Failures in Parenting

IMG_6216I know anyone reading this post came here for the cheery title but I am not going to tell you everything you are doing wrong, I hope to encourage us, myself and maybe you towards Christ in our parenting.

This is merely my opinion. It seems every parent with kids under the age of 5 are parenting experts and in my experience they start to level out between their children’s ages of 10-13+, some sooner, some much later. What I mean is that young moms scour research, reviews, read all the books, opinions, polls, what have you and feel they have a good grasp on that parenting thing and then somewhere between the preschool years and college the “Oh. Crap” light bulb goes off and they realize they have no idea what they are talking about. I know because I am slowly, sloth-like,  moving from Camp Expert to Camp Oh, Crap. We’ll call it the circle of parenting, it’s like the circle of life but not as sing-songy and the only dancing creatures are the ones peeing on your floor.

Here’s the bad news. There are no winners in parenting, we are failing. All of us. We aren’t perfect, no, not one. Just last night I screamed at two kids that would not stop fighting and go to sleep, this morning I have to wake them up and ask forgiveness. I fail daily but that is not the end of the news.

Here is the good news, God never called us to be perfect parents. All the expert advice is meaningless in the scheme of God’s plan. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian is confronted with some very reasonably sounding advice, the character aptly named Worldly Wiseman in so many words basically says “You know…..” And proceeds to give him some seemingly practical guidance. That guidance leads him off course and is almost the end of him. Parents, we are all bombarded through social media streams and random strangers at the check-out line and well-meaning friends and family, with Wordly-Wiseman’s advice everyday on the plethora of choices and opinions on parenting, a lot of which seems helpful but can lead us astray. Guess what, you don’t have to play this hamster wheel game of parenting. You can simply parent. There is grace for parents too and hope in Christ who has not left us without the spirit to seek Godly wisdom on even the most mundane matters.

Do you know why many parents begin to mellow out as their kids become older?  It’s because the children they have brought into the world, their “perfect” gifts, aren’t actually perfect and in fact are sinners. Perfectly formed, sure, but sinners none-the-less. Not only that, they are sin mirrors. Children mirror our sin and our idols and once they start making their own decisions and becoming their own little people we become painstakingly aware that we woefully know nothing and are out of our depths. That might feel hopeless but it isn’t, we are not alone, we have help but our internet rabbit trails probably won’t help us arrive there. Once we realize that, I think, we have a much better grasp on this parenting thing because it’s not from our own doing.

Christian Parents, the only parenting advice you need is this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. -Luke 10:27, ESV

You see those precious gifts of God who also mirror our failures are not what we live for, they are given to us and we must steward them well. They are our closest neighbors. So our little children and adult children alike need to be treated as such and that is only the second part of it. Firstly, Love God. Let them mirror that. Children won’t care when they are adults what parenting checklists you checked off when they were little, whether you breastfed, bottle-fed, baby wore, rolled in stroller, cried it out or cried in bed together and does it really matter if you homeschooled, unschooled, private schooled, public schooled, whether there was a tv in the house or if you did or didn’ t participate in piano, ballet, soccer, karate…this sentence alone is giving me a panic attack. The only thing that matters is the question “Did you love God with all your heart, Did you love me as yourself?”.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. -James 3:17, ESV

We are not Martyrs for our children. We don’t have to die daily to Wordly-Wisdom because God already showed us how to be good parents by being the best one, we die to sin only through the power of Christ Jesus not our mommy blogs. Parenting is scary, so take some deep breaths, we’re in this together and we have the very best Godly wisdom you can ask for. We don’t know how it will all fall or whether our children will be saved but we can pray and prod each other toward Christ and that is the best help.  Additionally, I want to challenge myself that the next time I feel like giving unprompted advice, I ask how I can pray for them as a parent instead and actually pray for them.

In this simple way, by God’s grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land–the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the gospel, and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Also read this post from Kevin Deyoung: The Great Parental Freak Out

Family Gospel Rhythms- Part 1 Morning Liturgy

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Every day has it’s own difficulties, each day it’s own trials, also it’s own joys. Add a family, a spouse and loving and playful children to that and you have a whole different and new matter.  Family life is not all stress and toddler’s screams there is so much beauty in the fray but I definitely encourage centering when life is as busy and as harried as it is these days. My perfectly imperfect family needs it and I encourage families to embrace it. This two part series will talk about home school liturgy and Family Worship time. There are still truths for all families regardless the school choice that is best for your family and feel free to incorporate Gospel Rhythms that work for you.

“The Bible is the chief lesson–“But we are considering, not the religious life of children, but their education by lessons; and their Bible lessons should help them to realise in early days that the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and, therefore, that their Bible lessons are their chief lessons.” Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1

I call it Family Gospel Rhythms. These rhythms are the efforts we take each day to center ourselves on Christ as a family. You may have heard of the phrase Family Worship or Family Devotion before and in Homeschool circles you may be aware of “Circle Time” or “Morning Liturgy” -as I call it-. I hear the terms quite often and I run an instagram and online community called Charlotte Mason Living, so, the questions have been posed a lot lately, “what does Morning Liturgy look like?”, “What does Family Worship look like?”. So, I will show you what we do for both, not as an example but as an encouragement to find what fits for your family. Part one will be about Morning Liturgy and part two will cover Family Worship (Night-time).

“Home is the greatest of all institutions” -Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Now, let me discuss why we do both firstly. I do not think it is necessary in most families to have a morning and night time session of “worship” or “bible time”, what have you. We homeschool so part of our education is biblical, so, Morning Liturgy is part of our school day and led by myself, only. Mom is setting the tone for the school day as Mother and Teacher and Dad leads our Family in Worship at night as Shepherd of the Home. I’m only breaking them into two parts for brevity.

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Morning Liturgy

In my yearly “homeschool this year” posts I always share what we do for every subject, so you may have heard me discuss some of these resources. I consider our Morning Liturgy a subject in three parts. We do Morning Liturgy as part of our homeschool education and this includes Catechism/ Scripture Memory, Habits and Bible. I am sharing resources and what we adapt to make it fit within our homeschool educational philosophy (Charlotte Mason).

It is:

Catechism – This term may be unfamiliar to you so here is what a Catechism is

“So, what is it anyway? The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in church history. In the early church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers. – North Star Catechism

A catechism is just that a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.” – North Star Catechism

There are many wonderful versions of Catechisms to choose from and many will be based on the Westminster or Heidelberg Catechisms. Make sure your choice lines up with your family’s belief system by pre-reading and sometimes (not always) wikipedia can be really useful for looking at the history and what’s: Catechisms. We use the North Star Catechism from SojournKids. We feel it is an excellent catechism that is accessible and built upon trusted Catechisms without dumbing down any biblical truths.

Each morning we do Catechism Review and Scripture Memory of scriptures that are listed with our Catechism.

For example:

  • God exists forever as how many persons? Three. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

So we slowly progress with our Catechism as we memorize. There is no rush to breeze through it. Excellence is a much better friend and habit than the amount or speed that your child knows. ‘

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  – Aristotle

I require recitation often (every morning) and sometimes when we are reading something related I’ll ask if that reminds my oldest of something but most times she will point out the similarities on her own or will comment on the world’s circumstances from what she has learned. Like this week in Family Worship singing Holy, Holy, Holy as our hymn we recognized that this line “Who was, and is, and evermore shall be” reminded us of our Catechism verse for Q. 4 Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Children make connections and thankfully if we allow them to do them on their own, the thoughts are better remembered than from lectures or belaboured talks.

…we have relations with what there is in the present and with what there has been in the past, with what is above us, and about us; and that fullness of living and serviceableness depend for each of us upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of. Every child is heir to an enormous patrimony. -Charlotte Mason

LSSCAT

Bible- We teach the Bible because it is the greatest living book.


That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

That the Bible is most of all a story — the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

That — in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him — God won’t ever stop loving his children… with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

That the Bible, in short, is a Story — not a Rule Book — and there is only one Hero in the Story.- Sally Lloyd Jones

Practically, this looks like every morning breaking open the word for our Morning Time you could do this by simply making a reading plan or following one and having your child narrate what they have heard.

Personally, we use a resource called Long Story Short by Marty Machowski from New Growth Press (LSS). This resource goes through all of the Old Testament while pointing to Christ in the New Testament. There is a second volume going through the New Testament once completed. There is the Gospel Story Bible you can use as a companion, we do, but it is not necessary.

This resource is not a Charlotte Mason resource, per say, so I modify to make it fit our educational philosophy because it was the resource that best suited our belief needs. Instead of asking the questions when I have completed the reading I have my daughter narrate (simply, telling it back in their own words) for better memory and it works best like narration always does. There is a bit of a summary following in the lesson book and I use it more as a guide for what I’m listening for in her narrations rather than something I read to her or if she has questions for me after narration, I might use it as a help for myself in answering those questions.

I use LSS as a reading plan mostly, reading the verses and requiring narration. Each week a theme such as “God creates Man” would have us reading, in this case, from Genesis 2  but also connecting New Testament verses, here specifically, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. This is the real reason I like this resource and as we are now in 1 Kings and nearing the end of the Old Testament the next volume mimics this structure by pairing the New Testament scripture with Old Testament verses. So the whole bible becomes a living body of a book. We have been going through the Old Testament for a few years and it has been a truly rich experience, feasting with my daughter on the word. She told me recently how excited she is to move into the New Testament and that joy makes me happy, truly.

“But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion. By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the willfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him. The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience.” -Charlotte Mason, Vol 1

Habits- Habit training might be a new concept if you aren’t familiar with Charlotte Mason schooling but it’s an integral part. The forming of habits is an important practice and I am learning desperately needed in modern societies. We are all forming habits intentionally or not and we all struggle with bad habits. The point of habit formation is to see them for what they are and gently develop better ones. This has been as beneficial for myself as much as it has has been for my daughter.

“ ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.” — Charlotte Mason

We use a book from Simply Charlotte Mason called Laying Down the Rails for Children  for a help when needing relative living examples but also find beautiful stories and poems to read.

Thus, don’t begin with teaching the habit of (insert habit here)   – begin with the relationships, appropriate books, ideas, outdoor life, and all those things that fill the child with ideas that make up this living education. – Nancy Kelly

Many Charlotte Mason families study a habit for a specific set time and some families take a more organic approach. We have done both and find the latter to be a better fit for us and move through habits as we see fit. My oldest is nine and we have recently been learning about a habit of “Sweet and Even Temper”. This has been an excellent habit to cover since she has struggled recently with strong emotions that manifest in bad temper. We aren’t always covering habits she specifically struggles with but might park a bit on one if I think she could use it to fully understand. For example we stayed many moons in the Habit of Obedience and revisit it often since the temper and obedience seem to have a lot of crossover. Reading the lovely living poems and stories help her a lot to frame the habits in her mind because she sees the contrasts clearly through listening and narration that she would completely miss through me just telling her that she should do this or that. I am thankful because I also learn from these lessons, it is too much to expect my children to act better than I do myself.

So this is what we do for Morning Liturgy and sometimes days are less than smooth and distractions attempt to divide our mind but know that families learning together, teaching your children to love God and his word is an effort worth taking, my very imperfect family needs it.

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The “promises of the covenant necessitate Christian education, because they inevitably impose upon our children a heavy responsibility…for God has enriched them with spiritual treasures in order that they should administer this wealth for the honor of his name and for the extension of his kingdom. Are we warranted in assuming that they will naturally be faithful to their trust and will make the best possible use of their God-given possessions?…Surely, we cannot be too careful or too diligent in training our children for their responsible duties in life” – Louis Berkhof

Resources from above:

North Star Catechism from Sojourn

Long Story Short by Marty Machowski

The Gospel Story Bible

Laying Down the Rails for Children by Sonya Schafer

Other Resources I recommend personally:

New City Catechism

Desiring God: A Baptist Catechism

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones

A Child’s Book of Character Training by Ron and Rebekah Coriell

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.