By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Wisdom from those who are wiser than me April 24, 2008

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 7:20 pm
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I’ve heard a couple of great thoughts on parenting lately that have gotten the wheels turning in my brain. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared something that our pastor’s wife said to her. I’m paraphrasing here . . . She said that God, in His sovereignty, has given that child to you. Which means that God wanted that child to be raised by someone with your personality, your strengths, your preferences, your parenting style. What a great concept!

Of course, it is not license to sin against my children and say, “It’s just too bad that God gave my child a mom with a temper!” But within the boundaries given in Scripture for how we are to raise our children, there is freedom. Freedom to be rigid with routines, freedom to be spontaneous. Freedom to be a mom who always wants to be on the go, freedom to love to do things at home. Freedom to send your kids to public school, private school or home-school. And, I believe, freedom to pursue interests outside the home when God calls you to do so.

It is a great reminder to me that I don’t need to try to be someone different than I am. I am not a laid-back mom. I never will be. (Although I like to appear as though I’m a laid-back mom, on the inside, I am wincing as your snotty-nosed child touches my healthy child’s toys.) I like routine and can’t stand chaos. And sometimes I worry about these characteristics, like when my children are cautious and don’t like to get messy, and I think it is because I’m too uptight.

But I think my pastor’s wife is right–after all, she is the wise mother of 5!–God gave Christopher and Will to me. God thinks that what is best for my kids is having a mom who is type-A and likes to have a plan. Now if only I could eliminate the sin that keeps interfering with what God wants most for my kids! But He is sovereign even over my mistakes and can protect my kids from harm, even that which comes from my sin. (That last sentence is a truth often spoken to me by my friend Amy in Indy. I take no credit for anything wise about parenting!)

I heard another great idea this week, which was said by the friend of a friend. She talked about the importance of knowing your child’s personality traits, which right now may be causing problems, and praying for ways you can show your child how to use those characteristics for good. It is so easy to focus on those things about my kids that drive me nuts! And often I feel like I’m just dealing with the issues that are most urgent–lying, violence against your brother, obedience–and not taking the time to look at the big picture. In fact, when I heard this, I was convicted of the fact that I need to spend a lot more time thinking about and praying for my kids.

So the other day, over a skinny caramel latte (those make you lose weight, right?), I sat down to think about Christopher’s personality traits and what I hope they will look like when he is grown. Here’s what I came up with:

-cautious: can lead to fear, but I hope someday he will show great discernment and sound judgment

-highly emotional: can lead to frustrating meltdowns right now, but I hope someday he will show sensitivity to the needs of others

-stubborn: he gets mad because he wants to be in control, but I hope this will develop into the ability to have good self-control

-intelligent: can enable him argue with authority figures now, but I hope he will use his intelligence to study God’s Word and share His truth effectively with others

-creative: shows up in some of the lies he tells now, but I hope someday he will use his creativity to find innovative ways of serving others, playing with his kids and romancing his wife

I thought this was a great exercise for me, and one I should repeat regularly for both kids. It gives me a framework for praying for them and how God can be glorified by their unique personalities. It also gives me a little better perspective when he throws a fit, tells a lie, or refuses to get dirt on his hands.  And I hope to use this perspective to do a better job of letting my kids be who God made them to be, rather than trying to fit them into a mold I have in mind–to help my children develop their God-given characteristics in ways that will glorify Him rather than fitting an ideal that glorifies themselves or their parents.

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“Calm My Anxious Heart”–Greed April 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:20 pm
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I read Linda Dillow’s chapter in “Calm My Anxious Heart” on greed several weeks ago and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. Several things stood out to me:

  • Everything I have belongs to God. (More on this below.)
  • The main issue is the condition of my heart. Am I content or always wanting more? (See Matthew 6:19-21–where is your treasure?).
  • No one can serve two masters–whom do I serve? Am I so busy taking care of my stuff that I don’t have time to serve God and His church?
  • Possessions are to be used for God’s kingdom, not gripped tightly or adored. What am I holding on to too tightly? Or what daydreams about possessions consume my day? How can I better use what God has given me to serve Him?
  • “God can rid your heart of greed, but it is your responsibility to remove yourself from situations that promote greediness . . . stand in your house and look around. Where does greed have hold of you?” (p. 97) For me, this means throwing out catalogs as soon as I walk in from the mailbox (when does looking through the Pottery Barn catalog ever lead to feelings of contentment?!?), limiting the time I spend browsing through the mall, and being careful about spending time with people who cause me to be tempted in this area.
  • “Listen to your heart. Listen to your words. Look at your actions. Are you teaching your children to be grateful for God’s blessings?” (Sorry, don’t have the page number for this, and my book is currently in Europe. I wish I was with it.)

The most striking thing for me in this chapter was when she talked about everything we have belonging to God, and therefore, the question is not “how much will I give?” but “how much should I keep?” If I adopt this “How much should I keep?” attitude, it radically transforms how I view my finances. Back when we were barely making it financially, prioritizing our spending was easy–pay taxes, 10% to God, keep the rest to pay our bills, thank you very much. But now that there is more than what we need for the bare necessities of food, clothes and shelter, things seem so much more complicated.

What does God want me to keep His money for, and what does He want me to do without so I can keep less and give more? Does He want me to keep enough for a new car or an old one? Does He want me to keep His money so my kids can have clothes from children’s boutiques or Target? Does God want me to use some of His money for an XM radio subscription so I can listen to commercial-free 80’s music? (I had totally rationalized the relatively small XM radio expense until I thought about it this way.)

Now that I think about it, it isn’t complicated. I just don’t like the answer. It seems clear to me that God wants me to use some of His money to provide what our family needs, to create special memories with our kids, and for Noel and I having time alone together to strengthen our marriage. I hope God doesn’t mind my spending His money on the safest minivan money can buy (but He probably doesn’t need the sunroof), and I hope that someday He’ll let me keep enough to pay someone to clean my house (if I use the time to glorify Him by serving others and/or educating my kids).

But God probably doesn’t want me wasting His money on things that only glorify me, and that is where most of it goes. He isn’t concerned with what others think of my home decor, my purse, my clothes or my shoes. He doesn’t care if my kids have real crocs or generic ones. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I do care and went to great lengths to buy generics that look the most like the real ones. Kid shoes!! What am I thinking?!?) He’d probably like for me to realize how much eating out is an idol for me and how I shouldn’t be so lazy that I spend His money on Chick-Fil-A anytime I don’t feel like making a sandwich.

A disclaimer in case you’re still reading . . . I don’t think there is anything inherently sinful about children’s boutiques, crocs, new cars (in the interest of full disclosure, I drive a 2008 Odyssey with sunroof), Chick-Fil-A, or XM radio. It’s just that greed is an area in which the Holy Spirit is relentlessly working on me, and He is convicting me about several areas in which I am wasteful with God’s money. If you are seeking God’s wisdom pertaining to your finances, and He provides the money for you to have an XM radio subscription, you will not receive judgment from me . . . and enjoy singing along to some Chicago for me, will you?