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by Megan Johnson

C.S. Lewis wisely said, “We must lay before God what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”

As we approach Christmas, I’m reminded of a situation I was in a couple of months ago. Now, this situation is not for the faint of heart; it is going to make you squirm, so be forewarned and proceed with caution … Okay, now that I’ve warned you (and you’re still with me) I’ll cut to the chase:

My daughter, Maggie, had lice crawling on her scalp several weeks ago. She woke up in the middle of the night crying and clawing at her scalp. A vague recollection of a student at preschool having lice the week before buzzed in my brain, so I courageously pulled out a flashlight and checked. Yep. There they were, as clear as could be. I nearly dropped her!

Here’s the thing … where I’m going with this is: Just a few hours before, I was blow drying her hair for the first time (because she never lets me) and we were all oohing and aahing over her smooth, soft, golden, beautiful hair. Truly, all 5 of us, encouraging her about how pretty her hair looked because she let mommy fix it. Yet, crawling not so far below the surface of all that shine, were bugs. Bugs that were immune to normal shampoo because, I read, they hold their breath! (If you’re not itching at your head by now, you’re stronger than I.)

The spiritual implications of this were obvious to me immediately. I remember Jesus’ proclamation to the Pharisees:

Woe to you! You clean the outside of the cup, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self indulgence.

Matthew 23:25

Or David crying out to God in

You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51:6

How often do I ooh and aah over my outwardly apparent righteous works (or others’ outward works) or long for recognition for my “righteous” acts? And yet, there are bugs crawling beneath the surface. Daily, friends. Yes, daily.

And yet, as we celebrate Advent, we remember that this is exactly why Jesus came! He came to cleanse us from the filth inside; from the “bugs” that hold their breath and make themselves immune to all the forms of self-denial, discipline, and work on our part. And so Jesus comes – to a sin ridden, lice infested, broken world. Emmanuel! God with us! He comes to us (like He did to all those He encountered in Israel who were broken over their sin), to clean us, to pick out the bugs.

You see – Maggie couldn’t get the lice out by herself. She was completely dependent on me. If she hadn’t sat still for 3 hours (while I washed her hair with special shampoo and divided her hair into way-too-many-to-count half inch sections using the tiny comb to scour through every millimeter of her hair) we wouldn’t have gotten rid of the lice, and they could have infected the rest of us.

I’ll be honest, I squirmed and pushed her away at the first sight of the infestation. I was scared for myself. But Jesus! Jesus, who comes to us in our sin, our greed, our self-righteousness, our selfishness, never winces, doesn’t leave us, and constantly moves toward us. The gospels remind me that Jesus is constantly moving towards sinners, not away from them. Because He must get close – yes, that close, to destroy what seeks to kill us. And often we try to hide behind our shining, beautiful hair of good works (and comparison to those who are “worse”), not acknowledging that like Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul must have known the secret of acknowledging his need and dependence on Jesus.

Which brings us back to our C.S. Lewis quote – “we must lay before God what is in us, not what ought be in us.”

Young kids are honest, painfully so at times. Maggie will tell you she had bugs in her hair with no shame or thought that you would scurry away from her. She knows Mom will take care of it if it happens again. She knows she needs a source outside of herself, and has no shame admitting it. What would it look like to confess our weakness and need that freely? And embrace those who do?

Now, I know my analogy isn’t perfect and does break down, but I can’t help but see it spiritually. I’m reminded of what James, the brother of Jesus, tells us:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

James 5:16

And we can. We can because Jesus came to “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9); and wash us whiter than snow even though our sins are like scarlet (Isaiah 1:18).

And not just for me, but for my kids! How often am I repelled by their sin? Offended by their greed, selfishness, discontentment, and anger? All things in which I’m actually the bigger sinner, and with which I am on equal footing at the cross. What if I walked towards them in love in their sin? An imperfect example of how Jesus comes to me in mine: not repelled, but full of grace, as Emmanuel, God with us.

So, friends, this Advent season (and always):

Let’s take to Jesus what is actually in us, not hiding in our works, because we are already hidden in Him.

Let’s walk our kids to the edge of the manger (and foot of the cross) to gaze in wonder and gratitude at the One who came, who comes, and who will come again.

Let’s run towards Him and towards the sinners He came to rescue – proclaiming his light in the darkness, his healing in the parts we didn’t know were infected, and his life abundant – all for sinners, even the chief.

After all, that’s why He came.

Wisdom in the Dark

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by Brittany Vallejo

“Want to know what it’s like to have four kids? Imagine you’re drowning… and then someone hands you a baby.” – Jim Gaffigan

Our house has felt a bit like this lately. Between homeschooling two children, sitting in carpool lines with another, and nursing a baby every 3 hours, I barely have time to brush my teeth some days (literally … don’t get too close to me if you run into me at Target!) My days are filled with what most stay-at-home moms experience: wiping runny noses, changing diapers, making sure sheets are clean, and preparing a somewhat healthy dinner. After the birth of our newest son, Isaiah, life got more complicated while we navigated tummy and sleeping issues and I started to let anxiety, stress, and anger creep their way into my life. I found myself constantly saying, “Don’t wake the baby,” “Be quiet!” and “Why can’t you just clean up after yourselves?” I was taking out my stress on my older children and spending hours searching Google for answers on “How to sleep train your infant”. I was desperate for some sleep and blaming my bad attitude on sleep deprivation.

Then a few realities hit me in a way only God can bring about. It was like I heard a voice whisper in the midst of a night feeding, “Come to me. I will give you wisdom.” I was reminded that only Jesus has the REAL answers to my questions. It was like He was saying to me, “I made Isaiah, and I made you his mom. Ask me, and I will give you wisdom. I will show you what you need to know about your baby.”

I took a deep breath, and a sigh of relief, as I prayed out loud over my son. I prayed that God would show me how to get him to rest better and what decisions need to be made regarding his health. I am amazed at the peace that comes along with trusting Jesus with the decisions I am making with my children.

Another day, in the midst of losing my temper, then feeling the mom-guilt afterwards, I felt the Lord asking me, “What are your idols? What are you worshipping right now?”

I looked around at the disorganized school room, and clothes strewn about, and realized I had made an orderly and quiet house an idol. Whenever it was bumped into I would lose my temper, begging for things to be restored. How freeing it has been to recognize this idol and surrender it daily (sometimes hourly) to the Lord, putting Him back in his rightful place on the throne of my heart.

Fellow parents, discipling our children is not for the faint of heart, but God has entrusted us with such a beautiful and messy job. Come to Him for wisdom; with potty training, teething, help with teaching math, and issues with making friends. No situation is so small that Jesus is not willing to step in.

If anyone lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:5

Generosity is a Family Goal

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by Cheri Ryan

Over the past few months, it has been interesting to observe how interested our daughter has become in the idea that our little church plant might soon have its own building. When we first pointed out the site to her as we drove through downtown Lawrenceville, she said that she liked that it was close to the puppet show (Aurora Theater). She now points the building out to us as we go down Buford Drive. Additionally, she was listening when we sat in those congregational meetings after service, and she raised her hand to vote in favor of purchasing the new building, though I’m not sure her vote was actually counted.

And now, as New City is starting a Generosity Initiative to assist in the purchase of a new church home and the furthering of the vision to make God known in Lawrenceville and beyond, new conversations have been taking place in our home. My daughter knows that our family will have the opportunity to take part by giving money, and she is on board, though she is still too young to understand exactly what that means. Her first comment was that Daddy should just go to the bank and get more money and give it to our church. At five, her knowledge of family finances is still developing.

However, I’ve been excited by the number of new topics we’ve been able to approach with her as part of this initiative process. We have talked about how sometimes Mommy needs to work in the evenings, and part of the money that Mommy makes will be for helping our family to give a little more to our church. We have also talked about the fact that for part of what we promise to give, Mommy and Daddy are going to allow space for God to provide for our family in a way that surprises us, that we have faith that part of “our money” for the church will come directly from God, and not just be money from our jobs.

But more than concerns about money, this time in the life of our church is a chance for us to share the concept of vision with our kids. We are talking about what God might do with New City when we have this building. How maybe some new friends might come to our church if we really do get this new building, maybe friends that live so close to church that they can walk there. That maybe we could help people in the neighborhood. That we don’t even know for sure the things that God has in store for our church, but it’s our job to just take the next step He shows to us.

I want to encourage you also to have these conversations as a family. During this season of praying for our church’s vision and asking for guidance for your family’s part in the future of New City, include your kids. They too are a critical part of our church, and they also look forward to how our church will grow in its new home. They may surprise you with their easy faith in God’s provision and their willingness to sacrifice and take part in the church’s mission.

Trusting God with our Post Summer Selves

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by Sarah May

Summer came, and with the freedom from stringent schedules, normal alarms, early bedtimes, and regular baths, (because swimming definitely counts in the summertime,) also comes a lull in regular cleaning chores, nonexistent disciplined days, and very few moments of quiet.

Something happens to mamas in the summer. Whether we work outside the home full-time, half-time, or are at home always. Whether we have toddlers, school-aged children, or are welcoming home those from college who will always be our babies. There is a large chunk of us that we voluntarily set aside and place on the shelf for the summer.

We are skilled in the act of sacrifice; relinquishing much of our own life for the lives of our children. Not losing our identity, but gaining other facets, as we walk in the way of love (Eph. 5:2); mirroring in our own feeble way, Christ’s loving sacrifice for us. We know, all too well, how quickly time slips away; how few summers we will have to guide lives and build memories before they are all but a glimpse of the past.

Today, I say to you all: well done, good show, way to go, cheers, you killed it, whether you feel it or not! We did it; we survived another summer.

So here’s to us; to the moment we stand on our tippy toes to reach up and grab that us – that we voluntarily set aside for a bit to live and thrive through another of the 18 summers we are given.

For you homeschooling mamas: you are taking your teaching self down off the shelf, polishing her up, and are again taking on many roles past motherhood in the lives of your children. It’s not an easy job to do.

For you working mamas: you are able to fully bring back your professional self off the shelf, and are able to engage more into your career with a little heartfelt ease, and less distraction, knowing that your children have been firmly left in the capable hands you know and trust to come alongside you on the parenting journey. It’s not an easy job to do.

For you stay at home mamas with babies still surrounding you at all times: you can bring down the new you. The one with another year of experience at training them up and figuring out the new personalities and idiosyncrasies that come with a child who also has one more year of life under their belt. It’s not an easy job to do.

For you in the middle mamas, for you transitioners, (for the ones I relate to the most): you are in a crossroads of life that will most definitely not play out as you expected, no matter what. You may be starting back to work again after years at home, you may be starting a new job or career, or you may still be sitting and frantically, (or not so frantically,) searching, realizing, those next steps. You are my people, and I know with all my heart, it’s not an easy job to do.

For all of us, the self you are taking off the shelf is one of certain mystery. Though she still looks the same on the outside from when you placed her up there, you know inside she is not. She is full of anticipation, expectations, a little bit of fear, and a deep-seated desire of hope, that when dusted off and put back fully into the real world of post-summer life, you will like the person she becomes and enjoy the walk ahead.

As we see what the future holds, I am praying for you ladies: praying for the confidence to tackle the opportunities that await; praying for the newness to slowly change into experience; praying for clear visions and desires to pursue; and most of all, praying that your hopes are grounded in Christ, as He is the only one who can fulfill, and will fulfill, through each and every endeavor.

You are Here

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by Megan Johnson

Because sometimes we need reminders. Sometimes, we truly have no clue where we’re at and search the park map frantically wondering just how far we are from our hopeful destination; and sigh with relief, or with discouragement, or with annoyance, because we’re not where we thought we were; or not where we want to be. And yet, when we look at the guide posted on a trail, at a theme park, or on our phone’s GPS, it’s very clear where we are. Barring a prank or some technological disturbance, the map’s big star – or hovering blue dot – tells us exactly where we are. Black and white. The clearly labeled map points out for us how much farther we have to go; what the path looks like the rest of the way; and maybe, if we’re lucky, where the restroom is.

But parenting, oh parenting … We are clearly in a specific location with our kids – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically … and yet, there we are, – a blue star on our theoretical map – pretending, hoping, desiring to be somewhere else, or even someone else, further along somehow; (many times in noble ways too!) But, in God’s wise and loving care, it’s this journey to the destination that binds us to Him in a way that simply being “there” does not.

We had the opportunity to go to Tucson, Arizona a few months ago. I was amazed at the landscape and vegetation that quickly changed – from hiking in Sabino Canyon, surrounded by enormous cacti standing grand and king-like, to the lush greens of the pine trees further up Mt. Lemmon – yet still in the same city. I was struck by the fact that the cacti stand tall and gloriously where they have been planted. The living conditions for the cacti are different from the living conditions of the pine, and yet they almost live side by side. If they had eyes, they would be able to look upon each other and see their differentness and uniqueness. I wonder if they would compare? If they would judge? If they would be jealous?

But no, they sink their roots deeply where they have been planted by the Creator, growing sturdily and steadily there, knowing that particular ground – the amount of sun, desert, and water – is exactly what they need for where they have been planted.

Comparison is futile for these plants. The surroundings and soil, at first glance, even appear to be the same as the landscape quickly begins to change, but they are not. The cactus, the pine, the oak, are all beautifully reflecting the majesty of their Creator, right where they are planted. Not comparing, or wanting what the other has; the sovereign Creator has made and given them specific gifts to display his glory in unique ways, and I doubt they balk or whine about it.

What a lesson for me.

Can I look on where others are “planted” and see God’s glory and image being reflected? Can I trust the soil and conditions in which He has me? And them? Can I trust that God has given me everything I need for parenting the kids He has chosen to give me? With my sin and theirs? Because the reality is: I am here. I am, by the grace of God, not where I was; and in the promise of God, not yet where I will be.

But right now, I am here.

As I accept this option, this reality, of being here, it means I embrace my limitations. I embrace my strengths, weaknesses, and desires. I embrace what I can’t do and what I’m not called to. I embrace what I can do and am called to. I embrace the kids God has given me – with their strengths, weaknesses, limits, and desires. As I settle in to where I am, without denying it, I settle into the purpose God has for me here and now. It is simultaneously humbling and freeing. Because the gospel truth holds true for my kids as well as me, we are free to be on the journey; together. The grace of God and the promise of God will not let us go because He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6) and this journey binds us to Him in a way simply being “there” cannot.

God is Faithful

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by Leslie Johnson

God is teaching me that He is faithful no matter what I think or feel. My kids are seeing this firsthand through my life struggles. It seems that kids don’t always learn from us telling them what to do, but they certainly seem to watch and listen to us when we aren’t expecting it.

This past month has been a season of stress, chaos, and little sleep. Mark was learning a whole new mechanics industry, I was working four separate weddings, and the kids were going to and from summer camps. But, the real ground shaker was my grandfather dying. It wasn’t a shock – he had been in and out of the hospital for the past two years – but he went slowly which was a huge drain for the whole family.

As the time neared, family began flying in and tensions and emotions ran high. In times like this, even our best intentions are sometimes just wrong; and so it was for me when I suggested some special things for my grandpa’s funeral. Despite the fact that for the past two years I was the one visiting and caring for my grandparents, I was met with harsh words and a cold shoulder from my uncles. Though I was closer in age to my uncles than the other grandchildren, I was apparently not in the immediate family ‘inner circle’. This was particularly difficult because my uncles, though they live nearby, had refused to visit my grandparents because of heated emotions.

What did I do? How did I respond? Well, like a mature, good-little Christian girl, I walked away even though my feelings were hurt. But don’t congratulate me just yet; I didn’t even get to my car before my raw anger reared its ugly little head! How could they treat me this way? What right did they have to say anything? They didn’t even visit Papa on Father’s Day! The more I analyzed what had happened, the angrier I got.

Did I stop to ask God what he thought? No, because God has a way of softening my heart toward others. Sometimes I just don’t think they deserve it and so I just leave Him out of it.

Instead, I called everyone I knew just to tell them of my hurt and pain; to get some sympathy. I did try to share my feelings and patch things up through text, but that just made things worse. This went on for days. I found myself researching houses in other cities and states so I could just leave behind my unloving family. I confided in my husband but he just didn’t understand why I felt so extreme.

My family had really blown things up, and I was being blamed just for trying to help. I didn’t want my grandpa’s death to be all about me. I felt alone, unwanted, unappreciated, and just not good enough for anyone.

A few more days and my grandpa passed away. I found myself more relieved than sad. Relieved that the past two years of being bed bound was over for him. Relieved that my grandma could finally move on with her life and not have to be an exhausted caretaker anymore. Most of all, happy that this meant I’d get back to normal life soon; the drama had an end in sight.

With the family tension still in the air, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go to the funeral. But I did. And there stood my intimidating, six-foot-five, two-hundred-fifty pound uncle and I had no choice – I mean literally, no choice – it was as if the Holy Spirit threw me into his arms. We hugged for what felt like five minutes, apologizing to one another. He assured me that family is family – no matter what was said – all is forgiven. I felt so relieved and good inside.

It’s like that when the Spirit lives inside of us. As much as we may try to suppress it, if we truly love and seek God, the Spirit is there to help us. (It didn’t hurt that I had prayed, “God, if you want this fixed then you’re gonna have to do it yourself.” And so He did!

It’s still a bit awkward around the family, but I was able to speak at the funeral, be part of the service, and support them during this difficult time. More importantly, my children witnessed the faithfulness of God even when I did not know how to fix a bad situation. I pray that God and my Papa are proud of me and looking down on me and my family. I can rest assured that I am not judged for my sinful nature and that the Spirit of Christ will continue to guide me, and through me my kids, the rest of my days here.

Summer Reading

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by Sherry Edwards

Summer Reading. I have my stack of books that I hope to read over the summer. My kids have signed up for several summer reading programs. They are even reading while I type this.

I want to focus, not on the scholastic side of summer reading, but on the spiritual side.

One of my summer reading books is “How to Read Slowly” by James W. Sire. It’s not about reading slow; it’s about reading with our mind. He points us to questions: What is the worldview of the author? How are they trying to influence me? Do I agree with their worldview?

I look at our stack of books and wonder how they influence our faith, our values, and our dreams. Some of the books are imagination filled fiction. Some are Newberry Award children’s books. But I want some to have more value. Let’s read a book that pulls us into worship of our King. What if our summer reading could make us long for the Kingdom of God?

As we read this summer, I hope for discussions of God. How does sin influence the main character’s decisions? Does the plot bring honor to God or applaud deceit? Do the kids have respect for their parents? Do characters show kindness to their friends? How does this book point us to Jesus?

If you are reading board books to your baby or toddler, read a book that tells them how much Jesus loves them. If you are reading aloud to your preschooler, point out the fruit of the Spirit in a character. If your kids are reading chapter books, ask hard questions about worldview and faith.

My daughter is currently reading a fluffy and silly book about a fairy. It seems quite useless, but I can find good questions to ask her about it. Why did the fairy lie to her friend? What would have happened if she had been honest? What happens when you lie? What does God say about lying? We can have great conversations about repentance and forgiveness.

My son just finished a book about an Egyptian god that escapes from a museum to take over the world. This is funny fiction, but it leads to a discussion of false gods. It points us to what are our idols. How do we pursue our hearts towards the first two commandments?

So this summer read with your mind. Have your kids read with their minds. Point it all to Jesus!



The Gospel Coalition | Summer Reading List for Kids

Read Aloud Revival

Focus on the Family | Great Books for Kids


Gwinnett Public Library

LifeWay Bookstores

Barnes and Noble

Books A Million

Praying Like a Child

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by Cheri Ryan

Now that I’ve been a parent for five years, I’ve discovered that one of the biggest challenges I have faced is feeling like I don’t have the answers to… well, basically anything. And so, I have approached many of the challenges I’ve faced as a parent through prayer. Not only have I grown in my own personal prayer time, but I have found myself growing in the process of praying with my children. Over the last year, as my girls have grown in their ability to understand God and prayer, I have had them take more of a lead role in what, and how, we should be praying during our morning devotion time. This has been an eye-opening experience for me.

Morning prayers go something like this: I ask my three-year-old what she would like to pray, and every day she rattles off the same exact list of people – and our dog – and we ask the Lord to bless them together. Then I ask my five-year-old what she would like to pray, and her answers often completely take me off guard. She often asks for things that I can’t help thinking are just never going to happen.

I vividly remember thinking about a particular request of hers one morning, which seemed just impossible to me, and feeling the work of the Spirit within me; convicting me regarding the cynicism of my own heart in automatically dismissing her heart’s desires. The request she made was not selfish or materialistic but was kind and loving, if a bit unrealistic for reasons she can’t understand. Because I am ever the realist, I just think: Nope. Impossible. Not for this family.

Since that morning, I think of how my heart approaches prayer, and I find myself reminded of 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” And I’ve been so convicted about how my young daughter approaches the Lord with confidence and trust and is waiting for these big things to come into our lives. How many times do I lack confidence in prayer? How often do I filter the Spirit out of my own heart and mind because I am so cynical and judge what God wants for my life based on worldly standards rather than biblical standards? Deciding what seems possible, rather than remembering that nothing is impossible with God?

Furthermore, the way my daughter reaches out to God in prayer has been such a reminder to me that the point isn’t getting an ‘answer’ to the prayer, but rather to know God, to know He hears us, to be present with Him. Part of that knowing is trusting his word; that whatever we ask, whatever the cries of our heart may be, the Lord hears his people. He hears us. And so, as a parent who is learning every day to share a love of God and his word with my children, I have found the Spirit of God is revealing so much of who God is to me, THROUGH my children, just as much as I am showing Him to them. Jesus Himself taught his disciples, by giving them the example of faith like a child, in Matthew 18:2-4, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”

I love how Corrie Ten Boom said, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Daily morning prayer with my daughters, and how my older daughter lays out her heart’s true and unfiltered desires before the Lord, has been such a good reminder to me to approach prayer as my steering wheel – guiding my path – rather than presenting to God those things that I’m pretty sure He’d already approve of anyway.

So, let me encourage you to not only approach devotions as a time to teach your children but also as an opportunity to learn from them and see the world, and God, through their eyes. I hope that it will be as much of an encouragement to you as it has been to me.

Little Seeds, Deep Roots, Big Trees

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by Megan Johnson

When I was in Kindergarten, I came home with a tiny sapling, a tree, to be planted in our yard, because it was Arbor Day after all. I was thrilled about the little life I had been entrusted with – and then the teenage boy mowing the lawn ran over it and my 5 year old heart was run over too. Ah, but it was a good lesson:

We run over what we’re not looking for.

We run over what we don’t see as important.

I survived. The tree did not.

I tell you this because I’ve been convinced lately that our kids are like seeds, saplings, and eventually full grown oak trees. I’m amazed at how fragile these acorns are that eventually sprout into a tiny shoot of green that I would probably think was a weed, (or my husband would run over with the lawn mower,) because they become something incredibly strong, sturdy, life producing, and shade giving.

It’s amazing that any of these little seeds, acorns, shoots, and saplings survive. The soil conditions have to be just right. They have to survive long enough not to be eaten. And they can’t be run over by the lawn mower!

When you see a seed or sapling, it’s difficult to imagine the oak that it will become given the right conditions.

This changes the way I think about parenting. An oak tree takes a long time to mature and grow, but the payoff is enormous compared to the puny Bradford Pear tree that shoots up in significantly less time. It’s all about the work in soil conditions and the waiting I want to put in. Do I want to do ground work – hidden work – in my kids? Do I long to cultivate their roots and provide soil for them to grow deep in? Do I want to do the shovel work – the hard, unnoticed, heart work – that may look to outsiders like I’m not doing anything because my work is not outward, quick fruit producing, or behavior modifying? It is deep, slow, root cultivating heart work. It is that work that says, I’m going to work on your heart today and help us get to the root of why you don’t want to accept instruction instead of finishing the math lesson that I could check off and say “done! We did it! We’re on track!” I don’t get to say that often – not if I’m really following the Lord in the work He is doing in my children that’s slow and hidden and usually not the way I, in my feeble knowledge and wisdom, would do it.

Do I trust Him to complete the work He’s started in them by placing them in a covenant family of faith? Do I trust that He is working in me, and in them, as I parent, discipline, listen with humility, and repent? The math lesson is far less important that the heart that needs to be seen, and heard, and walked alongside in repentance and faith.

It makes me think about my story of the tiny sapling being run over by the mower pushed by the unsuspecting teenager. How often do I run over saplings because I’m only interested in the trees that produce fruit? Am I only interested in the trees that are sturdy and good for climbing, with strong roots, that we admire? You have to admit, we don’t admire much about a seed. Rarely does anyone say, “WOW, look at that!” when they see an acorn or seed. And yet, there’s NO oak tree without it.

These days are important. The soil our kids grow in is important. We want to grow trees, not shrubs.

Jeremiah 17:5-9 poignantly says this:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-9

I want to show my children what it looks like not to make their flesh their strength but to send their roots out to the streams; so that when they do begin to bear fruit, their leaves will remain green, even in a season of drought. This doesn’t mean not to push your kids in sports or activities they are skilled at and love. It doesn’t mean you always have the answer for the “why” or their pain as they navigate life and friendships. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t mess up – because you will; every day. (And GOD will use that.) I think it DOES mean that we point them to the source of life, of good, and of refreshment over and over and over again. And not just when they ask or we think they are watching. It starts where no one sees it – in our own hearts; in our moments of choosing between trusting the Lord or making our flesh, capabilities, control, or recognition our strength.

There is a slow, long, good work taking place in YOUR heart AND your kids’ hearts. God is using you with your kids to cultivate that soil – not running them over because they are saplings and not yet fruit producing – but cherishing the moments of love, correction, discipline, repentance, and glimpses of God’s grace and work – in you and them!

For whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:7-9

Do you feel desperate? That’s good. We need to be desperate for God to work in us and our kids because we would never lead them to Jesus in our own strength and ability. God consistently asks us to do things we truly CANNOT do – and one of those things – maybe the most important – is growing these oak trees we call children.

Here’s to committing to seeing our kids; to repenting alongside them; to committing to the long, slow, deeper work of Jesus in our hearts and our kids’ hearts.

Here are some resources Ryan and I love:

The Gospel-Centered Parent by Rose Marie Miller

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elise Fitzpatrick

The Word at Work

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by Stephanie Stancel

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his Word I hope …

Psalm 130:5

If we are talking discipleship in the home, herein this verse lies my strategy, mode and means. And while it seems almost laughable to apply the term “discipleship” to the chaos family life generates, we should remind ourselves that a disciple is merely a learner or follower. Every mom who has ever worked to complete some task with a baby on her hip, toddler gripped to her leg and a preschooler positioned at her side has no lack of followers. Every mom who has shuddered to hear her child repeat some unbecoming word or phrase understands the keen perception of her pupils.

All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness …

2 Timothy 3:16

And by God’s grace I aim to put the Word to work as I struggle to prioritize and practice it in daily life. Instead of lamenting the interruption of yet another quiet time, we have made a habit of reading the Bible together at breakfast each morning. We read the same passages repeatedly. (We have been in 1 John for at least two months now, mostly because it is what I too am studying.) Their (many!) questions challenge me to understand and communicate the meaning of the text. It amazes me how familiar we have all become with the content and the many ways we find to apply it throughout the day. It becomes particularly instrumental as we, a cluster of close-quartered sinners, fail to live up to all that the Word demands. When this happens, I try to resist the temptation to be shocked and shaming over their wrongdoing, though we do name it as the sin it is, whatever it is. Instead I point back to the truth of the gospel: God’s holy and righteous standard is one we can never hope to meet. Thus our need for a Savior, for Jesus.

… Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

Romans 10:17

Though I affirm good manners, suitable behavior and obedience, these satisfy not my parental striving. Ultimately, I want my kids to know, trust, and love the Lord. And not just some jolly, sappy characterization rendered to them. Not some graven image god mentally constructed from a Christian subculture. I want them to know the one true God who has chosen to reveal Himself through His Word. I pray that, loving the Father and trusting in Jesus, they will then joyfully obey the law that beautifully reflects His character. In short, I am doing all I can to sow the seeds of His Word in the lives of my children, trusting that it will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11) but will “bear much fruit.” (John 15:8).