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 Can We Convey the Preciousness of Our Children to Them?

Early morning walks take me past several day-care homes where I observe mommies dropping their children off. My heart is always heavy as I watch the process, but filled with gratitude that I have the privilege and make the choice to keep mine home with me. I hope that as the years go by, my children will realize their preciousness through seeing the investment God has led their dad and mom to make in them. We express to them their preciousness by giving of our time and resources to keep them in the environment where they are more loved than anywhere else in the world. But I also know how important it is for us to verbalize to them their preciousness.

Recently, in an effort to convey to two of my little boys the necessity of being kind to each other, I started by looking at each of them and telling them of their preciousness to me. Those two little boys’ faces lit up. They were so happy with what I had told them. They remembered it that evening when Daddy came home and wanted to tell him at the dinner table.

That one simple situation made me see how easy it is to be at home with my children, involved with them all day long, and yet not express to them how precious they are to me. I can be so busy that my conversations with them don’t even involve eye contact because I am doing another task as we talk. I need to have the Lord remind me to get eyeball to eyeball with them and let them know how much I love them, how special they are, how valuable they are, and what they mean to me.

Certainly, as we begin a new school year, our focus can be so intense on schooling that we forget our desire to value the ones in whom we are investing our lives through homeschooling. We are so close to everything that goes on with our children that our gaze often is fixed on their faults and shortcomings. We feel a responsibility to train our children in the admonition of the Lord and to build godly character in their lives, so we spend our time teaching and disciplining. Do we take an equal amount of time to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord? Can we speak words of love, encouragement, and value–building them up, looking them in the eye, and holding them close to us?

As we start a school year with the excitement of fresh beginnings, I pray each of our children will know of their preciousness to us and to the Lord. I pray that all of our teaching interactions can be without pressure and criticism, but characterized by an attitude of patience and love. This school year, may we as mothers embody the qualities we want to see grow and develop in our children.

Posted in: Mom's Corner

A Tired Mama

Not long ago I had a bad week! It was especially disheartening because I had just come home from a wonderful three-and-a-half-day weekend away alone with my husband. I thought I would be skipping through the house with energy and love bubbling over onto all my family. Instead, I was dragging through each day. The children seemed very demanding and naughty, and school was long and tedious. I was disappointed in my lack of patience and the resigned attitude with which I dealt with the day’s needs.

After two and a half days of feeling like crying but not being able to figure out what to cry about, I realized I was tired. My feelings and attitudes were coming from my physical lack of energy. This may not seem like a great insight to you, but for me it was. Instead of my world being bleak and forlorn, I realized I felt bleak and forlorn.

Understanding the problem didn’t change my energy level, but it did allow several things to happen. First, I was able to accept my reactions to what was going on around me as coming from a physical source. Then I could treat it as I would the flu or a cold and try to get more rest. I could also work at mind control in thinking God’s thoughts rather than my own thoughts. The Lord Jesus said He came to bear my burdens, so when I am worn out I need to be especially careful to cast them on Him. I also want to confess to my family each instance of my wrong attitudes and ask their forgiveness, rather than letting them pile up and make the burden of guilt even greater. I didn’t have to feel guilty for being tired, but I did need to handle the tiredness in a godly manner rather than a selfish way.

It wasn’t long until my normal energy level returned and I “felt” like myself again. I wished the first day I had felt “down” I had been aware of what was causing my discouragement rather than struggling with it for two and a half days.

I wonder how many difficulties, when they become mountains, actually relate more to our physical condition than to the circumstances themselves. When we get run down, behind on rest, are pushing beyond our physical limits, and maybe don’t even know we are, our whole outlook changes. We can go to biblical examples to confirm this. I remember doing a Bible study one time where we read stories about godly men who became physically worn out and suddenly lost their spiritual zeal–men like Ezekiel, Jonah, and Jeremiah. But God met their needs: physical, emotional, and spiritual. He will do that for us too.

I encourage us as moms to become aware of how often our feelings and emotions are flowing from our physical state. Then we can accept them as temporary without having to be overwhelmed. We can take them to our burden bearer, Jesus Christ, and leave them with Him while we rest in Him.

Cherishing Our Children

My heart is heavy as I write this Mom’s Corner because Tim P. is at his earthly home, nearing his heavenly home-going. We have followed with prayers, interest, concern, and support the course of the battle this past year with Tim’s brain cancer. The final chapter is now being written.

Sarah had the privilege of visiting Tim last Friday with her grandmother. When she came home she related how quick Wendy, Tim’s mother, was to respond to each of Tim’s calls and how patient she was with him even when it wasn’t easy to determine what he needed.

What an encouragement to each of us moms to treat our children with that same love and respect. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of impatient tones, harsh words, and anger as I deal, day to day, with my children. Would I respond the same if I knew that I had only a short time left with that child? Or would I work hard to handle the situation with gentleness, love, and patience?

Surely, each day, the Lord would have me recognize the value and preciousness of the children He has given to me. I do not want to take them for granted. Despite the fact that I have a responsibility to train my children, which involves some discipline, my home should be as filled with smiles, encouragement, praise, security, and love as it would be if I knew I were spending the last few hours with my child. Even when discipline is necessary, it can be done with a quiet spirit and attitude, which will be much more effective than harshness or anger.

Sometimes I get so focused on the goals of the day and what needs to be accomplished that those God has placed me in the home to serve become no longer my ministry, but an interference. They have to be worked around so I can get done what I want to get done. I pray that as my heart has been touched by Tim and his family, God can keep my eyes on the children He has given me to minister to. Then I will interact with each one as an individual with needs that God has enabled me to help meet.

Wendy has shared with our homeschool group what homeschooling has meant to her these past two years. It gave her valuable time with a precious son. When she started homeschooling, she didn’t know how little time she had left with Tim. I hope that each of us will also value the time God has given us with our children in this endeavor of homeschooling. May the educating not become so big that we lose the opportunity to cherish each precious child.

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Evaluating Reading Materials

When Nathan, Christopher, and Sarah began homeschooling in grades three, one, and preschool, we had a regular time of me reading out loud after lunch. With the coming of babies a few years later, this enjoyable time went by the wayside. Recently, I have made a bit of time to read to Joseph (6), while the other little ones nap, and then to John (4) and Anna (3), before the baby gets up.

Reading children’s books to Joseph, which are more in depth than the picture books we used to read, has made me once more aware of the importance of the quality of our children’s reading material. We have taken Philippians 4:8 as our gauge of what we want to read ourselves and have our children read. It says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

First, I am finding, although some of the books are interesting to Joseph, there is no value in them, no virtue. They are simply entertaining. Then other books actually have negative behaviors and attitudes. They are not just or pure. For example, one book we read talked about a person wanting to punch someone else in the nose. My little boys laughed and laughed, and it came up in conversation between them after that. They had never before heard of punching in the nose. I don’t want them learning wrong behavior, thoughts, or attitudes from what they read. There are many books in which brothers and sisters have bad attitudes toward each other and say unkind things to and about each other. Is that what I want to foster in my children? Of course not!

We started reading a book from a very popular children’s series. Before we had gone halfway through the first book, it had brought up Jack Frost, Santa Claus, and the need for birthday spanks if a child is to grow. None of that is true. It may have been what actually happened in the family of this story, but it becomes very confusing to Joseph as I try to explain why the book character believed in these things, and we don’t.

Also, there was a whole chapter on the tediousness of Sundays because the children weren’t allowed to do very much. The book did not explain why these people chose to honor God by devoting a day to Him and limiting their activities as Isaiah 58:13-14 says: “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Rather, they centered on the deprivation and hardship of the day for children. When we got to this part, I told Joseph we had to stop reading it. I was sad I had not stopped earlier.

Along this line, but down a slightly different path, is the choice of books for our daughters to read. Christian romance novels are very popular, but do they promote what we want our daughters to think about? It is hard enough for a young girl who is committed to waiting on God for a spouse to not think about young men, but when she is constantly immersed in romance, it becomes even harder. We have found it much better to encourage our thirteen-year-old daughter to read Christian biographies. These challenge her in her Christian walk and give true insights into the realities of love and marriage.

The tiny bit of reading time I have with Joseph is valuable for us just because we are together. However, I want to redeem every moment of the day. I don’t want to waste any of our time by reading books that don’t meet the test of Philippians 4:9. Reading-aloud time can be wonderful inspiration and encouragement to Joseph in the Lord. This is especially true as we find books about great Christians or stories that bring out character and right attitudes. We can have the benefits that educationalists tell us come from reading to our children, plus more, if they are inspired to godly behavior by what we read without the negative influences that come if we do not carefully screen what we read.

What about you? Have you put a high value on what your children are reading or what you are reading to them? Have you thought through what criteria reading material should pass in your home? It takes effort and sometimes means we miss out on what everyone else may say is great. I think choosing to please God in this way will have significant benefits in the lives of our children now and throughout the years.

A Controlling Wife

The other night Steve gave Joseph, 6, and John, 4, a discipline that I didn’t want them to have. In addition, the little boys were missing playtime with Dad because they were refusing to comply with their discipline. I asked Steve to let them finish their discipline later. Steve felt strongly that Joseph and John should understand there were consequences for what they had done and the discipline shouldn’t be postponed. I commenced to help the boys, but this only made me unhappier with my husband. Steve could read my attitude even though I had not said anything. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him! Can you guess what the outcome was? Steve said he felt he could not please me since there are discipline issues that I want him to deal with, but when he does, I am not satisfied. He ended up unhappy with me, and I with him.

Later, as I reflected back in prayer over the situation, I was again made aware of how much I try to control what goes on in our home. Although my desire is to be a submissive wife, I am quick to jump into these situations and express myself vocally or by my attitudes and emotions. Wouldn’t it have been better if I had been supportive of my husband’s leadership in our home? How often I undermine him!

I see this area of supporting my husband as an opportunity to build my faith in God. Surely, God is big enough that He can influence Steve in his actions and decisions. Can I trust Him? Will I give way to fear, as 1 Peter 3:6 warns wives against, stepping in to try to take control? It is presumptive on my part to imagine that my way is God’s way and my husband’s is not.

1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” I have found that the more I have this meek and quiet spirit, the more peace I have in my heart. I am quick to explain something, justify a child’s action, or say what I think in a matter. If I will sit quietly and let my husband be in charge, I have chosen the path of submission rather than control.

The pride in my heart makes it difficult to go to Steve and ask his forgiveness when I fail in being submissive. It is much easier for me to justify myself than to admit being wrong. God’s way is to break down my pride and build humility in my life. This is accomplished by my failures if I deal with them properly.

Steve is gracious and encouraging to me as God works in my life. It has taken more than twenty years of being married for me to begin to understand this vital truth in God’s Word about a wife’s meek and quiet spirit. I am just starting to see why He says it is precious in His sight. May we all walk in God’s truth in our relationships with our husbands.

Right Thinking

Resting in the quiet of the afternoon following a turbulent morning of peacemaking between Joseph (6), John (4), and Anna (2), I was cuddled up in my recliner chair. A heavy heart, jumbled mind, Bible, and notebook were my companions as my pen titled the page, “Thinking Right Thoughts When Discouraged and Worn Out by My Children’s Unkindness to Each Other.” Five “thoughts” soon filled the recently empty lines.

Number one: Every mother faces these same problems. Do you take any comfort in knowing my children fuss with each other? As I prayed about the situation, God reminded me every child is just like mine, and every mother must deal with the same things. None of us enjoys having children squabble. I need to change my mindset to expect the unkindness and be thrilled if any kind deed comes from them, rather than expect the kindness and be discouraged when it doesn’t happen.

Number two: God is developing my character as much as He is working in their lives. We say this often, but I have to keep telling it to myself. God is as much concerned with my learning to be patient, kind, loving, and gentle as He is in my children developing these qualities. What frequent opportunities He gives me to learn them, practice them, and even fail at them (thereby gaining humility and therefore God’s grace through my failures).

Number three: God is developing my faith, as I trust Him to do this work since I can’t myself. I can consistently train and teach my children. I can be an example to them, but it is God who works in their lives just as He works in mine. Therefore, my eyes must be on my Lord and my faith rooted in His working in their lives in His time. As a mother with both older and younger children I have proof of this as I have seen Nathan, Christopher, and Sarah develop more godly attitudes toward each other as they have grown up.

Number four: God is teaching me to rest in Him since my strength and will cannot bring it to pass. If I could, I would certainly force my children to have godly attitudes toward each other, and I do try. The truth is I can command some measure of outward conformity to the standard, but I cannot change a selfish heart. God is the One who does that, but He wants me to rest in Him as I wait for His timing. I can even trust that through the bickering He is working good in my life and theirs. We have talked about developing character in my life, but even the child who is being wronged in a disagreement is growing in character through it.

Number five: My greatest goal–even more than my goal to have a peaceful home and loving children–needs to be to teach my children to love God. Often the squabbles in our home make me focus more on peace and quiet than on the goal of turning my children’s hearts toward loving their heavenly Father. As we focus on loving God, certainly a by-product of that, in time, will be children who have servant’s hearts and are willing to give up their rights.

I find I can get so overpowered by thoughts and feelings of discouragement that I have to sit down and write truth out, like I did here, to bring my perspective back where it should be. Then I have to control my mind to think the truth when situations arise that trigger discouragement. In the midst of the emotions it is hard for me to do.

Usually, the change in thinking comes when I get down on my knees, cry out to God for His forgiveness for my self-focus, and ask for His help in my thinking truth. I pray each of you will use these situations you face with your children to see the benefits He is working for both you and them.

Children and Family Planning

As I write this Mom’s Corner I am celebrating my 40th birthday! Birthdays have a way of causing us to reflect on life, and my heart has been filled with joy for my family today. I can’t help but think about how few women, at the age of 40, have the privilege of nursing a baby and delighting in an adult son too.

Had God not changed Steve’s and my heart regarding children and family planning I would have held my last baby in my arms 13 years ago. Joseph, John, Anna, and Jesse would not have been given life, and my nest would quickly be emptying. As we evaluate these past seven years of our lives, Steve and I believe that there is nothing we could have invested our lives in that would have had any more value.

After we surgically cut off the possibility of having more children for seven years, God showed us, from His Word, that closing the womb or opening it was His domain and could be trusted to Him in faith. We knew there was a great probability, even with reversing the original procedure, that we might not have more children.

With the realization of how dependent Steve and I were on the Lord for His gift of children came very different feelings in our hearts about our children. With our first three, having children was the thing to do–taken for granted–the norm for a young married couple. But with the last four we have known it was not a matter of our will that they were conceived but God’s, and we have had the pleasure that comes to hearts that choose obedience to God’s will.

What about those seven empty years, the gap between older children and younger ones, in our family? Did God have children for us that we refused? We think about that question from time to time and for me it usually brings tears.

What did God use to change our hearts and thinking in this area? He used His Word. Scriptures like: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD . . . Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. . .” (Psalms 127:3, 5), “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31), “. . . but the LORD had shut up her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5), “. . . Be fruitful, and multiply. . .” (Genesis 1:28). Steve, home sick one day, got out his concordance and began a study on God’s view of children that both broke and changed his heart. Malachi 2:15 clearly sums up God’s purpose for marriage.

I share this part of our lives because my heart is so full of joy in my family. We wish someone had confronted us with this idea before we made our decision to cut off having children, challenging us to search the Bible for its truth in this area. We might not have liked what we found enough to consider obedience to it since my life was so full of three little children whom I was not dealing well with emotionally–but that is another Mom’s Corner. For now, let a forty-year-old mother who is nursing her eleven-month-old baby encourage you to evaluate where you stand in relation to having children, not in light of your present circumstances or difficulties, but in the light of Scripture.

School Year Planning

My summertime provides an opportunity to reflect back over our past school year and prepare for the upcoming one. New school beginnings hold the excitement, hope, and promise of significant accomplishments for each member of our household. Often, though, this promise will not come to fruition unless specific goals and direction are set for the year.

Planning with Steve for the next school year is a highlight of my summer. The two of us block out time together where we can set goals and the course of our school year. This past summer we went to the conference room at Steve’s work with a nice table, chairs, and a big whiteboard. Being away where there were no interruptions had obvious advantages. One year, though, we spent Saturday morning at home working on this with nothing else scheduled “to do” and encouraged the children to play in their rooms or outside as much as possible. After our planning time we try to have a “date” with dinner out.

To prepare for our planning time, I put together some background information for Steve to review before we meet. He takes what I give him, looks at it, and prays about it for several days before we have our meeting. I start by giving him our plan or goals from the previous summer and a schedule of what we actually did during the school year. I also write out areas in which I felt we did not do what we had wanted, including difficulties with attitudes, schedules, specific schoolwork, our not keeping the children accountable or their not doing what we had wanted. I give him a list of subjects that I think we may want each child to study or work in and the number of hours we do school each day. I may write out some character concerns that specifically affect schoolwork.

When we have our planning sessions we start with prayer, since Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” First, we go over last year’s plan to see what we achieved, what we deleted, and what did not work. Next, if we want to write out goals, we start with that. Then we look at our list of what each child could spend his school time on, and prioritize it. The big white board was great for this. We listed each child’s name on the board and then underneath placed the school subjects we wanted them to pursue with a number beside it for its priority. From there, we work with the specific amount of time to spend per day or week on a particular subject. We also write down ideas on how to make sure the character deficiencies are being addressed and followed up on.

I am very grateful that Steve is willing to sit down with me and make what we consider very important decisions regarding our school direction. Although I usually put together the specifics after this major meeting, I know where we as a team are heading. If I run into further snags, Steve and I set aside more time to address the new items that come up.

I hope it is possible for each of you as couples to make time to be together and focus on your school planning for the next year. Perhaps it will be something that you can look forward to as I do to my conference with my wonderful husband.