By Beth Loner
No matter the age of the child or how seemingly insignificant the inquiry, questions involving God’s existence and attributes are not interruptions but divine appointments. These moments add up. If we, as parents, are not laying the foundation in Jesus Christ to our young children then someone else may have a greater influence and impact on their future beliefs.
“Hear oh Israel. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV (emphases added)
Diligently teaching children God’s commands, promises, and deeds involves instructing when we’re at home or away, when we’re resting or doing chores. These verses encourage parents that family devotionals are not another thing on the “to do” list. We actually have to flip everything around. It is the “to do” list with our children and everything else fits in around it.
Formal devotions are important too. Set aside a time. As a general rule, organized family devotions always take longer then you allot. Be prepared going in, and begin with prayer. Difficult questions will come up. If I don’t know the answer, I take it as a challenge to find out. There are an abundance of resources out there. The Scroll Bookstore can be instrumental. The manager of the Scroll, Sue Nelson, considers it her ministry to serve the church by connecting people with worthwhile, God honoring material. She does her research. As a side note, it is important to remember that some questions cannot be answered. Our finite minds cannot grasp God’s infinite wisdom.
Beth Loner is a wife, mother, member of First Free Church, and current seminary student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
By Angela Finch
Family Fun! Doesn’t that sound wonderful, but who has time? Between soccer practices, play rehearsal, piano lessons, church activities, grocery shopping, work and so many other demands, there is no time left to have fun. As parents, we want our children to remember good times, not just commitments, so why not purpose to have more fun. Hopefully, this article will give you some ideas that stimulate your own creativity.
Some things just happen spontaneously, but often times planning is needed. First, sit down together, as a family, and make a list of fun activities. You should list things that are inexpensive or free, such as playing a board game, a picnic in the back yard, catching fireflies, special milkshakes and a movie from the Redbox, or a squirt gun war. Then, list things that you could save for, such as a trip to play mini-golf, an ice cream outing, a movie, or an overnight trip. Ages and budgets vary with every household, but with planning, there is something for everyone. When something is really important to us, we usually put it in our schedule. Look at the calendar, and then choose a night that looks open for everyone.
Family traditions are another source of great memories for a child. Not only do children look forward to traditions, they often help develop a greater sense of belonging to the family through their family’s uniqueness. Be creative and begin with some simple ones. They may include a special birthday balloon, plate, or place mat for each family member, a scavenger hunt for a group gift on Christmas afternoon, a camp-out under the Christmas tree, a basket full of things each person has written that he is thankful for on Thanksgiving, or a fondue-dinner every New Year’s Eve. Whatever you choose, your children will anticipate that special event or holiday each year.
An article on fun would not be complete without a thought on laughter. What happens between childhood and adulthood that causes us to take life so seriously and lose so much of our laughter? Laughter releases stress, breaks down barriers, and helps us make it through difficult situations. Look for opportunities to laugh with your children. Find humor every day, let yourself laugh, then go out and have some fun!
There was a day when I began praying that God would help me to “pay attention.” I began to notice there were some very special and significant things that people where doing really well. One of those things was parenting in such a way that when a child grew up not only did they have a great love of their parents, but they also had a great love of the Lord. So, I began to ask these great parents: What did you do? What are you doing now?
Almost everyone I asked said that their children were great in spite of their parenting, not because of their parenting. I didn’t believe them. When I began to “pay attention” – there were a few important things I noticed. The first was the genuine testimony these great parents live. They are not perfect by any means, but they live their lives with intention. Jesus truly is the most important person in their life. Certainly a child can see through a charade. A parent that pretends on Sunday and sets Jesus aside the other six days of the week does not make an impression on their child that church, faith, or Jesus are important.
The second thing I noticed was the significance of prayer in their family life. This is huge. Prayer is their family’s knee-jerk reaction to anything and everything. Can’t find the car keys – they’re praying. Someone got an A in math – they’re praising. Praying is a first response, not a last minute cry. Their lives are consistently prayerful. They pray as a family and as a family they see God’s faithfulness.
Finally, they study together. They jump into scripture and learn together. It seems easy enough, but actually carving time out of busy schedules to do something beyond a simple devotional reading makes a big difference in the way these families function in comparison to others.
I began to really look at these three steps: intentionally living for Christ, prayer, and study. Does this mean if I follow these steps I will have perfectly content children who will rise up and thank us for doing such a great job of parenting? No, probably not. But, I think that the three steps are building a strong foundation. A strong foundation can withstand a lot of life’s pressures and keep a family on the same starting point. When all else fails, a foundation built upon Jesus will remain.
By Gayle Ozartun
Prayer is the most powerful tool we as Christians have. My walk with God has been soaked in prayer from the beginning. When my husband and I were married for two years, we decided it was time to start a family. My siblings all had several children so I figured it would be a piece of cake for us. I was wrong. In the next seven years, we sought out the LORD through study and prayer. People all around us were having babies so I would get discouraged. Because I had hope in Christ I would pray for His favor and that He would grant me a child. He encouraged me through His Word over and over.
After seven long years and many doctor appointments filled with testing and waiting, we found out that God was going to grant us our prayer threefold! Carrying triplets is a high-risk appointment! I went into pre-term labor at the beginning of week 20. Our church family diligently prayed for us and I definitely prayed without ceasing. I ended up on bed rest for a total of nine weeks, most of which were in the hospital. I spent my nights singing praise songs and praying over my precious bundles of joy. My doctor, through medicine, was able to keep me from prematurely giving birth before week 29. At twenty-nine and a half weeks my wonderful children arrived!
I had one child that had absolutely nothing wrong with him except a little jaundice. My other son and daughter needed to be on a C pap to help them breathe. My son was on a ventilator and on the third day my daughter’s lungs collapsed. The hole in her heart was not closing and she had three bacterial infections and needed blood transfusions three times. In the midst of this, I spent my days going to each one and singing over them and praying for them. Our church family had been constant in praying for them. While my family fell apart over all of this, I had complete peace. I knew that my God had His hand upon them and I didn’t need to fear. Not just daily, but all day, I prayed over them.
Finally, after forty-one days my beautiful sons got to come home. On day fifty-five, my beautiful baby girl came home on a monitor. During the time that she was in the hospital, I was not able to hold her much at all, but now she was all mine.
As they grew, I found myself fearing about sickness, disease, and even snakes!! I have learned from God’s Word that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power. As I started to fear over the possibilities, I became aware that I have been given power over it by my Father in heaven. I began to pray against all of the things that I feared might happen to my children. When I did that, all fear was gone because I knew that they were in God’s hands. His promises and perfect love cast out fear so completely! I clung to and still do to Luke 10:19 which says, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you.”
My point is this: When in fear, pray!! He will give you indescribable peace if you just lean on Him. God is greater than our biggest obstacles and storms and even the monsters in our closets. Trust Him.
Recommended books: Stormy Omartian, “ Power of a Praying Parent” book and workbook (Stormy Omartian has written several other books on prayer that have been very helpful to me as well.)
By Laura Larson
“Grieving the loss of a child is the worst form of grief,” I once read. “Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. When you lose other family members whether it be a parent, a spouse, or a sibling, you grieve the past…when you lose a child, you grieve the future.” Your arms ache intensely to hold your child, your heart is broken into a million pieces, and your mind can’t fully grasp what has happened. You look around you and wonder how can life continue for everyone else? Your world has been turned upside down and finding the strength for your next breath is all you can handle.
As humans, especially American humans, we hate pain and we do whatever we can do to avoid it! Proof of this fact can be seen all around us…..from Advil to alcohol….whether it be physical or emotional pain….we do not like discomfort. But the pain of losing a child is unavoidable…it’s like open heart surgery without anesthesia. Every form of coping that we once relied on doesn’t work for this new situation. Nothing seems to take that gut-wrenching pain away.
Coping through the pain can mean different things for everyone. Unfortunately, many people seek unhealthy alternatives when trying to numb their pain. There is never a good time to pick up a bad habit….but this is especially important when you are grieving. If you long to come out a whole and healthy person on the other side of this valley; it is important that you set up boundaries for yourself.
Below are some very practical suggestions to guide you through the first few months and years of your journey:
• Read the Psalms—they will bring comfort beyond words to your aching heart
• Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you and have your best interest in mind
• Talk about “your story” and how you feel
• Find a counselor that you trust and that can speak truth into your life and heart
• Read books by other parents who have lost children:
“From Mourning to Morning” and “From Grief to Glory” by Harry and Cheryl Salem
“I’ll Hold You in Heaven” by Jack Hayford
“Gone But Not Lost” by David Wiersbe
“Treasures in Darkness” by Sharon Betters
“One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie—and any other books by this author
• Journal your memories, thoughts and feelings
• Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine
• Plan in advance what you will do on holidays and anniversary days—these days are tough and making decisions on these days is next to impossible—have some sort of plan whether it be a vacation or a special family day in memory of your child. For example—we let balloons go every year on our daughter’s birthday—it is special to us and our other children.
• Accept help from other people when it is offered! Whether it be a meal, babysitting other children, cleaning, etc….people want to bless you during your time of sorrow.
• Be honest with God about where you are at….He longs to be everything to you and to see you through this dark valley.
You know the old saying, “Time heals all wounds”? Well…it isn’t true. ”God heals all wounds!” There are many bitter people walking on this planet that lost a loved one decades ago that have gaping open wounds. Though you and I will never be completely whole until we see our Lord face to face….we can be wholly His…broken and beautiful. It is sometimes in the face of your utmost despair that you see more clearly the face of God. Lean into Him and He will carry you!