by Frances Crusoe
As a parent, I am often reminded of Proverbs 22:6 which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” My constant prayer is that my sons becomes genuinely passionate about Jesus and spend their lives telling other about Him. I strive to practice what I preach to them by serving in the church, loving people, turning away from sin, and applying the scriptures to my own life. It pleases me to see the natural leadership traits peek through my teenager when he is participating in his high school ministry and how much my six year old loves to sing and dance to worship songs.
When my teenager heads out of the door each day, I know that he will be bombarded with different messages and influences. I am not there when he walks down the halls at school or hangs out with friends in between classes. I will not always be there the moment that he faced with a tough decision. I cannot always protect him from making mistakes. I realize that he has to have room to develop his own personal relationship with Christ and not attempt to ride on the coat tails of others to Heaven.
Proverbs 22:6 gives parents a specific command of training up the children we are blessed with. It is not the responsibility of children's church volunteers or youth pastors to train up our children. They are in place to cultivate the biblical morals and values instilled in the home. We must do our part in laying the biblical foundation and allowing Christ to water the seeds we spend years sowing into their spirits.
I firmly believe in Proverbs 22:6. I am a product of it. I had family who sowed those seeds of faith into my heart at an early age. When I was old enough, I made the decision to create my own path that lead to countless mistakes. I assumed that because I got baptized at 10 and had a praying grandmother, I would always be in good standing with Jesus. Yet, Romans 14:12 says that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” I would have to give an account of my life, not my grandmother or youth pastors. I would. I couldn't rely on the faith of others to ensure a free pass to Heaven. I had to seek my own forgiveness for my sins and develop my own relationship with Jesus. So do my sons.
I encourage every parent to pray for with their children. Read and discuss the scriptures with them on a regular basis. Be an example for them to follow. Challenge them to live a life of righteousness even when the world says otherwise. Encourage them to develop their own relationship with Christ and give them room to seek Him on their own. Above all else, trust God with their lives and they will not depart from Him.
by Marquisha Harden
This month will bring forth another year of celebrating mothers around the world. Families will spend countless amounts of dollars on flowers, gifts, dinners, cards and many hours on the phone to express their love. Mothers who have passed away will even be celebrated for the nurture and love they spread while they were alive. Yet, there remains a group of mothers who won’t receive a call, card, or thought because someone refuses to forgive. While every mother makes mistakes, there are some who believe mothers don’t have room to fall short in ensuring their child is nurtured, guided, and loved.
Mothers need forgiveness just like everyone else. They are imperfect people who make mistakes because they love to much or not enough, they give too much advice or not enough, they overly nurture their children or they don’t. The consequences of either often leave children to believe ‘their parents just don’t understand’ or refuse to love them according to their specific needs. More often than not, the child ‘just doesn’t understand’ the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual roller-coasters mothers manage on a day-to-day basis.
I used to believe my mother was perfect; she’s beautiful, smart, nurturing, loving, and everything I needed her to be in my early years. She taught me how to deal with children at school, she eased the issues I had about my complexion, and she always knew just want to say. She gave wisdom I believed others should have to pay for. She always knew how to sooth every need and answered every question to perfection, that is…until … she made a mistake.
For years there were times I thought I needed more from her, but she wasn’t able to give it. I never understood why at some times it seemed like the mother I held on a pedestal appeared to be working against me. It wasn’t until I took the time to understand who she is and all she had to deal with to get me here and even keep me here, that I began to appreciate her love.
Some children never take in account their mothers’ life before motherhood, or even the struggles they encounter each day. Some mothers were teen parents, raped, beaten, alcoholics, prostitutes, promiscuous, drug addicts; some may still be. That’s not an excuse, but it definitely plays a factor. While I don’t know what the issue is, God does. God knows that our mothers wear different hats as a wife, mother, daughter, career woman, student, sister, servant etc. He also knows that trying to balance all of those things will definitely leave room for error. He knows that some children will feel rejected and unloved. Some will feel forsaken and forgotten. He knew some would feel disowned and unwanted; some would feel smothered by their mothers being overprotective, etc. However, before you were even formed in your mother’s womb, God already knew the life you would have, whether you would be raised by your biological mother, family member, or an adoptive parent. In knowing all of the factors, He gave assurance to each child that ‘when my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up’ (Psalms 27:10).
This does not mean we get to dismiss our mothers’ feelings or justify not wanting forgive. God also knew some children would use their mothers’ inability to love them the way they think they should be loved as a reason to hold a grudge, or dishonor them. So, He gave the command to ‘honor your mother and father so that your days would be long in the land the Lord your gives you’ (Exodus 20:12). Regardless of how you feel about the way you were raised, you are still held accountable for your actions, words, and feelings toward your mother. It is your responsibility to honor the woman who gave birth to you because she gave birth to God’s purpose… YOU!
You are God’s purpose and a part of God’s plan. He established a purpose within you well before you were even born, and it hasn’t stopped because you believe your upbringing wasn’t the best. It was already a part of the plan. It was a set up from the beginning! There is so much God can and will do through because of your life, but you have to be willing to forgive and let go of any ill feelings you have toward your mother. Everything that seemed to be working against you is being worked out in your favor. We are all human and subject to making mistakes in our life.
Think about some of the mistakes you’ve made as a child, teen, and adult. Think of some of the mistakes you are making or have made as parent. I’m almost certain you don’t make the mistakes because you want to harm your child. Sometimes it’s not even a mistake; it’s the child’s perception of wrong doing because they don’t understand/agree with the mother’s discipline, absence, or advice.
This year, there will be many mothers receiving thanks around the world. Make sure that you are among the children who reflect and give God praise for giving you a mother who didn’t abort His purpose. Give thanks because He kept you covered when you felt you were forgotten. Give thanks because there was only one way He chose to get you here, through your mother’s love.
Psalms 139 14-18, “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when yet there were none of them. How precious also are your thoughts to me O God! How great is the sum of them. If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake; I am still with You!”
This year take the time to get to know your mother or pray for peace about your relationship. How will you celebrate your mother this year? A little bit of flowers and forgiveness goes a very long way.
By Maria Breeden
Effective parenting begins from a position of wholeness and godly self-esteem. For the single mother, this combination is absolutely essential for her to raise responsible, healthy, and whole children. It is difficult to teach your children to have high self-esteem when you are broken and don't even realize it. Parental brokenness manifests itself in a variety of ways.
Parenting by Default Not Purpose
As a single mom, I have energy, resource, and time constraints. I have discovered the reason why it was so challenging to consistently implement godly parenting principles was because I never knew I needed to be grounded in the love of God for myself before marrying and having children. Thus, true foundational self-esteem rooted in God was never fully formed in me. This is important as it relates to parenting because if a woman’s deepest emotional needs for validation, completeness, and wholeness are not met in Christ, she will continually look outside of herself for these things. Because of her brokenness, it is difficult for her to model true, authentic, and healthy self-esteem in front of her children on a consistent basis.
When my children began to grow, I only had two main parenting styles: 1) The Old School “I- brought-you-into-this-world-and-I-will-take-you-out” style in order to maintain order obedience, and to survive or; 2) The Hovering Helicopter style, which consists of overprotecting, nagging, reminding and scolding because I didn’t have the time, resources, and inner strength to carefully think through, trust, strategize and seek the Lord. Functioning in this fashion always takes its toll on a woman and further exacerbates the brokenness. In the short term, both styles work when children are young, but as they grow and began to enter late childhood and early puberty these methods become less effective. The mother then finds herself with very little left in her parenting toolbox except trying to control or protect them. It results in more stress for the mother and results in children with low self-esteem who make poor life choices because the mother did all the thinking and decision making for them.
According to Foster Cline and Jim Fay in Parenting With Love & Logic, “Too many parents confuse love, protection & caring…they overcompensate with worry and hyper-concern (nagging, reminding, too) instead of letting kids fail. What these parents are doing, in reality is meeting their own selfish needs. They make more work for themselves and will, in the long run, raise children who make their own lives more work. The problem is, rescuing parents often rescue out of their own needs. They like to heal hurts. They are parents who need to be needed, not parents who want to be wanted…”
To properly parent, a single mom must learn to love and respect herself. This means to know herself, to get grounded in God’s love and to understand how His love works. God loves us deeply. But he doesn’t stop us if we choose to jump off a cliff, have premarital sex, and make other bad choices. He lets us feel the full impact of the consequences of our choice. He uses our mistakes to help us grow in faith and maturity. We do our children a disservice when we fail to love them as God loves us. When we are grounded in God’s love we can parent as He does from a place of strength and love, not needing to be needed and not trying to control everything the kids do because of not knowing what else to do to protect them. We can allow life situations to provide learning opportunities so that they grow up responsible and able to make wise choices when we are not around. Broken mothers want these results but cannot do this consistently and effectively.
Parenting While Chasing To Get Needs Met
When a parent has unresolved brokenness running in the background of her life it manifests itself in the motives behind her relational and social choices. Oftentimes, a woman can be thoroughly convinced that her motives are good on the surface, but if the truth be told, these activities and relationships are driven from unmet needs that run contrary to solid parenting.
Motive 1: Ministry Works
We are to use our gifts and talents to build God’s kingdom. God gave us our talents, gifts, and abilities to be productive and to fulfill our purpose in His Kingdom. However, when we fail to look to God to meet our needs for validation, acceptance and approval, without realizing it, we find ourselves using our good works as a vehicle to receive attention, to be seen, and to be validated. We show up every time the church doors open. We show up to every activity and committee meeting. We come back home all excited and the house is a mess, there is chaos and disorder and the kids are running wild. We are godly women out saving the world, yet our homes are going to hell. Using ministry works to get an emotional need met does not glorify God nor does it help our children. We must continually pray and seek God’s help to maintain order and balance in ministry and family.
Motive 2: I Need a Man...For Attention/ To Be A Father Figure / To Go to Church With
A young woman, without a fundamental knowledge of her worth and value in Christ, can easily get caught up in romantic drama relationships starting in her teenage years. Once that first relationship fails, she will continually seek the initial high of that first infatuation. She has no clue about who she is in God and is only driven by emotions and flesh. This is the beginning of insecure or anxious love in a woman. This is evidenced by mothers who have a hard enough time managing house/job/kids but still trying to date, spending a lot of time texting, on the phone, online, fantasizing, anxiously worrying about what a man wants/thinks/feels, and obsessing over every text/call/conversation. It is possible for a woman to spend way more mental and emotional energy over a man than she does for her children. Her whole emotional world can revolve around whether or not she gets a certain level of attention from a man. Again, this does not glorify God and hinders godly parenting.
Broken mothers also get involved in romantic relationships too quickly before developing personal wholeness because of an overwhelming desire to have some semblance of a "father figure" or “male role model” in front of children. It is difficult to go to church Sunday after Sunday alone. They have a deep desire to have a husband to go to church with, to lead the family and to serve God together. These desires are normal and natural, but if not held in check under God’s timing and way, it can create many problems. If mom is not whole, most of her energy will be put into developing this relationship instead of developing personal wholeness in Christ or parenting her children. If the relationship ends in disappointment, she is back where she started from, even more broken then before because she delayed her healing process by getting prematurely involved.
This could be a significant issue if a mother spends more time reading every book on how to get married, how to be a wife, how men think, praying for her “Boaz” than praying or reading on how to parent her children. How much prayer time is spent on interceding for the children’s needs and issues? How much of prayer is spent asking God to reveal our children’s purpose/destiny/passion/gifts at an early age? How much prayer is spent on the list of requirements for the future husband? How much prayer and emotional equity are we investing in the current new hot marriage prospect?
Jesus took on a dishonorable death so that we could live honorable, holy (whole) complete and abundant lives. Our deepest emotional, psychological and spiritual needs were met by Christ on the Cross and our resultant failures to fully appropriate His shed blood over our emotions and brokenness cause us to chase in the wilderness for something that had already been taken care of. We suffer and, in the long run, our children suffer. Woman of God, never be in a rush to get married, raise children, or do good works without take the time to become deeply rooted in Christ. Learn to receive and walk in his love so that you can function fully in all areas of your life including parenting from place of wholeness and purpose.
By Nadia Marinaccio
The woes of parenting are often too much to tolerate, aren’t they? One moment you are bringing home your bundle of joy, swaddled in a hospital blanket that you will no doubt save until you have grandchildren and can pass it on to them. Suddenly you are the parent of a teenager, and plunged head first into the most heart wrenching fight of your life. You wonder what on earth happened to your sweet angel who could do no wrong, your cuddle bug, your lil protégé that looked up to you and desired your approval and smile.
If you are entering this role of being the parent of a rebellious teenager for the first time you are no doubt trying to figure out what went wrong. How did we end up here? For me I can honestly say that because I was a child myself at the age of 22, I treated her as if she were my lil doll, and my friend. I couldn’t wait to dress her up, and take her out. I had messed up so much already in my short life and all I wanted was to prove to the world that I could do something right.( It wasn’t about her. It was about me validating myself. Wow, that truth is too deep and honest for somebody.) I thought it was adorable when she mimicked me, especially because I have a funny personality and like to do impersonations of various ethnicities and celebrities. She followed in my footsteps and became just as sassy and silly as her mamma. In hindsight, I remember some veteran parents warning me to get that sassiness under control, but I didn’t listen, after all I was a “grown woman” myself (NOT!) and had it all figured it out. Besides, they were talking to someone who didn’t think it was necessary to pick up a single solitary parenting book because “how hard could this whole parenting thing be?” How I wish I could reverse the hands of time and start over, but alas this is life and I have to endure the consequences of my hardheadedness.
The rollercoaster ride of being the parent of a rebellious teenager has just begun for me. My seatbelt is on, the roller bar pulled down tight to make sure I don’t fall out when we are upside down screaming our heads off, and finally we are lurching forward down the track. As we make our ascent I realize we shouldn’t be on this ride. What was I thinking? It’s too late to realize I am afraid of heights. Next thing you know, we are plummeting down at 80miles an hour, with your stomach in your throat hoping nothing comes out. Oh NO!! Here comes the upside down loops! I am too old to be doing this! Up and down, racing, spinning, screaming, holding on for dear life is the rollercoaster adventure of a teenage parent. Finally the ride is over, you exhale and thank God he kept you alive. You can’t wait to get off, but suddenly it starts again! Are you serious? How many more years of this do I have to endure? She is 13 now, so do the math!
The greatest lesson I have learned as a parent of a rebellious teenager is to remember Ephesians 6:12 which says our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. It is easy to direct our anger at the visible source of our frustration but we must be diligent to remember that there is a dangerous incognito enemy who is searching the earth, seeking whom he may devour(1Peter 5:8). He is the master of illusions and has disguised himself in the body of your teenager. Don’t believe me? Let me give you an example of how I know this to be true. We know the enemy was once an angel and a worship leader in heaven. He became selfish and wanted the worship for himself and of course he was cast out of heaven with a third of the angels. He was stripped of his ability to worship so he and his minions work diligently to have the world as we know it worship him. Most of the world is unaware of his subtle stronghold on them, but nonetheless it is present and dangerous.
One day my daughter and I were in the car and we were listening to her worldly, vile rap music which I loathe. She was happy as a clam, singing along to disgusting lyrics. I had enough of her music so I put in one of my worship cd’s. Visibly, within minutes she became very agitated at the sound of worship music and proceeded to cover her ears and shake her leg nervously. That spirit in her had been agitated and the more I sang along and praised God the more distressing it became to her.
The enemy attacks us because we have now been able to take his place as worshippers with the angels that remain. He attacks anything and everything in this world that has a purpose for Christ. You have never been assaulted until you start living for Christ and bringing precious souls into the Kingdom.
I believe one of the greatest ways you can defeat the enemy at his game is to remember who you are warring with. Your child is not your enemy. I know it feels like it at times. Especially when they are rebelling against you and God, but we must be mindful that we don’t allow our anger to control us. The negative behavior has to be addressed sternly and in love. So many times I have almost lost myself in my fury and acted in ways that God would not condone. It’s so difficult in those times to look at my child and say to myself “I don’t care what this looks like, Lord I trust you and I know we will come out of this and when we do, we will help to encourage others going through the same thing.”
Secondly, you have to know who you are in Christ. Know that you have been appointed by God to be the caretaker of this child. God has given you this child, for you to raise, love and encourage. I am not saying for you to be a rug and allow your child to trample all over you. What I am saying is stay focused on Christ who is the author and finisher of your faith. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him and you must not faint in well-doing for in due season you will reap if you faint not.
Look at this passage in Matthew 14:22-26 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost! ” they said, and cried out in fear.
What is beautiful about this passage of scripture is the time that elapsed. It was evening time that Jesus took notice of them. They were a mile offshore and were being battered by the waves, yet Jesus doesn’t come to them til 3 in the morning. I want to encourage you to know that just because he hasn’t come yet, doesn’t mean he doesn’t see your struggle. He knows you are being thrown around by the rebellion in your house, but don’t give up because he’s coming to you in His time walking on the water. We know immediately after this, Peter asks Jesus to bid him to come out on the water. While Peter is walking on the water the winds rose against him and he began to sink. Jesus doesn’t allow Him to sink though until Peter is within reach. It may feel like you have drowned in this season of parenting but take heart and know that you are within an arms-reach of your savior and he will pull you out and bring you to dry ground. Your job is to keep your focus on Him while you are sinking. Christ calls us to walk on water because it is impossible and he knows by ourselves we wouldn’t make it, but when we keep our eyes on him, all things are possible.
We are in spiritual warfare over our children. Satan wants them but he can’t have them. They are children of God, called and sanctified for God’s purpose. No matter what it looks like, you keep speaking God’s promises over your child. See your child healed and in their right mind, following Christ, lifting others out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Do not lose hope or despair, your labor is not in vain and Jesus will prevail in your child! If satan steals your hope, than you might as well give him your child. Your hope in Christ is the only thing you can count on. Don’t’ take your eyes off of Jesus!
By Frances Crusoe
As a single Christian woman, not many days go by that I am not reminded of the fact that I am single. From late night conversations with friends, to worried “when are you going to find a man” looks from family members, to the never ending engagement announcements, the topic of marriage is never far off. I don't spend time putting together my wedding Pinterest boards, dreaming about the perfect wedding day, or constantly revising a “list” of qualifications for my future husband to possess. Instead, I spend my days serving others and pursuing God's will for my life. I am more fulfilled and content in my single days than I could have ever imagined. I have traveled internationally on missions trips, ministered to people in ways that I never would have imagined, and have had the most life changing encounters with God during this season. I learned that the more time I spend doing God's will, the less time I have to worry about my relationship status.
I must admit that I have not always been this confident or content in my relationship with God and His promises for me. I am a single mother of two wonderful boys, which at times, has carried the social stigma of being less than; a statistic; damaged goods. I have never lacked attention from men for reasons other than marriage so for a long time, I never thought that marriage would be in my future. Insecurities, loneliness, and carnal desires often keep single mothers bound to the lie that we do not deserve any more that what we settle for. We buy into the lie that single mothers shouldn't expect a man to want to take care of someone else's child, let alone marry their mother. We should have made better choices and not had children out of wedlock. We sometimes go from one bad relationship to the next, hoping that this one will be okay being boyfriend and daddy. In some instances, I settled for the idea of being grateful for whoever thought enough of me to keep me around, even if they were not looking to play daddy.
It wasn't until I stopped searching for love and a makeshift father in men that I was truly able to accept the radical love and affection from Jesus Christ. Even when I was more in love with sin than my Savior, He still considered me worthy to be pursued. My past did not matter to Him and it brought Him pleasure to take on my sins, my hurts, and my shame. Allowing Christ to do a miraculous work in me helped me to put my complete trust in Him, even for marriage. God's word says in Psalm 37:4 to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That promise does not end with single mothers.
I pray that any woman, who made the brave decision to bring a life into this world, without a husband by her side, understands that God has not overlooked her. You are not your past, the labels you have worn or the lies you have believed. You are loved, desired, and worth Christ dying for. You are worthy of His absolute best for your life and His only request is that you trust Him with your life and your heart. Love, nurture, and raise your children in the ways of Christ; continue to delight yourself in Him. There will be stressful days, lonely nights, and tearful prayers, but hold His promised in your heart. God is the author of love, life and all things good, so be patient and allow Him to write your happily ever after.
By Sondra Lewis
From February 14th to the 18th, we celebrated the birthdays of our three youngest children. Our “February Fest” (as we call it) is a joyous occasion as we have three birthdays within 5 days: The 14th and Valentine’s Day is our precious daughter (the youngest), the 16th (our 4th son) and the 18th (our youngest and 5th son).
As I spoke with my daughter the day before her birthday, she asked me how I knew I was about to have her. I told her, unlike my earlier pregnancies, my water broke first.
I’d given birth to all five of my son’s naturally and with each one of them, I was already at the hospital when it occurred. However, the night before my daughter’s birth, she’d changed position from being head down to sideways. She was breach and had to be delivered by C-section.
One week prior, she was fully positioned in the birth canal. We knew the time was near because contractions had me in the hospital’s emergency room. But they stopped and I was sent home to wait.
As I recalled the chain of events that surrounded her birth, I began to realize she was not only the birth of a child, but also the birth of a promise.
For the sake of not belaboring the account (every pun intended), I will refer to points of which correlate to promises many of us are also pregnant with. And although the account has triggered some very poignant “Ah ha” revelations, time does not allow me to expound as I could.
Over the past several weeks, I have met many women who are facing major challenges. These are not the normal circumstances, which come and go with a phone call or a trip to the school. No, these are quite different: the child you were always there for, sacrificed days from work to attend court hearings and bailed out of jail is now blaming you for their life sentence. Or the husband that used to be at the church as soon as the doors opened has become bitter, distant and many times cruel regarding the things of God. Even to the point of disrupting the entire household.
The professor from H-E (Double hockey sticks) will not pass a single assignment you write and if you don’t have some divine intervention soon, you could lose time, money or more. The boss that used to adore you is now threatened by you and your very livelihood is now held in the hands of (who you are certain is) King Saul’s offspring.
Or the fatality that claimed the life of that loved one, and the trickling effect it has on your life being turned upside down, are only a few of the trials and tribulations many women are facing.
One painful and heart wrenching occurrence after another without any reprieve, you find yourself vacillating between what God has said about you, to you, or through you and what you are experiencing. You know you are carrying a promise. You want to believe, but the fight to push on past the present pain at times seems too much to bear.
Many women are feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day duties of the many roles they play. The balancing act of being a woman who works outside of the home and a wife and mother has all but consumed them. They’re working 2+ jobs, doing carpools, school functions projects at home, and caring for loved ones. They find themselves functioning, but in a daze. Life has become like the hamster on the wheel: They’re ever running faster and faster, exerting the energy and wearing themselves out, but cannot see the progress. When the wheel stops, they’re in the same place they began.
The domestic engineer whose home schooling the kids, managing the home, scheduling appointments for her husband, kids and tending to the things of the church; anything that is going on, she’s there. Everyone can count on her and does because (after all) she “doesn’t work” she’s a stay at home mom.
Each of these women is wearing the many hats, of which women are acquainted with. Many are having a difficult time managing. Many are screaming from within “Stop the wheel! I want to get off!” And if one thing in one area weighing heavy on you is not enough, another wave of situations and circumstances come at you like a Tsunami that leaves you washed a shore, depleted and grasping for something to hold on to before another wave approaches.
Six years before the birth of our daughter in ’95, I heard the voice of the Lord say to me “You are pregnant! You’re going to have a girl and her name will be Faith & Strength!” Again, I will not go into all the details but as you can already see, if my daughter is the youngest of my children and she has two older brothers before her, there is a lot that transpired between the promise and the promise being delivered.
I was pregnant with my 4th son at the time. Seven months later I actually went into the hospital on Valentines Day after being diagnosed with Toxemia during a routine Dr’s visit. Two days later he was born. Fast-forward to four years later, I gave birth to our 5th son on the 18th of February and 360 days after that, my promise was fulfilled with the birth of our daughter on Valentines Day.
I've discovered that when God gives us a promise, he doesn't spend time articulating details. This is where faith has its perfect work. The word God speaks into our lives becomes seed. We see time and time again that when God blessed anyone; it was his word that preceded the fulfillment of the promise. There will always be “Seed-Time & Harvest”
Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seed-time and harvest…shall not cease.”
So it is with us. Our cultivation of the seed is likened to a pregnant woman. The word becomes a part of us and we nourish it by believing what God has said and speaking the word of life over it: John 6:63, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
Between the time I’d heard the promise and actually gave birth to our daughter, there were several life changing events that occurred. All of which developed and strengthened my faith: Near death with the birth of my fourth son; a three-year wilderness (between the last two sons) in which we’d experienced everything from loss of all utilities at one point or another to having a child leave home; the death of my father, being criticized and ostracized by close friends and family and eventually leading to homelessness. Nothing in the promise of “You are pregnant," "You’re going to have a girl and her name will be Faith & Strength,” prepared me for any of that! Or did it?
By Carmen Miller
If you are like me, then you know how it feels competing daily with the media for influence over our kids. The Kardashian clan to the dysfunctional Teen Moms on MTV to Rhianna and, yes, even Nickelodeon have a whole lot they would like to teach our children.
When my husband and I gave our lives to Christ we had to change pretty much everything we had did before. We stopped listening to secular music, we stopped watching certain shows on T.V., etc. And we did the same for our children—although our oldest wasn’t too happy.
Our eyes, mind, ears, and hearts are gateways. A gateway is defined as: a door, entry, or a portal. That means what we see and hear can enter our minds and hearts and take up residence there. As adults we can control some things but let us never have too much confidence or depend on our own understanding(Proverbs 3:5) as our flesh will fail and disappoint us daily. If as adults, we must heed this warning then imagine for our children, who are sent out into this corrupt world daily.
It is so crucial as parents we not just raise our children, but “train” them. You raise vegetables, you train children. So what does it mean to train up your child? It is a consistent example of righteous living that our children can first feel and then observe as they grow up. It is teaching the existence of God and the absolute authority of the Bible. It is enforcing God’s rules and parental authority strictly and severely. It is teaching by reproof and the rod. It is teaching by repetition throughout the day. It is a very open relationship with children, allowing them to know you and learning them well.
So how do we guard their hearts, until they can?
Guard their eyes and ears: We can’t let our 12 and 13 year old daughter watch Keeping Up with The Kardashians, and listen to Lil Wayne, yet wonder why by the time she reached 17 she searched for her identity, worth, and value in friends, expensive clothes (way out of your budget), and boys. For many, unfortunately it ends with a 17 year old giving birth to her first child. Am I blaming artists and celebrities for teen pregnancies, and the identity crisis of our youth? No, I blame us as parents, because we control what our children watch and hear in our homes. It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children. And by this we control what we watch and hear! They need to see the example, and we need to be it.
Guard their mind and hearts: Obviously, we cannot control what they do outside of home. We live in a time where even teachers are playing secular music in the classrooms. This is where the training comes. This is where we don’t miss a day telling our children how much we love them, and that their identity comes from Christ alone. That $60 shirt at the mall, and the hot jock on the football team will never satisfy the heart’s desire. Only Jesus Christ can. Let them know God made all the delicate, inner parts of their body and knit them together in their womb (Psalm 139:13). They are already royalty, and sons and daughters of Kings.
More importantly, let’s continue to pray over our children. Cover them daily!
Pray over them from head to toe.
Pray over their minds, that they will NOT conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds ( Romans 12:2).
Pray over their eyes and ears, that when they leave home they see and hear only what is true, what is honorable, what is just, what is pure, what is lovely, what is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
Pray over their hearts, that they might not delight in man or the things of this world, but delight themselves in the Lord, and he will give them the desires of their heart (Psalm 37:4).
Pray over their shoes and feet, that they may walk in God’s statutes and keep His ordinances, and do them (Ezekiel 11:20).
Parenting is hard enough without having to protect your children from the destructive messages they're exposed to in today's culture. Discover how to ground your kids in faith and Christian values through Scripture memory and meditation. Gary Smalley's 12-session curriculum equips you to teach your children to love God, overcome trials, develop good character, and more. Includes DVD, leader's guide, and workbook.
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In what ways are you guarding your children’s hearts?
By Nadia Marinaccio
What I love about Christ the most is the balance He supplies in my life. He knows just the right amount of love and joy to squeeze into my day to keep my head on straight. Parents are often pulled and stretched limitlessly in seemingly impossible directions. We have our homes, children, occupations, friendships, church commitments, and so on. We need balance. God is so mindful of us that He promises, in His word, to never give us more than we can handle. I used to make playful jokes with Him about this and say “you sure you were talking about parenting when you promised us that, because this seems to be a bit much than I can bear. Do I have a say in how much I can handle?”
God showers me with the most beautiful gifts from my children. He always knows just the right time to send these gifts. It’s like receiving a card, or thank you note, or a bouquet of my favorite flowers. He does this by using my children to bless me.
I find that if one child is draining me the – the other will come to me, out of nowhere and just say, “excuse me Mommy?” in the sweetest angelic voice you could imagine.
“Yes, baby?” I reply.
“Mommy I love you, you’re the bestest mommy in the whooooole world!”
At that moment my heart melts and reminds me of God’s love for me. At other moments, one of these cherubs will come to me when I am climbing in my anger, tug on my arm, and give me my iPod with a worship song pre-selected by her, and I am swiftly brought back to that place of peace, when my mind is stayed on Him according to Isaiah 23:20. Another of my mounting moments of rage was subdued when my son simply walked over to me and held his white fluffy teddy bear that was holding a red heart that said, “I love you”. Proverbs 15:1 says a kind word turns away wrath…
Psalms 8:2 in the New International Readers Version reads:
You have made sure that children and infants praise you. You have done it because of your enemies. You have done it to put a stop to their talk.
Whenever God uses children to quiet my heart, it immediately puts a stop to my “talk”. Whatever was going to leave my mouth in anger is quickly bridled and brought under subjection. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Psalm 51, in its entirety, is a great passage of scripture to meditate on when we know we have sinned and have fallen short against God. The Psalm puts us in touch with our humanity. “We are human, sinful in nature from the time of our conception”, David says. He asks God to create in him a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within him.
For me, my weakness is my anger. The Apostle Paul prayed three times for God to remove that thorn from his side. He never really says what it is, which is good because we can fill in that blank with our own struggle. It doesn’t matter what “it” is. What’s important is that you come to the one who can blot out your transgressions. He has made us righteous even when we don’t deserve it. His grace is sufficient for us.
It is God’s desire and heart to show us that He loves us. In our trials and tribulations, in our seasons of drought and despair, we should be able to see the dew on the morning grass. Just as the were Israelites brought out of Egypt and given manna from heaven each day, so are we given His grace and mercies, which are made new each day. Always look for the sun in the storm. Just because you can’t see the sun through the clouds doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Who are we that God is so mindful of us? (Psalm 8:4) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
By Nadia Marinaccio
"If we imitate Christ in all things, our children will imitate us."
I am a single mother with three children. We relocated to Pennsylvania from New Jersey in June of 2011. My oldest daughter, who was 12 at the time, would be starting 6th grade in a new middle school. Circumstances went from bad to worse in a matter of months; I lost all control. By February of 2012, my fearless 12-year-old, my little girl, had run away. We soon discovered the very real possibility that she was picked up by a 19 year old that she had met on Facebook. You can only imagine the agonizing thoughts during the 20 hours she was missing. It was the longest most heart breaking, 20 hours of my life. The prayers of the righteous availeth much and she came home safe and unharmed.
While I believed this was the worst year of my life, spiritually, it was the best year of my life. I learned first-hand what it meant in Proverbs 3:5 – 6, “… lean not to your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”
What I want to share with you are two moments that changed my life drastically; they gave me the courage to keep fighting when all I wanted to do was give up. I felt like such a failure. I had lost all control. I was depressed (again), contemplating whether or not I would need medication. In the midst of this, I was still responsible for the lives of 3 children who needed me desperately. I was done. I didn’t care what happened to me, or her. If she was crazy enough to take these chances in life, well, let her. I lost all hope in God. I no longer saw a way out. I gave up on what God called me to do.
March 2012, I was having one of the most real conversations I ever had with God. It went something like this, “How could you do this to me? You don’t know what this is like. To have a daughter that disrespects you, hurts you, lies on you, and makes you feel like such a failure. You had Jesus and He was perfect. He never sinned, never complained, he was always obedient. How do you expect me to handle all this and not lose my mind? You said in your word that you don’t give us more than we can handle. Was that a joke or something? Or did it not apply to parenting?” He allowed me to unleash my fury.
He gently stated, “Are you done yet?”
“Of course Jesus was perfect, but what about you? You are my child also and look how many times you sinned against me, used profanity, left me, disrespected and dishonored your own parents. Yet I still loved you, never turned my back on you. I still have plans for you even though you messed up.”
Wow, you can imagine how little I felt after my discourse with God. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut by a world-class champion; I felt like a world-class fool. I thanked God for His patience and love for us. From that moment, my hope was restored and I began to speak those things that were not, as though they were. I declared I would continue to speak my daughter out of this dark place and I wouldn’t give up on her no matter what came our way. I understood that I was to cover her, the same way Christ covered me. I was not to shove her wrong doings in her face and continually remind her of them. Christ doesn’t do that with us. He is a loving father, a gentleman, and he would never force himself onto us. He promises to forgive us and never leave us nor forsake us.
The second most important lesson God taught me was powerful. I remember purchasing one of Dr. Dobson’s books The Strong Willed Child. I saw that book sitting on the shelf and thought to myself “that’s what she is; she is strong willed! I’m going to fix her just as soon as I read this book. I’ll show her!” I began to read the book, convinced that I would find all of her flaws and how to fix them. I was suddenly faced with an eye opener I wasn’t expecting. (I had been sucker punched again.) I wanted all the fingers to point at her so she could be held accountable. You know what happened? All the fingers were pointed at me! Anger wasn’t the word to describe how I felt. I was seething! Are you kidding me? Some of this is my fault? She’s the one with the nasty attitude!
I soon learned, although a child may be unruly and strong willed, it is ultimately the parent’s response to the behavior that would make the difference. This was a hard pill to swallow, but I knew better. God himself convicted me. I did the only thing I knew; I humbled myself before God and asked Him for forgiveness and to show me how to lead my child and respond to her the way He required.
I’ve learned, as parents we are always expecting the children to behave a certain way, which is perfectly fine, but if we are not willing to look inside and better ourselves, we are not leading by example. Christ leads us by example; he expects the same from us. If we imitate Christ in all things, our children will imitate us. This has been a daily process of renewing the mind and I still have a long way to go. I am so thankful to God that he saw fit to choose me to raise this strong willed child. I love her more than words can explain. Although we have been through hell and back, I would do it all over again because she has made me a better mother, and a better follower of Christ.
By Ronya Osman
I believe that motherhood is a divine call to discipleship, commissioned to us by Christ himself. As mothers, I feel that we should pay close attention to Jesus’ relationship with His disciples. Jesus had an intimate relationship with His disciples. He was patient, and encouraging. He trained, forgave, and loved them. Jesus drew them to a life of purpose and meaning and I believe we are to do the same with our children. Of course, our Father will draw our children to Him through grace. We are not expected to be God, but we are expected to “Feed His Lambs”.
"I believe that motherhood is a divine call to discipleship, commissioned to us by Christ himself. "
In 1st Peter the Word says “Be shepherds to God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be. Not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
In John, Jesus commands two separate things of His disciples. Feed my lambs and take care of my sheep.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."(John 21:15-16)
Lambs are young sheep and Jesus requests something especially different for His lambs. Keep in mind that lambs are not only the young in age, but also the young in grace. We are to feed His lambs; otherwise, they will go hungry. God’s word is the nourishment our children so desperately need, Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ If left hungry they will feed on the poisonous pastures of the world. No matter how much teaching and feeding we do, our children will be exposed to this world, and the devil will deceive them at one point or another, but the Word says, in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” I wholeheartedly trust that if our children are filled to the brim with nourishment and if we, as mothers commissioned by Christ, shepherd our lambs, shelter and protect them, they will not be devoured by the wolves of the world.
In 2nd Corinthians, Paul explains that we are Christ’s ambassadors. The definition of an ambassador is an authorized representative or messenger. We have been trusted with this unofficial position of representing Christ. Jesus has called us to share His Word and love with others. What better place to start then with our children? This is a huge responsibility, but when Christ calls someone to a certain work, he gives him or her what he or she needs to carry out that work.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
Notice that Jesus made sure he fed Simon breakfast before commissioning him.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
It is important for us to have our own fill of nourishment first, before we can suitably nourish our children. Once we are filled with the gospel and love in Christ, we can teach love. Once there is a fire burning in our hearts, then we can convey that fire to our children. Jesus intercedes for us. Let us draw near to him and seek His counsel daily. Let us ask for His help during this commission of holy work known as motherhood.
Thank you for your compassion and grace. Help us to see ourselves as extensions of your grace and forgiveness. Please help us to nourish our children with your Word, and help them to learn how to share your grace with others.
In Jesus Name Amen .