Tag Archives: thinking right thoughts

A Mother’s Influence

At the opening of our church’s mother/daughter banquet, the mom who was the banquet coordinator shared with us her love for gardening. This enjoyment of gardening began when she was just a little girl and would be included in her grandmother’s daily garden time. Her grandmother talked to her and gave her appropriate tasks to do. All of this was the beginning of a lifelong pleasure in many aspects of gardening.

When I was a little girl, we frequently visited my grandparents for periods of time during the summer. Those summer days at their house were filled with pleasant memories. Beside my grandparents’ driveway was a bed of flowers they called moss rose. These flowers bloomed with a variety of colors all summer long. Can you guess what my favorite summer flower is? Yes, every year I ask Sarah, our gardener, to please plant me a crop of moss rose.

I don’t like to garden. For me, working in a garden is hot, dirty, and backbreaking—totally devoid of any pleasure. Perhaps, though, if my grandmother had been a gardener who loved her gardening, I would have picked up from her that same feeling toward gardening.

While my grandma, with her hay fever and asthma, could not garden, she did love to bake cookies. We never visited her home without finding several containers of freshly baked cookies in the pantry. Meme passed that same enjoyment of baking on to my mother. My mother has passed it on to me, and now it is effortlessly being handed down to my girls. When there is a quiet, rainy day, one of my first thoughts is, “What a great cookie baking day!”

The purpose of these stories is to encourage us to consider how critical it is that we cultivate good memories in our children’s minds. Consider my delight in moss rose flowers. My grandparents didn’t even know that the flowers they liked so much would become my favorite as well. This simply happened because of the love and sweet memories from those summer visits with my grandparents. I believe these are valuable lessons for us as Christian mothers and homeschooling moms as well. We have the incredible ability to influence some of our children’s likes and perhaps their dislikes too.

I remember when my seventh-grade son was beginning kindergarten. We had a half hour set aside each afternoon to do math together. Almost before we started our first day, he had decided he didn’t like math. Each day he would complain that he didn’t like school and didn’t want to do the work. This was the beginning of my fourth child’s homeschool career!

I must admit to feeling rather powerless against this early level of grumbling. We were not doing difficult work. He was using manipulatives in addition to do one workbook page each day, plus I was sitting right with him. Math just didn’t get any better than that!

I knew I could give him consequences for his murmuring that would cause him to stop. However, I also realized his feelings would probably still be there; he just would not be vocalizing them. I saw this as an opportunity to influence his attitudes toward his school time.

When Joseph would start griping as we began our math work, I counterattacked. “Joseph, I want you to know this is one of the best parts of Mommy’s day. I love doing school with you. I like to have some time for just you and Mommy to be together. You know math is very important, and you will use the math you are learning in some way or other almost every single day. I am so happy that I can be the one to teach you how to add and subtract. This is a special time each day for Mommy.”

It wasn’t the first day I looked Joseph in the eye during math and said those words to him, nor was it after a week, but very gradually, I began to see a change in his spirit. He complained less and less about joining me for math. He perked up and put forth more effort into his work. Finally, there was our day of triumph. After once again sharing with Joseph my joy in spending math time with him, he responded with, “Mommy, I really like this time, too!”

Steve shares with our children how his mother taught him to like to work. She would tell her children over and over that they would be working all of their lives so they might as well learn to enjoy it. Those words may not sound terribly profound, but they were said often enough and pleasantly enough that they impacted Steve’s life. He is a man who learned to enjoy his work—in all the various forms it takes.

Moms, our attitude toward homeschooling is going to affect our children’s attitudes toward their studies now and toward homeschooling their own children. If we grumble and complain about the burden of homeschooling, are short-tempered and irritable with them during school, and look forward to school time being over, what attitudes will they pick up from us?

I believe our children will acquire many attitudes from us toward not only homeschooling but also the daily routines of life. Scripture says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). When we have a smile on our faces, a happy lilt to our voices, and pleasant words coming from our mouths, our children will automatically be drawn to having good memories of their days in our home. It is likely these memories will actually determine some of their future likes and dislikes.

I know how easy it is for me to fall into the habit of focusing on myself and my workload. Sometimes with being a wife, mother of eight children, homeschooling, homemaking, and other ministering, my tasks can look overwhelming. If I start to complain and murmur about my jobs, my children quickly pick up on my negative attitudes. It is entirely possible that if these attitudes were the habit of my life, my own children could decide not to homeschool their children because of the burden Mom portrayed homeschooling to be in her life.

Are we being hypocrites to act pleasantly and cheerfully toward daily tasks we really don’t care to have to do? Philippians 2:14 tells us to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings. . . .” I see making the choice to have a good attitude toward what we don’t like as choosing obedience to God’s Word. We should certainly pray for the Lord to work in our hearts so that our positive attitude comes from a heart that is truly pleased to do what we are called to do. However, if that heart is still struggling, choose not to let it show on the outside.

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We moms have such tremendous potential for positive influence on our children’s future. I want to challenge us to consider the importance of our words toward each area for which the Lord has given us responsibility. We would do well to see to it that those words are, as Proverbs says, “fitly spoken.”

As you think about how your own likes and dislikes have been shaped by your childhood memories, consider the influence you want to have on your children. May we not become so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of the impact our words will have on our children’s attitudes. May we build pleasant memories of every aspect of daily life for our children by guarding our own attitudes and by keeping them pleasant and positive.

Keys to Disciplining Children

It was the last day of school. Sarah had planned a highly anticipated party for Joseph, John, Anna, Jesse, and Mary. There were water balloons, a toss game, races, soda, cookies, and chips to be enjoyed. However, before the games could begin, the bickering had started. Children were being sent away from the party for unkind behavior. When they were allowed to return, there would soon be another incident. A fun-filled morning was beginning to feel like a disaster. Determined to not let these difficulties destroy the festive mood of our day, we continued happily through the party, dealing with discipline issues as they arose.

Discussing the troubled last day of school with Steve on our next date, I said I was not sure I really wanted to take the two weeks of school vacation we had planned, if they were going to be like the last day of school had been.

I began praying and asking the Lord how I should handle the upcoming vacation days. I quickly realized that I was disappointed with the children’s behavior because I saw it was going to have an impact on MY vacation. I had wanted to have two weeks off. I wanted them to be perfect children so I could take a break. The Lord reminded me that my expectations needed to be straightened. I had to let go of what I thought I had to have to enjoy the vacation days. The Lord’s calling on my life to bring up my children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) did not end when vacation started! As a matter of fact, this was the perfect time to really focus on some of their weak areas, since there were not the normal schooling demands on our time.

With changed expectations, we entered our vacation, and the children lived up to those new expectations. There were numerous situations calling for discipline each day. As I was working diligently at being consistent with the children’s discipline, I was quickly becoming “weary in well doing,” wanting to “reap” right away (Galatians 6:9).

Again, I sought the Lord for help. He brought this question to my mind. If I truly believed, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), what did that mean about any discipline the children might need? I realized I was relying on my parenting, my discipline, and my consistency, but not the Lord because I was not praying with the children when they were in need of discipline. It seemed the way to rely on the Lord for this teaching time in the children’s day was to spend a portion of that time in prayer.

It may be that some of you are already doing this, but I certainly was not. It took too long. I was prone to lecturing the children instead of spending that time praying with them. This prayer time became very fruitful. I was alone with one child. I would pray first. Sometimes I would need to start by asking the Lord’s forgiveness for feeling frustrated or discouraged, or maybe for having an impatient or resigned spirit toward the situation. This has become a sweet time for me as it gets my focus off the problem and onto the One Who can work it out.

The next thing I would pray has proved to be much more powerful than a lecture. “Lord, this child wants to be a wise child. He could have chosen to be kind and waited for the toy rather than trying to grab it away. Lord, You want us to learn to have a servant’s heart. You want us to love each other and to be patient. Please forgive this child for his unkindness. Help him to see his need to cry out to You when he is tempted to be unkind. Please give him strength to not do this again. Thank You Lord, for this opportunity to learn and to grow in You.” This prayer says all I would say in a lecture, but it is strong where my lectures are weak. I am calling out to the One Who has told me, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Then my child is given the opportunity to pray out loud with me. This child needs the peace of God to guard his heart, and I need it to guard my heart. Both of us could become discouraged if we feel we are trying to overcome these problems on our own, in our strength. If we focus on the problem, then we feel failure. If we focus on the fact “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), then our hearts are right.

I can’t tell you that in those two weeks my children became perfect. I still have to battle discouragement over their behavior and my expectations that they will not need any correction. However, I know we are doing what the Lord would have us to do when we pray as we face these teaching opportunities. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 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 10:3-5).

What about you? Do you take the time to pray with your children when they need correction? Are you relying on your strength as a parent to change the behavior of your children? Are you calling out to the Lord, setting the example for your children, and showing them how to rely on the One Who has numbered the hairs on their head?

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.

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.