Two Are Better Than One

I have never been interested in gardening, nor have I liked to garden. I tried a vegetable garden many years ago, but bugs and critters gained more benefit from it than our family did. I sometimes get physically sick when I get too hot, and gardening in Kansas involves heat. My back hurts frequently, and being bent over to garden can exasperate the pain. Therefore, I simply purchase our vegetables at the grocery store.

With that background, you need to know that I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who wants to garden. She has been learning about gardening. She started with flower gardening last summer, and this year expanded to vegetable gardening. Her dad has purchased reference books for her and invested in the necessary equipment: seeds, fertilizer, fencing to keep the dog out, mulch, stakes, gardening gloves, gardening tools, and more that I probably don’t even know about.

As the summer has progressed, Anna has been caring for her gardens. She shares with us her successes and concerns. One day, I realized that while I am not a gardener, I could help her keep up with both the vegetable and flower gardens. “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). I enlisted myself, Mary, age 9, and Jesse, age 11, for a half hour each morning to work with Anna. Together we tackled weeding, watering, and deadheading the flowers. The work went quite quickly, was manageable in half-hour increments in the morning before the worst of the heat set in, and gained us good fellowship time.

To be quite frank, after making the plan to garden every morning, I dreaded the thought of spending a half hour a day in the heat, bent over in the dirt with the bugs. That is a pretty good summation of my feelings toward gardening. However, I wanted to help and encourage Anna in developing her gardening skills and in the blessing her work is to our family. That desire overcame my dislike of the task. Do you know what happened in the process? I realized I could go for an early morning walk on a hot Kansas summer morning, come home, get down on my hands and knees, and pull weeds for half an hour, continuously dripping sweat, and survive! Not only did I survive, but I was happy.

I enjoyed the results of our work. The flowers began to look very nice as we eliminated the weeds in the mulched areas and took off the dead blooms. I liked spending time with Anna, Jesse, and Mary. I even developed an interest in Anna’s gardening. Together we pulled out her Home Depot comprehensive gardening book and read about how we were to deadhead her flowers. We learned why one would deadhead flowering plants and how to deadhead various types of flowers. The next day, we took our pruners and scissors outside to put into practice what we had learned. When my mom sent over her Birds and Blooms magazine for us to see, I sat down with Anna to look at the sample gardens, discuss the plants highlighted in them, and learn what we could about our gardening.

Every day as we worked together, Anna thanked Jesse, Mary, and me for our help. She has owned the gardening as her project and was grateful for others pitching in to assist her. We were blessed to be able to give her some additional encouragement for her investment of time in the family gardening. I think Jesse and Mary will be developing their gardening skills as they work with Anna as well.

I wonder if I might, through my summer gardening experience, encourage others to explore a child’s area of interest in a practical realm with that child. As a homeschool mom, I would much rather be my child’s teacher or learn with her than to send her to someone else for that part of her education. I didn’t know anything about gardening nor did I even like it, but I could find the resources to teach both Anna and me about gardening. I can give her time to study gardening, plus I can learn right alongside her. Anna’s gardening education and experience will be a benefit to her and our family both now and in the future. My investment of time and energy in this pursuit will be helpful to me as well.

A year and a half ago, the Lord began directing our family, through Steve, to begin to learn to play instruments like the guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Neither Steve nor I are musicians, but we believed we could facilitate our children in their learning while we were learning alongside them. The outcome of this has been that every member of our family can now play at least one instrument and some can play several. We have begun to learn to sing harmony. We have been able to play and sing together as a family in nursing homes and at homeschool conferences. Our family ministry has been enhanced because of a simple decision to pursue an educational adventure together with our children. Isn’t that what we as homeschool families are all about? Here is a link to Steve’s Dad’s Corner on this topic from last year.

It is important to us that we build and develop our relationships with our children. We see this as a vital part of keeping our children’s hearts. Spending time with them in an area of their interest, learning and working together, is one perfect vehicle for doing this. We are turning our hearts to our children when we do this. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Not only do we gain the benefits the particular interest affords, but we are making precious memories as well. All the time I spend with a child when we are together will be hours we are investing in communication and our relationship.

As homeschooling moms, we are afforded the perfect opportunity to help and encourage our children in their practical interests. Even if it is an area we dislike, we can choose to set those feelings aside while we plunge into the endeavor with the child. While it is likely we won’t be qualified to be a teacher for every interest, we can be a learner with our child. There are benefits to be gained from learning and working with our children – in our relationships with them, in their education, and in ours as well. May we be moms who will step out of our comfort zones to join our children as they pursue their education in practical areas of life.

Are You on Track?

How many red Toyota Tacomas did you see today? You don’t know? The reason you can’t tell me is that you weren’t looking for them. If we aren’t watching for something, it is unlikely we will see it. A dad with his heart not turned toward his children, but focused on other things, will not see threats to his children nor the beginning symptoms of losing his children. Because of the place a man’s vehicle has in his life, he is far more likely to be aware of a slight noise in the car’s engine than he is to notice his children’s hearts drifting. On the other hand, I believe Mom is usually aware of the warning signs in the children because she is around her children all day and pouring out her life into their lives as she homeschools them.

I have never met a dad who was purposing to ruin his children. Yet, by the decisions he makes and the way he spends his time, the “storm-warning flags” are blowing in a very stiff wind indeed. It all begins with a father’s heart not being turned toward his children. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6). Yet, I’m confident, if you asked each one reading this Corner if his heart is turned to his children, most would say “yes.”

The diet we feed our families can have such impact on shaping their futures. Dad is the one who sets much of the direction for the appetites of the family. Since Dad is the spiritual head of the family, he is the one who will be held responsible by the Lord Jesus for the direction of the family. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

There is a day coming when each of us will give account to the Lord Jesus for the time He has given us on this earth. Next to our souls, our time is the most precious thing we have. How will we spend our time while raising our children? When standing before the Lord, it will be too late to reverse years of bad decisions. Many dads’ primary focus and identity is in providing for their families. Yes, our families need to eat, but Jesus put that into perspective when He said in John 6:27, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

God has called us to pour our lives out as an offering. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). So often, however, the world and its pleasures have Dad’s focus, while the children are left to drift. Dads, may our hearts be turned to the serious work of building up our families in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Few men will attempt to build anything of value without a blueprint. Why? Because any significant project will take a large amount of investment of both time and resources. If a good design isn’t followed, there will be a great amount of waste due to false starts and changes. If someone had unlimited resources, maybe a change of direction and wasted material wouldn’t matter, but on every project I’ve worked on, it did matter!

What could be more valuable than building the lives of our children? Buildings burn and fall down over time, but the souls of our children will last for eternity. How we build in their lives can have great impact as to where they will spend eternity. The project manager of the largest, most glorious building on this earth is FAR less important than the lowliest dad with a single child. You can easily tell the dad who believes this by how much time he spends with his children and how much of a focus they have in his thoughts. For more information on keeping your children’s hearts, please see our book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts.

That is why I’m encouraging each Dad reading this article to write out a vision statement for his family. This vision statement is one that he can be committed to before the Lord Jesus. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to follow Jesus’ direction via the Holy Spirit. We know that the leading of the Holy Spirit will be consistent with Scripture. That is where the benefits of a family vision statement lie. It becomes a condensed blueprint of Dad’s understanding of how to follow God’s calling for his family. It is an ongoing reminder that helps to keep us on track and to verify that we are truly following the Holy Spirit’s direction.

First, it may seem totally obvious, but I believe for the sake of unity, it is very important that Dad and Mom agree that they want the mind of Christ and are committed to following His leading. Is this something you desire? “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). If so, it would be extremely beneficial if Dad and Mom would simply write out their commitment to obey Jesus as He reveals His will for the family. Isn’t that where it all begins?

I believe many families have quenched the Spirit of God working in their family by disobeying the light that has been shown them. The Lord Jesus has been telling them to do something, and they have continued to say “No!” Finally, the Lord pulls His Spirit back, and the family just drifts. The family’s spiritual walk becomes futile, hypocritical, and lukewarm. Finally, the children turn to the world because that really was where the dad’s heart was turned and what was causing him not to follow Jesus’ direction.

Next, begin asking the Father what His calling is for your family. Consider all the areas of life and child rearing that a vision might encompass in response to God’s calling. For example, what level of spiritual growth, holiness, and commitment does God desire for your children? What verses come to mind that apply to each area? If you draw a blank, that’s okay. Just begin reading in your personal devotions through the New Testament, and write down verses that you see apply to God’s calling for your family. There’s no hurry as long as you are making progress.

For example, currently my family vision statement is the following:

Maxwell Family Vision Statement

  • By God’s grace, each member of the family would have a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Hebrews 9:14) and:
  • Joyfully serve others (Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:17, Romans 12:1)
  • Be obedient (John 14:15)
  • Respect others (Romans 12:10)
  • Be self-disciplined (Galatians 5:23)
  • Love children (Matthew 19:14)
  • Pursue holiness (Romans 12:1, Titus 1:8, 1 Peter 1:15-16)
  • Court and not date (Romans 12:1)
  • Love His Word, have a good understanding of the Bible and church doctrine (2 Tim 2:15)
  • Give their hearts to us as long as they are living in our home (Proverbs 23:26)
  • Live as ambassadors for Christ, including:
  • Speaking, writing, and dressing appropriately (Colossians 3:17)
  • Praising others rather than criticize them (Ephesians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13)
  • Being content (Philippians 4:11)


The vision statement is not to become “our god,” causing us to ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit. That would be similar to the way the Pharisees followed the tradition of men. Remember that our vision statement is like a blueprint. That is also why it is critical that everything in our vision is justified by Scripture. We know the Holy Spirit will lead our hearts consistently with God’s Word. When you share your vision statement with the family, it is like the airline pilot announcing where the ultimate destination is. Let’s make it easy for our family to stay on board for the entire flight.

A vision statement is a visual, consolidated reminder of the general path God is calling our family to walk down that will help us stay on track. As dads with the responsibility of spiritually leading our families, may we become convinced of the importance of knowing where we are headed, why we are headed there, and how our daily decisions affect whether we will reach our destination. It is my heart’s desire that each of us will take time to write a vision statement and then to allow the Lord Jesus to use it to help us toward His purposes for our lives and our families’ lives as well.