All posts by Teri Maxwell

Teri Maxwell is wife to Steve for over 40 years, mom to eight children (three married), and grandma to eight. She loves keeping her home running smoothly and sharing with women in the vein of Titus 2:4&5. Teri homeschooled for thirty years, and she's graduated all her children. In between her other responsibilities, she manages to squeeze in writing time. She is co-author of the popular Managers of Their Homes and Managers of Their Chores. In addition, Teri's written three books just for ladies Homeschooling with a Meek & Quiet Spirit, Sweet Journey, and Sweet Relationships. She has been writing monthly encouragement articles for homeschool moms for 25 years. Find more information on Teri Maxwell and her books.

How to Overcome DIscouragement for the Homeschool Mom

I regularly have moms write who are struggling with discouragement, negative thoughts, and even depression. I understand and empathize with these moms. I look back on my younger years, early in our homeschooling days, and that was me. We had great expectations for our daily walk with the Lord in family life, and then I was discouraged if life, or more specifically my reaction to life events, didn’t meet my expectations. Those happenings could range from spilled milk at breakfast to the difficulties of teaching children to be kind to each other or obey Mommy and Daddy to living with chronic pain—the whole gamut of daily life.

Our mind is an incubator for problems when we harbor negative thoughts, discouragement, or depression. What we do with our minds influences how we feel. If we let negative, stress-filled thoughts stay and put down roots, then we will be pulled lower and lower emotionally. But if we battle those negative thoughts with the truth of the Word, then we have done this: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). Satan wants to cripple or destroy us with destructive thoughts. God wants to protect us through faith in Him. Practically speaking how would this work?

I just had a mom mention things that derailed her and discouraged her. They were a baby taking off a messy diaper before she got to him on waking up and then another day it was ants in the kitchen. So let’s take the baby’s mess as an example and walk through wrong versus right thinking.

Take Your Thoughts Captive

Here is our theme verse of truth: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

This mom can think:
This is so hard.
I don’t have time to deal with this.
Why do these things always happen?
I don’t want to have to deal with this.
I am so discouraged.
I can’t handle this.

Or she can take those thoughts captive with Scriptures like: 
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

She thinks:
Thank You, Lord, for this sweet, stinky little guy. Thank You for a washing machine. Thank You that I can praise and worship You, while I clean up. Thank You that I can talk to my children and sing with them as we do this work.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). 

She thinks: 
Lord, You allowed this mess to happen, and You will give me strength to clean it up and then accomplish what You have for me to do today.

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you”  (1 Peter 5:7). 

She thinks:
Lord, You know I don’t feel I have time to deal with this, but I give it to You to be Your problem, not mine. Thank You that You care for me and that I can do all things through Your strength in me.

Practice It 

It is simple for me to write, but I know it is truly the spiritual battle that Ephesians 6 tells us about. Whether you are young or old, single, or with a family, you probably have negative, discouraging thoughts from time to time or frequently. Why don’t you try as Jim Berg tells us in his great book, God Is More Than Enough, saying to yourself: STOP/THINK. Then say or read (if you don’t have it memorized) an appropriate Scripture and put the right thoughts into your mind. Try it. Then let me know what you think of that instead of letting the negative thoughts stagnate and rule your mind. I love to hear from you!

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Prioritizing Relationships That Matter

Next to our salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ, probably the most important thing to us is our families and relationships with them. Life is busy for all, and maybe even busier for the homeschooling mom. What happens to those priority relationships for busy homeschool moms in the midst of that lifestyle? Is it possible to accomplish what needs to be done but lose the heart thrust of relationships? How can we purposefully nurture relationships but still keep up with the responsibilities the Lord has called us to fulfill?

Schedule

Your schedule is critical for helping you prioritize relationships. First, it maximizes your productivity, allowing you the most time possible to invest in relationships.

Next, it shows you where your time is misplaced. Is it possible that you have time for relationship building, but you are spending it in ways that aren’t your real priorities? Social media, texting, and emailing could be your biggest time robbers. Some of the moms I admire the most are the ones who choose to keep those things contained within a scheduled time frame and stay away from them the rest of the time. When your children leave home, what do you want them to remember about you—the mom who had her face glued to her phone or one who looked at them?

You can put activities into the schedule that are relationship building. What about scheduling individual time with a child? It probably won’t be every day except for school time, but it could be once or twice a week. Even a half an hour or hour dedicated to one child will grow that relationship. It might be a time where you simply talk, perhaps discussing spiritual things and the child’s struggles and joys. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). It could also be doing something with him that you know he enjoys doing.

Working Together

If you have your children scheduled one at a time to work with you in the kitchen for meal preparation, you just gained a huge amount of relationship-building time. With 21 meals a week, if we estimated 30 minutes preparation time per meal—breakfast will likely take less and dinner more—that comes up to ten hours of individual, relationship-building time per week.

By keeping it to just one helper, your full attention is on every story that child wants to tell you, every joy he desires to share with you, and every worry that is on his heart. You have the opportunity to speak into his life what you see he is doing well and those things you know he could grow in.

In the process of all of that, in addition to relationship building, your child learns kitchen skills he takes with him through life and character that equips him for the areas of service God will call him to in adulthood. I can assure you that your two-year-old will slow you down in the kitchen, but he will be a happy helper full of enthusiasm and words. By the time he is five, he will be capable of doing many tasks independently and at eight, there might be meals he could do alone. Don’t resort to giving him that assignment on a normal basis, though, because remember—by working together you are taking time with and for that child.

Attitudes

Balanced with spending time together for relationship building is your attitude in general. If you spend lots of time with a child but are negative when you are together, I doubt that relationship will grow strong. Take inventory. When you talk to your children, are you negative and critical or encouraging and positive? Do you smile at them or talk to them with your eyes focused on your phone, seeming distracted?

Blessed

Ask the Lord to help you find ways to build relationships with your children. There is nothing dearer to a mother’s heart than for this to be true:  “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her” (Proverbs 31:28). May I encourage you to purposefully invest in growing relationships with your children.

If you need help making a schedule, Managers of Their Homes is a resource we have available for you. It has helped many, many moms do what you want to do.

In the Word: The Right Priority

As the year closed and the new one began, did you evaluate yourself spiritually, looking back and looking forward? Can you see spiritual growth in your life? If so, do you want more? If not, do you want it this year? Bible reading is the right priority in your life, and it is key to spiritual growth.

God’s Word

God gives us the path to spiritual growth. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Too Busy? Too Tired?

I’ve learned something about people. They find time for things that are important to them. The Word is what nourishes and sustains our souls and keeps us going when things are crazy, hectic, overwhelming, hurtful, or troubling. You name it—God’s Word helps us with it. Bible reading is the right priority. Therefore, I must be in the Word. We make time to eat physical food. Nourishing our souls is just as critical as nourishing our bodies. I remember the days of babies, preschoolers, and homeschooling. I heard moms in that stage of life say, “I don’t have time to read my Bible. I would like to, but I have so much to do, and I am too tired to get up early. God understands. This is just a stage in my life. Things will be different later.”

While that sounded appealing to my flesh, my soul had a deep need. Like that newborn baby Peter talks about, I longed for the milk of the Word so I could grow spiritually. Sisters, you know babies aren’t put off easily from eating. They are insistent and demanding. That is the attitude we need toward time in the Word—an attitude that nothing will keep us from it. 

Early Will I Seek Thee

I understand the problem of not having time for Bible reading, but I also learned the solution. Make a scheduled time, an appointment if you will, with the Lord and your Bible. When you get up early to read your Bible before family life begins, you have fewer interruptions, you gather spiritual manna to carry you through the rest of the day, you focus on what is truly important, and you begin the day abiding in the Vine. You carry truth from the Word in your heart and mind as you move into your daily tasks. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalms 63:1).

Starts Even Earlier

Here’s the secret to getting up early to have time with the Lord. Go to bed early! You won’t get up with your alarm if you haven’t had enough sleep. I can almost guarantee that. You will make an excuse about needing more sleep, roll over, and go back to sleep. And in doing that, you reap negative consequences all day. How sweet it is, though, to rise before the children, get your Bible, and spend time with your Lord—praising, worshipping, delighting, feeding, learning, growing, and being nurtured. 

You might tell me how much you have to do at night and that you can’t go to bed early. Sister, evaluate your priorities. Is texting, computer time, dishes, laundry—whatever is keeping you up—more important than Jesus, more important than drinking the sincere milk of the Word, more important than the fruit of the Spirit in your life?

If you are staying up late for those tasks, implement a daily schedule, and they can be accomplished before bedtime. 

Dear Sisters, no more excuses, no more wishing it was different, no more living without spiritual milk and manna, no more good plans for tomorrow. Choose today, the beginning of a new year, to do what God tells us will help you be what He wants you to be and what you want to be as well.

Do you need help putting together time in the Word? If so, we have two resources available: Managers of Their Homes (for scheduling) and Sweet Journey (for spiritual discipline).

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Quality Reading Books for Children

With Christmas approaching, are you evaluating Christmas gifts for children? Perhaps you are concerned not to add to the clutter of toys in the home and also want to avoid the worldliness that is part of most of the toys. Books are a good alternative to toys since they take up little space, help a child develop reading skills, are profitable for use of a child’s time, and if the reading material is good, can even move them along in their thinking abilities and maturity. 

One of the most critical and basic skills our children need is to be able to read and comprehend. They learn the nuts and bolts of reading in school, but fluidity in their reading and comprehension comes through practice. That means we want a well planned and thought out collection of books in our homes for our children to read. 

We don’t, however, want to give these children appetites for reading that will cause them to spend hours upon hours of profitable teen, young adult, and adult years entertaining themselves reading books. While they are young and most of their free time is spent playing, reading is a productive alternative use of their time. But that changes, starting in the teen years, when overdone. We also don’t want to expose our children to ungodly and unwholesome material simply to give them something to read, even if it might be acceptable with other Christians.

So when our children were young, we started on a trek to find books that met our reading criteria. Thirty years ago when we wanted reading materials for our elementary-age children that didn’t conflict with our biblical principles, we struggled. It is even more difficult now. That’s one reason our oldest daughter, Sarah, began writing children’s books almost 20 years ago and now has published 14 titles. She knew what we desired in a child’s book, and she could write to those specifications. Certainly, we won’t all share those same benchmarks for a reading book, but her books have been embraced by conservative Christian families.

Sarah's Reading Books for Kids

Sarah’s goal in her books is to provide positive role models for children and limit or eliminate negative influences. I remember reading books to my children when they were elementary age, or them reading the books on their own, only to have them learn bad attitudes, critical or destructive words, and even negative actions from what they read. That did not benefit them nor our family and wasn’t our goal for their reading time. Certainly the books we allowed them to read were filled with many good and positive words, attitudes, and actions, but our children gravitated more quickly to the negative than to the favorable.

I love hearing about families who write Sarah telling her the positive things they see in their children as a result of reading her books. We even hear of dads and moms whose lives are impacted as well. 

This verse has often influenced our choice of reading material for our children and also for ourselves: “For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil”  (Romans 16:19). This is a powerful directive for all areas of life, including what we read. Are you using that filter to sift the books your children read?

Investing in books at gift-giving occasions allows you to build a set of books the gift receiver can enjoy and learn from and that younger siblings can profit from as well. I know I am Sarah’s mom and have a biased viewpoint, but there are many families who agree with me about Sarah’s books. I encourage you to look at and consider one or more of Sarah’s books as a Christmas gift for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or other child you gift at Christmas and to be careful in any book you provide your child to read.

Posted in: Mom's Corner

The Importance of Gratefulness

I want to be more thankful. It is easy for my thoughts to be stuck on problems, difficulties, unhappiness, or inconveniences rather than turning those into opportunities for gratitude. When my back hurts, rather than feel sorry for myself, a thankful heart is grateful for all I can do despite chronic back pain. When the day seems extra busy, rather than stress about it, a thankful heart praises God for each thing He sets before me to do. When a family member disappoints me, a thankful heart praises God for that loved one rather than allowing bitterness to creep in.

A thankful heart focuses on the positive and all that God is, does, and gives in our lives while an ungrateful one complains, seeing the negative. A thankful heart puts our minds on things above while ingratitude keeps them on ourselves and often grumbles in the process. 

Consider the following two verses:

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 1 Corinthians 10:10

What do you see in the verses? There appears to be a huge contrast between thanksgiving and being in the will of God versus murmuring, the opposite of thanksgiving, that leads to destruction. Who do you want to be? I sure know the one I choose. Don’t we as Christian women desire God’s will in our lives? He tells us to give thanks in every thing. On the other hand, we can be complainers, and those who chose that in the Old Testament account were destroyed. 

Then there is a convicting and concerning verse in Romans about being thankful. It goes like this: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). 

Dear Sisters, I believe this is serious, very serious, and I rebuke myself with it as well. We know God, so we must glorify Him as God – continually – and be thankful. When we aren’t thankful, we are complaining against the God of the Universe, and the One Who allows us to call Him, Abba Father. It is pride that takes us down that bad murmuring path, and the outcome is disastrous.

We don’t think of it in those terms, though. We justify and excuse our ingratitude and complaints, if we even consider that we don’t have a thankful heart and should. Maybe we think the complaint is just expressing truth and the way things are. We might deceive ourselves by saying the complaint is not a big deal and doesn’t really matter after all. Or we could say we aren’t ungrateful or complaining, but we are just pointing out areas that need to change (and that could be true and needed sometimes).  

Not only does gratitude keep our thoughts in the right place, but it makes us more pleasant people to live with. You may not even be aware of how depressing negativism is, with lack of thankfulness, to those around it. Don’t you want to bring smiles to your family? 

As we enter a month where we have a national holiday dedicated to thanksgiving, may we as believers be reminded again of the importance of thanksgiving every moment of every day. Challenge yourself to have grateful thoughts in your mind and when ingratitude enters, ask the Lord to help you turn it around.

Here are just a few more verses to help us keep this in the forefront of our minds.

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” ( Ephesians 5:20).

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).

Teri Maxwell

P.S. Not long after finishing this Mom’s Corner, Steve and I were exercising in our basement. I saw him doing chin ups. I know how much we both dislike that exercise, and I started to say, “So sorry you are stuck with chin ups today.” I got as far as “So sorry,” when the Mom’s Corner and thankfulness popped into my mind. I dropped the rest of what I planned to say, changing it to something like this, “Wow, Honey, I am so grateful that you are able to do chin ups.” 

There have been several times like that lately where I catch myself in the middle of ingratitude or right after a murmur and then speak out the grateful thoughts instead. Steve told me how much that thrills his heart when he hears that.  

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Family Time Doesn’t Just Happen

Recently a mom asked this question for a Mom’s Corner topic:

One other area I want to improve is our family time together. Our children are growing up so fast. We often are busy doing our own things at home. We homeschool our three youngest children. Our oldest is taking classes at a nearby Christian college, but he lives at home. We want to make sure we are living in such a way that we are making time for each other and that we have our children’s hearts. We so admire reading your blog and seeing how your family gathers together for special occasions or ordinary time that is also special. I know those times don’t happen without planning. I would be grateful if you would write about how others could cultivate those times in our families. I was better at planning fun things when our boys were little, but I find it harder to do now that they are older. Our sons are 18, 15, 13, and 9 years old.

A Planned Evening

For our family, scheduled dinner time with clean up and family Bible time right after it was key to having consistent family time. We picked a dinner time that fit best with the whole family. Sometimes we would float it earlier or later if that would accommodate someone for one particular evening, but generally it was a stable time, and everyone showed up for dinner at the right time.

Our evening meal together allowed the family to debrief about their day. There was always lively conversation around our dinner table that everyone enjoyed and participated in. When someone wasn’t there for that meal for one reason or another, they were disappointed to miss the family news that was shared and the discussions that had gone on.

In the process of these discussions, there were opportunities to discuss God’s truth and how it applied to what we had observed during the day, what we had experienced, or what we were dealing with. “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge (Proverbs 5:1-2). 

Even now, with three grown daughters having busy schedules, we still value our family dinners and plan a time for dinner that will work for all of us on the evenings we have activities.

Clean Up and Bible Time Together

Working together on dinner clean up made it go faster and continued our family time. 

When clean up was finished, we transitioned to family Bible time. Family Bible time was a habit that we prioritized for every night. Often as we gathered in the living room our family talk was still going on and would continue for a while before we moved into reading the Word. 

What better way to grow together as a family than around God’s Word as we read it, discussed it, and sought to nurture our walks with Jesus. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). 

Working Together Is Better Than Fun

A few years into our parenting, Steve and I became disillusioned with fun being a good basis for growing family relationships. Experientially we observed activities that had no benefit besides fun generating selfishness, greediness, and laziness in our children. So we transitioned to focusing more on quality talking time, working, and serving together. In the midst of those projects we did as a family, there was lots of laughter and enjoyment, plus the accomplishment of a productive goal.

Parent/Child Times

When the girls were in their teens, I planned regular time (usually once a month) to take a daughter with me on errands and out for dinner. 

For many years, once a month Steve and the boys went to an inner-city mission to minister to the men. The girls and I made and individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies for them to bring. Steve would often take a child with him on errands. It was a great dad-son or dad-daughter time. There are many special family memories tied up with these activities.

Family Walks

With communication key in family relationships, we regularly took family walks in the evening or on the weekend (And still do but not nearly as often, and it can be a much bigger group!). During those walks, we had the family gathered together doing one focused thing, we were talking with each other, and we got some exercise in the process.

Often we saw neighbors when we walked so we could stop to visit for a bit and develop those relationships as well.

Extended Family

We have five married sons and 17 grandchildren, along with my mom, who all live less than an hour from us. On holidays, we generally have a special meal here with whoever can and wants to come. Also, on Sundays, after church, those who are available are welcome to come over for lunch. Some Sundays we have a big group, sometimes fewer or even just one other family, and occasionally, it is just us. Each of those Sunday groupings has its own benefits and joys. And both of those traditions we’ve had for many years, even when only one or two sons were married, and we’ve continued that on. There is no pressure to come, but they know they’re welcome, and we think that has fostered family relationships.

Prioritize Family Time

I doubt you will regret prioritizing family time and protecting it. When that time is built around the Word, you not only develop family relationships but also help your children to grow spiritually. When family time involves working and serving together, you have the added benefit of showing your children the joys of giving rather than taking. Strong families come from purposeful parenting. 

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Victim or Victor?

Most of us face challenging, hurtful, and even overwhelming situations. With each of those, we are also faced with decisions when we meet them and in their aftermath. We take either the victim mentality or the victor-through-Christ mentality. Each born again believer is the bondservant of Jesus. As we seek to obey His will, how does He want us to think in the midst of trials?

I know I can be prone to victim thinking: “It’s too hard. Why do I have to face this? I don’t like what’s happening. Nobody understands.”

God’s Truths

Are those thoughts the truth? Doesn’t our strength come from our Savior, the God of the Universe? Hasn’t He told us that His grace is sufficient? Isn’t He our strength and our shield? Hasn’t He said He loves us with an everlasting love? Aren’t we called to trust Him no matter what our circumstances might be? Doesn’t He tell us He works all things together for good to them who love Him and are called according to His purpose? 

There is nothing victim in those truths. They are the most beautiful, empowering truths, and they are valid in every situation from small, daily trials to the ones that feel like they might take us under. Each of these truths are victoriously grounded in the One Who died and rose again for our salvation.

I have had to seek the Lord, learning from Him the victor-through-Christ thinking and using it: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13). His grace is sufficient for me (2 Cor. 12:9). I am to cast all my cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He works all things together for good (Roman 8:28).

An Example

I want to share a story with you about a victor-thinking mom. Do you remember when we talked about the “I can” and the “I can’t” mom (I Can Corner or I Can’t Corner)? This mom is an example of the “I can” mom.

———————————————-

Eleven years ago her youngest birth son died. The realities of living without him, had at that time, seemed beyond all that she could do. She couldn’t remember the simplest of things and struggled with “doing the next thing.” So, they began diligently following their schedule and found comfort in routine, and in time could put one foot in front of the other again. 

In the years since her son’s death, she and her husband have adopted five children, many with varying medical and special needs. Her husband is a physician and works extremely long hours. Because of the recent pandemic, almost all of her supports to make life more doable at home have gone away, and she finds herself just that much busier as she sets up a school for all, not just some of her special needs guys, in her house.

The level of scheduling required is immense because of needing not only to teach and keep house, but also to schedule tube feedings, water boluses, special times to make people sit and drink water (because they won’t on their own volition), and use the potty, as well as therapy sessions, etc. Almost no one can do anything alone, which is more challenging to juggle.

———————————————-

As this mom shared her story with me, there was not a hint of a victim in it. It was all victor—through the grieving of her son’s death to the acceptance of a harder life without help caring for her adopted children. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are days when she slips into victim thinking, but when she wrote me she wanted additional scheduling materials to put together schedules to help her home function as efficiently as possible and meet all the needs. 

Thinking and Emotions

I don’t know what hardships still come to your mind from the past or what trial you might be in the midst of right now, but I do know that your Lord Jesus will enable you to have a peaceful victor attitude regardless of the outcome. He shows you in His Word Who He is, what He will do for you, and how you can trust Him. From that comes what you should think, and as you do that, your emotions follow. Right thinking = right emotions; wrong thinking = wrong emotions.

May I challenge you to be in the Word, seeking and desiring to grow closer to Jesus and to learn the Biblical truths that help you be the victor thinking mom you want to be and lets you leave behind the victim mentality? Look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2). He is everything you need at the moment of your struggle.

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Grandma’s Lessons: Back to the Basics, Part Four

Mom’s Smile

Once again seated around a dining room table, trying to keep five little children on track with productive homeschool activities, the Lord reminded me of the power of a smile. Sometimes several voices were loudly asking for help or just wanting to tell me a story. I could feel an intensity rising inside me that produced quite a serious face. I wanted, however, to smile at my grandchildren in those moments, knowing that a smile communicates my love for them. It encourages them to listen to me, and draws their hearts to me in the midst of my listening to them, helping them, and teaching them to take turns talking!

The Test

What about you? What do you want your children to remember about their growing up years with you? Will their memories be of a smiling, pleasant mommy or a furrowed-browed, stern-faced one? 

Perhaps you need to do what I once did, many years ago, when my children were young. I did a smile “take-a-look” test. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and experimented with three different faces. For face one, I just talked to myself with a neutral expression. For face two, I looked sternly at myself and discussed something that shouldn’t be done as if correcting a child. That look took me aback quite a bit. I was, to be honest, surprised at the unpleasant change that had occurred between face one and face two. My mind immediately considered what my children must think when they saw me with face two. 

I ended the “take-a-look” test by smiling at my reflection and having a little conversation with myself. Oh, yes! That was much, much better. Steve had motivated that test by encouraging me to smile more. Now I understood. Smiling face three was the face I desired for my family to see.

Automatic

Sometimes your smiling face is simply there. It is the result of cheerful feelings inside as Scripture tells us. “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13).

Honestly, though, in the busyness of life, especially life with children, we can lose track of the feelings that generate those smiles. We have so many things to accomplish, children to direct and sometimes correct, we get tired and worn-out. Life is overwhelming, and smiles may be few and far-between. 

When the smiles aren’t automatic, what do you do? I think you pray and ask the Lord to help you put a smile on your face. Then purpose to smile, even when the smiley feelings aren’t there. Determine to make a smile the habit for your face. 

When you do that, do you know what is likely to happen? You will probably begin to have many more smiley feelings inside. There’s just something about the smile on the outside that changes the inside too. That was my experience after the smile “take-a-look” test. When I smiled in the midst of needing to correct a child, my heart was softer toward the child, my words were gentler, and they were more receptive to them. When I smiled in the middle of trying to accomplish three tasks at once or when two lively children were talking at the same time, that overwhelmed, “I can’t handle this” feeling melted away.

Taking Thoughts Captive

And you know what? Twenty years later, as a grandmother facing those same situations, it is just as true. That smile made all the difference – in my heart, and I believe in the hearts of my grandchildren. I love it when the smile comes from the cheerful heart, but if the cheerful heart is lacking, I can choose the smile, knowing that God can use that smile to go deep inside me and generate the cheerful heart. I have come to see it is very much a part of this process: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Putting a smile on when the cheerful feelings aren’t there, is taking my thoughts captive and bringing them into the obedience of Christ. It is the reality of my heart. I am happy, and I am content because of Jesus in my life and the wonderful blessings He daily pours out.  

Try it. I think you will like it!

Grandma’s Lessons: Back to the Basics, Part Three

Self-Control for Children

Aside from salvation, there might not be anything more important in a life than self-control. Self-control touches every aspect of who we are including relationships, work, health, self-esteem, spiritual life, parenting, and marriage. The person who has learned self-control has a great potential to excel in these vital areas of life. Even beyond these benefits, the parents I observe enjoying their children are the ones whose children have an age-appropriate level of self-control. Often the miserable, angry parents are the ones who have children who are loud, wild, and demanding; they lack self-control.

Scriptural Directives

Scripture has much to direct us to the importance of self-control. Here are a couple of examples: 

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 

Ultimately, we need salvation and the Holy Spirit to help us with self-control, but we are all able to develop a degree of self-control, even children.

When?

When does Mom begin helping her child learn self-control? I wonder if it isn’t early, quite early. As long as a child is allowed to do anything he wants with no boundaries, he is not given any opportunities for learning self-control. Boundaries are a tool you want to incorporate into your parenting.

Boundaries for Young Children

What kind of boundaries might we consider when working with young children? 

  • Sitting in his high chair with some toys to play with while meal clean up is going on.
  • Playtime alone in a safe place.
  • Sitting quietly and relatively still during family Bible time.
  • Not interrupting a conversation.
  • Speaking in a normal loudness of voice when talking.
  • Running outside not inside. 
  • Staying in bed in the mornings until a designated get-up time.
  • Not asking for things but waiting for them to be offered and given. 

One of the greatest examples our family observed of starting to learn self-control at a young age was when our girls were asked to watch two babies about 6 or 7 months old while their mommies walked around the display hall at a homeschool conference. When the mommies returned, the babies saw them and both started to cry for their mommies. Our girls reached to give the babies back to their mommies, but the mommies said, “No, we won’t take them until they stop crying.” Even at that age with something so simple, these mommies were helping their children learn self-control.

Boundaries for School-Age Children

For your school-age children self-control might be:

  • Staying in an assigned place to do their school work.
  • Saving questions from their individual school work for a designated time rather than interrupting the school Mom is doing with a sibling.
  • Completing assigned chores well and on time.
  • Choosing to let others go first.
  • Portion control when eating.

Self-control situations abound. When you start thinking about it, you will probably come up with more than you feel you have time to tackle. I want to assure you that each one you identify and work on will be a blessing to your child and to you.

My heart aches for those parents who have allowed their homes to be ones of misery because of ignoring this critical part of parenting. I want you to enjoy the fruit of self-control in your children’s lives, and right along with that, your children will enjoy not having angry, frustrated parents. I want your children to step into adulthood with all the advantages a life with self-control gives. 

Grandma’s Lessons: Back to the Basics, Part Two

The Schedule

Being many years beyond life with little children, it is easy for me to lose sight of the key factors that contribute to a peaceful and productive home life. Now that we are daily spending hours helping Christopher with his five young children so he can work and be daddy while his wife is having chemo treatments 2,000 miles away, we are once again aware of those components.

Last month we evaluated the benefits of a bedtime and wake up time for Mom that allows her to get the sleep she needs to function well all day, plus have time with the Lord and exercise in the morning. Those pieces are the beginning of a peaceful and productive family. 

What do you know you need to accomplish each day and what are the weak areas concerning that? I believe if you were to write those down, then pray and think, you could come up with a schedule to solve those problems.

For example, homeschool moms must do school. If they schedule school time, they make steady progress on their school work, likely finishing by the end of the year when they want to finish. However, haphazard, hit and miss school is a frustration. The end result is that schoolwork falls behind and Mom feels guilty. 

Perhaps you long for quiet time to do work at your computer. That could happen if you scheduled it and scheduled the children to do activities that don’t require your attention. That might mean preschoolers and babies are napping while older children are doing independent school work. 

Speaking of computer time, one key to a successful schedule is stopping when the schedule says to stop. Computer time has a way of engulfing the next scheduled activities so quit at the time you have scheduled. If you don’t, whatever you have scheduled next doesn’t happen, and that presents a whole new set of problems.

That same scheduling principle applies to whatever your priorities are—put them on the schedule. Start with the needs and after they are filled in on the schedule, then add wants.

Make It a Habit

When you have a schedule up and running, it becomes habit. Habit makes life simple. You aren’t in perpetual decision-making mode as to what to do and when to do it. You don’t have to keep chasing after your children to round them up for what they need to do. (Although when you start a schedule there will be a training phase for everyone involved.)

The Results

My heart’s desire is to see young moms enjoying this season of their lives. More often, though, they seem run-ragged, frustrated, and burned out. I wonder if they have tried making and using a schedule. The schedule is a powerful tool for time efficiency and productivity and from that flows energy, contentment, a peaceful heart. 

When I recently wrote on scheduling I had a response I think will encourage you and motivate you with scheduling:


As an old home-educating mom with much hindsight, I would like to add another benefit of schedulingjoyful anticipationbased on wonderful results of homeschool scheduling. Florida homeschool laws required us to turn in annual assessments of our children (to show progress, measured by wonderful licensed teachers) and I anticipated, planned, and prayed for wonderful growth and success. And successful, calm, and happy we were. It’s FUN to schedule, anticipate, and accomplish great homeschool goals! It is like achieving any huge goala college degree, new home, a huge family celebrationonly its happier and better because it’s your children. What an accomplishment. What a blessing. And it’s renewable with each and every homeschool day well done.

Now is the time to start. It isn’t hard. If you need help, Managers of Their Homes is a solid, proven, down-to-earth resource.