sinking sand. ALL OTHER GROUND, I have to remind myself that daily. There is nothing more essential, more primary, more ultimate than a hope in Christ, it is a firm foundation that can support us in everything. “The people that know their God shall be strong” – Daniel 11:32. What this means is that there is nothing that we claim that can better than claiming the name of Christ. It’s indisputable for the Believer.

So why do we turn away from this truth to try and substitute the things of the World as our own personal flags than flying the name of Christ. Foolishness, Pride, Unbelief?

When you arise, O Lord,

you will laugh at their silly ideas

as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter,

and I was all torn up inside.

I was so foolish and ignorant—

I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.

Yet I still belong to you;

you hold my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

leading me to a glorious destiny.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

I desire you more than anything on earth.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,

but God remains the strength of my heart;

he is mine forever.  -Psalm 73:22

David is speaking about how his ways, his judgment, his understandings are nothing to the Wisdom of God. “To what is it owing, that men are so deceived by their own folly, as we find them to be, if it is not to this, that while they look at each other, they all inwardly flatter themselves? Among the blind, each thinks that he has one eye, in other words, that he excels the rest; or, at least, he pleases himself with the reflection, that his fellows are in no respect superior to himself in wisdom. But when persons come to God, and compare themselves with him, this prevailing error, in which all are fast asleep, can find no place.” – JOHN CALVIN COMMENTARY on PSALM 73:22

Here is some more Spurgeon to explain it better than I:

And are we better than David that we should call ourselves wise! Do we profess that we have attained perfection, or to have been so chastened that the rod has taken all our willfulness out of us? Ah, this were pride indeed! If David was foolish, how foolish should we be in our own esteem if we could but see ourselves! 

So, in Conclusion, Be Wary of the Flags You Fly. Be wary of all “FLAGS” that are not Christ that are put before you as ultimate truth. Know this though, there is Grace. Grace for the Judged and Grace for the Judger. So run to him….”When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne! On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.” Only one name is higher than the rest.

Real Life on Mondays 4/21

afterlight (1) I am attempting to show our real life, what it looks like in the real world without the social media facade. Occasionally on Mondays I’ll post an image of our real house and the way it looks in Real Time for transparency and honesty. Like this room which is my daughters’ shared room and is very messy because I have not been consistent with getting Emma to straighten up. The good thing is that it’s mostly toys and clothes and sleeping bag she insists sleeping on the couch with, so it only takes a few moments to clean it up, but we are in the stage were I have to actively monitor her while we learn “first time obedience” so Mom can be lazy about this too.

On another note, how was Easter Weekend? We had so much fun and spent time with friends, family and church. It was beautiful to hear the word and see it lived out through a baptism at our church. My Secret Sister gave me an sweet Easter Bunny that is in my freezer ready for me to pounce on once I recover from the Sugar coma from the last few days. Saturday we went to our friend and neighbors for a Surprise Birthday Party and there was a pinata as well as chocolate cake. Combine that with Easter baskets and Easter egg hunts and more candy than one person really needs in a lifetime, I think we’re good until Halloween.

We’ve talked with Emma prior Easter, during lent about why we celebrate Easter and even though we do the fun stuff like Easter baskets and egg hunts, this is not the reason we celebrate. We’ve been reading about  Passover and faithfulness and how that connects to the story of Christ’s Death and Resurrection and you can’t believe how encouraged I was to listen to her tell me Yesterday “Jesus died on the cross, to erase our sin.”

Here are some lovely pictures of my family this weekend, they are a true blessing and I couldn’t be more thankful even though sometimes I take for granted the blessing they are.

afterlight (2)photo 2 (8) photo 1 (8)

 

I hope your Easter was wonderful and full of the redemption story. Also, feel free to show us your real Life on Mondays #reallifeonmondays on IG or social media.

Revisiting Plans & Priorities

 

I have to remind myself of goals and priorities constantly so I don’t forget. In January, I set out to make a list of plans & priorities for the year. Now that it is spring and no longer winter, I thought I should revisit and see how things are going for me so far. This is not a checklist of things I have to mark to validate me as a person but a guide for the type of life I want to create this year.

My categories where Faith, Family, Home, Homeschool, Mother Culture, Art, Writing/Blogging and I just wanted to check in on these things for growth and accountability. Blog friends or Real Life friends I encourage you to ask me how these things are going, I am encouraged when others take interest and likewise take interest in the progress your friends that set priorities this year.

So I’ll go down the list (with excerpts from the Plans and Priorities Post):

Faith

“This is a primary priority because without Faith I am hopeless. 2013 was a year that God helped me begin to unravel from depression and hopelessness and show me to delight in my circumstances, so 2014 will be even more so a testament to what He is doing. I will continue to study and trust more. I want to be more thankful as well this year.”

I have been trying to study more and trust more and grow in contentment and joy. I can say it isn’t an easy battle when a history of depression rears it’s head and you forget truth, but it isn’t my fight really, I am trying to remember to give it up. I just pray I continue to do so. I have been reading a few things for personal study, I read “Keep a Quiet Heart” by Elisabeth Eliott which is helping me to examine my heart. I also stick with my old steady “Morning & Evening” by Charles Spurgeon. I learn so much from this beautiful and encouraging devotion and Spurgeon has a way of putting things to my brain that are equal parts inspiringly truthful, achingly beautiful, and simply revelatory.

We are also very happy to be in a church home for the past year after a very long church search that lasted almost a year prior to that. It is a sweet community of believers and biblical learning that we are happy to take part in.  I am very thankful for the teaching that is really good and encourages me in Faith, this is a recent sermon that blew my mind: Behold I see the Heavens Opened. I encourage you if you live in Augusta, Ga and do not have a church home to join us this Week for our Easter Series.

Family

“Instead of busy-ness, instead of this activity or that event, instead of every kind of distraction I want my family to be a priority and for us to find peacefulness in our home and with each other. This means we will continue in traditions like Sunday Radio Day, no media except music or talk radio. Also, we will make more intentional time together and less sitting around the tv.”

On the busy-ness front this is an ongoing battle that I am hitting with full force daily. It is so easy for our Yeses to become full schedules and stress inducing weeks. I’m not for that. I am not saying this is hermit time for us, -even though sometimes I think I’d like that- I mean that is time to be intentional with our time. Say maybe in your mind, evaluate and answer back with a definite “yes” or “no” when it comes to events that draw you from the home. We have succeeded in doing Sunday Radio Day and trying to reduce the media intake on school days, so I think we are getting somewhere. I can tell the difference between the character of my six year old that plays outside all day versus a little six year old that watches tv all day. We are definitely not an anti-tv house, just trying to reign it in.

We are also being more intentional with family devotions and going through this book together at night time storytime. I wrote a review this month and highly recommend it.

Home

“This is related to the care and cultivating of the home. I want my home to be simple, beautiful and help my family to thrive, so I am making an effort to make it so through the simplest of measures.”

Soooo…. this has been a big struggle for me, for like, always. I am learning to enjoy the day to day maintenance that comes with making a happy home, knowing that real life looks most days like this and it’s ok as long as I am helping my family to thrive and be happy…also coffee….coffee is my new friend.

Homeschool

“The past ten months we’ve had a new baby in the house and now that that new baby is somewhat an old baby we have gotten into better rhythms at home, especially in regards to school for Emma. As long as she’s learning truth, beauty, and goodness through her schooling we are doing something right.”

We are back on track with school and even though we are a bit behind on the schedule we are trucking through and happily making education a priority again. Emma ( our almost seven year old) is enjoying school time and I am loving this time together, sometimes school is interrupted by Alice’s (our 1 year old) needs  and that’s ok we resign to Mom’s bed to put Alice asleep while I read aloud from “Little House in the Big Woods”.

Mother Culture

“Mother Culture (Self Care and Interests ex. staying healthy-eating healthy, gym time and reading for pleasure and knowledge)- It is helping me to think of getting healthy as a thing I am doing to help myself and my children in the context of being a Mother opposed to some arbitrary goal I set for myself. My goal for this is more health, more wisdom.”

I’ve had a slow start and have started back working out and eating healthier. Thankful that one of my gifts recently was a Fitbit so I can track steps and progress. I am continuing to read and am always adding to my “to-read” list.

Art

“I never completed art school and I am down on myself a lot about it, in 2013 both Kenny started actively pursuing Art making more in our lives and this year I want that to ripen even more. Whether it’s photography or printmaking, I want to see more art making this year. I’ve started making plans based on this and am just praying for the occasional quiet times to work on these.”

I’m getting there, it’s hard to be motivated to make art after a long day of kid wrangling but I just need to be intentional with the time I do have.

Writing/Blogging

“I want to be more consistent with my writing and blogging without being overly ambitious. One plan that I am thinking of is setting a manageable schedule for me to work on this. Something easy-like twice a week, just to write out some of the things I have rolling around in my head.”

I haven’t done much writing lately but have been trying to post frequently and this is something I want to make a priority. It helps to sometimes get mangled thoughts on to “paper”.

I guess to some all of these things up the key word is Intentionality and just being mindful of the details.

So how are you doing with your plans & priorities this year?  Do you need encouragement for plans ahead? I hope to revisit this often and please share what you have going on in your lives.

Exploring Grace Together by Jessica Thompson; A Review

 

How important is it to learn about Grace at an early Age? It is of the utmost importance, in my opinion,  just as it is equally important to learn as an Adult as I am doing now. Grace colors the way we interact with others and even ourselves in all of life. Grace, simply put, the In Faith,Grace that is undeserved comes from God and is the antithesis to working to no avail to pay your for your own debts, for your own righteousness. It just doesn’t work that way. Grace is transforming and refining because it is difficult to extend Grace if you don’t understand Grace and once God’s grace is understood it can change everything that you think you know about Him and what that means for your faith.

Are we teaching our children about Grace? Are we learning about Grace? How do we bring up conversations about Grace in the everyday, ordinary moments of life? Sometimes you need a starting place. That’s what I feel Jessica Thompson’s book is, a tool for conversations about God, Grace, and remarkable Love.

It is no secret that we homeschool (Charlotte Mason style) and as a part of that we do daily bible studies, I love that time where we talk about scripture and what it means to us. We discuss Gospel things and what they mean in our day-to-day.  Emma who is six-almost-seven is not always interested to be truthful, but we do get a lot out of it and it is a great way to point to the Gospel then and later when things happen in life and she loves to listen to the stories. We also do something called Character Training, we learn about biblical character that we should embody.  Most people do more than one Character in a year and we started the year that way but since we were struggling with Obedience with the mini teenager (that’s what it’s felt like) in our home we decided to stick with Obedience as our  character for the entire year. If you ask Emma what Obedience is she will tell you that it is “doing what you are told with a happy, submissive heart”. The expectation in our home is “First-Time Obedience”, meaning that you do the previous the first time you are told. In this we are all learning about obedience al-together because I also tend toward the opposite. The apple does not fall far from the tree. We can see how teaching this way does work on hearts little by little with God’s help.

I say all of the above to say if those things are not learned along side Grace and Love then it completely defeats the purpose in my mind. Bible Stories and learning about how we should live can mean nothing if we aren’t connecting it to the Love Story we’ve been given. Without learning Grace, we will tend toward moralism or legalism. That’s why Grace is important. So, I was very excited to get the happy mail that contained my copy of “Exploring Grace Together” by Jessica Thompson. Thank you, Jessica! I treasure “Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus” written by Jessica and her Mother, Elyse Fitzpatrick. It has truly been a wonderful resource for our family. I was very excited to dive in this devotional with Emma and our family.

We have done a week’s worth of devotions from the book to date and we enjoy them very much so far. I of course have read ahead and am excited to discuss all the things inside with my daughter. My praise is that it brings to light everyday issues children and yes, adults struggle with and shines that Gospel light on them so we can see them with new eyes.

For example in Chapter 1 “The Good One” we discussed how all fall short and following the rules does not win you what is given freely. This is so important for us to discuss because Emma in most cases is a “follow the rules to the letter” and has what I like to call a high sense of justice when it comes to herself and others. She is the first to point out among friends that they aren’t following the rules so it was a really great discussion for us.

In Chapter 4 “Just Not Sure” Emma shared that sometimes she doesn’t understand Faith as well just like Sam in the story but that she still wanted to have Faith and thought it was very important. It was a great way to tell her that she is always welcome to talk with us about her thoughts and doubts and we will examine them together, because she isn’t alone in this. Then prompted from the questions we prayed for the special Gift of Faith.

Bullies are a new thing for us this year, I’m not sure if it’s because of the age of her peers or what but we had never experienced it. Emma is a very sensitive child and is really affected by “name calling” or unkindness but she also is not always aware when she is the one being unkind to others as well. Chapter 6 “I Can’t Be Nice” was a great devotion to discuss what we are to do in these scenarios, when we feel like we can’t be nice to others regardless the circumstance. We were able to bring out some situations that have happened to and by Emma and discuss what we can do about them. It is a great way for Mom as well to talk about how she struggles with this.

I really have enjoyed the devotions so far and we will continue with them with our family in hopes that the Gospel conversations continue. The only thing we have done differently in the devotions is that in our Charlotte Mason tradition Emma will narrate the story back to me before we discuss it. We do this for retention in our home and it seems to work for us. Anyone can do this as well but it isn’t necessary for the material. Here are some thoughts on Narration, if interested.

I completely recommend this book. It will become another invaluable resource for us as we raise young children’s hearts and also examine our own hearts. Do it with your families knowing both you and your children will benefit from it. I can’t wait to see what else Jessica has in store in the future, I am totally fangirling her on Instagram and Twitter and almost referred to her as @thejesslou in most of this post. Anyways, go and give her a follow https://twitter.com/Thejesslou and http://instagram.com/thejesslou.

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What are your thoughts on this book? Was this review helpful? I love posts to start a dialog for more conversation.